<![CDATA[Jane Ann McLachlan - Join The Conversation: My Blog, Your Response]]>Mon, 31 Jul 2017 23:12:25 -0700Weebly<![CDATA[Plotting For Pantsers]]>Thu, 27 Oct 2016 23:32:22 GMThttp://janeannmclachlan.com/join-the-conversation-my-blog-your-response/plotting-for-pantsersWith Nanowrimo nearly upon us, even pantsers (those who write by the seat of their pants, rather than plotting out the entire novel) are beginning to think they should do a little prep. So here are some basic questions I always start a new story (or memoir) off with.

The story  idea:
Most story ideas begin with a “What If” statement.
What if you fell down a hole into a strange new world? (Alice In Wonderland)
What if you received a two-minute glimpse of your future?? (Flashforward by R.J. Sawyer)
Write the “What If” statement for your story. 

The Characters:
Essentially your story is about people, and what they will do when put into in a certain situation.
Who is your heroine? Who is your hero? What is their relationship to each other?
List 5 personality traits for each of them, that make them interesting, unique, and likeable (they don’t have to be completely likeable, but there has to be at least one thing about them that is). List one bad trait (his/her weakness). What does each of them want (his/her goal in the story)?

The Conflict:
Conflict occurs when your protagonist(s) can't achieve his/her/their goals for some reason.
Why are their goals particularly hard to achieve? What or who is preventing it, and why?
List 2 or 3 complications that arise as the characters pursue their goals.
What conflict happens at the beginning of the story to start the whole journey?
How do you think it will end (optional - some pantsers don't like to know the ending before they write it.)

Now, what if you're writing a memoir?

Most memoirs are about something difficult or life-changing that happened to the author. An auto- biography goes from birth to death, but a memoir is about one part of your life: what happened, why, how you dealt with it, and your reflections on how it changed you.

To get at what part you want to write, where to start and end, ask yourself these questions:
What is the hardest or most life-changing thing that’s ever happened to me? When and how did it start?
If your challenge is a life-time condition, begin your story at an all-time low point, when you finally were forced to come to grips with it, and end at a high point, when you realized you could deal with it. You can still weave in anecdotes from earlier years as backstory.

You are the hero or heroine, but don’t forget that your reader doesn’t know anything about you. Write down 5-10 personality traits that are relevant to this experience. Traits that got you into it, traits that helped you get through it, and traits that changed because of it.
What did you want at the beginning and what did you want at the end (your goals)?

Complications: Why were your goals particularly hard to accomplish? What problems arose?
Who went through this with you?  How did they help or hinder you?
What did you learn? Or another way of putting it, How did you change?

And there you have it: how to prepare to write your story or memoir, even if you're a pantser (or just a procrastinator, like me!)
<![CDATA[Ethics and Science Fiction: Are They Asking Similar Questions? ]]>Sun, 04 Sep 2016 05:34:32 GMThttp://janeannmclachlan.com/join-the-conversation-my-blog-your-response/ethics-and-science-fiction-are-they-asking-similar-questionsScience and ethics in the Western world have followed a fascinatingly similar trajectory. Both our understanding of the natural world (and by that I include the workings of the human brain) and our understanding of virtue or moral behavior, had their roots in religion. Both struggled to enter the realm of logic, to be subject to the rational observation of cause and effect. And both hinge on the question, “What if…?”

So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that Socrates (470-399 B.C.), who is referred to as the father of western philosophy, and in particular ethics, indulged in a little speculative fiction himself. Plato, Socrates’ student, records a debate between Socrates and a Greek named Glaucon, in Book II of The Republic. They tell the story of a fictitious man named Gyges who finds a ring that makes him invisible when he turns it a certain way on his finger. When he realizes the ring’s power, he arranges to become one of the king’s messengers. In this position, with the help of the ring, Gyges is able to seduce the queen, murder the king and take over the kingdom.

H.G. Wells turns this story into his science fiction account of The Invisible Man, in which Griffin, a scientist who specializes in optics, invents a way to change a body's refraction so it doesn’t reflect light and becomes invisible. Like Gyges, Griffin is motivated by greed for power and prestige.

Tolkein also used the story of Gyges’ ring when he created the ring of power that turned its wearer invisible to all but the power of evil.

