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Posts tagged with: craft

Redefining Success

In 2013 – wow, four years ago! – my traditional publisher and I parted ways, and the career I thought I was going to have took an unexpected turn. My contract for an Underbelly Chronicles paranormal trilogy was cancelled after two books. My publisher loved my work, but with over a year elapsing between book releases, it was tough to build momentum, and sales didn’t meet expectations. 

Two strikes and I was out – of traditional publishing, at any rate. With the third book in hand, I dove into indie author-dom, because who doesn’t publish a completed book? Sales and reviews were favorable. The book was nominated for a couple of big awards. 

Awesome, right?

Nope. Sure, publishing that book was a salve to my stinging ego, but in retrospect, it was a short-sighted decision. What I really wanted, long term, was to continue writing the series – and to make that worth my while, I needed to regain the publishing rights for those first two books.

The problem? My traditional contract’s rights reversion clause was sales-based. Once sales dropped below a certain threshold, and stayed under that threshold for two concurrent royalty cycles – one year – rights would revert. Releasing my indie book lengthened that process, because the new work drove sales to my traditionally published backlist. 

It was a paradox.

After much thought, I made a painful decision: to stop publishing, and stop promoting, until rights to the first two books reverted back to me.

Yes, you read that correctly. I benched myself to accelerate this process.

Strange? Yes. Powerful? YES – because once those rights reverted, I’d have complete control of the entire series forevermore. I could publish, price, bundle, and promote as I saw fit. 

To make a long story short…mission accomplished! Rights to the first two Underbelly Chronicles books reverted late last year, and I re-launched the entire series a couple of months ago. (Currently available exclusively at Amazon, and going wide in August.) My time in the introvert cave has been glorious – I’ve spent the last few years writing, doing some freelance editing, learning to format my own books, and teaching – but now it’s time for the author to emerge from hibernation again. In October, I’ll publish my first new book in four years.

This causes me no end of angst, because even on good day, so-called conventional publishing wisdom and I have a glancing acquaintance at best. Publish multiple books per year? Nope, not me. #1k1hr? Puh-leeze, I’ve never written 1000 words in a day, much less in an hour. I don’t write to word count, period. Recommendations about profanity, or getting political on social media? My Twitter feed is a case study in BRANDING: YOU’RE DOING IT WRONG.

I swear a lot. I don’t get “book boyfriends” or the concept of The Muse, and I find most motivational quotes to be entirely too soft and fluffy. I value and appreciate my readers, but as The Most Massive Introvert On the Planet™, I’m probably the last author you’d ever find wearing a tiara or hosting a tea party. 

I edit my own work. 

Yeah, I said it.

Seriously, how many sacred Romancelandia cows can one woman slaughter in two hundred words or less? 

In most areas of my life, I march to the beat of my own drummer, and clearly my writing life is no exception. I’m a misfit. Most days I’m okay with that, but book release time never fails to make me take a look around, assess what the current state of practice seems to be, and think: AUTHORING: YOU’RE DOING THAT WRONG, TOO. 

As I prepare to release my next book, I’ve evaluated conventional publishing wisdom anew, and have come to a strange and powerful conclusion: I don’t publish frequently enough for conventional publishing wisdom to apply.

I will probably never be traditionally, conventionally successful. I find great freedom in this realization, because it means I get to define success for myself.

No matter how solid your confidence, believe me, this is easier said than done – especially when you see your friends and contemporaries not only passing you by, but flat-out lapping you. That’s where your village comes in. Support from your besties, your critique partner(s), your chapter mates, your blogmates, and your (very) patient readers is key. This being 2017, so is advice from complete strangers on the internet. 😉 

To that end, wise online soul Evan Carmichael has created a YouTube series about success and entrepreneurship called “Top 10 Rules for Success,” featuring interviews and clips from people spanning all possible occupational spectra. In Sept. 2016, he posted one featuring my spirit animal, Foo Fighters front man Dave Grohl.

