Archive for December, 2009
Fiction, and novel writing in particular, can seem like a daunting task unless you have a clear plan to follow. There are so many pieces to keep track of: characterization, dialog, plots and subplots, multiple points of view, and more. It’s important to start things off in the right way because everything else you do will flow from that.
How to Get Started Right
In this post, I’m going to give you what you need to get started on writing your novel today. From my experience, it’s the first step that’s the hardest. Once you’ve got the first step down, you get excited about writing your novel and you have a better feeling for where you are headed so each step after that will be easier.
Step 1: What Do You Want To Write?
The first step in the process is to decide what you want to write. There are so many possibilities, so how do you decide? The answer is simple: write what you love to read. What kind of books do you love? That’s what you should write. Here’s why:
1. Since you’ve read a lot of novels in this genre, you are already very familiar with the way these books are written. As you’ve been reading, you’ve been automatically absorbing the structure of the stories, the kinds of conflicts and crises that come up in this type of fiction, and you know for sure what works and what doesn’t in this genre.
2. Since you love reading this kind of novel, you will love writing this kind of novel as well. And the enthusiasm and enjoyment you feel as you write will translate into your writing, making it fresh, vibrant, and real.
Step 2: Who’s the Lead of Your Novel?
Next, you decide on the main character for your novel. Just the basics to begin with: decide on the gender, age, and name of your Lead to help make them real to you. Follow the expectations of the genre you chose in step one as you decide. For example, if you’re writing a romance novel, you’ll generally have a women as the Lead.
Step 3: What’s the Crisis?
Every novel has a major crisis that the Lead has to face early on in the story. Evan Marshall, the literary agent and author, points out some key characteristics that your crisis should have to ensure that you come up with a great basic premise for your novel:
1. It should be appropriate to your genre
2. It should turn your Lead’s life upside down
3. It should capture your imagination and make you want to know more
Step 4: What’s Your Lead Going To Do About It?
In response to this crisis, your Lead has to decide how they will solve this problem. They set an overarching story goal that they will pursue throughout your novel, but not achieve until the very end.
I like the following four criteria for this goal that Marshall suggests. Working within the expectations of your genre, he recommends that your goal should be about:
1. Trying to get something that your Lead really wants or getting relief from something they really don’t want.
2. High stakes: there should be terrible consequences if they fail.
3. Your Lead’s motivation must be worthy and admirable so your readers like them and are rooting for them to succeed.
4. Impossible odds: the problems should be so difficult that it should seem almost impossible for your Lead to succeed.
If you develop your novel idea using these guidelines, you are sure to come up with an idea that inspires and engages you. That’s the most important step. This basic story idea will carry you through plotting and writing the rest of your novel. If you take the time to come up with an idea that you love, it will be the seed from which your wonderful novel will grow.
More Tips For Novel Writing
Evan Marshall has developed a great system for fiction novel writing that guides you step-by-step through the whole process of writing your novel from start to finish. If you’re interested in writing a compelling, powerful page-turner with the potential to become a best-seller, I highly recommend that you check it out. You can learn more about his system through this link: Marshall Plan novel writing. His system will really help you enjoy the process of writing your novel.
I think you might also be interested in my blog about how I’ve been using the Marshall Plan Novel Writing software to develop my novel idea.
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So, I’ve started using the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing software and I’m really having fun with it so far.
Getting It All Set Up
After downloading the software, I went through the quick process of installing it. It was really easy, quick, and self-explanatory so I won’t go into how to do it here. Then, I clicked on the desktop icon for the program, entered my name as the author, and found myself on the main template page of the program.
I clicked on the How To Use This Program button at the top and read through the instructions. It’s nice because the program gives you a quick overview of the Marshall Plan system and how things work, but it only takes a few minutes to read through. This is one of those learn-by-doing programs (with lots of help along the way, of course) and I like that. It would also be a good quick refresher for people who are familiar with the Marshall Plan from the books. So, I’m ready to jump in and get started. Fun!
Do What You Want To Do
The instructions let you know that you can jump in where ever you want to in the creative process according to your own inspiration for that writing session. However, they also give you suggestions for walking through the process step-by-step if you prefer that. Since I’m new to the program and this system of writing, I’m going to go through each step as Marshall recommends. To do this, I just click on each of the tabs positioned across the top of the page.
Defining the Initial Crisis
Tab 1: First, you click on the Story Idea tab. Here, you read a bit about the importance of the initial crisis and how it lays the foundation for your whole novel. You then define the gender and age of your lead character. Then, you click the next subtab…
Deciding On the Story Goal
As a result of the crisis, your Lead character decides on their story goal. This is what she will be working to achieve throughout the novel although she won’t succeed until the end.
Next, based on the initial crisis and the goal the Lead sets in response, you devise what Marshall calls “the Suppose.” It’s phrased in this way: “Suppose this big crisis happened to my Lead and in response, she decides that she must achieve this goal.” The Suppose defines this crisis that will drive your story forward and the software goes over the key criteria it must meet to make your story truly compelling. There are lots of good tips here. For example, Marshall emphasizes how important it is that this Suppose actually intrigues you as the writer so you want to write about it and so your writing will reflect that enthusiasm.
So, I defined the sex and age of my lead and I’ve got an intriguing crisis, goal, and Suppose drafted. I’m ready to move on to the next Tab: Working with Sections and Genre/Length.
