Week 10 Summary, Pt. 2

Before I get into full swing on Pt. 2, I have a couple things to talk about.

1. Sorry for this post being a day late. I started a new blog yesterday, The Disney Honeymoon Challenge, and all my spare time found itself wound up in designing and posting over there.

2. I wanted to talk a little about audience. This blog, for instance, has a pretty limited audience. It’s intended for writers. Whether they write blogs, fiction, or nonfiction doesn’t much matter, but the blog focuses on writing topics, so that’s who it’s geared for. I imagined that, on WordPress, writers would be quite a broad audience. But, the new blog has already seen more views in a day than this one has ever seen in one day. And here’s my thoughts why.

First of all, it’s Disney. Disney is a huge, extremely recognizable name. It also is generally loved. Millions of people are obsessed by all things Disney. Myself included.  So, there’s that. But it’s also about relationships, love, and marriage, and how these things are reflected in Disney films. Suddenly I have a blog that is relatable to just about everyone. And it shows.

Already I’ve had several people ask me if the new blog’s initial success makes me feel bad about this blog. The answer is, ‘no’. They are two totally different animals. And the writing blog is more for my own well-being and understanding of my craft.

The Disney blog is for fun!

But, having two blogs is definitely time consuming. Already I’m wondering if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but I’m not one for giving up. I’ll find a way to balance two blogs, writing, editing, wedding planning, and 40 hour work weeks…

…I think.

Now, back to Lecture #10!

We left off talking about Agents. What they do, and what to look out for when you go about acquiring one. But now, let’s talk about the Arguments Against Agents.

The Eternal Rewrite.
—-> How much time do you want to give to this Agent? If you’re editing before they’ll agree to represent your work, you’re not getting paid. So set limits. How many rewrites are you willing to do for this Agent? Do you agree with what they’re saying about your manuscript?
—-> Send to other Agents while you revise for this one. Don’t limit yourself.

Incentive to Go Bigger.
—-> They might not fight to get that extra money.
—-> You need to know the business, demand rejection letters, know where and to whom they’re sending your work.
—-> Be proactive, work with your Agent

Remember, an Agent is there to give you advice, NOT manage your career.

Getting a good Agent is about the same as getting published. But, keep in mind that Sci-Fi/Fantasy Houses tend to do their own quirky stuff, an Agent may not even be necessary.

Brandon then realized that we probably don’t have much understanding of the Book Market, so he broke it down for us.

Nonfiction > Fiction
Children’s > Adult
Romance > Everything Else
Thrillers > Everything Else

And Sci-Fi/Fantasy is WAAAAAAY down here. But, Sci-Fi/Fantasy tends to be very open to new authors.

You need to be an expert on Publishing Houses and Genres. The more you know, the better your chances.

And then there’s a little tidbit: 40% of people who buy a book online have looked at a physical copy in a bookstore.

So, Brandon lists Sci-Fi/Fantasy Publishers:

TOR
DAW
Ace/Roc
Del Rey/Bantam/Spectra
Harper
Orbit
Pyr
Baen
Simon & Scheuster

Look up Editors, look at the books they’re producing—-> Buy them, read them, learn what they’re looking for. Also, pay attention to Book Labels. Who are your favorite books published by? Read the acknowledgments.

Knowing specific editors at TOR is very important, they are basically autonomous, and publish things they like.

So, how do you get to know editors and agents?

Go to conventions!
—-> see them at panels
—-> ask them detailed questions about what they’re working on

Big cons that you need to start attending are:

WorldCon
World Fantasy Convention
The Nebula Weekend

See if an Editor you like writes a blog, if they do read it, leave comments!

Also, there are submission guidelines for a reason. Read them, understand them, and adhere to them. Don’t get your manuscript tossed without being read because you didn’t use the right font.

Someone in the class asked if they should register a copyright before sending their manuscript out. Brandon laughed. Basically, your work is NOT going to get stolen in New York. Publishers want your skill, not your ideas.

Remember, ideas are cheap.

So, don’t register a copyright, it immediately labels you as a noob.

And then Brandon said something that made me happy. He said we should be doing it all. We should be writing short stories and getting them published, while submitting our longer works to Publishers as well as Agents. Do it all!