Though he’s a musician rather than an author, I think Dave speaks wisely about art, confidence, and finding joy in the doing.     

Dave Grohl’s Top 10 Rules for Success

  1.   You have to be great.
  2.   Figure it out.
  3.   Chase your dreams.
  4.   Don’t lose your personality.
  5.   Experiment.
  6.   Do your own thing.
  7.   Find balance.
  8.   Just do it.
  9.   Cherish your voice.
  10.   Love what you do.

Google up the rest of Evan’s series when you have a chance – it’s inspiring stuff.  (Dave’s “Top 10” content is 20:00 or so, and NSFW due to language. There’s some fun bonus footage at the end of the video.) 

After watching the video, I feel a renewed freedom to work at my own pace, to take an alternate route. To drive 30 m.p.h. on a scenic, winding road instead of taking the interstate. To disregard what everyone else is doing and build my career one day, one page, one book at a time – and feel joy in the doing.  

Hey, if “Do your own thing” is good enough for Dave, it’s good enough for me. 😉 

At this point in your writing career, how do you define success? Do any of Dave’s “Top 10 Rules” resonate? 

If you’re feeling brave: which piece(s) of conventional wisdom have YOU told to take a hike?

–Tammy, the Ruby Contrarian

Tamara Hogan is the award-winning author of The Underbelly Chronicles paranormal romance series. An English major by education and a software developer/process engineer by trade, she recently stopped telecommuting to Silicon Valley to teach, edit, and write full-time. Tamara loathes cold and snow, but nonetheless lives near Minneapolis with her husband and two naughty cats.

How Do You Find Your Characters

Many years ago, I was like a shaky legged fawn stepping into the world of writing. I had written before, for myself and for my school newspapers, but this new world was totally different and scary as hell. I knew if I was going to survive I would need a strong man by my side so I began my search for the man I knew whose name was Hudson Alan Mitchel.

I searched every store, every street corner, and every office I entered, but I was always disappointed. Yes, there were plenty of men in all those places but none were Hudson.

This went on for months, during which time I began to write his story. It came to me like I was listening to his dreamy baritone voice over the radio. (Yes, at that time there was no podcasts or You Tube channels). Taking long walks and listening to him like we were connected by our cell phones, I learned what he liked and didn’t like. I discovered all of his dreams from childhood and on. I felt his angst over the burdens and problems he carried as a major league ball player. I became aware of whom he trusted and who would put a knife in his back because of his fame. And he revealed to me his most personal desires. He wanted a woman just like me. (Yes, when he told me that, it was a sigh worthy moment.) But sadly, I was blissfully married to my own hero and being the decent guy he was Hudson said he would always be my friend.

But I didn’t have an idea of what he looked like. I knew his heart but not his face.

He assured me that we would meet and soon.

I wanted to meet Hudson so much, face to face, and touch his cheek and let him know that I would do anything to find the woman of his dreams for him. I wanted him as happy as I was. Then, I thought why not start the search for Hudson’s dream woman right away. It would be so great to be the one to orchestrate their cute-meet.

One sunny afternoon, I sat on my patio, flipping through a catalog when Sileen Wright caught my eye. She had long, nutmeg brown hair and dark eyes like I did, but she had a cute button nose like Sandy Bullock and a body I’d need to exercise like ten hours a day for a year to achieve. But physical beauty wasn’t all Sileen had going on for her. Her smile reflected her warm heart and her witty sense of humor. She had a look that told you exactly how she was feeling.

I felt privileged when she told me about her family and her dreams to work for NASBO (National Association of Small Business Owners). However, I picked up on the sadness when she spoke about those dreams. She hid the sadness quickly and I didn’t pry. I knew who could help her figure out her problems­~the man who I trusted. They were perfect for each other.

