Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Plot Generators and TWIST

Generate one plot and twist it into many more.

I used this website to generate the first plot for a fairy tale:

 Here's what the fairy tale generator suggested:

• The story is about an ambitious girl who must defeat a tyrant, save a princess, and find a magic mirror to return home.  Things are complicated when the villain kidnaps the main character's sister.


• The story is about an ambitious woman who must crash through the glass ceiling at the corporation she works for to save her boss who she has secretly been in love with for 4 years, then find the lost financial reports to return to the home office.  Things are complicated by revelation that the employee who orchestrated the fraud is the main character's sister.


• The story is about an ambitious girl who must overcome a tyrannical uncle who is her guardian to save a Lord from financial ruin, and find and return the Lord’s family heirlooms she finds at her home.  Things are complicated by the villain blackmailing the main character by threatening her sister’s marriage prospects and dowry.


Can you make a plot twist from the basic fairy tale plot generated above for a horror, space story, dystopian, zombie, or other genre? POST BELOW!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Writing Successful Scenes

My daughter came to me the other day, frustrated because she hadn't thought out a reason for the scene she was writing and it was going nowhere. We had a great conversation, and she was able to resolve the issue and get back to work after just a few minutes. I'd like to share some of the highlights of that conversation because I found it pretty eye-opening.

1. Every scene needs to have a reason. If the scene does not move the plot forward, help to create setting for future scenes, or show characterization, it's a do-nothing scene and should be deleted.

2. Every scene should present a problem or discuss an ongoing problem. We already know that the overall structure of a book is character + problem + goal + conflict + conflict + conflict + resolution = good story, so each scene should be a reflection of that. If there's no new conflict or discussion of existing conflict in that scene, it's outta there.
3. Every scene should include action, reaction, and emotional interpretation of the actions and reactions. A book without emotions is flat and boring. Pretend like you're the character being faced with that situation. How would you feel? Now give those feelings to your character and let them experience what you'd experience.

4. Every scene should act as a bridge between the previous scene and the next one to come. If you ended the previous scene with the discovery of a dead body, sure, you can leap ahead in time a little for the next scene, if you like, but you should be following up on what happened before. This gives flow to your story and keeps the book moving forward at a good pace.

As you edit your book, put each scene on trial - does it deserve a spot in your book? If you've got pages of fluff and filler that aren't moving your story forward or adding to setting and characterization, yank those puppies out of there. Your reader would probably skim them anyway ... save them some eye strain.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

How to Best use Pre-orders

There was a lot of hype about indies having the ability to use pre-orders, and we finally got the ability. What's my take?

*Warning- 90% of people in a poll of about 75 said they do not like to pre-order unless there is some kind of incentive. If they do pre-order it is usually within 2 weeks of the book coming out.

1. The ideal use of a pre-order is to have it in the back matter of the book that precedes the one coming out. (Amazon let's you set up a pre-order 3 months in advance and iBooks and Kobo 1 year. I'm not sure what the time frame is on Smashwords, but it's at least 2 months)

2. If you have a serial, think TV episodes instead of novels, then pre-orders will rock your world. Put serial 1 and 2 out at the same time, keeping #1 free and then put the pre-order link in the back of it. Put the pre-order link in serial 2 for serial 3, etc. It's best if they come out within a few weeks of each other once the first 2 are out.

3. If you are going for a bestseller list, 2 weeks of pre-orders seems to be the best recipe. If you put the pre-order out there too soon, your momentum could die, and you'll end up in no-man's land on the charts, and no one will be able to find you.

4. It's hard to get people to pre-order the first in a new series or a book in a different genre that is different than your typical offering.

Inquiring minds want to know:

 Do you pre-order eBooks? 
How far out are you willing to pre-order? 
Do you pre-order books from links at the end of a book?

You can pre-order
the Daring Hearts boxed set with 14 amazing books right now. Don't miss. Limited time only.

Only .99 cents- No joke. One click and it's yours.
and everywhere else, too.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Character Bibles

by Donna K. Weaver

What is a character bible? Not a piece of holy writ, that's for sure. However, a character bible might save you--at least time and embarrassment.

For example, if your character has brown eyes in chapter one, you don't want a reader to inform you--perhaps in a review--about him having blue eyes in chapter 20. Jo Rowling, author of the Harry Potter series, has had remarks like that made.

