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August 4, 2011

Fifty Ways
Posted by Jim Macdonald at 11:45 AM * 31 comments

You got problems with your writing
She said to me
The answer’s easy if you
Put your B in C
I’ll show you how to move along
When you find you’re up a tree
There must be fifty ways
To plot your novel.

She said it’s not my habit
To keep you from your booze
But somehow I can’t help myself
When a writer has the blues
So sit down at your keyboard
And listen to the Muse
There must be fifty ways
To plot your novel
Fifty ways to plot your novel.

     Make like you’re Mark Twain, Laine
     Channel Brontë awhile, Kyle
     Fanthorpe for a day, Rae,
     And fill up the page.
     Add a man with a gun, Bun
     Stick in fan appeal, Ceil
     Pretend you believe, Steve
     And burn and rage.

She said it’s really rugged
When a novel is half done
There are some games that you can play
To make the writing fun
I said please keep on talking
‘Cause you just a hit a home run
About the fifty ways

She said why don’t you type a page
Before calling it a night
She said don’t pause to fact-check
‘Cause you’ll fix it in re-write
She said this is an art-form
Where things are not black or white,
There must be fifty ways to plot your novel
Fifty ways to plot your novel.

     Run ‘em down with a truck, Chuck,
     Deny their free will, Phil,
     Don’t need to explain, Jane,
     Just twist up the plot.
     Put some sex in the stew, Sue,
     Don’t let ‘em say when, Jen,
     Make the raths outgrabe, Abe,
     And see what you’ve got.

Comments on Fifty Ways:
#1 ::: Steven Gould ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 11:57 AM:

If we get Bear or Patrick To play guitar will you sing this for your VP lecture?

#2 ::: Mary Frances ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 12:32 PM:

Combining good advice with funny and a catchy tune--well done, Jim!

#3 ::: Kelly Lagor ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 01:03 PM:

I second Steve's notion. Any way we can sweeten the pot to make this happen at VP?

#4 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 01:21 PM:

Somehow my brain is now occupied with trying to make a song with the refrain "Mama don't take my Underwood away."

#5 ::: kimberlycreates ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 02:00 PM:

Love it. If you sing it at VP will somebody please record it and stick it on YouTube?

#6 ::: L. Baird ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 02:13 PM:

I cannot properly convey the exemplary timing of this post. Pardon me while I fwd the link on to my long-suffering wife, who had to listen to my writerly ennui just this morning. *un-velcroes hand from forehead and gets the hell on with business*

#7 ::: Dave DuPlantis ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 02:36 PM:

albatross @ 4: or perhaps a song about Rosie, your old Smith-Corona?

#8 ::: Steve C ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 02:48 PM:

Like a fridge made for troubled writers
I will hold your beer

#9 ::: adelheid_p ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 02:51 PM:

Hello blank page, my old friend.
You've come to haunt me yet again. . .

#10 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 02:59 PM:

So this is all presumably a cure for the sounds of silence?

I'm going to deadline
Deadline final draft
I'm going to deadline
Tie-ins and series once trilogies
And we are going to deadline

And my one-sheet companions
Are late with pen name placeholders
I'm looking at slots and pen names
But I've reason to believe
We all will be crowding
Our deadlines

#11 ::: adelheid_p ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 05:25 PM:

Hello, first draft, what’cha knowin’?
I’ve come to write with grammar flowin’
You'll get no red pen from me
Doot-in doo-doo, novel growin'
Ba da da da da da da, novel growin'

#12 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 05:47 PM:

Are you going to author a book?
(Chapter, page; word, sentence, and line.)
Your story should start with a powerful hook;
You'll soon be a writer, in time.

Dialog's marked with an unvarnished "said".
(Chapter, page; word, sentence, and line.)
Don't bother to say someone "grumbled" instead.
You'll soon be a writer, in time.

And if your hero has a child, or a pet,
(Chapter, page; word, sentence, and line.)
Don't kill them off, or the reader will fret.
You'll soon be a writer, in time.

Print with the settings that the publisher wants.
(Chapter, page; word, sentence, and line.)
Remember to use the Courier font.
You'll soon be a writer, in time.

#13 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 06:54 PM:

When I think back
On all the stuff I wrote in fanzines
It's on paper
'cos I cut a stencil
And the cost of Xerox
Didn't hurt me none
Though I left ink splashes on the wall.

