So I just finished a great Skype chat with Irene Langholm, who is the brilliant artist who has done all the covers for my books. While the chat ended very well – we were discussing the cover for the soon to be released Cupcakes, Trinkets, and Other Deadly Magic – it started out a little embarrassingly … for me. You see, Irene requested I send her a sketch of my basic idea for the cover.
I cannot sketch, or draw, or paint … but – in the spirit of cooperative creation – I made an attempt.
Note all the fine details I included – the figure is obviously female, one of her hands is caressing the Y of the word deadly … the glowing ‘door’ is hanging on some sort of grid and the woman appears to be standing (on her heels) on water … um … that’s not right …
I’m surprised Irene didn’t fall over laughing. Well, perhaps she did, it would be difficult to tell during a text based chat, but she was very understanding about my perspective issues, and even thanked me.
I have a feeling the finished cover will be a bit more … hmmm … what do I want to say here … well, perhaps we’ll have to do a comparison when Irene sends me what I know will be a work of art.
At least I spelled everything correctly … beside that ‘D’ … I guess I had trouble with that.
Ah, it’s good to know your shortcomings, no?
This morning we had a wicked rainstorm in Vancouver, but, by the time I was walking home from my errands, the sun was burning off the clouds and the air was so, so sweet. The cherry and magnolia trees all along the boulevards are (almost) in full bloom; their heavenly scent triggered even further by the rain.
In the garden my dwarf stella cherry tree is just starting to bloom … I snapped this with my iPhone right before I came inside to – once again – chain myself to the computer.
Now the sun is out and I’m inputing numbers into spreadsheets. Death and taxes, right?
WIP: taxes – yuck!
On the headphones: “Don’t You Worry Child” by Swedish House Mafia
Pen of the day: blue ink bic
Chocolate of the day: fresco 214 (74% single origin Madagascar). I’m attempting to savour the last piece as I write this, damn!
I don’t usually talk much about the actual craft of writing here … I just like to write my stories and hope you all like them, but I did write the post below, on request, when I was first marketing my novel, After The Virus, in 2011. Now, I am reposting it here by (another) request.
So, any writers wondering how I transitioned from screenplays to novels and what I retained along the way, hopefully you find something interesting below.
Any readers bored by such things, I’ll have something new for you to read VERY soon!!
*REPOSTED from June 2011 from a Guest Blog Post*
The role of structure in a 1st draft novel by Meghan Ciana Doidge
Transitioning from writing screenplays into writing novels has been an exciting and daunting task. Exciting, because, after writing screenplays for over 10 years, I fell into writing my first novel, After The Virus, and the writing just flowed. Daunting because now I have to follow up and recapture the magic I found while writing After The Virus.
When I write a screenplay I rely heavily on structure to craft the 1st draft, and I mostly adhere to the Syd Field school. I don’t even write a single word, other than jotting down scene ideas or bits of dialogue when they come to me, until I have the entire screenplay plotted out. But, I didn’t craft my novel, After The Virus, in this same fashion, though it is quite structured (as that is just in my nature), however its structure ended up, by necessity I now believe, being flexible.
So as I jump into another novel (or 4) I’ve been thinking about screenplay structure and how it applies, for me, to novel writing. Here are the elements that I think are most helpful when crafting a 1st draft.
1.Three Acts – Beginning, Middle & End – this might be a no brainer for most writers, but it is odd how many stories don’t actually have a clearly defined beginning, middle and end. It is amazing how many novels and/or movies I have read/seen that don’t end well (God, that can ruin a story!!).
So pull out a piece of paper, divide it lengthwise into three sections, and jot down a sentence to describe the beginning of your story (aka your set-up), the middle (aka the confrontation) and the end (aka the resolution). By the way, each sentence should be about the plot not about the characters feelings or thoughts — what happens?
2. The beginning – start with the The Inciting Incident – what is the one action or plot point without which your entire story could not actually take place? Start writing there, and don’t worry about an introductory chapter or setting up the story. What propels the plot? What pushes your protagonist through the story?
After you’ve compelled your 1st draft and you still think you need an introductory chapter, write it in your 2nd draft pass. But start in action, and you’ll suck your reader right into the story. The character background, environmental elements, and other introductory items can be worked into the action of the plot as you move forward.
If your story is a chess game, you lead with your queen not one of your pawns. Pawns are follow-up, development. Start strong. Play your queen.
[spoiler alert] In my novel, After The Virus, the inciting incident is when my main protagonist, Rhiannon chooses and then succeeds in escaping her captors. Without this action (aka plot point) none of the remaining story is possible. Note my emphasis on the protagonist choosing to act, there aren’t many stories that can function well with a passive protagonist (there are, of course, always great exceptions to this and any other rule).
