Before you start...Posted by Judageddon Fri, March 27, 2015 12:58:15
Hello fellow writers,
As I’ve said in earlier blogs, when I started writing, in my childhood, I wrote to satisfy my own reading needs. I knew exactly how the story started and ended and enjoyed writing the bit in between. As I grew, however, I wanted more sophistication and complexity in my stories. I had to remember things that would have an impact on events later on, or go back and change past events to facilitate later developments. As my stories got longer, this practice became more problematic, and when I started writing full length novels, almost impossible to manage. I’d suffer writers block and self doubt and sometimes abandoning the story all together became the only real option.
I no longer have that luxury. Having made a decision to be a writer, and make a living from it, with the added duties of publishing and marketing, I can no longer indulge in long periods of low productivity.
Yes, I’m going to be talking about planning. Yes, I’ve already talked about planning. Yes, it’s important that I talk about it again.
But I don’t like the confines of a plan - I understand that some writers don’t like planning, it stifles their creativity. If you can write a novel that stands up to editing (by a professional editor) and it sells to the scale that you want it to, that’s great, I admire your skill and wish you every success. But, to all the writers out there who are tackling their first production…
Planning DOES NOT make you a lesser writer.
Planning AIDS creativity by reducing plot complications.
Planning IMPROVES productivity by reducing writers block.
YOU CAN CHANGE YOUR PLAN.
Let’s look again at other fields of art:
I accept that there are artists who can pick up a paintbrush, or a musical instrument, and produce beautiful works through improvisation that are held in high esteem among their peers. You must accept that those people are rare. Most painters, including the best in history, sketch and practice the subject on paper, before they approach the canvas. When they do start to work on the final product, using pencil or paint, they first lay down a drawing, to test balance and composition, and better understand any challenges they might face. They plan.
A composer will plot out a simple base line, melody and harmony that loosely outlines the music they hope to record, then add the details and complementary tracks that make the piece moving, or up-lifting. They plan.
But Planning is boring - Sure, planning can feel like a colourless process, so make it fun and challenging in other ways. This is just a suggestion, an adaptation/expansion of my earlier structure…
1 - Write your complete story as a tweet or haiku. Restricting your word count will help you to focus on important points.
2 - Write your complete story in exactly one hundred words.
3 - Expand your story to exactly one thousand words. This is where you start to focus on plot threads, characters and twists. The thousand word draft isn’t final, but it should work for you before you proceed.
4 - Break the thousand word draft down into titled chapters.
5 - Outline each chapter with a tweet or Haiku for each plot thread.
Congratulations, you have a plan that you can alter as you progress through your story.
I hope this has been helpful.
Thanks for reading, and keep writing.
Before you start...Posted by Judageddon Fri, March 06, 2015 11:11:24
Hello fellow writers,
I'm just going to come out with it...
You can not revolutionise a creative establishment, by breaking all of it's rules!The mistake I made
- was thinking that
was exactly how to go about it. I, with my fresh mind and new vision, would not only break
those stuffy old rules, I'd parody them.
I made my website look intentionally amateurish, thinking people would look at it and exclaim, "Wow! This guy is clearly on the ball. See how he's used advanced web design skills to build a page which, to the untrained eye, looks like it was built by someone who doesn't care." (I have since taken professional advice and changed my website
I wrote two thirds of a book which no one could actually read, because my clever layout and paragraph structure was unfathomable.
It wasn't that I didn't know the rules. I thought I was above them, and that all of my fellow authors would bask in the cleverness of me.The lesson I learned
- is that rules are not there to exclude me, they are there to include me. The rules about writing aren't there to restrict how you write, they are there to help you write something that people can read.
Likewise, the rules about website/book cover/promotion layouts aren't there to tell us how to design, they tell us how people see, and engage our promotional material.
The rules are there to help you. Embrace the rules, warm to them and, in time, they will start to flex for you.
I hope you found this helpful.
Thanks for reading and keep writing.
Before you start...Posted by Judageddon Fri, February 06, 2015 12:57:50
Hello fellow Writers
This week I'm expanding on last week's bit of advice
, which was about being your best PR representative.
