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How to Write a Novel: Plot Gardening with Chris Fox and Joanna Penn
Structuring a story is a challenge that writers meet in one of two ways: either they outline diligently before they write so much as a sentence, OR: they fire up the word maker and see what happens. The former are called plotters. The latter people are called pantsers and I am one of them.
The difference between the groups lies in how comfortable a writer is with chaos. To write is to literally visit a foreign land. Plotters like to have an itinerary. They know where they will be in the morning, where they are eating lunch, etc. Pantsers wake up and walk out the door with nary a thought for the day. Plotters attempt to impose control. Pantsers attempt to maximize experience.
I view writing as a discovery process. It lets me explore the characters, their interactions, the plot and setting. It lets me feel the story. I’m frequently surprised by what occurs, which leads me to more character driven, organic stories. For plotters, the outline process performs the same function. The end result for both groups is a story that is thematically and narratively coherent.
For me a story begins with either a situation or an image. If I see an image then it is usually the climax. Seven men on a sailboat in the Pacific. One of them is trying to sabotage the boat, everyone knows it and everyone is on edge. If I have a situation, it is usually the inciting incident. A dying billionaire wants to read his obituary so he fakes his death.
Why my brain works like this is not something I think about. I believe it is churlish to be picky about how one receives inspiration. One does not find a ten dollar bill on the sidewalk and get upset it was not a twenty. Inspiration is a gift.
Next I figure out the bones of the story, a.k.a. structure. Authors use story structure because it is how people’s brains and hearts respond to narrative.
In the first act, the character sees a flaw in the normal world and ventures into the unknown to fix it. In the second act, the character faces myriad challenges to create a solution to the problem. In the third act, the character braces for a final showdown to win the prize and restore the normal world. This template covers everything from Star Wars to Liar Liar and all points in between.
Stop Looking to Others to Create a Life of Joy
by Renee Linnell,
Author of The Burn Zone: A Memoir
Originally published on Psych Central
I believe there is not enough dialogue out there about soul-sickness, especially among wealthy communities. We are taught to believe from a young age that once we have the perfect partner, house, car, children, and careers, we will be happy. And often times this is not the case; the happiness does not come. There is an insatiable need for more. Because there is no dialogue about this, most people think, I am the only one, something is wrong with me, or no one understands me. This leads to deep despair and usually a diagnosis of depression and medication.
I ruined my life searching for peace. I pushed away everyone and everything I loved. I allowed myself to be emotionally, psychologically, and sexually abused. I allowed myself to be brainwashed in seemingly unhealable ways. And what I finally discovered, after all of my searching, is that the peace and happiness for which I had been searching was inside of me all along. But, and this is a big but, I had to be shattered by life to find it. I had to be shattered to finally stop living a life that was not mine. I had to be shattered to finally decide that following my own heart and being true to myself and creating a life that brought me joy was more important than living a life to please other people. I had to be shattered to start questioning what the hell I had been doing and why the hell I had been doing it and to what point.
Why do we feel the need to say, “to death do us part” and bind ourselves to another person? Why do we ignore the intense fear that comes with this decision? How can we even know that this will be in our best interest or the other person’s for the rest of our lives? Many of us do it because everyone else does. Why do we forgo choosing work that we are born to do, work we are naturally skilled at doing, work we love, work that makes our hearts sing and instead choose a career we hate because it pays more? We do this because we are told to do it by our parents or our teachers, and because everyone else does. Why do we dress the way we dress and worship the way we worship and pick romantic partners the way we do? So often it is because we were told to do it this way, or because everyone else does. Often we don’t question any of this. I know I didn’t.
I believe the only way to true joy, to true bliss, to true freedom, is to begin the work of uncovering our real selves—to chip away at the parts of us that are false, the façade we created to please our families, the mask we built so the world would approve of us. Only when we are willing to stand tall in our own uniqueness, with our own idiosyncrasies, will we be able to do the work we came to do, to build the life we always dreamed of, to excel beyond our wildest dreams, and to live in true joy and abundance. When we finally tap into what we naturally are, we discover we already have the exact right skill set to become everything we have always secretly wanted to be.
