Sunday, September 30, 2012

Still Plotting

I love this picture! This is how I feel sometimes when I am plotting a novel. I enjoy the process, for the most part, but am always afraid there might be a sagging middle, or the plot twists might not be unique enough for an editor, or too unique for the them to take a risk on buying the novel, etc. At every writer's meeting someone will tell you how to write a book well and they don't always agree with each other.

When I want advice from the experts, I turn to my favorite craft book Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. His literary agency sells more than one hundred manuscripts to the top publishers every year.

In his chapter regarding plot, he reminds us conflict is the essence of the story, but we also need a sympathetic character who confronts this conflict. He also discusses the importance of creating tension on every page. I highly suggest you read his book.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sagging Middle

This month we are talking about plotting. I believe the advantage to plotting your story ahead of time is it helps you avoid the sagging middle. I like to plot three turning points that each move the story in a new direction, followed by the black moment and the happily ever after.

If I'm writing a romantic suspense, I plot the turning events for the romance and then for the mystery. Every thread of your story could have its own turning points to make the story a page turner. You don't want your reader to get bored and put the book down.

Remember, you'll get a lot of advise when it comes to writing. Take what rings true for you and don't worry about the rest.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Introducing Alana Lorens

 The Wild Rose Press was kind enough to give me my start, so I would like to introduce you to some of their other authors from time to time. Today we have Alana Lorens and her book That Girl's the One I Love

 Leyla Brand has one perfect day in her life: the day she meets rock singer Arran Lake at the Bele Chere Festival in Asheville. They have so much in common, Leyla is sure they are soulmates and will have a future together.
The very next morning, when Arran receives the call to hit the big time, he vanishes into the world of California rock and roll to become an international star, leaving her behind. Only a few phone calls keep them in touch -- until his phone is disconnected. After that, all she has of him is every new song that hits the charts.

 Five years later, she gets a message on the Internet from an unfamiliar address. Someone wants to know if she's the Leyla of Bele Chere. Should she open that door and discover who this might be? Who else could it be? And if it is Arran, why does he want to contact her now, after all this time? Will he just break her heart again?

You can learn more about Alana at
and her book at

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Plotting With Post-it Notes

This month we are discussing plotting. I am a visual person, so my favorite way to plot is to jot notes about the book onto Post-it Notes. The colors I use depend on what I have available. Each color represents a different thread in the story. This is an example:

:Pink - Romance
Orange - Romantic Conflict
Light Blue - Achieving the Major Goal
Dark Blue - His Character Arc
Yellow- Her Character Arc
Green - Black Moment

After I write the notes, I divide the white board into chapters and scenes. I write the setting, time, and point of view at the top of each box and then I place the notes in a way that the story builds the romance and their character arcs. The various colors show me if I'm dumping too much of one plot thread into one place or if I haven't shown the romance growing throughout the story.

I'll jot these notes into my computer and take it to Barnes and Noble where I work. When I wrote my short story, Once Upon a Weekend, which comes out 12/12/12, I placed each chapter onto construction paper on top of the boards. I folded the chapter I was working on and took it with me when I wrote.

Each author has their own way of plotting. This is mine and I enjoy the process. In the end, that's really all the matters.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I took this picture at The Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. While admiring the detail, I wondered if the artist knew what he would create beforehand or did he start with a chisel and let his imagination take over. Writing novels is much like any other piece of art. Some writers plot out every scene like I do. Some writers sit at the computer and let the characters take over the story. Those writers create stories by the seat of their pants and are therefore called pantsers. Some writers are a bit of both. I am a heavy plotter. I tried to be a pantser once, hoping I would reach inside and find well-developed characters who want their story told. After three chapters, I hit a brick wall and couldn't type another word. I needed my plot worked out ahead of time to continue. Some pantsers have told me they wished they were plotters because their characters get carried away and they have to throw out chapters that are not needed in the story. It could be a waste of time, but then they might have originally needed those chapters to get to know their characters better. Only that writer can be the judge.

So which system is better. I would argue neither. Everyone has their own style and the sooner a writer embraces it, instead of cursing it, the better off they will be emotionally. Have writers switched styles? I'm sure some have, but it isn't common. I have one friend who became a plotter because her story had so many intricate details, she had to make sure she included them in the right places. Writers who turn to mysteries have a reason to suddenly become a plotter. Mysteries need all of the clues placed in a logical order and sprinkled throughout; plus the red herrings need to be included as well. Although I know pantsers who have become plotters, I haven't heard of plotters becoming pantsers. It may have to do more with our personalities. I need to plot my life as well as my stories. I have a friend who would think nothing of quitting a job without a backup plan. I would have panic attacks.

Since I am a plotter, next week I'll go into how detailed I get when working on a story.