31 March 2014

Plot the Climax, Write the Climax, Re-Vision the Climax and Then Re-Write the Climax of Your Story

I love her confidence and energy and enthusiasm. She captures ideas and events and scenes from a vivid imagination, pins them into a beginning, middle and end, sets up a series of plot consultations with me, shares characters and goals and action until they shape themselves into a story with a plot ~ and what a plot she has!

Last novel we did this way and she wrote from beginning to end is now in the hands of an agent who asked for the entire manuscript. Last novel took 4 two-hour sessions to plot from beginning to end over several weeks. This novel, we finished in 3 two-hour sessions. As we were plotting, she was writing. Lots of scenes have been written. She's eager to write the entire novel from beginning to end.

She's in the flow of the creative process and in the flow of a working writer ~~ submitting one novel while beginning another novel. Seems to have few if any internal flaws interfering with her progress. She's open to change and different ideas, not at all attached to her 1st ideas, more concerned with the good of the story itself. She demonstrates lots of strengths supporting her progress. I'm thrilled for her -- an empowered writer who isn't letting anything stand in her way of success.

The climax of her current novel deepens her fast-paced, external dramatic action concept in a truly exotic world and time into an exploration of a unique and unexpected ending, one that leads readers to ponder outside the genre towards new ways of acting and all the way into what's possible even in our real world today.

I love her for clearing time for us to thoroughly discuss the climax. What she starts with feels right, in a predictable sort-of-way. Yes, the story is all about big, loud external moments and the climax more than satisfies that pace and mood and tone. She's willing to explore something more meaningful and different to leave the reader not only satisfied--wanting more. She has "been so careful not to use clich├ęd phrases, metaphors, and settings and have worked to make every element uniquely your own. Why settle for a trite ending? When a character rises in triumph at the climax, what does she look like, act like? In the resolution, what does the world look like now that she is new and different and transformed and has shared the gift she came to share? Everyone is looking for answers. Stories offer a new vision to replace the old, especially now that so much of the old world order falls apart.

"That fabulous beginning of your story and that wild twist in the middle do not count nearly as much as to a reader as the end of the story. Sure, you hope she looks back and sees how everything is seamlessly tied together. In fact, what she’s going to think about first is how the story ends. Readers and audiences are affected first and foremost emotionally by the story they read, whether the story evokes fear or anger, joy and celebration, or sadness and resignation. Connecting with readers emotionally to the point they become instinctively involved in the story is the dream of every writer. The best place to search for this emotional effect is at the climax.

Think different. Look beyond the words and sentences and scenes to the deeper pattern of your story. Every protagonist begins a story wanting something. The real reason that she goes after what she wants never (or rarely) is her stated reason. In fact, at the end of the story the protagonist can, and often does, fail at her stated goal. The reader cares because she knows the protagonist has actually won what she wanted and all that really matters is herself. She has gained self-knowledge and because of that she has been changed and transformed. After having all of her layers stripped away one by one as false or unreliable, the protagonist reaches the point where she either must break down and live an unlived life or stand straight and rely on herself. To do that, first she must find the self on which she can rely. This is why often in a story, the protagonist’s stated goal fades and is replaced by the real goal.

"Writers today must reach, think differently, and stretch when it comes to writing the climax of a story. A protagonist’s actions at the climax inspire the reader to think big and different and grow and evolve. Get the ending just right and deliver the greatest impact.

"Discarded along the Way. Often writers discard scene ideas for the climax, thinking they’re not good enough, important enough, or worthy enough. After the work you’ve completed in this workbook, you may now see these discarded scenes in a different light. Perhaps you spot something of tremendous value in that scene you earlier abandoned. Now is a great time to explore those ideas that seemed once to hold no promise. Stretch the boundaries of your current writing skills and risk trying something new for your climax.

***A fixed mindset about how a story should end is much less successful than a growth mindset. Some writers are afraid of what others will say about them if they write a climax that does not fit the image they portray to the outside world. Push your abilities. Open up to new ideas. Take risks. Expect some real climax failures as you come up with new ideas. Failures are a sign you have taken on a challenge. Taking on writing challenges expands your writing skills." (excerpted from: Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories

Today I write.
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.

19 March 2014

Plot for Middle Grade and Young Adult Stories: Plot Your Story Scene-by-Scene to Emotionally Engage Your Readers

The handout below is from a plot talk at the recent San Francisco Writer's Conference: Plot for Middle Grade and Young Adult Stories: Plot Your Story Scene-by-Scene to Emotionally Engage Your Readers.

