Half-Way Through

Happy Tuesday, squiders! Can you believe it’ll be July this week? I sure can’t!

I thought, since we’re halfway through the year (holy crap) that it might be good to revisit my yearly goals and see if I’m making any progress, so I can feel good about myself (or, I guess, feel like crap for being a failure. Time will tell!).

Let’s go and find my goals for the year so I can remember what I’m supposed to be doing.

Okay, so I have four categories of goals for the year. The first is reading–my normal 50 books a year, plus the requirement to have 1 book a month be something that’s been sitting around, and 1 book to be something off my library or Goodreads TBR lists. That’s actually been going pretty well–I’m about where I need to be for the year, and reading my TBR books has been really nice! I actually tend to get two (or sometimes three) TBR books done, usually because one is not immediately available, so I put it on hold at the library, and then it shows up shortly after.

This month I read two because I was getting one off the shelf at the library and the other happened to be right next to it.

The “read a book that’s been lying around for a while” goal has been less consistent, but it’s mostly getting done. The one I picked out for this month is a Gothic horror, and I read a Gothic horror book last month, and am reading a Gothic-y fantasy book at the moment, so I may switch that out here and read something else.

There’s the video game goal–to play five hours of video games a month on a new game or a game I’ve not yet beat (since I tend to replay the same games over and over) (and also hoard games). It’s not going great, which is so funny to me, because this was supposed to be an easy goal! But it’s not. I keep getting distracted by other things, or it feels like I need to have a big block of time to play in. Which is crap.

The third category is “other”–basically things like remembering to exercise (I’ve slipped a disc in my back, so mostly I’m just walking, but I am doing it daily), practicing my drawing (I just finished the trip journal from our cruise in March, so now I’ve got to get going on Scotland, and we can’t go anywhere ever again, omg), and, uh, those might actually be it.

On the writing front, my main goal is to get Book 1 ready for submission, which, as you guys know, goes poorly. Just when I was getting momentum, I had to switch to my Gothic horror (so much Gothic horror right now, ahhhhh) as the publication date got moved up. In theory I could have done more on that this month while the GH is with the editor, but I was gone for half the month, and to be honest, it felt a little weird to stuff it in for a week when I’ll get the GH back with comments on Friday.

The GH novella finishing and getting ready for publication goes well. It got finished, it’s getting ready for publication. It’s halfway through the editing process (my editor says it’s “solid” and “fun,” which are generally good, I think) so in theory for July I will just need to do some tweaks. (Fingers crossed for no big surprises.) I realized yesterday that I need to get going on a cover, that if I hire someone it will take them sometime to make it, or I need to make it myself and get it ready for cover reveals and other marketing stuff. And also there’s marketing to be done. Oy.

City of Hope and Ruin was the last major work I put out (not counting anthologies or short story collections), and I had Siri’s help on that since we co-wrote it, which was great from a financial/marketing work standpoint. Not really looking forward to doing it all on my own this time around. Plus CoHaR came out six years ago and I’m sure how things are done has changed. Yay.

Anyway. Writing goals. Book 1, not great, Gothic novella, about done in all ways.

Past that, I had some stretch goals, that involved editing/revising additional stories. My scifi horror novella. My cozy mystery. Oh, and I was supposed to finish my serial story and collect it as an ebook. I did finish that in, uh, April, I want to say, so I guess I should look at releasing as an ebook. The serial is scifi so not sure if I can wrap up that release with the Gothic release somehow.

Guess it’s time to relearn everything about marketing, yay.

Oh man, the serial will need a cover too.

In nonfiction land, I want to put out two more SkillShare classes. I’ve been working on the current one, about points of view and tenses, a lot this month, so in theory it should be done and up in the next couple of weeks, assuming we avoid the audio issues the last class had. I’m actually starting to get pretty good traction on SkillShare, so I guess we’ll stay there for now.

So, I mean, not too shabby. Could definitely be worse. Could be better too. I think I talked to you guys about Book 1 and the trilogy in general, and how I’ve been working on it for so long that it’s hard to put it out into the world where it could be rejected. There’s a lot of emotional baggage there, so if people have any tips, please lay them on me.

