Building the Story Board for My Next Novel

Board

Started my next novel a couple of months ago. Well…about a decade ago. It started off as a short story that went in every direction but right. So I chopped out everything but the first five or six lines and started from scratch to write a novella that quickly became the beginnings of a novel.

I wrote the saved lines in a story dump (a notebook I carry around to write down ideas for a novel until I have about 30 scenes identified) and spent the last couple of months dumping ideas into the dump.

I fell short of 30 scenes and had to settle for 28…but what the hell. You only live as many times as they’ll let you.

My last novel took forever to write, probably because I took a few years off to study photography and the research for the novel was monumental. And then someone made a movie that has similarities to the novel, so I’m putting it on hold for a year or two before I try to do anything with it.

At least it’s finished.

So now I have the beginnings of my next story board up, and notice that everything is blocked out? Not going to be any similarities with this one.

I always story board my novels. It makes it so much easier to see how everything fits together. It’s a big visual picture of the plot of your novel. You can see where scenes are missing, where one scene should come before another scene, where one scene repeats another scene, where two scenes should be merge or where a scene should just be dropped.

Oh, and those gaps are where I know I’m going to need new scenes. And the one at the end…that’s what I’m working toward.

I tell my writing students that most people have a beginning and (maybe) an ending for that novel they’ve always wanted to write…but very little in between…maybe three or four scenes. The story board is the fastest, most effective way I know of to get those missing scenes to join the beginning to the ending with an actual story.

 

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Free Marketing Book for Writers

Book Cover

It’s no longer enough for writers to just write books. Increasingly, publishers expect their stable of writers to play a role in marketing their books and, the smaller the publisher, the larger and more crucial that role becomes. It was with this in mind that I wrote the first edition of this book over a decade ago.

I completed the third edition for this book eight years ago, so many of the links no longer work, some of the options are no longer relevant and, definitely, there are many new options for writers to market their books.

However, this book can still provide a starting point for writers who know nothing about marketing and don’t want to pay thousands of dollars to a marketing agency without first trying a few things on their own.

The idea behind the book is to provide writers with a quick overview of marketing options offered online and break each into three parts:

  1. A short description of the option
  2. How it can be used to market your books
  3. A list of online resources for further exploration

The book follows a format of define, demonstrate and explore. This allows you to read through the book, pick a handful of options and start using them right away. Most of the options are either free or inexpensive. As you become comfortable with whatever options you’re using, you can add others.

Becoming familiar with, and using, these marketing options step-by-step (without being overwhelmed) will help you identify new options and assess their usefulness in your personal marketing.

Always keep in mind the immortal words of Gangshen Barto: “No great product was ever greater than its marketing.”

You can download the book, no strings attached, at www.biffmitchell.com.

Free eBook: The Revision Process

Revise

When you’ve finished the first draft of your novel, the fun is over. Now, it’s time to get into the real work: re-writing.

This is a multi-step process and the steps have a very distinct order. Break that order and you could be letting yourself in for a lot of heart ache. Re-writing is where the real writing begins. Everything up till now was getting an idea out where you can see it.

On the other hand, there are those writers who seem to get everything down on the first draft. I hate those people. Fortunately, they’re rare. Rare enough that you’re likely not one of them, so this ebook might just help you to get through the revision/re-writing process with your sanity relatively unscathed.

You can download a free ebook on the the revision/self-editing process from my website. Just scroll down to Free Stuff.

Free eBook on Writing Sex, Violence, Humor and Foul Language

WHLH Difficult

You don’t have to be a successful standup comedian to write convincing humor. In fact, you don’t even need a keen sense of humor. And you don’t have to worry about your sex scenes turning into pornography once you know the difference between romance, eroticism and pornography.

Humor, sex, violence and foul language are elements of writing that can cause problems for writers. How much violence is too much, or too little? Where do you draw the line with profane language even when you have a character based on a real-life person whose foul language almost obscures everything they say?