Maybe a month after, Sileen and I met, I attended my first big writer’s conference at Penn State’s main campus. For three days, I learned more about the craft from great writers such as Merline Lovelace. ~I love Merline’s work and not because she gave me such great advice. Her writing is wonderful.~ Anyway, my critique partners and I stopped at a local café and while we enjoyed Ben and Jerry’s ice cream (I know, I know about the Creamery now!) Hudson appeared. It was love at first sight. Yes, I mean me. But at last, remember I was married. So, it was love at first sight for Sileen and Hudson and their story took off in my imagination.

After years, their story is now going out into the world and you all are among the first to know how Sileen and Hudson’s love affair started.  Perfect Fall is up on all venues for a preorder price of $.99 now.  It will release in four short weeks on July 18, 2017 at $4.99. Grab your copy today and if you feel like sharing the information with your friends, please do!

 

AMAZON

B&N 

I Books

Kobo

To me the story is all about characters. Finding a picture of my characters and interviewing them is usually how I begin to learn the direction and theme of my stories. Where do you start? Do you just dive into write and learn about them as you go?  Do you use character charts?

 

 

Autumn Jordon is an award-winning, sneaker wearing Ruby. She loves writing both contemporary romance filled with chuckles and romantic suspense/mystery meant to keep you on the edge of your seat, guessing. Visit her website www.autumnjordon.com for information on all her works and to join her newsletter.

Perfect Pitch

With the RWA National conference just down the road, some of you may be quaking at the idea of pitching your manuscripts to agents or editors. But I say, no worries. Just follow the method I successfully used at over twenty national and regional conferences. With a nod of acknowledgement to the great Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, here’s my advice on creating a perfect ten sentence (or less) pitch.

First, relax. If agents and editors are taking appointments at a national conference, they’re looking for manuscripts to publish. When you’re introduced, present them with your business card with the name of your book, its genre, and word count on the back. (Normally, there will only be enough time to pitch one book per session.)

Second, relax and prepare by jotting down your thoughts on a 3×5 card—or on a phone or iPad. I usually preferred to wing it, only referring to my notes as needed. But I’ve heard editors say it’s fine for presenters to read their pitch, if it will improve the confidence and coherence level.

The main points to include in your presentation:

-The name of your book, the genre, the setting, and the completed length. If it’s part of a series, mention that, too.

-Your high concept or one or two-line description of your story. This one can be hard to pin down, but it should showcase what makes your book unique and special. Snakes on a plane. Dinosaurs run amok in a theme park. Young girl blown into a magical land battles witches and monkeys as she tries to get home.

-Provide a two or three-word description of your heroine (her dominant impression, i.e.: royal rebel, gutsy librarian) followed by her goal, motivation, and conflict. Example: A confused teenager must find a way to leave a magical kingdom in order to get home to her ailing aunt. A wicked witch prevents her departure.

-Then, a two or three-word description of your hero (his dominant impression) followed by his goal, motivation, and conflict. Example: An innocent fugitive tries to find a one-armed man in order to avoid prosecution for the murder of his wife. A determined federal marshal relentlessly pursues him across the country.

-If your book is a mystery, suspense, or fantasy, you may need a sentence or two about your antagonist or make-believe world, but be judicious. DO NOT present a lengthy cast of characters or unnecessary descriptions of them.

-Present one sentence each about the black moment and the ultimate resolution. (The hot-air balloon accidentally lifts off, leaving a heartbroken Dorothy behind. A good witch helps her realize she already possesses the power to return home.)

-Confirm how the story ends. (Self-contained happily-ever-after? Happy-for-now? A cliff-hanger for a serial?)

If there’s time remaining, the agent or editor may have questions for you. Be prepared with a few questions you may want to ask them or some personal information that may be relate to your book. (It’s set on a ranch in Wyoming and you’re a veterinarian in that state? Pertinent. The heroine has twins and you have twins? Relevant. The hero has red hair and so does your husband? Pointless.)

Important tip: If they have requested material (as they should), make sure to get the contact information on correctly submitting the material.

