As part of my heightened awareness of the necessity for social media for writers, I finally crossed out an ancient, long-ignored point on my To Do List: JOIN TWITTER. I’ve barely used it, mostly because I follow a frightening number of writing-based accounts between which I could literally spend ALL DAY following their fascinating and educational links. I thought Face Book was bad enough; Twitter is so much the worse evil in the fight against (albeit constructive) procrastination.
But on one of my rare visits to that realm of delightful distraction, I followed a link to Kristen Lamb’s Warrior Writers blog at http://warriorwriters.wordpress.com. She’s so good that she’s probably cost me a couple of thousands of words in writing time, but I’ll totally forgive her that because she’s so good she’s probably also saved me another ten aaaargh-aaaargh-aaaaargh drafts on The Sinless Sword. A morning spend reading her Structure series for free has already given me more to work with than the last 38 days on the Re-write course I’m paying to take part in (cue Finance Minister going into revolt).
If you’re a writer, get over there now. Like, NOW. As far as I understand, Warrior Writers is nominally a site for teaching writers about social networking but it’s a goldmine for understanding why stories (novels, film, TV, shorts, anything) do and don’t work as well. Her blogs are not only illuminating but well entertaining to boot, and dotted with illustrative images.
So this morning has involved answering the questions raised in Kristen’s Structure series, which has involved some epic face-palm action on the part of yours truly. Her excellent I’LL USE A WHOLE LOT OF CAPS JUST TO MAKE SURE YOU’RE GETTING THE POINT article on the logline – pitching your story in one single bloody sentence and one sentence only no matter how long you can talk in one breath – caused no small about of face-plant-on-table action in the Starbucks basement this morning.
Insomniac non-writers, I have a cure. Seriously. Go ask someone you know who’s writing something to explain their story to you. It would be my pleasure to put you to sleep any time you like. Call me at 11pm, I can waffle with the best of them until your brain screams and shuts down comatose style. This is partly because I’ve been “writing” (read: planning, dreaming about, jotting notes over and doing pretty much everything except actually writing) The Sinless Sword for years now. And in a gestation time that long, an awful lot changes. And when there’s no solid opening premise, you’re literally making the whole thing up as you go – which is fine and wonderfully creative – but there’s a point where you have to stop flying by the seat of your pants and say ‘sorry, can you run that by me again, in order this time?’
Then I actually wrote the damn thing last year, and in an intense writing period, it changed again. And again. And again.
Now I’m rewriting it, and you know what? It still keeps changing. Even if I’d had one line to throw at you last year (which as your guaranteed insomnia-cure, I didn’t) it would be amazingly different to this clumsy, frustrated sentence that bled out from considerable bashing-head-on-table this morning:
An orphan boy experiencing the incarceration of his guardian through nightmares must face the man who destroyed his family before the dream-connection kills them both.
So it has WHO (Lien) does WHAT (face his past – bit weak, needs work) AGAINST (the man who destroyed his family – yeah, I hear ya, my head is screaming ‘Harry Potter alert!!’ too but it’s an old story, told many times and told here differently) and WHY (to save his life: Arete’s death will kill Lien too).
Yeah baby, if you’ve ever read any of this book, I know you’re going ‘What the hell? Where did that come from?’ right now. Me too! WTH?!!
But now I have a conflict lock to beat the crap out of my draft with. And a really lovely but completely redundant prelude. Speaking of locks, in an article on testing your book’s story, Kristen references James Scott Bell’s LOCK system, which I paraphrase here:
LEAD with a sympathetic and compelling character whose OBJECTIVE is interesting clear and active but continually crushed by escalating CONFLICT which is resolved with a KNOCKOUT ending. An ending that resonates and rewards the reader’s time investment in your book.
Ok, ok, I know this stuff! I do! It’s not new!
…it’s just that I can’t remember the birth dates of any of my best friends, ever, so I really don’t remember every single writing rule, however basic. I need reminding.
So thank you Kristen for a number of excellent reminders.
(…I just wish I’d got my ass onto Twitter and seen them a whole lot earlier…)