ON WRITING

“It’s very easy to quit during the first ten years of writing. Nobody cares whether you write or not, and it’s very hard to write when nobody cares one way or the other. You can’t get fired if you don’t write, and most of the time you don’t get rewarded if you do. But don’t quit.” Andre Dubus

Saturday, 2 March 2013

Visit from a favourite blogger - Paula Roe Writing Workshop, Pain-free Plotting (even for Pantsers).


Hi friends and visitors!

I've not found a spare moment to blog as I've been delighted to be hosting a visit from a favourite blogger friend and editor, Nas Dean and her lovely husband Rajesh, from Fiji. This of course entails much driving around, showing them our paradise.

Nas and Rajesh on Noosa's Main Beach

Yes, the same lovelies who insisted my husband and I house-sit while they went to the States last year. What a time we had in Fiji...and what a lot of writing I got done in such inspirational surroundings. My first novel, set in Fiji and in its final edits, is about to be subbed to Harlequin Escape (in Australia). I'll let you know how I go...

Meanwhile, Nas' main reason to visit was to attend the Australian Romance Readers convention, an international event, which is being held in a hotel about 3 minutes from my Brisbane apartment. This convention brings together romance readers, authors and publishers and provides opportunities to talk about all things related to romance fiction.  This year will feature heavy hitting award-winning authors Kristan Higgins, Anne Gracie and Rachel Vincent as keynote speakers.

Yesterday, I attended a Pain-free Plotting (even for Pantsers) workshop by Paula Roe with Nas and my writing group friends, Charmaine Clancy and Jillanne Harrison. Awesome time at the Carindale Library -- and it was FREE! 

Nas, Myself, Charmaine, Jillanne busily plotting

Paula Roe and Nas

Paula used the Hero's Journey as the basis of her Pain-free Plotting workshop. Note our colourful sticky notes above. Most of us are familiar with the Hero's Journey pattern of narrative which originates (as far as I know)  from Joseph Campbel's The Hero With a Thousand Faces in 1949. 

Most, if not all stories, follow this structure (even Harlequin romances!) up to a point. Paula is a visual teacher, and the way she had us plotting our hero's journey using different coloured Post-it notes for Act 1, Act 11 and Act 111 of our story made it just that little clearer. Those around me all decided we had the elements covered -- up to a point.

As Paula said, even if you're a pantser and rush headlong into your story after getting that fabulous story idea, the Hero's Journey checklist is a very useful tool to use when editing that first draft. 

For anyone who may not know the Hero's Journey steps, or who didn't click on the link above, they are below. I found it useful to think of a favourite story as we did this exercise--The Hunger Games is a good example that most of us probably know. I can easily visualise these steps...modernised with some Roe-isms and Covey-isms.

ACT 1: (The Setup) Pose a Plot Question.


1.  The ORDINARY WORLD of the hero--establishes the characters in their everyday lives--this may take pages, or just be a simple sentence. Can also be told using backstory, but don't clutter the beginning of your story with too much backstory. 
2.  The CALL TO ADVENTURE--showing an extra-ordinary character in an ordinary world, with the potential to embark on a quest. 
3.  The DENIAL of the call--a crisis point. Here you establish their external goal. Usually transplanted into another world. 
4.  ...followed by ACCEPTANCE--character fully focused on his/her external goal...then your hero walks through the door...into ACT 11...

ACT 11: (Where the story unfolds) 
All about tests--failing them, learning, failing some more...finally passing them.

5.  Hero enters the NEW WORLD/LEARNS THE RULES,
6.  ...then ALLIES/ENEMIES are revealed, 
7.  ...followed by FAILING TRIALS
8.  ...then the hero reaches the POINT OF NO RETURN. He/she wants to go back to his/her ORDINARY WORLD, but cannot.

This is the Midpoint of your novel. If your midpoint is saggy, problematic, as Paula said, your hero may not have come up against enough obstacles, or his goal may need to be revisited.

9.  There's no going back, so the hero is now FAILING, 
then finally PASSING TRIALS. This reveals your hero's resilience, yet he/she is not perfect.
10. Then we have TIME OUT/HERO'S MASK IS REVEALED--to him/her self. This is usually portrayed through Internal Dialogue, but not always.
11. GUT PUNCH TIME! OMG! The reader asks--is that really going to happen? It is not totally a Black Moment, but it seems like it. How will the hero act under pressure?
12. NOOOOOOOOOO! At the beginning of your story, you asked a question...now the reader wonders if this is the answer! But of course it isn't!

The reader is left hungry for more...can't put your book down at this stage. So...the stage is all set for ACT 111.

ACT 111: (Climax/Resolution) It's a wrap! You must answer the original plot question asked at the beginning of your story.

13. THE ROAD BACK -- I wanna go home, cries the hero! He/she tries to leave, to go back to their ORDINARY WORLD.
14. TIME OUT -- again. Revelation. Decision time. The 'Ah-ha!' moment.(Internal dialogue...thinking...lull in action.)
15. PLOT CLIMAX/FINAL LESSON -- the gut-wrenching personal Black Moment for the hero. Boo hoo!
16. RESOLUTION -- Wrap up. Everyone's happy (at least in a romance). The hero returns. Others are affected by the changes in the hero. 

Paula recommended Michael Hague for some excellent articles regarding plotting. He is a very successful Hollywood screenwriter. 

Of course I learnt a lot more at Paula's workshop, but I'm sure you're worn out by now! Do visit Paula's website. She has some yummy stuff for writers.

