Thursday, January 27, 2011

Finding WWWWH and More Through Clustering

WWWWH = Who, What, When, Where and How.

Have you ever....
  • Started a story only to stall out after 10,000 words?

  • Finished a story only to find out your character is so shallow a child could dig her grave?

Are you writing a story that has a lot of conflict, but no CONFLICT?

Do you want to give your villain a secret that raises the stakes?

If you are right-brained (take a quiz here), then clustering will feel utterly natural. If you are left brained, clustering might be more difficult. You may feel the urge to divert to organized lists instead of messy bubbles and lines. But just give it a try - I think you'll be amazed!

When I took the above quiz, my results showed I am 58% right brained. I studied Art in university....Alongside Stats, Finance, Accounting....Maybe this is why I feel comfortable with lists and bubbles?

Anyway. How can clustering help fix your story?

I was amazed at how quickly this method found the coolest plot twists and secrets!

Here's how it works: Write a word in the middle of a page along with a few descriptive words. If you are looking at the whole picture first (i.e. your whole novel), write the title of your novel, along with a simple logline that describes your plot.

Example: RESET: A young woman must discover a secret past.

And yes, draw a bubble around it (left brainers who need neatness might make these bubbles symmetrical rectangles - that's okay!)

Now, the fun part...

Start asking questions! About your protagonist, your villain, the setting...

Draw bubbles around each answer and connect bubbles with subsequent answers to the "subject cluster". I got so into this that I began separate pages for EVERY little thing. And I am uncovering new stuff with every question I ask!

What questions do you ask?

You can start small, if you're having trouble. For instance, one of the questions I asked about my hero was "what does he like to eat", when I wrote the answer "very rare steak" it lead to a bunch of other questions and voila - he has an intriguing secret (NOT telling!)

So, go ahead and have fun with this. It's such an awesome tool, I can't believe I shied away from it before. Must have been the 42% left brain in me!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Playing with Stakes - not the Vampire kind!

Thee first draft of RESET was unreadable. A Great Big Mess.

I painstakingly put the whole thing through a wringer, then mercilessly chopped, pasted, rewrote. That was the FIRST BIG REWRITE.

I was so proud! My story worked!

Er, say again?

I prematurely queried ten agents - not top picks. Well, most weren't. Guess what? TEN form rejections. No surprise there. But that was okay - I was just getting my feet wet...Wasn't I?

After submitting my first five pages to the folks at the forums, I began to grasp what was wrong.

Back to the drawing board. I became the Ruthless Reviser yet again, cutting 15,000 words and tightening the story, making the plot clearer. I read the whole thing out loud to my dogs and was pleasantly surprised when I found I enjoyed it!

So, I'm ready to hit the query trenches again... Except, what the hell is my book really about? Sure there's romance, there's a twist, there's a couple of immortal beings.... But the stakes are not high enough. There's a lot of conflict, but no CONFLICT. There's not a whole lot to lose that the character hasn't already lost before.

It seemed I wrote my entire novel without asking any QUESTIONS!!!

Don't know what I'm talking about?

So the new question is: Can I raise my stakes, or should I stake my novel? Hmm, I'm not sure my MC can be killed that easily!

Happy Question Asking! When in doubt...Just ask "WHY?"

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Help, My Characters are Stalking Me!

During the last go-round of rewriting Reset, a new character knocked on my door. Really loudly. I mean, hammered. Now, she and her ever growing entourage refuse to leave me alone!

I am 30K (ish) words in to Rewind, a prequel to Reset, and I hate to admit, but I've hit The Wall.

It sucks, the story's weak, the plot confusing...The ever growing list of negative feed into my brain makes me want to quit, and these new characters, who fit nowhere into my plans, are urging me, pressuring me, threatening me to pay attention to THEM!

They're all there when I wake up in the morning, they follow me on my morning hike with my dogs, they sit down at the computer with me, whispering and scratching in my head...They come to bed with me, keeping me awake with their constant chatter.
I'm beginning to feel like the Verizon guy..."Can you hear me now?"

But, I need to keep on track! Finish what I've started....


Even as I type this post, I find myself scribbling scenes for these characters on the backs of my old business cards (hey, they are good for something). I discover that their story is NOT to be ignored. It feels too powerful somehow.

Am I up for it? Do I even have the skills, newbie that I am, to bring it to life?

Am I a failure for not finishing my WIP?

Will this be the story of my writing life: begin a novel, hit The Wall, give up and let myself be bullied and coerced into starting a new one?

I can't think of the answers right now, I have to research names, build a world, create a language...

Uh, oh, sounds suspiciously like Sci-fi, a 180 degree turn from the Paranormal Romance that Reset became as I revisited themes and 'What Matters' during my (many) rewrites.

Yikes. What the hell am I getting myself into now?

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

I have a gorgeous office...

Complete with a huge wraparound desk and hutch, two walls of windows overlooking fields and a pond, a wall of custom, built in filing cabinets and drawers with dog paw print shaped pewter knobs (so cute), an oak floor, recessed lighting, a big flat computer screen, an ergonomic leather chair, a private phone line...

Yet I find myself doing all of my writing on a pathetic little netbook in my basement, sitting on a hard antique chair and surrounded by swirling dogs, floating dust bunnies and poor lighting.


Is it a) because I logged countless hours doing very non creative things in that office? b) because it saps my creative energy? or c) do I just prefer to be surrounded by muddy dogs?

Where do you do most of your writing? Do you do your revising in the same place?