The blog hop…

Hello everyone!  I’ve got a different sort of post today, as I’ve been invited by a friend on Wattpad to be part of a blog hop.  And…as it gives me a chance to promote a few fellow authors, I jumped right in.

For those of you who don’t know what a blog hop is (I had to look it up), it’s basically a chain letter, but on blogs.  I hope the web doesn’t get mad at us for plugging up the wires, but it’s a fun idea because the person who invited me answered the following questions, I answer them, and the people I invite answer them too..and it keeps going until everyone in the world has answered these questions.  Maybe it’s more of a blogging pyramid scheme than a chain letter?  Hmmm…

So, I was invited into the pyramid by Katrin Hollister, who has a great book on Wattpad called Rise of the Vengeful Dragon.  If you are a fantasy fan, check it out now!

And after I’m done with this post, I’ll be passing the proverbial pyramid torch to Emily Godhand, Everyn Kildare and Kat Loveland.  Go check out their pages!  Emily writes a fantastic horror thriller called Fear of the Dark, Everyn’s book Crow is a great paranormal fantasy that reminds me a lot of Neil Gaiman and Kat is working on book 2 of her Honor Bound series…a very cool action packed thriller that mixes fashion models, superheroes and child trafficking.

So, here we go!  Onto the questions…

1.  What am I working on?

Currently I’m working on the sequels to Schism.  I have been working on the outlines for several other novels, but the reactions of a few people who have read the entire book and demanded the sequel have convinced me to focus in on Schism II and III.

While I can’t give any story details away, I can tell you that these books are shaping up to have even more action, more twists and even worse bad guys for our heroes William, Bryan and Jess to deal with.  But, they have a few new allies to give them a fighting chance.

2.  How is my work different from others of its genre?

I guess I should try to answer this…okay, please correct me, but I’m not too aware of other paranormal thrillers that dive so much into transpersonal psychology???  Is that different?

But honestly, I think every book that tries to be original ends up being different from the rest.  I think every author wants their characters and story to stand out and work hard to make that happen.

It’s up to the readers to tell me how mine is different.

3.  Why do I write what I do?

I love to tell stories.  I love to stay awake too long thinking up plot connections, ways to express themes that interest me and come up with horrible situations for my protagonists to have to get out of.

Most of all, I try to write stories about things that interest me.  If I end up liking it at every stage…planning, outlining, writing, editing, posting, recording audio and audio editing, then I think there’s a chance others might like it too.

4.  How does my writing process work?

Oh wow where to start…you can take a look at the archives of my blog to get a hint of that…but basically, I plan!  Before I put even a paragraph down, I work out every bit of the plot, the character arcs, the theme, the point of view switches…it all gets nailed down.

That way, all of the pain is up front.  Once I start the writing, I get to focus in on that and don’t have to worry about going astray.  I still re-write and edit like crazy, but I’d say the planning cuts the re-writes in half, at least.  I don’t have to do structural changes, just cosmetic work and that saves a ton of time!

I recommend it highly.

There you go!  Now it’s up to Emily and Kat to take up the blog hop banner and continue to build that pyramid.  Please check out their blogs and their work!


The Middle of it All

In preparation for Schism becoming a featured story on Wattpad on July 18, I’ve been releasing a chapter every day and hit a milestone today…Chapter 25…the middle of the book.

And posting that chapter got me to thinking about the most elusive and misunderstood element in the world of structure, the midpoint.

While we’ve been working with three act structure for books, movies and plays for as long as we can remember (yes, some might bring up alternative forms, but we’re still talking beginning, middle and end that make up three acts), the poor midpoint is often completely overlooked.

And, when we are focused on this three act structure that has a clear end of the beginning (plot point 1) and a clear beginning of the end (plot point 2) in our stories, it’s understandable why the middle gets little attention.  But…this is something that’s also really dangerous.

Because, that neglected middle of the story isn’t just the half-way point in the behemoth of act 2, it’s also a stumbling point that nails almost every writer.  It’s the brick wall that most people think of as Writer’s Block.

Go find out.  Ask any writer who is stuck or has stopped working on a book or story and they’ll say they “got about half-way done” before they got blocked or ran out of ideas, or just got stumped.  It’s that big of a deal…and yet no one talks about it!

Part of the problem is that the father of modern story structure, the late Syd Field, didn’t talk about it much, and not in the clear terms that he laid out the two main plot points.  Instead, he said the midpoint should be a reversal of fortune for the protagonist.

