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You know what November means don’t you?

crest-05e1a637392425b4d5225780797e5a76I’m not talking about turkeys or fresh baked apple pies either. November is NaNoWriMo. Huh?  For those of you who are newish to the fiction writing gig NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. Any self-respecting author joins in and makes a vow to get busy and by the end of November have a completed first draft.

Sadly, I didn’t have time to come up with my own reasons why an author should or shouldn’t join in on this crazy, but fun challenge. The good news is I came across two compelling blogs I thought might be of interest.

Janice Hardy’s Fiction University offers a quirky but levelheaded spin on things in  5 reasons not to participate in NaNoWriMo. 

And from the Creative Penn 5 Reasons you should do NaNoWriMo

If after reading both you decided to join NaNoWriMo look me up and become my buddy. We can cheer each other on. I’m listed under: djcracoviananowrimo_2016_webbadge_participant-150

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Know the difference between Plot vs. Story?

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One of the biggest tools in any writer’s toolbox is to know the difference between plot and story. If it’s not clearly defined in the planning stages of fiction writing, the narrative becomes unclear to the reader.

Have you ever read something that was all action or dialogue? At the end of the piece, if you make it that far, you scratch your head and think, what was the point of that? The reason behind the head scratching is because you didn’t experience the story. You only watched the plot unfold.

Well then, what is the difference between plot vs. story?  Well, to answer, one has to do with the emotional journey of the protagonist and the other deals with the action or physical movements of the story.

Plot is the physical actions in the story. It’s the bad guy playing a trick on your protagonist. For example, the villain cuts the brakes of your hero’s truck, kidnaps the your heroine’s pet chinchilla or even attempts to shoot of them. Anything that is physical in nature is considered plot.

Plot can also be your protagonist’s actions. For the purpose of wooing the heroine, he fights off the destructive dragon threatening her village, or he pulls her off the tracks a moment before the steam engine cuts her to pieces, or he duels at dawn to save her reputation and honor. See the trend here?  It’s all about the action, movements, and excitement of the moment through the physical world. The plot should have your readers at the edge of their seats, biting their nails and making them want to turn the page.

dramaStory is another thing entirely. It’s the emotional journey of your protagonist and only your protagonist. Sure other characters can show feelings too, but through actions and dialogue. We as readers, don’t need to see their emotional changes from start to finish, not like we do with the main character, and as writer’s how would we keep up with everyone chatting in our heads, having hissy fits? So ask yourself when you sit down to write, do I really need to show the bartender having a bad day because his wife ran off the UPS guy? Not if his only purpose is to set down the shot glass in front of your hero.

As a side note” In romance, you may see the emotional journeys from both the hero and heroine’s POV (point of view, but that’s a wild cat with different spots.)

The story is not seen in the physical sense, it’s felt by your readers. This is where the dreaded ‘Show don’t Tell’ comes into play. We want our readers to experience the emotional journey of our protagonist(s) not just watch them act it out.

Another good point to remember is story drives your plot. All of the physical derives from the emotional journey of your main character. In order to truly understand this journey, you have to ask yourself some questions before you sit down to writer.

Ask yourself: What is my protagonist’s mental state at the beginning of the story and how did he/she get there? What is his/her main insecurity or flaw that needs to be realized and worked out? What emotional changes will take place after the insecurity is faced?

Here is a brief example of how to use these questions in a story line. My protagonist has low self-confidence (her flaw), stemming from neglectful parents(the reason for her behavior.) As an adult she begins working for a boss who doesn’t give her any direction in her new job. because she doesn’t like to make waves (her flaw) she doesn’t ask for what she needs. After a while she makes a big mistake that could cost her everything she’s worked so hard for. The mistake would have been avoided if she had, had proper training.

What she does next is her story. Does she stand up for herself and save her job, which would be something unusual for her? Or will she slide back into old patterns? Believing she is worthless she leaves quietly knowing she is the one to blame for the mishap. This choice reinforces her self loathing and sinks her deeper into her depressive state. See, it’s all emotionally charged. If you were writing a tragedy, she would lose her job because she will not realize she needed to change to get what she wants.

Now you know the difference between Plot vs. Story.  Try to use it the next time you write a scene.

