11 September 2014

5 Tips How to Write and Sell a Picture Book with a Plot

I'm jumping for joy, having finished filming How to Write a Sell a Picture Book with a Plot with Jill Corcoran, literary agent for some of today's finest picture books authors.

After months of creating the program, exercises and 7 scripts for each of us based on the Picture Book Workshops and Advanced Picture Book Workshops in the Plot Whisperer Workbook series we taught earlier in the year, rehearsing and filming, I'm excited and proud to announce the official launch of our latest A Path to Publishing video series.

In the 7-video How to Write a Sell a Picture Book with a Plot, Jill offers up gems to writers who wants to sell their work to a publisher: a winning concept, memorable characters, exciting action and a meaningful take-away. I share examples of popular picture books with plots and tips how to plot and write one for yourself. We offer 28 exercises designed to fire your story ideas and current writing sky-rocketing!

I analyze flap copies for plot. Jill sees a compelling concept.

I deconstruct picture book plots. Jill looks for unique take-aways.

We're a match made for this series.

Five tips I gleaned during the filming of the series:

1) Writers for all ages and genres benefit from the plot clarity presented in a picture book. Minus subplots, the primary plots of Dramatic Action, Character Emotional Development and Thematic Significance and a Heart Connection shine.

2) A picture book dummy is like a Plot Planner in book form. With the 3 major turning points plotted on the appropriate page, knowing what to fill in on the other 7-8 pages for each of the beginning, middle (double) and end becomes clear

3) Logicals are paramount in picture books. Minus descriptions of authentic details, internal monologue and dense narration that can muddle story flaws often found in novels, any break in the logical plot progression in a picture is glaring.

4) When intent on improving your craft, practice writing a story a plot and analyzing prize-winning plots in pictures books involves much fewer pages than writing and analyzing novels.

5) A fresh concept, great craft and unique voice are the anthems of great writing of every kind

Today I write!

No matter your genre or preferred audience, I invite you to watch How to Write a Sell a Picture Book with a Plot. Do the exercises. Join our Facebook group and ask questions that come up in the series and your share progress.

Along with How to Write a Sell a Picture Book with a Plot, we also offer in our Video Workshops Series ~~ PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month

Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For plot help: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~
Ready to rewrite your story? First revise. 

  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
PlotWriMo help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises

10 September 2014

Every Writer's Mantra

Show don't tell is every writer's mantra and one of the first stumbling blocks a beginning writer encounters. Come time to revise before writing the next draft, writers with little background in the craft of writing a story with a plot find they've told the story rather than shown the story through scenes. Both writing in summary and in all dialogue, writing from a distance seems easier to manage. Even in first person POV, writers often unwittingly separate from the intimacy of sensuous story moments by narrating or telling the story.

This is fine, in the first draft. More than fine actually. I advise writing your story anyway you can from beginning all the way to end before going back and rewriting. This way you know what happens at the end which directly influences what comes in the beginning.

As you begin to understand how to write a scene, you find yourself overcompensating by following up your scenes with explanatory summaries.

Plot tip: Trust your writing
Plot tip: Trust your reader
Plot tip: Never repeat. Deepen.

You also struggle with issues that come up about the overall presentation of the story.

What POV is best for your story?
Where to put memories?
How to incorporate flashbacks
What is the optimum length your readers will enjoy?
What to put in?
What to leave out?
What are you trying to say; what do all the words add up to?
What will your reader be left with?

These are questions every novelist, writer grapples with when learning the craft of writing a story with a plot.

Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For help: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~
Ready to rewrite your story? First revise. 

  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
PlotWriMo help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises

04 September 2014

How to Show Character Emotion beyond the Cliched

Often in real life and news reports, we witness spontaneous and raw emotion. Not something we're privy to much in our everyday lives, having been taught to control our emotions as demonstrated by our show of emotional development and maturity.

Many shy away from bearing witness to some of the most raw and painful shows of emotion -- rage, sorrow, jealousy, aggression, grief. Some judge shows of spontaneous and raw emotion childish / dangerous / uncomfortable. Buck up, we're taught. Everyone feels pain. Grow up. Get over it.

