May 25, 2010

Tuesday Edit Crunch: A Killer Story Structure

Welcome to this week's Tuesday Edit Crunch.
Sounds like a breakfast cereal made of old typewriter keys.

Tuesday Edit Crunch is an informative, fresh, and important part of this nutritious... blog...

I've been excited about this Edit Crunch because I get to name drop. That's right, I know some people. Well, I Tweet some people. Sometimes, these people even Tweet me. It's AWESOME. I am learning so much through Twitter connections and the encouragement and advice I am getting from some great authors is invaluable. If you are a writer and wish for these connections, I highly recommend getting aboard Twitter. There is a whole group of witty, wise, and wonderful people who are sharing their publishing journeys, their blogs, links, sarcasm and hopes, and even what they had for lunch and whether or not it was a good idea. @robisonwells is good at that last one. But this post isn't about Rob (go see him here, anyway, though because now he's a big shot... but do that later).

This post is about his brother, Dan (or on Twitter, @johncleaver).

Dan Wells is the author of I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, its sequel, MR. MONSTER, and the newly titled but not out yet third book of this horror series, I DON'T WANT TO KILL YOU.

(Did anyone else just shudder and glance out the window?)

Several months ago I was led (by a Tweet) to a presentation given by Dan on Youtube, called Dan Wells on Story Structure. It's a Five part series filmed at the Life, The Universe, and Everything convention, 2010, at BYU.


I'm not going to break down the entire presentation for you (although I highly recommend watching part 1, then following the link there to part 2, and then so on until THE END... but do that later. This is my time.). What I am going to do is talk a little about part 1 and my a-ha moment.

Some of you followers know I have been tackling revisions of my novel THE INN, the second book in a trilogy I wrote. The first book in the series, THE ORCHARD, will be coming out in Spring of 2011, and I'll get to work on that again very soon. But right now, after feedback from readers at Covenant, my publisher, I am hard at work on THE INN. And after initial fixes of sequel transition, clarification of some confusion of who is doing what when, I have now been focusing on the ENDING.
If any of you recall, with THE ORCHARD, the first novel, I was told to chop 30 pages off the ending. It went on and on. I didn't want to let it go. TME: Too Much End.
So, when I wrote THE INN, I think I was a little paranoid and just... ended it. Wrap up, done, the end. And in this case, it wasn't quite enough, a little too neat. The last thing I want is for a reader to roll their eyes and say, "Duh," as they close my book. So now I'm in Opposite Land and what am I going to do?

Then it happened. A-HA! I remembered a point made by Dan Wells in his Story Structure class! What was this point, accompanied by angels' song and light breaking through the clouds?


I will admit when I first heard this advice, I said, "Huh? How...what?" But it was Dan Wells, so I kept listening. And then I thought about it and, since I'm an outliner, I usually do have a scene in my head about the ending, and I scribble it down in my notebook, barely legible. I just don't pay much more attention to it until I get there. So I told myself I'd probably try it the next time I began a new draft. And time went by and stuff happened.
But, when so recently challenged with the revision of my ending for THE INN, this advice had made enough of an impression on me that the A-ha moment came, and I pulled out my notes, and went back to Youtube for part 1/5.

  • Everything leads to this moment.
  • What is the story about? Where is it going?
Although Dan's lesson is on writing the draft, I just knew I could apply it to my revision. Because now I not only knew what kind of resolution I didn't want, I knew what a reader or two didn't want. I made decisions about my characters and the Hero's arc, incorporating how they'd developed through what I learned here. Then I rewrote the ending to fit those decisions, the ending I want. The ending I hope will bring a satisfied sigh when the reader closes the book. Not an eye roll.
Not only that, I was able to go back and vamp up several scenes, give them better direction, foreshadowing, or suspense, and lose some clutter that didn't advance the story to THE ENDING I WANTED. I'm excited again.

So thank you, Dan Wells. I hope my editor thanks you, too. We shall see!
Listen to Dan Wells, Brandon Sanderson, and Howard Tyler (all Tweeps of mine) on Writing Excuses, a weekly podcast, for great writing discussions and more than a few laughs.

Any A-ha moments during revisions you'd like to share?

I hope you enjoyed this edition of Tuesday Edit Crunch. And be nice to Dan. His character may not be a serial killer, but why would he have to insist that in the first place? Just saying.
And remember, watch out for the K's. They're especially crunchy.


M. Gray said...

hahahaha I just posted this. Sorry! I should have checked here first!

Krista said...

M.- Oh my gosh, first Sarah M. Eden and ice cream, now this. Hey, it's just so good! Should we start calling each other about what we're going to wear so we can match? ;)

RobisonWells said...

Tricked! You said this blog was about me, but then it's about my brother? I've been had!

Daron D. Fraley said...

I agree, that presentation Dan did is one of the best I have ever seen on plotting out a storyline. Most excellent.

Krista said...

Rob, I said you were IN IT, and that it was about DAN. Sorry you got your hopes up. I'll post about you next, okay? Or maybe the time after that.

Daron, thanks for the most excellent comment.

Luisa Perkins said...

Dan's lecture has been immensely helpful to me in my own work. Nice review!

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