We are all flawed, we are all damaged, and we are all beautiful. Each one of us is unique; there is no carbon copy. So how can we possibly follow what others are doing? How can what they are doing be right for us? We were born to blaze our own trails. We were all born with unique abilities and skill sets, with unique damage and unique wounds. I believe we are meant to use this combo to discover who we truly are and why we are truly here. Our wounds are not a mistake, they are given to us for a reason, they are Divine. In the healing of them we soften and we open, and we learn how to help others overcome similar damage. In our speaking about them and our owning of them, we encourage others to do the same and as more and more of us speak our Truth, we all eventually realize we are not alone. We have never been alone. We are surrounded by each other, our brother and sister humans, and we are here to support each other on this crazy amazing Earth Walk.
Yes, the decision to live this way is terrifying; but once we decide to do it, we feel the life force energy coursing through us again, we feel the blood pumping through our veins, we rediscover passion and the thrill of not knowing what tomorrow will bring. We are here for such a very short time; I simply cannot believe we were meant to spend that time in loveless relationships stressed about paying bills.
In my journey to wholeness I discovered that me just being me, dressing the way I want to dress, saying the things I want to say, doing the activities I love to do, putting myself first and making sure I am taken care of before I take care of others—living this way brought me so much joy that I began to radiate joy and light and love and kindness. I discovered a joyful me was a radiating me. A joyful me was a kind me. A joyful me was a patient and compassionate and forgiving me. After destroying myself and my life and all that I loved in order to become Enlightened, in order to become Saint-like, I finally realized that the key to my becoming Saint-like was just being me. When we create a life of joy we stop worrying about what others are doing or not doing. We stop pushing against. And instead we begin loving. And we add our light to the sum of light; we shift the consciousness of the planet from fear to love. What better use of our time here on earth than that?
About the Author:
Renee Linnell is the author of The Burn Zone: A Memoir (She Writes Press; October 2018). She is a serial entrepreneur who has founded and cofounded five companies and has an Executive Masters in Business Administration from New York University. Currently she is working on starting a publishing company to give people from diverse walks of life an opportunity to tell their stories. She divides her time between Colorado and Southern California. For more information, please visit https://reneelinnell.com and follow Renee on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Two young Vushla questioned what everyone knew about death. What should they do with the answer?
When the time comes for Vushla to die, they go into the ocean and are dissolved away. Or so Terrill has always believed, and still believes after taking part in his father’s final journey. But when he meets a young Vushlu who lives by the sea, Terrill must confront information that calls this fundamental belief into question. Will the two of them discover the truth? And what should they do with what they find?
*How did you come up with the title for this book? It sounds rather poetic.
–The idea came from a familiar phrase in the English Burial Service: “ashes to ashes, dust to dust.”
*What exactly is a Vushla?
–The Vushla (plural — singular is Vushlu) are one of the sentient species on a planet humans haven’t found. They could be described as a cross between a centaur and a tortoise: their general body configuration is that of a centaur, and they are largely covered by many small plates of a hard substance they (and their neighbor species, the Weesah) refer to as armor. The armor is often moved as part of gestures and body language. I envision them as roughly human-sized.
*Tell us how the idea for this book came about.
–That was a first for me. The way Vushla typically meet death came to me as an image in a dream. My husband contributed a key plot twist.
*What is the connection between the Vushla, water, and death?
–As described in the Preface and in the book blurb, when a Vushlu knows it is dying (I use “it” for unidentified Vushla and Weesah, and he or she for individuals of known gender), it tries to get to the ocean, where it swims or wades into the surf to dissolve away. If it dies on the journey, the friends and relatives accompanying it on the funeral journey hire fisher folk (who have custom-made waterproof suits) to carry the body into the ocean.
Whether there are other connections . . . you’ll need to read the book to find out. 🙂
*Was your approach different in writing this book?
