Friday, February 25, 2011

Editing - Stage 1

For the past week I have been working on editing my newly finished WIP, Midnight Raynne. I have so much that I really want to change about this first rough draft. For starters my ending falls short - big time. I wasn't happy with it when I wrote it and I'm still not happy with it right now. As of Tuesday I had a new ending figured out, but I'm still not sure I really like this new ending.

First, I sat down and went scene by scene with my WIP & created a spreadsheet. This allowed me to see what happens almost beat by beat. I really think this spreadsheet helped out a lot. Once I had it all completed I could go back through and add notes to each scene with what I wanted to do to make the scene better.

Yesterday, I sat down and started editing each actual scene. I did great yesterday, today is a different story. I just haven't been really into the scene I'm trying to write. Plus, I can't get this new ending out of my mind. It's just not sitting well with me. I'm almost afraid to go through with the new edits and then decide to go a different route with the ending. I have been tossing around a third idea, but I'm also afraid to go forward with that one. If I do decide to go forward with this new idea I would have to change a great deal of the story line. Hence, my fear to go forward with this round of editing. I would hate to go through with it only to have to redo everything all over again.

What to do, what to do? *sighs*

Your turn -> Have you ever been stuck in this situation? What did you do?

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Editing Mess

Move this, fix this, cut this, what on earth was I thinking, need more here, doesn't work here! ...

I spent my weekend working on short stories for various publications or contests just for the heck of it and for the sheer fact that I feel that I'm honing my writing skills. One of those short stories is for a writing contest on where the prize is nothing more than bragging rights. But, my daughter liked it so much she's requested I turn it into a novel. I may move into that area in the future. As for now I'm working on the top line of this post.

Today marks the beginning of the editing process on Midnight Raynne. I've been thinking about what needs to be fixed, what needs to be cut, what needs to be expanded upon, and what needs to be changed all together. This novel is different from my first novel in many ways. But, most importantly I have been better able to step back from it and see what needs to be changed. My first novel, Stone Magic, I didn't want to change too much. I doubt that story will ever see a publisher. You never know, though.

So, for Midnight Raynne I created a lovely spreadsheet where I can look scene by scene at it and decide what's wrong. Unfortunately, today I was not focused enough to get started first thing on the editing process. I will sit down during nap time and mess with this spreadsheet.

Recently I discussed plots, I am going to review Midnight Raynne for plot first. My thinking is why go line by line and make sure all the little errors are fixed before I fix the big ones. I might cut out an entire scene that I spent an afternoon line editing. So, for that reason I am using my trusty Save the Cat and Story helpers this week.

I hope to have the plot polished in the next couple of weeks. I'm not sure how long this will actually take as I have never really gone this far into the editing process. As I said before when I edited my first novel I didn't want to change enough of it to really make it good. Maybe down the road I will, but for now I'm focused on Midnight Raynne and making it reader ready.

What is the first thing you focus on when you start editing? I'm curious as to what the most important component is to other writers.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Writing in the past

As I was flipping through tweets on Monday I saw a line that only briefly caught my eye. I moved on and later began really pondering it some more. The line? "email killed my handwritting." Unfortunately I was just flipping quickly through and can't remember who tweeted it, but I really got thinking about it throughout the day.

I don't write my novel in the sense that I actually write it by hand. I do what most writers do in this century; I type. I type everything. The only thing I don't type up are my character sheets. I have a form that I fill out as I go and think of things. I would be lost without my computer.

So, where am I going with this?

The line I read got me thinking about the fact that I use the computer to write so much. I started wondering how anyone wrote a novel before computers and typewriters. I mean think of Homer, Shakespeare. Neither of them had the ability to use a computer where they could coral their ideas, throw them into a spreadsheet and dissect them. They had to do everything by hand. When I think of the number of corrections I have made to my novel already, the number of drafts on my last novel, I cringe at the thought of having to write all of that down.

