THE PLOTTING BRAIN

You’ve put aside the first draft you have just finished so you can gain some distance on the work before tackling revisions. It’s a great time to clean your office, sort your files, and write a few blogs. But your mind starts seguing into the next story. 

 Here’s what floated into my mind, even when I’m trying to take a break:

 My next hero is a Tsuran swordsman who has been disgraced on his home world and shunned by his people. What dastardly deed did he commit? He protected a family member by taking the blame for a murder that she’d committed under duress. Thus close family ties mean a lot to him. Now bring in a heroine who is trying to escape from her family obligations. Conflict! 

Add another element. Say our hero, Lord Magnor, is protecting his sister who killed her abusive husband. After he was incarcerated, he learned that she’d been cheating on the man. Betrayal!

Now he’s a sullen, mysterious loner forced to join a team of warriors because they’re the only ones who will accept him. How will the heroine differ? She has to be a people person, outgoing, gregarious, generously reaching out to others. Maybe she gives of herself too much and has overextended her limits. Perhaps her last boyfriend left when she put her dedication to various causes before their relationship. She doesn’t want another man who’ll be so selfish and who lacks compassion. So why does this fierce warrior appeal to her?

Before I delve further into their GMC, what is the hero’s main mission for this story? He has to find the secret weapon that will destroy the evil Trolleks who’ve invaded Earth (it’s a paranormal romance). How will he proceed? Even though I have a list of plot threads from previous installments that have to be tied up in this volume, I’m stumped.

I give up and start cleaning out my files. Oh cool, here’s an article on archetypes. You know what I mean: marriage of convenience, rags to riches, twins, secret baby, prince in disguise, etc. Hey, what if I mix one of these into my story? Imagine the sparks if these two characters had to wed. What if (yes, we plotters use What If? a lot) the heroine enlists Magnor as her fake fiancé? Nah, that’s been done to death already. So how to put a modern twist on the old marriage of convenience tale in a way that would suit my story?

   ideaGenius strikes. My bad guys are using theme parks to recruit humans as their mind slaves. Magnor goes to Las Vegas to follow a lead.  What else is Vegas if not one huge theme park for adults?

I’m getting excited.  I can envision my hero striding down the Strip in his cloak and sword. He encounters a woman who drunkenly boasts to her friends that she can snag any man who walks through the door. Guess who it is?  Yep, our hapless hero.  But he doesn’t fall for her allure right away. Nope, he recognizes the watch she wears as being significant to his mission. And when they end up in a wedding chapel, our warrior from outer space has no idea what it means. They wake up the next morning together in a hotel room, and…you get the picture. Cool set up, huh?

Now I have to figure out why the Norse goddess Hel releases her “Dead Walkers” so the hero has to brave the underworld to stop her. It could be another ploy for dominance by the evil demon, Loki. He’s manipulating the Trolleks, and… well, I don’t want to give too many spoilers. In case you haven’t guessed, this series is based on Norse mythology.

As each idea comes to me, I jot it down. It’s all jumbled right now. Next I’ll sit down and do my Character Development and Romantic Conflict charts, figure out the plot progression, and write the synopsis. It just has to brew upstairs a while longer.

What do you think of my story idea so far?  Any suggestions?  When you finish a book, how long of a break do you take and how do you approach the next story to get started?

So You Think You’ve Finished Your Book?

Writing The End on the last page of your manuscript brings with it a wonderful feeling of accomplishment.  Take a deep breath, let it out, and then scream your joy to the heavens.  Drink champagne, buy yourself a gift, do whatever you wish to reward yourself. 

If you’re like me, you are brain numb and need a break from writing.  Set a date to start on revisions and then relax.  Well, not totally.  You can always work on the Tedious Tasks for Writers that I talked about last month on this blog.  Why, this very morning I spent an hour organizing my Favorites on the Internet.  A waste of time, you say?  I beg to differ.  I’ll actually save time in the future when I need to go to a site and can find it in my bookmarks more easily.

I also spent time cleaning out my Word files for book number one in my paranormal series.  Mind you, I just finished book two, but I am hoping number one sells first.  I’ve got my story blurbs for this title ready to go, plus bonus features for my website, a reader discussion guide, and text for a book trailer.  So what else can my brain brew on during this interval from writing, which we all know is part of the creative process? 

Here’s what is next on my writer’s To Do list: Write the text for book number two trailer.  Since I have six heroes and heroines altogether in this series, I should match them up.  Scan in the photos I’ve cut out of magazines, match the guys to the gals, give the girls names and occupations. Then narrow the focus to book number three. Develop the backstory for the hero and heroine. Determine what this guy’s particular mission will be within the core story. How will I weave in the different plot threads from previous installments, and how will these loose ends be resolved at the series’end? Make a chart or a spreadsheet of the magical elements in this paranormal fantasy along with who possesses them and what they do.  Write the plot for book number three. By now, I’ll be chomping at the bit to write this story. But wait, first I have to revise Book Two.