Socrates’ response to the story of Gyges is, in essence, that even though Gyges is able to escape all negative social repercussions of his behavior, immoral actions themselves have negative effects upon a person’s spirit, or soul, making one’s soul sick in the same way one’s body can become sick if not given exercise and healthy food. He would, I believe, be fascinated by both Wells’ and Tolkeins’ renditions of his story, because they each ask slightly different ethical questions. Wells examines the effect on a man—in this case a brilliant, egotistical and power-hungry man—of being invisible and therefore able to do whatever he pleases. However, Wells throws into the mix the fact that Griffin cannot turn off his invisibility, so the question also becomes, what if a man who already fancies himself above common humanity is totally cut off from social interaction with others?

Tolkein looks at the question from the other side. His protagonist, Frodo, is a humble, self-effacing character who does not want the ring or its power, but is pressured by circumstances to bear it to the place where it can be destroyed. Tolkein asks, what is the effect of power on a good person who does not seek it? Can he resist its temptation, and at what cost?

The point of this is not to demonstrate different reiterations of a theme, but to show how ethics is at the very heart of speculative fiction. How can we ethically use the knowledge and power that future scientific discoveries will give us? How can we avoid the consequences of using them unethically? Substitute ‘magic’ for ‘science’ and those two questions are key to fantasy, also. The best science fiction does not simply imagine scientific advances—that’s simple speculation without any story—and the best fantasy does not simply portray an imaginative world—that’s simply world-building, not storytelling.

Take any story you love in all the realms of speculative fiction, and at its core you will find an ethical question: “What should we do if this (time travel, terra-forming other planets, AI, seeing into the future, shape-shifting, using magic) were possible?”

If you want to write a memorable story, give your characters an ethical dilemma to resolve. And then, raise the stakes by twisting it, as Wells did, adding extra dimensions and moral issues.

I can’t begin writing a novel until I know clearly what that question at the heart of this book, will be. Everything emerges from that question: the characters, their motives and goals, the plot, the setting. My first science fiction novel, Walls of Wind, began with the question: “How should we behave toward those who are so different from us that we can barely communicate, let alone understand each other? Is it enough to co-exist peacefully, or should we try for more?” And then I twisted it further into the question: “What if males and females were two different species?”

My young adult science fiction novel, The Occasional Diamond Thief, also begins with an ethical question facing the protagonist: “What if you learned your father was a thief? Would you follow in his footsteps, learn his "trade"? If you were the only one who knew, would you keep his secret?” And then I follow my teenage protagonist as she deals with the consequences of her ethical choices.

Socrates is referred to as “the father of Western ethics” because of his enduring influence in that field. Perhaps he should also be called the favorite uncle of speculative fiction?
<![CDATA[Meet Me in Calgary, August 12-14]]>Mon, 25 Jul 2016 14:51:01 GMThttp://janeannmclachlan.com/join-the-conversation-my-blog-your-response/july-25th-2016My new book, The Salarian Desert Game, will be available this August, and I will be in Calgary with my publisher, EDGE Publishing, to launch it at the literary convention, WhenWordsCollide! Join us at the Delta South in Calgary!

Here's my schedule:
Friday 2 PM Canmore Jane Ann McLachlan 
     Panel - Writing the Young Adult Novel
Friday 3 PM: Canmore Rm, Jane Ann McLachlan
     Panel: Ratings, Trigger Warnings, and Language
Friday 4 PM: Waterton Rm, Jane Ann McLachlan
      Panel: Literary Leanings in Genre Fiction
Saturday 11 AM: Kananaskis 1 Rm, EDGE New Releases party – available for autographs
Saturday 12 PM Canmore Rm, Jane Ann McLachlan 
      Panel: The Business of Being a YA Writer
Saturday 1 PM Kananaskis 2 Rm, Jane Ann McLachlan 
     Panel: The Importance of Theme, in Your Genre Story
Saturday 2 PM Canmore Rm, Jane Ann McLachlan 
      Panel: Survival Tips for Readings/Book Launches
Sat 5 pm- 5:30 pm - autographing table, EDGE books     in the Sellers room
Saturday 8 PM Parkland Rm, Jane Ann McLachlan  
      Mass Autograph Session (8-10 pm)
Sunday 12 PM Acadia Rm, Jane Ann McLachlan
   Presentation/Workshop: The Ethics Behind the Story
Sunday 1 PM Waterton Rm, Jane Ann McLachlan      
     Panel: Creating a Language for your Alien Character
Sunday 2 PM Waterton Rm, Jane Ann McLachlan
     Panel: Historical Romance for a Modern Audience
Sunday 4 PM Parkland Rm, Jane Ann McLachlan
     Panel: Hook Me
Sunday 5 pm- 5:30 - autographing table, EDGE books     in the Sellers room

I hope to meet you there!
<![CDATA[Cover Reveal]]>Wed, 16 Mar 2016 18:14:50 GMThttp://janeannmclachlan.com/join-the-conversation-my-blog-your-response/cover-revealA cover reveal is an important day. After you've sweated blood over writing, re-writing, and editing the manuscript, someone else has turned your concept into a single image. If you're lucky, it resonates with you and captures beautifully the concept, mood, and mystery of your story. If you're even luckier, it also resonates with readers.

