Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Wednesday, Sept 12


On the blog yesterday, Paty said "I think I finally figured out how to write a twist!" Apparently, this is something she wasn't sure she knew how to do. She's also shared a couple of wonderful reviews lately that have focused on the quality of her character development. That got me to thinking.

I bought a copy of Romantic Times last weekend and in the review of my October Intrigue, the reviewer said, "Alice Sharpe knows how to wrap a mystery within a mystery, and her faultless plotting and complicated clues add a bright spark to Royal Heir."

That tickled me pink. The reviewer couldn't know it, but that's what I worry about most. That's why proposals take me so long, because I struggle with making sure the plot twists and mysteries are tight. And because I worry that I am no good at this, a compliment on this front makes me smile inside.

But it also reminds me of what I want to work on next. In my case, it's the characters. When I wrote straight romance, I wrote more complicated characters, in a way, because so much of the book didn't have to be devoted to plot. Now I find I don't have time for as much character development but that's a flimsy excuse. Of course there's time. I just need to make it, I need to put as much energy into that aspect as I do complicated plot twists.

I bet there's an aspect of her writing that Paty would like to make better, too. And I bet there is something about everyone's writing that they have the gut instinct (if not the out and out knowledge) they need to improve in the quest to make every part of their story as good as the other.

With me, it's the people. I want to round them out more, make sure their stories shape them. Michael Hauge's workshop in Dallas this year is the same workshop he gave and I attended the year before, but back then it didn't get to me the way it did this year and I believe this is why. I wasn't ready to hear it. I was still plotting. This year, along came Hauge's workshop again and this year it clicked. In the next few books, I am going to try my best to make my people achieve a full arc.

How about you? What would you like to improve about your own writing? Character arc? Tension? More complicated plots? Humor? Sex? Romance? Locals? Technical facts? The list must go on and on. Do you know how to go about making the changes you feel you should make?

I won't be around today as much as usual so Eli said she'd keep checking in and I'll do my best to check in, too. I'm anxious to see if I am the only one who senses it's time to push forward!


Paty Jager said...

Good thought provoking blog, Alice!

Every day I strive to do something better with my writing. Be it characters, tension, twists the whole nine yards.

I know I will never write the "perfect" novel, but I want the reader coming away from one of my books feeling fulfilled, and I want to come away from my book feeling I gave it my best effort.

I think my biggest weakness is plot. I can make my characters waltz across a page and capture your attention, but I have a hard time moving them through a novel with enough plot to 1) make me the pages I need, 2) really fully use the twists.

I've written two books, where I worked hard on plot. Both books the editors said the characters were weak. I'm working for that balance between thrilling plot and enchanting characters.

And Dang! I missed your review in RT. I'm going to go look it up! AWESOME!!!

So, as I write the WIP. I'm keeping those things in mind

PS: ONly 361 words yesterday and I'll be working on the edits of OIP I received today... so, I may not have words counts for a few days.

Alice Sharpe said...

Paty, I know what you mean by trying to strike a balance. It's like juggling balls at times.

Elisabeth Naughton said...

Red herrings. Definitely. I've found that when I write without knowing the exact villain or reasons for that villain's actions, red herrings just jump out at me as I write. Things I'd be thinking if I were the hero or heroine. When I know the bad guy and his motivations at the beginning of the book, etc. it's a lot harder for me to write red herrings and make them believable.

I think that was my biggest plot error with ths last book, and it could possibly be a problem with the new book as well because I'm starting off knowing the villain well, motivations, actions, etc. It's something I need to work on.

Alice Sharpe said...

Eli, I have found that some of the most effective red herrings are just what you described -- what you would be thinking if you were the h or h. Those are kind of built in red herrings, they are what the audience is sensing as well. If the hero thinks to himself, wait, maybe she wasn't killed in that accident, even though you know she was, allowing him to think it gives the reader something else to consider.

Did that make sense?

My trouble gets to be that all the what ifs sometimes seem as though they'd make a better book than what is!

Okay, we're off.

wavybrains said...

