What’s Your Favorite Craft Book?

Today I’m interrupting the continuation of my Advice to My Newbie Author Self series to rave about the latest craft books I’ve been devouring–yet again:

The Complete Writer’s Guide to Heroes & Heroines by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders

Heroes & Heroines

All fiction writers want to write stories with great heroes and heroines–characters who leap off the page and capture the reader’s imagination.


Fallen Heroes: Sixteen Master Villain Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden

VillainsThe villain is the hero of his own story – and is every bit as important as the heroic characters.


I’m in the middle of revisions, and I have to be honest on this one: I smacked myself upside the head so, so hard while reading these books. Yeah, it can be fairly easy to create characters and dissect their personalities and backstories until our eyes bleed, but if we start with an archetype, that job can–most times–be a helluva lot easier. 😀

I can’t recommend these two books enough. Easy to read and understand with character examples from movies we all know and love, these two books give us the starting point from which to leap into designing our characters. We can begin with one archetype, lightly cross into another (similar) archetype, and we can even take the archetype for a hero and pair him with the villainous archetype that’ll translate best for the readers (and vice versa).

Both of these books have a permanent position within my Must-Have Craft Books shelf. 🙂

Your turn: What craft books are you devouring these days? Do you have an absolutely favorite that you go to again and again?

Advice to My Newbie Author Self – Part 1: Patience, Young Padawan

When we first start venturing down the road to becoming a published author, there are many, many, many aspects of this writing life that we don’t know. Some things are fairly simple–such as writing craft techniques that’ll make your life so much easier–but others are the kind of stumbling blocks we didn’t know were there until we’ve already tripped and smacked our heads on the pavement. *re-applies ice packet to forehead* The pain! OMG, the pain!!

I set out to write an article for a project with my local RWA chapter, and in the process of writing one article, this idea manifested: What if I could go back and give myself 10 pieces of advice? What would they be?  The first and obvious answer to that, my friends, is patience. *sighs*

You mean I have to be patient? I don’t wanna be patient. I wanna be a bestselling author right now! *cries*


Yeah, about that, Mr. Yoda. We live in  a day and age where we can get just about anything instantaneously. Need a new book to read? Buy it and download it immediately. Don’t want to drive to rent a movie? Order it via your cable provider. Need something hot, fresh, and fast? Pull through the drive thru. Don’t want to do your own grocery shopping? Order your groceries online so someone else can do the shopping and load the stuff in the car for you. Oh wait … is that last one just me? 🙂

The one thing that hasn’t changed is the publishing industry. Especially traditional publishing in the time-wise sense. The publishing industry, whichever route we choose to take, has never been a “get rich quick” career. It can take years to hone our craft to the required level, and even then it’ll probably take us another year or so to snag an agent. Then some more time to snag a publishing contract. Then a bit more time before we see our book on the shelf.

In this business, I truly believe it is all about timing. The right story with the right voice hitting the right agent or publisher at just the right time.

Self-Publishing’s No Different

The market’s competitive on the self-publishing end. And in order to have a competitive edge, we’ve gotta do the work, build our audience from the ground up, and invest in our product. The patience factor comes in when we, again, spend years honing our craft, take the time to find the right editor and cover artist, and then, if we don’t want to hire someone else to do it, we need to learn how to pull our hair out format our novel. (Note: I haven’t ventured into self-pubbing myself, but this is what I’ve deduced from the conversations I’ve had with those who have. 🙂 ).

So What Do We Do In the Meantime?

Ah, now that’s a great question! All of the advice we’ll find out there says that we should write. Just write, that’s all. But there’s more to it than just writing. Writing’s just the start to avoiding the impatience monster.

