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Introducing the…
Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

The Fun, Easy Way To Prepare  Your Literary Adventure.

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Writing a novel is so much easier if you do a little planning first. And thanks to the Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook, the process of planning your breakthrough novel has never been easier.

Using simple worksheets and instructions, the workbook guides you through the various stages of

      • Finding story ideas that are original and intriguing.
      • Creating a dramatically sound synopsis.
      • Designing a main character with a compelling inner journey.
      • Rounding out your cast with memorable, believable characters who can fulfill the dramatic requirements of your story.
      • Researching an authentic setting — or designing a fantasy world.
      • Finding the right narrative mode and point of view to tell your story.
      • Crafting a sophisticated thematic message.
      • Planning sequences and scenes.

… and doing it all in a way that is fun and creative.

Combines Fun, Creative Exercises with Sophisticated Literary Technique.

I started my website, How to Write a Book Now, with the goal of taking sophisticated theories of story structure and literary techniques and making them easier, more practical, and fun for aspiring writers (and by fun, I mean a way that harnesses every writer’s natural creativity).

The Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook began as a set of worksheets and exercises developed for a series of creative writing courses I was teaching to both adults and teenagers at Queen’s University and St. Lawrence College in Kingston, Ontario. Drawing on my training in both Dramatica Story Theory and theatre arts, I designed these courses to help emerging writers take a quantum leap in their creativity, their writing skills, and their understanding of what makes great stories work.

The resulting workbook consists of over 55 pages of worksheets and instructions that guide you through the complete process of planning a novel. It will help you find and develop your story ideas, and make sure your story has a solid, emotionally compelling structure — before you even begin your first chapter.

Unlike other novel brainstorming systems, the Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook is built upon a solid base of story theory. The exercises are open-ended, giving you the creative freedom do design the story you want, while at the same time helping you create a solid story structure.

24 Multi-Page Worksheets Cover Every Aspect of Novel Planning.

Here are just a few of the vital novel-planning steps you can accomplish with the Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook…

      • Practise 3 ways to generate original story ideas.
      • Take a simple story idea and develop it into a rich and detailed narrative suitable for expressing as a full-length work.
      • Create a logline and a brief synopses that reveal the strengths and weaknesses of your story idea before you even start to write a first draft.
      • Map out the arc of your main character’s inner conflict and integrate it with your story’s outcome.
      • Use 3 ways to flesh out your cast of characters, and make each character memorable, believable, and unique.
      • Create detailed settings for the major events of your story — whether your story world is contemporary, historical, or fantasy.
      • Develop a complete plot, including the major turning points and multiple levels of story.
      • Use the power of the monomyth model to create young adult fiction.
      • Discover the right narrative mode and point of view from which to tell your story.
      • Master the secret to great descriptive writing.
      • And more!

By the time you’re finished, your story will be so well planned, the actual writing process will fly by. You’ll never suffer from writer’s block, because you’ll always know what’s about to happen and what your characters will discover around the next corner.

Newly Updated, But Still Just $5 USD

After a successful test run, the Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook has been revised to give all the worksheets additional visual appeal. Some worksheets have been expanded to better address writers’ needs. Also, a new Story Braiding exercise has been added to help you merge multiple subplots and storylines into one overall (and quite thorough) outline for your novel.
The workbook comes in PDF format, so you can easily open it on any computer and print off copies of individual worksheets to write on and perhaps store in your writer’s notebook.

Best of all, I have kept the price to just $5.00 (US).

To download your copy of the Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook, simply click on the “Add to cart” button below. Your payment is safe and secure

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This was one of the first articles I wrote for my website, and continues to be one of the most popular. It’s a simple approach based on a small piece of Dramatica theory,  but it’s also one of the most powerful ways to develop a dramatically sound synopsis or plot outline for any story.

Create A Plot Outline In 8 Easy Steps.

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On my other website, How to Write a Book Now, I sometimes field questions from writers on the subject of novel writing and story structure. In particular, I try to make Dramatica Story Theory more accessible to beginners.

One of the most common questions people ask is how to write a good opening chapter. In particular, they want to know where the story should start. And one of the most unfortunate myths they seem to have picked up is the idea that the first chapter of a novel should present an average, normal day for the main character.

I believe this idea originates in the work of Joseph Campbell, who argued that the monomyth (supposedly the archetype of all great stories) begins by showing the hero in his ordinary life, just prior to his receiving “the call” or invitation to begin his journey. The word “journey” here refers not necessarily to a physical journey, but to the quest or pursuit of the Story Goal, the objective on which the entire plot hangs.

The problem with this idea is that, for most people, an ordinary day is just that… ordinary. It’s a day when nothing special happens. That’s a problem for a writer who wants the first chapter of his novel to hook a reader’s interest.

