Sticky-Note Plotting | #writetipwednesday


Hi Writing Friends!

Today we’re tackling the art of pre-writing.

And Pantsters, calm thyself.

(Note, if you don’t know what I mean by ‘panster,’ go Google Plotter vs. Panster or read this article. Meet us back here when you’re caught up. xoxo).

Anyway, Pantsters. I know you’re not liking the idea of pre-anything. You’re thinking I’m going to try and zap your creative juices, that I’m going to try and put reins on the muse.

Calm down. Today’s tip will involve a moment of pause before diving into the writing, but it’s brief, I promise.


Get yourself a regular old Sticky note. Post-It brand, or the cheap variety. 

Don’t have one? Get an index card.

Don’t have one of those? Tear a piece of paper out of your notebook or steal one from your printer, and then fold it up into quarters, maybe smaller.

The key here is small.

We don’t want a lot of room to write. We don’t want to allow room for detail, or brainstorming or lengthy outlines.

Once you’ve got your (little) piece of paper, you’re going to write down 3 things you want to accomplish in your next twenty-minutes of writing.

Not your next chapter. Not the next #1k1h. Certainly not the whole day.

We’re talking the next 20 minutes. The next BURST.

What do you want to write? Accomplish? What needs to happen? 

Put differently, what MUST happen in order for the story to move forward.

An example? Below is an actual example of what I jotted down today. See, I’m in the final stages of Playing for Keeps (Oxford 2), but I need another scene or two to really round things out. One of those scenes has been plaguing me a little bit. I’ve been putting it off.

Out comes the Sticky note, and here’s what I wrote. Again, this was for a 20 minute writing session. This is a narrow focus, people!

So here's what I write.

(1) Mention heroine’s mother

(2) Hero’s state-of-mind regarding ex-wife

(3) They eat dinner

Not exactly the makings of the next great American novel, right?


Here’s the trick to writing a first draft quickly. Or hell, finishing it at all.

Quit trying to write great.

Hell, quit trying to write decent.

Just get ‘er done. 

Get yourself unstuck.

You can fix all the garbage lately, but first you need to have something on the page. And sometimes, that means a little bit of planning.

On those days where the words don’t come, make them come.

Take those 20 minutes and wrangle them HARD. Make them work for you.

You are the boss of your story.

I know sometimes it doesn’t feel that way, but I promise that every great book you’ve ever read involved the author sometimes saying, “Okay, you wily bastard, I will conquer you." 

You are the boss of your story. Act like it. 20 minutes at a time ...