Tag Archives: Writing

Library Writers Group: Plotting (Part I)

28 Mar

Our library writers group is having members take turns leading the discussion. I missed last month’s discussion on script writing but was glad to make it this month when my friend Gary talked about plotting. There was a lot to learn so I’ll jump right in.

If you’ve never heard of K.M. Weiland, you should listen up. She’s an author who’s willing to share the secrets of the craft and she’s put a ton of resources on her website, Helping Writers Become Authors. It’s full of great resources that Gary shared with us.

One thing that’s always been hard for me is the difference between a scene and a sequel. A scene is the action and a sequel is the reaction. Each scene in a book is a small chunk of the plot. It has a goal that the character is trying to achieve, conflict that keeps them from achieving the goal, and ends with either disaster of not achieving the goal or resolution of achieving it. It’s followed by a sequel, in which the character has to figure out what to do differently to meet the goal and reevaluate his or her strategy. A sequel has a reaction, a dilemma, and a decision. I’ll have to go back through my novel and be sure I have these  in the right order! No sequels without a scene first and scenes progressing the story along steadily.

We next talked about the classic Three Act Structure. Gary referenced the below image from Weiland’s website. Click the image for a full-sized view.

Three Act

The part below the graphic explains it pretty well but I’ll go through it shortly here. Weiland breaks the structure down with some examples so I’ll use her example of The Lion King to illustrate. Act one is for the author to set up the novel. There’s an inciting event that either begins the story or takes place before the main action of the plot. The Inciting Event leads to the key event which is the beginning of the book’s plot. In The Lion King, Simba’s birth is the Inciting Event because it means Scar is not next in line to the throne. The Key Event is Scar convincing Simba to go to the Elephant Graveyard which might result in his death though Simba survives.

The first plot point ends Act One and happens around 25% into the plotline. Though this might be the same as the key event, it won’t always. In the case of The Lion King, the first plot point is Simba running away after blaming himself for his father’s death. Act Two begins with a strong reaction to the first plot point, in this case, Simba running away from home and changing the course of his life forever.

At about 35-40% of the plotline, the first pinch point shows up where the antagonist shows up. Scar taking over the Pridelands is the major event in The Lion King. About half way through the book, the protagonist reaches the turning point when reacting to what has happened turns to action and the direction of the story changes. Simba starts to act when he returns to the Pridelands to take them back from Scar. Ending the Second Act are a second pinch point where the main villain shows his power such as Scar abusing Simba’s mother in front of him, and a second plot point, the confrontation between good and evil. We see this when Scar tries to kill Simba in a stampede.

The Third Act begins at bout 75% of the book at the second plot point just discussed. From here we get the resolution such as Simba overpowering his uncle and forcing him to confess his crimes to the pride. The climax of the story is the last 10% of it, which ends in a climactic moment such as when Scar dies. The resolution should only be a scene or two of the story and is a reactionary phase of the book where we see Simba take his place as the head of the price.

We went over a lot more but this post is getting long! I’ll save more of it for tomorrow. Check back then for an explanation on a few approaches to plotting and a discussion of them.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Submitting Again

19 Jan

I’m so excited to announce that I’ve started submitting to lit mags again! I finished up a short story last week and I’ve sent it out to three different literary magazines and I hope to send it to a few more. It’s been a year since I submitted my last piece which should be published very soon. (There will be a post when that happens, no worries!)

I’m excited about this piece. I’ve had a lot of people look at it and I’ve made a lot of changes since it was conceived and I think its message comes across now. It was a piece I wanted to say something with and I hope I’ve said it. I hope.

Anyway, get ready for more post about dealing with rejection! It’s that time for me again. I’ll keep submitting to new magazines when I have time. The more eyes that see it, the more likely I’ll get some solid feedback or that someone else will like it. I’m being hopeful, it probably needs another round of revisions.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

A Mini Writers Retreat: Sharing

24 Dec

My writers group met for the last time this year for a nice little get-together. It was a smaller crowd than we’re used to, but that worked out in our favor this time.

We practiced reading our pieces aloud. It’s surprisingly terrifying to share what you’ve written, though, fortunately, this group stresses sharing what you have no matter what you think of it. When I first joined, it made me nervous to share a prompt response I’d just written. What if it was terrible? I figured out pretty quickly that everyone hated what they wrote (or at least 90% of people) but they didn’t care, they shared it anyway. Part of writing is sharing what you’ve written. Books are published for public consumption, not for the author’s own pleasure. If it’s hard to share something you wrote in five minutes that has low expectations, it will be a lot harder to share something you worked on for years.

