authors

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

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

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

The Silver Coin – The Aleppo Connection

Silver Coin Cover
John Dewey once said meaningful learning occurs when successive learning experiences “are integrated with one another. It [a learning experience] can be built up only as a world of related objects is constructed.”

That’s one of the tasks of volume 3 in the middle grade historical fiction series Ancient Elements –  The Silver CoinThis adventurous series about life in Ancient Mesopotamia relates to the 6th grade social studies curriculum.

The Silver Coin includes maps and scenes of Sam’s father on a caravan trip from Babylonia to Tyre in search of a treasure and revenge. Dagon’s caravan travels through the ancient city of Halab, known today as Aleppo. The teacher’s guide provides information helping teachers relate current events in Aleppo to Dagon’s 1780’s BC experience of the city, giving students, as Dewey suggested, a meaningful learning opportunity  where “successive experiences are integrated with one another.”

More information at: www.mariesontag.com and www.thebronzedagger.com

Categories: Aleppo, Syria, Omran, current events, authors, books, current events, historical middle grade fiction, social studies | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Why I Write – Reason #1

fal bed.jpgWhy I Write – Reason #1: So I don’t fall out of bed at night.
At least, that’s my working theory. You see, this month I haven’t had time to write. My mom, who has lived with us for the past three years, has dementia that advanced to the point where we needed to find her a place to live where she could receive professional care. Getting this in place absorbed all my time and energy this month.

As a result, my story brain went into overload. The other night I struggled to free myself from gunmen (in a dream), but discovered my feet bound with a belt. I cut my bonds with a knife, but my legs still wouldn’t move. I had to will my body to roll over to avoid getting shot by my pursuers. The next thing I knew I was on the floor next to our bed with my husband looking down on me, asking if I was okay.

So if I don’t return your call or email right away in the next few weeks, it’s because I’m busy writing so that I won’t fall out of bed at night.

 

 

 

Categories: authors, books, inspiration | 4 Comments

Stink Bomb

Stink Bomb

Today I’m interviewing one of my critique group members, Rick Crawford, a.k.a. Ricky Bruce. At last night’s critique group he handed me a copy of his newly released book, Stink Bomb. It’s always an exciting moment (kind of like a midwife?) when fellow-writers see their first copy of a book they helped critique. I decided to ask Rick a few questions to help you get to know this humorous and engaging author.

MS: Rick, tell us about your passion for writing.

Rick: I have a passion for writing children’s fiction chapter books for ages 6-12.

MS: What do you think qualifies you to be a children’s writer?

Rick: I hold a Master’s Degree in Education, Bachelor’s Degrees in Anthropology and Social Science, a Multiple Subject Teaching Credential, and I am C-TEL/ CLAD Certified. I have taught in elementary school settings for over fifteen years in Santa Clara County. These life experiences have helped me discover my passion for writing, and to understand what children enjoy reading.

MS: Have you published others children’s books beside Stink Bomb?

Rick: Recently, I self-published a book about a kindergartner’s first day in school, called Ricky Robinson Braveheart. Following the publication of this book, I received a contract from Auntie M Children’s Books to publish Stink Bomb. In addition to writing children’s books, I also blog weekly at www.rickybruce.com. This blog, A Writer’s Diary, showcases my books and provides information for authors.

MS: Tell us more about Stink Bomb. What inspired you to write it?

Rick: It was a beautiful spring day and I was considering starting another story, having just completed my previous writing project. Bees were buzzing around flowers, a few flies were swarming, and beetles crawled in the dirt around me. The idea hit me. There I was in the back yard and it occurred to me that many insects exhibit heroic traits.

I thought, “What if bugs could be superheroes? How would they act? What would they do? What crazy things would they say?”

The casting began. I went to work looking for a villain. Every bug hates spiders and so do most people. Arac and Nid, giant spiders, were a logical choice as the villains. My mind turned to find a hero for my story. Superheroes hide until they are called upon to rescue the helpless. I spotted a rock in my yard and lifted it up. There it was—a beetle. An ordinary, inconspicuous beetle with super powers would provide the perfect hero for my new story.

MS: What did you enjoy most about writing Stink Bomb?

Rick: I enjoyed writing action scenes where the hero swooped in, said something pithy, and rescued the helpless. The scenes with Arac and Nid battling against Stink Bomb were my favorite parts for sure. Here’s a quote from the book to show you what I mean.

The black beetle spoke his plea one last time. “Someone, help!”

Grub could see Arac dragging the beetle across the ground by a rope of silk.

“Throw him up on the web,” Nid advised.

It took Arac only moments to wrap the beetle in silk and hoist him to his web. The beetle hung like a dangling apple waiting to be picked and eaten.

“Very creative,” Nid said to Arac.

“Why thank you. This is definitely my best work,” Arac replied.

