Will the World End?

A long, long time ago, I bought a book by Donald Maas about how to write a bestseller.  WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL.  His advice?  The higher the stakes, the higher the demand for your book.  I’m writing cozy mysteries, and a few people have told me I’d sell more if I wrote thrillers or suspense.   They might be right, but I’m an Agatha Christie fan, and I like what I like.

When I wrote urban fantasies, the entire plots hung on good vs. bad.  If the good guys didn’t win, all things horrible would break loose.  The world would end, as we know it.  Okay, in truth?  That was a lot of fun.  But then I wrote six romances, and the stakes changed.  If the guy didn’t win the girl, there wouldn’t be a happy ending.  Enough to make me sad, so those stakes worked for me, too.

If as a reader I come to truly love and care about a character, I want him to survive and to be happy.  I just finished readng WHAT ANGELS FEAR, and the stakes were high.  If Sebastian couldn’t find the real killer, he’d be blamed for a crime he didn’t commit and probably hang.  Did that make me turn the pages faster?  I got every bit as hooked by Catherine Bybee’s FOOL ME ONCE, because I got totally caught up by the characters.  Yes, there was a lot at stake.  Secrets needed to remain hidden.  Could Reece win Lori after she found out he was a P.I. who was tailing her for info?  Before he fell for her?

Every book has to have high stakes, one way or another.  Maas would say, the higher the better.  What happens if the protagonist fails?  How devastated will the reader be?  But there are all kinds of stakes.  Emotional.  Political.  Career.  Reputation.  Books are filled with little setbacks, chapter after chapter.  After all, we don’t want to make it too easy for the protagonist, do we?  We try to end each scene with the protagonist wanting more, feeling a little defeated, until the very end.

I read Caleb Carr’s book, THE ALIENIST, when it first came out.  I haven’t seen the TV series yet, but I want to.  His protagonist worked hard to catch a serial killer, using psychology to understand the murderer.  The stakes grew higher and higher, knowing that if the detective team didn’t catch him, someone else would die.  A ticking clock is a great way to add tension.

Mae Clair uses past events to heighten the stakes in her Point Pleasant series.   The Mothman rescued Caden Flynn, and the “monster” and Caden have a weird bond.  When strange sightings start again in Point Pleasant, the past and the present collide, and Caden knows he’ll be visitng the Mothman again.  Is he meant to save the cryptid or destroy him?  (If UFOs and the Mothman legend appeal to you, here’s a link:  https://www.amazon.com/Thousand-Yesteryears-Point-Pleasant-ebook/dp/B0138NHJ4A/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1517091001&sr=8-3&keywords=mae+clair

Whatever you’re writing, may your stakes be high enough to keep the reader turning the pages.  Happy Writing!

My webpage:  https://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

My Kensington page: (I need a new picture): http://www.kensingtonbooks.com/author.aspx/31751

Twitter:  @judypost

 

 

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Blog Tours

I signed up for another blog tour with Goddess Fish Promotions.  (They’re SO easy to work with!)  It started on Oct. 30th and it will end Nov. 10.  For the first tour, I did questions and answers at each stop.  This time, I chose to put up a different excerpt each time.   I don’t know if the tour will help me sell more books.  If it does, that’s wonderful.  If it gives me a few more reviews, even better!   But there are no guarantees.

What I love about the tours, though, are visitors’ comments.  Even just a “sounds like a good book” makes me happy.  “I like the excerpt” makes my day.  In SPECIAL DELIVERY, Karli is a travelling nurse.  My daughter is a travelling nurse, and adding that into the romance’s story line made it more fun to write.  One visitor commented that her sister was a travelling nurse, and it gave us something we could both relate to.

