Tag Archives: writing process

The Big Secret To Plotting Fiction: Two Story Lines (Plots)

The Big Secret To Plotting Fiction: Two Story Lines (Plots)

You’re writing a novel. Are you tearing your hair out yet? (Grin.) Plotting fiction can be a challenge, but it’s made easier when you learn the big secret. Here it is: you have two plots, rather than one.

Plotting fiction: your two plots

I discussed this on Facebook — Today’s writing tip for fiction: realize you have TWO story lines (plots) in your novel. Since Facebook posts tend to vanish quickly, and Facebook’s search function is woeful, here’s the gist.

When you work with two story lines/ plots, it will make plotting a novel (or a short story, for that matter) easier and more fun. Readers will enjoy your fiction more, and that translates to sales.

In fiction, you have (at least) two major story lines: external, and internal

Consider these two plots-in-one; your novel or short story/ novella needs both:

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

In some genres, the external plot is primary — thrillers, for example. However, in other genres, the internal plot is primary — women’s fiction and any form of romance, for example.

That said, ALL genres, without exception need both. It’s common for beginning writers to “plot”, focusing on the external story line. That’s fine, in a first draft. However, as soon as possible, you need to pay attention to the internal plot/ story line too.

For easier writing, look on the “character arc” as a story line

The internal story line is often referred to as the “character arc”, but I’ve never thought that that was a particularly useful construct.

For example, in the novel that I’m currently working on, a romance, I realized this morning that something wasn’t right. The main character’s internal story line wasn’t working. I could get it to work, but that would require an extra 20,000 words, and it would throw off the pacing. Or instead, I could start the story earlier, and revise what I’d written to reflect that.

So, I decided to revise. Luckily, the revisions will be minor, because the major character isn’t aware of the importance of what happened earlier; it was formerly backstory. All I need to do is write a single scene to start the novel, bringing that part of the backstory alive. In addition, I’ll need to revise the internal story line (character arc) to reflect that. Since I’m halfway through the novel, that means a week of work, but it will make the story more entertaining. And it will be fun to write, which is always a good thing. 🙂

Although I’m not a fan of doing revisions in the middle of a first draft, I decided to do it anyway. It’s the only way I can get the internal plot to work — and the novel to work, for that matter.

You need two plots in one, for an engrossing (and salable) story

Think about the books you’ve loved — the Harry Potter series, for example. Do you remember the plot of each of the books in the series, or do you remember the characters?

Novelist and academic E.M Forster offered this famous definition of plot:

The king died and then the queen died,’ is a story. ‘The king died, and then the queen died of grief is a plot.’

The reason the king died — “of grief”, combined with events, gives you a plot.

Simply recounting events, which newbie fiction authors tend to consider a “plot”, is unsatisfying to readers, because you’re only telling half of the story. You end up with cardboard characters. Readers complain, give your novel low ratings, and they won’t buy your next book.

Chances are that while you’re writing, you’re aware that your plot isn’t working, but you don’t know how to fix it. The solution is to look at your main character’s internal story line.

You’ll find that your plotting becomes easier, once you start thinking of your plot as two strands, intertwined.

Of course, sometimes you have three strands to braid together.

What happens when you have three plots/ story lines?

Some genres have more than two strands to the plot. Mysteries and thrillers for example have three. The crime, or disaster, is a storyline of its own. Your murderer, or evil antagonist, has his own internal and external story line.

Is this starting to sound way too complicated? 🙂

Relax. When you’re writing, just write. Later, when you’ve finished your writing session for the day, think about your story, and ask yourself whether you’ve included an internal story line, as well as the events of your plot.

You’ll find that if you do this, writing fiction becomes more satisfying for you, and reading your fiction is more satisfying for your readers.

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.

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

Plot Hot-Selling Fiction The Easy Way

$5.99
Author:
Series: Selling Writer Strategies, Book 3
Genre: Writing
How To Write Novels And Short Stories Readers Love: You're about to discover the easiest, fastest, and most fun plotting method ever. You can use it for all your fiction, whether you're writing short stories, novellas or novels. Take control of your fiction now, and publish more, more easily. More info →
Buy from Barnes and Noble Nook
Buy from Scribd
Buy from Kobo
Buy from Apple iBooks
Buy from Amazon Kindle

Write A Novel: 5 Tips To Keep You Sane

Write A Novel: 5 Tips To Keep You Sane

It’s November 1. Hundreds of thousands of writers all over the world have one goal: write a novel. By the end of November, many will have written 50,000 words. That’s an immense achievement. Any writer anywhere who writes 50K words in just a month has begun a journey which will change his or her life.

Some authors will go on to establish careers as novelists. Even if you don’t however, NaNoWriMo is an immensely valuable exercise. So, how do you write a novel in a month?

How to write a novel in a month and stay sane

Let’s look at some tips which will help any NaNoWriMo author to stay sane. You can use these tips even if you’re not doing NaNoWriMo, of course.

1. Establish a time and place to write, and stick to it

Novelists lead boring lives, by intention. Yes, they take vacations, and socialize, but they know that novels are written alone, in solitude.

