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Got Plot? #AmWriting #AmPlotting

Business man writing plan ABC
When I first decided to try to make a living doing this thing I love called writing, my first step was to learn as much as I could about anything writing or publishing.

One of the biggest helps  when I was starting out were the online workshop/classes hosted by RWA, among others. Authors teaching authors. This community is kind, helpful and always willing to share knowledge 😀

After a ton of blog reading, I settled on my first topic to study and improve.

Plotting.

I still enjoy the book, 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias (I have the 2003 edition, there’s a new 2012 edition now). Even Tobias states, though, that no one knows how many types of master plots there are (his guess is not 20, he only gives you an overview of different plots such as Revenge, The Quest, Adventure, Love, ect.)

Okay, I thought. *I think* I can work with that, LOL.

 

Next step, plot elements.

Free Rollercoaster Track Royalty Free Stock Photography - 6322557And this is where it got really interesting.

 

3 Act Structure

5 Act Structure

 I even heard of doing an 8 Act once.

 Spider web plotting

Storyboarding

Snowflake plotting, and on and on.

 

Yup. I read books and/or took classes on them all.

Guess how many worked perfectly for me?

ZERO

 

But it was definitely worth it. Because I took away so much information from each and every step, that I was able to form a mutt-mix bastardization method of elements from them all into my own questionable path to plotting.

Since I’m at the beginning of creating a new world and series for the first time in a couple years, I decided to revisit some of them.

It’s always interesting what new information I find, now that I have more writing under my belt.

 

So, my Q4U: How do you plot? Or, how do you pants it (no pre-story/outline writing)?

 And, how did you learn or decide on your method?

Writing Masters: Jim Butcher

 

I was reading some articles about writing, and it suggested googling one of your favorite authors, plus the word writing. I googled “Jim Butcher Writing”, without the quotations.

Google page: http://www.epublishabook.com/2014/06/09/writetip-elements-subplot-writers-writing-amwriting/

 

Product DetailsProduct Details

 

He writes both High fantasy and urban fantasy, but his tips apply to any genre

 

 

 

 

Some awesome pages that came up:

 

Jim’s LiveJournal

He hasn’t been on this for years, and the later posts are sporadic, but he talks about how he plots and writes

http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/

 

This is a blog that lists direct links to Jim’s writing articles

http://blog.karenwoodward.org/2012/10/jim-butcher-on-writing.html

http://blog.karenwoodward.org/2012/06/jim-butcher-how-to-write-story.html

 

Google Docs that someone collated Jim’s tips (Can be saved as a document)

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1a0ll3XxM5bRyv3xHpNfuRld4q5-9bKpW-K4_LLWESak/edit?hl=en_US

 

Interviews

http://clarionfoundation.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/interview-with-jim-butcher-author-of-the-dresden-files/

http://www.wizardsharry.com/dresden5.html

 

How Jim got Published

http://www.jim-butcher.com/jim

 

Q4U: What authors would you like to see writing tips from?

 

Hope you find these helpful : )

~ Amber

Problem Between Muse and Keyboard…

What do you do when your plot backs you to the crumbling edge of your story?

Do you throw your hands up and wave them like you just don’t care? (Sorry, the 90’s were visiting this week!)

Do you wrap your rappelling rope of character motivation around your leg and step back, praying it holds?

Do you scream like a little girl and jump?

Or do you push back?

Unfortunately, my storyline took me to task the last couple of weeks.  I’d get a couple chapters ahead, then she’d slap me back a chapter and a half.  I’d dodge around her, when she wasn’t looking, only to find myself face first in the dirt.

How did this happen to me? Well, it’s not because I’m a panster, because I do have a general outline of where my story needs to go, I know my characters and what drives them, and my world is very, very familiar. 

Nope, can’t pin it on any of the normal suspects.

So who was the culprit?

Um that would be the person between the Muse and the keyboard.  Will call her ‘The Operator’.  Seems The Operator decided we needed to do an entire scene of Q&A’s in this Paranormal Suspense. No matter how much the Muse or the characters threatened bodily harm, horrific turns of fate, The Operator determined a long, drawn out Q&A needed to be RIGHT HERE.

