New DIY MFA Articles, Plus Facebook and GoFundMe Updates

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(NOTE: Due to this week’s DIY MFA post, the weekly blog post will go live on Thursday, December 15th.)

Do you believe in destiny, or a higher power conspiring to help make things happen? Or are you convinced that our lives are what they are because of our choices? Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether fate or free will plays the greater role. This mystery, however, hasn’t prevented writers from exploring it through story.

Today I’m tackling “fate versus free will” for my Theme: A Story’s Soul column at DIY MFA. Using Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist and Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus as examples, we’ll discover the common elements that both books use to examine this enigmatic theme and brainstorm ideas of how we can write our own stories on an age-old debate. (See the link after the jump.) Continue reading

Chronicling The Craft: Battling Writer’s Doubt and Regaining Your Confidence

Chronicling The Craft is a series where I share my experience with working on my YA fantasy novel THE KEEPER’S CURSE, which is now in its third draft. These articles alternate between a) progress updates and fun “TKC-related” content, and b) revising / editing tips. Today’s post is the tips-oriented post to celebrate 60% completion of Draft #3.

No writer (or anyone pursuing their dreams) is immune to the monsters of doubt. At any time during our process, we might lose faith in our story, our characters, even our own abilities. And when we do, the effects can cripple us, sometimes to the point of giving up.

It’s a tough subject to broach. I’ve hit the wall a few times myself, but I’ve rarely written about it. But I should write about it. In fact, all writers should. Not only does it make us feel less alone in our struggles, but it allows us to find or share ways of managing any doubts or anxieties we have about our craft.

For today’s Chronicle, I’ll share one of my recent struggles with doubt while editing my WIP. I’ll also reveal my personal method for dealing with those fears, and how some of my writing friends manage theirs. Perhaps some of these tips might work for you. Or, maybe you already have your own ways of bouncing back. The point is to encourage and motivate one another to keep doing this crazy thing we love called writing. I hope this post will accomplish that for you.
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New DIY MFA Article on the Act I Choice, Plus a New Worksheet!

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After my recent DIY MFA post on themes arising from the inciting incident, I wondered whether other major plot points could also reflect a story’s heart. So, the newest installment of my Theme: A Story’s Soul column does just that. Today we look at the pivotal choice that ends Act I, or the “Point of No Return” that was covered in the Character Evolution Files.

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Chronicling The Craft: Adjusting Your Writing Schedule (and Maintaining Your Sanity) In Response to Life Changes

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Chronicling The Craft is a series where I share my experience with working on my YA fantasy novel THE KEEPER’S CURSE, which is now in its third draft. These articles alternate between a) progress updates and fun “TKC-related” content, and b) revising / editing tips. Today’s post is the tips-oriented post to celebrate 40% completion of Draft #3.

One of the biggest challenges with Draft #3 hasn’t been craft- or story-related. Rather, it’s process-related. Certain life changes made my previous writing schedule unsustainable, so I needed to rethink how to approach the editing process and devote adequate time and effort to my story. And when you’re used to having a particular schedule, altering it for creativity’s sake can be an overwhelming and eye-opening experience.

So, today’s Chronicle focuses on the “writer’s life” side of things. I’ll offer tips on adjusting your writing routine in response to life changes. I’ll also explain why writers should practice acceptance and patience when altering their routines, and why it’s essential for us to take care of ourselves as we do so. Our sanity and well-being are just as important as our craft, right?
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The Character Evolution Files, No. 7: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 5 – The Revelation (Midpoint)

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Welcome to the Character Evolution Files! This column focuses on character arcs, from the elements that create or enhance a character’s inner journey, to techniques that writers can employ to strengthen character arcs in their own work. Today we continue our journey through the stages of the character arc with File No. 7, which focuses on the Revelation (or the Midpoint).

