Blog Post #32: Best Books on Writing, Screenwriting Tricks for Authors and How to Steal Hollywood

Alexandra Sokoloff’s Stealing Hollywood: Screenwriting Tricks for Authors is easily one of the best plotting books I have ever purchased. It is a vital tool I use for every plot I’ve written since purchasing the book.

Now, Alexandra Sokoloff is notoriously protective of the contents of this book, and because of that I will be disclosing no direct information including quotes, techniques, or really anything. I’m sorry for that, but ask Sarra Cannon of HeartBreathings on YouTube about it…

What I can say about it is that it’s the THICKEST, LARGEST plotting book I own, and it is chock FULL of crucial information, such as popular scene additions and where they go in the first, second, or third act.

She also includes movie/story break downs, examples, and chapters on dialogue, stakes, love stories, fairy tales, villains, creating suspense, plot twists, and so much more!

I heavily suggest this book to any writer. Even for pantsers the information is vital, especially when you are stuck in a writer’s block and don’t know where to head.

You can find this book on Amazon!


Blog Post #28: The Prevalence of Romance in Any Kind of Story and the Romance Story Beats

A majority of stories, even those geared towards male audiences, have “Romance B Plots” included in the stakes. Gwen Hayes’s Romancing the Beat is a great, fast read on applying a romance arc to story structure.

Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat has a story beat specifically called “the B plot” — and it is explicitly stated as the beginning of the love line (if there’s going to be one). These B characters, whether love interests, villains, or friends, are used (mostly) to either show the MC their own flaws or to reflect to the audience a theme, character flaw/virtue, or idea. If executed well, the audience will receive the message the author is conveying without feeling as if they were being “beaten like a dead horse” with the idea.

While many platonic B characters can come to mind (Samwise Gamgee/Golem, Ron Wesley/Hermione Granger/Draco Malfoy), for many people love interests will dominate the mind when thinking on these characters (Princess Buttercup, any Disney Prince, Ginny Wesley). We even may recall stories which revolve around letting go of your platonic B (often best childhood) friends for a love interest B character who’s demanding more out of the MC than anyone had prior (The Jungle Book, Superbad). Sometimes the story revolves around trying to make it work with a love interest B character, only to have them realize their platonic B friends were right all along (Saving Silverman). Either way, because of the relationship, the MC learns something about themselves. What the MC learns plays a major role in what kind of book you’ve written.

Crafting a story with a believable love plot line is one of the most difficult writing technics to achieve. If placed under a lens of scrutiny most modern day romances would be reduced to insta-love between two hot characters. To this day insta-love remains one of the biggest complaints about Twilight and its subsequent series, one of the highest grossing romance series of all time (and a potential dreaded future classic because of its impact on pop culture, which… please no). Love requires two characters do more than find each other mutually attractive, especially in an age when hooking up on social media doesn’t guarantee love in your reader’s own lives.

So, how do you craft two characters who have enough commonalities with one another to not only find each other attractive but also fall in love with them? How do you create two completely believable people and convince the audience not only that they exist, but that they they’re madly in love with one another?

Enter: Gwen Hayes’s Romancing the Beat

Now, no, this book cannot give you the inspiration with which to write the next great American romance novel (which will rightfully destroy any chance of Twilight becoming a classic novel because your novel will be so perfect, it will outshine).

