Fully Exposed – Day 29

Posted by on April 29, 2014

IMAG0264Today was the first day I was able to get back to my YA mystery in weeks.

I spent about five hours of butt-in-chair, looking at, and incorporating, feedback from my super amazing writer’s group and then rewriting (for the third time) the very first scene of the novel. I didn’t get as many words down as I wanted, but was happy to see the word count wasn’t less than when I started. (That happens sometimes in revisions). So in essence, I didn’t put very many new words down yet, but mainly revised the words I already had (some 48K).

It was a good way to get familiar with my novel again. My head has been in the Gabriella Giovanni mystery world for four weeks and now it is time to get back into the head of a 17-year-old Minneapolis girl instead of a 28-year-old San Francisco one!

Today I hope to start writing where I left off, which was somewhere a bit after the midpoint.

I like to roughly plot my novels before I first sit down to write them.

Usually my process involves a giant stack of notecards held together with a rubber band. When I’m in the process of writing the first draft of a book, I cart this little bundle everywhere.

When I first begin, I try to fill out as many scenes as I can, but also, I label the cards with plot points.

My method varies.

Overall, when I plot using index cards, I hit several important moments in the book by using three or four act structure plotting.

For most of my novels, I use a combination of points I hit based on Christopher Vogler’s book, “The Writer’s Journey” combined with advice from Larry Brooks, “Story Engineering” which outlines a four-act structure that makes total sense to me.

With this method, I’ll have cards that say this:

Act 1 (0 to 25%) The Set Up:
Description of characters “characteristic” behaviors, plant the seed of the special world she’s going to enter in this novel, what does she want? what is standing in the way of her desire?

At 25% mark: First plot point or Doorway of No Return: Enter into new world. This is about 1/4 or 1/5 of the way through your novel where your character does something that means nothing can be the same for them ever again. On this card, I’ll have a note as to what actually thrusts/propels my character through this doorway. In my current book, my character pulls the cord on the bus and gets off. From that point on, her world will be changed. This is the most important moment of your story when the story problem becomes clear.

Act II (25 to 50%) Show how character responds to new world, her reaction
Up until this point, my character has been passive, running, hiding, observing but not fighting back really. Not very heroic or brilliant.

Midpoint: (Halfway through your book)
Different books on craft have varying definitions of this part of the book. It can be a reversal of everything the character has known so far. It can be a moment when the character looks in the mirror and sees who she is for the very first time. It can be a “curtain parting” moment. Whatever it is, make it a critical scene to shift or move the story forward.

Act III (50 to 75%) The attack! The second plot point. This is where she uses everything to go after antagonist on the attack, facing set backs of course.

ACT IV. The resolution
From here on out, you can’t introduce any new characters or puzzle pieces. Everything must already be in place in the book at this point.Here is where the protagonist shows the courage to overcome inner and outer obstacles in her path.

So, those are the main index cards I set up, with scenes in between leading to each point.

Ideally, each index card WOULD say, Scene, who, what, where, when, goal, stakes. But yeah, that’s in my ideal world. I hope to someday plot that thoroughly. But I don’t. At least not right now.

If index cards aren’t your thing, you can download Xcel spreadsheets that will show you exactly how and when to hit those key moments in your novel.

Goals: writing – 2,000 words, walking – one mile
Results: 800 words, 0 miles.

Check out Matthew Clemen’s posts on our project at www.matthewclemens.com or on his Facebook page:

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4 Responses to Fully Exposed – Day 29

  1. Pamela A. Oberg

    Great stuff today, Kristi. Thanks for letting us into your process–and I loved the resource references.

  2. Giovanna

    That was quick! Thank your for your response. I am really looking forward to the next chapters. I have a work deadline looming, thus I’d better get working to be able enjoy (sooner than expected) some more of Gabriella Giovanni with no guilt. Take care.

  3. Kristi

    Thanks for the kind words, Giovanna. I don’t count words, per say, but in the revision process, I will go back and look at what appears to be extraordinarily long chapters and try to break them up. If a chapter is one page, then I’m okay with that, but if a chapter is 20 pages and all the rest are usually between 7 and 10 pages (Which seems to be how it averages out for my writing), I might change that.
    However, in a YA I wrote last year, I had one chapter that was 20 when the rest were about 10 pages and I left it because it just worked best that way. Does that make sense?
    Again, thanks for commenting and I’m so glad you liked BAD so far. I’ll be sending out the first three chapters of Blessed are the Meek later this week and hope you feel the same way about them!

  4. Giovanna

    Kristi, this is incredibly useful. What is helping me also is the analysis of a story done by a screenwriter. I have no desire (or talent) to write a script, but planning a novel as it were a movie somehow helps me. Curious mind wants to know: do you work with a standard/rough number of word for a chapter in mind (and rough number of chapters for that matter)? I tried to count words in the preview of – Blessed are the Dead (which I l o v e d btw! – but could not. The chapters seemed short to me, but every bit of information was there, so I wonder…maybe it was because they were over so quickly and you left us waiting for another month…