The conundrum of novel plotting – where do you get ideas?

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One of the things that flummoxed me for a long time with my writing was trying to nail down the right plot for my story. I can always create characters with depth (good for me, since the trend now is character-driven stories) and I fall in love with a lush, living setting that almost becomes a character unto itself. But the plot, well, that’s been one rocky shore for me to land my novel upon.

Thankfully Janice Hardy wrote about this today, and has lots of great suggestions, from the buddy story to the adventure, from the Golden Fleece to the Monster in the House. She also recommends a couple of books,  Blake Synder’s Save the Cat and Ronald B. Tobias’s 20 Master Plots.

So how do you generate ideas for your story plots?

Book cover design: a diy approach

Though I’m still deeply undecided about whether to self-pub or shop around my first novel (hooray, I’m still editing, so I’ve got plenty of time!), I found this post about using public domain artwork to help you design your own book cover using public domain artwork. floatingmouth

The writer, and amateur designer, Casey Dexter turned to reddit for feedback. By far the funniest interaction on that thread:


I’m saving to bmp as often as I can. I’d love to center the text, believe me, but there’s no way to do it in the version of ms paint I have. Each word is a separate text box, and I tried to line them up visually with the ruler. I told you my tools were simple! The text needs to be done in photoshop or something, the main problem is the kerning.


               As a designer the things you’re saying are giving me a brain aneurysm.

Everyone’s a critic, eh? Haha. To the right, you can see his results.

Morning Cuppa – 03/28/13 – Boost your writing career! Self pubbing! D&D pin!

  • The Creative Penn today writes a post about 9 activities that you can do to boost your writer career. There’s some good info here, especially the networking with other writers, public speaking kind of stuff. d_d
  • Agent assisted self publishing is a service that is starting to be provided by agents in light of the fact that so many authors are trying to go it alone. Usually the terms are that in exchange for formatting and submitting your book the agent takes care of managing it and receives 15% of royalties indefinitely. Copy editing, proofing, cover art, etc are usually an additional charge. Read the rest of the article by Melissa Foster and especially the part about Amazon’s White Glove Program. (via Passive Voice)
    If you want my take, if you give me $50 I’ll format your book submit it for you and you can keep your rights. More importantly though, if you’re an author, there are free or cheap tools that you can use to do this sort of thing for yourself. Don’t let fear of learning something new be the motivator for losing 15% of your royalties for the life of the book.
  • If any of you were wondering what to get me for my birthday, this enamel life achievement pin might be a nice idea…

Morning Cuppa – 03/26/13 – Neal Asher! Midlister blues! What is a geek?!

Good morning, folks. The life partner and I (is she really a girlfriend after nearly 8 years?) painted the office this weekend and doing that little bit of work to improve that space has me reinvested in my work. I’m plugging away, creating the framework for my next novel and it had me wondering about other author’s approaches. What is it that keeps them motivated? How much do they write? Do they do it full time? Fortunately, the answer wasn’t further away than my NEW rss reader, Feedly (up yours Google for killing Reader).

  • Neal Asher shares his approach to working on novels and it basically comes down to 8 to 5, 2000 words a day. He remarks that being self-employed before he started writing full time was a real boon because it helped him realize that when he wasn’t working, he wasn’t earning.
  • Barnes & Noble and Simon & Schuster are in a tiff right now that has resulted in the bookseller dramatically reducing orders from the publisher. YA novelist Stephanie Burgis writes on her blog that while she’s certain they’ll come to some terms, mid-list authors such as herself are getting shafted in the meantime. She’s signed on with Simon & Schuster and her book, among many others, is being released during this dispute. Because of the pace of the publishing, there’s small chance that her book will end up in stores after the dust has settled since they’ll already be looking forward to the next thing getting published. It’s heartbreaking to read because she has no control over the process and has, naturally, poured her heart and soul into her book.
  • The first episode of the BBC radio play for Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere is now available online and iTunes for download.
  • Finally, Felicia Day announces a second season of Geek & Sundry and takes a serious tone, asking, “what is a geek?” I couldn’t agree more about the fact that geeks have just become a box for marketers to put a checkmark in. In fact, I’ve been trying to craft an essay about my struggles with being a geek and how much consumerism is tied to it. I’m interested to see where this discussion goes…

Morning Cuppa – 03/25/13 – Fight the toos! Plot twists! Game Theory!

Okay, okay, I give! I was all snarky with you guys yesterday and you ganged up and punished me with a Monday. I had my fun but I’ve learned my lesson. Guys? …. GUYS????

  • I find myself often questioning my writing (we wouldn’t be writers if we weren’t also slightly neurotic, right?). I’m mostly concerned with the question of “toos”. As Sam Sykes says over on his blog, “Is there too much violence?  Does life mean so little in this world?  Is there too much dialogue?  Is there too little plot development?  Is the worldbuilding too scant?  Is the existential angst of the companions too much?” My concerns are very similar to his but he gives a good defense for not being as concerned about it. Basically, if you can pull it off, why not? If you’re a good enough author, you can break the rules of story craft. I still side a little more on the side of, ‘I ain’t good enough yet to start breaking the rules.’ But if you can make it work for you, and you can convince other people you know what you’re doing, do it.
  • If you find yourself needing to add some zip to your story, writer superhero Chuck Wendig is here to give you 25 Turns, Pivots and Twists to Complicate Your Story. His advice is always of the oh shit, why didn’t I think about that variety, which makes him all the more god like.
  • Do you write while you’re tired? I guess we all do to some degree, but can you force yourself to sit down and power through when you’re absolutely knackered? Kristen Lamb makes the argument that this sort of weariness might be just what you need to get your internal editor to shut up and allow your inner child to come out and play on the page. For me, I’m not so sure this is the case. I’m usually pretty wiped when I get off of work at night and the thought of sitting down and trying to be creative feels less appealing than bamboo splinters being driven under my fingernails.
  • Then there’s this, Game Theory by Ithaca Audio: