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    For Writers

    Is Your Character Asking Too Many Questions?

    We’ve all had those moments when we’ve had to come to terms with the fact that the character we envision in our heads isn’t quite the person staring back at us from the page. Their voice, their mannerisms, their decisions, aren’t quite what we imagined in our heads. Maybe your gallant heroine came out of your first draft with rather darker motivations than you intended, or there’s something about your love-interest’s behavior that, for no reason you can quite put your finger on, really makes you want to drop-kick the guy right out of your story.

    Here’s an unexpected problem I stumbled across in editing my WIP—my main character sounded younger, more naïve, and, frankly, whinier than I ever meant for him to come across. Luckily, it wasn’t hard to identify why.

    The dude asked too many questions.

    Do you ever get irritated when someone treats what should’ve been a casual conversation as an opportunity to straight-up interrogate you? Since when did small talk come with a side order of psychoanalysis? Have you ever been trying to concentrate on something, only to have someone standing at your side asking you question after question after question, until your nerves are rattled? (Well?? Have you???)

    My character spent much of the opening chapters of my WIP asking questions about the world around him. While a lot of the information imparted to my character during these exchanges is essential to moving the plot forward, there’s no reason this grown adult needs to sound like a precocious four year old ceaselessly demanding to know “Why?” all the time!

    If your character is constantly asking questions, they can come off as younger, more naïve, and — frankly– more annoying than you intend. Find a more engaging way to impart crucial plot information than bland interrogations between characters. 

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    For Writers

    Plotting in a Pinch: A Quick Guide to Plotting Your Novel

    Wreath: Plotting in a Pinch Quick Guide to Plotting Your Novel

    Happy Monday, my beautiful writers!

    Planning your story can be tough. Revising your story into something resembling an actual novel can be nothing short of impossible. I want to share a real quick Guide to Plotting that’s been helping me through my (near endless) revisions — a quick look at the basic shape of a story. Don’t take this as a cookie-cutter formula, nor as the End All rule all novels must follow.  Rather, it’s a tried-and-true suggestion for the structure of a story that works, a story that moves along briskly, has coherence and cohesion to its plot points, and basically looks all pretty and book-shaped when completed.

    At the end of the document, I have a handy PDF of the guide you can download — a perfect insert for your writing notebooks!

    So, let’s get to it! I bring you Plotting in A Pinch: A quick, handy guide to the main plot points you’re going to want to hit for a beautiful, exciting story that actually feels satisfyingly like a story! (A possibility that can seem far off and whimsical when you’re drowning in revisions and sixteen different versions of a single scene, believe me.)

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    For Writers

    How to Edit a Scene in Five Easy (Heh. Try Hair-Pulling) Steps

    As you might know from my What Projects Am I Working On? post, I’m currently editing the first two books of my fantasy series together into a single story — and by “editing” I mean “smashing”, “hacking and slashing”, “pleading, begging, sobbing, cajoling, coaxing, coercing, and otherwise bribing” the two stories to fit together into a single narrative arc.

    It’s been fun.

    NO REALLY, IT HAS!

    (I say, as a single drop of sweat slides down my brow.)

    As I’m a little bit obsessed with reading about people’s editing adventures,  I thought I would share what do, when I need to hack and slash and smash. Every writer’s process is going to be different, but if you’re at that revision stage and need some advice for how to get started, you might find this post helpful!

    Step 1: The Overview; Bold the Clunk

    To start off, I reread my entire scene (or chapter) from start to finish. Once I’ve refreshed the scene in my mind, I go back through and bold all the clunky sections that need to be pared down. The paragraphs that run on for too long, the descriptions that are too vague and hard to visualize, the dialogue that doesn’t sound quite right.

    For example, here’s a sample of a scene where I’ve bolded all the lazy, too-long, uncertain sections that I don’t like the look of:

     

    As a general rule of thumb, I try to seriously reconsider any paragraph that’s longer than 5 or 6 lines, and any chunk of dialogue that’s more than 3 or 4.

    Usually, a lot of problems with scenes not making sense come from a lack of clarification in the writing. Trimming everything down so it’s clear, concise, and moves along quickly really helps.

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    For Writers

    Use a Mini-Climax to Strengthen Your Novel’s Sagging Middle

    It’s a common problem for novel writers: the saggy middle. An Act Two that obediently rises and falls but doesn’t have that oomph of forward direction and building momentum that really makes the story pop. One way I’ve found to tighten a sagging middle of a story is with a mini-climax.

