What Would You Like to Learn From Me?

Here’s an important question for you: What would you like to learn from me? I am totally pumped to announce I’m doing something I’ve been promising you for a long time: I’m putting together a full-fledged course on writing!

This is going to be a huge project, much more in-depth than anything I’ve been able to share in blog posts, books, or webinars. I want to make certain I’m meeting your most urgent needs. To do that, I need to know what specific topic you would like me cover. Right now, I’ve narrowed it down to the three writing topics I feel are most important:

1. Outlining Your Novel

2. Structuring Your Novel

3. Crafting Character Arcs

Which topic would you find most helpful in taking your writing to the next level? Your input is super-important to me, so please click the button below to choose your favorite—or to suggest something entirely different. Whichever topic gets the most votes is the one I’ll start working on.

Cast Your Vote Button

Wordplayers, tell me your opinion! Do you have any suggestions about the subject and style of writing course that would be most helpful to you? Tell me in the comments!

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About K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland

K.M. Weiland is the award-winning and internationally-published author of the acclaimed writing guides Outlining Your Novel, Structuring Your Novel, and Creating Character Arcs. A native of western Nebraska, she writes historical and fantasy novels and mentors authors on her award-winning website Helping Writers Become Authors.

Comments

  1. One of the, if not the topic I’m most interested in would be great beginnings.

    What can a writer do to make the part after the hook, but before the first plot point as interesting as possible? What kind of conflict should I choose to show, rather than tell what kind of character the protagonist is? How can I progress the process of worldbuilding without lecturing? What kind of secrets are best hidden and first foreshadowed in this critical phase of a story?

    I know, those are a few questions too much to answer at in only one entry, but those are certainly the one I’d love to hear your stance about about.

    Even if you choose to focus on a completely different topic I’m still excited to read about it.

    Please do keep up your great work!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Here’s a short answer about handling the segment of the story prior to the First Plot Point: this segment, of course, is the first 25% of the book and is the First Act. It’s basically comprised of three prominent beats (the Hook at the 1% mark, the Inciting Event at the 12% mark, and the First Plot Point at the 25% mark) and two segments in between the beats (a period focusing on set-up, from the 1% to the 12% marks, and a period focusing on build-up, from the 12% to 25% marks). More in this post: Your Book’s Inciting Event: It’s Not What You Think It Is.

  2. I like the structure you are presently proposing. Those are huge topics. I would be cautious about venturing too far beyond those. Looking forward to more news on your progress 🙂

  3. I love your blog. I own all your writing books and they are great, so from reading them I know you already teach some great stuff. I’m going through an unemployment phase, so I would interested to you know:
    How To Publish While Broke. From edits, beta readers, cover, blurbs, formatting, finding where to sale it once finished and where to find free software that works like where to find photos and deciding what to use to editing stuff to help you e.g. pixlr online photo editor is free and a great tool that I already use for photos
    Tips about getting to the finish line of writing and editing your novel where it is ready for publication.
    How to fight writer’s block, when life dumps on you and overwhelms you and keep writing,
    How to overcome your own resistance to finishing, succeeding and the fear of failure.
    What life feels like when you do succeed and what to expect.
    How to network and have a successful writer’s blog.
    What are realistic expectation,when you decide to become an author and want to make money at it.
    How to create your writer’s brand: Do’s, Don’ts and what works.

    That was just a few ideas and things I have read about elsewhere too. Your blog post are always very informative and helpful. Thanks for doing that.
    Juneta Writer’s Gambit

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Great ideas! Whatever angle I end up taking on this, I definitely want to work in at least a segment about the business side of things.

  4. BAZINGA 🙂

    KM, I thought you’d never ask! That’s a swell idea. I’d enjoy all three honestly because I know I’d benefit and learn something new. It’s like asking would you like the Ferrari? The Lamborghini or the Porsche? (I’d take the Ferrari btw).

    But if I had to pick one, it would be structure, although I’m not hellbent on it. I could use help in all three areas. I’ve been reading, listening, pondering a lot about all three already. So anything you can offer is great. I’m super excited!

  5. Ok, I had to come back. I’m way TOO excited.
    *he he*

    A priority list, for me personally would be the following:

    1. Structuring
    2. Character arcs
    3. Outlining

    I would agree that these are the most essential and critical elements for any novel. If they’re bad or weak, we could be doomed.