In fact, most agents and editors demand that a novel grab the reader’s attention on the very first page. So an ordinary day just won’t do. Something extraordinary must happen at the start of a novel in order to entice a reader to continue reading – let alone an agent who habitually rejects thousands of manuscripts a year.

One way writers can solve this dilemma is to postpone any depiction of the main character’s everyday life and delve straight into the quest. You can start the story with the inciting incident of the main plot – the big threat or goal.

Of course, the problem with plunging straight into the main plot is that the reader does not get properly introduced to the main character. Yet you want the reader to develop empathy with the main character early on. So writers will sometimes use Chapter Two to backtrack and introduce the main character in his normal environment. You see this technique in films as well. The first scene often shows the start of the main plot. The villain commits some terrible crime or hatches a scheme. Then the story cuts to the main character in his ordinary life, totally unaware of the threat, until a messenger arrives who delivers the call.

An example of this would be the first Star Wars film (Episode IV, A New Hope). The film opens with the attack on Princess Leia’s ship and shows her successfully stopping the Empire from recovering the Death Star plans. Later, we are introduced to the main character, Luke Skywalker, and his frustrated effort to get his uncle’s permission to leave the farm.

However, it is important to note that in Star Wars, the viewer’s introduction to Luke does not occur on an ordinary day. Viewers would be completely bored if George Lucas had made them watch an ordinary day in Luke’s life – a day of farmwork that led to nothing more than another day of farmwork. Instead, we see Luke on a very special day which brings his frustrations to a head and changes his life forever.

Take note: if you ever find yourself writing about an “ordinary” day in the main character’s life, you’re probably wasting time and paper that could be spent on something more interesting. You want to focus on important events, because they make the reader keep reading to see what happens next. By an event, we mean a change, after which things are never the same. A real event sends the characters in a new direction. It is the opposite of ordinary.

So far, I’ve mentioned two possible events you could present in your first chapter – either an event involving the main character or the inciting event of the main plot. But if this sounds a bit formulaic, the theory of Dramatica, developed by Melanie Anne Phillips and Chris Huntley, offers writers some other options.

Dramatica proposes that a complete story will have four key throughlines. The Overall throughline (what most people consider the main plot) concerns the pursuit of the Story Goal. It’s the plot that affects or involves the majority of characters.

Second in importance is the Main Character’s arc. This throughline concerns the main character’s inner conflict. The main character begins the story with a habitual way of dealing with problems. In the course of the story, he faces a dilemma about whether or not he needs to change his approach in order to achieve the Story Goal. (Luke Skywalker’s problem is that he has no self-confidence, hence he can’t stand up to his uncle.)

In addition, the Impact Character throughline concerns the character who will pressure the main character to change by presenting an example of a different approach to dealing with problems. (In Star Wars, this role is played by Obi wan Kenobi, who teaches Luke how to have confidence.)

Finally, the Subjective or Relationship Throughline concerns the progress of the relationship between the main and impact characters.

Each of the four throughlines has its own beginning, complications, climax, and resolution – four major turning points. That makes 16 turning points or “signposts” for a complete story.

How you weave the four throughlines together is entirely up to you. If you’re looking for an important event for your first chapter, you can choose the first signpost from any of the throughlines:

1. Overall Throughline, Signpost #1. This is the inciting incident of the main plot. As I mentioned above, this is a frequent choice in action stories.

2. Impact Character Throughline, Signpost #1: This will be the first time that the main character sees or becomes aware of the impact character. It is an event where the Impact character tackles a problem or handles a situation in a way that is totally unlike how the main character would have handled it. It is the act that starts the main character on the road to questioning his approach. In romance stories, this is often the first encounter between the main character and the man she is destined to fall in love with. For instance, think of the moment in Casablanca when Ilsa walks into Rick’s bar, or Bridge to Teribithia when Leslie walks into Jesse’s classroom for the first time.

3. Relationship Throughline, Signpost #1: This will be an event that illustrates the relationship between the main and impact characters at the start of the story. It is a relationship that will be tested and change as the story progresses. It could be the moment when they first become friends, or enemies, or when one becomes the mentor to the other, etc. In Star Wars, this is the sequence in which Obi wan Kenobi offers to teach Luke the ways of the Force and Luke (after his aunt and uncle are killed) accepts.

4. Main Character Throughline, Signpost #1: This is where you introduce the main character and his inner conflict. It will be an event in which the main character tackles a problem using his typical approach. The outcome of this event could be success or failure, but the aim is to show the reader who this person is by showing them in action. In Star Wars, this would be the scene in which Luke accepts Uncle Owen’s decision that he must stay on the farm for another year.

Any one of these signposts can be the basis of a great first chapter. The secret is to make sure that the event, the change, that occurs is a significant event to the characters involved.

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