…From Story Like a Journalist by Amber Royer:
So! It’s time for a mid-month check in. How’s my story planning going, you ask? Do I have a brilliant plan for a full novel, just ready to hop off my fingers and onto that Nano wordcount graph?
Well, the answer is no, right now. (Come on! It’s only half way through the month!) I did work through two more chapters of the book, and filled out what I could of the worksheets. One of the major things I discovered in this process is that I am far more of a discovery writer than I previously thought. Staring at blank worksheets is about as hard as staring at a blank page.
Because I worked on these two chapters almost simultaneously, I will take to the format of my previous writing book posts, and not include sections on individual chapters.
I loved the character chapter of this book (the WHO? chapter). Mainly because it forced me to go through lots of exercises meant to bring out all the aspects of my main character. I often start a story with only a vague idea of the fullness of my main character, so I often end up writing essays in the middle of my novel justifying why my character is acting a certain way. So having this already planned out was a great thing.
And then Royer had me do it again, for the Antagonist.
And again, for the Ally
And in some places, again, for the Love Interest and Mentor.
It was a little dizzying. But I can tell it was good work, and I will be grateful for it, I’m sure, once I start using it to write.
I also liked how the WHAT? chapter led gently and precisely to the premise of the story, which is something that I have always struggled with. When I got to the last worksheet, which had me writing out my premise three different ways, I felt like I was just filling in the blanks, because I had already done all the other work.
It started off with an exploration of me as a writer, what I wanted to accomplish, and the kinds of stories I wanted to tell. It dovetailed nicely with the WHO chapter, because it then went over the character relationships, goals, stakes, and tension that arises there. I did leave a lot of these worksheets blank, because those were about plot twists and bunnies that I want to discover as I write.
The biggest issue I had with the book didn’t really have anything to do with the book itself, but more my expectations from the book. This book is meant to be used as a brainstorming tool, a way to develop a story idea no matter where you are in the process. I thought I was getting a book with lots of worksheets for creating a good story bible.
And I am. But it’s more than that.
Like I said above, Royer uses these worksheets to explore all aspects of what she is covering in the chapter, not just a list of what you should need just for this story. Because I am making lots of choices and firming up my story idea as I go along, I tend to contradict myself a lot. And there are worksheets that I will toss at the end, because they were just exploring ideas that I then dropped. Even then, I will need to go through and make sure all the info is consistent.
Once I figured that out, it became much easier to fill out the worksheets. Also, I was grateful that I was working in pencil!
It also gave me the freedom to leave some pages blank, especially the ones on symbolism and motif, and trust that my writing will bring that all out.
The (continuing) verdict
This is still a great resource, and I am glad I found it before I started a new novel this year!