The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing by Evan Marshall

Posted in Review at 2:06 pm by Amber

Title: The Marshall Plan ® for Novel Writing
Author: Evan Marshall
Source: Anna at FSB Associates

Evan Marshall offers easy to follow advice on how to set yourself up for success in writing a novel.  He gives you the basics such as how (and why) to pick a genre, how to determine the number of words needed for the particular genre, character sheet information, mixing point of views, and how to plot in a way that creates tension.  Marshall points out that he can’t help with the hardest part – the actual writing.

Of particular interest to me is the section on plotting.  Marshall’s plotting advice is to have the character do an action in an attempt to overcome the obstacle.  However, the action results in failure.  This can be in several ways… the character has to figure out a new way to overcome the obstacle, fails and finds out about a bigger obstacle or does succeed but finds out about a bigger obstacle ahead.  It reminds me of the first season of the tv show Prison Break.  Each time Michael Scofield figured out how to overcome an obstacle in getting his brother out of prison there was a new one waiting around the corner.  It was so exciting to watch because you didn’t know if the prison system, other inmates or the shadowy organization in the background was going to get in his way.  Marshall includes examples of action and reaction sheets to help with the plotting. 

Another section of the book is an overview of writing mechanics.  He explains passive action without saying he’s explaining it.  It’s a nice refresher.

Now, if you’re unable to keep everything straight with your papers or electronic files, Marshall and Martha Jewett wrote novel writing software to accompany the book.  It organizes the alternating viewpoints and action/reaction sections.  I’ve only seen the screenshots of the software.  If filled out properly it should greatly assist in writing the synopsis of your novel.

Marshall and Jewett are running a Fiction Makeover Contest for NaNoWriMo.  Until November 15th, 2010 you can send them the first 25 pages and a synopsis for a chance at winning the software or a copy of this book.  Good luck!

About the Authors:

Evan Marshall is an internationally recognized expert on fiction writing and author of the ‟Hidden Manhattan” and ‟Jane Stuart and Winky” mystery series. A former book editor, for 27 years he has been a leading literary agent specializing in fiction. His Marshall Plan® Novel Writing Software, co-authored with Martha Jewett, is an adaptation of his bestselling Marshall Plan® series. He is the president of The Evan Marshall Agency, a leading literary management firm that represents a number of New York Times andUSA Today bestselling authors.

An award-winning business book editor at McGraw-Hill, John Wiley & Sons, and HarperBusiness, Martha Jewett is currently a literary agent and editorial consultant specializing in business books. An avid memoirist, she blogs at www.writeyourmemoir.com. With Evan Marshall she created The Marshall Plan® Novel Writing Software, an adaptation of the bestselling Marshall Plan® series.

For more information, please visit http://writeanovelfast.com/ and follow the authors on Facebook and Twitter.


NaNoWriMo 2009 Wrap-Up

Posted in Event, Writing at 12:54 am by Amber


Just after 11:30pm Eastern time on November 30th, I crossed the finish line at 50,088 words.  To be honest, it wasn’t until near the end of the month that I thought I might make it.  A challenge was thrown down and I took it.

I was averaging about 1000 words a day and was well short of making the goal.  Chris Baty stated on Twitter he was going to go for a 5kday on Thanksgiving and wanted to know who else was in. I figured if he was crazy ambitious enough to do it then maybe I could be just as crazy ambitious.

On Thanksgiving my starting word count was 25664 and by the end of the day, my word count had jumped to 29969.  I was short of the 5k goal but it gave me a confidence boost.  With my spreadsheet to do the math for me, I could tell I was not out of the running.  During the next few days I wrote 4,000 to 6,000 words a day. 

I ran out of story.  My fingers were cramped into claw-like things.  I had books I read in September that were waiting for reviews.  My team, Team Calliope, on NaNoLJers needed my word count to win word wars against the other teams.  My sweet husband kept the Resident Corgi distracted and he picked up dinner or helped me make it.  Yet something in me made me keep writing until I hit the end.

My reward for winning this year is a desktop edition of Write or Die!  It helped me win this year and will be great for freewriting on word prompts all year long.


Riding Downhill

Posted in Writing at 12:22 pm by Amber

This weekend I have been pushing to write the rest of the words for this year’s NaNo project. 

On Friday I had 59.9% of the words written.  That’s just under 30k.  My husband saw so little of me yesterday he didn’t realize I never got out of my pajamas.

