May 2012 Archive
It’s 2am and sleep is someplace where I am not. But lo! an email pops onto my phone. A query response. A rejection, I assume.
But the title of this email, this response, is different. It is not merely a reply.
Maybe…oh oh…maybe? Could it be?
Dear Juliana (hey, my name!),
Thank you for your query (uh oh). Unfortunately (need I read more?)…
The sneaky, sneaky email title. So small, so hugely crushing. Who would have known? I stumbled right into its trickster trap.
I will be better prepared next time.
**I hope everyone had an absolutely wonderful Memorial Day and that you thanked a soldier, told them how absolutely grateful you are of their service. Next time you see one at the airport, buy their coffee, buy their lunch. It’s the least we can do.
***I’m looking for another beta of my completed MS. If you’re interested, shoot me an email. I can promise an in depth, completely honest critique of your work in return.
I can’t take credit for this post. All credit goes to the amazing Deana Barnhart for her original post on the 9-Squares, and she, in turn, got the information from Verla Kay. If you haven’t checked out either of those lady’s websites, you need to.
I used Verla’s Plotting Template for the past two books I wrote and I’m using it for my next book. It seems to work well. I don’t over plot (leaving room for creativity) and it gives me a great guideline to stick to. I took the 9-steps and created an Excel doc. (click on the “9-Squares” below)
9 Squares Each of the plot points are described shortly, leaving enough room to jot notes. Feel free to use the document!
The following is from Verla on the 9-Steps for Plotting Fiction
1 Triggering event
First thing’s first. What happens? Why have you bothered to write a
book, and more importantly, why should a reader invest time flipping
through its pages. Your triggering event is the answer to those
questions, so make it a good one. Also, don’t make the reader wait
very long for it. First page, first paragraph, first sentence.
These are good spots for a triggering event.
Generally, books succeed or fail on the strength of their characters
more so than on the strength of their plots. The second box is where
you explore what makes your protagonist tick. No, this isn’t an
excuse for drawn out exposition, history, or back story. If your
triggering event is captivating, the reader will discover enough
about the protagonist in Box Two simply by reading how he or she
reacts to the event.
3 First major turning point
By now, your plot is picking up steam, and because of Box Two, the
reader is invested in the ride. Time to throw a curve ball. This
turning point can be either a positive event for your protagonist,
or a negative one, but it should lay the groundwork for the negative
turning point in the sixth square. There is a reason these boxes are
touching one another; they interrelate. For example, Box Three may
introduce the motivation of the antagonist, which then justifies the
events in the sixth square.
You’ve earned some time to fill the reader in on important data.
Since this box touches the first square, here’s where you shed some
light on that triggering event. Since it also touches Box Seven, you
get to foreshadow your pro-tagonist’s darkest hour. Box Four often
reveals a relationship, character flaw, or personal history that
contributes to the dark times in ahead.
5 Connect the dots
Here is where many plots fall apart. Box Five represents the
trickiest part of fiction and since Box Five is the center of the
book it must connect to all the squares around it. Kind of like the
nucleus at the center of a bomb, Box Five should tick systematically
upon elements introduced in Box Two and Four. And like the calm
before the storm, the fifth square should give the false impression
of resolution before heading like a freight train to Box Six. Most
importantly, it needs to provide foreshadowing for the protagonist’s
revelation in Box Eight. That’s a lot for a little box to do, but
focus on efficient prose to get it right. Your plot depends upon it.
6 Negative turning point
Here’s where that bomb explodes and all (Satan’s home) breaks loose. Good
thing you laid the groundwork in Box Three. Good thing, too, that
Box Nine will deliver some just desserts.
7 Antagonist wins
The protagonist is defeated here, and the antagonist apparently
wins. How the protagonist deals with the darkest hour of defeat
depend upon the traits and/or story developed in Box Four, which
leads to his or her revelation in the next square.
Of course! The protagonist’s revelation turns the tide. Here is
where the protagonist connects the dots and overcomes the obstacles
of Boxes Six and Seven via the device introduced in Box Five.
9 Protagonist wins
The negative turning point in Box Six is rectified while the
character’s resolve from Box Eight is brought into full bloom.
Congratulations! Another great tale told greatly.