And the best part is that both of them have stories that have stood the test of time. They are studied and well read the world round. I still cringe at the thought that if I had been born in their time periods I wouldn't have my beloved computer. I need my computer, word documents, spreadsheets, etc. I don't think I could write a novel without them.

What could you not do without when you write?

Monday, February 14, 2011

Surprise Idea

For the record I love surprise ideas. Usually I will start working on the background information first. I'll get a binder and start compiling character sheets, the setting, and the beat sheet for the story line. I will work it over in my head until I'm ready to start writing.

The Atlantic Ocean, New Jersey
However, a week ago Saturday an idea hit me from out of nowhere, while I was already in bed. The idea wouldn't go away. So, I climbed out of bed, turned on my computer, and started typing away. By the time I finally crawled back into bed at midnight I had accumulated over 2,000 words and my first chapter was complete. The idea was still going strong in the morning when I woke up, so I sat down and typed again.

Here we are ten days later and as of last night I have over 27k written. I still have to write for today and I'm hoping to get another 3k in today. My goal at the moment is to have this story written by next Saturday.

Did I mention that I really am enjoying this story? Well, I am, and that's probably part of the reason that I am writing like a mad woman this past week. So, I like the story, but will anyone else? That's always the big question. To my surprise the answer is yes.

For those of you who have seen me mention my kids, then you probably know I have a 12 year old daughter. She is much like I was at her age, hates to read unless the story grabbed me from the get go. She usually just glances at my work and keeps walking. Yes, she has picked up a chapter or two before and then put it back down. Well, last night was an exception. She saw the first chapter sitting out, while I was dealing with her little brother between bouts of editing.

She asked if she could read it, so I handed it over. After a few corrections she handed it back and walked off. She came back seconds later and asked when I would have chapter 2 written. I handed over my binder, which has up to chapter 16 printed and awaiting editing. By the time she went to bed she had finished through chapter 4 and had pointed out a few areas where she was confused. I was so excited I couldn't contain myself. I mean, she's hard to please when it comes to books, so the fact that she likes it made my night.

I hardly ever post my writing, but my daughter convinced me to post the first chapter to Writers Cafe. I did that this morning, so we will see if I get any reviews on it. It is available to only Writers Cafe members, though. So, if you are a member go on over and check it out. I might even post it on my blog. We'll see.

Your turn, have you ever had any unexpected stories or reviews? 

Friday, February 11, 2011

Plot Talk - Part 4: "Story Trumps Structure"

Part 4: "Story Trumps Structure"

I recently read an article in Writer's Digest Magazine, the February 2011 edition, called Story Trumps Stucture by Steven James. I have heard other writers talking about making sure they have their three acts over and over everywhere I look. So, this article got me thinking about those 3 acts and what the differences were with James' theory, coupled with that of McKee's and Snyder's structure ideas.

Here's what I found.

3 Acts: 

1) Beginning - This is where you introduce your characters, the setting, and the conflict. This section propels the rest of the story.
2) Middle - You unleash a series of obstacles and/or conflicts that will ultimately bring about the climax.
3) End - In this section you bring about the actual climax and the following resolution.

This seems easy enough, much easier than Robert McKee's and Blake Snyder's structure
guidelines. And, actually, after learning what McKee and Snyder believe, this 3 Act structure seems a little too simple. At least it does to me.

Story Trumps Structure: 

1) Orientation - This is similar to Act 1 - You introduce your characters and the setting. You give the reader a glimpse what the protagonists normal life is like, what he/she has to lose/gain. 
2) Crisis - This is where you turn your protagonists life upside down. Show the reader what he/she has to avoid/obtain to right his/her life again.
3) Escalation - I liken this to McKee's idea of acts and gaps (you'll have to read the book to understand - too much for me to explain here). It's also like Act 2 - The protagonist goes through a series of actions trying to fix his/her situation. Of course with no luck.
4) Discovery - This is the realization point where the protagonist learns something and decides to do what needs to be done.
5) Change - This is like the climax - The protagonist's life is forever changed and he/she has learned a lesson and you can hint to something to come if there will be another book. 

