Thor's Thoughts: The On-The-Fly Outline


Good day, friends. I, like my fellow YAvengers have been anxiously awaiting the coming excitement of NaNoWriMo, and hope you have found great strength in the topics covered thus far this month.

Today I wish to share with you an outlining technique which has served me well many times. I learned it from a great man named Dan Wells, who goes over it in detail in five videos on the Tube of You. He calls it the Seven-Point Story Structure.

It can be altered for "Plotters" or "Pantsers," it can be used as-is or expanded upon. Seeing how we are near the end of October, and the days of drafting will soon be upon us, this post will be especially useful to those who have decided last-minute that they want to participate. To you late-comers I say, find your story seed, and follow me.

First, there are some terms you'll need to be familiar with:

Hook: Setting the story. This is where the character begins.
Plot Turn 1: New information is introduced which changed things for the character.
Pinch 1: An event or revelation which puts pressure on the character.
Midpoint: The point in which the character goes from reacting to acting. (Also called the "Mirror Moment.")
Pinch 2: Character loses everything/is removed from support, and must go on alone.
Plot Turn 2: Character finds the last piece of information needed to succeed.
Resolution: Ending action. How does the character win? (Or lose, your choice.)


Now that we are all familiar with terms, I want you to look at your story seed again.

1. Begin by writing down your Hook. In what state does your character begin the story? Who are they? What are their circumstances? Mr. Wells uses the example of Harry Potter, but let us use my story instead. As you may know, I begin as a rather pompous young heir to a throne I don't deserve. How does your story start?




2. Next, skip to the end. I know it sounds backward, but you'll understand in a moment. If your character begins in one state, your want them ending in a different state. Stories are about growth and change, so step two is deciding where your character will end. By the end of my story, I was victorious, but humbled. I grew in knowledge and gave up my pride. How will your character win; how will they have fallen from their beginning state; how will their life have changed? Write it down.

3. Once you know those two things, you should be able to easily pinpoint your "Midpoint" or "Mirror Moment," wherein your character makes the choice to change. This could be a number of different things, but for most stories this is the point at which your character has been pushed around enough by external forces and chooses to act. For me, it was the point at which I truly gained understanding of what my place was, to protect all life, and Mjolnir was returned to me.

4. Now. Let us speak of the Plot Turn and the Pinch. The purpose of both of these tools is to provide pressure, motivation, and incentive for your characters. There are two of each, so let us briefly discuss the Plot Turns first.

4-1. Plot Turn 1 usually takes the form of a "call to action," such as, "You're a wizard, Harry," for example Mine was being cast into Midgard as punishment for my actions.


Plot Turn 2 on the other hand is the point where your character receives the final bit of information they need in order to succeed. For me, it was leaving my friends in a battle and knowing only *I* could stop Loki from taking over Asgard.

4-2. Now, Pinches. Continuing our example, Pinch 1 is trying to get to Mjolnir and being unable to do so. That failure put pressure on me to discover where I'd gone wrong. Pinch 2 is the point at which you want to leave your hero alone and essentially unsupported. I stood alone on the Bridge, facing Loki, knowing I would have to break the bridge in order to stop him.


Obviously there are far more elements to a good story, but this is the skeleton upon which you can build. Discovery Writers will prefer to go from this alone, uncovering details as they write. It should provide just enough structure to give you a place to start from and get to, without taking away the fun of discovery. Hardcore Outliners will probably wish to fill in pieces here and there before writing more, fleshing out what they have here.

Either way, this is a quick and easy method of forming an outline. Using this method, I wrote up my NaNoWriMo outline in approximately an hour, from a story idea that I'd had that very day. Being an outliner I have expanded somewhat, but this gave me a solid foundation upon which to build.

If you've tried this method before, I would love to hear your thoughts on how you liked or disliked it. And if you try it for NaNoWriMo, comment below on how it works for you. And as always, good luck.

-THOR

Just Beat It: Beat Sheets as Outlining Tool

There's only...what? NINE days until NaNoWriMo begins? Yikes. I hope you guys are ready. I mean, between my duties for S.H.I.E.L.D and my own editing, I'm going to be skipping out this year. However, I am cheering on all of you NaNoWriMers from the sidelines. In spirit, mostly, but cheering nonetheless.


I'll be there for you.

