How to go one more week without –

Was it a promise I made? Did I say something to someone about having a break from this daily grind – for a whole month? Surely not! Not this manic, obsessed, driven, etc. words-gotta-get-out person!

But I did. Whether I promised someone else, or the promise was to myself, I need some time to get my mind back together.

And then something really weird happened. Because I’ve already written up dozens of beat sheets, some with accompanying ‘stuff’, it was easier to let it sit there and wait for me to come back. There’s one on the top of the pile, and while I’m doing other stuff, ordinary life stuff, the story comes to me in ways that are ten times more powerful than the original idea. Really.

The bones of the story are the same. The characters are the same. The journey is the same. But how it all comes together, the things that make it zing with power, or move it forward or backward or sideways – are More. More direct where they need to be pointy; more sublime where they need to be subtle; more intriguing where they need a touch of mystery and depth; more unique where they need to diverge from the norm.

One more week – to the day – and I’ll be able to go back to my workstation and put all these potent refreshed moments of the story into the life of It.

True, I’ve snuck in a first draft of the first scene, and it’s been critiqued. Which was good, and it highlighted how I get carried away with ‘what’s in the head’ instead of ‘character in action’ but it hasn’t stopped the forward movement (in my mind) of the plot, of the story, of the moments in the story that needed time to be thought through to make it the a ‘good story, well told.’ Sometimes, I forget about that last bit.

But it’s the most important bit. Why tell a story about a good idea if it’s not told well? Who would be interested in nothing more than a good idea, or something they’ve read (pretty much) before?  Would I?


So giving myself this time, whether it feels like a sentence or a chain or a hindrance, is the best thing I can do for my story right now. While I’m learning the new process, putting it all together in a way that will stay with me and get better and easier and faster, I’ll stick with the ‘break’ and see just how much it works to keep the story in mind after the initial mud-map is created.

I promise you this, it will be good. Stuffed the schedule, though, but who cares? It’s only a month behind the commencement date, so I’ll do what a creative person does: I’ll say that the schedule dates are not the beginning of the month I’ve written, it’s the End. So Feb becomes end Feb, not Begin, Middle, or anywhere else in Feb. End. Fixed.

We’ll see how that works too.


How it all comes together …

The last few months I’ve been trying out a new process (yes, yes, yes – a process is the way it’s done [before the procedure of outline], and I’m talking about from Idea to Concept to Premise to Beat to Balance Sheet to [finally] Outline) and it’s proving a little difficult at certain points.

Don’t get me wrong – I love how it works, and I can see how (in the end) it will make my life so much easier (and the novels so much better), but when undertaking a new way of doing things, it is sometimes difficult to retain the focus to the new way. There’s always something that pops up its head and says ‘I’m much more juicy to chew on than that silly thing! Come play with me.’ Or: ‘That’s so hard – come play with me the way you used to.’

But the power and passion that comes from understanding the new process is (well, can be) All-Encompassing. I can feel the bits that lack the full gamut of story; I can stand up and walk around the picture I create with these things; I can feel the life of the characters as they do their thing (always remember: character in action [yes, still a weak point that has to be considered when outlining each scene]). It is power, and once I get my head around how to turn that switch on for each and every idea that compels the passionate embrace of a story unfolding, it will be worth it.

For the moment, I struggle through each section, each scene, each character arc. I put words in the final outline that sound like a good journey – and then I see how it could be made much more dramatic, with much higher stakes, and an outcome that evokes a full-body response in terms of emotion.

Well, that’s me – if by the time it’s finished and the context of that connection is still there, I’ll be the happiest chappie (writerly type) in the world (kitchen).

So, back to work (where’s that cat – he’s supposed to do this editing task?) to discover new things about how to make it betterer, gooderer, and uber-interesting (compelling, in fact).

And that brings me to the apprenticeship of writing. I’m the person who’s been doing the story thing since I was a kid, but when you have a life in the country, when you do country school stuff and have limited access to resources and personnel who could point the way – what is there to do [pre-internet, but even now internet is a variable thing out there]? And when you finish school, life insists you need to earn your way (and writing? who does that? layabouts, that’s who – get a real job!) by enslaving your soul to the multi-national (or worse, government).

But now that’s over, and I’m free (sort of, still have to pay taxes, etc.) to put my words in the proper order to make them into stories that become novels that end up out there in the world. And it’s been a long and hard path, because first I had to learn things:

1. Everything’s changed, and the rules of novel are mucho different;
2. Most of the resources (books and tutors) are as much in the dark as everyone else;
3. The people who do know what they’re doing and talking about don’t talk to plebs (the ones who do are very hard to find – gold dust in the river of muddy life);
4. The words used are vague and wobbly – and big! – to make it harder to break through and in (and hide their vagueness of comprehension);
5. The young writer/s suffer the condescension of published author/s (yes, it happens).
01. One thing hasn’t changed: People still have the passion for putting story together.


