Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Are you #amwriting or #amediting? Give yourself or the writers in your life a #blackfriday gift to follow up #NaNoWriMo - #writing books for #KidLit and other plotters

Take your novel to the next level.

You’ve finished a few manuscripts, read books and articles on writing, taken some classes, attended conferences. But you still struggle with plot, or suspect that your plotting needs work.

This book can help.

Advanced Plotting is helping me to be more focused, to stop and ask the right questions, to dig deeper.”

Advanced Plotting is designed for the intermediate and advanced writer. Read the book straight through, study the index to find help with your current problem, or dip in and out randomly — however you use this book, you’ll find fascinating insights and detailed tips to help you build a stronger plot and become a better writer.

“This really is helping me a lot. It's written beautifully and to-the-point. The essays really help you zero in on your own problems in your manuscript. The Plot Outline Exercise is a great tool!”

The Plot Outline Exercise is designed to help you work with a completed manuscript to identify and fix plot weaknesses. It can also help flesh out an outline. Additional articles address specific plot challenges, such as getting off to a fast start, propping up a sagging middle, building to a climax, and improving your pacing. A dozen guest authors share advice from their own years of experience.

“I just read and dissected your well-written book: Advanced Plotting. It's now highlighted in bright orange and littered with many of those little 3M sticky labels. GOOD JOB. There are too many just-for-beginners books out there. Yours was a delight.”

Buy Advanced Plotting in print or as an e-book at Amazon, free in KU.

Chris Eboch is the author of over 15 novels for adults and 100 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. See all of Chris’s links

Chris is also the author of You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers

“A must for your writing library!”

Remember the magic of bedtime stories? When you write for children, you have the most appreciative audience in the world. But to reach that audience, you need to write fresh, dynamic stories, whether you’re writing rhymed picture books, middle grade mysteries, edgy teen novels, nonfiction, or something else. 

In this book, you will learn:

  • How to explore the wide variety of age ranges, genres, and styles in writing stories, articles and books for young people.
  • How to find ideas.
  • How to develop an idea into a story, article, or book.
  • The basics of character development, plot, setting, and theme – and some advanced elements.
  • How to use point of view, dialogue, and thoughts.
  • How to edit your work and get critiques.
  • Where to learn more on various subjects.

Whether you’re just starting out or have some experience, this book will make you a better writer – and encourage you to have fun!

“A definite winner in the how-to-write book library.”

You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers is available for the Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback.

Chris Eboch's novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the StairsSee all of Chris’s links.

Monday, October 18, 2021

Plot Like a Screenwriter with Douglas J. Eboch #scriptchat #scriptwriting #amwriting

If you've been following this blog for long, you've probably “met” my brother, scriptwriter Douglas J. Eboch. I love talking about writing with him and following his screenwriting blog,
Let's Schmooze. Novelists can learn a lot from movie writers. Here's an excerpt from the essay Doug wrote for my book Advanced Plotting. This works with our exploration of building your novel.

Plotting Like a Screenwriter
by Douglas J. Eboch

Solid plotting is critical to screenwriters. Movies are expected to deliver stories with the complexity and depth of a novel but in much less time. The average screenplay is 110 pages with lots of white on the page. That means we have to be very efficient. As a result, Hollywood has developed a “three act structure” concept of plotting.

But before I get into the three act structure, I want to discuss the foundation of narrative. This may seem a little basic at first, but there is a method to my madness. I want to show that the three act approach is not some Hollywood formula but grows out of the fundamental nature of storytelling.

So let me start by addressing the question: What is a story?

A story needs three things. First, we need a character. The character need not be human, but he or she must behave in recognizably human fashion — Mickey Mouse, for example. If you don’t have a character you may be writing a travel guide, op-ed essay, or a scientific treatise but you are not writing a story.

Next, the character must be facing some kind of dilemma. I don’t really care to hear about someone whose life is just fine. I mean, that’s great for them, but how does it affect me? Whatever it is that causes us to respond to made-up stories has something to do with watching how people deal with problems.

Finally, a story needs a resolution. I’m watching/listening/reading to find out how this character deals with their problem. I’m not going to be satisfied until I see how it all comes out.

If you have those three things, you have a story — even a thirty-second narrative commercial has them. A young man (character) is not getting good gas mileage (dilemma) so he tries a different type of gasoline and his mileage improves (resolution).

But simply having a character, dilemma, and resolution doesn’t necessarily make the story dramatic. If you have a guy sitting in his living room whose dilemma is that he’s hungry and he goes into the kitchen to make a sandwich you have a story…but not a very dramatic one.

There are two things that affect how dramatic your story is: stakes and obstacles. The more that’s at stake for the character and the greater the obstacles standing in the way of successfully resolving the dilemma, the more dramatic your story becomes. Of course “dramatic” isn’t quite the same as “good” but we’ll get to that.

