I’m sure you all can identify with this. Years ago I started something that rolled on its own beautifully and only needed an occasional push. This blog is that thing. Then the contributors started being published and happy and busy. One by one, they dropped off the list of contributors. Continue reading
The constant battle. Plot your story or write it by the seat of your pants?
I used to pants. If I wasn’t feeling the passion, I didn’t write. Now, I do both, and it’s saved my writing. I’m choosing to share my method and madness in case it helps others. If nothing else, you’ll have a good idea of why I’m so crazy afterward.
Get your pencil and paper ready because I’m going to drop some knowledge.
I got myself in over my head as far as time to do things. Without losing any of my regular obligations for blogs, group moderation, posts, writing, etc., I got into a beta read situation with two wonderful authors. So this blog is going to be short and sweet. Continue reading
The honour of bringing the first blog post of 2017 to the Happy Authors’ Guild falls to me, and you know what? I’ve blown it.
I haven’t just forgotten to give HAG a timely hug, or omitted to whisper sweet nothings in HAG’s shell-like ear, or nipped when I should have licked between HAG’s plump and luscious thighs. No, I’ve blown it like a turkey-induced New Year’s fart that’s gonna reverberate from now until June. Continue reading
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
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
Can beauty be found in chaos?
My knee-jerk reaction is: “Pfft. Absolutely not. Chaos is terrible and serves no purpose, there must be order in all things.”
But then I wrote a book and it changed my mind. Continue reading
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:
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
I’m making soup, tonight. Pumpkin soup with some other veg, turmeric and cayenne. I’ve made this soup several times over the past two months because I like it of an evening and it’s healthy. Why am I waffling about soup? Because the other day I changed my recipe – I left out parsnip and it changed the balance of flavours in a way I didn’t like. So today I’ve added it back in, with a bit more for good measure 😀
I think writing a story is about balance. We can add too much internal thought, or too little internal thought, and the flavour of the story will change. We can add a dollop of spice, or too much spice, and the flavour will change. So the questions must be asked: What kind of story is it? And do we want the story to fit genre, or not?
We need a balance of characters to represent different aspects of the story. Maybe we have a character who always sees the humour in a situation and maybe we need a pessimist to balance out the humours. Maybe we have someone who thinks they know it all only to find out they don’t, and someone who thinks they know nothing when, in fact, they know more than they think they do. Maybe we have a protagonist and antagonist, but do our other characters balance each other? Each character should bring a different flavour to the story, and, depending on how strong we want that flavour to be, we can enhance that quality or dilute it a little.
So, with balancing characters in mind, let’s play a game of word association. I’ll begin by putting a characteristic down, and let’s see where we go in the comments!
My word: ‘Know-it-all’
What comes into your mind? Or if you want to change characteristic, write a new one and we can all say what comes into our heads. This is a useful tool for adding depth to characters, too:)
Maybe you’ve heard of the wild ride that is National Novel Writing Month—a self-challenge for writers to pen a minimum of 1667 words a day in order to complete a 50k draft in 30 days. Maybe like me, you heard of it on and off and never actually thought about participating for one reason or another.
This year I decided to tackle it.