Q is The Quest for Story: What is it REALLY?

Photo by Rebecca Barray ~ WANA Commons

Photo by Rebecca Barray ~ WANA Commons

Today’s A-Z Challenge post is perfect for Thoughty Thursday, but we’re doing it one day later cuz we were having too much fun with our Panty Politics yesterday.

I’ve had a sick toddler at home for two days now, but I have to tell y’all, I’m on a quest.


I’ve been on a quest since Monday to yank one of my stories out and get it on the page.

I’m in a Fast Draft challenge with 8 other peeps and we’re all keeping each other focused and accountable.

We practically took VOWS for goodness sake: In sickness and in health, in storms or good weather, amidst home construction and sick toddlers…you will check in each day and tell us about your progress.

And it’s working…I’ve got almost 13,000 words in so far this week and it’s only Thursday night as I write this. Who knows where I’ll be today on Friday when this post goes live?

And why is my quest different this week, besides all the support I’m getting?

My motivation is different.

I’ve been reading Lisa Cron’s Wired for Story: The Writer’s Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers From The Very First Sentence and here’s a quick excerpt from the course she teaches at UCLA called “Inside Story”:

It often comes as a surprise to writers that the most important element in storytelling is not plot, voice, theme, place, topic, or even beautiful writing. While undeniably important, all these things put together won’t get you anywhere without one key ingredient: A mounting sense of urgency.

The single most important thing a story must instantly instill is the burning desire to know what happens next.

And here’s another surprise: It’s not the “what happens” that hooks us, it’s  how “what happens” affects someone who we care about – that is, the protagonist – that must have us at hello.

I’m doing my Fast Drafting in conjunction with a group that made me figure out a clear story summary before I began and I have it in front of me as I write, in case I forget what the story is about.

It’s making my stakes clearer, this story summary. And it’s keeping the character goal at the center of my mind at all times.

Yes, I’m doing some other woo-woo stuff: certain scents I sniff before I begin, creative projects that I complete when I get stuck and rituals that I’m making around my writing time.  But really…I’ve tried woo-woo before.

The three main things helping me in my current quest for story are this:

  • I read the first few chapters of Lisa Cron’s book right before I started.
  • I’ve got my story summary in front of me.
  • I’m only writing in timed 15 minute sprints.

Say what? Fifteen minutes??!

Seriously, that’s my writing sprint base time. I keep going if I’m on a roll, which I often am. But 15 minutes is allowing me to sit down without expectation or judgement and just bang out words without fear.

There’s no time for fear. I’ve only got FIFTEEN MINUTES.

Anyway, I’m at the top of Act 2 right now and my heroine has just hit her point of no return. I’ve got to go throw her to the porn stars dogs now and see how she does.

What helps you in your Quest for Story? Do you have woo-woo or rituals that you’d like to share? What helps drive you to “The End?” Enquiring minds always want to know these things here at More Cowbell!


About Jenny Hansen

Avid seeker of "more"...More words, more creativity, More Cowbell! An extrovert who's terribly fond of silliness. Founding blogger at Writers In The Storm (http://writersinthestormblog.com). Write on!
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24 Responses to Q is The Quest for Story: What is it REALLY?

  1. LauraDrake says:

    Wow, Jenny, in fifteen minute increments, words add up faster than my 12 hour marathons!
    You had me, right up to story summary….
    Pantster here.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL. The story summary is what you know at the beginning: Biker chick wrecks her bike in a small town, buys a house to renovate, and builds love and family too wonderful to leave. Basically, it’s your story goal, as concretely as you can put it.


  2. No sage or snark or even word play comments from me, today.


    I. Do. Not. Yet. Have. The. Answer.

    Although, I am kind of loving the story summary versus *gag* glee-killer-outline concept, and fifteen minute sprints would not send me off to steam clean bathroom floors as a diversion from a sticky plot point.

    Today is my day to sit back, and listen to the sage counsel of others.


    • I laughed when you wrote “glee-killer-outline-concept.” The class does have both plotters and pantsers in it. I’m one of the crazy eight, and I went in with a detailed outline 🙂 But I think Lisa Hall-Wilson, if she stops by today, will agree with you. She’s hates outlines. We have some funny times when we try to write together.