Those five things — character, dilemma, resolution, stakes and obstacles — are the basis of three-act structure. In act one we introduce a character with a dilemma and show what’s at stake. In act two the character tries to resolve their dilemma but faces increasing obstacles. And in act three we get some kind of resolution (not necessarily successful, but final.)

Now let’s look at the components of three act structure. Probably the most important is the Dramatic Question. If you understand nothing else but the Dramatic Question and the Moment of Failure (which I’ll get to in a bit) you’ll probably end up with a fairly well structured story.

What the Dramatic Question Is

The Dramatic Question is the structural spine of your story. On some level all Dramatic Questions can be boiled down to “Will the character solve their dilemma?” Of course that’s not very helpful to the writer trying to crack a particular story. You need to ask that question with the specifics of your character and dilemma.

So in Star Wars (written by George Lucas) the question is “Will Luke Skywalker defeat Darth Vadar?” In E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (written by Melissa Mathison) it’s “Can Elliot save E.T.?” In Little Miss Sunshine (written by Michael Arndt) it’s “Will Olive win the beauty pageant?”

Those sound simple, right? Simpler is better when it comes to the Dramatic Question. But it’s not always easy to be simple. You have to know who your character is and what their dilemma is before you can craft a nice simple Dramatic Question. But then if you haven’t figured out your character and their dilemma, you’re not really ready to start writing yet anyway!

I also think it’s good to phrase the Dramatic Question as a yes or no question. So it’s not “Who will Susan marry?” it’s “Will Susan marry Bill?” Keeping it yes/no helps you tightly focus your narrative.

What the Dramatic Question Is Not

The Dramatic Question is not the theme of your movie. It’s not the hook. It’s not necessarily the character arc (sometimes it is, but not usually.) It doesn’t define whether your story is sophisticated or facile.

Do not think the Dramatic Question determines the quality of your story. It’s simply the spine on which you’re going to build your story. What you hang on that spine is going to determine how good your script is. Just because a person doesn’t collapse under the weight of their own body doesn’t mean they’re beautiful, intelligent, interesting, or emotionally complex. However, if your spine isn’t solid, none of the other stuff is going to work properly either.

How to use the Dramatic Question in your story

The Dramatic Question is an unspoken agreement with the audience. It tells them what the scope and shape of the story is going to be. They need to know what the question is fairly early in the proceedings or you will lose them. If too much time passes before they understand the Dramatic Question they’re liable to walk out of the theater or turn the DVD off or put down your script. They’ll say something like, “I couldn’t figure out what the movie was about.”

The moment when the Dramatic Question becomes clear is called the Catalyst. The Catalyst is where the audience understands who the main character is and what their basic dilemma is. They may not understand the entire dimension of the problem, but they have an idea what the story arc will be about.

So in E.T. the catalyst is when Elliot sees E.T. for the first time. We don’t yet know that his mission will ultimately be to get E.T. home or even that first he’ll have to hide E.T. And we don’t know that E.T. will start dying from the Earth environment. But we know that this kid who nobody takes seriously just found a little lost alien — and that some scary men are looking for it. We have a character with a dilemma.

Similarly, when the audience knows the outcome of the Dramatic Question, your story is over. The audience will stick with you for a few minutes of wrap up, but if you go on too long after resolving the dramatic question, they’re going to get restless. They’ll say things like, “it was anti-climactic” or “it had too many endings.”

Once E.T. takes off in his space ship, the movie ends. Credits roll. The story is over. Compare that to the Lord of the Rings trilogy (screenplay by Fran Walsh & Philippa Boyens & Peter Jackson). The Dramatic Question is “Can Frodo destroy the ring?” He does, but then the movie continues for another forty minutes or so. Kind of got tedious didn’t it? The story was over. We wanted to go home.

The structural beat where you answer the Dramatic Question is called the Resolution.

Apparent Failure/Success

There’s one other critical structural concept you need to understand. That is the moment of apparent failure (or success). Whatever the Resolution to your Dramatic Question is, there needs to be a moment where the opposite appears to be inevitable. If your character succeeds at the end, you need a moment where it appears the character must fail. And if your character fails at the end, you need a moment where they appear about to succeed.

This moment should come late in the story as the tension is building toward the climax. We need it so the audience can’t predict how the movie’s going to unfold. We may know that in a big Hollywood movie the hero will beat the bad guy and get the girl, but we shouldn’t be able to figure out how they’ll accomplish that. In screenwriting, we call this moment of apparent failure/success the Act Two Break.


Breaking Your Story into Three Acts

Now let’s discuss how you apply the three act structure to your story. It might be useful if I first point out that there are no actual act breaks in a movie. A movie is a continuous experience. In a play there often are act breaks — the curtain comes down, the lights come up and the audience goes out to the lobby for a drink. In TV there are act breaks that are filled by commercials. But in feature films there are no actual breaks in the narrative.

