Preparatory Workshop - Roger Lubeck - 2013-10-12

Revision as of 18:48, 15 October 2013 by NewMexicoKid (talk | contribs) (Intro)

26 people attending


  • Nicol Williamson was in the 7 Percent Solution - he stars as Sherlock Holmes in a world where Moriarty is a cocaine delusion. He goes to Vienna, meets Sigmund Freud, gets cured and both are drawn in into a murder mystery.


  • Roger Lubeck: will talk today about writing a novel in three acts/parts. Will talk about the session, then turn it over to Tim (intro to NaNo). Will talk about the style of your writing, plotting (different types of plots) and mechanics.
  • Presentation will be available on the web.
  • I've done this nine times. I'm here because I have ideas of how the month can go for you; having written 10 50K words novels, published three (working on publishing a fourth), want to help you get past the hurdle. My novels are available on Amazon; all the books I've written I wrote in NaNo. But none of those books is the book I wrote in NaNo; NaNo is a first draft, just the first 50K words. The NaNo experience is a very important one, a valuable way to get going and get a story moving.


  • It is very possible to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days
  • All it takes is 1667 words a day; but it is better to write 2000 or 3000 words a day and you'll be early.
  • Start early and get ahead; if you're behind, it is difficult to catch up.
  • The best feeling is to write the words "The End" when you're done. You want to try to finish your story. It is more rewarding than the 50,000 words.
  • Some people have tried and failed. How come? Priorities, classes, family, Thanksgiving. But if you want to do it, get rid of the excuses. Get rid of what stopped you before. Don't let it be a barrier to you.


Write down three ideas for possible novels in November * Rebekah: Normal guy who dates a female superhero * Keisha: A vampire with literally bad blood * James: Investigating child abduction * A pair of ninjas avoid wakening the dragon gods * Aaron: Ghost story in postapocalyptic London through the eyes of an orphan child * Melissa: A group of people meet in a laundrymat to talk about life * Jamie: Dreams a series of short stories in dreams and how they affected my life * Hawley: small town, skeletons in closets and a murder * Boy whose parents died * Catherine: Novel about writing anovel in November * Todd: Professsional football lineman who falls in love wiht his quarterback's girlfriend. * Diane: nonprofit conficted of embezzlement * Daniel: Magic tower story: twelve people on an epic quest to arrive at the tower * Elaine: Residents and staff in a retirement home in Florida + SF/spiritual * Christine: Ambitious victorian photographer: blinded by how his craft affects his family * Rose: Teenage girl who finds out her mom is a spy * India: A woman who purchases a pole for pole dancing, only to discover a genie is trapped in it and can't * Frank: Frustrated archeologist finds a parchment with the location of * NMK: A boy grows up in (and tries to escape) a house of many doors where the doors lead to other worlds; but all rooms remain within the House.

  • Kick around some ideas, see what affects the people you're with

To Plot of Not to Plot?

  • Some writers have to plot beforehand, outline their stories. Hitchcock sketched and painted all his scenes; creating the story was exciting to him, not making the movie.
  • Not everyone plots. I don't. I never know the ending; only know the opening scene. I don't have a character when I open a scene. No plots--that's the kind of writer I am.
  • All novels have plots and structure. Some of us think through the structure ahead of time; some of us have the structure evolve. If you plot, you know where the story is going. It is a balance for people.
  • All should prepare in some ways:
    • start with an idea (in your head)
    • idea is turned into a story premise. A book premise has a lot more information in it--the characters, the style of the book. Stories has to be written.


  • All finished stories fit into a genre. Genres have very specific features to their structure. Crime novels has to have certain things. Agatha Christie novels: have to murder someone in the first 22 pages. When people review your novel, if your novel won't follow the structure of your novel, they will question your novel.
    • Slice of life: starts in the middle of something; ends in the middle of something. Many movies are slice of life movies--no real beginning or end.
  • Can you have a blend of genres? Yes. There are 12+ categories of fantasy today. When publishing you have to choose the category for your novel.

Premise: Exmaple

  • A 5 member team of explorers land on the Antartica for a three year mission to chart the ice. Challenged to stay alive. Genre: Adventure
  • ... troubling signs of intelligent life: Genre: SF
  • -- An idea can be used in many different genres by changing subtle dimensions of the idea.

