Category Archives: Frank Morin

Writing Stories – One Layer at a Time

Shrek - LayersI love in Shrek when he tells Donkey that ogres are like onions. They have layers. Even though Donkey suggests layered cake would be a better image, the onion analogy really works.

Books can be like ogres, onions, or cake, depending on the day and how your current scene is going. They’ve got lots of layers, and sometimes discovering a new layer can dramatically affect how we approach a work in progress.

Diving deep into a new novel during a focused writing burst like Nano can really help the story come alive in ways impossible to do when we’re outlining or planning or just writing a chapter a week. When we get deep into the zone, we can see things about the story we might have never imagined. We peel back the outer layers of plot, setting, and outer conflict to some of the deeper layers of motivation, inner struggle, and world view of our characters that shape their decisions and how they react to the world.

Those moments of discovery are awesome for both pantsers and plotters, and they’re key to ensuring that a story is deepened as well as broadened. We need to feel the heart of a story and make sure all of those layers align. Until we know those layers and make sure they build upon each other in a solid, optimized way, there’s at least one more draft that still needs to be done.

I’ve learned the hard way that even when I thoroughly outline a story, I don’t really know that story until I’ve worked through all those layers. I might write a huge 200,000 word draft that only touches on the outer layers. It’s not until I begin working edits and diving deeper that the true story emerges. Sometimes that requires some pretty substantial rewrites, but that’s a necessary price to pay for producing a professional quality story. If we quit before that, we’ve cheated the story and ourselves.

Here are a few things to ask yourself about your story to check your progress and make sure you haven’t missed any important layers:

  • Is your plot finished? Do you have a solid arc, including your plot points? Do you know the ending?
  • Is your setting well defined? Are the locations where scenes take place fleshed out with sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch? Is your blocking clear and easy for readers to follow?
  • Is your main protagonist’s challenge clearly defined, with a clear antagonistic force in place, with rising stakes.
  • Do you know what motivates your protagonist? Your antagonist? Other main characters? Why do they see the world the way they do, and are they open to changing that world view, learning, and growing, or are they fixed, closed-minded, and set in their ways?
  • What is your protagonist’s inner struggle?
  • What do other characters struggle with? How do they handle stress? How do they handle change?

If you can answer all of those questions with confidence, you’re well on your way. Keep charging ahead to the end. If you’re not sure, take a few minutes to think about these layers and consider how answering them might add depth and meaning to your story.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinRune Warrior coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers Urban Fantasy/Historical thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

NaNo – The Day After

Write Today - And Keep WritingLike many writers, new and experienced, you may be gearing up for a dedicated writing month in November, eager to crack that 50,000 word goal of NaNoWriMo. Good luck! I hope you nail it. I hope you hit 50,000 words with days to spare.

Then what?

The fun thing about NaNoWriMo and setting a big writing goal is that it should help you develop new or improved habits. If you manage to write every day for a month, make sure you’ve got plans to keep writing afterward. Don’t drop your 50,000 word start of a novel into a drawer and wait until next year.

Writing is a long-term race, but the NaNo sprint can get you off to a great start. Now push on to the finish. 50,000 words should equate to roughly half a regular novel. It’s about a quarter to a third of one of mine. It’s long enough to be a significant portion of a finished draft.

If you’re a pantser, you should have wandered through the fog far enough to maybe have an inkling of the ending. At the least, you’ll understand major characters, important scenes, and the most compelling conflicts. All of these components can now be fine-tuned and targeted toward a high-powered conclusion.

If you’re an outliner, you should be far along the track you planned. By now you know whether or not the outline was spot on, or spotty. If everything is firing as planned, keep charging ahead to that elegant, rewarding conclusion you’ve already envisioned. If your journey through NaNo has identified flaws in the outline, this is a great time to pause, reconsider, rework, and retarget.

I hope your goal is completing a novel. NaNo offers a wonderful opportunity to plow through much of the rough first draft, generating excitement for the revisions and edits to come. The story is what’s important, and it’s our job to keep working that manuscript until we tell the real story, including everything we need to make it compelling, while stripping out all the excess baggage that just gets in the way.

So enjoy NaNo. Hit your goal. Then keep going.

I’m looking forward to seeing the finished product.

SLC Comicon – Partr 2 – As a Vendor

SLC ComiconEarlier this month, I talked about SLC comicon, which I have attended multiple times. In the past, I attended as one of the authors participating with the Bard’s Tower. Those experiences were awesome. I not only learned a ton about how to run a successful vendor booth, but I loved meeting and networking with all the other authors and cross-selling each others’ books.

I just returned from yet another SLC comicon, and for the first time I was an official vendor. I shared a booth with author and friend, Gama Ray Martinez. (check out his books – they’re great).

I had actually planned to just join the Bard’s Tower group again, but they’re so popular, they had too many authors already signed up. Gama mentioned that he was interested in going as a vendor, and it made a ton of sense to split the cost of a 10×10 booth, share the space, and sell our books there.

How did it go?

Extremely well. We both sold a lot of books, covered our booth costs, and had a great time. I can’t say I made a profit, but I came closer than ever before. Besides the direct booth expenses, I have to factor in the cost of the books, hotels for myself and my family (Yes, I brought my own minions to help out), gas, food, etc.

What worked well?

There are several benefits to sharing a booth. Besides the obvious benefit of splitting the cost, you’ve got someone to chat with, cross-sell with, and brainstorm the best way to make the booth work. We got more space on the table than we would have if we joined a larger group. Additionally, we were both panelists at the convention, and it was easy for one of us to cover the booth while the other one headed out to a panel. Or, if we needed a restroom or food break, we didn’t have to leave the booth unattended. All that stress was gone.

