So it's officially the first day of the RWA conference in Anaheim and, to kick things off in style, tonight roughly 400 authors will gather in one very big room to sign books in aid of Adult Literacy. I've been on both sides of the table amidst the madness; meeting readers who were kind enough to say they loved my stories and tracking down some of my favorite authors in unashamedly determined fangirl mode. Yes, writers are readers too, and we all have our favs! You can see a list of all the authors signing tonight here. Who would you
be stalking hope to meet?
For those of us left behind it can be the equivalent of pouring lemon juice on a papercut to get glimpses via Twitter or Facebook of all the goodies conference attendees will be gathering throughout the week. To help salve the pain, in the spirit of tonight's book signing, I'm giving away three books of your choice from my back catalogue to folks who leave a comment at the end of this blog (I'll pick the winners at the end of the week). If there are other authors who have books they'd like to give away just leave us a link in the comments so readers know where to find them or post details on Twitter with the #NotAtNationals hashtag. That way we can ALL share in the fun!
In yesterday's blog I invited you to ask questions you might like answered and Jill said: I used to think I had a problem with plotting. I would come up with this new, exciting twist on a tried and true plot and I'd try to pants the story or I'd try to outline the story. Both ways, I'd get stuck. The more I struggle with it, the more I realize, I need to try to put the characters and their motivations first. So, how do you get to know your characters and what they would do? Especially your heroes, I struggle with them a lot!
As I said to Jill in the comments, this is a particularly apt question for me right now as I would appear to have dug myself into yet another hole in yet another WIP. It's usually a sign I've gotten off course or made the characters do or say something that just isn't 'them'. I know this after twenty-three odd books, but does it stop me from wallowing at the bottom of a pit of despair for several days? Oooohhh nooooo.
So how do we get to know our characters better? A lot of it is in the groundwork we put in before we start a story. These people have to be as real to us as family or friends we've known for years. With that in mind the prep is more than simply choosing a pretty pic of how we think they look, giving them a name and a job and thinking about their conflict. Back in the day I used to create a questionnaire or interview them like I did with Quinn from Manhattan Boss, Diamond Proposal on EHarlequin. Considering the hole I'm in now, it makes me wonder why I stopped doing it...
Thing is, I've learnt along the way there are often times the characters can surprise us and when they do it's more often than not a good thing. By telling us something we didn't know they're becoming more real. When thinking about the answer to Jill's question I took a closer look at my current hero and realized the reason he's been so uncooperative of late is because I'm trying to squoosh him into a box he doesn't fit. I'm leading him in a direction he doesn't want to take and until I start listening to what he's trying to tell me the man is refusing point blank to move forward. This is where being a pantster as opposed to a plotter should come in handy, but if we've done a lot of prep-work it can be tough to let go of the pre-set image we have in our mind. By being flexible and allowing the characters to lead us in a direction we hadn't expected during a first draft we may end up with a different story but in my experience-so far!-it's been worth the risk. Remember a lot of the problems in our first draft can be corrected. It's all about getting the words down on the page!
Having said all that Jill, another suggestion may be that we didn't leave a question to be answered at the end of our last scene. The action and reaction rule is as important for writers while they write as it is for encouraging readers to keep reading. And on that note I might possibly have had an A-HA moment, so THANK YOU!
I hope that helps. If it's as clear as mud or you have another question let me know and I'll get right back to you. If anyone has anything else they'd like to ask, as always, let me know in the comments.
Meanwhile, for those of us #NotAtNationals, here's a taster of things we can be doing/studying and reading from the comfort of our homes to share in the spirit of the RWA Conference!
Today's schedule at the Romance Divas NGTCC:
Panel: A Year in the Life of a Self-Published Romance Author (with Cate Rowan, Tawny Stokes aka Vivi Anna, Tori Scott, and Anthea Lawson)
Workshop: Troubleshooting Plot and Character Arc (with Jodi Henley)
Workshop: Setting Up Mailchimp (with Jeanette Murray)
Workshop/Q&A: The Man’s Perspective (with David Bridger)
Workshop/Q&A: The NSFW Man’s Perspective (with David Bridger)
Event: Accepting pitches of 200-250 words. (with editor Ann Leveille of Ellora's Cave)
Event: Accepting two-paragraph pitches (with editors Gina Bernal, Alissa Davis, Mallory Braus and Deborah Nemeth of Carina Press)
Synopsis! What is it good for? Tips on communicating your story by Elizabeth Mazar
And if you know of or can recommend any other free reads we'd love to hear about them!
See you tomorrow gang :)