plots

A Book Review

The following is by Writers in the Grove member, Bev Walker, based upon her review of the book, “Thieves Break In,” by Cristina Sumners, Bantam Books, 2004, a British detective story.

The following are the real, actual Chapter headings of this book.

Chapter 1 – Late July 1997, Wednesday – (In which we are introduced to the victim, one Rob Hillman, who is missing. The last sentence states he’s been found. So far, so good. I look forward to some interesting detective work.)

Chapter 2 – January 1997 – Almost Seven Months Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 3 – Summer 1933 – Sixty-four Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 4 – Wednesday – The Day of Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 5 – February 1997 – Five Months Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 6 – June 1944, Shortly After D-Day – Fifty-three Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 7 – Thursday – The Day After Rob Hillman’s Death, About Seven in the Evening

Chapter 8 – February 1997 – Five Months Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 9 – May 1945, Two Weeks After VE Day – Fifty-two Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 10 – Saturday Morning – Three Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 11 – April 1997, During the Easter Holidays – Three Months Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 12 – June 1962 – Thirty-five Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 13 – Saturday Lunchtime – Three Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 14 – Early July 1997 – Three Weeks Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 15 – July 1963 – Thirty-four Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 16 – Early July 1997, Sunday – Four Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 17 – Mid July 1997 – Two Weeks Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 18 – Spring 1972 – Twenty-five Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 19 – Lunchtime – Five Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 20 – The Monday Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 21 – Twenty Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 22 – Monday Midafternoon – Five Days After Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 23 – A Wednesday in Late July 1997 – Thirty Minutes Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 24 – Winter 1995 – Two Years Before Rob Hillman’s Death

Chapter 25 – Monday – Five Days After Rob Hillman’s Death, Three Hours After Sir Gregory’s Death

Chapter 26 – Minutes Later

Chapter 27 – A Few Minutes Earlier

Chapter 28 – Two Days Later (mystery solved!)

THE END

Dear Writers,

Now, I consider myself only a moderately orderly person. And a fan of detective stories. Especially British detective stories. Any detective story with a sense of humor, but this one really put me to the test.

I’m not adverse to scanning, and dumping, the dull, the witless, the inane. If it doesn’t grab me in the first three chapters, I may give it a spit and polish and go on to other things, but believe it or not, in spite of its time frame acrobatics, this one held me in there.

I read it all, clear to the end, while flipping back and forth to keep reminding myself which decade we were in. It was like trying to read on a bus traveling fifty miles an hour over a very bumpy road.

The author’s first acknowledgement is for her “splendid” Editor, and I quote: “for refraining from murdering me while I kept her waiting an extra year for the manuscript.” One wonders if that editor is still on the job. Or maybe in a rest home somewhere. Or waiting tables in a peaceful kindergarten where there’s regular food fights.

Nevertheless, dear readers, would you believe? This is a good story!

But please, dear writers, have some mercy.

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Writing Tips for Organizing and Planning Your Writing

There are two aspects to the concept of organization for writers. There is the organization of your writing environment, be it your working space or virtual space you write in such as the type of computer, software, even the way your writing is backed up. Then there is the organization of the actual writing, keeping track of characters, plots, story lines, names, places, etc., and structuring the end result into something readable as well as publishable.

Discussing this with a few Writers in the Grove members, we realized that while the two concepts were separate, they were actually inseparable. As one pointed out, the spark of an idea can happen anywhere and you must have a system in place to jot it down and ensure it isn’t lost between the grocery store moment of inspiration and the moment you can finally lean into your computer and start writing. Throughout the writing process of a project, the project is with you, wherever you are, whenever your imagination catches fire. A well-structured habit system combined with well-maintained tools and access points for preserving those thoughts help you through the entire process, right through to the point of publishing.

So we decided to offer this short collection of writing tips by others for organizing and planning your writing to embrace both aspects, helping you be organized within your writing environment, physical and virtual, and in the writing process.

Writing Organization Tools and Environments

One tool that our group embraced that changed more than a few writing lives is Scrivener by Literature and Latte. Available for both Windows and Mac, Scrivener is what you use to write your story before you move it to publishing programs and tools, though Scrivener will publish directly to various ebook and print formats. Scrivener is your idea holder, notebook, character development tool, and story line planner. It helps you write your book or whatever is on your writing list. We highly recommend it and have an ongoing series to help you learn Scrivener better.

Some helpful articles on using Scrivener to organize your writing include:

How To Organize Your Non-fiction Book – The Future of Ink: This article offers six core tools and methods for organizing your book: piles, folders, cards, Evernote, and binders. The author also mentions Scrivener as it is highly capable of embracing piles, folders, cards, etc. The article offers tips for organizing your writing in general, time and space for writing, and more tips to help you keep on track of the writing. These apply to fiction as well as non-fiction. (more…)

NaNoWriMo Tips: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

So the saying goes. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then you have no excuses for writing those thousand words during NaNoWriMo.

