novel tips

The 15 PLOT POINTS of Story Structure

To all the writers who have ever been told they need to outline their story, and privately thought “Great. But how do you DO that? What exactly does that mean?! Is there a map? WHAT IS THE SPECIFIC DEFINITION OF THE VAGUE WORD ‘OUTLINE’?”

Good news. Stories have structure. Structure that can be learned. And a fantastic place to start learning structure? 

Save the Cat: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need by Blake Snyder. This book gives a simple outline that most stories follow. And as an introduction to story structure, it can’t be beat. 

In Save the Cat, 15 plot points are spelled out in something called a beat sheet. During the outlining process, these “beats” or plot points can be used as an armature or skeleton that your story is built upon. 

So what are those 15 plot points?

Opening Image: A snapshot of the hero’s problematic ordinary world, right before the story starts and changes everything. 

Set-Up: Further establishing that ordinary world and what the hero does every day, impressing upon the audience or reader what’s wrong, and the idea that something needs to change.

Theme Stated:  The truth that the hero will learn by experiencing the story, the statement that will be proven to the audience. But upon first encountering this truth, in this story beat right in the beginning, the hero doesn’t understand or outright refuses to believe it. The theme stated is asking a question, a question which the story will answer.

Catalyst: The ordinary world is shattered. Something unexpected happens, and this event triggers all the conflict and change of the whole story. Life will never be the same after this moment. This is the Call to Adventure. 

Debate: But for a moment, the hero won’t be quite sure about answering that call. Leaving behind the ordinary world is difficult – even if the catalyst has come along and disrupted everything – because the ordinary means safety, it means not being challenged, it means avoiding conflict and heartache. Yes, that existence they’re stuck in might be stagnant and unpleasant, but it protects them from facing the intimidating task of growth, of becoming something better.

Break Into 2: And this is when the hero decides to answer the call and cross the threshold of act two, determined to pursue their goal. 

B Story: This is when the relationship – which usually carries and proves the theme – starts in earnest.

Fun & Games: This is just what it says: the premise promised a certain type of pure entertainment, and this beat is where we get to experience it fully. 

Midpoint: This is either a false victory or a false defeat. Something really really good happens. Or something the exact opposite.

Bad Guys Close In: Forces of opposition and conflict begin to converge on the hero and his goal. Everything begins to fall apart for the hero, the defeats piling up one after another, the main character punching back.  

All Is Lost: This is the sequence where absolutely everything falls apart for the hero. The plans fail, the goal is lost, the mentor dies, the villain wins. All is, quite literally, lost. 

Dark Night of the Soul: The hero’s bleakest moment is right here. In addition to all of the tangible things that have been lost, hope and the gumption to continue with the story have also vanished. There is usually a hint of death here, of some kind. An actual death, or an emotional or spiritual death. 

Break into 3: Ah, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Inspiration occurs, hope is rekindled, courage to pursue the story returns. Usually, this is the moment where the main character learns what they NEED, the truth which will heal them, and allow them to fix their own lives. With this, they are able to snatch victory from defeat.

Finale: And in here, the story goal is pursued once more, but this time from the stronger version of the hero – the version that has learned the theme, and committed to act accordingly. 

Closing Image: The opposite of the opening image. This is a snapshot of life after the story, the problems of the ordinary world solved or banished, a new world opening up for the hero. If the opening is the equivalent of “once upon a time” this is saying “And every day after … “ 

So let’s see how that works! And to see it, let’s look at my favorite short film of all time – Paperman  (because this gave me an excuse to watch it several times and listen to the music while writing it.)

1) Opening Image

We see George, a twenty-something in a sixty-something’s suit and tie, obviously on his way to work, and not looking at all enthused about it. He stares straight ahead, expression bored, lifeless, right on the edge of depressed. Wind from a passing train pushes him slightly, and he lets it, demeanor unchanging. 

2) Set-Up

But then a sheet of paper, caught on the wind, hits his shoulder. The paper flies off again, and a young woman appears onscreen, chasing after the paper, as the surprised George watches.

 After catching it offscreen, the girl returns, tucking the paper into the stack she carries, smiling slightly. They both face forward, waiting for the train side-by-side, in silence. She’s glancing sideways at him, he’s smiling and fidgeting nervously, but still resolutely facing forward; they’re both aware of each other, seemingly hoping the other will be braver, but neither able to overcome their shyness and the unspoken rules of everyday life. 