James complicates it a little more than the 3 Act structure, but it's still not as complicated as McKee and Snyder make it.

I like James' structure over the 3 Acts, but I still think that McKee and Snyder are also onto something. I think that as a writer my best bet will be to take a little from all four plot structures to create the best story I can.

What do you think?

Click the links below to see the other three related posts.
Part 1: The Basics - I will look at the basic principle of plots.
Part 2: Robert McKee's plot structure in Story
Part 3: Blake Snyder's beat sheet plot structure in Save the Cat!
Part 4: Steven James' Story Trumps Structure article from Writer's Digest Magazine February 2011

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Plot Talk - Part 3: Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet

Part 3: Blake Snyder's Beat Sheet

This is the second book that Alyson Noel mentioned having in your arsenal of writing books. Yes, this book is a screenplay book, but so was the last one. And, might I say, they are both the best books I've come across.

Blake Snyder uses a Beat Sheet that he lays out in his book Save the Cat! I loved this book mainly because it gives out so many examples of movies laid out in the format of his beat sheet.

No, I'm not going to give you the complete beat sheet here. That would be more than I am willing to delve into at the moment. Right now I am more concerned with the idea of inciting incidents, acts, and climaxes than the other stuff.

Snyder lists the inciting incident as the catalyst, so here is a little different terminology added to our discussion. He has the writer state the theme first (I believe this is his first act) then moves into the catalyst.

Next we are to break the story into two parts (his version of a second act). In this second act you should have the "B Story" which he defines as the love story. Seeing this I can think of a few novels I've read recently that use this "B Story" as their love story. I wonder which other authors knowingly used his beat sheet, or just happened to stumble upon the method.

Snyder places a few other integral parts between the "B Story" and the "Break into Three" section. All are very integral, but without them I'm not sure the story is a complete story. His third act is a sort of refresher for the protagonist, a place where the protagonist arrives at a new fresh idea or inspiration to right things.

Are you confused? I think I am. Without the rest of the Beat Sheet I think the writer is missing key pieces. So, I'm telling you - "Go Get This Book!" I just can't bring myself to explain the whole thing. That would probably be considered some kind of copyright infringement of sorts. Plus, you really need to see his explanations for each of the steps. Therefore, "Go Get The Dang Thing!" I checked it out from the library and ended up exceeding my allowed number of borrows on it.

I use Snyder's Beat Sheet as a rough outline. I've found that I don't do well with drawn out, in depth outlines. This style works really well for me, though. I have the room I need to move around and change what I need, but still have the direction that I require to write.

Snyder doesn't delve into the different sub-plots, but sticks with the main three act story. Do you think he's right or McKee with his complex structure? Or, could you use them both together like I am trying to do?

Click the links below to see the other three related posts.
Part 1: The Basics - I will look at the basic principle of plots.
Part 2: Robert McKee's plot structure in Story
Part 3: Blake Snyder's beat sheet plot structure in Save the Cat!
Part 4: Steven James' Story Trumps Structure article from Writer's Digest Magazine February 2011

Monday, February 7, 2011

Plot Talk - Part 2: Robert McKee's "Story"

Part 2: Robert McKee's Story

This book came highly recommended from New York Times Best Selling Author Alyson Noel in an article I read just after the release of one of her books from the The Immortals collection. I don't have the link to the article anymore, otherwise I would have linked it. But, just trust me when I say the second I read her recommendation for two books I ran right out and bought them.

I have read many a writers comments on having 3 acts in their books. Let me just say after reading McKee's plot structure 3 acts is nothing.

Here are the building blocks straight from his book: (Well, I've summed up his definitions a bit.)

1) Scene: Is an action that changes the value (charge) of a condition within the protagonists life. He likens these to Story Events.

2) Sequence: A collection of between 2 to 5 scenes culminating with a "greater impact than any previous scene."

3) Act: This is a collection of sequences creating an even greater impact creating a climax and "major reversal of values."