I then wrote, ‘Google this shit. This is hard, but you have to do it.’ Obviously, Brandon didn’t drop the S-word in his lecture, but occasionally, I leave motivating messages to myself.

Anyway, I’ve ignored ‘The Portrait’ for a few days, and I need to get back to it.

Have a great day, Blogland!

 

BZ

Week 10 Summary, Pt. 1

Blogland!

I am feeling so much better today! There were parts of last night where I honestly didn’t know how I was going to make it. When the milk man showed up almost an hour early, for instance. Having to run back and forth, lugging up to four gallons of milk at a time was physically exhausting.

But, thankfully, my head isn’t nearly as heavy, and I no longer feel the ebbing chills of fever running along my skin. Today I feel good, just a little bit of a stuffy nose. And I am so grateful!

So, in honor of all this feeling better business, let’s talk about Write About Dragons! It’s been a long time coming, and I’m sorry for putting it off so long.

This lecture was a doozy, in true Sanderson fashion. But, he talks about a lot of important things having to do with the business end of the writing business.

So we kick off the lecture by talking briefly about the Elements of Fight Scenes. Since this is largely unrelated to the rest of the lecture, and only takes one page of notes, I’m going to be brief here.

1. Fight scenes are hard. But, there are benefits to writing them, versus fight scenes in a movie.

  • You’re able to get in the character’s head—> Thoughts & Emotions
  • Can pause—-> Far better pacing control
  • Can utilize other senses
  • And, descriptive power—> use your words!

2. Blocking needs attention. This is a screenwriting term, meaning where people are in relation to one another.

  • This is important, but don’t do it too much. AKA, don’t go into a Blow-By-Blow. You can use Blow-By-Blows, but do it sparingly. It’s not as effective as in film.
  • Be active, AKA in the moment, but be brief. And be very clear!

3. Characters Making Connections.

  • Emotion—> Use fight scenes to to characterize or world build. A fight scene can even be a mini try/fail cycle
  • The fight scene should build toward something. Think Rising Action. Don’t let your fight scene stagnate.
  • And don’t get bogged down!

And a little food for thought: what does winning cost?

Now back to the good part!

The Role of Agents & Entertainment Lawyers

Agents:
In books, agents tend to have a better reputation than film and music.

What they do:

  • Publishing Partner
  • Contract Expert
  • Publishing House Expert
  • Genre Expert
  • Reputation/Gatekeeper
  • Hold Book Auctions
  • Good Editorially
  • Someone in Your Corner—–> Someone to play Bad Cop
  • Translation Rights/Foreign Rights
  • Take 15%

Brandon runs through a basic Agent Contract at this point. The contract should include details about the following:

  • Representation of Work
  • 15% of Deal Negotiated—> not of everything!
  • Termination terms—> how many days notice, etc.
  • How long can the Agent sit on the money

That last one’s interesting. See, the publisher usually sends all the money earned by your book to the Agent, then the Agent divvies it up, taking his 15%. You need to set terms for how long it can take the Agent to get your money to you. Also, this isn’t set in stone. If you really wanted to, you could have the publisher remove the 15% and send you your cut, and the Agent his. All things to consider.

Entertainment Lawyers:
You’ll most likely go the Entertainment Lawyer route if you’re Self-Publishing. I know that right now it’s all the rage, especially among the Blog Writing Community. Hopefully the following helps.

What They Do:

  • Can do many of the same things as an Agent
  • Paid Hourly
  • They are NOT going to sell your book for you
  • Contract Expert—-> Good at Bad Cop
  • Will NOT edit manuscripts

And the final option:

You can always do it yourself. Here are some things to think about if you’re considering this method.

  • It is extremely HARD to do
  • Better if you have a background in Law
  • Even better if you’re good at contracts

So, let’s take a moment to talk about keeping yourself safe.

Writer Beware: Agent Scams

You need to know that there is no License needed to be an Agent. There is no regulation. Anyone can print a business card that reads, ‘Literary Agent’. Know that. Understand that.

