Writing

When You Unconsciously Use the Plot Structure in Any Story You Write

I’ve been studying the writing craft for years. It was seven and a half years ago when I learned the right rules of creative writing. It took about that long to hone my skills and mature my creative writing abilities to what they are now.

However, before I studied the craft, I wrote a bad novel that I was dying to publish and convinced my parents to let me do so. When it was published, there was no positive feedback. However, I do realize now that I still included the classic plot structure, which I wasn’t aware at during that time. I continued to use that structure in later novels where I studied the craft.

What is the structure, you may ask? It starts of with the inciting incident, where something greatly changes your main character’s situation and sets him or her up on a rough road to achieve his or her goal. Then there is a call to action, and the main character often refuses it at first. Then he or she will accept it.

Next comes the first plot pinch, which sets your main character up for failure. Then there is the midpoint, which can be a major defeat or loss. That will push the protagonist’s struggle to achieve his or her goal even further. There will be complications and higher stakes, which will lead to an all-is-lost moment, where the antagonist wins at that time.

Then comes the climax, where something prepares the protagonist for the final battle (not always literally, though). There may be a ticking clock too, where the protagonist’s time starts running out. Finally, there is the resolution of denouement, where the main character has come somewhere satisfying. He or she may achieve his or her goal. If not, he or she may realize that the goal was not something he or she had wanted all along or something not right for him or her.

And no matter what story I write, usually novels, this plot structures comes out into my writing unintentionally. I don’t know why, though. It’s like my brain has somehow inserted the plot structure into its subconscious or something. But that’s probably a good thing.

No matter where you are in the writing process, whether you are new or experienced, it’s important to know the plot structure. Any successful work, written or visual, needs to follow this structure.

Writing

Plot Hole Problems: Why They Bother Me (and Others)

Plot holes happen everywhere: movies, TV shows, books, and so forth. Even the top writers end up making plot holes, either as inconsistencies or unanswered questions.

Of course, no one ever means it—at least not usually. Even when they are being reviewed by agents or anyone before the works get released to the general public, plot holes are missed. It often isn’t until after the works are available to the public that the plot holes are pointed out. Sometimes, shortly after, and other times, not till several years later.

Obviously, no work is perfect nor do any please everybody. But some plot holes bother certain people a lot. There are examples in some of my movie critique posts, like “The Little Mermaid” and “Aladdin”. The ones where I spend a lot of time expressing my thoughts are the ones that bother me the most.

A plot hole I have not addressed here before is from the book, “Being Julia”. It’s not a super-big bestseller. But it was good and engaging up to a certain point. Julia gets grounded and has her computer confiscated. She tries to convince her dad to give it back to her shortly after, even though he won’t. When she is no longer grounded, the reader doesn’t get to see her getting her computer back. Another situation is happening. Then the next chapter takes place months later, when Julia is getting ready for college. Um… hello? When did she get her laptop back? This unanswered question plagued me so much that I wrote to the author and asked when Julia got her laptop back. Sadly, the author didn’t answer. So I moved on.

Some people will address plot holes later or separately. A good example is J.K. Rowling. These days she has been answering so many questions about plot holes in “Harry Potter”. Some folks, like me, enjoy that. Others, however, find it amateurish and lazy. I could see why.

While there are some plot holes in works that don’t bother me or I don’t care about, there are still some that will plague me for a while. A YouTube channel, called Cinemasins, is known for pointing out flaws in movies, such as plot holes. Because I watch movies with a critical eye, I enjoy this channel. I discover issues that I didn’t realize before.

Remember that nobody is perfect. Pretty much all works will have plot holes. Some may be addressed in sequels or on separate sources. Others will remain unanswered forever.

Writing

The Struggle with Sequels Standing on Their Own

How many of you have written a full-length novel? If so, congrats! What about a series? Extra congrats times a million! Now can your sequels stand on their own?

I don’t know about others, but for me, getting a sequel to stand on its own was the biggest challenge for me. It ended up connecting to my first book too much. Maybe because of how I ended my first book (don’t worry, I won’t say how)?

