Learning and Spring Plans

I’ve been reading some really good stuff on story, plotting, and outlines lately.  I have always felt, personally, that plotting is where I run into issues.  I can handle simple plots (straightforward quests, zomg must run or die now sorts of things) but don’t really have a handle on how to write something super epic or how to keep things so tight the reader can’t breathe for fear something will happen in the book and they’ll miss it on the exhale.

But I’m learning.  I don’t like not knowing things so I’ve set out to fill in some of my writer knowledge gaps.  As always, I have a plan. (Am I the only one who hears Black Adder in my head whenever I say that or hear someone say that? No?)  Book 1 in my Law & Order with swordfights series is almost done.  After that, I’m going to try to get the other three done and to the editor before Clarion.  Hopefully I can manage to get the second book in the Chwedl duology finished by Clarion also, because I’d like to focus solely on short fiction while there.

So here’s my modified schedule for this spring:

Avarice – finished by April 10th
Wrath- finished by April 30th
Hunger- finished by May14th
Vainglory- finished by May 28th
The Raven King- Finished by the time I leave for Clarion (around June 25th)

As for plotting, here are some of the books I’ve been reading:

Save the Cat and Save the Cat Goes to the Movies by Blake Snyder

The Fiction Editor, the Novel, and the Novelist by Thomas McCormack

Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

How to Write Killer Fiction: The Funhouse of Mystery & the Roller Coaster of Suspense by Carolyn Wheat

I got Donald Maass’s Writing the Breakout Novel and the Breakout Novel Workbook out of the library as well.  I also picked up The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction by R. A. Salvatore and Philip Athans because I heart Salvatore and wanted to see what he said about writing the fantastic.  So far the book is very basic, but interesting.

I mention all this because I know that when I do bother to blog, I tend to talk about goals and numbers more than the actual work itself and what my daily job entails.  But, personally, I find the details of what I do pretty boring.  I mean, I get up, I read some stuff, I write some stuff, I read more stuff, I might make notes about things I want to work on or some such, etc.  It’s… well, a job.  Writing is fun, but the creation part is the fun part and it’s hard to talk about that in any real way because it’s easier to just point at the created work and be like “yeah, I did that”.  But I think just posting goals and such leads to it looking like I’m sitting in the dark beating up a keyboard.  There’s a whole lot more that goes into me writing and improving my craft besides the practice part.

Now, mind you, all the study in the world won’t improve my writing if I’m not doing the practice and putting in the writing itself as well.  It’s like what I pointed out with Starcraft 2 a while back.  I watch tons of SC2 games and can talk the theory with the best of the best (you know, same as any dedicated sport fan *grin*) but I can’t PLAY SC2 worth a damn because I haven’t put in the practice.  Writing is the same way.  Read books, soak up knowledge, and then GO USE IT.

That’s why I’m trying to get four books written before the end of June.  I want to take these things I’m studying and put them to use.  These books are a good way to do that since they all will require tight plotting, are set in worlds I already have mapped out and researched (so I don’t need to lose any writing time on world creation) and I’ve got the basic stories in my head already with characters and structure, so they should be fairly quick to outline once I get my new methods worked out.  The books are for study, the novels I’m writing are for the practical part.  I think of it as Class Time (reading about writing and studying other novels that have worked) and Lab Time (putting what I have learned into practice through practical, hands-on application).

So that’s the plan and I’m (maybe) sticking to it! 😉

7 Responses to “Learning and Spring Plans”

  1. Jeff Ambrose

    I read STORY by Robert McKee and will be rereading it this month. However, I found Syd Field’s THE SCREENWRITER’S WORKBOOK much better in terms of doing the actual work. Odd, isn’t it, that we have to turn to screenwriters to understand plot.

    Oh yeah, in terms of outlining and novel writer, Holly Lisle’s HOW TO THINK SIDEWAYS is pretty good. I think you’ll find the first month (idea gathering) pretty basic. You already do a lot of what she recommends. But after that, she takes off into prepping for a novel.

    As I get ready to go to David Farland’s workshop, I’m going to be working through her material again.

  2. amkuska

    Let me know how you like those Donald Maass books. They are a personal favorite in my collection.

  3. Thomas K. Carpenter

    I got the two “short story” books that someone suggested on the OWN list – Paragons and something else. Only just begun the first, but so far, so good.

    My favorite writing book is still Stein on Writing by Sol Stein. I got a lot out of Writing the Blockbuster by Zuckerman and I’m trying to apply what I learned from it in my current novel project (and setting as opinion!) ;p

    • izanobu

      I read Stein on Writing and didn’t find it that useful. It was good, but covered territory that I’d already seen a lot. I don’t know. For some reason it just didn’t stand out.

      I loved the Zuckerman book. I’m curious to see what all the screenwriting books have to teach me 🙂

  4. thomaskcarpenter

    I think Stein stands out for me because it was one of the first good books on writing I read back about fifteen years ago. When my brain was more empty, it got a lot more credit for filling it up.

    I would agree that most of that can be found in other good books on writing. It probably just depends on which good writing book you read first. Then it becomes the one that really opened your eyes to the basic techniques of writing.

  5. kellycautillo

    Thank you for sharing the books you have read – it can never hurt to read up on such things. It may be their processes don’t suit you but there are always little bits and pieces you can take from their suggestions.

    Four books? I presume you have been working on all of them at the same time, or are you writing a book every two weeks?

    • izanobu

      Well, my plan fell apart due to life issues, but I was planning to write one every two weeks. These are shorter books (50-60k word range), so that’s totally doable (20-30k a week is a comfortable amount of writing for me).

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