When I first thought about how to put this advice in the best way possible to my newbie author-self, I immediately went back to this fantastic post from Kristen Lamb last month on embracing the meantime. The basis of my ideas on what worked best for me still fall inline with Kristen’s. I just ended up putting them into a different format. Then I tweaked a few things here and there to give myself a few more ideas on what to do whenever I got stuck. Then I ended up posting these on the wall in my writing space so I wouldn’t forget. 🙂

So, during the wait, here’s what I’ve been doing in the meantime–starting with WRITE:

  • Write through the wait: Plot and write the next book. This is the basis of why we do what we do. We LOVE to write. This is the key to keep trucking down the road to publication. Tina Moss wrote about this very thing last week (and she moved forward 😉 ).
  • Reach out: Talk, socialize, chat, email, etc. with the writing community. Both Tina and Kristen’s posts suggest reaching out to our fellow writers. Other writers will have been there, done that, and got the shot glasses. Who better to understand our frustrations with patience than someone’s been through it before? But it’s not just about finding someone to complain to (which shouldn’t be why we’re on social media, by the way), it’s about networking and creating lifelong relationships with others who understand our journey better than anyone else–even our significant others.
  • Ignore the impatient monster: When the impatience monster creeps in, keep busy. Ignore him. He does not deserve our attention. We can ignore him by moving forward, or by reading a book in our chosen genre (research, right? 😉 ), by re-designing our website (heh), by taking a writing class, by talking shot on the phone with our critique partner for give hours, or by learning a new writing technique … and so on, and so on. Never allow the learning to stop. There’s always more to learn. We’ve just gotta be ready and open to embrace the new knowledge and wisdom of others. If we’re doing that, then we’re too busy to even worry about waiting.
  • Take a break:  This is the perfect time to watch a movie, catch up on our TV shows, go work on the garden we’ve been neglecting, or do that fancy new workout program we’ve been dreading dying to try. Movies and TV shows don’t have to be simply for entertainment. If we tune in the writerly part of our brain while watching, we’ll learn what to do–or what not to do–in our work (plots, characterizations, body language, dialogue, etc.). And we might want to forewarn the fam before they sit and watch TV and movies with us. 😉
  • Encourage and give: I’m a firm believer in encouraging others and giving more than we take (and I’m still working to become even better at this). And the impatience monster? He doesn’t like it too much when we busy ourselves by talking and encouraging other writers, nor does he like it when we give more of our time than we take from others. So the waiting period is a good time to offer a Beta Read for a fellow writer. Or be one of those shoulders to cry on when another writer is frustrated with their wait, or when they receive a rejection letter, or when their plot just isn’t working, or when a character refuses to open up. With both of these routes, we’ll not only be helping another writer in need, we’ll also learn LOADS more about ourselves and our writing than we ever thought possible. 🙂

So when impatience starts creeping in and we’re getting agitated about not seeing a huge improvement in our progress toward publication, we should practice patience and WRITE

Because if we don’t have the patience of an insane nutbag saint, the road to publication will be bumpier than the country dirt roads of the Carolinas.

And besides, waiting is fun. It’s the in-between time that we should be enjoying because that’s where the magic truly happens. 😉

I’d love to hear from you! How do you practice patience? Do you find it difficult, or is it starting to get easier with each new project? What would be your first piece of advice to your newbie-self?

This Week in Favs…

Playing on the Zune: Peace of Mind by Boston

Social Media and Author Websites

Is Blogging Important for Novelists Considering Self-Publishing? by Jody Hedlund

Should All Authors Blog? by Rachelle Gardner

On the Craft

Why It’s More Important Than Ever to Master Your Craft by Rachelle Gardner

Technical Tuesday Writing Tips Presents Outlining: Characters, Creating the Protagonist, Hir or Her Character Sketch and Backstory by Kim Cox

Add a Pinch – or a Pound – of Poetry to Your Prose by Janice Hardy

ABC’s of Writing – (L)ayering Adds Depth by Scott Eagan

9 Tips for Creating a Compelling Novel by Jody Hedlund
Structure Part 8 – Balancing the Scenes that Make Up Your Novel by Kristen Lamb
My Favorite Points of View – Guest Post by Bill Hopkins on Mystery Writing is Murder
When Not to Use Your Antagonist’s POV by K.M. Weiland
Always Write Terrible First Drafts by Carolyn Kaufman
Write Romance? Get Your Beat Sheet Here! by Jami Gold
How to Write Dialogue Unique to Your Characters by Marcy Kennedy

