How to Write Like a Professional

How to Write Like a Professional
6 Surprising Mistakes That Make Writers Look Like Amateurs... and How to Avoid Them

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

How Neflix Can Help You Become a Better Writer


Understanding Plot Points Through Netflix Movies


So you love to read and write, right? But you also love a good story in movie format. So break out the popcorn and get comfy. It's time to tell a story, Netflix style. You don't have to binge-watch Netflix to figure out how to get your character from Point A to Point B. All you have to do is know the 5 Marathon Mile Markers of a Novel and learn how to use the pause button.

How Netflix Can Help You Become a Better Writer: Understanding Plot Points Through Netflix Movies || how to write a novel, how to understand plot arc and story arc, what is narrative arc, https://christiewrightwild.blogspot.com/2018/05/how-neflix-can-help-you-become-better.html

The Power of the Digital Age of Movie Watching


The age of digital streaming is amazing, although the local theatre in my town would have to disagree. Once the industry required movies to stream digitally (and no longer offered filmstrips in the Old School style), they had to close their doors. It was going to cost over a million dollars to convert the theatre to be digital compatible. So now when we want to watch something on the big screen, we have to drive to the town on either side of us. That's okay though because when there's only two screens, there's only two choices.

The digital age of movie watching via Internet streaming has brought more movies into the homes of America than ever before. Like ever. With hundreds of thousands of options available with the flick of a wrist and the press of a button, you can be watching your favorite flicks in no time flat. While there are certainly pros and cons to family life and procrastination and societal niceties, the novelist has much to rejoice about!

The Power of the Pause Button When Watching Netflix


While reading novels are still a writer's best friend, if you're struggling with understanding plot (story arc, plot arc, narrative arc, or story structure), watching a movie is much faster.

The whole point of watching "TV" at home is so you can hit the pause button.

"Hey, pause that! I've gotta use the bathroom."
"Pause it, I need to get some more popcorn."
"Rewind that. I missed what she said."

As a writer, it's a lot easier to take notes about plot if you know you have the capability to pause when needed.

Beginning, Middle, and End


If you know the only 5 plot points you need to write a novel, then you will be happy to also know that the only notes you need to take when watching a movie are those 5 plot points. Let me break it down for you.


This graph shows a typical three-act plot structure for movies and books with a classic hero's journey plot line. The beginning is the first 25%, the middle takes up 50% of the story, and the ending is the final 25%.

As a quick review, the first plot point is the inciting incident, aka The Sign Up. It happens at the end of the beginning and starts the journey of the second act. The next three plot points happen in the middle of the story: The Gun Shot, The Halfway Point, and The Wall. The final plot point is The Finish Line.

When you press pause on a Netflix movie, you can see the red timeline bar at the bottom that tells you how long the movie you have left. Sometimes, it shows the 25%, 50%, and 75% markings, depending on how and where you're watching the movie and what device you use to stream it with. A Roku device will show the percentage markings.

The really cool thing is that the plot points for a lot of movies align with with the actual 25, 50, and 75 marker points. So, if you're struggling with which event in the story matches the main plot points (sometimes it can seem a little tricky), just hit pause and see where the percentage marker falls on the timeline.

Now that you know the correlation, what movie will you begin with? A new one? Or a classic favorite. I recommend a favorite because the story is already familiar and it will be easier to pinpoint.

What's one of your favorite movies? Share in the comments!

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Ratatouille for Writers: Advice as Good as Chef Gusteau's

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Anyone Can Write...


"Anyone can cook, but that doesn't mean they should..." ~ Remi, Ratatouille

Anyone can cook, but only a chef can create award-winning meals at a restaurant for the general public.

Anyone can run, but only a competitive athlete can get sponsors to run in a race - for a living.

Anyone can write, but only an author can publish multiple books and create a raving fan base of readers.



Anyone Can Write


So, yeah, anyone can write, but does that mean they should? Chef Gusteau would say, "Yes!"

If you want to write, then write.

Just because a person writes does not necessarily mean they are seeking publication.

Perhaps you write a blog to help others learn how to garden or cook or make leather belts.

