Tag Archives: Write a novel

Plot Fiction: Fill-In-The-Blanks Plotting For Pantsers

Plot Fiction: Fill-In-The-Blanks Plotting For Pantsers

“I can’t plot fiction,” a student told me. “My mind doesn’t work that way.”

She’s a fellow pantser. We pantsers can plot, if we have to, but plotting kills our inspiration for our novel.

In our Hot Plots program, I teach an organic method of plotting which convinces pantsers that they can plot. However, all you need to do to become comfortable writing your novels is a basic structure for a novel which stops you getting hopelessly stuck.

Think of it as “fill-in-the-blanks” plotting.

Let’s look at that now.

Fill-in-the-blanks: a way to plot fiction for people who hate to plot

Here’s all you need to know for fill-in-the-blanks plotting from Writing Fiction: Show It, Don’t Blow It:

* The setup (approximately a quarter of your novel, in which you set up your story.) After you’ve set things up, you’re moving to…

* The midpoint — what it says. This is the first big turning point of your story, where everything changes. Your story goes in a new direction. Next you head for…

* Story twist number 2. Another turning point. Your main character has tried to change. It’s not working. Things look black, and you’re heading for…

* The showdown. The make or break. The big fight your character needs to win. The story winds down, with…

* The resolution. The killer’s identified in a mystery. The world’s saved in a thriller, and it’s hearts and flowers in a romance.

Story Twist 2 happens at around the 80% point of your novel.

How to get started with fill-in-the-blanks plotting

Yesterday I finished the first draft of a novel, so this morning I started a new novel, with very little preparation. The novel is in a sub-genre (actually a sub-sub genre of romance.) I’ve never written a novel in this category before, so it will be fun, albeit challenging.

Last night I jotted a few ideas on a pad. This morning, I roughed out a couple of ideas for the main character, using an easy character-creation method. All you need to create a basic character is an adjective, combined with a noun. The noun is usually the character’s job. Some examples:

  • Naive model;
  • Bedazzled lottery winner;
  • Hardworking hairdresser;
  • Jealous chef.

You can come up with any number of these thumbnail “characters” in a minute or two.

Once I had my main character, I wrote a couple of paragraphs of background, and I was good to start writing. I always like to keep very loose during a novel’s setup. I find the best character and plot ideas come to me while I’m writing. If I plot without writing, all I get are cliched characters and obvious plots.

After an hour, I had 1200 words, which was a good start.

By the time I’ve reached the 30% point of the novel, I’ll have the first plot twist, which kicks the main character into action, as well as the midpoint twist. And by the time I reach the novel’s midpoint, I’ll know what the novel’s climax will be so I tend to write that next.

Make fill-in-the-blanks plotting your own: it’s a freeform way to “plot”

When you’re using the fill-in-the-blanks method, you have way-markers you need to reach. In between those markers, you can write any scenes you please. There are no rules, but do remember that you essentially have two plots, as I explained in The Big Secret To Plotting Fiction:

* The external plot is what happens.

* The internal plot is what your main character, or characters, think(s) about what happens.

Just keep asking your characters WHY. I’ll need to ask my main character of my new novel exactly that shortly, because this morning I had no idea of her motivation for what she did. 🙂

Try fill-in-the-blanks plotting. It’s plotting for pantsers. 🙂

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Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →

Self-Publishing: 3 Tips To Sell More Novels Via Short Stories

Self-Publishing: 3 Tips To Sell More Novels Via Short Stories

Self-publishing is becoming a lot more challenging. Things are changing quickly, and you need to change too, especially if you’re not having the success you want. Even if you’re thrilled with your sales, keep in mind that self-publishing changes quickly.

Our new self-publishing environment in 2017

Authors who have been self-publishing for years realize that today, self-publishing is mainstream.

In 2015, The Passive Voice published several posts on indie authors quitting their day jobs; they were the most commented-on posts in the history of the blog. Many thousands of authors revealed that they went full-time in 2015.

However in 2016, things got a lot tougher. Not only did Amazon tighten its spam-fighting algorithms, some authors found that their ebook sales were dropping off a cliff. I wrote blog posts on both those things…

More on Amazon tackling spammers here.

More on ebook sales’ slumps here.

One of the decisions I made for my own self-publishing plans this year was to publish shorter ebooks in addition to the novels I have planned. Short stories, and short nonfiction, can definitely help the sales of your longer ebooks.

Let’s look at the tips.

1. Use short stories as a valuable form of painless marketing

Sometimes when I suggest to an author that he publish some short stories, the response is: Yes, but short stories don’t sell. I’d take issue with that, because many authors are making a lot of money from short stories. In some cases, they’re making more money from a 5,000 word short story than they’re making from an 100,000 word novel.

Readers don’t care how long or short your story is, they just want a GOOD story.

In My Top 6 Tips for Self-publishing Fiction In 2017, I suggested:

Here’s the thing about self-publishing: your ebooks can be as long, or as short as you please. Strictly from a money angle, if you can get $2.99 for a 10,000 word short story, OR a 60,000 word novel, it makes sense to write more short stories.

When you write short stories, not only do you build your visibility, you also improve your fiction writing skills.

Short stories are brilliant for increasing your visibility on the ebook retailers. When you’re on Amazon’s Just Released lists, you’ll make sales of your other ebooks too.