Since so many of you probably ARE looking to win NaNoWriMo this year, you're probably in the stages of prewriting hell super fun time.

Well, as you probably have seen from the previous posts all throughout the month of October, the YAvengers are here to help.

As we've talked about before, there are different ways people outline.

Maybe you're one who just dives right in, without any planning or plotting at all. I commend you, but I can't help you.



Perhaps you're with me at the other end of the spectrum, and plot just about EVERYTHING out. I see my novel-writing the same way I see my missions. I need to plan out every detail so things will run smoothly and perfectly. But I also must be ready to improvise. Because once I actually start, things will most likely not go according to plan.

Or, you could be somewhere in between. Initially beginning with a dream and a drive and typing away until you realize wait...WHERE am I going with this?! and outline until the end.

Regardless of where you are at or what you have done in the past, I'm going to introduce to you a clever tool for plot outlining. It's a lot of fun. Especially to say.

That's right, agents. I'm talking about

BEAT SHEETS

I know what you are thinking. Agent Coulson? What is that?


 Good.


A beat sheet is a great way to organize your thinking and the plotting of the story. It takes the plot and breaks it up into some necessary plot points and turning points, or beats, to guide you along.

Think of it as your plot's skeleton.

INT. S.H.I.E.L.D HEADQUARTERS - OFFICE  DAY

AGENT COULSON, a dashing and talented operative, sits at a computer. He swivels the chair around to face the invisible audience.

AGENT COULSON
Although it's true that beat sheets
are often used for screenwriting, I
and many other authors have found they
can be a valuable tool for novelists.

In fact, one of my favorite beat sheet examples and guide is found in Blake Snyder's Save the Cat! which is a book on screenwriting. Screenplays, at around one hundred pages, are much shorter than novels, so it's important to remember the length of each section would be different.

But, when it comes down to it, it's all storytelling. The plot structure can be the same. Both can consist of three acts, with a midpoint halfway through the second act. Both need an opening image and a closing image (and it's always super cool if those images - both of which beats -  are parallels). Both need high points and low points, just as there needs to be a conflict and resolution.

There are some different structures of beat sheets out there, most of which are a Google search away. They all have the same general points, but some may have altering points or blend two beats together.

(Again, my favorite is Blake Snyder's.)

But once you have all of your different beats planned out, it's good to hash them out more, and maybe even develop some specific scenes that will make up the beats. There's no set way to do this, it's whatever most appeals to you.


And that's okay. It's all about finding the strategies that work for YOU.
 
Me? Well, I'm a visual kind of guy, so I use multicolored Post-It notes. I write down my beat titles on one color, then use the others for the various scenes. In fact, I love this method, as it allows me to shift around things as I see fit. Plus, they really add some color to S.H.I.E.L.D Headquarters. Nick keeps telling me to stop scattering my Post-It notes all around the office walls, but I'm pretty sure he secretly likes it. Maria's convinced he a closet romance novel fan.

You be tough as you want, Nick Fury. I wouldn't be surprised to find a copy of Dear John up in that desk of yours. 

-Coulson
 

 



Drafting under Pressure, or, NaNoWriMo, Oh No!

I know a thing or two about dealing with pressure.

You develop the ability to at least fake a Zen-like calm when any irritation carries the threat of turning you into a humungous musclebound rage machine the color of a string bean.



Consequently, I've kept my cool - mostly - during aerial Chitauri attacks and during battles against guys with apt names like the Abomination. Plus I've managed to work with the arrogant and poke-happy head of Stark Industries without squashing him like a grape so far.

But you know what can still make me feel the pressure, what can still reduce me to a quaking Jello mold of self doubt?



NaNoWriMo.

And it's mere weeks away.

Many aspiring writers embrace NaNoWriMo every year. They are currently stocking up on caffeine sources, bookmarking thesaurus websites, and, if they're as old school as Cap, buying all of the Whiteout available at their local Staples or Office Max. In short, they're getting ready to produce a draft in thirty days or fewer. (And the wisest ones have been following this blog for advice about outlining, plotting, and prewriting).

NaNoWriMo is the closest thing writers get to a their very own holiday, and it inspires thousands of people to get to work on a novel every year. What's not to love about it?

The pressure.

