Posts Tagged ‘writing’

An Update, Thanksgiving, and a Landsquid (Walk Into a Bar…)

Sorry, it started to feel like a joke setup.

How goes the revision, you ask? Well, I have made it further in the character book/exercises, which continue to be a mix of helpful and not helpful, but not as much as I would have hoped. Having the small, mobile ones around has been even less productive than hoped for. We managed half an hour at the coffee shop on Monday and have not managed ANY sewing, so that’s about that.

Also I slipped a disc in my back. Did I tell you guys this? I don’t think so, because it happened midday on Thursday and I think I blogged beforehand. It hurts SO MUCH. And what hurts the most is, inconveniently, sitting.

I can’t sit anywhere to save my life. What do I need to be able to do to write, sew, read, etc.? Sit. Sigh.

And, of course, the rest of the week is essentially useless for work purposes. We host Thanksgiving every year, which I think I’ve told you guys before, plus my mom is coming down this afternoon and staying through probably midday on Friday. And then, this weekend, it’s full speed ahead on Christmas, oh no.

Oh well. It is what it is. My chiropractor is having me come in a few times a week to go on the decompression table, which, as far as I can tell, is a modern version of the rack. In theory, this will create a vacuum that will suck the disc back where it’s supposed to go, but I’ve done it twice so far and continue to be in pain. My spouse would like me to go to an orthopedic surgeon, but back surgery seems like a very major step.

Sigh. Anyway.

I drew you guys a landsquid! Been awhile, so I figured I should.

I hope everyone in the US has a survivable Thanksgiving, and I will see you next week for inevitable holiday panic and whatever else is happening.

(Also, any thoughts on decompression tables vs orthopedic surgeons?)

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WriYe and Writing Courses

Hey, guess what I forgot to do in September?

Here’s the prompt from WriYe: Share your favorite books, courses, or websites you like to visit to grow your writing!

I’m firmly of the belief that there’s always more to learn about just about anything, and so I do periodically take classes, go to webinars, and read books about writing. Sometimes these books are specific to a genre or an area of writing, and sometimes they’re not.

I have found, though, that a lot of the stuff goes over the same ground, most of which is not helpful at this point (because I already know it). So something does need to be a little more unique these days.

ANYWAY though.

One of my very favorite writing books is Story Engineering by Larry Brooks. Pacing was long an issue for me, with many very badly jacked up first drafts (and some second drafts) in my past. This is the book that fixed all that for me.

Do you know how many pacing issues I had in my first draft of Hallowed Hill? NONE. This is hugely different than when I had to completely reconstruct the pacing on Shards to make the story make any sort of logical sense. I am cured, and this book is the cause.

(Seriously, this is the only note I got from the editor about my pacing for HH: “The pacing is good throughout, with a nice balance of Martie in problem-solving mode, moments of terror and despair, and enough support from expected and unexpected sources to keep her going.”)

The other thing that was very influential on me was Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel class. This taught me how to effectively revise, and it’s done in such a way that the steps are fairly easy to copy and use yourself, and I have used this on every book since I went through the class. (Including Hallowed Hill!) I have modified the procedure a bit, but this is a wonderful class if you’re having issues figuring out how to edit your own stuff.

(Holly also has a free class, How to Write Flash Fiction, which is also quite useful and has actually gotten me a number of sales on my flash fiction.)

There are a ton of other resources out there–so many great ones, really. It’s overwhelming, and you can (and I have) spent a ton of time (perhaps too much time) looking at stuff. You have to remember to balance your learning with your doing.

Oh, all right, one more. My favorite writing website is Fiction University. Janice Hardy runs this site (and also has a number of How To writing books and workbooks) and it’s been a go-to of mine for years. I don’t read every post, but there’s a lot of good stuff in there.

All right, well, those are my favorites! Any thoughts? What has worked best for you?

When It Rains, It Pours

Squiders, Hallowed Hill is out! It looks beautiful and I’m really proud of it.

And I got all my marketing work done–all the reviewers emailed, copies sent out to those who requested it, promos set up on subsequent days to maximize release week pricing and whatnot, etc.

And…I’ve run into technical issues.

The paperback version on Amazon got stuck in some sort of publishing limbo. It’s supposed to go live in three days or less, but it was stuck on “Publishing” (so past being reviewed, in theory just a short status while the book went live on the website) for over two days. Which put the paperback into some sort of weird pre-order limbo, where people could order the book, but they never got any sort of delivery date or anything like that.

It took Amazon over 24 hours to figure out why the paperback had gotten stuck and to make it go live, and people I know who had ordered the paperback in the weird limbo phase are telling me, as of a few hours ago, that they’ve finally got delivery dates and all that jazz.

