29 January 2014

Benefits of Pre-Pre-Plotting or the Art of Pitching Your Story

Summer means Writers Conferences and pitching your story. You find yourself sitting at lunch next to a literary agent. How quickly and compellingly do you draw her into your story? How intriguing is your concept?

When friends ask what your story is about, rather than drone on about every single plot point, learn how to rattle off a pithy pitch that sends even people overhearing you begging for more.

Think of the concept and pitch as the seeds out of which grow action and characters interacting in a meaningful way.

Some writers won't write a word until they come up with a concept that renders them begging for more. Others don't tackle the task until they've finished writing and editing and are ready to query.

Wherever you are with your story, the time is never too early to ask yourself: What is your story about really? Brainstorm. Keep a notebook. Narrow down what your story is about to one or two lines and you're ready to pitch.

Concept, Logline, Pitch Workshop is the next workshop for all ages and all genres at A Path to Publishing.

Join literary agent and publishing insider Jill Corcoran and me and 22 other writers for the opportunity to refine your story concept, develop a log line and perfect your pitch.

23 January 2014

Another Way to View the Crisis, through a Personal Lens

As we all gathered together for today's online video chat with 8 writers, Literary Agent Jill Corcoran and me, one writer had difficulty logging on. This being our very first technical snafu, I thought to myself, ah, ha!

Jill attempted to help the writer and then she disappeared. When she came back she advised all of us to turn off other apps on our computers. We all disappeared.

The problems resolved quickly and went on to explain how this week (the 3rd session of 4 in the Pre-Plot Workshop of our 4-month Plot from Beginning to End series) represents the Crisis point in the Universal Story. I ask if anyone had trouble with their homework this week and felt their stories weren't what they had hoped, got lost, struggled and suffered doubt and uncertainty. Everyone raised their hands. Two or three writers, in their frustration and deeming their stories unworthy, tossed the story they started with on our journey together to plot and write throughout the entire series and chose instead to begin working on a different story.

Perhaps I should have thought to warn everyone at the end of last week's class in preparation for the torment they could suffer when the 4 Energetic Markers of the Universal Story failed to appear in their stories or because what did appear seemed not quite right, not quite good enough.

My hope is that they'll stick it out with the story they were first drawn to work with. It may seem easier to go back and start over again, start fresh. The harder way, the Universal Story way, is to wade deeper into the uncertainty and insecurity and fear of not being good enough or your story worthy. In the end, a gift awaits.

First, however, I find myself trembling in anticipation of what's going to happen when we reach the 3/4 mark of the entire 16-week series…

*****NEW left for our Concept, Logline, Pitch Workshop . Have a bunch of ideas but not sure which one to write? Have a completed manuscript and ready to start querying and pitching to agents and editors? Literary agent Jill Corcoran knows concept. I know plot. Join us live and online .

If you'd like more, join me at an upcoming a writers conference, picture book workshop , middle grade and young adult intensive , and WRITER'S PLOT RETREAT and read my plot books.

21 January 2014

A Writing Plan that Incorporates Research, Plotting and Writing

His first book takes years to write. He decides to try something entirely different and signs up for a plot consultation. He knows the protagonist's goals and major antagonists, secondary characters, exotic world, character traits, thematic elements and throws in a couple of dynamic twists to elevate the story from bland to compelling.

We discuss key scenes:
He knows the climax, sort of. He changes the first scene to the end of the beginning scene to give himself time to seduce the reader into the story and the reader time to care about the characters while, at the same time, still providing tension and curiosity to read forward.

I suggest he begin writing now, even as we continue pinning down the overall plot and structure of his story.

He balks.
Comes up with excuses.
Needs more time.
Calls himself a nervous writer.

I feel his resistance and more than a bit of fear even. Bullying himself will only add more stress and avoidance behaviors. We brainstorm ways to ease himself into writing, turn his self-talk about his relationship to writing in a more positive direction, learn to relax and trust the process of creating something out of nothing and nurture the belief that so long as he shows up open-heartedly and with limited or no judgment his words will flow.

Homework is three-tiered:
1) write 1 - 4 scenes fast and with no judgment
2) volunteer at an agency he needs to research for his story
3) continue to study the parameters of the 4 Energetic Markers and explore ideas for those key scene in his story.