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5 Quick Fixes for Writer’s Block

Even the most seasoned writer has an occasional bout of writer’s bock. Novice or not, don’t fret. Here are five things you can do right now to get your creative juices pouring again.

1)     Get Up

Staring at a blank Word page can be like swimming in the ocean. Unless you can see land, don’t jump in. Get up, move about, get a cup of coffee, grab a snack or do a few sit-ups. What ever you do, don’t torture yourself. You know the self-babble that comes from writer’s block.

2)     Get Out

Can’t find the right word, can’t get the flow going, nothing is coming easy today. Instead of self-pity, get up and go for a walk. Walking gives you time to explore, relax, and just think things through. I do some of my best creating during walks and so will you

3)     Change the Subject

You’ve been writing the next great American novel and out of nowhere you are writing in some unknown language. Quick, close your document and start writing something else. I like to write either love letters or hate mail depending on my mood.

4)    Keep a Journal

Writer’s block can come from stress. The causes can be, your nosey neighboor, falling behind on your car payment, your best friend said something mean to you or you misplaced your keys, again. Keeping a daily journal you can write away all of those worries, so you can get down to writing what you love. Journals are also a good place to keep story ideas and other tidbits.

5)     Read, Read, Read

Good writers are good readers. I get some of my best ideas from reading other people’s stories.  Like the new Romance/Erotica novel I’m currently working on.  It will be much better then that blockbuster from last year.  What was the name again?

There you have it, 5 things you can try right now. If you have other ideas or methods that work for you please share.

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Say so Long to​ 2017 and Welcome to 2018

First of all, I would like to wish you and yours a very happy holiday season. In our house, we celebrate Christmas and Hanukkah. This is one of the busiest times of year for us. There are always places to go, food to cook (baking especially) and friends to celebrate with. Not to mention the gift shopping. Yikes!! Have you been to a mall lately?

Unwrap you Creativity

Well, another year has come to a close. 2017 was filled with both challenges and triumphs. My plan is to spend the next week reflecting on my many accomplishments and setting goals for 2018 where I fell short. 

Happy New Year

I would love to hear what your goals are for 2018. Remember each day is a gift.

Enjoy

11 Tips to Write Romance with Snap, Crackle and Pop

All readers of romance agree on one thing. If the ending doesn’t include the couple coming together and staying together, at least for the foreseeable future the story doesn’t qualify as romance. The question for writer’s than becomes; How do we write unforgettable romances with that HEA (Happily Ever After,) or HFN (Happily For Now.) Easy, just add some Snap, Crackle, Pop™.

As romance writers we need to understand expectations of our readers. Here are eleven must-have elements to enhance your plot and/or sub plot for a truly unforgettable, keeper-shelf worthy, must re-readable a thousand times romance. Which, of course is the goal of every writer. Right? All kidding aside, the first there elements can and should be used in all types of fiction writing, not just romance.

  1. The Fiction World Defined – In the first few paragraphs of a story, reader want to know about the fictional world we’re asking them to take navigate with us. They want to understand the society your characters live in. If it’s a historical romance, readers need to see, feel, hear, taste and smell the time period. If it’s a paranormal romance with vampires, werewolves, dragons and other sexy creatures, yes, even zombies can be sexy the reader wants to understand the rules of the world. Not all vampire hate garlic. If your story is fantasy with witches and warlock and fairies the reader needs to know the law of magick. Same applies for shifters. Where does the clothing go when a shifter shifts? Remember readers hate surprises.
  2. The Meeting of Two Lost Souls – *Snap* Boy meets girl, boy meets boy, girl meets girl Boy meets girl and boy, (we do live in the twenty-first century after all.) Whichever scenario you choose, it has to happen with instant heart stopping, breath stealing, all-consuming attraction. Readers expect to fall in love with the hero/heroine at the same time as your lovers do on the page. Use whatever you have in your magick stash box to make it memorable.
  3. The Barrier or Conflict*Snapping faster*- This is the one or ten things that keep our lover apart. To use a universal example, think The Montague’s and Capulate’s. Both families kept the young lovers apart because the families were in constant competition. They despised, or envied, or distrusted each other (depending on the cliff notes you read in H.S.) so much so that eventually their hatred drove the young lovers take their own lives. Believing there was no other way for happiness Juliet faked her death believing Romeo would come to her and they would live HEA. Sadly, we all know how that worked out. BTW, for the record Romeo and Juliet is not a romance, it’s a tragedy.