Once this book goes up on Nov. 7th, I’ll have a year before my mystery’s available, so I decided to write a romance, chapter by chapter, to post on my webpage in the meantime.  I have to admit, I had three brothers and an idea that just kept surfacing in my head, over and over again, that just didn’t want to go away.  I kept telling it to.  “No more romances for me,” I told it.  “Only think of new mysteries.”  But my brain doesn’t pay any more attention to me than my chihuahua does.  So I sat down and wrote the first chapter, and I really liked it.  I posted it, then sat down and wrote the second chapter.  I liked that, too.

I can “pants” it for one or two more chapters, and then every pore of me will crave some kind of assurance that I’ll have enough ideas and head in the right direction, so I’ll have to sit down and write plot points.  I have so many friends who are pantsers and write beautiful novels, but I just can’t do it.  I’ve tried.  (Don’t ask).  I’m already jotting down ideas for what can go wrong in this story.  And since I’m really posting a first draft–since I can’t give it to my critique partners to clean up first–I’m crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.

I’ve shared that I like to divide my novels into fourths when I plot.  But I recently saw K.M. Welland’s Nano outline to keep your story on track.  I’ve been writing a long time, but it still boggled my mind.  I’m thinking of giving it a try, even though I might skip a few steps along the way, so that I don’t scare my brain into a serious retreat.  I’m not sure if it will work for me to be this organized, but I’ll find out.  If it overwhelms me, I’ll go back to what I usually do.  And that’s the thing about writing.  There is no right or wrong way, and you can always regroup and rewrite.  Anyway, in case you like nailing every trigger point in your story, here’s her link:  https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/novel-writing-checklist/  

If you’re trying to pound out 50,000 words this month for Nano, good luck!  If you’re like me, and Nano is the stuff of hiding under the bed, happy writing anyway.  Have a great November!

 

webpage:  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

twitter:  @judypost

Sometimes, I don’t want angst

When I’m yapping to my friend and fellow writer, M. L. Rigdon, about my idea for a new book, and I rattle off a list of things that I can see happening in it, she always stops me and says, “That’s all well and good.  You love plotting.  But…”  And then she lists the sacred mantra of character development:  1. What does the character want?  2.  Why does she want it?  3.  What will she do to get it?  Mary Lou starts books with characters who tug at her.  I start books with ideas.  A good book needs both. No matter how you start, you have to end up with both.  And you have to find balance.

Mary Lou, who used to perform on stage, has no problem whipping up fully developed characters in her nimble, supple brain.  She has no trouble developing angst either.  After all, the ebb and flow of drama pulses in her veins.  Her Regencies (written as Julia Donner) drip with angst.  And wit.  And humor, thank God, to offset it.

For Julia Donner’s books:  https://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Dstripbooks&field-keywords=julia+donner

One of my other fellow writer friends, Kyra Jacobs, writes contemporary romances, like me.  I like them, along with lots of other people.  I’d love to visit the Checkerberry Inn, but she’s partnered up all the hot men there in her three book series, so I’d only get to look and drool.  But her books are fun, fast reads with heartwarming characters that lift my mood.

For Kyrs’s books: https://www.amazon.com/Kyra-Jacobs/e/B00E5PIJ04/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1 

That’s what I tried for when I wrote my Mill Pond romances.  I wanted to create characters who hooked me and life challenges I could relate to.  So I think I balanced the characters–what do they want, why, and what will they do to get it–and the plot (all the things that get in their way), but I still get feedback occasionally that my romances don’t have enough angst.  Now, I know I”m never going to please everybody.  I also know that I purposely tried to write fun, light romances–quick “feel good” reads, because sometimes, that’s exactly what I want.  Sometimes, I get damned sick of baggage piled on top of baggage. That’s why I’m not very good at deep, literary novels.  I’ve had enough baggage in real life.  I sure don’t want to read about it.  But the first time I read that my books could use more angst, I tried to add some.  Let’s face it.  No one gets through Life with a free pass.  But I got the same comments on that book.

