Tag Archives: planning

Conference Time! by Vivienne Lynge

Hello!  Happy Saturday to you!  Vivienne Lynge here.  I’m so excited…the 2013 RWA National conference is just days away.  This will be the first year that I’m going.  I’ve been to a local, 1-day conference before which was good, but I’ve outgrown it.  It was a general “writing” conference, not something focused on romance.  RWA Nationals is a 5-day, jam-packed fiesta of wonderfulness.  Well, at least it looks that way from the schedule. 

Now, as you know, I’m a plotter, not a pantser when it comes to my writing.  Naturally, my plotting tendencies overflow into the rest of my life as well.  Except instead of ‘plotting’ we call it ‘planning’.  I love to plan.  About 6 weeks ago, I studied the huge schedule of daily seminars and made myself a spreadsheet of those things I’d like to attend.  Ooooh – I just saw that I can pre-print workshop materials…I’ll have to do that on Monday!

Today, I’ll dig out my luggage (I’ve already decided what pieces) and begin packing.  I love to pack (not for moving the house, but for trips).  Packing is a physical form of planning.  I’m a pretty low-maintenance kind of girl, so I’ll be trying to figure out the very minimum I can bring along and manage to get through a week.  Yes, I may resort to hand-washing a shirt in the hotel sink and hanging it up to dry.

There’s been a lot of chatter on Facebook about shoes.  How many pair is the right number?  Of course, I need a comfy, casual pair (will wear sneakers), I have fancier-than-usual flip flops, open toed mules for conference time and a dressier pair for the RITA gala.  So four.  I might skimp on shirts, but I’ll have 4 pair of shoes!  :)

Because this will also be the longest time that I’ve been away from Hubby deLuxe, Princess Second Grader, Jester and Minx, I learned how to Skype last night.  I need a little more practice, but that’s what the weekend is for. 

Today’s Secret: For me, the planning and anticipation of the event (and of course, purchasing needed supplies!) are as much fun as the event itself. 

How about you?  Do you like to travel?  Do you plan it out ahead of time, or just wing it?

How Writers are Like Gardeners

I hope you all had a wonderful Earth Day and that you did your part in saving our beautiful planet. I spent a much needed day off in the garden this past weekend and it felt wonderful. Every drop of sweat, speck of dirt, and brutal scratches from wayward forsythia brought me closer to Nirvana. Crazy, I know. But how many writers love puttering in their gardens and digging in the fresh dirt? PJ Sharon here, sharing some of my interesting observations from my time with the earth. IMAG0023

While deep in thought as I toiled away, my mind could not fully escape my writer’s life, and lo and behold, I began to realize that writers are much like gardeners. Here’s how.

Writers start with a seed of an idea—a beautiful spark that takes hold deep in the fertile soil of imagination. The roots begin to spread, fashioning a network of connections to other characters and relationships, the story unfolding in our minds and shooting to the surface in search of the light of day and discovery. Our fingers dig away at the keyboard. Eventually we bring to life the intricate buds that seem to come from the cosmic funnel above—too perfect for our mere mortal ability to create without acceptance of divine intervention. Most days, I feel as if I’m a spectator in my writing process just as I understand that I am merely an extension of the Divine when I am in the garden–that I am ultimately not the one in control. That leaves me free to play, unencumbered by expectation. It would be nice if I could be so yielding in my writer’s life.

Interestingly though, even the technical aspects of writing mimic the gardener’s habits. As we writers plot and plan before we begin, so the gardener takes stock of their canvas. They prepare the soil, gather their tools, and imagine the larger picture and end result of the task ahead. They come to know their plants (characters), see all the necessary pieces (plot points), and work to put them in place with some semblance of order. Just as authors must balance narrative, dialogue, description, and backstory, the gardener must seek that same perfect balance, sometimes having to rearrange the plants and bulbs to assure proper flow of colors, textures, heights and compatibility.

Where the gardener adds water and fertilizer, the writer layers in depth of character and adds important details to show growth and development. When weeds invade the space, the gardener ruthlessly plucks them out in order to preserve the harmony of the whole. As such, writers too, need to be willing to be ruthless in their edits. As Stephen King says, we must be willing to “kill our darlings.” Although some weeds can add lovely color or thick greenery, left unchecked, they will infiltrate and destroy the harmony we seek to bring about, distracting us from the vibrant beauty of the flowers we plant.

Ultimately our reward comes when we share our story (garden) with others. Each story is unique to the writer as each garden is unique to the gardener. If the job is well done, the onlooker can see the soul of the creator on the page or in the beauty of a flawlessly designed garden. The love and care that goes into creating—whether it be a novel, a quilt, a beautiful painting, or a colorful garden—is what sets us apart in the animal kingdom. Our ability to create and enjoy beauty is a gift that we humans share, and it should not go unappreciated no matter if you are a novice or master–writer or gardener.