Writerly Inspiration

If You Write What You Know, Where Do You Get Ideas? by Roz Morris
9 Reasons to Quit Writing by Rachelle Gardner
Beginning at the End by Biljana Likic
21 Unexpected Places to Find Your Writer’s Muse on Write to Done

On Editing, Critiquing, Querying, Publishing and more…

Some Things I Didn’t Know About Self-Publishing by Mhairi Simpson

Getting Your Book Noticed in Today’s Changing Marketplace by Stina Lendenblatt

Field Report From the E-Book Revolution #2 by James Scott Bell

Reason Why Your Non-Writer Friends Think You’re Crazy by Veronica Roth

About Copywriting Ideas and Titles on The Behler Blog
Should Authors Stalk Review Sites? by Jody Hedlund
Adventures in Editing: A Tale of Wonderment by Lydia Sharp
Do Publishers Need to Offer More Value to Authors? by Jane Friedman

Other Round-Ups

The Author Chronicles’ Top Picks Thursday

Stina Lindenblatt’s Cool Links Friday

Roni Loren’s Fill-Me-In Friday

Elizabeth S. Craig’s Twitterific (compilation of all the writing links she’s shared this week – updated on Sundays)

This week on the blog:

Happy Reading and Writing, everyone!!!


This Week in Favs….

Playing on the Zune: Waking the Demon by Bullet for My Valentine

Social Media and Author Websites

Are You’re a Blogging Warrior or Wimp? by Stanford on Pushing Social

Social Media: An Introvert’s Secret Weapon by Jami Gold

Do the Wrong Thing: The Benefits of Writing Unconventional Headlines, guest post by Ollin Morales on Write to Done

WANA Commons – Beautiful Blog Images Without the Worry by Kristen Lamb

On the Craft

The Fuel that Drives Extraordinary Content on Write to Done

Creativity Under Pressure: How to Write Your Way Through Storms by August McLaughlin

High Concept Plots – What Are They and Why Do I Care? by Sally Apokedak on Novel Rocket

How Long Should It Be? by Arthur Plotnik on QueryTracker.net

In the Beginning: Which Type of Opening Works Best? by Janice Hardy

Why Counting Words May be Hazardous to Your Health by C.S. Lakin on Live Write Thrive

Finding Strong Metaphors by Linda Gray on Write of Passage

5 Reasons to Write Your Scenes in Order (and 3 Not to) by K.M. Weiland on Wordplay

Writing Lessons Learned from 50 SHADES OF GREY by Julie Musil

Fridays with Agent Kristin: Episode 8 – Three Reasons Why Prologues Don’t Work, a vlog by Kristen Nelson on Pub Rants

Forget He Said, She Said – Three Easy Tricks for Better Dialogue, guest post by Tiffany Reisz on The Other Side of the Story with Janice Hardy

The Good Seed IV by Donald Maas on Writer Unboxed

Writerly Inspiration

Where to Find Inspiration: 50 Quotes for Writers on Write to Done

Perseverance – Writing Lessons from the Olympics by Julie Eshbaugh on Pub(lishing) Crawl

Four Ways to Untangle Your Writing Life by Karen Jordan on the Wordserve Water Cooler blog

On Editing, Critiquing, Querying, Publishing and more…

3 Reasons to Keep Business Secrets by Janet Kobobel Grant on the Books & Such Literary Agency Blog

5 Tips for Making a Living as a Writer by Shawn Smucker on Rachelle Gardner’s blog

How to Choose an Excerpt to Showcase Your Novel by Roz Morris on Nail Your Novel

After the First Draft: Part 2 by Mooderino on Moody Writing

The Top Ten Query Mistakes by Rachelle Gardner

Remembering Gore Vidal: 10 Quotes on Writing by Zachary Petit on Writer’s Digest

Self-Editing for Self-Published Fiction by Randy Ingermanson on Advanced Fiction Writing

Critique Partners vs. Beta Readers by Tina Moss

The New Publishing Paradigm, Part One: It’s Not About eBook vs. Print by Jami Gold

Publishing Perils – Making the Choice, Part 5 by Susan Spann on Writers in the Storm blog

Other Round-Ups

The Author Chronicles’ Top Picks Thursday

Stina Lindenblatt’s Cool Links Friday

Roni Loren’s Fill-Me-In Friday

Elizabeth S. Craig’s Twitterific (compilation of all the writing links she’s shared this week – updated on Sundays)

This week on the blog: 

This unique photo is by: CC MacKenzie via WANA Commons

Happy Reading and Writing, everyone!!!


