The Sly Brilliance of 90 Days

I am working through a writing craft book called 90 Days to Your Novel.

Being the diligent student, I began at the beginning. Each time the author gives an assignment, I do it. No cheating.

From Clipart Guide: Images by Pamela Perry

At first, the assignments were too basic, but I did them anyway. Then I decided to apply an existing story line to the assignments. Suddenly, even the super basic instruction have become brilliant. Because I already have a plan I am working toward, each exercise is pre-writing part of my novel.

Day 9 was all about picking 1st or 3rd person to write in. Again, the assignment was to choose a scene and write it in both 1st and 3rd person and choose which fit the story better. I switch pretty regularly between the two styles. I chose 3rd this time because I am hoping to add some comedy to this manuscript. Not being a funny person, I may fail horribly, but I’d like to try just once.

Day 10 wants me to flesh out the main characters. It involves free writing about the main characters to learn more than just a character sheet about their personality, physical description, and motives. Then, the second part of the assignment is to write a scene introducing the main character. Sound like an opening scene to anyone else?

By the time this book tells me to write my first chapter, I will have a snippet from almost every scene in the book. Very sly Ms. Domet. I’m on to your tricks. 😉

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90 Days – Days 7 and 8

Alright. I’m still trucking through these days, but they are getting harder and longer. I might be giving up and taking them one day at a time for a while. We’ll see.

Day 7 is a discussion of dialog. I’ve never had too many problems with dialog, and the examples of what not to do are atrocious. That being said, Ms. Domet tells me I shouldn’t start a scene with dialog because the reader has no background, setting, or base characters to provide their footing. Oops. My last novel starts with dialog. My high school creative writing teacher liked dialog as an opener if it included a hook.

So now I am going to be dialog conscious. In the next few books I pick up, I’m going to see if they start with narrative or dialog. Here’s a fun game. Go to the library. Pick a stack of fiction and open to the first page of every tenth book you see. Read just the first paragraph. The first, first paragraph, not a random opening to chapter 9. It’s how I started to learn about hooks. I’m not sure I have them right, but I’ve read more hooks than middles or ends of books.

Recently I have started doing the same game but with last paragraphs. I really need to learn how to end a story better.

Day 8 focuses on point of view. — The pesky shifting point of view. My current WIP (work in progress) has three POV’s , but I am debating on the need. Someone once told me, the mark of a good story teller is being able to make the story happen from one POV. I don’t believe it, and I do believe it. When one POV leads to a person randomly showing up conveniently outside a diner door to hear the pivotal conversation between two side characters, it feels weak to stick to the one POV, but when there are interesting hooks and hints throughout the book to reveal what happened off page or when the character actions really would have lead to spying outside that diner, single POVs are more interesting to me. Most of my favorite authors write from a single POV. — Now that I’ve written all this, Day 8 is not about single versus multiple POVs. It is about choosing the right POV. The interesting, reliable, relevant one.

The Kiss – Gustav Klimt

For the novel I plan to do on the 90 day schedule, I think I’ll use 2 POVs. There is a romance to the story that would lend itself to 2 POVs, but the way it is currently outlined I could do it in one. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Day 5 and 6

For anyone following my work through the 90 Days to Your Novel book, I have been basically been doing two days in one. I must have extra time on my hands.

When I last posted, I’d created character sketches of ten of my characters. Yes, I made it to 15 characters, making this the novel with the most pre-planning I have ever done on minor characters.

Day 4 was about plot. It rubbed my fur in the wrong direction. Ms. Domet states that plot is not a function of planning but rather an organic reaction of the character’s personality to the situations thrown at it. Her suggestion is not to plot out a romance in the traditional 7 point form but to rather choose the character’s personality and let their reactions determine the flow of the action.

I had a few problems with this chapter. 1) As a person who plots the action and then lets the characters play within the structure, Ms. Domet’s theory on plot made me question her beliefs on outlining. If the story will progress based on the character’s reactions and interactions, then why create the formal plot structure at all? 2) I am a boring person. She gave a list of character types and personality traits. The goal was to pick two and write a character sketch. I ended up with a narcoleptic social climber. After getting a grasp on the character, she gave a scenario and asked for brainstorming about the character in the situation. My social climber found a baby abandoned on her doorstep. After collapsing into sleep and waking up to a crying infant, my social climber called all of her friends trying to find the mother or get a ride because she couldn’t drive to even take the child to an orphanage or the police. It was utterly droll in my mind.

The final exercise of day 4 was to make a 250 word summary of the story. I tried. It sounds a lot like the outline I already had. Either I was too stubborn to change, my outline already followed how I thought the character would react, or I didn’t understand the leap in exercises well enough. (Does anyone feel like this is the expanded version of the snowflake method? Because it feels that way to me.)

Day 5 is back to setting and describing setting to portray emotions. One of the exercised in chapter 5 includes researching your setting. I’m setting my novel in future America with flying cars. I wasn’t sure how to research that. My solution, design concepts. Ever looked up images for flying cars, elevated houses, and future race tracks. Very cool things out there.

Day 6 is about showing emotion. Using description to show emotion rather than feeling words. I’m about to start this writing assignment. I’m stoked. I mean, adrenaline’s balling in my throat like a tsunami about to flood my system. Pre-shocks are quivering through my fingers. “Let’s do this.” 🙂

Like a Virgin

Like a Virgin is a query competition.  I submitted at the start of April.

For the official site, click the image below.

Starting April 18, Like  a Virgin is hosting a blog hop that accompanies the competition, and the theme is firsts.

1. How do you remember your first kiss?
2. What was your first favorite love song?
3. What’s the first thing you do when you begin writing for the day?
4. Who’s the first writer who truly inspired you to become a writer?
5. Did the final revision of your first book have the same first chapter it started with?
6. For your first book, which came first: major characters, plot or setting?
7. What’s the first word you want to roll off the tip of someone’s tongue when they think of your writing?