For this meeting, we shared stories we’d already written, our latest work in progress. We went around the table and each shared our first sentence, critiquing as we went. Then we shared the first paragraph and then the first section (about three pages or so) with a critique after each one. I found it helpful to read the beginning of my latest draft out loud. I know it’s improved since the previous draft, but there were still a lot of places that it needs some help. There were things I didn’t realize needed help that the other members were able to point out which helped, too.

I’m a big fan of critique. I’ve had five friends and my husband read my 1920s novel and each reader finds something I can improve upon. Of course, it’s terrifying to share my work with others, but it becomes less terrifying each time. Now, it’s not as painful and I’m not constantly stressing about how far the person is or what they’re thinking. Sharing my work has made me ready for backlash and bad reviews I might receive in the future. It also helped me prepare for rejection letters from lit mags. It’s been an overall positive experience.

So share your words, Reader! They could always be improved, but there could be someone who likes them, too.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Library Writers’ Group: Research

3 Nov

We had yet another lovely meeting of my local library’s writers group. I do enjoy getting together with this group. Our leader is stepping down because she’s gotten a job at another library recently so the format of this group might change soon but for now, we’re continuing on talk about different aspects of writing at each meeting. This time, we talked about research.

As a historical fiction writer, I tend to think of research as taking on the image of pouring over texts and looking up pictures of vintage clothes, but that’s not always the case. Creative non-fiction and memoir also require research, but a different type. Our moderator directed us to a few resources for this

But, as I’m a fiction writer, I wanted to focus this post more on the research needed to write fiction. But we’re all types so I hope someone can find the above links useful!

As much as we’re told to ‘write what we know,’ we don’t always do it. Not everything I write is set in suburban Detroit and not all of us involves a young married couple. When it comes to setting, there is a lot of research you need to do in order to set a novel in a place you might have never visited (or at lease in a time you’ve never visited). We were given a great article by Tricia Goyer about how to place your story in a setting. You do have to research the place and looking at maps and photos is a great start. I’ve had to do this for both of my full manuscripts and it can sometimes help me add new elements to my plot. It helps to meet and interview people who have lived or visited the place you’re talking about. (This can, granted, be hard for historical settings depending on how far back you’re going.)

This article by Kim van Alkemade gave some great tips about researching for historical fiction. My favorites include ‘Study old pictures’ (I started my 1920s board on Pinterest) and ‘Read old books.’ I hadn’t thought about reading books from the 20s, but it would give me a good idea of voice in that time.

This Writers Digest article talks more about research in general. There is great advice on how to find experts in an area you are trying to research.

Another quote we talked about (from an article I’m unable to locate) talked about the nature of research. When I’ve researched, I’ve found myself digging into historical files and then connected articles and then a book that’s slightly related etc. This is when research can become a dangerous time suck. It’s important to ‘go deep but stay narrow.’ We need to go deep into certain topics that are most applicable to our story, but it’s important to choose carefully the topics that will involve the deep knowledge. Choose them carefully and don’t stray too far away.

I hope this has been helpful for my fellow writers. I thought this was a great topic for our group to do and I hope we can touch on it again in the future with more insight.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

NaNoWriMo- My Official (ish) Intentions

20 Oct

Is it obligatory for a writing blog to post about NaNo? No, not yet? Well, I’m sure it will be in the near future so I better get this out-of-the-way.

I had two NaNo-related things happen to me so far in October and I thought it would be best to roll out this post before November 1 approached. I’m going to participate but not in the traditional sense.

For those of you not familiar, NaNo is short for National Novel Writing Month (also called NaNoWriMo). The goal is to write a 50,000 word novel between midnight on November 1 and midnight November 30. You start with a blank page and finish with ‘The End.’ I did this in 2013 making me a ‘Winner.’ (May or may not have a shirt…) In 2014, I was a ‘rebel’ and instead of writing an average of 1,667 words per day, I edited for the time it would have taken me to write that much. Hate me if you want, but I can normally pound out 1,667 words in about a half hour, give or take. So that meant I got at least 15 hours of editing my 2013 NaNo in last year. I finished that up earlier this year and I’ve set it aside for now while a friend reads it.