The origin — a dream, as I mentioned above — was different. Otherwise, I did what I usually do: wrote a (very) rough draft during National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo or NaNo; put it aside for a month or so; did multiple revisions and editing passes over the next nine months; sent it to beta readers and made more revisions based on their comments; did the final proofread/edits; and published it (as a preorder) on Amazon and Google Play and via Draft2Digital. (The paperback will, I hope, be ready by the release date of October 17th, at least on Amazon. B&N will take a little longer due to a cumbersome proofing process.)
*What comes first the idea or theme?
That’s an interesting question, especially this time around. What thematic concerns inspired that dream? I can’t say for sure. I certainly had both mortality and parent-child relationships on my mind, as my father died a little more than six months before NaNo began. (I don’t remember exactly when I had the dream, but I would guesstimate it was a month or so before NaNo.)
*What was your experience like writing Water to Water?
I can generally keep up with or stay slightly ahead of the pace NaNo requires (an average of 1,667 words per day), and this time was no exception. My confidence in the story fluctuated about as much as usual — which is to say, frequently but not to the point of either ecstatic certainty or profound gloom. I frequently consulted my general science adviser, aka my husband Paul Hager, on various aspects of world-building.
I approached cover design a little differently this time. I’ve most often collaborated with a particular designer, but that collaboration works best when I have some fairly definite starting ideas. This time, the one idea I had felt insufficient. I decided to spring boldly into the red, financially speaking, and invest in a cover from a designer (or rather, a group of designers) I’d long admired, Damonza. I am delighted with the result, which has gotten consistently favorable comment during the book’s Silver Dagger Book Tour (continuing through October 26th).
Karen A. Wyle is the author of multiple science fiction novels, including The Twin-Bred Series: Books 1-3; near-future novels Division, Playback Effect, and Who: a novel of the near future; and YA near-future novel The Link. Her one novel (so far) outside the SF category is afterlife fantasy/family drama Wander Home. She has also published one nonfiction work, Closest to the Fire: A Writer’s Guide to Law and Lawyers, a resource for authors or for anyone interested in understanding more about American law.
Wyle was born a Connecticut Yankee, but eventually settled in Bloomington, Indiana, home of Indiana University. She now considers herself a Hoosier. Wyle’s childhood ambition was to be the youngest ever published novelist. While writing her first novel at age 10, she was mortified to learn that some British upstart had beaten her to the goal at age 9.
Wyle is an appellate attorney, photographer, political junkie, and mother of two wildly creative daughters. Her voice is the product of almost five decades of reading both literary and genre fiction. It is no doubt also influenced, although she hopes not fatally tainted, by her years of law practice. Her personal history has led her to focus on often-intertwined themes of family, communication, the impossibility of controlling events, and the persistence of unfinished business.
From the million-copy bestselling author, perfect for fans of Stieg Larsson, Anne Holt, and The Killing.
“Michael Ridpath is trouncing the Scandinavians on their home turf. This is international thriller writing at its best.” PETER JAMES
Iceland, 2017: When a young Italian tourist is found brutally murdered at a sacred church in northern Iceland, Magnus Jonson, newly returned to the Reykjavík police force, is called in to investigate. At the scene, he finds a stunned TV crew, there to film a documentary on the life of the legendary Viking, Gudrid the Wanderer.
Magnus quickly begins to suspect that there may be more links to the murdered woman than anyone in the film crew will acknowledge. As jealousies come to the surface, new tensions replace old friendships, and history begins to rewrite itself, a shocking second murder leads Magnus to question everything he thought he knew…
This book is definitely on my radar. First, there’s an amazing endorsement from mega-writer Peter James. Then the blurb kind of sucks you into it’s realm of suspense, intrigue, crime, setting and viking history. The Wanderer is the #5 book in the series so I’ll need to catch up fast!
He slips through the unlocked window. Creeps down the hall. A shadow standing in the bedroom doorway. Will you wake when death comes ripping?
A string of brutal home invasion murders terrifies Dade County Florida. The killer strikes in the dead of the night, savages innocent people in their beds, wipes out entire families.
Skewering them with his blade. Butchering them beyond recognition. Raw. Aggressive.