Don’t despair if solitude is impossible. Even if you have a full-time job, three kids, and many commitments, you can nevertheless complete NaNoWriMo if you set a writing routine, and stick to it.

You’ll need to write 1600 words a day to complete 50,000 words in a month. It takes me an hour to write 1000 words when I’m starting a novel. Once I’ve written the novel’s setup — the first three chapters — I know the people and the situation, and my writing speed increases automatically.

Try setting your alarm clock and getting up earlier so that you can write in peace. Or write as soon as the kids are in bed. Whichever you choose, stick to that routine. Within a few days, you’ll have trained your body and brain so that when it’s time to write, you’ll write.

2. Forget writing a novel: write ONE scene (or even just a paragraph)

You’ve written 1600 words, and you’re proud of your achievement. Well done! Then you realize how many words you still have to write.

Please stop thinking. You just need to complete one day’s writing at a time. When I start a novel, I never think of all the words I’ll need to complete by my deadline, because it’s pointless.

I like to focus on one scene at a time. I make a list of who’ll be in the scene, what each character’s goals are, what they’re scared of, and where the scene takes place. Then I write the scene.

Usually, my scenes average at 1500 words. Some are shorter, many are longer. Just like a novel, your scenes need a setup, and a climax. Focus on that scene, only.

On slow writing days you may need to just focus on a paragraph at a time. That’s OK. Writing a novel is frustrating, because a super-fast writing day may be immediately followed by a day in which the words won’t come.

My creativity seems to run in four-day cycles. I have four good writing days, followed by two very slow writing days. On slow days, focus on your paragraphs. 🙂

3. Write first, socialize later

Social media is a blessing because it makes writing easier. There are endless writing groups you can join, so you never need to feel alone.

Unfortunately, social media is also a curse. How many times have you opened Facebook “for five minutes”, then realize that an hour has passed, and you didn’t notice?

Write first.

4. Forget all the rules you’ve read: let yourself WRITE

For several weeks, you’ve prepared yourself to write a novel. Your head is stuffed with writing rules, and hopes and fears about your characters and your plot.

Forget that. Forget it all. The creative side of your brain hates rules. It’s basically non-verbal. It “thinks” in feelings and images.

Relax. Accept the words which pop into your head, and write them down. You can worry about writing rules and whether you’ve done justice to your characters after you’ve written 50K words.

5. Focus on your characters: they will grow your plot

Your characters will surprise you. If you love outlines, your characters will shock you, because they won’t perform as you expect them to. When it comes to following your outline, or following your characters, let your characters win.

You can always change your outline. If you try to send a character into a direction he doesn’t want to go, you may find yourself blocked.

If you find a character’s baulking, and you MUST get him to do something he won’t do, think about his background. Come up with a reason for him to do what you want him to do. Rewrite early scenes, or pop in a little backstory, and the chances are that he’ll oblige you.

On backstory: as a rule, I’m against flashbacks and great lumps of backstory for new novelists because it can quickly get out of hand. Writing backstory makes it too easy to wander down byways and lose the forward momentum of your plot.

If you do find yourself writing backstory, keep it to under 200 words.

Onward, one day’s writing at a time…

Keep writing. Expect to have some days you hate writing.

Write anyway. 🙂

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 →

How Do You Know That You’re Ready To Write A Book?

How Do You Know That You’re Ready To Write A Book?

NaNoWriMo is on the horizon, which means lots of questions about writing. I had a plaintive cry for help from one woman, who’s been listening to people tell her what she can’t do. Basically, her friends were laughing at her and telling her that she couldn’t write a book.

Oh dear. As you might imagine, that made me very cross indeed. Since none of this writer’s friends are authors, how dare they crush her dreams? (While calling themselves “friends”…) On the other hand, perhaps those friends are helping her more than they realize.

I’ve always said that you will know that you’re ready to write a book when you want to do it — and that you’ll learn what you need to know about writing a book in the process of writing.

With any luck at all, this writer will decide to prove that she can indeed write a book, by writing and publishing one. 🙂

Write a book one idea and paragraph at a time

“How do I know I’m ready to write a book?” is a very common question.

Here’s my answer. If you can write a letter, you can write a book. You just keep writing, putting down one idea after another, and one paragraph after another. Keep writing, and you’ll end up with a book. You don’t even have to love writing, nor do you need to be talented, or even good at writing.

Only writing teaches you writing. The more you write, and the more you want to improve, the more you will improve.

Here’s the thing. No one knows what YOU can do — not even you. So, if you want to write a book, just start writing.

Desire is everything: writing a book will teach you how to write it

Of course people will have opinions. 🙂 To avoid getting side-tracked by those opinions, don’t discuss what you’re doing. Your nearest and dearest mean well when they tell you that you “can’t write a book.” They’re trying to help. (Most of them, anyway.) They don’t want you to be hurt.

When I offer this advice to writers — to write a book, get started and write — they have many more questions. However, if they’re not actively writing, they can’t implement the advice they get. So you need to start writing, no matter how many doubts and questions you have.

NaNoWriMo offers you a great opportunity to discover what writing a novel is like. Basically, it’s a lot of sitting and writing. 🙂

If you’re like the writer above, and wonder if you can write a book — join NaNoWriMo and find out.

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 →