Monday, May 27, 2013

Mapping out the End

This week I hit the point in my manuscript where I have about 50 pages left. For a Harlequin Romance that's a tad under one-fourth of the book. So if you're working on a longer book, a 400-page single title for example, this post would apply to the last 100 pages of your book. :)

Anyway, when I get to this point, I know it's time to figure out the end.

Figure out the end? Don't you have a synopsis?


A storyboard?


So why are you only now figuring out the end?

Even if I use the ending I have in the synopsis or on the storyboard, it's still gonna get some tweaking because lots of things change or morph as I write.

In this book, I totally changed the ending. I'd been building to something and, honestly, if I don't follow through on what I've been building to, I think the book will read lopsided (or the eds will make me rewrite).

As we work through the actual writing of a novel, characters change. We discover things about them we didn't know. Or we realize something, a comment or piece of their past we believed was trite, the characters themselves consider vitally important.

So, when I hit the point where I only have 1/4 of the book left, I figure out the black moment and the resolution of their problem (their happy ending). Then I work backward. I make sure that I feather in a lot of hints and foreshadow important things.

For instance, there is a secondary character who will play a role in the black moment. Two chapters before that I will have the hero mention that he's being put on the guest list for "the big event" at which the black moment takes place.

The heroine has to get a new job. And the uber-poor heroine has to somehow scrounge up a ball gown. The path had to be paved for both of those.

Because so many things have to happen, working backward allows me to not just remember to get them also allows me to figure out the best place to put those things for maximum drama.

For me the ending is like playing with dominoes. I need to have certain things happen so all I have to do is figure out which domino needs to fall first to make the whole thing come tumbling down.

So try that on your next book. When you reach the point where you only have one-quarter of your book left, figure out your black moment and resolution, then work backward. What has to happen to make that black moment "work."

Happy Monday...


Monday, May 20, 2013

Keeping Perspective

Have you ever noticed how many times in your writing life things crop up that tempt you to stop or flee from writing or just plain not write at all that day?

Sometimes it's the old... But I'm not sure what to write.
Sometimes it's...I have dishes to do.
Sometimes it's...I don't feel like writing.
Sometimes it's...I need a break. Just today. I swear I'll get back to it tomorrow.

I don't care why you procrastinate or what you call it (like a break) procrastination is procrastination and it ruins careers.

So how do you handle this?

If you're not sure what to write, check your could, might, must and should list. If you wrote down all those scenes and scene possibilities popping around in your head when you first got your idea, there's something on that list that could jumpstart your imagination. If you didn't write a could (happen), might (happen), must (happen) and should (happen) list for your one now. :)

Second, dishes? Really? That would keep you from writing? If you must do dishes then use that time to think about what you'll write when you're done. :)

You just don't feel like writing? Read what you wrote yesterday. Or go back an entire chapter and read your wonderful prose, see your fantastic characters interacting. That usually puts my head in the game again. Once I get into the story, I don't want to come out. I want to write.

Finally... You need a break?  This one I might give you if you can tell me a really good reason you need a break. Maybe you worked twelve hours straight the day before, you edited, you got fifty new pages written and now your brain is empty. If so...take a break.

But if you're just wimping out on me...Forget it! Get your butt into that chair.

I had a chat this morning with someone who set a very tough schedule for herself this year. She said, "Susan, am I insane?" and I said... "No. You want to be somebody someday.  All these books you're doing this year will jumpstart your career and boost your readership." And she smiled.

Because that's the truth. The people who work win.

Wanna win? Then work. Don't procrastinate. Don't be easy on yourself or fluff off the hard days. Get your butt into the chair and keep it there! On Friday when you've accomplished your goals, you will thank me.

Happy Monday

Monday, May 13, 2013

Wedding Weekends

On Saturday my niece Lea got married.  This Saturday coming up, my nephew Brian is getting married. It's been a busy couple of months and the upcoming weeks are going to be even busier.

So what do we want to talk about this morning?