Instead, when we say “act break,” we’re talking about a literary concept. We use act breaks to discuss critical turning points in the story. Since this is a literary concept it can be subjective. You and I might disagree on the act breaks in a given story. There’s no way to tell who’s right and who’s wrong. As a writer you identify the act breaks in the way that is most useful to you in telling your story.

So, we have our Dramatic Question that is introduced in the Catalyst and answered in the Resolution. Typically, the Catalyst comes around page ten of your screenplay. The Resolution should probably come in the last six to eight pages. That leaves a lot of pages in between. We could use some structural landmarks to help us out.

As I said earlier, the first act is the section of your story where you introduce your character, their dilemma, and what’s at stake. This typically takes up the first fourth of your screenplay. Sometime around page twenty-five or thirty there will be an act break — The First Act Break. This is the point at which your character embarks on the journey of the movie, sometimes known as the “point of no return.”

The second act takes up roughly the middle half of your screenplay. This is where the character tries to solve their problem but faces escalating obstacles and, ideally, escalating stakes. It ends at the Second Act Break, which I’ve already mentioned is the point of apparent success or failure.

The third act, then, takes up roughly the last quarter of your screenplay. It provides the climactic resolution to your story.

So now let’s look at the major signposts of the three act structure in order, adding a few other beats to help keep things moving:

Status Quo

Generally you want to spend a little time showing the character in their status quo before introducing the catalyst of the story. We need to get to know who the character is so we can understand how the story changes them.

For example, in E.T. we see Elliot at home. His parents are divorced and his father has moved out. His older brother and his friends are playing a game. Elliot wants to play, but they won’t let him. And when he claims something strange is out in the shed, nobody takes him seriously. He’s longing to fit in but ignored.

It’s usually best if you show the most interesting part of your character’s status quo, not the most boring. We meet Indiana Jones escaping traps, traitorous assistants and angry tribesmen — not doing his laundry! This is why it’s usually not a good idea to open your movie with your character waking up in the morning — that’s seldom the most interesting part of someone’s day.

The Catalyst

The Catalyst is the point at which the main character and their dilemma are made clear to the audience. It’s when the Dramatic Question gets asked. So in Little Miss Sunshine the catalyst is when we learn that Olive has gotten into the pageant, but it’s in Los Angeles in a couple days. Now interestingly, the main character of this movie is the father, Richard. He’s the one whose decisions are driving the action. But the Dramatic Question centers on Olive: Will she win the pageant? In this case Richard’s goal is to help his daughter be a winner.

In Star Wars, the catalyst is when Luke Skywalker sees R2D2 project the hologram of Princess Leia and decides he wants to help her. The audience knows that Leia is being held by Darth Vadar and that Vadar is looking for R2D2. The Dramatic Question becomes, “Will Luke beat Darth Vadar?” Note that Luke doesn’t even know about Vadar yet and that the audience doesn’t know the Death Star will eventually come to threaten the rebel base. We don’t need all these details, we simply need to understand what the core of the story is going to be about. We know Luke has a dilemma even if he doesn’t!

Act One Break

The Act One Break is the point at which the character actually embarks on the journey of the story. It’s sometimes known as the “point of no return.” I think that’s a good way to look at it — from here on out the character has no choice but to see this through to the end. If the character can walk away from the story without losing anything there isn’t much tension. At the Act One Break you have to trap them in the story.

The Act One Break in Little Miss Sunshine is when the family sets out on their road trip to California. In Star Wars the Act One Break is when Luke goes with Obi Wan to Mos Eisley to find a pilot to take them into space. The Act One Break in E.T. is when Elliot first feels E.T.’s feelings when E.T. is scared by an umbrella. At that point E.T. and Elliot are linked. If Elliot doesn’t help the little alien, there are going to be serious consequences for him.

In all these cases, if the character walks away from the story after this point they will fail in their goal and suffer for it. They are locked in.

Midpoint

As you might expect, the Midpoint is a beat that occurs in the middle of the movie, which also makes it the middle of Act Two. The concept of the Midpoint is fairly straightforward, though its use and purpose can vary a lot. I know several successful screenwriters who don’t give any thought to the midpoint and I’ve seen movies that don’t have a traditional midpoint. It doesn’t really seem to be a required beat. But it can be a valuable milestone to help us keep things moving. If used well, it can be the tent pole that supports Act Two.

Traditionally the Midpoint mirrors the Resolution and is opposite to the Act Two Break. If your character is going to succeed at their goal in the Resolution, then the Midpoint should be a moment of success and the Act Two Break will be a moment of failure. If the character will fail in the Resolution, then the Midpoint will be a moment of failure and the Act Two Break a moment of success. In this way we’ll have a story that has dramatic peaks and valleys.

