Anatomy of a Summary (NaNoWriMo Prep Part 4)

Remember that literary plot we used to learn about all the time in elementary school? You know, we’d read a book in class and then we’d have to do some sort of project or essay about it. It often included summarizing what you read.

Well, apparently that’s more useful than we ever imagined. Who knew that we’d actually be using something we learned in school later on in life?

Anatomy of a Summary: NaNoWriMo 2016 prep

There are five parts of a novel:

1. Exposition
2. Rising action
3. Climax
4. Falling action
5. Resolution

Normally, we would summarize our novels after we’ve written them. That would make the most sense. But, if you’re a planner, this is a decent start.

Even if you’re a pantser, this is something good to have before or after you write your novel. It’s the bare minimum of details and it goes a long way when summarizing your novel.

What is the exposition?

The exposition is the beginning of the novel. Introduce the novel including the main characters, setting, and conflict.

What is the rising action?

The rising action is your protagonist attempting to solve the problem at hand. In most cases, they fail the first time or so.

What is the climax?

The climax is the turning point of the story. It’s the most suspenseful, it makes or breaks whatever your protagonist is going through.

What is the falling action?

Just like the rising action, the falling action is actions that happen after the climax. The rising action and falling action just help us get from point A to point B.

What is the resolution?

The resolution of the story is the conclusion. The problems are solved, everyone lives happily ever after… Or rocks fall and everyone dies. Do with that what you will.

As I stated earlier, this is something that you would typically do after your novel is complete. However, if you’re trying to outline and get a feel for what you want to happen, I think this is a great starting point.

If you’re a pantser, try this out anyway. You may have more information figured out than you realize. And that can help drive you from one point to the other when you start writing.

I remember I hated writing summaries when I was in school. I understand this literary plot to a point, but in the end it was always homework to me. Now that I’m older and I’m using it for my own creative writing, I’ve realized how helpful (and easy) it is.

How do you typically summarize your novels?

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My Planning Process

Yesterday I discussed different outlining methods for your novel. I talked about three techniques, but there are many more. Many are out there on the Internet and others are private between the novel and the author.

So today, I’m going to share my magnificent outlining secret!

Not really… I’m pretty sure I’ve seen people use this way before even though I thought I made it up myself.

All you need are six items: index cards, post-it notes, a pen, a pencil, a notebook, and tape. I like to use the bigger index cards to fit more notes. I also use colored index notes to make it look pretty. Same goes for the post-it notes; use pretty colors (but that’s totally optional). I use a pen to write on the index cards and post-it notes (because that’s what a pen is for). I use the pencil to number each post-it note (I’ll explain further in a minute). I use a notebook to put the post-it notes and the index cards. I use the tape to hold the index cards in place on the pages.

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I’ll use Detective Florence 2 as an example of this untitled outlining method. I have a total of ten index cards (there may end up being more). On one card I wrote a list of characters in the novel; main, secondary, minor, etc. I also wrote their ages and their purpose in the story. The list was too long so I taped a second index card on the bottom to continue the list. One card has a list of plot points; questions that need to be answered by the end of the book. One card is a general list of notes about plot, setting, characters, anything. Since DF2 is a mystery novel, two of the index cards are death details; “who, what, where, why, how, when” questions and answers. Two cards are the culprits plans; again, the who, why, what, etc. questions. It’s a lot of repetition, but mysteries have a lot of information that need to be remembered. I also have an index card with a list of dates and a small summary of what the characters did on each date. It helps keep track of the times and days in the novel for the characters. The last card is editing points, which I don’t create until I start the editing process.

I tape those down on the first few pages of the notebook, as shown above.

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The rest of the pages are filled with post-it notes. I use the pen to write in each scene on post-it notes. Each scene takes multiple post-its because I do a minute-by-minute summary. I don’t say, “this will happen in this scene.” I say, “George will do this” then “Lilah will say that.” Post-it notes are small and my handwriting is big; but I think it’s more helpful to be more detailed rather than give a general summary of each scene. I like to lay each scene out so I know exactly what to do next. Sometimes it changes, but that’s okay; at least I start off with a plan.

That’s exactly why I use post-it notes. If something changes, I can easily add, take out, or simply rearrange the notes. That’s also where the pencil comes in. I number each post-it note–despite they’re already in order in the notebook–so if I move them around I can erase and re-number them instead of crossing out the numbers with a pen.

Since I’ve already edited the manuscript once, some post-its got moved around. Others got cut completely. However, you should never waste an idea you once thought was good or needed. So, in the back of the notebook I stack all the unused ideas together. Some might end up back in the novel and others might appear in the sequel. You just never know.

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If you look closely at the picture, you’ll see there are 15 notes that didn’t make the cut this time around.

Now, why do I use a notebook? When I first thought of this method I used a giant poster and stuck everything on there. I hung it on the wall behind my desk for easy access as I wrote and edited. The thing was, the post-it notes kept falling off the more I moved them around. They lost their stick so I tried taping them down like I did with the index cards. That just ripped the poster so I would have to replace the tape each time I moved a note. It was more tedious than it needed to be.

So I decided to use a notebook. I can close the cards and notes inside so they don’t fall off and they don’t get crinkled up. Plus, you can see from the pictures that there is still some room (mostly just the margins) to add in notes about the notes.

This method is easy, flexible, and doesn’t take much time. That’s why I love it so much. So feel free to try it out for yourselves, regardless of what genre you’re working on. I hope it works just as well for you as it does for me.

 

Outlining: Tips And Ideas

To outline or not to outline… that is the question.

Last week I wrote a post called, “Why Outline?” The title is pretty self-explanatory. Why should you outline your novel? I gave a list of a few (good) reasons, but ultimately the choice is yours whether you want to outline your novel or not. It’s no big deal if you decide not to.

