Tag Archives: change

The Change Exchange

Long ago, in a publishing landscape far away — does it seem like I’m beginning too many posts this way? I bet you can tell it’s Thea Devine posting today. In any event, Casey’s post a few days ago about flying monkeys called to mind a conference I ran many years ago where I’d invited not only industry people, but also the gentleman in charge of programming at Lifetime TV (seemed like a natural fit, romance and Lifetime), and a producer from USANetwork. I don’t remember anything from any of the workshops I attended (it was a looong time ago) except this: the USA producer talked about writing TV drama and the key to moving the story along.

He said, at the end of each act, something must change.

Extrapolate that for novelists: At the end of each chapter, something must change.

Think about it. Every little shift and setback, a small emotional moment, a big get out of my face statement — and something changes. It can be subtle or monumental. It can be something someone says, or something your heroine sees, or realizes, or theorizes (rightly or wrongly). It could be someone setting your protagonist on the wrong track. It could be a disappointment, a revelation, a decision, an apology, a resolution, an action, or taking no action. It could be something that’s not what it seems or someone’s hidden agenda.

Any of those changes (or any you could think of) should send your protagonist off in a different direction which will lead to more changes, more ramifications and more consequences.
In essence, you’re programming: if heroine does this, then this could happen. Or that. If she says something, someone could be affected negatively, or someone could overhear and spread gossip about it. If she chooses to leave, she will feel free, or she will feel as if she were falling into a black hole all alone. If the hero confesses everything he knows, he would be breaking a childhood code of silence, and therefore implicating his friends in a long ago unsolved misadventure … but he’ll win back the woman he loves.

Each of these moments of change has consequences which then raise the stakes in each succeeding chapter, almost like you’re climbing steps from one complication/change to the next until everything is tied up at the end.

So ask yourself at the end of each chapter: what changes? What can change? If something changed, what would shift? What would send the heroine in a different direction? What if it did? What if it didn’t? What if she wants to stay in place when even when she has choices? What if someone gives her an ultimatum? Or challenges her? What if she walks away from everything? And then wishes she hadn’t. Or is ecstatic that she did?

What happens next?

I leave that to your imagination, your tolerance for change, your aversion to or embrace of risk — in fiction and in life.

Thea Devine’s books defined erotic historical romance. She is the USAToday best-selling author of 25 erotic historical and contemporary romances and a dozen novellas.. Her 2008 erotic contemporary romance, His Little Black Book, was reissued in October. She’s currently working on a new novel.

Another Moment, Another Lesson

Thea Devine here, confessing that quite often I feel like I’m at the prom without a date.  Although, since I didn’t go to prom, maybe that analogy isn’t quite apt.  (But there was that senior high school dance where I was helping out, when a classmate said so pityingly, “Oh, don’t you have a date?” It scarred me forever.)

Anyway, it used to happen especially when I had to go alone somewhere I didn’t know anyone.  I just dreaded it.

So I was quite taken by this moment that happened the year we delivered my oldest son to freshmen orientation, where, that evening, we were among the hundreds of guests invited  to a reception at the home of the president of the university.

We were with my son’s roommate’s parents, and we were watching a petite woman make her way among the crowd, stopping to greet people and ask whether they had a son or daughter at the school.  A few moments comparing notes and she went on to the next group of guests.

I was admiring how she’d taken the initiative so easily among a multitude of strangers.  When she finally came to us, someone  behind us thought to ask, “Who are you?”  It turned out she was the wife of a famous politician, whose son was in that freshman class as well, and she chatted with us for a few moments and moved on.

A politician’s wife.  Who would know more about how to work a crowd?

But for me, it was a magic moment, completely divorced from who she was.. This, I thought, was how you conquered those prom feelings.  How you’d deal with being shy and feeling out of place.  How you became a fish swimming in water instead of flopping around on the riverbank.

You ask the other person to talk about him or herself.  Who doesn’t like to talk about themselves?  Maybe you don’t ask who they are or what they do.  Maybe, like my boss I wrote about in a previous post, you say, tell me everything.  People do, trust me.

I mentioned this moment to a very shy and retiring friend of mine because I was so taken with the lesson, and I was kind of floored when she exclaimed, “Oh I know her!”

Of course.  So I wrote about it — a short story, about 1000 words.   Of course.  What else would an author do?  That’s precisely what those moments are for.  To learn from, and to make fiction from.

Of course.

