Thursday, October 9, 2014

"Write Your Novel Step by Step" - Free online book

My complete book, Write Your Novel Step by Step, is now available for free on the Storymind web site.
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Monday, October 6, 2014

50 Sure-Fire Storytelling Tricks! Free Online Book

My book, 50 Sure-Fire Storytelling Tricks!, is now available free on the web site, as well as in paperback and for Kindle.
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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Visit Our Main Writers Web Site

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Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (25) "Who's Your Main Character?"

Of all your cast, there is one very special player: the Main Character. Your Main Character is the one your story seems to be about – the one with whom your readers most identify – in short, the single most important character in your novel.
You probably already know who your Main Character is. If, so, you’ll find this step opens opportunities to avoid stereotyping him or her. If you haven’t yet selected your Main Character, this step will help you choose one from your cast list.
First, your Main Character is not necessarily your protagonist. While the protagonist is the prime mover of the effort to achieve the story goal, the Main Character is the one who grapples with an inner dilemma, personal issue or has some aspect of his or her belief system come under attack.
Most writers combine these two functions into a single player (a hero) who is both protagonist and Main Character in order to position their readers right at the heart of the action, as in the Harry Potter series.
Still, there are good reasons for not always blending the two. In the book and movie To Kill A Mockingbird, the protagonist is Atticus – a southern lawyer trying to acquit a young black man wrongly accused of rape. That is the basic plot of the story.
But the Main Character is Atticus’ young daughter, Scout. While the overall story is about the trial, that is really just a background to Scout’s experiences as we see prejudice through her eyes – a child’s eyes.
In this way, the author (Dee Harper) distances us from the incorruptible Atticus so that we do not feel all self-righteous. And, by making Scout effectively prejudiced against Boo Radley (the scary “boogie man” who lives down the street), we see how easily we can all become prejudiced by fearing what we really know nothing about.
In the end, Boo turns out to be Scout’s secret protector, and the story’s message about both the evils and ease of prejudice is made.
Your story may be best suited to center around a typical hero, especially if it is an action story or physical journey story. But if you are writing more of an exploration novel in which the plot unfolds as a background against which a personal journey of self-discovery or a resolution of personal demons is told, then separating your Main Character from the protagonist (and the heart of the action) may serve you better.
Armed with this understanding, review the cast you have chosen for your novel. If you have already selected a Main Character, see if they are a hero who is also the protagonist, driving the action. If so, consider splitting those functions into two players to see if it might enhance your story for your readers. If you have already set up a separate Main Character and protagonist, consider combining them into a hero, to see if that might streamline your story.
If you have not yet chosen a Main Character and/or a protagonist, review your cast list to see if one player would best do both jobs or if one would better drive the plot and the other would better carry the message.
When you have made your choices, write a brief paragraph about your Main Character and/or protagonist to explain how those two functions are satisfied by your chosen character or characters.

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (24) "Selecting Your Cast"

Congratulations! Over the last few steps you’ve learned a tremendous amount of information about your characters’ attributes, self-image, outlook, and personal issues.
With all the work you’ve done, you probably have more characters than you need or want. Still, by keeping them around, you have had the opportunity to inject new blood into old stereotypes. As a result, your potential cast represents a healthy mix of interesting people.
The task at hand is to pare down this list by selecting only those characters you really want or actually need in your story.
To begin, make three categories, either as columns on a page or piles of index cards: one for obvious rejects, one for maybes, and one for the characters you are absolutely certain you want in your novel.
Put into the Keeper pile every character that is essential to your plot, contributes extraordinary passion, or is just so original and intriguing you can wait to write about them.
In the Not Sure pile, place all the characters who have some function (though they aren’t the only one who could perform it), have some passionate contribution (but it seems more peripheral than central), or are mildly interesting but not all-consuming fascinating.
In the No Way! Pile, place all the characters who don’t have a function, don’t contribute to the passionate side of your story and rub you the wrong way.
After distributing all your characters into these three categories, leaf through the “maybe” category, character by character, to see if any of them would fit will and without redundancy in the cast you’ve already selected.
If any would uniquely bring something worthwhile to your story that couldn’t be contributed by a keeper character, add them to your cast for now. If they would not, add them to the rejects.
Finally, look through the rejects for any individual attributes that you are sorry to see go – character traits you’d like to explore in your novel, even if you are sure you don’t want the whole character.
If there are any, distribute those attributes among your chosen characters as long as they don’t conflict with or lessen their existing quality and power. In this way, you will infuse your cast with the most potent elements possible.
You now have your initial cast of characters for your novel. In the actual writing to come, you may determine that certain characters are not playing out as well as expected. At that time, you can always cut them from your cast and redistribute any desirable attributes among your other characters.
Or, you may discover there are some essential jobs left undone, and you’ll need to create one or more additional characters to fill that gap.
But, for now, you have finally arrived at your initial cast – the folks who will populate your story’s world, drive the action, consider the issues, and involve your readers.
In the next step, we’ll explore the nature of your Main Character before turning our attention to your story’s theme.