  • I hope you enjoyed The Hero's Journey. Do you use this pattern of narrative, or do you follow another method? I know there are several others, but I think, to a certain extent, most popular fiction follows The Hero's Journey. Do you agree/disagree?


RomanticFridayWriters are Driven to Murder in March. We want 1,000 words of prose or poetry on murder most foul. Go to the RFW Challenge Page for more details. Sign up soon! You'll see the linky here or on the RFW website.












38 comments:

  1. Hi, Denise,

    That workshop session sounds like it was quite informative and of course, it looks like you all had fun.

    What I find amazing is that beginning writers do write to this formula without realizing that there is one. I put that down to reading a lot.

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    1. Yeah, we came to the same conclusion. That's a great reason to inhale books!

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  2. Missed the submission deadline for Feb, but I'm wondering which character or whose outlook I can murder this month.

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    1. We missed you...but understand. It'll be great to have some murder and mayhem at RFW!

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  3. Love the sound of that workshop, and YAY for having visits from overseas friends! :)

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    1. Makes me want to hit the road again...how long has it been!

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  4. Wasn't it awesome?!! I'm still amazed. Watched 'Brave' last night and kept pin-pointing all the structure points in the movie. Plus Paula was a real ball of energy, we couldn't help but get excited!

    I had a ball and have added post-it notes to my shopping list. The company was pretty good too ;)

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    1. Was the best workshop I've attended i think. Paula was still firing today. Came home with her writer's group novellas and a bag full of free Harlequins. Awesome!

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    2. Hi Charmaine and Denise!

      Thanks for having me visit at your writer's group, I enjoyed meeting all of you!

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  5. I did enjoy that Denise. Quite informative. I'll be looking at my stories in this light. Thanks for the recap.

    ........dhole

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  6. A very useful and informative post. And the pictures tell their own story about the fun. Thanks much for the pointers.

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    1. The fun ends tomorrow, but has been great!

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  7. Good luck with your book. It looks as if you had a great time with your visitors and managing to take in a 'business' event as well. Great tips you've given us to work on.

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  8. What an interesting post, packed full of timely information. And what fun you all are having!

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    1. We sure are Karen. Hope you are too.

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  9. I've seen those points for the hero's journey before, but it was a good refresher. Especially as I have an idea I'm mulling around that would fit those steps...

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  10. Sounds like an amazing workshop—so much fun! I'm a pantser but since my stories are psychologically driven, it's sometimes difficult to separate character arc from plot. I use the hero journey "beats" to define major turning points so I don't get too far away from structure. It's the only thing that keeps me in line. :)

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  11. This is a nice surprise, to see what Nas is up to, while I'm covering for her here in cyberland. Well, I'm glad you all seem to be having fun. These notes are good Denise, thanks for sharing them. Will be bookmarking this post.

    Maria

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    1. Nas has just left Maria...boo hoo.

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    2. Hi Maria!

      I enjoyed my time in Aussie land and had great time with Denise. And we did take in and learn somethings!

      Thanks for covering for me on the cyberland, all your help is very deeply appreciated!

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  12. Wonderful to know that all that reading has paid off, and I'm there without knowing how I did it. Still, excellent steps and ones to keep in mind as I finish book 3 and begin #4.

    Thank you so much for sharing! One day I would love to attend a romance writers conference -- dreams big! :)

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  13. My friend Denise,
    I certainly remember your trip to Figi. I am sure both Nas and her husband adore you. Hope all is well and continue writing with a big smile.

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    1. Thanks Andy! They did love spending time with us. Was wonderful to have them.

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  14. Hi Denise .. it sure looks like you had a wonderful time being the host to friends, as Nas and her hubby obviously are, and then the writing weekend - really interesting to read and fun to see ...

    Thanks for summarising it for us and giving us some extra links - I love the colour aspect .. I use quite a lot here - when I print things out .. I know what colour I'm looking for!

    What a great group .. and obviously so much fun, yet so valuable ... cheers Hilary

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  15. Hi Denise!

    Thanks for all your hospitality and care we got. And we enjoyed our time there as you and your husband took care of us and showed us Brisbane!

    Thank you once again, my lovely friend!

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    1. It was delightful to have you Nas! What fun we had in such a short time! Can't wait till we get together again, wherever that may be...Oz, Fiji, Paris, Rome...

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  16. Sounds like it was both fun and informative but I could be wrong it could had been boring and what's the oppisite of informative.......uninformative............whatever that is what I am going with.......lol

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    1. It was definitely FUN and INFORMATIVE Jo-Anne, lol!

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  17. Blogger was acting up a few days ago and wouldn't let me comment, so I'll try again. It's really nice Nas and her husband got to visit you. Blogville is such a wonderful place where so many good things happen. All of you will have forever memories. And you ms from Fiji will be part of your memory all of us will get to enjoy. Congrats, Denise, and good luck!

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    1. Thanks Kittie. I'm glad blogger's letting you comment again! Blogsville is indeed a great place to belong to.

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  18. Sounds like you all had a great time.

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  19. You have amazing blog-friendships :)!

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  20. I'm glad you;re having a good time with Nas and her hubby. It's great that you got to visit Fiji and then set your story there!

    Thanks so much for the plotting info. I'm in the middle of outlining and can never have too much info! :-)

    (Check the link to Michael Hauge's site; it's accidentally repeated within itself.)

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  21. So jealous you all got to hang out together!! That would have been a blast :)

    I'm a total pantster who is trying to learn to plot and outline so this is a perfect tool for me to attempt. Thanks so much! And Thanks to Nas for pointing me in the right direction :)

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