Perhaps you journal for self reflection and to save money by not needing to see a therapist.

Perhaps you write fun stories for your family members and simply enjoy the act of creating a story for your loved ones.

No matter the reason, if you want to write, then write!

Mentors Make a Difference


When you're writing for publication, it's important to work on craft and make your writing the best that it can possibly be.

You can do this through critique groups, multiple revisions, and paid professional critiques.

If you're looking to become an author and generate a fanbase over time, you need a mentor, or several. In the movie Ratatouille, Remi the rat was Linguine's mentor.

Your mentor will likely be a critique partner (or an entire group of CPs). Over time, your mentor may shift to the role of an agent or editor.

Even published authors continue to work with mentors.

Persistence Pays Off


Writers who write are writers who become authors.

Being persistent about getting published will help you get a book deal. But before that happens, being CONSISTENT will help you become a better writer, so start there.

One tip to make your writing more consistent is to pick a time and/or place to write daily (or at the very least, once a week). Make it a part of your daily routine, even if it's just for 15-20 minutes.

Even though most people dream of writing a book and getting published, very very few people actually finish writing a book, and even fewer see it through to publication.

Anyone can write... Are you?

Who is your favorite author? Share in the comments!

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Tuesday, April 24, 2018

From Idea to Novel: How to Write Your 1st Novel



The 4 Essential Elements of Novel Writing


So, you're a complete newbie to writing? You want to write a novel, but you have no idea where to start? Chances are if you want to write a novel, you already have a great idea. That's the first step! Now you just have to get organized and flesh everything else... or you could start writing and see where it leads you.

You have to start somewhere. IT'S NOT GOING TO BE PERFECT. You're going to have to rewrite and revise many times. It's all part of the territory. Here are four essential elements for writing a novel: character, plot, conflict, and theme.

Free write a few paragraphs for each and see where it takes you. When you're ready for the next step, it's time to map out your plot.


Character


If you have an idea for a novel, you likely already know your character, at least a little bit. You could Google the ethers and find all kinds of character worksheets to fill out, or you could simply start with the basics: goal and motivation.

The goal is what your main character (MC) wants. The motivation is the why. If there's no why behind the desire, then the goal is arbitrary and has no meaning. The reader wants to care, so make sure your MC cares about what he or she wants.

If you're struggling with some of the finer details, you can do an activity I call "Alphabet Soup". Take each letter of the alphabet and list out things about your character in a word or a short phrase. Nouns work best. Adjectives are the least intriguing. For example, which gives you a better image of a character? Smart? Or six books about how to grow a dandelion garden?

Plot


Without plot, there is no story. But there's also no story without character or conflict. The plot is the thread of what happens. But it can't be random things that merely happen just to have something happen. They have to be connected and have a point for happening. There are actually 5 main plot points that can jumpstart your novel.
  1. The Signup
  2. The Gunshot
  3. The Halfway Point
  4. The Wall
  5. The Finish Line
Think about a marathon. Think about what your MC wants (that's the finish line). Work backwards and reconstruct how that goal will be reached.

Conflict


Conflict is merely a series of ups and downs in the plot. Conflict makes the story interesting, believable, and worthy of reading. We crave good stories that allow us to root for someone. We want to see the MC win, just as we ourselves want to reach our own goals in life - like writing a novel!

What obstacles can you throw at your MC to make life difficult. They have to have something to overcome. Make it hard. Like a 10k race with no porta potties, no water stop, no shade, and no breeze. Those are real challenges to a runner. What challenges does your MC have to face?

Theme


Without theme, there's really no purpose in telling a story. If it doesn't teach us how to be better humans (in a very non-teachy way), then what was the point in telling the story (or reading it) if we can't change along with the MC?

Theme gives our stories purpose, passion, and a reason to be written. Novels are complex works of art and have multiple themes that intertwine and overlap. Life is messy and complicated. A well-written novel helps us make sense out of the chaos.

Your MC's why may be related to the theme. So if you don't know your why, you may have a hard time saying what it is you're really trying to say. And as writers, aren't we simply trying to say something meaningful to make the world a better place (and entertain while we're doing it)?