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Saturday, September 20, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (23) "Characters' Personal Issues"

We all have personal issues – trouble with co-workers, family difficulties, unfulfilled hopes or dreams or a moral dilemma.
Though it is not necessary, every character can benefit from having a personal issue with which it must grapple or a belief system that comes under attack.
A moral dilemma, worldview or philosophy of life helps your characters come off as real people, rather than just functional players in the story. In addition, readers identify more easily with characters that have an internal struggle, and care about them more as well.
Consider each of your potential cast members, one by one. Read their entire dossier so far consisting of their list of attributes, self-description and perspective on your story.
If a belief system, personal code of behavior, philosophy, worldview, moral outlook or internal conflict is indicated, note it and write a few words about it in their dossier.  If a character has emotional issues regarding themselves, their world or the people in it, note that as well.
If you don’t see such an issue already present, read between the lies to see if one is inferred. If so, write a few words about that.
Now don’t beat your head against the wall looking for something that may not be there. If a personal issue isn’t indicated, it makes no sense to try to impose one. Some characters are better off without them.
For this step, just look over what you already know about each character and then single out and describe any personal issues it might have.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (22) "Character Points of View"

Now that you know something about the personalities of your potential cast members, it is time to find out how they see your story.
In this step, you’ll have each character write another paragraph from their point of view, but this time describing the basic plot of your story as it appear to them.
This will make your story more realistic by helping you understand and describe how each character sees and feels about the events unfolding around them.
Some characters may be integral to the plot. Others may simply be interesting folk who populate your story’s world. Be sure each character includes how they see their role (if any) in the events, or if they seem themselves as just an observer or bystander. If they are involved in the plot, outline the nature of their participation as they see it.
Again, you don’t want to go into great detail at this time. What you want is just an idea of how your story looks through each character’s eyes. This will help you later on not only to decide which characters you want in your story, but how you might employ them as well.
In the next step we’ll get to know your characters even better by investigating any personal and/or moral issues with which they grapple.

This article is drawn from:

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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (21) "Auditioning Your Cast"

Now that you have mixed things up a bit with your potential characters, there is one last task to do before selecting which ones to hire for your novel: the audition!
Each character is currently just a collection of traits – the parts with no sum. To know how each might play in your story, you need to get a more organic sense of them. In other words, you need to get to know them as people, not just as statistics.
To do this, have each of your potential cast members write
a short paragraph about himself or herself in their own words, describing them, their attitudes, outlooks on life and incorporating all the attributes you’ve assigned to them.
Try to write these paragraphs in the unique voice of each character and from their point of view. Don’t write about them; let them write about themselves.
This will give you the experience of what it is like to see the world through each character’s eyes, which will help you understand their motivations and also make it easier for you to write your novel in such a way that your readers can step into your characters’ shoes.
In the next step, you’ll use these auditions to pare down your potential cast members to those who really belong in your novel.

