30 November 2010

3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month -- Day One

Welcome to the 3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month aka PostNaNoPlotPerfection.

Today begins a month-long opportunity to refine the plot arch of your novel, memoir, and screenplay.

If you participated in
NaNoWriMo 2010, first take time to congratulate yourself! You've done what many talk and dream of doing -- you've written an entire story from beginning to end. Celebrate!

Next, craft the project into a coherent piece worthy of publication.

During December, take the steps needed to analyze what you've written and brainstorm for an effortless draft two in January '11.

Re
vision your project before actually rewriting the manuscript. (This also works for writers without a first draft. Whether you merely have an idea for a story, a few chapters or scenes, just tweak the assignments to make them work for wherever you are in the process.)

Everyday this month, I'll provide plot tips and tricks and inspiration.

No writing required.

Following are a couple of caveats for our month together:

1) Do NOT show anyone what you've written so far. The first draft of any writing project is considered the generative phase. At the end of the generative phase, a writer is often faced with a manuscript full of holes and missteps, confusion and chaos. This is part of the process in that editing and/or an unbridled internal critic in the generative phase risks stifling the muse, which often results in stagnation.

Your first draft is a fragile thread of a dream. You know what you want to convey, well, maybe and sort of. Few writers can adequately communicate a complete vision in the first draft of a story, especially when writing by the seat of your pants. Allow others to read your writing now and you risk losing energy for your story and becoming overwhelmed by the task ahead of you.

2) Do NOT read what you've written. I know, I know. You're anxious to read your hard work. However, the longer you give yourself before actually reading your first draft, the better. If you read your manuscript now, you're still close enough to the work that you'll automatically fill in the gaps. Give yourself distance first. This allows you to read your work more objectively later.

Let's get started!

By now, you know who the protagonist of your story is. Stories are about character transformation. The character who is transformed by the dramatic action in your story is your protagonist. Fill out the following for your protagonist. If the major antagonist in your story is a person, fill out the following for that character as well. If you have more than one point of view character, fill out the form for that/those characters, too.

CHARACTER EMOTIONAL DEVELOPMENT PROFILE

Character’s name:

Dramatic Action Plotline
Overall story goal:
What stands in her way:
What does she stand to lose:

For an in-depth explanation of the importance of goal setting to launch the dramatic action plot using Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak, Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, click here.

Character Emotional Development Plotline
Flaw:
Strength:
Hates:
Loves:
Fears:
Dream:
Secret:

For an in-depth explanation of using a character flaw to create the character emotional development plot using examples: The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini, Sounds Like Crazy by Shana Mahaffey, click here.

For an in-depth explanation of the three most important plot lines in every great story and using as examples: The Girl with a Golden Tattoo by Stieg Larsson, Outlander by Diana Gabaldon, The Space Between the Stars by Deborah Santana, click here.

Good luck! And remember, as tempting as it is, do NOT read your first draft. That will come later. For now, use what you know about your characters to fill out the form.

29 November 2010

PostNaNoPlot Perfection

Tomorrow ends NaNoWriMo for another year. That means you have today and tomorrow to finish. No matter what, keep writing. 

Wednesday begins the 3rd Annual International Plot Writing Month, also known as PlotWriMo or as my friend and short story writer Mary Eastham dubs the month of December, PostNaNoPlot Perfection.

Write now. Shape your words into a compelling story throughout December.

Perhaps you didn't do nano? Don't even know what it is but you have a draft of your book and are wondering, now what? 

No draft of a story written? Follow the steps outlined this month to generate ideas for one. (You'll have to use your imagination and fill in the missing blanks, but you're good at that, right? You're a writer.)

Follow me here everyday for plot tips and tricks and inspiration beginning Dec. 1st.

No writing required.

Use the month to push aside the words and analyze the characters and dramatic action and thematic significance you have written. Brainstorm for an effortless draft two in January '09.

26 November 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

Two days before Thanksgiving, I receive a lovely tweet from writer alerting me that I'm "hanging with [her] in [her] kitchen today." The fact that I am on the West Coast and she in the east makes her message all the more delightful! I visualize her watching my vlog in her kitchen as she prepares for Thanksgiving day.

She follows up with another tweet saying "the supporting cast" seagulls REALLY captured the attention of [her] golden retriever. The gulls steal the show here.

Thank you for visiting this space,  for sharing your writing journey with me, for tweeting, and friending, and commenting on all the various and sundry social media and elsewhere on the internet. 

A few months ago, I did not even know what a vlog was. Thanks to helpful people, now I have one. Amazing! And writers show up to watch. Gratitude fills me...

I love how small the world is. I love feeling connected to you all over the world. I love you for showing up for your writing. Thank you for your daily inspiration....

22 November 2010

What Skills Necessary for Protagonist to Rediscover?

Writers struggle with where and how to begin their stories for the same reason many writers begin in present story time and immediately flip to a flashback. 

The moment the protagonist loses her innocence or footing often takes place years before the real story time begins. 

In order to prevail at the Climax, the protagonist must rediscover the beliefs, skills, knowledge, or experience lost in her back-story.

I use The Kite Runner, Grapes of Wrath and East of Eden as examples on Step 16 of the Plot Series: How Do I Plot A Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? Click here to read more

15 November 2010

Too Airy-Fairy???

The fear you greet at every major threshold of your life is simply based on a fantasy of a danger that has not happened. Rather than stay frozen on the future, get out of your head. 

Feel your body. 

Seize this moment and write something, anything. 

Keep moving. 

Write through the fear.

Today, detach from the outcome and concentrate on putting one world after another on the page. 

Forget the duality of good versus bad. 

Marvel at the miracle of words appearing out of nowhere and you writing them on the page.

Replace fear with blind trust that you will be supported and that all is well.

