David Farland on Outlining and Resonance

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David Farland is an award-winning, New York Times Bestselling Author with over 50 novels in print. He has won the Philip K. Dick Memorial Special Award for “Best Novel in the English Language” for his science fiction novel On My Way to Paradise, the Whitney Award for “Best Novel of the Year” for his historical novel In the Company of Angels, and the International Book Award for “Best Young Adult Novel of the Year” for his fantasy thriller Nightingale—among many  others.
Recently Dave released a book geared toward writing titled Million Dollar Outlines. In it he discusses how to write a novel or screenplay that has a wide readership, giving it the potential to become a bestseller.
Some of his past writing students that have gone on to success include #1 New York Times Bestsellers such as Brandon Mull (Fablehaven), Brandon Sanderson (Wheel of Time), James Dashner (The Maze Runner) and Stephenie Meyer (Twilight).
Along with providing writers with outline and audience analysis methods, Dave also offers 28 “plotting tools” in Million Dollar Outlines. A plotting tool is basically a technique that can make your story more exciting, interesting, satisfying, or complete.
Today, Dave is going to share one with us:
When we talk about writing, there are three kinds of crucibles—crucibles of setting, relationship, or condition. We’ll talk about those in a moment, but first we need to define, “What is a crucible?”
In metal-smithing, a crucible is a container used to hold metal or liquid as it boils. For example, to melt gold, one takes a heavy bowl made from steel and sets it in a fire. The steel, which can withstand higher temperatures than gold, doesn’t melt. But the small container quickly becomes super-heated, so that the gold liquefies in moments.
In fiction, a crucible is any setting, condition, or relationship that keeps characters (such as a protagonist and an antagonist) from splitting apart.
By forcing these characters to remain together, we may sometimes create an almost intolerable atmosphere. It allows us to super-charge the relationships, raise the heat.
For example, imagine that John and Mary have been married for years, but have grown apart. They decide that they don’t love each other anymore. The logical thing for them to do would be to divorce and split up, right?
But there’s no story in that! The characters could easily resolve the situation by leaving—so as a writer you need them to stay together.
So imagine that John and Mary have grown apart, but both love their six-month-old daughter. Neither is willing to end the relationship so long as they risk losing the child. Now you have a crucible, a binding force that keeps the two together.
But there are different kinds of crucibles. Maybe it is a child. But maybe you could do the same by putting them both in a car and having them get stuck in a snowstorm. The car is a different kind of container from the relationship, but both work to keep the couple together.
So here are the three different types of crucibles.
Crucibles of Setting
A setting may act as a crucible. You’ve all seen comedies where several people are stuck in a cabin in a snowstorm, and each of them is at the other’s throat. You will also quickly remember the movie “Snakes on a Plane,” even if you’ve never seen it. A crucible of setting might be a story set in your characters’ workplace, on a ship, or in a small town. The important point is to keep the characters together as much as possible, and to let personalities rub against one another until their tempers boil.
Crucibles of Relationship
You can never escape your family. You might try, but often the family relationship is a crucible. A child wanting to leave home is in a crucible in the same way that a father who must pay child-support is in a crucible. Any two people who are married are in a crucible, as are any two people who happen to just be in love.
I recall a fine western when I was young about two heroic cowboys who are both in love with the same woman. They are forced to band together to rescue her from a kidnapper. The men hate each other, and as the audience gets to know each man better, they both come to vie for our affections.
Soldiers in a squadron will find themselves in a crucible. For example, in The Lord of the Rings, those who had joined the Fellowship were thrust into a crucible—a small band of men forced to band together for their own protection.  It may be that your character finds himself fighting beside someone he detests—a murderer or a rapist—and yet he is unable to walk away from the conflict.
A crucible may also be your conflict with your culture. We’ve probably all known various folks—Catholics, Jews, Muslims, etc., who try to leave their religion behind but can never stop talking about it. But it doesn’t have to be your religious culture. My father ran away from the Blue Ridge Mountains to escape the hillbilly lifestyle. I had a girlfriend who left her fine home in Southern California because she despised her family’s wealth. In the movie My Big, Fat Greek Wedding, we have a girl whose main conflict comes about when she is embarrassed by her ethnic roots.
Crucibles of Condition
An intolerable condition may also be a crucible—such as an illness that two very different characters may join forces to beat. We see this type of crucible used every week as Doctor House tries to solve the latest medical mystery. But you can also set your characters up to fight an economic or political condition—the hunger in India, the tribalism of North Africa.
The condition might be something as mundane as crime in the streets. Policemen who despise one another are often found joining forces to fight drug lords, rapists, and other types of crime.
So as you form your story, consider how you might strengthen your conflicts by developing one or more crucibles.
To learn about the rest of Dave’s plotting tools, or how to write for a wide audience, you’ll have to check out his book: http://www.amazon.com/Million-Dollar-Outlines-ebook/dp/B00B9JYJ6W/ref=cm_cr_pr_product_top
Here are some of the reviews it’s received so far:
“Mr Farland didn’t write a book about outlines; at least not only outlines. This book shows you how to write a book, story, and screenplay from blank page to your first million. I can only imagine better instruction from Mr Farland in person, and plan to take one of his workshops based on the strength of this work alone.”
—Big Nate, Amazon
Actually, I have a book on novel outlining which has like 5 stars ratings. It is way boring. I just couldn’t get through it. So when I learned David had written a book on outlining, I knew he could do the topic justice…and make it interesting. . . . Since David wrote this, I KNEW he had something UNIQUE to teach, that is, his viewpoint, his experience and his SYSTEM. Plus, I knew his conversational, no fluff way of writing/teaching would drive me, compelling me to devour it. And it does.”
—C. Jack
Can you think of any more examples of crucibles? Can you see a way to strengthen your own story by adding a crucible? Leave a comment and let us know!

