Friday, October 21, 2011

Firsts Fridays: The Plot Whisperer, Martha Alderson

Anyone who reads my blog is probably sick to death of me mentioning the Plot Whisperer, but I tell you, she is fabulous. So fabulous in fact, that she accepted an invite to be interviewed for Firsts Fridays.

Martha Alderson (that is her real name, not really the Plot Whisperer just in case you didn’t know) isn’t really experiencing any firsts but she’s been there and also enjoys helping those that are.

Just check out her bio if you don’t believe me:

Martha Alderson has worked with hundreds of writers in sold-out plot workshops, retreats, and plot consultations for more than fifteen years. Her clients include bestselling authors, New York editors, and Hollywood movie directors. She lives in Santa Cruz, CA. Follow her blogworkshops, vlog, or follow her on twitter and faceboook

DB: First things first, congratulations on your new book coming out soon! Could you tell us a little bit about it?

MA: Thank you!

My intention in writing this book is to share the insights I have gained about plot and character, structure and form, thanks to years of teaching and consulting with writers from five years old to 102. I conduct plot workshops for writers of all genres who are intent on creating a worthy project. In one-on-one plot consultations, I listen to writers from all over the world recount scenes and visions for their stories. Throughout the process, I suggest plot parameters, offer tips on theme and character, and recommend tricks for layering and pacing.

The more writers I interact with, the more keenly I feel the universality and interconnectedness of our shared journeys through life together, especially those of us stubborn enough to pluck words from our imaginations and offer them to the world.

Anyone who wants to write or is in the process of writing a novel, short story, memoir, or screenplay faces the daunting task of creating several plots and multiple scenes. This book will guide you through the process of writing the story inside of you. Along the way I include Plot Whisper tips and exercises to improve your plotting skills, and The Writer’s Way advice about how to expand your writing life.

DB: I love how you not only help us as writers but you motivate us, push us through the rough patches. Thanks for that by the way.

What about yourself? Who is Martha Alderson? How did you get the name, The Plot Whisperer, and why have you decided to make it your job to help other writers out?

MA: I made up the name – The Plot Whisperer – when I started my blog of the same name. My intent for the blog was to use it to “debrief” after plot consultations with writers. I am usually energized after a session with lots of ideas and questions swirling around I believe are helpful to other writers so I use that space to share plot tips and insights into the writing process with a bit of inspiration thrown in.

DB: I have to say the name is fitting.

You have a wealth of information out there for writers, novelists, screen writers and play writers alike. I know what my favorite is (the You Tube plot series), but what would you say is your most helpful work to date?

MA: My new book: The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master is my most helpful work to date. I was filming the YouTube Plot Series: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay? while I was writing the book so the Plot Series is loosely the outline of the Plot Whisperer book. The book goes more deeply into the elements covered in the Plot Series with loads of examples from novels, memoirs, and screenplays.

The part of the book I am most excited about is the story beneath the story – the Universal Story and the message that writing is transformative. I hope writers come away from this book with practical techniques to integrate the energy of the Universal Story into their stories. After using these ideas, I believe writers will begin to understand themselves better. They’ll see their writing in a different light. The ways they interact with their writing and with the world around them will shift.

Writers imagine themselves into being writers. Their imaginations allow them to see worlds invisible to others. In my book, I invite writers to imagine the Universal Story into reality and reclaim a miraculous and mysterious way of being.

DB: Since I did this interview I’ve had time to read some of your book this book and I have to say, it is amazing! For those interested I am giving away a copy of it. Read below for more info.

Let’s say someone wants a one-on-one consult with you. Is that possible and if so, what is the difference between the one-on-one time versus someone simply reading your advice?

MA: Yes, I do plot consultations with writers from all over the world. The difference is that we work on the writer’s own particular story to develop a plot and discuss issues and questions and problems the writers has confronted, specific to their individual story.

DB: Sign me up is all I’ve gotta sayJ

What kind of guidance or encouragement can you give a writer who has sent out query after query only to get rejection after rejection?

MA: Go back and re-plot your story. Create a Plot Planner and then stand back from the story and assess what’s working and what may need additional time and attention.

DB: The Plot Planner is ingenious.

What is one of the biggest mistakes you see a new writer making?

MA: Giving away the backstory right up front. Telling rather than showing. Constantly going back over what they have written rather than forging ahead and writing to the end of the story. Until you write the climax, you can’t make informed decisions about the beginning.

DB: No joke, these three things are exactly what I did with my first novel. It’s so easy to keep going back.

Are there any parting words of advice you can give to us writers, old and new?

MA: Be aware of your strengths and weaknesses as a writer. Learn to compensate for your weaknesses and rely on your strengths. Understand the writing process for what it is – a personal journey with the promise of ultimate transformation for not only your protagonist but for you as well.

DB: Thanks so much, Martha, for doing this interview! It is amazing to have someone so knowledgeable share their wisdom with us.

