Thursday, April 13, 2017

Playing with the Grid

For several days I've been working on hanging my Long Summer Run novel on the Story Grid. If you don't know what I'm talking about, check out Shawn Coyne's website, The Story Grid or the podcast by the same name.

As I mentioned somewhere previously, I've been studying story structure for a few months now because I just felt I was missing something. Rather than wallow in self-pity and moan over my writer's block, I decided to do something constructive. So, I read Story Architecture, checked out Story Engineer, and started listing to the Story Grid podcast. Story Architecture helped me get a handled on different types of stories and plots. It is an exhaustive collection and well written and organized. Story Engineer was so poorly written I finally sent it back to the library less than half finished and feeling as if I'd never get it. After checking out the reviews of the book I felt better because I wasn't the only one.

Then, I found That The Story Grid wasn't just a podcast but there is a website and a book. Of course, I opted for the cheaper version. I visited the website and found the topics I'd listened to in the podcast and read up on them.

The sensation of dawning understanding is truly a beautiful thing. The sun came up and I think I actually smelled flowers. The breeze ruffled my hair. Things came together and made sense. Not everything but enough that I felt energized. As I listened to the podcast and read the articles, my mind was skimming through my novels and fitting the pieces together. Oh, this goes there. That fits there. That sort of thing. You know.

This week I sat down and began with The Long Summer Run. I wanted to start with them all. There's only seven. I forced myself to stick with one. For a few moments, I felt a bit squeamish. How was I going to do this? Coyne uses a Kubler-Ross Curve for Story. It would mean handwriting the whole process and I'm not up to that. Do I use an actual grid, like in Excel or do the curve? Since I use Scrivener I figured the ideal would be to use that. But how? It isn't like there's a template for it.

In the podcast, Coyne limits himself to the three act structure. At least in the ones I've heard thus far. The Story Architect also shows mostly three acts. In fact, it seems to be the universal norm, although there could be half a dozen acts. I decided to follow the herd.

I created three folders in Scrivener and titled them Act 1, Act 2, Act 3. Coyne talks about "The Math" and I encourage you to read that article on his site. He breaks down the construction so clearly that I decided to use the 100,000 word set up. This particular novel is almost that now. It may come out to less but I've got more to add and will just stick with this for now. It breaks down this way: 25,000 words in Act 1, 50,000 in Act 2, and 25,000 in Act 3. He says that the story may not line up exactly on that word count but if it is well structured, it will come close. The division is based on the length of the story and you'll understand better if you read the article. A good example would be if your story were 80,000 words. Then the breakdown would be  20,000 - 40,000 - 20,000. In my case, that would put my Act 1 over.

What I've been doing is moving my scenes into these folders based on where they fall in the structure. I've finished Act 1 and was surprised that my word count fell almost exactly on 25K, almost at the point it was supposed to end. I'm working on Act 2 now and the truth is, this is where the problems lie for me. I'll be interested to see how it comes out. I've actually got some of Act 3 written and as it seems I am at a point I'm ready to toss everything out the window, I may stop working on two and move to three to give me some balance.

Regardless of what I do next, this feels like this method will help me fix some problems so I can finish it and move on. I can already see a number of problems. Now I just have to figure out how best to solve them. The good news is it feels as if I can solve them.

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