Tuesday, January 15, 2013

As a Writer You Should Have Paid Attention in Math

I'm new to this blog and am tonight staring down one heck of a rabbit-hole-disguised-as-deadline. Thanks for allowing me to disengage myself from my non-fiction work and return to a technique I use in fiction writing.

Certainly time is always pressing and I don’t read nearly as much as I’d like to, but I always use reading as a writing tool.

The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion talked about how John Gregory Dunne would often read a novel several times “to see how it worked.” When I was working on my novel, I turned to my favorite in the middle grade-YA genre, Missing May by Cynthia Rylant, and charted the book out on a graph.

Along the y axis was the word count by chapter; the x axis noted where the various plot points occurred, when characters were introduced….the whole arc of the plot. It served as an invaluable road map because I was, and still am, a novice at plot development for anything other than a short story. I have a greater appreciation for Rylant’s craft and a graph of Missing May that is real purdy.

But, seriously, read the 'good ones.' Do this for a recent adult novel like Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn and learn how
and when a real pro inserts plot points.

Mary-Margaret Simpson writes for gardening and outdoor magazines as well as for higher education. And if you can make any sense of that, please let her know.


Romance Book Haven said...

Reading a lot in various different genres is very important for a writer Especially reading out of genre. Now as for this analysing - this is fascinating. Never thought of that.


Karen Cioffi said...

Mary-Margaret, analyzing classics and recent traditionally published books is a good way to learn what makes them tick - what works and what doesn't. Good advice, thanks for sharing.

Magdalena Ball said...

Plotting out a favourite novel in a graph sounds like an excellent way to learn what works and what doesn't.

Kathleen Moulton said...

Welcome, Mary Margaret and thank you for your advice!

Unknown said...

Thanks everyone! I just learned that there's software available that does this sort of thing, at a price (of course). It's called Aeon Timeline and is available through scribblecode.com

I know nothing about it and my only caution would be a) spending money; b) getting so caught up with the software that you actually never actually WRITE.

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