Writing tips

Oct 08, 2015

Plotting: Some useful resources

There are, essentially, two schools of writer – those who begin a plot, and those who begin with their characters. We’ll dig into characterisation a little later, but today, we focus on plot.

Not everyone plots every details of their story in advance. Some prefer to draft of a vague concept and see where the story takes them. But there is no doubt that you do need some idea of your plot before you get writing. The more complicated your setting, the bigger your cast, the more important it is to know exactly what part each person plays before you even start.

Dr-EvilA very famous example of a thorough notemaker is Robert Jordan, author of the Wheel of Time series. He kept such precise notes of his world, his characters and his plot, that when he tragically passed away, leaving his series unfinished, another talented author, Brandon Sanderson, was able to step in and complete the series.

James Patterson is another celebrated plotter. His ability to put together a complete, concise plot means that his notes can be passed on to collaborators and ghost writers in order to keep up with the demand for his books.

A well thought out plot makes it that much easier to write your first draft. So where do you start?

We’ve put together a few resources to help you think through your plot before you put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard).

Happy plotting, one and all!

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Sep 08, 2015

A first draft is not a book

Self publishing is a wonderful thing. It allows authors to control their own work, to put into the world the product that they intended. Unfortunately many authors don’t realise the amount of work that goes into self publishing a book. I am often amazed at how many so-called authors think their first draft is a product that can be sold.

It’s strange, because writers tend to be fairly open with their words of guidance and advice. The community is happy to give pointers to new writers. So why do so many new authors not understand just how much work goes into putting a final product together? Why do they think they can ignore the value of the editor, when so many of the truly great names in writing – Neil Gaiman, Stephen King, Maeve Binchy – have in one way or another agreed that a writer is only as good as their editor.

I can only assume that this lack of knowledge is through a lack of effort. And if you can’t be bothered to do some research on the building blocks of your craft, you can’t be bothered to ensure that you are giving your readers something of value. Frankly, it’s insulting – both to the writing community and to your readers.

2349632625_7c2813f45b_oThose lucky enough to have worked with a publisher at some point have a fairly good idea of what the publishing process entails – the hours of editing, of back-and-forth with your editor, the occasional tears, rage, despondency and the eventual triumph when you discover that the final product is that much better than the draft the publisher accepted.

Of course, dear author, if you don’t know the value of editing, you won’t have managed to find a publisher to oversee this process. Your first unedited draft (possibly read by some well-meaning friend who may have a grasp of your chosen language but certainly not of the art of storytelling) is not going to grab the attention of a publisher and it most certainly is not going to grab the attention of a reader.

Editing is the magic wand that turns a draft into a work of art. It is the key to getting your reader to the end of your book, they hook that gets them to need your next one. An unedited or badly edited book will irritate and offend. “Just who do you think you are, charging money for an unfinished product?” screams the reader.

The fact is that as a writer, it is very difficult to see the shortcomings of your own writing. You don’t see the repetitions, the typos. The don’t know where you’re not digging deep enough, because the story and characters are in your head. You know them. You don’t see the gaps. You don’t know where more explanation is needed. You need an editor to help polish your work. That is, if you have any intention of being taken seriously as a writer.

Self publishing really is a wonderful thing, but as an author you need to commit to putting the best possible product out there. You need to realise that there is a time investment as well as a financial one that must be made. Your ‘friend who’s good at language’ is simply not going to give you the feedback you need to make your story shine. You are doing yourself a disservice by skimping on the editor. It’s as simple as that.

Isn’t it time you take yourself seriously? Don’t you deserve to put the best possible product out there? Sally forth and find yourself an editor today.

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