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Writing Fireworks

Hope everyone had a happy 4th. My oldest son appreciated every last ‘bomb bursting in air’, while my younger son reenacted the part where the British screamed in terror. I, for one, am grateful for a nation where we are free to pursue the goals that we want, and can even work towards making a living as a writer.

Writing Progress:
Words for July: 15,355 (30%)
Words for 2012: 315,362 (52.5%)

Writing Update:
I had a great writing week as the numbers will show. I’m revising three novels, and adding little bits and pieces here and there as well as working on new works called “Elected” and “Dual School”.  I’ll have project descriptions up soon under ‘Current Projects’.
I’ve actually put my hand to writing a lot of music this week, working on a possible sacred album. I’ll be sure to write about that when that comes to fruition.  

Weekly Writing Tip: 
Once you finish something, step back for a little while before you try to revise it. You’ll look at it more objectively and that new perspective can only help. Also, the ideas there might have simmered in your subconscious for a while, which helps you piece things together that didn’t already turn out in the first draft. 

Anthology Update:
I saw the first draft of the cover for the anthology and I’m very excited. I sent some feedback to the artist and hopefully, I’ll be getting a second draft here soon. I’ll be sure to post it when we have finally settled on a final draft.

Seeking a Few Got Pens:
I am seeking a few other authors to embark with me on a multi-book, multi-author project. I can’t promise you fame and piles of money, but I can promise, time travel, cavemen, the French Revolution and more. If you’d like to see the details, click on “Current Projects”.

Canticle of Twilight
The last season of what I’m calling “The Canticle Prelude” is going on right now with new episodes every Monday. Even though it has the word “Twilight” in the title, I promise, it has nothing to do with sparkly vampires.  Instead, it is a story that tells about what happened in the Kingdom right before the events of the first book. Check it out at:
Until next week, live bravely, and write well! 

Motivation Matters

The more I write, the more I realize that writing is mostly a mind game. I have a word count that I strive to hit every day. Some days, the words seem almost to rack up themselves. I accomplish everything in one sitting without breaking a proverbial sweat. (I don’t actually sweat when writing…much.)

Other days, I find myself checking my word count after every sentence, mired down and bemoaning the fact that it has only gone up a few dozen words since last time I checked it. If I cross the finish line on days like this, It is just barely.

Then there are some days, like the 30th of June of this year. On that day, I wrote about 9,000 words, many times the normal amount. This also happened on a day in December last year…almost 10,000 words in a single sitting.

What’s the difference?

I feel like it all comes down to motivation. On the last day of the month when I’m way behind on my writing goal for the month, it is a lot easier to sprint. In the middle of the month when I’ve had plenty of time, I have to work a little harder.

On that day in December, I was writing for a contest to see who could write the most in four hours and won the contest and some money for Christmas presents.

There are many things that motivate you to write. I don’t think it matter so much what you use to motivate yourself, only that you have something. Set and do everything you can to stick to your goals. Keep track of your progress and race against yourself. Reward yourself after your own fashion when you hit certain milestones.