So, a character bible can include things like physical attributes, and many people spend a lot of time deciding what those are. The Internet is full of articles and blog posts with ideas for what to include. Like these:

One I'm especially fond of using is What Really Drives Your Characters? by Carolyn Kaufman, Psy.D. (an Assistant Professor at Columbus State Community College and author of The Writer’s Guide to Psychology)

I find, when I use Dr. Kaufman's page, not only do I discover things about my characters, but that the things I discover help me plot the story. I've gone so far as to create a Word document that I fill out on my major characters. I have included it in my Scrivener template so when I begin a new book, it's built right in.

I love Dr. Kaufman's webpage because of the questions she poses. Sample (you'll need to check the link above for the rest of her great questions):

1. Primary Goal
    a. Obstacles to that Goal
    b. What s/he'll give up or sacrifice to achieve that Goal 
            What has your character promised herself she'd never do? And how can you push her past that promise by dangling the Goal in front of her?)

I'm a sucker for ethical questions, so I find this intriguing. Could there come a point in your story where one of your characters finds him/herself go too far because it's soooo close to that Goal?

It's wonderful that you, as the author, get to choose what kinds of things you want in your character bible.

Do you have one? If so, what do you like to include ?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Taking the Writers Hat off

We all wear different hats--you've heard this whole deal before, I'm sure. You have your Spouse/Child/Parent/Worker(day job) hats and your Writer hat. We LOVE/HATE the writer hat. But what I want to talk about isn't the writer hat, it's the CHARACTER hat.

Canda and I were sending out a novella to beta readers and one comment came back that suggests we really throw ourselves into the characters point of view. What would they really be doing in this scene or that one? How would it look? What would they think or say? 

While this sounds SUPER obvious, we clearly didn't do it enough because the beta reader was spot on when we went back and reread the scene. Our main character was heartbroken and it read more like she was slightly inconvenienced. OOPS! Once we rewrote it, there was solid emotion and you could anguish along with her. Sad readers because of sad characters? Perfect. 

Once we stepped out of author mode and looked at the situation as the character we could better connect the reader to the story. Which, after all, is kinda the point.

How do you remember to write with your Character's Hat on?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Gotcha Covered

Q: What makes a great cover? 
A: I don't know, but I'll know it when I see it!

This pic has some of the books that came across my Goodreads feed this week. I usually get 500+ recommendations from friends reading lists every week. There is no way I can look at all of them, so I do what most readers do--check out the cover. These covers did their job and made me go to Amazon and look them up to see if I wanted to buy them!

Here are some of the thoughts I've been kicking around about what makes a great cover:

Draws attention and generates excitement, holds the eye

Represents the genre

Blends all elements to create the right tone and balance

Portrays life and/or movement

Is  uncluttered—Less is more (blank space is good)

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

So, Uh, What's a Beta Reader?

Beta is the second letter of the Greek alphabet. (It's the "bet" part of "alphabet," if you're interested in stuff like that.) Because of its position in the alphabet, it's used to describe things that are second.

In the world of software development, when something has gone into beta, that means that it's been released to a few people to try it out so they can work out the bugs before it's launched on a broader scale.

In the world of book writing, a beta reader is the second person to read the manuscript as it's in development. Meaning, you write it, so you're the alpha reader (and being the alpha is cool, as we learn from psychology), and then you send it to a beta reader. It's important to make this distinction so we understand the critique process and we're using each step most effectively. The beta reader's job is to take a look at your story while it's still in development. This is the stage where you can change characterization and plot and motive and pretty much rip everything to shreds and start from scratch, and it's the beta's job to tell you if that's needed.

You can get a beta-type evaluation from a couple of different sources. Your critique group, for instance, could fill that role for you, as can a one-on-one critique partner. I've used all of the above. But the most important thing to understand is that now is not the time for a paid editor. You need to send the book through a couple of other readers first or you'll just be wasting money. If your editor is having to point out a ton of things that should have been caught by beta readers, you'll just have to go back and have it edited again after the simple mistakes are caught, and that gets expensive. Hiring an editor should be your second-to-last step before submission or publication, the last step being a proofreader.

Anyway, back to betas. They're the ones who will tell you if your hero is a dweeb or your heroine is a ninny or if the plot just doesn't work. This is the stuff you need to hear early in development so you aren't spending zillions of hours on a plot line that will never actually work, but should be scrapped and redone. Then your zillions of hours will be well spent instead of thrown away.

I encourage you to get yourself some good betas. They will save you lots of heartache in the end. Listen to their thoughtful advice and weigh out their suggestions. Sometimes you'll need to disregard a suggestion because it doesn't work, and that's okay as long as you're not ignoring a major problem that needs to be resolved.

Have fun, and happy writing!