Are you shy?  Do you feel like you’re at the prom without a date?  Have you ever had a magic moment in a crowded room? (Falling in love counts,)

Beating the Stress Monster

 

           Mr. Webster says that the word stress is defined as “pressure; mental or emotional strain.” Most of us think of stress as an event that causes our adrenalin to spike, our anxiety level to rise, and our emotions to run-amok. In reality, stress is not an event—it’s our response to an event.

Being creatures of habit, we cling to routine. Any change in the status quo can bring about a stress response. Weddings and funerals, the birth of a baby, starting or ending a job, moving, going to a new school—what these stress inducing events have in common is “change.” Good or bad—the constant state of change and dealing with the excessive minutia of life can be overwhelming.

Stress Monster

Today’s lightning speed lifestyle doesn’t help. Technology is progressing at an incredible rate and the world is changing so fast that even a flux capacitor couldn’t handle the time-warp we’re in. Whether you are a freshman in high school dealing with tests, homework, book reports, and being shoved through the halls from class to class, or a newly published author swimming through the quagmire of promotion to put your debut novel on the Kindle Top 100 list—we are all moving at warp speed. The bottom line is that life is stressing us out. We aren’t equipped to deal with the speed at which the world is changing.

So what’s the answer, you ask?

            I might suggest being more organized, eating right, getting enough sleep, doing some yoga, and meditating—all helpful in maintaining balance and helping us cope with the stresses in our lives. But beyond that, I think the most helpful advice I’ve found is from the wisdom of Deepak Chopra. He says, “Detach from the outcome.” What does that mean? It means that when we attach expectations to an outcome (like passing a test or achieving bestseller status), we set in motion that stress response. Our instinctual fear of the unknown kicks in, adrenalin floods our system, and we are set on the emotional roller coaster that comes with the possibility of dashed expectations. With all the uncontrollable variables and constant motion of life, none of us can guarantee what the future will bring—no matter how much we plot and plan. Whether it’s a by-product of our society or self-imposed expectation, we all inherently fear the unknown and dread failure. It’s simply part of being human.

            My understanding of “detachment from the outcome” requires that I stay present in the moment. I need to take time to enjoy my successes when they come, learn from my failures, and detach from the expectation that an event will go exactly as I had planned. This is the only way I can overcome the stress monster. I know that this is easier said than done and I assure you, it takes daily practice.

 There was a time when this had become second nature to me. I knew to breathe, live, and have my being in the moment. I had created a lifestyle that was conducive to maintaining balance. But somewhere between my decision to self-publish and diving into the sea of details required to accomplish that task, I lost sight of my ability to stay peaceful amid chaos.

So now I’ll take a breath and get back on track with taking care of myself—a necessary part of staying strong enough to beat the stress monster. I’ll do my best to eat healthy, exercise, and sleep more. But most of all, I will get back to that philosophy of detachment from the outcome. Does that mean I won’t be checking on sales reports or making lists, setting goals, or working on getting that next book out? Nope. But I will remind myself daily that NOW is all I have and I can’t get it back once it’s gone, so worrying about the outcome of things that are beyond my control will never make me happy, healthy, or sane. I’ll remind myself to breathe as often as is necessary and I’ll attack my lists one thing–one moment at a time.

Stress monster, look out!

What do you do to beat the stress monster?

Gerri Brousseau was randomly chosen as the winner of a free e-book copy of Heaven is for Heroes. Thanks you Gerri for commenting on both my posts last week here on the Scribes site and over at Market or Die.

Know Thy Business… or Else

Once you finish your novel and enter the publishing arena, you are no longer just a writer. You are a business person.  Why?

Because publication is a business. This is true whether you follow traditional or indie publishing.

I know. Thank you, Captain Obvious.

Sadly, there are a lot of writers who aren’t paying attention to the rapid changes in the publishing industry. And this affects all of us, especially unpublished writers. The old rules are flying out the window. Now is the time to learn the business. Knowledge really is power and ignorance will only cause you pain later.

For details on these changes I recommend the following sites: Dean Wesley Smith, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, and The Passive Voice. These individuals do a much better job than I can in describing the current climate in publishing. If you have no idea what I am even talking about, please go to these sites immediately after finishing this!

I have a much simpler message – You are responsible for your career. You are your biggest champion and your own protector.  You are responsible for knowing what you are signing (when those contracts come your way!). You are in the driver’s seat of your own destiny. Be your own advocate and remember you are the boss!

If you’re passionate enough to create an entire novel and have the drive to seek publication, you’re also smart enough to protect yourself from the questionable practices taking place right now, to take advantage of new opportunities and to preserve the rights to your work.

As P.T Barnum said so simply – “There’s a sucker born every minute.”

I say  – don’t be one of them.