Completing the first draft of a novel and writing The End is really the beginning. Most writers feel relief when they write those final words. It’s a joyous time, so open that bottle of champagne. Savor the moment but compare the achievement to graduating from high school on your way to a doctorate.
Fiction and nonfiction both require the framework of storytelling, a beginning, middle and end. You might conceptualize an ending before you ever formulate a story line to reach that unique end. Once you sprout an idea, the next step is to decide the premise for the book. What is the big picture? Why are you telling this story?
The plot is a construct of details and creation of characters to effectively tell your story. They will take the reader through twists and turns in a cohesive framework to reach the ending you’ve designed. Whether it be a short story, novel, memoir or a technical manual, your goal is to grab the reader and compel them to read on.
Along the way, your process includes reassessment of the plot and subplots to tell the story without extraneous words. Avoid excessive descriptors and adverbs. Make every word count; concise, clear, and compelling.
Best-selling authors use four plotting steps:
- Identify the protagonist. Who will tell your story?
- Show the incident that drives the protagonist to act.
- Reveal the overarching story goal and universal stakes that appeal to reader emotions. What are the rewards for the protagonist’s success and the cost of failure?
- Build a complex antagonist who isn’t all bad, whose motivation to oppose the protagonist’s efforts is clear and believable. What is the antagonist’s reward for success and the cost of failure?
I attended a recent online thriller workshop that included a lecture by Gary Provost, a master storyteller. The above four points are compressed by Gary into two sentences: Once upon a time, something happened to someone and he decided he would pursue a goal. So he devised a plan of action and even though there were forces trying to stop him, he moved forward because there was a lot at stake. It sounds funny but includes the basics.
Story Engineering by Larry Brooks provides the architecture of beats, plot points and pivot points that drive a story forward. His award-winning blog www.storyfix.com contains many writing tips. He also deconstructs best sellers and movies by analyzing their story lines to identify how they all follow the plot format.
As writers, our focus is putting words on a page. We all have quirks, different processes and variable efficiency depending on the time of day. I have friends who write best in the bustling atmosphere of a coffee shop. Others write late at night. When the day is done for most people, they are wide awake and creative. For me, early morning is perfect, before sunrise when the world is quiet but for chirping birds. By noon, I’ve put in a full day’s work. But that doesn’t mean I stop writing. When life doesn’t get in the way, writers write.
When I began writing a medical thriller about two decades ago, I had a good ending and began writing without a developed story line. I just wrote. After completing that book and many rewrites, I went on to different projects, all of them using an outline. In 2013, I finally published a book, the true crime, Eyes of a Pedophile, followed by two more nonfiction books. Then, I returned to the early novel. It was awful.
I divided the original manuscript into two books and then wrote a romance. This year, I set out to finish all three. After excruciating months of editing, I accomplished my goal and published them on Amazon. I have two more in the final editing stages, so I’m ahead of schedule.
Learning new skills sped up my progress. We live in a world of technological advances that make writing easier and more efficient. Scrivener is a software writing and organizational product writers around the world are using. This powerful tool has a free trial available for both Mac and Windows from www.literatureandlatte.com. Tools in the program include a research library, name generator, easy portability of product out of the program along with formatting processes for fiction, nonfiction and script writing. There is a high learning curve, but those who have learned the process use it for all their writing. Classes are available at Flathead Valley Community College.
Many writing classes are available at the community college and online. If you are stumbling toward completion because you lack computer skills, consider checking out local classes, and those from www.Lynda.com where you will find tutorials and training. The first month on Lynda is free.
YouTube can be helpful for trouble-shooting computer issues. I love YouTube for home repairs, too. Skilled repair and construction guys helped me repair my dishwasher and tile my laundry room last year. But, beware of watching TED talk writer presentations, it will sidetrack you from writing for hours.
Dennis Foley, local writing guru and former television series writer, provides creative writing lectures the first Thursday of each month for Authors of the Flathead at FVCC. Check out www.authorsoftheflathead.org for times and room locations. Consider attending their annual Flathead River Writers Conference September 22 and 23. You can register and pay online at the link.
If you are a serious writer, Dennis tells us, read a lot, write a lot, and hang out with writers. I add, take classes and join a critique group.
Here is a very helpful editing blog posted on TKZ by local writer Deb Burke. https://killzoneblog.com/2015/10/whats-your-self-editing-score.html
Thanks for stopping by
Author Betty Kuffel