*****2 Spots left for our Picture Book Workshop . Picture Books with a plot sell better than episodic ones. Literary agent Jill Corcoran knows concept and the picture book market. I know plot. Join us live and online .

If you'd like more, join me at an upcoming online video-chat plot workshop a writers conference, picture book workshop , middle grade and young adult intensive , and writer's plot and scene retreat and read my plot books.

19 January 2014

Tracking Scenes In Your Memoir One Scene at a Time

I am using The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories to refine my memoir. On page 84 you give an example of a Scene Tracker for the beginning of The Great Gatsby. I cannot find an explanation of the various markings in the Emotional Change column which vary by scene.( --/--/ +/-, etc.) Could you please explain?

Also, in the conflict column, I am guessing the "X" indicates conflict present in the scene, whereas scenes without and "x" are probably summary. Am I correct?

My left brain thanks you for showing up at just the right time!

In Column #7, plot the emotion at the beginning of each of your scenes with a plus or a minus sign depending on how the character is feeling at the beginning of the scene. Continue to change the sign as long as the character’s emotion changes throughout the scene.

Without some sort of emotional change in your character, your story will become stagnant and you will likely lose the reader. Stories are living, breathing organisms. They must grow and change. The protagonist is a living, breathing organism who must grow and change as she tries to get something in life and fails and tries again. Each time your protagonist is knocked down, she must get back up and try again. As long as you are able to record a change in the protagonist’s emotional level somewhere throughout the scene, then your chances of keeping the reader’s interest increases.

It is best if the protagonist is in worse shape when she ends the scene than when she started the scene. No matter how bad things get for the character, they can and should always get worse. If you find that your protagonist is always happy or always sad with not many definite changes in emotions then perhaps you are like the writer who told me after she started tracking her scenes that she was finding that her piece was “a rather dour story of a dour character.”

Having had that realization, she began working on integrating a variety of emotion in some form or another to show more of the protagonist’s strengths and hopefulness.

As for your 2nd question: Yes, an X in Column #6 indicates there is indeed conflict and tension in the scene.  Those scenes without an X means that there is no conflict. Some writers choose to write a brief summary of the conflict in the box. Remember there is no right or wrong way to use the Scene Tracker. At anytime feel free to adapt it to suit your individual needs.

Today I write!

*****If you'd like more, join me at an upcoming online video-chat plot workshop a writers conference, picture book workshop , middle grade and young adult intensive , and writer's plot and scene retreat and read my plot books.

17 January 2014

Are Negative Reviews a Form of Bullying?

I was asked the question by a writer on Facebook long enough ago that I can't find her message and can't remember her exact wording. What I do remember really got me thinking... for months as layers of shame peeled back until I saw myself before the reviews to me now.

She wanted to know if I felt the negative reviews on Amazon for The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master , especially the ones that are so personal, are bullying. Yes, I can now say, yes, I felt bullied. Her question led me to understand how much criticism and bullying and judgment and punishment I've received in my life for being different -- as likely you also have to one degree or another.

Problem: The negative reviews worked. Rather than believe the vast majority of reviews which are positive in warm and incredible ways, I surrendered my own beliefs and pulled back from writing about so much that brings me joy -- like the Universal Story, the Writer's Way, the journey all of us share. I allowed the antagonists to fell me.

All of us have fears. When our fear(s) keep us from our dreams and if we're lucky, we're eventually forced to face that which haunts us and be stripped of everything until we learn we're bigger than our fears and ultimately that there is nothing to fear.

I spotted a quote  on Pinterest that moved me:

The writer's FB message sent me on a journey of remembering. I now appreciate the gift in the negative reviews that came so fast and the damage so swift and early. For me to do what I love, I've got to hold my own power or be silenced by and lose to those who don't agree with me and ridicule my ideas.

I also appreciate I can't be seduced by praise though I'm grateful to receive positive emails and messages about how my books and vlog have made you write more and understand yourself better. Thank you! Without a spiritual or inner plot, without a shared language and belief that there is more to life than simply the outer plot, rather than transcend, we're pulled back to wallow there in the muck of the past. I'm grateful to travel this path with you...

Today I write!

