The W Plot

Plotting choices.png

I just read an article on yet another form of plotting. This one’s called the W Plot. My arsenal now includes the Hero’s Journey, the Virgin’s Promise, and the W Plot. I’m a pantser, but I’ve finally come to agree with writing coaches regarding the importance of plotting and finding the right one to fit your novel.

Wplot4.jpg

I just learned about the existence of the W Plot today in an email from writing coach, Lynn Johnston. I then found an article that presented the W Plot’s bare bones on a Blog by Ken Strathy. Intrigued, I went to a video about the W Plot narrated by Mary Carroll Moore in 2011.

Writing coach Lynn Johnston believes that, “The W Plot is one of the most flexible, easy to understand plot structures you can use to plot gripping stories.” Johnston is offering an inexpensive (very) course on the W Plot, so, after reviewing the above information, I signed up.

writers block.jpegI do, however, realize the trap of investing so much time on the creation of plot charts that I never get around to writing or finishing my novel. In fact, spending so much time on the left side of my brain has started to give me right-sided writer’s block!

islands.jpgMoore offers sage advice for this dilemma: “If your storyboard blocks your writing, go back to your brainstorming list of topics and keep generating islands for a little while.” For fiction writers, Moore’s “islands” refer to scenes you generate for a story that may not necessarily connect to your storyboard plan or character arc – at the moment. Generating a list of scenes, and even fleshing out a few, can get the creative juices flowing once again. Moore continues, “Eventually, you need to organize your islands. Your islands must become continents. They can’t stay as islands and create a book.”

Update: I just completed a self-study course by Lynn Johnston on The W Plot. I believe it will help me work through the snags in my current WIP. My new project didn’t fit into the Hero’s Journey or The Virgin’s Promise plot structure. I think this might be it! Johnston has slides, videos, and worksheets available with the course. I highly recommend it!

Categories: authors, books, Hero's Journey, Story Structure, The Virgin's Archetypal Journey, The W Plot | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Lines between Past and Present Fade

 

Polish_Protest.png

Today I read in the news that, “Several days of civil unrest have rocked Poland as hundreds of thousands of people across the country protest the government’s bid to replace Supreme Court judges and the EU threatens to intervene.

RH_cover.png

My YA historical fiction novel, Rising Hope, tells the story of six Polish teens who find hope, despite great loss, when their Boy Scout and Girl Guides troops fight alongside the Polish Underground Army against the Germans during WWII, culminating in the 1944 Warsaw Rising. Book two will follow the book’s fictional characters as they join a spy network NIE, during the Cold War, a resistance effort against the newly installed Communist government in Poland.

For the sake of Poland and its long struggle for freedom, I hope the current leaders listen to the protestors. After Poland overthrow Communism, it created a new constitution that called for courts and tribunals to constitute a separation of power, independent of other branches of power (Chapter VIII, Article 173). Political opponents, rights groups and the EU say that the changes the current ruling party has proposed will “undermine the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, a fundamental democratic principle” (UK’s Express).

For those wanting more background, the Express explains, “Since being elected in 2015, PiS [meaning Law and Justice, the current majority party in Poland] has tightened government control over courts and prosecutors, as well as state media, and introduced restrictions on public gatherings and the activity of non-governmental organisations.

“Last week, parliament passed another bill that ends the terms of current members of the National Council of the Judiciary, one of the main judicial bodies, and gives parliament powers to choose 15 of its 25 members.

“Political opponents, rights groups and the EU say the changes undermine the separation of powers between the executive and the judiciary, a fundamental democratic principle.”

What do you think? Let me know.

Categories: books, current events, in the news, Poland | Tags: | Leave a comment

Sleuthing & Subtext

I just read two thought-provoking articles that shared gems I hope to employ in writing the first draft of my next novel’s first chapter – hopefully by this weekend!

Sleuthing.png

One article discussed what the mantra of “show don’t tell” actually means. The writer boiled it down to the concept of “sleuthing” – creating scenes where readers must conduct a bit of detective work in order to figure out what’s going on with the characters. This makes readers feel more engaged in the story, helps them feel as though they’ve come to know the characters better, and provides them with a sense of ownership of the people and the scene. “Since the reader did some work to figure out what was going on, they now feel included, emotionally invested.”