What this book gives you is a plotting road map on how Romance books are structured, and what your readers are looking for as Romance genre readers. I argue it is ESSENTIAL to any writer who wants to write a romance B plot in any story, as it gives an excellent outline of the ebb and flow of a romance arc. The flow can be described as so:

1. Set Up (Meet Cute)
2. Falling in Love (realizing the B person is amazing)
3. Retreating from Love (MC lets their past trauma keep them from committing fully)
4. Fighting for Love (MC comes to terms with past trauma and strives to make the relationship work)

These beats align very easily to the plot points of a novel described in James Scott Bell’s Super Structure:

1. Set Up, Disturbance, Care Package, Trouble Brewing
2. First Doorway of No Return, Kick In the Shins, Pet the Dog ((SAVE THE CAT))
3. Mirror Moment, Second Doorway of No Return, Mounting Forces/Bad Guys Close In
4. Lights Out/Dark Night of the Soul, Q Factor, Final Battle, Transformation, Final Word/Denouement

The more writing books I read, the more I realize they are simply maps. We as writers must walk the path they can guide us through. My most current manuscript (a dark fantasy romance) was written with this book at the helm, and at the end of the draft I felt as if I had the strongest first draft I had ever written.

Still, it is not enough to sustain an entire book, I implore anyone pursuing writing to read into character arcs, story structure, dialogue, and theme utilization (as well as literary devices and techniques in general), but it is a perfect guide for anyone looking to sharpen their Romance skills.

You can find Gwen Hayes’s Romancing the Beat on Amazon today!

Blog Post #9: 3 Reasons to Opt for a Stay-cation

Stay-cations at home are great ways to unwind and realign your focus when you’re juggling working full-time and pursuing passion projects part-time. 

Mr. Frost and I are trying to stash as much money as we can before we journey into the next step of adulthood: parenthood, and thus, we have no big summer plans of beaches or cabins for 2019.

Instead, I’m giving myself a few five-day long weekends to give myself time to not only to relax or catch up on housework, but also to write and brainstorm ideas for my saga.

Stay-cations, for anyone who doesn’t know, is using time off from work to stay home instead of spending large sums of money on a real vacation trip elsewhere. I recommend these basically to anyone. Give yourself days off, give yourself long stretches of days off, especially if you feel like you’re in a rut, a proverbial hamster wheel of bashing your face into the ground, failing at your personal goals and feeling lacking at work.

Here are 3 reasons why you should give yourself a Stay-cation this summer.

1: You got A LOT of stuff to do at home and you can’t find the time. 

This is the bane of every weekend warrior: two days just aren’t enough. Whether it’s cleaning out the basement/attic/garage or the piles of laundry stacking up, or the yard turning into a jungle, don’t be too proud to give yourself an extra day or two off work to get your home duties finished. You will feel much more prepared for work when you’ve taken your house work off of your mind.

2: Work is stressing you the fuck out. 

If going to work every day sets your anxiety sky-rocketing and sends you down a proverbial rabbit hole of dread and anguish, not only do you need to schedule some days off to relax, you should spend some of the time looking for a new job.

3: You need to catch up creatively.

Creatives tend not to foster good creations if we are stretched too thin and unable to dedicate time to our crafts, so make sure to give yourself days off to spend honing your skills and making new art.

Make sure to take care of yourself in the wild journey that is adulthood and responsibility, and don’t tell yourself you shouldn’t have a vacation because you have no money to go anywhere.

Blog Post #4: Shedding Procrastination and Planning to Relax

Being stuck in a never ending cycle of procrastination and working till the last minute (or longer) is hard on yourself, and a habit even harder to break. Once you establish the habit of a system that works for you, you can plan time to relax without feeling like you’re cheating something else.

I was a habitual procrastinator. I’d wait till the last week to write fifteen page final papers. I’d write small papers that night, or an hour before class if I really wasn’t prepared. I stayed up all night for a morning Art History final, managing to pull out a pass grade due to sheer force. Projects waited until the last moment, chores waited until Sunday night before I was able to get to sleep, and some weeks dishes still sat piled in my kitchen, a terrible start to the new week. I often ran late for work.