3) Theme Stated 

As a train charges into the station, a paper from George’s stack is snatched by the wind and lands flat on the woman’s face. When he pulls the paper away, she laughs: her lipstick left a perfect kiss mark on the sheet. When George spots it, he laughs too … 

but when he opens his eyes, she’s gone. She’s boarded a different train. The kiss-mark paper flaps in the wind as the train begins to move, taking her away. He watches, crestfallen. She glances back. Looks of regret and disappointment are exchanged, both a little wistful. The paper, the symbol of their fleeting memorable meeting, waves goodbye. 

Through this little sequence of images, the question of the whole story is asked: Was there a connection between them? Will they find each other again? And on a wider level: What does it take to find love? 

Further Set-Up:

And cut to George behind a desk, in a gray office, dark file cabinets towering behind him, clocks on the wall ticking away his life. Miserable again, he stares at the lipsticked paper. A stack of documents slams onto the desk from on high. The grim-faced boss of the office scowls down at him. George frowns at the stack, then at his boss, who stomps away.   

4) Catalyst 

Breeze pulls the kissed paper off his desk and out the open window. He catches it just in time, breathing a sigh of relief. And then he sees something. The girl! She’s there! She’s right across the street! 

5) Debate 

He needs to get her attention! He dithers for a moment, then throws the window wide and enthusiastically waves his arms.

 An ominous "ahem” from the boss brings him back inside, and back to his desk. But his attention is still on the girl, and the need to get her attention. He folds a paper airplane, stands before the window, poises the airplane to fly … but he glances at his boss’s office before he throws it. Should he? 

6) Break Into Act 2

Yes. Yes, he should. He sends the little airplane messenger to bridge the distance between himself and the girl. 

7) B Story

What he should have done while waiting for the train, he’s committed to do now. Talk to her. The relationship of the story has started officially. 

8) Fun & Games

In this moment, he becomes the “paper man” of the title. He folds and throws paper airplane after paper airplane. The boss shows up, shoves him back and slams his window. George pauses until he’s gone, then just keeps sending airplanes. They sail over the street, but are intercepted or miss their mark every time. 

9) Midpoint

He reaches for more paper … and knocks an empty tray off the desk. He’s run out. Except for one paper, the kissed one, the only one he’s held onto. With a determined look, he folds it precisely into an airplane, stands before the window, breathes to steady himself … 

And the wind steals the airplane from his hand, sending it spiraling to the street below, George reaching out pointlessly. On top of this defeat, the girl leaves the office.  

10) Bad Guys Close In 

Immediately, the boss emerges from his lair. The other office workers hurriedly return to their scribbling, hunched to avoid drawing attention. The girl is leaving the building across the street! George turns from the window … and finds the boss looming above him, glowering, delivering another tall pile of meaningless work. 

George sinks into his chair, defeated. But something happens as he watches his boss walk away, as he sees the office workers in neat rows; all of them older versions of George, reflections of what he will become … if he doesn’t do something right now. 

He runs, sending paper from the perfect stacks flying in his wake. 

11) All Is Lost

But when he escapes the building, and attempts to cross the street, cars nearly kill him. And when he finally makes it to the opposite sidewalk, the girl is nowhere in sight. She’s lost again. 

And all he manages to find is the little traitorous paper airplane. The paper he’d believed might mean something, might have signified something important and maybe a little magical. Which it obviously never did. 

12) Dark Night of the Soul

Angry, he grabs the plane and throws it with all his strength.  He’s lost his job, he’s lost the girl, he’s lost all faith in the magic he’d just started to believe might be real. He stomps towards the train station, returning home. 

13) Break Into 3  

But fate has other plans. The airplane glides over the city, almost supernaturally graceful and purposeful. It dives between buildings, and lands in the middle of the alley where all the paper planes have collected. 

It sits immobile. Then it moves. Moves again. And jumps into flight. The airplane flies over the rest, stirring them into motion, into the air. In a place where not even a breath of wind could reach, there is now a whirlwind of George’s airplanes. 

Though the forces of mediocrity tried to keep them apart, something greater has recognized George’s efforts and is going to see things through. 

14) Finale

A parade of airplanes follows George down the street. 

The leader attaches to his leg. He brushes it off, mad. A flurry of them attach to him, then carry him down the street, unfazed by his fighting. 

The leader airplane rockets over the city purposefully, finds the girl, then lures her to follow.

 She chases after. 

Somewhere else in the city, George is being pushed wherever the paper airplanes want him to go. We switch back and forth between George and the girl, as the airplanes push him and beckon her. 

Until they’re both on different trains, which stop simultaneously, on opposite sides of the platform. The girl gets out. She fiddles with the airplane, like she’s trying to get it to work again. And just then, a breeze brings hundreds of paper planes skittering all around the platform.

