Thursday, June 3, 2010

Class Four and Five

Yes, I know, I skipped one. No post for last class.

I've run into a bit of a snag, and that snag involves a video game console.

Hereafter lies my confession: I've spent much of the past few days (week) playing Nintendo. I now hang my head in shame *hangs head*

I am, after all, the Queen of Procrastinationland, and this is that side of me rearing its ugly head.

I have all the time in the world now to write, being off work for what may end up being the entire summer, and this means that I find all kinds of other things I can be doing besides writing. After all, I now have all kinds of time to play Zelda now too :P

I realized it today, as I was finishing the Fire Temple in my all-time favorite video game 'Ocarina of Time'. It was three in the afternoon, I was still in my pajamas, and I hadn't even turned on my computer to check my email. Video games and me are a dangerous obsession...once I start playing a game, it's very difficult to tear me away from it until I've finished the entire thing. And this is especially true with this particular game.

And so, this is my confession. I'm wasting valuable writing time by playing video games. It is now Thursday night, and my weekly class came as a delightful wakeup call that I SHOULD BE WRITING MORE! Every class I go to gives me a fresh infusion of muse, and this one was no different.

Last week we discussed plotting and pacing. I loved some of the techniques she taught us for the plotting process. Because a lot of stories start with a very small thing (a scene or a thought or a concept), constructing a whole novel out of it is difficult. Having a plot or outline is useful for organizing thoughts and filling in blanks. I already wrote one outline that I've almost completely scrapped by now. I'm in the process of rewriting it again, since during the course of the class I've decided to re-order and change things to be a little more dramatic.

Now she said not all writers do this, and some just sit down and write and see where the characters take the story. I like that, but I also prefer to have at least an idea of where I'm going with the story before I get to each part of the plot.

So there's the bulleted list outline, that outlines each major event in the story so that the author has something to follow (that's what I did, and what I'll probly do again for my second outline). There's also the Scene-Sequel structure...which is what I'll be using for the middle of my novel. When she explained it, I had a clear image of Prison Break episodes - each episode begins with a 'SEQUEL 'of the previous episode, usually about the first quarter of the show, and then ends with the 'SCENE' for that episode (each episode was a mini cliffhanger). The next episode would be the sequel to the previous one, and so on. Here is what they are (courtesy of Nancy's notes):


"An event occurs, with a physical and emotional cause. The viewpoint character will have a short term goal, but face opposition. When he can't achieve this goal, his long-term goal will be put in jeopardy (disaster)"


"The impact is a physical and emotional effect. This forces the character to feel emotion (react), then think about doing something differently that will allow him to achieve his goal, and make a decision about which action to take. This action will be the next SCENE."

Thank you, Nancy. This is...indispensable advice for novel structure. I shall treasure it always.

The other big thing I took out of that class was this:

Novel Breakdown:

Beginning = 1/4
Middle = 1/2
End = 1/4

It simple,'s so incredibly useful. I never knew this before, never knew how long each section should be and what should be in them. She also gave us notes on what should be included in each section (beginning is for setting up the plot and characters, middle is the meat of the story, ending is for tying up all plots) with enough detail that it gave me the direction I sorely need.

THIS is why I took this class :D *hugs notes* I have story, and now I have structure. I may now write.

Today's class was about dialogue and how to handle it amid the prose and story.

I think...a lot of this class was review for me, and I think my 4+ years on the board gave me a lot of practise and experience with realistic dialogue. I often like to 'act out' difficult scenes...say the dialogue to myself as if I AM the characters to make sure it sounds right before I write it down (and if I'm lazy and I don't do this, it shows, and it comes out horribly).

I also like to do this one thing that she talked about, and that's writing an entire scene with ONLY dialogue, and then add the prose around it later (or not). She said that the dialogue should be strong enough to stand on its own without the other clutter around it, and I definitely agree with that. Later, I'll post up one scene I had written with only dialogue, which I love and I was thinking about the entire time she was telling us about dialog. It was a stand-alone vignette using Nish and her ex that would have absolutely no place in this novel I'm attempting, but I still love it for what it is.

We also had the opportunity to listen to her sister, Lesley Crewe, who is a published Bestselling Canadian Author :D I LOVED listening to her talk about novel writing and the business and the drive to write. How you need to first write for yourself before you even think of whatever audience you might have later. She painted a pretty bleak picture of the industry, but she was very encouraging to us aspiring novelists. I definitely want to get some of her books now and read them, the only Canadian author that I regularly read right now is Miriam Toews, so I'd love to get more Canucks on my bookshelf, and support the Canadian novel industry.

And so, I now have no excuse for not writing now. I need to turn off the Nintendo and force myself to keep to a word count every day. I need to find self discipline and focus. And I need to do it week is the last class o.o

*separation anxiety* I think I'll need to beg my classmates for contact info. Maybe we can organize a writing group :)

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