Monthly Archives: March 2014

Life, Passion… Deadline

Life, Passion… Deadline

Here is the conclusion of the 8-Part ‘BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE’ Series.
Thanks Holly! Parts I – VII can be found in my blog archives.

Lauren

Love changes everything. tm

 

Life, Passion… Deadline
by Holly Lisle

You’re ready to write the story of your life. You’ve put your heart and soul into it.

• Your themes resonate with you, and they’re the core of the novel.

• You’ve hidden them so well you’ll write a story, not a message.

• You’re willing to write honestly, knowing you can’t please everyone, but you’ll reach the people who will understand YOU.

• You’ve layered your story with subthemes that will make plotting easier, and will make the tale you’re telling richer.

• And you actually KNOW what you’ll be writing about before you start writing.

You’re golden.

Almost.

You have one huge obstacle ahead of you, one you haven’t yet considered. It may not be a factor with your first book, it won’t be a factor for the first book you SELL, but for every book thereafter, your passion, your creativity, and the soul of your story will be written against the background of a ticking clock.

You will face deadlines.

Everyone knows the rules for meeting deadlines. You break your story into daily bites, you write a certain number of words or a certain number of pages per day, you build padding into your schedule so that you can have a few bad days and not come in late, and you stick to your schedule. All great, it works, it’s the way I’ve written a whole lot of books and hit a whole lot of deadlines.

But there’s more to it than that. When the clock is ticking, you know you’ll only have so many times you can fall down, lose your place, and make mistakes before you fall behind. And playing catch-up is hell on creativity–stress, anxiety, and the fear that this time you won’t be able to write to the end of the book come crashing in on you, and make simply finishing an ordeal–never mind finishing on time.

Everyone hits those places sooner or later. But how do you keep from hitting them every time? And how do you hang on to all the richness and power and passion you built into your story when fear and worry make writing feel like rock climbing with no safety gear?

Follow these three steps, and you’ll get through it.

• Believe in the power of your themes.

If you’re writing stories that matter to you, you’ll be able to lose yourself in them even when the pressure is on. I’ve been in some incredibly tight spots, with not just looming deadlines but a dwindling bank account—but because I’d taken the time to build the foundation for a story I wanted and NEEDED to write, once I sat down and put my fingers on the keyboard, I could slip away for a while from the real world and lose myself in my characters and their lives.

If you’re “just cranking one out,” you’re going to have a much, much harder time shaking off the real world and getting your work done. And your quality will suffer, too. If you’re telling a story you need to tell, your characters will drag you to the keyboard on days when you just don’t think you can do it.

• Trust surprises…but not too much.

Be willing to explore story ideas that ADD TO and complement the themes you already have in place. Bringing in new events that can take your characters in different directions but still allow them to get back to the story you’d planned can make getting your daily quota of words or pages exciting—you’re not entirely sure what is going to happen, but you’re pretty sure it’s going to be good.

Make sure, before chasing after a sudden hunch or enchanting new direction, that it DOES work in tandem with your story. Take a few minutes to see if you can daydream your way from the beginning of the tangent all the way through to the place where it connects back in to the big scenes and big events you’ve plotted out.

• Dance with the one who brought you.

Stress and deadlines have a way of shaking your confidence, in making you second-guess everything you planned, in pushing you to look for something that would be easier, simpler, quicker.

Don’t do it.

The problem is, you might have what seems like a great surprise idea pop on you that promises to give you easier, simpler, quicker, but it can be hard to tell the difference between a nice surprise and a betrayal in waiting.

Stop yourself right away if you find yourself altering your story themes or your main direction because of this great new idea. The sure-fire way to kill the story you’re writing is to hare off after what is, in fact, an entirely new story trying to disguise itself as something you can use right now.

If you’re writing about a doctor who has lost faith in his profession and who walks away from medicine, only to discover how much he needs to help people—and you have a great idea to make him an archeologist—hit the brakes.
Let the archeologist idea simmer in the back of your mind while you finish the doctor book. If it’s any good, it’ll still be there when you’re ready to write the next story.