4) Story Climax: (This should not be confused with act climaxes - They can be found within each act) This is the final climax causing irreversible changes in the protagonists life that are absolute.

5) Inciting Incident: This is some sort of upset that occurs to the protagonists life causing a major shake up.

So, just when I thought that creating a plot was a simple mountain looking chart. McKee has to go and turn that upside down.

McKee suggests that you have at least a Central Plot which consists of the inciting incident and 3 acts. Okay, so that was kind of a given, right? Well, he has more to offer.

He points out that many stories (screenplays in his case) have more than three acts. Not only does he note this, but he also notes that they also have subplots with several acts.

Whoa! So, not only should I have at least a central plot consisting of 3 acts, but I should have subplots with their own 3 acts added.

Now, I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed. But have no fear! I recently read a book in which I could point out subplots that each have their own inciting incidents and acts. The realization of this had me floored. I had no idea that I had even really noticed that, but I did.

So, now I wonder. Can I do this?

The diagram in McKee's Story shows basically the following:

Central Plot: Inciting incident, Act I Climax, Act II Climax, Act III Climax
Sub-plot A: Inciting incident, Act I Climax, Act II Climax, Act III Climax
Sub-plot B: Inciting incident, Act I Climax, Act II Climax, Act III Climax
Sub-plot C: Inciting incident, Act I Climax, Act II Climax, Act III Climax
And you could go on and on with the act climaxes and sub-plots.

I've only noticed it that once that I could specifically pick out the different plots, inciting incidents, and act climaxes.

So, now I ask. Are you confused? Do you think you could do this, let alone pick it out of a book you've read?

Click the links below to see the other three related posts.
Part 1: The Basics - I will look at the basic principle of plots.
Part 2: Robert McKee's plot structure in Story
Part 3: Blake Snyder's beat sheet plot structure in Save the Cat!
Part 4: Steven James' Story Trumps Structure article from Writer's Digest Magazine February 2011

Friday, February 4, 2011

Plot Talk - Part 1: The Basics

I'm currently working on writing my second novel of which I have completed 7 chapters back in October. I set it aside to write a novel for NaNoWriMo and have only just gotten back to it. I spent the last few days editing it and getting ready to move on and continue the writing process. However, I could not come up with anything to write yesterday or today. I'm unsure of exactly where I want to go with it now.

This got me thinking about the plot, subplots, acts, structure, and anything that has to do with propelling my story along. As a result I've decided to do a little research on plots and the different methods out there for creating a great plot.

Part 1: The Basics

Plot: The basic definition of a plot is that it is anything that happens within a story.

Well, that's easy. Or is it? What should happen in this story? How should it happen? What makes it special that the story should even be told? Oh, the endless questions that come to mind as a result of this definition.

So what is plot really?

It's what propels a story along or rather what propels characters along in a story. Maybe. I think both characters and plot propel each other along in a good story, but that's for another discussion all together.

Let's just say that I attempted to look up information on building a plot on the internet. NOTHING was even remotely good. They were all lacking in major areas and not in the least bit informative for this piece. I'm not even going to link to them, nor mention the different ideas these sites all had. They were that bad.

One thing everyone seems to agree upon is that a plot is what happens throughout the course of a story.

In this case, I have the basic plot drawn out already for my second novel. So, what's the hold up already? Well, there seems to be more to this plot thing than those people telling us "how to write a novel" on the internet. I wonder who they are and why they have even bothered to put that out there? More importantly, have they even ever sold a novel?

I have decided to look more at plots and what they are over the next three posts.

This is my tentative plot discussion:
Part 1: The Basics - I will look at the basic principle of plots.
Part 2: Robert McKee's plot structure in Story
Part 3: Blake Snyder's beat sheet plot structure in Save the Cat!
Part 4: Steven James' Story Trumps Structure article from Writer's Digest Magazine February 2011

In the meantime - What is plot to you? How do you devise your plot? Simple or complex?