Why Having a Unique, Strong Voice is Important & How to Find Yours

My beautiful signed copy of Shadow of Night 

I waited 16 months for the release of Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. I clung to the weekly updates she gave her fans every Friday, I read the first book in the All Souls Trilogy, A Discovery of Witches, four times, and I often listened to a playlist I compiled based on the music that inspired the author – ‘cause in turn, it inspired me in my own work. So it’s no surprise that when Shadow of Night came out earlier this month, I read it in 2 days (which meant I got no sleep and was practically a zombie *cough* useless at the day job that week).
But A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night are more than just fantastic stories about a witch named Diana and a vampire named Matthew. These two books hold valuable writing lessons that all writers can benefit from learning, as long as we’re open and ready to absorb and learn them. I’ll preface this by saying that after I read the first book in March 2011, I went out and bought the hardcopy (I had the ebook), highlighted my favorite passages/scenes, and made notes in the margins. And now that I’ve finished the second book, I plan on buying another hardcopy (the original hardcopy is signed by the author, so I don’t want to mark that one up) so I can do the same with it.
This isn’t something I normally make a habit of doing, but I find myself learning more from these particular stories than so many others because they have:

  • Amazing worldbuilding
  • Rich details
  • Writing rule-breaking from time to time, and it works!
  • Great plots (the plot in the first book is subtle, whereas the plot in the second is obvious and you’re reminded in almost every chapter)
  • A heartfelt, touching theme throughout the trilogy
  • Backstories that leave you wanting more
  • Great inner conflict with the main characters
  • And a strong and unique voice

Today I wanted to address the final bullet point: strong and unique voice.
Often we think finding and putting the voice of our characters out there is easy. But then we get back comments from Beta Readers and find out, “Ruh roh, voice ain’t strong enough. Darn!” ß Yes, I take bad news and say it in my best Scooby-Doo voice. It makes it easier to swallow. 😉
So why is it that one element so gosh-darn important anyway?
Having that strong and unique voice:

  • Draws your target audience in with a voice they can relate to. Not just a character, but the voice of the main character(s). There’s nothing better than picking up a book and being able to relate to it because the main character is conveying her thoughts and feelings in a way that makes me feel as though I’ve simply been having a long conversation with someone sitting right beside me. So the next thing I know, I’ve devoured that book within two or three days and I love it.
  • Sets your story apart from every other book on the shelf. Only you can write in that voice for your characters. Only you can tell their story the way it should be told: in their voice! And because you’re the only person who can do that, this means you have something truly unique and different from everything else on the shelves today.
  • Keeps your readership coming back for more! Without it, you might as well kiss some of your readers goodbye. Nothing’s worse than reading a book and feeling as though every word is coming out like the teacher from Charlie Brown: “Wom, wom, wom, wom, wom.” And you feel like that because there’s nothing there to relate to, nothing there to feel as though these characters and that setting are right there in front of you.

So how is it that a writer can get – or find – that strong and unique voice?
Pshaw! That’s easy! *wink* Give these tricks a try:

