How Three Classic Mistakes Will Be a New Beginning

I haven’t blogged in a while, but I have been writing. I spent the past year in a woodshed, working on my writing with classes and exercises. It’s been fun. I learned a lot. It is difficult to start over after thirty years of practice, but I’m glad I did it.

Two years ago, I was all anxious to hurry up and write a lot, thinking I just needed to type more and faster to finally get good. But I self-published my novel and no one seemed to care. A few friends read it, and they were polite about it, but I know it wasn’t a compelling read. That story didn’t matter to people, and it wasn’t entertaining enough on a lot of levels.

After this year of classes and practice, I thought I’d start over. Same story, new approach, new attitude.

The Goal

I began with a screenplay of the story. I love the idea of starting on screenplays because it is such a boiled-down version of any story. While writing it, I realized there was a contest I wanted to enter – Script Craft.

I wasn’t worried. The story came together nicely, and the techniques I learned helped me work through the challenges. And the pace I set matched the deadline for the script. I just had to keep typing.

I finished, moved the draft into Trelby, touched up the formatting, and submitted the script to the Script Craft. Done and done.

Mistake #1

I didn’t leave time to think about all the scenes. Over the next several days, I thought of scenes that would have improved the story telling. First ideas are rarely the best, and the pace I set did not leave adequate time to ruminate and consider options.

Mistake #2

I didn’t spell check. I was reviewing the draft this morning and found about a dozen spelling errors. One of them is on page one. I don’t know for sure, but I’m pretty sure a spelling error on page one is a turd in the punch bowl.

Mistake #3

I didn’t test my material. One of the greatest benefits of the classes I’ve taken this past year is making connections with other students who are willing to read and offer feedbcak. I should have gotten quality feedback from people who know what for.

These mistakes are by no means inurmountable. In fact, they are all pretty easy to fix.

I just need to remind myself to write like I mean it.


What is the Best Writing Tool to Use in Order to Create an eBook with Jutoh?

Or why are you so stoked about Jutoh?

This is partially a blathering celebration of the eBook creation tool Jutoh. But it’s also a practical discussion of some of the technical aspects of how to create a manuscript when your primary concern is to generate an eBook.

Jutoh — that’s from England, right?

The tool I prefer, Jutoh, is very clever about importing a document and turning it into a book.  Some of its cleverness works very well with techniques for writing a book. So these are the technical considerations to make when writing a book.

What writing tool should you use?

I have tried quite a few in my day, and what I always look for is something to help me organize my thoughts. That is the most significant problem to solve. The least significant problem is the formatting you must do later on. But if your manuscript is a hot, steaming mess of incoherence, the formatting won’t help.

If you use Microsoft Word…

Teach yourself about styles. Use a style called “Title” for the title. Use a style called “Hearing 1” for the beginning of each chapter. Use a style called “Body Text”, “Normal,” or “Default” for your composition. But just one of those — not all three.
The nice thing about book manuscripts is that it doesn’t have to be any more complicated than that.
To help you with organization, use the “Document Navigator” tool. It will list all the styles called Heading 1 in a list that allows you to go to that part of the book.
Don’t use any forced page breaks, or sections, or anything else. Just worry about the composition and your chapters.

If you use Libre Office Writer…

Same thing as with Word. Use a style for the chapters, and “Body Text” for the composition. Keep it simple.

If you want to use a bunch of text files….

I created a book earlier this year with a series of text files. I kept the text files on Dropbox in their own folder, and used a simple text editor (WriteBox) to focus on each file. (Each file was a chapter.)
The first line of each file was the name of the chapter. I really enjoyed working that way.

If you want more of a writer’s tool, I recommend “Writer’s Cafe”….

Writer’s Cafe is a tool created by the guy who created Jutoh, and it is Scrivener-like in the tools it provides to help you organize topics, gather together notes and references, and work on the composition. It takes more work to learn its features, but it pays off.

I can’t comment on Scrivener….