I share points that serve writers of all genres and for all ages again now in honor of the plot workshops I'm teaching in Los Angeles this weekend. The Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators known as SCBWI hosts LA Writers' Days this weekend: Saturday, March 22 and Sunday, the 23rd. They have generously opened up my 5-hour Plot Intensive on Sunday to all writers. Tapping into the ancient structure of the Universal Story leads to enduring stories of all genres and for all ages. You do not have to register for the entire event.

Develop a Multi-Layered Plot for your Middle Grade Fiction and Young Adult Novels 

Bring your ideas, rough drafts, and beginning drafts rewritten 50 times and final manuscripts. Leave with an advanced understanding of how the action and emotion and meaning work together in your individualized story. Plot springs from character in conflict. Readers emotionally connect through tension shown in scene. Learn about the character emotional transformational plot, dramatic action plot and thematic significance plot, and how to apply the energy of the Universal Story to your unique project. You will be given the opportunity to explore your protagonist in new ways and practice using your scenes to create a Plot Planner for your latest project. Writing is challenging enough. A personalized Plot Planner keeps the plot(s) of your story in line.

Make protagonist’s flaw interfere with reaching her goal and establish in scene #1
Generate fluctuating emotion in every scene


Yes to a protagonist changing & transforming and becoming more emotionally mature
Assign protagonist’s goal the day before story begins and establish in scene #1

Pre-plot the 4 Energetic Markers as soon as possible
Locate the emotional moment in your story
Open your story with a character minus the skills, strengths and abilities needed at climax
Turn episodic events into scenes with cause and effect

Hope to see you Sunday!

Today I write.
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.

18 March 2014

How to Draw the Universal Story Line

A writer's difficulty drawing a Plot Planner line inspires this post. The first time we met at a plot workshop/retreat, literary agent Jill Corcoran asked me to draw the line for her. Her enthusiastic endorsement of my linear approach to a creative process later led to the Plot Whisperer books.

Writers who have been showing up weekly for the past ten weeks as part of the Plot from Beginning to End Series have begun sharing plot planners. One writer is waiting for her physicist husband to draw the line for her. Another writer has constructed four boards, one for each part of the Universal Story.

The Plot Planner lines I share are so straight and clear in an attempt to support my rather chaotic imagination. Mostly they're so perfect because that's the way people who have created my graphics have drawn them.

I'd love to have an artistic rendering that gives freedom to writers that whatever they draw is good enough. And good enough is perfect.

In the meantime, I wish I could be there to personally draw the line for you.

Today I write.
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.

13 March 2014

Writer Path's First Annual Deep Plot & Scene Retreat

I no longer remember which idea came first, the writer's retreat? I think we first talked about collaborating on a plot and scene book. Out of that came a contract from Writers Digest for DEEP SCENES: Plotting Your Story, Scene-by-Scene Through Action, Emotion and Theme. Writer Path's First Annual Deep Plot and Scene Retreat with Martha Alderson and Jordan Rosenfeld came next.
Your story deserves to be told. Your writer's soul needs to be nourished. From Friday, May 30th to Sunday June 1st, 2014, on this all-inclusive weekend retreat you'll plot to the heart of your story at the scene level and go deeper than ever before. (Lodging and meals are included in registration fee).

Be the first to apply NEW material from our forthcoming book from Writer's Digest (Fall 2015). Over the course of the weekend you’ll learn how to identify and write the key lynch-pin scenes of your plot backbone that build a page-turning story, master crucial scene types, and go deeper into your plot by layering the three key elements of all great fiction: Action, Emotion & Theme.

Join us deep in the beautiful Santa Cruz mountains, surrounded by forest, woodland creatures, beautiful open vistas and the necessary silence to help you replenish. You can take advantage of on-site yoga and massage at your leisure, as well. Whether revising or beginning a new project, you’ll emerge with a mastery of your plot, a scene tracker, and a calm, quiet, nourished soul. 

Our retreat is created for:
Writers with an existing plot and manuscript
Writers with an idea for a new plot not yet written
Writers grappling with changes to a plot
Writers in need of better structure
Writers at the beginning of their writing journey
Writers who are seeking to publish their work
Writers who wish to understand the intricate relationship between plot

Today I write.
A PATH to PUBLISHING using the Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories
Choose the NOVEL TRACK or the PICTURE BOOK TRACK for 4, 10 and 16-week workshops to ensure you understand concept, plotting, character development, scene development, action and emotional arc development, as well has how to pitch your work to agents, editors, and readers. Live online video chat technology. I recommend writers of all genres and all ages take at least one picture book plot workshop. Narrows all plot concepts down to 28 pages and 500 words for clarity.

