Transcripts

 

 

. Lori has a Ph.D. in Journalism and Creative Writing but she's hardly the stuffy, academic type. Her true passion is writing romantic comedies like her recently released Housebreaking A Husband. She also writes articles for magazines such as Executive Update, Outlook in Higher Education, Capper's, FACES, Cobblestone, AppleSeeds, and is a regular correspondent for her two area newspapers. She loves to hear from her readers. You can visit her website at www.lorisoard.com

 

 

Drive by Plotting with Lori Soard



Legend:
Questions from the Audience are presented in red.
Answers by the Speaker are in black.
The Moderator's comments are in blue.

mary rosenblum

Hello, all.

 

Welcome to our regular Professional Connection.

 

Tonight, we're visiting with Lori Soard, who spent an evening with us last fall chatting about developing a website to promote your book. Lori has a Ph.D. in Journalism and Creative Writing but she's hardly the stuffy, academic type. Her true passion is writing romantic comedies like her recently released Housebreaking A Husband. She also writes articles for magazines such as Executive Update, Outlook in Higher Education, Capper's, FACES, Cobblestone, AppleSeeds, and is a regular correspondent for her two area newspapers. She loves to hear from her readers. You can visit her website at www.lorisoard.com.

 

Some of you may remember that she visited with us last fall.

 

She talked about using your website for self-promotion and it was a great talk!

 

In fact, I posted a new article by Lori this week on the website and epublishing topic in Writing Craft.

 

It offers some great tips about bringing your website to the attention of the search engines.

 

So let's welcome Lori! Personally, I am dying to find out where the title 'Drive by Plotting' originated! Welcome, Lori!

Lori Soard

Hi, everyone. I'm thrilled to be back again. This is always such a fun group. You want to know where the title originated huh? From time to time I have things drop out of the sky and into my head. This was one of those times. I have a course I teach called PLOTS WITH POLISH. It's a free course I offered about three years ago, and the information in there is something that is helpful to writers, so I packed it all into a two-hour workshop to do for this chat. I have all my notes and we can either do question/answer or I can yak at y'all. Whichever Mary prefers.

mary rosenblum

Whatever you'd like to do, Lori!

Lori Soard

Why don't we start with questions and then I can fill in any blanks?

mary rosenblum

Your 2 hour workshop idea sounds very intiguing.

Lori Soard

That way I'm sure everyone gets their questions answered first. Yes, I did a workshop on Drive By Characters too. It was fun

mary rosenblum

So how do we begin?

Lori Soard

Why don't we start with questions?

mary rosenblum

Well, I'll start us off.

 

What's the difference between a plot driven and characater driven story, in your opinion?

Lori Soard

Don't start with anything too easy! Okay...my opinion on this is that a plot driven story will have a lot more action. I'm thinking Indiana Jones. A character driven story will have more internal action, as in Bridget Jones's Diary.

 

Both need action and both need internal thought.

navarrejudy

Why is it that we feel that "all the good ones are taken" when it comes to plots?

Lori Soard

There is a theory that there is only ONE plot, Judy.

 

Sin and redemption.

 

However, other scholars

 

have said there are 20 plots

 

or 5 plots.

 

I think the truth probably falls somewhere in the middle of all that and there are themes.

 

But what makes a story unique

 

isn't if it is a story about yet another boy meets girl adventure,

 

but the characters and your unique view of the world.

 

As a writer

 

only YOU can write about the world the way you see it.

 

If you can learn to inject that into your writing,

 

it will be fresh and new to the reader.

mary rosenblum

That is very well put, Lori!

pieter

Is there a book delineating all fiction plots?

Lori Soard

Pieter, there is a book I believe called something like

 

20 Master Plots.

 

It isn't a bad idea to read something like that just to get an overview of what makes up a plot..

 

It will give you a general overview of adventure,

 

mysteries and things like that.

 

Let me add that

 

a really great book to read on plotting

 

is The Writer's Journey by Chris Voegler.

 

He breaks down some of Joseph Campbell's theories about the stages a character

 

must go through

 

and makes it easier to understand.

mary rosenblum

Nancy Kress, a SF writer friend of mine, has a good one, too, Plots and Plotting, I think is the title.