Need more help with your story? 
  • Ready for a massive rewrite? Re-vision first!
  • Confused about what you're really trying to convey in your story?
  • Lots of action, no character development? Lots of character development and no action?
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

1st video (43 minutes of direct instruction + exercises for your own individual story) FREE
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises total
*****If you'd like more, read my plot books.

15 January 2014

Where Exactly Does the End Begin in a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay?

I've read Blockbuster Plots about five times and seen all your wonderful Youtube vids (thanks!). But it seems like the line initiating the third acts changes a lot. On Pinterest, you have it coming just after the low point after the crisis. Others with examples on the same page put it before. And in your book, it comes even later, right before the climax.

Can you clarify about the right time for a third act to appear? Thanks!
Every Plot Planner you refer to shows the End beginning in different places because different artists created the different Plot Planners for me. In my webinars, the line initiating the End is different than all the others.

Another reason why the line is different on all the Plot Planners is because the End is determined by the story itself.

In high action stories and lots of screenplays, the distance between the crisis and the climax in scene and page count is much shorter than say literary fiction and some genres.

Thresholds Hold Tension
By slowing the action and drama after the crisis, when the energy rises to announce the final quarter, the story moves quickly and with maximum impact to the end.

The protagonist estimates what is necessary for ultimate success in achieving her goal. She gathers the attributes, things, and people to take forward with her on the final journey to the end. She leaves behind everything that does not serve the highest good.

The final quarter of the story shows the protagonist taking action without hesitation. The character may have thought about the actions she intends to take to accomplish her goal and even voiced them, but until she acts her words are meaningless.

The moment she moves toward her long-term goal, the final one-quarter of the story begins. The dramatic action is designed to get the protagonist to the right place at the right time to seize back her personal power from the antagonist that best represents the thematic significance of the entire story.

In The Lace Reader, Calvin represents all that the protagonist has lost. To break free of the hell in which her fear has held her for fifteen years, she must face him, face her greatest fear.
**Excerpt from The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master named BEST BOOKS FOR WRITERS by Poets and Writers

If you'd like more, join me at an upcoming online video-chat plot workshop a writers conference, picture book workshop , middle grade and young adult intensive , and writer's plot and scene retreat and read my plot books.

12 January 2014

The Writer's Way

One of my favorite parts of the The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master is The Writer's Way one of two breakout sections.
One section, Plot Whisper offers tips and exercises designed to improve your plotting skills. Think of Plot Whisper as an ally supporting your outer goal of writing a novel, memoir, screenplay.

Keep in mind, that story you wish to write is inside of you personally, in your imagination, your muse, in the air you breath. Wherever you believe the story comes from, for you to achieve your outer goal, that story has to flow through you onto the page. The Writer's Way is designed to expand your understanding of the demands when writing a story with a plot from beginning to end.

The Writer's Way is also a guide for the disclosure I make in the book:

"...After using these ideas, you’ll begin to understand yourself better. You’ll see your writing in a different light. The ways you interact with your writing and with the world around you will shift.

"Be forewarned, though. Writing a story can expand your everyday life; it can also destroy the person you are now."

You undertake your own inner journey when your protagonist embarks on hers.

Whether you emerge from the experience better or worse is your choice. The act of writing offers you the possibility of transformation.

In 2014, I plan to continue sharing my impressions after a plot consultation and Plot Whisper tips and tricks and this year also to include The Writer's Way posts.
If you'd like more, read my plot books.

08 January 2014

Re-"visioned": Now What? How to Rewrite

PlotWriMo helped you separate from the word level of your story to concentrate on the overall story level. In every story's life a time comes when an assessment is needed of what you're doing with all those words. What is the whole of your creation?

Throughout December, you spent the month identifying and cutting and adding and organizing and refining and pacing the scenes of your story at the structural level. You've found what are your writing strengths and weaknesses and what are your story's strengths and weaknesses by creating Plot Planner of your story. (A Plot Planner works well at the pre-plotting, writing and revision stages.)

That is the revision process.

With all your story elements arranged just right on a Plot Planner comes time to rewrite your entire manuscript from beginning to end. Now that your plot and structure are set, you no longer have to use all that left-brained power, or at least not as intensely as during the revision process, and seize again your area of strength -- writing words.