You know what?  That sounds like a lot of work, and I deserve a break.  Think I’ll go on vacation instead.  See ya in a few weeks.

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Contests and Announcements

For a chance to win a pdf copy of my latest release, Silver Serenade, go to: http://www.coffeetimeromance.com/ContestPage.html

 Also, my book trailer is up for an award at http://thenewcoveytrailerawards.blogspot.com

 It is entry number 25.  Please vote!  Voting should open later today.

Spread the word about both contests and tell your friends!

 The winner of my August blog commenter drawing is Ann Littlewood.  Congratulations, Ann. If you’re reading this post, please let me know which book you would like from my backlist collection and where to send it.

In other news, I have finished the first draft of my WIP at 433 pages.  Will be taking a break and then starting on revisions.

Going on a cruise to New England/Eastern Canada on Caribbean Princess this Fall and hoping Hurricane Earl won’t damage any of the docking facilities.

Also, every other Wednesday, starting today, I will posting blogs at http://killzoneauthors.blogspot.com

Please stop by and leave a comment.

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Support Your Favorite Author

TEN WAYS TO SUPPORT YOUR FAVORITE AUTHOR

How can you keep your favorite authors writing the series you love so much?  How can you inspire them when the publishing world dives and drags them along for the ride?

Here are some ways you can help besides showing up at a booksigning, ordering their book in the library, or giving a copy of their book as a gift.

  • Post reviews of their books on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, Facebook, Shelfari, your blog, and anywhere else that takes reader reviews. And while you’re at it, give their book five star ratings.
  • Tag their book sites on Amazon.  Scroll down on the book page to where it says Tags Customers Associate with this Product and put in your tags, i.e. keywords, or click Agree With These Tags.
  • “Like” the author’s posts on Facebook
  • Tweet their blog posts or other sites to your friends and retweet their Twitter posts.
  • Write them a message of support.  Authors need inspiration and you, the reader, are the reason why we write. 
  • If you’re really dedicated, lead a discussion group about their books.
  • Mention their books on Amazon Listmania and other favorites lists
  • Request bookmarks and pass them out to people you know who like to read.
  • Suggest their book for a book club discussion.
  • Provide links online to their website, blog, and Facebook fan page.

 What would you add?  As an author, can you make any other suggestions?  As a reader, what can the author do for you in return?

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The Big Dark Moment

In a romance, the Big Dark Moment is the crucial juncture when all seems lost between the hero and heroine.  He stomps away and she strides in the opposite direction, and it seems as though they will never be together again.  How can they overcome their insurmountable obstacles?  Will love triumph in the end?

Of course it will.  The prerequisite for a romance is the HEA  (Happy Ever After) ending. But for this HEA to have emotional impact, our characters first must experience the painful Big Dark Moment when their relationship seems hopeless.

Tossing a cog in the story wheel isn’t the way to go about it.  This confrontation must arise naturally from the character’s internal conflicts.  Take Paz and Jen from my WIP.

elegant woman Jen is a fashion designer who looks as svelte as her models. For years, she struggled for parental approval.  Growing up in a wealthy family, she internalized her mother’s superficial values that appearance matters.  But she yearns for a man who can appreciate her for herself and not for her looks or money.                                                   

Drift Lord warrior Paz Hadar isn’t the rich businessman she’d expected to snag, but he brings out her strength and resourcefulness and admires her bravery.  Yet when she tries to discuss their future together, he clams up.  He’s planned for nothing beyond this mission, and so she figures he’ll leave her in the end.  Paz, in turn, gets angry when she pushes him for his plans, believing she can’t accept him for the person he is and wants to mold him into the ideal man. And if he’s not good enough for her, forget it. And so he stomps off.  Jen feels he doesn’t care enough about her feelings to truly confide in him.                                  angry eyes

 Thus they go their separate ways, until each one realizes how much they need the other.  But by then, Paz seeks to prove himself by attacking the enemy all on his own.  Jen rushes to his side, but it’s too late.  He’s been…well, we don’t want to give the story away.

sad woman

 

 

 

Action and reaction propels the story forward, leading to the Big Dark Moment and the final confrontation with the villain. And when Paz and Jen finally commit to each other as we know they will, we’ll heave a deep sigh of satisfaction.  Sour before sweet, despair before joy.  It makes the ending all the more Happy Ever After.  

               wedding couple

 

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FINISHING YOUR BOOK

When you’re nearing the end of your book, do you tend to race ahead?  I have 25 pages to go in my WIP before reaching my required word count, and I’m beginning to think I might go over.  I still have several scenes to go to reach a satisfactory conclusion. While I’m tempted to rush through to the finish line, this is actually when I need to slow down to bring all my plot threads together. So here is my advice for what you should do when approaching The End.

 Take Your Time                                                                                     

You’re sick of working on this story.  You just want to finish.  You’ll layer in more details later.

