New Writer Podcast Episode 25 – New Projects, Big Ideas, and the 7-Point Story Structure

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This week I’d like to talk a little about my new project, the big picture concept, where I’m at on it, and some of the tools I’ve used to get there, but first, the weekly update.

This week I had 34 downloads for Choices as well as 7 total sales of other books on Amazon, netting me a grand total $12.67 for the week on Amazon and nothing on any of the other platforms. This isn’t exactly surprising considering I’ve made a grand total of about $20 on all of the other platforms combined since I started publishing in March of last year.

I’ve been doing quite a bit of writing this week, including once again experimenting with Dragon Naturally Speaking. I’ve managed to write over 15,000 words this week and I attribute that to getting back into the habit of using 750words.com

If you’re not familiar, 750words.com is a website with a similar concept as the morning pages. The idea is to write 3 pages, or 750 words, of free writing every day just to form the habit of writing and clear your mind from the clutter. What kicked me back into using it with dedication was signing up for a monthly challenge, which is a non-binding contract to write every day. When you join the challenge to set two terms, one reward you’ll give yourself if you achieve the goal of writing at least 750 words every day for a month and one if you fail.

For me, if I manage to write every day in July, I get to go see Antman, assuming, of course, it’s still in theaters two weeks after its release date. If I fail, I will donate $25 to 750words.com. The service is free and donations keep the doors open. As of recording this episode on the 10th of July, I haven’t missed a day yet and don’t intend to.

I also have been experimenting with Dragon Naturally Speaking again, which is a really weird way of writing. It takes a lot to get used to dictation, especially when you have to speak your punctuation, but I think it might be worth it. When I did my 750 words using dictation software yesterday, I was able to do it in 4 minutes. It came out to something like 183 words per minute, which is almost double my standard typing rate. If I was able to maintain that speed for an hour, it’d be 10,980 words per hour, which is just stupid insane.

So naturally, I have a new goal.

One of the things I have been doing in my 10-minute dictation word sprints is ignoring punctuation. Speaking punctuation really ruins my flow, and I’m already having a hard enough time working on fiction with my voice. It is a pretty big goal on my list, though, so I am planning to keep working at it.

Which brings me to my new project.

Since Seven Keys 5 is currently being proofread, and my outlined romance novel is possibly developing into a collaboration, I needed something completely different to work on. I decided to try my hand at another genre I love to read: Space Opera.

Now, if you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you might have seen my word count screenshots from Scrivener calling this the Space Opera Serial, and there’s a reason for that.

I’m not planning on releasing the story in individual episodes, but I am writing it somewhat along those lines for a specific reason. I really want to do an audiobook, and I think I’d like to do it as a podiobook style, so I’m developing this story into sections based on how long the audio version of the story would be.

Right now, I’m operating under the assumed narration speed of about 125-150 words per minute, so I’m dividing the story up into 10 7,000 word episodes which should come out to roughly 50-55 minutes of audio. I also want each episode to have a set beginning, middle, and end while still filling into an overall plot for the entire set.

I haven’t decided if I will release each episode as a separate ebook, but I’m leaning against it pretty heavily. Part of the reason for that is the multiplication of the work involved. Ten individual episodes is ten individual covers, blurbs, formatting, etc. The real reason for doing this particular experiment is also to have fun with the audio format, and I’d rather be able to use a call to action at the end of each episode as “go here to buy the complete book” instead of “go here to buy this episode.”

On the other hand, there are a lot of reasons to try it as a serial, not the least of which would be having ten books in place of one, which is a building series.

It’s just too early for me to decide. I’m still very much in the write-as-much-as-possible crap-draft phase, so I might change my mind about all of this in the weeks to come as I close in on the 70-80,000-word goal for the overall story.

Which brings me to how I’m structuring this story and a helpful tip for authors out here still trying to figure out plotting.

I think I’ve established that I’ve become a bit of a Story Grid convert. You can call me an acolyte of Coynes if you want, but the story grid really is established more for editing a manuscript that already exists than plotting a new story. It definitely can be used to plot a new story, and works really well for that, but I think there is a slightly better system for focusing on just the story part.

If you are a writer in the podcast-o-sphere, you’ve probably heard of a podcast called Writing Excuses and heard them talk about the 7-point story structure. Now, the 7-point story structure fits pretty well against the story grid but is a little more basic in execution. Whereas the Story Grid Foolscap sheet breaks a story down into 15 points, those points are roughly the same as the 7 points in the 7-point story structure, only with a bit more detail.

I’ve always struggled with grasping the concept of the 7-point structure in my higher-evolved man-mind, although I like to think my cave-dwelling writer mind had an intuitive grasp of it. Even after listening to Writing Excuses for years, it just didn’t click into my head all that well.

Then, I stumbled upon a lecture series with Dan Wells on Youtube (http://bit.ly/1huyp3y). The lecture is broken into five parts, and covers just about everything there is to know about the 7-point structure, including examples of applying it to multiple genres and then layering multiple plots together to create a more fulfilling whole.

I don’t know if just watching the videos made it all finally click in my head, I am a bit of a visual learner, or if it was simply enough repetition of the same idea to finally break through, but I had an epiphany in my high-functioning-man-mind this week which made my lizard-eating-writer-mind go, “well, duh!”

After watching the lecture, I felt much more confident and comfortable with plotting a story, which is why I’ve decided to try my hand at a second serial.

Now, I feel that each book and story I’ve written shows a pretty big improvement for my craft, but I’m really hoping that I can mark the new space opera story as a turning point piece in my career. You know, this is the book I’m hoping I do a good enough job on to start calling myself a Journeyman writer instead of simply an apprentice.

The part that particularly helped me in the lecture was about stacking and spreading out multiple plots, which in the world of a serial seemed even more important. Especially considering I intend for each episode to have its own plot inside the meta-plot for the overall series. Ultimately, what clicked into place was the idea of treating each episode’s plot like a compressed subplot in the serials overall story.

The concept is hard for me to express with words, which is a shame since I’m a writer, but I think if you watch the lecture series and pay attention to the visuals, you’ll understand. The way he breaks down the plot and subplots of the Matrix is where everything clicked into place for me.

So, that’s been my week and my writing. Your homework, if you choose to accept it, is to go and watch Dan Wells’s lecture on youtube. The first part of the lecture can be found at http://www.newwriterpodcast.com/Dan-Lecture

Also, with book five of the Seven Keys Saga being released soon, I could really use some reviews on the other books to help build traction. If you’re so inclined, the first book in the series, Choices, is free on just about every platform. I would love to hear what you honestly think about the story.

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