30 October 2010

More on plotting your novel

NaNoWriMo starts in 2 days and the Web is teeming with advice on all aspects of writing a novel in a month, plotting included.

Dani Greer at The Blood-Red Pencil shows how to use a mind map to plot a novel.

In preparation for NaNo Paulo Campos at Yingle Yangle talks about outlining a novel worth reading, why outlining your novel is essential, and how to prepare for the moment when your outline will fail.

More on novel writing strategies at Burrowers, books and balderdash.

At Girlfriends Book Club Novelists Saralee Rosenberg and Ellen Meister discuss the neverending issue of what it takes to write a novel: Inspiration or perspiration?

My writing tends to be plot-driven, but classic romance is usually character-driven (more about it at editorrent), so I'd better read a little about plotting from character (Theresa at editorrent).

Ah, and then I need to think a little about my conflict.

25 October 2010

Planning/plotting a novel

NaNoWriMo starts in a week. Time to start planning and plotting my novel.

There are several ways of planning/plotting a novel (e.g. The Snowflake Method, a four-steps one, and many, many others) and there is probably a book for every kind of writing and planning..Generally speaking, you should do whatever works for you.
For me it's James V. Smith's framework from his "You can write a novel" book (I own a You Can Write a Novel Kit - complete with Chapter Log, Major/Master and Minor Character charts, Scene Development and revision Tracker)

I am writing a category romance, so I have 50,000 words and 10 chapters to make a good use of.
I have used Daphne Clair and Robyn Donald's (Writing Romantic Fiction) tips to 'translate' James V. Smith's advice into the world of romance.

1. Opening scene, where my Reader is to be thrilled.
Well, apparently I have now only 300 words to get my Reader's attention, so I'd better get the opening scene right.
In romance this is Their First Meeting, that First Sparkle between Her (beautiful, smart AND caring) and Him (Alfa male, no doubts!). Best is to have it happen on the first page, and ever since none of them is allowed to leave the page (= if one of them is not physically present on the page, he/she must be present in the other's character's mind).
As far as I've noticed category romance have POV switching between hero and heroine.
This will be Chapter 1 of my NaNo novel

2. Pivotal setup complication, where the action can fall a little, but never below the point of interesting
This part is simple - I just need to come up with enough conflict (source of tension), internal (emotional) and external (life circumstances), to keep them apart for something like 180 pages. Easy-peasy, isn't it?
well, we shall see ;-)
This will be Chapter 2 and 3

3. Point-of-no-return complication, where the action rises to reach the thrilling level again
In romance this is usually the moment when they fall for each other and despite all these things in point 2 realise they can't help the attraction
In Chapter 4

Points 4, 5, 6 - pivotal complications with the action rises and falls swinging my Reader between Interested, Excited and Thrilled
The consequences of the conflict as laid out in point 2, plus some minor additions, usually of external type; a jealous ex jumping out of a box maybe?
Chapters 5, 6,and 7

7. Worst complications possible, where my Reader should be more than Thrilled
It's all about that conflict, really.
Chapter 8

8. Worse than even the worst complications possible - the climactic scene, where I should have my Reader blown away by the titanic, epic, final struggle of my hero/heroine facing their worst adversary; heroic conflict is resolved in the characters' favour, important lessons are learnt and no coincidence or divine intervention is allowed
Simply speaking: they both realise they can't live without each other, this is The Love Of Their Lives, so they have to do something about all them things laid out in point 2, plus the minor additions and get together
Chapter 9 and beginning of Chapter 10 (as I'm planning A Dark Night of the soul moment, when they realise there is no happy ending for them)

9. The End, where they live happily ever after and my Reader can wipe his/her forehead and sigh with relief
They get together; may sail off into the sunset, clutching their wedding invitations but no actual wedding is necessary on the scene.
The end of Chapter 10

15 October 2010

10 rules for doing your research

picture by jscreationzs
via freedigitalphotos.net
"Thou shalt do you research"
As a Pattern Spotter and Theme Finder I decided that my recent struggle to get some facts right in the novel I'm currently writing, the setting I'm planning for my NaNoWriMo novel and three (Jody Hedlund, Helen Ginger for the BloodRedPencil and Mark Terry) blog posts enough to reflect a little on the importance of doing the research.
To be honest - I don't like doing research. I feel like I spend a lot of time browsing the Internet, composing fora posts, reading books, speaking to people  - and I can still get it wrong.

Here are my 10 rules for doing research (applies to fiction and non-fiction)

1. Write about what you know - you won't have to do much research, and you'll instantly know which sources are most reliable, be it books, magazines, places or experts.
Needles to say - it's my favourite rule.

2. Try to get information first-hand. If you can afford to go to a place where you want to set your novel - go, or write about places you have been too. Photographs can be helpful in getting geographical or seasonal info right. I know of authors who have enrolled on courses to have first hand experience and access to experts, or went on field trips (like Joanna Penn).
It doesn't have to be a big, serious course - a few weeks tester is sometimes enough to give you an idea, hands-on experience and some pointers. Check your local college, library or community centre for details of courses available.

3. If you have to get your information second-hand, try reliable and well tested sources first: books, libraries, librarians, experts.I have heard many positive and encouraging stories about helpful librarians all over the world (just email them; from what I've heard from other writers, librarians love being asked all these quirky details - it makes their job a little more exciting). When I was writing a short story set in a little town in northern Norway and needed some local info, I emailed the local council and got a very prompt and helpful reply.
Don't forget to mention particularly helpful people in your acknowledgements!