WRITER PATH PLOT and SCENE RETREATS in the heart of the Santa Cruz MountainsYour story deserves to be told. Your writer’s soul needs to be nourished. Over a weekend you’ll learn how to identify and write the key lynch-pin scenes that build a page-turning story, master crucial scene types and go deeper into your plot by applying the three key layers that run through all great fiction: action, emotion and theme. Reserve your spot now for the 1st Annual Writer Path Retreat.

For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.

09 March 2014

Character Motivation: What is Her True Journey?

Some people believe that we incarnate in the world to heal a specific wound that, at birth, we forget. Most of us spend our lives unconscious of this deeper destiny.

The opposite is true when writing a story. What happens throughout the story makes it impossible for the protagonist to remain unconscious. The Crisis in the Middle forces the protagonist to consciousness. This gives her the ability to face the greatest challenge of the entire story -- the Climax at the End and not only survive but to triumph.

The Climax at the End usually hits a scene or chapter from the last page of the project. By then, the protagonist has learned everything she needs to know, scene-by-scene throughout the entire story, to do what she came here to do.

The End feels inevitable because every scene that comes before the Climax has led the reader scene-by-scene to that very moment.


Answer the following:
1) What is your protagonist's true journey? Purpose?
2) What is it that only your protagonist can do? Deliver? Conquer? Overcome?
3) What is the gift only your character has (granted they have to go through all the trial and challenges throughout the story to get there, but...)?
4) Why your character?
(Excerpts from the Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories)

Today I write.
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.

06 March 2014

The Power of Facing the Crisis of Your Novel, Memoir, Screenplay

I'm jumping for joy! Rather than the usual struggle defining the Crisis of their stories, most of the writers today in our 16-week A PATH to PUBLISHING Plot Whisperer Workbook Series, not only nailed the crisis, they are also writing, facing fears, standing up for themselves, and one writer today even announced she felt not only is her writing improving, her entire life is, too. Oh, I am over-the-moon. I know, cliche. I'm giddy. I'm just so darn happy for the writers not only having survived this week -- defining and writing the crisis often sets off a personal crisis as well -- actually flourishing and transforming, too.

This workshop series is the first time I've had the pleasure of taking a group of writers page-by-page through Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories identifying, planning, plotting, doing the exercises, considering all the various plot elements, filling in Plot Planners and Scene Trackers for their own individual stories (along with Literary Agent Jill Corcoran with her amazing insight). Incredible experience for me. I'm so happy and fulfilled to believe the experience is proving helpful to the writers, too.

I wish all writers using the workbook had such support. The urge to go back rather than forge ahead into the hell of the crisis is tough to overcome. Yet all the writers today proved that it's not only possible, the effort brings forth unexpected gifts.

Oh, and more terrific news today! My other inspired/inspiring cohort Jordan Rosenfeld and I are giving away Amazon gift cards as thanks for your patience while the WRITER PATH PLOT and SCENE RETREATS  website was down. We're up and running again! Really looking forward to a blissful weekend at the end of May in the Redwood forest of the Santa Cruz mountains.

Today I write.
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.

02 March 2014

The Critique

(When I was asked to participate in a segment on criticism (literary/film) for the CBS Sunday Morning Show, my friend Luisa Adams, author of Woven of Water, sent me this poem she had written after receiving a particularly negative critique.)

The Critique
by Luisa Adams

Barbed wire
The artist's soul

Opinion's hoarfrost
The creative helix

Devouring egos
The tender skin

Critic's cord
The artist's soul

When does criticism cross the line between "the analysis and judgment of the merits and faults of a literary or artistic work" to "the expression of disapproval of someone or something based on perceived faults or mistakes"? Writers often have difficulty separating self from their work.

When creating something out of nothing, which is what a writer does daily, constructive criticism can help grow brighter a writer's light. Negative criticism and voicing objection to something, only with the purpose of showing what is wrong and generally suggesting disapproval is often interpreted as a personal attack and usually serves to dim a writer's light (especially if the comments touch off a sensitive backstory wound and trigger self-loathing and the inner critic's crippling and negative self-talk).

I find writers benefit from a critique that is balanced between what is working and why and what isn't working and why.
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.