Saturday, 23 June 2012

Stepping Stones

Goal - Motivation - Conflict...I am sure all of those are 'perfectly clear' in my writing...

Hmmm, perhaps not, after talking to fellow RWA'r Marlene yesterday, prior to our latest writing sprint. I know what my Hero's issues are (his need of a bride), and I know what his motivation is (keep the family happy), and naturally the conflict is obvious (he doesn't particularly want a wife) - clear, no? Well I thought it was until I started reassessing what I had already written, and nowhere in the early chapters is any of this mentioned, nor is it even eluded to. 
How on earth will I get Valerie Gray at MIRA Books (Harlequin) to take my pulitzer-prize-contender and turn it into a bestseller if my Hero refuses to give up his thoughts? Is it my fault he is tight-lipped about things? Apparently it is, so this weekend's goal is to go back and see if I can't add in a scene or two to help my readers understand the inner workings of  'said'  Hero's mind.

Speaking of SCENE's, last week at our RWA-GVC Meeting, we had Mary Buckham come in to present her "Break Into Fiction" workshop and engage us in, power openings, hooks and scene survival. What I really found interesting was the breakdown of a scene. As a new writer, I have all the ignorance of being a novice on my side - I am like a twenty-year-old in the writing world. Up until now, I thought it was a fairly easy process when writing a book:

STEP ONE: Think of a story
STEP TWO: Pull in a few character and give them a problem or two to overcome
STEP THREE: Throw in a happy ending with a bunch of filler in-between

Ah yes, I can see Ms. Gray now as she peruses my masterpiece and then chucks it into the bin in the bottom right hand corner of her desktop, and follows up by blocking my e-mail address.

Valerie, I have learned a few things that will help you finally love my writing:

A SCENE (this has three parts)
     Disaster or Complication

This is followed up by:

A SEQUEL (this too has three parts but is shorter than a scene)

By clarifying motivation for my character, I thus clarify it for my reader.

All books have more than one scene, all scene's must have sequels.

Brilliant! had I missed something so basic yet so brilliant? When broken down like this, I know it seems fairly easy, but it has since taken me a week to figure out how to do this smoothly as I am not a planner, I am a pantser. A scene, which is longer than a sequel, needs to set up my story. The sequel is the outcome of the scene. I think its clear, but just in case I forget again as I am sidetracked by my Heroine's frustration with her Hero, I picked up "Scene & Structure" by Jack Bickham as recommended by Mary Buckham.
(hmmm, interesting how those two are separated by only a vowel)

Mary opened up and closed our workshop last week by telling all of us that as writers, we need to develop the craft of writing no matter where we are in our careers. And as I looked around me at my fellow RWA-GVCr's, many of them were nodding in agreement. 

Writing is no different than learning to play an instrument, learning a new sport, or learning to paint - practise, practise, practise. Like anything else worth doing, the smart person realises that no matter how good you are, there is always room for improvement....and I am a wide open space.

PAINTING  Courtesy  of  Ms. Cynthia Gyuk

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Oh The Struggles...


So here it is, the latest book - a Regency Romance. I often wonder about the time required for the Hero and Heroine to get together. I feel duty bound to tell the reader why they are where they are in their lives, the reasons that have led them down a particular path. But alas, I was told that if they don't meet in the first chapter the chance of my reader continuing on is slim - and if not by the end of the second chapter the chance of 'said' reader continuing on is next to none.

So I removed over five thousand words last week and have tried to shove them in elsewhere along the way. Hmmm, somehow the flow seems off. In an attempt to seek others advice (again), I sent my first chapter off to one of my Beta Readers, Bernadette, and sat waiting for the verdict. The answer I received was interesting. She asked, why? Why is she where she is and he where he is and what happened to get them.....etc. Yes, finally, evidence. All of those words I so casually ripped from the heart of my story which answered many of the 'why' questions, had my reader guessing. It made her want to read on. 

Lesson learned. 