Lori Soard

I know Nancy. Good book.

 

Nice lady, too!

mary rosenblum

What do you consider the most important element of the plot, Lori?

Lori Soard

Conflict...

 

conflict...

 

conflict...

 

did I mention conflict?

mary rosenblum

Duh! :-)

Lori Soard

It is important to give your character an almost insurmountable problem.

 

You want something that is going to challenge him/her,

 

make him face his fears

 

and ultimately change him.

 

You must give your character a problem or the story will fall flat.

mary rosenblum

So what makes a bad plot? Lack of conflict?

Lori Soard

There are a lot of things that can make for a lacking plot.

 

I don't like the word "bad" LOL

 

Most plots can be fixed.

 

Lack of conflict is certainly a problem.

 

Another thing that drives me nuts as a reader

 

is headhopping or getting into the viewpoint of

 

a character I don't care that much about.

 

I want the viewpoint of the character who has the most

 

to gain or lose

 

from a situation.

 

I also think it is important

 

to make sure your characters grow and change.

 

If you follow the Hero's Journey points,

 

your character will be challenged to face his or her biggest fear,

 

will then be thrown greater challenges,

 

will have a moment when all seems lost,

 

and ultimately will be the master of his own destiny

 

by the actions and decisions he makes.

barron

Can you tell us tips on housebreaking a husband?

Lori Soard

LOL Barron. I have to say that the book is fiction. We all know they can't really be housebroken ;)

mary rosenblum

Puppies are easier!

Lori Soard

LOL

 

Not as much fun though.

mary rosenblum

How about pacing? How do you keep the plot moving?

Lori Soard

Pacing is something

 

that writers tend to develop

 

after they've been writing for a while.

 

It can be a tricky thing but I've picked up a few techniques for dealing with it.

 

First, it is really important to

 

make sure there is an action and reaction to that action.

 

That sounds simple but you'd be amazed at how many times I read something like this:

 

Jill slapped Mary.

 

Mary remember the time ten years ago

 

when Jill ran off with Nick, the love of her life.

 

The story then rambles into a flashback of Nick and Mary's relationship

 

and when the writer comes back to the present, there is no reaction to that slap…

 

Now, I don't know about you but

 

if someone slaps me

 

I'm going to react and I'm not going to wait 20 minutes to do so.

 

I think a lot of the problems we see in pacing have to do with thing like this.

 

Vary the length of your sentences.

 

If you write short choppy sentences for more than a couple of sentences,

 

it should be because you're trying to create a breathless feeling in the reader.

 

Ditto with long sentences...if you're trying to put things into slow motion...

 

but use this sparingly.

 

It's also good to never have more than a few paragraphs of narrative.

 

You need to break that up or the reader will skim over it.

 

(I do when I'm reading :)

mary rosenblum

I will sure ditto that awful effect of dropping a flashback into an ongoing sword-fight, where we spend a month in the past before we see the swordsman's riposte!

janp

Can you get so caught up in mechanics that you

 

lose your story?

Lori Soard

Jan, I believe that you can write the life out of your story.

 

This is usually done in the editing phases.

 

If you go back and keep tinkering with what word to use where…

 

and as wordsmiths we are sometimes guilty of this...

 

you can quickly write the pizazz out of the piece.

 

I limit the number of times I edit something.

 

For a book, I will edit it for typos and grammar etc. 2 times.

 

I'll do one major rewrite of scenes and plotting.

 

I then send it to my critique partner or mentor,

 

tinker with any ideas they had that I liked,

 

read it out loud ONE final time and off it goes.

 

More than that and it grows stale.

mary rosenblum

I agree that you can revise something to death, Lori.

ccw

How would you define the plot of your book?

Lori Soard

CCW, do you mean as far as a category? I would describe it as a comedy of errors.

 

However...if you want the character's struggle,

 

I would say the hero's struggle is fear of loving and losing.

 

And the heroine's

 

is fear of rejection.

 

Does that answer your question, CCW?

annie

Do you have to know the whole plot before you start the book

Lori Soard

Annie, I think this is a very personal thing.

 

Typically...I do know the plot beforehand.

 

I'm one of those people who spends weeks plotting.