Yet, in those shared moments of emotional truth rather than skimming along on the surface of life, the spontaneous and raw emotion pulls us deeper and connects us primally and universally to all of life.

Convey that universality through the truth of your  character's emotional reaction in such a way as to elicit the shared emotion in your reader and move your audience and you've create fans for life.

Plot Tip:
Feel what you need to feel.

Let your characters feel what they need to feel.

Remove the mask. Feel. Identify what and why and how that feeling shows itself in you and in others. When you're in the throes of true emotion, jot down the physical and emotional and spiritual reactions the emotion draws up in you. With your findings, create your own emotional notebook. Search beyond the cliched emotional reactions to the truth of what you see and feel and hear and touch and taste and know to be true when experiencing real emotion.

Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~

Need more help with your story? 

  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
PlotWriMo help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.

PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises

02 September 2014

Where To Start: How To Write the Exact Right Beginning of Your Story

Pain shoots up from the bottom of her foot, enough so she limps and is forced to wear heavy boots with firm arch supports. Hearing the pain started about a month into writing a memoir and that she hasn't moved very far into her story even after more than seven months of writing scenes long-hand, I suspect that her foot pain and writing pain were linked.

Often problems with the feet indicate difficulty moving forward. I ask her what the problem is with moving forward with her story.

"I don't know where to begin," she mutters.

The struggle in determining the exact right beginning point to start your story is not isolated to memoir writers. Yes, when faced with scenes from your entire life, deciding what to put in and what to leave out can confuse a writer about where best to begin her memoir. The same can be said for novelists and screenwriters as well as memoir writers

With some intense theme explorations, both listing themes that fire up the most energy in her to write about and developing a thematic significance statement for what meaning overall she wishes to convey lead her to the perfect place to begin.

Is that the place the memoir will ultimately begin in the final, final draft? Not necessarily. At this point the most important action this writer can take is to start there and write an entire draft all the way to the end one time. Then she can go back and determine if, in fact, that is the place to begin or take the test I share in my upcoming Writers Store webinar: Where To Start: How To Write the Exact Right Beginning of Your Story and finally pinpoint the exact right place. (Oh, and I can almost guarantee that by the time she writes into the exotic world of the middle, her foot pain miraculously vanishes…)

Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For more about how to develop THEMES and a THEMATIC SIGNIFICANCE STATEMENT for your novel, memoir, screenplay: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.


PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises

01 September 2014

Witness a Writer's Transformation

Her self-talk is brutal about how she never follows through on her writing goals, shakes her head at how many vacation days she's taken for the express purpose of writing the entire time only to veg in front of the television telling herself all sorts of loser stories about herself to herself, sinking deeper into despair and the impossibility of her situation.

That's all backstory. Her inciting incident in this scenario in her life is when she signs up with me. In the next few months, she shows me all of who she currently is -- her baseline data as it relates to this story at this time in her life.

The sacrifices she makes to afford to work with me does nothing to spur her to be accountable to herself. During many of the two-week periods between checking in with me, she does no writing at all. When she does write, she shows up session after session, ashamed of not writing more, not being good enough, not knowing how to write well enough. Drowning in excuses, her pattern emerges.

Rather than give her what she seems to be waiting for -- confirmation that yes indeed, she is a mess, a failure, unworthy -- instead I offer strategies to bridge the way from where she quakes on one side of the rapids to the calm meadow of acceptance on the other side. She keeps paying my fee and wanting to talk at the conceptual level. I keep dragging her out of her fears and into the concrete here-and-now, brainstorming one scene after another and reminding her again and again about the treasures waiting in her story -- she has a couple of fantastic elements that make for a rocking concept.

The moment she crosses over into the exotic world of being a true writer -- writing -- and leaves behind the pretender and talker about being a writer is the day she shuts off the cable to her house and removes the television. We both know the darkness this exotic new world she's entering represents to her and many of the most powerful antagonist that await her. The resistance doesn't magically disappear, though it can by taking full responsibility for our choices. After a smooth month or two, her schedule changes, forcing her to write at home rather than in the safety of a crowded coffee shop. One of her beloved cats dies. The other beloved clings to her.