Make the act of writing or whatever you do an act of love...

12 November 2010

5 Reasons Writers Get Stuck with Tips How to Unstick

Whether a romance writer, historical novelist, screenwriter or memoirist, all writers bog down at one time or another or two or three or five hundred.. In my work with writers, I have spotted 5 classic reasons writers falter when it comes to the craft of writing: 

1) Writers Balk at Plot

At the thought of plot and structure, writers’ palms turn sweaty and their hearts race

Why the visceral reaction?

The act of creation generally comes from the right side of the brain and the linear, concrete structure of plot comes from the left, making structure for writers inherently counter-intuitive.

At some point, however, every writer, even those who work out their stories on the page, requires some sort of structure in which to present their work. Plot is the interweaving of character emotional development, dramatic action and thematic significance. In other words, someone acts or reacts. In so doing, that someone is changed and something is learned.

2) Writers Concentrate on Their Strengths, Forgetting that Plot is not Merely Action-driven Nor is it Only Character-driven

The rhythm of story telling is in all of us right now, especially for those of us who were read to as youngsters and continue to read fiction today.

(PLOT TIP: The best way to becoming a better writer is to become a more voracious reader).

Natural born storyteller tap into this rhythm unconsciously and are able to weave all three plot lines without much conscious thought to structure. For the rest of us who have something to say and long to be heard or, in our case, read, our stories tend to turn out lopsided. Why? Because we get stuck either by concentrating on action only, forgetting that character makes up 70% of good fiction, or by delving into the inner-workings of characters with little regard for conflict, tension and suspense.

3) Writers Forget the Importance of Cause and Effect

The structure of story has remained essentially the same since the beginning of time. The elements that vary are the beat or tempo and the intensity. Take, for example, the best seller The DaVinci Code (dramatic action-driven story) by Dan Brown with its break-neck pace of action versus the more leisurely plot pace of the early 19th century Emma (character emotional development-driven story) by Jane Austen. Though the degree of intensity rises at differing speeds, both stories possess a strong element of suspense thanks to the use of tightly linked cause and effect.

Without Cause and Effect, Tempo and Intensity a story can bog down and the writer gets stuck.

Of course, writers of today always have the option to give their readers the unexpected and slow things down. But whether you adhere to the current story telling standards or create your own, and whether you write thrillers, memoirs, historical or mainstream fiction, a firm understanding of the essence of plot helps to not only keep you going, but increases your chances of being published and enjoyed by readers.

4) Writers Tell Instead of Show the Story

Show, don’t tell. We’ve all heard it. Nevertheless, writers often get stuck on wanting to tell their story and thus end up writing in summary. Summary sums up or tells what happens over a period of time in your story. Summary is important, but it also puts distance between the reader and the story. Scene shows what happens as the action unfolds moment-to-moment on the page. Scene is immediate and draws the reader in close to the story.

Scene holds the same sort of structure as the overarching plot of a story, beginning with steps toward a goal or desire, followed by some sort of conflict and tension and ending with a cliff-hanger. Each scene has a tiny plot of its own. Understand scene and you begin to understand the essence of plot.

Scene focuses on motion with tension and conflict, and slows down the story speed for maximum effect. Not all scenes have really big events going on in them, but every scene holds layers and layers of information packed into the moment all at once written in detail. If you can convince the reader to trust you the small things up front, they will believe you in the big things to come.

All the high points in a story must be played out in scene on the page, moment-by-moment in real time. The technique of slowing things to moment-by-moment forces the stakes in a story ever higher. At the same time, the stakes also rise for you as the writer. Many beginning writers hide from the pressure of creating scenes by relying on summary and narration. These same writers hold the mistaken belief that they can control things better by telling what happens rather than by showing in scene. My contention is if you break down scene to its smallest parts you retain control.

5) Writers Forget that the Craft of Writing Comes in the Deliberate Arrangement of Scenes

The muse flows into our imagination through visions and ideas, dreams and inspiration. However, once all the muse’s wonderful material is on the page, it is then up to the writer to organize the scenes in order to give them the biggest impact.

The first part of getting the story down on the page almost comes from outside of the writer. 

The biggest hurdles for the writer at this stage to overcome are resistance and the inner critic. 

Once the material is on the page, however, is when the writer walks fully into their power as a writer. The biggest hurdle for the writer at this stage is full knowledge about the craft of writing itself.

08 November 2010

A Personal Glimpse into Character Emotional Development

Steeped in nature and beauty, surrounded by writers willing to take a risk, for five days, I went through the process of creating and analyzing plot at both the scene and the overall story level.

Several writers at last week's plot retreat were local. The rest flew in from Nevada, Colorado, Mississippi and handful from southern California. Some of the writers knew me from plot consultations and previous workshops and retreats. Others were familiar only through my book and/or other plot tools and YouTube Plot Series.

The focus on Character Emotional Development plot brings up opportunities to use the writing life as examples writers can relate to along with classic novels, memoirs, and screenplays. 

It was an incredible five days. Thanks to each of you for taking time out of your busy lives and attending. You touched my heart in deep and wondrous ways.

Fill in the Character Profile below for your protagonist (the character who is most changed by the dramatic action), any other major viewpoint characters and, if there is one, the character who represents the major antagonist for the protagonist. If you decide to do it for yourself as a writer, too, I'd love to learn your answers. You do not have to include your name.

1. What is this character's goal?

2. What stands in the way of the character achieving his/her goal?

3. What does the character stand to lose if he/she does not achieve his/her goal?

4. What is the character's flaw or greatest fault?

5. What is the character's greatest strength?

6. What does the character hate?

7. What does the character love?

8. What is the character's greatest fear?

9. What is the character's dream?

10. What is the character's secret?