More master plots on Thursday. This week is Rags to Riches and the related plots of Underdog and Ascension (no related plots on the 36 plot list, which is definitely an interesting point). See you then!

Master Plots Series: Overcoming the Monster

Okay, squiders, let’s dig in. Our first master plot will be Overcoming the Monster.

7 Master Plots Plot: Overcoming the Monster
Related 20 Master Plots Plot(s): Revenge, Rivalry
Related 36 Master Plots Plot(s): Vengeance of a crime, Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred, Supplication, Revolt, Daring Enterprise, Obtaining, Enmity of Kinsmen, Rivalry of Kinsmen, Rivalry of superior and inferior, Conflict with a god

(By the way, shout out to Steven R. Southard for linking the different master plot lists to each other.)

This is one of the most ancient of story archetypes, found as far back as Beowulf and Greek myth. In the overcoming the monster archetype, a hero must conquer some evil, which is often an actual, physical person or force, but not always. This is a very straightforward trope that often manifests as something like “Threat of monster becomes evident, hero goes off to fight monster, complications, the hero defeats the monster (usually).”

The monster does not have to be an actual monster, of course–it can be anything that is portrayed as evil: other people, companies, mental illness or addiction, etc.

This is a very popular story archetype because these stories show that with enough perseverance, anything can be overcome. (Usually.)

Examples: Beowulf, Perseus, the original Star Wars trilogy, James Bond, Terminator, David and Goliath, Moby Dick, King Kong, Alien, etc. etc. et al.

In the 20 Master Plots, we have Revenge (someone seeking revenge for some harm or betrayal) and Rivalry (2 people with the same goal). These don’t feel like exact fits for me (and as I mentioned last week, in some cases the different plot lists don’t line up terribly well) but I can kind of see them, as in a revenge plot you have a hero (the person seeking revenge) fighting something “evil” (whatever wronged them) and in a rivalry you have a hero (one of the people fighting for the same thing) fighting something “evil” (the other person who wants the same thing).

Revenge examples: Hamlet, Medea

We get a bit more complicated when we add in the 36 master plots plots. (Plots plots. Gotta be a better way to say that.) Crime pursued by vengeance or vengeance of a crime, depending on the translation, lines up pretty well with Revenge from the 20 plots. Specifically, these tend to be vigilante sorts of stories, where the crime would not be punished if the hero did not take things into his own hands. Vengeance taken for kin upon kin is specifically where there is a victim of some sort that is related to or allied with both the hero and the villain.

Supplication is where the main character appeals to a person in power for aid or to help with some injustice. Revolt is, like it sounds, where an oppressed person or people rise up against a tyrant. Daring Enterprise is where an object is taken from an antagonist (and usually destroyed or otherwise made to no longer be useable by the antagonistic force). Obtaining is close to Daring Enterprise, in that it involves an object, usually something the main character wants, and either they have to fight to get it or someone else (an arbitrator) decides who gets the object.

Enmity of kinsmen involves two related people (as evidenced by the name, generally family members, but arguably this can be people related in other ways) who hate each other, while rivalry of kinsmen includes two related people (same note) vying for the same thing and so is, also arguably, the same thing as Rivalry, just more specific. Same note for Rivalry of superior and inferior, where an “inferior” rival beats the superior one in some situation.

And, finally, Conflict with a god includes a mortal fighting an immortal in some situation.

As you can see, each of these archetypes can be placed into the “hero fights (evil)” template with more or less chiseling and for generous definitions of “hero” and “evil.”

Vengeance of a Crime example: The Count of Monte Cristo
Vengeance of Kin upon Kin example: Hamlet
Supplication example: Esther (from the Bible)
Revolt example: Julius Caesar
Daring Enterprise example: Lord of the Rings
Obtaining example: Apple of Discord (Greek myth)
Enmity of Kinsmen example: As You Like It
Rivalry of Kinsmen example: Wuthering Heights
Rivalry of Superior and Inferior example: Toy Story
Conflict with a God example: The Odyssey

Man. That’s a lot of master plots.

Thoughts on this archetype, squiders? Do you have a favorite example of Overcoming the Monster (or any of its related-ish plot archetypes from the other lists)?