MA: Thanks for this opportunity, Deana!

If you’ve read the interview and are salivating over getting your fingers on a copy of Martha’s newest book, simply leave me a comment below for a chance to win. I will pick a winner next Friday. Good luck!

Can’t get enough Plot Whisperer? Check her out on her next blog tour stop:

Shreve Stockton at Honey Rock Dawn
As the author of the best-selling memoir, The Daily Coyote, Shreve shares first-hand experience with my plot techniques.
She is offering a book giveaway.

Until next time…

Keep writing. Keep learning.


Plot Whisperer said...

Good morning, Deana, and thank you for hosting one of the stops on the blog book tour today. (for links to both stops, please visit my blog)
I look forward to checking back throughout the day to say hi and answer questions and/or for whatever...
I'm excited to be here!
For now, I'm off to tweet and FB about you and the free book giveaway.
I'll be back...
Thanks again, Deana.

Marybk said...

Thanks, Deana, for the terrific interview! And, good morning, Martha.

I used to try to plot, but then when I wrote the story, I'd blame the roaming from my plan on them. They made me do it. After watching Martha's videos, I now have a better sense of universal story and the goals I should have when plotting.

Everyone should consider getting this book.

Connie said...

Great stuff! Martha's videos have been a great help getting ready for Nanowrimo.

Melissa Ann Goodwin said...

I love the idea of a "plot whisperer" and I sure would love a copy! If I don't win one, I'll definitely purchase it. Deana, thanks for coming by my blog. I like yours very much!

Plot Whisperer said...

Hi Mary!
Fun day yesterday. Thank you for hosting, I had a blast.
Thank you for your kind words!

Plot Whisperer said...

Yay! You're doing Nano, Connie. What a commitment to your writing and to yourself. Congratulations and great good luck.

I hope you'll stop by PlotWriMo in December. Everyday, you are given prompts into re"visioning" all the words you wrote in November to form a compelling novel, memoir, or screenplay in December...

Thanks for visiting!

Plot Whisperer said...

Deana, you indicated at the beginning of the interview that I'm not experiencing any firsts.

I am.

To set the record straight--this is my first book published by a national press with an east coast editor and a bona fided publicity (who, by the way, deserves a huge round of applause for organizing this blog tour -- I had no idea how time and effort it would take to interact with writers this way -- Thank you, Bethany!)

Christina Mercer said...

Absolutely loved the you tube series on plotting, and would really love a copy of the book! Fantastic advice that I have put to use in preparing for NaNoWriMo :-D

Emily R. King said...

I love the Plot Whisperer! One of my favorite blogs.
Great interview! I want her book!

Plot Whisperer said...

Hi Melissa. Thanks for visiting.
Pre-plotter for nano -- Christina, you're a woman after my own heart! Hope to see you in December for PlotWriMo.
Thanks, E.R.! Fun to hear from you. Your support lifts me higher...

VDGriesdoorn said...

Hey Martha,

can you tell I'm following you around? Another great interview.

I wonder about the rewrite after querying advice. Mostly writers say 'write a new book, it's going to better than the previous one'. Would you advise to requery agents/publishers with a revamped story or query different ones?


Janet Kerr said...

Hello again Martha,

What do you think about when to begin using the scene tracker an a book? For example, I am about to start NanoWrimo. Would it be better to start this on a scene tracker before or on the 1st Draft.

And, I enjoyed your interview Deana...

Jan K.

Plot Whisperer said...

Hi Victoria,
Fun to see you here! This is a cool way to experience lots of different and amazing writers' and writerly blogs.

If an agent points out specific issues needing more attention or gives any encouragement and you take the advice or use the encouragement to revision and then undertake a major rewrite, sure I would resubmit. Be sure to indicate the part they played in the new version.

Agents, like anyone, like it when they are heard and their advice is respected.


Plot Whisperer said...

Hi again Janet!

Everyone uses the Scene Tracker and Plot Planner differently.

I know plenty of writers who pre-plot on the Scene Tracker. I can't really imagine that.

Some writers prefer the scene tracker all together better than the plot planner.

I advise creating a Plot Planner for your vision as a pre-plotting tool before Nov. 1st and embarking on Nanowrimo. Even if you only slap up four post-it notes, one for each of the four energetic markers.

The Plot Planner becomes a place to vision the project more fully the more you write.

If I use the Scene Tracker at all in the first draft, I create one when I feel bogged down in the story (and especially and always in subsequent drafts).

The Scene Tracker helps to point out your strengths as a writer and also pinpoint the weaknesses. As soon as you see the gaps in the tracker, you know what's needed and the helps create a short term goal which helps you move forward.


Stephsco said...

Your book sounds great! I'm very interested in improving my craft right now. I started writing in more of a DIY fashion (NaNoWriMo) but now want to focus on improving.

Angelica R. Jackson said...