To get a sequel to stand on its own, you need just enough backstories to get the reader caught up with what happened in the first or previous installment. It’s going to be a bit hard, depending on your story.

It took me nearly three years to complete my sequel (which is temporarily off the market, but will return as a second edition soon). And the biggest reason is probably because I had trouble making it stand in its own.

Depending on your storyline, you will need to include backstory that is relevant but also makes the sequel stand on its own. My problem was that I hadn’t included enough. But with the help of editors, it worked. And many readers said that the sequel was able to easily stand on its own.

It may also be necessary to summarize your first book in one or two paragraphs in your sequel. Obviously, do it when relevant and don’t get too hooked on certain details.

The best way to test if your sequel can stand on its own is to have editors or beta readers look at it and give you honest feedback. You won’t be able to judge by yourself.

Anyway, thanks for reading. In the meantime, you can check out my novel, “From Frights to Flaws, 2nd Edition” right on Amazon.

Writing

Deny, Rethink, Accept, and Write – This is a Part of my Writing Process

Every writer needs an editor, even the most talented ones. And no two editors are alike. They do different services from critiques, content-editing, line-editing, copy-editing, and proofreading. They also have different editing styles and reasons. That is why I have gone through too many different editors. Many have been helpful and rational, but a lot have also been too controlling and even turning my words into their own—practically making my stories their own. I have never used them again.

However, when they give constructive feedback, there comes a process that I often go through: denying, rethinking, accepting, and writing. I could call it DRAWing.

I often love what I write, even if it’s unnecessary or serves little to no purpose to my content. When an editor asks me to change or cut something I admire, I will often deny his or her recommendation. This is natural as I don’t want to believe him or her.

After a little while, though, I do rethink the editor’s suggestion. I consider why he or she said that. Often times, it ends up making sense.

Unless it will screw up the story or any major material, I usually end up accepting the request at some point. Sometimes I even twist a suggestion. For example, if an editor asks me to remove an unnecessary element, such as a character, I will figure out a way to make it important. This has worked at least a few times.

And then the final step, obviously, is to keep writing. Some stories are not meant to be enjoyed or sold, though. I’ve learned that a little too late. I have published five books, but only one is available to buy. The other four weren’t exactly good enough for the market. However, I had not realized that years before. I’d even pretested them with pre-publication feedback, and they got mostly positive feedback.

This process still applies to me now. It probably will forever.

Writing

Dictate the Darn Story If Necessary

Image from Pixabay

Typing is probably the most common way to get your story down. In fact, it is also necessary for submitting for publication, whether it’s commercial or self-publishing.

There’s also handwriting when you’re drafting. I find that works best for me a lot, especially because you don’t have the Internet or other computer-related distractions.

And then there is something I’ve discovered quite recently. It is called dictation. That is when you put up your program microphone and speak into it. The words then come out on the screen.

You need to be as clear as possible, otherwise the words will come out incorrectly. That has happened to me so often. Obviously, you should only do it in your home, or maybe a hotel room, as long as you’re not too loud.

How do you set up the dictation feature, you may ask? On a PC, it is the Windows keyboard and the H keyboard. On the Mac, you press the FN keyboard twice.

It might be exciting to get started ahead right away without thinking. Maybe you can do that. However, I cannot. I need to have words pre-written before dictating them into a program.

I have them handwritten and read off of them. I also have to edit the wrong words constantly. And I have to avoid transcribing made-up words or even uncommon names. I have made-up words because I write fantasy.

It takes practice to do voice dictation confidently. I have yet to master my use of dictation. I will make it there some day. After all, it is often said to be the quickest way to write your story.

Writing

Pick Your Publisher Wisely

Image from Pixabay

Have you written a book? If so, good. Can it please strangers? If yes, great. Will it sell? That depends on who you publish with.

Traditional publishing is difficult to get into. You can get rejected, even if your book is a master piece. If you do get accepted, you have to give up control and wait for your book to be published, which can take months or years.

Self-publishing is easier and quicker. You keep all control and can have a book within hours.

Then there is hybrid publishing. They accept and reject authors, may let them keep their book’s right, and do other things that combine traditional and self-publishing. It’s not exactly the most encouraging, though.