You also need to know that there are A LOT of Agent Scams out there. If an ‘Agent’ charges a reading fee, leave. Turn around and run. Never pay anyone to read your work.

Also keep in mind that, not all scams are intentioned that way. There are of course your legitimate thieves. The people looking to make a quick buck and rake you over the proverbial coals. But, there are also well-intentioned people who want to get into the Agent business, who love writing and reading, and writers. But, they ultimately have no idea what they’re doing.

Another thing to be aware of is the Book Mills/Editorial Mills. This is basically where you send to an Agent, and they suggest you send it to Editor X, for a small fee. Then they keep recommending edits. Until you’re lining their wallets with their ‘small fees’.

And then there is the ‘Do Nothing Agent’. Pretty much, they accept your work, and then do nothing with it. Brandon adds here that, if the Agent doesn’t live in New York, or isn’t visiting New York on a weekly basis, be leery…

A good way to protect yourself from all of the above is to go find their books. Ask them for a client list, then go to Barnes and Noble and see if those authors are on the shelves. If you can’t find the books, move on.

Also, look for an agent that represents clients in your genre.

This is a really long set of notes and I don’t want to start skimping on the details, because this is important stuff, that I think a lot of new writer’s have zero access to. So, I’m going to end here, and start a part two.

October means nearly NaNo!

Welcome to October!

A new fiscal year for the Bux, as well as our currently underperforming Government. But, regardless of my political feelings, this blog is not the place for a rant. At least not about politics. Or, at least not today. Ha!

Today has found me in an oddly good mood. It might have been the almost 12 hours of sleep, or the Salted Caramel Mocha I just inhaled. Add to it all the reading I’ve been doing and all the writing buzzing around my brain, and I am one happy camper.

With October comes a hint of November as leaves fall in blustery gusts and the rain staccatos against rooftops. And with November comes NaNoWriMo! So, I’ve decided to bump my writing schedule up a bit. Need to finish ‘The Portrait of Sterling Madison’, get started on ‘My Final Frontier’, and then, for NaNo, I’m going to bust out ‘Cards’.

Or, at least try.

I’ve participated in NaNo once, back in Arizona. And, I didn’t get very far. Instead of 50,000 words, I reached 16,000 and pretty much exhausted myself. That was the first novel I never finished.

So, I wrote about 2,500 words a week while writing ‘Vessels’. NaNo calls for 1,647 a DAY. That means, I need to have some wildly productive days if I’m going to meet the NaNo goal.

I don’t really expect myself to hit that target, especially not with Holiday at the Bux coming up and working 40 hours a week. But, I can use NaNo to really bust out a good portion of a new novel. Who knows, I might even finish the rough draft before it’s time to work on editing ‘Vessels’.

And that would be something! Finish two rough drafts in a year? Maybe that will be my goal!

I was going to write more, and go into details about Lecture 10, but I just realized that I’m sitting in my Starbucks across town, and forgot to pay rent. So, I have to pack up and drive home, write a check (my least favorite kind of writing), and drop it off before I come back.

If I have time, I will post another blog today. And, even though I don’t work tomorrow, I’m meeting someone about designing wedding invitations at 2pm, so I’ll be here any way. So keep an eye on the blog, folks, it’s gonna be a busy week!

 

BZ

A Little Validation

So, after the parking fiasco, I just couldn’t seem to concentrate. So, I figured if I wasn’t going to write, I should at least learn about writing. I started by watching a TED-talk, my first one actually, from Ted Stanton. He’s one of the big Kahuna’s from Pixar, and he talked about Storytelling. It was pretty good, and I recommend it, if only for how touching it ends up. He’s an impressive dude.

So I took notes and generally felt good. Awake. Ready to learn. Once it was over I headed to the Write About Dragons page and decided to catch up. Or at least start catching up.

And it was a whopper of a lecture. Brandon talked about publishing, getting an Agent, Editors and all the things I’ve always wanted to know more about but never knew how to learn about it.

So, thanks Brandon.

I won’t go into details here, maybe later next week, when I’ve had more time to absorb. But there is one thing I wanted to talk about from the lecture. Something that struck me, and excited me.

