The whole month of May is now almost over… It’s been another strange month; I can’t believe it’s already the third month or so of the corona crisis. Things seem to be getting better, or at least they’re trying to open up more things now to have a sense of ‘normal’ life.
Anyway, I’ve been thinking about how to structure this section as I want it to be informative for you as well. I can see how just telling you how much I wrote this month might not be as interesting. So, I’m going to share with you the following:
- First, I’m gonna give you a short overview of what projects I’ve been working on and how I’ve been working on them. That way, you’ll get to see how I go about things like writing and editing.
- Second, I’ll go over what I’ve learned this month while writing.
- Third and last, I’ll give a brief overview of the books I’ve read this month.
So, here we go!
My writing process
If you’ve been following for some time, you may know I’m currently working on two projects: Ice Cold and Half-bloods. Both are in different stages. I’ve been working on Half-bloods for quite some time, and it’s my first real novel. That’s also why I’ve spent a lot of time writing and rewriting large parts of it until I was happy with the story itself. Read on to see my writing process for each of these stories.
This month, I’ve spent a lot of time going over each scene and tried to analyze it, to pinpoint the problems. For this, I use the Story Grid methodology. I absolutely love it, but it can be quite daunting some times, not to mention complicated. The most important thing to check is if all five commandments are in the scene (I’ll write a blog-post about those next month!). Scenes need to turn to stay interesting. As much as you love the world you build with all its rules and creators and whatnot, everyone gets bored with just pure exposition eventually.
Another part of my writing process, next to analyzing all the scenes, is making a global overview, called the Foolscap. This is checking for the five commandments as scenes in the beginning hook (or Act I), Middle Build (or Act II), and the Ending Payoff (or Act III). Since I’m writing an action story, I needed to check if all the commandments I identified turn on the Life-Death value.
So, my focus for next month is editing each of these 15 scenes, so they turn around the right value, and that the stakes get higher and higher across these scenes.
Now, for Ice Cold, I’ve done some outlining. This story started as a short story, and then I decided to make it into a longer story after getting some feedback. I’m not sure yet if it’ll be a novella or a novel; I’ll see once I’ve written the first act. My writing process for this story is quite different. I started with outlining, for which I used something called the Signposts scenes. It’s this structure thought of by James Scott Bell in his novel Super Structure. If you don’t want to read the book, you can also check out this series of articles on them. They’re really helpful!
Next to outlining, I’ve also written a first draft of the opening chapter. Since it’s the opening scene, and thus crucial for determining the rest of the story and to hook readers, next month I’m also going to focus on editing that scene until it’s good enough to continue with the rest of the story. I’m really excited about this story, and I hope you’ll love it!
One crucial tip I learned this month
Working with a developmental editor is amazing, and I would recommend it to anyone who has some money to spare. Seriously, I’ve only worked with Abigail for one month, and I’ve already learned so much! FYI, she’s the one who suggested the Signpost scenes framework for outlining.
She gives ample feedback and does so constructively. She often just asks me questions about what I wrote to make me think about my story in another way and help me rethink some of the choices I made. Then during our call, we discuss these questions in more depth and brainstorm options. She also uses other books and stories to give me examples, which is really helpful as well.
If you read this and think: well, that sounds great! I want in! Then be sure to check out Abigail’s website for all the services she offers. The consultation call of 30 minutes is always free, and I’d recommend having it to see if there’s a good connection between you two.
Side note: I don’t get paid or a discount on my rate for recommending Abigail to you. This is just me being satisfied with her services. If you would like to have other options, you should check out this page. All these editors have had extensive training and are true story nerds that can help you craft the best story you can write.
My May reads
Writing well also means reading a lot. But reading for pure pleasure and reading to learn something for your writing is a bit different. That’s why I like to review the books I read; I pay more attention when I’m reading, and I take notes on parts I loved, or pieces I thought didn’t work. That way, I can come back to these later and try to figure out why a certain part was tremendous or why it wasn’t.
I’m not an overly fast reader, though. I tend to read four books a month, which I think is still pretty decent. Anyway, what I read this month:
Assassin’s Quest – Robin Hobb: well, almost. I hope to finish it this month.
What I learned from reading these books
Robin Hobb: Since starting the trilogy, I’ve become a fan of Robin Hobb’s writing. It’s very slow-paced, so it’s not for everyone, but I love the slow developments that lead to the most satisfying ending every time. What I took away from them: First, do not forget to give room to secondary characters, and develop these as well. Second, her prose is fantastic and I’d love to practice with writing more poetic prose. And last, find external circumstances to convey the internal shifts in the beliefs of the protagonist.
Florence Phillips: I really enjoyed reading this book, and it also taught me some other things. For one, the importance of setting up reader-expectations from the beginning, and have this fit with the genre. Second, when having two POV-characters, give them opposite views of their world. This was one of the things that made this book interesting.
Brian Sherlock: What I would take away from his novel, is to keep the focus on the primary chosen genre throughout the story. Meaning, not letting sub-plots overtake the story. Second, don’t include too many character descriptions (what they look like, what they’re wearing, etc.). And finally, to start a story at an interesting point, that raises enough questions to drive the reader forward, but not so much that it becomes confusing.
Well, there you have it. To sum it up, I spend the month analyzing Half-bloods, and next month I’m gonna start editing. I started a new story, called Ice Cold, of which I’ve finished the outline and the first draft of the opening scene. Here, I explained a bit of what my writing process was for each project. Further, I started working with a developmental editor, which is without a doubt the best decision ever. Seriously, try it. And finally, I read four great books this month, that all taught me some different things to look out for in my writing.
See you again next month for the June update!