Look elsewhere and it gets even foggier…other story structure theories talk about the midpoint as a First Culmination or something that is either similar to OR the opposite of the ending of the story.

Wow.  That’s helpful, isn’t it?

But there is a fundamental truth here, beneath all the disagreeing theories.  The truth about the midpoint is that it doesn’t have to be just ONE thing, but it had better be SOMETHING.

What I mean by this is that you don’t have to follow any particular dogma about the midpoint.  There doesn’t have to be a reversal of fortune, it doesn’t have to foreshadow the ending or provide contrast to it.  But you had better make sure that something is happening at the midpoint.  Why?  Because you need to make sure that something is happening at EVERY point in your story.  If not, then you are on the fast track toward boring, and no one wants that.

So, if the midpoint isn’t any one thing in particular, how can we keep it from becoming the Writer’s Block quagmire that it is?

The answer is one simple, pain in the butt word…planning.

You see, most writers don’t realize that when they sit down with their latest idea, they don’t really have the full story yet.  They have a great beginning and probably a mind-blowing ending, but these two things don’t have enough oomph to carry a story all the way through the wilderness of act 2, which generally takes up 50% of a novel or script.  Instead, they have enough action and problems that are sparked by the story’s opening to get about half way through.  Then, they run out of steam, get stumped and the second half of act 2 falls stays stuck in limbo.

But it doesn’t have to be this way.  All the writer has to do is jot down the rough points of the story before beginning to see the giant hole that appears after the midpoint.  Armed with that knowledge, any writer with enough patience can dig into the story and figure out what interesting actions have to take place to get from the midpoint to the end of act 2.

Best of luck to you all in your writing, and don’t let the midpoint get you down!



Writing – The Basic Outline

One of the tools I think is most useful when you are starting a book is a strong outline.  This is the blueprint for the story you are building and when you spend a little time on it, it can show you new opportunities  and twists and turns that you hadn’t thought of before.

Some people say that writing outlines stifles creativity.  I think that’s pretty silly.  Those writers that just dive in and write the whole book without planning beforehand are actually still outlining…it’s just that the first draft is their outline.  Then, they have to start over, once they know what is going on.

Imagine, instead, that you work on a regular outline and make all your missteps and figure out your big ideas before you write 100,000 words.  That would save a lot of time and frustration, right?  Why not use a tool that’s going to help you?!

So, let’s get down to it and see what you can put in your basic outline…

Three Act Structure (Thank you, Syd Field!)

The basics of three act structure are very simple…beginning, middle and end.  Another way to look at it is set up, development and resolution.

What you get between each of these sections is what most screenwriters call a plot point.  It looks like this…

Act 1…beginning/set up

Plot point 1

Act 2…middle/development

Plot point 2

Act 3…end/resolution

If you put those down on a piece of paper and start to fill them out, then you’ve got a start on your outline!  But…you may need a bit more detail to make it really helpful.

Act 1 generally has two or three parts.  The very beginning shows the status quo of the world you are building and introduces the protagonist.  Then, something happens that gives us a hint of upcoming problem or opportunity that the protagonist has to figure out.  This is the inciting incident.  Remember that this is still Act 1 and that there is still some developing to do.  If you present the problem and have the hero tackle it immediately, then you don’t have much of a story.  Instead, take the time to give us a little more information about the hero.  Maybe they are reluctant to tackle the new problem (a reluctant hero is a pretty common theme and it can make the protagonist a little bit more relate-able.).  So, give us a chance to know the character a bit and give us some more info.  Like…

The antagonist…make sure we meet the antagonist in Act 1.  This character helps us know what the hero is up against and what is at stake.  Plus, you don’t want him or her to show up out of the blue later on…that’s pretty boring.  The antagonist needs to be present and after the same goal as the protagonist in order to be a threat.

Then, what separates the set up from the development in Act 2 is a moment when the hero is locked into the quest or struggle to figure out the problem that is hinted at in the inciting incident.  This point where the hero can’t turn back is Plot Point 1.

Then you’ve got the middle…the giant, hard to fill middle.  But, this is also where the fun stuff comes in.  Here you get to brainstorm all the painful things that happen to your protagonist and all the ways that she tries to solve the big problem.

Remember, at this point, you’re just doing a rough outline…so you don’t have to have the whole middle figure out yet.  I’ll give you some strategies for that later, I promise!

