Hello! It’s been a couple weeks since I posted, so I’m doing a brief update.
I’ve written a bit more in Omegas: Cake Walk and finally gotten myself out of the plot hole I was mired in. I haven’t gotten very far from where the hole was, but at least I’m out of it and in a position to get further down the road.
Part of the reason I haven’t been working on Omegas: Cake Walk is because I’ve been working on a short story, set in the same universe, but in the 1930s. It’s going to feature some of the heroes from that universe’s Golden Age. I’ve been working on those characters for a while and I’ve recently discovered a way to put them all in the same story, which pleases me no end.
I’ve been working on an outline of that story, using Lester Dent’s Pulp Master Plot Formula — Dent was a well-known pulp writer back in the 20s and through the 50s. He created Doc Savage and wrote at least 159 of the 181 novels published by Street and Smith (he wrote under the pseudonym Kenneth Robeson).
Dent’s formula is pretty simple, It’s built around the idea of a 6,000 word story, broken into four equal 1,500 parts. Michael Moorcock summarizes the formula thusly:
“[S]plit your six-thousand-word story up into four fifteen hundred word parts. Part one, hit your hero with a heap of trouble. Part two, double it. Part three, put him in so much trouble there’s no way he could ever possibly get out of it…All your main characters have to be in the first third. All your main themes and everything else has to be established in the first third, developed in the second third, and resolved in the last third.
(Source: How to Write a Book in Three Days: Lessons from Michael Moorcock — which includes Moorcock’s expansion on the formula for novel-length works.
The formula worked and worked well for Dent, who said of it:
“This is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story. It has worked on adventure, detective, western and war-air. It tells exactly where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in each successive thousand words.
No yarn of mine written to the formula has yet failed to sell.
The business of building stories seems not much different from the business of building anything else.”
(Source: https://mgherron.com/2015/01/lester-dents-pulp-paper-master-fiction-plot-formula — which has a link to the formula in a .pdf format. There’s also Karen Woodward’s series on the formula that goes into more detail on each section — and also includes Michael Moorcock’s novel-length version of the formula).
One last Plot Formula Link: HOW TO USE PLOT FORMULAS/ — has information on nearly a dozen different plot formulas, including the Dent formula as well as suggestions about how, when and why to use them.
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There are (roughly) two schools of thought when it comes to writing stories these days — one school are Pantsers, people who just sit down and start writing without having done much/any previous planning about what’s going to come next in their story. They write ‘by the seat of their pants,’ as it were. The advantages to this method is that you can do whatever you want and are free to discover the story as you go. The downside is sometimes the story will dead end and you’ll have no idea where the heck to go next.
The other group are called Plotters, those are people who need to have an idea of where they’re headed on this story. They map out exactly what they want to have happen before they start writing in whatever level of detail they find necessary/most helpful to them. The advantage to this method is that you know where you’re going, you have a road map to follow so avoiding dead ends should be easier. The disadvantage is that you might find yourself feeling beholding to sticking to the outline/road map, even when that outline/road map turns out to be taking you through some very dull territory.
Also, dead ends will still show up. Because dead ends are sneaky bastards like that.
Then there are those who are kind of a hybrid of the two, what’s called a Plantser — writers who like to know where they’re going but who aren’t opposed to discovering some things along the way. The advantages are that like a Plotter, you have a map to follow and like a Pantser, you can go off trail as you choose and, hopefully, be able to recalibrate your storytelling GPS and find a new way forward.
I’m a definite Plantser. Omegas: Cake Walk is the first story where I started off with a full outline and I credit it with me not only finishing the (mostly) handwritten draft but also for me being able to continue with the typewritten draft, which has led to me having to recalibrate my storyline like I’m driving on I-70 during construction season (so, driving on I-70).
Non-Ohioans, feel free to insert local highway project that has been under construction since the Year Dot. (or, D.O.T.).
With Omegas: Cake Walk, I didn’t use someone else’s outlining formula. Instead, I created my own system which worked pretty well — it amounted to deciding the story would take place over a week and then breaking the story down day by day and deciding what would happen on each day. In terms of the story-week, I’m on Friday night, with everything Getting Real on Saturday and the wrapping up on Sunday so I’m getting close to the end!
The story I’m currently plotting — working title, Storm Warnings — is the first time I’ve used an established writer’s system and I have to say, I’m thinking of using this for all my shorter pieces and possibly also for longer pieces as well. Dividing the story into quarters makes it easier to think of it as interconnected parts. It also forces me to think about my middle and my ending rather than toploading all my creative energy on the beginning of the story, helping me to avoid notes like “Things happen, which leads to the conclusion which I’ll figure out at some point…”
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Another thing I did when I decided to make this story approximately 6,000 words long — I went and looked at the fanfic I’ve written in the past to see if I’d written anything that was about six thousand words. I knew I’d written a couple longer pieces (over 10,000 words), and a lot of short ones (under 3,000 words) but I didn’t think I’d written anything more mid-range and I was feeling insecure about my ability to write a nice, short, tight story.
I found one, a Transformers fanfic that was my attempt to explain what happened to the Combaticons after they were recaptured by Megatron at the end of the episode “Revenge of Bruticus. ” The story, “Payback” is actually one of my favorite fics that I’ve written. It was the second one I published back when I was writing and posting fanfics. You can click the link to read it (and I’ll be hiding in a metaphorical closet because you might be reading it — auuugh!).
Note: For those who know nothing about the original Transformers cartoon — the Combaticons were a combiner team (read: five robots who made a bigger robot so that Hasbro could sell six toys for the price of five) who tried to kill the evil Decepticon leader Megatron by pushing the Earth into the Sun for reasons that I’m sure made sense to them at the time. They failed because the Autobots and Decepticons joined forces to stop the ultimate form of global warming. And the next time they show up in the cartoon, they’re happily working for Megatron.
And on that note, I’m done for this post except to add that I’m planning on writing Storm Warnings and working on the end of Omegas: Cake Walk during Nanowrimo. Wish me luck! And good luck to you guys in your endeavors!
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