Posts Tagged ‘writing’

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?

Short Story Frustrations

GUYS I am so frustrated

I’ve always prided myself on being the sort of person who can put out a story when it’s called for, whether a spot needs filling in an anthology or what have you. That I can put out a solid story (not necessarily amazing, but solid) when it’s called for, and that it will be on topic, within the word count guidelines, and done on time.

Which is why I’m going insane right now.

I had a short story due on the first. Nothing special, nothing long–basically whatever I want, about 1.5K to 2K words. Easy peasy lemon squeezy, as the kids say.

Except apparently not.

When I accepted this deadline I thought for sure I’d get some great story ideas while I was in Scotland. Castles! Moors! Faerie legends!

But I didn’t. I learned a lot of neat things, but the best I got was the premise for a story. And then, once we got home I tried to milk said premise into a story, but mostly I got set-up, and backstory, and I couldn’t figure out an actual story to go along with it, at least not one that could be done as a short story.

I talked to my spouse about my story issues, and he gave me a different premise that I thought I’d gotten built up into enough story to get somewhere, but I’ve written like 4K on said story and it’s just…bad.

Like, I know that you can’t write something publishable every time, and it’s okay to throw stories that aren’t working away, but I am just so frustrated at this point. Frustrated that I’m behind schedule, and that I can’t get a story to gel, and that I spent so much time writing just to have nothing to show for it.

Now, there’s some leeway on the deadline, so I should be okay, but I’ve got to get my act together. I’m going to read back through what I have and see if it’s salvageable, but I may need to start all over. Yay.

Wish me luck, squiders. I definitely need it.

Master Plot Series: Rags to Riches

Happy Thursday, squiders! I’m avoiding making phone calls. So let’s talk master plots!

7 Master Plots Plot: Rags to Riches
Related 20 Master Plots Plot(s): Underdog, Ascension
Related 36 Master Plots Plot(s): n/a

Now, I think it’s very interesting that the 36 Plots list does not have any associated master plots that go along with the Rags to Riches plot. I mean, how does the list with the most plots not having a corresponding plot? But I’ve run through it myself, and the closest would be Deliverance–where someone has caused a problem that someone else is trying to make them pay for, and a third party comes along and saves the first person. But it’s not quite the same thing, because the protagonist is the savior as opposed to the person in trouble. Ambition, too, is similar–but not the same, because the person seeking something better (or just something) doesn’t necessarily win in the end.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Rags to Riches plot archetype, as implied by the name, is a story where someone, who is typically kindhearted and/or otherwise “good” but has found themselves in a bad situation, finds happiness and other good fortune by the end of the story.

You’re thinking of Cinderella, I know you are. And you’re right.

Aladdin. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The Prince and the Pauper. The Ugly Duckling. David Copperfield. Puss in Boots. You can probably think of several more.

In the 20 plot list, we find Underdog and Ascenscion.

Underdog is a natural fit. This is when someone who has less resources and is not expected to win/get something/succeed/etc. against a better prepared foe beats the odds and is victorious. You find this a lot with sports movies–The Mighty Ducks, Seabiscuit, etc. Arguably Cinderella can also be an underdog movie, because why would the prince choose a dirty serving girl over all the rich and beautiful women in the kingdom?

Ascension is where, through the course of the story, the protagonist rises out of their initial situation to become something better. Which is just the definition of Rags to Riches anyway. Though sometimes this plot is done more metaphorically (i.e. the protagonist is a horrible person who over the course of the story learns to be a better person) than literally.

Still interesting to me that there’s no 36 plots associated. I wonder if we could say this is perhaps a more fundamental plot, then, than Overcoming the Monster was last week. There’s no need for variations because this is the story, at its core.

Or maybe it’s because all these lists are just the creators’ best effort to categorize something nebulous.

Thoughts, squiders? Thoughts about the lists in general? Why do you think that the 36 plot list doesn’t have a rags to riches archetype on it?

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!

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!