2. Reward your fans’ loyalty: send them your short stories, then publish them

Your readers are GOLD. Treat them well.

Show your mailing list subscribers that they’re part of an exclusive club. When you’ve completed a short story, send it out to the fans on your mailing list first. A week or two later, you can publish the story on Amazon.

Several authors make their short stories available on their blogs for a week or two, and then they publish the stories.

Anything you can do to reward your fans is worth doing.

3. Create serials: use cliffhangers to get more readers

Some authors HATE cliffhangers and they refuse to use them. However, publishing short stories as a continuing story — as a serial — works. Just be sure that your short story is a real story, with a climax and resolution, otherwise you’ll annoy readers.

As I said in Kindle Publishing: Serialized Fiction Strategies:

Your challenge with serial fiction is to make each episode in the story satisfying. Yes, you want readers to read the whole thing. However, each episode has to deliver entertainment and value. So each episode has a throughline, with a setup, action, and climax.

Also, most importantly, add “A Short Story” both to the title, and to the description of your short fiction, so that readers know what they’re getting.

Add a few short stories to your own self-publishing plans for this year

I enjoy writing short stories; I like instant gratification. 🙂

You never know, you may find as I do that you sell more of your novels when you include short stories in your publishing plans.

Resources to build your writing career

Watch for free contests, writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check our our ebooks for writers.

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

Short Fiction Secrets: How To Write And Sell Short Stories

$5.99
Want to write short stories? If you answered yes, that's excellent… Here's why. Today, you can make money writing short fiction. More info →
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New NaNoWriMo Author? 3 Tips To Avoid Anxiety And Stress

New NaNoWriMo Author? 3 Tips To Avoid Anxiety And Stress

Happy days: you’ve decided to join the National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) madness on November 1. You’re excited, eager, and not a little overwhelmed at the thought of plunging into writing some 1,600 words every day for 30 days.

(NaNoWriMo newbie? You’ll find NaNoWriMo details, and sign up info here.)

Perhaps you’re wondering whether you’re setting yourself up for stress in November, and are feeling anxious already. That’s completely normal. Here’s all you need to remember: take it day by day, and word by word, AND start preparing NOW.

Meeting your NaNoWriMo challenge: word by word, sentence by sentence

To help you to prepare, I’m creating daily “NaNoWriMo secrets” on Fab Freelance Writing’s new Facebook page until the end of the month. Be sure to Like the page, so that you receive the tips.

Now let’s look at some tips which will help you to avoid overwhelm.

1. Avoid focusing on words — focus on FEELINGS

As I said in this Facebook post, forget the words, focus on the feelings:

Your challenge while writing your novel is staying IN your novel: feeling the feelings you want to arouse in your reader. Keeping your inspiration, if you like. For each and every novel you write, the “feeling-state” will be different. When you lose that feeling-state it’s almost impossible to get it back.

Read the post, and create a mood board to help you to easily access your inspiration for your novel.

You’ll discover that when you put EMOTION first, your writing automatically improves. Keep reminding yourself that fiction is entertainment, so it’s all about the feelings, rather than the words.

Please be aware that if you don’t focus on feelings, rather than words, your novels just won’t sell.

2. Focus on real-time, right here, write now, writing — that is, write in SCENES

As I said in this post on writing in scenes (showing, rather than telling):

Over the past couple of years, I’ve received hundreds of questions about fiction from authors. Surprisingly enough, few of those questions concerned scenes, because few fiction authors (new or established) pay in sufficient attention to scenes.

When you do start paying attention, you’ll know that scenes turbo-charge your fiction. Write great scenes, and you’ll write excellent novels, novellas, and short stories of which you’re proud, and which readers love.

Please write in scenes. You must engage your readers, and “real time” writing is the only way to do that.

3. Use a book journal to keep track of your novel, and make revision notes for later drafts (after NaNoWriMo)

I’m a huge fan of book journals, simply because I’m usually writing at least two novels at any one time. As soon as I get an idea for a novel, I start a book journal for it.

Here’s an excellent article on book journals:

To write, you need to put your rear end in a chair, and stay there. On some days, this is difficult. On any day, you can find a dozen things you should be doing, rather than writing.

Journaling your book helps you to stay in your chair. Before you start writing, write a journal entry. Talk to yourself about the book. Ask questions (more on a questions below.)

Create your book journal today. It’s the most important thing you can do for your novel.

Vital: have FUN with NaNoWriMo and writing your novel

For writers, fun is serious business. Your enjoyment determines a reader’s enjoyment. Bored? Your readers will be too, and they won’t keep reading.

All professional writers know that if you’re not having fun with a book, your book needs help. Writing fiction is huge fun — if you allow it to be. Decide that you’ll have fun with your book, and your creativity will blossom.

Resources to build your writing career

Watch for free contests, writing news and tips on the blog’s Facebook page.

Need help with your writing? Visit our online store, or check our our ebooks for writers.

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

Master Fiction Writing: Craft A Novel in 31 Days

$4.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 4
Genre: Writing
Tag: writing fiction
You want to write a novel. Perhaps you can't get started. Or maybe you got started, and then you stopped.You need a plan, broken down into easy steps. This program began as a 30-day challenge which I organized for readers in 2010. Hundreds of writers joined the challenge and completed it. They wrote novels. More info →