The Try-Fail Cycle: What makes an ending epic.

One of my favorite podcasts, Writing Excuses, introduced me to the idea of the Try-Fail Cycle a while ago, and as someone whose WIP revolves around someone’s competency, it hit pretty close to home.

Summed up, the Try-Fail Cycle is the progression of attempts a character makes toward their goal before achieving it in the end. It’s those failures that keep us rooting for the character and what makes that final win so epic.

This cycle applies to both character and plot development, and when they intersect, it’s this incredible hodge-podge of feels and goosebumps.

Let’s look at last year’s Guardians of the Galaxy as an example. Each of our heroes fails individually as well as a team prior to them coming together to kick total ass in the end. The way the film is plotted, we see that each character has their own issue to overcome because we see them fail as a result. If it weren’t for those fails, the epic ending would feel more like a plot device (looking at you, 2015’s Fantastic Four reboot).

But beyond how useful this concept is in developing our works in progress, I think it also relates to the writing process in general.

We try to write a book >> That first draft isn’t great.

We revise, send to beta readers >> Need to rework some things.

Have a new version of the MS post-beta >> Still need to flesh out and polish.

The glory of the Try-Fail Cycle is that the protagonist usually finds their win in the end. So don’t let your massive revision to-do list intimidate you. It’s just power for the course.

Happy writing!


For more information on the Try-Fail Cycle, check out Writing Excuses, Season 10, Episode 29: Why Should My Characters Fail Spectacularly?. Available on iTunes or their website, www.writingexcuses.com.

One Lovely Blog Award

Many thanks to the wonderful Melanie Bernard for nominating me for the “One Lovely Blog” award. Check out her blog, here.

Rules
1. You must thank the person who nominated you and include a link to their blog.
2. You must list the rules and display the award.
3. You must add 7 facts about yourself.
4. You must nominate 5 other bloggers and comment on one of their posts to let them know they have been nominated.


The Facts

1. I know how to play six instruments.
I competently play violin and cello. I know the mechanics enough to struggle through sheet music for viola, piano, flute and mandolin.

Fun tidbit: The mandolin has the same strings as a violin, so a lot of the fingerings transfer over.

2. I spent the majority of 2011 in Iraq.
I was a photojournalist for the U.S. Army, so I got to see quite a bit of the country itself, which allowed me to meet a lot of local Iraqis (who were wonderful, btw) and enjoy some local food (which was also phenomenal). But my favorite moment of my deployment (and probably of my life thus far) was when I got to cover the building and delivery of pediatric-grade wheelchairs to Iraqi kids with mobility disabilities ranging from MS to Spina Bifida. If I could relive that day for the rest of my life, I would. There’s nothing quite like witnessing the moment a family’s life changes for the better.

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You can check out the whole story and more photos, here.

3. I love to cook.
I have this habit of trying to make cooking for myself as difficult as possible. I’m always trying new recipes. My most recent culinary triumph: Roasted Figs filled with Goat Cheese and topped with honey. Obnoxiously simple to make, but OMG THE FLAVORS!

Here’s the recipe, so you can make them yourself. 🙂 Let me know how they turned out for you!

I also love soufflés and risotto. And truffle oil is my biggest splurge at the grocery store.

4. I was a cheerleader in high school.
I know, I don’t believe it either, but alas it’s true. Sad truth of it: I did it for the performance aspect. Dancing, Cheering, Stunting. I loved it. I wasn’t cool enough to take advantage of the stereotypical “popular” bit though.

Still don’t believe me? Here’s a photo.

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Told you. Oh yeah, I had braces too.

5. My Meyers-Briggs is INTJ.
INTJ stands for Introversion-Intuition-Thinking-Judgement. We make up only 2% of the population and have a hard time “making friends” because our ambition and intellectualism motivates our actions. We expend our energy toward our top priorities and everything else falls by the wayside. When I was in high school, the wayside included people’s feelings and egos. I concentrated more on logistics than what people ‘thought’ should happen based on who their friends were. I remember a kid came up to me during rehearsal for the musical and asked, “Are you Breeanna Pierce? I heard you were a b*tch.”