Gestetner
Used paper with nice colours
It used the greens of summers
Makes you think all the words have a meaning
I got an old typewriter
That still cuts a stencil
Mama don't take my Gestetner away

If you took all the girls I met
When it was Easter
And brought them all together for one con
They'd never fit inside
Those time-worn t-shirts
And everyone looks worse in broad daylight.

Gestetner
Used paper with nice colours
It used the greens of summers
Makes you think all the words have a meaning
I got an old typewriter
That still cuts a stencil
Mama don't take my Gestetner away

#14 ::: Kelley Wegeng ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 07:13 PM:

You know the man writing rhymes on the internet,
That he wrote from his home in [Somewhere], New Hampshire:
He used his spell check; he even re-read,
And he said (and this is exactly what he said),
“Boy, that sure oughtta make something.
Just imagine: thirty thousand words of novella.
You gotta write thirty thousand words of novella.”

#15 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 07:58 PM:

I'm tempted to try to identify Chuck, Phil, Jane, et al.

#16 ::: Stepehn Frug ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 10:01 PM:

A man throws down his pencil
He says why am I stuck in the middle now
Why am I stuck in the middle
The rest of this book is so hard
I need a writer's resort vacation
I want a shot at a Nebula
Don't want to end up a remainder
On a remainder table
Beer drinker, beer drinker
Plots in the moonlight
Fling away my last half page
Just a hack working, hack working
Take these books away from me
You know I don't find this stuff amusing anymore

If you'll be my amanuensis
I can be your long-lost muse
I can call you Philip
And Philip when you call me
You can call me Dick
Call me Dick

#17 ::: Christopher B. Wright ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 10:09 PM:

let us be writers we'll pool all our queries together
I've got a contact list in my bag
so we bought ourselves a netbook
and Microsoft Word
and we set off to hit 90,000 words

"Kathy," I said as we logged in to format our epub
"Editing seems like a dream to me now"
It took me four days to make sure I only wrote
"its" when used as a possessive noun

Saving backup files
playing games with the fonts
She said that Georgia looked better in double-spaced print
I said the guidelines demanded a Courier typeface

"We can't submit there, it says they want Young Adult Fiction"
"But your Writer's Market is seven years old"
I looked at the copyright, she browsed Amazon.com
"I found one, used, fair condition..."

"Kathy, I'm lost," I said, though I knew she was editing
"I can't figure out how to get to act three
I might have to go back and retcon the second book"

we set off to hit 90,000 words
still trying to get 90,000 words
maybe we'll make 80,000 words

#18 ::: little pink beast ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 10:45 PM:

Beautiful, all of these. I particularly like Stephen Frug's 16 and Christopher B. Wright's 17.

Alas, I'm no Steve Gadd yet, nor am I good enough yet at finishing the stories I start to qualify for VP even if I could afford to go, or I'd throw an offer of drumming in to help get it performed. *grins* I'll just have to see what I can do to contribute to the thread and keep getting practice interacting with people.

#19 ::: beth meacham ::: (view all by) ::: August 04, 2011, 11:10 PM:

general applause

#20 ::: David DeLaney ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2011, 04:46 AM:

... so should someone go tell NaNoWriMo it has a soundtrack now?

--Dave, shuffling

#21 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2011, 07:30 AM:

Hey now, little readyhead,
the notes sidebar in Scrivener says
you have to go to work on your story
where characters kiss, kill, and connive.
Don't be shy. They'll come alive.
It's only just light years to go.

Me, my thoughts are side-plot-strewn,
characters barking at the moon.
I have got to write to find my way.
Watch the screen and memorize
the words I type before my eyes.
Nothing is going my way.

The ending is the novel's goal,
the resolution, Story knows;
We're closer now than light years to go.

I have got to write the novel.
Dramatic scenes and flashback reveals
run through my head and fall away.
Watch the screen and memorize
the words I type before my eyes.
Nothing is going my way.

I don't know where to put the lead,
but I tell you and you can see
we're closer now than light years to go.
Pick up here and chase the thread.
The novel's somewhere in your head.
Fall into the plotline.

The novel to the ending goes,
a sorely needed denouement.
None of this is going my way.
There is nothing left to throw
of tropes and story-seeds, I know,
character monologues and slice-of-day.

Hard revision overrides
the privileged and weary eyes
of wee-hours writer's block naivete.
Pick up here and chase the thread.
The novel's somewhere in your head.
All of this is coming your way.

#22 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2011, 08:36 AM:

Seventy six new rhymes in the latest thread, with a hundred and ten sonnets close at hand?