However, if you do decide to outline your novel here are a few interesting ways to do so (if you don’t already have a particular way to outline).

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

The Snowflake Method: Show of hands: who has heard of this before? I have, but have I ever used it? No. I had to do a bit of research for this one because I didn’t really know what it’s about. Basically, it’s a 10-step process on how to organize your writing. You start from a small summary of the novel and go from there. The last step is to begin your first draft.

Now I know it seems like a lot of steps just to go from idea to first draft, but the idea behind it is to start small and take baby steps in organizing your mind and thoughts.

This is to ensure you don’t miss anything while you write the story. All the scenes will be laid out for you, all the characters will be unique and have a certain purpose, and (hopefully) there will be no plot holes.

Does this mean you won’t have to do any editing when the first draft is done? Of course not.

That would be too easy.

Via Pinterest
Via Pinterest

The Skeletal Outline: You know that pyramid thing you learn in elementary/middle school? Well, some people actually put that to good use when they write their novels.

They use this pyramid (plot diagram, according to the picture) to summarize each part. Each part being the exposition, the rising action, the climax, the falling action, and the resolution. By summarizing, you write certain scenes you want, describe what the characters are going to do and what’s going to happen to them, etc.

Some people use bullet points to highlight key concepts in each part. Personally, I think the bullet points would be easier. Then again, it wouldn’t be as detailed… unless you use a lot of bullet points.

Like the Snowflake Method, I do not use this method. To be honest, I don’t even think of my novels in terms of exposition, rising/falling action, climax, resolution, what have you. I just kind of go with the flow and write the scenes in order as they would go.

However, if I had to choose between these two methods, I think I would go for the skeletal outline. I enjoy making lists and the pyramid seems to do just that. Then again, I’m sure you could modify each method to make a unique one that works specifically for you.

20150124_151016Chapter Summary: This is how I used to outline. Way back when I wrote fan fiction. 11 years ago. Wow.

Anyway, I have no idea if anyone has ever outlined like this before, but it worked for me way back when. I don’t use that way now, but I still think it’s a decent way to outline your novel.

All I did was summarize each chapter. It’s that simple. As you can see from the picture, it ultimately looks like a block of letters (especially with my handwriting). The highlighted parts show a new chapter. Everything written after each highlight is a summary of that chapter.

I explain what scenes are going to be in the chapter, sometimes I add in some dialogue I would like some characters to say… I even have notes that say things such as: “foreshadowing… yay!” You know, so I remember how to write my plot so readers can figure out the foreshadowing, symbolism, and all that fun stuff. I especially make those notes when I realize I foreshadowed without meaning to. It’s like your subconscious is smarter than you.

There you have it. Three different ways to outline your novel, plus more (if you click on the links below). Two I’ve never used and one I used to use all the time. Everyone works differently and at their own pace. So the outlines listed above may or may not work for you; especially if outlining isn’t even your thing. However, it never hurts to try.

As stated before (many times, actually) I use my own method I made up. Well, I thought I made it up, but I have seen it floating around on the Internet. It’d be pretty cool if I had my own method, though. It’s different, but similar to the chapter summary I used to do.

But more on that tomorrow.

Further Reading:

The Snowflake Method for Designing a Novel
8 Ways to Outline a Novel
7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story

Book Review: Deathly Hallows

Via Goodreads
Via Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads):

Harry is waiting in Privet Drive. The Order of the Phoenix is coming to escort him safely away without Voldemort and his supporters knowing – if they can. But what will Harry do then? How can he fulfill the momentous and seemingly impossible task that Professor Dumbledore has left him?
The epic finale to an epic series.

I can’t begin to explain the amount of feels I have for this book; for this series. I am way behind on the times when it comes to reading this series and finally read it because I needed to read it for school. I read the first six books within a couple of months, but it took me a little while to read the last one.

I think maybe it was because I knew how it ended (according to the movie) and I didn’t want it to end. There are so many things in the books that did not happen in the movies, the books made me appreciate the Harry Potter world so much more. I don’t know why I have never read the books before.

However, I finally decided to read the last novel and I cried through half of it. Most were sad tears with a few characters dying, but some were happy tears.

Overall, I am satisfied with the ending of the novel, but like many others, I want more. I’m sad that the series ended and despite how different the movies are, I just want to sit on the couch all day and marathon all eight movies.

Favorite Quote:

“‘Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?'” –Albus Dumbledore, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Book Review: Walt Disney

Via Goodreads
Via Goodreads

Summary (from Goodreads):

Walt Disney is an American hero–the creator of Mickey Mouse, and a man who changed the face of American culture. After years of research, with the full cooperation of the Disney family and access to private papers and letters, Bob Thomas produced the definitive biography of the man behind the legend–the unschooled cartoonist from Kansas City who went bankrupt on his first movie venture but became the genius who produced unmatched works of animation. Complete with a rare collection of photographs, Bob Thomas’ biography is a fascinating and inspirational work that captures the spirit of Walt Disney.

I bought this book when l found a cute store called The Writers Stop at Disney. I discovered a lot of brand new things about Walt Disney down there so l decided to buy his biography to learn some more.

Recently, l watched the movie “Saving Mr. Banks” with my sister and parents and that got me in the mood to finally read the biography.

The book is 360 pages and it’s very detailed. Bob Thomas, the author, did a great job explaining Walt Disney’s life. Apparently the author has written many other biographies. So even if Walt Disney isn’t your kind of guy, l would look up who else Bob Thomas wrote about.

Favorite Quote:

“Imagination is an intuitive thing; I think it’s something you’re born with. But it has to be developed.” –Walt Disney, from “Walt Disney: An American Original”