 

subtext.jpeg

The second article illustrates how we can create subtext in dialogue by taking into account all of the forces acting upon a character at a particular moment. Using the illustration of a crumpled ball of paper getting thrown into a trash can, she shows that, while the goal of the shot is to make the ball enter the receptacle, more forces come into play than just the person’s goal of making the shot. Other forces, such as the pull of gravity, the friction of the air, the breeze from the ceiling fan also come into play. The person making the shot makes an assessment (albeit subconsciously) of all those forces before taking the shot. In the same way, “With each line, we [need to] take into account all of the forces acting upon a character.” The protagonist’s goal “is not the only force acting upon the character, it is simply the most dominant. Like the fan breeze that bends the path of the paper ball, other forces will bend the behavior of a character. This is the source of subtext.”

I’m looking forward to creating scenes that invite my readers to do some sleuthing in order to discover my characters’ wants and needs. I also hope to take into account all of the forces acting upon my characters at a given moment in order to create plot points that utilize subtext. Sleuthing and subtext will add layers of dimension to my characters while also deepening my readers’ emotional connection to the characters and the story.

 

Categories: authors, books, writing tips | Tags: | Leave a comment

Reunion and Research Trip

CA Room MLK library SJI’m back in CA for a short trip to attend a reunion, and thought I’d do some more research for my next novel while here. Yesterday I spent several hours at San Jose CA’s MLK library in the California Room. I hunted down more information regarding one of the historical characters that will appear in my next novel about the gold rush – Jim Savage. He led the battalion that routed out the Yosemite Indians from Yosemite in 1851. The men in this battalion were the first whites to witness the majesty of what we now call Yosemite National Park.

Reed street namesMy young fictional character travels with Jim Savage on a wagon train West in 1846. On this wagon train he also meets 13-year-old Virginia Reed. She and her family broke off from Savage’s group, resulting in her party spending the severe winter in the Sierras. My fictional character later meets up with Virginia again in San Jose, CA. Stay tuned!

Pics of San Jose streets named after Reed family members. In 1849, Reed purchased a square mile of open acreage south and east of  San Jose’s market plaza. Margaret Keyes Reed was Virginia’s mother, wife of James Reed.

Margaret Keyes ReedReed_Margaret_St_pic

Reed street very sml

Reed_Keyes_St_SJ

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Cracked Vessels – Pursuing Kintsugi Art in my Life

Plate_small

Can you find any imperfections in this Japanese plate?

 

How about now?

Plate_large

 

The Japanese art known as Kintsugi, or Kintsukuroi (meaning “golden repair”), according to Wikipedia,  is “the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum…. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise.”

 

Wow! My husband, Mark, recently shared this tidbit with me after reading a daily devotional. We talked about how, in our society, we want to ignore or disguise our imperfections. Lately, I’ve taken a closer look at my spiritual, emotional and physical states. I’ve also taken a closer look at my work as an author. I see areas where I’m chipped or cracked – pieces are broken off that I want repaired.

 

These images of Kintsugi art serve as a reminder that I’m far from perfect in any area. Rather than run from or cover up inadequacies, I want to embrace them and look for the gold in their repair. I recently had an editor review my work in progress. Her feedback showed that I needed to totally restructure the entire novel. Ouch.

 

In my spiritual life, I recently saw that I needed to ask forgiveness from a few families members. Another “ouch”. I want to pursue all of my life’s avenues with passion, embrace the cracks, and seek healing. I can’t do it on my own. For me, this is where my motivation and strength come from to pursue Kintsugi art in my life and in my writing:

 

“But we have this treasure in earthen (cracked!) vessels, that the excellency of the power (the gold) may be of God, and not of us” (2Corinthians 4:7, AKJV).

Categories: inspiration | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Story Structure – The Virgin’s Archetypal Journey

I recent posted about a Webinar I attended that focused on story structure. The presenter, Beth Barany, has graciously provided a link to the Webinar that also included helpful slides. I highly recommend you take time to view it.

nail down.jpegI’ve recently struggled to nail down the proper structure for my current work in progress. After the Webinar, however, I resonated with a form Beth called “The Virgin’s Archetypal Journey”. Several of the structure categories Beth discussed were ones I’d never heard of before, including this one. Beth emphasized that the word “virgin” in this structure’s title doesn’t refer to a lack of sexual encounters. Rather, it describes a main character who experiences an internal change because he confronts the story’s conflicts and obstacles. These challenges cause the protagonist to discover a dormant, unproven potential that lies within. As the main character acts on this discovery, it changes not only the protagonist, but also the world  he inhabits. This structure differs from the Hero’s Journey where the central figure overcomes obstacles that lead to an inner change, resulting in the hero selflessly saving the community.