My reply: “Then why are you standing here talking to me?”

I swear I’m not heartless, guys. I am fiercely protective of the people I call friend. It’s just that list of people is a short one…

6. My first fandom was Xena: Warrior Princess
So I started watching Xena WAY younger than I should have, like six or seven. Apparently my parents weren’t paying too much attention to what their young daughter was absorbing through the TV screen. But I’m so glad they did. That show did a lot in the way of how I think about mythology and storytelling, not to mention the inspiration it gave me when building my current series.

Side Note: Is anyone as excited for Ash Vs. The Evil Dead as I am? I mean it’s the Evil Dead in television form 30 years after the original events took place. It shares the show runners of Xena and is staring BRUCE CAMPBELL and LUCY LAWLESS! Get excited people because when the premier happens on Oct 31st, you better believe I’ll be tweeting ALL THE THINGS!

7. I still haven’t found my “Forever Home.”
I realize that makes me sound like a puppy waiting for adoption, but I have a bad case of Wanderlust (despite my lack of funds for it). Like I “yearn” for a home that feels like “this is it, this is the place,” but I honestly don’t know that I’ll ever find that. And I think that’s okay. I’m young, unattached. I can roam for a while.

NOMINEES!

1. Nicolette @ A Little Bookish, A Little Writerly

2. Lynanne @ Daybreak In Autumn 

3. Hanna @ J.L. Gribble | Thoughts and Conversations On Writing, Editing, Life, and Cats

4. Aura @ Into The Imagination Vortex

5. Cara @ Geek Girl Senshi

5 Reasons To Participate in NaNoWriMo

For those of you who don’t know, National Novel Writing Month is this glorious writing challenge during the month of November where millions of writers strive to write 50k words toward their next novel project. It’s exhausting and exhilarating and one of my favorite months of the year… if only because it gives me an excuse to be a crazy, writing Gollum.

Not everyone is suited for NaNoWriMo, and that’s okay. Everyone’s creative process is different. But let me give you my top five reasons for trying the challenge this year…

1. It’s a fantastic starting point.
Here’s the thing, 50k is not a novel, at least not for YA and adult lit (I haven’t done enough research to be able to say what word counts apply to middle grade and chapter books). So even if you complete the challenge, you won’t have a completed manuscript. This challenge is meant to get you writing. Use it as such.

2. It’s an excuse to really, truly vomit out a draft.
Sometimes when I’m writing (and I know this to be true for other writers as well), I get so caught up in the quality of the words that I hardly get down a sentence. Because you’re so focused on meeting a word goal, you focus more on just spewing the plot out onto the page. But don’t forget to revise in the following months. I’d never recommend handing a NaNo draft to anyone for review.

3. The community is fantastic.
Okay, I know I’m a total fangirl for the writing community, but it’s such a wonderful, supportive thing! Whether you’re connecting with write-ins in person or online, there’s something about the NaNo Hive-mind that makes your fingers move twice as fast. Between word sprints, twitter challenges and the forums, you have a built-in support system of writers who commiserate with you on this epic word campaign.

4. Consistent encouragement to keep you motivated throughout the month.
Piggy-backing on No. 3, NaNoWriMo.org provides motivation through smaller word count challenges, medals for meeting different participation goals, AND motivational letters from published authors.

5. ALL THE GOODIES!
Of course there are other reasons to participate in NaNoWriMo more important than the pot of gold at the end of the grueling rainbow, BUT the winner’s circle doesn’t hurt. 😉 They always offer awesome discounts on writerly software, including but not limited to Scrivener (I would be so lost without this program…). I’m excited to see what sponsors they’ve accumulated this year.

Let me know in the comments below if you’re planning to participate this year! I’d love to know what ya’ll are working on. 🙂

Happy Writing!


If you are participating, find me on NaNoWriMo.org and add me as a writing buddy! My username is Juliet.Pierce. My 2014 Novel is titled Guarded. 2015 is Enveloped.

Working Mindset & Imposed Deadlines

Writing is work. Plain and simple. In order to have something worth reading, you have to put the time in. There’s no other way. You have to do the work.