This year, I have a big obstacle in my way: School. I’m in an MBA program and the class I’m taking is very demanding. Fortunately (or not), it’s on a shortened semester schedule and wraps up November 16th. So I know that I’ll be up to my eyeballs in finance until the final is finished. I don’t want to go half-in on school and I don’t want to be stressing about NaNo so I’m pretending NaNo starts on November 17th. If I can do some work earlier than that, I will, but I won’t hold myself to a schedule. My goal until then is getting an A in this class.

Starting the 17th, it’s NaNo season for me. I’ll still end on the 30th, so it’s a shortened season. All told, I should get at least 7 hours of editing in. That’s right, I’m going to edit again. I don’t like having so many projects going that I can’t keep track of them all so I want to use the time to edit again. I really enjoy the camaraderie and friendly competition that come along with NaNo and I don’t want to skip out on the encouragement and focus I find in November. So I’ll be editing at write-ins and the annual Midway Madness event that my lovely home chapter hosts. I’m really pumped to get back into the frenzy. It’s the carrot waiting for me at the end of the semester.

Before this starts, I need to do some research. My book focuses on a school in the 1920s, but I’m not able to find a lot of information about the school systems at that time. I need to go to the library and spend some time with a research librarian. Honestly, that sounds like a blast to me.

How about you, Reader? Are you doing NaNo? What are your goals, whether they be rebellious like mine or more standard. I wish you the best in this crazy endeavor.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Confessions of a Writer Book Tag

19 Oct

Well, this is fun. I was lucky to be tagged by Nicolette in the Confessions of a Writer Tag that she is starting. I’ve never been on the ground floor of one of these before and I’m very honored. It’s been a while since I did one of these so let’s get started

the-confessions-of-a-writer-tag

The Confessions of a Writer Tag was created by Nicolette at A Little Bookish, A Little Writerly. It is a ‘get-to-know’ the writer interview tag, dedicated to spotlighting the creative process, works in progress, and connecting to other writers.

Rules of the tag:

  • Please link back to A Little Bookish, A Little Writerly’s post, so that the original rules are always accessible to anyone who is curious and wants to participate!
  • Acknowledge the person who tagged you in your post.
  • Tag your friends and fellow writers – it’s up to you how many!

The Questions:

  1. When did you first start writing? Was being a writer something you always aspired to be?
    I wrote a lot of fanfiction in middle school. I’d say that’s when I started writing. In high school, I took a creative writing course and that’s when I began writing original fiction. I began the process seriously when I graduated from college in 2012.
  2. What genre do you write?
    I’ve written in a few. My novels are young adult, historical fiction, and women’s fiction. My short stories are more varied, but most of them are contemporary fiction.
  3. Can you tell us a little about your current work in progress? When did you start working on this project?
    I have two main novel-length WIPs. The first is a YA Historical Fiction piece. I plan to start my third draft during NaNo this year. I hope to start querying it eventually, but that’s seeming farther and farther away. I began the piece after college, in 2012.
    My other WIP is a contemporary women’s fiction piece that I wrote for NaNo 2013. I’ve done a second draft of it and it’s out to a friend to read it.
  4. What was your first piece that you can remember writing? What was it about?
    Well, it was fanfiction. I think it was for The Lord of the Rings, about an elf living in modern-day California. I don’t think I ever finished it. I also don’t think I should.
  5. What’s the best part about writing?
    Creating something that others enjoy. I love when someone reads my writing and enjoys it and wants to talk about it. Even if they disagree with what I’ve written, I love knowing that it got people thinking.
  6. What’s the worst part about writing?
    Solitary confinement and back pain from my writing chair. Ouch.
  7. What’s the name of your favorite character and why? (This can be from a book by another author or from your own work. Book crushes are perfectly acceptable here as well.)
    I’ve always loved Draco Malfoy from the Harry Potter series. “Everyone loves a rebel, Harry.”
  8. How much time a day/week do you get to write? When is the best time for you to write (morning or night)?
    Gosh, I wish I had an answer for this. Between the blog, grad school, and working full-time, I don’t get much. If I’m lucky, an hour. I work best in the afternoon; after my brain is awake but before it gets groggy.
  9. Did you go to college for writing? Or if you haven’t been to college yet, do you plan to?
    No, I went to school for business and Spanish. I think the Spanish helped me understand grammar better, but it didn’t help me write any better.
  10. What bothers you more: spelling errors, punctuation errors, or grammar errors?
    I look at resumes for a living and I’m most bothered by capitalization errors and unparalleled phrasing. Those two always get me.
  11. What is the best writing advice that anyone has given you?
    If you write, you’re a writer. It doesn’t matter how much or how good or how often. You can call yourself a writer if you write.
  12. What advice would you give to another writer?
    Be bold. Write something someone won’t like. Write something you don’t like and see where it goes. The only way to grow is to try.
  13. What are your favorite writing sites or blogs that you turn to for help, tips or encouragement?
    NaNoWriMo does a great site and I look at it every year in November. I don’t tend to use many others, I mostly turn to my writer friends and my live-in-person writer groups.
  14. Besides writing, what else do you enjoy doing? What are your hobbies?
    Here is the other reason I don’t have time to write. I’m a triathlete and physical fitness is important to me. I work out five times a week, more in the summer. I also enjoy knitting and (of course) reading. Not so fun, I’m in an MBA program August-May for the next five years.
  15. What is the best book you’ve read this year?
    I loved Andy Weir’s The Martian and can’t wait for date night with the hubby when we go to see it.
  16. What is the best movie you’ve seen this year?
    I’m not big on movies to be honest. I thought Gone Girl was well done.
  17. What is your favorite book or series of all time?
    Harry Potter
  18. Who is your favorite author?
    John Irving.
  19. What are your plans for the rest of the year in terms of your writing?
    I have a piece coming out this month and I want to start submitting more stories to Lit Mags. I also plan to do a mini-NaNo-rebellion and start editing my YA story. I’m not sure how far that will go, but I’m looking for progress, not word count.
  20. Where else can we find you online?
    See signature block.