This article is drawn from:

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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (20) "Character Trait Swap Meet"

In the last step you made sure each of your potential characters had a vocation, name, gender, age and perhaps additional personal attributes.
In this step we’re going to swap around some of those traits to make your list of potential characters even more original, interesting and memorable than before.
Our creative minds tend to fall into the same patterns over and over again. As a result, our characters run the risk of becoming overused stereotypes. By exchanging traits, we can create characters that transcend our inspirational ruts and become far more interesting and memorable.
Don’t feel pressured to alter the original collection of attributes you had assigned to any given character if you are truly happy and comfortable with it. Still, mixing things up a bit just to see what happens can’t hurt and just might just turn out to build an even more intriguing character.
Task One: Swapping Jobs
In this section rearrange your characters' jobs until you have created a new cast list with all the same information except different vocations for each.
For example, a Mercenary named Killer and a Seamstress named Jane are inherently less interesting that Seamstress named Killer and a Mercenary named Jane.
Swap jobs around a few times, locking in the combinations you like and reverting to the original arrangement of attributes for those you don’t. Then, move on to Task Two….
Task Two: Swapping Genders
Every culture has preconceptions of the kinds of vocations appropriate to each sex. Adhering to these expectations makes characters familiar but also makes them predictable and ordinary.
By changing the gender of at least some of your less interesting characters, you can breathe new life into them.
For example, a male Mercenary is typical, a female Mercenary is not. A character called "John's Wife" does not necessarily have to be female, especially in this day and age.
Referring to your revised cast list including the new vocations, swap gender assignments among your characters to create even more interesting cominbations.
Task Three: Swapping Ages
We tend to write about characters our own age, or to assume a particular age by virtue of vocation. For example, an action character such as a Bush Pilot, or Spy is usually set as ranging between 25 and 50. An elementary school student is usually 5 to 12.
But what if you had a Bush Pilot in the range of 5 to 12 and an elementary school student of 25 to 50? In fact, these characters are not only more interesting, but easier to write, simply because the contrasts they express spur all kinds of creative inspirations.
Referring to your newly revised cast list from Task Two, swap the ages around to create a new list with these additional changes.
Task Four: Swapping Additional Attributes
Just as you have done with jobs, genders and ages, swap around any additional attributes you may have assigned to your characters to see if they make your potential cast members even more interesting.
When you have settled on the best possible combinations of attributes for each character, move on to the next step to audition these people for a role in your novel.

This article is drawn from:

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Friday, September 12, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (19) "Additional Character Attributes"

In previous steps you've assigned ages, genders and vocations or roles to your characters.  Like real people, however, your characters will also have a wide range of other attributes, such as the religion to which they subscribe, special skills like horseback riding or a good singing voice, physical traits, such as being overweight, their race, abilities/disabilities or a nervous tick, mental attributes including IQ, savantism or autism, and hobbies or other interests like coin collecting or memorizing movie quotes.
Most of these attributes will amount to no more than window dressing in your story, but some of them may ultimately affect its course, and key events in your plot and/or message may hinge on a few of them.
There’s no absolute need at this point to add any of these to each character’s interview sheet – we’ll revisit this kind of material later in the development stage – so don’t go off into the woods on this one.
Still, if any additional attributes come to mind while interviewing your characters, jot them down as they will enrich your character and make them far more human and accessible to your readers.

This article is drawn from:

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Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (18) "The Reason of Age"

How old your characters are couches them in a lot of preconceptions about how they’ll act, what their experience base is, and how formidable or capable they may be at the tasks that are thrust upon them in your story and even how they will relate to one another.
Many authors, especially those working on their first novel, tend to create characters who are all about the same age as the author.
This makes some sense insofar as a person can best write about that with which they are most familiar. The drawback is that anyone in your potential readership who falls outside your age range won’t find anyone in your novel to whom they can easily relate. So, unless you are specifically creating your novel for a particular consistent age range, try to mix it up a bit and at least sprinkle your cast with folks noticeably older and younger than yourself.
Consider these issues while assigning an age to each character in your list.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (17) "Gender Specific"

It's time to start listing some of your characters' attributes. One of the most fundamental is their gender.
For every character you are going to want to check the gender box on their interview sheet: Male, Female or Undecided.
Most characters will have an obvious gender, though some (like a shark or the wind) might be neuter or indeterminate. Usually, a gender helps the reader know how to relate to a character, as it is one of the first things humans instinctively try to determine, right after friend or foe.
Gender alters our entire sense of a person, critter or entity, so note one for every character in your list, if you can.  Don't be afraid to experiment with assigning a gender other than your original intention, but don’t overthink the plumbing, as it were. For now, just go with the obvious choice if you like and we’ll mix things up a bit later on.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (16) "What's in a Name?"

