Kay: Time to Throw in the Towel

Photo by Jan Jacobsen 2008.

Photo by Jan Jacobsen 2008.

I’ve been working on the second book of a planned three-part trilogy for a while—it seems like years, but it’s been just a few months. Time has been dragging because the book has been progressing poorly.

Sometimes I think all my books progress poorly, but this one really has hit Olympian heights of lousy progression. Everything is bad. My outline refuses to come together, and no matter how I approach it, I can’t seem to fill the holes. My writing is flat. To look at my story notes, you’d think I have enough good, strong conflict, but it isn’t working. I have a cute opening scene that I like a lot, but it doesn’t reflect the rest of the book or sufficiently introduce the story questions. If I cut that, I’ll be cutting the best thing in the book. I want to just keep writing—get that first draft done!—and so far, that’s been my path. I’ve got almost 45,000 words now, and I hate it. Nobody wants to read this mess, including me.

So now what? Continue reading

Jilly: Puzzling It Out

Puzzling It OutDo you have a favored technique for working out stubborn problems or kick-starting creativity?

I’ve read in the past that working on a familiar, routine task like cooking can work wonders – it gives the conscious mind a job to do that’s not taxing to the subconscious, so the Girls in the Basement can brainstorm the creative problem without being interrupted every few minutes.

Cooking works quite well for me, especially when I’m editing, but when I’m in the early discovery stage of a new story in a new world, when the possibilities are limitless and almost everything has to be invented, my favorite trick for getting myself unstuck is to do a jigsaw.

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Kay: A Novelist’s Job

A novelist's work can be very frustrating.

A novelist’s work can be very frustrating.

I’m an editor by trade, and recently a small publishing company hired me to do what we’d call in the business “a development edit” of a paranormal romance. (Not one of the Ladies’ books, I rush to add.) A development edit points out flaws in the characterization, plotting, pacing, or other essential elements of the story, without getting into grammar and typos.

Everything in this book was off—pacing, character development, conflict—and telling an author that she’s missed the boat is a hard and sorrowful task. I know that keeping all those ponies in harness and working together is complicated and difficult. It’s the same problem I’m having right now with my own WIP. But this is the novelist’s job.

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Kay: Making Romance Real

marriedJust recently I had a setback with my WIP when a long-time critique partner said, after reading three chapters, that she didn’t know why my main characters were on the page. She didn’t see the attraction between my hero and heroine. She didn’t see any conflict.

I’ve struggled with this book, so I tried a new approach: I’ve been writing the turning points first and then filling in chapters as the mood struck. My plan is to write as quickly as possible and then revise until I’m happy. Her assessment of the romance in this book was disappointing, because I’ve been working hard to strengthen the execution of romance elements. My romance plots usually struggle to stay in front of my exterior plots, but in this case, I thought I’d done a pretty good job of keeping the romance hot and prominent.

However, I know I have a problem with it: Continue reading

Justine: Fiction Fundamentals, Part 2: Character Motivation

motivationLast time in Part 1 of Fiction Fundamentals I discussed a character’s Goal…the “what” of what they want to do in your story.

This installment is about your character’s motivation: the “why.”

Let’s look back at a few goals from books/movies I discussed last time:

  • She wants to go to the ball (Cinderella)
  • He wants to defeat Voldemort (Harry Potter)
  • She wants to return home (The Wizard of Oz)
  • He wants to return to earth after being stranded on Mars (The Martian)
  • She wants to quit being a prostitute (Pretty Woman)

For each of these, we want to know why. Why does Harry Potter want to defeat Voldemort? Why does Dorothy want to return home? Why does Vivian want to quit being a prostitute?

Their motivation is why. It gives the reader (or viewer) the reason for their goal. It helps us understand the importance and urgency and determination behind the goal. A good way to figure out the motivation is Continue reading

Justine: Fiction Fundamentals Part 1: Goals

Welcome to the first of at least a 10-part series on Fiction Fundamentals (referred to a week ago as Back to Basics, but Elizabeth has already trademarked that!). Over the next several weeks, I and a few guests will be discussing things new writers should consider when writing a novel. While having a great idea is certainly top on the list, there are many other topics writers should work on nailing down to make their novel strong….and salable.

goals arrowThis week’s topic: Goals (not yours…your character’s)

If you’ve attended any writing workshops at all, it’s likely you’ve heard many people talk about your character’s goals. They need to be good. They need to be strong. But how do you know if they are?

Your character’s goal is the very essence of their part of the story. It is why they’re part of it. Each of your major characters (protag, antag, love interest — which may sometimes be one in the same) should have a goal. There are two types of goals to create for your characters: Continue reading

Justine: Reconnecting with Writing

writing, editing, writer, justine covington, eight ladies writingIf you follow the blog regularly, you know that since RWA last summer, I haven’t done much work on Three Proposals, despite back-to-back Immersions in November and January. I’ve been spending a lot of time at my kids’ school since August as the Parent Service Organization (PSO) Vice President, having run a very successful Read-a-Thon last fall and having helped with a well-attended Daddy-Daughter Dance this past weekend. I’ve told the school that there’s no way I’m going to serve on the board next year. It’s time-consuming and while I love doing stuff for my kids, I do surprisingly little in my childs’ classrooms. Frankly, that’s where I’d rather be.

As a part of future planning with the PSO, I’ve been thinking about the trajectory of my career (or lack thereof). I’m not Continue reading