Which element do you find the easiest? Hardest? Share in the comments!

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

How Can the Story of Easter Help You Write a Novel?

The 5 Main Plot Points of the Life of Jesus Christ


As I write this, Easter was about a month ago. Even though Easter is over, it's a timeless holiday that most Christians celebrate all year long. So how can taking a second look at the world's greatest hero who ever lived help you write your novel? Well, following the Marathon Method of Plotting, you'll see how even the life of Jesus follows the classic plot of the Hero's Journey.


The Sign Up


Just like any racer would never run in a race unless they first register for it, Jesus' life never would have happened unless He was born. He had to be born on the Earth before his story could truly begin.

The Gunshot


When the gunshot of a race signals the runners to take off, they embark on their journey. They accept the journey ahead and continue running (or occasionally walking) to finish the race and complete their goal.

With the life of Jesus, the Gunshot point is when John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the River Jordan to "fulfill all righteousness." He was baptized to show his willingness and acceptance of the Plan of Salvation. Once he was baptized, there was no turning back on his journey to save all mankind. He was in it to win it.

The Halfway Point


In a marathon, the halfway point represents a major accomplishment: a HALF marathon! You're halfway there!

In the life of Jesus Christ, the Halfway Point does not correlate directly to the halfway point of his years lived on Earth. If that were the case, it would have occurred when he was merely 16, but it didn't happen when he was a teen. The Halfway Point occurred during the events of Easter week, when Jesus was praying in the Garden of Gethsemane to redeem all mankind from sin. The Atonement is the Halfway Point because it represents major progress in his goal to redeem us and help us return to the Father.

The Wall


The Wall is the point in a marathon in which one's legs become rubbery, feet are throbbing (more so than usual) and mental blocks are formed, racked with doubt, fear, and pain. How does a runner get past the Wall? They look inside to their internal inspiration and simply keep going.

The Wall for Jesus, in the story of Easter, is when He was lifted up on the cross at Calgary and he cried out for help, "My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me? If it be thy will, take this cup from me?" I don't think that Jesus had any doubts that He could finish the task he began, but he was in pain and felt defeated. He "hit the wall".

The Finish Line


Once a runner crosses the finish line, the story isn't over, but they have reached their goal. When your main character accomplishes their goal, the finish line (or climax) has been reached.

The story of Easter's Finish Line is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the final act in his journey to help mankind reach eternal life. Because Jesus Christ was resurrected, all those who have died will also be resurrected.

When you follow the Marathon Method of Plotting, you can start writing your novel as soon as you can define these 5 main plot points in your own story.

Do you have a special request for a story, novel, or movie to be added to the Plot Arc Library? Let me know and I'll add it to the queue! Share in the comments!

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Monday, April 9, 2018

Self Publishing vs. Traditional Publishing



What Should You Do?


If you have written a book and you would like to get it published, there's likely one big question you've asked yourself. How do you get started?

There are basically two options. You can self publish, or you can find an editor and publish with a reputable publishing house, aka traditional publishing. So, how do you choose?

Should you publish traditionally or should you self publish? Where do you get started when you're looking for a home for your manuscript? The following nuances should help you decide.


Traditional Publishing Route


Traditional publishing is the way publishing has been done for years. The editors and publishers act as gatekeepers to ensure that high quality books are introduced into the world.

When you publish with an established publisher, whether it's a small press or one of the "Big 5", an editor will pay you for your work if they want to publish it. You may or may not get a publicist or marketing team behind you. But the publishing house will likely give you guidance and help along your publication journey. It also seems to take forever and don't get to make all the decisions.

To a lot of people, traditional publishing feels safer or like it's more real. You also don't make as much money per book, although you will likely get a nice advance, depending on your genre and your contract.

Self-Publishing Path


Self publishing has exploded in the last decade. It is a great option for writers to get noticed and get their work out there. It's faster and often more profitable. But it doesn't come without a few drawbacks. It's easier to publish your work, but that means it's also easier to publish when the work isn't actually quite ready. You have to find a good editor, pay for the editing services, a copy editor too. Book cover design work. Marketing, and more. You have to do it ALL. It's a huge learning curve and a lot of work. If that sounds like fun, then go for it!

