Tag Archives: editing

Your favorite movies can improve your writing

Plotting a book is just like plotting for a movie. Do you want to have a story that keeps your audience at the edge of their seats? Find a favorite film and then break it down according to Syd Field’s paradigm for script writers.

Shakespeare knew what he was doing when he devised the three act structure. Following the greatest, Field divides his story into three parts: Act I (the beginning), Act II (the middle), and Act III (the end).

These three acts are then broken into plot points. They’re not just the points you would find in a math class, they ask questions of you. Leave you searching your head to find out who are your characters, what do they really want, and how far are they willing to go get it. Do not be afraid to build characters who fight tooth and nail to achieve their goals. It only makes the story interesting.

Let us break down Field’s paradigm using one of my favorite Disney Movies, The Princess and The Frog.

Act I: The set up

Plan on landing a big agent? Well just like in a film, you want to answer three big questions in the first thirty pages. Readers need to know the who, the what, and the where. Start in the middle of the action, and do not keep secrets.

We learn Tiana is a hardworking waitress from a lower class family in New Orleans. She has dreams of owning her own restaurant, but guess what? Sweetie does not have a dime.

On the other hand, we have Prince Naveen who has been cut off from his family for being a lazy rascal. Desperately wanting to maintain his lavish lifestyle he has two choices: marry a wealthy wife or find a job.

Somewhere around page 20 – 30, you’re going to have plot point I, the inciting incident in your story propelling everyone into the second act. The key in the ignition, it is the event that really starts your characters on their journey.

When Prince Naveen discovers a dirty voodoo witch doctor, he is turned into a frog. Knowing the only thing that can turn him back is a princess’ kiss, he goes in search of one. His blind need leads him to recklessly mistaking poor Tiana for a princess. Entangled in the spell, she becomes a frog herself.

Act II: The conflict

It is pertinent to understand truly who and what your characters want in Act II. Then you can create conflict that keeps your characters from truly getting what they want. Conflict is a series of events forcing the characters to change their behavior to achieve their goal.

Tiana wants a restaurant.

Prince Naveen wants a wealthy princess.

As Act II unfolds we learn more about why the characters want what they want, we see them have to struggle for what they want, and how their struggles bring them closer to the Midpoint. Think of the midpoint as the climax, the point of no return, the event that spins your story into a new direction. It can be a surprise your characters or audience were never expecting.

Now this is a judgment call, but I believe the midpoint is when Prince Naveen and Tiana fall in love.

We also have Plot Point II, or what Field likes to call the crises. This event causes our protagonists to act. It is the gritty moment, the decision maker, when all things become a matter of life and death. Whatever happens here must propel our protagonists into their final glory.

The voodoo man is able to capture Prince Naveen and lay a trap of deception, breaking Tiana’s heart and turning her against Prince Naveen.

Act III: The resolution

Whatever has happened in plot point II has led your characters to the final showdown. We watch as the characters make decisions that bring the story to a close. Then we see the balance being restored. Whether happy or sad, come what may I say.  Just do not let it be a cliff hanger. If it has to be, make sure the only question you leave unanswered in your story is what happens next.

Racing against time to break the voodoo man’s spell, Tiana must fight for love and self-respect. All soon goes well. It is a Disney movie after all.

Examining Field’s paradigm helps me to think in terms of action when writing my novel. A great tool, it keeps me focused. I hope it inspires you to read his books on screenwriting, learning more information on how to structure great novels.

Christi Goddard: the editor that saved her writing career

Four In The Morning is the debut young adult fantasy by Christi Goddard.

Being the daughter of a truck driver gave Goddard the opportunity to travel and learn about the world.

Using the skills she developed in life allowed her to become a renaissance woman in the publishing industry.

Goddard is a book trailer designer, a content editor, and an animator. Visit her website to seek her services.

I am honored to be able to share this author’s unique perspective with you all below.

Author spot lights usually feature just the words of the author, but since I conducted my interview with Goddard over the phone, I get to do something different.

Straight from the author’s mouth: the editor that saved her writing career

Can you tell us about Four In The Morning? What inspired you to write it?

Four In The Morning is a young adult paranormal novel that tells the story of Kathleen, a spunky and witty high school student, whose actions result in her being thrown into a police investigation.  One that leads to her reevaluating who she is as a person.

Goddard described Kathleen as an intelligent and clever character who has a lot of mouth.

“The character is how I would like to have been when I was in high school,” Goddard explained. “The person I was in high school was confident, but not like hey look at me, look at me.”

