Wednesday, 20 February 2019

READER QUESTIONS: What is Plot?

Hello and happy Wednesday, Dear Readers! I hope your week is going well so far - or at the very least, that it can't get worse from here (ah, pessimist humour, you are so grim).

Today I'm bringing you a post sparked by the loveliest message from reader Hana, who emailed me via my website (and also a little bit inspired by a conversation about plotting on Twitter that got my brain working). But before we get to that, it's time to announce the winner of last week's giveaway! This is actually happening a bit sooner than I expected, because I set the giveaway for two weeks to give people plenty of time to enter. Apparently Rafflecopter had other ideas. And when I checked the entries today I found that the giveaway was closed, but they didn't email me to let me know so... I dunno. I'm as confused as you, Dear Readers, but let's not dwell on the past.

Onward to the winner, who is...

*Drumroll Please*



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RACHEL J ROWLANDS!

Congratulations, Rachel! I'll be emailing you a little later today to ask for your shipping address so that I can get this prize package out in the post to you. I hope you enjoy all the books, and that you remember that ancient and wise proverb: If you love a book and leave a review, the writer will have good luck and so will you. 

I mean, I'm not trying to tell you what to do, but I'm preeeeetty sure Plato said that, so you really ought to pay attention. To Plato. Ahem.

Now for today's Reader Question! The lovely Hana asks:
I just wondered: how you plan out... a story - how does an author like you, of whom I look up to, draft things out? I have book ideas and I like writing in my spare time, and I'd love to understand your technique! I myself am stuck with thinking mostly of the cool, climactic scenes in my stories, but struggle to piece it all together and make it clever without getting too overwhelmed. If you could get back to me - any quick tips would do - I would be super grateful.
Lovely Hana, I have GOT THIS. Listen, some authors just *get* plot, you know? They don't ever have to define it, or plan it, or stress about it, because it is IN THEIR BONES. They're natural storytellers, and it flows for them totally organically. These are the writers who weave the most awesome tapestry of plot threads together and for whom plot twists and narrative balance are like breathing.

I kind of hate those authors?

Most of the writers I know struggle with plot - and me most of all. What you say here about having ideas for cool and climactic scenes but no real idea how to turn that into a story? This makes me feel so seen. Honestly, this is what most writers spend most of their time discussing, worrying over and asking each other for advice about. And that's good news for you! Because it means we have come up with practical answers to these questions which are actually useful!

So here's my run-down of resources that should hopefully help you to understand and construct plots. First up, this three part series that I created a while ago that guides you through the whole process from 'Oooh, I have a cool idea!' to 'Oooh, I have a fully coherent story!'

TURNING IDEAS INTO PLOTS: Part One, Part Two and Part Three

You can click on the diagrams to make them large enough to read all the small writing, btw. Now, this is a method which has reliably worked for me, and I know that it's good for others too because writer-friends of mine have actually used this to teach creative writing courses. BUT! Every writer's mind works differently, and you might be looking for something that goes into a bit more detail about the ways that plot, character, theme etc. interact.

And so next, here's Rachael Stephen's video about her favourite plotting method, the Plot Embryo.



I've used this for my last two books - after coming up with a basic story plan using my own Plot Diamond - as a sort of narrative MOT, to make sure that all the elements of the story are actually working together as they should be.

I also highly recommend John Yorke's book Into The Woods, which is another very different but compelling and useful examination of how plots work and why. The first time that I read it, it honestly blew my mind a little bit, and I think a lot of writers have that reaction, so brace yourself!

If you're looking for something slightly less novel-crafty and more thinky, here's a post I did a little while ago (which includes another video from Rachael Stephen) about the importance of figuring out your thesis, or the 'truth' of your story, and how you can use essay planning methods to ensure you demonstrate this throughout the developing narrative. The triangle structure is maybe more useful for short fiction, but the idea that you should work out your story's thesis first and use that as a 'North Star' to guide you in working out what your novel/essay/short story is truly about, and therefore what stuff should be in it, is universally useful in my opinion. I did another essay about this on the Royal Literary Fund Website, which you can check out if you'd like some more depth.