Every November, I try even harder than I do every other month of the year to squeeze in as much writing time as I can into a schedule already packed with working on a cure for gamma radiation poisoning, providing medical care for Indian orphans, and, occasionally, saving the planet from utter destruction. And every year, by mid-November, it becomes clear to me that I will not produce anything even remotely close to a full draft.  I feel ashamed and frustrated as I watch my friends and colleagues post ever-burgeoning word counts to Facebook and Twitter though I congratulate them even as my word count somehow seems to shrink. By the end of November, I feel like a failure, even as I remind myself that word counts are not exactly a scientific measure of one's success as a writer. (As Loki's WIP illustrates, it doesn't take long to produce several pages of incoherent nonsense.) More importantly (and charitably), some people work faster than others and some books are, due to their subject matter or level of complexity, going to take longer than thirty days to draft. To borrow a shopworn phrase, writing a novel is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes lots of drafts.  But it's easy to lose sight of that in the NaNoWriMo hoopla. So this year, I'm going to keep writing, but I'm opting out of NaNoWriMo. (I'm not much of a "joiner, anyway).

While that's my choice, if having a month designated as "novel writing month" gives you the kick in the pants you need to start that novel you've been tossing around, then get to that keyboard on November 1st and get to work! But if, on November 30, despite the best of your intentions, you won't have that draft done, don't give up on it. There is absolutely no force in the universe (except maybe gamma rays) that will prevent you from continuing work on that draft on December 1st or beyond. There's no real finish line here in novel writing - at least not until you get that offer from an agent or editor or get that call from the Nobel prize committee.


So - for those about to NaNoWriMo, we salute you.

And if you're not - or if you sign on but don't finish that draft by November 30 - we YAvengers salute you, too.

Write at your own pace, friends.

But write.

Things to See, Worlds to Build...

Look around you.

What do you see?  Perhaps the device you're using to read this.  Perhaps you have artificial lighting, or a window somewhere near, or a glow-in-the-dark teddy bear.  How's the temperature?  Hotter or colder than it ought to be this time of year?

All these things-- just what you can sense from wherever you are-- make up a specific setting.  The time, the place, and the things you can sense are all part of it.  I'm sure you've seen plenty of exercises about description and evoking the five senses, so I won't harp on that.  Instead, I want to focus on setting creation: worldbuilding to make things interesting.


Now, this term has a bit of baggage.  Worldbuilding is a term fantasy and science fiction writers throw around, but this is a YA blog.  (It's in the name.)  Not all YA is fantasy or science fiction.  Admittedly, I write YA fantasy-- but worldbuilding is ultimately about setting, which is paramount to even the most realistic of fiction.  No matter your genre, stick with me.  I'll go through all the different parts of setting, and you can decide what you want to think about.

What time is it?

Time period goes hand in hand with genre.  Historical fiction and historical fantasy are going to happen in the past, because the future and the present aren't history yet.  Contemporary fiction or urban fantasy tend to occur around the present, because it's difficult to contemporize with people already dead.  Dystopian and science fiction tend to deal in the future, with technology or society that we haven't reached yet.  It's up to you how far you want to go into either the past or the future, but those are the major distinctions.  As for fantasy... well, it tends to go everywhere.

As restrictive as all this seems, there's actually a lot of wiggle room.  History is vast.  The future is immense.  The present... slightly less so, but there's still room to breathe.  If you write a contemporary fiction novel set on this exact day (assuming you write extremely quickly), by the time tomorrow comes, it'll be outdated.  Time is always marching forward, and you can't go back and rewrite a book to always happen in the present-- the present is always changing.  However, we have ideas of the present that make it easier to manage in fiction.  For instance, something that happened last year is technically the past, but in fiction it can still be called the present, because we can remember it.  Similar with the near future; we can schedule shawarma for next week, which counts as the present because it's nearby.  When it's within a couple decades of the true present, it counts as the present.

The same goes for all historical or futuristic stuff.  In the space of a century, so much can change, even though, from afar, it seems so slow-moving.  You do realize, right, that Julius Caesar only ruled for the space of a mortal lifetime?  All his antics, being kidnapped by pirates and invading Gaul and crossing the Rubicon-- these were all as important to people living in the time period as present difficulties are to us.  There is wiggle room, even when you're in a specific time period.