In feeble attempts to combat this, I would make lists of things I needed to do, house chores, yard work, exercise regiments, drawing goals, writing goals, meal planning to combat ordering out (which I will make an entire post about at some point, because meal planning is really a great way to get your shit together and save money); basically filling up my weekend (and weeknights) with a mountain of shit to do, with only two days (or a few hours after work), which destroyed my chances of really having any time to relax. With no scheduled time to relax I would “cheat” from my own lists, blow off the dishes for the day, fuck working out, “I’m drinking cranberry and vodkas tonight and we’re getting Chinese takeout and pizza!” I’d say to Mr. Frost.

At the end of the week was the worst, Sunday afternoon through the night, after enjoying a fun Saturday with my husband, I’d be scrambling to get the laundry done, to get the dishes clean, to meal prep lunches for the week. I’d be so burnt out even though I just “relaxed” the day before, all because I set up expectations that couldn’t be met within that time frame and then sabotaged myself in a blaze of liquor and defiance.

I came to terms with the fact I needed to start getting a head start on things, I had to start keeping up with the dishes every night (I don’t have a dishwasher, and probably won’t until we remodel the kitchen, and God only knows when that will ever be). I had to start the loads of laundry Friday night. I had to get up and go grocery shopping on Saturday, and do the weekly cleaning in the morning so I could enjoy Saturday night and all of Sunday. When I took the time to strategize how to tackle chores as they were needed rather than pushing them off, I was able to unlock all the extra time I needed to pursue writing, both as a novelist and a blogger.

I’ve also started waking up an hour early to work out with my husband in our mini home gym, which consists of a bunch of hand-me-down cardio and lifting equipment from family and friends. Working out is a release for me, but it’s always been a point of contention, feeling like another arbitrary task on a list of shit I had to do. Now that I’m not up all night putting laundry away or scrubbing dishes, I’m able to go to bed on time and wake up early.

Procrastination does not set a person up for success, and making a plan that actually works is the key. Once you’ve established a plan that you can execute effectively you’ll realize you have time to enjoy, without having to take away time from your responsibilities. This allows you to really enjoy your leisurely time, rather than stress during it, perpetually guilt-tripping yourself.

Artists, remember your responsibilities and tackle them ferociously, don’t cower and push them off! Schedule the time and activities to keep yourself sane!

Blog Post #3: The Status Quo and Its Tempting Cloy

How stagnation of the status quo lulls us into the comfort of mediocrity.

As anyone who’s been following noticed, I went MIA last week, namely because I procrastinated my way into a weekend of day drinking and ordering food, not a wise choice when you’re on the other side of 25.

Procrastination is something that I’ve struggled with my entire life, and I always followed up fucking around with mentally beating myself, and around the cycle I’d go again. In school I constantly pushed off my schoolwork for playing video games or posting in forums online, and because of that I fell in the dead center of my large graduating class. Mediocrity stared me in the face, and I had no one to blame but myself.

The comfort of the status quo sweetly embraces you when you’re tired, tells you to stop being so hard on yourself, and lulls you into a false reality of self-inflation. I intend to break this chain, to really start dedicating myself to obtaining the life I want, to being the person I want to grow into.

Remembering these past consequences I am turning the ship around now, I don’t want to fall by the wayside in mediocrity, and if I’m going to excel at anything I’m going to have to put the time and work in. So no more laziness, no more excuses, I’ve set personal goals and rewards for these goals, and I’m really hoping that these rewards will fuel me to maintain my goals.

I will post new blog posts twice a week, once on Saturday and once on Sunday going forward. At times you will also see book reviews (once I’ve gotten them written and edited, they are long winded and analytical), as I’ve started re-reading my own collection, and I’ve compiled an Amazon list of 60+ classics, contemporaries, thrillers, horrors, and romances, to begin purchasing to (hopefully) enjoy and review.

Ultimately, my goal is to begin a BookTube/AuthorTube YouTube channel dedicated to writing, but I have to start small, I have to get the snowball rolling, or I’ll drop it again. I’m hoping to start this prospective channel in fall of this year, depending on how writing/editing my first book goes, but I have to establish the rituals first, I have to make consistent blog posts before I can make and edit YT videos. I have to start consistently writing daily if I want to write three or more first drafts this year.