 She looks up …

15) Closing Image

And there’s George, covered in paper planes. 

He lurches towards Meg, and the airplanes falls away, their work done. 

George and Meg face each other, smiling, the barriers of routine and shyness overcome. Exactly what should have happened, exactly what was meant to happen. Putting effort into connection and love prevailed in the end, defeating the allure of life spent in safety and mediocrity. The closing image is the opposite of the opening: he’s not alone, he’s not facing the train leading to his mundane job, he’s not looking miserable and hopeless. He’s facing the girl, his bright and meaningful new future.

***

So! Those are the 15 plot points. This is a fantastic way to begin learning what story structure is, why it works the way it does, and how to precisely pull it off. 

For a more in-depth explanation, I highly recommend picking up a copy of Save the Cat. (It holds a special place in my heart; it was the first screenwriting book I ever read, and started obsessive study of storytelling.)

5 Things I’ve I’ve Learned While Writing My First Manuscript

Hello and welcome to my first blog post! I’m Laura – an aspiring writer, as you may have guessed by the title of this post – and I, like many others, have made a lot of horrible mistakes and revelations with my first manuscript. While I’m only halfway through my first draft, being the masochistic, self-embarrassing person that I am, I thought I’d share what those lessons were.

1.      The first line is hard.

It’s even harder when you put all this pressure on it that you really don’t need. It’s just a collection of words, just like the rest of the novel.

Don’t fret.

2.     Don’t go back and edit.

There were so many times when I finished a chapter or a scene and then realized: Shit. That’s not how I mapped that character. Or, oh my god, I just missed out a HUGELY important part of that character’s backstory.

What I’ve learned is that it’s the hardest but the best thing you can do for your novel to just. Keep. Pushing. Through.

You’ve got to grit your teeth and remember that this is what second drafts are for, because if you go back and rewrite something every time you notice a mistake, you’ll never finish the stupid thing.

3.     Outlines can be really fun. Or they can be torture.

This lesson is kind of unavoidable as a newbie writer. If you’ve never outlined your book before, you won’t know what sort of outline you like. So you could get 20,000 words into the story (like me), realize you screwed up your outline because you did it on Word instead of post-it notes, and lose your damn mind.

“Why is everything so disorganized!?” You scream, before slamming your head against the keyboard for the millionth time.

Take a deep breath. Stop writing. Redo your freaking outline.

4.     Finish ALL character construction before you start writing.

I didn’t take this step seriously because I didn’t take my writing seriously in the beginning; it was just something I was dabbling in which I hadn’t done in years.

But if you’re considering writing a novel, you have to finish all your character construction 100% before you can start the novel.

A lot of my characters have half-finished outlines. So sadly, I’m gonna have to take a break from all the fun writing I’ve been doing to map them out halfway through the story.

5.     Don’t be too hard on yourself.

I’m actually pretty good at remembering this lesson, but I think every writer finds it invaluable.

You don’t need to be the next F. Scott Fitzgerald in the writing world to have an incredible work in your hands – or, well, your head.

Remember that it’s okay to make the above mistakes, and many more (seriously, I could list hundreds). Just push the negative thoughts away for a moment, and keep tapping at that keyboard. Good things are bound to come out of it if you work hard enough.

So that’s all I’ve got to say on the subject. I’m sure I’ll have plenty more to talk about once my novel is finished and once I move onto the editing phase for my novel. Thanks for reading this far and I’d love to hear some feedback!

Writing Tips Master Post!

Hey writers!

You might have missed some of the writing tips I’ve posted over the last year, so here they all are in one handy list :)

• Action and Fight Scenes

• Backstory

• Characterisation

• Dialogue

• Editing 

• Plotting

• Settings

Subtext

• Tenses

• Theme

• Quick Tips

More tips coming soon!

Happy Writing!

Cut the Clutter. Sound Legit.

Trimming your writing has the benefit of getting your point across to readers without using stuffy sentences and filler phrases. Those are the training wheels of beginning writers, but seasoned professionals can pick them out easily. 

One such weakness to cut from your writing so it sounds more professional is the word “give.” Here are some examples taken from my own writing.

Example 1:

Original - She gives me an appraising look as I enter the room.

Revision - She appraises me as I enter the room. 

Example 2:

Original - She gives a long tired sigh, but smiles at the end of it.

Revision - Her tired sigh ends with a smile.

The meaning stays the same, but less time is needed to read and understand the sentence when that awkward “give” is taken out. Unfortunately for me, both of these examples came from the same scene, making a scene that should last only a few seconds take longer than that to read through.