So Muse and the characters got together and managed to infect The Operator with a lovely serum of Second Guesses.  Since The Operator refused to listen, they decided to skew her POV. They sent her out on a ‘was’ hunt, because we all know ‘was’ is not a verb

Battered and bloodied, The Operator made it back to the dreaded chapter of contention. Tired, she decided she needed a shower to wash all the gore off.  In the midst of washing the was right out of her hair, a brilliant idea formed. 

Why not skip the Q&A? Why not just recapped it in a paragraph and move on.  Since it’s first person POV, readers could discover the information with the main character.  Besides, most of the characters’ pulses had leveled off, it was time to get their adrenalin pumping and move to the next BIG THING. 

Ecstatic, The Operator, dashed out of the shower, careful to keep a protective hand over her eyes, fumbled for a pen, jotted the idea down and realized the inside of her head had finally fallen silent.

Muse and characters didn’t let her hear their cheers, but they’re ready to proceed now that The Operator stop being a boob!

 

Feel free to share your trembling moments of impending disaster and how you escaped!

-Wicked

Editing Requires Motivation

Lately, I’ve been having trouble focusing on just one thing.  I think, mainly, because I am avoiding my book.  You see, I just recently “finished” the first book in my new series, but as pointed out by some of my group members, there are a couple of big things I need to fix.  These things will require a great deal of patience, and a great deal of editing.

I know it needs to be done, but I’m struggling with doing it.  This is because during Nano I also started on the second book in my series, which is still at that glorious beginning stage when everything is just about writing and creating, not about editing.  I’ve also started working on a couple of short stories.  They were exercises in trying new and different writing styles, and I feel they are valuable projects, if nothing else, to expand my writing abilities.  All of this, however, gets me back to my main issue: I think I might be avoiding my first book.

My first book needs work, as most first drafts do.  I need to sit down with it for a few hours at a time and read it from beginning to end, working out any inconsistencies, timeline issues, character motivations, and even making certain that the relationships work.  This is the part of editing I really don’t enjoy.  I don’t mind combing through a book for grammatical issues, but it is adding these essential things, in just the right amounts, that tends to stress me out.

I know there are probably more organized, less time consuming, ways to go about editing a novel, but this seems to be the only way that works for me… if only I don’t avoid the mountain of work awaiting me.

Character or plot?

I’m a plotter, I can admit that fully. I like my little road map laid out before I begin writing, even though I know full well that at the end, the book probably won’t look much like my initial outline.

That’s because as I write, my characters take on their own personalities and decide from there on out where they’re damn well going to go.

But being a plotter, I still need to know quite a bit about my characters before I can start that initial outline.

I recently sat down to plot book 5 in my Heart of a Vampire series. I wrote two pages of outline before my heart sank and I showed it to Wicked.

She laughed.

My characters were wimps and the story was going nowhere.

Which is when I finally realized I didn’t know nearly enough about my characters to even begin plotting.

 

So, my Q4U: Writers – how well do you need to know your characters before you begin to write?

Readers – Are you drawn to books with more action oriented plots, or by great characters (or both)?

Remembering the little details…

Yes, I realize I missed my Thursday post with my fellow dwarves. Nope, I have absolutely no excuse. Unless you count the fact that sleep decided it wasn’t being appreciated enough and left me in a snit about two weeks ago.  Damn drama queen.  Now I figure out how to lure it back.  In the meantime, I took over Saturday’s spot on the 7ED site to play catch up.  On my blog, no one will notice…

I promised we’d get back to some basics on writing, so now that Shadow’s Moon is out propositioning some very nice people at the pub houses, let me clue you in on something I knew, but had slammed home recently.  When writing a series, it’s very important to be able to remember the little details.  You know, things like hair color, eye color, height, gender, where someone lives, what their favorite food is, what they drive, who their parents are…the little things.  It’s all those little things that make or break your world over numerous books.

Readers are some of the most intelligent, eagled eyed people out there. If you tell them your character is blonde, blue-eyed, lives in the city, drives a sports car and prefers chocolate over caviar (like who doesn’t?), and then somewhere down the line she’s puttering around in the suburbs, eating caviar and driving a Jeep, there will be issues. I promise you.  So how does a writer keep track of all these little things? Especially as they are constantly refining their worlds and characters?

The answer is…a series bible.