There is an Angry Crow Outside My House

Good evening, squiders. I have an angry crow outside my house. It’s been there since we got back from Scotland, so I’m pretty sure we, personally, have not done anything to make it mad, but who knows?

It is, however, very annoying. We’ve been taking the dog for a walk every morning about 6, 6:30 am (before it gets too hot to function) and it will sit there and yell at us. And then it will follow us up the street, yelling at us. Today it kind of swooped at me. Like, as a warning, not like it was actually going to attack.

(It is not just me. It is swooping/yelling at pretty much everyone. I think it might be the dog? I am not generally out front without the dog and other people on the street are also walking their dogs, so more data might be needed. Sometimes it yells at me while I’m watering the flowers, but this is typically immediately after the walk so I’m not sure if it’s not because of dog association.)

Anyway, as I said, it is annoying, and I would like to be able to be outside with being yelled at by an angry crow. However, I’m not sure what to do here. I’ve heard stories about crows, about how they’re smart and they’ll remember you and they will tell crows you’ve never even seen about you, so I don’t want to do anything actively antagonizing.

But I also want to be able to be outside. And I’m sure my neighbors would prefer if the crow were not yelling at me at 6 am.

Sometimes there are more crows, but only one is actively upset, as far as I can tell.

Does anyone have experience with crows? Is there a good way to figure out why it’s mad/get it to stop being mad?

Part of me wonders if it hasn’t nested in one of the trees, and that’s why it’s being so aggressive, but it seems like it’s too late in the year for that.

And, you know, barring calming it down, is there a good way to get rid of it, in a way that’s not going to make me Enemy Number One for the local crow population?

Please help. It is so loud.

Welcome to the Master Plot Summer Series!

Happy Thursday, squiders! It’s time to be pedantic and weird, i.e., my favorite time.

So, what is a master plot? Also called a story or plot archetype, it’s the idea that all the stories ever conceived of, and all the ones yet to be conceived, fall into certain categories of stories.

How many categories? Well, there’s three main schools of thoughts, corresponding to three major books on the topic. According to Christopher Booker’s The 7 Basic Plots (2006) there are–you guessed it–seven plot archetypes. (Though really he lists 9, he just doesn’t approve of two of them.)

Ronald B. Tobias’s 1993 book, 20 Master Plots and How to Build Them, lists twenty. (Fun fact: this was one of the very first writing books I ever read, back as a teenager.)

And, finally, we have The Thirty-Six Dramatic Situations from 1895 (published in English in 1916) by Georges Polti.

Now, there’s a big difference between seven and thirty-six archetypes, I think we can all agree on that.

What the difference really comes down to is specificity. While not every one of each of the lists connects to items on the other lists, many are related. Now, I would argue that the lists with more options are actually better, because by the time you get down to seven archetypes, they’re pretty sweeping. From a writing standpoint–or a reading one–a little more specificity is probably preferred.

Here’s how the upcoming weeks are going to work. I will pick one of the seven (nine) more general archetypes, and then I’ll connect some of the 20/36 lists to those, and talk about characteristics and give examples.

For completeness, here is each list:

7 Archetypes:

  1. Overcoming the Monster
  2. Rags to Riches
  3. The Quest
  4. Voyage and Return
  5. Comedy
  6. Tragedy
  7. Rebirth

See what I mean about them being fairly sweeping? Tragedy, seriously.

And then the two other archetypes that he doesn’t like are:

8. Mystery
9. Rebellion Against ‘The One’

Moving on.

20 Archetypes:

  1. Quest
  2. Adventure
  3. Pursuit
  4. Rescue
  5. Escape
  6. Revenge
  7. The Riddle
  8. Rivalry
  9. Underdog
  10. Temptation
  11. Metamorphosis
  12. Transformation
  13. Maturation
  14. Love
  15. Forbidden Love
  16. Sacrifice
  17. Discovery
  18. Wretched Excess
  19. Ascension
  20. Descencion

Not going to lie, I like this list better. I feel like you can think of a story that fits each category just by looking at the name.