  • Sit down and have a one on one conversation with your characters. Ask ‘em some fun stuff to get a feel for how they communicate in an everyday setting. Go on for about 5 or so questions, then suddenly get into those deep, not-so-easy-to-answer questions. This should give you a good feel for how they think and how they would convey the story you are putting on the page for them. It also helps with writing dialogue tags because now you have a sense for exactly how a character would say, “Dag-nab-it, Judy! I told you not grab that thing’s arse!”
  • While revising, read internalizations and dialogue aloud. Don’t include the descriptions or dialogue tags, read only the internalization and what’s between the quotation marks. Read these aloud separately. You’ll discover those areas where the words seemed forced and don’t have that flow. Like your character isn’t relatable, or maybe they sound more like a robot who speaks perfect English. Mark those areas then come back to them when you’re ready to rewrite them.
    • One way to easily mark these for easy read-through is using Margie Lawson’s EDITS system: highlight the internalizations yellow, and highlight the dialogue – just the words between the quotation marks – blue. In class, Margie suggests reading only the dialogue aloud, but I prefer to also read the inner thoughts of the character too because they’re just as important as the dialogue, and they’ve got to sound natural and free flowing as well.
  • While writing the first draft, or rewriting the second or third draft, write with this singular thought in mind: You are simply the vessel to their story. For me, sitting down at the computer with this thought in mind keeps my voice from getting in the way, ‘cause when the voice of the author and their characters begin fighting for dominance, that’s when you’ll either end up with a weak voice, a normal, not-so-great voice, or you just might lose the voice altogether. So write with the thought in mind that what you think, you believe and how you’d react don’t matter. Hang those thoughts and beliefs in the closet when you sit down to write, and open yourself up. Let those characters write through you in the truest voice you can possibly convey: theirs.

For more information on voice, here are a few of my favorite/bookmarked posts on the subject:
Can You Hear Me Now? Developing Your Voice by Janice Hardy
Do Your Stories Match Your Voice? by Jami Gold
How about you? Do you pull lessons from some of your favorite novels? Are there a few that you can learn voice from? How else is having a strong and unique voice important? Do you have any other tips or tricks for getting that voice strong and unique enough?

This Week in Favs…

Playing on the Zune: Nada. Sittin’ in silence for this one. A bit scary I admit, but surprisingly, it’s going well.  :0)

Social Media and Author Websites 

Blog Post Quality and Quantity – How to Have Your Cake and Eat it Too by Stanford Smithat on Pushing Social
5 Signs You’re Having a Blog Identity Crisis & 8 Ways to Fix It by Roni Loren
Essential Twitter Hashtags for Authors, Readers and Publishing Industry Professionals by Jordan Dane on The Kill Zone 

 On the Craft

Details: Bringing Fiction to Life by K.M. Weiland on Wordplay

Three Ingredients for a Strong Scene, guest post by Becca Puglisi on So, You’re a Writer

Not All Characters Deserve to be in the Story by Mooderino on Moody Writing
5 Common Writing Blunders that Can Annoy or Bore Our Readers by Kristen Lamb
Tools for Writers Part 1 by Annie Neugebauer
Flip the Script: Use Adverbs Fearlessly by Jael McHenryat on Writer Unboxed
My Favorite Writing Advice – Trust the Story by Shelli Johnson
Rules of Storytelling, Part One by Tabitha Olsonat on Writer Musings
Going Both Ways: Outlines for Plot, Pantser for Character on The Otherside of the Story with Janice Hardy
Book Series – A Whole Other Food Group by Lynn Price

8 Tips for Unlocking the Secrets of Mystery Writing, guest post by Lisa and Laura Roecker on Adventures in YA & Children’s Publishing

Margaret Atwood’s Ten Rules for Writing Fiction on Advice to Writers

How Long Does it Take to Write a Book? by Ryann Kerekes on Novel Addiction

Writing: Where Less Can Be More by Jami Gold 

 Writerly Inspiration

Tolkien’s 10 Tips for Writers by Roger Colby

How to Use Our Weaknesses to Our Advantage by Marcy Kennedy 

 On Editing, Critiquing, Querying, Publishing and more…

Is the Stigma of Self-Publishing Finally Gone? by C.S. Lakin on Live Write Thrive

8 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Deciding to Self-Publish by Andrew Galasetti on Duolit

7 Tips for Pitching to an Agent or Editor at a Conference by Sylvia Ney on Writing in Wonderland

Exclusivity and Free by Joe Konrathat on A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing
ABCs of the Content Edit on Writer…Interrupted
Painless Editing by Tonya Kappes
Edit Smartly by Stina Lindenblatt on Seeing Creative
How to Polish Your Writing Until it Shines by Stina Lindenblatt on QueryTracker.net
Why a Bad Agent is Worse than No Agent by Janet Kobobel Grant
4 Ways Agents Work for Clients at a Book Trade Show by Mary Keeley  

 Other Round-Ups

The Author Chronicles’ Top Picks Thursday

Stina Lindenblatt’s Cool Links Friday

Roni Loren’s Fill-Me-In Friday

Elizabeth S. Craig’s Twitterific (compilation of all the writing links she’s shared this week – updated on Sundays)

A ‘So You Think You Can Dance’ Treat

Season 9’s Top 10 Girls

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Season 9’s Top 10 Guys
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The Entire Top 20 Dancers
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Happy Reading and Writing, everyone!!!