So in Star Wars, the midpoint is Luke rescuing Princess Leia from the prison cell. It’s a moment of success in a movie where ultimately Luke will succeed in defeating Darth Vadar.

In Little Miss Sunshine Olive actually fails to win the pageant at the resolution. Though the movie has a “happy” ending emotionally, in terms of the Dramatic Question Richard is ultimately unsuccessful. The Act Two Break is when the family finally arrives at the pageant and Richard manages to get registered in the nick of time — a moment of success. The Midpoint, then, is when Grandpa dies, a big setback that mirrors the resolution.

The Midpoint often twists the story in a new direction or adds a new element. It’s also a good place to raise the stakes. In E.T. the Midpoint is when E.T. figures out his plan to “phone home,” but it’s also the point when they first realize E.T. and Eliot are getting sick. So we both add a new element — the plan — and increase the consequences of failure.

The Act Two Break

The Act Two Break is one of the most critical beats of your story. It’s often referred to as the “lowest moment,” though I don’t like that because I think it’s misleading. Seldom do I see a successful story where things start getting better right after the Act Two Break. I think “moment of greatest failure” is a better description. It’s also sometimes called the “all is lost” moment, which is pretty good. The point is that this is when it looks like your character is doomed to fail. The Act Two Break in E.T. is E.T. apparently dying and the breaking of the psychic link with Elliot.

That assumes, of course, that ultimately your character will succeed. Some stories, like Little Miss Sunshine, end with the character failing in their goal, and in this case you have to reverse the Act Two Break. It becomes the moment of greatest success. Gangster movies often work this way — the gangster seizes control of the gang at the end of Act Two and looks like he’ll be unstoppable. But by the end he’ll be lying dead in the street, riddled with bullets.

Why is this so important? Because the ending won’t be satisfying unless it’s hard to achieve. And you don’t want your movie to feel completely predictable. This is the point where the audience needs to think, “Boy, I know the hero must be going to beat the bad guy and get the girl (this is a movie, after all), but I sure don’t know how he’s going to do it. It seems hopeless.”

Hope and fear come into play here. What is the audience rooting for? Do they want the character to succeed or fail? (Both are possibilities depending on your premise.) This is the moment where you make them think the opposite might actually happen. Or in a tragedy you make them think they might get the ending they want, only to snatch it away from them. Romeo and Juliet hatch a plan to run away together… maybe it will all work out after all….

The Act Two Break in Star Wars is when our heroes escape the Death Star in the Millennium Falcon… but we learn that Darth Vadar has put a tracking device on their ship. It’s their biggest failure because they’re going to lead the bad guys right to the rebel base.

The Epiphany

When the character has really hit rock bottom (or the height of their success), that’s when the Epiphany comes. This is the twist that shows us how the character is going to succeed (or fail) after all. In Star Wars the Epiphany is the briefing scene when the general explains the weakness in the Death Star. Luke now knows how he can beat Darth Vader. Most often the character themselves has the realization, but sometimes the character has already figured it out and it’s the audience who’s let in on the secret.

It’s important here that you avoid the Deus Ex Machina ending. This is an ending where some outside force saves the day for the character. The term comes from Aristotle and means literally “God in the Machine,” referring to those ancient plays where an actor playing Zeus would be lowered in a basket to sort everything out for the characters. A more modern equivalent would be the cavalry to the rescue in a western. Endings where the character succeeds by pure luck also fall into this category.

To avoid this, the Epiphany must be set up. Whatever realization the character has must be planted, usually around the midpoint. We know Princess Leia has put something into R2D2. Luke has rescued Leia and brought her and the ’droid back to the rebels. When it is revealed that the robot contains the Death Star plans and that these reveal a weakness, it feels organic because the elements have been planted and Luke was critical to bringing them together. But the audience was kept in the dark just enough so that they didn’t know how this twist would come about.

In Little Miss Sunshine, the epiphany is when Richard realizes he loves Olive more than he cares about winning. He wants to stop her from competing in the pageant for fear she’ll be humiliated. He hasn’t quite figured out how he’s going to succeed (Olive does compete) but he’s had the key realization he needs for the Resolution.

In E.T., the epiphany is when Elliot realizes E.T. isn’t actually dead and they’ve succeeded in contacting his people after all. This may seem a bit convenient, but notice that Elliot is far from done here. He now has to get E.T. out of the heavily guarded house and to the landing site. He knows how to succeed, but he still has to do it.

The Resolution

The Resolution is the climax of the movie. It should be big and exciting and emotional. It is also the moment when the Dramatic Question is answered either positively or negatively. Thus, it is what we’ve been waiting for since the Catalyst.

