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Zee

The Next Step...

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So I'm just a few chapters away from finishing the sharing/critique process for Novel #2. If nothing goes majorly wrong now, I think it's going to be fairly good.

 

 I'm delighted with all the tips and fixes I've received from helpful eyes on the Critique Forum. I'd say you all have helped me to catch nearly all of the "little things" like spelling, awkward phrasing, minor plot issues. 

 

Now I'm wondering how to take this story to Level Two, and see how I'm doing on the "big picture" things, like the realism of the characters and the  plot and story as a whole. Is this where I ask for a beta reader to help give me the broad view?

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42 minutes ago, Zee said:

Is this where I ask for a beta reader to help give me the broad view?

You could ask for a beta reader, or try to use the Story Grid on it first. But I'm definitely a huge fan of beta readers.

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On 2/11/2020 at 9:59 PM, EBraten said:

You could ask for a beta reader, or try to use the Story Grid on it first. But I'm definitely a huge fan of beta readers.

 

As you all will know I am not a Story Grid fan but I have to say I did a scene-by-scene breakdown of Child of No One when I finished the 1st draft. I simplified the original grid as I felt it was too overblown for me.

It helped me spot the need to develop a character's story more and tightened up the pace in one section. Although a time consuming excerise, I would recommend doing it. It also means I now have a quick reference aid if I need to check what and when or see where to add a scene or chapter would be best placed.

 

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I haven't actually seen the Story Grid, but from what I've heard it sounds intimidating. I did do some research on story structures and found some broader, simpler ways of creating the structure. I should at least have a look at the Story Grid system, though.

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19 hours ago, suspensewriter said:

I have to ask you, Zee, did you ask for a beta reader?

 Not yet. I'm planning to post the last three chapters in the critique forum and then do a final edit of my own first. 

I just wanted to hear some thoughts on what the next learning level ought to be.

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11 minutes ago, Zee said:

I haven't actually seen the Story Grid, but from what I've heard it sounds intimidating. I did do some research on story structures and found some broader, simpler ways of creating the structure. I should at least have a look at the Story Grid system, though.

It is intimidating but I took it a chapter at a time and it all made twelve kinds of sense soon enough. 

Basically, every story has three sections: Beginning Hook, Middle Build, and Ending Payoff. And each of those sections has five elements: Inciting Incident, Progressive Complication Turning Point, a Crisis (a question), a Climax (answers the Crisis question), and a Resolution. That's fifteen core scenes for a novel. It's really very pragmatic when you get right down to it. 

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59 minutes ago, Johne said:

It is intimidating but I took it a chapter at a time and it all made twelve kinds of sense soon enough. 

Basically, every story has three sections: Beginning Hook, Middle Build, and Ending Payoff. And each of those sections has five elements: Inciting Incident, Progressive Complication Turning Point, a Crisis (a question), a Climax (answers the Crisis question), and a Resolution. That's fifteen core scenes for a novel. It's really very pragmatic when you get right down to it. 

 

Actually that was pretty much what I learned from my research. Maybe the Story Grid just breaks it down more.

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I have some other suggestions. 

 

  1. Sit on it. It is good to take a break from the story. (Of course, this is a good time to wait for feedback if you find beta-readers.)

 

  2. Reflect on your own life. Often, I find that consciously or unconsciously, I have the characters in my stories wrestle with the same issues I am in my personal life. Strengthen that. For example, I had to deal with grief over my mother dying as well as a long period of suffering in my own family. As my faith grew and I understood the Bible better on these matters, I found ways to work Biblical principles into my current novel I am writing.

 

  3. Do you know what your story is about? You had your planned ideas, but did something extra arise during the writing? Find it and polish it. I wrote one non-fiction book in which I got near the end and discovered that I had written a different book than I had planned. I researched spiritual values, but found that the larger issue was how to worship God in spirit and in truth.

 

  4. Read it aloud. I don't do this much, but other writers do. It helps you find clumsy phrasing, awkward, tortured sentence structure, etc.

 

  5. Check all transitions. Chapter and scene beginnings and endings should sing. Can you raise new questions or cliffhangers at the endings to keep the reader turning the page? Can you jump into the action faster? Can you find clever ways to enter a scene, with the characters involved in unusual activities? Does each ending flow to the next beginning? Or should you abruptly leave one character in the middle of a mess and cut to someone else to add suspense?

 

  6. Setting. Did you establish setting quickly in each scene? Do you use your setting effectively, to set tone, foreshadow, symbolize theme, etc? Is there a scene with a dull setting? Can you move it elsewhere? I recently wrestled with an important reveal that takes place in a boring bedroom. The trick was to relentlessly foreshadow that there was something forgotten under the bed, and to have the heroine tidy up her room but not get to the spot under the bed until late in the chapter. Then, when she and the hero find the unopened letter, I decided that the words were in code, leading to further delay in finding the message. Furthermore, since her bedroom wall is covered in magic, animated paint, the images on the wall also foreshadow their relationship breakup. Alternately, you may want to move a scene somewhere else. In my previous novel, I rewrote the ending battle to occur in another dimension, inside a hollowed-out moon. Designing a new world with disordered gravity and other strange phenomena made for a fantastic and distinct climax.

 

  7. Rejoice! Finishing a first draft is a time to celebrate.

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You know, I like the way Paul thinks- especially his recommendation to sit on your story.  I'd recommend a good six months where you don't even think about the story before you come back to it.

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33 minutes ago, suspensewriter said:

You know, I like the way Paul thinks- especially his recommendation to sit on your story.  I'd recommend a good six months where you don't even think about the story before you come back to it.

 

That makes sense, but I think it might be helpful to get an objective "big picture" view from a beta reader or two before I leave this story to stew.

Or maybe not...?

You all are teaching me as I go.

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By the time I finished my first novel, I was thoroughly tired of it, and leaving it to sit for a few months helped me see what a mess it was and gave me all kinds of good ideas.

I already know I'm pretty good at writing the nuts and bolts, but I really want to see if I can do a compelling story that flows well before I put it by.

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Considering how long beta readers take, I'd say that was a fine idea, Zee.  Just don't personally get involved with your novel for six months (I know that is a pipe dream, you can't help but tinker- but try!)

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I've been toiling over a chapter in my WIP set at a school dance. I knew the big goal of the scene, but visualizing the scene and figuring out everyone's role in it was harder. I had to take a cliche (high school dance) and making it unique (high school dance with trolls, magical cosmetics, and a bank robber). One exercise that helped me was this: list the characters in the scene and make sure they all have something to say and do, however small. I found that my heroine was present but did nothing for a long stretch! I thought of something clever and "heroic" for her to do and that improved the scene in a small way.

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