(Or, Whisper Me a Plot and Win a Book)
In my last post, I alluded to the possibility of a Personal Change of Being. I may have just morphed, my fine, fine, writerly friends, from being a pantser to a plot planner. I’ve ripped open the seams of my current WiP, and started to sew a plot structure for not one, but two future WiPs.
And I’m going to share my big secret with you. It’s Martha Alderson, otherwise known as The Plot Whisperer.
I think I first came to know about Martha through a twitter link that took me to her vlog series. I watched the entire series in a day (all 27 of them), and within the next few weeks, I had my entire online critique group involved in a workshop centered around her videos. Some of us are fixing plot problems in current WiPs, and others are getting ready for nanowrimo.
This is why I’m falling over with a general stokedness today. Because Martha is here. On Not an Editor. With her thoughts about critiquing. And? She’s got some thought-provoking answers.
Martha Alderson has worked with hundreds of writers in sold-out plot workshops, retreats, and plot consultations for more than fifteen years. Her clients include bestselling authors, New York editors, and Hollywood movie directors. She lives in Santa Cruz, CA. Follow her blog, workshops, vlog, or follow her on twitter and faceboook.
NAE: After a writer gets back an in-depth critique, what would you recommend in terms of a review/revise process?
MA: I suggest that the writer sit with the input for a few days and let the information sink in and feel the effects of the feedback emotionally. Then, based on what the in-depth critique reveals, I suggest that the writer pull out a fresh piece of banner paper and re-plot the entire story on a new Plot Planner, incorporating the feedback that feels valid to her. Then, she can stand back and, minus the words, view her story as a whole and assess how the energy of the story rises and falls.
NAE: What is the one piece of advice you can give to someone trying to develop his or her critique skills?
MA: Let me answer your question this way, I believe one of the best things a critiquer can do is always to separate the story from the writer. The story is the beginning and middle and end as a whole that involves characters and mostly one character as she is confronted with challenges and undergoes a meaningful transformation. The story is always whole and complete. The writer, on the other hand, in attempting to translate wisps of inspiration to the page is only as good as her current developmental skill level of writing.
When something is not working, it's not the story that is problematic, it is the writer as she continues to grow and study and reach for mastery over the story-telling process.
NAE: When you critique someone’s work, what is your general process?
MA: I never critique writers' work. I have found as a plot consultant to writers that I cannot see the forest (plot and structure) for the trees (words). Plot consultations focus exclusively on the master plot, which is made up of the action, character and thematic plot lines or, in other words, the form and structure. Writers are asked to have on hand a list of scenes from their projects and an idea of the message they are hoping their story will convey.
By pushing aside the words, I am better able to see the deeper structure of the story and assess what is working and what needs work.
NAE: Is there one specific thing that you gravitate toward while critiquing?
MA: I am most interested in how the dramatic action of the story affects the protagonist and how she transforms overtime and what that means overall. Minus the luster of words and phrases is the structure or form of the writer’s expression. Mysteries and depth are hiding in the stories right now. It is in the interlocking plotlines that they reveal themselves.
Thanks, Martha, for including us in your new book release blog tour, which gives me one last exciting announcement. I have a copy of The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, and I’m ready to send it to one lucky winner. All you have to do is leave a comment below. If you’d like to tweet about this contest, I’ll smile sweetly and say thanks. Mr. Random Generator will pick our winner, to be announced next Tuesday. Of course, now that you’ve met Martha, you may not be able to wait to get her book. You. Want. This. Book.*
And here’s something I’d like to know in your comments today: Are you a pantser or a planner?
*Seriously. You do, you want this book. I’ve kept it by my side when I writer and critique ever since it’s found its way into my hands a few weeks ago.