Friday, January 1, 2016

IWSG: The Mystery of The Missing Year


The first Insecure Writer's Support Group post of the year (a little early!). Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh and those who help to host this event every month!



I do love a good mystery, but this one is just plain baffling...

What in the world happened to 2015?!

It went missing somewhere around March...

Few traces of its whereabouts are left behind...

It's only trace evidence, but here's what I know for sure: 2015 went on its own merry way and didn't invite me along. Poof! It was gone, just like that.

I should have completed three novellas. Instead, I did a lot of studying on the best way to structure a novel. Here are the brief results:


  • Dan Wells' 7-Point Story Structure ( It's simple and straight forward. Each "point" names the required element: Hook, Plot Turn 1, Pinch 1, Midpoint, Plot Turn 2, Pinch 2, and Resolution. Name what each one is, fill in the blanks, then just keep building on it. What I like about this is that it covers every element you need in the novel and tells you where you need to put it.)
  • James Patterson's masterclass outline (Let me just say that James Patterson is the Master Outliner. When you take the class, you receive a copy of his outline for Honeymoon.  I love how detailed the outline is and how he just keeps building and adding to the outline until he nearly has the novel complete by the time he finishes the outline. His classes are on video, each one short, amusing and well-explained. A deal at $99.)
  • Blake Snyder's beat sheet (Snyder is the king of breaking it all down in detail. He's the father of Structure and how to make sure every detail is placed exactly where it needs to be to make the right impression at the right time. It's meant to be for screenplays, but is more than relevant for novel writing. It is a must-read. Having sung its praises, though, I found it too complicated because I had to keep going back to look at examples and finding it all a bit forced for my likings. You know, the square peg being forced into the round hole. Again, though, lots of good information. It really got me to thinking about the necessities of what goes into the structure of a good novel.)
  • Other modified beat sheets (Self explanatory).

What I did accomplish  this year is writing two shiny new outlines:

  1. For my Brother Bart series, I used Dan Wells' 7-Point Story Structure to start, then used it to write a detailed outline.
  2. For my Saving Marley series, I used Blake Snyder's beat sheet which I turned into a detailed outline.
For me, I know I have to work from an outline. My crappy memory doesn't allow for anything else. I enjoyed using the 7-Point Story Structure more than the Beat Sheet.

The real question is, which one is more successful at helping me to write a novel?

We shall see!


I know this for sure: I'm going to keep a tight rein on 2016 so it doesn't go walkabout like its predecessor!

My 2016 goals? Finish first drafts of both outlines.

What are your goals for the new year?



18 comments:

  1. 2015 went by really fast! I hope 2016 will slow down a little.

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    1. I hope 2016 goes slower, Patricia. I'd like to enjoy the year instead of asking where it went.

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  2. 2015 for me to reflect upon is like entering a dance party illuminated only by a strobe light: flashes of images, some fun, some puzzling, most mystifying. May your novel quickly take shape. :-)

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    1. That's a great analogy, Roland. I remember bits and pieces, but that's it.

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  3. I know what you mean about 2015. It just seem to go away and I feel like last year was a big resounding ...meh. I think you did accomplish quite a bit and 2016 will bring new goals. I hope to accomplish more just in general. Let's hope:)

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    1. Haha, that's exactly it, Birgit. Meh. Lots to get done this year though.

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  4. Sounds like you learned a lot! And I'm with you, where in the world did 2015 go?!

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    1. I learned a lot, but now to remember it all and implement it.

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  5. The title of your post is perfect. I feel the same way about 2015. You did a lot of studying, Gwen. That's wonderful. Here's to 2016 where it pays off.

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    1. Lots of high hopes for this year, Lee!

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  6. Congrats on all the outlining! Sounds like you have a lot of writing ahead of you this year. Best of luck completing both first drafts! I can't help but wonder where 2015 ran off to, too, so hopefully 2016 isn't as sneaky...

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    1. I will not let 2016 get away from me, Heather! *hope I'm right* LOL

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  7. Fantastic goals and wonderful that you've learned so much. I've tried to learn to outline, but my stories just go where they want! Thankfully they do tend to make sense. *LOL* Have a marvelous 2016!

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    1. You must have a great memory, Christine. I'd totally lose track of what happened before and where I was going. I wish I could be a pantser!

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  8. Studying novel structure and honing the craft are fantastic things to be doing if you're not writing; heck, they're great to do while writing, too! I have the three books you spoke of. All have been great writing aids to me and they sit on a shelf right next to my desk. Guess you could call it my reference shelf. ;) Have a wonderful 2016!

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  9. I wish I could work from an outline. I've tried. I even have a hard time working from a synopsis when I had to submit one before the book could be approved to be written. I always end up straying from it as the story goes where it wants to go!

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  10. Hi Gwen. Lovely to meet you. I have recently been studying structure and outline myself. Thanks for your helpful tips. I had different ones. Outlining has helped me so much. I can actually keep the weather consistent now. Lol. My goal is to finish my lengthy manuscript and set the series to rest till summer while I start a new one. Happy writing!

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