From Here to Partway There: plotting the first 3rd.

Sunday, August 28th, 2016

You’ve figured out the ending and the plot points it takes to get there. Now it’s time to plot out the beginning third.

Connecting the dots: Plotting the last 3rd

Sunday, August 21st, 2016

What happens…just before?    Plotting the final 3rd of your novel, starting at your last scene.

Getting unstuck

Sunday, August 14th, 2016

Having trouble crafting a rough draft of that final scene? A tip to jumpstart.

Last Scene

Sunday, August 7th, 2016

First impressions are vital, but last images rule. Today we craft a rough draft of the last scene.

Banishing the critic.

Sunday, July 31st, 2016

Today we’re talking about banishing the critic. I imagine mine in a trench coat with a cigar, dribbling ashes all over my pages. Yours might be even scarier.
But let’s face it: Nobody can beat you up as thoroughly and eloquently as you can yourself.
So what’s a writer to do ?
Let’s start with what not to do.

  • Don’t medicate yourself…it might take away the edge, but you know what? It will also take away…the edge… that special thing that makes your work sing.
    No drugs, no alcohol. I know I sound like somebody’s mother, and oh, yeah, I am! You have to tolerate the anxiety of the blank page.
    But how? You’ll come up with your own techniques through time, but here are some that have worked for me:
  • Music. Songs. Played low through a set of headphones. Other people’s words seem to divert my critic enough so that I can get my words on the page.
  • Give yourself permission to write that truly spectacular bad draft.
  • Set a timer for fifteen minutes. And only write for fifteen. And then stop. Mid-sentence, mid-word, even mid-thought.
  • Remind yourself of what Samuel Beckett said: Fail. Fail again. Fail better!
  • Allow yourself to go down paths. Celebrate the ones that go nowhere, or go places you never intended. Allow yourself to fail, fail again, and fail better.
    Here’s to a great week of exploration!

Mid-point scene: It’s all uphill from here.

Sunday, July 24th, 2016

Last week we talked about writing that first scene.     Today we talk about writing the mid-point scene.  This scene comes almost directly in the middle of your novel.
It’s the point of no return.    Where the stakes get high…and real.
Syd Field, who was a master at crafting screenplays, says that ideally, the mid-point scene is where the antagonist holds up a mirror and shows the protagonist his main flaw and that unless he fundamentally changes, he’s going to lose.    He’s pushed to the wall.   He has to change to survive.
That’s great advice for writing the mid-point scene in your novel.
Leading up to this mid-point scene, your character will have resisted—over and over—changing his behavior, but here, in this scene, he gets clarity.    He gets that the reason things are collapsing around him, that nothing he’s tried has worked, is because of …well…him.    He owns up to his own failures…and changes his behavior.
So…sketch out that mid-point scene where the mirror is held up and the protagonist has to change in order to get what he wants.
This is just a draft, but if you take a stab at this scene now, it will help drive the action of your script from that opening scene, to this midpoint.
Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Make it visual.    
    Let us see, taste, smell this moment where the protagonist gets that it’s his own behavior that’s created this mess.
  • Make it emotional.   
    This is the place to pull out the stops.   We need to feel the moment where your character shatters.  He’s created this mess.    This is his doing.   His blind spot.    His failure.    And his chance for redemption.
  • Make the stakes high.  
    We have to feel that it’s by no means a sure thing that this going to work.      Everything is riding on this.   He’s gambling.     It may be too late, but it’s the only move left.    He has to give up his flaw or die.  
    Literally, figuratively.

Write!   Have fun!   See you next week!

Another opening, another show: writing scene one.

Sunday, July 17th, 2016

Today we’re going to talk about crafting that all important first scene.
If you’ve been doing the assignments in these blogs, you’ve written out a draft of one of your must-have scenes.
That’s for practice.

And now today’s the day we’re going to figure out how your novel starts.