I think tension/plot has been my biggest weakness, and the area where I need to focus most of my attention. I really struggle with the "conflict box" and most of my stories tend to be conflict-lite. But, I know from what I read and from what's selling that the conflict needs to be high in order to maintain tension/reader interest. So, I'm motivated to fix it, I'm still struggling how to do it. In the WIP that I can not seem to edit right now, I tried to increase the tension with a more complicated plot, but I think the end result is TOO much happening and the core story getting lost. My challenge: FIND THE CORE STORY.

My challenge for all other works that come: focus more on conflict in the early stages of plotting. Which is hard, b/c I want to just jump in and start writing, but I've learned the hard way that just leads to editing hell. ::)

Great post!

Paty Jager said...

Wavy, the workshop I went to last Saturday was all about tension- Sexual tension and how that can move the story forward and bring about plot. You don't have to have oodles of conflict, just a strong enough reason for the two to not get together when their bodies are telling them they want together. I'll be posting stuff from that workshop over the next couple of months. Maybe it will help you with tension/plot.

Karen Duvall said...

Of course I need to work on EVERYTHING! All the time. I guess my strongest skills are plotting and pacing, but sometimes those plots are just too complex. I need to simplify events so that the characters stand out more. My characters get a bit too complicated, too, in their motivation. As in: "How can she want X if she's Y and is involved in XYZ?" That's my main issue and it bugs the poo out of me, but I'm improving with each story I write. Simplify, simplify. Aargh.

Karen Duvall said...

Wavy, someone needs to blog about just conflict. I've sat in workshops on the topic and every one of them has been different, every one of them has been helpful.

I believe (and it could be different for everyone) that conflict is built in to the story itself. That sounds simplistic, but what I'm trying to say--and doing a poor job of it--is that coming up with conflict for the sake of conflict shouldn't be a struggle. It should naturally evolve out of the plot so that you don't have to work too hard at bringing it out.

Clear as mud, huh? I'm not explaining myself well. There's a fabulous example of built-in conflict in all 3 of Stephanie Rowe's paranormal romances. In her DATE ME, BABY, ONE MORE TIME:

Justine Bennett is cursing her life. She’s the Guardian of the Goblet of Eternal Youth, she hasn’t left the house in ages, and it’s been over 200 years since she’s had sex. Oh, and the Goblet has shape shifted into an espresso machine. Not exactly the stuff grand destiny is made of...

Derek LaValle is worried. Due to a family curse, he’ll be dead in the space of a week unless he finds the Guardian of the Goblet of Eternal Youth and beheads her. Which wouldn’t be a problem if she wasn’t so sexy, smart... and ready to behead him right back.

The plot and the conflict are one and the same. Now does it make sense? It makes plotting more challenging, but IMO, that's how it should be. The plot is the glue that binds everything together.

wavybrains said...

Karen--the Stephanie Rowe example is perfect b/c that's a book I totally want to read after reading the blurb. The conflict is clear, the stakes real, and the hero/heroine have a clear battle that won't resolve b4 the end of the book (hopefully). Even though I'm not a paranormal fan, I'm hooked and want to read the book.

THAT's the kind of tight plotting/conflict that I want to have in my books. My ideas tend to focus on internal growth/situational conflict, so the challenge for me is finding out how to do that. And I will. I think it may take a a few more WIP's . . . . .

Thanks for the support!

Genene said...

Good question, Alice!

What I want to improve is writing faster! That may not be part of the craft of writing, but it is part of being a published author. I'm not talking about meeting the Nora Roberts myth of going into the shower with a germ of an idea and coming out of the shower with a finished book in my head. I'm talking about cutting my production time down from over a year to write a book. (I'm not going to tell you how much over a year, but sometimes it's a lot!) For those of you who are prolific writers, this may seem to be a simplistic, no-brainer goal. For me, this is a huge step.

That said, I'm going to flashback to Eli's writing challenge and add to my goals. My goal for the next 15 months is to complete one more manuscript (after this work in progress that HAS to be finished in the next two days), do any minor edits to the manuscripts that will be released in 2008, edit the third manuscript that will soon be out the door, and immerse myself in the production and promotion pieces for my 2008 releases. I'm looking forward to it!