Now my apprenticeship is over. Last year I wrote several novels (yeah, a bit rough, or even a bit worse than rough) and what I learned through the process of doing that practical work, of keeping my eyes and ears open for what worked and what didn’t, and the act (verb) of continually seeking (see, my own journey) the Way. And I found it.

This year, I will write (and co-write) at least the number of books I wrote last year, but these ones will be not only be good, they will be better, and by the end of the year, I want to have the concept of Best in there.

Next year will be the Best Story I Ever Wrote (unless I get to it this year, of course).

So, back to work … … …





From Concept to Storyboard

Originally posted on SpecFicChic.

From Concept to Storyboard

Structure – sounds easy, sounds good, and we have an understanding of all the little words strung together to make it sound very ‘writerly’ and vague.

It’s not. Vague, that is. And it can be very simple – but only once you work out which method, which form, works best for the way you work.

So, let’s have a look, shall we?

Structure – from Concept to Storyboard

The first thing to do is find an idea, and from the idea we build a concept of a story and then we turn it into a premise (read Larry Brooks for examples).

Idea: travel to Darwin; concept: travel to Darwin by camel and stop at Rainbow Desert [etc.]; premise: harassed daughter travels with mother [to find a good spot to bury her where no one will find the body!] to Darwin by camel, stopping at Rainbow Desert, etc.

Some people do log-lines for this purpose (see Save the Cat by Snyder), some people like to write out the ‘initial idea’ scenario, some people do other things – what do you do with your idea?

In order to do the ‘Good Story Well Told’ the critical things to know are:

Does the title and cover tell you what it is? If not, why would a reader go further? And if they get the wrong idea about what it is and go in, will they be disappointed? Very important.

What is it? It’s the hero’s story – who he is, who/what he’s up against, and what’s at stake. The premise with the most conflict, the baddest bad guy, the clearest goal – that’s a winner concept. So, it’s about a guy … who is someone we can learn from, want to follow because we are connected to him by empathy, deserves to get what he needs/wants, has the best reason for the stakes at risk. Choose the most suitable character and premise for the genre of the story.

A scene is one event in one place/time from one POV where something happens.

A beat is an action-reaction – a movement.

And we come to a Beat Sheet. There are lots of examples out there; some are very complex, some are very simple. Some have only five beats, some have nine, some have fifteen. Choose the one that works for you (I like Snyder, but have amended to suit the way I work – you can too).

Fill in the main beats: the Inciting Incident, the First Plot Point (1PP), the MidPoint (MP), the Second Plot Point (2PP) – then go back to fill in the bits in each Part.

Part 1 (Act 1 for some) 25% of the story – contains the Setup, Catalyst (or Inciting Incident), and ends (after the Debate) when the DECISION is made to step forward (this is the 1PP);

Part 2 (Act 2, part 1) 25% of the story – contains the response: running, learning, hiding, challenging; mistakes happen; initial attempts at attack don’t produce the results expected; losses happen (Snyder calls it the Fun ‘n Games section); this is the place for a pinch point (which is ‘see the baddy’), ends with the MidPoint;

Part 3 (Act 2, part 2) 25% of the story – contains the Attack, by them and hero (MC) using new info, new knowledge of tools, courage, etc. in an attempt to overcome the (committed and powerful and complex and cunning) enemy/bad guy/antagonist. Several bits here: another pinch point in the middle somewhere, an All is Lost moment, the Dark Night moment, and ends with the 2PP;

Part 4 (Act 3) 25% of the story (no new info in this part) – contains the resolution and finale, the lessons learned can be used in more effect way, the lessons learned put to good use, better equipped to move on, change and growth into the hero – evolved from coward to courageous, from isolated to engaged, inner demons conquered. Now prepared to act, to apply learning to implement heroic decisions – even to the point of martyrdom.  This is where the six things (see Snyder) are shown as proved or disproved or irrelevant.

That’s what the four parts are, the four q’s. Find a beat sheet to put the right things in each of the four q’s and you’re well on the way. Oh, and don’t forget – for every sub-story within the main story, do another beat sheet and board (the board if the story is complex), and it’s a good idea to do one for the antagonist as well.

The structure of the four q’s can be used with Aristotle’s Incline – just put the pieces along the line instead of in the picture of four parts.

And what do we have:

An Idea is developed into Beat Sheet, which evolves into Story Board (the 4q’s), which becomes your Story.

With the beats written out, filled in on the 4q board by the scenes that set up the main beats, scenes that respond to the beats – oh, my – there are so many scenes – I could write a whole novel from that! Yes, because structure is 80% of the work of story. Now it’s up to you to put the best effort into laying out the words that pull your reader in so far they don’t want to come out until … The End.