 

However, some books come fast and furious and work themselves out as you go.

 

I'm also working with one of my good friends on a book right now.

 

She is a seat-of-the-pants plotter.

 

That means I have to adjust my style a little and she has to adjust hers a little.

 

We've been plotting a chapter or two at a time and we sort of know the main premise.

mary rosenblum

You'll have to come back and do an interview on collaborating on a novel, one day! That has to have its tough moments!

Lori Soard

It is quite a challenge.

 

And I don't recommend it with anyone,

 

but it's very rewarding with the right partner.

 

I'm sure I could talk Sally into making an appearance to add her input to what I have to say, too.

mary rosenblum

sounds good!

arfelin

The title is enough to get me interested in buying your book-I love it.

ccw

I heard that plotting is just a series of events.

Lori Soard

Thanks, Arfelin. That's what I'm hoping for I have to say .

ccw

Can you elaborate on that?

Lori Soard

that men don't particularly care for it LOL

 

CCW, yes....it is in a way a series of events.

 

However,

 

those events have to have a purpose.

 

They should be moving your character toward a goal or toward solving a problem.

 

They should ideally escalate in importance as the story moves along.

 

Each event should be MORE of a challenge for your character,

 

with a few small breaks along the way to keep her from going insane.

pieter

Do you let stories that come quickly happen as they will?

Lori Soard

Pieter, I do. That doesn't happen to me often but there have been

 

times when a story idea or character strikes and I simply have to sit down and

 

get it out.

 

Right now, I'm writing a story about a scientist.

 

She was like that for me.

 

I knew her...her character came to me,

 

but I didn't know the situation she was in,

 

or what her problem was,

 

until I sat down and just started writing.

 

It's all falling into place and

 

that's where it helps to know yourself as a writer,

 

because you'll be able to tell if a story is working for you or not.

ccw

What about subplots? Can you say something on that?

Lori Soard

Subplots are usually seen in the longer forms of fiction,

 

around 100,000 words or more.

 

They usually should have a similar theme to

 

your main storyline, although it isn't a die hard rule.

 

A lot of people will use subplots to segue into their next book,

 

creating a sort of series.

 

And you should try to relate it to the conflict in your main story, if possible,

 

but again, there aren't hard and fast rules.

 

It just depends on what works for your story.

 

The main thing

 

is to make sure you don't let the subplot take over.

 

It's very easy to let that happen.

larry mathews

Do you spend more time outlining, or just letting it happen?

Lori Soard

The majority of my stories, I outline.

 

About 10% just happen.

 

When I say outline,

 

I mean that I start by writing a synopsis (this may change--it isn't

 

the one that I send to the publisher,

 

it is a loose synopsis for my own information).

 

I write character charts detailing everything from

 

physical characteristics

 

to greatest fear,

 

happiest moment,

 

childhood traumas.

 

I then do a timeline of the life of the character...

 

I will write some diary pages in that character's head.

 

I may do a plotting board

 

and I spend weeks daydreaming about my characters,

 

trying them out in different situations to see how they'd react.

mbvoelker

In a longer piece should each event sequence have its own mini-plot that becomes a section of the overall plot?

Lori Soard

Mbvoelker, that is an excellent question...

 

In a way yes.

 

Each scene should have a specific purpose that

 

works toward the overall result of the book.

 

Let me use Housebreaking A Husband as an example.

 

It is a romantic comedy.

 

The end goal or result

 

is that the characters grow and change and learn to love another person..happily-ever-after.

 

So, each scene in the book needs to take my character toward that end through

 

experiences that might change her.

 

Sarah is my heroine.

 

She fears rejection.

 

She can't have children because of a horrible accident where she lost her unborn baby.

 

Doesn't sound too funny, but the book is light, I promise LOL.

   
 

Her fiance at the time was a complete jerk and rejected her.

 

She believes it would be unfair of her to try to have a relationship

 

with the hero because he obviously loves and wants children,

 

yet she is drawn to his twins, who keep wandering into her garden among other things.

 

What does Sarah need to learn in order to grow and allow herself to love and be loved?

 

So, each scene is going to offer something toward that growing of Sarah.