How about people watching? LOL!!!

Seriously... What better place to people watch than at a wedding?

Remember that great scene in Steel Magnolia's where Dolly Parton and Olivia Dukakis were watching people dance at Shelby's wedding. And Olivia told Dolly that one of the women's dancing looked like two pigs wrestling in a blanket? I laugh every time I think about that.

That scene didn't just make us laugh and create one of the funniest lines in recorded history, it set the stage for the fact that these women who started off gossiping would become great, lifelong friends...but also that people were funny.

If you watched that movie, you saw the Southern girls and guys had their stereotypical leanings, but just when you were about to write a character off as a cliché he or she did something to make you think the writers were brilliant!

Because that's the truth about people. At least half of our personalities are ... well, what everybody would expect for our age, size, color. But each of us has something, some odd, quirky hobby or tic or thought process that makes us unique, fun, wonderful.

And that's what readers are looking for when they read. They like recognizing the kindly grocer with a bald head and round wire glasses, but they want to see something fresh and unique about him. Is he also the town bookie? A closet erotica writer? Or somebody on the World Poker Tour?

Think just a little bit longer, a little bit harder, maybe a little bit outside the box and give readers characters who create a story rich with reality. Because let's face it, everybody's got a quirk, a habit, a hobby...or something that makes us who we are.

Our characters should too.

Happy Monday


Monday, May 6, 2013

Give them something to do

I started a new book last week. I have a fantastic hero and heroine (if I do say so myself). They both have great goals. He wants to buy a big conglomerate. She wants to become successful. They have internal stuff. (I'm not going to tell you what their great internal conflicts are because that'll spoil the book...but trust me. They have great internal stuff.)

I set up a situation...Though she was hired to be an accountant at his company, she's pressed into service to be his assistant. They will see each other EVERY DAY!

Woo-Hoo! I have what looks to be a perfect set up...


What are they going to do everyday?

I could have them doing bits and pieces of the work required to investigate the purchase of something as big as a conglomerate...Wait. Did I just see you yawn?

Damn it. I did. Because not only is that boring; it also doesn't translate very well to the page.

I felt the same way myself this morning before I tossed my pen to the bed and went to breakfast with my husband. After hearing me whine about something being off with my book, he said, "We could go to church. You get your best ideas in church." True, but I don't think I could persuade the priest to give a sermon on a Monday morning just so I could scribble notes on the back of a church envelope.

So I thought of my last book. I had a little girl who didn't speak out loud, a kid who was failing sixth grade, a big goofy dog and a heroine who was supposed to be teaching the kid and babysitting the little girl.

They needed breakfast. They needed lunch. They needed school supplies and Christmas decorations. They had to eat supper. Somebody had to clean up. The little girl didn't have any clips for her hair. The little boy wanted to go to school in town to meet friends. All as they decorated for Christmas.

These people had a lot to do. I had absolutely no problems coming up with stuff for them to do. Yet this morning I couldn't think of a darned thing for my new H and H to do.

So I created a list of twenty. What are twenty things these two can do? Big things, important things that don't just give them busy work but also illustrate those great internal conflicts I told you about above.

And finally I found something. I won't tell you what it is. But trust me, it doesn't just give them work and movement it also reflects back on the internal conflicts and makes the hero and heroine talk.

I call all that a vehicle. There has to be something that gets your characters moving...and interestingly. Something that gets your characters to interact. It can be the things that lead them to their goals...what I picked to get my people moving is something that has to do with buying that conglomerate. LOL But it's something that illustrates or shines a light on their internal conflicts even as it requires motion and interaction.

In other words, I'll be giving my people something to do. :)

Take a look at your own book. Are the H and H always going to the diner? Are you creating scenes around getting up and going to bed (alone...if they're having sex...carry on)? Do your chapters ALWAYS start with things like "The next morning..."

Maybe you need to give your characters something to do...a vehicle, if you will, that gets them talking and moving and interacting.

Happy Monday

susan meier