In a perfect world, the motivation of creating wonderful prose should be its own reward. Human nature keeps this from being a perfect world. The trick is to know how to trick your own brand of human nature so that you can get some work done. 

April is Great…No Foolin’!

A happy Easter weekend to you all! 

Hello, everyone. I apologize for not checking in earlier this week. Between singing in LDS General Conference over the weekend and doing dress rehearsals for “The Secret Garden” at the Hale Center Theater Orem, I’ve been pretty booked. It was a bit of a rough start for the first part of April as far as writing goes, but I made up for it with a good writing day yesterday.
Here’s a few announcements:
I’m going to be in Ephraim Utah at the “Write Here in Ephraim” event, teaching my class on avoiding cliché and signing books. It will be held most of the day on Saturday April 14th at Snow College, so stop by if you are in the area.
All the submissions for my Christmas anthology are in and there are great things in store. I have an editor and a cover artist on board and I’m ready to go. One of my favorites is a historical fiction piece that centers around the legend of Good King Wenceslas.  Look for that and more this holiday season.  (Sounds like I need a movie trailer voice there.)
If you’d like to see me and many other wonderful actors and actress’s in “The Secret Garden” you can get your tickets online at http://www.haletheater.org. The first performances start April 13th and the show runs all the way until June 2nd. I will be performing every Monday, Wednesday and Friday night as well as some of the Saturday matinees. (I’ll post those later). I highly recommend you come see this one. It not only has incredible music, but a timeless and touching story that will stay with you long after the show is over.
Also don’t forget to check out my web serials to which I have contributed.
Running Total: 173357
Month to Date:  8731
Yearly Percentage to Go: 71.1%
Writing Tip of the Week:
It really pays to plan. I’m reading over some things that I wrote in my early writing days when I just went for it without taking much time to plan. I found things rambling more often than not. I don’t think there is one true way of planning, but I think whatever works best for you is the way you should go. I’m attending David Farland’s Million Dollar Outlines workshop this month, so I’m sure I’ll have more to say on the subject later.
Writing Update:
Wandaful is finished! I see that one as a series, but I’m not sure exactly how long yet. I’m going to let that one sit for a week before taking it up again so that it has time to ‘simmer’.  Now I’m just wondering what to do next. I have several options, and I’m not sure which one would be best. I’ll be sure to let you all know.
‘Til I see you again, write bravely and live well! 

Two Hundred Posts and Counting

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Happy 200th post! 

A couple of really exciting things today. The first is that my next web serial debuts today! It is called “Canticle of Dawn” and is a continuation of the story begun in “Canticle of Night”, though it picks up some years down the road. It takes place completely inside the box that is the Canticle Kingdom, and delves deeper into the events that shaped what happens in the novel.
Please check out the first episode, and “like” it on Facebook if you do like what you read and/or hear.  Who knew narration could be so fun?
Speaking of narration, I am also narrating another series called “The Adventures of Phineas Frakture”, which is a fun Steampunk adventure. It also debuted recently. Here’s the link to that one as well:
I was also featured on a guest post, which you can check out here:
Thanks for having me, Apryl!
Running Total: 144,907
Month to Date: 38,575
Yearly Percentage to Go: 75.8%
Writing Tip of the Week:
When writing dialogue, make sure you keeping pacing in mind. If you have a lot of speaking without talking what the speakers are doing, the pace is going to feel quick. This kind of pace can tire out the reader if you use it too much. However, if you talk a little more about what the speakers are doing and their interaction with their environment while they are speaking, you slow things down a bit.  I think your writing should have a little bit of each so that the rhythm of conversation ebbs and flows much like it does in real life.
Writing Update:
I’m writing the final climatic scene for Wandaful, and I think I’ll have that one done in a week or two. I had a great idea of another novel drop into my laugh this week, and I think it grown out of me following the elections this year much more closely than usual. I’ll post more thoughts about that project once I set them into place.
‘Til I see you again, write bravely and live well! 

February is a Win!

Put February in the Win column!  I passed 50,000 words again, and I’m up for another great writing month in March. I had a crazy week revising my two parables for my “Parables for Today” submission. I guess that book is coming out this Summer. I’ll post the details as I have them.