And of course the best benefit is getting to meet so many people. Here are a few who posed with one of my books. The Assassins always choose Memory Hunter because that series is described as Mission Impossible meets Assassin’s Creed. Fun stuff.

Memory Hunter Assassin 2 Memory Hunter Fairy Memory Hunter Assassin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What could have been a problem?

Gama and I didn’t have any major issues, but it’s important to recognize that there are potential hazards with sharing a booth like we did. Make sure you’re a good fit with your partner and that the agreement is clear.

  1. Money. How to collect and track sales? We could have each handled our sales separately, but what if someone wanted to buy books from both of us? This actually happened more than once. We decided that we would use Gama’s Square account. That way only one of us had to apply for a Utah state tax license and we could sell all of our books through the same account. That meant all sales had to be tracked, both cash and credit. Gama will pay the tax and send me my net profit. I have access to the account, so there’s no question of trustworthiness, not that I would ever doubt Gama, but this way there’s no chance for the problem to come up.
  2. Stealing each other’s sales. Our books target similar audiences, so we could have run into issues with each of us trying to sell over the other and in effect stealing the other’s sales. We didn’t have that problem because we both acted like professionals. We did have an instance where one of my over-eager kids interrupted Gama’s pitch to pitch one of my books too, but we discussed that and made sure everyone understood the importance of giving each of us the necessary space to work. We actually ended up cross-selling each other’s books quite a bit. The goal is always to find the book that best fits the reader’s tastes. We both made sales, and readers are happy. They’ll buy again.
  3. There are certainly other potential issues, like personality conflicts, issues with sharing the table space equally, etc, but we didn’t run into those. Most potential issues can be resolved with open communication and bilateral respect, but it’s important to consider them when considering a vendor partner.

Will I share a booth again?

Absolutely. Gama and I are already discussing next year’s SLC comicon. I might do something similar at other cons, although I’m still very happy to participate with Bard’s Tower again if a particular situation would work out better that way. Be flexible, and there are ways to work the conventions as a vendor without going broke.

SLC Comicon – A Feast for the Eyes

SLCCC LogoSo far I’ve attended several comicons, and they are all tons of fun. I’ve been to Emerald City in Seattle twice, and loved it. I’ve traveled down to Dallas once, and my only regret is that I haven’t been able to make it back there again. Great people, and they buy hardcovers like candy.

My favorite con though is SLC comicon. Even though I live in Oregon, SLC has always worked well for my schedule. It’s usually in September, and although it’s a fair hike, the trip is always worth it.

Do I make a profit? Not yet. But I love the people we meet there, the other authors and vendors I’ve met, and the fun experiences working the Wordfire Press booth. Plus we have some family and friends in the area, so those visits are extra perks.

When I first considered going to conventions, I’ll admit I was worried. I had never attended one as a fan, so I didn’t know what to expect. And I only had one book released, so getting my own booth space didn’t make much sense.

SLCCC talking with fanThat’s why joining another group of writers or, in my case, signing up to work the WordFire Press booth, is such a good idea. I got my book on the table with a couple hundred other titles, learned how an effective booth should be run, networked with lots of other authors, and got to experience the convention without tons of up-front expense. Most importantly, working the floor is an unrivaled opportunity to meet new fans and spend a few minutes talking with them. Sean Golden already talked about Working the Floor this month in this post. He’s absolutely right. The experience can be intimidating, but is necessary for every author to understand.

The effort of working the floor is definitely a major part of a con experience, and I highly recommend very comfortable shoes because standing on that hard floor all day can be extremely painful. By the end of each day, not only were my feet hurting, but usually my legs hurt pretty badly. If you’re going to be behind the booth, definitely bring a padded mat to stand on. You’ll thank yourself for it!

Working the floor is not the only part of a con, though. You get to meet tons of great people, from other authors and artists, to fans and vendors. Then there’s the cosplay. People watching is such a fun part of any convention. The work many people put into their costumes is nothing short of amazing, and many of them are jaw-droppingly awesome. There are always a few that make you shudder, but the vast majority are impressive, and it’s fun to meet people and ask them about their favorite fandoms. Here are a few photos of my SLC comicon experience.

And of course there are the panels. As a vendor, working a booth, it can be hard to slip away to lots of panels, but I strongly recommend making time to attend at least parts of a couple each day. Seeing authors or celebrities you admire and hearing them in person is a big thrill. Plus, for us it’s a learning experience. Pay attention to how well the moderators manage the panel, and how panelists handle the questions. Are they well prepared? Are they courteous to other panelists? Are they professional?

Frank Morin Guest imageOne major goal in attending cons is to get onto the panelist list so you can sit on panels. It’s a great way to get seen as a professional and to connect with new readers. And it’s usually a lot of fun.

I’ve been on some great panels, from “Removing Blood From a Trunk and other Google Searches that Probably Got me Added to Terrorist Watch Lists”, to “Writing Humor”, to a fun panel on Assassin’s Creed. This year, I’m sitting on a “Magic the Gathering” panel and one on Minecraft. They both should be loads of fun.

The Stats: SLC comicon is one of the big ones.

  • Attendees – Over 125,000
  • Dates: September 21-23, 2017
  • There’s also a second FanX con in the spring. This year it was March 24-26. Attendance was capped at 50,000 for a more exclusive experience.