Though Goddard explained Kathleen does not really support the clique system, she says she has a clique. Not really trusting anyone outside of her friends, she can send off an “I hate you vibe,” Goddard said.

When asked how she came up with the concept for the story, Goddard said it was inspired by DL Hammons’ blog.

While on Hammons’ blog, Goddard engaged in an argument with Hammons over who had the best story to tell.

She told him how she used to write poems for a boy to give to his girlfriend while in high school.

Really liking the story, Hammons told Goddard that would make a good book.

It later led Goddard to write Four In The Morning.

How long did it take you to complete your novel? Can you discuss your writing process?

Goddard said she writes in spurts.  “I will write a bunch really fast and then won’t write for a long time.”

That being said, Goddard explained it took her 6 weeks in all to write Four In The Morning, but she did not write it all at once.

“When I am motivated I can go and just write, write, write it.”

What tools did you use to complete this novel?

Goddard strongly believes in being professionally edited.

Beta editors overlook things. When she finally got a professional editor not only did she get advice on overlooked mistakes, she also learned a thing or two about the industry.

After completing Four In The Morning, Goddard sent it off to agents. She got a lot of interest even though they all eventually passed. Their passing seemed to lead her on her path to Immortal Ink Publishing.

She sent it off to an editor, and the editor loved it.

Goddard said she was surprised by her reaction. “This was my play around book.”

Loving the book so much, when the editor discovered Goddard was having very little luck in the publishing industry she told her about Immortal Ink publishing.

The one thing Goddard loves about Immortal Ink publishing is their ability to listen to suggestions. Such an ability allowed Goddard to keep as much of the original idea of her book as she could.

The ending of Four In The Morning was especially important to her.

“The ending had to happen the way it did,” Goddard began. “For books 2 and 3 to make sense.”

Any Editing Tips?

“That, is the work of the devil,” Goddard said. “That is not a necessary word.  I was able to cut out 2,000 words by going through my story and taking out the word that.”

Goddard’s editing process is not of the norm.

She likes to write a couple pages at a time then go back to edit it before moving forward. Such a process makes it hard to keep count of how many drafts she has worked on for any specific novel.

“I want to know exactly what the character is going to say and have the scene perfect in my head before I write it,” Goddard said.

If you could share one tip that you have learned with traditionally published and self-published authors who desire a successful writing career, what would it be?

Goddard suggested for writers to never be over confident in their abilities as a writer. The actual feel of writing a sentence may be different from the meaning the reader gets.

“Your sentence may not make sense to anybody, but you,” Goddard said.

She also suggested learning about Janet Reid and following her blog.

Reid helped Goddard to perfect her query  letter by doing  a critique and posting it on her blog.

Goddard said, she has a database of edited query letters for those to go over.

“Nothing puts off an agent more than horribly written query letters,” Goddard reassured me.

One last bit of advice is to get your books professionally edited. She explained to me there is a big difference between being a storyteller and an author.

“I love to weave a tale. Being an author is more professional. There are responsibilities. You have to abide by the rules of grammar.”

If someone does not have the average $1500 dollars to throw away on a novel, she recommends Freelance.com. On that website, editors can be found for $300 or $400 dollars.

Author Devan Sipher of The Wedding Beat: All or nothing

When Devan Sipher, author of The Wedding Beat, began writing his story, he knew it was all or nothing.

He wrote 12 to 15 hours a day, six days a week for a year and a half.

While writing, he made sure to make every page a page turner.

I read the book and I think Sipher succeeded.

In the short-but-sweet glimpse into his writing process, Sipher shares his number one tip to writing a novel that landed him attention from a big six publishing house.

Straight from the author’s mouth: Writing full steam ahead

Why did you choose to write this book?

For five years I was a single guy writing the Vows wedding column at The New York Times. It occurred to me that my life would seem somewhat amusing (if I wasn’t living it). Then the movie 27 Dresses came out, with a male romantic lead who seemed to write the column I wrote at the newspaper I worked for, and I figured if someone was going to steal my life, it should be me.

How long did it take you to write it?

I wrote the book in a year over a year and a half, six days a week 12 to 15 hours a day. You could say I was driven. I had never written a novel before (or anything as long), and I was so intimidated by the prospect I felt I needed to do it full steam ahead or I might be tempted to give up.

Any editing tips you used to help you get to the final draft?

On every page ask: What does the character want? How badly do they want it? Why do they want it now? What’s stopping them from getting it? On every page.

If you could share one tip you learned with self-publishers who share the dream of one day being published, what would it be?

Be ruthless with yourself about your writing, and try to find a writing group of kind and smart people – and preferably sane. But kind and smart are more important.

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