Today my total word count starts at 38911.  I have completed 77.8% of the project and have 11089 words to go before I can cross the finish line.

I feel a little bit like a bike rider going down a steep hill.  The pedals are going too fast for my feet.  I can barely control where the bike is going but the wind in my hair makes me feel alive.


Nearly on the Downward Slope

Posted in Event, Writing at 12:46 am by Amber

I am still plugging away at my NaNo Project.  At 24,020 words, my Excel spreadsheet estimates I will be done on December 11th.  I will keep writing one word at a time to get to the finish line.  My goal is still 50 thousand words before December 1st.

Because I spent very little time getting to know my characters beforehand, I do get surprised by my characters or the plot.  Tonight my main character revealed something personal about himself.  Apparently he was an aspiring Olympian in his younger years.  He never made the US Olympic archery team and quit practicing after college.  I should have known a nickname like “Dead Eye” might have something to do with his aim.

At 48% of the project done, I am almost finished with the uphill climb.  Soon I’ll be on the downward slope.  Before I know it, my worry will not be “where will I find all these words” but how to tie up the story before I reach 50k.


Almost the Ides of November

Posted in Event, Writing at 8:15 pm by Amber

Yes, it’s November and that means it is National Novel Writing Month.  Writers of all kinds sit down and write.  At this point, everyone that is on track to “win” should be at 23338 words.  Tomorrow they will hit the 25,000 word mark.

According to the official NaNoWriMo web site the participants have written 1,040,165,647 words so far.  Just over 13,000 of those are mine.  Yes, I am behind in my word count.  Yes, I do have a holiday coming up.  And yes, I still plan on finishing before the month is over.  That doesn’t mean I don’t panic a little when I think of how many words I need to write each day for the rest of the month.  I do – I’m just not willing to give into it.

I’ve done a few things differently this year:

  • I usually don’t read anything while I am writing in November.
  • I usually start with knowing my main character and several secondary characters.
  • I usually have plot points that I can write around.  If I get bored with one I can move on to the next one.

Like every year I’ve attempted this, it’s been a learning experience.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I must go write. 🙂


NaNoWriMo Progress – Weeks Three and Four

Posted in Event, Writing at 1:13 am by Amber

Week Three – Dated 11/19/08

I learned that it is near impossible to write while at work.  Granted, it’s something I knew already but it was confirmed yesterday.  We have some slow periods but the pace always seems to pick up in November.  For the most part I have tried to write each day even if I do not meet my daily word count goal. 

Week Four – Dated 11/30/08

Today was really my most painful day.  I think all month long I’ve taken a total of 3 days off from writing but I have not met my daily word count goal every day.  And it bit me in the behind.  At the beginning of today my total word count was 41,745. 

One of the ways to prep for NaNoWriMo is to have a back-up of your novel.  I think it needs to be amended to have a recent back-up of your novel available.  I kept saving my novel to my USB drive throughout the day when I received an error message from Word that it could no longer find the file.  With only 4,000 words left to write I tried to keep it together while I was panicking.  My back-up was from 10 days prior and my word count was almost 30K. 

Ten years of Help Desk work paid off!  I was able to find a temporary file from fifteen minutes earlier that was only missing a few hundred words.  To be honest, I felt a little bit on tilt but I kept on writing.  With an hour and five minutes left before midnight I crossed the finish line with over 50,000 words and all my plot lines tied up. 


November 2008

Posted in Event, Status Report, Writing at 11:49 pm by Amber

These statistics are all for short stories, poems, or contest entries. Book reviews are not included.

  1. Sales in November: 0
  2. Rejections in November: 1
  3. Submissions sent out in November: 0
  4. Total stories/poems pending responses: 0

The flash fiction piece I sent out last month received a rejection.  The market provides feedback on submissions from the editors and one of them wanted to include it in the next issue.  I still have confidence in the piece so I will continue to try and find a home for it.  That drabble that’s been out for 278 days… I’m calling it rejected, even if the market has reported a response after 400 days.

Now that I’ve written just over 50,000 words for my latest opus, what do I plan on doing with it?  It’s going into a drawer until after the holidays.  Then I will begin the editing process for it.  I’d like to submit it for a writing grant in September 2009 and it will only get to that point with a lot of revisions.