Now, well aware of where she is on her own personal Universal Story journey and what to watch out for, she finds no place to hide. She can't go back. She's a sponge for any and all advice and support I offer her. She wants this. She wants to write this story from beginning to end. And somewhere even deeper, I hear her desperate cry to heal the festering wound she's been picking at all her writing life, perhaps her entire life.

I ask her to write in every room of the house (lots of resistance to her writing room) and keep a record of how long she writes in each space and how she feels writing there. Unexpectedly, she stumbles upon an exact right spot. When she compares her progress writing at that spot to all others, she understands that she actually likes to write there.

As fiercely as she longs to dabble in the safety of the beginning of her story, now, in her exact right writing space with concrete scene ideas, she writes into the exotic world of her story. The story and major characters begin to enliven her. As she grows stronger, her negative self-talk fades. Excitement and energy for her story build. Her own personal transformation begins.

Yes, a crisis likely awaits her. Still she's gaining the strength and beliefs and self-knowledge needed not to be felled by whatever comes as she writes deeper and deeper into her story.

A climax also await -- I have every faith in her (and in each of us) that if she wants it, she will triumph and in the end hold in her hands a completed novel from beginning to end with a plot.

Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.


PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises

26 August 2014

Task Analysis to Creating Exciting Scenes in the Middle of Your Novel, Memoir, Screenplay

When I worked in special education, we preformed a task analysis of school activities children struggled with to determine the hierarchical concepts and cognition, steps and skills needed to master the given tasks in the classroom. Starting with a specific goal assigned by the teacher, we'd break the necessary behavioral sequence into steps allowing for adaption, modification and compensation.

Like scenes on a Plot Planner, each step sequentially leads to the successful completion of said goal.

Plot Tip:
Do a task analysis of the protagonist's overall story goal in your novel, memoir, screenplay.

Start with the actions the protagonist takes that show mastery at the 4th Energetic Marker and crowning glory of the entire story. Now, work backwards, breaking down each step needed to gain the necessary skills and abilities, knowledge and beliefs for the protagonist to prevail. Form these steps into scenes and place them in the middle of your Plot Planner in an hierarchical order beginning at the start of the middle with scenes of lesser tension, conflict suspense and curiosity to those scenes with greatest conflict, tension and suspense at the end of the story.

Identify and anticipate the antagonists facing the protagonist in the middle of your story. Create more excitement in the middle by creating challenges, obstacles, interferences that challenge the protagonist's weaknesses (flaw, fear, hatred) and force her to adapt to, modify and compensate for those same weaknesses while also discovering her hidden strengthens.

Use the Energetic Markers as your guide for which scene goes where.

(You can do this sort of task analysis for every aspect and plot line in your story)

Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.


PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises

21 August 2014

How to Write a Story Concept for More than One Point-of-View Character

To give you an idea of the sort of help and support every writer needs, a writer watching the PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month videos asks on A Path to Publishing FB group: How do you write a concept for more than one pov?

Concept
Who Wants What?
Antagonist Stopping her?
Motivation?

Concept extraordinaire Jill Corcoran answers with this example:

SHOE STUD is a romantic comedy told from alternating pov of the descendants of rivaling shoe dynasties in which Steve, a kleptomaniac with a fetish for shoes, and Marnie, a shy college senior with only one foot, must be the first to find a pair of diamond-studded Blanka wedges or lose their chance at inheriting a sparkling new shoe manufacturing plant.

That one line says enough to intrigue and includes all three plot lines (with a hint of possibility for the fourth).

Dramatic Action:
Will the wedges be found?
Who will find them first?
Ticking clock: who finds the shoes first and wins?

Character Emotional Development:
Steve: kleptomaniac with a fetish for shoes (gives a clear sense of his strength, flaw, love)
Marnie: shy college senior with only one foot (gives a clear sense of her flaw, backstory wound, strength)

Thematic Significance:
At this point the story hinges more on the quirky characterizations of the point-of-view characters and less on a higher calling. If one of them have a goal of winning the plant that includes a higher purpose the thematic significance heightens.