 

I show Sarah

 

struggling with herself to not offer to be around or help the hero with his twin niece and nephew,

 

but the nannies he is interviewing

 

are less than desirable.

 

If Sarah did nothing , I don't think the reader would think much of her.

 

But she isn't ready to commit to taking care of them,

 

so she offers to help him look for a nanny.

 

That is the scene...but the reason for the scene has a deeper purpose.

 

Does that make sense?

gail

Can you give examples of how you incorporate your theme into your plot?

Lori Soard

You guys are full of great questions!

 

I don't normally worry too much about theme.

 

Before I write, I come up with a short blurb that is my theme.

 

For example,

 

love conquers all.

 

That's pretty simple.

 

My themes are usually a bit deeper.

 

But that will serve as an example .

 

I will type that at the top of my manuscript

 

in the header area.

 

That way, I see it at the top of each page as I'm writing.

 

I don't really sit down and think about how to plug it in but it

 

winds up woven in there.

 

If you wanted to intentionally weave a theme in,

 

then I would suggest looking at the trials

 

you are putting your character through and how you...

 

can make your character aware of this theme or truth through

 

those incidents.

angelpub

What is a plotting board?

Lori Soard

A plotting board is a wonderful tool that you can use either

 

before you write to plot your book out,

 

or when you finish to find any holes in your plot,

 

or at both times.

 

You take a large piece of posterboard

 

and divide it into the number of chapters you have

 

or usually have.

 

Then you grab a few different colors of sticky notes.

 

On let's say yellow.

 

You look at the first chapter and you say

 

here is what happens...the actual plot,

 

the physical action.

 

For Housebreaking,

 

Trent's nephew unlocks the backdoor (something Trent didn't know he could do) and

 

wanders away...Trent is searching frantically for him.

 

Sarah is walking on the beach with her scaredy-cat dog, Nightfire.

 

Then on, say, blue stickys

 

you would write the internal.

 

Trent has lost every person he ever loved and he's finally allowed

 

himself to care about the twins (how could he help it?)

 

Now Kyle has wandered away and he is in torment.

 

Sarah is lonely and sad that she can't have children of her own..

 

She tries to tell herself that dogs are fine company, but

 

when a lost child wanders into her life

 

she realizes how much she's been lying to herself.

 

You might also put the external conflict on another color,

 

depending on the type of story.

 

Then step back.

 

Look at your plotting board with all the chapters "stickied."

 

Do you see any holes? They'll be really noticeable.

 

Lots of white space...this is where your plot is weak,

 

or if you have a ton of yellow in one square and no blue,

 

you need to work on your internal here.

 

Takes a lot of preparation time but is really worth it if you're struggling with your plot,

 

or like to plot ahead.

mbvoelker

So the mini-plot in that earlier event sequence would be that Sarah overcomes her reluctance to get involved and offers to help? One leg of the journey to the overall plot goal?

Lori Soard

Yes, good observation, Mboelker.

 

She also is forced to face some internal demons

 

and admit that the feel a small child snuggling onto her lap

 

is something she desperately wants for herself but can't have.

paige

I have a problem with transitions. To move my character/s to the next scene, I either explain too much, or not enough. Can you suggest ways to make them smoother?

Lori Soard

Paige, transitions are tricky beasts.

 

When you start a book or a short story

 

you probably spend a lot of time on the opening paragraph and the opening line.

 

That's where writers feel like they have to grab their reader.

 

But probably just as important is the opening lines for each scene,

 

and particularly for each chapter...

 

To keep from explaining too much,

 

force yourself to condense the problem to a single opening sentence.

 

Yes, it's a big challenge,

 

but doable.

 

Also, don't give a lot of background and explanation EVER .

 

You should always sprinkle this in here and there,

 

reveal it through a line of internal thought,

 

some more later in dialogue,

 

a bit more later in the narrative.

 

Just mix it up a little and season your story with it rather than having a paragraph or two of explanation.

 

It's easy to fall into that type of story TELLING.

 

Just focus on story SHOWING and you'll be fine.

 

One thing that can help is to have someone (kids are good for this) act out your scenes.

 

If a character is standing in one place for

 

ten minutes and reflecting on the last scene or her life,

 

it's too long .

ccw

Do you plot first or characterize first?