When the buzzer sounds, smile, shake hands, thank them for their time, and it’s over.

As simple as that. Good luck with your presentation!

Look for Jacie’s latest release, FACE THE MUSIC, available on all e-platforms.

https://www.amazon.com/Face-Music-Good-Riders-Romance-ebook/dp/B072DTF7C5

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/face-the-music/id1240250950?mt=11

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/face-the-music-14

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/face-the-music-jacie-floyd/1126433125

Bio: Jacie Floyd writes contemporary romance, romantic comedy, and emotionally-rich stories about strong women and bold men. While polishing her craft as an unpublished author, she was honored to be named a six-time Golden Heart Finalist and two-time Golden Heart winner by RWA. She has self-published seven books and a novella since 2014. Her eighth book, FACE THE MUSIC, from the Good Riders series, debuted in May.

She loves hearing from readers and writers and invites you to contact her at www.JacieFloyd.com, https://www.facebook.com/JacieFloyd/, https://www.pinterest.com/JacieFloyd/, or https://twitter.com/jaciefloyd.

 

Character: The Heart of Great Story

Good stories are all about great characters, and great characters take work. Some writers develop characters through discovery/rough drafts while others create character notebooks with detailed charts, photos, interviews, etc.

Regardless of your approach to character development, here’s a fun and simple technique to help you write rich, complex, and compelling characters — Persona Poems. These eight-line poems are biographical in nature and are an excellent way to build and distill character. Persona Poems help you get deep into a character’s head and heart, which will power up your story. Case in point…

In 2008 I received multiple agent offers for my Golden Heart manuscript, THE BROKEN. The agent I eventually signed with thought we had a good chance of going to auction and sent the ms to senior editors at the (then) big six New York publishing houses. Within a week we had…six big NY rejections. I studied the rejections and discovered that five of the six editors had issues connecting with my main character. With the not-so-subtle hint, I spent the next few years studying and working on character. During this time, I discovered the Persona Poem concept from an elementary school teacher.

I eventually went back to THE BROKEN and wrote a Persona Poem for my main character, Kate Johnson. During this exercise, one of the four adjectives I used to describe Kate was “self-loathing.” The more I thought about that descriptor, the more I realized THIS was my problem. Do readers really want to read about a character who loathes herself? Ick! I changed the adjective to “scarred,” which provided me with a more gentle way to address Kate’s brokenness. With this poem on a sticky note attached to my computer, I tweaked Kate’s character, rewriting about ten percent of the manuscript. In 2012, the same agent sent out THE BROKEN to NY, and this time we got that auction.  🙂

Ready to give it a try? Here we go!

Persona Poem Lines

Line 1: first name/nickname of the person
Line 2: 4 adjectives that describe the person
Line 3: X of Y formula, describing an important relationship to the person
Line 4: 3 things s/he loves (think MOTIVATION)
Line 5: 3 things s/he fears (think CONFLICT)
Line 6: 3 things s/he wants (think internal/external GOALS)
Line 7: resident of…+ place/time/concept
Line 8: last name of the person

Persona Poem Example

Kate
Ambitious, fiery, on-the-run, scarred
Target of a serial killer
Loves the dark, motorcycle rides, old movies
Fears public places, mirrors, relationships
Wants to see the serial killer jailed, the road whirring beneath her feet, happily ever after
Resident of Smokey Joe’s spare bedroom
Johnson

Now it’s your turn. Write a poem about one of your characters. What lines were the hardest for you? How do you develop characters? Any character tips or tricks in your writerly toolbox? 

Shelley Coriell is an award-winning author of mysteries, romantic thrillers, and novels for teens. Her debut thriller was named one of Publishers Weekly’s Best Books of the Year, and her other novels have been nominated for an RT Reviewers’ Choice Award, Best Paperback Original of the Year from the International Thriller Writers, and a Kirkus Recommended Read. A former magazine editor and restaurant reviewer, Shelley lives in Arizona with her family and the world’s neediest rescue weimaraner. You can find her at www.shelleycoriell.com and Twittering @ShelleyCoriell.

