Progress

Hello Again

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It’s been over two years since I last posted.  So here’s a little recap.

For a while, I took a break from writing.  No inspiration was coming and I was struggling with some learning problems and writing was too taxing on my brain for the moment.

Then, I started outlining an novel idea I’d been having for about a year and wrote the first 50 pages of that story.  In December, I send those first 50 pages to Ellen Brock, an editor (who I really recommend). She told me it had promise but needed some major structurally overhauls.

Basically, this was the problem:

My main character was pretty pathetic and most of her ‘conflicts’ she created for herself and there was no clear motivation behind her actions.  

My antagonist wasn’t antagonistic enough.

This created a story without conflict and story without conflict is no good. 

So, I was discouraged for a bit.  Then I decided to revamp my story, but keep some of elements I liked most about my original story.  I forced myself not to write anything for at least 9 weeks as a I outlined and ironed out all my plot problems and figured out why my characters were doing what they were.   I cut some scenes, I changed some scenes.  I made some of the main characters more minor and took some away completely.  I also decided to write in third person limited with two POV characters instead of first person.

So it’s been about 7 weeks now, and I have a pretty good plot plotted out.  I have a list of scenes that follow the goal, conflict, consequence pattern.  My main character, Rebecca, has more personality and a definite reason for her actions.   It’s really amazing what focused time each day can do for a writing project!

So my next goal is to write my the first 50 pages of this story and send it to the editor again.  I’m hoping she sees improvement.  After that, I will continue writing (or re-plot if she feels that’s necessary). Of course I’ll be discouraged if she still sees flaws in my story, but I want my debut novel to be as good as it can be because you only have one chance to be a new author in the industry.  I want to make an impression.

Rounded Characters

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Recently, I’ve really been struggling with finding my protagonist’s motivation and core need, two vital ingredients for likable, believable characters. I think that to find this, you must look at the character’s whole personality. Today, I tried a new approach for character development that worked very well: mind mapping.  I use a free software called XMind.  This created a picture of my protagonist’s complete personality: strengths, weaknesses, fears. To start, I put his name in the center.  Then, I made a main topic for each of his personality traits.  Then, I created subtopics off of the main topics.  These are examples of the personality trait or how it affects their life.

Example:

Main topic: strong

Subtopics: he likes to exercise, he’s a good leader, he’s calm under pressure.

 

Click to see my protagonist’s mindmap

Nathaniel Kapaun mindmap image

 I learned two things today. First, find your character’s motivation and core need before you figure out the rest of their personality, and second, use a mind map and a character development worksheet. This forces you to think about your character in two different ways, it uses different parts of your brain. 

The Fork in my Road

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fork in the road

 

I’ve decided to let go of my novel-in-progress, Recalled to Life.  I’ll be working on my other novel idea, The Exiles, now. (see my ‘Novels’ page for more details).   This may seem like giving up too soon, but here are my reasons for this decision:

 

  • Not every story idea is a good idea.  Unfortunately, you have to put a lot of work into an idea until you can determine this.
  • The Exiles was actually my first story idea.  In hindsight, I can see that I dove into Recalled to Life because I was intimidated by the other story.  Fear was my motivation for writing that first.

 

Here are the reasons why I’m not upset about this choice:

  • The time spent away from The Exiles gave me new perspective when I came back to it.
  • I learned a lot about novel writing with my first project.  Now I understand better how to build a story.  For me, second tries are usually better than my first.

 

During the last week I have begun pre-outlining The Exiles.  This is the step where you build plot, characters, themes and symbolism, before you start outlining for real.  Already, I feel more bound to this story than I did when I was pre-outlining my first story.  I’m very excited about my progress!

 

How do you decide how to let go of a story?

Pre-outlining

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I’ve been working on my book steadily for the last few weeks.  I’m doing something called pre-outlining, now. Pre-outlining is the step before outlining your story for real.  You build your characters, choose your setting, and find symbolism and your story’s theme.

In K.M Wieland’s book, Outlining your Novel, she suggests taking an enneagram personality test for your protagonist and a few of the other significant characters.

enneagram with words

At first, I thought this was very excessive. I was thinking, “Come on, they’re not even real people!”  But, because her advice is always good, I decided to trust her and take the personality test for my protagonist.  And I’m so happy that I did it!

These are the benefits that I’ve found from taking the personality test for my characters:

  • It helps clarify your character’s complete personality and how they would act or react  in different situations.
  • Shows their biggest flaw and how it affects them and the people that they love.
  • Helps clarify for the author how to make a well-rounded and realistic character.

If I hadn’t taken this test for my characters I would have missed out on all the insight that I gained from it.  I  am learning that it is always good to follow the advice from your writing teacher or how-to write book, even when it seems dumb or unnecessary.