In the last step you added some truly outlandish characters to your growing potential cast. Now in this step, you’ll interview all the folks that showed up to be in your story to learn a bit more about them, to help you decide who to hire.
You’re going to be collecting a lot of information about each of your characters individually, so either make a list, open up a spreadsheet, or just grab a few good ol’ index cards to help you keep everything straight.
(Note: You probably won't end up using all the characters you've created so far. But we want to keep them all for now so you can scavenge some of their traits later to spice up the other characters you ultimately select as your cast.)
The first step in any interview is to get to get the character’s name. You probably already have names of many of your potential cast members, but there are likely to be a few whose names you don’t yet know.
For the nameless ones, it’s time to give them a moniker. Names give us our first impression of a character. In most stories you’ll want to keep most of your characters’ names normal and simple. But if they are too normal or if everyone has an ordinary name, you’re just boring your readers.
However, if your story requires typical names, try to pick ones that don’t sound like one another or your readers may become confused as to which one you are talking about. Personally, I’ve always had trouble remembering which one is Sauron and which is Sarumon, but that’s just me. Nonetheless, stay away from character combos like Jeanne and Jenny, Sonny and Sammy, Bart And Bret and – well, you get the idea.
If your story might benefit from giving some of your characters more unusual names, consider nicknames. Nicknames are wonderful dramatic devices because they can work with the character’s apparent nature, against it for humiliating or comedic effect, play into the plot by telegraphing the activities in which the character will engage, create irony, or provide mystery by hinting at information or a backstory for the character that led to its nickname but has not yet been divulged to the readers.
Keep in mind these are just temporary names for identification. You'll have the chance to change them later. So for now, just add a name to every character in your potential cast list.
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (15) "Outlandish Characters"

In the last step you added some unusual characters to your story, but not so unusual that they couldn’t easily be explained.
In this step we’ll pull out all the stops and list some completely inappropriate characters that would take a heap of explaining to your readers if they showed up in your story.
In our example story set in an old western town, such characters might be:
Richard Nixon
Ghost of Julius Caesar
Pretty “out there,” right? Although you'll likely discard these characters in our pruning step down the line, the process of coming up with outlandish characters can lead to new ideas and directions for your story.
For example, the town Marshall might become more interesting if he was a history buff, specifically reading about the Roman Empire. In his first run-in with the gang, he is knocked out cold with a concussion. For the rest of the story, he keeps imagining the Ghost of Julius Caesar, giving him unwanted advice.
Now’s the time to let you Muse run wild and drag some truly outlandish characters into your story. Don’t hold back, you can always axe them later, but you might just discover the most memorable character you’ve ever created and perhaps a truly original way to use them as well.
In the next step, we’ll begin the process of transforming your characters, even the outlandish ones, into real people, preliminary to deciding which ones stay and which ones go.
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Monday, August 25, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (14) "Unusual Characters"

In the previous step you added to your cast list some characters who would not raise an eyebrow if they showed up in your story’s world.
Now, let yourself go a bit (but just a bit) and list a number of characters that might seem somewhat out of place but would still be fairly easily explainable in such a story as yours.
In our example story of a small town in the old west, these “unusual characters” might include:
A troupe of traveling acrobats
Ulysses S. Grant
A Prussian Duke
A bird watcher
You may be wondering why you’d want to have such odd characters in an otherwise normal story. The reason is to prevent your story from being too normal.
Neither reader nor publisher will want to waste time or money on a book that is just a rehash of the same tired material they’ve read over and over again.
What they are looking for is something with a unique personality – something that sets itself apart from the usual run of the mill.
Adding one or two somewhat unexpected characters to a story can liven up the cast and make it seem original, rather than derivative.
Once again, you won’t be married to all these characters. They are just a gene pool from which to select your actual cast in a later step.
So, add to your list some slightly odd, offbeat, unexpected or quirky characters – no one too unusual, mind you – just folks who would not immediately come to mind in a story such as yours but could be explained with a little effort – folks to add a little color and interest to your story.
In the next step we’ll pull out all the stops!
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (13) "The Usual Characters"

