Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author's Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development is a fabulous writing craft book. K.Creating Character Arcs: The Masterful Author's Guide to Uniting Story Structure, Plot, and Character Development is a fabulous writing craft book. K.M. Weiland digs deep into the three types of character arcs and how they work with and influence story structure. Then, she offers a few ideas on how to use character arcs in your main and supporting characters (and whether it’s worth making the assay with the latter instance), layering character arcs, how to use character arcs over series, and whether or not it’s possible to write a story without a character arc (*spoiler alert,* it is, but there are specific considerations the writer must address). At the end of each chapter, Kate has a slew of helpful questions that will focus your new understanding of character arc and apply it to your current work in progress. As she has with Outlining Your Novel and Structuring Your Novel, I wouldn’t be surprised if a Creating Character Arcs Workbook is in development :) As with Kate’s other writing craft books, Creating Character Arcs emerged from a blog series on the same topic. Even if you’ve read/listened to the entire series, there’s something about having the reference at your fingertips. This book works well in conjunction with the other Helping Writers Become Authors books and each builds on the others to form a rich body of writing craft knowledge. For me, every story begins with the characters and they inform everything else. Creating Character Arcs will help you to connect the dots between your characters, their arcs, and your plot. Using Kate’s method, you can craft a tight, compelling story that works on multiple levels. Every writer should own a copy. ...more
What it should have been but never was I was given an advanced reader copy (ARC) in return for an honest review. Gabriela Pereira was compelled to creaWhat it should have been but never was I was given an advanced reader copy (ARC) in return for an honest review. Gabriela Pereira was compelled to create DIYMFA, the website, community, course, podcast, and now book, after her disappointing experience with her Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program. Like Gabriela, I went the route of the Master’s degree, believing that I needed the validation. It was the lie I believed, and it almost ended my writing career before it began. DIYMFA is what the MFA program should be (or should aspire to be) but never was. Most MFA programs centre on critique—without teaching the students what it takes to offer and receive constructive feedback—and coaching/mentorship by someone who may or may not even understand their own creative process, let alone be able to articulate it, or guide their mentee to their process and best mode of creative expression without imposing some ideal of “how things should be done.” Admittedly, MFA programs have matured and improved, but rather than focus what should be a review of an amazing guide to the writing life on an indictment of the graduate institution, I’m going to, in grand rhetorical style, return to the matter at hand (see? Academia has ruined me—ruined!). Gabriela divides her guide into three sections: write with focus; read with purpose; and build your community. In the first, she offers a brief, but engaging, examination of all the essential points of craft that writers must master. There is no one way to reach the destination, but a multitude of paths from which writers can choose based on their personal goals and aptitudes. Self-knowledge and self-confidence are the foundations upon which craft is built. While the reading with purpose section is shorter than the other two, it is no less important. Gabriela emphasizes a balanced approach throughout DIYMFA. All three aspects, writing, reading, and community, are essential to creative development. Learning to read and analyze the text, not like an academic, but like a writer, is what this second section is all about. We have to learn about craft first and begin to apply it before we can learn to recognize it in the writing of others and extract lessons from that purposeful reading that we can take back to the page. Finally, in this brave new world of social media, how do we tackle the task of finding our audiences, reaching out to them, and building a community of writerly friends, readers, and fans? In all aspects of DIYMFA, Gabriela has studied and learned from the best in the industry, and she unpacks these lessons in an accessible and engaging way. One of the things I enjoyed most about DIYMFA is that Gabriela draws on her statistics background and mathematical bent to offer charts, matrices, and unique visualizations that will help readers and learners find a way into the material she presents. And, as a self-confessed word nerd, she exercises her talent for acronyms and initialisms, creating fun mnemonics to encapsulate concepts and principles for her writerly audience. Having sung the praises of DIYMFA as an alternative to a traditional MFA program, I must point out that Gabriela never disparages academia, in fact, traditional programs are pointed out as viable options for the aspiring writer. What if that writer has economic, domestic, or temporal limitations, though? It is for those writers-in-progress that DIYMFA has been crafted. DIYMFA earns my highest recommendation. ...more
I’ve been following K.M. Weiland’s blog and podcast for a number of years, since, in fact, she started her series on story structure. Yes. Everything yI’ve been following K.M. Weiland’s blog and podcast for a number of years, since, in fact, she started her series on story structure. Yes. Everything you will read in this book was originally on Kate’s blog, Helping Writers Become Authors, and you can easily access the whole series (because she’s so organized and so focused on her audience), but it’s so much more convenient to have a condensed, edited, and physical copy of the book, accessible to you at any time, so you can refer to it as you work on your story. Kate has cracked the code of story structure for me. I’ve read a lot (a freaking lot) of writing craft books and methodologies and Kate’s is the only one that has enabled me to get inside my stories, even those that are already written. Using Kate’s method, I can dissect my novel structurally and reassemble it in a better, more compelling form. I also use it when preparing for my annual #NaNoWriMo challenge, and when I think about outlining a new work in progress. I’ve also read a number of her other books, both fiction and writing craft. Each work builds on the others and, because they’re all written in the same voice (excepting the fiction), it helps to form a cohesive body of knowledge that can be accessed and utilized as you need. With respect to her fiction, you can see that she practices what she preaches. Kate doesn’t instruct from a “do as I say, not as I do” position. She’s field tested everything she presents. You can trust her. I do. Implicitly. Kate is very much a writerly friend and mentor and this comes across in her authorial voice. She’s all about building writers up, not tearing them down. Suffice it to say, I loved Structuring Your Novel, and I would recommend it to any writer at any stage of development. ...more
I’ve been reading writing craft books for years. In fact, one could say that I’m a writing craft book junkie. Yes, the support group will be startingI’ve been reading writing craft books for years. In fact, one could say that I’m a writing craft book junkie. Yes, the support group will be starting shortly.
My approach in reading these books is to adopt those parts of the writer’s process that make sense to me and my ever-evolving process. I cherry pick, experiment, and incorporate as appropriate.
I would characterize Roz’s approach as organic, that is, her plotting activities arise naturally from the journaling, research, and gestation that most writers will normally engage in as a preparation to actual writing.
Her version of plotting will appeal to the avid pantser and her “gamification,” albeit non-technological, of structuring and plot-fixing activities will motivate even the most spreadsheet-phobic of writers. Having said that, plotting-oriented, or technophile writers will also find lots of tips and tricks to adapt for their use.
The techniques in Nail Your Novel can be used not only from the inception of your novel, but the writer can also engage in the process at later stages of novel writing. Having entered into Roz’s methodology with already drafted novels, I’m working through her beat sheet activity, adapting it to my own use as I prepare for future revision.
Roz even has activities to prepare the writer for querying or self-publication, whichever path the author chooses to pursue.
I’ve also felt validated in several instances as bits and pieces of my existing process appear in slightly different forms throughout Nail Your Novel.
For all the excellent content, Nail Your Novel is also a relatively quick read, well-organized, and easy to understand. Roz gets right to the heart of the matter and encourages reading writers to get their hands dirty, metaphorically speaking.
Her writing style embodies what she asks writers to strive for: clear, informative, and entertaining. Roz doesn’t waste a word.
Roz’s book receives my highest recommendation. It’s on my virtual writer’s shelf beside Ursula K. LeGuin’s, Jane Yolen’s, Donald Maass’s, and K.M. Weiland’s craft writing books and I’m sure I’ll be referring to it often....more