3. The middle – also known as the place where writers go to die a slow, painful death – solidify your The Midpoint – this is your hook from which your entire story hangs. If your story was actually hanger this would be the hook that hangs off the closet rod.
The entire first half of your book builds to this point and then something happens that propels us into the second half of the book. This something is directly tied to the main plot and completely changes the game. Someone dies, someone loses, or, in less action driven narratives, someone has a massive epiphany. This is the point of no return. The characters will never, ever be the same and, to repeat myself because I think it is important to stress this point, there is no going back.
To take this a little bit further, the midpoint is usually tied directly to the inciting incident.
[spoiler alert] The midpoint of my novel, After The Virus, is when the mute child, Snickers, falls in the river and Rhiannon – ever the hero – chooses (again, chooses, and risking her own life) to dive in after the child. How is this tied to the inciting incident? By jumping in the river after Snickers, Rhiannon finds herself entering, under duress of course, the very city she escaped at the beginning of the novel, forcing her to confront the thing she ran away from. This midpoint also causes Will, the secondary protagonist, to step up and spring into action. There is literally no turning back from this point forward for Rhiannon or the plot.
Side note: speaking of being flexible with your 1st draft. What is now the midpoint of my novel (spoiler: Snickers going in the river) I had first thought was my turn into the 3rd Act (The Climax). As I was writing, it became apparent I was wrong and this plot point was actually my midpoint.
4. The ending – ramp up to The Climax – after the midpoint this is what the entire set-up and confrontation of the novel has been building too, and, after this point, it is all resolution, which doesn’t necessarily mean we are in the happily-ever-after section of the story, but that everything that happens after the climax is a reaction to that climax.
This must be a big moment, ideally it should involve all your main characters, and it is (to paraphrase from Save the Cat) always the darkest night of the soul.
[spoiler alert] In After The Virus, the Climax is the moment Rhiannon stops fighting her (second set of) captors, willingly adopts the movie star persona – a mask which she has spent the entire novel attempting to shed – and chooses to face the evil she’s been running from, in order to save the child.
The 3rd Act of After The Virus opens with my absolute favourite scene of the novel. Here is the snippet:
A brisk, salty wind, they must be very close to the ocean here, blew through the buildings and billowed around and beyond her. The dress was instantly slicked against her. She could feel the light fabric lift about four feet behind her and her hair a similar sail. Her silk-sheathed nipples rose in protest of the chill, and a murmur, punctuated with gasps, rustled through the following crowd. She gritted her teeth at the exposure, at the perceived sexuality, at the perceived vulnerability of an involuntary bodily function.
They reached for her then.
Lining the sides of street, suddenly as far as she could see, they reached fingers for her, but didn’t touch.
She walked like that for a full block, so close she could feel the brush of energy from each fingertip –thousands of fingers.
What was she to them? The time before? Whatever it was, it wasn’t a role she was willing to accept, or that she was even qualified for.
That’s it! Just four elements with which to construct your 1st draft: Three Acts, Inciting Incident, Midpoint, and Climax … just make sure the Inciting Incident, Midpoint, and Climax are all tied together, like knots along the same piece of string. ETA: I also like my stories to be shaped like a bow … by tying the very first scene to the last in some way - if I can. This technique will be most obvious in my upcoming release, Cupcakes, Trinkets, and Other Deadly Magic.
Be flexible, let the writing just flow, and don’t edit yourself … at least not until the 2nd draft!!
… looks like this:
At least in my garden … under glass and against the south-facing wall of the house. So I’m trying to make you snow-covered Easterners jealous … but not too jealous.
Subject: Golden Prolific Nectarine, 4 years old
Camera: Canon SLR – EOS digital Rebel XTi. 35mm camera lens
Date: March 21, 2013, afternoon
I just finished – like minutes ago – the second draft of the next novel, Cupcakes, Trinkets, and Other Deadly Magic. It’s an urban fantasy (adult). After I do another pass I’ll send it off to the editor, Scott, and the cover artist, Irene. YAY!!
Mario’s Chocolate Gelato – SO YUMMY!!!!
Only Parker is currently on the desk. Darby is surfing a sunbeam in the the kitchen, and Leo is in his box on the back counter, where else would he be at 3:34pm on a Thursday?
Gertie, the moderator of the Apocalypse Whenever group over on Goodreads, started a topic about the importance of good book covers a few days ago, which I’d missed seeing until this morning. In the post, Gertie gives a huge shout out to my covers by Irene Langholm, which reminded me of this fun post Irene did for the After The Virus cover release last year. (Phew, that is a lot of links for two sentences!)
Here’s just the image for all of you who don’t want to click through to the full post:
What are some of your favourite book covers? Do you think that a great book cover helps bring the story alive for you? Have you ever read a book for its cover alone?