One of the wonderful lessons I have learned from working in a garden is patience. It’s easy to become discouraged by rejections, but just like rainy days, the harsh weather is sometimes necessary to bring the needed motivation for plants to grow and writers to forge on. Recognizing that we need both sunshine and rain to fully mature, the gardener takes this understanding in stride much better than the writer, who often becomes frustrated by those seemingly endless weeds and rainy days. A great review, a contest win, or kind word from a critique partner are sometimes enough of a reward to keep us going when we feel overwhelmed by the tasks ahead, but as any gardener will tell you, the greatest satisfaction comes from basking in the joy of knowing that you have co-created something magnificent that grew from your own soul and from the hand of God.

But that’s just me.

So, dear readers, does this resonate with you? Are you a gardener, quilter, painter, or creator of some kind? Can you see how writing mirrors so many other creative endeavors? Kind of fascinating, isn’t it?

Nanowrimo-ing Monkey Blog #1

Hello there Blog-land!  J Monkeys here.  Do you Nanowrimo?  I’m Nanowrimo-ing this year – hard core!  Aren’t familiar with Nano – check out their site.  Or check out PJ’s blog from last week.  Nano is a great (FREE!) program.  I’ve been a Wrimo since 2008 and a winner at least twice.  Of course, since doing the challenge has resulted in words on the page, I’m really a winner every time, but you know, they have rules…

So, for Nano 2012, I’m going to get all of my Saturday blog posts for the month of November done in advance.  I’m trying to set myself up for success, that kind of thing.  But before I get to the meat of Nanowrimo-ing Monkey Blog #1, let me tell you all my goal now, because like PJ, I’m often motivated by the fear of public humiliation.  Between Nov 1 and November 30, I shall write 50,000 words in my current WIP.  In fact, I’m hoping to hit closer to 60k.  So that’s my goal.  By the time this post goes live, it will be the 3rd of November.    At a rate of 2000 words a day, I should have 4,000 words under my belt.  Here’s what I’ve got: 4,587.  Every Saturday for the month, I’ll let you know how far along I am and how things compare to the goal.

Today I’m going to tell you a little bit about my preparation for Nano.  Bear in mind that I’m a plotter, not a pantser.  Many people welcome Nov 1 with nothing more than a keyboard and a smile.  That doesn’t work for me.  I’d find myself on Nov 30 with about 10,000 words if I was lucky.

I’ve been working on a plot for 10 months or so and I’ve got my plot grid finished.  I know the overview of the story.  I know how it starts, what the turning points are and how I think it will end.  Of course all of that is subject to change as things go along, but at least I have a plan. 

I have a set of characters – protagonists and antagonists.  I know a lot about them and what makes them tick.  I know how the relationships between these folks are supposed to develop and the kind of personal growth I want for each of them.  I know what they look like and I have little cards about each of them pinned to the corkboard in my office.

I know the setting for the story – I know when and where it takes place.  I also know why it takes place there.

And finally, I understand the conflicts in the story.  This one has a main conflict of Man vs Man and a Man vs Nature sub-conflict. With a little bit of Man vs Self for good measure.  Nothing like covering all the bases, eh?

All that’s left is to write the story and believe it or not, for me, that’s the hard part.  All of this earlier work is really my favorite part of the writing process – creating the people and building the essence of their story in my mind is what I really like.  Pulling the sentences out of my brain, thinking as each character in turn, reacting the way she would – those are the hard parts.  And that’s why Nanowrimo is so great for me.  Lot’s of support and inspiration to get those sentences out.

Today’s secret: Nanowrimo – it’s not much of a secret, 300,000 people participated world-wide last year.  But of 7 billion, that’s less than 5 hundredths of a percent of the population.

Today’s question: What have you found that helps you get your writing done?

Workin’ for the Weekend

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had one heck of a week since the last time we met here at the Scribes blog.

I’ve been super busy getting ready for this weekend, as in day after tomorrow. Our RWA chapter (CTRWA) is hosting a writer’s conference on Saturday. We’ve got 135 attendees, 15 workshops, and 15 editors and agents ready to take pitches. This year I’m involved in the planning and execution phase of the conference, and let me tell you, unless you’ve seen it firsthand, you would not bee-leeve the amount of work that goes into preparation for a conference of this size and scope. Others have worked far, far harder than I (you know who you are), so I’m not looking for sympathy here! The next time you attend a conference — even if it turns out to be not everything you’d hoped for — take the time to thank the organizers, who are probably volunteers. You could also buy them a drink, just sayin’.

Dream it and Achieve it, Baby!
In the midst of the preconference frenzy, I’ve been putting final touches on my manuscript and practicing my pitch for the agents and editors I’ve targeted as likely to want my story. Consequently, I’m going to keep this post short and sweet. Very sweet. Here’s one of my family’s favorite cookie recipes. Hope you enjoy it! And if you decide to make it, could you drop a few off at my house? I just don’t have time to make my own right now!