Writing Emotion:

This is a reprise of a post from December 2010, but hopefully it’s as relevant now as it was then:

*********************

You hear it everywhere: readers want books that evoke deep emotion.

It’s not surprising, given the tough times we’re in, that readers want to be swept up in strong feeling—feeling so authentic and substantial they forget their day-to-day worries and just care about the characters, maybe even have a good cathartic cry. (When was the last time a romance actually made you cry? Back in the Old School 80’s, that used to be my litmus test for a “good book.”)

Evoking emotional response in readers is a tough job, and a very complicated one.  Many elements play into it, more than I can possibly cover here. But no matter how great your plot, no matter how high-stakes your Conflict and how dark your Black Moment, readers won’t get emotionally involved unless they can feel what your characters are feeling.

Are Blogs History?

Recently, behind the red curtain, the question ‘if blogs are history’ came up and a great discussion followed.   It’s hard for us to know the correct answer, because our brick counter tells us we have between 650 – 1000 reads a day, which is pretty awesome. And some days, only sisters comment while on others the world speaks up. This same question arose at my local writers meeting this past weekend.  

Promotion is a big topic for writers, whether you’re traditionally pubbed or self-pubbed. Blog tours are still on the list of things an author must do, but should they be?

So the questions today are:

Are blogs like the Ruby Sisterhood helpful to the writing community? (Do you love the Rubies?)

Do writers see a ROI on doing blog tours?

Do readers really read blogs?

Please chime in. And if you have blogs that helped with promotion of your work, please share.

What I Learned From Michael Hauge Part 2

Last week, I shared my notes on Michael’s opening comments and his insight into the Hero’s inner Journey during his Master Class. Today I’m sharing my notes on his six-stage Plot Structure and at which point the hero’s Transformation occurs.

 

If you’ve visit Mr. Hauge’s website, you can see his Six-Stage Plot Structure chart.

It’s broken down into Set-up, New situation, Progress, Complications & Higher Stakes, Final Push and Aftermath. In between each he’s labeled 10% Opportunity, 25% change of Plans, 50% Point of No Return, 75% Major Setback and 90-99% Climax.


Setup-Stage One:

We introduce are hero in his everyday life, the life he has lead for years. He is stuck.

During the intro we need to create empathy for the character and this must be done before any character flaws are revealed. The reader must like or sympathize with the character before flaws are shown.

The character must be put into jeopardy. Not necessarily life threatening, but in danger of losing something of importance to character

Character must be likeable. Good hearted toward others.

Or, there should be humor. Character has the courage to say what we would not.

Also, we need to show that hero has the skills to overcome what will stand in his way.

 At 10% mark: Hero is stuck in his identity.

Opportunity happens (1st turning point) and creates an immediate desire to enter new situation and a need to react. This is not the main goal for the character. It is a primarily goal that sets him on a path. It can be either a curse or a blessing.  

New Situation-Stage Two: opportunity forces character to react while keeping in his identity. However, in reacting he gets a glimpse of his essence. He could get a glimpse of his essence from the point of view of a secondary character.  (Hero reacts and secondary character states, “Man that was so cool. I can’t believe you just did that.”)

 At 25% mark: Change of Plans

Your hero starts his journey, believing he will remain in his identity, which actually forces him toward his essence. This is where the outer motivation begins. The Hero defines his success.  In Braveheart, it’s the moment his bride is killed.

Stage Three: Process

Our hero starts to take on elements of essence. He defines a plan to accomplish goal. During this stage he wavers between identity and essence. He feels vulnerable in essence and retreats to identity.

At 50% mark: Point of No Return

Something must happen to make our hero totally commit. At this point, they let go of their identity and accept the change and move forward. Example in romance, their declaration of love.