Before or during NaNoWriMo, look for pictures to represent your character, places, scenes, things, or events and add them to your research collection. When you run out of steam, turn to them for inspiration.

Look for what is in the picture to inspire you, but also look outside the frame. What is the person wearing? Why? What does that outfit do for them? Is it a uniform? Does it work with their recreational activity, or possibly work for their best-dressed work uniform in a corporate office?

Where are they? Do their clothes match the environment they are in? Why are they there?

If it is a place, go inside the picture to see what it beyond the bushes or trees, through the doors, around the edges in your mind so you see the whole picture.

Visual inspiration may come from a variety of forms. A picture in a magazine might trigger memories or concepts while having nothing directly to do with them. Add those to your collection to stimulate your imagination.

Also take advantage of Image Search on Google and other search engines. Type in a word or phrase and switch to the image view and scroll to find an image that catches your imagination. View the image alone and print it to add it to your collection if necessary.

You can find more writing tips, NaNoWriMo prompts, and writing tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

Writer’s Toolbox: Plot and Character Cheat Sheet

Peter Halasz of nowhitespace created a Writing Cheatsheet, a PDF document downloadable and printable that compresses just about all the bits and pieces you need to know about plot and character development.

On one side, the focus is on plot, outlining the hero’s journey, master plots, story structures, classic dramatic situations, myths, folktales, pacing…crammed together into the 8.5 x 11 inch space.

On the other side, it deals with character such as the basics, physical appearance, other people in the character’s life or circle, speech and language styles, soul searching, possessions, habits, personality and values, personality types, archetypes, personality factors, virtues and traits, and a wide variety of standard personality types, classes, phobias, and disorders.

The sources of the information are used in many Master of Fine Arts and writing programs such as Polti’s Thrity-Six Dramatic Situations, Campbell’s Hero’s Journey, Pinker’s Relationship Types, Myers-Briggs Personality Classifications, Edelstein’s Personalities and Virtues, and more.

Whether using this to help you with NaNoWriMo or in general, this is a brilliant tool to add to your writer’s toolbox.

You can find more writing tips and prompts and tips for NaNoWriMo on our Writers in the Grove site.

Novel Writing: Storyboarding and the W Plot Chart

Mary Carroll Moore is a popular published author offering educational information on writing and publishing your novel. The following video covers creating a storyboard for your novel using a 3-act structure, specifically the W Plot Chart, helping you find the 5 most important points in your novel.

The following are articles and resources covering more about the W Plot Chart and 3-act structure.

Writing Your Book: Plots and Stories

Tameri Guide for Writers by C.S. Wyatt and Susan D. Schnelbach includes “Plot and Story,” a fabulous breakdown of the basics you need to know about crafting your plot and story.

A plot is not a story, nor does every story have a strong plot. Good writers know the importance of both plot and story, especially before they dare to write a story with a “weak” or “thin” plot. Any plot can feature a love story; that illustrates the difference. Plots are events, stories reveal how characters react to those events.

The study of crafting a successful book goes back thousands of years, and stands the test of time as millions of books have been published covering billions of topics all on this timeless structure of storytelling. Your story has a beginning, middle, and end, but where do you take the reader along that structure?

This guide goes in depth into plot and story structure to help guide you on the path of developing a story that takes the reader on the journey with you.

NaNoWriMo: The Half-Way Point with the Tips, Tricks, Tools, and Resources to Finish

It’s the half way point in NaNoWriMo and our Prompt-a-Day project is also half way through, hopefully inspiring you to look at your writing and characters in a new way.

Writers in the Grove now has 10 members participating. One participated last year, so this is a huge leap and we are so proud of everyone.

Because our group is so diverse in writing subject matter, age, and skills, we’ve made a few adjustments to the NaNoNoWriMo guidelines. Those that are willing to stick with the word count as a score card are continuing to do so, report in to NaNoWriMo’s check in for the region. Those who are intimidated by such accounting have committed to write for a minimum of an hour a day.

The same challenges that face the word count writers face the timed writers. What to write, how to say it, self-doubt, self-worth, and the dark cloud of wonder about how this will ever amount to something. The challenge is to let all of that go and just write. Edit on December 1, but for November, just write and see what happens.

We’ve heard from several people that their goals of plotting first went by the wayside as their characters took over. Now they are pantsing it, just writing by the seat of their characters’ pants, as one described it. “I just hang onto my keyboard and hope they take this thing somewhere.”

In the Portland region, we are getting closer and closer to 16 million words for those keeping score. That’s amazing.

NaNoWriMo Day 12 Portland Regional Word Count Chart 2015

To keep the momentum going, we’ve put together some guides and helpful resources and wanted to share them with you.