So, I thought I’d add more angst between my protagonist and her romantic interest.  And I think I did a better job on that.  But I got the same review on that book as the earlier ones and fewer stars.  Sigh.  I’m grateful for every review I get (okay, maybe not EVERY review.  There are some I could do without:)  And I even think maybe I have a glimmer of what the reviewer meant, because–and I know this sounds strange since I’ve never met her–but I like this reviewer.  I’ve learned, though, that what one person calls “angst” might not be what I would call “angst.”  And if I ever write another romance, I’d fiddle with my next theory, but now I’m off to try my hand at mysteries.  Kensington offered me a three-book deal, and I’m pretty happy about that.  But let’s hope they have enough angst. Because I don’t have a theory on that yet.  And I’ve noticed that my least favorite book in a favorite author’s series is the one where she was the most depressed.  Bigger sigh.  I still haven’t made up my mind, I guess.

How do you define angst?

For my romances:  https://www.amazon.com/Judi-Lynn/e/B01BKZDQ68/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1501354126&sr=1-2-ent 

My webpage:  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

On Twitter:  @judypost

How Many Bodies does it take?

I’m working on a mystery.  I finally reached the third turning point (three-fourths through the book–and yes, I do construct my plots that way), and I’m heading into the last 80 pages.  This is when I look at my remaining plot points and pray that I have enough twists and turns to make it to the The End.  If not, a little creativity is in order.

Almost (there must be one out there that breaks the mold, but I can’t think of it) every mystery starts with a dead body.  A crime would work, too, but it’s not as common.  The body doesn’t have to be on page one.  It doesn’t even have to show up by page five.  But someone usually stumbles upon it by the end of chapter one.  Not always.  Mystery readers, especially for cozies or traditionals,  know that while they’re hanging out with the protagonist and getting to know her and the book’s setting, a dead body will show up eventually.  It’s worth the wait.

Martha Grimes, in her early books, grabbed her readers with a hook–a prologue. They’re frowned upon now, but I liked them.  Some nice, oblivious person would be walking along a street or locking her front door, and we KNEW she’d be dead by the end of the chapter.  A great way to build tension.  A lot of thriller writers use that technique–showing the victim in a way that we know they’re already doomed.  It works.  If you’re not writing a thriller, though, you have to space out victims more sparingly:)  You don’t off somebody whenever the pace slows down, so you have to come up with different devices to keep the tension high enough to turn pages.

The thing I loved about witing urban fantasy is that you could write a battle every time you wanted to up the tension.  Pitting your protagonist against someone who could kill her works really well.  I just finished reading Ilona Andrews’s MAGIC SHIFTS, and it was a FAST read because there was a battle in almost every chapter.  Lots of action.  I loved it, but that doesn’t fly in an amateur sleuth mystery.  Protags don’t wield swords or shoot magic.

What does work?  Having the sleuth at the wrong place at the wrong time.  Having her get nosy and digging through a desk that’s not hers when someone walks into the office.  I’m halfway through a mystery by an author who’s new to me:  A Cutthroat Business by Jenna Bennett.   I’m loving it so far!  First, her protagonist is a Southern Belle.  I haven’t read one of those since the last Sarah Booth Delaney cozy I read by Carolyn Haines. Bennett’s protagonist is a real estate agent…so, of course, she takes a client to a showing and finds a body in the last room they stop to view.  See?  The nice, bloody corpse comes at the end of the chapter. More fun that way!

Also, of course, the police show up and the client who wanted to see the house doesn’t seem to have any money, but he has done some prison time–and the protag knew him when they were growing up–a smartass, sexy ex-con. Bennett finds one clever way after another to keep her protag involved in the investigation.  Eventually, though, (and I hate to say this), another body is needed to boost the pace near the middle of the book.  Sacrifices must be made for every novel, and for mysteries, well…. someone must die.

