Unlocking the Plotto Plot Generator

When William Wallace Cook wrote Plotto: A new Method of Plot Suggestion for Writers of Creative Fiction, his introductory chapter made a lot of readers sit up and ask, “Huh?”

So Cook got do work and came up with an instruction booklet in the form of a seven-lesson course on how to use Plotto to help you overcome the thorny task of coming up with plots for short stories and novels.

The original Plotto Instruction Booklet is impossible to find, and I counted myself very lucky when I discovered that the University of Oregon library in Eugene had a copy. A quick round-trip to the Emerald City later, I’ve republished it for the benefit of anyone who has a copy of Plotto. read more...

Young Again!

I’m taking two community college classes with my son Dan this term. For the first time since I graduated from Oregon State University in 1982, I have a student ID!

(How do they get pictures to come out so badly? Amazing!) Anyway, I’m looking forward to all sorts of student hijinks, all-night bull sessions, begging my mom for money … the works!

We’re taking a screenwriting class from the redoubtable Linda Hamner and an acting course from the inimitable Rod Davidson, both Hollywood professionals. Great classes, and the screenwriting class is starting to put ideas into my head… read more...

Sign Up Now! Great Writing Class in Corvallis

I need your help! I’ve signed up for an exciting writing class in Corvallis, taught by an Emmy-award-winning TV writer/novelist/teacher, Linda E. Hamner. The problem is, if we don’t find two more people by noon on Friday who are keen to learn about writing, it’s going to be canceled!

The topic is “Introduction to Screenwriting,” but this will be a fun sleigh ride for anyone interested in writing of pretty much any kind.

The class is on Mondays from 4:00-5:50 at Benton Center in Corvallis. It doesn’t carry any college credit, alas, but that means it can’t hurt your GPA, either. It runs for seven weeks and costs a measly $57. Give it a shot! read more...

Sequel to “One Survivor” Underway

Getting my action-packed SF novel (One Survivor) into print got me back into fiction-writing mode, and I’ve been putting in some time on the sequel, Tainted Gold. Not one to hold out on my loyal readers, I’ve posted what I have (the first 80 pages) here.

Tainted Gold has many of the same characters as One Survivor, but I structured it differently. There are several different groups of people going after the gold (“What gold?” you ask. Read One Survivor). Each group has special knowledge that the others really need but don’t have. No group is aware of all of the others. It’s been fun to write so far. read more...

Writing: The First Hundred Thousand Words are the Hardest

I started writing seriously (that is, “for money”) when I was in college. For me, the keys to mastery were:

  • Write a lot. I became much more fluent during the course of my first book, Through Dungeons Deep: A Fantasy Gamers’ Handbook, (Reston Publishing, 1981) which covered how to play Dungeons & Dragons and role-playing games in general. When I started out, I set myself a quota of 1,200 words a day and just couldn’t do it. At the end, I’d upped my quota to 4,500 and beat it every day. (I have since had a number of 10,000 word days.) Going over my old work, it seems that the extra speed was a free bonus, involving no loss of quality.
  • Big works are easier than small ones. I think that’s it’s infinitely easier to write a 100,000 word novel than a hundred 1,000-word short stories or even four 25,000-word novelettes. Similarly, it’s easier to write a nonfiction book than a series of articles that add up to the same length. Coming up with new themes is harder than running with what you’ve got.
  • Write for a reason. I come from a storytelling tradition, which means that connecting with my audience is important to me. If I lose them, I’ve screwed up. I also wrote for money from the beginning, because I was broke. Writing is hard, so you need a goal in mind.
  • Writing is hard. It’s harder than anything. After a hard day’s writing, I sometimes lose the power to speak coherently. If that happens to you, you’re doing something right.
  • Pick up the nuts and bolts as you go. Perfectionism is for editors. Just keep going. Get to the end before you rewrite. Keep notes, but leave the earlier passages alone. A lot of people use perfectionism and revision as an excuse to never finish anything — or to never start. There are editors everywhere, so your stuff can be professionally washed, waxed, and detailed after the fact. So get to work!
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