This week I'm focusing on getting your idea down on paper, and a firm vision of your novel in your mind, giving you confidence in your objective and an increased likelihood of completing it.This sounds like a plan -
It is a plan; a loose and malleable plan that you can complete on a single page of your notebook.But i like to write organically -
Me too. I write best when I'm not sure of what's around the corner, or I find my characters have developed their own agenda. These things make writing fun for me. It's important, to me, that writing is fun, and by fun I don't mean easy; writing can be frustrating and draining; a challenge. I like challenges. But...The mistake I made -
Writing blind was fine when I was a kid. I wrote for fun. I wrote what I wanted to read, which was mostly plotless accounts of how I was a hero, or my enemies had been destroyed. As I grew into adult fiction my stories adopted elements of plot, as I became familiar with them through reading. When I'd reached my twenties I'd started to manipulate plot devices and analyse character richness through back story and blah blah blah didn't finish a single story because, without a plan, I'd end up with plot branches obstructing each other, and time lines so tangled I'd have characters appearing at essential trigger points... after they'd died.
I didn't know what I was doing, because I was writing without a vision of the story.The Plan
Writing the plan takes three steps. The examples I use will be taken from the plan I would write, if I was rewriting a fantasy novel I didn't finish twenty years ago. The hand written manuscript is still under the bed.Step one
> What's it about?
- By this I mean, what are you writing about at the deepest level, what philosophy or notion has made you want to write a novel?
Example: Acceptance equals unity. Unity equals strength.Step two > What happens? -
There are supposedly seven basic what happens
foundations, that all stories are based on. You can see them listed on Wikipedia
, where they are listed as plots. I personally consider them to be accounts
, because they lack the elements of conflict and causality, but that's maybe just me.
The idea here is to capture your novel, from beginning to end, in one sentence (Gasp).
Example: In a world of magic and steel, three strangers to a city, and each other, are recruited to find a missing prince and see him crowned king.
This is an account
of what happens, combining a there and back
with a coming of age
. It lacks elements of plot
. It lacks answers to the question why?Step 3 > What's the plot? -
This is where you add the conflict and causality, the lies and betrayal, the broken hearts and the enemies becoming friends. All the things that turn a travel log into an adventure.
Write your novel in a paragraph.
Example: Three adventurers from conflicting origins are recruited by a prince to find his kidnapped older brother, due to be crowned in two days. He's chosen three capable strangers to the city, because he doesn't want regals to hear about the abduction and abstain from attending the coronation through fear of low security standards, destroying any chance to discuss essential trade relations between them. The adventurers, unable to address their differences, agree to go their separate ways, overcoming individual obstacles and gathering clues in their own personal quests. Reunited by their pursuits, the adventurers reluctantly combine their intel and suppose that the young prince plans to kill the heir and incriminate them. Upon finding the fleeing older brother, their suspicions are confirmed and a new plan is made to return the would be king safely, while exposing his evil younger brother's treachery. In their endeavours, the adventurers learn to combine their strengths and forgive each others trespasses to overcome mounting challenges and ultimately destroy a demon.
It's a long paragraph, I grant you, and not a particularly original plot, but it outlines my story in less than half a page, while leaving plenty of growing room for new twists, objectives and characters that will make my novel fresh and original. If you can, make a digital copy of your plan; you're going to want to keep hold of it. As you write your novel, each new idea you have can be tested in the simple outline where blockages and confusion will be easier to see.
With this basic vision of your novel, you can move forward, writing or planning further with a good idea of what you're doing.
I hope you find this helpful.
Thanks for reading and keep writing.
Before you start...Posted by Judageddon Mon, January 26, 2015 15:08:17
Sit back, relax and enjoy this story...
Once upon a time, a creative, imaginative and resourceful individual realised that they had what it would take to make a living writing their own fiction novels.
Uninterrupted, they had their first draft complete within just a few months. All of their friends and family committed their time to proof reading what they described as a faultless masterpiece. With no need for further editing or spell checking, the book was ready to go.
Self publishing was easy. It was literally as simple as sending an email, and the book was in the online stores within an hour.
From then on there was no looking back. On the first day, ten people downloaded the book. On the second day one hundred people downloaded it and the five star reviews were pouring in. On day three there were thousands of downloads and the phone was ringing off the hook with calls from mainstream publishers and agents, all offering millions of pounds for a signature on a contract. Then there was the film to discuss... and they all lived happily ever after.
That was a lovely story, wasn't it? It's how I expected events would play out, back when I first started writing for self publication, but it is just a story.
Follow me on Twitter, Facebook and Google+ to catch shouts about my Friday blogs, designed to help new writers understand the tricks, best practices and avoidable pitfalls of being an indie author/publisher.
Thank you for reading and keep writing.