And lastly, there is vanity publishing, which is often called self-publishing by many. They let you keep all the control, but they charge you for publishing (between hundreds to even thousands of dollars) and other services, like press releases, revisions, and more. Despite that, books from those companies usually don’t sell too well, even if they’re well written. I did so much marketing and promotion with them when my books were first published. And even though the books pleased strangers, they only sold an average of 25 copies a year.

I believe it’s because people do not trust vanity publishers. I regret using them. One was fine and I got along with the company. Another, however, constantly forced me to buy services, even if I couldn’t afford them. They wouldn’t let me out of anything. I got mad at them at least a few times.

I’ve learned the (kind of) hard way to not use vanity presses. People apparently judge books by their publishers. Books that may be worthy of becoming bestsellers may hardly sell if published by a vanity press.

Traditionally-published books sell the best. Self-publishing is fine too. In fact, the author is responsible for marketing on their own with either route. Commercial publishers might only market for top authors these days.

If you self-publish, I’d recommend using companies like Amazon’s KDP program. It’s free to publish. People trust books from them more. And books from there tend to sell much better than vanity-published ones. How do you tell if a company is a vanity press? Look for things like publishing packages. So choose your route wisely. I would avoid vanity presses at all costs. It’s better to get traditionally published or self-publish through Amazon KDP or even Ingram Spark.

short fiction

The Curious Case of Sadie: A Flash Fiction Piece

Back when I was five and starting kindergarten, I had wished upon a star for a guinea pig. My parents had been against the idea of having pets. I recalled them saying, “We are not getting a dog or any kind of pet,” right before that moment. They’d ruined my mood and I had almost wanted to give up my flower girl role at my aunt, Katie’s, wedding back then.

             Fast forward nine years later, and I neared the start of my first year of high school. I looked outside my window, and saw a cat. I didn’t know if it belonged to anyone. It could’ve been a stray. We did live in a rural part of Pennsylvania.

             I turned away and sat on my bed. Ninth grade would start tomorrow.

            “Michelle?” my mom called me.

            “What is it?” I answered.

            “Can you help me get this rat out of the kitchen?”

             I paused. Then I opened the door. “Why do you need me?”

             “Because I’ve got cookie dough on my hands!”

             I sighed, but went downstairs anyway. I entered the kitchen. A white rat stood on the corner. It ran into the hole in the wall.

            “Mom, why don’t we call the exterminator?” I asked.

            “Because it’s Sunday,” my mother said.

            “The rat already escaped.” I looked into the hole, seeing no sign of the critter.

            “Go outside,” my mom said.

            So I went out to the backyard. There was no rat. But I did see the same cat as before. It was black and white.

            The cat stopped at stared at me. I smiled. But it came up to me. I turned around and went back inside.

            “Michelle, did you see the rat?” my mother asked.

            I shook my head.

            “I guess it escaped.” My mom shrugged.

            “Yeah, probably,” I said.

            But there was a squeak inside the kitchen hole. I looked inside. A rodent nose stuck out. But it showed itself. It turned out not to be the rat, but… a guinea pig?

            No. That couldn’t be right. I closed my eyes and shook my head. I gazed at the creature again. Yup. It was a black and white guinea pig. It came running toward me. I gasped and bolted up.

            The guinea pig came out of the hole. My mom saw it and screamed.

            “Mom, it’s just a guinea pig,” I said.

            But the guinea pig spun. It sped up and transformed into a black and white cat. My mom yelped. “What’s going on?”

            The doorbell rang. My mother answered to Mrs. Katz, our next door-neighbor.

            “Have you seen Sadie?” Mrs. Katz asked. “My kitty?”

            “You mean the one that turned into a guinea pig?” my mother asked.

            “What?” asked Mrs. Katz. “I mean… I’ve seen it turn into a rat, but not a guinea pig.”

            The cat meowed and ran up to Mrs. Katz.

            “Sadie, what have you been up to?” Mrs. Katz picked her up. “I’m taking you to the vet to cure this problem.” She closed the door behind her and left.

            I stood by my mom and watched Mrs. Katz carry Sadie back to her house.