A Scene Tracker supports you as you rewrite.
A Scene Tracker is where you track the scenes as you rewrite, beginning from scene 1 and progressing all the way to rewriting every scene to the end. You better understand your writing weaknesses and use your strengths to bolster your confidence. One way to help ensure you're rewriting balanced scenes is with the help of a Scene Tracker that includes all 7 essential elements of scene:

1) date and time
2) character emotional introduction and development
3) dramatic action
4) goal
5) emotional change
6) conflict and tension
7) thematic details

****NEW 7 Essential Elements of Scene tutorial on YouTube
If you'd like more, read my plot books.

06 January 2014

2014 Your Year to Write a Story with a Plot

Fall 2013, I cracked open a six-pack of local, organic brown eggs to find four double-yolks. If I cook, which is rare, I cook breakfast, which means I've broken open plenty of eggs in my life. Not one has ever had a double yolk. This day, four had double yolks.
Since then, wonderful new pairings have come into my life. Each one brings plot benefits to you in a variety of settings:

1) Jill Corcoran and I created the 1st ever online, live Plot Whisperer Workbook Workshops.
The first workshop in the series: Pre-Plot 4-week workshop SOLD OUT!
We have three spaces available for:
Sign-up for all 3 Plot Whisperer Workshops and save $100.00! Plot from Beginning to End
Yesterday, Jill, following her passion, added a 4-week Picture Book Workshop, filling quickly.

Each plot workshop is designed for writers who benefit from: learning about story concept and plot, assigned homework, accountability, constructive feedback on your plot and concept, learning from other writers in a live, video chat format.

2) Jordan Rosenfeld and I met through friends over lunch in late summer. We both commented afterwards of experiencing one of those wonderful kinship sensations, like we spoke the same language. I read her novel Forged in Grace and fell in love with her writing. I wanted to write a plot book on scenes. Jordan wanted to write a scene book on plot. Writer's Digest just offered us contracts for Deep Scenes!

I dreamed of another plot retreat since my terrific host up and moved to the other side of the country. Jordan and I met up at Mt. Madonna in the Santa Cruz mountains and Deep Plotting Writing Retreat resulted.
Two more double-yolk pairing are meeting, matching up, connecting and joining together...

Write with a plot or story plan.
To familiarize yourself with the basic plot terms I use:
1) Plot your story step-by-step with the help of The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories

2) Read The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master named BEST BOOKS FOR WRITERS by Poets and Writers.

3) Refer to The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing for writing prompts for scene #1 to the very The End, one prompt at a time.

4) Watch the Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? on YouTube. Scroll down on the left of this post for a directory of all the steps to the series. 27-step tutorial on Youtube.

For more tips about how to use plot in your novel, memoir or screenplay, visit:

Plot Whisperer on Pinterest 

Knowing what to write where in a story with a plot reinforces daily writing practice and allows for more productivity in your writing. Whether writing a first draft or revising, if you falter wondering what comes next in a story with a plot, follow the prompts in The Plot Whisperer Book of Writing Prompts: Easy Exercises to Get You Writing.

Today, I write.

01 January 2014

Happy New Year!

I appreciate each of you who showed up for the 6th Annual PlotWriMo. International Plot Writing Month began as plot support for writers coming out of the generative stupor of an intense month-long NaNoWriMo.

We used the Plot Planner as a place to help you balance your intuitive impressions of your story with an equal counterforce: logic. The exercises were intended as pathways to a deepened understanding of your story and all plot levels:
  • Thematic Significance 
  • Dramatic Action
  • Character Emotional Development 
  • Cause and Effect 
  • Antagonists
  • Setting 
  • Subplots 
  • Secondary Characters 
  • Beginning, Middle, End 
  • Scene Development
  • Tension and Suspense
*****Time is running out to sign-up with literary agent Jill Corcoran and me for the 1st ever online, live Plot Whisperer Workbook Workshops evening chats beginning next Tuesday (1/7/14) from 5:45pm Pacific to 8pm for four weeks in January. A few spaces available in the evening. One left beginning 1/9 in the am.

If you benefit from:
1) being held accountable
2) receiving constructive feedback on your plot and concept
3) learning from other writers
join us and continue to deepen your plot and your understanding of your story concept with a comp analysis -- all ages, all genres, characters.