Gartan’s Book – A Regrouping

On Sunday 4/17/11, I took part in a Savvy Author’s chat with Larry Brooks, the author of “Story Engineering” and the blog.  At the time, I was maybe a quarter of the way through his book.  I was just into the Character section and I hadn’t really gotten into his section on Story Structure.

During the chat, I really liked some of the things that he said so I stopped my revision of Gartan’s Book and took the time to finish reading his book.  I had a feeling that what I read there was going to change my mind on how I needed to revise my story and exactly what I needed to put in.  And I was right.

Everything he said dovetailed pretty nicely with Holly Lisle’s approach which is the basis for the way I do things.  I think they’re nice supplements for each other.  His stuff on foreshadowing fits in nicely with Holly’s promise system.

I applied what I’d learned from “Story Engineering” to my book and it pointed out some pretty fatal flaws.  While the first half of my book fit in rather nicely with his structure, the last half of my book didn’t.  The last half of my book fell to pieces.  In the first 40 scenes of my book, my protagonist was the main character in 20 of my scenes.  If I split my book into the 4 phases that he discusses in his book, my first two phases were 20 scenes each.  Pretty much perfect.

But the end of my book was a disaster.  I had about 25 scenes for the last two phases of my book and it was hard to determine exactly where the second plot point was.  My protagonist only had about 8 of those 25 scenes.  She basically disappeared through the last half of the book which in a way was understandable because she was in prison, but it really wrecked the pace of the book.

This past week I’ve gone back through my story and expanded on what needs to take place in the second half of the story.  Although it’s still not perfect, I think the story is now much, much stronger.  Now I’m going to sit back down with it and start over with revising from the first scene.  But this revision should be more of a polish for the first half of the book.  I just need to add some foreshadowing and tweak the storyline here and there.


6 Responses to “Gartan’s Book – A Regrouping”

  1. Dear Pencil Neck,
    Now you are going to sidetrack me with a need to read Story Engineering. Or maybe that’s going to put me on track. I’m glad that it helped you with your current MS.

  2. I’ve had Story Engineering on my wish list for a while now. Since I keep hearing so many good things about it I think I am going to have to break down and buy it.

  3. Glad you are learning Structure. It is the first column in my spreadsheet I supplied to HTTS for download. Between that column and Holly’s scene cards I can arrange my important plot points and build more scenes between the major scenes to get the structure close enough to write the story. Of course, I have to change the scenes around a bit when I write better scenes as I write the first draft. Still, it all helps.
    Good luck with the second half of the book. 🙂

  4. Larry Brooks is a very hard-working guy, and I think his heart is in the right place. However, I took a SA class on Romance Structure that he taught, and it was not a premium performance. He immediately admitted that he knew nothing about romance, but that it must follow the same pattern as everything else. A couple of the more experienced romance writers called him on it–not on that statement, but on some important thing he’d gotten very wrong–and he got snarky. “That’s probably why romance has so little crossover appeal.”

    I won’t go into all of this here, just to say that, no matter who your guru is, it’s probably not good for your protagonist to go missing for large parts of the book. Probably. You are the only one who can decide that for sure.

    Best wishes with the WIP. From the parts you’ve talked about, it’s going to be a real E-ticket ride. :)TX

  5. thepencilneck Says:

    The thing is that Larry Brooks really is kind of snarky. Prior to the chat with him, I was not particularly liking some of the things he said in the book. He had a derogatory attitude towards some types of writing (like graphic novels, iirc) and when he was talking about third level character traits, he went on a rant about LeGarette Blount, a Running Back that got suspended in college for punching someone out at the end of a game. He went on about it for quite a while and talked about how that was an example of bad character and how that guy ended his career by being stupid. The thing is… LeGarrette Blount was signed as an undrafted free agent first by the Tennesse Titans and then by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and with Tampa Bay, he performed well last season. The kid’s probably going to end up being a star in the NFL regardless of that incident. He didn’t get drafted and paid as much as he would have without that incident and it was an example of bad sportsmanship on his point. BUT, Brooks didn’t have all the facts. I don’t know if he wrote his book before the end of last football season but it turned out sounding a bit uninformed.

    And I’d seen some screenwriting books that have this type of structure stuff in it but I’d put it aside as being too restrictive for novel writing. I think that structure is a good starting point but I think lots of stories, even movies, successfully defy that structure.

  6. Larry’s cynicism towards new writers was a barrier for me. That said, his blog post warning beginning novelists not to tackle a dual protagonist story probably saved my novel. I was agonizing over my conflict arcs at the time, and his arguments against trying to shoehorn two protags into one story sentence were exactly what I was dealing with. Once I changed my sentence to a single protagonist with a single problem things finally started to fall into place.
    Sounds like you made some major discoveries yourself. Good luck with the new changes!

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