STOP.  You need to slow down and work your way through each scene as the story logically unfolds.  It may be tedious and make you grind your teeth, but remember why you’re writing in the first place.  You love the process.  So enjoy the storytelling and live with your characters a while longer until their tale is done.

Tie Up All The Loose Ends

If you juggle several plot threads in a complex storyline like I do, you’ve either lost track of them or you keep detailed spreadsheets and notes to guide you down the track. Make sure you have covered all your footprints. Often I may have to take care of this on my second read-through.  On the first revision, I’ll write down questions that spring to mind about the story from the reader’s viewpoint. Or I’ll do a plotting board as the story progresses, and these questions will be in a different colored ink from the main plot.  You’ll want to resolve these questions by the story’s end.  There’s nothing more frustrating as a reader or tv viewer than to be left hanging.  You know how this feels. Don’t do it to your readers. Be sure you have answered all the story questions for an emotionally satisfying end.

Resolve The Plot Before The Romantic or Emotional Resolution

If you’ve done your job right, your main character will have changed or come to a realization about herself by the end of the book.  The emotional resonance of this revelation should follow the climactic sequence with the villain, if you have one. Or the external plot, if there’s no definitive bad guy. Perhaps the internal revelation prompted the action that led your heroine to the final conflict. Then have her reflect on it, change her direction in life, make a decision, or alter an important relationship with another character. Maybe it means accepting herself or shedding her guilt.

Each book in a series should affect the personal relationships in your character’s life. Nothing is static. People change based on their experiences. So should your characters, and it’s much more emotionally gratifying to your readers when this final declaration comes at the end.

In my Bad Hair Day mysteries, my hairdresser sleuth Marla Shore decides to date the handsome detective at the end of book one.  By the end of book nine, they’ve set a wedding date.  Yes, it’s taken them that long to get together because they’ve had a lot of issues to resolve. Each volume in the series offers a step forward in their relationship even though they might falter along the way. So, too, in Silver Serenade, my recent sci fi romance, the heroine agrees to marry the hero at the end and also realizes she might make a better intelligence officer than an assassin. These decisions come after she’s tested her skills and defeated the bad guy.  It wouldn’t have the same resonance before then because we’re still caught up in the tension of executing the external plot.  So after the adventure comes to a close, have your protagonist let us know how this has experience has changed her.

As a reader, what do you find most satisfactory or unsatisfactory about endings?

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Ten Tips for Blog Tours

Since I recently finished my own blog tour, I learned a few things along the road.  Here are some tips I’d like to share:

  1. Aim for popular blogs that get a lot of hits and slant your blog to their audience.
  2. Schedule up to three guest spots a week so you don’t clog the loops with your announcements.
  3. Plan to be available to answer comments all day when your post goes live.
  4. Publicize the blog tour on your social networks, website, and other sites.
  5. Include a short excerpt from your book with your post when possible.
  6. Add a buy link to your book along with links to your website, blog, FB page, and Twitter at the end of your post.
  7. Interviews as well as blogs draw attention.
  8. Consider offering a giveaway for commenters.
  9. Thank your host at the end of the day.
  10. For next time, write down blog topics as you write your WIP.  This way, you’ll have a ready list of topics available when you need them (i.e. notes on research, the writing process, what inspired you to write this story, world building, themes, etc.).

 What else would you add?

KAREN HAWKINS SPEAKS

NY Times bestselling author Karen Hawkins offered her advice this morning at the Florida Romance Writers meeting. Here are some of the guidelines she offered based on what she’s learned through the years as a professional writer.                           

  1. Don’t ignore the market unless you’re willing to wait for the market to swing around to what you want to write.  Write what you love and love the market, but stay true to your voice.  Find out where your voice will fit in the current marketplace.
  2. Don’t write for one editor. Write for the genre. Be broad enough so that your work has appeal.  (i.e. If you write to one editor’s tastes and she rejects your work, then where does that leave you?)
  3. Start a self-editing checklist.  If you’re hearing the same things over and over from contest feedback and critique partners, it’s time for you to listen.
  4. Treat writing as a business in terms of keeping ledgers, records of expenses, estimated tax payments, etc.
  5. You need at least four books in the same genre for readers to find you.  Don’t genre jump or jump on the new trend.  Every book you write should offer what readers expect from your brand.
  6. Be assertive. Stand up for yourself or get an agent who will do it for you. Don’t sell yourself short. There’s a lot more out there to ask for if you try.

We can learn from the mistakes other multi-published authors have made and the lessons they’ve learned, because we’ve all been down the same road at one time or another.

SIDEKICKS AND RWA

I blogged today on Sidekicks as Secondary Characters at http://ffnp.blogspot.com/.  Check it out and leave a comment for a chance to enter my drawing for a $7 gift card to TWRP.

Attended RWA conference today: State of the Industry Talk with publisher Lou Aronica, keynote luncheon with Nora Roberts, and two panels today on paranormals and writing in multiple genres.  More details to follow when I’m home.