Then, when it’s time to get things wrapped up, you’ve got the point where the development ends and the resolution has to start.  This is Plot Point 2.  To keep this simple…PP2 is where the protagonist gets locked into the last struggle to solve the problem or achieve the goal.  Often, it’s a low point, when the goal looks out of reach.  Sometimes, it’s a bit of new information about the problem.  Play with it and make it your own, but just think of it as the moment when the hero places all her bets on one last strategy.

Then, all you’ve got left is Act 3.  In this last bit of the story, you’ve got two main elements, the climax and the conclusion.  In the climax, you’ve got the last, biggest struggle of the story, and if the hero wins, you’ve got a happy ending (probably mostly happy…as there was some sacrifice along the way, right?), and if the hero loses, you have a tragedy.

After the climax, there’s the conclusion.  In this, the hero may have learned something or gained something that can be brought back home to help others or maybe the protagonist just walks/rides off into the sunset.  Either way, this is the final wrap up and it gives the reader a moment to breathe after the big ending.

So, one last time with what your outline would look like…with a bit more detail…

Act 1…beginning/set up of initial situation and what the world is like. Meet the protagonist and antagonist

Inciting Incident…get a hint of the big problem or opportunity.  The hero might be reluctant to go after it.

Plot point 1…Hero is locked in on the journey.  This is the point of no return.

Act 2…middle/development.  Here, the protagonist has to try to solve the problem, but the antagonist puts up roadblocks and they struggle in new and interesting ways.  Things generally don’t go well for the hero.

Plot point 2…The moment the hero decides to launch into one final struggle to solve the problem.

Act 3…end/resolution…First there’s the climax, where everything is bigger and badder than ever before in your story.  This is the part that your reader will remember more than anything, so make it good.

Finally, there is the conclusion, where things are mostly wrapped up.


Remember, the outline is a tool to help you figure your story out, so you have less rewriting to do.  Remember the Jeet Kune Do maxim about absorbing what is useful and find out just how it can help you!


Talk to you soon!


Loglines…Polishing the Rough Idea

Okay everyone, let’s start to dig into the first steps of writing your novel.

At this point, you may have a rough idea of what you want to write and you may have some particular scenes worked out in your head or in notes.  Maybe you’ve jumped into the writing itself.

These are all great steps, but let me ask you a quick question…have you written the logline yet?  Actually, I should ask this instead…have you written and rewritten and re-rewritten the logline for your novel?

If you haven’t, let me make a friendly suggestion.  Do.

There are lots of approaches to loglines, and lots of definitions, but basically a logline is a tool that helps you describe the heart of your story in the shortest, clearest way possible.  And it seems like everybody has a different way to do this.

One of the best that I’ve studied is from Blake Snyder, a screenwriting instructor and very good guy who sadly passed away in 2009.  His recommendations for a good logline were simple and direct.

In one sentence (maybe two) describe the protagonist, the antagonist and what’s at stake.

Want to practice a bit?  Think of your favorite movies and books.  Write a quick logline for each, then work on honing them until they’re interesting and capture the heart of what’s going on.

Though it’s simple, it’s definitely not easy.  But it’s worth the time it takes to practice and hone the skill.  Because once you have, this simple little logline will give you a much better idea what is going on in your story.

Here’s how it works and what you can get out of it for your own story…

One of the biggest problems that writers run into is the feeling that their story is stuck.  It usually happens about 100-200 pages into the book (30-50 pages into a screenplay), somewhere between the first act and the midpoint.  Some people call it writer’s block (which I may just rant about in another post), but what it really is is a lack of clarity about what is going on in the story.

And a good, clear logline is the first step in getting that clarity.

You see, your logline has a description of your protagonist, so you know something of the heart of your main character.  It also has the stakes, which tells you what the hero is after and how important it is, and the antagonist gives you a good idea of what the hero is up against.

Knowing what’s important to the protagonist not only gives you a goal that points to the plot, but it also informs you about the theme or underlying meaning of your story.  This can even influence subplots and character design.

In short, this is a very useful tool that can help you in many ways.  Plus, it’s very useful for queries and describing your book to people that you meet (a short description to a stranger is much more enticing than a whole plot summary, trust me!).

One final piece of advice I would have on loglines is to rewrite your logline at every stage of writing.  Start the process with a logline, do one after your first outline, after your final outline, after your first draft and even after you’ve polished the manuscript.  It can help you at each stage.

Talk to you soon!  Please don’t hesitate if you have any questions!