Saturday, 27 July 2013

Character Arc and Revised (Again) Goals

Image courtesy of Gracey at
I was away last weekend at a workshop so I didn't get a chance to post on my (lack of) progress. Writing progress, I mean. I'm making progress in other areas of my life, though. So... Woo Hoo!!

I used to have no problem writing. Back in 2003, when I began to take writing seriously, I would write every single day, often for two or three hours at a time. I loved it. I got stories written. I started writing something that meant a lot to me and enjoyed what was happening in each session. It was relatively easy.

It's not that easy any more. There are a number of factors that have probably led to this - being a mother (which is the BEST job in the whole wide world even while it's demanding); lack of sleep; not as much down-time as I'd like (or need) - you know, the time to just switch the brain off; something I'm calling highstandardanxietyitis; tying myself in knots with everything I've learned about structure and arcs and plots and plots points; needing to adjust to all the life changes and find a new writing process that works with how my life looks now.

With this in the back of my mind, I read with GREAT interest this post on Jodi Henley's blog. (And if you are looking for information on character arc, then she is your go-to person!)

Like Jodi, I also enjoy character-driven stories (it's my preference, in fact), but it somehow escaped me that it might be a good idea to start my pre-planning with the character arc and not the external plot. I know the ins and outs of the main plot points in the external arc, but after reading the post I can see that the external arc is the means by which the character changes and so it doesn't make sense (in a character-driven story, anyway) to plot the external arc first. Knowing where my character is at the start of the story and, even more importantly, at the end of the story and then filling in the gaps in between with ideas for story events that might cause the character to change is what will help me to put the external plot together. So character arc first, plot arc second. :)

With that in mind I did a bit more research looking for articles on plotting character arcs, the stages of change and anything else that could possibly help me to plot the internal character arc.

These are the most helpful resources I found:
And so, with these resources in my toolbag, I'm going to revise my writing goals (AGAIN!) for the following week.


Writing Goals:
1. Meditate before each writing session
2. Work on my novel for at least 15 minutes each day
- Working through the characters' arcs is my focus for the coming week
3. Check in with ROW80 and leave comments on at least 5 other ROW80 blogs

Non-Writing Goals:
4. Create a new habit of getting to bed by 11pm at the latest every night
(I'm doing pretty well with this one, and it's making a huge difference to my energy levels and mood.)
5. Find a way to have some down-time each day
6. Practice one technique a week from "Just One Thing" by Rick Hanson
(The first technique has been going well, so I'm moving onto a second one as of today.)

In other news, I'm still reading through Jodi's "Practical Emotional Structure" and Buffy Greentree's "Five Day Writer's Retreat" as well as Dara Marks's "Inside Story" and they are ALL helping me stay motivated. Yay.

I wish all my fellow ROWers the very best with their goals for the next week. :)


  1. I so know what you mean. Every time a really truly learn a new piece to this writing puzzle it changes everything. :) It's a good thing though. Meditation before writing, what a good idea. I'm currently trying for lights out and ereader off by 11pm. I'm trying. In about 4-weeks that is going to have to change to 10pm. So, I better start working harder on that one.

    I wish you good luck with your new goals this week.

    1. Trying to get to bed by 11pm is challenging me this week, but it makes a huge difference to how well I can face what the following day brings me in terms of challenges :-)

      Best of luck with your goals, too. Thanks for dropping by.

  2. Drafting is for fun; Revision is for rules. I've been the same place you describe and the preceding is the answer I came up with after about 10,000 head bangs into a proverbial cement wall. You are so right about following the character arc to find the story--and, thanks for the article list, I'll looking at all of them. Never stop learning. I like Non-Writing goal #5: my wife and I refer to this as "15 minutes of joy." Every day, even 15 minutes to do one thing just because you want to, just because you enjoy it, with no distractions or worries. Good luck with your goals, have a fantastic week, Lisa!

    1. Thanks, Gene. 15 mins of joy - that sounds SO good! I'll have to break the time up into 5 min increments but that's totally doable . :-)

      I completely agree with you on first draft for fun... I'm hoping that meditating will help me turn off the left brain long enough to have it.

      All the best with your goals, Gene, and thanks for stopping by.

  3. Wow! Your post today was extremely helpful. True, I'm not a mother of a very young child, but something happened this week that changed my commitments drastically. So, since I'm poised to start a new historical fiction, your comments could not have been more helpful, especially in thinking about how the character (rather than the history) will drive the story. I'm absolutely thrilled. Thank you!

    Also, just knowing that some other writers out there are thinking now in terms of 15 minute writing segments gives me confidence I will achieve my goals. Perhaps a little slower now, but still, I will persevere. And your thoughtful post suggests you will too. May the coming week be a good one for you. Oh, and please go to my ROW80 blog at Thanks!

    1. Yes, 15 minute segments... it's not easy for me think about writing in such a short span, esp when I used to write all evening some days! That's my challenge right now. Once I start something, I don't like to let go of it till I feel I've finished it as best I can. That's why meditating is one of my goals. :-)

      Thank you for your kind wishes. I hope you have both a productive and a relaxed week.

  4. Omg - "highstandardanxietyitis"! Yes, I have this. Thank you for naming my pain. ;*)

    Also had not thought so clearly about character arc in terms of what it could mean for plotting. Thank you for laying it out like that. I love it! Going to try it on my current budding WIP.

    And finally - your goal to work on your novel for 15 mins a day & plotting counts. I read that and it's like this great weight lifted off my shoulders! Clearly I need to try that, too. Thanks again! =*)

    Keep up the good work & have a great week.

    1. Sione, thanyou. I'm glad the suggestions on how character arc and plot arc fit together was helpful. It was definitely an AHA moment for me.

      I'm hoping the meditating will help with the Highstandardanxietyitis and the reluctance to write for such a short time. We'll see. What I am finding is that I sleep much better if I meditate right before heading to bed. And that prepares me far better for what lies ahead of me the following day. :-)

      All the best, and I hope you have a great week.


Hi! I love reading new comments so thank you for sharing. I'll be sure to get back to you to continue the conversation. :)