I have at least two books that I may want to self publish one day, but I'm not ready to learn everything that goes into it just yet. Self publishing gives you more freedom over choices, more money per book, and you can get your work out there a lot faster. But you don't have an editor, an art director, a team of people helping you and cheering for you. Self publishing is kind of the go-it-alone route and it's perfect for those who love adventures and want to stay in control.

But I urge you - do it right. Get an editor (or two or three) and make sure the quality is high standard and professional. And never ever ever PAY to have your book published. That's called vanity publishing. Really it's not publishing at all. It's paying to have your book PRINTED. Paying a vanity press is NOT self publishing, at least not anymore.

How to Decide on the Right Publishing Path for Your Book


Both options are viable. You can also be both traditionally published and self published. That's called a hybrid author. I may fit into that category.

If you believe in a book and feel that you can have better success with it on your own, then try self publishing.

If you believe in a book and you feel like the traditional route will allow more people to see it, and you're very, very patient, then go traditional. Ultimately, only you are going to know which path to pursue. Way out the pros and cons and go for it! And even though YOU may be ready for your book to be published, make sure your BOOK is ready too.

Which path are YOU pursuing? Share in the comments!

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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

The Only 5 Plot Points You Need to Write a Novel


(with the Marathon Method of Plotting)


If you’re a pantser (pantster?), someone who writes by the seat of their pants, you probably don’t do a lot of outlining. On the other hand, if you’re a plotter (plotster?), someone who likes to know every plot twist before they write, then you probably do a ton of outlining.

I’d like to propose a happy medium: the only 5 plot points you need to write a novel. It’s just enough outlining to get you started and keep you going.

Let’s run with it.

The first thing you need to understand before I get into the thick of the plot is how someone runs a marathon.

The Only 5 Plot Points You Need to Write a Novel || The Marthod Method of Plotting, the archplot type, the hero's journey, the classic plot, the three-act structure, www.christiewrightwild.com

The Five Phases of a Marathon


A marathon is a 26.2-mile foot race. There are a lot of components to finishing a race.
  1. First, you have to sign up for the race. If you don’t officially enter the race, you won’t be able to run in it.
  2. Second, after months of training, you’ll find yourself at the starting line. When you hear the gun shot go off, you’re in it to win it. There’s no turning back.
  3. Third, it’s a major milestone when you reach the halfway point - that’s a half marathon, my friend!
  4. Fourth, you’ll likely hit the “wall”. In a marathon, the “wall” is when you reach your lowest point mentally. Maybe even physically. You feel like you can’t go any further. Your legs feel like rubber. It’s a sheer act of willpower and determination to keep going. It might be at mile 18 or it might be at mile 24. It’s different for different people, even different for different races.
  5. And fifth, the finish line is in sight. When you see it, more adrenaline kicks in and you sprint to the finish line. You’ve reached your goal and it’s time to enjoy the after party.
Now, let’s run with your writing.

Plot Point #1: The Sign Up


The Sign Up happens at the beginning of a novel. It’s also known as the inciting incident, the catalyst, or the call to action. It’s the point in which the story begins. The point where you could say if it never happened, the story would have never happened.

For example, in the movie Wonder Woman, the Sigh Up was the point where the airplane crashed through the force field and landed in the ocean.

Plot Point #2: The Gun Shot


The Gun Shot is known by many different names in the classic hero’s journey archplot structure:
  • the end of the beginning
  • the point of no return
  • committing to the goal
  • plot point one
  • turning point one
  • the awakening
  • the threshold
The second plot point in the Marathon Method of Plotting is the Gun Shot, when your main character (MC) decides what their goal is. The point in which they set out on their journey, and there’s no stopping them. They are going to finish the race, even if they don’t win first place, even if they fall flat on their face.

Back to our Wonder Woman example, the Gun Shot was the point where Diana decided to leave the island and get on the boat with the soldier who’s plane crashed. Her goal was to help stop the war. Once she left the island, there was no turning back. Once she decided to help end the war, there was no stopping her. The gun had already gone off. The race was on…!