For those of us who work with words, there's something magical about seeing the image that represents all those words. It's the ultrasound image of your baby, the proof that something living has grown inside you. It's the last step before holding that book in your hands.

Please like, share, comment and REJOICE with me as I reveal my upcoming book!

Birth date:
August 8th in Canadian bookstores
September 5th in US bookstores
<![CDATA[Seven Tips for Writing Your First Draft Quickly]]>Tue, 27 Oct 2015 07:01:57 GMThttp://janeannmclachlan.com/join-the-conversation-my-blog-your-response/6-tips-for-writing-your-first-draft-quicklyOctober 27, 2015. Welcome to my October Blog Challenge on preparing to write your novel. This post is about the seven best tips I've ever heard, and used, for decreasing the time it takes to get your first draft written, by doing three things: start writing sooner, keep writing longer, and write faster by not breaking your flow.

1. Turn off the editor - One side of your brain is creative, the other side is analytical. Trying to create and edit at the same time is like running two complex programs simultaneously. So focus on creating--you can always edit it later. If, while you are creating the story, you can't think of a word,or of the best word. leave three hyphens (two hyphens are a dash) where the word should go, or write down several words/expressions/nouns (that's how I do it) that would work and pick the right one later, when you're editing.

2. Turn off the researcher - Don't stop your creative flow to check a fact or do more research. Instead, write a word to cue yourself to research this later. Choose one that isn't a common word in your text, so you can use "Find" to find it, such as NOTE, RESEARCH, or CHECK.

3. Stop writing at the end of each session in the middle of a paragraph - or in the middle of a sentence. When you pick up again the next day, it will be easy to finish that thought, and that will get you writing again quickly.

4. Set a daily word count quota. Having a daily goal will increase your output and give you a sense of success. 50,000 words is intimidating and progress can seem discouragingly slow; 1,500 is much more doable.

5. Read your notes on the next section you're about to write just before going to bed. Let your subconscious mind work for you while you sleep. When I do this, I wake up with entire scenes in my mind, ready to be written.

6. If #3 & #5 don't get you writing as soon as you sit down, try doing a short meditation or reading the last paragraph you wrote (not to edit it, just to get back into the story) or write a page of stream-of-consciousness thoughts, before you begin writing your story.

7. Overcome your inner resistance.
Write 3 pages or 1000 words as quickly as you can: list every fear or anxiety you have about being successful at NaNoWriMo and how you will overcome each one. Define what being "successful" at writing your novel looks like to you, and visualize that success in daily words on the page.

Do you have a trick that speeds up your writing? Please leave a comment sharing it. We can all learn from each other.
<![CDATA[Preparing To Write Your Novel: Putting It All Together]]>Mon, 26 Oct 2015 04:41:06 GMThttp://janeannmclachlan.com/join-the-conversation-my-blog-your-response/preparing-to-write-your-novel-putting-it-all-togetherOctober 26, 2015. In this blog challenge, you've reflected, answered questions and made notes on all the important aspects of your novel, from probing your characters to writing your outline. Now it's time to put it all together in a form you can follow easily while you're writing.

(Those who are just arriving, please read  the earlier posts on this challenge, as the exercises/ reflections build on each other. To find out what this challenge is about, read my original post  HERE.)

1. The first sheet you'll need is the one with your answers to the 8 questions on the Inherent Conflict in your novel. (Blog post on Oct. 19) You need to keep these front and center while writing.

2. Write or type the numbers 1 to 25, widely spaced, on a piece of paper. These are the chapters in your novel. Review your answers to the 5 questions in the post on Beginning your Novel, on Oct. 20. Those answers go beside the first 3-4 chapters.

3. Review your answers to the 7 questions on the post concerning the Inciting Incident, on Oct. 21. Those answers go beside chapters 4-6.

