Elizabeth: Warming things up

love_holding_handsWhile the mystery/suspense portion of my story is moving right along (well, inching along, but moving forward nonetheless), the romance has stalled. Seriously, Nancy Drew got more action. As my beta readers have pointed out, there’s a definite chill in the air, so I’m currently brainstorming ways to warm things up.

If I was writing a contemporary story, I think I’d have more options, but Abigail is a gently bred young lady of the Regency. Since at that time it was commonly thought that women had no real need or desire for sex (really?), she would probably have known little if anything about it before she married, especially since she had no mother around to advise her. Having been raised in the country she may have had a basic idea of the mechanics of things, but she is unlikely to have any practical experience (other than a stolen kiss perhaps). Continue reading

Jeanne: Teaching Conflict

Hi everyone, I’m taking a much-needed post-conference-and-contest break with the family this week, so Jeanne Estridge has graciously agreed to take over today’s post. Thank you Jeanne! I’ll be back next week. –Justine

I recently started teaching a class on Plot and Structure at Words Worth Writing. The first week dealt with the basics:

  • Who is your protagonist? What is her goal?
  • Who is your antagonist? What is his goal?

How do their goals set them at odds with each other? How do the actions each takes in pursuit of her goal block the other from obtaining hers?

As an example, I used a movie, The Wizard of Oz.

  • Protagonist: Dorothy Gale
  • Goal: To get back to Kansas
  • Antagonist: The Wicked Witch of the West
  • Goal: To get her sister’s ruby slippers back.

On the surface, these goals may not appear to be mutually exclusive, but if you dig deeper, they are. The Witch knows she’ll never get the slippers if Dorothy returns to Kansas with them on her feet. And Dorothy quickly realizes the slippers are all that stand between her and death-by-witch.

At McDaniel, Jenny had us create conflict boxes for our novels. If you’re a regular reader of Jenny’s Argh  blog, you may already be familiar with conflict boxes. They help writers line up the actions of the protagonist and antagonist so that they block each other, creating that nice crunchy conflict that draws your reader forward.

For my class, we did a three-action box:

Screen Shot 2014-04-21 at 8.46.28 PM

You can see that for each move Dorothy makes, the Witch makes a counter-move, right up until the moment she melts.

As I start over on my work-in-progress, I’m keeping in mind that the actions my protagonist and her antagonist take need to counter each other in just this way.

How about you? Have you ever tried using a conflict box?

Nancy: Joy + Hard Work


This past weekend, I got to do one of my favorite things, which is visiting my daughter. One of the things we do when we visit is attend classes at the excellent yoga studio near her apartment. While attending a class Saturday morning, the yoga teacher gave us one of his many definitions of yoga, which is joy plus hard work. Because he told us this more than an hour into a very intense practice in an 85° F room, at a point where our muscles felt like spaghetti and some of us were questioning the wisdom of the way we’d chosen to spend our Saturday morning, it was easy to understand the part about hard work. The joy, that wasn’t quite so obvious at the time. And that’s the way it sometimes is with something else that can be defined as joy plus hard work: writing.

Writing is hard work, and some days are harder than others. On those days, we might see the joy after the writing is done, just as it can be easier to see the joy of having survived yoga class hour after class is over. Continue reading

Jilly: The Slipper And The Horseshoe

The Slipper and the HorseshoeCalling all historical romance readers: can you recommend any good books similar to The Slipper And The Horseshoe, the novel described with great enthusiasm by Judi Dench, playing Philomena Lee in the Oscar-nominated movie based on Philomena’s true-life search for the son she gave up for adoption as an unmarried teenage mother in rural Ireland?

I wrote a post on 19 January in which I said I think that The Slipper And The Horseshoe must be a creation of Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope, the writers of Philomena. I suspect their intention was to send up genre romance, but the premise they came up with has the potential for an excellent story. It seems I wasn’t the only person to think so. ‘I Didn’t See That Coming’ has become 8LW’s most frequently viewed post of all time, because every week without fail readers are discovering it whilst searching the internet for variants of ‘the slipper and the horseshoe.’

Several times over the last three months I’ve thought that if I wrote historicals, I’d be typing furiously. Sadly, I wouldn’t know where to start, but as 113 people so far this week have read a 3 month-old post looking for information about a non-existent book, I decided to see if I could find some good alternative recommendations Continue reading

Michaeline: Popular

Close your eyes and just go!

Popularity is a tight rope. Don’t look down!

For some reason this week I’ve been thinking about the difference between good and popular. Lois McMaster Bujold fans will see a parallel between honor and reputation here, and if you need a little boost for your own good/popular contemplations, I highly recommend the cast recording of Wicked – the whole musical plays with the concepts of good and evil, popular and unpopular, and the public and private perceptions.

But anyway, since I haven’t gotten much beyond, “Well, both would be good,” I’m going to turn my attention to something else that caught my eye.

The more popular something gets, the more hate something gets. Continue reading

Kat: Reinventing Cheyenne?

hat2I spent this past weekend winding down from my trip to Arizona by unpacking not only my suitcases but my brain. I left AZ with a ton of great research material for my book, as well as some new writing information, most of which was pushed aside and packed away as the vacation portion of my trip took center stage.

Then on Sunday night I sat down to watch a movie I assumed was a light-hearted look at the Walt Disney production of “Mary Poppins” since it starred Tom Hanks. “Saving Mr. Banks” has humorous moments but it is not Mr. Disney’s story, but rather the story of author P.L. Travers and her struggle to safeguard the integrity of her Mary Poppins books. Continue reading

Kay: Better Writing through Watching TV

LeverageI’ve been watching Leverage on Netflix—actually I’ve been rewatching it—and this time I’m also listening to the commentary. The commentary is mostly by the producers and writers. I don’t always enjoy the commentaries or find them helpful, because often everybody talks at the same time and it’s like having a thermonuclear bomb in your living room—all heat and no light. But sometimes you hear something interesting. Continue reading