Plot Point #3: The Halfway Point


A novel’s Halfway Point occurs during the middle part of the story. Other names for the Halfway Point are the mid-act climax the moment of grace or enlightenment, or commitment to the journey. It’s the point where major progress is being made, but you know there’s still a lot to overcome before the MC reaches his goals.

Let’s shift over to a different movie, Armageddon. The halfway point in this movie is when the plans are finalized, the oil rig crew is finally trained, and the two space shuttles take off. A lot has happened, but we know there’s much more to come.

Plot Point #4: The “Wall”


You may know The “Wall” by many other names:
  • plot point two
  • act two climax
  • the major assault
  • abyss and revelation
  • epiphany
  • rock bottom
  • dark night of the soul
  • the crisis
  • the big change
The “Wall” is the MC’s lowest point, the point when they feel defeated, like all is lost, like they can’t continue on any longer. But somewhere deep within they find the strength to move past the wall and keep going.

Let’s continue with the Armageddon movie example. The “Wall” is when Bruce Willis’ character, Harry Stamper, is in outer space on a giant asteroid hurtling toward Earth, with what’s left of his team, down one crew, one ship, one drill, with no hope left to go on. What else can he do? But then the other Armadillo shows up and they continue drilling.

Plot Point #5: The Finish Line


The Finish Line is the final plot point of the classic novel structure. That’s not to say that it’s the end of the book; it’s not. There are still a few loose ends to tie up, but the Finish Line happens (hopefully it’s quite obvious) toward the end of the book. Other names include the climax (the most common), seizing the prize, finale, the final incident, or the transformation.

The Finish Line is when the MC reaches their goal.

Let’s take a look at both movie examples from above. In Wonder Woman, the Finish Line is when she fights Ares and defeats him, ending WWI. In Armageddon, the Finish Line is when Harry sacrifices his own life to stay behind and detonate the bomb, thus saving all of humanity.

Granted, there are many, many complex facets to writing a novel and fleshing out the plot. But these are the only 5 plot points you need to know to get started.

What are you waiting for? Choose a scene and get started!

Which plot point are you working on? Share in the comments!

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Monday, February 19, 2018

You Know You're a Writer Who Runs [5 of 10]



When Food Doesn't Matter Anymore


I love food. Don't we all? I'm not the type of person who willingly skips breakfast (unless it's for spiritual reasons and I'm praying for guidance). Needless to say, I also love to write and to run. It's almost a classic case of "rock, paper, scissors" only not quite. Just read the humor, already...



Would You Rather Write or Run?


Some days I write. Some days I run. In a perfect world, I would do both every day. So I take turns. And sometimes, I even choose writing or running over food. *GASP!*

Would You Rather Write or Eat?


If you laughed at the "You know you're a writer..." above, then you can totally relate. Writing isn't just a hobby, it's a passion that sometimes takes over.

Sometimes, when I'm writing, my stomach screamS at me to remind me that I'm human and that my body needs sustenance. Some writers may joke about "playing God" with all the worlds full of characters they create.

But we really are human and food must creep into our bodies at some point during the writing journey.

Would You Rather Run or Eat?


Usually, eat! I have to eat for energy so that I CAN run. So then the question might become, "Would you rather eat or rest (after the run)?"

I usually eat a little something before a long run, maybe even something during the run, but afterwards? Depending on how long the run was, it's possible I would rather crash. Too tired.

You know you want to eat, and you would if someone put some food in front of you, but if nobody was there to help you out, you'd have to crawl to the kitchen to get to where the food is. Sounds like too much effort. Hey, I mean, if I had just ran 18 miles, I deserve to lie supine pretending to die, right? The cereal will still be in the cupboard when I return to the land of the living.

Has this ever happened to you? Share in the comments!

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How Barnes & Noble Sucked Me In


...With Tea and Crumpets


For Christmas, my husband gave me a very thoughtful gift: a refillable silver Cross pen. The funny thing about it was that I already had one! He knew I had one in the past, but he thought I had lost it because he hadn't seen me using it in such a long time. So, when I went to the mall to return it, I went to Barnes & Noble afterward. Because a writer loves her journals and novels and books of all kinds.