            “What kind of vet could cure a cat like that?” I asked my mother.

            She shook her head. “Perhaps, it’s best if we don’t know.”

           

Writing

Story Too Complex to Tell? Don’t Sweat it—I’ve Got Tips

wind-2730639_1920

Stories come in all forms, sizes, moods, and so forth. No two plots are alike. Some are similar. Some differ drastically. Some are short or long. And some are simple or complex.

Of course, each story will depend on audience, trends, and so on. Here, I am going to discuss tips for handling a complex story.

Obviously, your book will be short and sweet as well as very basic if it’s a picture book. As the audience gets older, the stories will lengthen and become more complex. And that doesn’t only apply to writing and plot, but also subplots.

Subplots are secondary storylines in a book that weave into the main plot and they all are important for the tale. If you’re writing for middle-grade children (about 8-11), you may only need one or two subplots at most. If you’re writing for teens (aka the young adult readers) or adults, you might need more subplots. Depending on your skill-level and storyline, up to four subplots might be enough.

However, if you feel you are getting too overwhelmed with subplots or storyline complexity, or readers aren’t receiving the right message you’re trying to communicate, don’t be afraid to remove content that doesn’t add or is not crucial. That includes subplots. Depending on your readers’ ages and levels, you can simplify your plot. If you feel you can’t remove a subplot or two, however, that’s okay. Sometimes, complex material is too important to be scrapped. If it takes you years, especially if you’re just starting out as a writer, don’t worry. Some authors have taken ten or more years to work on a story. One of my works took nearly three years to complete.

Remember, write from your gut as well as what you are passionate about. That is how you will improve and have fun.

Writing

I See My Many Colors Writing Through

color-pen-1904221_1920

Yup, I enjoy handwriting in different colors. Of course, that’s only if it’s independent work, not assigned. And the first project I experimented with is my novel-in-progress.

I’ve discovered that writing my novel-in-progress in different colors actually makes a difference. It’s easier to distinguish chapters and the events that occur in them.

I also use pens instead of pencils. It keeps me from stopping to erase, dealing with graphite smudges, and fading. I do use whiteout when I make mistakes, though.

I have a pack of pens in various colors from blue to pink to brown. Some are bold, some sparkle, and some shine like metal. It’s really interesting. And no, the shining and sparkling do not distract me.

The only rule for myself is not to use light colors, such as yellow. Like everyone, I was taught this as a child. It’s hard to read, obviously. Need I say more?

I also have to deal with the running out of ink. Unfortunately, the colored pens I have run out quickly. That doesn’t stop me from keeping the multi-colored handwriting, though.

I discovered some colored pens work better than others. Of course, everybody differs. Some hold certain pens better than others. Some prefer pencils over pens. Many people favor typing over handwriting and all black or blue ink instead of different colors.

I do think writing in different colors, either by typing or by hand, is worth trying. I am glad I discovered this method worked for me. It has helped me a lot.

 

short fiction

It’s a Wonderful Week: A Flash Fiction Piece

I wish an alarm would notify me whenever I had to complete a task from my to-do list. I get overwhelmed by all the things I have to do, especially when it’s a lot.

            In about a week, I am moving out to college. It’ll be about three hours north. I’ve already met my roommate. Her name is Sienna. She comes from California.

            I have to buy my supplies, for both my dorm and classes. I also have to pack. My mom suggests two weeks’ worth of clothes. Then she would send me warmer clothing as the weather cooled down.

            I am sitting in my room right now, looking at my high school graduation pictures as well as my eighteenth birthday photos from March. I am going to miss my high school friends and their nickname for me in stage crew “Glitters” rather than my real name, Amanda.

            Freshman orientation will happen for the first three days. Then classes will begin. I’ve heard rumors about college and how scary it might seem, especially for first-years.

            My older brother, Winston, had commuted. He graduated last year, when I completed the eleventh grade. Despite his time living at home and attending college, he wouldn’t talk to me a lot about the experience.

            I close Facebook and turn off my computer. My friend, Lola, also living at home for college, is going to hang out with me in about an hour. I will enjoy the last week here in Connecticut until I bid goodbye to my house.