      I was skeptical about the 15 minutes, but it is helpful. My word count is rising.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      LOL, Gloria. I understand that need to steam clean things when writing. There’s just NO TIME in the 15 minutes.


  3. tomwisk says:

    I go with a combination of the two. The story falls out onto index cards and let to marinate. I take each character and give them a life on separate cards. Then there’s the timeline/outline. Then I pants it.


  4. Pingback: Twitter for Writers (a Sort-of-Outsider’s Perspective) and Promisses No. 3: What to Do with Your Body Parts « The Cranky Lefty

  5. K.B. Owen says:

    Jenny –

    I’m so happy to be part of this Fast draft experiment, and the words are adding up! The 15 minute sprints are definitely making this do-able.




    • Jenny Hansen says:

      I know! Isn’t it fun to watch, Kathy? Lovin’ it!!


      • Paul Owen says:

        I have to tell you, this is a crazy process to watch from the outside. I see Kathy on a break, getting a glass of ice tea, checking her garden … then she goes to her desk, sinks her teeth into her laptop, and shakes it like a rottweiler with a rag doll for another 15-minute sprint. Hundreds of words get jammed into that helpless little box, until smoke starts seeping up between the keys. It’s a little scary!


  6. You are killing it girl! Wowsers! And with a sick baby girl beside! You rock! I on the other hand, during this second try at Fast Draft have found out that it’s not for me. It takes a lot of energy to write this way that I don’t have. And I feel like I’m taking a test. It stresses me out. Then I freeze up. So I’m cheering your guys on like ya know I love to do. And working quietly and at my own pace on my ms. *sigh* Oh, and tomorrow is James Scott Bell, isn’t it? Enjoy! 🙂

    P.S. Thanks for suggesting Lisa Cron’s book. I’ll definitely look for that.


    • Jenny Hansen says:

      Karen, everyone has to figure out their own process – it’s great that you’re figuring out yours. I love Lisa Cron’s book. Let me know what you think. 🙂


  7. Lisa Cron’s on my list. Think I’ll have to pull her up a bit 🙂 And those 15 minute sprints might work for me, she-who-still-has-a-day-job 😉 Thanks for this.


  8. All my drafts are written in sprints, it’s the only way I can write without the inner editor kicking in. Pantser here so the outline is very brief! Loving your AtoZ’s. One of my woo-woos is for each novel to have it’s own container and fairy-cake case notes.. I’m much happier when the container’s chosen.


  9. Jane Sadek says:

    Fifteen minutes? I can’t even get ready to write in fifteen minutes. I’m like a dog circling a spot before laying down to sleep. My desk has to be just so and I need a soda and I have to check facebook etc. etc. etc. After all the work I do to get ready to write, I want more than fifteen minutes.


  10. Karen Rought says:

    “It’s not the ‘what happens’ that hooks us, it’s how ‘what happens’ affects someone who we care about.” This is EXACTLY true. If you think about it, so many books basically have the same plot in different variations. Take The Hunger Games, for instance. We all knew Katniss was going to survive. I mean…really. Did anyone doubt that? But HOW was she going to survive? That’s what kept me turning pages (at 1 AM in the morning, no less). And holy cow that book fills you with a sense of urgency.

    Thanks for the reminders, Jenny. This makes me want to delve right back into my story from the beginning and make sure I have a constant threat hanging over my characters and my readers.

    Best of luck to you!


  11. filbio says:

    Sounds like you have a great process going here. Doing it in short spurts sounds like a way to keep your mind creative and energized.


  12. Julie Glover says:

    I love this, Jenny. I’ve been calling my recent writing experience “Faster Draft.” It’s not quite Candace Havens’s speed, but I’m definitely cruising through the WIP. I logged 14k this past week, and I’m post-climax, resolution time. I’m actually looking forward to “Revision Hell.”

    Wired for Story is on my bookshelf. One of the best writing books I’ve read, I think. Thanks for sharing your experience!


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