Well, there you go! A bit more about me. I’m not going to tag a ton of people, but there are a few I’d love to share this with.

Michelle @ Sidereal Day
Ashlee @ Life {Faith} Tea
Conner @ Wanna-be Writer
Jen @ Jen’s Pen Den

Thanks for reading and if there’s anyone else out there who wants to participate, please do and let me know you did!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction: Round 2

8 Oct

Round two is over! Okay, by the time you read this it will have been over for a while, but my relief is the same. I found out my Round 1 score on Wednesday before the competition and was SUPER EXCITED to see I’d come in 3rd! The top 15 people are awarded points with first place receiving 15, 2nd 14, and 3rd (me) 13! The highest combined scores after the first two rounds move on to the third round so I’m well positioned to move on. Woo!

To combine with my excitement, I was nervous about round two. It had the unfortunate timing of starting while I was at a wedding. So at 11, I stopped dancing to look at my phone and saw the wonderful, glorious prompt.

Genre: Historical Fiction
Location: A secret lab
Object: A mouse

Hallelujah! This could not be better. If you’ve been a fan of the blog for a while, you’ll know I adore historical fiction. And because the era is not specified, I could write about the 20s! I went back to dancing at the wedding, confident I could deal with the writing on the way home on Saturday.

While my wonderful husband and I got ready to leave in the morning, he helped me craft some ideas. We came up with a plan for a secret lab and throwing a mouse in was no problem. So on the way home, I pulled out my laptop and in about a half hour, typed up the story. I put it away for a few hours (while we listened to a football game on the radio), pulled it out for some quick editing, and sent it to Beta readers. By the time I got home, I had some feedback and did some small tweaks. A little more response trickled in on Sunday but to be honest, the story I submitted was 80% written in the car.

It was a surprisingly calm weekend as far as writing goes. I know I lucked out with that prompt. I hope I do well and can move on to round three. Though I’m not counting on ever getting a prompt that I like that much again. I’ve got to be ready for romance or political satire. Those would be a lot harder.

I get the results of round two on October 21st at midnight. Round three starts at midnight on the 23rd. This is bad timing for me again because I’m obligated to be at a football event with my in-laws on the 24th. (As a side note, I hate football. All football references in this post are to demonstrate the only bad thing about fall to me and how it ruins my life.) This will be a challenge.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

One Day Writer’s Retreat for August

14 Sep

Yes, I’ll freely admit this retreat post is a bit late. My apologize, I’ve been finishing so many books I’m falling behind! At the end of August, one of my amazing writer friends hosted a few others at her house to practice our craft, share pieces and generally have a good time. And oh did we ever.

We started with some prompts. I’m not going to share what I wrote, but the prompts are below. They were progressive and built on each other nicely.