Narrative Voice

Narrative voice is one of those things editors and agents look out for as a sign of raw talent. It’s something people say can’t be taught. Either you have it or you don’t. 

This may be true, partly, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t make any conscious decisions about your narrative voice. 

I love playing around with my voice in different pieces that I write, and I thought I would share some advice on how you could have some fun with your own narrative voice as well. 

I would argue that in most novels, about 50% of voice comes from the author’s own voice and natural storytelling abilities. This may change overtime, but mostly it’s just you. Writing as you write. The other 50%, I’d say comes down to writing like your narrator is telling a story to an audience. This means asking yourself two questions.

1. WHO IS TELLING THE STORY?

This is pretty simple in 1st person point of view: know who your character is and let them tell the story. Know what their opinions are. What interests them. The things they like and dislike. If they’re angry or optimistic or scared. If they use slang or speak like a professor. A voice should grow naturally out of that information. 

In 3rd person, when your narrator is a non-participant, there are two options:

The first is to tell the story strictly as yourself, in 100% your own voice, and let it change naturally as you suit it to fit your story. This means being confident in your abilities as a storyteller and just telling the story. 

The other option is to put on a costume. This narrator is you, but perhaps it is you as a grandfather, or you as a historian, or simply of yourself as someone funnier or wittier than you think you actually are. It’s still your voice. It’s still you telling the story, but you’re drawing out a particular aspect of your voice that enhances the story you’re telling

This option is more complicated than the others. This is consciously changing your voice. I believe it can be done: that grandfather might help you get into a certain mindset if you want your story to have that kindly touch of “Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of Number 4 Privet Drive were proud to say…” Thinking of yourself as a historian might add a formal sort of flare to your high fantasy novel. Believing you’re hilarious may give you the confidence to put sillier elements into your story.

2. WHO ARE THEY TELLING IT TO?

I don’t mean this in terms of who you imagine is going to read your book. That’s a different matter entirely. What I’m talking about here is the narrator’s audience. This is usually just an audience imagined by the author, unless the format of the novel is epistolary or journal entry, or the narrator references them outright. Even so, it can be helpful to remember, however, that every story is told to someone. This can be intentional or unintentional, but it drastically changes how the story is told. 

Here are some types of audiences:

  • A friend, which means they’re telling the story in an honest and casual manner, as though the reader is someone they trust with their innermost thoughts. I would say this is the most common “audience” for a novel told in the 1st person.
    • ex. The Shades of London series by Maureen Johnson
  • Someone they want to persuade, which depending on their character could mean being unreliable and defensive, or confessional and apologetic. They might be keeping a few secrets about their thoughts and feelings from the reader, and maybe even lying to the reader and/or themselves
    • ex. The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga
  • Historical record, which is not actually for historical record, but a more formal 3rd person that doesn’t focus on interacting with the reader so much as honestly reporting thoughts and events as they occur. I would say that this is one of the most common “audiences” for a novel written in 3rd person.
    • ex. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
  • An audience referenced in the text itself. This is a book in full story-telling mode, where a 3rd person narrator both refers to the imagined audience and the fact that they are telling a story directly on the page. This is an older style of storytelling used to be more common than it is today. The imagined audience can be a certain type of reader (children in many classic children’s books). It can also be an audience that only exists in the word of the story itself, like prospective dragon naturalists. 
    • ex. The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien 
    • ex. A Natural History of Dragons by Marie Brennan

Once you’ve settled these two matters, you have a structure for your narrative voice in place. The rest, depends on your voice as an author, and for that I can only give the following advice:

  1. Read. Pay close attention to the voices of the books you admire, the way the narrative interacts with you as a reader and with the events of the text. Consider why you admire certain storytelling features and how you might implement similar features in your own writing. 
  2. Write and write a lot. Every word you put on the page is a choice you’ve made. Every choice you make will hone your voice, completely subconsciously. 
  3. Have fun telling your story. Don’t worry about the voice being polished or “good,” just tell the story in a way that’s enjoyable for you. If you’d like, experiment with different styles. Practice telling stories in the voices of people who don’t sound exactly like you. Try on ridiculous costumes. When you have fun telling a story, your reader will have fun listening to it. 

It’s National Novel Writing Month, and You are an aspiring writer! But - alas! - you are struggling to write your epic dystopian masterpiece because your writing is miserable and bad, because you are a miserable and bad writer! Fear not, lovely friend, for here on our blog we have the solution: fresh coriander!

