Jeanne: Too Many Buts, Not Enough Therefores

I recently read a book that didn’t quite work for me.

The writing was strong and the author did a masterful job of pulling all the diverse plot threads together, but something about the story somehow missed. It took me a couple of days of analyzing it to put my finger on the problem: too many buts, not enough therefores.

If you’re not a long-time follower of this blog, that phrase may not make sense to you. (It may not make sense even if you are.)

Let me explain.

The single greatest “Aha!” moment during my time in McDaniel’s Romance Writing Program was hearing Trey Parker and Matt Stone talking about “but and therefore.” Here’s a short (2:14) video of the two men explaining this rule to a classroom of students at NYU.

Here’s an even shorter recap: When you lay out the arc of your plot, the individual events should connect to each other via “but” or “therefore.” Like this: Continue reading

Justine: The Exhilarating, Nerve-Wracking, Terrifying Moment of Publishing a Book

Last week was a monster moment for me. Late Saturday night a week ago (when I totally wasn’t expecting it), I got an email from KDP telling me that my first book, His Lady to Protect, was available for pre-order on Amazon.

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AACKKK! THAT’S MY BOOK!

A multitude of emotions swirled through me. Happiness. Fright. Panic…lots of panic. I can’t take this book down. I really DO have to finish it now!

I cried, laughed, danced around the kitchen, shared my news with my husband (who was busy playing Fortnite with the kids, so it was a bit anti-climactic at first), and told my critique partners, who have been my day-to-day sanity over the last several years. They cheered!

When I’ve been out and about and friends ask about my book (better yet strangers that I meet when I’m in an airplane!), it’s nice to be able to tell someone that your book is up for pre-order (because all I’ve been saying for the last 6 years when asked if I’m published is “not yet”).

But now the real scary work begins. I received edits from my developmental editor (she made great suggestions) and it’s time to get my rear in gear and make changes to my manuscript. Once that’s done, I have to get my book loaded for pre-sale on the other e-retailers, plus come up with a marketing plan, get my full-wrap cover done, solidify my release schedule, and keep working on my second book.

In other words, only a few moments to…well…enjoy the moment. I’m sure more exhilaration, anxiety, and fear will abound when my book is actually out there for the world.

Have you hit “publish” yet? What emotions did you experience?

Nancy: Third Husband’s the Charm Debuts Today!

This is your friendly reminder that this is the day Third Husband’s the Charm goes on sale, and at a special release day price to boot. If you get your copy today, you’ll be all set for your weekend reading. (It’s also available in paperback, but that will take a few more days to get to you.) Go to my book page to learn more and to find links to retailers.

Third Husband’s the Charm

An irreverent cad. An abandoned wife. A secret marriage. But is anything really what it seems? Percy, the Captain Lord Granston, and the widow Finola Simmons both have their reasons to pretend to be married. But living as husband and wife leads them into temptation, and they come to an agreement: they’ll keep each other’s secrets, embark on a brief affair, and both get what they want before their fake marriage ends. It will work like a charm, as long as neither of them falls in love.

Jeanne: The Ladder of Inference

The following is based on a workshop given to RWA Chapter Leaders at this year’s national conference in New York.

Take action

Adjust Beliefs

Draw conclusions

Make assumptions

Add meaning

Filter input

Observe stimuli

Human perception functions like a ladder:

Observe stimuli—We are bombarded by millions of stimuli—sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches—at any given moment.

But the human brain possesses the bandwidth to process only about five to nine pieces of data at any given moment. This forces us to filter out the extra stuff, keeping only the 5-9 bits we believe, based on our current interests and priorities, to be useful.

Then, based on past experience, we add meaning to the observations we decided were worth keeping.

Next, again based on past experience, we make assumptions about what we’ve perceived.

Then we draw conclusions.

Then we adjust our existing beliefs to take into account this new data we’ve experienced.

Finally, we take action based on the perception arrived at in the previous step.

Much of this processing takes place in the basal ganglia–an older part of the human brain that has evolved to process information swiftly, based on past experience. The basal ganglia is very efficient and requires minimal energy to do its job.

As we reach the top of the ladder, though, there’s an opportunity to re-inspect and rethink our conclusions using our pre-frontal cortexes, a more recently-developed part of the brain that’s designed to handle new and unique situations. The pre-frontal cortex requires a lot more energy to do its work, which is why solving complex problems (or developing plots!) is so exhausting.

As you can imagine, there’s a lot of room along this ladder for things to go awry, causing us to react in a less than optimum manner.

There’s a great video on YouTube on this Ladder of Inference.

I suspect that Add Meaning is where the conflict lies in most stories. It seems to provide a whole lot of opportunity for a character to completely misjudge what another character is doing, based on their own back story.

This happens a lot in my demon books. Demons have witnessed Bad Behavior from humans (and Satan) for so many millennia they tend to always assume the worst.

 

Michille: The Grammar Police

Parse_tree_1That’s not me. I’m not the Grammar Police. I am a Grammar Police wannabe. It’s on my to-do list to find a refresher course on grammar because I believe mine is somewhat lacking, which is something I usually discover when I go to edit (I don’t worry about it when I’m writing the drafts). I’m not trying to diagram my sentences, but sometimes, I think that would help. Go back to the basics to boil the sentence down. Continue reading

Michaeline: A Writer’s Statement of Policy and Aims

Mucha lady holding a quill pen with a serious look on her face

Image via Wikimedia Commons

I write for myself.

What I write may resonate with people of my gender, race, ability and sexual preference, and it may resonate with people beyond those narrow boundaries, but that’s not my business. My business is to write so that my soul rings with the truth, beauty and sheer bliss or agony of what I write.

I feed my writing soul with stories that cross the boundaries that confine my narrow life experience, and I pay attention when something resonates with me, and I won’t feel guilty if I try to incorporate those truths into my own work. I also feed my writing soul with stories that live within my narrow life experience, but dig deeper or reach higher than I have ever dreamed. If something resonates, I have permission to transform it and use it in my own writing.

I will explore my feelings when I write something that makes me anxious or sad or unhappy. I will not feel burdened to publish anything that makes me feel bad. On the other hand, I will not sugarcoat my writing simply because it might have the power to make someone else feel anxious or sad or unhappy.

I want to write joy, but I also recognize that joy is heightened when contrasted with pain. I will not write pain for the sole purpose of pulling some reader’s heartstrings, but I will not be afraid of writing the pain, either.

I will pay attention to my readers and trusted critics, but ultimately, what I publish has my name on it, and I will write for myself.

I am a writer, and I write for myself.

(A statement in progress, to be updated as needed.)