Just Another Blog

my random ramblings about crafts, writing, books and kids

Six Sentences on Sunday

sixsentences~~ Each Sunday, post six sentences from a writing project —published, in progress, for your cat — whatever. ~~

From a fanfic:

When he woke in the morning, Clarke was gone. His heart seized in a momentary panic before he heard her voice from the kitchen talking softly with someone. He rubbed his burning eyes and stifled a groan. His entire body ached. It took a long time to force himself into a sitting position. He stretched his legs out and examined the cut on his shin. It was going to leave a nasty scar.

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Story Engineering: An Introduction

Teaser-Header-2017

It’s that time of year again. Summer is coming to a close, kids are gearing up to go back to school, and people all over the world are prepping for NaNoWriMo in November. In between the back-to-school shopping and last-minute summer trips, I’m planning story outlines in my head. Or trying to anyway. There are three weeks left before school starts and two and a half months until NaNo. I can do this.

youcandoit

I have no idea what I want to write in November, but I know I can’t have a repeat of last year. I didn’t pick an idea until October 30 and didn’t have time to prep at all.

patricktearsI gave up after a week despite really loving the premise of the novel. I just didn’t have time to world build. This year, I want to be ready ahead of time. And I want a solid idea that I can grow into an actual publishable book. I thought my 2015 novel would be that, but the more I go over it, the more I realize there are some fatal flaws in the plot.

storyengineeringMy solution is Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. I’ve had this book for years and have read it several times, and each time, I put it down more confused than when I started. It’s been a couple of years since I last tried to understand Brooks’ theories, so I pulled it out, hoping for inspiration and direction. Shockingly, it all started to make sense. Once you get past Brooks’ long-winded, round-about way of describing things. I mean, seriously, it took 23 pages before he even got to listing his “core competencies.” Twenty-three pages of him talking circles.

I’ll save you the headache and break it down for you.

Brooks has a method for writing, and since he’s published multiple books and coaches other authors to publication, I’m going to assume he knows what he’s talking about. He calls his method, “The Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing.” And it’s less a method of writing and more a process of story development “that must be addressed and completed before a story will work.” With me so far? Probably not.

What I mean (and what Brooks takes eleventy billion words to say) is that the Six Core Competencies don’t tell you how or what to write but how to gather all of the elements you need to kickstart your writing. It’s a list of things that need to build your novel. And it can work for planners and pantsers once you know what you’re doing. Or so Brooks says.

So what are these mystic Core Competencies?

Here’s one of Brooks’ descriptions:

… The Six Core Competencies are like six categories of aligned pieces of the storytelling puzzle. Within each is a longer list of specific things to consider, and then each of those specific things has its own qualitative criteria and checklists that ensure you’ve considered them properly. There is nothing about storytelling that doesn’t clearly and cleanly fall into one of these six categories.

See what I mean about “wordy?”

Brooks’ book is full of anecdotes and examples from films and novels, but there seems to be no rhyme or reason to his metaphors, and he tends to jump from one to the next like a hummingbird on crack. By the end of the first chapter, I wanted to smack his editor upside the head. I’ll give you my short version:

1. CONCEPT. Concept is the development of your idea. You have a basic idea that just suddenly comes to you. You know what I’m talking about. It’s that dream about dragons or that crazy conversation you overheard at the coffee shop or the article in the newspaper that sparks your imagination. But “concept” is more than just that first idea. It’s the development of that idea into something that resembles a story with a protagonist, conflict, and resolution. It’s the foundation of your novel.

2. CHARACTER. This one is kind of obvious. You need good, solid characters or nobody is going to care about what happens to them. Like studs holding up walls, they support the rest of the story and give you something to build on.

3. THEME. Theme is one of the most confusing things he talks about in his book, and one of the things that often eludes me. Theme is what the story is about. Not what happens or who it happens to, but what gives the story meaning. Theme is the walls wrapping around your novel and pulling it all together.

4. STRUCTURE. This is the biggest component of what Brooks calls the “four essential elements.” Basically, it’s the plot. He breaks it down into four parts which correspond with the basic Three Act Structure most people know with Act II separated into two parts. The structure is like the blueprints of your novel telling you where all of those studs characters need to go and how to arrange the rooms scenes.

5. SCENE EXECUTION. Scene execution zooms in on the structure. It’s about how you format a scene. What is happening? Why is it happening? Does it set up the next scene in the sequence? If Structure is the blueprints, then Scene Execution is the layout of furniture in the rooms. (I think my metaphor is running away from me.)

6. WRITING VOICE. For a lot of people, voice is one of the hardest parts of writing to nail down. It’s not just the “voice” of the characters, but the broader sound of the prose. Meaning, the words you choose can dramatically change the feel of a story. There’s a big difference between a mystery novel and a young adult novel. Between J.K. Rowling and Stephen King. Your voice is the personal style you bring to the novel–the way you “decorate” the scenes.

duhI’m sure some people are reading the list and thinking, “well, duh, you need those things.” Like building a house, though, there’s a lot more to it than just listing your characters’ names or picking an idea from thin air. If you’re missing any one of these elements, your house isn’t going to stand up. Or it’s going to be a maze of rooms that all look the same and no one will want to live there. In other words, your story will be boring or confusing or a rambling mess.

Story Engineering is about how to gather all of those little elements and assemble your house novel.

