Jilly: Getting the Party Started

Getting the Party StartedDid you enjoy any small (or large) victories this week?

I had a chunk of time bookended between two family commitments. I didn’t want to start a new scene in case I got stuck half-way and had to visit my mum with the other half still in my head – bad for the scene, bad for mum 🙂 , so I decided to revisit my first 50 pages. I knew I had work to do. Months ago, Jenny Crusie told me she didn’t know what to root for, because each of my scenes seemed to start a new plot, and the pieces of the story didn’t fit together. Than at RWA in San Antonio, I had feedback on the same pages from an editor who said something like “these are good scenes, but they’re all in the wrong place.”

I didn’t need to be told for a third time.

If the first scene is critical – you’ve engaged or lost your reader by the end of it – the first 50 pages (about 15k words, or half of Act I) are almost as important, because Continue reading

Kat: Oh Conflict, Where are Thou

iStock_000001528607XSmallWhile attending RWA National in San Antonio, I pitched my book. Twice. And both pitches were unqualified disasters, mostly because the day before I’d lost my voice, but also because I didn’t prepare. I sat down and began babbling my way through my story, trying to project a voice that was no longer there. No lie.

Still, I didn’t let anything silence my “writing” voice. I kept both appointments and did my best, and hey, 80% of life is showing up. The good news is despite the barely discernible chatter coming out of my mouth, something came across because both the editor and agent immediate got the gist. My story conflict was between Cheyenne and the uncle (Hawk). The bad news: my plot (as I explained it) appeared to have little to do with romance. Both agent and editor could see nothing keeping Cheyenne and Reed apart. Continue reading

Michille: Plotting Continued

NotecardsMy blog post of February 27 was about an idea I had to start plotting my next book before I finish my WIP so that the voices from the next stop drowning out the voices in the current. My idea was to use notecards as scene holders. Before I actually started, I did more analysis so that I could space out the scenes by character POV, know where the turning points should fall, and pace the overall story to keep the action and emotion escalating to the climax. I also thought this would help in the event that the scene in my head was clearly related to a turning point or a particular act.

When I did the math (in the post from 2/27), I came up with 50 scenes. I like a 4-act story with five turning points and a resolution/denouement. I put more scenes in the earlier acts than in the later acts so that the story moves faster in acts 3 and 4. Continue reading

Nancy: Narrative Thread

RIAN Archive - Scene Prince Igor Opera

As I continue my quest to seek out stories and whatever lessons I can take from them, this time I turn my attention to opera. You read that correctly: opera. I am an opera fan, although not a particularly well-versed one. My favorite operas have gorgeous arias, duets, and quartets with amazing harmonic lines. In the voices of well-trained and talented singers using their voices like fine instruments, opera music, like so many types of music, can be transcendent. All that being said, I don’t consider opera my go-to medium for story.

However, operas are, at their heart, stories. (Don’t tell my husband, who is an operatically-trained tenor. In his world it’s All. About. The. Voices.) Yes, operas have a reputation for being melodramatic and predictable. In fact, upon entering an opera house, you are handed a program that contains, among other things, a full story synopsis rife with spoilers. Still, many operas also have strong protagonists with well-defined goals, stronger antagonists with their own goals, and a narrative through-line that is going to bring these forces to blows (literally or figuratively) in the end. You know, story.

And professional productions, like those performed at the Met (and live simulcast in HD movie theaters), have amazing directors who know how to block out action to demonstrate story and character growth. So when I went to see a live Met simulcast of Prince Igor this past weekend, I went in thinking about action, about looking for interesting choices the director has made, and about what I could steal borrow when writing plot through action for my own characters. I came out thinking about the narrative thread, and how the loss of it can torpedo your entire story. Continue reading