August 25th, 2009
Welcome to Week 7 of the Teen Author Challenge! It’s a dual blogging Tuesday today with the Teen Author Challenge here and sharing my Five during launch week of Living Your Five. Be sure to check out my inaugural Five post and comment for your chance to win a signed ARC of The Cinderella Society!
Before we get into today’s challenge post… we have a winner to announce! The winner of a signed copy of Miss Match (generously donated by Wendy Toliver herself!) is…
(aka In Bed with Books)
Congratulations, Liviana! Please contact me here with your mailing address to receive your prize. (And be sure to check out Wendy’s lie!)
This week, we’re going to continue our mini-series on different plotting strategies to help you grab the reins of your own writing process. To kick things off, a bit of inspiration from the fabulous Rachel Caine.
Exclusive TAC Quote of the Week
“There are only two tricks to writing, as related to me from the hallowed lips of Joe Bob Briggs: (1) put your butt in the chair, and (2) write. All the other things are nice-to-haves; they help you get better, they help you sell, they help you sell more, etc.
But there is absolutely no substitute for making the incredibly difficult commitment of sitting down and doing the work, and then doing it again, and again.
Thanks, Joe Bob.”
~ Rachel Caine
Carpe Corpus (Penguin, 6/09)
Book 6 of the New York Times bestselling Morganville Vampires series
Teen Author Challenge, Week 7
So we’re wrapping up our discussion about different plotting techniques today with the goal of showing you just a few of the many ways you can map out a story in advance. As I’ve mentioned many times before, your mileage may vary and you should always opt for the vehicle of your choice based on what resonates with you… not just because fab author #146 said this is what she happens to use.
And for those of you who run trembling to your secret hideout in fear of anything that starts with plot and ends with -ing, never fear! I have a hilarious introduction to the world of pantsing lined up for you next week from my Tenner buddy Rachel Hawkins plus a pantsing/plotting combo technique from my fellow Egmont buddy Lindsay Eland.
This week, I’m going to bring you two different plotting methods from two fabulous Tenner. Variety is the spice of life, I say! First up is fellow Tenner Guadalupe Garcia McCall with her version of Freytag’s Plot Pyramid. I’m something of a plotting method sponge, but this was the first I’d heard of this one. If you’re not familiar with Freytag’s Plot Pyramid, you can see one here. But… I also found the coolest link to an online template thing where you can type in the different pieces and print out a customized pyramid for your story. Technology score! Here’s the link:
(Side note: Also, if you are like me and do not know what denouement means because you took German/Spanish/Russian instead of French in high school, it means the ending/resolution.)
Thanks to Guadelupe for sharing your writing process with us!
My Writing Process – Freytag’s Plot Pyramid
It’s exciting to get that first glimmer of an idea, that glimpse into someone else’s life. And because the excitement is so overwhelming, I usually run with it. I sit at my desk, open a new journal, and start writing, madly sometimes, until I’m exhausted and I can’t remember the last time I made sense to anyone else but myself. On those nights, my husband says I’m not obsessed with my writing, I’m possessed. It’s addictive this writing thing.
Unfortunately, I can’t ride the wave of obsession every night and hope to finish my novel without knowing where I’m going with a story or how I’m going to get there. So, after the initial passion wears off, and I’m stuck without a clue as to what comes next, I get serious. I pull out the one tool that has always made sense to me, Freytag‘s Chart.
On the dining room table, I draw Freytag’s Plot Pyramid on a big piece of butcher paper and label its parts: exposition, rising action, complication, climax, falling action, and denouement.
It’s all very simple, really. For me, using Freytag’s chart to plot a story is like riding a roller coaster. I start off slow. Getting to know the people around me, anticipating that first drop, and looking at the scenery as we chug along up that first incline is like writing about the characters, the setting, and the conflict in the exposition. It sets me up for a brand new and hopefully exciting ride.
That first drop, and every twist and turn after that make my characters hold their breath, burst out laughing, shriek, and sometimes even close their eyes. Those great, scary, wildly exciting moments are part of the rising action, the complications that make the ride so very worth the price of admission.