So, my plan is to tackle each competency one by one. There are ten and a half weeks until NaNo starts. Hopefully, by the end, I’ll have a solid outline of the plot and a firm grasp of the characters and goals–to guide my writing. In other words, I’ll have the foundation dug, the studs and walls ready to go up, and a plan for how to put it all together. All that will be needed is the finishing touches. The paint and drapes and kitchen tiles that make a house unique, so to speak.

spongebobdanceThere won’t be a repeat of last year.

So, come back next week when I’ll be discussing ideas–where they come from and how to use them to develop a “concept”–the first essential element of story development.

 

Part 2: Ideas Vs. ConceptPart 2: Ideas Vs. Concept

Six Sentences on Sunday

sixsentences~~ Each Sunday, post six sentences from a writing project —published, in progress, for your cat — whatever. ~~

From a fanfic:

“I should take a look at that.”

She didn’t even give him time to protest before she pulled up his shirt. “Usually girls have to buy me dinner before I let them tear my clothes off.”

Clarke snorted. “In your dreams.”

You have no idea.

Six Sentences on Sunday

sixsentences~~ Each Sunday, post six sentences from a writing project —published, in progress, for your cat — whatever. ~~

From a fanfic:

Instead, he zipped her jacket to her chin. He wished he had a hat to give her. She just stared up at him, eyes slightly unfocused. Crap. He brushed her hair away and slid his thumb over the growing bump on her temple. So not good.

August Goals

Recap from July:

Reading: F Didn’t finish a thing.
Writing: B I think I did everything except add to 15 different stories. And #writeastory was on hiatus.
Finishing/Editing: C I only edited a few days, but I did post five WIP stories
Posting: B I got 5 of 6 stories posted. Impressive.

All in all, I give myself a C for the month. Could have been better, but considering how I’ve been feeling, this is amazing.


August Goals:

Reading:

  • read four books to make up for missing May’s goals
  • read four books to make up for missing June’s goals
  • read four books to make up for missing July’s goals
  • read four books for August goals to catch up with my Goodreads challenge

Reviews:

  • finish reviews for each book read

Writing:

  • write every day in my writing journal/keep my streak going
  • write at least 100 words each day

Finishing/Editing:

  • finish a story from March or April
  • edit one story each week
  • work on editing Force of Nature

Posting:

  • post one fanfic from July
  • post two fanfics from August

Monthly Round-up

All things reading and writing.

Reading:

Yeah, well… I didn’t finish any books this month. I barely read anything.

Reviews:

None posted. 😦

Writing:

It was a slow month despite being Camp NaNo. I only managed to get 14,957 words. The goal was 21k. But I’m already finished with my GYWO goal. The total for the year is at 269,108.

Streak: 212 days. Haven’t missed since January 1.

july2017wordchart

Editing/Finishing:

This was a bit of a success this month–at least the first week. I managed to completely edit five stories and work on another. I also added to several of the stories from Camp NaNo April addition.

Posting:

Home Improvement (Stargate: SG-1)
Rockets Red Glare (Red Vs. Blue)
Forty Days to Gone (The 100 (TV))
Wash Away the Pain (The 100 (TV))
Unstoppable (The 100 (TV))

Six Sentences on Sunday

sixsentences~~ Each Sunday, post six sentences from a writing project —published, in progress, for your cat — whatever. ~~

From a fanfic I was editing.

She gets lost in the kiss. It’s like the sun shining on her for the first time, filling parts of her she didn’t know were in the shadows. She’s lost all concept of time. There’s only her and him and their lips.

Bellamy finally pulls away, panting. “God, I’ve wanted to do that for so long.”

 

When did I move to Arizona?

This is the forecast for Washougal, Wa next week.weather0717

Welcome to the Pacific Northwest where it rains nine months out of the year, and there’s a chance of Hell in the summer.

heatstroke.jpgThankfully, we have air conditioning this year. The last six years, we lived in a house with no AC. I don’t even want to think about what that would be like on Thursday.

 

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July Camp NaNo – Week 4 Recap

Camp-2017-Participant-Profile-PhotoSo, yeah…

I’ve given up on Camp this month. Hey, I won back in April, so I’ve already got the shiny banners to prove it. I’m just too depressed to concentrate on anything. I did get five stories posted this month. That’s great.

And I did write every day. My journal is full of rants, vents, and brainstorming. And I got in at least 100 words of some creative writing each day. Most of it wasn’t in anything I was supposed to be working on for camp, but with my mood, any words are a win.

This is how mental illness affects your life in ways people don’t consider. Writing is something I love to do, but the last few weeks, it’s gotten harder and harder to push words out. I’ve had to force myself several days–writing the bare minimum. Feeling like that towards writing just makes me more depressed. It’s a cycle that’s hard to break.

fakewell

I may have failed camp, but I’m proud of myself for pushing through the depression to do some kind of writing every day even if it was only ranting in my journal about being depressed. A  year ago, I would have given up completely and not written anything for three months. I have the spreadsheet to prove it.

Six Sentences on Sunday

sixsentences~~ Each Sunday, post six sentences from a writing project —published, in progress, for your cat — whatever. ~~

From a fanfic:

“You’re going to run, aren’t you?”

Bellamy stared at her for a long moment, heart pounding again–she had a way of seeing right through him. He swallowed hard. “Yeah, I’m going to run. You expect me to stay? They’re going to kill me.”

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