The Best of Happy Authors Guild’s 263 Posts by D. L. Hungerford

Writing blogs can be difficult. Often we are talking to ourselves because the audience doesn’t hit the like button or comment or even breath loud enough to let us know they are there. But lucky for us, WordPress keeps stats of how many people viewed our posts. Maybe I don’t mean lucky. Continue reading

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A Writer’s Life

“You look crazy.”

“Huh?” I say to my well-meaning husband. His  words, while amused and affectionate, have pulled me from my world. Doesn’t he know that I have dialogue to run?

“You’re talking to yourself. Your hands are even moving.” Full disclosure: my bio-mom’s family comes from Sicily, and people who study such things, know exactly which village by my hand motions.

I roll my eyes as I lose the thread. Edie had been talking smack, but it’ll have to wait. “Do you need something?”

“No.” He’s smiling at me.

slow-smile

“Do the kids need something?”

“Nope.”

“Then why are you…” I don’t want to say “bothering me” but that’s the phrase that’s attempting to escape.

He smile at me. “You look crazy.”

“And?” My patience is wearing very thin at this point.

“Well, we’re at our son’s robotics competition and you’re walking around, talking to yourself.”

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I heave a huge sigh. “There are four teams ahead of him. I  know what’s going on.”

“How’s the scene going?” I can tell he’s trying not to laugh.

“Not well. I’m not exactly sure who’s POV to use, or if I should cut directly to the action. Right now, I’m contemplating a quiet scene, and I don’t know if that’s right for the overall story. So I’m trying out dialogue.” I glare at him. “Did you need something?”

He finally laughs, soft chuckles that don’t carry far. “Yes. You. In this moment. And not looking crazy.”

My fingers drum on my twitching leg as I stare blankly at the stage where a small cube with arms manipulates Legos.

(Full disclosure: This video does not feature my kids or their robot.)

Two seconds later, Marley is clutching his guitar and flirting with Brenda. I’m not sure if this scene will work either, but I’m enjoying the hell out of their banter. Those two are always good for lightening the mood. And the book has been fairly heavy so far…

“You’re doing it again.” He’s laughing out loud, now.

“I really don’t care.” I try to hold on to the scene, but talking banishes the image of Marley laughing on the beach.

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“Do you really wander around talking to yourself outside of the house? Don’t you realize how crazy you look?”

Our youngest, all of seven, though cynicism and emotional manipulation makes him seem at least two decades older, plops into my lap. He munches on a granola bar and flaps a hand at his father. “Yeah, but, dad, mom is crazy. How did you miss that when you married her?”

My husband loses it at this point, and his big-belly laugh echoes in the gym. My two oldest children glance around the makeshift divider that has been erected. We smile and wave before turning our attention back the robots.

I make it through the end of the round, but once the setup for the next round starts, my mind is, again, in the Haven. This time, I’m trying a fight practice scene with Barb and Matt.

“You really can’t help it, can you?” My husband heavy, warm arm slips around my shoulders.

“What can I say? I’m a writer. Also, still not sure what the next scene should be…”

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***
author photo cropped
Kate Whitaker writes for fun and profit from the woods of the Olympic Peninsula. You can most likely find her sitting at her kitchen table yelling at kids as she tries to figure out a new way to kill made up monsters. She has a newsletter and a comic, and you can follow her on twitter.

 

Holiday Sparkle by D.L. Hungerford

Welcome to the end of 2016! Welcome to the First Day of Winter! Welcome to Solstice, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, and a time to meet with friends and family. Wishing you all your heart needs for the season. Writing time might be hard to come by, but keep your imagination alive and well in any way you can. Continue reading

How to beat writer’s block in 5 easy steps. By Bren Kyveli

What is writer’s block?