Lori Soard

CCW, that is a really individual thing for most writers.

 

I hesitate to recommend one or the other

 

because everyone works differently.

 

I actually

 

write really strangely.

 

I usually title first

 

and then the characters come to me,

 

and then the plot.

 

It is backwards from the way most writers do it.

 

Most do plot first,

 

then characters,

 

then title.

 

And not all stories are the same for me either.

 

I say just trust your gut.

 

As long as you have all the elements in the end,

 

your story will work.

 

Doesn't matter if you fly or drive there as long as you arrive.

angelpub

What is external conflict? Can you give us an example?

Lori Soard

Sure thing, Angelpub.

 

Let's look at a simplistic one.

 

A small child

 

is on a ledge just over the edge of a sheer

 

cliff face.

 

To get to the child

 

one must fight nature (the ledge)

 

The physical problems

 

are the external.

 

Now

 

to contrast that

 

let's look at the internal part of that picture.

 

The child belongs to your main character--let's call him Jack.

 

Jack once watched his fiance fall to her death in a mountain climbing

 

accident.

 

He is terrified of heights.

 

He is worried his child will fall.

 

Let's add some wind...more external.

 

Which makes the climbing particularly treacherous...

 

But the internal --

 

his love for his child is

 

his motivation and

 

forces him to face this fear (more internal).

 

The actual climbing (and he should slip and almost fall a few times)

 

is more external.

 

His inner thoughts on the way up and breath-stealing worry

 

are the internal.

chatty lady

I am now reading CREATING PLOT by J. Madison Davis for my next review, a fascinating book.

mary rosenblum

Short commercial here! We have a Review topic in Surviving and Thriving on the website, where I am posting reviews of books by you folks. Send me reviews! Have you read this one, Lori?

Lori Soard

No, I haven't read that one. I'll have to check it out.

ccollier

Lori, How many books have you written, do you have a favorite?

Lori Soard

Ccollier, I have written two three nonfiction books

 

two young adults (one is published, the other making rounds)

 

and four romances.

 

I actually have two favorites.

 

For fiction I like HOUSEBREAKING A HUSBAND.

 

The characters in that book really spoke to me

 

and for nonfiction,

 

I like BECOME A ROMANCE WRITER because it won me an EPPIE .

mary rosenblum

An EPPIE? Wahoo! Congrats! Want to tell everyone what that is, Lori?

Lori Soard

Oh, Sorry...Become A Romance Writer is available in Electronic Format which means I was able to enter it...

 

in EPIC's (Electronically PUblished Internet Connection) contest...

 

I got a lovely crystal award

 

which sits on my shelf.

 

I am one of those people who does lousy in contests LOL.

 

I have never hit a bingo my entire life.

 

So, this was a particular honor for me.

mary rosenblum

The EPPIE has become a very well respected award, so this is quite an achievement!

Lori Soard

I'm hoping I broke the pattern.

mary rosenblum

You broke it quite well!

pieter

An aside, while I have two experts here: I was in the grip

 

of some major work when I began attending here

 

recently in the forums and consulting postings. I found my study took the time I was spending

 

writing and it seems it has thwarted

 

the energy that was driving me. Any suggestions?

Lori Soard

Pieter, that is pretty common.

 

Some writers experience it in the middle.

 

There really isn't a good way around it but to sit

 

butt in chair and write.

 

I know that probably isn't what you wanted to hear.

 

Then write first and study after .

 

You might want to check out

 

Julia Cameron's THE ARTIST'S WAY.

 

It helps free creativity.

mary rosenblum

I'll add my two cents worth here, too, since the website takes a lot of the same energy as my writing.

Lori Soard

Longridge offers some good articles for its students on getting "unstuck."

mary rosenblum

which is to ditto Lori about butt in chair, but make use of moments, too. Keep notes, think about your story and don't get frantic if it comes slowly.

Lori Soard

Mary,

 

That is excellent advice.

 

I take a notebook with me everywhere.

 

I write or make notes in drs. offices,

 

drive-throughs,

 

while waiting for kids

 

soccer games,

 

more waiting for kids LOL

mary rosenblum

Hey, I plotted an entire novel during Little League games! LOL

Lori Soard

Wow, Mary. I believe it.