And finally, there's a wealth of other writing advice here on my All About Writing page, which covers everything from rooting cliches out of your work to how to create a character, so check that out too, Hana. I hope this is useful and gets your story-writing muscles quivering with anticipation to get to work!


Sunday, 10 February 2019

UPDATES & A GIVEAWAY

Hello, hello, hello, Dear Readers! Happy Monday to all, and apologies for the long wait since the last time I blogged. This Christmas and New Year period has *kicked my ass*. Repeatedly, in fact, and for a list of reasons as long as my arm.

There are some massive changes coming in my life. Some of them are positive and exciting. Some of them are stressful and not-so-nice. I can't talk about most of them yet, mainly because final decisions (either mine or other people's) haven't been made. I'm aware this is infuriatingly cryptic by the way - but I'm afraid it's the best I can do just now - and I will give details about stuff that I think Dear Readers will be interested in as soon as I can.

There are some updates I can make, though, and I will do so below.

The main reason for the lack of blogging: my mother. She's been very ill over the last few months. At one point she was rushed to the hospital in the middle of the night in an ambulance, then transferred to a hospital sixty miles away for emergency surgery - only to have that surgery cancelled at the last minute. She came home on a promise that the surgery would be rescheduled within three weeks, but that didn't happen. As a result she's been suffering a lot of pain and hasn't been able to move about much. Her operation is now on again, and by the time you're reading this I hope she will be comfortably settled into her bed and waiting to go down to the theatre. So please send kind, hopeful and healing thoughts in our direction today, if you can spare them.

Now onto something happier. Not only have I finally upated the blog with a page dedicated to my newest book (check it out for a Q&A about the book and some interesting links) but early copies of The Hand, the Eye & The Heart are here! And they are beeeeeeooootiful:

 




The colours! The internal illustrations! THE TURQUOISE FOIL! *Swoons*

I was lucky enough (well, begged loudly enough) to get two despite the limited numbers. One has winged its way off to a lucky competition winner, as promised. The other stays with me for always (my preeccccciousssss). If you're a blogger, vlogger or other bookish person and you would like one of these early copies to review, you'll need to get in touch with Walker Books as soon as possible - @WalkerBookYA on Twitter is a good bet. If and when any further copies fall into my possession, I will of course do a giveaway.

However, just because The Hand, the Eye & the Heart is as rare as hen's teeth just now that doesn't mean there can be NO giveaways. In fact I happen to have a small pile of absolutely lovely books from Walker right here:

 

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, the follow-up to mega-hit THUG, which needs no introduction.

The Quiet at the End of the World by Lauren James. I'm so excited about this one! Lauren's last book The Lonelist Girl in the Universe was *staggeringly* good, and so unique. No one else is writing this kind of imaginative, grounded, hard-science fiction in UKYA right now. You want this.

Nothing but the Truth by Dick Lehr, a book about racial intolerance in the US written by a former Boston Globe reporter who used his experiences to inform his fiction.

These are some of the most sought after books coming out this spring, and personally I prefer this spiffy yellow ARC cover to the official one, for Angie Thomas's book. I'm going to make these available to one lucky winner, ALONG WITH:
  • Gorgeous THTE&TH postcards (see below!)
  • The first chapter of THTE&TH, printed out and signed by yours truly, to keep you going until its release on the 4th of April.
  • A signed and personalised bookplate to stick in THTE&TH (or any of my other books, I guess) when you get your hands on it

All you have to do is comment here on the blog, then share the giveaway somewhere on Twitter, or follow me on Twitter, sometime in the next two weeks. You can get extra chances to win by sharing more than once - and the giveaway is open to readers in Britain and the EU, because that's the postage I can afford just now (sorry international peeps!).

Here's the Rafflecopter. Good luck, muffins!a Rafflecopter giveaway
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