The differences between these two structures illuminated the darkness of my writer’s block as I realized that I was trying to make my protagonist a hero, when in reality, he was a virgin!

Beth outlined and described a list of thirteen beats that formulate the world of a character whose storyline fits the virgin’s archetypal structure. The originator of the Virgin’s Archetypal Structure, Kim Hudson, explains her understanding of this construct in an article titled,  “The Virgin’s Promise, a New Archetypal Structure“. I’m still trying to digest all of this new information and would love to hear your take on it!

Categories: authors, books, historical middle grade fiction, inspiration, links, Story Structure, Structure, The Virgin's Archetypal Journey | Leave a comment

How to Choose Your Story’s Structure

rolling up sleeves right.pngNow that I’ve agreed to value lessons more than successes, I’m rolling up my sleeves to make major revisions on my current work in progress. I participated in a Webinar last night titled “How to Choose Your Story’s Structure” (recommended by my writing coach).  The presentation opened up a whole new area of thought for me regarding “structure”.

Hopefully I’ll devote subsequent posts to topics covered in the Webinar, (you can email Beth Barany to ask if she’ll repeat this Webinar in the future) but I’m going to focus first on material Beth referenced from a book titled The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne.

recumbent bike left.jpgToday I watched the first of five (free) YouTube videos regarding Coyne’s Story Grid. They were easy to watch while I huffed away on my exercise bike for eight minutes. (No judging here – I’m slowly building up my stamina!). The material filled in knowledge gaps that I realize will make my WIP stronger. I just ordered Coyne’s book and will read that in conjunction with watching the videos.

One of Coyne’s major points that hit me over the head is the idea of creating “obligatory scenes”. This concept proposes that different genre readers have specific scenes they look for when reading a particular genre. If these scene types are not included, the reader will feel disappointed and probably not read more of your work (or may put the book down before finishing}! I never heard the idea  of “obligatory scenes” before. I asked Beth during the Webinar if Coyne covered obligatory scenes for historical fiction, and she did not think so since historical fiction can include either romance, adventure, mystery, or other specific genres. I believe historical fiction, despite its inclusion of some of these other genres, DOES have some specific elements of its own. I’m looking to discuss this further with other historical fiction writers. Any takers?

Categories: authors, books, inspiration, obligatory scenes, Story Structure, Structure | 8 Comments

Value Lessons More than Successes

I recently heard a speaker say, “Value lessons more than successes.” The presenter also emphasized that there’s no failure, only feedback (Derek Doepker). I needed to hear that.

Over the past eighteen months I researched facts and then excitedly began to write my next novel, tentatively titled, All That Glitters. The project, about two orphans accompanying their guardian West on a wagon train just before the California gold rush, has morphed several times. Now, two-thirds of the way through, I recently paid a writing coach to provide feedback. The input I received made sense but implementing the critique will almost put me back to square one.

stomachpain4.jpegAs I allow the truth of the coach’s comments to sink in, the sickening pit in my stomach threatens to paralyze me. I had the same feeling when the middle school band I taught several years ago worked hard to get a Superior rating at a music festival. We performed well but only received a second place score. What more could we have done? I realized then to value lessons more than success.

Perspective – At first Band1.jpegI felt as though all the writing I’d done on All That Glitters was for nothing. Then I remembered that as a band teacher I always had students warm up on scales, arpeggios, rhythm exercises and chords to listen for intonation. I’d never have my students play those warm up drills for a concert, but they served as an important rehearsal technique that, in the end, helped to create a beautiful performance.

So with my writing. If I take my coach’s comments as feedback not failure, If I view my present word count as rehearsals and warm ups rather than a concert, then I’m that much closer to creating a well-tuned piece that will soon grace your shelf with a well-crafted, gripping story that you’ll find hard to put down!

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

New Beginnings

marknoah_shoulders1_17

Here’s a pic of Grandpa enjoying his time with Noah after helping Noah’s dad (our son, Daniel) put his new swing set together. I thought moving to Texas was the next chapter in our lives. As it turns out, it’s more like a whole new book in our lives!