36 Archetypes:

  1. Supplication
  2. Deliverance
  3. Crime pursued by vengence
  4. Vengence taken for kin upon kin
  5. Pursuit
  6. Disaster
  7. Falling prey to cruelty/misfortune
  8. Revolt
  9. Daring enterprise
  10. Abduction
  11. The enigma
  12. Obtaining
  13. Enmity of kin
  14. Rivalry of kin
  15. Murderous adultery
  16. Madness
  17. Fatal imprudence
  18. Involuntary crimes of love
  19. Slaying of kin unrecognized
  20. Self-sacrifice for an ideal
  21. Self-sacrifice for kin
  22. All sacrificed for passion
  23. Necessity of sacrificing loved ones
  24. Rivalry of superior vs inferior
  25. Adultery
  26. Crimes of love
  27. Discovery of the dishonor of a loved one
  28. Obstacles to love
  29. An enemy loved
  30. Ambition
  31. Conflict with a god
  32. Mistaken jealousy
  33. Erroneous judgment
  34. Remorse
  35. Recovery of a lost one
  36. Loss of loved ones

I got tired just typing that out. I kind of feel like some of these can be combined. But that’s the thing about archetypes–they don’t seem to be as universal as they’re supposed to be. As with our look at character archetypes, no one agrees on how many there are, and what the delineations should be. And these three lists are just the major ones. There are other lists out there, with different numbers and titles, but we’re going to do the best with what we have.

See you next week, squiders!

Have Some Castles

Good morning, squiders! I’ve just returned from two weeks in Scotland. We had a lovely trip, and perhaps I’ll talk more about it in a bit, but it turns out when you’re out of the country for two weeks there’s a lot of catch-up that needs to be done.

However, I didn’t want to leave you with nothing, so here’s some pictures of some (not all) of the castles we went and saw while there. There’s over 1000 castles in Scotland, ranging from ruins to still-lived-in homes, which does say something about the state of the country during the medieval time period. But as someone who comes from someplace without castles, I think they’re neat, and so did the small, mobile ones.

A lot of the ruins we looked at had been destroyed (either by defenders or by attackers) during the Jacobite Revolution, which took place over the first half of the 1700s. (Carnasserie was destroyed earlier. Carnasserie was surprisingly neat though because they’ve fixed it up enough that you can climb all five stories up to the top of the castle ruins. Also it was free.)

(Eilean means island, by the by.)

Inveraray, Dunvegan, and Eilean Donan are active homes used by the Campbell, Macleod, and Macrae clans respectively. Dunvegan has been continuously lived in for 800 years, which is pretty cool (and surprisingly rare). Eilean Donan was destroyed in the early 1700s but was rebuilt in the early 1900s, which is quite a feat.

I’ve got pictures of other structures too–standing stones and circles, neolithic burial cairns, iron age forts, stuff along those lines. It is interesting, living in a place where there are seemingly people everywhere, to go some place where things have been standing for sometimes thousands of years, and people have mostly…left them alone.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the castles! Thursday we’ll start on the Master Plot summer series, so I shall see you then! (There is a small chance that all gets delayed until Friday. But it will happen this week, no worries.)

Introducing the Master Plot Series

It’s time for our summer series, squiders!

This year, once a week, we’ll be looking at “master plots.” What is a master plot, you might ask?

Well, according to some people, there’s only so many plots in the world, and all stories are variations of these master plots. They’re the archetypes of plots, if you will.

Now, the number varies based on who you talk to (like when we did the character archetypes) and I’m still working on finalizing my list, but over the next few months we’ll talk about each of them, such as what they entail, stories that match that plot, and other sundry.

If you have any thoughts or things you’d like to see, the time to bring it up is NOW, while I’m still finalizing my notes. Otherwise you’re out of luck until I need blog ideas again.

See you next week, squiders!

Still Irrationally Mad at SETI

Story time, squiders. Hooray!

Recently I was on YouTube, catching up on my subscriptions (I’m doing better about not just sitting in front of YT and letting it suck away all my time, but I do sometimes purposefully build in time for it) and watched a video from Buzzfeed Unsolved about aliens.

One of the stops they made was to SETI, and I was reminded that I am mad at them.