4. Review your answers to the 9 questions in the post on the first half of the Dreaded Middle, Oct. 22.  Put those answers on your sheet as follows:
Chapter 7 - answer to question 1
Chapter 8 - answer to questions 2 & 3
Chapter 9 - answer to question 4
Chapter 10 - answer to question 5 & 6
Chapter 11 - answer to question 7
Chapter 12 - answer to question 8
Chapter 13 - answer to question 9

5. Review your answers to the 9 questions on the post on the second half of the middle (after the mid-point crisis), Will I be Stuck in the Middle Forever, Oct. 23. Put these answers on your sheet as follows:
Chapter 14 - answer to question 1 above
Chapter 15 - answer to questions 2 & 3
Chapter 16 - answer to question 4
Chapter 17 - answer to question 5
Chapter 18 - answer to question 8 & 9
Chapter 19 - answer to question 6
Chapter 20 - answer to question 7

6. Review your answers to the 6 questions in the post on the final chapters, The End at Last, Oct. 24. Put these answers on your sheet as follows:
Chapter 21 - answer to question 2
Chapter 22 - answer to question 1
Chapter 23 - answer to question 3
Chapter 24 - answer to question 4
Chapter 25 - answer to questions 5 & 6

There you have it - a complete plan for your novel!

Join me tomorrow for tips on how to get your first draft down on paper quickly.

Please leave a comment, tweet or like this page. We can all learn from each other. See you tomorrow!]]>
<![CDATA[Preparing Your Novel: The End, At Last!]]>Sat, 24 Oct 2015 04:34:26 GMThttp://janeannmclachlan.com/join-the-conversation-my-blog-your-response/preparing-your-novel-the-end-at-lastOctober 24, 2015. Welcome to my Blog Challenge on preparing your novel. Those who are just arriving, do check out the earlier posts on this challenge, as the exercises/ reflections build on each other. To find out  more about this challenge, read my original post  HERE.

This section takes up the last quarter of your novel, or perhaps a little less.  

1. What last, desperate push or sacrifice does your protagonist take to accomplish his/her goal?

2. How does he/she finally reveal his secret or face her weakness, and overcome it? What does he/she do that he/she swore he/she would never do? Why?

3. Why is your protagonist's last effort successful? How successful is it?

4. What is the cost of this victory: To the protagonist? To the antagonist? To the friend, the mentor and the love interest? In what way is each of them changed forever, particularly the protagonist?

5. The protagonist's world has forever changed. Describe the new world and his/her relationship to it.

These five questions must be answered in the last 4-6 chapters of your novel. In a stand-alone novel, they are usually answered completely, although there are exceptions -  for example, in Gone With the Wind, Scarlett is determined to get Rhett back, and we are left hoping she will. In a book that is part of a series, it's more common to leave some threads dangling, a hint of things to come, which will be followed up in the next book in the series.

6. will you close off all your story lines, or leave some open for a future novel? If the latter, what will you leave open?

You've worked hard - your novel is planned and outlined, you're ready to write. Take the weekend to tweak the ideas you've worked on, or add to them. On Monday, I'll be back with tips for writing your first draft in record time.

Please comment, tweet or like this post. See you tomorrow!]]>
<![CDATA[Preparing Your Novel: Will I Be Stuck Here in the Middle Forever??]]>Fri, 23 Oct 2015 05:59:29 GMThttp://janeannmclachlan.com/join-the-conversation-my-blog-your-response/preparing-your-novel-will-i-be-stuck-here-in-the-middle-foreverOctober 23, 2015. Welcome to my Blog Challenge on preparing your novel. Those who are just arriving, do check out the earlier posts on this challenge, as the exercises/ reflections build on each other. To find out  more about this challenge, read my original post  HERE.

We are now entering the second half of the middle, otherwise known as Part III or Act II b. The further we get from the beginning, the harder it is to plot specifics - unless, of course, you are a firm plotter. Your characters may have surprised you by now, your enthusiasm and energy may be depleting, and the end is still a long way from sight. Hard as it may be, the more you have outlined in advance, the (relatively) easier it will be to get through this part.

Yesterday's post left off with the mid-point crisis or turning point. As you start the second half of your novel, you need to show the fall-out from that.

1. How does your protagonist respond to the mid-point obstacle? How will he/she overcome it? What does that cost him/her?

2. How do his/her friend/mentor/love interest react to it?

3. How does the antagonist respond to the protagonist's overcoming it? What does this failure cost him/her? NOTE: the protagonist may, in exhaustion, consider giving up, but the antagonist can never doubt himself or think for one minute of giving up.

4. How are all of the relationships between the characters changing as the journey progresses?

5. Has the protagonist's attitude toward the goal changed in any way? If so, how? 

6. Part III ends with the climax, the hardest obstacle yet, the third turning point of the novel. At this point, all seems lost, the protagonist is worse off that he/she was at the beginning despite all his/her attempts to achieve the goal, and is on the point of giving up. How will you show this scene? 