Easier, simpler, quicker is nothing but a mirage when you’re pushing toward a deadline. Faith in the strength of your story, a bit of daring, and focus on what you started with and what you intend to have when you’re done, however, will give you what you need to get through.

You can do this.

And you’ll have the best thing you’ve every written when you’re done; a novel with a pulse, with muscle and sinew, with passion and meaning.

About the Author
Full-time novelist Holly Lisle has published more than thirty novels with major publishers. Her next novel, THE RUBY KEY, (Orchard Books) will be on shelves May 1st. You can receive her free writing newsletter, Holly Lisle’s Writing Updates at http://hollylisle.com/newsletter.html Published At: www.Isnare.com

Cheers, Lauren

Love changes everything. tm

 

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Planning A Heart-Stopping Story

Here is part VII of the 8-Part BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE Series by Holly Lisle. Enjoy!

Lauren

Love changes everything. tm

 

Planning A Heart-Stopping Story

Welcome to part VII of the 8-Part BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE Series.

Planning A Heart-Stopping Story
by Holly Lisle

Over the last six lessons, you’ve figured out your theme, and you’ve worked out at least one and possibly several subthemes. You’ve learned how to use blended scenes, intercuts, and cliffhangers to work both themes and subthemes into your work. You have great conflict waiting to happen. What do you do next?

All of our discussion of themes and subthemes comes down to this. It’s time to figure out how your story is going to go.

After more than 17 years of writing novels as my full-time job, I’ve tried every method I could find for getting my stories into order without so overworking them during the outline process that I no longer wanted to write the book. This is the method I currently use, and am still refining. It’s simple, it’s quick, and it’s flexible—all three advantages which make writing more fun, and keep your work fresher for you. This is going to seem like the strangest imaginable way to get a passionate, compelling, suspenseful story on the page…but it completely blows away waiting for your Muse to inspire you in terms of effectiveness.

I am a heavy user of plot cards—3×5 index cards or the software equivalent–upon which I write one single sentence for each scene. That sentence outlines the characters and the conflict that will occur in that scene.

(Don’t understand scenes? The Scene Creation Workshop will help you get the hang of them. http://www.hollylisle.com/fm/Workshops/scene-workshop.html )

To write your novel, you’ll need to know:

• How many plot cards/ scenes you’ll need for your book,
• Which theme or subtheme (or blend) you’ll be dealing with for each scene,
• Which characters will be in each scene,
• Who the POV (Point Of View) character—the person through whose eyes the story is told—will be.

You’ll start with basic arithmetic plus your themes and subthemes to do this to figure out how many scenes you’ll need.
An average first novel in the current market is around 90,000 words long (if you’re writing for the adult, not children’s or YA markets).
• So we’ll start with 90,000 words as our target length.

For this example, we’re going to assume that you have one main theme and two subthemes that you’ve decided will each run the complete length of the book.

• Theme: HEROINE sets out to win a writing contest and prove to her dubious husband that her dream of being a writer is not a waste of time.

• Subtheme #1: HEROINE meets man at work who encourages her writing, and her pursuit of fulfillment, leading her to consider leaving her current relationship.

• Subtheme #2: HUSBAND watches his wife’s life change as she pursues her dreams, and he starts wondering what happened to his own dreams.

Let’s further say that you’ve decided your scenes will average a thousand words each, so you’ll need about ninety of them to get a full-length novel. (In real life, the math is rarely this easy–mine scenes generally average 1500 to 1750 words each, but every book and every scene is different.)

• Target Length of Book ÷ Average Length of Scene = Number Of Scenes

• 90,000 ÷ 1000 = 90 scenes for the book (PLEASE NOTE: This is an APPROXIMATION. Books are not so cut and dried that you’ll end up with exactly ninety scenes, nor will they each be a thousand words long.)

You want to give a lot of the story over to your main theme. We’ll figure 50% because it’s a nice, easy number, but it could just as easily be 60%. Or 73.8%, if you like to make things complicated. Let’s not go there, though.

• 50% for the heroine’s main story.