 

I "officially" write about 8 hours a day.

 

That isn't all fiction.

 

I have to do other things to make a living.

 

However

 

I unofficially write more like 12 hours a day.

 

When I'm not writing

 

I'm online chatting with Sally about my story.

 

Or I'm doing research

 

or I'm daydreaming

 

or bouncing ideas off my daughter, Caitlin.

 

It is a constant thing for me. I drive my family nuts.

 

<---obsessed

pieter

The truth works.

mary rosenblum

Good attitude, pieter.

Lori Soard

Mary, maybe I need to get my kids in Little League.

Lori Soard

LOL

mary rosenblum

You'll have LOTS of plotting time! :-)

gail

Have you always written novel length pieces, or have you written and published short stories also? If so, what indicates to you whether you have one or the other?

Lori Soard

I've been known to take my laptop places. I'm very rude when I'm in that "mode.

 

Gail, I started out writing short stories and I also write articles.

 

Usually, you will start a story thinking it would make a good book --

 

but something will come up short and you'll only have a minor

 

conflict.

 

This makes a better short story.

 

If you finish the first scene and then find yourself wondering what you'll do for 200 more pages

 

because your character is about to solve her problem

 

it is probably a short story.

 

That said, you will also

 

sometimes start a short

 

and realize it is too complex for a short

 

and turn it into a novel.

 

So, I would have to say

 

the plot really will decide this for you.

 

A complex plot with sub-plots and multiple character viewpoints

 

doesn't usually lend itself to a short.

 

That's not saying that the conflict can't be INTENSE.

 

It just can't usually be multi-faceted on too many levels.

annie

Can you have too much plot and not enough character?

Lori Soard

Annie, absolutely.

 

That's very easy to do in action or romantic suspense.

 

Sometimes you have to slow down and go more into the charcters'

 

internal world.

 

I find it best

 

to start off by introducing the character and her internal

 

issues right up front.

 

That way I remember to focus on it throughout the book.

 

Also

 

if you have a villain

 

don't just write a cookie cutter type villain.

 

Give that person a reason for being so horrid

 

really dig into his psyche.

 

The reader

 

should almost feel sorry for or relate a tiny bit to the villain,

 

even while thinking he is insane or handling things badly.

 

That makes a much more powerful story and characters,

 

in my opinion.

gail

As a novice writer, I hesitate to invest the time to write a novel, when it sounds next to impossible for a "newbie" to sell one. Yet, most of my ideas are simply too complex to encapsulate. What to do, what to do...?????

Lori Soard

Gail, if someone told you that you CAN'T learn to cook because there are too

 

many famous chefs out there

 

would you listen?

 

I believe there is always room for good book.

 

It might not be with the publisher of your dreams,

 

you might have to start in small press and work your way up.

 

But if you really want to write novels

 

or your plots lend themselves to novels,

 

I don't think you should let a little thing like statistics stop you.

 

If I had stopped after my first rejection

 

or my second

 

or my third

 

I never would have sold.

 

So my advice is to write what is in your heart,

 

submit it like crazy,

 

always have something in the pipeline if possible because

 

this is a numbers game in many ways.

mary rosenblum

Another two cents tossed onto the table here...I know quite few book editors, and they are ALWAYS looking for the next big seller. Being NEW does not count against you. You might be the undiscovered next JD Rowling!

Lori Soard

And if you need a peptalk, email me ;)

mary rosenblum

Or me!

Lori Soard

Good point, Mary. You heard it direct from the editor's mouth to Mary's ear and on to you.

mary rosenblum

Lori, let's talk about the opening scene in a novel. How important is it?

Lori Soard

The opening scene is crucial, Mary.

 

For several reasons.

 

First, it is the first impression you make on your reader.

 

If you hook her in not just the first scene but the first SENTENCE...

 

she is more likely to keep reading.

 

Second, the main reader you want to hook before you've sold

 

is an editor.

 

I have heard several of them say that they will pick up a

 

manuscript and read the first paragraph or two

 

and choose one that catches them to read out of their slush piles.

 

You want yours to grab them right off the bat.