This Week in Favs…

Playing on the Zune: Nada this week…been caught up the new season of So You Think You Can Dance! 🙂

Social Media and Author Websites

I Bring You…A Gift – A New Era for the Digital Age Artist by Kristen Lamb <—Go read and join the WANA Tribe! My 10 Commandments of Blogging by Tanya Dennis on Writer Interrupted with Gina Conroy

On the Craft

To Be a Good Writer, You MUST Read by Shelli Johnson

Video Games: Why Can Writers Learn from Them? by Natasha McNeely

Four-Step Writing Ritual by Adriana Ryan

Guest Author Diana Peterfruend: First Impressions on The Other Side of the Story with Janice Hardy

Writing About Painful Memories by Julie Musil

Passive vs. Active Voice – A Little Grammar for Tuesday by Scott Eagan

7 Things that Will Doom Your Novel (& How to Avoid Them) by James Scott Bell on the Writer’s Digest blog

The Secret to Writing? by Chuck Wendig

Writerly Inspiration 

Finding Balance: Don’t Miss Our on Your Own Life by Shelli Johnson

Writer’s Doubt: 3 Symptoms & 4 Treatments by Shannon on Duolit

On Editing, Critiquing, Querying, Publishing and more…

The Importance of Staying Flexible in a Changing Industry by Jody Hedlund

Do Book Trailers Sell Books by Lynette Labelle

Five Steps towards Making Peace with Criticism on Write to Done

The Ultimate Guide to Pitch Writing by Jami Gold

Is Now Really the Best Time Ever for Writers? by Marcy Kennedy

How to Influence Editors in a Way that 90% of Other Writers Don’t, guest post by Jane Friend on Rachelle Gardner’s blog

Other Round-Ups

The Author Chronicles’ Top Picks Thursday

Stina Lindenblatt’s Cool Links Friday

Roni Loren’s Fill-Me-In Friday

Elizabeth S. Craig’s Twitterific (compilation of all the writing links she’s shared this week – updated on Sundays)

This week on the blog: 

 Scenes: To Kill or Not to Kill…That is the Question

Happy Reading and Writing, everyone!!!


This Week in Favs….

Playing on the Zune: Place for My Head by Linkin Park

On the Craft

Official Philosophy of Character Death by Veronica Roth

6 Ways to Never Run Out of Ideas by Ed Cyzewski, guest post on Rachelle Gardner’s blog

25 Things to Know About Writing the First Chapter of Your Novel by Chuck Wendig

Leave Yourself Notes: Ways to be a More Productive Writer, Part 5 on The Other Side of the Story with Janice Hardy

Plotting for Success by Clare Langley-Hawthorne on The Kill Zone

Different Ways to See the Same Thing by Lisa Gail Green

On Writing and Publishing Trends by Ava Jae

Don’t Fall Between the Cracks; Finish the Dang Book by Lynn Price

Even the Best Ideas Need Flawless Execution by Kathryn Lilley on The Kill Zone

Writerly Inspiration

Learning to Drop the Donkey – Is Perfectionism Killing Your Career by Kristen Lamb