  • First—and this is without actually writing the scene yet—jot down a few notes about what has to happen in that scene.
  • Who is in the scene?
  • Where is the scene?
  • What do you want the reader to be worried about at the end of it?
    This is important. They’ve cracked open the book…they’ve stepped into this world you’ve created. Who’s there? And why? This is their introduction to who and what they’re going to worry about. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
  • Start the scene as late in the story as possible.
    For example, we don’t need to see the scene in which your main character is born…unless that’s important in some way to what you want the reader to worry about.
  • Start your first scene mid-scene, whenever possible. Plunk us down in the middle of it.
  • Start it with action. Have us get to know your main character as your character’s doing something.
  • Set the hook with the very first sentence.

Have fun. See you next week!

‘Stumbling along my foot strikes something.’ Writing the scene.

Sunday, July 10th, 2016

Don’t miss my weekly video blog to get info on writing, reading and more!

Today’s a big day; we write a scene.
Awkwardly, imperfectly, but a scene. Woot!

Here’s how:
Take a moment and go through your list of must-have scenes. A must-have scene, you might recall, is a scene you know your book has to have. (If you want a brief refresher on must-have scenes, review the vlog that aired May 23rd. Go on. I’ll wait.)
Ready? Okay. Go down your list…let your eye…your finger…your inner guidance system… help you easily settle on the most playful of scenes that you’ve jotted notes about.
It can be a serious scene—by playful, I mean the scene that’s going to be fun in this moment of time to write.
And let yourself sink into this world.

That’s right. Pen to page, keystroke to board. Badda bing.

You might have already done this a bazillion times, but if you haven’t, today’s the day.

And it’s never easy, by the way. What? You thought it would be? Always terrifying, exhilarating, illuminating.

It might be of some comfort to hear that James Joyce wrote, “Chance furnishes me with what I need. I am like a man who stumbles along; my foot strikes something. I bend over and it is exactly what I need.”

You’re going to do a lot of stumbling. That’s how you learn. About craft. About characters. About this particular scene.

So trust that you don’t have to know everything. That what you have already jotted down is a great starting place, and that the rest will come… as you go.

Stephen King talked about excavating an artifact, and that you want to do it carefully, not with a hammer and blowtorch, but delicately, knowing that even under the best of circumstances, you still might break off a nose as you pull the statue up.
I like to visualize when I write a first draft of a scene that the words are clay. And I’m picking them up and slamming them down and mushing them…manipulating them…and that I can always pick them up and slam them down again.
Whatever tool you use to calm yourself down…I would not recommend an artificial one, by the way—those will bite you every time, maybe not right away but always—take a moment and visualize the scene.

  • Do you see your main character?
  • What is she wearing?
  • What energy is he carrying around?
  • What was his night like last night?
  • Is there that chronic knot in the back of her neck that’s killing her?
  • What do his appointments look like today?
  • Is she pressed for time?
  • And what the heck does he want?
  • Who is in the scene stopping him?
  • And what is he going to do when he can’t get it?

Be brave.
Write the scene.
And I’ll see you next week.

Cliffhangers: A wrench in the works

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Hi! Great to see you! How’s your scene coming? Was it fun, writing it? Today, we talk about throwing a wrench in the works. If you live in the UK, it’s called ‘throwing a spanner.’ Throwing a wrench literally meant jamming a wrench into the gears and pistons of an engine, stopping it cold.
So we’re talking about a scene going one direction, all the cogs working perfectly, and then suddenly, something slams into that scene that stops it cold. Our character has to reassess, regroup. She has no choice. Remember a couple of weeks’ back, the exercise ‘where in the world are we?’
Each one of those little scenes ended with a surprise…a wrench…something unexpected jamming the works and turning the scene in a new direction. That turn…that surprise….is the easiest way to keep readers reading. Here are some things to think about as you craft your scenes:

  • End the scene in a cliff-hanger.
  • It can be big. Raymond Chandler said that when he needed to spice up a story, he’d simply have somebody burst into the room flinging around a gun. That’s huge.
  • It can be small. A single sentence letting us know that something we thought was taken care of…isn’t. Somebody new enters…somebody here…leaves. Or maybe our guy figures out a piece of the puzzle.
  • Space out the information you reveal. Give us a piece, but make us wait for the rest of it. Have fun, keep them reading! And write!

Excavating the artifact

Sunday, June 26th, 2016

This week we jump into the pool, that big sea of words churning around in one’s head as we discuss writing a scene.   Don’t miss my weekly video blog to get info on writing, reading and more!