Structure of Novels

  • Think of structure like your skeleton--the words hang from your framework.
  • Some novels have a very loose structure. Some people follow very rigid structures.
  • Don't get hung up on things.

Three Plot types

  • comedy
  • tragedy
  • literary

Seven plot types

  • comedy, tragedy, good vs. evil, quest, journey, rags to riches, coming of age, rebirth
  • Lord of the Flies is a coming of age tragedy
  • Catcher in the Rye is a coming of age novel

Twenty Plots

  • More categories

36 Dramatic situations

  • An engineer's description of the world: breaks down every book ever written. Great descriptions--but it doesn't help you write any more. Later, though, when explaining your book and writing your synopsis, this idea is quite helpful.
  • Idea ring can be used to brainstorm plots

Yeah but

Science fiction story premise

  • Main character: Captain Martin Fitzgerald, Chandra O'Hare
  • Secondary character: Adelaid Montgomery: engineer
  • Opening scene: wake up from bio sleep, time to land the ship but something has gone wrong
  • Troubling signs of intelligent life: something in the water moves around and shows signs of intelligence
  • Title: ...
  • Sooner or later, you will name and add characters, add an opening scene
  • Write the premise, opening scene, name the characters; go from there.


  • MC #3: (head of clan) Yoshi Bido
  • It's a comedy: names are very important. Names have to be comedic. They help you make the story. Major Major Major Major, Catch 22. Make it funny for you; but don't make them so hard you can't pronounce them or write them.
  • MC: Maryam Quickly
  • Make me one with everything

Writer's Voice / Style

  • The writer's voice is the individual writing style of an author, a combination of idiotypical usage of syntax, diction, puctuation, character develoment, dialogue, etc., within a given body of text (or across several works (Wikipedia).
  • Copy someone's style you like (as an exercise). Read how the author writes.

Figure out POV

  • omniscient third person (slammed by reviewers if you write that way today)
  • limited third person (opens up more opportunities)
  • first person (close identification with the character; but can't show murder in a crime model in first person)
  • pure dramatization: writing dialogue like a play (might be hard to do in a novel but okay to do in a short story)
  • Very difficult to write in second person
  • Not easy to write good first person; but a lot of NaNo writers write in first
  • Faulkner has 37 POV's in one of his novels (as I lay dying)
  • You could swap between two characters' POV in different scenes (never put them in the same scene). George RR Martin has many POV characters but they're all labeled.
  • What am I trying to get across to the reader

Setting Tone

  • Vito Corleone was a man to whom everybody came for help, and never were they disappointed. He made no empty promises, nor the craven excuse that his hands were tied by ore powerful forces in the world htan himslef... It was understood, it was mere good manners, to proclaim that youw ere in his deta adn that he had the right to call upon you at any time to redeem your debt by some small service (Page 16 when the main character is introduced).
  • Introducing your character (describing your character) is one of the hardest things to do well.

The Novel in three acts

Act One

  • It starts the story: what is the story about?
  • Opening scene and opening line
  • main character and his/her relationship to the world
  • by the end of this act, main and secondary characters are identified
  • critical incident that drives the story
  • plot point #1: event drives us to act 2
    • example: meet the Corleone family and all the characters
    • critical backstory and scenes
    • tension and an incident to force the fall of the main character (e.g., the boy loses girl) to take us to act 2


  • When/where/who/what


  • Can help you discover how to move the novel forward
  • If you are not a plotter, you can still outline all the scenes: you can do this after November--outline every chapter, determine if it moves the story forward, is it necessary.
  • Some people outline in advance of writing.

The scene

  • a moment in your novel that takes place in one setting
  • a paragraph to several pages
  • thoughts, emotions, and actions seen from one POV
  • beginning of a scene - can start in action or not?
  • action in real tinme - often a failure
  • action must lead to the next scene
  • The scene is important: great writing has each scene advance the premise of the story

Top 100 Opening Lines

  • Call me Ishmael.
  • Elmer Gantry was drunk
  • It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
  • When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily.
  • It was love at first site. Joseph Heller, Catch-22
  • Opening line/ opening scene really matters. Write one now; if it isn't good, rewrite it later.
  • What do you know (and not know)? Your first paragraph should make the reader want to go on.
  • You could start with a tell. Could be a pre-introduction (like a historical note).
    • 2/3rds of SF novels open with tells -- but modern critics say you should open with action. Still, more authors tell us than open in action.
  • You could open with dialogue.
  • You could open in action.