Running Total: 106,332
Month to Date: 12,343
Yearly Percentage to Go: 82.3%
Writing Tip of the Week:
A good editor is worth his or her weight in…first edition rare books. (You thought I was going to say ‘gold’ didn’t you. I really do try to watch the cliché thing.) When looking for an editor, find someone who will really tell it to you straight and give you ‘tough love’ when you need it. I have a really tough editor help me disassemble and reassemble two of my stories this week and though it hurt a little, I ended up with a superior finished product.
Writing Update:
“Canticle of Night” is finished! The entire thing can be read and listened to. My editor thought the story came to a satisfying conclusion, but if you do want more, I’m starting up the next “season” called “Canticle of Dawn”. It picks up years later in the Canticle Kingdom and tells the backstory of some of the pivotal characters from “The Canticle Kingdom” and continues the story from “Canticle of Night”. They have told me that they would like to turn it into an eBook and an audio book soon. 
If you want to listen to or read “Canticle of Night”, please visit my page at http://www.bigworldnetwork.com/CanticleofNight.html

Gesundheit! At Last!

It’s amazing how little you get done when  sickness strikes. I was sicker this week than I have been since I was a little kid and spent entire days sprawled out on the couch watching cartoons and sipping Gatorade.(By the way, “Gesundheit” means “health” in German. That’s why you say it when to people when they sneeze). 
I’ve decided that I need to be a little flexible on my blog schedule for my busy life. I’ll still shoot for Monday and Thursday, but it might be occassionaly bumped to a surrounding day.
I’m feeling very good about my writing with lots of a good news coming in.  We’re almost done with the shortest month of the year and I’m only about 2,000 words shy of hitting 50,000 again. I figure if I can hit the mark in February, every other month should be a breeze. Thank goodness for that Leap Day though this year where I get an extra day to get ahead on writing versus a normal year.

Running Total: 103,749
Monthly Percentage to Go: 4.4%
Yearly Percentage to Go: 82.7%
Writing Tip of the Week:
When working towards writing goals, always write a little extra on those days when things are flowing well. It’s like saving up a few extra dollars “for a rainy day.” Even though I was sick and got very little writing done for a few days this week, I still did not fall behind on my overall goal because I had been following this practice. There’s nothing more discouraging than seeing yourself fall farther and farther behind. Never let yourself get into that position.  
Writing Update:
Excellent progress on my novels with more than 30,000 words on Wandaful already. I worked on developing the series’ system of magic this week and I think it works really well. It has to do with different colors of magic that stand for different things, and I think you’ll all like it when I debut it.  Other projects are plugging along, and I found out that two of my modern parables are going to be included in the a published anthology coming out this fall.
“Canticle of Night” is almost complete and has been really fun.  Please take a moment to support it by clicking the ‘like’ button on the page. They have picked it up for a second season, so the story will continue! I’ll keep you posted on more details.
If you want to listen to or read “Canticle of Night”, please visit my page at http://www.bigworldnetwork.com/CanticleofNight.html

Avoiding Cliche Like the Plague

I’m back! I apologize for the short hiatus. From choir tours, to auditions, to funerals and more, my life has been on overdrive lately.
There have been many personal triumphs lately. For starters, if you are living in Utah, be sure to come see me perform in “The Secret Garden” at the Hale Center Theater Orem beginning in April.  You can get details at http://www.haletheater.org.
I’ll let you know of the others in my writing update. As far as writing goes, I’ve really hit my stride. Just take a look at the numbers:

My word count for the week: 11,672
Running Total: 75,586
Writing Tip of the Week:
I’ll start sharing some tips from my presentation at UVU called “Avoiding Cliché Like the Plague”. (See picture at the beginning of the post) Here’s my first installment:
There are three kinds of cliché I try to strike out of my writing:
Cliché Phrases: “He’s as skinny as a pole.”
Cliché Plot Points: “The knight saves the damsel.”
Cliché Characters: “The elf has pointy ears, and an affinity for baking.”
All of them can helped by taking what you have and twisting it, adding a vivid detail or two.  Instead you could have:
“He’s as skinny as a melting icicle.”
“The knight’s horse saves the knight.”
“The elf is a sculptor whose greatest dream is to fly.”
Much more interesting, huh?
Writing Update:
One of my short stories “Checkin’ It Twice” was accepted into an anthology this week. It will be out in time for the holiday season.  I’ll post more when I have it.
Speaking of Christmas anthologies, I still have a few slots in my own Christmas anthology of stories based on Christmas carols. Please check it out under “current projects”. 
I’m getting ready to submit a short story to David Farland’s “Nightingale” contest. It can only be 2,500 words, but I think it’s great. Here’s hoping.
I also had two short stories become finalists in the Parables for Today contest (parablesfortoday.com). I’m waiting to hear if I’ll get one of the cash prizes (1st-5th place), but I’ll be happy in any case, because they will be in that anthology as well.
Things also plug along well with the novels, with about 20,000 words in each. 
“Canticle of Night” has reached over the halfway point and has been really fun.  Please take a moment to support it by clicking the ‘like’ button on the page.
If you want to listen to or read “Canticle of Night”, please visit my page at http://www.bigworldnetwork.com/CanticleofNight.html
I’d love to know what you think about it!

