If you’ve seen the movie Lucky Number Slevin, you understand the reference here. If not, the Kansas City Shuffle is when you get someone to look one way while something else is going on in another direction. Generally, this is used by illusionists, but it works just as well with writers too.We lead people with one direction on to have them avoid knowing a twist you want to incorporate because every other wants an “I didn’t see that coming” moment.
In some cases, your mind is doing that bit of trickery with your thoughts. Your ideas take you far and away, off on a tangent until you realize that your story is off in another direction. To avoid having your thoughts play tricks with you, think of creating a direction board. Consider it your compass.
Now, for me, I get an idea or a scene in my head and I build on it. Eventually I get to a place where I am literally daydreaming and my fingers and brain are driving the keys towards a completed chapter. Somewhere along the way, I think I hit those annoying speed bump grooves on the side of the road (the ones that scare the crap out of you) and I realize I’ve veered into the far lane.
The point is to not miss your intended exit. Cause we all have some navigational map or whatnot leading us to where we inevitably want to go even if we’re not entirely sure at the moment. The best way to do that is to find a place to pull over before you whiz on by and have to double back or take another route.
The map is the basic layout of your manuscript. This is not editing! Don’t bother editing anything until you are done. This is formatting. I plan on doing this for every future book I create. Mainly, because I was that idiot looking over my shoulder at the five different exits I flew past.
The best thing you can do for yourself once you spit out any ideas, thoughts, phrases or premises is to figure out a structure. There is always an antagonist and protagonist to any story, so with that in place, you are now god ruling over their lives. You decide their names, their purposes and if you know what’s good for you, you make a dossier for them. List their main facts, birthday, full name, where they grew up, key moments in their lives, are they educated, do they have an accent, scars, tattoos, what is their back story? This is solely for you, consider it the one item you keep from everyone else.
You might be asking, why? Well, I am a scatterbrain. The ideas I get at times run on and on and bounce around like a racquet ball in a small room. The more ideas, the more balls, the more chaos. Since I am like that, I need to have a point of reference. The main character can’t be in his 30’s in chapter 1 and in his 40’s in chapter 2. Plus, if I ever continue a story on in another book, I had better make sure all of my facts line up. Because if I don’t pay attention, you can rest assured that my readers will. I don’t need to start a hate forum on how I am murdering literature.
Then after main characters are born onto paper, figure out a general purpose. What is your book about? What do you want it to do for your readers? The first chapter is your most crucial. Make it attention grabbing and make it like eating one potato chip. Nobody wants just one if it’s good. Set them up to want to polish off the whole bag. For your own sanity though, understand where you want to go. Have a climactic moment and prepare for an ending. The rest of the book can fall into place with those 3 things in place. It’s the basic recipe of literature for a reason, it works.
I, on the other hand, am a novice. I wrote and wrote, running around like Forrest Gump until I got to the ocean. Then I turned around and ran back the other way until I got tired. With lots of help and patience I finally know my way and hopefully it will help you out a smidgen.
Avoid Forrest Gump and the Kansas City Shuffle. Have a plan and don’t get distracted, it’ll save you time and stress and will allow you to work on other ideas sooner…and editing…ugh.