Novels aren’t written by muses who come down through the ceiling and shoot magic through your fingers and out onto your laptop’s keyboard. Before NaNoWriMo, some teensy part of me still believed that because writing is a creative act, it should feel easy. But fairies don’t write novels. They’re written with one simple equation:

Time + Work = Novel

Stephanie Perkins on NaNoWriMo Blog on the rewards of not giving up on your story

NaNoWriMo Survival Resources – To Get You To the Half-Way Point

The following articles and guides should help you get to the half-way point, or help you through the rest of your month long writing experiment. It is an experiment. Sometimes you know where you are going, and sometimes you have no idea, and sometimes, both are true. Edit on December 1 but keep writing through the month and see where it takes you.

Along the way, hopefully the following will help, inspire, and motivate you.

Prompts and NaNoWriMo Ass Kickers

(more…)

NaNoWriMo: Beat Sheets and Story Engineering Worksheets

There are some terms you need to know if you will be participating in NaNoWriMo this year.

  • Plotter: A writer who plots out their story with an outline, which they tend to follow for the most part during NaNoWriMo.
  • Pantser: A writer tackling NaNoWriMo with little planning and forethought, just writing by the seat of their pants.

A few years ago, a new term arose, brought to light by Angela Quarles, self-labeled a Geek Girl Romance Writer. She also offers writing advice, tutorials, and tools to help writers.

In her post about her experience and the lessons learned, she describes the two key types of writers who participate in the National Novel Writing Month challenge, and invented her own type called plotser:

What’s a plotser? A cross between a pantser and a plotter, with maybe a wee bit more emphasis on the pre-plotting.

With Hurricane Sandy and other circumstances, my new agent (signed only on Oct 4) and I weren’t able to coordinate on what direction to take for a sequel to MUST LOVE BREECHES. So for most of October, I wasn’t even sure if I was participating in NaNoWriMo. Then at the end of the month, I decided to take up a premise that had nothing to do with BREECHES so I wouldn’t waste my time writing a sequel she didn’t want.

However, that meant I’d not spent time plotting at all.

I had what I thought was a fun premise and a sense of who the H/h were and so started one day late on November 2. I caught up with everyone over the weekend and was doing swimmingly until about Day 5, then my word count dribbled downward and things ground to a halt. I had no idea where I was going with this and I didn’t like feeling that way. This wasn’t the normal ‘what I’m writing is drivel’ feeling, I really felt like all my characters were just spinning their wheels waiting for something to happen. Like the plot. Ugh.

A local writer friend sagely advised me to take a break for a week, two weeks, to figure out the plot and then do a FastDraft blitz at the end. So I did! I ended up creating a spreadsheet to help myself stay focused on what I needed to discover…

As a result of her experience, she created the Story Engineering Worksheet (Excel Spreadsheet), a spreadsheet created in Excel that breaks down all the elements of a novel into their finest detail. To download, click, on the link or right click and save to your hard drive.

Described as a “mix of the four act/part structure, and beat sheets,” the worksheet is based on the spreadsheet by Jamie Gold called a beat sheet, a worksheet that structures your plot all on one page.

Described by Storyfix in their Lessons for Writers:

The “beat sheet” is a way to sequence your story, using bullets instead of whole sentences or paragraphs.

Yes, this is an outline, but it is more than that. It is a scene structure for your novel built around basic plot points or story arcs. (more…)

The Inciting Event

The Monday morning workshop recently focused on scriptwriting, specifically tracing inciting events and the patterns of storytelling for television, film, and even books.

An inciting event in a plot is the shift forward in a story, the twist, hook, and plot points of the story.

K.M. Weiland, author of the book, “Structuring Your Novel,” helps us understand the confusion in and around an inciting event in a story in “Your Book’s Inciting Event: It’s Not What You Think It Is” on Helping Writers Become Authors.

What the heck is the Inciting Event? That’s a question just about any writer can answer. The trouble is that sometimes we all have a different answer.

Is the Inciting Event the first thing that happens in the story?

Is it the moment that kicks off the plot and the conflict?

Is it the First Plot Point at the end of the First Act?

Is it something in between?

Is it something that happens before the story ever starts?

The chief trouble with identifying the Inciting Event is that the term is used rather wildly to apply to just about any of the above. One writer calls the Hook the Inciting Event, another calls it the First Plot Point. Argh! No wonder we’re all so confused.

Weiland demonstrates three examples.

  • The Hook: The opening moment in your opening scene, the first moment something happens that keeps the reader reading or “hooked.”
  • The First Plot Point: The thing that happens at the end of the first act that changes the course of the story. She calls it “where your story really begins…the moment that fully engages your character in the conflict. He couldn’t walk away now, even if he really wanted to.”
  • First Act Turning Point: This is the moment that is the “call to” adventure or action, the no-turning-back point, the lit-match moment. She explained that most writer’s don’t include nor think of the turning point in the first act as the inciting incident, but it is. It is the moment that can be pointed to throughout the rest of the story, the moment when everything was shaken up and decisions needed to be made and action inspired. This is the inciting event.

Weiland explained that the first act turning point, or inciting event, should be placed at the 12% mark or 1/8th the way into the story. The first eighth of the story is character development, the time the audience needs to connect with the main characters, the time, and the place, the set up. (more…)