A strange look came across Arac’s face followed by an odd silence, and then from nowhere a green sludge hit him like a rock. Grub shuddered from the force of the vibration, but continued watching.

“My eyes, my eyes! It hurts,” Arac yelled. He toppled over and spun in circles trying to ease the pain and scrape the ooze off his body.

“Move away from the bug. And I mean now!” Stink Bomb said smartly. He flew to land below the black beetle.

Nid crept toward Stink Bomb as quietly as he could, but his forward progress was halted by a noxious odor. Nid shrank back into the shadows, dizzy from the stench.

Grub moved back too, after catching a whiff.

“You saved me,” the beetle said.

“I’ve got your back!” Stink Bomb said, looking up at the beetle. “No worries. Slow moving snails need not be afraid. Stink Bomb is there by your shell. He is a friend to hard working ants and beetles like you.”

“You’re Stink Bomb?” the beetle asked.

MS: What do you think is one of the hardest things about writing a book?

Rick: Changing a part of the book you really like. From time to time, an editor or critique partner will give you advice that is very hard to act on. When I first got a publishing contract for Stink Bomb, I began working with an editor named Demi. She raved about the manuscript, but asked me to make a few changes. One big change required me to change the point of view character. This involved changing much of the plot of the story. Stink Bomb was the main character, but Demi wanted Grub to move into the starring role. This was painful because writers get attached to their characters, but Demi was right. Her idea involved Grub following Stink Bomb around Riverbank in order to help. Great advice, Demi!

MS: Any ideas on what you want to write about next?

Rick: I’ve wanted to write a sequel to Stink Bomb for some time. I even have a few ideas for the story. I’ve also just finished a story called Dot and Scribble Fall into Adventure, but the story that I’m currently writing is called Sucked into Cyberspace. This story is a mystery set in the future at a computer and technology school. The main character, Devon, goes to the school to find his missing father. The story integrates scenes within the classroom and scenes set in the virtual world. This book is really stretching my ability as it is written for an older audience. Add to that all the computer, technology, and physics I’ve adapted and you have a whole lot of research.

MS: Sounds like fun. I know I’ve critiqued a few of the chapters for it, and it’s definitely sucked me in! But back to your new release, how can readers purchase Stink Bomb?

Readers can purchase the book at:

Auntie M Children’s Books Publishing.
or
Barnes & Noble

RickPickMS: Rick is also available to do book signings, speak about education and learning, or share about writing fiction. You can contact him at rickrbc53065@gmail.com.

Categories: authors, book marketing, books, Uncategorized | Tags: | 1 Comment

What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
by any other name would smell as sweet.

This line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet works well for flowers, but not so much for author names, especially when it comes to book marketing!

ImageTake for example, The Cuckoo’s Calling, a crime fiction novel by Robert Galbraith, released April 2013. After it was revealed on July 14, 2013 that the book was written by J.K. Rowling under the pseudonym “Robert Galbraith”, the book surged from 4,709th to the 1st best-selling novel on Amazon. Rowling says she used a pseudonym for her newest release because, “It has been wonderful to publish without hype or expectation and pure pleasure to get feedback under a different name”. Clearly, when it comes to a reader’s book selection, the author’s name matters!

Like it or not, those of us hoping to turn our writing dreams into reality have to consciously build name brandingSmlrecognition for ourselves. One way to do this is to think about our “branding“. A brand is different than a platform. A platform is what we do to communicate our brand. Branding is what people expect when they hear our name attached to a book. Even those of us churning out our first novels need to ask ourselves the basic branding question: “What kind of an author image do I want to create for myself?”
velcroTheresa Meyers of Blue Moon Communications describes an author’s brand as “emotional Velcro”. She explains that emotional Velcro is achieved when readers love a certain writer’s stories and are moved by them. “This in turn leads readers to believe that they have formed a relationship of some type with that author and understand him or her. Because of this emotional attachment, they are willing to purchase a book written by this author simply because her name is on it.” How can our branding create this emotional attachment?
First, branding should create an image of an author and a product that is of high quality, and provides that that little “something special” that no one else can provide. Another part of our branding is the attitude that shines through in our platform development. Can readers tell that we’re willing to put in the hard work it takes to create and communicate our brand? This includes hammering out a brand statement, creating multiple, interconnected social media contact points such as a webpage, blog, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest accounts, as well as personalized contact with readers through interviews, speaking engagements, book signings, and teaching.
We may not have the name J.K. Rowling plastered on the front of our books, but the author name that does appear should create its own fragrant scent, inviting the reader to sit down and breathe in the adventure with us.
Categories: authors, book marketing, books, brand, brand statement, branding, Cuckoo's Calling, J.K. Rowling, platform, Romeo and Juliet, social media | 1 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