Canticle Kingdom II and Other Great Things

I’m very pleased to announce that I will be bringing The Frozen Globe to life this year, which will be the second book in The Canticle Chronicles.  Here’s a sneak peek at the cover:

My schedule for Life, the Universe and Everything (LTUE) at Utah Valley University is as follows: (All events are on Thursday February 9th)
11:00 AM: Middle-Grade Books for Boys
2:00 PM: Book Signing
4:00: Avoiding Cliché Like the Plague
I’m only able to attend one day, because I’m headed down to Arizona this weekend to perform in a couple of concerts. See the full schedule here: http://www.ltue.org/LTUE_2012.html 

My word count for the week: 10,005
Running Total: 65839
Monthly Percentage: 15.9%
Yearly Percentage: 12.8%
Writing Tip of the Week:
No matter what you do, don’t think that you can revise everything yourself.  The human mind is a strange thing, and sometimes it glosses over mistakes. Having another set of eyes on your writing will help you catch those crazy mistakes.

For example, my wife was reading through one of my manuscripts and came across a hilarious typo. Instead of saying, “He took off his hat and set it aside,” it read “He took off his head and set it aside.” 
This wasn’t supposed to be one of my science fiction or fantasy stories.
Writing Update:
I’ve crossed the 20,000 word mark on “Wandaful”, and it’s going wonderful. I’ve been working on getting “Prometheus Returns” where it needs to be to send out and continue to send out queries for “Starspire”.  I got a nice rejection letter from an agent this week who said that the manuscript had strong writing and a great concept, but that she wasn’t taking on anything else right now. She thought that it would find a home elsewhere.
“Canticle of Night” has reached over the halfway point and has been really fun.  Please take a moment to support it by clicking the ‘like’ button on the page.
If you want to listen to or read “Canticle of Night”, please visit my page at http://www.bigworldnetwork.com/CanticleofNight.html
I’d love to know what you think about it!

Additional Resources:
You can find info on writing classes from OnlineUniversities.net.

First Lap Down!

My first month of marathon writing is over, and I’ve set a good pace. I exceeded 50,000 words to come out a little ahead. The only think is that there are eleven months to go.  I feel good about things and about how things are turning out.  I should have many completed projects by the end of the year!
Still one more day to enter the Young Adult Blog hop to win a copy of “The Canticle Kingdom”. My publisher let me know that they are working on getting it out in eBook form, and I’m very excited for that.
My word count for the week: 13828
Running Total: 55834
Monthly Percentage: 111.7%
Yearly Percentage: 9.3%
Writing Tip of the Week:
Look out for your own pet phrases. It may be hard to spot them by yourself, so you may need to enlist the help of a friend.  You may have a favorite cliché, or even a brilliant original phrase that you just use too much.  Maybe all of your characters say the same phrase when they’re surprised. 
Search and destroy.  Or at least, mix them up a bit.
Writing Update:
I’m hard at work revising “Prometheus Returns” and hoping to get that out soon. I’m also working on a musical project called “Quest”, which is a parody of typical fantasy stories.  I hope someday to some of my works on stage.
I’m also hard at work on “Wandaful” and am well into the middle of it.  I find that the initial idea of the magic system based on color and time is evolving quite nicely and I’m loving playing the quirky characters off of each other. 
“Canticle of Night” has reached over the halfway point and has been really fun.  Please take a moment to support it by clicking the ‘like’ button on the page.
If you want to listen to or read “Canticle of Night”, please visit my page at http://www.bigworldnetwork.com/CanticleofNight.html
I’d love to know what you think about it!

Related link:
OnlineEducation.org is a great resource with information on writing courses.