Jilly: The Big Finish

Do any of your favorite books get wrapped up in a high-risk, high-stakes final standoff?

Michaeline and Elizabeth had opening scenes on their minds this week. I’m at the other end of my WIP. I’m deep in my writer’s cave, trying desperately to polish up the grand finale of Alexis Book 1.

There’s a dramatic setting, mortal jeopardy, the stakes are nosebleed high and there’s no obvious way out. All the major players are present—heroine; hero; scary otherworldly nemesis; powerful scheming old crone and her grandson, the heroine’s jealous, spoiled half-brother.

I’m trying to do the scenes justice, but I’m feeling a little out of my depth. I know what happens, and why. Stuff happens. Tension escalates. Somebody gets hurt. Somebody dies. The death is right for the story and I’m sure I want to make that choice, but I’ve never killed off a character before. This is a new challenge for me and I want to master it.

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Michaeline: Wishful Beginnings

 

A muse (Clio) writing in a book.

Write and write and write again. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

A story has to go through a lot of revisions before it’s the story you want. Way back when I didn’t keep accurate records about such things, I started a novel about a paranormal plumber, and the first two paragraphs went like this:

Mrs. Copra had sounded very worried when she called about her stopped up toilet, and Jennifer knew, as soon as she stepped into the noxious miasma in the foyer, that it was going to be a tough job. She checked her toolbelt, flipped the switch to warm up the cryo-zapper on her back, and felt in her bandolier to make sure the tranquilizer darts were ready and waiting. She could feel the tension, like stage-fright, building up, so she glanced back out the door at the truck to read her slogan. “We don’t save the world, but we make it a happier place.” She looked over at her partner, Tilly, and nodded. “Let’s go make some happy!”

Tilly’s tense face suddenly relaxed into a zen-like calm. “Aaarrrgh,” she growled like a pirate. “Let’s go happy that motherfucker.”

This gave me, the writer, a lot of information about the story that was supposed to come. My heroine was going to be a kick-ass plumber who knew her business and was a total Ghostbuster type. She was going to have a female buddy, and this was going to be a lot of action and some fun. But I didn’t really know what the conflict was going to be, and the first sentence was awful. Still, as beginnings go, it was promising and fun, so I went on to write my first NaNo about my paranormal plumber.

In 2010, Jennifer became Perz, and Tilly became Perz’s sister, Demi, and the new beginning looked something like this: Continue reading

Elizabeth: How Fast is Too Fast

The opening lines, paragraphs, and chapters of a story have a lot of work to do.   They need to set the tone; introduce the characters and setting; set-up the conflict; and catch (and keep) the reader’s attention.  Ideally, the opening of a story should be an irresistible invitation to the reader; one that hooks them and then keeps them turning the pages all the way to the final conflict resolution and happily-ever-after.

In Kay’s recent Would You Buy This Book post she talked about a blog that has a regular feature where the opening page of a best-selling novel is posted and readers are asked to vote on whether it would catch their interest enough to keep them reading or not.  While I’m not likely to make a reading decision based on a single opening page, it is an interesting exercise and underscores how important it is to get a story off to a strong start.  In the McDaniel program we spent quite a bit of time working on the opening lines to our stories, trying to find just the right words to hook a reader – not a task for the faint at heart.

The opening of a story is important but, Continue reading

Kay: Would You Buy This Book? It’s Time to Flog a Pro!

Photo by Bethany, E-Verse Radio

I’ve been doing revisions on my WIP, and it’s been going pretty well. I’ve been pleased with my changes, and pleased that I can detect at least some of the book’s flaws and fix them. Almost done! She said, for about the fifteenth time in the last two months.

Fresh from a chapter revise and thinking about a couple of workshops I went to at RWA nationals, I was casting about for a topic for today when I stumbled across this post on Writer Unboxed. I thought it was huge fun.

The poster, Ray Rhamey, has a regular feature on this blog called “Flog a Pro,” in which he posts the opening page of a best-selling novel and asks you, the blog reader, if you’d pay to read the first chapter. He’s got the math all worked out: if the book costs $15 and there’s 50 chapters, then each chapter costs 30 cents. Would you pay 30 cents to read the chapter?

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Michille: RWA 2017 – Michael Hauge

RWA 2017I made it to my mostly annual homage to RWA for a hefty shot of fiction-writing craft. I, however, made it late as my flight was delayed for three hours. (Note to self – come a day early next year.) I missed the session I really wanted to hit today (Writing Emotion: Opening a Vein with Virginia Kantra) which was a double whammy because it isn’t a recorded session. But my first and only session for today was worth the price of admission. Michael Hauge’s Seducing Your Readers in Chapter 1 was exactly what I needed in the here and now for two reasons. The big reason is that I’m rewriting my first manuscript, which sucks because I wrote it before I had taken any craft classes. The bones are good, but it needs work and I’ve been working on the opening with some success. Today’s session gave me fabulous ideas and motivation and confirmation that I’m on the right track. Woot! The second smaller reason is that I’m reading an old Christina Dodd, and when I came back to the room tonight for some much needed down time (this conference is extremely intense), I picked it up and found a passage that is a good example of one of the things Hauge talked about. Continue reading

Michille: First Lines – And then the murders began.

What I Learned About Writing From My HairdresserLife interrupted again, so I’m digging out an old post and adding on. A while back, I posted about a bag of books my daughter brought home from work from a girl who knows she loves to read. We sat around the dining table after dinner that night and read the first paragraphs of several of the books.

There were several Debbie Macombers which I brushed off. I’ve read her stuff before and it’s great, but she doesn’t even open the bedroom door, much less close it after the kiss, and I like the sexual tension in stories and she doesn’t deliver that. There was a Nora Roberts that I’d read before and since she breaks a lot of rules, I wasn’t surprised that hers didn’t deliver the expected. We added in a Fern Michaels, an old Janet Evanovich, a Susan Wiggs, and a Jayne Ann Krentz. Continue reading

Michaeline: Start with the Windows

A view of the gardens and fountains from the music pavilion out the French doors. Many windows.

Music or books . . . who starts with the windows? And who starts with the basement? (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

It’s a new month and a fresh start! I’m still playing around more on my ukulele than I am writing, but writing is always somewhere on my mind. I was goofing around on a jazz blog, and stumbled upon a post where the blogger talks about composing a song. He says:

1. Decide what kind of tune you are aiming for.
2. Choose a structure and a key.
3. Work out a chord progression on which to build. (You might prefer to start by inventing a melody, but for me that would seem like building a house by putting in the windows before laying the foundations.)

Well, I have to tell you, those three tips stopped me in my tracks. I ALWAYS start with the windows! That is to say, I’ve got a character, and I flail around for a conflict or inciting incident, and that naturally leads to another character in opposition to the first.

I figure I can stick the genre on later, and my structures feel organic – they feel like they grow straight from the character.

But then again, I wonder Continue reading