Using creative blogging to turn a story into a novel
Project: Raven Novel is how I am going to turn my short story, Raven and the Mango Roadtrip, into a novel.
I wrote a 10,000-word short story in a rush last year, and folks seemed to like it pretty well. They even said I should turn it into a novel. Not just my mom. And more than a couple of people.
So, I thought I’d give it a shot.
Reading the story over again, it’s got good bones…but those bones need a lot more meat on them if they’re going to satisfy a hungry audience.
As far as I can see, I need to do two things to beef up my bony story (in addition to the actual writing part!):
- Get to know my characters a lot better.
- Create a more coherent plot.
Those are two big jobs, but it’s okay! I’ve got a plan — and I’m about to share it.
Creative blogging to the rescue
I am going to use the technique of creative blogging to get to know my characters better.
Blogging as your characters is a right-brain, subconscious mind process. It’s designed to get you into a free-flowing creative zone.”
— Marilyn Flower
When she was revising her novel, Marilyn blogged as her characters, and in the process, she “unearthed juicy details — deepening character and conflict — perfect for [her] novel revisions.”
In my case, I am going to use the blog posts to get to know my characters and their backstories better. Then I’ll tackle the actual novel writing.
Going about it this sounds a lot more appealing to me than completing a “character questionnaire.”
I’m not ragging on questionnaires if they work for other people, but for me, they don’t. So I was thrilled when I found Marilyn’s book.
As Marilyn writes, “blogging as your characters is a right-brain, subconscious mind process. It’s designed to get you into a free-flowing creative zone.”
This is the sort of thing I am looking for.
A way to get to know my characters organically, as people, not as checkmarks on a clipboard filled out in the mental equivalent of a doctor’s office waiting room.
Journeying heroes, saving cats
The second bullet point on my to-do list is to develop a coherent plot. To help with this, I’ve been reading Save the Cat! and The Hero’s Journey. I’m getting a feel for the shape of a story that can sustain a novel of (gulp!) 40,000 to 50,000 words.
More than anything, I’ve become convinced that I need to structure this story before I start writing again.
I need to create a plot that comes complete with three acts and the following plot points:
- an inciting incident,
- a lock-in,
- a mid-point climax,
- a main climax, and
- a third-act twist.
For me, anyhow, the problem with reading about plot structure was that it doesn’t get me into my characters’ heads.
In fact, it took me away from the writing and into rabbit holes watching YouTube videos with Neo and Joseph Campbell and various other personages (heralds, mentors, etc.) who aren’t in my story.
It’s all been good. I learned a lot.
All the talk about screenplays and movies and myths and so on felt really intimidating.
I’m just little-ole-me with a story I wrote trying to make something fun.
A friendly ninja with an idea-tester
Reading the article again, it was the idea implicit in the word test that ideas could fail, and that was okay. I didn’t have to come up with a great idea on the first try.
I could come up with a bunch of almosts and keep working until I found one that worked. A piece of pasta that stuck to the wall, if you will.
That’s when I figured, okay, I can do this.
What I’m really excited about is that if I’m not getting anywhere with the characters, I can switch over to thinking about the plot. Or, if the plot has me stumped, I can jump into a character’s head for a break.
Either way, I’ll be pushing the novel forward. Even if only a little bit, I’ll be making progress. If I keep that up, I’ll get it finished.
If you’d like to see where the journey takes me, follow Project: Raven Novel.