Now, when I started Shadow’s Edge, I had the beginnings of a bible for the series. Of course it was scattered around my office and filing cabinets masquerading as scribbles on notebook paper, more scribbles on post-its (a vital component of any office), even more scribbles on the back of restaurant receipts with coffee stains.  By the time I finished the first book, I managed to gather my loose little notes into one central area. Then I was off to write Shadow’s Soul. When I spent more time trying to verify something about a character of one of the Kyn Houses than actually writing the scene, it was time to put it all together.  But, first I had to finish the book.

So Shadow’s Soul done and out into the world, Shadow’s Moon was well underway and my notes were still an unruly pile in need of some serious discipline. It may have taken a few discussions (read-heated debates) among the Evil 7, but it was glaringly obvious if I wanted to win some of my points, I better have proof that I really did have that character doing that before.  This meant the last two weeks, on top of query letters and synopsis creation (which we’ll try to address next week), I finally buckled down to get all those pesky details in order.

What exactly goes into a Series Bible, you may ask…my answer, after many hours trolling the internet and talking to other writers: Whatever you feel is vital to your world. 

With that lovely open to interpretation answer, I will share what is in mine and you can discard or copy what ever tickles your fancy.

CHARACTER PROFILES:  this includes all the vital stats on your characters–physical, emotional, background, who they’re linked to and how, images (there’s fun to be had doing an internet search entitled: hot brunette males), where they live, what they drive, how the dress, personal ticks/habits, job position, etc. 

LIST OF MINOR CHARACTERS:  I went book by book and anyone I mentioned by name went on this list, along with the notation DEAD if they didn’t survive.  You never know when one of these names comes back and takes over.

WORLD HISTORY:  this includes world rules on how your world works, the history of its creation and they way your current world interacts/ed with others.  In mine, I have a breakdown for each of the four houses of the Kyn, the governing structure, magic rules for each race, some history behind each of them, strengths/weaknesses of each race (physical/emotional), territory division for the Shifters and who runs which packs, glossary.  This is a huge section and you can break it down further if it helps.

PLACES/LOCATIONS:  a list of all the bars, restaurants, businesses, homes that are in each book and how they’re linked to the characters.  Someday I’ll have maps too!

BLURBS: from each book.  Here’s a great way to get a jump on your query, write your own blurb for your book.

SYNOPSIS: from each book, anywhere from 1-5 pages.  You’ll need these.

SERIES ARC:  This is important as it helps you see where each title will fall under your major plot, and how each title will help move it along.

NOVEL PLOTS:  self-explanatory–plots for each book, at least how they start out. They never end up the same.

SHORTS:  this is a list of ideas I will someday brave in my attempts to master the short story.

There is a massive amounts of opinions on what should be in your series bible, plus quite a few free worksheets if you want them, but I found this is what works best for me.  It allows me to keep it all straight and not lose sight of my overall story.

So for those who’ve stuck this out to the end–add your suggestions to what should be in a series bible!

-Wicked

NANO, Just Writing

The plan for NANO (National Novel Writing Month) is to just write, not edit, not outline, just write.  But how do you just write?  What does that even mean?

When I begin writing, I naturally crave some kind of structure, some kind of guidelines to follow.  Often my characters take me off my decided path, but then, a new path is created based upon what my characters want.  Does that make any sense at all?

BUT, this month I am just writing.  I am creating words on a page, without my usual obsessive compulsive behavior.  I am not going to re-read my work (at least I’ll try not to).  This plan, however, really worries me.  I think I might end up creating more work for myself in the end by doing things in such an unorganized way.  But at the same time, I am really looking forward to trying a different writing process.  Hey, I may even realize I like this way of writing better!

What do you think?  Does writing without a plan simply cause more problems in the long run?

NANO- National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month!  We Evil Dwarves are proud to say we are participating this year (and November is ALMOST here).  I have prepared my blogs ahead of time with a plan, so I can spend November working on the second novel in my new series.  But, I do have some reservations.

First of all, you have to understand my writing process to understand why something like NANO could get me a little stressed, so here it is:

  1. Wake from an intriguing dream.  Write it down.  Mull it over.  Write it down again, with some of the weird that doesn’t make sense when you wake up stuff, gone.
  2. Start writing.  Understand my character and my world.  Adjust how the character changes what I originally thought.
  3. Stop writing.  Create a general outline for the remainder of the book.
  4. Start writing again.  Make it to about the halfway point in the book.
  5. Stop writing again.  Go back and edit/revise the first portion of the book.
  6. Rewrite the outline with more details, adjusting for the changes that have occurred during the writing process.
  7. Start writing again.  Write until the end of the book.
  8. Finally, the hardcore revising begins.