Not all conflict has to be hopeless. Another example could be anything keeping your loves apart. Internal beliefs or fears are good. Personal flaws like trust or self-esteem issues. External sabotage from a frenemy or family member can all create tension in the relationship. The list of possibilities goes on and on. Pick one and amp it up. Anything and everything that could keep them apart will work well as a barrier or conflict, but don’t make it something that cannot be overcome or unforgivable. The hero kick’s her cat and she better tear his heart out with her teeth. Just saying :).

  1. The Attraction *Crackle* This is the WOW factor! The soon to be lovers have to have a strong attraction and develop feelings almost right away, even if one or both don’t want to admit it. One of them could even think the other is an obnoxious, big headed, bully, but underneath it all, he really has incredible warm cerulean eyes and sexy smile. So what he heck, give him a chance. Oh, did I mention his hard muscular physique, which she can’t keep her hand off of every time they’re close?
  2. The Declaration *Crackling Some More* At this point in the story one or both realize how they feel about the other and declare their love. If you use the example of “Pride and Prejudice”, Mr. Darcy declares his love for Miss Bennett early on. She doesn’t reciprocate his feeling thinking him a callous, selfish and prideful man. Later on, after she witness all of his selfless actions, including saving her younger sister from ruin, she makes her declaration known and they get their HEA.
  3. The Point of Ritual Death *Pop* No, no, no. Someone doesn’t really have to die. Not unless you want them too. *Evil sneer* Joking aside, some writers call this part of the story The Big Black Moment. The black moment usually has to do with an external force, as in another of Jane Austin’s novels, Emma. When Emma learns that her good friend has carried on with Mr. Knightly and that same friend has fallen in love with him, Emma’s heartbroken. She loses all hope of ever being Mrs. Knightley a dream she’s had for sometime. Of course we all know what happens next. The friend misunderstood Mr. Knightley’s kindness and Mr. Knightly has only ever had eyes for Emma. The point of ritual death can be summed up as the time when the romance seems doomed forever, and ever, and ever with no hope of a happy outcome. We want our readers to feels the forlornness, angst and heartbreak along with your hero/heroine.
  4. The Recognition *Bigger Pop* This is usually due to some internal change that has happened in a short period. As in the case of Mr. Darcy. He recognized his feeling for Elizabeth almost immediately. Or, it can happen over a longer period of time as with Miss Bennett. The hero/heroine realizes he/she wants to be with the other regardless of past beliefs. They see the good in the other person and can’t live without them. The best way to put it is simply this: the internal conflict that’s been building over time is resolved. The hero or heroine or both, change in some life altering way and all the reasons/conflict don’t matter anymore and things are worked out or worked through.
  5. The Betrothal*The Ultimate Pop* This is where lovers hook up and make a firm commitment to be together. In historical or regency romance this is Happily Ever After (HEA) with a marriage proposal however in most other genera’s like contemporary, paranormal, young adult romance, and to chick lit it often is a Happy For Now (HFN), the immediate future.

Make your romance unforgettable with sizzling ending that resonates with readers long after they finish, and added to their keeper sheaves. Remember to tie up loose ends and add one or more of these elements to your story.

  1. The Wedding, Dance or Celebration – Show life after the betrothal and the beginning of a long-term relationship between your lovers. In “Emma” we see the new Mrs. Knightly dancing with her husband at his annual harvest celebration. With Darcy and Elizabeth they kiss after their wedding night.
  2. The Scapegoat Exiled – Any character in your story that has tried to keep your two lovebirds apart should fly the coop, never to return. Leave your lovebirds cooing with no fear.
  3. The Bad Converted – Say you had a character that told lies about one or both of your lovers to keep them apart. Those lies and rumors got out of hand and caused a great deal of heartache and pain for both your hero and heroine. This character can redeem himself by coming clean and giving a heartfelt apology.

By including these common expectations in your plot, you will fulfill not only the romance readers desires, you will fall in love with your characters, craft and story each time you write.

Have a question or comment? Don’t be shy we’d love to hear from you.