Someone asked Brandon the following:

“So, we’re here, we’re working hard, and we’re going to finish our novels. But, it’s the first one, so when it’s done should we shelf it and just move on?”

Brandon very nearly interrupted him. “Submit it,” he said. To which he added, “set it aside, work on something new, and a couple months later, come back and edit it. Once you’ve done that, and you think it’s good, submit it.”

And it made me laugh, and my heart leap, and generally just evoked an emotional response in me, because this is what I planned to do. I’m doing the right things. I’m making good decisions. I don’t have to shelf it because I think, “it’s only my first novel, no one will pick it up.” Because Brandon said, “it could be really good.”

Sometimes, writing is like being a deep sea diver. You think you know what you’re doing. You’re told you’re good. But, you can’t see where you’re going, and really, when you’re alone down there, in the thick of it, you think you’re quite literally in over your head.

So it’s nice to hear from someone not related to me, or emotionally invested in me in anyway, that I shouldn’t give up. Even if he technically wasn’t talking to me.

That being said, my mom read the novel from start to finish and she thought it was “amazing”. I know she’s biased, but it still feels really good to hear.

Anyway, I’ve ignored the short story project all day. It intimidates me. There’s so much to do. So much bad writing to undo. Gah!

I will not allow myself to let these, almost, six hours pass without getting some work done!

BZ

Week 8 Summary

The Purple Pen Lives!

My tan however is slowly fading as the summer months start to dissolve into falling leaves and Pumpkin Spice Lattes.

What the hell happened to my summer? The camping trips we wanted to take, the rivers we were going to swim in? The coast?! None of it. Instead of a summer of adventure, I sat and whiled away the months in my Starbucks lobby typing furiously on a novel that ultimately will probably only be read by my closest friends and family.

And I don’t regret it.

This has been the most successful year for my writing that I have had, ever. Yes, I’ve had short stories published before. But, I have never written this consistently. Even when in school I only wrote to meet deadlines. This summer, as I’m looking back, was magical. I spent it in a world only I know, in a world I created. With characters who were born and grew inside my brain. It’s a rush and pride that only a writer can know. To see the fervor of creation blossom into determination and sheer force of will. And to come out the winner, having finished the piece.

Ok, I haven’t finished it yet. But, chapter 18 is just short of 1,000 words, the manuscript poised just below 40k. And it sends a thrill through my veins knowing that I will finish a novel in the coming weeks. Its a high. I finally understand that.

Anyway, on to Lecture 8!

As I mentioned yesterday, this week’s lecture was on Plot. So let’s get to it!

A Novel’s Capital P Plot

Brandon starts by telling us that our writing groups, and even himself, are not going to be very effective in judging plot. Reading in segments makes judging plot and pacing difficult. So Brandon suggests having Alpha and Beta readers to let you know how your plot is doing.

I will say that I have been sending each chapter to my mom and she’s been reading it much faster than I’m writing it. She’s patient and the perfect first reader. She would never say something to deflate me. If she has questions she’ll ask them innocently, with no pretension. Also, how do I put this…? My mom reads stories that she likes. She reads for characters and plots. She doesn’t analyze for style and symbolism, because that’s not what it’s about for her. And that’s exactly what my first draft needs. She loves it just the way it is, and assures me that my first draft writing is better than a lot of the self-published eBooks she’s been reading on her Nook.

Basically, she’s my ego boost when I feel like a total crap writer. She’s been invaluable these last six months.

That said, I think waiting until the rough draft has been edited once before sending it to Alpha and Beta readers would be a good idea. So far, everyone from Write About Dragons that’s commented on my posts has told me things I already know. They tell me that the plot isn’t hinted at early enough. There’s not enough tension. I know all that. That’s why there’s a ton of notes in the sidebar of Scrivener for each chapter, reminding myself of ideas to fix those exact problems when I return to edit. So, I think sending a second or third draft would be much more beneficial, because all the stupid little stuff has been sorted out.

Also on this note, Brandon mentions that plot can be pretty loose on the first draft, especially for Discovery writers. DING DING DING.

