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The Plot Plight

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Apr 22, 2015

My favorite book is an obscure title first released in 1933 called God's Little Acre by Erskine Caldwell. Well, it's obscure now. When it was released, it was actually both a commercial hit and the subject of controversy because it was deemed vulgar by some. By today's standards, it's not nearly as provocative as it was in the 1930s.

 

I write about it today because I can make the argument that the book is without a main plot. The catalyst for the action in the beginning is the patriarch of a deeply impoverished family's obsessive search for gold on his dying farm. It's a fruitless endeavor that ruins the farmland. This search for riches serves as a backdrop to the lives of the family members and the hardships that weave them together. There's an illicit affair that tears the family apart. There's a strike at a nearby cotton mill that ends in tragedy. There's a murder. The book is basically a scrapbook of events that paints the sad portrait of a family plagued by poverty. The futile search for gold is less a plot than it is a shadow cast by the family's endless misfortune.

 

A plot is described as the main event of a book that gives a story meaning. Other events, subplots, give a story depth. My dissection of God's Little Acre has me questioning my sanity. A book, I've been taught, must have a clearly defined plot. I've been encouraged to establish the plot early in a story. And I've been told repeatedly that a book cannot end without some sort of resolution to that plot. Caldwell did none of those things in God's Little Acre, but he managed to write a compelling, truly enriching story. How is that possible?

 

So, here's my question to you, dear writer, what is your philosophy on plot? Where is it established in your story? How clearly defined is it? Can you think of a book that contains a muddled plot, but still manages to deliver a gripping story?

 

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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The Importance of Plot Points

The Purpose of Subplots

2,238 Views 0 Comments Permalink Tags: books, authors, author, writing, characters, plot, development, craft, writing_tips, plot_point
1

Write Non-linearly

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Mar 26, 2014

For writers, getting from point A to point B isn't always easy. In fact, it can be painful to get to point B. Writing takes a certain amount of attention to detail. You have to think for every character. You have to keep track of the past, present and future of your fictional world all at once. Simple things like trying to remember if your character already lit a cigarette in the scene you started six days ago will wreak havoc on your writer-mind as you piece your story together from beginning to end. At times, it can be so daunting a task the wheels in your head stop turning and you get stuck, unable to write another word.

 

Here's a tip if you find yourself in such a state of mind: Stop piecing it together from beginning to end. Give up the linear mentality and allow yourself to think non-linearly. If you're stuck on a scene, leave it and move onto another one. Rewrites are for nailing things together in their proper structure. Writing is for putting together the building materials you need to tell the story. 

 

There is no law that requires you to write a story chapter by chapter in the order in which it will be read. You are free to write the book out of order. Don't force yourself to muddle through a chapter just because you want to get to the next part of your book. Simply leave the chapter unfinished and move on to the next chapter. 

 

Writing in a non-linear fashion may be just the thing to finally cure your writer's block.

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Can Visualization Help You Finish that Manuscript?

Tips for Finishing Your Manuscript

6,725 Views 1 Comments Permalink Tags: authors, writers, writing, drafts, development, writing_process, character_development
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I have a book I've been writing for a number of years now. It's not my primary focus, and I only work on it when I've cleared other projects off my plate. This book is a passion project for me because it was something I started during the final year of my mother's life. She wasn't well, and she required care that my sister heroically provided. Mom always asked me what book I was working on ? even at her sickest. On one occasion, I told her about a gem of an idea I had at the time. She liked the idea so much I decided to start writing it. I sent her the pages as I did. My sister ended up having to read them to her because her eyesight was failing. She loved the book, so I kept writing. I wrote without a plan; I just wrote to entertain my mother. Unfortunately, she passed before I got 100 pages into the story, and I still haven't finished the book. 

 

 

It's well over 100,000 words at this point and far from complete. Beyond knowing the book will be broken up into three parts, I have no plan for the story. There are no notes to organize my thoughts. I don't know how the characters will fare or when it will even end. It's the most unorganized writing I have ever done and I probably shouldn't admit this, but I like it. It's fun writing without a really clear path and just discovering these characters as they face situations I have no idea they will face until I am at the keyboard tapping away.

 

 

So here's my question to you, my fellow indie authors: how do you approach a story? Do you know where you're going, or does your day of writing end in utter surprise? 

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Keep a Private Journal

You Aren't Your Characters

2,684 Views 1 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: self_publishing, authors, author, writing, drafts, development, writing_process, craft, writing_ideas
9

In a story, you have a Point A and a Point B. These two points are payoff moments that send your story in a certain direction and rock your readers' worlds. They're the parts everyone will be talking about. As a writer, you feel especially proud about the development of these two points in your story. They came out perfectly. But what about the other stuff, the part of your story that got you from point A to point B?

 

Elmore Leonard famously called these the "boring parts," and he handled them by not handling them. He left them out of his story. Now, his genre, the crime novel, allowed for that kind of tactic. There isn't a lot of minutiae in crime novels. The tone calls for a fast pace that allows the readers to fill in a lot of the unsaid action. How a character gets from the elevator to the front door of his apartment isn't necessary to write unless something of note is revealed about the plot in that short trip. 

 

Even if you aren't a crime novelist, there's a lesson here: if you include minutiae, make it count. Be sure it reveals something about the characters, plot or setting. Personally, I don't object to the "boring parts" as long as they are written well. Those parts can help readers become immersed in the story. A good writer can sneak them in without the reader noticing. The more I know about how a character traverses a hallway, the greater the chance I may find myself walking down the hallway with him.