Every stage of a character’s evolution is important. However, the previous four stages have been building to the story’s halfway point. All of the protagonist’s mistakes and choices so far come to a head now, forcing the protagonist to realize that things aren’t going according to plan – and his behavior is the reason why. This fifth stage of our Journey Through the Character Arc is what we’ll call the Revelation.

Thus, the Revelation is our topic for Character Evolution File No. 7. We’ll cover the emotional and psychological aspects that will put the protagonist in a state of “tug of war” between his false belief and its opposite truth. And, we’ll see what happens when our two example characters from literature are confronted by their respective Revelations, and how they change from a state of reaction to a state of action. Continue reading

The Character Evolution Files, No. 6: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 4 – The Struggle (Act II, First Half)

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Welcome to the Character Evolution Files! This column focuses on character arcs, from the elements that create or enhance a character’s inner journey, to techniques that writers can employ to strengthen character arcs in their own work. Today we continue our Journey Through the Character Arc with File No. 6, which focuses on the Struggle (or the first half of Act II).

Now that we’ve passed the Point of No Return, it’s clear that the protagonist’s life has changed forever. That, however, doesn’t mean that the protagonist has also changed at this time. In fact, she’s bound to kick, scream, and deny her new circumstances. She’ll struggle to accept her new reality even though she has a clear story goal to work toward. However, she’ll also start to show her potential to change for the better. This back-and-forth wavering is the soul of Stage 4 of our Journey Through the Character Arc.

And so the Struggle will be our focus for Character Evolution File No. 6. We’ll learn about the contradicting forces that must be at work to propel the protagonist toward her story goal and wrestle with her false belief – and why the Struggle is one of the “meatiest” periods of character evolution. We’ll also continue following Aragorn of Lord of the Rings and Tris of Divergent as they lurch through this stage in their separate positive arcs. Continue reading

The Character Evolution Files, No. 5: The Journey Through the Character Arc, Stage 3 – The Point of No Return (End of Act I)

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Welcome to the Character Evolution Files! This monthly column focuses on character arcs, from the elements that create or enhance a character’s inner journey, to techniques that writers can employ to strengthen character arcs in their own work. Today we continue our Journey Through the Character Arc with File No. 5, which focuses on the Point of No Return (or the end of Act I).

So far in our journey through the positive character arc, we’ve covered the Trigger / Inciting Incident (Stage 1), which sparks the protagonist’s arc; and the Comfort Zone / Act I (Stage 2), where the protagonist struggles with how the Trigger affects the life he knows. However, we haven’t touched on the end of Act I yet. This scene is a major plot point on its own – it signals the moment when the protagonist leaves his Comfort Zone for good and becomes fully engaged in the main conflict, while knowing that things will never be the same. It is, in essence, the Point of No Return; and it’s significant enough to have its own stage in character evolution.

During Character Evolution File No. 5, we’ll discover why the end of Act I is so pivotal for the protagonist by discussing the stage’s key elements and its impact on false beliefs. We’ll also encounter the Points of No Return for the two characters we’ve been following on their journeys through their respective arcs. Hang on, because the road to change is about to get bumpy.

Don’t forget to follow along with our journey by using the Story Structure & Character Arc Alignment ChartClick here to visit Worksheets for Writers and download the chart.

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New at DIY MFA: How Mirror Characters Can Illustrate Literary Themes

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When two characters use similar traits or functions in opposite ways, they’re known as “mirror characters.” These pairs are a great way of creating conflict or relationships – and, oddly enough, a frequent source of literary themes. In the latest Theme: A Story’s Soul article at DIY MFA, we discover how mirror characters can help illustrate theme, using examples from Kristin Cashore’s Fire and Sara Litchfield’s The Night Butterflies. And, if you read closely enough, you’ll see how both examples mirror one another. 😉

Click here to read “How Mirror Characters Can Illustrate Literary Themes.”

Got any questions or suggestions for Theme: A Story’s Soul? Feel free to comment below or tweet me at @SaraL_Writer with the hashtag #AStorysSoul.