Friday, October 1, 2010

Late and Hectic

For some reason, I had October 8th on my calendar, and then had one of those harrowing moments when a thought nigggled -- had I signed up for the first Friday. Which is TODAY!!

I'm sitting in a hotel room in Bellevue, Washington at the Emerald City Writers' Conference. Last weekend I was in Greensboro, NC for the Writers' Police Academy. Somewhere, time got all tangled up, or disappeared altogether.

As writers, we're constantly juggling writing, promotion, edits, blogs, websites, and maybe the occasional Tweet as well. And some of us have day jobs. If you're an organized person, you might be able to schedule everything. Then again, my 'to do' board clearly says blog for Author Expressions on October 8th.

I'm doing a presentation here called "Plotting for Non-Plotters." I guess the fact that I can't plot more than a scene or two in advance attests to my lack of organizational skills.

But you don't really have to know everything about your story before you start writing. With a few basic ideas, you can get some words on the page, and once they're there, you can fix them.

This is basically how I do it, and what I'm going to talk about in my workshop: This is my basic starting point for writing a romantic suspense, but it's not much different for any commercial fiction genre.

H/H trying to get on with their lives

They meet/interface/at cross purposes

Bad stuff happens

They fix it and have a HEA.

And then there's the character sketch GMC. (Goal, Motivation, Conflict)

Randy wants to be a good cop.

Sarah wants to have a successful business.

Randy and Sarah want each other.

My next step will elaborate (very slightly) on some of the conflict potential in the book. Since this book is a sequel, most of the character back story was established, which cuts back on how much time I had to spend figuring out their basic personality traits.

Sarah wants to be independent. She wants to prove she doesn't need to rely on anyone.

Randy wants to take care of people. That's why he became a cop.

There's plenty of room for those underlying character goals to be at cross purposes. Remember, only trouble is interesting, so it's a good idea if the character's goals can create friction between them.

With that established, it's time to think of possible scenes that will put the characters into situations that show who they are. Some will be relationship scenes, some will be scenes showing the characters getting or not getting what they want.

Scenes in the book can be broken down into several basic categories:

Randy on the job

Sarah on the job

Randy & Sarah in a relationship

As the writer, my goal was to keep Randy and Sarah apart (I'm nasty that way). But I'm not totally heartless, so the book opens with a relationship scene, where Randy and Sarah are having dinner together at a restaurant after he's been away for six weeks. Of course, I couldn't make it too easy, so just when it looks like they're going to have a very hot reunion, he gets a call and has to report to a crime scene.

I decided to make it a murder scene, and a complex one. Something out of the ordinary, something that would challenge Randy's cop abilities. I gave him a dead body to deal with. At this point in the book, all I knew was Randy had to be doing cop stuff (to irritate Sarah), and it had to be something that would keep him away for at least the entire night, preferably more. So I gave him a body that had absolutely no identification. I stuck it in a remote field, naked, with his face blown off. Did I know who he was? Nope. Who did it? Why they did it? Nope. Not yet. Didn't need to, not the way I write. I have chapter one on the page at this point, and I can work forward from there.

Next month, I promise to be 'on time' with my post. Again, apologies for being late!


Jacqueline Seewald said...

It's interesting to read how you work. Generally speaking, I start with an idea and then do some research into the idea. Along the way, the main characters start to live in my mind. Then I try to create a plot writing a rough outline. Doesn't always work, of course. But I keep on reworking it.

Joyce Elson Moore said...

Terry: That sounds like a great workshop, and you sure nailed plotting to a T. This would be VERY helpful esp. for new writers--also a refresher for all of us.
Heck, no biggie about blog date. We're just glad you managed it with the conference and Police school too!

Terry Odell said...

Jacqueline - the beauty of writing is that there's no one right way to do it. And even for the same author, what works for one book might not work for another.

Joyce - the workshop seemed to go over well. Thanks for stopping by. And I've been recapping my Writers' Police Academy experience at my own blog. When that's done, I'll get to the Emerald City Conference. But now I really have to catch up on writing (and maybe a little laundry)

Terry's Place
Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

Anonymous said...

Terry's right, IMO: There's no right or wrong way of writing. Whatever gets the job done--do it!!

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