I’m sorry to say (and my daughter wasn’t happy with me, because she fell in love with a certain character when she read the pages I’ve done so far), I had to kill off someone, too, for the second plot twist in my book.  And that made me wonder:  how many bodies does it take to keep a good book going?  In urban fantasy, you’re lucky.  Very rarely does one of the good guys have to die, and you can kill bad guys at random, on every other page if you want to.  In mysteries, though? Bodies are up for grabs.  Good guys die as often as not-so-good guys.  I’m thinking–and I haven’t researched this–that it takes at least two bodies to move a mystery plot.  The first body happens at the beginning of the book and somewhere later, the pacing and clues start to fizzle, and an author has to stick in another victim.

What do you think?  Can you think of a mystery that only has one victim and the entire plot goes from there?  Okay, maybe in a P.I., because usually the private eye gets beat up close to the time a second body would pop up in a traditional mystery.  LOL.  This is probably why it was so hard for me to write romances.  I couldn’t kill anybody:)

Jenna Bennett:  https://www.amazon.com/Savannah-Martin-Mysteries-Box-Set-ebook/dp/B00A6UMNRM/ref=sr_1_8?ie=UTF8&qid=1496516485&sr=8-8&keywords=jenna+bennett+savannah+martin+series+kindle+kindle

Ilona Andrews’s Magic Shifts:  https://www.amazon.com/Magic-Shifts-Kate-Daniels-Novel-ebook/dp/B00OQSF7GY/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1496517298&sr=8-3&keywords=ilona+andrews+kate+daniels+series

My webpage (with a new creepy short story):  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Twitter: @judypost

My author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

 

 

Tension

Okay, I just read a blog post by James Scott Bell, and he explained very well what I’ve always felt, but in a vague–somewhat nonverbal–way.  And he made it SO clear.  Every book has to have tension, or no one would turn the pages.  It’s easy to point to the tension in a thriller or suspense novel.  The bad guy might kill someone or lots of someones if the hero doesn’t stop him.  Same for horror, only who knows who or what the villain might be.  In a mystery, a hero is trying to solve a crime and restore justice.  But what’s the tension in a romance?  Or a literary novel?

Bell says that conflict is best if there are “death stakes” for the protagonist/s.  But he divides death stakes into physical death, professional death, or psychological.  That makes so much sense!  In a romance, every time the hero and heroine can’t work things out, it builds tension.  If they can’t get together at the end of the book, they suffer psychological death–the death of happiness:  http://writershelpingwriters.net/2017/03/conflict-and-suspense-belong-in-every-kind-of-novel/?utm_content=buffer7ce91&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer

Conflict drives a story, moves it forward.   And the stakes have to keep getting higher every time the reader turns a page.  That’s why there’s the old adage:  Things can always get worse.  They have to, or your story stalls.  During the set up, the author says what the protagonist wants, and he spends the rest of the book making sure he has to work harder and harder to get it.  Here’s a good link by Samantha Stone to build conflict:  http://www.creativewritingsoftware101.com/articles/how-to-create-conflict-in-your-story.php

I used different types of tension in my romances than I’ll need for my cozy mystery, but I still want a romance subplot, and I want to work hard at developing characters readers will care about.  I enjoyed writing Babet and Prosper so much for urban fantasy that I’d like to do something similar for my River Bluffs novels.  I want my characters and setting to be as fully formed as the mystery.  We’ll see how that goes:)

At my writers’ group last week, one of our members tried to decide what each of us needed to do to write a bestseller.  I give him credit.  He believes in all of us, bless him.  And I think we’re all good writers, too, but I have less faith in finding the “secret” that makes a book sell.  Lots of advice says that you need to write a “big” book.  The higher the stakes, the more readers you’ll attract.  That might be true.  I don’t know.  I think the heavens have to align and there’s a lot of luck involved.  And I found this article that sort of agrees with me.  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-winkler/how-to-write-a-bestseller-formula_b_1542587.html

In the meantime, happy writing!