  1. Describe an altercation (7 minutes)
  2. Re-write the scene from another point of view (ie switch from 1st to 3rd of vice versa) (7 minutes)
  3. Re-write it from another perspective. Maybe another character or an inanimate object (7)

I really liked doing this exercise because it helped me dive into the characters. I started with a little girl on her first day of Kindergarten reluctant to leave home. By the end, her parents are divorced and her paternal grandmother was sneaking her father into the house to see her and take her shopping. It got intense.

We did some critiquing, which I always love. I shared the second half of a story I’m working on. There was a lot of good feedback which is going to be hard to work in, but will make the story a lot better. It’s the next piece I want to start shopping around and I need to bite the bullet and get down to it!

As always, there were little tidbits of advice that are great to share. The first is for my fellow historical writers out there. The Dictionary of American Regional English (DARE) is a comprehensive set of slang and English variations across the United States and across time. Yeah. Wow. It’s super expensive but looks awesome. We all started looking for used copies. Another tidbit for any 20s writers, my history-buff friend John shared with me that in that time period, people used last names with each other unless they were very close friends. Coworkers would have addressed each other as Mr. So-and-so and Mr. Whats-his-name instead of Billy and Tommy. Huh.

Some other writerly advice for any genre. When most people draft, they tend to include a lot of backstory. Which is almost (hopefully) immediately edited out. This back story should only exist to inform the characters of what’s happened, not the reader. If your character lives in a world where trees are a main source of food, then he should start chowing down on some bark without explaining it to the reader. If an alien shows up on tree-planet, then it might need to be explained

Most writers have heard the Stephen King quote, “I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops.” Try cutting all adverbs from a piece and reading it that way. If it doesn’t make sense, consider picking a stronger verb before you decide if the adverb should go back in.

That’s it for this month. I hope we can find some more gems to share with you all next time we meet.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Second Draft Done?

3 Sep

I think? I think it’s done? It feels so weird to say I finished the second draft after a year of working on it. It seemed like an insurmountable task. I dragged my feet through it. But it’s done? Really?

So what now? What comes next? I’m hoping to get it out to some beta readers for initial thoughts. No one has read this story before. And I’m going to let it sit. Yes, that seems silly after slowly picking away at it for so long, but there are some other things I want to get to. I have a short story almost ready to start circulating. I have some fanfiction I abandoned and want to wrap up. And most importantly, I have my YA novel that needs a third draft and some fine tuning. It’s time to give that baby some tender loving care. It’s been sitting longer.

So that’s my plan. This is a big step and it feels like one, but it’s a big step int he middle of a long journey. Thanks for being here for it and supporting me along the way. You guys all rock and I’m loving the happy-feels I get from you. Love you back.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Challenge: Round 1

18 Aug

Phew! Round one is over! For those of you who didn’t see my earlier post, I decided to participate in the NYC Midnight Flash Fiction Competition. Round one started on August 1st and was over by midnight on August 2nd. In that time, participants had to write a story no longer than 1000 words in length that complied with the three prompts.

I woke up early-ish (8 AM) on Saturday to see my prompts. Honestly, it could have been worse. A lot worse. I got:

Genre: Action/Adventure
Location: an underwater cave
Object: a dumbbell

Huh. Interesting. I started out right away writing a piece about a drug smuggler in an underwater cave. That was a quick one, taking maybe two hours. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the other 15 people in group 27 were also probably thinking along the same lines. It was time for some innovative thinking. Which is where Engish-major husband is very helpful.

“What do you think of when you think of action stories?”

Superheroes!

So I was off on story #2 about a superhero and her liar. It came out as an origin story and I really liked it. By noon on Saturday, I sent my first drafts off to a bunch of volunteer beta readers and went for a run. I did minor edits until dinner and then let myself take the night off with some friends. I was well ahead of where I wanted to be.

Day two was editing, editing, and more editing. I edited both stories down to a final draft (nicknamed ‘cocaine story’ and ‘fish story’). Both were line and content edited and under the 1,000-word limit. And then I had to pick. Talk about nerve-wracking! Shish.

After talking it through with my husband and my betas, I chose the superhero story. I liked it a lot. I’m not going to post it here because I think with 200 more words, it’s something I would want to pursue publishing. Heck, I might try to publish the other one, too. It’s been a long time since I did a publishing push and I have a lot of pieces about ready for it. Time to put on my big girl pants.

If you’re doing NYC Midnight, good luck in round two! If you’re not, think about it. I was skeptical, but this has been a really cool experience. I definitely want to look into doing it again.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!