Tuesday, March 17, 2009


So here I am writing the first post after setting up my new laptop.

The Toshiba Satellite L300/D05 is what I'm currently typing at you on. I still have to finish setting up all the rules in my email profile but the rest is pretty much done.


More good news on the assignment front with me gaining yet another B for my last assignment - that would be Module 1, assignment 3.

I've double checked the next assignment for the other module and I'm not sure the news is quite as good. This is what it says:

"Present a proposed central plot for a novel based on the initial idea or concept you submitted for Assignment 1"

So for this bit I'm basing it on Newland - obviously.

"Your proposal should include:

  • A one-page plot summary or synopsis, such as you might send to and editor
  • A visual representation of the plot - either a flow chart or chapter breakdown
  • An explanation of how you plan to tackle any of the plot factors (conflict, twists, ending, etc)
  • A discussion of theme(s) you intend to explore through the central plot

Your proposal should total about 500 words"

My thinking:

  • A synopsis of a 90-100k novel will be longer than 500 words so I need to look at a very condensed plot summary.
  • A chapter breakdown. I already have one of these but it is currently just over 1000 words so I need to condense this in a big way - unless someone can explain to me what a visual representation of the plot is using a flow chart...
  • Theme is the easy bit.

So suggestions on how I can make this a reality would be appreciated. I feel sorry for students who haven't got as far as I have. Imagine only having an initial idea for a novel length work, no chapter outline, no chapters in the can, vague outlines of a character let alone a cast, and shifting ideas on what theme(s) they might cover - and then having to do this.

The second part of the assignment I should be able to do within the requested word count but the first bit baffles me. I don't have a piece of paper which can act like the Tardis!


  1. Yay for new laptops! I hope you have many years of trouble-free use from this one.

    Your classes seem like an awful lot of work. I've been thinking of looking into going back to school for my MFA--I think I'm at the point where I would benefit from it--but I'm not sure. I just read your post just previous to this one and I'm about to go read through the links you provided to see what other people say about writing instruction. I always thought it was more or less useless, that with just as much effort I could improve on my own, but I'm not so sure now.

  2. that is a nice computer. I am thinking our next computer will be a mac, but I digress. Actually I think this is a good exercise. it is something you will have to do for a book proposal anyway. You just as well have the benefit of having a critique before hand.

    I think this is where most writing programs in the U.S. fail. The programs are focused on the short story, while the market is focused on the novel. They are not the same creature as any of us can attest.

    Good luck with the assignment.

  3. Have you named the new laptop yet? I call mine Vincent Price.

  4. KC - If you've read Tess Gerritsen's blog, you'll see what others think of the MFA. I'm thinking you'll learn much more by being picky with the writers you work with. If you surround yourself with good friends and writers and practice, you'll get to the same place in the end.

    Jamie - I agree the two a different animals but learning to write the short well, should allow you to write a chapter well. Put enough of those together and BINGO.

    I refuse to get into the MAC V PC debate here. They both have a place.

    Nat - no, I haven't named it. To be honest, it hadn't even crossed my mind. I'll have to think on that one.

  5. Nice laptop! I have a Satellite, bought last May and before that had a Satellite too. Toshiba make some reliable laptops.

    Hopefully it'll make working much easier. Does this mean you don't have to share with the other people in your house?

  6. As for a visual representation of plot, I usually set up a novel outline in a spreadsheet with one row for each major plot element. It helps me see where I'm missing and sometimes lets me know when an element isn't important enough to keep alive. So the rows are plot elements and the columns become chapter headings.

    I don't know if that helps, but it works for me. Good luck.

  7. Ben - no sharing. I haven't shared a PC in a long time though. I always ensure there is a separate one available for the rest of the family. One of the perks of working in the industry, plenty of spare PC's around.

    Aaron - Cheers for the suggestion. I currently use a chapter breakdown in word, but your way would cover the arcs better I think. I wonder if I could do something similar for each character to cover off conflicts, plot twists, actions and lose ends...might also help with plants and payoffs...

    Got me thinking now. Should I do this now when I'm almost halfway through the first draft, or should I wait and use it to map out the finished first draft, because if I do it now, it's going to seem like another way for me to procrastinate on the actual writing.

  8. Can you summarize your plot in one sentence? That doesn't encompass all the twists and turns but still tells me about the plot.

    500 words is a LOT longer than 1 sentence. Look at it from the basics and maybe build it up from there rather than trying to cut it down from 90k words.

    Just my 13 cents (inflation)