Plotting every single one of those moments for my characters is important, because these plot points have to build on each other. Every twist and turn in my story is a direct result of the last one, intricately connected, like the metal bars holding that coaster together. So this is when I get serious and pull out the Post It Notes. I document every dip and swerve on a different Post It Note and move them up and down, along the incline, until I know exactly where they fit, building off each other and supporting the storyline as they go along. This buildup is essential to the storyline. Without these complications, I would have no plot.
Just when I think my characters can’t take any more of this excitement, I find myself leading them to the very top of the coaster. That’s when they know there’s no going back. At this point, I don’t know how my characters are going to react. They may laugh, they may scream, they may even cry, but, whatever happens, I know the end is near. So I do what every writer does, I push them over the edge and watch them fall off the mountain.
Characters are funny creatures. They don’t always do what you expect them to do, but, somehow, they always manage to find the courage to survive. They look deep within themselves and make whatever changes need to be made to live through the ordeals, the rollercoaster, I’ve put them through. They step out of their coaster car seats transformed, and they live happier lives for it.
So that’s it. That’s my technique for plotting. I scribble my thoughts on Post It Notes and move them around a humongous sketch of Freytag’s Chart until they sing me a song. Only then, when I’m listening to that lovely melody perfectly in tune with the voice in my heart, can I start writing again.
Of course, I may change my mind about a point or two, or three or four, but it doesn’t matter. The Post It Notes can be moved around, rewritten, revised, even thrown out, but Freytag’s Chart is always underneath them, keeping them all aligned.
~ Guadalupe Garcia McCall
A Mesquite in the Rose Garden
(Lee & Low, Fall 2010)
Your Weekly Challenge
It’s a quick, timed challenge this week! You’re going to take five minutes RIGHT NOW. No cheating and putting it off until the timing is perfect. If you wait until you have time, you’ll never get a story written. You have to make time. That means doing the challenge right now.
1) Grab a sheet of paper and draw a Freytag Plot Pyramid that’s as large as the sheet. (Go here to see the pyramid graphic again.)
2) Take five minutes right now–and not one second longer!–and use a pencil to write down every plot point you can think of in the story, putting it wherever you think it might possibly go on the pyramid. If you don’t know where it would go, put it anywhere for now. The key is quantity–the more points you get down, the better. Post Its are okay to use, but writing on the page itself is perfectly fine too. (That’s why you’re using pencil.)
3) When your five minutes are up, step back and take a look at how the story lays out on the paper. Grab your Teen Author Challenge notebook and jot down everything you discovered about your story during this five-minute plotting bonanza. This includes better understanding how it all fits together, any new ideas that came to mind, etc.
4) Now jot down your notes about how this process felt to you. Was it a natural fit? Is it something you’d like to revisit and spend some more time on? If so, take more time with it this week and rock on with your fab self!
For this week’s participation, comment on whether this process worked for you or not. Sharing something cool that you discovered about your character or the story along the way gets you an extra entry into the Teen Author Challenge monthly giveaway!
The Teen Author Challenge Contest
Throughout the year-long Teen Author Challenge (TAC ends June 2010!), I’ll be giving away a book of the winner’s choice from my personal writing shelf. Why am I doing this? Because becoming a skilled writer has two important parts: learning about your craft and practicing your craft. That’s why active participation in each weekly challenge is so important!
So what can you win? Books to choose from include:
1. The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler
2. Your Novel Proposal: From Creation to Contract by Blythe Camenson and Marshall J. Cook
3. The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall
4. The Career Novelist by Donald Maass
5. Writing Dialogue by Tom Chiarella
6. Mastering Point of View by Sherri Szeman
7. Creating Characters Kids Will Love by Elaine Marie Alphin
8. Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass
9. Building Believable Characters by Marc McCutcheon
Everyone who participates via the comments on the Teen Author Challenge posts will be entered into this monthly contest.
Go forth and be creative!
Entry Filed under: Paying It Forward,Teen Author Challenge