In addition to making this a big moment, it is crucial that you make it a final moment. The Dramatic Question must be answered definitively. If our hero can just go out and try again, then we don’t feel like the question is resolved. The Resolution must be the last chance for success or failure. If Luke can’t destroy the Death Star, then the rebellion will be crushed. It’s not just another battle; it’s the climactic battle.

The resolution is usually pretty obvious. Luke destroys the Death Star. E.T. gets to the spaceship. In Little Miss Sunshine, Richard gets up onstage with Olive and dances with her in support, and in defiance of the pageant people who want Olive off the stage. Olive may lose the pageant, answering the Dramatic Question in the negative, but the previously dysfunctional family has come together.

These are the structural stages Hollywood screenwriters use to build well-plotted scripts. Of course, a well-structured script isn’t the same as a good script. You still have to write the actual characters and scenes. But if you have a strong plot, then you have a solid foundation that will allow you to tell a truly great story.

Douglas J. Eboch wrote the original script for the movie Sweet Home Alabama. He teaches at Art Center College of Design and lectures internationally. He writes a blog about screenwriting where he shares techniques like the ones in this article. Check out his other projects, including his Sweet Home Alabama prequel novels and his novel Totally Rad Wormhole here.

Get more essay like this one in Advanced Plotting, along with a detailed explanation of the Plot Outline Exercise, a powerful tool to identify and fix plot weaknesses in your manuscripts. 

Buy Advanced Plottingfor $9.99 in paperback or as a $4.99 e-book on Amazon - free in Kindle Unlimited.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Intro to Self-Publishing with Chris Eboch: Handout #amwriting

Intro to Self-Publishing with Chris Eboch (for SCBWI-Houston, 9/13/2021)

Who Should Self Publish:

           Traditionally published authors who want to make out-of-print titles available again.

           Published authors who wish to release books in a series that a publisher has dropped.

           Professional writers who have a book that doesn’t suit the current market, but may still find a modest audience.

           People who have a marketing platform for distributing their books, e.g. they do a lot of speaking on a professional topic and can sell books at their talks (best for nonfiction).

           Amateur writers who want to make a title available in print form for their family, such as memoirs or family genealogy, or a child’s favorite story.

           First-time authors who have studied writing for several years and gotten professional feedback on their manuscript, who also:

  want complete control of the publishing process

  prefer the work of self-publishing to the work of researching and querying publishers

  enjoy marketing and have experience with it

  and/or feel they don’t have time to wait on the traditional publishing industry

 

Advantages:

You retain all rights to your work. You can earn more per copy sold.

You get to make decisions about cover art, pricing, content -- basically everything.

If the book does extremely well, you may interest a traditional publisher.

You get to see your book in print in a few months, instead of several years if ever.

 

Disadvantages:

You get no advance. You may sell few copies and make hardly any money -- ever.

You have to make all the decisions about cover art, pricing, content -- basically everything.

A poorly written/edited/designed book can hurt your reputation as an author.

To produce a professional-quality book, you will have to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars and dozens or hundreds of hours of time. You have no marketing support from a publisher.

Your book will not be available in bookstores.

 

Steps to Self-Publishing:

            Write and edit a book. Edit it some more. Get professional critiques and edit again.

            Write any front/back matter: title page, illustrated by, summary, dedication, acknowledgments, “other books by,” authors note, bio, etc. (You can follow the format in other books).

            Hire a professional copy editor and approve/reject their suggestions.

            Hire an illustrator. Make sure you understand whether you are getting only cover art, or complete cover design with title and (for print on demand) spine and back of book. What rights are you buying?

            Upload, publish.

            Publicity and marketing.

 

Resources:

Download Chris’s Indie Publishing Worksheet: https://chriseboch.com/for-writers/

David Gaughran: books, videos, a newsletter, and a free courses on self-publishing: https://davidgaughran.com/

Jane Friedman: blog and newsletter with a focus on business: https://www.janefriedman.com/

Darcy Pattison: a blog focused on SP children’s books: https://www.darcypattison.com/category/publishing/

Roxie Munro: a blog focused on SP children’s books (not recently updated):

www.roxiemunro.wordpress.com

IBPA: Independent book publishers Association (news, discounts on services): https://www.ibpa-online.org/ 


Chris Eboch is the author of over 100 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure used in many schools; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Felony Melanie series featuring the characters from the movie Sweet Home Alabama as teenagers. Her writing craft books include You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers, and Advanced Plotting.

Learn more at chriseboch.com or her Amazon page, or check out her writing tips at her Write Like a Pro! blog.

Chris also writes mystery, romance, and suspense for adults under the name Kris Bock. Her Furrever Friends Sweet Romance series features the employees and customers at a cat café. Watch as they fall in love with each other and shelter cats. Get a free 10,000-word story set in the world of the Furrever Friends cat café when you sign up for the Kris Bock newsletter. Learn more at www.krisbock.com or visit Kris Bock’s Amazon US page or Amazon UK page. (For other countries click here.)

