Kay: I Finished the Book!

I finished the book.

Last Friday I typed “The End” on book two of a three-book trilogy about Phoebe’s adventures in romance-land. It’s been a haul for sure, starting with book 1, which I started before the McDaniel class in 2012, and didn’t progress much or at all in 2012 because of class, 2013 because of poor health, and 2015 because of family issues.

But now book 2 is finished. It still needs revisions—the last chapter in particular, which I thought I’d have to rewrite completely, but perhaps all I have to do is cut the last 1,000 words. I want to conflate two of my characters, that will take some thought. And there’s still the beta reads to go. Still, it’s all done but the shouting, as we’d say back in the Midwest.

Sometimes I think it’s a miracle that I ever got this far with it. Continue reading

Kay: Joss Whedon on Getting It Done

Don't let your manuscript expire in the cold of winter over this holiday season

Don’t let your manuscript expire in the cold of winter over this holiday season

Now that we’re well into December, I’ve been squaring away travel plans and thinking about Jilly’s post on not letting your WIP go stone cold dead over the holidays. I’m planning to take my laptop with me, but it’ll just be dead weight in my suitcase if I don’t open it up and turn it on. Will I have time to write between the demands of old friends and a three-year-old? Jilly said that even five minutes is enough to jot down a note or a thought that you could expand later. That’s probably true for a lot of people. It takes me a lot more than five minutes to get my brain into the book. It takes almost five minutes just to boot up my laptop.

I’ve tried various techniques in the past to boost my productivity. I envy the writers who write one, two, or even ten thousand words a day. Is a five-minute sprint worth the effort, or should I just invest in a pack of Post-Its? How can I cram some decent writing time into my holiday vacation time?

While pondering this question, I sought enlightenment from the masters and found an interview with Joss Whedon, he of Buffy, Firefly, and Avengers fame.

Continue reading

Justine: No More Excuses

6490798 - classic glossy black chair, isolated on a white background

Last year at this time, I attended RWA Nationals in NYC, including the awards ceremony on Saturday night. This year, I watched the ceremony via live stream from the comfort of my living room. No high heels. No tight dress. No edgy excitement. Just my rainbow cozy pants and a tall glass of milk.

I debated whether to attend Nationals this year and ultimately decided not to for one important reason: Continue reading

Justine: Fiction Fundamentals…Writing Great Characters

bunch of charactersWelcome to Part 3 of Fiction Fundamentals. When I approached the topic of writing great characters, I didn’t realize how much information you, New Writer, should know about what really makes them sizzle until I went back and looked at the pages of notes I’d collected and the long list of bookmarks in my browser. I’ve been absorbing this for over three years, between classes at McDaniel, blog posts I’ve read, conference lectures I’ve attended, and web classes I’ve taken.

Rather than write a 10K word blog post (because really, I could, there’s so much great info about writing good characters), I’m going to Continue reading

Justine: Fiction Fundamentals, Part 3: Conflict (2nd Installment)

Screen Shot 2016-04-11 at 9.09.18 AM

Conflict? Mmm…perhaps. (Cary Elwes and Mandy Patinkin in “The Princess Bride” (c) 1987 Act III Communications)

Welcome to Part 3 of Fiction Fundamentals. In Part 1, I discussed character goals. In Part 2, I covered a character’s Motivation…the “why” of what they want to do in your story. Last time, in the first of a two-parter, I talked about the Big Enchilada that ties it all together and makes for a good read: Conflict.

This week, I’m delving a bit deeper. I’ll discuss scene- vs. story-level conflict, the difference between conflict and trouble, and those pesky “misunderstandings.”

Scene-Level (or “Mini”) Conflict

Let’s be clear about one thing: conflict must be in each scene in your book. Every. Single. One. However, that doesn’t mean the conflict had to be between your protag and antag relative to their goals, nor does it have to be massive, big-stakes stuff. It can be smaller. Call it mini-conflict, or that which does not directly affect your character’s goals. Said another way:

The conflict in each scene doesn’t have to be directly related to the protag or antag’s stated goal.

Here’s why: 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: 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