Then we’ll divvy up the other half of the book between Subtheme #1 and Subtheme #2. Say you decide that you want the heroine to dump her husband for the man at work. You’ll probably want to give #1 more time and space than #2. If you want her current relationship to grow stronger because her pursuit of her own dreams has inspired her husband to pursue his, then you’ll want to put more work into #2. And if you want to keep the reader in suspense about which way she’s going to jump, split them down the middle.

I think the suspense angle is interesting, so I’m going to give:
• Subtheme #1 25% of the book, and
• Subtheme #2 25% of the book.
Multiply 90 (Total Number Of Scenes) by .5 (50%–the percentage your main theme gets). You’ll get 45.

• 90 x .5 = 45 Main Theme Scenes

Now multiply 90 (Total Number Of Scenes) by .25% (the subtheme percentage).
• 90 x .25 = 22.5

You’ll get 22.5, which basically means you round up for one subtheme, and round down for the other one. Or write two short scenes. Or don’t worry about the remainder, because this is just a rough technique to give you a quick picture of how you’re going to break up your story.

I’ll give subtheme #1 22 scenes, and subtheme #2 23 scenes, just because I’ve decided the husband reawakening his own dreams is a better story than the dude at work hitting on someone else’s wife, and at the end of the suspense, I’m going to have the heroine stay with her husband.

• 22 Subtheme #1 Scenes
• 23 Subtheme #2 Scenes

Anyway, I now know I’ll need 90 3×5 index cards on which to write out plot cards, and I’ll have 45 of them for the heroine’s pursuit of her dreams, 22 for her entanglement with the man from work, and 23 for her relationship with her husband.

NOTICE that nowhere in here have I addressed POV (Point Of View)—that is, which scenes are shown through which character’s eyes. The theme and subthemes do not select POV for you. As you write out plot cards, you’ll have to select the best POV based on what is happening in each scene. Let’s do a few now, and I’ll show you what I mean.

• Jenna, cleaning the attic on a rainy Saturday afternoon, discovers one of her journals from her teenage years in which she promised herself that she’d be a famous novelist by the time she was 25, and something stirs in her at the sudden, sharp memory of that dream. [POV-Jenna] (Main Theme)

• Kevin Hobart hears Jenna talking to a co-worker about her crazy desire to write a novel, and does a good job of faking casual as he invites her to a meeting of a writers’ group to which he belongs. [POV-Kevin] (Subtheme #1)

• Mac watches Jenna reading through piles of books about writing, taking notes and writing things down, and tells her she’s going to get her feelings hurt when she does all that work and no one wants what she’s done. [POV could be either Mac or Jenna] (Subtheme #2)

• Jenna meets Kevin at her first meeting, and even though she brought something she wrote to read, is intimidated by the process and refuses to read when her turn comes around. [POV could be either Jenna or Kevin] (Blend of Main Theme and Subtheme #1)

You may not get all 90 scenes when you first start outlining. That’s okay. You may not, in fact, get much beyond the first third of the book. That’s fine, too.

You have a plan, and you can build and change things as you go. The greatest advantage of figuring out and using plot cards is that when you discover a better direction for your story, you can toss a 3×5 index card or two, and replace them with better, rather than tossing several thousand or more already-written words.

I realize it’s unnerving to look at the mechanical processes behind creating edge-of-the-seat fiction. It’s more romantic to imagine typing like a wild thing, writing without a plan, tossing balled-up pages in the wastebasket from across the room…and dressing all in black, and drinking espresso in a coffee house while lamenting being blocked, too. Passion is in what you put on the page, though, not in how artsy you look while you’re doing it.

In the final installment of BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE, “Life, Passion…Deadline,” you’ll learn how to hold on to your story and its heart while working to a deadline.

About the Author
Full-time novelist Holly Lisle has published more than thirty novels with major publishers. Her next novel, THE RUBY KEY, (Orchard Books) will be on shelves May 1st. You can receive her free writing newsletter, Holly Lisle’s Writing Updates at http://hollylisle.com/newsletter.html Published At: www.Isnare.com

Cheers, Lauren

Love changes everything. tm