 

 

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Calling #KidLit Writers - Learn more about Educational Publishing in an 8-week webinar series with a Mentorship Option #amwriting #writing

Educational Publishing Webinar Series with Mentorship Option

Do you want to make money from writing? Are you willing and able to write on assignment if given a topic, word count, grade level, and deadline? Then you may be perfect for educational work for hire!

Educational publishers need writers for nonfiction and fiction books, test passages and questions, lesson plans, and more. Learn about the options in educational publishing, what makes a good work-for-hire writer, how to approach publishers, and how to produce a good resume and writing sample.

Attendees will have two options:

  • Watch the webinar series and work on your own. $150 
  • Be paired with a mentor who will review assignments. Those who complete the course assignments will finish with a writing sample and resume as well as connections to editors. The number of participants at this level will be limited by the number of mentors. $400 total

WHEN: The webinar series will be on 7 Saturdays, starting September 4 and going through October 16. These webinars will start at 1 PM PT; 2 PM MT; 3 PM CT; 4 PM ET and last 60-90 minutes. In addition, a roundtable with editors or individual meet and greet sessions with editors will be scheduled at the editors’ availability. See the website for the full schedule.

Key Points:

·         Overview of Educational Publishing: What is it? Why would you do it? Books, test passages, curriculum development, and more. Pros and cons of work for hire. The qualities of a good work-for-hire writer.

·         Getting work: Identifying publishers. Submitting your resume and writing samples.

·         Understanding publisher guidelines for assignments. Time-efficient research. Choosing kid-friendly angles and facts to include. Writing in the appropriate style. Writing to an assigned grade level.

·         Please note: This program cannot guarantee you will find work in educational publishing. Some students may be ready to seek work at the end, while others will leave the course with advice on how to further their skills through additional study and practice.

Limited scholarships are available. If you are in a community that is traditionally underrepresented, and also have financial need, please apply for a scholarship. See the website for more info.

Learn more from SCBWI New Mexico.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Advanced Plotting Tools and Techniques: A #Writing class via Zoom, 4 weeks in July - #AmWriting better this summer!

Advanced Plotting Tools and Techniques
4-week Course: Saturdays: July 10, 17, 24, and 31
3-4:30 pm MT (2 PT/4 CT/5 ET) via Zoom

$60 SWW members; $90 Nonmembers

Many books and workshops teach the basics of plotting: conflict, complications, climax. Now learn advanced techniques that will make a decent plot dynamic. Start with a “grab you by the throat” opening to pull readers into the story. Learn how to pack the plot full by complicating your complications. Control your pacing through sentence and paragraph length. And finally, cliffhanger chapter endings ensure late-night reading under the covers. Learn techniques to make any story or book better. Novelists will benefit from these insights, whether they are just starting out or have years of experience.

Students in Chris's most recent class said:

  • Exceptional job!
  • I couldn’t have asked for a better experience!
  • Chris is an incredible instructor.  I really like the depth she brings to her teaching
  • I learned a lot from the course, too. I thought it was terrific!
  • This writer’s series was hands down one of the best I have attended!

Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for young people, including mysteries, ghost stories, fantasy, and historical fiction. Learn more at ChrisEboch.com or her Amazon page.

As Kris Bock, Chris writes novels of romance, mystery, and suspense. Her Furrever Friends Sweet Romance series features the employees and customers at a cat café as they fall in love with each other and shelter cats. Her humorous mystery series about an injured war correspondent who moves home again launches in May. She also writes romantic suspense novels about treasure hunting, archaeology, and intrigue in the Southwest. Learn more at KrisBock.com or visit Kris Bock’s Amazon page.

Register: by calling the SWW office (505-830-6034, Monday-Thursday, 9:00 am – noon), or by using the online registration form. (Our online payment portal utilizes PayPal, but you’ll be given an option to pay by credit card without signing into PayPal.)

Zoom Meeting: The Zoom invitation link and the password will be emailed to those who purchase this class. For more information, please contact the class/workshop coordinator at Info@SWWriters.com.

The classes will be recorded for those who have to miss one.

Thursday, May 13, 2021

You Can Write for Children: #99c sale - #amwriting #KidLit #writing

On sale May 13-20:

You Can Write for Children: How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers 

Just 99 cents for the KindleAlso available in paperback or in Large Print paperback.  

Remember the magic of bedtime stories? When you write for children, you have the most appreciative audience in the world. But to reach that audience, you need to write fresh, dynamic stories, whether you’re writing rhymed picture books, middle grade mysteries, edgy teen novels, nonfiction, or something else.

In this book, you will learn:

How to explore the wide variety of age ranges, genres, and styles in writing stories, articles and books for young people.