#23 ::: Victoria ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2011, 10:18 AM:

I'm typing my way to the end
with a burning need in mind
Yeah, I'm typing my way to the end
with an obsessed need to find
what happens next today, plotting all the way...

#24 ::: Dan Layman-Kennedy ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2011, 11:42 AM:

She looked it over and she said she thought it was all right--
All right after a couple of cuts and a re-write.
She said "Don't I know you from that other author's launch party?"
I said "Who am I to send a query in?"

I wrote what I wrote
'Cause I read what I read
I wanted a brief note
So why are my pages all covered in red?...

#25 ::: Allan Beatty ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2011, 07:28 PM:

Mrs. Robinson, are you trying to publish me?

#26 ::: A. J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: August 05, 2011, 09:49 PM:

"You are old, Author William," the young fan coughed,
"And your hair has become very white;
And yet you incessantly bang out first drafts -
Do you think, at your age, it is right?

"In my youth," Author William replied to the fan,
"I feared it might injure the plot;
But, now, that I'm perfectly sure I have none,
Why, I do it a heck of a lot."

"You are old," said the youth, "in case I was unclear,
And have grown most uncommonly slow,
Yet you blistered that noxious conservative's ears -
Pray, what is the reason it's so?"

"In my youth," said the sage, as he
I learned to give discourse and rant
By fighting on Usenet with idiot trolls -
Allow me to point you to 4-chan?"

"You are old," said the youth, "and your mind too unfocused
For anything tougher than rhyme,
Yet you now write sestinas, and columns in Locus -
Pray, have you a partner in crime?"

"In my youth," said the author, "I worked for a zine,
And did my time reading the slush;
And my hard-earned ability to edit and screen
Results in this masterful touch."

"You are old," said the youth, "one would hardly believe
That you still coud write such scenes of action,
Yet in your last book, the world ended three times,
Amid the loud ringing of klaxons..."

"I have answered three questions, and that is enough,"
Said the author, "Cease with your prattle!
Do you think I can listen all day to such stuff?
Now quit interrupting my panel!"

#27 ::: Nicole J. LeBoeuf-Little ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2011, 01:44 AM:

the night sets softly
with the hush of falling leaves:
half-typed, printed pages
sailing into file thirteen

and the screen of my laptop
brings the bitter truth to light:
this is worse than Eye of Argon
or almost
Atlanta Nights

up a narrow flight of stairs
in a narrow little room
here I sit all night at desk
butt in chair but brain entombed

and papering my wall
my eyes can't help but see
every damn rejection letter
that was ever
sent to me

from "once upon a time"
to the "the" very bitter "end"
there is mediocrity
in every keystroke that I send

like a Muse in a cage
the plot within me bides
but it never hits the page
without
becoming fried

#28 ::: A.J. Luxton ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2011, 05:40 AM:

"In my youth," said the sage, as he

Apparently I need to take up some of Author William's mental habits. I was writing this out of order, and in some haste. I duly apologize and will fill in the line soon, unless another commenter beats me to it. (Feel free to supply your own interpretation.)

#29 ::: tykewriter ::: (view all by) ::: August 06, 2011, 07:13 AM:

I keep hearing you're concerned about my novelette
All that grief you're giving me is jealousy, I bet
If I were sitting in your chair I wouldn't worry none
While you are NaNoWriMo-ing, I'm having lots of fun

Counting messages on my Wall
That don't bother me at all
Playing Solitaire till dawn
When my internet is down
Drinking Plymouth gin and posting here on Making Light
Now don't tell me
I've nothing to write.

Last night I dressed in leather, pretended I was Neil
Now all I need's his hairstyle, but my bald head feels so real
If only I had talent, the ideas would just flow
Cos writing must be easy – just look at those who do!

Posting porno on your Wall
That don't bother me at all
Watching Jeremy till dawn
Though he really makes me yawn
Drinking Newkie Brown and reinstalling Linux Mint
Now don't tell me
You know why I'm skint!

#30 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: August 10, 2011, 07:26 PM:

Well, since no one else has, I will:

"Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book?
It took me years to write, will you take a look?"

#31 ::: Erik Nelson ::: (view all by) ::: August 14, 2011, 11:34 PM:

If this conversation is still awake, I will say, I am writing something in an improvise-as-I-go-along style, and currently it seems to be working, because the characters and situations are unfolding in ways that surprise me. But I am afraid that if I improvise too long without a master plan, I will go out on a limb that I don't know the way back from, paint myself in a corner, and bog down. What has worked for others in situations like that?

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