 

I understand I might be in the minority. We live in an abbreviated world where things are said in 140 characters and the number 8 is used to spell words like "gr8," so the "boring parts" of a novel may be relics of a bygone age of storytelling. Readers have a growing expectation for writers to get to the point. I think there can be a compromise: eliminate those parts if you find they're slowing your story down, but don't cut them for the sake of cutting them. Leave them in if that's what your writer's heart tells you.

 

How about you? How do you handle the "boring parts" of a novel?

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Nix Unnecessary Words

Writing Tip: Keep the Story Moving Forward

9,181 Views 9 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: editing, self-publishing, writing, drafts, development, craft
3

It's okay to walk away from a story. In fact, it may be good to walk away from a story. Writing is a hollow endeavor without perspective, and sometimes it's hard to gain that perspective when you're in the middle of constructing a story. Sure you're adding pages, and sure it feels like you're moving forward, but things aren't always what they seem.

 

I've had many times where I will shoot out of the gates with a story idea, and I will write for weeks and weeks feeling really good about where I'm going, but then things start to waver. I begin to harbor doubts about the story for which I once had so much passion. The premise no longer excites me. The character development seems uninspired, and the dialogue seems forced.  Instead of feeling uplifted when I sit down to write, I feel like I'm undertaking a pointless task.

 

What is an author to do when met with such drudgery? Personally, I have to walk away from the story. I leave it and move on to something else. Sometimes months will pass before I return to it, and I always seem to get back to it the same way. I'll recall that story out of the blue and wonder why my excitement waned. I'll open the file and start reading. What I find, more times than not, is that I was so entrenched with where I wanted to go with the story that I refused to see it any other way. By leaving it for a period of time, I let go of that set path and find a better way to proceed. I gain a new perspective, and my passion for the story returns.

 

If a story isn't working, leave it alone. Start writing something else. Give yourself a break from your own expectations of what a story should be. Don't be a victim of your ambitions. When you come back to the project, you will more than likely discover a fresh, more suitable path for the story you walked away from.   

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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That Wise Old Doubt

How to Get Through the First Draft

3,892 Views 3 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, book, editing, writers, writing, drafts, development, craft
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That Wise Old Doubt

Posted by CreateSpaceBlogger Aug 28, 2013

Doubt gets a bad rap. Whether it's external or internal, everyone seems to despise doubt. We view it as an obstacle to success. It causes us to second guess ourselves and in extreme cases, it can trigger an almost paralytic sense of emotional pressure.

 

Doubt is something that is in abundant supply when you're a writer. You doubt your character choices. You doubt your plot choices. You doubt your opening line, your ending, your conflict, etc. Doubt even rears its ugly head when you map out your marketing strategy for a book. Something as simple as selecting the right genre is sometimes an enormous struggle. Doubt is as prevalent as verbs and nouns among writers.

 

But, I think doubt is good. Doubt isn't a stumbling block at all. It's a chance to reflect, assess and confirm your commitment to your current trajectory. In short, doubt shouldn't be a hindrance, but a motivator. You should welcome doubt. Picture it is as a wise mentor that is simply there to help you examine your choices. Yes, it can be annoying, and yes, it doesn't always appear at the most opportune times, but doubt means well. It has your best interests at heart. And it doesn't mind if you ignore it. In fact, doubt doesn't even mind when it's proven wrong.

 

Remember doubt is not an absolute. It's a degree of probability. That's it. So don't let doubt prevent you from moving forward. Face it, thank it and move on.

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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Evaluating Yourself as an Indie Author

How to Get Through the First Draft

3,747 Views 0 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: books, authors, writing, drafts, development, writing_process, craft
4

We are in an age of publishing that embraces the concept of speed. Manuscripts can be turned into market-ready books in hours. HOURS! To fully appreciate that feat, you must understand that the same process used to take months. The standard turnaround time for a manuscript to go from author's draft to a book sold via retailers was about 18 months. And this was in the not-so-distant past.

 

So, with a year and a half vanishing from the process of publishing a book, authors now have the ability to capitalize on trends like never before. The question is, should you? It is tempting. Let's say a western romance novel featuring two-headed aliens becomes a phenomenal success. Twitter explodes with tweets about this incredible novel. Facebook is flooded with status updates from fans of this new pop culture hit.

 

You're a writer. You know how to construct a good story. Why not sit down and write your own western romance novel featuring two-headed aliens? There is absolutely no reason not to...IF the genre speaks to you. If it reaches out and touches your artistic soul, go for it. If you feel that strongly about it, chances are you'd add something of value to the world of two-headed alien love stories. 

 

But if you decide to write such a story to strictly capitalize on the trend, I wouldn't recommend doing it. You'll put yourself in the position of faking it and most likely will create an imitation of the novel that sparked the trend. That has the potential to leave readers disappointed. 

 

Instead of attempting to capture a trend, why not start one? Use your talents and your passion and pour them into a genre that means something to you. Those kinds of stories will make a connection with readers and have a chance to become a trend all their own.

 

-Richard

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Richard Ridley is an award-winning author and paid CreateSpace contributor.

 

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The Evergreen Era of Publishing

Short-Form Works: The New Author Strategy

3,273 Views 4 Comments 0 References Permalink Tags: publishing, writing, development, craft, writing_trends, publishing_timelines


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