  • How to find ideas.
  • How to develop an idea into a story, article, or book.
  • The basics of character development, plot, setting, and theme – and some advanced elements.
  • How to use point of view, dialogue, and thoughts.
  • How to edit your work and get critiques.
  • Where to learn more on various subjects.

Whether you’re just starting out or have some experience, this book will make you a better writer – and encourage you to have fun!

"A must for your writing library!"

"If you want to write for children or the children’s market, this is the book for you."

"If you have thought of writing a book for children, this book will take you from the “idea” stage all the way through to the “finished” stage."

"This is a terrific resource book for anyone who has considered writing for children. Each chapter has a tip section as well as specific resources, concrete examples, and easy to understand explanation of terms and topics. Excellent book!"

"If you've ever dreamed of writing for children, Chris Eboch's book is a great resource. An accomplished writer, Chris knows just what it takes to turn this dream into reality and shares her knowledge in multiple chapters that discuss getting ideas, building conflict, story structure, setting, dialogue, themes, and much more. A definite winner in the how-to-write book library."

Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure used in many schools; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Her other writing craft book is Advanced Plotting.

Learn more at chriseboch.com or her Amazon page

Monday, May 3, 2021

Plot Like a Screenwriter 2 with Douglas J. Eboch #scriptchat #scriptwriting #amwriting

Last week I posted a partial excerpt of an essay by my brother, scriptwriter Douglas J. Eboch. Here's a little more about plotting like a screenwriter, from his essay in my writing book, Advanced Plotting. Last Friday I posted the section about the Dramatic Question.

Apparent Failure/Success

There’s one other critical structural concept you need to understand. That is the moment of apparent failure (or success). Whatever the Resolution to your Dramatic Question is, there needs to be a moment where the opposite appears to be inevitable. If your character succeeds at the end, you need a moment where it appears the character must fail. And if your character fails at the end, you need a moment where they appear about to succeed.

This moment should come late in the story as the tension is building toward the climax. We need it so the audience can’t predict how the movie’s going to unfold. We may know that in a big Hollywood movie the hero will beat the bad guy and get the girl, but we shouldn’t be able to figure out how they’ll accomplish that. In screenwriting, we call this moment of apparent failure/success the Act Two Break.

[For a full explanation of the three act structure, pick up Advanced Plotting or explore Doug's screenwriting blog, Let's Schmooze.]

The Act Two Break

The Act Two Break is one of the most critical beats of your story. It’s often referred to as the “lowest moment,” though I don’t like that because I think it’s misleading. Seldom do I see a successful story where things start getting better right after the Act Two Break. I think “moment of greatest failure” is a better description. It’s also sometimes called the “all is lost” moment, which is pretty good. The point is that this is when it looks like your character is doomed to fail. The Act Two Break in E.T. is E.T. apparently dying and the breaking of the psychic link with Elliot.

That assumes, of course, that ultimately your character will succeed. Some stories, like Little Miss Sunshine, end with the character failing in their goal, and in this case you have to reverse the Act Two Break. It becomes the moment of greatest success. Gangster movies often work this way—the gangster seizes control of the gang at the end of Act Two and looks like he’ll be unstoppable. But by the end he’ll be lying dead in the street, riddled with bullets.

Why is this so important? Because the ending won’t be satisfying unless it’s hard to achieve. And you don’t want your movie to feel completely predictable. This is the point where the audience needs to think, “Boy, I know the hero must be going to beat the bad guy and get the girl (this is a movie, after all), but I sure don’t know how he’s going to do it. It seems hopeless.”
http://screenmasterbooks.com/hpb.html

Hope and fear come into play here. What is the audience rooting for? Do they want the character to succeed or fail? (Both are possibilities depending on your premise.) This is the moment where you make them think the opposite might actually happen. Or in a tragedy you make them think they might get the ending they want, only to snatch it away from them. Romeo and Juliet hatch a plan to run away together… maybe it will all work out after all….

The Act Two Break in Star Wars is when our heroes escape the Death Star in the Millennium Falcon… but we learn that Darth Vadar has put a tracking device on their ship. It’s their biggest failure because they’re going to lead the bad guys right to the rebel base.

The Resolution

The Resolution is the climax of the movie. It should be big and exciting and emotional. It is also the moment when the Dramatic Question is answered either positively or negatively. Thus, it is what we’ve been waiting for since the Catalyst.

In addition to making this a big moment, it is crucial that you make it a final moment. The Dramatic Question must be answered definitively. If our hero can just go out and try again, then we don’t feel like the question is resolved. The Resolution must be the last chance for success or failure. If Luke can’t destroy the Death Star, then the rebellion will be crushed. It’s not just another battle; it’s the climactic battle.