But what does time period do for your world?  It gives you an idea of the technology, first of all.  In the Stone Age, they didn't have cannons.  No one had laptop computers in the 1920s.  (I think I would remember those.)  Five hundred years from now, will anyone actually use, say, paper books?  Time period decides both what would seem too modern, and what would seem too outdated.


Especially in present-day fiction, where things get outdated so rapidly, it's important to know your time period.  You're able to allow yourself to be outdated, instead of seeing it as a surprise.  Many books we consider classics were written fifty years in the past, when events were still remembered, but the future was already decided.  War and Peace, A Tale of Two Cities, The Three Musketeers, for example.  They weren't quite historical fiction, but they were intentionally written slightly in the past.

There's no question time period is important, but I wouldn't call it the most important part of worldbuilding.  No indeed-- in order to worldbuild, you must consider the world as well as the time it's experiencing.

Where are we?

This encapsulates the rest of setting.  Where is it taking place?  What are the physical landmarks, the kinds of technology, the cultural norms?  Again, much of this can depend on time period in more realistic genres, but it's still important, whether in the large scale or in the small scale.  For the present, ask yourself: where does the protagonist live?  What's his or her school, or job?  City, country, coast?  What about politics?  Entertainment style?  The closer it gets to the present, the more culture and technology are going to approach ours, but if it's set ten years in the past, it could seem like an entirely different world.

As it gets into the past, worldbuilding gets more research-driven.  Again, especially for historical stuff, the time period determines most of the world.  But again, where does the protagonist live?  What's it like at this point?  Steaming factories all around, or just a cave in the mountain, or right under the Brooklyn Bridge?  You're still building your world, but you have to gather it from what actually happened, then fill in the gaps.


As for the future, and in fantasy, building the world is a lot more fun.  In both, the time period doesn't rule quite as much; in the future, humankind could have backslid in both culture and technology (The Time Machine, HG Wells, for example), or it could have soared into something nearly unimaginable.  In fantasy, humankind could be absolutely anywhere in terms of culture and technology, mixing magic with industry (The Alloy of Law, Brandon Sanderson), or being oppressed by any Dark Lord you care to mention.  That's what makes it so fun to brainstorm a fantasy novel, because almost anything can be true, depending on your imagination.

And what about flora and fauna?  If you're in the real world, you'll have to figure out what country you're setting your story in, then research from there.  If you're in the future, how have animals and plants suffered, or strengthened, based on your technology or human existence?  If you're in a fantasy novel... again, anything goes.

Everything around you is part of the setting.  Whatever genre you're writing, the worldbuilding-- or research, if you wish-- has to happen.  Know your setting.  It's nearly impossible to mess it up if you've done your research, created what you need to create, and stayed consistent with it through the story.

If, sometimes, you need a questionnaire or two to get you through these tough questions, check out Jill Williamson's list of worldbuilding resources.  For historical or contemporary fiction especially, I'd suggest the Civilization Worksheet on that page.  Questionnaires like that help you figure out the nuts and bolts before you run into problems.


For sci-fi and fantasy writers specifically, the rest of those worldbuilding resources are good, as are Brandon Sanderson's three laws of magic systems: understanding magic, limitations and powers, and expanding magic's influence.  In case you were wondering, I used the terms technology and magic interchangeably throughout this post, so those three laws work just as well for technology in futuristic sci-fi as they do for medieval fantasy.  (And I hope you SF&F writers forgive me for modeling this post toward other genres-- I'm sure you already know how to worldbuild by now.  If not, check out those resources.)

One final disclaimer, no matter your genre: worldbuilder's disease is real.  If you find yourself spending more time working on research, or on creating interesting new things, than actually writing, stop.  It can be addicting.  J.R.R. Tolkien famously spent twenty years figuring out the Lord of the Rings world before he wrote the trilogy.  He also had a full-time job studying a similar time period, culture, and race.  No matter how good your world could be, writing is always more important than worldbuilding.  Now, in the month before NaNoWriMo, worldbuild all you want.  When November comes, if you're not writing, woe betide you.

On that cheery note, I'll let you go.  This was a long post, but I hope you gained much from it.  Without a setting, you can't excel at description-- nothing to describe.  Without setting, your characters can't do anything-- nowhere to do it.  Without setting, you're missing one of the fundamental parts of storytelling.  Worldbuild (in moderation), and make November a lot of fun.