He attacks at random. Rich. Poor. Young. Old. No one is safe.
When the city sleeps, he comes alive. Stalks the night. Walks among us.
The investigation is hopeless. There’s little physical evidence to work with, and the killer’s chaotic behavior makes him as unpredictable as he is dangerous.
How can anyone make sense of such brutality?
The task force leading the investigation needs a profiler, and there’s only one man for the job.
Loshak. Special Agent Victor Loshak.
The 53 year-old likes his Dunkin’ Donuts coffee shaken, not stirred. And now, for the first time, he’s on his own.
In recent years, Loshak has slowed down some. He relies on more wit than grit these days, often playing a mentor role to his partner, Violet Darger. Until now, she always had more than enough grit for both of them.
But Darger isn’t around this time, and a killer this aggressive will push Loshak to his limits.
What drives someone to such violence? And how far will Loshak have to go to stop him?
Yeah, he’ll need to find that grit again… or die trying.
I’ve read this author and part of the Violet Darger FBI series before, so I know what I’m getting into before I read this. Agent Victor Loshak FBI profiler first makes his appearance in Dead End Girl: A Gripping Serial Killer Thriller (Violet Darger FBI Thriller Book 1). And that book was AMAZING. I wasn’t too impressed with the blurb itself though. Liked bits and pieces of it and disliked others. But the blurb is pointless because I’ve already got a great taste of the series and the lead character anyway. Can’t wait to tap into this puppy.
READ THIS FIRST
Today is a writing day. This is about word production. Start at the beginning then go in chronological order. When finished, put the word count in the title. Change the icon to something awesome like a star or something.
STARTUP: Keep a legal pad handy for notes.
-What’s my goal for today’s writing session?
-Word count by 15 minute increment.
-Doubts about my character.
-Doubts about my fictional characters.
-Doubts about the direction of the scene.
-Questions about the next scene.
-Any other interrupting thoughts.
Then at the end of a writing session:
-What did I accomplish? Yay me!
-What should I do before next writing session?
-What will I write next?
-Review these notes before the next Day’s writing.
NOW CRUMPLE IT UP AND THROW IT AWAY! YAY!
KEEP IN MIND WHILE WRITING:
-Why do I love writing?
-What is my story about in a paragraph?
Act 1 is a bitch.
It took me 2 years to write Act 1 of my recently completed WIP Winded Embers. It took 7 months to write Act 2.
Act 3 took less than a week.
Act 1 seems daunting because there are multitudinous variables to organize and implement. You must answer questions like: What does this character want? Why does he want it? Who is in his way? Why?
I’ll stop now lest I begin sobbing. You will revise so breathe.
That is just what comes from the story. Never forget, humans are pre-fabricated with self-doubt and anxiety. This is extra true for creatives who must essentially get naked in public. Accusation and questions will flood you while you write.
What if I suck and have to re-write the entire thing? Wow, am I screwed up for writing about this? Who am I going to offend by writing? Worse, I am not going to offend anyone? Am I writing garbage that doesn’t mean anything?
In my experience (limited though it is) stories tend to come more easily when unimpeded by Writer’s block. Industry secret: Writer’s block= personal problems.
Here is my advice on surviving the production of act 1.
–Create a positive writing habit (more on this in “go Analog”).
–Recruit allies. Writer buddies can shut down your self-doubt and make you work better. There are some questions you cannot answer about your own book. Knowing you have beta readers creates a mental toilet for the questions you can’t answer. “Is my character relatable?” I have Betas for that. ::FLUSH::
–Go Analog. never underestimate the power of paper. Physically setting down a noisome idea is underrated. Nothing gets rid of negative thoughts like a pad of paper. Little in this world is as satisfying as crumpling said thoughts and winging them across the coffee shop into the waste basket. I’m just sayin’
Below is my warm-up. I needed it while writing Act 1. KEY: This worked for me. Use what works for YOU!
Now go write and be awesome, you writer you.
Ames Karas candor.amykaras.com
Thank you so much for letting me stop by for a visit on your blog. I love to talk about books and writing.