In the previous step, you added characters implied by your synopsis to your potential cast list. Range a little wider now, and jot down some characters that aren't explicitly mentioned or even implied but wouldn't seem particularly out of place in such a story.
In the example story we’ve been using, no one would be surprised at all to encounter a saloon girl, a bartender, blacksmith, rancher, preacher, schoolteacher, etc.
There is no specific limit to how many or how few “usual characters” you can or should add to your growing cast list. So just add the ones that appeal to you.
Don’t be worried if any of your additions seem stereotypical of too predictable. By the time we’re through a few more steps your list will be so large we’ll need to pare it down.
So for now, beef up your cast with any additional characters that would fit right in your novel as described in your synopsis.
Excerpted f rom the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Monday, August 18, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (12) "Expected Characters"

In Step 11 you made a list of all the characters explicitly named in your revised synopsis. Now list all the characters that your synopsis doesn't specifically name, but that would almost be expected in such a story. Include any additional characters you intend to employ but didn’t actually spell out in your synopsis. Again, list them by role and name if one comes to mind.
Suppose a story is described as the tribulations of a town Marshall trying to fend off a gang of outlaws who bleed the town dry.
The only specifically called for characters are the Marshall and the gang, which you would have listed in Step 10. But, you'd also expect the gang to have a leader and the town to have a mayor. The Marshall might have a deputy. And, if the town is being bled dry, then some businessmen and shopkeepers would be in order as well.
So, you would list these additional implied characters as:
Gang Leader
Deputy (John Justice)
Don’t list every character you can possibly imagine – we’ll expand our cast in other areas in steps to come. The task here is no more than to list all those characters most strongly implied – the ones that the plot or situation virtually calls for but doesn’t actually name.
Add these new characters below those in you listed in Step 11. Then, in the next step we’ll add some more!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (11) "Who's There?"

Congratulations! You’ve completed the first part of your journey toward a completed novel. It was a heck of a lot of work, but it is all about to pay off.
From here on out, we’ll be drawing on material you’ve already created. What’s more, each step from this point forward is far less complicated, requires far less effort and is shorter to boot!
In this step, for example, we’re going to look for characters in the material you’ve already created. You don’t have to invent anything new. In fact, it is important that you don’t!
Read through your revised synopsis from Step 10 while asking yourself “who’s there?” Make a list of all the characters explicitly called for in your story, as it is worded.
To be clear, don’t list any characters you have in mind but didn’t actually spell out in your work – just the ones who actually appear in the text.
You may have given some of these characters names. Others, you may have described simply by their roles in the story, such as Mercenary, John's Wife, Village Idiot, etc.
If a character does not yet have a role, give them one as a place-holder that more or less describes what they do, who they are related to, or what their situation is.
If a character does not yet have a name, don’t hold yourself up trying to think of one now. Well have a whole step devoted to inventing interesting character names down the line.
For now, just list the characters actually spelled out specifically in your synopsis as it stands.
John - The Mercenary
An Archeologist
Painless Pete - A Dentist
A Clown
A Freelance Birdwatcher
Do NOT include any characters you have in mind but didn’t actually mention. Do NOT include any characters who may be inferred but aren’t actually identified. All those other characters will be dealt with in the next few steps.
So, get on with it and answer the burning question, “Who’s There?”
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Friday, August 15, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (10)