One-Sentence Outlining: Iron Man On Log-Lines

All right, listen up. We're talking outlining. But none of that "write out your entire plot" stuff. Pantsers, rejoice. I'm about to tell you how to plan your entire novel in a sentence.

My friends, let's talk log-lines. (I realise I've dedicated an astonishingly long post to a topic that's about something very short. More bang for your buck, that's me. No, Steve, buck. Not Bucky. Sheesh. Do you ever shut up about him? I GET IT. HE HAS A METAL ARM. Now go away, I'm trying to write a blog post.)

For those who aren't aware, a log-line is a one-sentence summary of your novel. A pitch. Something that, if you found yourself in conversation with an agent in an elevator, you'd whip out to prove to them that you know exactly what you're writing and doesn't that mean they should be interested? (Please don't do this if the agent in question does not want to be propositioned in an elevator. If they've indicated that they're open to it, though...)

You need a log-line so the people you're talking to
don't start actively napping while you're talking.
Log-lines are also super useful during NaNoWriMo for a non-plotting reason. At every write-in, on every forum thread, and every time you tell anybody what you're trying to do for the whole of November, you'll get asked, "So what are you writing?"

Your friend is busy. They may well be writing their own novel. So they don't want to hear, "Oh, well, there's this girl, y'know, and she's special, because she's secretly a cyborg. Only she's not aware of that, because all the electronics are inside her. Anyway. So she hasn't figured that out yet, but everyone else has, and they're hunting her down as a result. But you see, it's complicated, because there's this guy, and she's not sure if she likes him, and ...." [Half an hour later] "Anyway, that's pretty much it. Except I didn't tell you about the elf subplot..."
DID I MENTION ACTIVELY NAPPING
damn it Banner
 Don't. Just don't.

So log-lines are pretty handy under those circumstances, but they're crucial to outlining. If you can't summarise your novel in one sentence (or three, take three), you probably don't really know what it's about. Which means it's going to be a structural mess, with no underlying plot, a confused goal, and rubbish pacing. Sorry, dude. That's how it is.

I'm going to use the log-line I wrote for my 2012 NaNo novel here, just to give you some examples. But first we're going to break it down, so that you can see how it's formed.

Things your log-line should tell us:

Your main character(s). It doesn't necessarily need to include their names, but we need to know who this story is about. So my log-line started with "two girls and an angel". You might have "a sixteen-year-old girl" or "a chemistry teacher".

Then -- what's the main obstacle here? What are they struggling against? In this example, my next words were "travel ten thousand miles". Ten thousand miles is a long way, especially in Russia before the Trans-Siberian Railway was built (which was when this novel was set). I mean, it also suggests they got a bit lost, because the journey shouldn't actually have been that long, but...

What the log-line tells me is that in order to achieve their goals, the characters have to overcome an obstacle: distance, and the dangers associated with travelling. It doesn't have to be quite so physical an obstacle. You might have "battling depression" or "with memory loss" or something, since those are still standing in the character's way.
Next, their active goal. THIS IS CRUCIAL. You must know what their active goal is. DO NOT PROCEED WITHOUT KNOWING THIS. Have I emphasised this enough? In my log-line, the next words were "to destroy a weapon". This is an active goal. There is a weapon, it must be destroyed. Active goals will drive everything throughout the novel. The decisions the characters make. The relationships they form. The places they go. These characters are motivated because they know they must destroy this weapon.

Side note: if you have an ensemble cast, it can occasionally be difficult to figure out who the protagonist actually is, especially if there are a number of characters working towards the same goal. What you need to do here is look at their motivations. They all want to destroy a weapon, but why? Who has the most to gain and the most to lose? Who wants it more than the others? That's your protagonist.

Make sure this is an active goal. "Staying alive" is important to everyone, and "keeping hidden" is also good when someone's on your tail. But these are much more passive goals. They're a state of continuation. Active goals are something a character is working towards, not something they've already managed. To stay alive, they may need to "kill the bounty-hunter on their trail", and that's their active goal. Staying alive is the result of the active goal.

Then we need to know what the stakes are. Is there a time limit? What happens if they fail to achieve this goal? Who or what will they lose? This adds drama, but it also makes the central conflict or threat within the novel clearer to you, the writer. In my log-line, that was "before demonic forces use it to open hell and trigger the apocalypse". You'll often see the word 'before' at this point in the logline.

