30 September 2008

Month Two: Think Sideways

Sorry for the untimeliness of this post; this past weekend has been insane, and the insanity is set to continue as we gear up for a major family wedding next Monday. I'll do my best to keep the posts coming over the next ten days, but no promises. Thanks for understanding :)

Wow, it's that time again already! This month has gone so fast (thank goodness).

So, Month Two, the month of Planning. (If you want to read up on month one, by the way, it's here).

Week Five

This was a week that a lot of people taking the Think Sideways course had trouble with. Mostly, I think, because we like things in neat boxes - and sometimes planning a novel doesn't fall into a neat box. In this lesson Holly introduced the concept of the Dot and the Line (see my post here); and as a way of kickstarting story-brainstorming, I'm in love. The main point of this conceptual way of looking at things is learning to narrow down your focus, to concentrate only on what matters, what is different, what is special about your character and conflict and story, and put your effort into building that, rather than getting caught up in the million-and-one other pits the avid world-builder can fall into.

The Dot: Stop. Look. Something happens here. That something is small, it is contained, and it is different from everything around it. It is the one or two or three aspects of a character or conflict or twist or setting that make it stand out from the others around it; the reason why it is that character's story, or why the story starts here.

The Line: Difference. Things on one side are not the same as things on the other. The simplest way to work this is to juxtapose dots: antagonist versus protagonist, protag versus the setting, past versus present versus future... etc. Keep it small, keep it limited: Where are the differences that will cause conflict? What changes?

Week Six

This is the genre week. While it might not seem like much of topic for a lesson, I actually got quite a lot out of this - especially the 'Technique' section, entitled Amazon River %-) This lesson is a perfect example of the things you don't even know you need to ask. Writing careers change, books go bust, and sometimes, you have to do a genre jump. This lesson explains in great detail exactly how you go about learning a new genre in a matter of days, giving techniques for dissecting books in the genre, techniques for finding not just good books, but books that YOU will like in the new genre, and all importantly, techniques for switching genres mid-book.

Week Seven

Worldbuilding. How to do it, and do it right. By which I mean NOT spending years and years and forests of trees planning out every single detail before you write the first word of the story. There's one really simple way to figure out if you need to build a piece of information or not, and it all hinges on the one question that I would certainly never have thought to ask, and that it's taken Holly 17 years to think of asking:

Why do writers worldbuild?

Have a good think about that for a moment, write down some answers if you have a pen. Why?

There are, of course, many answers to this. But there is ultimately only one important answer: To create conflict.

Therefore, if the thing you're looking at building before you start writing doesn't induce a change in your character/s, or in some way create a conflict, don't bother. It's something you can invent as you go along, because it won't change the direction, or the heart and soul of your story.

There are eight extra modules in this huge lesson which deal with the specific areas of conflict, character, culture, scenes, language, maps, time and maths, and come with great worksheets and so forth that will help you build what you need without going over the top. Remember the principle of the dot and the line: small, contained, different.

Week Eight

The final lesson for the month is aptly titled "How to Plan Your Project Without Killing Your Story", and teaches you how to make an outline that will neither make you its slave, nor leave you in a funk when you hit that nasty muddley middle :D The basic premise is the line for scene method, but Holly also covers how to use this method to fix boring spots in your novel before they happen - and before you waste valuable time and words on them.


I am absolutely in love with the techniques I'm learning here. And writing from the middle of month three, I can tell you, they just keep coming. The Dot and Line principle, the Amazon River technique for finding alternative genres for your work (SO useful for remarketing short stories), how to prevent boring or messy bits... these techniques have changed the way I approach my writing, and have made my pre-writing stage so much more efficient and streamlined. Approaching planning in this way is also great for when you're putting together your submission package (week 11, which I'm reading now). Having nutted out the themes and concepts of your story early on, you're in the best position possible to create a winner of a query letter, and a sound synopsis.

So, Think Sideways sounds like something you might be interested in? Previously, to sign up for this course, you had to wait for the next designated sign-up week (which happen about once every two months, from the looks of it), and hope that you got in early enough, since they're all limited-intake.


However. Holly's top 25 affiliates now have access to passwords which mean you can sign up at any time. Given I've sold less than ten items through my affliate link like, ever, imagine my shock when I was included in that email! :D

So, anyway. The long and the short of it is that if you sign up through my link, you can get in at any time, and be guaranteed a place. Skip the sales hype and go to the bottom of this page. If you want to do the six-month course at $47/month, the password is checkin. If you'd prefer the 12-month version (same lessons, just once per fortnight instead of once per week) for $25/month, the password is taketime. Hehe.

Don't forget, payments are monthly via paypal, and you can opt out at any time and get a full refund for any lessons you haven't yet recieved :)

So, that's me for the day! Have a great week, and hopefully the rest of this week's post will be more or less (hopefully more!) on time! :)


Chelle said...

Okay, Inky,

Do you really think it's worth the money? I'm on the fence. Its sounds good, but...

Ashtah said...

I think it probably is (particularly if you can pay straight us dollars and not have the cost flucutating all over the place the AUD crashes after being so high).

I haven't really got the chance to do much with mine yet, due to uni pressure, but even by week two, where I'm up to, it's been really helpful.

The sweet spot maps are particularly great! :)

Inkblot said...

Yes, Chelle, I do. It's a lot of money, but it's nowhere near what you'd usually pay for a 6-month course.

I was very on the fence when I was trying to decide, too. What sold me was the money back offer. I was really interested, and I figured hey, if I read lesson one and it's not for me, I can pull out, and I've only paid $11 or so.

The safety of being able to pull out at any time was a big draw card for me.

But in terms of content, I can very honestly say that this course has completely changed not only the way I write, but the way I approach my writing, the way I plan stories, and the way I look at my writing career. My efficiency and productivity have increased a lot as a direct result of the things I'm learning, and I'm less stressed about the whole 'need to be productive' thing; a lot of the planning techniques I can do in my head while I'm working, so I can be working on stories even if I don't put pen to paper for weeks (a sad reality in the final semester of masters!).

So, short version, yes! :D

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