    1. Structuring

    For me, this seems to be the most critical. It’s hard to make an outline without the proper grasp of the structural components of story. I think we all have an inherent, or learned sense of what this means from film and reading when it’s lacking. But to skillfully weave, build them into a blockbuster page turner is another story. They’re certain cars built by manufacturers that I would never buy again simply because they’re not built well. They don’t last long. I’ve had too many problems with them. But some others, are built so well I don’t want anything else. I’m set for life. They have my loyalty time and again. So to me, learning the structure is most critical.

    2. Character Arc

    The second most critical at least for me, is that of our beloved characters. I’m worried about my protagonist because I feel like he’s missing something but I can’t figure out. He’s the reason I created the story in the first place, so what’s wrong with him? My character arcs needs some serious therapy.

    3. Outlining

    I love the matter of outlining and brainstorming ideas! This is great beginning with premise and so forth. I admit I’m not a planner, but neither I am complete pantser. This is very important to learn what our writing process is, and what works BEST, to unleash our creativity to the pages. Then secondly, to provide a road map for our premise, characters, and our muse. AWESOMESAUCE! They really need to add that word to the dictionary.

    Beside those points, if I had chose another it would be the following:

    1. Setting
    2. Dialogue
    3. Conflict

    1. Setting

    I LOVE setting. It could make or brake a story. The book I’m reading now is within the first few chapters and I had a hard time following exactly where the characters were. They were in a restaurant then in an alley etc. I knew the basic location, but they added one or two sentences later on that made everything click. I could sense my frustration building until I read those few lines and wish they were written earlier before the dialogue started.

    2. Dialogue

    Definitely could use help with this one. Dialogue can lead us into a forest, or advance the plot as well as the character.

    3. Conflict

    This would be a good one indeed. Who can resist a good conflict? I need to go back and analyze the level of conflict. Both internal and external. But I’m most interested in internal conflict as it relates to my protagonists character arc. Definitely don’t want a stagnant, or happy go lucky character who floats around the entire story.

    Thx!

  6. I would vote for dialogue. 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m actually getting ready to do a series on dialogue here soon, so even if it doesn’t make it into the course, you can watch for it here on the site!

  7. LOL, actually I vote for any of the things the above comment’s have mentioned. They are all great subjects. The ones I posted earlier were things I have read others do that I would like to read more about or different POV on the subjects. But all these others sound great too, don’t know why I needed to say that, guess I am feeling chatty.

  8. I like these choices. I think I ended up here because I was worried about the pacing of my story and your posts on structure helped reassure me I was on the right track. At the same time, I had a flat character arc and I was concerned that this would make for an unsatisfying character. Your posts on that arc were at just the right time. I’m kicking around a negative arc tragedy in my head because of the posts on that arc.

    If I were to add anything else, it would probably be a session on setting and atmosphere. Oh, and round on finding beta readers. Beta readers would have cleared up a lot of insecurities, I think.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks! Actually, it’s really helpful to know how you found the site and why you stuck around. 🙂

  9. everything ??? (incl. kitchen sink)

    Too much?

    Outline = pencil sketch; Structure = blueprint; Character arc = occupants/who’ll live/work in the space. So, if those are roughly accurate, what would be the equivalent of the conceptual drawing?

    Honestly, I’ve barely scratched the surface of your site, feel like an early explorer just making landfall, knowing little of what lays beyond the treeline… far too early for me know what more is needed/helpful…. friendly native field guide into the interior, maybe?

  10. Jackie Layton says

    Great options, KM! I voted and can’t wait to see what you choose. I love your blog and all the information you share with us.

    Thanks!

  11. These are three great topics, and ones I feel you’ve spent quite a bit of time on in previous blogs. Certainly anyone reading your blog for a while (and I think I’m two years in now) would have seen many excellent and detailed posts on each of these topics.

    Personally, the biggest uncertainty I have is how to wrestle this enormous amorphous blob into structure. What I mean by that is, The Hook, First Plot Point, First Pinch Point, Midpoint, etc etc all happen at specific percentages of the story.

    Great. But those percentages change as the story gains words. So I may start out with 50,000-60,000 words in mind (my original intent), and then as I go along, discover that the story runs for 90,000 words or more (what I’m discovering as I narrow in on the climax).

    Obviously, this changes those percentages. I guess it boils down to, ‘How can I estimate how many words this beast will be?’

    Maybe this will come with experience, but right now for me that’s the big unknown!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      It’s tough, I’ll grant you. I intended my current WIP to be 120k words; it ended up being 200k. /facepalm But my plot point percentages ended up still being pretty much right on target because I estimated them by *scene count* rather than word count. For example, if I have, say, 100 scenes in my outline, I can estimate that the First Plot Point should happen in Scene #25, the Midpoint should happen in Scene #50, the Third Plot Point should happen in Scene #75, etc.