I picked up the Blockbuster Plots kit a while ago, and found the sections on plot really helpful. I'd love to win this book and see how Ms. Alderson's thoughts on plot have evolved!

Angela Cothran said...

I LOVE books on craft and this one sounds amazing. I'm off to check amazon. Thanks Deana :)

Carol said...

I am thrilled to have found both your blogs! I feel a little transformation has happened for/to me this very afternoon.

Thanks, Carol

Plot Whisperer said...

Congratulations, Stephsco, for doing nanowrimo! And, congratulations on being willing to concentrate on learning strategies to improve your process.

Every time you reach out, you are rewarded with exactly what you need. It's the forward progress, the willingness to change and grow that evolves us all...

Plot Whisperer said...

Hi again, Angelica! Love to see you again...

Good for you to be so enthusiastic about new opportunities to improve your craft, Angela!

Wow! a transformation occurring. You're giving me goose bumps, Carol!

RAD - Dot Painter said...

Hi Martha,
Congrats on your book release! I was honored to hear you speak at the San Rafael workshop run by SCBWI. You helped me transform as a writer! - Rachel Dillon

asraidevin said...

Good advice and it looks like a great book. Going to add to my wishlist for sure. I've been studying plot and stucture this month and it's been a big eye opener.

Plot Whisperer said...

Hi RAD-Dot Painter,

That workshop changed my life because that's where I met Jill Corcoran, my agent. She swept me up and sent me soaring and look where I am now!

Thank you for your kind and generous words!

Plot Whisperer said...

Hi asraidevin,

Perhaps you'll win a free copy of the book. If not here, perhaps at another stop along the way on the blog tour.

Glad you're studying your craft and expanding your skill set!

Heather Marsten said...

I think your book is crucial - I have learned much following you on your blog tour - takeaway today is not to give the story away in the first few pages, but to slowly reveal the plot.


Plot Whisperer said...

Hi Deana,

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

I loved meeting your peeps today and interacting with the writers who commented. What a joy.

No stops on the blog tour tomorrow or Sunday but come Monday morning, my favorite writer in the world plays host!

Hope you'll come say hi, Deana, and everyone else. Shreve will do something personal. A surprise to me, too...

lots of love,

Sherrey Meyer said...

To Deana, thanks for hosting the informative interview with Martha. I've been reading about the Plot Whisperer's new book and am anxious to get my own copy. I'm a 65-year old grandma and retired legal secretary with a penchant for writing and am currently working on a memoir. Desperately seeking any and all help on this project and other small ones.

To Martha, thanks for sharing your experience, skills and tools with those of us who love to write. See you at the next stop!

Nadja Notariani said...

I'm always looking for great craft books! This will definitely be added to the TBR list.
The Plot Whisperer is a fantastic name! :)

Leslie S. Rose said...

I am a huge fan of Martha's. I've even used some of the vlogs in my 5th grade class. They love her too. Can't wait to get my hands on the book.

PK HREZO said...

Definitely going to get this book! I think we get too attached to our stories sometimes to see they need to be restructured. I've found by taking months away from it at a time really detaches me so I can start the redux. :)
Thanks for the great interview, Deana and Martha!

Deana said...

WHat great comments! I hate that I missed out on all the fun...and on my blog no less. Friday morning my internet connection went out and I didn't get it back up till just now.
Martha, sorry about the snafoo on you experiencing a first. COngrats! That is great and I;m thirlled to be part of it:)

Small Town Shelly Brown said...

I really enjoyed this interview.
I follow The Plot Whisperer on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube...but I have never read one of her books. I am way overdue.
PLEASE enter me into the contest
shellybrownwriter at gmail

Melissa Sugar said...

Fabulous interview. I did not have a chance to read last week I was hosting a mystery weekend scavenger hunt for my ten year old son's birthday party. In one word, a dozen ten year old kids, "nightmare". But they had fun.

I love this book. I have posted about it. It is by far the most useful writing how to book that I own and I have volumes of writing books. I am a huge fan of Martha's and I think every writer should own a copy of this book. I am not exaggerating when I say that this book made me finally understand so many different concepts, especially the difference between and the individual strengths and weaknesses of the right vs left brain writer. I could go on and on about how much I use this book and how much it helps me, but everyone needs to read it and see what it can do to improve their writing skills.

Melissa sugar

Christine said...

Lucky me to have found Martha, and this website too! A sense of humor is good. I'm really excited to have just this evening found Martha's work, as I prep last minute for NaNoWriMo. I think I'd been avoiding it as I didn't want to have 50000 words of nothing after a month and a sore body from sitting. But I feel re-inspired w reading even just a bit of Martha's material. Thank you.

Maricar said...

What a wonderful interview! Thank you for the great advice. Congratulations on the new book! I'm looking forward to learning more about plot wrangling. :)

Susa Silvermarie said...

I'm now willing to make the jump into planning, after years of resistance. Yikes!