Smoothing Out the Bumps
In Step 9 you integrated all your new material into your existing synopsis to create an all-inclusive description of your story’s world. In this step you’ll move things around and reword them so that your revised synopsis reads like butter.
You’ve come a long way. And, you’ve just completed a lot of hard work messing around with intangible ideas. Time to get literary again for a refreshing break.
Your job in this step is to reread your synopsis as it stands, not for content but from the standpoint of word play. For a moment, put story aside and think about how things are said rather than what is said. See if you can come up with a more interesting way to express the very same thing.
Don’t feel you have to get too stylistic or come up with memorable ways of phrasing things – brilliant lines of soaring prose that sweep the reader off their mundane little feet.
Nobody is going to see this final plot revision but you. The purpose is not yet to create a finished work. Rather, you just want to iron out the wrinkles, trim the jagged edges, and smooth out the bumps for a pleasant flowing read.
So, crank open the stop-cocks of verbiage and pave a way through the telling of your story.
In Step 11, we’ll fluff up your newly washed and folded story synopsis and see if we can shake some characters out of it.
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (9)

Your Inspired Plot
In Step 8 you made a list of all the new material you’ve created that you’d like to include in your novel to fill holes and fix inconsistencies.  In this step, you’ll weave those concepts into your existing synopsis to fashion an all-inclusive and enriched version.
The first thing to do is re-read your synopsis from Step 5 to re-familiarize yourself with your novel as you originally saw it.  Then, look over your list of the new story elements to be added to the mix.
Begin with the notion you’d most enjoy seeing in your story and, scanning your synopsis from top to bottom, locate the best place or places to insert it so that it will seamlessly integrate into your existing material.  When you know where it is going to show up, re-write just that section (or sections) of your synopsis to include it.
After each inclusion of new material, scan over the rest of your synopsis to see if the changes conflict with any other sections.  If so, make any additional alterations required to resolve those conflicts.
Repeat this process for all the concepts you wish to weave into your evolving story.  Some new material may slip right in.  Other times you may have to scratch your head a bit to see how you can wedge it in there.  At times, you may have to reword a section you’ve already rewritten to add another concept or two in the same place.
Don’t spend too much time on your exact wording.  This isn’t the time to be literary.  That will happen in the next step when we wrap up the Inspiration: Plot section so we can move into Inspiration: Characters.
If there are some things you just can’t find a home for, fret not, for that just indicates they probably don’t belong in the same story with all the others.
When you have woven in as many of your new ideas as you can (again, within reason, without head-busting, face palms or the gnashing of teeth) move on to Step 10 so we can wrap up inspiration for your plot and get on with your characters!
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (8)

Putting It Back Together
If you’ve been diligent in the last step and generated a lot of answers, you probably have a huge number of potential story points. But which ones to use?
Usually, you won’t be able to select two answers for the same question, as they would conflict. What’s more, some answers for one question might conflict with several from other questions.
The time has come to make some hard choices. In preparation for this, you need to get a good feel for all the potential directions your story might take depending upon which answers your choose to include.
When you came up with your answers, you were probably focusing on each question, one at a time, not on your story as a whole. So, the first thing is to stand back again, read over all the questions and answers from top to bottom straight through at least once or until you have a really good sense of what this grab back has to offer.
Now answer just one more essential question – how married are you to the original story concept you started with? If you really want to tell that original story, then go through your list of questions and answers and eliminate any that aren’t compatible with your initial concept.
Once you’ve completed this task, you can move on to Step 9.
But, if you are falling in love with some of the new potentials that have opened up, then go through your list and mark all the answers that you’d really like to include. Next, prioritize them as to which ones you are most excited about.
What you now have is a list of your very best and most interesting new creative concepts. Problem is, though they all have the same roots, they have diverged and may no longer be able to fit in the same story.
And this is where the hard choices come in. You need to pick one of all possible combinations of these new story points that is compatible both with your story concept and with each other.
There’s no easy way to do this. If you really like one new idea so much that you’d rather have it than any combination of others, then choose it first. Next, add your second most favorite new concept that is not incompatible with the first, and so on, until you have selected as many of your favorites as you can.
On the other hand, if there are many new concepts that are all top priority but can’t reasonably co-exist, then you need to try several, perhaps many, combinations until you find the one that has the greatest combined benefit for your story.
Though this takes time and is labor intensive, it is well worth it in the end, for your story will not only be far richer, but will excite you more in the writing of it, and therefore your work will be filled with far more passion, and your writing will progress more quickly.
The best way to try many different combinations is to use good old-fashioned index cards. Put each concept you’d like to include on its own card. Then, just like playing Scrabble, keep rearranging them, trying different groupings until your find the one that is the best for you.
Finally, organize that grouping into a list of its story elements that you can easily reference as preparation for Step 9, where you will weave them into your original synopsis in an all-inclusive revision.
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step