 

My webpage:  (a free snippet from SPICING THINGS UP–our March 21–and a free short mystery):  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

author Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudiLynnwrites/

twitter:  @judypost

 

 

 

 

 

 

Things Can Always Get Worse

I like to think of myself as a nice person.  True, I don’t mind killing people in my stories, but most of them deserve to die, and that’s part of tension and conflict, right?  We’ve all heard over and over again that things must always get worse for our poor protagonist.  If his victories come too easily, readers yawn.  Hell, newspapers are filled with dire events.  Fiction has to have more drama than fact, doesn’t it?  At least, we have to feel it more.

But I have to admit, I’m a little surprised at myself.  I’ve been working on the Mill Pond romance series.  The first book, because I wasn’t sure if I could write romance, has a healthy dose of humor.  It made me more comfortable with the boy/girl stuff.  I sort of fell in love with Harmony and Brody in the second romance, and I wanted Brody to be the brooding, not-so-silent type.  He has a way of saying what no girl wants to hear.  You have to remember, I fell madly in love with Natty Bumppo in middle school.   While my friends read romances, I read about pioneers.  These guys were a little overly reticent, way too practical.  They weren’t in touch with their feelings.  They’d rather keep their scalps.  Brody brought back memories of the strong, silent type who managed to say the wrong thing when they did finally open their lips.  A little too outspoken.

In the third romance, I wanted to push the envelope a little and have a heroine who wasn’t the standard pretty girl.  Paula’s a chef with tattoos, a stud, and two kids.  She’s smart, practical, but has terrible taste in men.  I tried to show how hard it is to juggle a career with motherhood and find time to meet Mr. Right.  Of course, with Paula, first, she falls for Mr. Why-in-the-world Would You Go There?  Not only did she need to meet somebody wonderful–which Chase is, she needed a true, honest friend to steer her in the right direction.  And that’s where Tyne came in.  He’s her hot fellow chef who has no problem speaking his mind and still charming you.  In my plot points, Tyne is a minor character, but when I wrote him, he leapt off the page for me.  It was as if he was born whole, like Athena, who stepped out of Zeus’s head in full armor.  I fell instantly in love with Tyne.  So do most women.  He has to fight them off.

So, why, in book four, do I give one of my all-time, favorite characters such a hard time?  That wasn’t my intention.  I started his book all happy and upbeat.  The thing about Tyne, though, is that he feels so REAL to me that when he hits the skids on his way to his big, black moment, I felt it.  And since I suffered for him, unfortunately for him, he felt it even more.  So did my poor husband.  When Tyne was unhappy, that made me unhappy, and you know the saying—happy wife, happy life.  For poor John, when I hit my gloomy chapters, the saying switched to unhappy wife, unhappy life.  That darn Tyne actually affected my moods.  That’s when  John goes to the hardware store:)

I’d like to say that when Daphne became so depressed, she couldn’t eat, the same happened to me.  I might lose weight that way.  But instead, I overcompensated and ate enough for both of us.  Don’t ask.  Anyway, I was a bit taken aback when I beat up one of my favorite characters more than I do most.  But no fear.  I’m writing romance.  A happy-ever-after is soon in the offing…after Tyne and Daphne suffer enough.

webpage:  http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy/

twitter:  @judypost

 

The Thing About Urban Fantasy

Okay, I did it!  I promised to post one chapter a week for a short urban fantasy novel until it was finished.  And I made it.  I posted the last chapter on Friday.  Once it was up, I spent the rest of the day, putting all of the images and chapters together into one book, and I’d written over 48,000 words.  Not bad.

River City Rumble is the last story, so far, in a series of novellas that I’ve been writing for a long time.  When I’m wading deep in middle muddles of other books, I turn to Babet and Prosper to re-energize me, to pull me out of the muck.  And they always come through.  That’s why I decided they deserved a novel of their own instead of a week or two of my attention in short spurts.  They’d earned their own novel.

