Monday, July 19, 2010

Get Your Lucky Underwear Ready


 A big thanks to MelRoXx for awarding my blog with a new badge!
 
Thanks Mel!


Over on Monique Devere's blog you can join a Writing Romance Question Forum. The line up of writers and editors include: Nicola Marsh, Natalie Anderson, Robyn Grady and Lucy King.




It’s time to get your lucky underwear ready ladies and gents!

The UK Mills & Boon Romance Is Not Dead New Voices competition is expected to open on the 6th of September 2010 with entries closing on the 22nd of September according to a comment left by Lucy Gilmour , Editor, Mills & Boon/Harlequin on The Good, The Bad and the Unread. I should point out here that the official website of the competition is not currently operational so take these dates with a pinch of salt as you would have expected the information to appear there first and you never know with the internet so don’t be too disappointed if these aren’t quite right. The Good,
The Bad and The Unread
  originally announced that September first is the opening date, so I think we’re pretty safe with September.

This is an X-factor style search for new talent with a judging panel and public votes across three stages, eliminating what I would expect to be hundreds of entries to just ten, then top four and finally to rank the top three. Full details and prizes as they are currently known can be found here.

I’m lurking/ stalking other bloggers where I’m expecting information to pop up (because they told me it would and darn it, if it doesn’t, I’ll sit on them) but if you find anything new please give me a shout.

If you’re unable to enter it should still be a load of fun to be able to read all the entries and try to tip the winner. So, what are you doing in September? Do you think you’ll be entering the competition? And if you are, which UK line would you target?
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Spreadsheet Plotting


Spreadsheet plotting, believe it or not, is plotting via spreadsheet.

No, seriously, I kid you not.

Before you start cowering in the corner and eating your hair, you should know that it's actually a very simple concept, and don't tune out pantsers because it can work for you too.  Spreadsheets can have as little or as much detail as you like.  You can start off with a basic outline add to them as you go which makes them ideal for hybrid pantsers.  The spreadsheet is a great editing tool, especially with regards to pacing, and fully-fledged pantsers can also benefit just by filling it out as they write.  There is no best way to use the spreadsheet, it is simply a tool to make a writer's life easier and more time efficient.

You can create your spreadsheets in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft Word or basically any program that lets you access a table. I use Word because of residual trauma from university finance courses and because you can alter colours or borders (it just doesn't get any better).

Obviously a spreadsheet will change from genre to genre and single titles will require a more complex and detailed spreadsheet structure than category romances. J.K. Rowling's spreadsheets are understandably quite complicated. I would have loved to have posted an image of Rowling's revised plan for the Order of the Phoenix but I am wary of graphics copyright issues so instead I have a partially recreated table for you to get a quick idea (see below) and you can view a copy of Rowling's handwritten original here.


Image:  adaptation of the revised plan for Order of the Phoenix (The Harry Potter Lexicon 2007) split into two because blogger insists on making it teeny tiny.

J.K Rowling's approach to spreadsheet plotting is to divide the columns by chapter number, story timeline, chapter title, main plots and subplots. You will find that depending on the length of the book your spreadsheet will quite drastically, for example in category romance, where romance is key and multiple subplots are unnecessary. The following is a list of suggestions for spreadsheet elements:


  • chapter number
  • chapter title
  • time (day/month/year)
  • setting
  • weather (if relevant)
  • point of view
  • external conflict (of hero and heroine)
  • internal conflict (of hero and heroine)
  • main plot summary.
  • romance summary: deals only with the romance of the story e.g. hero not committing himself to heroine but being unwilling to let her go/date (this can take care of that wee problem some of us are experiencing in forgetting to strengthen the romantic element of our WIPs)
  • pacing/content (see explanation below)
  • word count (note: you may wish to include a sum total word count at the bottom)
As you can see a spreadsheet will allow you to keep track of your story with a flick of your eyes to a greater extent than the document map. At a glance you are able to determine what day your hero/heroine was in a particular setting and how they were interacting, so no more extraneous scrolling.  There's a lot of elements there and it's really about picking and choosing to design your own.

You can also include a pacing/content column in which you can use symbols or words to keep track of your characters, for example a chapter that emphasizes dialogue may be represented by (").  Similarly, action could be denoted by (!), character thinking by ('), and sex scenes by (*), or whatever symbols/words you wish. These symbols/words can make it easier (especially during editing) to balance the peaks and troughs of your plot and ensure that your readers have rollercoaster of a ride, rather than plodding along with Bob (and very possibly abandoning Bob out of boredom).

If you are working in Microsoft Word a good trick is to vary the line colours, to reduce the strain on your eyes, for example:

And that's spreadsheet plotting. Now that wasn't so painful, was it?
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