 

Finally, when the book finally hits the shelves

 

many readers will pick it up,

 

read the blurb,

 

and turn to the FIRST page

 

before they decide to buy.

 

Obviously the entire book needs to keep their interest

 

but the first paragraph needs to really catch them

 

and you have to do so much in that first scene

 

you have to set up the conflict,

 

introduce the main character.

 

Here is an example of one of my opening scenes.

 

Two sets of tomato red handprints spaghettied the walls,

 

the washing machine spewed white foam, and purple

 

crayon marks now took center stage on his once-white living room walls.

   
 

There are many wonderful examples of opening lines out there.

 

It was the best of times/it was the worst of times.

 

I'm sure you can think of a few of your favorites,

 

the ones that really stick with you.

 

Here is a different type of opening.

 

The ancient trunk had been passed down in the Mayker family for as long as Madge could remember.

 

The inscription on the lid etched

 

there by some primitive Mayker, the books lovingly placed within, the wooden vessel passed from one daughter to the next for

 

guardianship.

 

So

 

there are different ways you can go about it.

 

You could start with dialogue.

senicynt

What about Snoopy's "It was a dark & stormy nite?"

Lori Soard

LOL Yes, although too cliched to actually use in a real novel...it does set a tone

 

and a scene for the book doesn't it?

 

Personally

 

I prefer something that sets up the conflict in some way

 

or is shocking,

 

but you don't have to be quite so obvious, if that isn't your style...

 

It just needs to hook the reader and make him/her want to read more.

kagee

I write women's fiction and have been told my work is compelling. But, I've also been told there's too much detail. Any advice?

Lori Soard

Kagee, they probably mean description or narrative.

 

The problem might be more in the arrangement

 

than the actual amount you have.

 

Try breaking it up with action and dialogue and sprinkling the description in..

 

Let me try to come up with an example off the top of my head.

 

Jill hated everything about St. Patrick's Day. She hated the way the bright green hats reflected the sunshine (setting while giving internal)

 

she hated the semi-sweet taste of corn beef.

 

As the Irish Marching Band stomped past, the blare of a trumpet filled her ears. "I hate leprechauns," she said.

 

I sort of tried to mix that up.

 

Sprinkle in the setting in tiny snippets.

 

You could also

 

Use dialogue.

 

"I hate St. Patrick's Day." The sun glinted off the green hats and the sidewalks,

 

burst off the curbs and into the streets with people. "I hate leprechauns."

chatty lady

When a publisher rejects your story and you send if off to someone is it then o.k. to send the first publisher your next masterpiece, lol OR would they consider you a pest?

Lori Soard

Not at all, Chatty Lady. Most publishers admire persistence. You're only a pest

 

if you call the day after you mail it and ask if they've read it yet

 

and then call every day thereafter ;) and

 

if they gave you any kind of personal comments...

 

about your writing.

 

I would definitely submit to them again.

mary rosenblum

Editors more than admire persistence, they WANT it. They want you to build a name that sells magazines for them! And they are only judging THIS story, not YOU!!!

 

Of course send your next story there!

Lori Soard

Right...

 

And sometimes

 

they reject not because of the story

 

or the writing,

 

but because they've already publishing something similar,

 

or that isn't just exactly right for their audience.

mary rosenblum

And they don't tell you...but when I was starting out...

 

I met editors who had rejected everything I sent them, but who knew me by name

 

and even recalled one or two stories I'd sent in. Form rejections, too!

annie

Do you have any tips for getting the plot moving again, once it hits a snag and stalls?

Lori Soard

Really good point, Mary.

 

Annie, if you are sort of stuck in your plot

 

the best thing to do is go back to that question of what you are trying to accomplish in the story.

 

Where do you want your character to be at the end.?

 


 

...

 

And what could you do to get your character there,

 

or teach her a much needed lesson?

 

Don't be afraid to make your characters really suffer,

 

and horribly!

 

Also..

 

another thing I do --

 

I sit down and write out 20 potential things that could happen next.

 

The first 5 or 10 are usually pretty cliched.

 

But by the time you get to 20

 

you are working hard to come up with ideas and they tend to be

 

fresher.

angelpub

I submitted a ms to a publisher 2 years ago with no response. How do I contact them next?