ORANGE DREAM COOKIES

  • 2-1/4 c. flour
  • 3/4 t. baking soda
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 1 c. butter
  • 1/2 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 c. light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T. finely grated orange peel (orange part only, not the bitter pith)
  • 2 cups (or one package) white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup orange flavored dried cranberries (such as Craisins) – optional, but I like the way they “tart up” these quite sweet cookies and intensify the orange flavor
Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt. In a larger, separate bowl, cream together the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg and orange peel and mix well. Stir in the dry ingredients, then the white chocolate chips and cranberries.
Drop by rounded teaspoonsful onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment or silicone baking mat, and bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes, or until just set and very lightly browned. Don’t overbake these cookies, as the chips tend to get grainy and the cranberries get too dry.
Enjoy!  And if you’re pitching this weekend, Good Luck! I’d love to hear how you’ve prepared yourself.

Motivation—Digging Deep

 

 

When we’re plotting our stories and creating our characters, one of the big questions we must ask ourselves is “What is the motivation for this character’s actions?” Hopefully, we’ve established an ultimate goal for our hero/heroine and we’ve figured out what the conflict is for our story, but motivation takes thought and planning if we want our story to be believable. I mean why would our heroine fall for our surly, uncooperative, and maddeningly stubborn hero—other than his hot bod and cute dimples?

Cute dimples are not enough.

There has to be a deeper meaning behind the motivation or the story comes across as shallow and flat. For readers to relate to our characters, we need to create three dimensional, fleshed out characters that have reasons for what they do.  Not only for our hero and heroine to fall in love, but for EVERY action they take. Think of each scene in terms of goal, motivation and conflict. What do they want, why do they want it, and what is keeping them from getting it? If you haven’t read Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation, and Conflict, I highly recommend it.

Sometimes the motivation comes from back story. Maybe our hero grew up on the streets and doesn’t trust anybody. Maybe our heroine had a father who walked out on her when she was a kid. The conflict between our characters would be that neither of them knows how to trust. The emotional goal might be that they both really just want to be loved and have a home. But the underlying motivation for them wanting this is that neither of them felt loved and wanted as children. Our heroine is searching for the love and security that she missed out on as a kid (attraction to an emotionally inaccessible man), and our hero wants to belong but maybe doesn’t feel worthy. You want to keep this in mind for each scene so you can use the underlying emotion and motivation to drive their actions and keep them in conflict.

When I have a scene that seems flat or I’m not sure where to go next with my characters I come back to the questions, “What is behind the motivation for this scene? Why are they doing this? What do they want and why do they want it? If I can’t answer these questions about my characters, I put myself in their shoes and invariably, the answer comes to me.

We are all observers of human behavior and as artistic types, most of us are prone to introspection about our own motives for what we do.

Does our history define our motives?

We need only to reach inside ourselves to find the deeper meaning behind the motivations of our characters. On some level our characters come from our own experiences, so feel free to play psychiatrist if you need to, and don’t be afraid to dig deep! When the emotional dust settles, you’ll be glad you did. And so will your characters.

Do you know what motivates the characters in your current WIP?

Finish What You Start

Hi everyone! Casey here. No, Viv and I haven’t switched days. She is enjoying the day with her family so you get me today! This is a post I ran on my site and I thought I’d share it all with you.

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It sounds so simple – finish what you write. But as most writers know – easy to say, harder to do. I have my share of early books that are a hot mess. Some are finished, but not very well. Others, I got halfway through them and then got stuck, never to return again.

That doesn’t happen to me anymore. The reason – I plan out my stories ahead of time. As a reformed pantser, I can only say that having a plan has made a big difference. I finish what I start. As a result, I have completed manuscripts to sell. And for most of us, that’s the whole point, right?

Think of it this way, the plot outline is like GPS or a roadmap. As with any journey, you know where your end destination is supposed to be. What you don’t know is what you’ll encounter along the way. Maybe you’ll get slightly lost and discover a nice restaurant or scenic view you would have never encountered otherwise. Using a map or GPS doesn’t mean you can’t deviate from your path. It means you don’t have to be afraid of getting totally lost.

I have writer friends who believe that plotting will destroy their creativity. Or that an outline means they’ve already written the story and there’s nothing new to discover. I think that not knowing where you’re headed is a bigger problem. It can freeze you in your tracks and cause indecisiveness. Something you don’t want to have happen while you are in the middle of writing. An outline can tell you what is going to happen next, but not how or why. Those are questions that are still there to be discovered and explored while writing.

Of course, an outline is just a guide. I often discard or rearrange as the story or characters demand. And, boy, can your characters have other plans! But that’s a whole other topic for another day.

Whether you write by the seat of your pants or plot the whole thing out, the important message here is – finish what you start!!