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Looking for the Save the Cat Beat Sheet for Novels? Click here!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Save the Cat Beat Sheet Spreadsheet for Novels

A while ago, I talked about how I use the Save the Cat beat sheet to roughly plot out new projects before drafting. The problem for most people, though, is that the beat sheet is for movie scripts that are around 100 pages, and books are significantly longer.

So I decided to share with you my little beat sheet spreadsheet:

Click here to download from Sribd! (Be sure to chose .xlsx format!)
Click here to download the file directly! (For those of you who hate Scribd!)

All you have to do is fill in your title, logline, and projected word count, and it will handle the rest. You can also mark which chapter the beats happen in, in case you need a quick reference.


Friday, April 1, 2011

Blogfest: This Was Me, Then

I'm postponing Friday Reads until tomorrow in order to take part in a blogfest hosted by fellow writer (and fellow Elizabeth) Elizabeth Poole. The gist is this: post a piece of old work--from a year or two or ten ago--to show how far you've come.

And once you see some of this old stuff, you'll understand I seriously had nowhere to go but up.

So without further ado, let us begin!

From April 12th, 1997

This is one of the very first stories I wrote. I was fourteen, and while I don't remember being in love with vampires or high fantasy, I wrote this. Ironically, its original name was TWILIGHT, but I changed it to FIRST LIGHT because I didn't think a book called TWILIGHT would sell.

That is not an April Fool's Joke, by the way. That's the pathetic little truth.

Anyway, it was about this girl who was a vampire and she was a total Mary Sue, even though I remember not really liking her very much at the time. I can't remember what her name was--"Keavy" sticks out for some reason--but she went by the name Mayrnagh, which I guess was her vampire name.

Actually, I'm pretty sure I explained all that in the first three chapters (ETA: this isn't a typo, FIRST LIGHT had a prologue), but since they're a friggin' snoozefest, I've decided not to torture you with them. Instead, we'll start where it gets good, at Chapter Three, where the WTF-ery is so thick you can cut it with a knife.

Chapter Three – Wolfsong

Rain is pouring down; I can hear it on the roof. [I find the use of first person present very peculiar, seeing as how it makes my eye twitch nowadays.]
I’ve never liked the rain; it’s wet. [That is the real problem with rain, isn't it? All that WATER it's made of.] It takes forever to dry my hair, as long as it is, when it gets wet. I have a shower each morning, but I choose not to get wet otherwise if I can avoid it.
Some vampire lore states that vampires have the power to transfigure themselves into animals. This is not a vampire power. This is magic. And it isn’t secluded only to vampires, themselves. Any ordinary human could very well learn this magic, if he or she had the determination, skill, and time to learn. [Stupid humans. Stupid humans and their VAMPIRE LORE.]
Of course, transfiguration magic takes much longer to learn than the basic magics: potions, candle magic, and divination being only a few. Most humans don’t live long enough to master the art of transfiguration; the ones that do usually don’t have the desire or inner-strength to perfect it. And even then, there are very few that know it exists.
One of the perks of being immortal is time; there’s plenty of it. Being that a vampire is a natural hunter – humans have long suppressed their killer instincts, unless directed at one another --, [random punctuation #1] animal transfiguration comes easier to us than other creatures. Even Grimmas, who are born magical, study many years to transfigure themselves into other beings.
I have been studying for over one-hundred years.
Tonight, I am a wolf; [random punctuation #2] white, with blue eyes. There is a nice wooded area behind our home. I am joined by Naunie, an ancient Sephiroth that had given up his human form completely for that of a wolf some fifty years ago. He lives in a cave by the river, where food is easily accessible. [Translation: China Wok delivers] He visits us whenever he pleases, though he much prefers the solitude; [random punctuation #3] especially when the moon is full and the night is clear.
Tonight, it is neither, and I have called upon him, as he is one of my oldest and dearest friends. We speak telepathically, so as not to draw attentions to ourselves, or his cave. [Also, we don't want to accidentally set off all those bombs he's been mailing to his Congressman.]
“Welcome, Wolfsong,” he says inside my mind. Wolfsong was what he had deemed me upon successfully completing my first transfiguration into wolf. “To what can I owe this surprise?”
“Good evening, Wolfguard. I’m afraid I cannot stay long; it will rain soon.” [And rain, you know, is WET.]
“Aye, it will,” he said. “I’ve had word from the Grimma’s [random punctuation #4] in the lake. Well, go on, child, don’t hold yourself up. What is it you’ve come all this way for, eh?”
“I’m being watched, Wolfguard. I think I’m being hunted.”
“Not in wolf-form, I hope,” he said uneasily. He was cautious about his privacy; I would’ve never come to him if I thought he was in danger. I think he knew this, though he felt he needed all bases covered.
“No,” I replied, “as Wolfsong I am safe. I wasn’t followed.” The old wolf breathed a sigh of relief; he had not placed his trust in me in vain.
“But as Mayrnagh, you feel threatened? Have you seen this threat yourself, or do you just feel its presence? You dabble in divination, do you not; have your readings turned up any clues?”
“They have.”
“Witches,” I replied.
“But not Trioch?” Wolfguard was one of the wisest Sephiroth. In often times, he knew the answers before the questions were asked. He would not give them away, however, as one could not learn by being told; they must find the answers for themselves. I knew he would help me find them. [What. The. Shit.]
“No, not Trioch,” I replied. “The readings unnerve me, but they do not show any immediate danger. Trioch don’t often guard their intentions.”
“Then what is it you fear, lass?” I pondered this question in my head. What do I fear?
“Myself,” I answered hesitantly.
“And what are you?”
“Vampire,” I answered.
“What are you?” he asked again. My answer had not satisfied him. More accurately, my question had not satisfied myself, and the answers that I sought. I thought some more. What am I?
“Asanti.” It made sense. The Asanti were the hunters, and I was the hunted. But why?
Before I could ask any more questions, I was lead to the cave entrance. There was a light mist of rain in the air. “You’d better go now, child. The rain will not let up tonight and I know how you do not like to get wet. [!!!] Go back to your home; stay there until the moon is new.”
“The Asanti are hunting me; why?”
“You know better than to ask questions, Wolfsong. The answers will come to you when you’re ready to find them. In time, they will find you.”
And with a soft nuzzle to bid farewell to the old wolf, I was off, dashing through the forest that led to my home.

Yeah. I know.

And the thing is, I really loved this book at the time. I thought it was AWESOME. I even sent queries out on it. (I don't think I need to tell you that the queries did not generate a lot of interest, probably because the queries were as bad as, if not worse than, the actual story.)

But FIRST LIGHT is the kind of story that everyone needs to get out of their system. I'm not talking a melodramatic teenage vampire story--although if you want to write one of those, feel free--but a bad story. A story that has stupid characters and no plot and is poorly written.

(And sometimes you have to write more than one).

Because the thing about writing is this: you'll never strike gold until you dig deep, and you can't dig deep if you're always hesitating because you're afraid of sucking all the time.

And thinking you suck? It's not something you grow out of when you become an adult. It's not something that magically goes away when someone says something good about your blog/short story/essay/novel/idea, or when you get an agent or a book deal or land on a bestsellers list.

My secret (also not an April Fool's joke) is that I think I suck. A lot. And that feeling of sucking kept me from striking gold for a long time.

Eventually, though, you learn to ignore that sucky feeling, and when that happens, you stop letting what's on top of the gold deter you from digging for it anyway.

! [random punctuation #5 ;-)]

Be sure to check out all the other participants' entries here!



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