Lori Soard

Yikes! First of all, never wait two years....I'd give them 3 to 4 months on a proposal.

 

I would phone them at this point.

 

Some people tell you not to phone

 

but as long as you aren't calling every day

 

and you are polite

 

I've never had an editor upset with me (that I know of) for calling

 

and saying, "I was calling to inquire about the status of "Title," which I submitted

 

on such and such date...."

 

Actually,

 

I have gotten magazine assignments from doing that

 

because several times

 

editors have said

 

"We haven't decided on that but we have an article we need covered on

 

whatever...could you do it by this date?"

 

This happens quite a bit locally with newspapers.

 

Sidenote: I hadn't worked with these editors before. They were desperate for writers.

mary rosenblum

A nice personal note to the editor offering to replace the ms if it has been lost can often jog said editor with a nice little stab of guilt. This might work better for a fiction editor.

Lori Soard

LOL Mary. After two years, they should feel guilty...

 

That's a long time, even in the world of book publishing.

mary rosenblum

They should feel MORE than guilty!! That's awful!

Lori Soard

I suspect it was misplaced.

angelpub

I sent a 2nd copy

Lori Soard

When did you send it, Angel?

 

And did you tell her it was a replacement copy?

angelpub

7 months after 1st copy.

 

yep! guess I should call, eh?

Lori Soard

I would, but it depends on what you feel comfortable with.

 

Personally, I would also multi-submit elsewhere at this point.

 

But that depends on

 

if the publisher allows that. Some don't like it.

mary rosenblum

Lori, we're nearing the end of our time. Do you want to sum up what you see as the major points to keep in mind while plotting?

Lori Soard

Sure, Mary.

 

How do you put

 

all this in perspective for an entire book or short story?

 

To start you need to have a goal for your story.

 

The heroine overcomes

 

Sorry...the hero..

 

overcomes his fear and rescues his son.

 

Once you have that goal, it will be

 

the guiding force for your scene goals. You won't find yourself in

 

the middle of the book or story, not sure where to go next, so you write a

 

scene about the heroine heading for the grocery store while she

 

thinks about her dilemma. Ick. We've all written scenes like that

 

and hopefully thrown them out just as fast. No, once you have that

 

story goal firmly in your mind--I even type mine in bold letters at the top remember that

 

you will keep your hero focused on saving his son no matter

 

what else happens.

 

Will you throw obstacles in his way? You'd better.

 

Your scenes should grow steadily worse.

 

And you need to remember to wrap things up in the end :)

chatty lady

In the writers club I go to a man sent a MS, waited 5 months then resent it marke"replacement copy."Two days later he got a letrter of offer to pub. Guess they crossed in the mail. How cool is that?

Lori Soard

Chatty, how exciting. Yes, maybe they were on the same wavelength.

bingocliff

My name is Bingocliff, ty Lori for the great insight tonight

Lori Soard

You're welcome, Bingo. I hope it was helpful.

janp

Thank you both. This was even better than last time.

mary rosenblum

I agree, Janp.

 

Lori, you were great!

Lori Soard

I didn't even get to the drive-by part LOL But we wouldn't have had time for questions, so this worked out better.

 

Thanks Mary. Fun group as always.

mary rosenblum

And you folks asked some great questions!

Lori Soard

I know. My brain hurts.

 

Kidding

mary rosenblum

I mostly got to sit around and twiddle my thumbs! :-)

mbvoelker

So you'll come back and do the drive by part? Please?

Lori Soard

I'm happy to come back anytime.

mary rosenblum

I think it's a great idea. I bet Lori's game. Yes?

Lori Soard

I will be sending Mary some articles on this topic too.

 

As soon as my deadlines ease up a bit.

mary rosenblum

I think the 'Drive by Characters' version would also be fun.

Lori Soard

Yes, Mary. Anytime.

 

The character's one is a blast...it's interactive with exercises.

mary rosenblum

We'll definitely see you back here, don't worry! This has been a lot of fun tonight, and you've offered us some great insights...

 

Thanks for coming, Lori!

Lori Soard

Thanks for inviting me. I'll look forward to the workshop

mary rosenblum

Good night! and thanks again!

Lori Soard

Thanks again, Mary and everyone.

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