Is All the Hard Work Really Worth It? by Jody Hedlund

Being Awesome by Paul Anthony Scott

Amazing Advice for Aspiring Writers by Neil Gaiman on Write to Done

The Importance of “Letting it Go” by Susan Dennard on Pub(lishing) Crawl

The Worry of the Artist: Am I Good Enough? by Jenny Hansen

On Editing, Critiquing, Querying, Publishing and more…

Writers Face the Slush Pile: A Few Hard Truths by Roni Loren

A Great Start: Or How to Keep an Agent Reading by Nephele Tempest

An Author’s Guide to Fan Fiction by Jami Gold

Your Bio in a Query by Lynn Price

What Does a Publishing Contract Cover? by Rachelle Gardner

Do You Listen to Advice? by Marcy Kennedy

The Not-So-Secret Backdoor to Publishing by Mandy Hubbard on Pub(lishing) Crawl

Why Skimping in Macro Editing Could Cost You Readers by Jody Hedlund

Keep Calm and Query On by Luke Reynolds, guest post on The Bookshelf Muse

Why Agents Pick and Choose Our Prokects – No, It Isn’t About the EASY Sale by Scott Eagan

Other Round-Ups

The Author Chronicles’ Top Picks Thursday

Stina Lindenblatt’s Cool Links Friday

Roni Loren’s Fill-Me-In Friday

Elizabeth S. Craig’s Twitterific (compilation of all the writing links she’s shared this week – updated on Sundays)

This week on the blog: 

Happy Reading and Writing, everyone!!!


Structure of a Scene, Part Two – Motivation Reaction Units

I feel like Sheldon during A-ha moments 🙂

Last week I shared my ‘A-ha!’ moment with Scene & Sequel. It’s one to read, read, read on a particular topic until it’s in your brain, but it’s entirely another to be shown said topic and actually understand it.
Hmm….I do think that was a classic Show vs. Tell example! *smiles*
Anyway, so back to Motivation Reaction Units (MRU), another fun technique I learned about in Margie Lawson’s Deep Editing Course. MRU’s are basic Stimulus/Response patterns. Margie included in her lecture this informative post by Randy Ingermanson (the ‘Snowflake Guy’) to help drive home the lesson. Randy refers to this particular set as the small scale structure of a scene. In other words, you’ve set up the Scene & Sequel, and now you have to write the smaller stuff, the actual sentences and/or paragraphs that make up the scenes.
Stimulus/Motivation we know. It’s taking something from our POV, dropping a bombshell on them, or kicking the crap of them (most times when they’re down). But the Response/Reaction is what I really want to address in detail today.
The Response/Reaction shows what the character’s made of. Below is the three-part reaction I learned from Margie’s easy breakdown, and the example listed next to each part is the first thing I pictured in my head that helped it remove its shoes and stay for the long-haul in my brain.

Three-Part Reaction

Emotional Response – This is the involuntary visceral response your POV has the moment the Stimulus happens. It’s their heart pounding, blood boiling, bones jolting, chest breathing harshly, knees giving out, etc. Whatever involuntary reaction you can think of that happens as a result of a jolt of emotion going through them. This needs to be first. If you just found out your spouse was cheating on you, would your heart pound before or after any other reaction, like ‘come again?’? Before, right? Your heart would ­da-dum in your chest before the words left your mouth. This grasps your reader and pulls them deeper into your character’s POV.
The Reflex – Let’s go back to the Stimulus I stated in the Visceral Response section. You’ve discovered your spouse has been cheating on you. After your heart lets out that loud thud, what do you do next? Hit the wall? Hit your spouse (woman only)? Stomp your foot? Snap your hand over your mouth to keep from screaming? THAT’s what comes next in POV’s Response. Feeling first, Reaction second.
Action & Speech – Now that your heart’s pounded and you’ve screamed or punched a wall or whatever else you’ve done, it’s time for you talk and act! To process what you just informed, be it with short-shots of dialogue, or act on what you just heard by kicking the cheater to the curb, luggage in tow.
The Reaction of your POV character should follow this sequence and include all three responses if they were just subjected to a HUGE Stimulus. For the smaller stimuli, you may not need all three. BUT…you still need to have their Reaction/Response in this order. If not, the response will more than likely not make sense to the reader.

