One of the Loft classes I took was called, Finish that Book! taught by Kathleen Eagle, a romance writer. Years ago I had tried my hand at a romance novel set in Minneapolis. It was in a community education class. I figured, how hard can this be? There are thousands of romance writers. I could do it.
But I found romance writing is really hard for me. It’s not as easy as it looks. And I made so many mistakes in the first draft that I hung it up for awhile. I realized writing wasn’t as flip or glib as I approached it. It was going to take a lot more serious work.
Ours was the first Finish that Book class. In many respects it was much like other classes I had taken at the Loft. We had to write—a lot. But one of the exercises I found incredibly helpful was roadmapping our work with pictures. Kathleen told us to find pictures of the PLACE of the book’s setting. She said this would help in painting the picture with words. So I got my old albums out and started taking pictures of pictures on my iPhone. It brought back so many memories of people and places. Situations I had forgotten about. Then I took it a step further, and began to put the pictures in chronological order. Next I cut out my book’s chapters from the table of contents, and drew a “roadmap” of my career, placing the chapters on the map, then pasting corresponding pictures along the roadway.
The exercise brought my story to life, and it also illustrated gaps and chronological gaffs. It helped me identify the story arc, character arcs, and key crossroads in the hero’s journey.
I plan to use this tool in the future, to lay out the storyline for my next book and help me identify what’s important and what’s not.
The learning journey continues, and this class was instrumental in a small breakthrough in understanding my own writing process.