Is one of your characters in a tricky situation with no clear means of escape? Make them use fresh coriander to pick that locked door! Have your heroine’s personality and motivations completely altered over the course of the narrative? Why not have her consume some delicious herbs to explain her utter and absolute mental transformation! Did the laptop you are writing your novel on suddenly crash? Put fresh coriander in the disk drive and it will probably be fine again!

Whatever your coriander literature needs, remember that we have it on sale here all the time, on all six of the official days of the week, and it can also be put on food! Golly! Yes! Yes.

anonymous asked:

Hello! So I was scouring the Internet for advice today but I couldn't find any on this topic. My problem isn't that I don't have any ideas (I probably have too many) but the problem is that I don't LOVE any of my ideas. I like them. I think they're all fine ideas. But liking them isn't going to motivate me long enough to finish a novel. How can I give my ideas that extra uumph to make me love them? How can I figure out what's missing or why I don't feel this way about any of my ideas?

Hello, nonny!  What a challenging question…  This one’s been in my inbox a couple days, just because it’s such a big question.  But I’ve thought it over and I think I have some ideas for you :)


The Thrill Is Gone – How to Find It Again

So generally, there’s no one answer or cure-all to this problem.  I’ve had this issue multiple times, with different causes.  My first novel didn’t have enough meat to the plot; my second novel had been over-planned in my head to the point that it no longer excited me.  My third novel had way too much plot, so that by the time I got ¾ the way through, I’d written over 200K words and felt sick of the idea.  I started my fourth novel way too soon, and am now going back and planning it more!  So there are obviously many different reasons that a story doesn’t take off (or dries up eventually).

The first step is to figure out what’s missing, like you said.  There are a few aspects of your story to assess…


1. Plot

I’m discussing plot first because, to me, it’s the most important part of fiction.  Plot, conflict, and stakes are foremost to my stories.  You could have the most complex and sympathetic characters, but without plot, they’re static and become boring.  But for some reason, this is the part of story ideas that new authors neglect most!

So if your story has great characters and an immersive setting, but you can’t get into it, try asking a few questions about your plot:

  • What is the point of the plot?  What’s the message you’re conveying in the story?  Even if your story isn’t an allegory or a metaphor or the next Chronicles of Narnia, there should always be a conclusion to which all plots arrive – otherwise, the story can feel aimless.  The best way to find your message is to look at the conflicts involved (e.g. Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature, etc.) and find the “winner”.  What worldview, belief, or concept “defeats” the other concepts?  It can be as simple as Good vs. Evil, or more complex, like Loving the Sincere Drug Addict vs. Settling for the Selfish Dentist (provokes the question “Is love worth danger in relationships?”).
  • Does the plot have ups and downs?  And really consider both ends of the spectrum here.  Stories become dull if they are made up of victory after victory – or if they’re made up of nothing but loss and tragedy.  No matter the genre, you have to strike some sort of balance, lest the story become predictable and emotionally non-engaging.  Find victories and failures, even in unassuming places, to keep readers invested and hopeful.
  • Do you have a satisfactory ending?  Or do you have the ending     planned yet?  I’ve found that I can’t really commit to an idea unless I see a resolution – otherwise I feel too nervous to start.  If you do have an ending planned, make sure it’s the right ending.  It can feel like there’s one possible conclusion, and once you’ve found it, you stick to it – but question it, brainstorm it.  It may not be a happy ending every time, but when you find the right one, you’ll know it.
  • Do you have the right plot at all?  Look at your story as a whole.  Does it start too early or too late, relative to the real meat,     the real action?  Is it told from the most impactful POV?  Does the plot cover too much ground for one book, or is it not enough to fill the pages?  Consider all the characters, backstories, and subplots you have, and ask yourself if any of them are more interesting than the main plot.  If so, shift your focus.  Use them instead.

2. Characters

Maybe it’s not your plot that’s going sideways.  Maybe you have it all worked out – the head, the tail, the whole damn thing – but it still doesn’t feel right.  It doesn’t feel like it’s coming to life, somehow.  It feels flat.

That can be a character problem.  It would be like sitting by the campfire and hearing the most fascinating, horrifying story, except it’s told by a man with The Most Boring Voice Who Talks So Incredibly Slowly and Takes All the Fun Out of Everything.  An example: The Hunger Games.  Those books bored the crap out of me.  Unless someone was being killed or Haymitch and Effie were interacting, I just didn’t care.  And those books had a great plot behind them!

