Critical Evaluation and Writing Plan

As a writer, I am constantly seeking ways to improve, and I find that one of the best ways to do this is by self-reflection—and by writing, of course. I would leap for joy to attend a writer’s conference, however that is financially out of the question, particularly since I would need to travel at least 200 miles, and find room and board. I am doing what I can from the resources at my fingertips, principally writing books and free internet sources.

And here I need to level with myself a little. I’ve spent five years learning clean, concise, professional writing in a classroom setting, working with groups, and doing short papers. Between that and working part-time jobs, I have not actually written anything. Seven months ago, I threw myself fully into creative writing and spent about 50 pages getting back up to the standard I used to write at. Then came the challenge of editing and shaping the novel. Now I look back at it, and there are some mistakes. A typo here and there, but pretty solid writing; better than some books I’ve read, but not as good as others. I wonder if I had too many scenes, tried to take on too much at once. The answer? Probably. I don’t know if I’ve pulled it off, but I would like to think so. I haven’t had any feedback on Feral Magic yet, but I haven’t been pushing for it, either. I need practice, because I know that I can do even better. That practice has come in spurts lately due to moving, sorting, and general house-improvement projects. Then there has been applying for jobs; I have a position at a staffing agency, but they don’t have work for me yet.

The King’s Mutt has been serving as the practice I need. It has short segments (each one is between 1-2 pages), it forces me to think of pacing within each segment and how each thing that happens will influence the rest of the tale, and I can take the time to focus on constructing sentences with punch and precision. I also do not heavily edit these segments, so I sometimes browse through my older posts and find redundancies and misspells and that manner of thing. I also might have minor logic errors as the story progresses; that’s OK, I can fix them in the edits. For now, I’m focusing on getting out the best, most complete rough draft that I can.

These have been the goals I have kept in mind with each segment so far:

I – Start with action, let no saggy middle, focus on crisp description, and leave on a cliffhanger. Establish the world basics and how the main character interacts within that world, how she is treated by others, how she treats others, and set up the stakes.

II – Start with action, then slow down pace enough to allow for some reflection and to catch up with what has happened. The other main character is introduced as Hunter, and he is shown to be kind enough to those who do as he wants. This segment is about trust, and the deception of appearances. More than that, it is about a power struggle. But right now they are both fairly level on the field, and anything is possible; however, the next move will be critical in how the rest of the tale will play out. At this point, a few things could happen:

  • Hunter can try to win maidservant Belle’s loyalty.
  • Hunter can try to buy her services.
  • Hunter can threaten, blackmail, or injure either Belle or her hound to get his way.
  • Belle can trust Hunter blindly.
  • Belle can try to escape.
  • Belle can hear him out.

III- This is a critical segment. There is the opportunity for peace and unity. There is also opportunity for major slip-ups and mistakes to be made. Both characters are a little responsible for shattering the fragile peace—Hunter when he first misunderstands cultural differences and offers a bribe, Belle when she reacts without thinking, then Hunter again when he condemns her to prison. This amplifies the conflict from a simple chase to a much grander conflict: the peace of the kingdom. Most main characters would leap for an opportunity to be a hero, to be part of something much bigger. But in this segment, the main character refuses out of a cultural ethics question. The interaction between Hunter and our maidservant Belle represents the overarching struggle which has kept the two kingdoms at war for so long previously. Hunter is the domination mindset (even if it is unintentional) and Belle is searching for no less than partnership, no matter how difficult or unpleasant it is going to be initially.

IV – With no possible escape, her freedom stripped, and her hound gone, Belle is left with time to reflect on what she did and what she should do. To make a statement, she goes on hunger strike. It is now that the full meaning of what she is doing sets in on her, and Belle appreciates the few seconds of light she gets every day from the guard checking on her. When her hound breaks free and finds her cell, Belle is given the chance to start again.

Plan for Segment V – This is the critical moment when Belle must stop being reactionary and start being proactive. From this point on, her motives and plans for the future are going to be challenged and questioned, and she is going to receive invitations that put her in a position to end the war forever, or to start it again.

I am setting this up in the Scene-Sequel sequence, as is so delightfully described by the prestigious Jim Butcher in this post:

http://jimbutcher.livejournal.com/2880.html

I see no reason to repeat the sage advice he has to give, so go check it out. You might just get sucked into his blog as well.

Best of luck on your own writing endeavors, and thanks for stopping by!

Your Dearest Nicolette ❤

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4 thoughts on “Critical Evaluation and Writing Plan

  1. Nicolette-

    You have picked a good model. I have been following Jim’s blog for some time and his Scene-Sequel sequence model obviously works. Working with smaller segments also seems like a good idea and it’s less daunting. good post.
    -Dennis

  2. Dennis-

    I’m a big fan of Jim’s blog. My brother got me interested in Jim’s works, and I still have yet to borrow and read the Dresden Files books. I’m also reading Book in a Month, a gift from my other brother. It’s only taken me since Christmas to start reading, but they talk about essentially the same thing as the Scene-Sequel, though I think Jim does it better. Glad you like the post!

    -Nicolette

    1. Actually, I tend to not do exposition naturally. I have to consciously work to slow down the pace. The sequel-scene is a learning tool I am using to help add in exposition; you ought to see my outlines! Those are sparse. But, I’m making an effort to get a better balance. The more I write, the more mature it gets.

      Nicolette.

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