Writers usually fall into one of two camps, plotters (those who plan, plot, and outline before writing), and pantsers (those who write by the seat of their pants). Plotters know the path and the plan to get to the end. Pantsers go where the characters and story takes them.
I am probably a hybrid of the two, though I lean heavily on the plotter side. I plot everywhere. I jot ideas on sticky notes and on scraps of paper. I carry a notebook in my purse for plotting emergencies. I have outlines, character biographies, and color-coded storylines. I keep a chart of all the places and characters. I describe them to the nth degree. This is also helpful if you decide to write a series. That way, my character’s eye color or the color of her kitchen doesn’t change in a later work.
I also use this to take care of my urge to write backstory. I put all the details in this document. Some of the information will never see the light of day, but it keeps me from overloading the story with too much history. Backstory or historical details are better sprinkled in throughout the work.
After my major plotting, I’m ready to start writing. And that’s when the pantser raises its head. I always decide I like a minor character better than another, and sometimes the story takes a tangent. In my first novel, Secret Lives and Private Eyes (May 2016), I planned to keep one character around for the series to create some tension. But as it turned out, I liked another character much better, and his role took on a life of its own. So, without spoiling the surprise, character two is around for book two.
After the plotting and the first draft, which my friend Mary Burton calls the “sloppy copy,” I am ready to revise. This phase takes me the longest. I can write pretty quickly once I get started, but it takes me forever to reorder, change, and revise. And what I think is chapter one during the writing stage, never ends up that way in the final, published version.
I try to write every day, but it doesn’t always happen. I work full-time in IT, and sometimes the only thing I wrote in a week were performance evaluations and budget recommendations. Life gets in the way. I’m much happier when I stopped beating myself up about writing and hitting daily word counts. I write when I can. I binge write. I get up at 5:00 AM and write or do my social media promotion before work. I write at lunch. My coworkers tease me when I write in the cafeteria (but they always want to know who dies in the next book). I write a lot on my days off, weekends, and holidays.
You need to decide what works for you and create your style. It is harder to pick up your writing after you’ve been away for a while, but you need to balance your writing with everything else in your life. The best advice that I’ve received throughout the years is to be persistent and keep writing if you want to be published.
Heather Weidner, a member of SinC – Central Virginia and Guppies, is the author of the Delanie Fitzgerald Mysteries, Secret Lives and Private Eyes and The Tulip Shirt Murders. Her short stories appear in the Virginia is for Mysteries series and 50 Shades of Cabernet. She has a novella included in To Fetch a Thief (November 2018).
Heather lives in Virginia with her husband and a pair of Jack Russell terriers, Disney and Riley. She’s been a mystery fan since Scooby Doo and Nancy Drew.
Some of her life experience comes from being a technical writer, editor, college professor, software tester, IT manager, and cop’s kid. She blogs at Pens, Paws, and Claws.
Private investigator Delanie Fitzgerald, and her computer hacker partner, Duncan Reynolds, are back for more sleuthing in The Tulip Shirt Murders. When a local music producer hires the duo to find out who is bootlegging his artists’ CDs, Delanie uncovers more than just copyright thieves. And if chasing bootleggers isn’t bad enough, local strip club owner and resident sleaze, Chaz Smith, pops back into Delanie’s life with more requests. The police have their man in a gruesome murder, but the loud-mouthed strip club owner thinks there is more to the open and shut case. Delanie and Duncan link a series of killings with no common threads. And they must put the rest of the missing pieces together before someone else is murdered.
The Tulip Shirt Murders is a fast-paced mystery that appeals to readers who like a strong female sleuth with a knack for getting herself in and out of humorous situations such as larping and trading elbow jabs with roller derby queens.
Website and Blog: http://www.heatherweidner.com
Pens, Paws, and Claws Blog: http://penspawsandclaws.com/
Amazon Authors: http://www.amazon.com/-/e/B00HOYR0MQ
What can I say? I just love books. Indie/self/trad published...I don't give two monkeys. My reviews are always my subjective and honest opinion. Nothing more and nothing less.
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