And there are the stakes. Right there.*
 Notice that I also included the main antagonist here. "Demonic forces." It's a bit vague, because I'd say the antagonists were the weakest point of this novel. I've already written it, so I know that, but the fact that I can see it from the log-line means I should have known to work on it originally. But I thought I could make it work. Because I'm Tony Stark and I can do that kind of thing. Apparently novel structure doesn't care who you are.

Let's have some made-up loglines based on some of my examples above.

A sixteen-year-old girl with memory loss must kill the bounty-hunter on her trail before they capture her for crimes she doesn't remember committing. 

The protagonist is a girl, sixteen, suffering memory loss. That intrigues the reader: why? What happened to her? There's a bounty hunter on her trail. There's the antagonist right there, and we can see the protag's active goal. We also see that she's got something major to lose: her freedom.

Optional extras include setting, if you want to clarify things, but for the purposes of outlining that's less crucial. For pitching, you may want to include it. My log-line would have been "In the late nineteenth century, two girls and an angel travel ten thousand miles across Russia to destroy a weapon before it demonic forces use it to open hell and trigger the apocalypse". But when I was outlining, I knew where they were, so I didn't need to include that.

Knowing what your character is trying to do and what they've got to lose will help a huge amount with your plot, especially when you're pantsing the novel. You may reach a turning point and think, "What would my character actually do here?" If you make the wrong decision, it may throw your entire plot off-course. So look back at what their active goal is. Will this decision help them, or will it make things harder? That should show you exactly how to proceed.

It can also help whenever you feel like you're drifting away from the core ideas of the novel. Write that log-line and stick it on the wall above your desk, or on your laptop, or somewhere you will see it every day during the writing process. Every time you see it, you're asking yourself the question: what am I writing about?

That's what you're writing about. That's your plot right there in a single sentence. It's your characters (good and bad guys), your main plotline or active goal, and the stakes. Everything a reader would need to know about that book.

And it's going to make it a whole lot easier when you're at a write-in and someone says, "So, what are you writing this November?"

-- Iron Man

Bonus fact for those who stuck with this epically long post until the end: the URL of this post ends with "iron-man-on-log". Enjoy that mental image for a while. 

*Pretty sure Pepper's gonna stake me in a minute.

The Panster Plots

NaNoWriMo is in less than a month. Less than a month. Last year I went all in, but my process requires revision. It requires throwing out scenes that go the wrong way. I need to let things sit, revisit them, and assess if they work. That’s hard to do during NaNoWriMo, and while I ended up with a finished draft, it was pretty much crap. It ended up in the drawer of things we'd rather forget. This year, I’d like to avoid that. So, I’m staying one step ahead. I’m making a road map, and promising to follow it. Maybe. Fury’ll be so proud.


1. Start with a logline. 

Tape it to your desk, your laptop, your hands.Keep it in your line of sight while you write. Anything that deviates from that logline is unnecessary. Throw it out.

2. Expand. 

Turn your logline to a paragraph, then a page.  Know your rising and falling action. Maybe draw a picture. Write it all on post-its and decorate your walls. That's how I make friends.

3. Use what you know.

If you have a couple scenes in your head, write down the gist of them. Banner has it down to a scienceStick them in your outline. If you use writing software like Scrivener, it's easy to map out.

4. Beat Sheets. 

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat and Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey are good resources. Read up on the three act structure. You don’t have to follow them exactly. In fact, don’t follow them exactly. Formulas are great to help guide a story, but follow them too closely and you’ll have a predictable pile of crap.

5. Be flexible

Characters surprise me all the time. If they deviate in a way that blows your mind, let them go. Adjust your outline. Keep writing. Don’t let yourself feel confined. If it screws with your process, find something that doesn't.

I wrote my first outline. Today. It was harder than I expected, but when it was finished I felt the same way I do when I finish a draft: like a boss, like a beast, like I've just taken down the leader of a foreign government. So yeah, good. 
Twenty-six days until NaNoWriMo. Pencils to the ready. Butt in chair, hands on keyboard. 


Let’s do this. 