Childhood is a funny thing, squiders. Sometimes the things you went through and the emotions you felt linger, into adulthood and more than they probably should, and my anger at SETI is one of those.

(Of course, til said video, the last time I even thought about SETI was…oh, who even knows.)

As a kid, I want to say middle school, but it may have been early high school or late elementary school–I really do not remember–we had to write a 10-15 page research paper. Now, 10-15 pages these days is nothing, but as a kid, that is the Longest Thing Ever, and I wanted to make sure that I picked an interesting topic that I could stick with and find enough information on.

Being a giant nerd, I decided my subject would be whether life was possible on other planets. However, one of the requirements of the assignment was that at least two of your resources had to be interviews that you, yourself, did with appropriate subject matter experts.

Extremely-introverted child!Kit did not like that. Oh no.

Luckily, email-based interviews counted, so I did my research and sent out emails to people who seemed like they would be good fits. And one of those emails went to SETI. I don’t remember who, exactly, but it was a person, and not just the organization.

And whoever-SETI-person-was sent back an extremely nasty email, saying that they didn’t have time to talk to me and to not bother them.

Imagine being somewhere in the 12-15-year-old age range and getting a mean email from an adult in response to a simple request for a school report. To this day, it’s still one of the meanest emails I’ve ever gotten.

And the kicker? I also sent emails off to a university professor and a NASA scientist, both of who were more than happy to help me and were very nice people. I remember thinking it was so weird at the time, that the SETI person–objectively the least prestigious of the bunch–was the one who couldn’t be bothered.

And it did leave a lingering bad opinion of SETI in my mind. Like, as an adult, I can realize that one bad apple does not a bad organization make, and that maybe that person was just having a bad day or whatever, but the logic doesn’t override the emotion of being a child and having an adult tell you that you’re not worth their time or respect.

And I also realize that it was a single email, not lingering abuse or any other number of worse things that a child can experience, but childhood emotion doesn’t care about that logic either.

So here we are. Years and years later.

I guess, like Mr. Darcy, my good opinion once lost is lost forever.

But, seriously, if you’re going to send a mean email to a child, maybe just don’t reply at all.

WriYe and Strategies

Might as well get this over with early this month, instead of waiting until the last minute.

So, June’s blog prompt over at WriYe is:

Some of your strategies to avoid burn out.

All right, just to make sure we’re all on the same page, burn out is where you physically and/or mentally cannot work on something (writing, in this case, as it is a writing community) despite wanting to.

Burn out can be caused by a number of things–working too hard on something, pushing yourself too hard, trying to do writing on top of everything else in your life, especially if you’re going through a hard time, are sick, have too many other responsibilities, etc.

Burn out is a real issue, because if you’ve reached the burnt out stage, there’s really nothing to do except let yourself recover, which may take weeks or even months, depending on things.

So, I guess my number one strategy is to allow yourself breaks. Personally, I set time limits for how long I can work on one thing in a day, and I make sure I’m building in breaks throughout the day and allowing myself some decompression.

Of course, sometimes you might have to do more work than you’re comfortable with (due to deadlines or whatever), but I still think you’ve got to allow yourself a chance to decompress periodically. Watch some YouTube during lunch, or take a nice bath before bed.

My second main strategy is to have smaller things that I can break up a big project with. Things like doing RaTs prompts or, heck, writing a blog post. Drawing a picture or knitting, if one can do so (I have never been able to figure out how to knit, which is irritiating). Just something that’ll take you less than an hour and give your brain a chance to focus on something else.

And I guess my last strategy would be to pay attention to yourself so you can identify the signs that you’re starting to burn out, and take steps to make your progress more sustainable before it gets really bad.

Thoughts, squiders? Things you find work for you?

Print Shop Woes

They say you should edit on paper, squiders, especially if you write on a screen. The idea is that the change in medium helps you see errors that you would miss on the screen (and, I guess, in theory, vice versa).

Anyway, I agree with this, plus there’s something very satisfying about scribbling on paper with a red pen (or sometimes multiple colors of pens, depending on what kind of notes I’m making).

I mean, I can edit on a screen if I need to, but it’s just not the same.