So here’s what you need for a good cast of characters:

  • A solid protagonist.  Solid = three-dimensional, empathetic, and relatable; having a goal, an internal conflict, a self-image, and fears or shame.  They should have different facets of themselves – their head and their heart, their desires and doubts, and that little voice in their head that says, “Give up on that.  Be realistic.”  Give them strengths, weaknesses, and a couple of bad habits, for kicks.
  • A variety of supporting characters.  You don’t have to have thirty characters + six secret characters stuffed under your trench coat; but with however many characters you have, make them as different from each other as possible.  Give them some similarities, of course, so that they can relate to each other – but never make them so close together that you have to decide, “Who should say this line?  Character A or Character B?”  Make them unique enough that the words come out of their mouths, instead of you having to decide where to put the words, yourself.
  • Relationships, relationships, relationships.  And I’m not talking about romantic relationships.  I mean, sure, those too – but there are many different kinds of relationships to explore.  Friendships, enemy-ships (?), parent relationships, sibling-ships, silent alliances, “annoying friend-of-a-friend”-ships, “my-ex’s-little-sister”-ships, “you’re-the-ruler-of-the-galaxy-and-a-Sith-lord-but-also-my-dad-please-stop-being-evil”-ships…  You get the idea.  Make them unique, make them strong, and allow them to evolve over the course of the story.
  • Diverse morals, interests, and personalities.  My first short stories focused on white middle-class people who were culturally and politically identical.  They lived in one house, usually, and watched the same TV shows and made the same references.  They had the same sense of humor.  They rarely disagreed on anything that wasn’t clear-cut (e.g. “You drank the last Pepsi!”  “I was thirsty!”).  So do yourself a favor and don’t make my mistakes.  Give your characters unique ethics, cultures, backgrounds, personalities, goals, appearances, and conflicts.  You’ll be more invested by then, I’m sure.

3. Setting

Lastly, I’d like to add that while your characters and plot could be well-developed, there’s always a chance that they’re placed in the wrong setting.  This is why many story ideas can seem great, but won’t get off the ground – maybe they’re set in a pre-made universe like Middle Earth or Panem when they could be their own story.  Maybe your tragic romance is set in the middle of apocalyptic war, when instead, it should be drained down to a period piece.  Maybe your story is perfect, except you’re writing it too close to home – in the real world, in the present year.  There are a million factors to picking the right setting, including:

  • Applicable history and culture.  If you’re writing a story about someone who’s oppressed, or someone who’s a politician, or someone who’s a witch, you’re going to need to back that up with history.  Develop a history for the oppression or politics or witchcraft – where these things began, how they developed over time – and a culture for them now – how oppressed people survive and how witches in your world interact, etc.
  • Imaginative scenery, influenced by the characters.  Even if your story takes place in New York City in 2017, allow your characters’ living spaces and workplaces to have a unique touch – colors and quirks that your readers can see in their mind.  If even you can’t see what you’re writing, inspiration is going to be difficult to find.
  • A lifelike background.  Just because the plot focuses on your characters does not mean everything going on behind it should be quiet and dead.  Anyone who looks out a window in a city building can see other people living – people on the highway will see other cars taking other people other places.  Everyone who has a friend will hear a little something about their friend’s siblings, their friend’s friends, their friend’s neighbors.  Life and stories exist outside of your plot; make sure you’re not writing about a ship in a bottle.
  • An aesthetic.  That sounds gross and teen-tumblr-y, but let me tell you personally: I don’t feel truly ready to write (and love) my story until I can hear the music for the future movie adaptation – until I can see the kind of clothes the people wear, the games they play, the places they eat and shop.  I think of the colors and themes in my scenes (e.g. my first novel was set primarily at night in a grunge/city setting; my current novel is very green and outdoorsy and gives me that feeling of bonfires just after sunset).  Once you get that “feeling” from your story, you’ll know it.

Anyway, this reply took me like three days to write because I really wanted to get into it.  I hope some of this helps you to fall in love with one of your ideas, so you can get started :)  If you have any more questions, be sure to send them in!

(I have 26 questions in the inbox, though, so be patient with me…)


If you need advice on writing, fanfiction, or NaNoWriMo, you should maybe ask me!