Now, though, sales aren’t showing up in my reports. I know of at least a couple of people who’ve bought the paperback, and I have talked to Amazon about it, but basically they’re not worried about the sales missing yet, and I’ve been so frustrated and worn out from trying to deal with the technical issues that I don’t have the energy to push anything right now.

But, it’s like–I put all that work into the marketing, and the promos, and the timing, and everything, and to have it all go sideways because of random technical issues is so frustrating. Like, why did I bother? Maybe the solution, in the future, is to get the book all the way published, and THEN run the promotions.

Or, I don’t know, turn to octopus husbandry and teach the octopuses how to conduct bank heists.

Anyway, the smaller, mobile one and I made chocolate zucchini bread last night, and it’s really good.

Now that Hallowed Hill is out and is no longer consuming 100% of my attention (aside from technical issues and frustrations), I can go back to other projects. It will be nice to do something else for a bit. But I am running into issues with too many choices–where I can’t decide what to do next.

I saw an add for an app where you put everything that you need to do into it, and then it prioritizes stuff for you. Might look more into that.

Anyway, I should be back to my normal posting schedule. How have you been?

Master Plot Series: Other Plot Archetypes

Well, squiders, we’ve reached the end of our summer series. We’ve looked at SO MANY plot archetypes. 7 basic plots, 20 master plots, whatever the 36 plot list was called.

So, we’ve done them all, right?

You would be WRONG.

We’ve mentioned this before, but the whole plot archetype thing is really subjective, and where people draw the differences varies wildly. The three sets we went through are the most popular delineations, but they’re far from being the only ones.

So, to finish up our summer series, I thought I’d give you a quick look at some of the other plot archetype lists.

The Hero’s Journey

Perhaps the most classic of all plot archetypes is the Hero’s Journey, which was created by Joseph Campbell. There are 12 stages:

1. The Ordinary World

2. The Call to Adventure

3. Refusal of the Call

4. Meeting the Mentor

5. Crossing the Threshold

6. Tests, Allies, Enemies

7. Approach to the Inmost Cave

8. The Ordeal

9. Reward (Seizing the Sword)

10. The Road Back

11. Resurrection

12. Return with the Elixir

Kurt Vonnegut’s 6 Archetypes

Vonnegut’s archetypes are based on the main character’s arc through each story.

1. Rise, or “Rags to Riches

2. Fall, or “Riches to Rags”

3. Fall Then Rise, or “Man in a Hole”

4. Rise Then Fall, or “Icarus”

5. Rise Then Fall Then Rise, or “Cinderella”

6. Fall Then Rise Then Fall, or “Oedipus”

The Aarne-Thompson-Uther Index

This is a classification system that was developed for European folklore, and divides those stories up into seven categories with subcategories.

1. Animal Tales

Example subcategories:

  • Wild Animals
  • The Clever Fox (And Other Animals)
  • Wild Animals and Domestic Animals
  • Wild Animals and Humans
  • Domestic Animals

2. Tales of Magic

Example subcategories:

  • Supernatural Adversaries
  • Supernatural or Enchanted Relative
  • Supernatural Tasks
  • Supernatural Helpers
  • Magic Objects
  • Supernatural Power or Knowledge

3. Religious Tales

Example subcategories:

  • God Rewards and Punishes
  • The Truth Comes to Light
  • Heaven
  • The Devil

4. Realistic Tales

Example subcategories:

  • The Man Marries the Princess
  • The Woman Marries the Prince
  • Proofs of Fidelity and Innocence
  • Good Precepts
  • Clever Acts and Words
  • Tales of Fate
  • Robbers and Murderers

5. Tales of the Stupid Ogre/Giant/Devil

Example subcategories:

  • Labor Contract
  • Partnership between Man and Ogre
  • Contest between Man and Ogre
  • Ogre Frightened by Man
  • Man Outwits the Devil
  • Souls Saved from the Devil

6. Anecdotes and Jokes

Example subcategories:

  • Stories about a Fool
  • Stories about Married Couples
  • Lucky Accidents
  • Jokes about Clergymen and Religious Figures
  • Anecdotes About Other Groups of People
  • Tall Tales

7. Formula Tales

Example subcategories:

  • Cumulative Tales
  • Chains Based on Numbers/Objects/Animals/Names
  • Chains Involving Death
  • Chains Involving Eating
  • Catch Tales

Man vs. ?

You probably remember these from school. These focus on the challenges that the main character is confronting. (Also, most modern lists have changed this to Person vs. or Character vs.)