As a Discovery writer I can say that, I didn’t really have a grasp on the full extent of my plot until about 2 weeks ago. I’ve been writing this novel for almost six months. Obviously, there are things happening in earlier chapters that aren’t going to make sense or really jive with where the novel actually goes. So, when editing time rolls around, there will be cutting and adding of scenes and lines to sharpen that plot, and make the piece more cohesive.

He also mentions that, until you’ve finished a lot of stories, you won’t know how to build a good plot. So far, I agree.

So, what is Capital P Plot? It’s the major thing the story’s about. Think of a plot pitch. When someone asks what your story is about, what do you tell them? That’s the Capital P Plot.

But, there’s also Lower Case P plot. This is plot that goes from chapter to chapter. Subplots. The thing that gets people to turn the page. What brings reader back after they’ve set the book down? Often it’s not the major plot, it’s smaller plots between characters, or something similar. Little P plots tend to be a bit more immediate and so offer more immediate satisfaction.

There’s something that needs to be said here. People kept asking about plotting over a series, which Brandon is insanely good at. But, he had this to say: Finish a great book, then worry about a series.

I wish more new writers would take this advice. Especially beginning Fantasy writers. We all read these epic fantasies that span hundreds of pages, over a multitude of books. We all want to write something that awesome. But, writing one novel is hard enough. Why would you want to outline and plot a five book series your first go? It is a sad form of sabotage, and I’ve watched it in action. Don’t do it! Write one book, then go from there!

Promises and a Sense of Progression

So, this is the bulk of the lecture, and I felt like I learned a lot from it. At the same time, I feel like I already knew this, I just never actively thought about it before. I’m glad to say that I’ve already done a bit of this subconsciously, but am looking forward to injecting more in the coming drafts.

Ok, enough ambiguity, let’s dive in.

You need to make Promises and then fulfill them incrementally to give a sense of Progression.

So, we’ve talked about making promises in previous posts, but basically, you hint at, or ‘hang a lantern on’ an event or something in your story. You need to fulfill that promise. And you want to do it in bits and pieces so that it takes time, both in the story and for the reader. It’s more satisfying that way.

Your first couple chapters are a promise of what the story is about. 

This was the point in the lecture where I had a huge epiphany about a problem in my story. I had to pause the lecture in order to write in enormous capital letters “HOLY SH*T”, with the solution scrawled beneath it. It takes up about half the page, not due to length, but sheer size… I was very excited.

Ok, back on topic, how do you fulfill promises incrementally? Brandon gives a few examples.

If you have a mystery story, what you really have is an information plot. You make good on promises by doling out information. And, of course, it’s going to be cool.

Then there are Relationship (Romance) and Big Problem Plots.

So, in most romances, the characters don’t get a long initially. You spend a good bit of the story learning how they are 100% wrong for each other, and then as the story unfolds you realize that their differences make them perfect for each other.

Pride and Prejudice, anyone?

But there’s also the Romance where they do get along. Brandon references Austin’s Emma, but I’ve never read it. I call this plot ‘Escaping the Friend-Zone’. They get along, are usually good friends, and don’t realize that what they’re looking for has been right in front of them the entire time.

So, how do you fulfill those promises? By showing them interacting together over time. I just keep coming back to Pride and Prejudice. Elizabeth talks crap about Darcy, but is continually shown that he’s not what she thinks, until she realizes she’s been a total b*tch about the whole thing. Admittedly, he’s not without fault and was an asshole just as often as not. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.

Then there are Big Problem Plots. These feel a bit more straight forward, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You solve big problems by acting. I know it seems too simple, but it’s true. What you need to remember is that there are usually more than one plot in a story.

Brandon references Mistborn, and since I’ve read it twice and have completely internalized it, I’ll put it in here.

In Mistborn, Brandon did what he calls ‘nesting’. It’s a series of brackets.

The largest bracket is the Big Problem. In this case the Enslavement of the Skaa. Nested within that is a slightly smaller bracket, labelled ‘Heist’. This is the plot that the character Kelsier brings forward, about stealing from the Lord Ruler himself. This is an exciting plot and keeps you reading, instead of the Big Problem being the focus.