Okay, so I never claimed my writing process was neat and organized.  What is your process like?  Also, this is why I fear NANO so much.  I am expected to go against my obsessive writing behaviors and just write for an entire month.

I don’t know how successful I will be in this process.  Our expectation is to write 50,000 words in one month, BUT it has taken me three months to write the first 50,000 words of my current novel.

So, wish me luck!  I hope I can proudly say, come the end of November, that I accomplished my goal, but if I end up mumbling something less than 50,000 words as my accomplishment, don’t judge me too harshly.

Also, does anyone else plan to participate this year?

Prepping for NaNo…

Welcome back, Swamp visitors!  I hope you enjoyed last week’s jaunt into the wonderful world of new writers.  I hope you found something wickedly cool to add to your reading lists! 

In honor of the looming presence of NaNo, I thought I’d share a bit of my prep experience for this year with you.  Yes, I know, a pantser who preps? What an oxymoron.  Except I’m finding it necessary before I dive head long into the roaring abyss of NaNo next week. 

Writing by the seat of your pants is not only a creative whirlwind, but it’s terrifying.  Here’s why:  when you get stuck, you get stuck and sometimes you can’t tell up from down and start digging deeper into the mire of fragmented concepts and useless plot points. I call myself a pantser, but in actuality, I cheat because I do plot out the major plot points.  You know the ones, this happens in the first third to start the ball rolling, this happens in the second third because this is where everything is going to change for the characters, and this has to happen in the last third because now that my characters have a new reality, this is how it will solve the problem.

Since I’m stuck just past the first third of Shadow’s Moon, I have been paying attention to various blogs about structure and plot and planning.  I know, I know, I can hear the screams of denial from my fellow pantsers–but really, what else can you do if you want your story to work?

As I continue to write and improve my craft, I’m discovering that the OCD that rules my life in every other aspect, is starting to bleed over.  Not as much as it can, but enough so that yes, I am preparing for NaNo to make sure I can get unstuck and tuck Shadow’s Moon under the “completed” section of my writing checklist.   I am going back to make sure that I have down my characters’ motivations, what’s driving my protagonist and why, where is the central conflict (romance or mystery?), what other conflict layers are there (and there are more than one!), what are my three major turning point that change my characters’ goals/motivations, drive their darkest moments, and then enable them to beat the bad guy. 

Do you see how the picture is starting to form.  Not really an outline per se, but more of road map.  I’m hoping it will allow me to keep my pantser identity, but I have a feeling no successful writer is really a true pantser, because at some point we all have to plot.

Because I’ll be swimming with the NaNo sharks all of November, my blogs will just be a word count with maybe one or two sentences (if I can form them) on what’s happening.  Keep your fingers crossed I survive NaNo and bring forth some awesome habits and new writing skills! 

Now onto NaNo!

PS: If you want to add me to your NaNo buddy list, feel free! I’m at NaNo Wrimo under Jami Gray!

–Wicked

My Evil Plot

Okay, it’s probably not evil, but for me plotting is evil. I am a panster at heart and I find it very difficult to force myself to have a cohesive plan. But after last week’s revelation I decided I needed to try something different. Now that I have Scrivener (plotters personal holy grail) I have no reason not to give it a go. For those of you not familiar with Scriviner it has a side bar where you can can put various chapters/scenes/notes/research all in a cohesive manner. This is difficult to explain so I highly recommend checking out a Youtube video or going to http://www.literatureandlatte.com/ to browse a bit. 

I also decided I needed to analyze my characters more and decided to see what the web had to offer me. I found this character worksheet http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/p/character-worksheet.html and have begun the process of psychoanalyzing my characters which is both fun and tedious. I have to admit I am learning a lot about my characters. For instance I had no idea that Peg’s favorite color was orange or that she was a big Stephen King fan. She also collects tea cups (fun fact for all of you). 

So far this journey has been fun and I have to admit my favorite part is finding all of these wonderful tools online. Writer’s are truly fortunate these days because we have so much information at our finger tips. That is if we have access to the internet (I’m going to assume that you do if your reading my post). I have found a lot of things this past week that I believe will make my novel rock my socks off and hopefully one day a larger audience. 

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