Tips from a YA Editor by Anne Regan: Dialogue Tag Tips
  • What’s a dialogue tag?
    • A short phrase identifying who is speaking during dialogue (also called “attribution).
    • “I really hate brussel sprouts,” Jeremy said.
    • “Why is that?” Sandy asked.
  • Every line of dialogue doesn’t need a tag, especially when only two people are speaking.
    • “I really hate brussel sprouts,” Jeremy said.
    • “But they’re so cute, like miniature cabbages,” Sandy cooed.
    • “I really hate cabbage too.”
  • “Said” and “asked” are the most commonly used tags. These tend to be “invisible” to readers.
    • Alternative dialogue tags can add variety and convey emotion (see “cooed” above).
    • They can also draw attention away from the dialogue itself, so don’t overuse them.
  • Dialogue tags describe speaking, not action.
    • “I really hate brussel sprouts,” Jeremy frowned is incorrect.
    • Use actions to take the place of dialogue tags whenever possible.
    • Jeremy frowned at his plate. “I really hate brussel sprouts.”
  • Avoid combining action tags with adverbs.
    • Instead of telling the reader how the character feels, show them through actions.
    • “I really hate brussel sprouts,” Jeremy said angrily.
    • “I really hate brussel sprouts.” Jeremy picked up his plate and tossed it in the trashcan.

Tryn'a give myself some half-assed writing tips to keep in mind while I start writing my fantasy novel. 🙄

I am such a description and explanation whore and I need to let it come more natural in stead of trying to explain the whole structure of the society in a single paragraph! 😂

guys, writing fantasy is haaard…. 😣but sooo fun!! 😜


What do you struggle most with when writing? 🙃


Tips Murah-Meriah Terbiasa Bahasa Inggris dalam Satu Bulan

Hey, guys! I would like to share something good this time, some kind of advice for those who are interested to improve their English in a rather short period.

Sebagian kita khawatir dengan kemampuan (proficiency) bahasa Inggris kita yang tidak berkembang di bangku kuliah. Kekhawatiran ini muncul karena kita tahu betapa pentingnya kemampuan ini di masa mendatang. Entah itu untuk mengejar karir atau memperoleh kursi di jenjang pendidikan pascasarjana.

Untuk itu, saya ingin berbagi tips agar kamu sudah terbiasa dengan bahasa Inggris sebelum memulai persiapan yang lebih serius untuk mendapatkan sertifikat IELTS atau TOELF. Tips ini penting diamalkan sebelum mengambil les intensif berbayar di lembaga formal karena dapat meningkatkan efisiensi investasi kamu buat masa depan yang gemilang. Sekali tes IELTS atau TOEFL iBT bisa 2,5 juta rupiah sekarang!

Vocab adalah hal yang penting dalam komunikasi. Makin banyak tahu vocab, makin fleksibel kita mengkomunikasikan ide yang ada di kepala. Banyak yang stuck dalam percakapan atau menulis esai karena tidak tahu ekspresi yang cocok untuk suatu keadaan. Untuk memupuk vocab, kamu perlu banyak membaca dan mencoba menggunakan vocab barumu.

Selain vocab, tentu kita perlu paham struktur penulisan yang baik. Grammar bukan hanya soal benar/salah tapi bagaimana pesan yang disampaikan exactly persis dengan apa yang kita mau.

A: Are you eating? (Kamu ga makan sekarang?)
B: Sorry, I don’t eat. (Maaf, saya ga makan.) *maksudnya lagi ga makan*
A: What? Are you kind of an angel or what? (Apa? Maksudnya kamu semacam malaikat gitu?)

Mulailah belajar grammar dari hal-hal yang paling sederhana. Kamu bisa membuka kembali formula grammar yang biasanya ada di sisipan sebuah kamus. Sebagai awalan, kamu mulai membiasakan diri dengan kalimat-kalimat sederhana seperti yang ada di buku cerita anak-anak. Setelah terbiasa dengan kalimat-kalimat ringan, mulailah membiasakan dengan tulisan dengan struktur yang lebih serius dan kompleks, seperti koran harian berbahasa Inggris atau novel.

Terakhir, tentu saja yang penting melatih mengobrol dan menulis dalam bahasa Inggris. Dengan kemudahan internet zaman sekarang, latihan mengobrol dan menulis bisa dilakukan kapanpun, dimanapun. Yang terpenting adalah punya teman seperjuangan atau yang mau sukarela jadi your chatting buddy.

Untuk mempermudah gambaran fase-fase pembelajaran yang saya akan sarankan, saya coba membaginya dalam 4 tahap, alias 4 minggu. Gampangnya, daftar poin di bawah bisa diberi nama “Tips Murah-Meriah Terbiasa Bahasa Inggris dalam Satu Bulan”. Here you go!

Minggu pertama:
1. Bulatkan tekad dan PERJELAS MENGAPA kamu ingin mulai memperbaiki bahasa Inggrismu. Silakan menyusun reward-punishment (R&W) jika kamu merasa perlu. R&W membuat sesi sebulan ini lebih seru.

2. Beli sebuah kamus saku jika belum punya. BACA ARTI KATA-KATA BARU TIGA LEMBAR PER HARI. Walaupun cara ini terkesan kuno, tapi sangat membantu memperkaya khazanah vocab-mu.