September Wrap-Up: Pre-Writing, Hedgehogs, and Hawkeye Appreciation

Is there ever a month that isn't packed with YAvengers action and writing advice?  Correct answer:


That's right.  I, Cap, am here again to fill you in on the posts, tweets, and other fun stuff you may have missed while you were off saving your own worlds.  This September, as we slowly but surely suit up for November's NaNoWriMo challenge, we tackle all kinds of Pre-Writing Decisions.

(Before we get down to brass tacks, however, today is release day for Broken Body, Fragile Heart; a poetry collection from Stark's alter ego.  You can read all about it here.  I have read-- and listened to the author read-- samples from the collection, and they are excellent.  Check it out.)

It's time to begin.  NaNoWriMo is but a month away-- time to suit up.

September begins with a stunningly profound post from the bag-o'-cats himself.  Loki talks to us about mood, tone, and style, how to use each, and how to capture your enthusiasm even in revisions.  It's a great post, one I've filed for future use.  (I've done that with so many YAvenger posts that my filing cabinet is getting a bit tight.)

Agent Coulson talks about multiple POVs, or points of view.  All your questions about juggling viewpoints are answered here, including how to make each unique, how to introduce a viewpoint for the right reason, and many others.  Even if single POV is more your style, knowing how to juggle more than one is useful.  Not only that, but Coulson makes it fun to learn how.


To help with all your POV decisions, Miss Romanoff digs into the nitty-gritty details of first, second, and third person, as well as past and present tense.  She obviously has a lot of experience reading and writing each.  She has examples and gifs and all the fun things to accompany such a technical post-- and even if you've been doing this gig for a while, it's worth a review.  Definitely look it over.

And now it's Thor's turn.  With a roll of thunder sounding in his wake, he crashes in to talk about pre-writing itself.  This isn't simply lying around on the couch, wondering if you should write-- this is outlining, worldbuilding, researching, and making sure your great idea can keep an entire novel going.  It's an important step of the brainstorming process, and he hits all the important points.

But don't take him too seriously.  Only a couple days after his post, we found this picture of him, obviously leaked from Asgard:


...And this one, apparently from his new day job on Earth:


My friends, let's take a moment of silence for our godly friend.  All those battles to save universes must have taken quite a toll on his sanity.

Okay, moment of silence over.  We have more to accomplish than pitying Thor.  There are some pretty great posts still to come.

I, Captain America, was next to post.  (Well, that makes me sound conceited.  It was coincidence, I assure you.)  I posted on genre and age-range, making sure you knew your audience before you dove in.  Many times, you'll want to transcend genre and age, but it's often practical at the beginning to restrict yourself to a single group.

Now it's Iron Man's turn.  Frankly, Stark blew me away with his post on themes.  Themes seem like the stuff of high school English, or the tools of literary fiction authors, but Stark takes those assumptions and realigns them, guiding us to understand that themes are just as important to YA as they are to anything else.  I loved his post-- another one I'll stuff into that file cabinet for later use.

Lastly, Dr. Banner weighed in-- rather heavily-- with a post on clustering scenes based on enthusiasm rather than straightforward outlining.  It was an interesting take, and an approach I had not seen before, but am ready to try if outline fatigue should hit me.  I encourage you to visit, and revisit, his post as we begin brainstorming and outlining for NaNoWriMo.


You may have noticed that our sharpshooting member, Hawkeye, was absent this month.  He was unable to post due to world-saving duties.  We should know by now that we aren't the only demand on his time, and we might have to go a month without his wisdom.  It's a pity, but necessary.  (Just wait until next month.)

That was the month here at the YAvengers.  I hope you read and enjoyed all the posts-- if you didn't, either read them again or go through again replacing "novel" or "writing" with "chocolate".  It works wonders.  (That's right, September is Pre-Chocolate Decision month.  Do you stop with one piece, or eat five in a row?)

October, the last month before NaNoWriMo (ack! I need a bigger shield), is Pre-NaNoWriMo month.  We're doing a lot of pre-thingy months, but NaNoWriMo is a big deal.  You'll want to read about brainstorming, outlining-- or not outlining-- and everything else we have to talk about.  Those posts will begin soon, so stick around.  Or, you know, save the world and catch up later.  (That's always an option.)

Until then, I'm out.  Be awesome, write awesomely, and bombard me with Hawkeye gifs (just for fun).  Get ready for a great October.

~Cap