I know I’ve spoken many times about how it’s okay for the first draft to be rough. You’re getting a sense of your characters, their motivations, your world and all of its rules. Unfortunately once you finish that first draft, the lengthy revision stage begins to weigh down on you. It’s crushing and intimidating and awful. But it doesn’t have to be.

Don’t get me wrong, I have had my fair share of self-deprecating rants about how my writing is god-awful and metaphors are the devil. Seriously, I’ve spent HOURS getting just one metaphor right. All because I desperately want others to love my characters and their stories as much as I do.

But I recently had a revelation about my writing process and what helps me stay productive. I know this won’t work for everyone, but here it is…

1. Take your story one draft at a time.

The hard truth of it is that you’re not going to become John Green overnight. It’s not going to happen. Even John Green didn’t become John Green overnight. It took multiple drafts and revisions to create books like The Fault In Our Stars and Paper Towns. So while I would love for the next draft of my WIP to be the last, I’m not going to stress myself out about it because in all honesty, I know it won’t be. But I’m also not going to think about how many revisions stand between me and querying because that’s a daunting idea that will only bring on another wave of crippling self-doubt.

2. Admit you are a baby writer. There are things you simply haven’t learned yet.

This isn’t an insult, I promise. Think of it more as your tether to reality. Like I said in No. 1, it takes time to cultivate your skill. So give yourself opportunities to grow and learn. Join a critique group or find critique partners. Go to writing conferences and workshops. Take a class. Your writing will thank you for it.

3. Don’t stop writing.

I know this one is hard, but seriously, your writing won’t improve if you sit back and wait for it to do so. You have to put in the words in order to grasp what it means to create a novel. Sarah J. Maas has said in multiple interviews how her first draft of Throne of Glass was its own learning experience. And if you’ve written more than one MS, you also know this to be true. So keep writing, keep learning.

4. Give yourself a deadline.

I don’t mean, “THIS BOOK SHOULD BE DONE BY NOV 1st!” No, because you’ll drive yourself crazy that way… trust me, I know. Give yourself word count goals or chapter goals. Start each week by saying, “I’m going to accomplish [X] this week.” And do it! Make and keep promises to your work and yourself. Confidence in one’s writing ability is a cumulative thing. Each promise you keep builds on the last until writing/editing is a part of your regular routine.

A really great place to start is with the Twitter Monthly Writing Challenge. It’s a commitment to writing 500 words a day. The community is incredibly supportive and encouraging. You can learn more here.


What about ya’ll? What revelations have you had about your writing that keeps you productive? Share in the comments below.

Happy Writing!

It’s okay to rewrite your novel.

When we sit down to write our first manuscript, we’re caught up in the excitement of a new story and the rush of seeing it exist outside ourselves. But we all know that first draft is not the best version of your story, which is why we revise.

Sometimes, that first draft is just a rough outline.

I figured this out the hard way… by means of beta readers. (For which, I’m eternally grateful!) I started my current WIP during NaNoWriMo 2014, had a completed draft by the end of January, then went through seven rounds of revisions before sending it to my beta readers April 1st.

I thought I had a decent manuscript. I’d cut a lot of words, added a lot of words, fleshed out scenes and rewrote the second half of Act 2.

Safe to say, I was still a LONG way from having a query-able manuscript. You can read the post on my experience with my beta readers, here.

In order to make the changes to the novel, I had to deconstruct it. I took my outline of the beta draft and began reconfiguring the chapters/scenes to fit the new structure. There were some scenes that remained, some that were altered, and some that were deleted all together. But there were a lot of new scenes to add as well.

At first, I was pulling my hair out with the revision, focusing solely on the quality of the words instead of getting the new story down. Mind you, I don’t [totally] regret that bit because the writing did improve, so I’m ready to tackle the MAJOR REVISION waiting for me at the end of this draft.

I think a lot of us get lost in everything wrong with our writing that we lose sight of our excitement for the story we’re telling. It’s okay that this happens, but you can’t let it determine your writing journey. So if the first version of your MS isn’t what you want it to be, deconstruct it and dive back in to Rough Draft Mode. Then you can revise the new version until it glistens and shines.

Happy Writing!