4. Ask your family, friends, work colleagues- people who, although not experts may have been to the places you want to write about (and have photos and little stories); attended those courses mentioned in Rule 2; or may know someone who has and put you in touch with them.
I prefer to 'innocently' steer the conversation towards the subject and weave my questions into the general conversation inconspicuously. It's happened to me that people refused to answer my questions once they knew it was for my novel or short story, often because they felt they weren't 'expert enough' to give me the information I needed (rubbish! If they weren't expert enough I wouldn't have asked them).
5. Use trusted web resourses: specialist websites, specialist fora, etc.
Writers are rarely only writers, they often have day jobs (like me), and from what I've found - they always more than happy to share their professional experience with you. And they live in different places on the planet, too. and you don;t have to pretend that this is for your cousin who's trying to adopt a disabled dog because her previous dog....

6. Use other brilliant tools available online, to mention only a few: Google Maps, photo libraries, webcameras placed in the place you're writing about

7. Use search engines wisely. Here's some advice on mastering the skill of asking the right question

8. Don't let the facts get into the way of a good story. Jody advises to "Go deep but stay narrow", Greg declared his duty to the Fiction. Ask yourself if you really need all those details in your book -can it be skipped or 'mumbled over' or happen in the background?
You can always consider getting someone to do your research, and pay for it.

9. If you're still not sure you got it right - get rid of it. Ever found any inaccuracies in a book? Have you put the book away? Well, you know what may happen if you get it wrong then.

10. Enjoy your research.
(I think I may skip this one though)

And what are your rules or trusted techniques?

05 October 2010


This year it's serious.
No more I'll_see_how_it_goes, I_may_join_in_later, or even I_think_I_could_do_it.
I'm doing it!

I've just joined in NaNoWriMo - National Novel Writing Month. It starts on 1ts.November, ends on 30th; and I'm expected to write a 50,000 words novel. Thirty days and nights of literary abandon!

I don't have a title for my novel yet, but this is going to be a Mills&Boon medical romance (it's usually 50,-55,000 words so ideal for NaNoWriMo). I'm thinking of setting it somewhere between neurology/neuroscience and psychology. more details to follow.
I'm going to start planning the novel, draw the characters and think out the conflict later on this month (I'm taking a few days off for that).
Oh, yes - I am a Planner.

A NaNoWriMo widget will keep track of my word count.

03 October 2010

Get your permissions (copy) right

Ooh, managed to get all the copyright permissions for my non-fiction book on OCD at last. Even though it didn't take me long, it has been a painful process. The most difficult task was to find the copyright owner for the NICE publication. I've lost count of emails sent into the void, but luckily in a sudden enlightement I decided to ask a copyright holder of another publication for advice and lo and behold! they happened to be The Right One.
Big thank you to all helpful people and my intuition.

If you writing a non-fiction book or article and quoting directly material other than your own, don't rely on your intuition only.

1. Find out who holds the copyright. For unpublished materials it's usually the author, for published books, magazines, other periodicals - check the copyright or editorial pages. It may be a bit trickier with photography, but start with the publisher (and remember that even when you're using your own photographs you may still need a permission such as model or property release). The fact material found on the Net is anonymous does not mean it is not copyrighted. When in doubt - don't do without!

2. Get your permissions early. Some publishers take up to a couple of months to reply to your request. Copyright owners in foreigh countries may take even longer! And you have that book/article to finish on time. Although there is nothing wrong with carrying on writing your book or article while you're waiting, you can't afford it going into publication without all the permissions in place.

3. Get your permissions in writing, even from your friends or relatives (this can be a particularly risky move because you may potenitially lose not only money or reputation as an author but also a friend).
Society of Authors suggests this model permission licence letter for use.
My publisher is happy with emails, but check with your publisher if you need to have your permissions in hard copy (e.g. a 'proper' letter), or if an email would do.

4. Have your purse ready. You may need to pay. How much? It depends on many factors, such as the lenght of the excerpts you're using, the circulation of your publication, etc. Copyright permissions for many academic publications can be obtain through Rightslink and Copyright Clearance Center. Rightslink can give you estimated released fee - which is particularly important if you're about to use what may be a very expensive quotation (I decided to make a minor change in my book after I saw the quote for my quote. Sorry, guys, it wasn't worth the £360).
Before commiting yourself to any payments (and asking for the invoice!), check your contract - it will usually contain information on who is to pay release fee. There may be some room for negociation with your publisher.

5. Make sure you understand the key word - substantial.
'Substantial' is not defined in Copyright Act, but is 'a matter of fact and degree', and is more about quality of the used excerpt, how big a portion of the original work you're quoting, how it affects your book/article, etc rather than the quantity. If in doubt- always ask.
In case of reviewing or critique a rule of 'fair dealing' applies and you may not need to seek permissions to quote - see Society of Authors guidance on the matter for further details.

6. There is no copyrights on facts, titles or ideas.

More details on copyrights, moral rights and permissions on Society of Authors website. The history and international copyrigths agreements on Wiki, and Top Ten Questions about Copyrights and Everything You've Always Wanted to Know About Permissions on Writing World.
Happy quoting!