  • Character vs. Character(s)
  • Character vs. Society
  • Character vs. Nature
  • Character vs. Technology
  • Character vs. Supernatural
  • Character vs. Fate
  • Character vs. Self

And these are just some of what comes down to many, many different archetype breakdowns.

So, now that we’ve talked about the varying plot archetypes–what good are they? What can we do with them?

Well, a lot of this is all academic. But, arguably, you can use them as a starting point when plotting out your story. If you know what story you want to tell, or if you know the archetype of stories like the story you want to tell, you can use the same beats as the archetype to make sure you’re hitting all the right notes. Or you can use an unexpected archetype if you want to try giving your story more punch.

Or you can try all sorts of things. Or none of them. Do what you want, man.

Well, squiders, that’s that! I’ll have a cover reveal and an excerpt for you from Hallowed Hill really soon, so keep an eye out for that!

Midjourney and a Giveaway

Good afternoon, squiders,

If you’ve been about the Internet lately, you’ve probably seen something about AI-generated images. I came across Midjourney on one of my writing Discords and have been playing with it in conjunction with my Gothic horror novella which is being released on Oct 1.

It’s interesting, because it’s so hit or miss on whether or not it generates anything useful off your prompts. Like, I got a haunted mansion surrounded by trees that I liked almost immediately, but getting a floating ghost girl has been quite hard, despite trying several iterations.

This is the best I’ve gotten:

Not quite what I’m going for, and this is several iterations and takes on trying to get the appropriate image. Ah well.

It is creepy, though. I like creepy.

I haven’t spent too much time playing with it, because it is a distraction, and there are other things to be done to get the book ready for launch. Like writing my book description, which continues to go poorly. I finally scraped together a version that I felt was worth getting feedback on, and everyone hated it, so there we are.

Also, I forgot that age ranges were a thing. Someone asked if the story was middle grade or young adult, and I’ve just been operating under Gothic Horror, but I suppose it could be considered young adult based on the age of the protagonist, so now it’s back to market research to see if YA Gothic Horror is a thing and, if so, how people are marketing for it.

Yay.

Anyway, have you played with Midjourney or other AI-image generators, and did you like them, or have any tips for getting the images you want?

In other news, Hidden Worlds is including in Prolific Works’ Doorway and Portals bundle, which means you can get a free copy starting tomorrow (Aug 17th) through Sept 7th. Which you should totally do.

See you on Thursday!

Master Plot Series: Mystery

Oho! What have we here? I can hear you saying,”But, Kit, we already did all 7 of the 7 Plot Archetypes! How are we still going?”

Christopher Booker, who wrote The Seven Basic Plots, actually has nine plots. He just doesn’t approve of two of them.

But unfortunately for Booker, just because he doesn’t like a story form doesn’t make it not an archetype.

Booker describes his 8th archetype, Mystery, as a story where an outsider tries to discover the truth of some horrible event. His objection to this as an archetype comes from the fact that the investigator doesn’t have a personal connection to the crime they’re investigating, and so the story lacks the inner conflict/emotional arc of a “true story.”

However, for the sake of argument, I would say that the inner conflict is not necessarily what makes a story. Sure, most stories do have inner conflict and the story is improved (in many cases) by the emotional impact, but we’re not here to judge stories, just to categorize them.

And mysteries are definitely stories. Very popular ones.

Some of my favorites.

And while you do find some that are basically just logic puzzles, where the investigator does come in and lead the reader through the complicated steps of How It Was Done, there are certainly Mystery stories out there where the investigator does have an emotional connection to the crime, and where there are very real consequences for the main character if the crime is not solved.

That being said, it may be that Booker considers this latter type (the mystery where the stakes are important to the main character/investigator) to fall under a different archetype. Tragedy, maybe.

Still, a Mystery is not really a Tragedy. Yes, normally at least one person dies (sometimes more, sometimes no one if something’s been stolen instead, etc.), but even if it is someone close to the main character, there’s still a different feel at the end of the story–that justice has been done, and often a feeling of triumph at having solved the problem, whatever it was. It definitely tends to be more optimistic than a Tragedy, especially if it’s a series and said character shall be seeing several people expire over the next few years.

What do you think, Squiders? Is Booker right in his dislike of the Mystery Archetype?

Favorite mysteries? I’m always up to read a new one.

WriYe and Gift Lists

Good evening, squiders! How is your week going? I’ve been fighting with my book description for my Gothic Horror, which is going worse than expected. I feel like book descriptions are not generally that hard, but maybe it’s just been awhile and I’ve forgotten that they suck.

I think the hook is good; it’s just everything else that sucks.