In Pride and Prejudice, it when Mr. Darcy reveals his love for Elizabeth. In Hunt For Red October, it’s when Jack Ryan jumps out of the helicopter and into the sea, determined to save the world from a nuclear war.

Stage Four: Complications & Higher Stakes

Our hero steadily evolves toward essence. He makes a promise to someone or vows to himself. “As God as my witness. I will never go hungry again.” Scarlett in Gone With The Wind.

The ticking clock gets louder. Obstacles get bigger. Pace quickens. More conflict is add.

At 75%: Major Setback

Something has to happen that makes the hero stop dead in his tracks. He retreats to old life/identity and discovers that you can never go home again. The truth he’s been searching for comes out.

During this section of the story a secondary character will come to the hero and say “Why are you not acting like you?” In Notting Hill, it’s the scene where Will is sitting with his friends and has told them about Anna baring her soul to him and Spike enters and states, “You draft prick!” It the wake up moment for Will.

Stage Five: Final Push

Your hero must pull up his bootstraps and go for the goal. No holding back.

In Independence Day, Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum get on the alien ship and take off to destroy the mother ship.

Depending on your story, between 90% and 99% the Climax will occur.

The main goal will be resolved. He wins the girl. He defeats the villain. In You’ve Got Mail, It’s the moment when Kathleen and Joe meet in the park and she realizes her on-line friend has been Joe the whole time.

Stage Six: Aftermath

We see our hero in his essence enjoying his new life. Again using Notting Hill, it the end of the movie where we see Will participating in Anna’s world and both of them comfortable in their new roles.


And there you have my notes. I hope I’ve helped you in understanding story structure.

 

His Witness To Evil

Autumn Jordon is the award-winning author of romantic suspense-mystery-thrillers such as her Golden Heart Finalist and Golden Leaf winner His Witness To Evil. After her family business was comprised by The Russian Mafia and the FBI investigated, she grabbed her note pad and pen and went on to interview the agents. Join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com and be privy to upcoming releases, sales, and events. Also, you’ll receive free reads and be entered into her monthly contest for great prizes

What I Learned From Michael Hauge – PART 1

If you’ve read my blog on February 27, you know I believe in a writer’s continued education. Last weekend, The Greater Lehigh Valley Writer’s Group of the ABE area in Pennsylvania hosted the renowned Michael Hauge. Mr. Hauge is known for his Story Mastery concept of screen-writing. Over the years, while attending RWA conferences, I tried to get into his sessions, but they were always filled to capacity and now I know why. The man breaks down story telling in a way that makes complete sense. So when this opportunity came up, I jumped to learn from him. I jumped on the opportunity to learn from him.

Because of the volume of notes I took during the class, I’m going to break this blog topic up into two sessions. Today, I’ll convey Mr. Hauge’s opening comments and then I’ll concentrate on his information for a character’s inner journey. On April 3, next Monday, I’ll share what I learned about his Six-Stage Plot Structure. Again, I want credit Mr. Hauge and state again these are my notes.


Mr. Hauge started the day with this statement: A writer’s job is to create emotion in the reader. Character, desire and conflict are your story’s core.

How great is that statement? In two lines, he conveyed the essence of story-telling.

Hauge made us work, filling in templates based on our stories. The three words that he repeated throughout the day and especially as he listened to participates who read from their templates was “KEEP IT SIMPLE”. Don’t over think or make it more complicated than it needs to be was his message. Describe the elements in as few words as possible.

He then went on to describe the outer journey as the story of accomplishment and he listed five outer motivations which create conflict.

  1. To win something. In romance, it’s to win the love of another character.

     2. To stop something bad from happening.

     3. To escape; to get out of a bad situation.

     4. To deliver something of value from point A to point B.

     5. To retrieve a value object.

 

The inner journey he said is the transformation of character from living in fear to living courageously.