  • Fahrenheit 451
  • Opening scene: starts in a fire station. Reading a book when someone walks in.
  • Opening scene: burning books
  • Opening scene: burning the last library
  • Opening line: I've always loved this book--you can't burn it.
  • What will end the first act: he takes the book home and hides it
  • What will open the second act: his wife finds the book

Exercise #2

  • Don't think you're all alone; go to the forums and ask if you need help

Act Two: The confrontation (5-6 chapters--longer than Act One)

  • Rising action - attempt to resolve problem - character development
  • sub plots are introduced or developed
  • The protagonists attempt to resolve the problem and cannot
  • The protagonists must learn a skill to deal with the antagonistic forces that confront them
  • By the end of Act Two: the protagonists are changed
  • Hard to make interesting
  • Example: The Karate Kid
    • Act 1 ends when the hero fails (when Daniel gets beat up)
    • Act 2: Mr. Miyagi comes and trains Daniel; protagonist acquires a skill or an object that will help them
  • Example: Rio Bravo
    • Act 1: Ward Bond is murdered (critical plot turn)
    • Act 1: Ends when Dude kills the man in the bar and recovers his skill!
    • Act 2: Dude is surprised by the bad guys and tied up and Ricky Nelson must save John Wayne (Dude falls). In the movie this happens at minute 51 (1/3rd of the way through the movie) - can he recover himself?
  • Example: The GodFather
  • Example: Julius Caesar: Act 3 Scene 2 Brutus -- (really the second act) they kill Caesar; then Antony comes back with a big speech against Brutus. Think of the tension that is created.


  • Act 1: 4 chapters - ends with boy losing girl
  • Act 2: 5 chapters - boy loses to antagonist, boy gets trained, boy saves girl
  • Act 3: 3 chapters - boy fights other man and wins


  • Act 1: ends when the shark kills the little boy
  • Act 2: meet the biologist
  • Act 3: they are hunting the shark but we realize the shark will get them
  • Act 4: ... (okay to have a fourth act: they need a purpose, a tension and a reason to get to the next thing)

Act 3: Resolution

  • The story and subplots are brought to an end
  • Protagonists solve the main problem (e.g., Vito dies)
  • There is a dramatic event that is a climax (heads of all the families are killed; Moe Greene is killed)
  • The story closes (Michael kills his brother in law; whole transformation of Michael)
  • There is an ending (Michael becomes what he never should have been)


  • Em. Forster: Most authors write terrible endings; authors rush the ending, forget about loose ends, they get tired with writing and the story
  • Recommenations:
    • plot several endings and write each.
    • write the ending early in your month of writing.
    • if you plot the whole story, write the first line and the last

Book: The Last Best Hope * Ending happens on the last paragraph; 700 page story ends traumatically.

A writing teacher said: if you have an ending that doesn't wrap things up, it isn't an ending and you don't get any credit.

Great writing: the ending mirrors or closes the opening

  • If a sword appears in the first act, someone will be killed by it in the third.

Novel: Infinite Jest by Wallace

  • The ending is really the beginning; the last event is the opening scene of the book.
  • When you get to the end, it feels like a let down until you figure this out.
  • Like the movie Memento
  • Infinite Jest

End Advice

  • Write because it is fun for you; but decide whether it (winning NaNo) is important to you to do. Think about your commitment to it.
  • Tell everyone you know you'll write 50,000
  • If you care about editing and finishing it:
    • Follow the rules of punctuation / grammar
    • Use a style manual for writing
    • Check spelling / grammar
    • e.g., rules for using a comma
    • Structure your writing as if you're going to submit it to a publisher
    • don't spend months correcting the problems; do it as you go along
  • Stream of consciousness (every line is a new idea or thought) -- but make sure you have all the punctuation right.
  • Let Writing be the first thing that you do; spell check at the end of the day
  • CreateSpace suggests using: Garamond font
  • Write first, research, plot, edit and chat later.
  • Write more on the weekends
  • Stay ahead
  • Finish early and get to the end
  • It isn't about the speed; it is about the words.