Nested within the Heist is a smaller bracket labelled ‘Train’. Brandon goes on to explain that this is a plot type all its own. Think Karate Kid. You make good on promises by showing them at various levels of expertise. But, in Mistborn this is where we follow Val’s training as a Mistborn. And then, nested inside ‘Train’ is the smallest plot, Romance. This is where Val meets and falls in love with Elend.

There’s also Time Bomb/Travelogue plots. These are usually journey stories. You show progress by showing stops along the way. These plots add a sense of structure, and usually include some sort of critical deadline.

Brandon finally confronts the series question due to one persistent student who asked, ‘how do you include hints of plot in later books in opening sequences of the first book?’ Brandon answered honestly, ‘write the whole book, plot the series, and then go back and put it in.’

We all laughed, but it’s true.

The Danger of Not Delivering on Promises

If you make promises, and then don’t deliver on them, people are generally going to hate your book. He used an example of a book he read part of. It was a book that followed all the tropes of the epic quest, with knights and elves and yadda yadda. Well, Brandon got bored and put it down. Turns out, about 3/4 through, the book takes an unexpected twist and becomes a modern fantasy, turning all the tropes on their heads. But, it wasn’t successful.

It more or less failed because two things happened. The first part of the book promised an classical epic fantasy. Fans of that genre picked it up, got to the end and were pissed. And fans of the more modern fantasy never got to the end because they were too bored by the classic journey.

Basically the author made promises and either didn’t fulfill them at all, or didn’t subvert them quickly enough. You have to walk a fine line to make twists work well.

Brandon adds that having your protagonist fail isn’t a twist. You can definitely write that story, but don’t think it’s a plot twist.

Ways of Structuring Plot

We’re almost done guys, I promise. Ha! Promise… that’s funny because we’re talking about promises… haha.

1. Points on the Map: Imagine powerful scenes, and then write from point to point until you reach the end. It looks a lot like a graph, but if you’re a more visual writer this could definitely work. I really want to try it.

2. 3 Act Structure: So, you have your introduction which usually ends with some sort of call to action. This is Act 1. Then you have the protagonist trying to solve the problem, but generally things just get worse. That’s Act 2, it’s usually the biggest chunk of the story and ends when the main character hits their lowest point. And then there’s Act 3, where the problems get solved and the story concludes. Act 3 tends to be the shortest. Personally, I am not a fan of the 3 Act Structure. I have a hard time thinking visually, and this really fits for screenplays and more movie-like stories.

If you’ve beed reading long enough, you know I hate writing screenplays…

And, that’s all we talked about. Sanderson hinted at Orson Scott Card’s MICE. Not sure what that is. Google it. And he talked about Try/Fail which we’ve discussed before.

Holy hell. 2,000 words. I really should start calling these Recaps instead of Summaries… Sorry guys. Have a good Labor Day weekend. I’ll see y’all next week!

BZ

Milestones and Works in Progress

All right,

After a nice ‘weekend’ spent playing Borderlands 2 with the boy, seeing The World’s End again, and then a night out at the casino, it’s back to the real work.

Starbucks, sure, but writing as well. Chapter 18 starts today! Hopefully it will end sometime this weekend, but Trevor’s schedule changes Sunday, so my schedule is going to get tweaked.

What I really wanted to talk about here was a milestone I hit this week. The blog officially hit 1,000 views on Tuesday!

I wanted to thank all of you who stop by and at least glance at all the things I have to say. I hope that it helps you, maybe even inspires you, or at least entertains you to some extent.

1,000 views over the course of almost 2 years, really isn’t much, I know. But, I haven’t been the most consistent poster, either. These last couple months that I’ve been writing on a schedule I have posted more than ever and have had more views per month than ever.

Things are steadily climbing up for me. The novel is almost done. Painfully close. And Sanderson’s class, though the community is starting to fail, has really convinced me to write consistently. I’ve written over half of my novel in the last two months!

And that’s just plain success in my book. I’m writing at least 5 days a week, generally busting out about a chapter a week. That’s still sort of slow going, but I’m picking up speed.