We also finished Amphibia tonight, which is an animated fantasy cartoon on Disney+. I thought it was going to be silly, but it ended up being really good, with a nice emotional payoff at the end. So if you’re into such things, it would be worth checking out.

Anyway, let’s get on to this month’s WriYe prompt.

What is on your writerly gift wish list?

I’m going to interpret this to mean gifts I would like to receive that are related to writing.

I suppose it could also mean “writerly gifts” like talents, but that feels harder to answer and so I’m going to go with the other interpretation.

I don’t necessarily want anything specific. I’m not sitting around going, “Man, I wish I had so and so, that would really help me reach my writing goals.”

That being said, there are things that I always like. Notebooks. Pens. I’m rather partial to fingerless gloves and arm warmers of various types, though I don’t use them as much as I used to. Arguably none of these things are actually helpful for writing.

I have so, so many notebooks.

I guess, if I were going to pick one thing I’d really like, it’d be a writing cave of some sort. A friend of mine has a shed out in his backyard where he goes to write. I have my office, but it’s not mine alone–my spouse and my children also use it, and I do other work other than writing there as well, so it’s not ideal. There’s something very appealing about perhaps having a shed or something out in the yard that would be explicitly for writing. Unfortunately it’s against our covenants, and there’s not really anywhere to put it.

But it would be nice. Maybe someday.

Until then, I shall hoard notebooks, I suppose.

What would you pick, squiders?

WriYe and Cliffhangers

How’s it going, squiders? I spent an hour or so earlier going over the timing of my novella that’s due back for copyediting at the end of the month. I had some notes from the last phase of editing where the editor was confused about how much time had passed, so I’m figuring things out in detail so I can clarify it. (And I figured out that I need to move a chapter out a day, because my MC goes to a class she doesn’t have that day, whoops.) It’s pretty time consuming, but I do have to do it every book so it’s not unexpected. Not because my timelines tend to get messed up, but just because I find it so useful as an editing tool.

Anyway, let’s do this month’s WriYe prompt.

For July: Feelings on cliffhangers? Best cliffhanger you’ve written.

I don’t know that I have any strong feelings about cliffhangers. I think they’re a tool, like any other, and that there are different ways to go about using them. I do think you can overdo them. You ever read a book that just makes you anxious continuously? A lot of times, that’s because the characters never get any moment to rest, and sometimes that can be because there’s too many cliffhangers.

I also think that, if your plot is tight enough, you don’t need that many cliffhangers. The questions you’ve built into the story, and the characters you’ve created, can pull the reader along without having to resort to cheap tricks. But they do have their place, and they can be effective.

I don’t know that I use them that often in my own writing. Or perhaps I tend to use a more subtle version, where I end a chapter with a question. But, again, you can’t do that all the time. Variety is the spice of life. And I don’t tend to write a lot of multi-book or multi-section stories, so really big cliffhangers, ones that would pull people to the next book or the next installment, are less useful for me.

That being said, I do think the cliffhanger at the end of the second part of my four-part serial Deep and Blue (the last part went up in April) is pretty dang good.

What do you think, squiders? Any thoughts on cliffhangers? Favorites?

The Well Runneth Dry

Good morning, squiders! I started this entry last Tuesday which tells you how my executive functioning has been lately.

Every month I send out short stories. Basically I have a big spreadsheet, and it lists the story, the market, acceptance/rejection, any notes I received from the editor, how long said market turned around a response, etc. I color code stories too (green means acceptance, yellow means the story was rejected from its last market, orange means a story needs attention, either a determination to pull it off of rotation or a follow-up with the market if it’s been too long) so I can tell, at a glance, where each story is.

Anyway, I realized this time around that I’ve only got 5 short stories on rotation right now.

I would swear that I had a good dozen at one point. Maybe more.

Now, admittedly, five is a lot more doable than 12. Less markets to have to research each month, less things to keep track of. And my oldest story that I had on rotation sold and was published this year (Blackened Glass, diet milk April ’22 issue), so that’s good too.

(Though I’ve probably taken as many stories out of rotation for being unpublishable as I have sold stories, honestly.)

But what this does mean, really? It means I haven’t been writing short stories to put out there. I don’t think a single thing I’m submitting was written in the past year.

That’s not great, and paired with my issues with getting my short story done for TDP this month (STILL not done, and I’ve written a whole other story and figured out how to fix the first one, though one or the other BETTER be done before this post goes live, or I will set something on fire), does little for my confidence.