The thing is, urban fantasy writers–at least, the ones I read–tend to use a big cast of characters, and those characters grow in number with each book they write.  Now, don’t get me wrong.  I loved writing about all of the people I’d introduced in previous novellas, but it’s hard to keep track of them all in one book.  Before, in shorter works, I picked and chose who I wanted to highlight.  In this book, I decided to go bigger and better.  I wanted someone or something that threatened everyone in River City, so that they’d all have to work together to defeat him/it.  The trick was to try to bring each person in and then not forget him when the next person joined the team.

Hatchet and Colleen had to be part of the struggle.  Hatchet is Prosper’s partner on River City’s supernatural detective force, and Colleen’s his vampire/wife.  If Hatchet’s walking into danger, she’d be beside him.  Babet’s mom and Hennie had to help, too, because they’re all part of River City’s coven.  And since the villain/antagonist who instigates all of the trouble is a vampire who controls a huge seethe, every vampire in River City will band together to battle him.  And those characters are just for starters.  By the end of the book, the voodoo community and the shape shifters all joined in, too.  But you know what they say–the more, the merrier.  So we all just teamed together and did our thing.

The second decision I made while posting my weekly chapters was to include an image with each one of them.  I’ve done that with some of the short stories I post on my webpage (all available in its left column, if you’re interested).  But I don’t do it on any regular basis.  This time, I had to come up with an image every single week.  And to my surprise, I found ones that fit my idea of what suited each scene.  One of my readers–and I so appreciate this–complimented me on them.  That meant so much to me, coming from her.  My biggest challenge, though, came when I started to write the last chapter.

Urban fantasies–at least, my favorites–are a string of small battles that lead to a big, final battle, usually to the death.  That meant I had to wrap up every small subplot before I stepped onto the battlefield.  I’d created an antagonist–and I’m proud of this–whom many people loathed.  She wasn’t the main villain, but more than a few readers said they hoped she got what she deserved before the book ended.  I hope I satisfied them.  Then, I was clear to send almost every supernatural in River City out to meet Zanor.  This couldn’t be just any battle, though.  The good guys couldn’t win too easily.  They had to face near death to overcome their enemies.  And everyone had to have a part.  That’s when things got tricky.  And that’s when I had to bring in more evil reinforcements so that Zanor’s forces gave as good as they got.

My protagonists survived, and so did I.  But I really sweated that chapter.  Fingers crossed that it satisfies.  Now, it’s time for me to move on and concentrate on my fourth Mill Pond romance.  A complete change of style.  And that’s a good thing for me.  I’m a Libra.  It helps keep me balanced.   Hope you find balance in your writing this week!  Hit those keys.

My webpage: http://www.judithpostswritingmusings.com/

My author’s Facebook page:  https://www.facebook.com/JudithPostsurbanfantasy/?ref=bookmarks

Twitter:  @judypost

And FYI:  If you’re a fan of epic fantasy, my friend, M. L. Rigdon’s PROPHECY DENIED is FREE thru March 7: http://www.amazon.com/PROPHECY-DENIED-Seasons-Time-Book-ebook/dp/B004S7EQ92/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1457193638&sr=1-1&keywords=m+l+rigdon

 

 

 

How much do characters change?

I finally finished my third romance and sent it off to my editor at Kensington.  It took me longer than usual.  My grandson moved in with us for a while, stayed long enough to figure out what he wanted to do next, and then moved out.  The holidays came and went, and so did visitors.  I wrote, but sporadically.  And then I reached the final stretch and pounded out words.  My critique partners, bless them, sped through my draft so that I’d have plenty of time to do rewrites.  And I sent the novel off into the cold, cruel world on Friday, ahead of my Feb. 15 deadline.