It’s that inexplicable dead silence in your brain when you fire up the laptop to work on a novel, a chapter, a short story… a blog post. It’s that debilitating feeling of utter emptiness where a story should be. You know its there, just moments ago while driving home you had a great idea but now you’re at your laptop and it’s nothing but crickets. Right? Continue reading

What makes a writer? by May Burnett

Imagination

Inventing stories and scenes inside the mind is one of the hallmarks of the writer, a habit we share with many people who never bother to write their ephemeral creations down. However, not everyone does it. Quite a few simply cannot if they try. I have even met people who seemed unable to follow a simple “What would happen if…?” scenario, getting upset that I was wasting their time with something unreal, even though we were just chatting over lunch. Perhaps they were never told stories in their childhood, or discouraged from using their innate imagination, and I can only pity them. (It seemed more tactful to change the subject, than try to discover the origins of their inability.) Continue reading

The First Click

By Milli Gilbert

“You shouldn’t judge a book by its cover.” We hear it all the time, just not in regards to books. Unless you’re an author. Not only do we hear it all the time, we say it all the time. And we mean it quite literally.

Except here’s the problem. A book cover is so much more than just the picture on the front of the book with the book’s title and author on display. It tells a story. The right images, or lack of, gives us a glimpse into what the book is about as much as the blurb on the back and the title. It’s the first line in marketing. Continue reading

Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Debra Dixon: (Another) Review.

 

I know, I know, this is a concept that is discussed time and time again! But the more I learn about writing, the more I understand what this simple plan can bring to a novel.

Goal, Motivation and Conflict (GMC) by Debra Dixon was the first writing craft book I bought, and now having read several other excellent books, this is still the one I repeatedly come back to. Why? Because for my easily confused, pantser brain, the message is simple.

The premise of the book is that a plot can be broken down into three parts:

A character wants a goal, because he/she is motivated but conflict stands in his/her way.

Typically, a character will have both an external and internal GMC, with the internal outlining a characters emotional arc. “If you can see it, touch it, taste it, hear it, or smell it . . . that’s external,” the book explains and uses movies, such as The Wizard of Oz, to demonstrate the idea:

External: Dorothy wants to go home, because Aunt Em is sick, but the wicked witch stands in her way.

Internal: She wants to find a place where she’s happy (think Somewhere Over The Rainbow), because she’s miserable and always in trouble, but she doesn’t know what she really wants.

As a pantser with aspirations of becoming a plotter, I’ve tried The Snowflake Method by Randy Ingermanson, The Six Stage Story Structure by Michael Hague, but my disorganised, right-brained mind, always rebels. These two GMC sentences, however, I can manage and never start a story without having them in place. It provides the essential who, what, why and why not.

“If you can trace every action in your book to a unique character’s goal and motivation, then the character will create the plot right before your eyes.”

I have found this to be true. Not only for the story as a whole, but also at scene level. When I get stuck, it’s almost always because I’ve lost sight of what one or more characters want, and why.

“Every scene should illustrate a character’s progress toward the goal, or bring the character into conflict with opposing forces, or provide the character with an experience that strengthens or changes his motivation.”

But, although at the most basic level those sentences may appear easy, they are not. It’s easy to confuse internal with external, or to discover your character goal is actually her motivation. Or the GMC may be beautifully laid out in the first chapter, but then there is no follow-through, especially if you’re writing romance like me. It’s very tempting to get distracted by the developing relationship between your characters. The romance maybe the heart of the story, but it’s not, the book stipulates, a character goal:

“The heroine’s goal in a romance novel is not to fall in love and get married. Ditto for the hero. The last thing on their minds is meeting a soul mate. In fact, it’s darned inconvenient. Romance will be a conflict for your characters.”

The book additionally covers  black moments, scene development, query letters, turning points plus a breakdown of the movies Casablanca, The Client and Ladyhawke. Also included is an example of Miss Dixon’s own query letter for her book Mountain Mystic.

Every writer has to find their own way, and different things click with different people, but this is the book that works for me. Debra Dixon is known in her own writing for pushing the boundaries of category romance, in particular with her book about a hit woman, Bad to the Bone (1996), which I recommend it to anyone wanting to write in this field.

For help outlining GMC and additional character development, the Mid-Michigan chapter of the RWA has a great chart here:

http://www.midmichiganrwa.org/gmc-charts.pdf

 

Lizzie Hermanson is a wife, mother and talented procrastinator. She writes contemporary romance when her cat isn’t hogging the keyboard and loves Happy Ever Afters. Find her @lizziehermanson