    I find it really helpful to include a mini-climax right in the middle of Act Two, just before the Midpoint Mirror moment, (leading to the midpoint mirror moment, actually.) This mini-climax is where the antagonistic forces of the first and second act have risen to a climatically tense moment — the difference between the mini-climax and the Ultimate Climax at the end of your story, though, is that in the mini-climax, your protagonist loses to the antagonistic forces.

    That’s right, chums, your character has to lose. Slam up against a brick wall they can’t climb. Be slapped in the face with the consequences of their actions. Have everything fall apart around them. Be shocked when their preconceived notions are shattered. Put trust in someone only for them to reveal themselves to be anything but trustworthy. The disaster and shame of this mini-climax then leads to the Midpoint Mirror moment of self-reflection, that 50% mark in your story in which your character looks at themselves in a figurative mirror and asks these important questions: Who am I? Who am I supposed to be? What have I done? What am I supposed to be doing?

    Having a miniature climax leading into this moment gives the Midpoint Mirror weight and context. The Midpoint Mirror can then lead to the Charge – where the character takes control of their destiny, makes vital (potentially disastrous) choices, and inevitably blunders themselves directly into their Dark Night of the Soul. (The most intense moment of self-reflection and desolation, and the last chance at information-gathering before your character faces the Ultimate Climax of the story.)

    This mini-climax in Act Two has to be an intense loss. The antagonistic forces winning, or at least severely hindering the protagonist. It has to lead into that moment of self-reflection, has to raise the stakes, and has to show the protagonist that they can’t mess around anymore. They need to take this seriously.

    This mini-climax also gives your wobbly middle some great structure, as you can have the events preceding the mini-climax set up for the climax, and the events afterwards consequently spiral out from the mini-climax. Bonus points if your mini-climax can mirror, foreshadow, or greatly inform the Ultimate Climax at the end of the book. (For instance, in my WIP’s mini-climax, a line of dialogue is said by the antagonistic force which, remembered in the Ultimate Climax a hundred or so pages later, provides the protagonist with the last piece of information necessary to put all of the clues together.)

    Try it out, and see if a mini-climax can solidify the squishier, marshier, moments of your second act. I think it’ll help your story build momentum, and give you something exciting to structure around.

    ~

    Do you have any advice for combatting a momentum-less Act Two? Leave your tips in the comments below!

    For Writers, Motivation

    Story Lost Its Steam? How to Stay Motivated as a Writer

    You know the feeling. You were super excited about your book, all the words were flying out of you, the characters were yammering on inside your head so clearly you really could hear them, everything was going great

    And now … you don’t know what to do.

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    First drafts almost always feel like this, at some point. That initial burst of inspiration has dwindled away and we start to feel pretty daunted; maybe our word count isn’t where we want it to be, or our story isn’t as good or exciting or as competently written as we’d hoped. Our Inner Editor is whispering nasty things in our ears. The urge to quit might be growing too strong to ignore.

    If you’re feeling exhausted and getting stuck in the endless ream of drivel you believe your draft to be, here are some things I think will help keep your spirits up, keep your fingers moving, and keep that word count growing.

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    For Writers

    Dream Crate: A Loot Crate for Writers!

    Loot Crate is a subscription service that sends out monthly boxes of cool, fun, nerdy stuff on different pop culture themes themes (they have a Wizarding World box, for instance; monthly Harry Potter-related treats!). They’re reaching out to people and asking them to create their own Dream Crates, an imaginary box of things we’d put together if we were compiling our own subscription crate.

    I would love to get a monthly box of subscription goodies for writers. Notebooks! Candles! Cute pens! There are so many options for boxes — aaand I’m afraid I’ve gone a bit overboard and created a few Dream Crates. Consider this three sample months of a Subscription Box for Writers:

    Box #1: Write! Now!

    This is a box of motivation, to get your butt in a seat and a pencil in your hand! We’ve got an encouraging notebook that reminds you “That Novel Isn’t Going to Write Itself”, accompanied by a pencil that urges you to “Get Stuff Done”, a sticker reminding you to “Stay Up and Write”, and an “Eat, Sleep, Write” tote bag to store it all in!

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    For Writers

    Resist. Persist. Write Like a Decent Human Being.

    All right, my writing lovelies. It is 2017. And even though so much of the news feels like we’re being dragged, kicking and screaming, back in time, every one of us writing, publishing, creating stories, putting art out into the world, can do our part to make sure that the progress we’ve made, the things we’ve built, the norms we’ve shattered and the fights we’ve started don’t all come crumbling down.

    So this is my advice. Advice for how to keep writing like it’s 2017. How to write stories that are responsible. How to write stories that push the wheel of time forward and not crank it back. This is my advice, ten easy tips, for how to write like a decent human being.

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