But I’ve heard it’s awesome. Let me know what you find out about it if you pursue it.

Fast Forward to 15,000 words

Fifteen Large is, to me, the minimum for an eBook. Less that that you can probably just distribute a PDF.
Jutoh is the tool I use to create eBooks. If you have an MS Word or Libre Office Writer document, and tell Jutoh to import that document, it will look for Heading 1 as chapter breaks. You can tell it other styles to look for, but this keeps it very simple. Everything in between becomes the text of the chapter.
You can also tell Jutoh to look in a folder for a bunch of text files. It will assume that the first line of every file is the chapter title, and will create your book from there.
If you used Writer’s Cafe, I don’t think it has a direct integration, but you can export the file to a Libre Office document, and then use the import mentioned above.
That’s it. The rest of the work is now Jutoh related, but it’s so much fun working with Jutoh that it’s not really work.
If you keep your manuscript simple, then creating an eBook can be fun.
Any more questions? Just ask.

Process Review

This post will review the various processes for writing narrative fiction. I am not an expert, but I will soon be an authority. Most of my knowledge of writing process comes from trial and error, mostly error, and also from failure.

The writing process refers to the steps taken and techniques used to go from idea to manuscript. It’s one thing to be able to connect the thoughts in your mind with the raw horsepower of typing to generate words per minute, pages per day, and stories told. If generate lots of horsepower but the stories make no sense, or are not entertaining, then you may as well drive your car off a cliff. (Please don’t drive off a cliff, regardless of your ability to write stories.)

This is an overview of the main writing processes:

  • Explore and Pursue — Start writing, pursue what comes out of your mind. You may hit on the opening line that leads to a great story, or you may not find that opening until you are a year into something else, but at least you’ll know it came from your heart.
  • Topic outline — Hierarchical list of the topics to be covered in the discourse, dominated by the story events.
  • Narrative outline — Description of the story events, including character studies and all plot points.
  • Deep character studies — Identify and explore all aspects of the primary characters, and urge the story and plot from character interactions. This is best explained by Noah Lukeman.
  • Dramatica Analysis — Use of Dramatica story guides which weaves multiple plot aspects (character interactions, themes, and plot events).
  • Mini-movies — Chris Soth’s technique of eight major plot segments, and the continuous and generous use of maintaining tension by playing hope versus fear.
  • Anatomy of Story — John Truby’s masterpiece of masterpiece analysis that breaks down all the elements of great story telling, and explains how to put them back together again.

This is the order in which I have developed my writing process. The dirty little secret of these approaches is that they all can, and probably should, be used for every story. The last three, Dramatica, Mini Movies, and Anatomy of Story, are not all that different from each other, and truly one or another may work better for you, so I urge you to research and investigate them all.

I studied and used Dramatica for years. The most likely reason it didn’t work out well for me is because I was immature at the time, and did not have good enough ideas or habits to develop stories.

I use a combination of the last two. mini movies are useful for pacing and keeping the tension during the story; anatomy of story is especially good for knowing what needs to be in the story.



Truby Scene Weaving Meets the Beat Sheet

My brain really wrapped around the idea of a Beat Sheet when I read “Nail Your Novel”. It was an expansion of what I learned from Chris Soth’s mentorship and his Mini-Movie Method.

I’ve blathered before about Truby’s Anatomy of Story, and it’s the combination of his Scene Weave exercise with the Beat Sheet that worked for me last month. Granted, it was a story I’ve wrestled with for 18 months, but with the revised scene weave built in Beat Sheet format, AND mounted on a poster board and placed above my desk for constant reference, I cranked through the new version. It’s better than ever.

I’m working on a new story for Glass Cage Productions, based on an idea we conceived last summer. I was panicked for a while because the evolving story had left the premise, but the new premise is much improved thanks to what I learned from Steve Kaplan.

So today I will work on the new beat sheet/scene weave. It may take a week to get it right, but it’ll be smooth sailing after that!