Four of the sessions in my Writing Hurts Like Hell workshop deal with these topics. This little ebook presents those sessions along with some exercises to help you tackle these problems in your writing.

You can download the ebook free in the Free Stuff section of my website.

Messages in Bottles

Cones1

Each day, I sit by the window and let another bottle slip from my hands to slide across the shingles, over the eavestrough and into that vast labyrinth of sidewalks and streets that form the downtown core of the metropolis of Freddie Beach. Each day, a tear rips loose from my eye and splashes soundlessly onto the glass surface of the bottle, like breaking a bottle of Champagne against a bottle of words that will sail into nowhere.

The bottles contain messages that will never be read, words that will never be bonded to vision and the cognitive process. The messages are earnest in their meanings: “Help! I’m being held prisoner for my own good!” “I’m following my doctor’s orders, for god’s sake! I’m following the orders!”

I don’t know where the bottles go but I assume there’s a pile of broken glass beneath the window and under an eave that juts out just far enough that I can’t see where the bottles land. I’ve yet to hear the shattering of glass, so maybe something beyond gravity and the things I expect is happening here.

And maybe it’s the drugs.

Have I mentioned that my body survived the 60s but my brain didn’t? It’s true. And it wasn’t just the drugs, it was the experience, the exposure to new ways of looking at old things. That, in itself was the most potent drug of the 60s. That iota of a second in which you realize that the only  thing that’s making you shave today is your refusal to believe that it’s your face can you don’t have to do anything to it that you don’t want to do. For some, that’s a small decision; for others, it’s a career changer.

Seems to me that many of us spend our lives putting messages into bottles and launching them into the safety of god-knows-where.

And that pretty much sums up everything I have to say about the drugs.

Write for Your Life, Biff Mitchell, Write for Your Life

I’ve lost track of the days. It feels like that time I blinked and missed it all, it seems like re-reading Atlas Shrugged and forgetting what page I’m on – over and over. A kind of existential medium is the message. I’ve lost track of my mind. I’m staring at ice patterns on the window.

Steph hat-5

Stephanie is watching me, waiting for me to do something the doctor told me not to do, waiting for me to make a dash for the window and the fire escape, waiting for me to breathe too deeply. She takes the doctor’s orders seriously.

She just found Monte Python’s Life of Brian on Netflix and she’s going to play it. She can quote every word from Life of Brian and Search for the Holy Grail. I’ve seen her do it. It takes true talent and a good memory to memorize an entire movie and recite it convincingly, being all the characters at any moment in all their moods and all their little fears and fantasies.

And she can do this for two movies.

Before she put the movie on, she made a strange request. She said, “I want you to write a story.”

I said, “A story?”

She said, “Yes, Biff, and when you finish writing the story…I want you to write another story. And then another story, and another.”

“But the doctor said…”

“The doctor wants you to write stories, Biff. One story after another. Only through writing stories will you heal.”

Suddenly, I was suspicious. Something wasn’t right here. Something was awry. It was like everything in my world had shifted almost imperceptibly a few pixels to the left. It reminded me of a story I’d written a few years ago for one of the Twisted Tails anthologies called The Man Who Was a Few Pixels Out.

And that’s when it hit me. Twisted Tails. The insidious soul-eating J Richard Jacobs was somehow involved in all this. J Richard Jacobs, scourer of the perverse literary horizon and nemesis of all things sane and merciful in the dank corridors of writers’ hearts and minds. J Richard Jacobs, EDITOR, was on the loose again and the game was on.

Somehow he’d taken over Stephanie’s mind and this was going to bode ill for me, the lowly writer. I screamed: “Steph! J has taken over your mind!”

Her eyes were devoid of humanity and caring as she stared into my eyes and said, “No, Biff, I’m doing this all on my own. You will follow the doctor’s orders or I will kill you. It’s all for your own good.” She patted me on the head and went into the kitchen to make graffiti salad and somehow the world seemed to be a safer place to live.

Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about the drugs I’m on to carry me safely and sanely through the recovery.