NaNoWriMo 2008 Progress – Weeks One and Two

Posted in Event, Writing at 8:56 am by Amber

Week One – Dated 11/04/08

Right now I’m on track for completing 50,000 words by the end of the month.  I’ve not reached my daily word count goal but some writing sessions are more productive than others.

One thing I’ve been disappointed in is my lack of NaNoisms.  These are funny, unintentional typos.  Sometimes a word is misspelled or the wrong word is used.  This will frequently happen when writing while a conversation is happening nearby.  Instead of typing up the train of thought, the writer will begin to transcribe the eavesdropped conversation.  When the resulting sentences are a combination of the conversation and the action of the novel it can be a hoot!

During the first week is when our characters come alive.  They do or say things we don’t expect.  For instance, my main character was widowed six months prior to the break-in of her home.  And now she appears to be falling for the police officer that was sent to check on the security alarm.

Week Two – Dated 11/12/08

Since last week I’ve learned my key to getting new writing done.  I make the mistake of approaching it the way I do my editing.  Slow and steady.  So much thought is put into getting the right words onto the paper (or word processing program) that few words actually make it.  The tool that has been screaming through the NaNo world this year is Dr. Wicked’s Write or Die!  You enter your time or word goal and then pick your mode of prodding.  An html window opens up that keeps a running total of the number of words written.  Once you pause in your writing, the background screen changes color until it is red and then your punishment for not continuing kicks in with annoying sounds.  I admit to not using the sounds but the changing background color is enough of a clue to get me writing again.  I manually copy and paste the words written into my Word document so if I lose words it is my fault and not Dr. Wicked’s.

My story keeps making twists and turns.  I always include a Pembroke Welsh Corgi.  This year Sammy has found a place in the novel.  In a matter of two days he went from sacrificing his life to save a little girl to being an actual fairy steed.  I think he’s going to survive this novel after all.


Where Has the Time Gone?

Posted in Event, Writing at 12:48 am by Amber

The NaNoWriMo forums are broken up into many topic areas.  Under Life During NaNo novelists can discuss how well it’s going for them.  For the novelists in distress there is an area titled “NaNoWriMo Ate My Soul” but what I am really feeling is “NaNoWriMo Ate My Time”! 

Right now I have about a half dozen posts begun about NaNoWriMo, writing and book reviews that are just waiting for me to finish them up.  I even picked out a Story of the Month for November as promised in October!  This year during NaNoWriMo I’ve learned my most productive writing time is when I do “sprints” or timed writing.  Something about it frees me from thinking unnecessarily about the words I am writing.  I don’t use precious time trying to find the exact word I am looking for.  Instead I use the first one that comes to mind and move on.

I think Jamie Grove of How Not To Write had one of the best ideas I’ve seen this month!  As part of his NaNoWriMo Halo Giveaway, he offered guest posts to all the people that signed up.  Now that is really thinking outside the box to bring fresh content to his site while he’s working on his novel.  Kudos to Jamie!  The guest posts have been fun to follow.  He’s decided to expand it to all year long.  See the details here.


October 2008

Posted in Status Report, Writing at 11:34 pm by Amber

Sorry about posting this a day late; I spent most of yesterday driving back to Ohio from North Carolina.  To be honest, I didn’t do any of the driving.  Mostly I read and slept.  My beach vacation is over. 

These statistics are all for short stories, poems, or contest entries. Book reviews are not included.

  1. Sales in October: 0
  2. Rejections in October: 0
  3. Submissions sent out in October: 1
  4. Total stories/poems pending responses: 2

Yes, my drabble has been out 248 days waiting to be acknowledged.  If I don’t hear something this month I will definitely go ahead and consider it rejected.  The market still has a backlog of submissions to sift through but they are also sending out acceptances for pieces that arrived after mine. 

This month I attended the Muse Online Writers Conference.  The short story I was hoping to edit and send out based on the feedback I received at the conference didn’t happen.  It needs a lot of work and I’m not entirely certain where to begin.  But the good news is that I was able to edit another short story and it’s what I sent out in October.  I also updated my bio page with feedback I received from the conference. 

Without a doubt, there is more to last month’s writing progress but my brain is a bit mushy at the moment.  I’ve been writing off and on today in order to catch up to the daily word count needed to complete NaNoWriMo this year.  I’m about to begin writing Chapter Four and I’m not sure yet what’s going to happen.  Hopefully my Inner Editor will stay away and I’ll get to see what happens.

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