Checking for MRU’s in Your WIP

Now if you’re like me, you’ve already got your WIP completed. It’s been drafted and probably been put through the ringer a few times with edits and revisions. If this is where you’re at with it, then it’s time to smack it around a little more. *evil grin* Pull it back out and go through it, line by line by line. Write down every Stimulus and Response you find, pair them up. You may find you have a Stimulus without an equal Response. Or a Response without a Stimulus. You may discover that the pesky scene you couldn’t figure out for-the-life-of-you wasn’t working because it was missing the preferred order of Reactions, or it was missing either the Stimulus or the Response entirely.
MRU’s are how we should be writing Scene & Sequel. One MRU after another after another after another until the scene or the chapter is over. Then pick up the process again and again and again until the story is told. If you’re editing and you find a small section of the Scene or Sequel that isn’t an MRU then guess what? Yup, it gets the axe! It’s not needed, it’s drags the story’s tension, and takes the reader out of the story.
Easy enough, right? This is a nifty little buggar, huh?
Have you ever written or edited a scene MRU by MRU? How easy did you find this process? Is it easier for you to write like you normally would then go back and edit, looking for the MRU’s as you go along? What other advice have you read or can share about MRU’s? Have you had any “A-ha!” moments similar to this? Was it during the plotting, writing or editing phase?

*For more on Motivational Reaction Units, pick up Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain. Margie Lawson refers to this book often in her lectures. Amazing book, awesome advice, unforgettable techniques.

This Week in Favs…

Social Media and Author Websites

Social Media is an Imperfect Sales Tool. Use it Anyway. by Nathan Bransford

Six Sinister Blog Time Wasters by Stanford on Pushing Social

The Bodacious Blogger’s Essential Ingredients by August McLaughlin

7 Tips for Turning Your Blog into a Book by Brian A. Klems on Writer’s Digest blog

How Much Interaction Should Authors Have With Readers? by Jodi Hedlund

5 Habits That Make Me a More Creative Blogger (and Writer) by Judy Dunn on Cat’s Eye Writer

On the Craft

Writing Fiction With the 1-3-1 Method by Teresa Frohock

Writing Characters Worth Reading by Mooderino on Moody Writing

Writing as MMORPG: Building Your Writing Addiction by Daniel Swensen on Surly Muse

Who’s There? Introducing Characters in a Scene on The Other Side of the Story by Janice Hardy

Writing Dangers: Shiny New Idea Syndrome by Ava Jae on Writability

Finding Time to Write: Making Hard Choices by Amie Kaufman on Pub(lishing) Crawl

How to Write a Best Seller – Advice from an Olympic Medal Winner, guest post by Dr. John Yeoman on Write to Done

The Drama Bomb – Drop it!, guest post by Mario Acevedo on Writers in the Storm blog

Writerly Inspiration

Monday Motivation: Know You CAN DO IT! by Scott Eagan

Think Like an Author by Danyelle Leaftyl on QueryTracker.net

Icarus and My Fear of the Sun by Marcy Kennedy

Respecting Your Natural Rhythms by Barbara O’Neal on Writer Unboxed

On Editing, Critiquing, Querying, Publishing and more…

When Editing Is NOT Enough! by Tonya Kappes

Digital Publishing – A Marathon, Not a Sprint by C.S. Lakin on Live Write Thrive

What Will Make an Agent Gong Your Pages by Roni Loren

Don’t Think Too Much, You’ll Create a Problem That Wasn’t Even There, guest post by Julie Musil on Adventures in YA & Children’s Publishing

Rankings or Dollars by Terry ODell

10 Tips for Attending a Writers’ Conference by Annie Neugebauer

Mastering Your Author Headshot with Photographer Ken Dapper by August McLaughlin

The Truth and Nothing but the Truth on Promotion and Publicity for Debut Authors by Joanna Volpe on Pub(lishing) Crawl

All About Advances by Rachelle Gardner

What Does the Editing Process Look Like? by Rachelle Gardner

5 Things Every Author Needs to Understand About Self-Publishing by James Scott Bell on The Kill Zone

Break it Down: Trimming Words From a Too-Long Manuscript on The Other Side of the Story with Janice Hardy

Other Round-Ups

The Author Chronicles’ Top Picks Thursday

Stina Lindenblatt’s Cool Links Friday

Roni Loren’s Fill-Me-In Friday

Elizabeth S. Craig’s Twitterific (compilation of all the writing links she’s shared this week – updated on Sundays)

This week on the blog: 

Happy Reading and Writing, everyone!!!


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