Structure he described as where the story takes place. He also stated to move the scenes to where they have the most impact. When he said this, I recalled how my editor for His Witness To Evil had me move a scene to later in the book because of this reason. Often we’re too close to our own work that we don’t see how we can improve it and that is why editors are important.

 

The Hero’s Inner Journey: The transformation. The Character’s Arc.

Mr. Hauge stated you need to answer these questions for each of your characters.

What does the character want? A longing is something he will express (outer desire). A need is something he will not (internal hidden desire).

What is their wound? A wound is the unhealed source from the past. No one gets out of adolescence unscarred. The character feels that they’ve moved on, but it still affects their actions.

What is their belief? We form a belief of why an event happened. Beliefs grow out of the wound. They’re always logical but never true!

What is their fear? This should be a move or change that goes against character’s belief.

 

He then gave us two terms; Identity and Essence.

“A character’s identity is a false-self she presents to the world to protect her fear that grew from the belief that grew out of the wound long ago.” It’s her emotional armor. It is who they believe themselves to be and all they can be. They feel safe in their identity.

While in the identity they can have what they want but to get what they need their identity must die and they must move into their essence.

The essence is the character’s true self. It’s who they really are. It’s who they can be, if they find the courage.

The Character’s Arc is the journey from the false-self to the true self without losing their admirable traits. In other words, the character will let go of the past wounds, fearlessly grow in their strengths and become someone they never imagine they could be.

Your character can NEVER achieve outer goal while in his identity. To achieve the goal he must be in his essence. Either they can feel safe and be unfilled, or you can be scarred and gain what you need.


Okay, I think I’ve given you enough to think about today. Work on your characters and next week I’ll share my notes on the Six Stage Plot Structure and how your character’s arc fits in.

 

 

His Witness To Evil

Autumn Jordon is the award-winning author of romantic suspense-mystery-thrillers such as her Golden Heart Finalist and Golden Leaf winner His Witness To Evil. After her family business was comprised by The Russian Mafia and the FBI investigated, she grabbed her note pad and pen and went on to interview the agents. Join her newsletter at www.autumnjordon.com and be privy to upcoming releases, sales, and events. Also, you’ll receive free reads and be entered into her monthly contest for great prizes

Writing Books With Overlapping Timelines

Stack of BooksI’ve always been fascinated by the idea that the same set of events from the point-of-view of two different people can result in two completely different stories. So it shouldn’t have surprised me that I’d end up writing books with overlapping timelines—that way I get to explore the same events from multiple perspectives. But, the first time it happened, it was a complete surprise. I’d written what was supposed to be a standalone romance novella, but toward the end, the heroine’s brother made a surprise announcement that he was getting married. I wanted to know what had brought him to the altar so quickly, so I decided to write his story. And, let me tell you, coming up with a satisfying story arc that didn’t conflict with the events of the previous book almost killed me. So, of course, I decided to do it again.

After struggling through the overlapping-timelines thing with a second pair of books, I’ve come up with a few guidelines for myself, in case I ever decide to attempt this craziness again, and I’m sharing them with you here.

Minimize the actual overlap

Be conscious of which book A scenes include / are relevant to the characters from book B, because you’re probably going to have to show them (or at least mention them) in book B.

Let’s take a birthday party. If the main characters from books A and B both attend the party, it might seem strange to show the party in book A, but not mention it in book B. But if the scene was designed to move the arc of book A forward, it might not fit well with the arc of book B.

Catching CleoBecause it’s difficult to write scenes that move both stories forward, I try to make sure there aren’t too many of them. Books 4 & 5 of my Voretti Family series start with the same scene (from the perspective of different characters, of course). But, while book 4 takes place over the course of a few weeks, the majority of book 5 takes place months after book 4 ends. So, while I have a few scenes that you see in both books, the majority of each book is unique. Thus, I could design most scenes to move the arc of their specific book forward without worrying about the other book.