Last year (was it last year? oh god), if you recall, I was doing a prompt challenge for myself, where every month I picked three random Pinterest pins of mine (one each from the character, setting, and prompt boards) and wrote a short story with them. Just for practice. It might be worth it to go back through there and see if anything’s usable, but the whole point of the exercise was just to practice. To write not for publication.

Is this actually a problem? Not sure. Am I accomplishing my goals with short stories? In the great scheme of things, they’re probably pretty far down the list of things I should be focusing on.

But I have noticed it, and being aware of potential issues is the first step to fixing them, so. There we are.

How are you doing, squiders? Tips on rebooting your brain when it’s gone into full ADHD malfunctioning mode?

Master Plot Series: The Quest

Buckle up, squiders. Here we go. The Plot Archetype. The one everyone thinks of when they think of master plots and plot archetypes. What the Hero’s Journey is patterned after. THE QUEST.

7 Plots: The Quest
20 Plots: The Quest, Pursuit, Rescue, Escape, The Riddle
36 Plots: Ambition, Recovery of a Lost One, Pursuit, Deliverance, Abduction, Enigma

(As a note, the 36 plots, in the taxonomy I’m using, developed by Stephen R. Southard, link to the 20 plots rather than the 7 plots. So he actually includes Recovery of a Lost One as both a The Quest connection and a Rescue connection. Enigma links to The Riddle. And so forth.)

As the name suggests, the protagonist, either on their own or because fate dictates it, sets out on a long journey to rescue someone/find something/fall in love, etc., and along the way finds new companions, discovers things about themselves, overcomes challenges, and is usually ultimately successful.

Examples: The Odyssey, The Lord of the Rings, Finding Nemo, The Wizard of Oz, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Monty Python and the Holy Grail

The Quest is actually the first on the list of 20 plots, which tells you something. It’s very similar to the 7 plot definition of the Quest, though expressed more vaguely, as someone who is searching for something. In the 36 plots, Ambition and Recovery of a Lost One are linked to The Quest (20 plots version). We talked briefly last week about Ambition as a tenuous link to the Rags to Riches archetype, but as a reminder, the Ambition archetype is where someone seeks something (usually to better themselves), though there is sometimes also a rival searching for that same thing. (Think, if you will, Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indiana Jones is trying to find the Ark before the Nazis do.) Recovery of a Loved One is, as it sounds, a story where the quest is to recover a loved one specifically, such as in Finding Nemo.

Our next 20 Plot is Pursuit. This link is a little tenuous for me. Pursuit is where the protagonist is trying to catch someone, or is fleeing from someone trying to catch them. Trying to catch someone feels more Quest archetype to me (searching for a person), and I guess you could argue that fleeing is searching for, oh, freedom or safety or something along those lines. The main point of the Pursuit archetype is the chase. Examples of the Pursuit archetype are things like The Hunt for Red October, Catch Me if You Can, Terminator, and I’m sure some books that are not coming to mind at the moment. Likewise, the 36 Plot version of Pursuit involves a chase, though it focuses more on someone fleeing specifically from a misunderstood conflict, such as Les Misérables or The Fugitive.

Onward to Rescue, which fits better. This can be defined as a quest to retrieve a person (or pet, I suppose). I don’t think I need to define this one too deeply–we all know what rescue means. Examples: The Rescuers (and Rescuers Down Under), Taken, etc. The 36 Plots connected are Deliverance, Abduction, and Recovery of a Loved One (again, for obvious reasons). We’ve talked about Recovery of a Loved One up above. Deliverance is where, hey, someone is delivered from a punishment. In other words, they’re rescued. (The protagonist is doing the rescuing.) Abduction is the opposite–where someone is taken. (Though they may be rescued in the end.)

Escape doesn’t have a 36 Plot link. In an escape plot, the protagonist is trying to escape (eyyyy) a situation. Think every prison break movie ever. Escapes that happen near the beginning or middle of the story also count. In these cases, the rest of the story often includes the challenges in trying to get to safety.

Lastly, we have the Riddle and the associated 36 Plot Enigma. The Riddle includes following clues and solving puzzles to find something or solve a mystery. (Think The Da Vinci Code.) The Enigma is similar but different, where the protagonist is challenged with a riddle or some other puzzle which they must solve (or they get eaten, I suppose). More Oedipus and the Sphinx than an ongoing thing.

I can understand why the taxonomy puts The Riddle/The Enigma here, as riddles and other puzzles are often part of Quest stories. I will note, however, that Booker (the 7 plot guy) actually has 9 plots–he just doesn’t like 2 of them. One of those two is “Mystery”–which would also be a good master plot to match The Riddle and the Enigma to.

All right, squiders! That’s The Quest and all its sundry and variations. What are your favorite quest stories?