Good news is Mr. Frost has OK’d buying a real domain so I can create a full website for my upcoming books/credence as a real author, I just want to finish the first draft of book one, which is half way completed, before deep diving back into HTML and CSS, coding which I haven’t done in about a decade.

Another good bit of news, I think I may have come up with the full title of my octet:

Tales of the Americana Wastes
Book One: The Wasteland Revival Project

I hope that sparks some interest in the wild ride I’ve been cooking up which is coming out to look like an R-rated mixture of Fallout, The Walking Dead, and Hell on Wheels/RDR, though I could only hope to craft stories half as addicting or immersive as the four I’ve just listed.

I appreciate anyone who reads these blog posts, I am writing them in the hopes of uplifting kindred spirits, to give a place of reprieve and understanding to the weekend artisans. No matter how tired you are, how meaningless it feels to practice your art, take the opportunity to do so, and try to make a habit of it.

Blog Post #1: Getting Back into the Swing Sucks, Do it Anyway

It’s hard to return to your passion when you’ve been out of the game for years, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth picking up again.  

I’ve been writing since I was seven years old, and I can remember the first story I wrote as a child, about wanting to be an astronaut and travel to Jupiter, having just learned about the planets in elementary school. The development of my writing skill has grown from writing short haiku poems that were published in the local newspaper in the ’90’s (something my mother is still enthused about showing people if brought up), to writing bad “poetry” and sloppy short stories in a journal as a goth middle school girl in the very early 2000’s, to eventually moving on and joining online RP writing communities in my high school days. I had developed a nightly ritual of writing anywhere from 500-1,500 word posts and then I would wait in anticipation for someone to respond with their character, so on and so forth (these forums were basically fanfiction’s roleplaying cousin, where a popular anime’s/movie/book’s setting would be the backdrop as users would create their own characters, writing in limited third person, and god moding — controlling the actions and words of another person’s character in your post — was forbidden).

Then graduation came, and I lost all interest in creative writing while pursuing college degrees, being forced to churn out paper after paper for classes. Working full-time while attending college full-time simultaneously proved to be too difficult to bare, and I chose to pause on my higher education while working mandatory overtime at a call center.  During my time in this call center I got the idea for a book with such a large concept I felt overwhelmed by it, so I chose to sit on that for half a decade while I pondered the kinks that I felt.
What I learned while working my ass off at a dead end job that I absolutely despised with every fiber of my being was that letting my passion dry up and wither away, living without pursuing the creative avenues I had been blessed with only reaped sadness, bitterness, and regret. Only when I finally began to pursue writing again did I gain back a sense of who I was and what I truly wanted to do with my life.

So what do we do when we realize we’ve been running the wrong direction for the past ten years, and we feel like we’re so behind of where we could be if only we had been advantageous enough to continue on the path we had been before. Well, first step is to stop comparing what you had before to what you have now, to start being grateful for seeing the error in your ways at all, and we pick ourselves back up and begin the journey again.

Is it going to suck being shitty at something that you were great at a decade ago? Of course it is, but the point is to enjoy the hobby of making the art even if it is shitty, because one day you’ll create something magnificent and awe-inspiring, but that can only happen if you try first.

Many people continue on in their lives, shedding their passions and drives as the world weighs down on them with responsibilities and expectations. Not to say that responsibilities and expectations aren’t a necessary stress that we need to experience and learn to handle as we age from children to adults, but don’t let them keep you from doing the things you love and enjoy, even if you only get to do it for ten or fifteen minutes a day. Even if it’s a painting, dance, or manuscript that you won’t ever show anyone, it’s the time and practice you’ve put into something to better not only yourself, but the world around you.

So artists, do not let your creativity wither away in the face of exhaustion, expectations, and demands. Use your art as an escape, and pursue your passion projects, even into adulthood.