Plot it out

For those plotters out there, it might help to plot both books before you start writing the first. That way, if there’s something you have to change in book A to fit with the plot line in book B, you know about it before you’ve written hundreds of pages. I note the day that each scene in books A & B takes place so that I can tell if I have any conflicts or inconsistencies between books.

Just say no

Even with all the planning and plotting in the world, it’s still really hard. So don’t do it, Ava. Just don’t do it anymore. (Who am I kidding? I’m totally going to do it again. What can I say? I’m an addict.)

What about you? Have you ever written books with overlapping timelines? Do you like reading them?

How To Find Your Magic

Happy St. Patrick’s Day everyone! Do you have your green on? Leprechauns, gold and magic surround this holiday, but as writers we must employ a bit of creative “magic” every day to create characters, worlds and emotionally moving stories. Many call this magic their muse.

Originally a Muse was any of the nine sister goddesses in Greek mythology presiding over song and poetry and the arts and sciences. The term has come to mean “a source of inspiration, especially: a guiding genius.” (Merriam-Webster)

Our muse is our creativity, an internal source we draw upon whenever we need to create something new or solve a problem. Which is very similar to the term, lateral thinking (coined in 1967 by Edward de Bono), which means the solving of problems by an indirect and creative approach, typically through viewing the problem in a new and unusual light.

People are born with creative ability, no more or less than the others around them. It is the tapping into this ability, thinking laterally, that helps the artist create new and inspiring projects.

So, what can we do to tap into our well of creative waters? Lure our muses out of hiding and conjure up our magic for the pages of our manuscripts? Over the years I have developed a few techniques to build the muse-alluring rainbow and follow it to the end to find my pot of gold (okay – yes, that was stretching the metaphor a bit for the sake of the day).

Clear my desk. I can’t think about my WIP when there are bills piled next to my computer or kid permission slips or my list of a million little things that need to happen. The clutter pulls my attention away from the book and my muse refuses to waste her time coming near me.

Make a cup of chai latte. I’ve addicted my muse to hot chai lattes. I make them at home to save on cost and limit them for the calories. But if I’m stuck and trying to immerse myself in my book world, the spicy taste of cinnamon mixed with hot milk, black tea and cardamom pushes me right in.

Find my playlist. At the beginning of a new book I create a musical playlist with songs that represent the time period and songs that help me understand the characters (which is why my iPhone has both Gregorian monks chanting and Eminem). I don’t listen to music every day, but when my muse is playing hard to get, the music lures her in like the Pied Piper.

Cut and paste. I’m very visually oriented, so I like to see what I’m writing about. Consequently, I collage my stories, or at least the characters and settings. At the beginning of a new project, I take a day or two to look up pictures of places and people, print them off and glue them to poster board, manila folders or blank books. I also cut and paste them electronically if I don’t have time to pull out the scissors and glue (using One Note). I actually brainstorm with pictures, discovering backstory and plot details in fun or creative images. I prop them up in my line of sight (on my clean desk) when I write.

Collage for CAPTURED HEART – Scottish Historical Romance

Walk. There is something about fresh air and rushing blood that gets my creative energy sparking. If I dwell on a scene while walking, dialogue pops into my head. It is almost like my muse is skipping along, flicking ideas at me until I grasp one and we run with it. By the time I get home I’m usually itching to start typing.

Free Association. One idea I’ve yet to try is called Word Spit (yes, I came up with the name and I’m sure you could come up with a better one : ). Take a blank piece of paper and a pen. Without thinking, start writing down random words, anything that pops in your mind. Often these words start taking on a pattern or interact with one another as they flow from your subconscious to the paper. Take some of the words and try to apply them to your plot or characters, and see if they spark inspiration or a new direction.

We all have a muse, our inspiration for creating art, expressing our ideas, and molding something beautiful out of lifeless material. She or he is a one-of-a-kind personal guide to finding our pot of gold. You just need to lure her in and grab on.

Do you have any techniques for bringing forth creativity? How do you find your magic?

 

 

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