Already I’m planning what’s coming next. After the novel’s rough draft is done, I will return to some short stories that need love, in order to submit them in the spring. I might even take a workshop class in the winter if I really think I need it. And then, when those are done and submitted, I’m going to start the new novel. It’s clawing to get out, and I can’t wait to develop the world, characters, and magic system. But, it needs to wait. I need to get distance from ‘Vessels’ and work on smaller things so I can finish them quickly. Then, when the rough draft of the new novel is well underway, I’ll start editing ‘Vessels’.

And that will be an exciting adventure all its own.

Anyway, thanks blogland for reading. I’ll see you all wither tomorrow or Monday for the Week 8 Summary! Brandon talked about Plotting this week, and I learned a lot! Be ready for a pretty detailed post.

Much Love,

BZ

Week 7 Summary

The Purple Pen made a comeback this week! Ok, not quite. It’s not the same purple pen, but it is A purple pen I stole from Planet Fitness. It’s my reward for actually going to the gym. Purple pens and tanning.

Thing is, I’ve only got the one purple pen, and I’m pretty pale.

Anyway, this week we focused on Viewpoint and Tense. It sounds pretty dull, I know, but it really wasn’t, and it is insanely important.

Brandon is back! And so are the giant posts! So we kick off lecture talking about Revising, Especially When You Don’t Want To.

The first note reads, “Experiment to find out what my ‘voice’ really is, AKA what genre am I really?”

What Brandon means here is that there are some genres that you will just naturally fit. For instance, he started writing Sci-Fi and more experimental things, but finally discovered that Epic Fantasy was what he was REALLY good at. It doesn’t mean you can’t write the other stuff, but it’s really helpful to know what you naturally gravitate to.

I don’t think for a minute that I am a natural Epic Fantasy writer. Especially since my draft probably won’t meet the 50k word mark. But, I’m just starting out. I still need to experiment to really discover what it is I should write.

Brandon goes on to mention that he absolutely hates revision. Hates it with the caps lock on. But, he admits that it is absolutely necessary. He says that he does a few solid revisions, which seems about true.

Viewpoint & Tense Overview and Its Importance

So, Brandon tells us that there are two main viewpoints:
First Person
     Third Person Limited

There’s also two other viewpoints, but they are far more uncommon:
Third Person Omniscient 
     Second Person

And then there are three tenses:
Past
     Present
     Future
He goes on to mention that future is super freaky and hard to write. He recommends leaving that one be.

Choosing Between Third & First Person

First Person:

  • Fewer viewpoints
  • 1 interesting voice
  •  can be unreliable
  • a sense of lack of urgency
  • cheat on info dumps

Third Person:

  • perspective jumps
  • reliable
  • cheat on voice
  • grand

Then there’s a random side note that Horror is extremely character driven. Not sure what the context was there, but it seems true enough.

Also, another note, that Viewpoints can be blended, meaning there can be first and third person in one story. I’m hard pressed to find examples of that, but it sounds fun!

How Not to Break Viewpoint

So, what we mean by “breaking viewpoint” is when you’re in a scene and it’s through a specific character’s lens, and then you randomly shift into another character’s lens in that scene. I can think of a couple of examples from ‘Vessels’ where this happens. For example:

Val picked at the worn seam of her gloves, fighting back tears. She heard Ethan heave a sigh beside her.

“I’m sorry,” he said softly. “I didn’t mean to make you cry.”

“It’s not for me.”

“What then?”

Val stood suddenly, leaning over the edge to look down at the deck.

“Val?”

“It’s for you,” she said, wiping one stray tear from her cheek. She climbed the railing, to balance on the balls of her feet in a crouch.

“Val?” 

“That you honestly think so poorly of yourself, when all I see is good.” Her dark brown eyes met his, and the sadness in them hurt him deeper than he expected. She held his gaze for a moment, and then pushed off the railing.

“Val!” Ethan shouted, reaching toward her, but he was too late. He watched in shock as the small girl plummeted toward the deck. She flipped once gracefully, pant legs flapping, and landed two walkways down.

The scene starts through Val’s lens, but by the end it’s definitely through Ethan’s. That’s something I’ll be fixing come revision time. And really, it’s not a hard fix, so don’t fret when this happens in your drafts.