This romance has a bigger cast of characters than my last ones.  First off, my editor asked if I’d try for a longer book, closer to 70,000 words than 60,000.  Secondly, I wanted to have more men to juggle for Paula, lucky girl.  And third, I wanted an extra subplot since I was writing longer this time.  I’m not a big fan of love triangles, so I wanted to make sure my novel didn’t have that feel, even with three men in the story.  My editor e-mailed that he probably wouldn’t get to Love on Tap (the current title–but that can always change) until the end of February, so I won’t know if everything worked or not for a while.  But at the moment, I’m pushing it all out of my mind.  I’m ready to move on.

The thing is, I see-sawed back and forth on one of my characters.  I wanted Paula to be attracted to him, but I wanted the reader to know he wasn’t the right guy.  If I made his flaws too obvious, then readers would wonder why Paula was interested in him at all.  As my writer friend put it, “It makes Paula look stupid if she’s attracted to a jerk.”  Okay, I get that.  So I needed Mr. Wrong to be appealing, in some way, to her.  I toned down his flaws to the point that I started to like him.  Not as much as Paula’s real love interest, but enough that I didn’t want the story to end badly for him.

And that brings me to one of my flaws.  I tend to like most people, to see their potential, what’s good in them.  It’s rare that I meet someone and instantly dislike him/her. Another writer friend teases me that it’s hard for me to be mean to my characters.  They might go through rough patches, but I want things to end well for them.  So, I wanted Mr. Wrong to change, to grow, and find a not-as-wonderful, but good-enough happy ending of his own.  And I wrote it that way.  But it didn’t work.  Because when I looked at the story, his character had changed too fast.  He couldn’t cover that much ground in such a short time. Don’t get me wrong.  I think that people can change.  I think it’s hard, but it’s possible.  I think Life buffets us around and makes us change.  But it takes times…and work..and usually some unpleasantness.  Mr. Wrong wasn’t ready yet.  So, unfortunately for him, he ended up in a messy transition instead of a sort-of-happily-ever-after.

I know that characters need to change from the beginning of a book to its end.  But how much?  How much change is realistic?  And what does the character have to endure to force those changes?

Good luck with whatever you’re writing!  And keep your characters your real:)

P.S.  I’ve posted links from Les Edgerton in my blog before, but he gave a speech for the Oklahoma Writers Association that’s pretty useful for writers:  http://lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/2016/01/keynote-speech-at-owfi.html?spref=fb

His link on outlining:  http://lesedgertononwriting.blogspot.com/2010/04/outlining.html

And if you’re interested, Kensington is offering a contest for readers to win my first romance, COOKING UP TROUBLE, by Judi Lynn (my pen name for romance): https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/172144-cooking-up-trouble

 

Outline to Finished Draft

This post is too long…again.  But it should finish explaining how I turn an outline into a finished draft.  I hope.  If you still have questions, let me know.  But here goes!

When I start a book, I do pretty detailed plot points.  I didn’t always.  I used to stick to the basics of what had to happen to move the story, but now, when I think of a chapter or scene, I scribble down whatever comes to mind, and the more I scribble, the more things I think of.  That way, when I read my notes, I just need to bring them to life.

Every book starts with a hook.  For Wolf’s Bane, I show Reece racing to her mom’s house. Her mom remarried after Reece’s father died and had two children with her new husband. Eugene’s proud that he has a son, but Jenny reminds him of his mother.  He doesn’t like his mother, so whenever he’s had too much to drink, he likes to smack Jenny.  Reece, who teaches martial arts, rushes to prevent that.

However, Wolf’s Bane isn’t a literary novel.  It’s urban fantasy, so Reece’s family isn’t the main plot.  When she jumps out of the car to rescue Jenny, she sees a woman sitting on a porch stoop.  The woman raises her face to the sky and howls before she runs away. Later, after Reece has sent Eugene to the kitchen and gotten her brother and sister to bed, when she starts to her SUV, a werewolf attacks a young man on the street corner.  The man seems doomed until a gargoyle plummets from the sky to rescue him.  He kills the werewolf, and it shifts back to the woman Reece had seen earlier.  Plot point 1.

