Thursday, October 28, 2010

Finding and Fixing the Weakness

My story had a weakness and I needed to know what it was. Was there a problem with the plot, not enough conflict, what? I had my "ah-hah" moment during a writer's conference as the result of two different classes meshing together in my head. Here are some definitions from one class that I wrote in my notes:
Plot: Action that grows out of conflict in a sequence of events leading to the next conflict. Conflict: keeps characters from what they want. I had both of these to some degree, but they really depended on a major consequence.
Here is the tip from the query letter class that jumped out at me:
Consequence: What will happen if the main character doesn't overcome the conflict? State in one sentence the consequence of the MC not getting what he/she wants. Elana's example: Control or be controlled. If you write this out early in your work in progress, it will help you to stick to the main conflict.
I had action growing out of conflict (plot), I had characters who had trouble getting what they wanted (conflict), but I didn't have a strong enough consequence that it mattered to the reader if the MC could overcome the problem. Strengthen the consequence and I take care of my story's weakness.
So, I have been rereading my manuscript, inserting this stronger dimension and hoping it all still flowed. The extra time it takes will make the story better so it is worth it. Anyway, I'm feeling better about getting the story strong enough to submit soon. (I just hope there doesn't have to be another ah-hah moment of which I am not aware.) I do believe that the more knowledge we gain and can put to use in our craft, the better the results. Be not weary in well-doing. Take the time to get it right to the best of your knowledge. Can I get an "Amen"? Who else has a rewrite or "ah-hah" moment to share?

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Book Review: Dead On Arrival

In my last post where I mentioned sitting next to Jeff Savage at dinner, I told him I was half-way through reading one of his books, Dead On Arrival. It was a happy coincidence and kind of bizarre. I found Jeff to be a personable author, hardly getting in a mouthful of food here and there for the attentive conversation with his neighbors. Thus, this week's post will be a short review of his middle Shandra Covington mystery--no spoilers.
 Jeffrey S. Savage has mastered the hook, and I'm not talking boxing. Each short chapter-ending hooked me to turn the page. It was noticeable right off and continued throughout the book. Sometimes this was achieved by splitting the scene in two at a critical or exciting point. Savage also has a quick way of warming the reader to his likeable main character. This is especially necessary in a series. I enjoyed Shandra's character traits from her curiosity that gets her into interesting situations to her quirky eating habits. I also enjoyed Savage's portrayal of a minor love interest that is mutually agreed upon by the involved characters to not become a love interest. (Read the book and you'll understand.) A character exclusive to this story, Pinky Templeton, is just odd enough to be slightly annoying, yet commands the reader's attention because of it. The intriguing twists about him kept me guessing.
The thing I hadn't expected was the abrupt ending where the story continues with A Time To Die. Fortunately it is currently available. But I must admit, I don't like it when I have to wait a while to find out what happens. A profitable technique--Look what it's done for The Hunger Games. What's your opinion on cliffhanger endings?

Friday, October 1, 2010

A Strange Day

Yesterday, while I was having breakfast with Brandon Mull and Lisa Mangum (among others at my table), my husband was called into his boss's office to hear the news that he was one of 400 to be layed off at ATK. While I was having my query letter reviewed my Kirk Shaw and listening to 'story ideas that rock' from presenter John Brown, my husband was packing things from his desk and shelves. As I hob-nobbed with famous authors and author-to-be's and we clicked photo ops with friends old and new, the press interviewed my husband about his feelings of being let go after twenty-five years of service. With my buddy, Melissa Cunningham, we dined out with such delightful company as Jeff Savage, Tristi Pinkston, and too many to name while my husband and last child at home heated something in the microwave.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Book Academy Conference at UVU, pushing to the back of my mind what was going on at home. But it's strange to be gleaning wisdom to make me a better writer and having such a good time when traditionally I should feel upset.
There is a peace about our family situation and I have faith we will be taken care of, but it makes me want to pour all that gleaned wisdom into the final edits of my novel and make it the best I can even more than before. Attending two conferences in two weeks has put a fire under me that I don't want to quench before the manuscript is sent off. The conference did for me what it was intended to do. My goal is to have the MS complete by the end of October. There--I've said it out loud.
Anybody out there want to say their goal out loud?
Happy writing, my friends.