My heart hurts.
My friend, Roxann Farmer, passed away a few days ago.
I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that my vibrant, funny, smart, gracious, generous friend is gone.
The past few months went by shockingly fast. Positive thoughts, I told myself, and prayer. Rox will come out on the other side of this and kick cancer in the teeth. I just couldn't accept that she might not win the ultimate battle. She did fight, though. Valiantly. Until she couldn't fight anymore.
I miss her.
We met 20 years ago when I worked for B Dalton Bookseller. She would come in with her youngest daughter, Mallory, and check out the writing magazines and books. We talked about writing and Wichita Area Romance Authors (a local writers' group I belonged to). Before long she joined WARA and was off and running.
Always generous with sharing writing tips and tricks and encouraging words, she quickly became a much-loved and valued member of our group. Her battle cry was BIC-HOK! (Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard)
Having an out-of-control email inbox, I've discovered, can bring comfort and laughter, mixed with tears. The past few days I've immersed myself in emails from Roxann. Some were personal messages between the two of us, others were from WARA's writers' loop. Rereading them unleashed so many memories. Amidst the tears leaking from my eyes I could see her and hear her, and for a few precious moments she was here with me.
Because Rox was such a wonderful mentor I want to share some of her life lessons and writing tips:
Rejections are character building, if you let them be, and will drive you to learn more, lead you to write better, and become even more determined to sell. … Wear that badge of rejection proudly!!
Set a timer for 15 minutes or 30 minutes and start writing. It doesn't matter if it's crap, it's the simple act of writing that will prime the pump and get you going. You can fix it later. Or set a limit of 1 page or even just 1/2 page, if the thought of writing is painful, and don't get up from where you're sitting until you've reached that goal.
I think the more you write, the more the process becomes your own and you aren't swimming in unknown waters quite so much. Some longtime writers say they don't plot, but I'd bet they do without knowing it. Things tend to live in our subconscious that only surface when called upon. (Or so we hope!) As you grow as a writer, you'll know things about your story that will help you move through it. But it does take practice for most of us. :)
Knowing your characters pre-writing can help, especially in the beginning. Most women's fiction is character driven, especially romance. Just for the fun of it, find a blank character chart online. The simpler the better. … Ask your characters about their childhoods and how they grew up. What things happened, what people did they interact with to make them who they are today?
Good luck! Keep writing and learn YOUR process.
Moral of the story is to do your research. That doesn't mean small publishers are bad, or that new small publishers don't need authors. But when basic information about how payment is made and type of publishing isn't included up front, I'd question the credentials of the people involved. That's not to say they're trying to rip off writers, but they may not be as savvy as they should be about the business.
A meltdown now and then is mentally healthy. Sometimes we just have to let those emotions play out, as long as nobody gets physically hurt. ;)
… each writer has her own way of writing. Sometimes it works well. Sometimes it doesn't. When it doesn't, trying a new method can help. How much of a change is up to the writer. I write in a different way than I did fifteen years ago. My writing method has evolved (or devolved HA!) over the years because of many reasons, and I expect that will continue as long as I keep writing.
So use what works best for you, but it never hurts to try something new, especially if you aren't totally in love with your current method.
My daughter asked me a week or so ago why I needed to buy a small voice recorder. I explained that my characters tend to have the best conversations during my morning walks, and since stopping to write it all down isn't all that simple, a voice recorder made sense. Then I said, "I suppose hearing voices in my head makes me crazy." Her response was, "No, it makes you a writer."
I've taught them well. ;) [Note from Penny: Yes! Yes, she did.]
… the cure for a sagging middle is a strong, main turning point. By the middle of the story, everything seems to be going fairly well, so that's when something needs to happen (related to the characters' conflicts) that changes the way the characters think and/or act. Thinking of it as being something that makes them see the other character--or themselves--in a new light. It doesn't have to be bad, but it definitely needs to have a big punch. Play "what if" to find what that might be.
GMC is one of the best tools to learn about your character, and since are characters on the mainstay of our stories, we need all the help we can get. Some characters blossom early, while others are stubborn and don't want to share with their storyteller. Using GMC can help flesh out any and all of them.
An easy way to layout GMC is to fill in the blanks in this sentence: (Character) wants _______, because ___________, but ___________ is keeping him/her from getting it.
Wants is the GOAL. Because is the MOTIVATION. But is the keyword of the CONFLICT.
If there are no goals, motivation or conflict in a story, it's going to be flat. Another way to look at is if the character in a story isn't working toward something/doesn't want something and has no reason to, where will conflict arise? Without one or two of those elements, there can't be a third. If there's conflict only, a reader will want to know why. Without a goal, the character is aimless. Without motivation, through previous life experiences, there's no reason for the goal. We don't simply "want" something, we want because of something that's happened, whether in the near past or the far past.
Both characters in a romance (hero and heroine) will need a GMC. They'll probably be working at odds with each other, building conflict.
Plotting builds a roadmap to follow as I write the book. Knowing the GMC of the characters at the start aids the plotting tremendously. But if the GMC for both characters isn't strong enough, the story isn't either. As my editor just told me last week about conflict, "The reader should be wondering how in the world these two are going to get together because the obstacles are so great."
When you know what your character wants, why she/he wants it, and what is keeping her/him from getting it, the writing becomes easier. You know where you're going. Plotting is a means to guide us through the story and keep on task with the GMC. Goals do change within the story, along with the conflict, which should build and come to a head at the black/dark moment, when all seems lost. After that comes the resolution and the happy-ever-after ending.
That's something that editors--and normal people--don't understand. Until we get into the actually writing of the story, we don't know everything that will happen. They seem to think we do.
There are so many variables in the publishing world. Hang in there. The more you write and get it out there, the better the odds.
After several years of writing and contests--sometimes placing, sometimes bombing--I had to adopt a new mantra that I'd tell myself over and over. "If you quit now, you'll never know what might have happened."
I'm not saying you're thinking of quitting, but we have to take the good things that happen and build on them, while putting the negatives behind. There will ALWAYS be bumps in the road. And it isn't always pretty in the midst of the world of being published. Editors change, readers' tastes change, writers come and go.
You put your butt in the chair and write, even if it's dreck and garbage. Dreck and garbage can be fixed. The only way to fix a blank page is to write. (The voice of experience.)
Writing takes uninterrupted time, so set aside how much time you want or can give it, and then stick to it. Decide how much time each day you can schedule for writing and/or how many pages or words each day. If you want to take the weekend or any others off, that's okay. But I'll warn you that once you get into the habit and write every day, when you take time off, it's hard to get motivated. (Again, the voice of experience.)
Set daily, weekly, monthly and yearly goals, and then work toward them, one day at a time.
Yes, sometimes I miss a day. ...
If you want to be a writer, you have to make writing a priority. Otherwise, it's a hobby. Ask yourself if you're a hobbyist or a writer. If a hobbyist, that's okay. If a writer, start writing.
You've had an over-flowing plate this year. Life happens, hon, and we do what we have to do, sometimes temporarily giving up things we didn't plan. Eventually it will level out and get back to some kind of normal. Note that I did not say NORMAL, because I sure don't know what that is. ;)
45 pages. 4 of those will have to be trashed and rewritten. Sometimes an idea doesn't work. :(
Take care. And I mean that sincerely, 'cause I love you. [Note from Penny: I love you, too, Rox. Till we meet again...]
Not too long ago, Rox shared this on the WARA loop:
Were you lucky enough to have known Roxann? Please feel free to share in the Comments.
P.S. Roxann was great about sharing links to helpful articles she found online. Come back to our blog on January 31 and I'll have a batch of them all in one place for easy reference.