The resolution is usually pretty obvious. Luke destroys the Death Star. E.T. gets to the spaceship. In Little Miss Sunshine, Richard gets up onstage with Olive and dances with her in support, and in defiance of the pageant people who want Olive off the stage. Olive may lose the pageant, answering the Dramatic Question in the negative, but the previously dysfunctional family has come together.

These are [some of] the structural stages Hollywood screenwriters use to build well-plotted scripts. Of course, a well-structured script isn’t the same as a good script. You still have to write the actual characters and scenes. But if you have a strong plot, then you have a solid foundation that will allow you to tell a truly great story.

Douglas J. Eboch
wrote the original script for the movie Sweet Home Alabama. He teaches at Art Center College of Design and lectures internationally. He writes a blog about screenwriting at Let's Schmooze where he shares techniques like the ones in this article.

See Doug’s entire 4000-word essay covering all the dramatic story points of three-act structure, plus much more, in Advanced Plotting. Buy Advanced Plottingfor $9.99 in paperback or as a $4.99 e-book, free in Kindle Unlimited.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Critique Group Characters: #amwriting tips for better feedback on your #writing

This 
excerpt from How to Write Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and Teenagers is from the chapter on Critiques. See the list of topics to the right to find more on critiques.

Here are some specific character types to watch out for in your critique group.

Critique Group Characters

Watch out for the following personality types in a critique group:
  
It's all wonderful!
Art by Lois Bradley
  • The Cheerleader. She loves everything you do! This is gratifying, especially when you are doubting your talent, but it’s not particularly helpful in improving your work.

  • The Grammarian. He doesn’t have a lot to say about the content of your work, but he’ll circle every typo in red pen and may insist you follow strict grammar rules that have gone out of date. (By the way, I never use red pen on critiques – blue, purple, or green ink stands out from the black text, without that negative association of graded English papers.)

    Me? An opinion?
  • The Mouse. You can’t tell whether or not she likes your work, because she never voices an opinion. She might hide behind the excuse that she’s not experienced enough to offer feedback. She’ll do this for years.

  • The Perpetual Beginner. He truly isn’t experienced enough to offer feedback, and he never seems to improve. This type can be divided into The Rut, who brings in the same manuscript over and over without ever making substantial changes (despite all your thoughtful advice) and The Hummingbird, who throws away a manuscript as soon as it’s gotten one negative comment, preferring to work on something new.

  • The Chatterbox. She wants to talk about anything and everything – other than the manuscripts you’re supposed to be critiquing. This person sees a writing group as a social occasion, not a way to improve your craft.

    That's not how I'd do it.
  • Father Knows Best. He always has an opinion, which he voices clearly and often. He prefers to discuss how he would write the story if it were his own, ignoring the author’s vision.

  • The Bully. She enjoys tearing apart your manuscript. No suggestions, just criticisms bordering on insults.

All these characters have one thing in common. They don’t help you improve your work. Having one Cheerleader in the group can be nice, as it means you’ll hear some praise. The Grammarian may be useful, although often those comments are unnecessary and time-consuming when you are still developing a story and focusing on the big picture, not proofreading.

The Mouse and the Perpetual Beginner don’t do a lot of harm, but they waste your time. Why should you spend hours doing thoughtful critiques when you’re not getting anything in return? (Note, sometimes these people can learn over time. Ask for the type of feedback you want, such as "Please point out where you got bored or confused," or encourage them to use a critique form that asks specific questions. But if they won’t make an effort to be better critique partners, it may be time to end the relationship.)

Some people hate everything
The Chatterbox is an even bigger time waster. Sometimes that person can be controlled by having a set time for visiting, perhaps the first or last half hour of each meeting. Including some social time is a way for the group to bond. Some critique groups like to start or end with a nice potluck meal. You could also have one or two meetings a year that are purely social. If there’s a way to get Father Knows Best or the Bully to change their behavior, I don’t know it. They should be avoided.

A good critique is kind and supportive, pointing out both good qualities and weak spots in your manuscript, and giving you ideas for how to improve it. The best critiques leave you fired up and ready to get to work on revisions, even if you know you have a lot of work ahead. Look for people who can provide that.

If you've run into these characters, do you have advice on dealing with them? Are there other character types to watch out for?

You can get this whole essay, and a lot more – including a chapter on Advanced Critique Questions – in You Can Write for Children: A Guide to Writing Great Stories, Articles, and Books for Kids and TeenagersOrder for Kindle, in paperback, or in Large Print paperback.

Cat emoticons by Lois Bradley.

Chris Eboch is the author of over 60 books for children, including nonfiction and fiction, early reader through teen. Her novels for ages nine and up include The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery in ancient Egypt; The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure used in many schools; The Genie’s Gift, a middle eastern fantasy; and the Haunted series, about kids who travel with a ghost hunter TV show, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs. Learn more at chriseboch.com or her Amazon page.