Friday, May 30, 2008

A Writer's Discovery... The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray

A Writer's Discovery.... Sigh....That sounds so whimsical, doesn't it? Almost romantic.

But it's just me. A working mom who's trying to find a few seconds in every day to write, and pray that I'm not too tired when that time comes to write something. Anything. It's OKAY to WRITE BAD.

However this week has been a humdinger. The stress centers around my family trying to fit everything into one weekend and the sudden illness of our English bulldog. I'll be taking her back to the doctor today, a place we've visited every day the last four, and she'll most likely undergo surgery.

So this has been a week I've been too pooped to think of little else beyond what was necessary.

Writing-wise, I've discovered a new book that I wanted to share. The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray.

The book gives you a step by step, weekend by weekend approach to writing your book. When I started writing, I just wanted to get this great idea out on the page. Looking back at those manuscripts, I see the POV is all over the place. The scenes are choppy. There's a lot I see that needs to be fixed and I'm at the point of teaching myself new ways to approach writing a novel.

In my blissful ignorance, I would sit down at the computer and start typing. Chapter One, I would begin, and then go on to do my best to start the chapter off with an interesting phrase that may catch your interest. I hadn't done much planning. I had the synopsis in my head and thought I knew where I was going. And I finished two books this way, but there were more I didn't finish.

In The Weekend Novelist, Robert Ray teaches us to start the first weekend with a character sketch. The first month is devoted to learning who your protagonist, antagonist and "super/helper catalyst" are, then sketch out their backstory. Before you figure out what you're character's dressing room looks like, you explore her dreams - the "windows to her soul."

During the next month is scene building and the next month is plotting. Mr. Ray suggests the fourth month that you write your key scenes. Write the opening scene, the closing scene, one at midpoint and about three more that fall in between.

In the next month and the next you are writing the draft. In the final month is your final draft.

This book struck a chord with me because it is writing a book in pieces. I'm discovering this is similar to the way I think of my manuscript. I can see key scenes, but I'm not sure how my characters got there. After reading the first part of The Weekend Novelist, it became more evident that my previous stories didn't work because I really didn't know who my characters were. I just started putting them on the page and would get stuck midway through wondering what to do next.

I think this book can work for the natural born plotter or the pantzer. As a matter of fact, The Weekend Novelist, combines those two methods. It teaches you to plan ahead and then when you reach the drafting stage you are to "write hot" without pause, and turn that internal editor off.

I'm still studying this book and applying it to my own work. At this point I haven't even had a Weekend 1, but it's coming. If you'd like to read a more complete review of this book, visit Backspace.

What are some writing books that have helped you?


  1. Sounds like a great book, Christy. Even for those writing on a daily basis. The step-by-step approach would be a great help.

  2. One of my favorite books is The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. Short, to the point, and you can use it with your own manuscript.

    Christy, I'll have to check your find out as well.

  3. Mindy - If I remember, I'll bring it to conference.

    Dianna - Glad you finally added your picture and now you can get a blog! - I will bring the book to the retreat!

  4. Christy,
    Thanks for introducing the book. Sounds very interesting and a way ot get things written. Even if it's only a few minutes a day, on a day to day approach, or you could actually map out times on the weekend, (this weekend will NOT be one of those mapping out times for me)
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. I think I own that book! I should go check my how-to shelf. :)