  12. I’ll keep it simple. Structure. You are a gifted “explainer.” Thank you for taking this approach.

  13. K.M., could you share a bit more information on “how” you are going to present this material? I have gone through both your books on outlining and structuring and found them helpful, but I don’t have one of yours on character arcs that I am aware of. Perhaps I don’t need to know anymore details until a roll-out of your course, but I wasn’t sure I understood everything you were asking me to consider before voting to help you on choosing a topic. Is this a new book, online articles, new curriculum on your site? Will you be re-organizing your information in your other two books in a different presentation? Thanks in advance.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      I’m thinking this will be primarily a video course–something like 10 hours of info, probably broken into much smaller pieces of 5-minute episodes. There will be supplemental text as well, but I’m still so early in the planning process that I haven’t gotten all that figured out yet.

      You’re right that I don’t yet have a book out on character arcs. That’s actually another to-do on this year’s list. After the course comes out in May(-ish), putting out a book and workbook on character arcs is next up.

      • Thanks for the details. So, my answer now. I suppose my biggest concerns are creating organizational tools to follow what I’m trying to do or trim what I am trying to do to what is possible. I don’t really need theory books; instead, what I need are actual examples of great writing/story development and what it took to get there so that I have an example of the level of work that I need to do behind the scenes.

        Oddly enough, I watched the documentary film Dior and I, research for one of my characters or so I told myself. Anyhow, the documentary walks one through how some of the concept dresses came into existence; it shows the inspiration for the environment of the catwalk; it shows the exhausting effort it took to pull off an annual show. The value of this was to actually watch the creative process in action in another field: fashion. The level of detail, the perspiration required of so many people was inspiring, but it also communicates why there are only a handful of people in the world doing this at a high level. A creative marathon that pushed everyone to the edge.

        If you’re asking me what I would like to be exposed to it is that level of detail for a writer. Show me examples of your spiral sketchbooks. Show me the level of detail you create in a character development, then show me where you took it from a spiral notebook and then point out where the research hit the pages of your book. Show me where you got an inspiration, then put a finger on where it shows up in your story. There are lots of ways to work, but if you showed me how you work, it would give me a signpost, a direction to head. Thanks for taking the time to answer my question, K.M.

        • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

          As a matter of fact, I already have a couple of resources along those lines available.

          I just made available the complete outline I used when writing my recent historical/dieselpunk novel Storming. You can find the free download here.

          You might also enjoy Jane Eyre: The Writer’s Digest Annotated Classic, which I wrote a few years ago. It’s a chapter by chapter study of Jane Eyre, what makes it work, why it’s remained a perennial classic, and how you can apply the same principles to your own writing.

  14. Whatever the topic, I’m certain it’ll be lathered in awesomesauce. Sorry, I couldn’t resist that one.

  15. Of the ones you have here, it would be the third one but what I like about your blog is that I have been picking up many a helpful tidbit as I have been reading. Keep that up by all means, please.

  16. Using sensory words for settings and characterization

  17. Robbin Luckett says

    I vote for structuring your novel. I tend to get confused with subplots. I agree with the others . . . you have a way with words. Simplifying to a basic understanding makes students come back for more. Thank you for making a difference.

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks, Robbin! If I go with structuring, I will definitely include info on subplots for you.

  18. I can’t believe I didn’t see this sooner… Wow! This is awesome news!

    I can’t wait to see how this goes. I will say that, as somebody who’s already read nearly everything they could find on outlining, structure, and characters, I’m left with two thoughts on the subject. The first being that I love seeing all of the different techniques, perspectives, and presentations out there, and I’m really glad that you’re looking at covering these. 🙂 The other is that I’ve reached a point where I personally am becoming less concerned with researching those topics myself, and am focusing more on finding my writing voice and style. It’s a more personal experience to be sure. Though I do wonder what a course or other such resource on the subject would look like…
    If you’re ever looking for another idea on something to teach about, I suppose that’s one. 😛

    Also, just wanted to say that I’m really looking forward to that series on dialogue you mentioned. There is no more entertaining aspect of writing for me than good old-fashioned banter. 😛

    Good luck with the course, my authory friend!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Thanks, Jon! That feedback is very helpful. Next week is when I get to start working on the course in earnest and figuring out exactly what it will be about.