That was not my only struggle last week. I had my first experience where my characters were not doing what I wanted them to do - how dare they!? So I went on my RWA loop to see if this was normal. I am new to this game so naturally when my Hero and Heroine started working against me, I got a little concerned to say the least. My favourite answer was from Nora Snowden, "...kill one of them off and show them who's boss!" Cute Nora, but not a solution. All I was after was an answer to whether or not this was normal - apparently it is. Many of my fellow writers said that often the story they start out writing, is not the story they end with. What is worse, sometimes the Hero turns into a weak-willed-Wally just as another appears on the horizon, riding in to save the day - or book in this instance. When discussing the issue with some non-writing friends, they looked at me as though I had two heads and I got, "Well, you're the one writing the story, surely you can control a couple of fictional characters....?" Can you control your children? HA! No! And these are my the moment, and they don't do as they are told at times. 

What I have discovered this week with writing - you just don't know what is going to happen sometimes. Just like life, you can plan as much as you want but often the universe takes over and changes things up. Your characters can have a mind of their own, and sometimes it is like 'herding cats', the idea is novel, but near impossible to accomplish. You just have to let them all go off in separate directions and hope they come together again along the way.


PHOTOGRAPHY  Courtesy  of  Maggie Devine

Sunday, 3 June 2012

MANATEE KEY - Final Edits Approved

My editor approved my final edits for MANATEE KEY (the new title) and sent them off to my publisher. I will now wait for the content editor to get his/her hands on it and we will go from there.

My first week of unemployment has gone well. For those of you who don’t know me, I am in sales full time, or in this case, I ‘was’ in full time sales. I really like sales, but sadly was laid off eighteen months ago from a job I loved. I picked up a contract for a year with a different company, but that has just ended and now I find myself in the same situation as 18 months ago, minus the termination package...sigh...oh well, that leaves me a lot of time for writing so this is really a blessing in disguise.

I managed to clean up my office this week and got rid of excess paper and old work ‘things’ no longer relevant to me. I also finally got around to tidying up my apartment - what a nightmare Vancouver is. There is never enough space and unless you have lived here, you can’t really appreciate the desperation one feels when trying to put things away. The only sure thing about Vancouver is you certainly do throw a lot of stuff out. No one can possibly be a pack-rat in this city, there is just no room for that luxury.

I went to the Firehall Library on Thursday with four of my fellow RWA peeps and wrote for three hours, uninterrupted. It was nice to have company. As a writer you can get really isolated in your space so it was good to get out and connect with fellow writers. I will include Nora’s website below just so you know who I am hanging out with these days.

I flirted with some random man in the Library and I think it's worth noting, because in Vancouver, it rarely goes well...picture this...

I was getting a wet-wipe for my work surface from the librarian when an age appropriate and handsome man strolls in (wearing a suit and carrying a briefcase) and he looks at the bathroom keys for a moment, confused as to which to pick. I can’t help but look at him because in Vancouver, rarely does a handsome man actually smile and acknowledge you...he pipes up and says,

“A real man would know which key to pick”.

I laugh and smile coyly (Hey, I’m single and straight, and he is hot and not wearing a wedding ring, what else is a girl to do? I’m thinking I will use him in my next book, salt and pepper hair, a few lines around those honest, wholesome eyes that smile right back at get the picture).

So he picks the correct key and I give him my best smile. I manage to catch his eye and he drops his bathroom key. Suddenly, the world stands still. Do I reach for it? No, of course not. The handsome guy without the wedding ring reaches down and picks it up and says aloud,

“A real man wouldn’t have dropped the key.”

I think for a minute because this is going to be a moment in time where I only have one shot and out of my mouth comes,

“No, I am sure you are a real man. I would like to think that I just threw you off.

His eyes are really smiling now and he is is the librarian (x 2) and five other people who were in the vicinity on the computers, in line behind me, looking at the sale bin (my library has a sale bin of old books).

It was one of my more quick-witted moments and whoever he was, I know he is telling the same story to his friends and family, but perhaps with a different twist.

PHOTOGRAPHY  Courtesy  of  Maggie Devine