3. Tunjuk dan sepakati satu-dua orang teman belajar (English buddy). Orang ini boleh jadi orang yang punya niat belajar yang sama atau teman yang sudah jago bahasa Inggrisnya. Lebih baik lagi jika orang ini dapat kamu temui cukup sering. Dia juga bisa seorang yang jauh di sana, tapi bisa meluangkan waktu meladeni kamu mengobrol. Pastikan selalu kalian mengobrol dalam bahasa Inggris, baik via tulisan maupun lisan (face to face atau videochat). *awas bahaya laten #salahfokus jika buddy-mu berpotensi jadi prospek teman hidup*

Minggu kedua & ketiga:
4. TONTON TIGA FILM IMPOR PER MINGGU, dengan subtitle bahasa Inggris. Kamu tidak belajar mengartikan kali ini, melainkan mencocokkan apa yang kamu dengar dengan apa yang sebenarnya diucapkan. Menonton juga dapat menggambarkan kapan sebuah ekspresi atau istilah digunakan dengan tepat. Jangan malu menggunakan kamus atau Google Translate sebagai alat bantu. Pastikan film didapat dari sumber yang murah-meriah. Jika kamu merasa menonton film kurang bermanfaat, kamu dapat menggantinya dengan menonton video-video di TED.com yang keren abis. 3 film = 15 video TED atau TEDx.

5. BACA SATU NOVEL YANG RINGAN–tidak tebal, temanya keseharian/fabel, dan relatif tidak kompleks kalimatnya–PER MINGGU. Kamu bisa memulai dengan Totto-Chan (Kuroyanagi), The Tale of Despereaux (DiCamillo), Charlotte’s Web (White), atau Animal Farm (Orwell). Cari referensi buku-buku lain bergenre “children literature” atau sastra anak di internet. Buku-buku ini membantu kamu terbiasa dengan tulisan yang naratif dan deskriptif. Cerita sastra anak biasanya kaya akan vocab yang spesifik untuk sebuah kegiatan, ekspresi, atau nama benda. Untuk berhemat, pinjamlah buku-buku ini di perpustakaan atau dari teman.

6. Membaca koran berbahasa Inggris seperti Jakarta Post atau Jakarta Globe membantu membiasakanmu dengan tulisan yang runut dan argumentatif. BACA SATU ARTIKEL PER HARI, di internet, membantu memperkaya vocab-mu terutama untuk istilah-istilah umum yang agak serius. Selain itu membaca koran membantu kamu updated dengan hal-hal yang sedang terjadi di sekitarmu ataupun di belahan dunia lain.

Minggu ke-empat
7. Tweet your thoughts. Apa yang kamu dapatkan dari bacaan atau obrolan harianmu sama si “English buddy” bisa kamu share dalam bahasa Inggris via Twitter. Jika kamu lebih nyaman menulis dengan platform lain seperti Wordpress atau Tumblr, silakan saja. Start simple and short. Usahakan tidak menulis di Facebook atau Path yang sifat komunikasinya “dua arah” karena rawan mendapat komentar yang malah mengolok dan mendemotivasi. Hehe.

8. Mulailah BACA TULISAN YANG LEBIH KOMPLEKS seperti artikel sains populer seperti yang ada di popsci.com, Natgeo, atau artikel ekosospol di The Economist dan Time. Jika kamu suka fiksi, cerpen mingguan di The New York Times bisa jadi alternatif “bacaan berat”.

That is all! Oh ya, apa yang dilakukan di minggu sebelumnya harus terus dilakukan sampai akhir bulan. Jadi “tugas”-nya bertambah bukan diganti.

Tentu tiap dari kita sudah punya bidang minat masing-masing. *kalo belum segera dicari* Setelah treatment ini berakhir, mulailah membaca buku-buku yang relevan dengan bidang minatmu. Jurnal dan buku teks, by this time, sudah manageable dibaca. Kamu juga bisa menguji tips ini dengan mengambil course online gratis di Coursera atau EdX. Please give feedback jika tips ini gagal atau malah sukses besar.

Pada akhirnya, TOEFL atau IELTS hanya tes terstandardisasi yang bisa dipelajari dengan latihan soal. Tapi yang terpenting adalah membiasakan berpikir–membaca, mendengar, merespon–dalam bahasa Inggris sebagai modal berkompetisi di masa mendatang. Ingat selalu bahwa kita bisa karena terbiasa and practice makes perfect.

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Getting ready for NaNoWriMo but not sure how to outline? Check out my video guide! 📚💚