Four P’s in a Pod

Ever try to stab a pile of peas with a fork? Inevitably, a few green roly-polys fly off your plate and plummet to the floor. It’s a horrible way for a pea to go.

And even worse when it happens to one of your scenes.

Track with me here. You’re writing along la-de-dah-de-dah and wham! An invisible pitchfork skewers your brain, and the words go flying right out of your head. You have no idea what to write next. And the longer you sit there, the more you wonder if the words you’ve already written even have a point.

Don’t panic. Be proactive. Mind your P’s and…umm…P’s! Four of them to be exact: POV, Plan, Purpose, Page Turner. Try the following handy-dandy trick at the beginning of each scene to keep your writing on track.

POV (Point of View): This is the easiest P of all. Simply jot down from which character’s perspective your reader will experience the scene.

Plan: An architect needs a blueprint to construct a building that’s stable and functional. A writer needs one, too. This step is exactly what the label implies. Plan out the sequence of action for the scene, including setting and who’s involved.

Purpose: If your scene doesn’t have a purpose other than back story or description, then toss it out. A well told story is one that takes the reader by the hand and pulls them along, always moving forward.

Page Turner: a.k.a. Cliff Hanger. This doesn’t have to be a literal hero dangling by his hangnails from a ledge. Simply put, the goal of every scene, especially the last few sentences, is to leave the reader begging for more. Physical action is the most tangible way to accomplish this, but it doesn’t have to be. Emotional or spiritual conflicts are great ways to make a reader wonder what will happen as well.

Pulling It Together: At the beginning of each scene, simply satisfy each of these “P’s” before starting to write fresh copy. Here’s an example of how all this pulls together (taken from my current WIP):

POV: Nicholas Brentwood

Plan: Ballroom scene / Nicholas allows Emily to dance with Henley, though he doesn’t like it one bit / Shadwell asks Emily’s friend Bella to dance, but Bella says she’s already dancing with Nicholas / Nicholas is about to protest when he realizes not only will he be doing Bella a favor by saving her from dancing with Shadwell, but he’ll have a much better view of Emily on the dance floor himself / While out dancing, he loses sight of Emily and rushes out to look for her / He searches upstairs, downstairs, everywhere, but merely turns up Emily’s scare-rific ‘friend’ Millie, the one who’s been trying to snag him / he tries to evade her, until her parting words make him stop and turn around

Purpose: Hypes up Nicholas’s concern for Emily / Provides an opportunity for the next clue as to what happened to Mr. Payne

Page Turner: Millie’s parting words, “I know what happened to Mr. Payne.”

There you have it. It’s really that simple. By thinking through the four “P’s” ahead of time, words will roll right off your fingertips and appear on your screen, which technically crams one more P in the ol’ writing pod…

Productivity.

How will you use the four “P” technique this week in your writing? What other techniques do you have that keep the words flowing?

A Time for Every Purpose

Perhaps an author of bygone days was permitted the leisure of penning a work and leaving all else to publishing people. Today’s author must also be given to social media engagement, marketing, writers conferences, blogging—where is the time to write?

To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven …
~ Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NKJV)

My time-management skills are far from perfected. But as a homeschooling mom and lay minister with precious few hours to write, I’m motivated to faithfully put into practice three things I’ve learned so far.

Time needs to be ORDERED. A no-brainer, right? Ordering time begins with a calendar and then goes on to account for the items without an entry. Household chores, down time, and fitness for both soul (Bible-reading & prayer) and body (exercise) can get pushed aside if time is not allotted for them. Omitting them on occasion is unavoidable. Missing them regularly may overtake us with a vengeance.

Time needs to be RESPONSIVE. You can only call it flexible if you’ve ordered your time and then have something to flex from. Responsive time allows me to be sensitive to the needs of others and cultivate healthy relationships. (Some of the most important conversations I have shift something else.) Perhaps most importantly, responsive time helps me accept God making a change to the schedule He owns anyway.

Time needs to be PURPOSEFUL. Urgency and deadlines do motivate a person to focus on the task at hand. But unless I’ve defined with God what His purpose for my life is, and I keep my eye on that goal, my less-focused hours are easily wasted on activities which undermine my true purpose. Like money and seo services, time impulsively spent on the wrong thing makes it unavailable for the right thing.

The writer’s soul longs to produce something bigger than itself. Our art is transformation of ideas from abstract to concrete, leaving our stamp upon the world. Words are our medium—words of purpose purchased with time.

… What profit has the worker from that in which he labors?
I have seen the God-given task
with which the sons of men are to be occupied.
He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Also He has put eternity in their hearts …
~ Ecclesiastes (3:9-11)

The rest of us are dying to know! What’s your own best time-management tip?