1. My first kiss? Well, I don’t remember. I guess you could say I came from a kissing family. Kisses just happened. I remember kissing my little neighbor boy before first grade. I didn’t kiss the neighbor I proposed to naked. I kissed my first boyfriend, but I can’t remember anything special about it. In essence, the first kiss was unremarkable.

2. My first favorite love song was an oldies song. I remember marching around the backyard and singing Sunrise Sunset from Fiddler on the Roof back in middle school. I associate it as a love song because I first heard it when a mother sang it at her son’s wedding. My husband and my song is Amazed by Lone Star. So in the realm of important love songs, that one tops the list.

3. When I start writing for the day, I start by re-reading the last thing I wrote from the day before. I think it helps keep the tone of my piece more consistent, and it jogs my memory if I had an idea before I stopped writing.

4. The first writer that truly inspired me was Diana Wayne Jones. I always wrote as a child. I won my first school competition in 1st grade. In third grade, I discovered Diane Wayne Jones and read every book I could find. By fourth grade, I cobbled together my “first” “novel.” I think it was only 100 pages on word perfect, and I’m fairly sure it had no plot. Either way, it was a done deal. I kept writing.

5. The final revision of my current piece (which is the only piece I’ve ever liked enough to revise) has a completely new first chapter. The old chapter one is now chapter two. I have a tendency to write too little versus writing too much.

6. When I started writing this book, I pulled my characters, plot and setting from a list of ideas I keep. The plot started as the same plot I used in a previous attempt. I started writing it, but the feedback was that the piece lacked setting and the character was too immature. So I kept the same plot but pulled a different setting and character from the idea list. The plan centered around using a modern or more realistic setting and working on building small world elements rather than creating a world from scratch. My main character Tiny began after a long day on my feet. I took a hot bath and gave a quick prayer that I wasn’t a troll or a giant because my feet hurt bad enough as it was. So I wrote down a troll with sore feet in my idea list. I pulled her out again for this novel.

7. I don’t know what word I would like to have roll off a person’s tongue when they read Tiny’s story. I know the words I don’t want to roll off their tongue, (horrible, too sparse, remedial, poor setting) but I’d accept the faintest praise.

I’ll be hunting down other Like A Virgin competitors. Here is the Blog Hop list (I hope):

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For my blog readers, let me know your answers.

90 days to your novel

Ok. Day 2, but not really.

Sorry Ms. Domet. I did Day 1 and 2 together.

Today, I started day three and may work in day four tonight depending on what the husband does.

Day 3: creating character sheets. Ms. Domet says characters are a fundamental part of stories and the part often remembered. I’m not sure I agree 100%, but I definitely agree 80%.

Some of my favorite books are ones that I remember because in the end the chandelier crashed down or the boy got a bell his parents couldn’t hear. So I think those ones were more important for plot or theme, but I can’t argue that other stories I can’t remember the plot but I remember Velveteen Rabbit and the boy who got sick and the beautiful angel. So, yeah, characters are important too.

In the past, I made character “sheets” for my main characters. By sheets, I mean a loose non-formal collection of traits and important facts that I know I will forget and need a refresher on. One of my favorite things to add to my character sheet is a picture of a model/actor/person who most resembles the character.

This exercise is a little more and a little less involved. As a good student, I am doing the exercise as suggested by the book. There is a formal set of questions to answer.

But wait, don’t just stop at main characters. This book asks for a minimum of 10 character sheets. Wow! These will be the best thought out supporting characters I have ever made. Maybe they will be the best too.

Sadly, the visual element is missing. I have rough description of characters but no visual to go with it. Truthfully, I don’t use my picture all that often, but I really enjoy getting to search through the internet plethora of pictures to pick out my characters.

So I’m done with the first ten. Yes, that’s right. I’m being an overachiever. Since I am using this book for a story I already had outlined, I’m going to keep going. I’ll have 15 character sheets for sure and maybe more.

Current Book – 90 days to Your Novel

Ok. I say I live in fantasy and that I am an aspiring writer. Then my blog is full of craft projects. Time for that to change. I started reading a new craft book. It’s 90 Days to Your Novel by Sarah Domet. (Click the picture for the Writer’s Digest page about this book.)

 

The first section is about outlining. Ms. Domet emphasizes the importance of outlines but says there is no single perfect outline.

So I’m thinking about outlining. I’ve tried multiple outlines and non-outlines. One of my early completed “novels” was one I wrote based on a character sketch I loved. It had no plot and little conflict.

So I outlined my next “novel” with my sister. While shopping for vacation clothes, we roamed through the stores creating the plot. Other shoppers steered clear, and the folks at Qdoba happily cleared our table the second we finished eating.

I attempted to outline my next “novel” by using the outlining suggested by Jim Butcher on his LiveJournal.  Thank you Butcher, but it wasn’t for me.

So on to the next, The Snowflake Method. (Assume images are clickable with links to the correct webpage. :))

 

I thought I did ok with the snowflake method. My critics did not agree.  *sigh*

One of my critics suggested sticking to the 3 Act or 4 Act structure. No problem. I tried it. It’s as comfortable as wearing blue jeans inside a pair of sweat pants.

Then, I found Dan Well’s 7 point plot structure. This makes a lot of sense to me. Oh yeah, here’s a pic.

Ms. Domet says outlines don’t fit each person. If it’s true, I’m not sure I’ve found my perfect fit. Her suggestions include using notecards, flow charts, standard outlines, and spreadsheets.

No matter the outlining method, I am a spreadsheet user.

Care to share your outlining development or the method that works for you?