Saturday, January 30, 2010

Golden Advice -- Plot

Hi, folks, I'm starting a series of creative analogies that I hope you will find golden on your creative journey.

The golden quadrilateral is a highway that connects the entire country of India in a rough quadrilateral shape. This highway allows for the movement of products and also for economical development in smaller towns in India.

In terms of storytelling, the golden quadrilateral is like your plot. A plot is a big highway that runs through the landscape of your story. Your plot needs to be clear and wide, so the reader can pick up speed. It needs to hit all the important places along the way and avoid the backwater small towns that are frozen in time. Your plot highway needs to also be a road ripe with grift and license, providing sweeping opportunity for conflict.

Think about your plot. It needs to come back to where you started but leave your reader with the journey of a lifetime. It should have a few sharp turns but ample straightaways too. Look at your plot. Is it a back road wandering in the hills going nowhere? Or is it a superhighway that's hard to get off? Consider controlling access to cut down on distractions to your readers (that means limit the subplots, folks).

I hope that you take some time and think about what road you are on this week. If you are lost, look for the nearest on-ramp. Seize the day! Come back next week for more golden advice.

Now, for this week's doodle: "Surprised Golden Girl".

I can see, and that is why I can be happy, in what you call the dark, but which to me is golden. I can see a God-made world, not a manmade world. Helen Keller

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Nature of Beginning (part 3)

Welcome to my back fence where I like to chat about writing and all things creative. I'm continuing my series on the nature of beginnings. I had an interesting chat with the multi-talented author Gail Carson Levine recently about CHAOS. Check out her blog for some ultra-fine writing advice.

Chaos is the study of systems that respond easily to change, especially at the beginning. These systems are highly sensitive to initial conditions. These conditions can vastly change the outcome of the systems. This sensitivity is called the butterfly effect. Initially, the wings of a butterfly can really set something like a hurricane in motion. If you look at the system later, a butterfly's wings will make little difference to the wild power of a hurricane. Yep, the beginning is REALLY important in a chaotic system.

I think that novels are chaotic systems, and this is why beginnings are such a bear. The first chapter of a novel is the place that beginning conditions are put in play. The first chapter will determine the course of the whole book. A book is very sensitive to changes in the beginning. The entire outcome rests on those first few pages. One of your goals is to find the butterfly wing events that set the engine of your story in motion. Yes, at times, this is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I've said it before. In the beginning, write a first chapter with a "tossability" factor. It's easier to back track from the hurricane to the butterfly wings event than the other way round for me.

Don't be hard on yourself if you've tried going at that beginning on your current work the twentieth time. Just take a deep breath and keep going. This process is delicate, complex stuff. You are David taking on Goliath. The good news is persistence is the key. You will move into the a solid pattern with enough tries. Don't give up.

Cast off into the deep waters knowing that you will find currents that will take you to distance shores. I hope you enjoy the journey this week. I will see you next week with some GOLDEN advice. :)

Now time for doodle of the week. I call this one, "Carpet at Seatac".

The fear of infinity is a form of myopia that destroys the possibility of seeing the actual infinite, even though it in its highest form has created and sustains us, and in its secondary transfinite forms occurs all around us and even inhabits our minds.
Georg Cantor

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Nature of Beginnings (Part 2)

Hi folks, this will be a three part series on beginnings. This is part two. My posts will be short for a while but hopefully useful.

I'm relating beginnings to what we find in nature because that's how I figure stuff out. Explosive beginnings are common in nature. Think the big bang. On a local scale -- volcanoes exploding, floods pouring, and meteors colliding. Earthquakes happen along fault lines. Epidemics sweep through populations unopposed. When searching for the beginning of a story, it's a good idea to get near to the day when things changed forever. If you are near the day nothing happened, your story is not going to fly. If stuff starts happening midway through the book, well, that ought to be the start. If nothing really happens to the end, you may have a lot of rewriting to do.

I hope you work hard this week and get tons done. :)

This week's doodle is "Kid Sees a Fish."

What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Nature of Beginnings

I've chatted a lot about beginnings on my blog. I've done the nuts and bolts of them. Go back to this link and read my five part series on Beginnings.

I had someone put a bee in my bonnet this week about taking to time to figure out what kind of learner you are. This website has a good test to help you discover the way you learn. I was actually very surprised by what this test revealed. I am a naturalistic learner. No wonder I spent most of my years in school baffled and wondering why I couldn't figure this out this school thing. I remember only one teacher in all my years of school that ever took me outside. I can remember every moment of that class. Interpersonal learning is at the bottom of my list. Logical is right above that. Most of school was that and I had a hard time connecting.

Throw me into the natural world, and I will see what few see and find what few find. There is not a moment of my life that I don't feel this vast universe: from atoms, to ants, to weather, to planets, to stars and then the galaxies. I feel connections everywhere. I am so curious. The way I learn weaves it way into the way I write. So I thought I'd spend some time explaining how the beginnings in nature feed the beginnings of books for me. I know how plants grow.

