Guest Blogger Margie Lawson: Writing Stellar Smiles

smileRead a smile you’ve never read before? Could be awesome!

Read a smile you’ve read hundreds of times? Could be loathsome.

We all know those clichéd, overused, carry-no-interest smiles and grins.

Here are a few overused smiles and grins:

  • Half-smile
  • Weak smile
  • Broad smile
  • Silly smile
  • Ear-to-ear smile
  • Smile that didn’t reach eyes
  • Infectious grin
  • Impish grin
  • Fought a grin
  • Teasing grin
  • Wicked grin
  • Lopsided grin

Compare those to Continue reading

Justine: Fiction Fundamentals, Part 3: Conflict (First Installment)

conflict wordWelcome to Part 3 of Fiction Fundamentals. In Part 1, I discussed character goals. Last time, in Part 2, I covered a character’s Motivation…the “why” of what they want to do in your story.

This installment (the first of two) is about the Big Enchilada that ties it all together and makes for a good read: Conflict.

Before getting into the meat of this, let’s set some expectations about conflict:

  1. Conflict is necessary in commercial fiction. Period. No conflict? No story. People don’t want to read about characters who get what they want with no issues or impediments. They want to see characters suffer and earn their rewards.
  2. Conflict is a struggle to reach a goal and should have the reader wondering whether or not the character will achieve it.
  3. Conflict is bad things happening to good and bad
  4. Conflict must be clear, but not overwhelming. It can be too big/too much, drowning your reader in seemingly insurmountable problems.
  5. Conflict doesn’t necessarily have to be one person pitted against another. Sometimes the conflict is circumstances.

Debra Dixon, in “GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict,” makes it very clear:

“If conflict makes you uncomfortable or you have difficulty wrecking the lives of your characters, you need to consider another line of work. In commercial fiction you need strife, tension, dissension, and opposition. If you omit these elements, you won’t be able to sustain the reader’s attention. Even in romance novels – known for their happy endings, sufficient conflict must exist to make the reader doubt the happily-ever-after.”

The net-net? Continue reading

Justine: What My First Drafts Look Like

unhappy skierI’ve been playing around with a contemporary story (inspired by a ski trip to Utah over the holidays) tentatively called The Lesson. I don’t have much to it yet…just two chapters, one of which I hammered out while on the plane flying home. I thought it’d be fun to throw it out there for the world to see, and also to get your comments (critical or otherwise — I can take the heat, so long as you’re polite).

I’m also putting it out in the internet-ether to demonstrate what first drafts can look like…sorta clunky, not-much-making-sense kind of things. There are a few good lines, but as my CPs have pointed out, there’s plenty of stuff that needs work, a few things that are confusing, and some useless stuff.

However, as Nora Roberts once said, Continue reading

Guest Blogger Tiffany Lawson-Inman: Don’t Let Thrillers Hog the Freezer

Hello Readers! I’m pleased to introduce Tiffany Lawson-Inman to the blog. She’ll be joining us about once a month to talk about all things writing! Welcome, Tiffany!!

Thank you so much to Justine for letting me preach good writing craft today. It is a subject very near and dear to my heart.

As another Thank You to Eight Ladies Writing, I’m going to offer a free online course to one of your lucky readers. If you respond to my question in the comment section, I will put your name in a hat and pull one out for a free online course I am teaching at Lawson Writer’s Academy. See below for more details.

Screen Shot 2016-01-25 at 8.12.07 PM

Friends (c) Warner Brothers Television.

Here’s a strange question for you:

What does The Shining have in common with Little Women?

They are both good enough novels to go in the freezer.  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, this is a FRIENDS reference.  Season 3, episode 13, where Joey is so grippingly scared by what is happening in The Shining, that he puts it in the freezer when he’s not reading it.  To somehow stop or “freeze” the events happening in the book. He doesn’t want anything happening while he’s not looking!

Why? Continue reading

Justine: Look at Your Turning Points with Fresh Eyes

typewriter2I’m immersed in another awesome weekend of Margie Lawson’s Immersion Master Class. I’m still working on Three Proposals, which has been my book du jour for the last three years. One of the challenges of working on a book for too much time (too many years!) is that you become accustomed to the words on the page. You become comfortable with what you’ve written and it’s hard to see what parts of your book really need some improvement. My turning points could really use some work.

In case you’re new to fiction writing, a turning point is when a significant change happens that sends the trajectory of the story in a new direction. This is something I had a lot of trouble identifying in my book when I first started writing. Some turning points are huge (like when Susannah’s uncle tells her she’s getting married) and some are smaller. Continue reading

Justine: Pressed for Time? Make a List!

notepad for listI’m embarking on another Immersion Master Class with Margie Lawson this coming weekend. I’m really excited to be working with her again and to get my head back into my story (where it hasn’t been for the last several weeks – pretty much since the last Immersion in November). Before it starts, though, there are a ton of things for me to do in a short period of time — to get the family ready, to get me ready, and to get my writing ready.

A complaint many of us in the writing field have is time (really, the lack thereof)…we’re not Nora Roberts or James Patterson, where writing pays our mortgage, car payment, and personal assistant/marketing guru. We’re typically balancing writing with husbands, families, full-time jobs, aging parents, and often more.

Something I’m learning about myself Continue reading

Justine: Make Your Dream Happen

Note: this is a repost, but very timely as I settle in for a week of intensive learning at Margie’s Lawson’s Immersion Master Class in the lower peaks of Colorado. The goal? Learn the craft and learn it well. So I can do what I dreamed about almost a year ago.

sleepingI’ve always been jealous of Nancy and Kat and the other Eight Ladies who can go to bed thinking about their story and actually dream up things that will happen. I hardly ever remember my dreams.

Until last night. Continue reading