About Carrie Ryan

Here are my most recent posts

Going hybrid

Carrie RyanCarrie Ryan

Over a year ago, John Hartness expressed dismay that I wasn’t self-publishing the short stories I had the rights back on and politely insisted that I do so ASAP. I believe his exact words were something along the lines of how those stories were making nothing just sitting on my hard drive but could be making me money if I put them out there for sale. Unfortunately, it took me more than a year to do so, but finally last month I self-published, The Dead and Empty World, a collection of short stories (I’ve begun publishing the individual stories as well).

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | kobo

I have to tell you, it’s addicting! I hired someone (Jeremy West at Red Creative Design) to do the cover and design the inside. He was going to also do the file conversions, but I started reading up on it [...]

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On deep POV

Carrie RyanCarrie Ryan

I recently had dinner with several writers who were attending a week long writing workshop, and the conversation turned to what each of them felt they needed to work on. One of the writers brought up that she was struggling with “deep POV” and several of the other writers mentioned struggling with that as well. A few mentioned having felt like they’d “gotten it” only to have crit partners tell them they hadn’t gone far enough.

So they asked me: how do you deepen POV? I asked them for examples of what they meant by deep POV, and they mentioned Cut by Patricia McCormick and Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Which are both intensely emotional, issue-centric, contemporary stories with very deep and personal POVs. However, the writer asking me about POV was working on a middle grade action adventure book, which means it will almost definitionally have a very different [...]

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On being bored

Carrie RyanCarrie Ryan

Recently, a friend on Twitter noted that some days she feels like 90% of her time is spent on the business of being a writer and only 10% is spent on the actual writing.

And it got me thinking about time as a writer — what we spend our time and emotional energy doing. It seems like there’s never enough time to get it all done. Someone once said that being an author is like being in school — there’s always homework. It’s true — there’s always more you can be doing. For example, today has been about catching up on the business side of things since I had a deadline on Friday and while I’ve been on hold with various companies, I’ve been flicking through Twitter or making to-do lists or cleaning up my desktop because what else are you going to do?

You finish one task [...]

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On the relationship between plot and character

Carrie RyanCarrie Ryan

Protagonists are the reader’s conduit into the story — without them, the story pretty much wouldn’t exist. Often I think there are two ways writers come up with characters: either the characters come first to mind and you then figure out what story to build around them, or you come up with a story and you then figure out what character to put into it.*

Either way, at the end of the day what you want to end up with is the right character for the right story (or the right story for the right character). There should be a reason *this* character has to tell (or experience) *this* story. There’s an interlocking relationship there. If we can pull out the character from a story and replace them with someone else without affecting the story, then the relationship between plot and character isn’t strong enough. The same is [...]

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The Dark Night of the Soul

Carrie RyanCarrie Ryan

In my last few posts I’ve been talking about structure (here on overall structure, here on the midpoint). Today I want to focus on the plot point often referred to as the “Dark Night of the Soul.” It’s the turning point that comes at about 75% of the way through a story — the demarcation between Act 2 and Act 3.* You might also hear people refer to this point as the “Crisis Point,” or “All is Lost” or “Whiff of Death” (as you can tell, it’s rarely stuffed with rainbows and happiness – lol).

If the midpoint (50% mark) of the story is where things get much much worse and where the bridge is burned, the Dark Night of the Soul is where the goal seems as far away as possible. At the midpoint, things are tough, but there’s still hope that the characters can achieve what they want [...]

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The Midpoint

Carrie RyanCarrie Ryan

In my last post I talked about structure (here) and shared one of the many plot charts I use while working on a book. And yes, I said “many plot charts” because there are several different approaches and sometimes what works at one stage (such as pre-planning) doesn’t work as well in another stage (like revising). (It’s been a while since I read this link so I can’t remember how on point it is, but you can get an idea of various structures here).

Today I want to spend a little more time focusing on one of the plot points you’ll find in most of those structures (and which I think is critical to almost any story): the midpoint. As you’d guess, the midpoint takes place about halfway through the book (in the middle of Act 2 for you 3 Act structure fans).

Up until this point your character [...]

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Plot Structure Chart

Carrie RyanCarrie Ryan

I’ve been thinking a lot about structure recently and more specifically about outlining. This is not something I’m used to doing — I’ve never been much of an outliner, but over the past several months I’ve been forced to become one. For me, outlining is the first step to drafting a synopsis and I had several synopses to write in order to send various projects out on proposal.

In the past, whenever I’ve had to outline something I’ve turned to my favorite structure guru, Michael Hague. He uses a classic three-act structure and a fairly straightforward set of stages and turning points that a story moves through. Late last year, an author friend turned me on to Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat which lays out 16 plot beats at the heart of any story and I’ve found his approach to be super helpful as well (plus it meshes well [...]

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