How Barnes and Noble Sucked Me in With Tea and Crumpets || reading, writers, journals, stores with great customer service || www.christiewrightwild.com

The Journals


For starters, Barnes & Noble is a bookstore, after all. And I am a writer. So I guess it goes without saying that writers love bookstores and could camp out there for hours on end every single week. Some people would argue daily. I love the trinkets, the games, the pens, the pencils, the bookmarks, the children's section, the calendars, the journals, the novels, the cookbooks, the EVERYTHING!!!

The last time I had gone there was to buy a few things for my kids for Christmas, and here I am again, about a month later. Well, whaddya know... I told the cashier, "I could live here." She said, "Well then, this is a very dangerous place for you." She knows me well.

So, I walk toward the journals because that's what I had my heart set on this time around. Oh, they were so pretty! Some were colorful with exquisite artwork on both sides of the cover. Others had no spine, but were bound with fancy thick cardstock fronts and backs, and of course the pages were glued together, and painted a fun color. Some were small and cute and fun to hold. Other journals were leather-bound and handcrafted in Italy with a fancy tree of life symbol or Celtic symbol on the front. Some of the leather journals were bold red or green colors.

I browsed the journal shelves for 45 minutes!!! I even saw journals with promptings for writers, teens, Christians, and more! So what did I settle on, you may ask? First off, my husband had also gotten me a really nice leather-bound journal for Christmas. I have never owned a leather journal in all my years of journaling. That's about 35 years worth of writing in journals. I have maybe 20 that are full! So, I didn't opt for a leather one, since I had just received a really nice one.

I chose a simple cardstock bound journal with a paint colored cover. It's mostly a light purplish-pink color with a little bit of blue, green and yellow on the edges. The quote on the front sold me.

"With freedom,
books, flowers,
and the moon,
who could not
be happy?"
- Oscar Wilde

Maybe it's the last name, I don't know, even though mine doesn't have an 'e'. The second book I found was a little reading journal published in 2010: My Bibliofile: A Reading Journal for Book Lovers. It's basically the printed format of the journal I used to be so diligent in keeping when reading so many picture books.

Each 2-page spread has a place for the title, the author, the date published, the category, date started, date finished, and a 5-star rating system. I'm going to use if for my novel reading adventures. I don't recommend it for picture books because you could easily fill it up in a short period of time. It also has a section that you could write about how the book inspired you to learn about other subjects, and a whole page to take notes. Perfect! I just had to have it! There's also a section in the back full of reading lists with Award winning novels. If anything is going to get me to read a little more, it's this book!

Great Customer Service


Back to Barnes & Noble, though. So was it the books that sucked me in? Yeah, a little bit. But what I really mean is that even though I love books, I don't really buy a lot of them. When I went to pay, the lady at the register asked if I wanted to get a rewards card and save a percentage off my purchase today. I said "No" because I would have to buy like $250 worth of books in order to get any savings, since the annual savings card is usually $25.

But she must have seen the longing in my eyes, or the hesitation in my voice, or maybe she's simple required to sell, sell, sell and it wasn't a long line, either. She continued to tell me all the wonderful benefits of being a member. And for a limited time, they were giving away a Starbucks coffee each month, just for getting the Member Card. Well, that alone would pay for itself!

"But I don't drink coffee," I said.

Tea and Crumpets


Well, I don't drink tea either and I'm not in the habit of eating crumpets, but Starbucks has coffee and cookies. And apparently, the cashier said the magic words:

"They also have smoothies."

Wait. What? Smoothies? I love smoothies! Where do I sign up? And that was all it took. Such clever marketing, I noted. And that's how Barnes & Noble sucked me into their Member Card savings program with tea and crumpets... er, I mean smoothies and cookies.

Needless to say, I had a chocolate banana smoothie and 2 large cookies for dinner that night as I drove home.

How often do you go book shopping? How much money do you spend on books in one year? How many books do you read in a year? Take your pick! Share in the comments!

Keep on keepin' on...

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