Monday, August 11, 2014

Write Your Novel Step by Step (7)

Filling the Holes
In Step 6, you found holes and inconsistencies in your story as it stands so far by looking at it as an audience would, rather than as an author, and asking questions about what was missing or didn’t make sense.
In this step you’ll fill those holes and fix the inconsistencies by answering these questions to make your story more complete and to tune it up so it rings true.
Recalling the “Creativity Two-Step” method you employed in Step 4, you can see that the questions you’ve just asked about your synopsis are the first part of that technique. Just as before, your task in this step is to come up with as many potential answers for each question as you can (within reason).
And speaking of reason, just a reminder that the “two-step” method works because it alternates between logic and passion; between the analytical mind and the creative mind.
Asking questions about your synopsis is an analytical endeavor: you are trying to make sense of the story and noting everything that doesn’t.
Coming up with a grab bag of answers for each is a creative endeavor: you are turning your Muse loose to invent new concepts with no restrictions at all.
It is important to keep in mind that any answer is a good one, even if it is patently ridiculous. No matter: the most nonsensical idea, though it may never be used itself, can spur the inspiration of just the idea you need, which never would have occurred to you if you hobble your Muse in advance and force it to work within constraints of any kind.
The Muse hates limits, and cannot be directed any more than one can herd cats. Asking the questions is a focused and critical process, but answering them should always be completely free-form in order to achieve the best results.
So, refer to the questions about your story synopsis you just asked in the last step and see how many interesting answers you can bring forth. The more unusual the answer, the more likely your story will avoid following a cliché path and will stand out as original and intriguing.
Answers to Questions About Snow Sharks
From the synopsis:
A transport plane carrying them [the snow sharks] crashes in a storm high in the Rocky Mountains, just above a high-priced ski resort for the rich.
  1. What kind of plane?
  1. Constellation
  2. B-2 Bomber
  3. Modified 747
  4. B-17
  5. Blimp
  6. Dirigible
  7. Bi-Plane
  8. Glider
  9. Rebuilt flying saucer from Area 51
  1. How many sharks was it carrying?
  1. 1
  2. 17
  3. 300
  4. A mating pair
  1. Do they all survive?
  1. Only one survives
  2. 6 survive
  3. They all survive
  4. Just the mating pair
  5. An even dozen
  1. Where was the transport taking the sharks?
  1. Hawaii (for disposal)
  2. An arctic research station
  3. A secret base in Colorado
  4. Russia (they were being stolen)
  5. To NASA for a mapping expedition on one of Jupiter’s moons.
You may have noticed that a few of the answers actually provide more information than was asked for in the questions, for example:
Question 4 - Where was the transport taking the sharks?
Answer d. - Russia (they were being stolen)
When I answered “Russia” arbitrarily, I thought of the Russian Mob, and it occurred to me that organized crime might be trying to hijack and resell these biologic weapons.
If additional material comes to mind when answering a question, don’t be afraid to include it just because it goes beyond the expected answer. It’s all part of the creative process, and it never pays to squelch a good idea.
The more questions you answer, the fewer holes and inconsistencies in your story, and the more answers you come up with, the less cliché your story is likely to be.
Conversely, don’t feel pressured to answer everything and never – absolutely NEVER – do more work that you find interesting and pleasurable. The best way to kill a story is to kill your interest in writing it.
Though producing more answers enriches your novel, it may also deplete your drive to get your novel completed if the process becomes work and ceases to be fun.
So, let your Muse loose, without restrictions or quotas, and whatever shakes out will both add to your story and add to your motivation to tell it.
Now - spice up your story by peppering it with new material! Then, in Step 8, we’ll put it all together and integrate your original concepts and best new ideas into a revised synopsis.
Excerpted from the book, Write Your Novel Step by Step