  19. Salut,

    1. Another fascinating subject matter is that of SCENE STRUCTURE (yum). Tasty little morsel. It’s good to have an overarching view of the whole story in plot points, but how do we break it down into scenes? I know you went into this in your book Structuring your novel, including sentence structure. It’s easy to see the breadth of the forest, but lose sight of it’s intrinsic beauty. And if we’re too detail oriented seeing the antennae of a lady bug on a branch twitching, we might miss the beauty of the forest as a whole. I think the micro-anatomy of scene structure is an awesome topic. In many things structure determines function. So if we nail the plot points but flop the scenes, we’ll probably still have a lethargic story. How do we line those dominoes so they fall in sync? In a balanced way that doesn’t compromise the big picture? Correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s what I understand so far.

    2. Are all the plot points dead set in their placement? Or is there some intuitive leeway? In your book Storming the climax was around the 90% mark if I remember correctly. I was thinking to myself how is this going to be wrapped up? My gut feeling was telling me the climax should’ve been earlier. In your new book you discuss the climax in movies might be earlier because of their time allotment. So I thought my gut feeling from movies might’ve been misapplied to story structure? Not sure.

    Anyways, can’t wait to grand opening of the course!

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Writing is very much about balancing the big picture and the little details. It’s decidedly *not* an easy dance, but it’s one we have to manage nonetheless. So moving back and forth between big-picture and structure and small-picture scene structure is important.

      As for the plot points, the timing isn’t set in stone–i.e., if your First Plot Point begins at the 26% mark instead of the 25%, it’s not going to kill your story. But it’s good to aim for the general divisions as much as possible, since tight stories are good stories.

  20. Lance Haley says

    K.M. –

    I came to the site today because I received your latest post today titled “Can Your Book Be TOO Awesome?”. It was ironic, because I am tackling a rather difficult topic in my first novel (frankly, one that you would find most interesting). Of course, that means covering a lot of turf, which makes it even more problematic. So your advice was timely.

    It’s not a question of “where do I start?” It’s a question of “where do I stop?” No one wants to read the equivalent of “War and Peace” again in the 21st Century, even if the topic warrants such depth and breadth. Nor am I some aspiring Tolstoy!!! I just want to write this book. First and foremost, for myself; if no one else.

    I probably sound like I am pandering every time I compliment you on what you have done to expand my understanding of how to write a novel from the moment I first laid eyes on this website in late 2014. Nevertheless, I just have to say that you are the “cat’s meow” when it comes teaching someone the essentials to writing a book. Not sure how you could improve on it anymore . . . well, I suppose there is always room for improvement.

    So teach whatever you like, girl! Everything else I read and learn about novel writing is simply another sub-template to layer over the foundation of your instructional writing books, as well as all of the other structural and character development advice dispensed here on this site. You are the “awesomesauce” poured on top of this huge novel writing “feast” I have been devouring this past year. Learning never tasted so sweet!!! :)))

    Lance

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Hah! That put a grin on my face. 😀 Thanks very much for your kind words! Makes my day to hear the site has been useful in your own writing journey. And thank you for your comments here. A post on “when to stop” sounds like something others could benefit from. I’ll add to the idea queue.

  21. We could possibly upload your consciousness to a cloud and download it to our devices. Voila! I’d install you into scrivener, Evernote and my mobile gadgets. Whatta you say? Gamed? You can tell I’ve been reading an artificial intelligence book. 🙂

  22. I voted for Structuring the novel! Also, I was wondering, do you have an article about how to effectively end scenes and chapters? I never know where to cut a scene off, and when I get that figured out, I don’t know how to do it, either. Thanks for all the great advice btw! I adore this site.

  23. I stumbled across one of your works regarding arcs, and consider myself very much a fan. Due to the smartphone I use I cannot currently write reviews, but one day certainly will. If you find my works on sale in the next few years, know that I will consider you to have mentored me more than I can say. I had the entire series outlined, and have been working on it since 2011, but your written words affected mine to the point where my transitions have been sharpened immensely. Thanks so much, keep doing what you do! 🙂

    • K.M. Weiland | @KMWeiland says

      Awesome to hear you’ve found the site useful! All the best with your upcoming books!

  24. I skimmed the comments, so this may have been mentioned already, but perhaps a focus on world building. I prefer to work in a setting where I dictate the rules and locations, but I have come up against walls at certain points. I think that people who like working in fantasy or science fiction could benefit from input on building their worlds.

  25. I’d like to know how to write a superhero novel, since that’s what I’m writing.

  26. I put in writer’s block since that’s what I’m struggling with right now.

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