So, how do you keep yourself from doing this in the first place? Try and keep your descriptions in viewpoint, use character specific jargon. Val would use totally different words to describe something than Ethan. Keep that in mind when you’re working on a scene. And, if you need to include thoughts, you can always put them in italics.

DISCLAIMER: Some people really cannot stand the whole ‘thoughts in italics’ thing. I’ve never thought much about it. My novel writing teacher was against it, but Sanderson does it, and it works well for him. But, if you’re going to put thoughts in italics, other words that aren’t thoughts cannot be put in italics for pretty much any reason. Be consistent. And be prepared, if you go down the italics road, that people may hate you for it. My jury is out on this one.

Then there’s a weird little note: Stay in the car —> Don’t be a camera offstage.
This was an example from Sanderson’s lecture. If your character is driving a car, and the car flies off the cliff, don’t suddenly describe the car rolling as if we’re outside of it. Describe it in relation to being INSIDE the car. Head smashing against the head rest, etc. It has way more impact on the reader that way, and really maintains viewpoint.

Concreteness, Immediacy & Precision in Prose

This was a bit of review for me. Patrick, that is Patrick Michael Finn, was a stickler on this one, and for good reasons. This segment talks about making your prose efficient, engaging, and if you’re really good, beautiful.

Concrete:

  • Evokes a sense (sight, smell, touch, etc.,)
  • tangible

Immediate:

  • Active
  • Cutting out fluff

Precise:

  • Fewer words
  • The right words

Then, circled just off to the left, in its own world, is the word Beauty. Brandon says that he doesn’t have much of this in his writing. I think he’s a little modest. But, it’s also not the same kind of beauty as a lot of literary fiction. Brandon says he follows Orwell in this matter, that he wants his writing to be as a window. Crisp, clear, almost as if you’re not reading at all. And he definitely accomplishes that.

Revising for Concreteness, Immediacy & Precision

The first note made me happy. Making things more concrete adds words. I need to add words, so I need more concreteness in my novel. Awesome. I can do that.

Also, you want to avoid abstractions. Abstractions are things like feelings. Vague things that we all know, but that don’t really evoke anything tangible. If you say someone is angry, that doesn’t give the reader anything to visualize or connect with, but if you show the character slamming their fist into a wall, that gives their anger life, and it give the reader a mental image and something to relate to.

Then Brandon brings up something pretty cool.

Excuse my crappy drawing...

Excuse my crappy drawing…


This is the Pyramid of Abstraction. Basically, the bottom is your foundation. You build a foundation by using concrete, immediate, and precise words. As the story progresses, if you’ve done a good job building your foundation, you can use abstractions. You use concrete words to EARN abstractions. I thought this was an interesting and concise explanation of the process. It’s really parallel to Sanderson’s Law, that the better your readers understand said magic, the more satisfying an ending solved with said magic can be.

That was some intense paraphrasing. Go back to previous posts, or google it to read the real Law.

Get rid of abstractions to make room for concrete imagery. This is true. I know it. But, I already have room. What do I do then?

Also, this is precision at work, try and find the one word that does everything. This allows every sentence to create a scene, build character, and move along the plot. And it’s really hard to do.

Then, there’s a tiny little freakout note:
Sanderson cuts 15% of his first draft… And he did for The Way of Kings! WHAT?! That is insane!

Then there’s a note about dialogue tags. Whoever said, ‘said is dead,’ was a big, fat liar. And their pants are subsequently on fire. Sanderson, and every other teacher I’ve had, says to avoid words like ‘replied’, ‘admitted’, ‘muttered’, etc. And I am really bad at this. I hate using ‘said’. It’s boring. And repetitive. But, they are right when they say that the other dialogue tags detract from the dialogue itself. If you write good dialogue, you don’t need the rest. The reader will know that the character muttered it, even if you don’t expressly tell them.

Another thing to go back and fix… a lot of them.

And lastly, as you’re editing, as yourself this:
“Do I need this sentence?”

 

Holy crap! Thanks for reading this far. I hope you find it to be of help. Looking back, I probably could have split this into individual posts. Sorry.

Chapter 17 is begging to be finished. I’ll leave you guys to chew over this monster of a post.

Thanks,

BZ