Anyway, since I started two revisions in the past few months, I’ve needed to print out two separate manuscripts. I don’t do it at home, though you certainly could, but I think my printer subscription is maxed at 50 pages a month.

(On a side note, printer subscriptions are dumb. All subscriptions are dumb. I hate all of them, but especially software-related ones. Let me use the software or not, you moneygrubbers.)

I’ve always printed manuscripts elsewhere. Part of that is because originally I bound them with a nice coil binder (coil is best–the rest make it hard to turn the pages reliably/lay the manuscript out flat), though I’ve gotten away from that over the years, because then the manuscripts are hard to recycle when I’m done with them, and I don’t need 5 versions of the same story sitting around in different stages. That gets overwhelming really fast.

I had a great solution too. There was a little local print shop about half a mile from my house. I’d walk over, drop off my manuscript file, head over to the coffee shop three doors down, have some nice coffee shop time, and then pick up the manuscript and walk home. The prices at said print shop was very reasonable (and they’d also make bookmarks and business cards for me, so super useful).

But, alas, they moved twenty miles away. I love them, but twenty miles–in a direction I almost never ever go–is too far. Any price savings I’d get would be eaten by gas.

So these docs I just printed were the first ones I’ve done since they’ve moved. I think I mentioned I was going to go to FedEx/Kinkos to print Book One out.

And I did.

And it was awful.

It was super expensive, and it was low quality for what I paid for, and there wasn’t any way to modify my document (such as hide the comments or add page numbers), AND some woman stood behind me the whole time (it was also quite slow) because only one printer was working and was generally grumpy that my job was taking so long.

I think I paid, like, $40, and it wasn’t even the whole manuscript, just the first 250 pages.

So–don’t go there, squiders. Ugh.

So when I needed to print out my Gothic Horror like a week later, I went to the complete other end of the spectrum.

I printed it out at my local library.

I could send the document directly from my computer (hence allowing me to add page numbers, which I never remember to do before I’m actively printing), it was less than half the price per page, the librarians were nice and helpful, and nobody stared at me accusatorily the whole time.

So, in the future, I will probably go that way again. (They also had a display of indoor gardening books that I meant to go back by, but I forgot. Whoops.)

The lesson here, squiders, is that the library is almost always the answer and I should just go there first.

Where do you like to do your printing, squiders?

WriYe and Themes

Waiting til the end of the month, like normal. Whoops.

May’s WriYe blog post prompt is:

What are some of your “go to” themes you like to write about?

Themes are weird. I suspect they’re one of the areas of writing I don’t understand as well as I would like to. Because, like, themes are the heart of your story, and the thing that your plots and subplots connect back to, the thing that gives your story meaning and lets it resonate with your reader.

But they’re also weirdly subjective. Like, I could have my theme be one thing, and depending on how people read the story, they could see the theme as being something completely different.

Anyway.

I write a lot about friendship in my stories, and by extension, found family. This is one of my favorite tropes and I use it a lot. Not sure that it counts as a theme.

Hm. This is harder than expected.

I don’t like depressing fiction, and I almost always end with a happy ending, so my themes also tend to be positive, stuff like “you can do anything if you work together” or “it’s worth it to fight for what you want.” I don’t know if I re-use a lot of themes necessarily. I probably do, but I also don’t really work in themes. Like, I’ll poke at them from time to time, maybe come up with a vague one for a first draft and then poke it a little more when doing my revision, but as I said above I’m not sure I really understand them all that well. A lot of what I do with theme is instinctual, and possibly not very good. I don’t know.

Elements, now, I do reuse a lot. Found family, like I mentioned. Forests. A lot of horror elements lately, like settings that are falling apart or ghosts. Magic, because I write a lot of fantasy. Dinosaurs. I really should stop putting dinosaurs into things but I just find the concept really funny.

But, yeah, I guess I reuse themes. People working together, from a variety of backgrounds, to get what needs to be done done. I think almost all of my longer works can be summed up that way.

Is that theme, though, or plot?

Auuuuugh I don’t know.

Anyway.

Thoughts about theme, squiders? Do you have a better way to tell what is theme versus other story elements?

Back to our normal twice a week schedule next week. My edit will be turned in, no matter its state. Wish me luck!