Now, that’s all plot point 1 is, a summary of what happens in that chapter.  But I’d already decided that I was aiming for 80,000 words for this book.  As it happened, I ended up with 30 plots points, and the novel ended up being 364 pages and almost 91,000 words.  But at the time, when I finished figuring out my 30 plot points, I figured I needed 2,600 words for each plot point, or about 10 -12 pages.  Each point might involve a few different scenes.  For my latest romance, I plotted forty plot points for 70,000 words.  Why?  Because I knew I wanted shorter, punchier scenes and chapters, only about 7 pages each.  How do I make one plot point into 7 to 12 pages?  By bringing the scene to life.

In Wolf’s Bane, I’d already shown that Reece is attached to her step-brother and step-sister.  If they call, she’s there.  Why?  Why does she care?  How much of an age difference is there between them and her?  How does she feel about her mother now?  Why does her mother tolerate Eugene’s drinking?  And how does her mother feel about Reece popping in to protect Joseph and Jenny?  What was Reece’s father like?  And what does Reece do now that he’s gone and she lives on her own?

Plot point 2:  This is still set-up.  Usually, the entire first fourth of my books are set-up.  This scene takes place a month later.  Reece is back at her mom’s house, and when she leaves, the man who was attacked gets off the bus at the corner and starts toward her.  Moon light hits him, and he starts to change.  He attacks Reece, and again, the gargoyle comes.  This time, he saves her, but his wing’s hurt in the battle.  She drives him to her condo, and he notices that she’s been scratched.  The wolf’s paw mark makes a tattoo-like stain close to her heart.  A sign that she’s a witch.

Again, this plot point only summarizes what happens in this scene or chapter.  I have to add details to bring the scene to life.  What did Reece do when she watched the man shift into a werewolf?  How did she feel?  How did she feel when the wolf attacked her?  When the gargoyle came to help her?  Does she believe him when he tells her she’s a witch? How will she cope with that?  What does it mean?  etc.  Question after question to bring the characters and actions to life.  Anyway, that’s what I do–scene after scene.

For me, once I get the plot points, I can concentrate on “seeing” what’s happening, what each character is doing, what the setting looks like.  I can “hear” the characters, listen to the grunts and shuffling of the battles.  That’s how my outline becomes a draft.

Now, a quick note:  I divide my stories into fourths, and that helps me keep my plot points on track.  The hook is extra–something to grab the reader.  So here’s how I start:

  1. Hook:  Reece races to her mother’s house to protect Jenny from Eugene.
  2. Plot Point 1:  Reece sees a werewolf attack a man and a gargoyle save him
  3. Plot Point 3:  The man shifts and attacks Reece. The gargoyle saves her and she learns she’s a witch.

I know I want 80,000 words, and I’ve decided I can reach that with 30 plot points.  That means that I want my first turning point to come at the end of chapter 7 or 8, at the end of the first fourth of the book.  Reece knows she’s a witch, but she has no idea what that means or how to awaken her magic until the end of the book’s set-up (the first 7 or 8 chapters).  Also, a rogue werewolf tries to kill her, so she’s been targeted for some reason and doesn’t know why.  At the first turning point, an owl brings her a moonstone necklace to awaken her magic and she teams up with the gargoyles who protect Bay City to fight the rogues.

The second turning point comes at the middle of the story.  Wedge Durrow and his werewolf pack join Reece and Damian to fight the rogues, and they have an idea who the rogues are.  Hecate, a powerful witch, joins them, too.

The third turning point hits at the three-quarters point of the book, and the fourth quarter of the book leads to the final, big battle and resolution.  It ties up all the subplots, etc.  For plot points and structure, I highly recommend: http://storyfix.com/story-structure-dummies.  The point is, once you have your hook, first plot points, three turning points, and the end of your book, all you have to do is fill in more plot points from A to Z.  And then, all you have to do is bring each of those plot points to life.  Good luck and happy writing!