Saying goodbye to family and life-long California friends was more difficult than I thought it would be. So was moving all our belongings to a new State, buying a new home, and getting settled in a new community, time zone and weather environment. But as you can see from the look on Noah and Mark’s faces, starting a new “book” is worth all the effort. We love spending time with our grandson and having a chance to build into his life. We love being able to live only eight minutes from Daniel and Meredith to support them, and to also have them support us.

Come and visit any time! Besides having a pool for those hot Texas days (I hear there are a lot of them!), we have an extra guest bedroom and bathroom waiting just for you. Our new address is: 7337 Timberidge Drive, North Richland Hills, TX 76182. Our phones are the same. I’ll end with a few pics of our new home, and that cute little guy we can’t get enough of!

noah-with-his-toys

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Home of the Brave – An Immigrant Story

home-of-the-brave

“In Kek’s story, I hope readers will see the neighbor child with a strange accent, the new kid in class from some faraway land, the child in odd clothes who doesn’t belong. I hope they see themselves.” Katherine Applegate

These words, found on the inside flap of the Katherine Applegate’s first standalone novel, Home of the Brave, convey some of the emotion behind her powerfully written story. Although it took me about two chapters to fully engage with Home of the Brave, I later found that I couldn’t put it down. News images flashed across my mind as Kek’s story unfolded, causing me to engage on an emotional level when faraway scenes of immigrants fleeing their homes flashed across my digital screens. syrian-kurds.jpg.size.custom.crop.1086x719.jpg

Before reading Home of the Brave, I knew Applegate as the author of Animorphs – the only series my younger son ever wanted to own. That was back in 1996. Here’s what one review says about this relatively more recent (2008, reprinted 2014) release. “The evocative spareness of the verse narrative will appeal to poetry lovers as well as reluctant readers and ESL students.”—The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. If I were still in the classroom, I’d definitely read this book with my students. Kek’s story not only provides students with empathetic, sometimes humorous glimpses into an immigrant’s life. It also touches on the basic human need we all have to feel like we belong – to find a place we can truly call home, making it a perfect middle grade book.

I also found Home of the Brave a great study in honing my writing craft. Our MG Lunchbreak group has looked at novels through the lens of Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, and I found Home of the Brave’s pacing in stride with Snyder’s beat sheet. For example, the “B Story” occurs after breaking into act two when Hannah asks Kek, “How about your mom?”

I’ll wait here for her.
Waiting is hard too, Hannah says,
and I can see that she also knows sad places.

Then there’s Snyder’s Midpoint when, as Snyder says, “the main character either gets everything they think they want (great) or doesn’t get what they think they want at all (awful).” Applegate does both at the midpoint when she brilliantly locks hope and despair together in a deathhold embrace through the plot, the environment, and her metaphoric prose. It occurs when spring comes, Kek has a pet cow, and Kek and Ganwar have jobs on the farm.

Something strange is happening to the world.
I hear birdsong now, where only silence filled the air before.
Tiny green hints dot the trees and bushes.
The snow is getting smaller and grayer,
like an old person whose time is past.

I highly recommend this book to writers wishing to improve their craft, teachers desiring to promote empathy and cultural understanding, parents wishing to broaden their children’s worldview and to my most favorite people of all, middle grade students!

View Katherine’s video about Home of the Brave.
Listen to her audio about how she came to write it and her reading of chapter one.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Create a free website or blog at WordPress.com.

Blissful Scribbles

Musings through the journey of writing my first novel

ACFW - DFW CHAPTER a.k.a. DFW Ready Writers

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

ACFW SFBayArea

Northern California Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers

Letters to Noah

Spoken words are fleeting, but written words last beyond a lifetime.

Sontag Writing Dreams

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

marsha ottum owen

I make Children's Books

Under His Wings

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

Cathleen Armstrong

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

A Writer's Diary

Author, Educator, Consultant

Blissful Scribbles

Musings through the journey of writing my first novel

ACFW - DFW CHAPTER a.k.a. DFW Ready Writers

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

ACFW SFBayArea

Northern California Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers

Letters to Noah

Spoken words are fleeting, but written words last beyond a lifetime.

Sontag Writing Dreams

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

marsha ottum owen

I make Children's Books

Under His Wings

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

Cathleen Armstrong

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

A Writer's Diary

Author, Educator, Consultant