I think my critique partners have a sixth sense, every time I finish a round of either my own edits or critiques for another CP, one of them sends an email asking if I have time to read. We’re four months into the year and I’ve already had the pleasure of reading four fulls. Not too shabby.
There’s something to be said about finding critique partner’s who you bond with. Two years ago when the lovely Sophia pulled me into the writing community, I don’t think I ever dreamed I would form the relationships I have. I can literally hear my CPs voices in my head when I read their comments. They make me laugh out loud while editing and slap my forehead for missing the things they pick up on.
Writing- it’s a crazy ride and I am eternally grateful I’m not on it alone.
Do your critique partners have sixth senses? Can you hear their voices when you edit?
1. Please describe your book!
Misty: Oh my. You know what? I try like the dickens to never describe my book and hope that readers will go into it blind. That’s because Cornerstone is a mystery that unravels as you read it and I always worry that the description will spoil some of the fun for the reader. But, if you don’t mind a little spoilerossip: Cornerstone is the story of Nalena Maxwell, a girl who’s received a sign (and it’s the wrong dang one) into an ancient community that manages the intellectual evolution of the human race.
Misty: I do! It began with an amazing dream I had, like 100 years ago (ok, ok, actually more like 12 years ago) and had no idea what to do with it until about 3 years ago. But Cornerstone wasn’t the dream I had. In fact, the dream will be part of the last book in the series and I had to ‘think backward’ and figure out how the characters came to be in the dream. Cornerstone is where they began.
That’s such an incredibly interesting way to begin a book! Too cool, Misty
3. What was your favorite scene to write in Cornerstone?
I’m not sure there is one favorite. Writing Cornerstone was extremely exciting. I couldn’t wait to get to my keyboard every night after work and every scene fascinated me. I loved the opening, loved when Nali first met Garrett, I love Cora and the Reese clan and the Addo…I mean, this was the first book I wrote that I had SEVERE fun with every scene. It was a great experience.
I completely agree, writing should be fun!
Getting it out into the world. The writing process has ups and downs, but for the most part, I always know it’s going to work itself out. It just takes thinking and getting up in the middle of the night to write down what’s left on the dream doorstep and, generally, a lot of screwing around until it gets itself right. But getting it out into the world and trying to convince people it’s not a pile of self-published trash is what’s tough. There are soooo many books vying for a reader’s attention and I’m constantly looking for ways to get it into the right hands.
Huh huh. I talk. A lot. If I’m stuck, my #1 way of unsticking myself is to get on the phone and start rattling through the plot (usually to a friend that is sleeping on the other end) and I’ll talk and talk and talk and WHA LA! It comes to me. If I don’t have anyone to talk to, I usually have to turn to Larry (my Llama-collie mutt), but while he’s a good listener, he has absolutely no appreciation for the written word.
Haha, I love Larry! What a helpful dog
The biggest secret I’ve found is: have joy in the writing. If you’re slogging through a scene, cut it. If you think of the writing as grueling work, then start over. I really believe the best stories are one that you can’t wait to write. The joy has a way of making it onto the page like magic. Besides, what’s the point in writing loads of books if you hate doing it?
Great advice, Misty. Thanks!
7. What are you working on now?
I’m working on finishing the second book (Keystone) in the Cornerstone series (it may be a trilogy), and I’ve recently laid out the outlines for two other unrelated, stand-alone books. One is a crazy fantasy and one is more of a Breakfast Club meets Midsummer Night’s Dream.
8. Do you have any writing habits that you absolutely have to adhere to for you to be able to write?
Hmmm. Nope. I write all over the place and on everything. Sometimes I don’t write for days while I’m retooling on episodes of Dog the Bounty Hunter or Deadliest Catch. Sometimes I write without ceasing during every spare moment I get. But the work haunts me and in my head, I am writing everyday, all day long.
9. Lastly, what is your very favorite book?
I don’t have just one. I love almost everything by Steinbeck. I read the Classics and the bestsellers mostly, so I guess I’m kind of in the sheeple herd when it comes to books. You know, Twilight, Harry Potter, Hunger Games. Oh, but there is one story by Mark Twain that I think is absolutely hysterical, it’s called The Diaries of Adam and Eve. Check it out!
I’m definitely going to have to check out that book. Thanks for the suggestion and the amazing interview, Misty!