7. What morally significant choice is your protagonist faced with at this point? (The thing he/she would NEVER do) Why MUST he/she do it?

8. How has the protagonist brought him/her self to this point? What fatal weakness or secret has the antagonist taken advantage of in the protagonist?

9. What fatal weakness in the antagonist will the protagonist be able to use to resolve this final obstacle?

Once again, this looks like a lot to cover in one exercise, but this can be just a rough outline of the main markers, to keep you on track as you are writing.

Please comment, tweet, or like this post. Happy outlining! See you tomorrow.
<![CDATA[Preparing Your Novel: the Dreaded Middle!]]>Fri, 23 Oct 2015 03:25:54 GMThttp://janeannmclachlan.com/join-the-conversation-my-blog-your-response/preparing-your-novel-the-dreaded-middleOctober 22, 2015. Welcome to my Blog Challenge on preparing your novel. Those who are just arriving, do check out the earlier posts on this challenge, as the exercises/ reflections build on each other. To find out  more about this challenge, read my original post  HERE.

Part II (Act II a) begins with the protagonist leaving behind (literally or symbolically) the world as he/she knows it. This section takes up 50% of your novel and must include two more sets of obstacles and turning points. The second obstacle-followed-by-turning-point occurs half-way through part II (the mid-point of the novel), when the protagonist fully commits to the new larger goal and becomes pro-active. (Previously, he/she was merely reactive, responding to the inciting incident.)

1. How will you show the protagonist literally or figuratively leaving his/her old world behind?

2. What is the protagonist's new goal, the goal created by the inciting incident, which will be his/her over-reaching goal for the novel?

3. How does this new goal conflict with the antagonist's goal?

4.  What is the first obstacle or conflict that occurs as a result of the protagonist's decision at the end of part I, or because of the conflict with the antagonist's goal? 

5. How does the protagonist respond/react to this obstacle? What strengths does he/she use to overcome it? 

6. How will you hint at an inner flaw or secret that may prevent the protagonist from overcoming future, more difficult obstacles? (maintaining tension)

7. How do the protagonist's friend, mentor, and love interest respond to this new obstacle?

8. How does the antagonist respond/react to the protagonist overcoming this obstacle?

9. What second, major obstacle and consequent turning point will occur at the end of Part II? How will you show it to be a direct result of the protagonist's way of dealing with the previous obstacle or of his/her inner flaw or weakness? What is it about this obstacle that will make the protagonist fully commit to the goal and become proactive in pursuing it and/or in defeating the antagonist?

This looks like a lot to cover in one exercise, but we are not doing a detailed outline, just a rough outline of the main markers, to keep you on track as you are writing.

Please leave a comment or tweet or like this post to share it. We can all learn from each other. See you tomorrow!
<![CDATA[Preparing Your Novel: The Inciting Incident and the First Choice]]>Thu, 22 Oct 2015 03:29:21 GMThttp://janeannmclachlan.com/join-the-conversation-my-blog-your-response/preparing-your-novel-the-inciting-incident-and-the-first-choiceOctober 21, 2015. Welcome to my Blog Challenge on preparing your novel. Those who are just arriving, do check out the earlier posts on this challenge, as the exercises/ reflections build on each other. To find out  more about this challenge, read my original post  HERE.

In the second half of part I (or Act I) the protagonist is forced to change - against his/her will. He/she must be put in a position where she has to embark on her journey. This is called the "INCITING INCIDENT". Something happens which forces the protagonist to make a choice or a decision which will change his/her life forever, even if he doesn't realize it at the time.

1. What is the inciting incident that occurs at the beginning of your story and starts the action of the story?

2. What does the protagonist have to choose between? What are the stakes involved in either choice?

3. What morally significant choice does the protagonist make? Why does he/she choose this?

This is the first turning point of your story. It is also the end of the hook. Now it's time to start building suspense. The protagonist realises he/she has done something irrevocable; this is serious, he/she could lose everything. From now until the final climax, you will be building tension and suspense to keep the reader interested.

4. What is the protagonist's inner, emotional reaction to this decision? When does he/she realizes what this choice will mean?

5. What is the antagonist's emotional reaction to this decision? Why? How does it affect him/her? 

6. What is the emotional reaction of the protagonist's friend/mentor/love interest to this decision?

7. How will you hint at the secret/backstory/flaw that could cause your protagonist to fail completely? (Building tension here)
These questions should all be covered by the end of the first six chapters (or 1/4 length) of your novel. This is the end of part I of your story. Your protagonist is about to embark on his/her journey.

Please leave a comment, or tweet or like this post. We can all learn from each other. See you tomorrow!