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Archive for November, 2010

Everything, be it a novel, a movie, or a television show has to have some kind of plot to move it forward. No plot, to forward motion. No forward motion, nobody enjoys it. But how do you know what’s a good plot and what’s not. As a reader or viewer, you instinctively know what’s a good plot. It’s the thing that makes you want to tell your friends and family what a great <insert media name here> it was.

However, as a writer, plot is often a critter harder to nail down than a whack-a-mole. As Kristen Lamb puts it, a good story is all about structure. She compares it to architecture: do it right and it’s safe; do it wrong and risk fatal mistakes. Fortunately putting it together the right way is simple, if you follow her six guidelines on structure.

  1. Scene and Sequel: scene is the tangible thing that’s happening, while sequel is the emotional thread connecting the scenes.

  2. Three Act Structure: everything has a beginning, middle and end. Putting the story in its correct sequence makes for a good read.

  3. Introducing the Opposition: your antagonist should be introduced as close to the beginning as possible, the first chapter being the best place, and must seem unstoppable.

  4. Test Your Idea Before You Begin: does it follow the LOCK system? (Lead Objective Conflict Knockout)

  5. The Log-line: can you boil it all down to one sentence?

  6. Simply Primitive: keep the plot simple by using Maslow’s hierarchy, the lower on the pyramid the better.

I highly recommend reading each of these posts for a better understanding of each part of structure, then apply what you’ve learned to the next great novel, movie, or television show you enjoy. You’ll not only know why you just can’t wait to tell everyone what a great thing it was, but you’ll know how to do it yourself on The Road to Writing.

Update: Kristen is continuing her series on structure. Be sure to subscribe to her blog for more on what makes structure work.

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I’ve been thinking about moving into a full-time freelance/independent author career a lot recently. The question that keeps coming up, though, is, “am I willing to give my all?” Being self-employed means independence — at a price. That price can be financial security. Being your own boss can be great, but unless you’re ready to face what it takes to be independently employed, you might be better off sticking with your day job for a while.

So what does it take? Planning. You don’t necessarily need to be debt free, according to Michelle Goodman, author of My So Called Freelance Life, but you do need a plan or you’ll spend your time hopping from one unsatisfying gig to another rather than living your dream. Michelle’s common sense, down-to-earth advice is to forget writing down lofty ideas and “think tangible, realistic, bite-size pieces.” Having a goal to write the next bestseller is a great ambition, but how are you going to get there? That’s your plan.

For instance, my goal is to become fully self-employed by a certain date. To get to that goal I’ve written down three steps: 1) finish my WsIP, 2) submit articles to Constant Content and other freelance web sites, and 3) monetize my blog once I move it to its new domain. I will break down each of those steps into monthly, weekly and daily steps. After writing those down, its only a matter of working my plan… and perhaps rewarding myself for a job well-done. Although accomplishing a goal should be its own reward, it never hurts to dangle a carrot in front of yourself. (I plan on going out for a nice lobster dinner. 🙂 )

Beyond setting down a series of steps on how you will reach your ultimate writing goal, you’ll need to assess your financial status. One of the best resources I’ve found in helping you figure out just what your financial state looks like is The Money Book. It’s a no-nonsense approach to looking at past financial blunders and realizing there is a better way to handle your money — a way that includes saving for those inevitable emergencies on a fluctuating income.

If you’re over your head in debt, you may need to keep your day job while working on becoming a full-time independent author. J.D. Roth of Get Rich Slowly took his steps into the world of self-employment in stages, cutting back the time he spent at the box factory a little at a time after all his debt, except his mortgage, was paid off. At the moment, that’s my plan as well: pay off everything except the largest debts before leaping into being a full-time freelance/independent author.

Living your dream is possible, but having a solid plan before you drop the safety net can mean the difference between succes and failure on The Road to Writing.

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I don’t think I ask for much. I just want perfection. Of course, when using speech recognition software for the first time, getting it perfect from the start would be a miracle. This is my third or fourth time using dictation to compose anything. In fact, I’m taking a break from dictating a chapter in one of my WsIP to dictate this blog entry.

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I think any writer can tell you that, when you stop writing, life becomes nothing but shades of grey. That’s what my last few weeks have been — nothing but shades of grey. In short I’ve been miserable. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to write. It’s just that I’ve been very busy. I usually have just enough time to juggle all my responsibilities, including working on my current project, but I’ve recently picked up a few hours at work and its severely limited my time.

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