But First… Give My Novel a Title
To save my novel file, the program requires me to enter a working title in the Title tab section, so that’s what I did. I tested it out and I can change the title later if I like by just entering another title in this tab.
Next up is learning about the building block of my novel: what Marshall calls sections and deciding on my genre and target word length. I’ll do that in my next post. See you then!
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Before I really begin my blog series on using the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing software, I thought I would give you an overview of what the Marshall Plan is about so you’ll know what I’m talking about as I use this system to develop my novel idea.
There are a lot of writers who have read the Marshall Plan for Novel Writing books by Evan Marshall and have found this system really helpful in developing a compelling roadmap for their novels.
However, if you’re unfamiliar with the system, read on.
Gives You Everything You Need to Craft a Compelling Novel With Best-Seller Potential
The Marshall Plan for writing novels guides you to develop a powerful novel idea based on a specific system for developing characters and plot. The plot is driven by an initial crisis that motivates the Lead character to focus on achieving an important specific goal throughout your novel. Marshall emphasizes that this must be a compelling and formidable problem that will keep the reader engaged throughout the story.
The Basic Building Block to Writing a Page-Turner
The basic unit of plotting for the Marshall Plan is what he calls the section. Each section generally consists of the point-of-view character working to achieve a short-term goal, often being challenged by another character, and then failing to achieve the short-term goal. Alternately, the character may succeed at the end of the section but discover an even bigger problem in the process. This system of plotting builds tension and suspense, compelling the reader to want to read just one more chapter to see what happens.
This is true for all characters but the one Marshall calls the Opposition Character, also known as the antagonist of the story.
The Bad Guy Always Succeeds… Until the End
This is one of the insights of the Marshall Plan system that I found very helpful. At the end of the sections which feature the Opposition as the POV character, the Opposition always achieves his short-term goal. This serves to increase the stakes and the challenge to the Lead character, thus increasing the tension and suspense of the story.
During the end section of the novel, the Lead character faces the Opposition and endures his Worst Failure. He then experiences a Point of Hopelessness where he feels he will never succeed. At this point, he has an all-important insight, and as a result implements his final Saving Act which leads to his ultimate success. Of course, at this point the Opposition fails. This suspense-building structure provides readers with a satisfying payoff for the Lead’s repeated failure throughout the novel and leaves them feeling good about your novel.
That’s What Makes It So Good
This is what makes Marshall’s structure so good at helping novelists create such compelling page-turners. Throughout the novel, the Lead goes through a series of attempts to achieve his goal and is continually thwarted and challenged further as the novel proceeds.
Add to that the multiple point of view characters and subplots that the system requires and the reader is left on the edge of their seat, anxious to know what happens next and how the Lead is ever going to succeed at this seemingly impossible task.
The System Tells You Just What To Do To Keep Them On the Edge of Their Seat
In order to achieve this tight, compelling structure, Marshall gives you step-by-step instructions on how to write your novel. His system lays out specific guidelines to follow when it comes to the following:
- key details and goals for the Lead and the other characters
- the number of sections to have
- how many POV characters to use
- how to weave subplots together
- where and how to introduce powerful suspense-building surprises into your plot
- the specific order of sections to begin and end your novel
All of these guidelines are carefully designed to help you hook the reader and keep them engaged until the very last word.
Here’s Where the Software Comes In Handy
It’s a great system, but that’s a lot of stuff to keep track of. That’s why users of the Marshall Plan asked Evan Marshall to develop a software program to help them implement the Marshall Plan system. And that’s just what he did.
I’m going to be giving the software a test-drive over the next few weeks with my own novel idea and I’ll let you know how it goes right here. Fun!
Lots of Great Guidance For the Whole Process
Beyond character-development and plotting, Marshall gives you lots of specific guidelines to help you with writing, editing, and sending your manuscript out to publishers and agents as well. He covers the whole process with specific, practical guidance at each step.
The Big Advantage: Never Get Lost In the Woods Again
Have you ever found yourself deep in the middle of a novel wondering what in the world are you supposed to do now? Have you ever written yourself into a dead end and had to toss big chunks of writing… a lot of it that you loved? Well, if you follow the Marshall Plan, that just won’t happen. Before you even begin the actual writing, you’ve got it all worked out.
This really helps when it comes to overcoming writer’s block as well… you know just what you’ll write as you sit down to work on your novel each day.
But What About Going With the Flow?
Some writers may hesitate to follow guidelines that seem so structured. They have the idea that they prefer to sit down in front of a blank page each day and see what happens. Well, here’s what I think: if they’ve found their own way to finish a novel that they feel good about, that’s truly a great accomplishment and I’m happy for them.
But Then Again…
However, if you haven’t found a way to really finish your novel and feel good about it once it’s done, I encourage you to give the Marshall Plan a try. See how it works for you. Don’t judge it until you try it yourself and see what happens. I think you’ll find it to be an empowering system that results in a well-crafted, compelling novel… one that is fun to write and just what publishers are looking for.
It’s Worth a Try, Don’t You Think?
If you do give it a try, a few months from now, you could have a finished manuscript ready to send out. Wouldn’t that be amazing?
On To the Software… Fun!
Well, that gives you an overview of the Marshall Plan and how I feel about it. I’m excited to be starting this process of developing my novel idea with the Marshall Plan software and I’m looking forward to sharing my experiences with you.
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