Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Writer's Journey

I missed my last scheduled installment and I apologize! It’s been a crazy few weeks both personally and professionally. I’ve had writing projects, career ups and downs, and pneumonia (blah). I’m so much better now, and might have some good news to report in the next couple of weeks.

I hope you’re all having a great holiday week! This week, I’d like to spend a bit of time talking about craft. Plotting, specifically.

I know, I know. A lot of us are pantsers. Eschew plotting if you must! But even the best pantser need’s a push sometimes. Like, “what the heck happens next?” sort of push. When I don’t know what happens next, I tend to procrastinate. And then nothing happens.

A few years ago, a critique partner introduced me to Christopher Vogler’s “The Writer’s Journey.” At that time, I was vaguely aware of the Hero’s Journey on which it’s based. I *think* we might have talked about it once or twice when I was in film school a hundred years ago. One great thing about the book is that he uses very specific examples from movies we’ve all seen—and outlines the journey. It makes it really clear.

It’s now one of my go-to books for plot if I get stuck.

As an example, my most recent WIP is a middle grade fantasy. When I began, I had a general idea of what the story was going to be about, but no real plotline. I started by opening up Scrivener, and titling each of my chapters one of Vogler’s stops along the Journey.

These are the stops along the journey: Ordinary World, Call to Adventure, Refusal of the Call, Meeting with the Mentor, Crossing the first Threshold, Approach to the Inmost Cave, The Ordeal, Reward, The Road Back, The Resurrection, Return with the Elixir.

It worked like a dream—I had an instant direction for each chapter. I could even have written part of it out of order, if I got stuck in the middle. The book practically wrote itself. J Well, you know what I mean.

It works with contemporary as well. Just take the general idea of Vogler’s stops—they’ll be more literal in fantasy or science fiction—but they’ll work for contemporary.

Any new year’s resolutions?

Mine is to read at least twenty  minutes every day. And to get more exercise. 

Happy New Year!


  1. Sounds like you had a lot of fun with your fantasy. That's one of the things that turns me off about is very formulaic. I hunger for more original fare, but I also for the most part, don't read anything MG anymore.

  2. Don't get me wrong, Michael. It doesn't have to feel formulaic, but not every strategy works for everyone. Good luck with your writing!

  3. My new years resolution is to finish my WIP in six months. It usually takes me a year to write a book, so this is a big deal for me. I'll definitely be picking up this book to help me out. thanks for the recommendation and happy holidays!!

    1. You're welcome, Tamara--it's a good one! Good luck w/ your resolution! Any finished WIP is a success, though!

  4. I love this book! I use it in conjunction with Hero with 1000 faces, because i like thinking about campbell's philosophies as well as vogler's practical application. And it can absolutely be used for any genre, even speculative fiction ;)

    it only sounds formulaic when the structure points are used literally instead of figuratively.

  5. What a great post to wake up to, Kristine. I have been fixin' up a plot recently, and this book sounds like just what I need! Jo Campbell and his books/CD's were instrumental at one point in my life and I could see how how his thoughtful, insightful philosophy would be like a well-spring from which to draw. I look forward to reading Vogler's book. Thanks so much for this timely reminder. I love this online community that helps/inspires me in so many ways. If you are interested, Campbell has some recordings done about Arthurian legends, and the difference in perspectives between the Eastern and the Western world. I think it's called "Transformations of Myth Through Time". Talk about the origins of story-telling! Bonne Chance and Merci!

    1. Thanks so much for the recommendation, Jill! I'd love to hear those recordings, I'll have to seek them out!