They start with some good old plant sex, cross pollination. An idea is not enough to fuel a book. It's got to get mixed up with an equally provocative and compatible idea. So go after the stuff that interests you. Keep at it, and I guarantee some cross pollination is going to happen and that is going to lead to....(no, not a book yet)...a seed! A seed has the blue print to make a plant in it, but a seed is not a plant. A germinated idea is not a book either. An idea has to be watered. Like a plant needs lots of sunlight, needs good soil, needs room to grow, books -- they need time and they needs lots of nutrients: critique, plotting, character studies, etc. This growing a book is hard work, and you're going to have to tend it or the thing will die.

One thing that really makes me laugh, is when people are stressing over the beginning of a book without writing to the end. It's like having a little tiny sprout and wondering if those leaves are the best ones. I mean those leaves are going to fall off and new stuff is going to take their place. I think if you begin with a true seed of a book idea, and you continue to feed that book through the seasons. Yes, winters will come and then springs again. You will someday have an awesome book.

I'm going to continue next week with more about nature and beginnings. Hope to see ya here.

This week's doodle: What if a kid met a dinosaur?

Remember: ©Molly Blaisdell, all rights reserved. If you want to use my cool doodles, ask permission first. It is so wrong to take people's doodles without permission!

So here it is the quote of quotes on beginnings:

There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning. ~ Louis L'Amour

Friday, January 08, 2010


I ended up my April Showers posts with Reading, but I wanted to share my entire pile by the bed. There is no way one post can hold it all, so many books have caught my eye.

I'm also going to explain why each book is in the pile. Yes, the fan girl in me is rising up -- I was once hit by moped because I was so engrossed in a book. I believe I was reading Marie Curie's autobiography (a riveting read I might add). When I was in college I'd learn about some scientist or other in my class and run to the Sterling C. Evans Library to find out if they'd written a memoir.

I wonder what my professor would have said if they'd know I was often reading the works of Richard Feynman, Max Planck, Marie Curie and so many others instead of churning out those balance chemical equations.:)

But I digress, now some more books by the bed. I will do three this week.

First I have THIS WORLD WE LIVE IN by Susan Beth Pfeffer. I've stuck around for the entire event of the moon getting squashed closer to the Earth. And yes, it led to BIG BAD WORLD WIDE disaster. (I seem to be on a distopian trip and have been since I read my first blow-up-the-world-book in high school and then stole it from the library(I finally returned it, folks) - WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE by Phillip Wylie and by Edwin Balmer is the title. This book was also turned in a great cult movie. Anyway I have some real fangirl going on with "disaster sci-fi."

Next book on the shelf is THE GAME OF SUNKEN PLACES by M.T. Anderson. I'm reading this because M.T. has reached that that stratopheric spot in my fan love. I am reading every book he has ever written, Other notables in this spot: Madeleine L'Engle, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Robert Heinlein, and Leo Lionni. I think I've read most of Seuss, too.

Last up for this week is COFFEEHOUSE ANGEL by Suzanne Selfors. Nothing like a good romantic comedy to cheer me up. This is sunny-side-up slice-of-life book. Oh, Malcolm, where were you when I was in high school. Sigh.

So that's this week's pile-by-the-bed round-up. I'm doing one more pile of fiction and then I'm heading into the non-fiction. Yep, I'm still reading non-fiction. Love it.

This week's doodle is "Gal Fishin'".

The quote for the week is

Give what you have. To someone else it may be better than you dare to think. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Goal Setting

Hi folks. Happy New Year. 2010. Who knew it would come so quickly? I'm currently in the middle of a cross country move to Texas so my posts are going to be short and sweet for a while.

I'll spend the rest of month writing about how to create an interesting beginning to a novel, but today I will share about how to launch the year.

I think it is important that we have goals. So my first question, "What do you plan to achieve this year?" My next question, "How do you plan to achieve that?" And last, "Who will you get on your team to help make your goal happen?" I'm calling these three questions the mythic questions of goal setting. BTW, you have to WRITE down the answers to these questions to really do any good. Noodling is not goal setting. This is my driving strategy to get it done, and it works.

I hope that you achieve most of the goals that you formulate this year, and give yourself a break for the ones you don't achieve. See ya next week.

Today's doodle is "A Face".

Remember: ©Molly Blaisdell, all rights reserved. If you want to use my cool doodles, ask permission first. It is so wrong to take people's doodles without permission!

Now these quotes from some favorite characters come to me over and over and really help me move forward in life. "Marilla, isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?" from Anne Shirley. Next, "I can't think about that right now. If I do, I'll go crazy. I'll think about that tomorrow." from Scarlett O'Hara. And last, "We can still hop." by Lyddie (she misspelled hope).