from Amber Royer’s Story Like a Journalist
The FINAL part!
Ok, so if you look at the chaos going on up there, you may think that this book has not helped at all. You’d be wrong. I have completed all the worksheets in the book, and Nano prep is done. I am feeling so incredibly confident about this novel right now, gentle readers.
Of course, I was feeling confident (or at least in love with my idea) back in September, too. So what has changed? Is this book worth it?
Yes. Yes it is.
Back in September I had a great idea and a couple of good characters and an idea for an interesting magic system. Now those characters are full and well rounded, the cast has filled out, and the villain is no longer cardboard. The magic system has grown wings and rooted itself in the history of the world (yes, I know, I’m mixing my metaphors there…). And, more importantly for this week’s chapters, the idea has developed a plot and a theme and a setting.
So let’s look at these chapters, shall we?
Chapter 4: WHEN? and WHERE?
This chapter was so interesting, gentle readers. I previously just had a kind of generic, medieval-castle-town-grown-large setting for this story. These worksheet forced me to examine every aspect of both when and where I was setting my story. Royer let me experiment with three different time periods to see what would fit the story best. Even though I was working with a fantasy setting on a made-up world, she had me figure out real life examples for things like population and distance from the sea, so that I could decide what would work best.
Then we moved onto the more fantastical elements, like the magic systems and technological levels. Though I didn’t use it for this novel, she does have worksheets for making up aliens/fantasy races. Then several different setting worksheets, depending on what you want your setting to do for you.
But I skipped my favorite worksheet of this whole book, though it was the most daunting. A society building worksheet.
A 16 page society building worksheet.
After I worked my way through that, I felt I had a much better grasp of what was going on, and the politics and backstory. With that in mind, I was much better able to handle…
Chapter 5: HOW? and WHY?
I will admit, this is where my discovery writing kicked in. I left a lot of these worksheets blank. The picture above is me sorting out all of the pages I will need to update during Nano, so that I can keep track of where I am and where I need to go. But I at least put an effort into each worksheet.
Royer starts off with generic plot worksheets, where you can explore your plot several different ways to see what works best for you and your plot. It’s nice, before a single word has been typed, to have a general outline of where things are going. A causes B causes C and so on. Then you can put that into a four act structure or an eight point beat sheet.
After that, she lists some genre specific beat sheets that weren’t really relevant to my current project, but I will definitely be going back to if I ever write a romance, mystery, or horror story.
Once you’ve got the beat sheet down, Royer gets into the nitty gritty, giving worksheets for a chapter-by-chapter break down of the book. Think that’s difficult? Try the next one: scene-by-scene.
This is where I left it blank. I figure I can write the next day’s scenes the night before, based on what I’ve written during Nano.
So not only do I have a good idea where, in general, my novel is going, but I have a plan for how to get there during the mad month of November!
Then we get to theme. I can feel you rolling your eyes now. Believe me, I felt a little like I was stuck back in high school English when I read this section of the book. But Royer uses it as just another way to give your story meaning. This section built out my characters and setting even more, and tied it all together very nicely.