Romance: Any story about a girl and a boy | a woman and a man always offers the possibility of a heart connection between them.

As the concept is written here, the whimsy of the tale is enough for your family, friends, agents, editors, readers to ask for more and thus satisfy the basic demand of a story concept.
Next Concept 1-day Workshop -- Saturday, September 13th.

(If you haven't already, join us at the A Path to Publishing FB group. Jill and I created the Facebook group as safe, smart, fun alcove for writers and illustrators to share and learn about the craft of writing and the book biz. This is NOT a place to sell your books but a forum for us all to advance our skills, our creativity and our dreams plus learn about what we are up to at A PATH TO PUBLISHING. All genres for all ages Welcome!)

Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.


PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises

18 August 2014

Dramatic Action Inciting Incident and Character Emotional Development Dark Night

A writer asks: isn't the inciting incident of an example I use -- the Pulitizer Prize winning The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt -- when he steals the painting?

Yes, the dramatic action inciting incident is when he steals The Goldfinch in the museum. His action energizes the external action, changing the ordinary to the dramatic -- thus inciting the dramatic action plot.

I was describing just prior to her question the scene that occupies the all important 1st Energetic Marker: the End of the Beginning. Rather than the scene where he steals the painting earning the marker moment, the scene that steals the coveted spot is when his father arrives. His father's arrival is a pivotal no-turning-back moment that earns this honor because at its heart, this story is primarily character-driven. Long before his mother dies in the explosion, his father inflicted the protagonist's backstory wound when he walked out on them.

Yes, the dramatic action makes this a page-turning novel -- will he or won't he succeed? The answer we come to care about more deeply is will he or won't he find peace?

After that presentation and especially so after presenting solo Plot and Character Transformation in Novels: Character Goals versus Character Traits, I find I don't even try to resist throwing in what negative reviewers seem to hate in The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master -- the Universal Story, especially how it applies beyond stories to us in the human realm. I come home energized about my up-coming: Transform Your Creative Life through the Universal Story: Seize the Life of Your Dreams online personal transformation workshop. Join me and move from where you currently are in the Universal Story to your heart's desire.

Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.


PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises

12 August 2014

Plot Tips for Introverts: How to Survive a Writers Conference

I muse out loud why the heck I ever agreed to leave my tiny paradise for a crowded plane ride smack into hundreds of anxious, eager, confident, quaking writers. Quaking myself in anticipation of my presentation, I question the emotional cost of forcing oneself to be something we're not inherently pre-disposed to be.

Quietly listening to me moan, the serenely beautiful and thoughtful literary agent Danielle Smith from Red Fox Literary Agency recommends Susan Cain's Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking.

I'd never thought of myself as an introvert until I started reading this captivating book and saw me staring back at myself.

"Quiet and cerebral people who know how to tune into their inner world and the treasures to be found there."

Love that. Check.

"Highly sensitive."

Huh, huh. Check.

And the list goes on. Pair all that with being shy in a family and at a time that believed that being shy was selfish, I'm not surprised I willed myself to be extroverted. That painful journey out of silence I've talked about, thanks to Cain, I finally understand.

If you, too, are shy and not comfortable with putting yourself out there, being confident about your abilities and proclaiming proudly your worthiness as a writer, writer's conferences tend to be grueling, excruciating even. One writer passes out in the pitch-an-agent/editor line. Another runs to the bathroom to hurl. Others turn away before their turn materializes. You sit next to an agent while the writer on her other side wows her with a pithy pitch and outrageous concept as you wither and wait until enough time has elapsed to leave the table.

To survive, you're going to have to conjure up a strategy how to don the personality of an extrovert for the weekend, because you do have to sell yourself in this business. Don't fool yourself that you're there to enjoy the company of other like-minded writers. That's true, as is the list of workshops that will serve you well. Your primary reason for leaving the safely of your writer's cave to attend a writer's conference is find an agent who loves your story and wants more.

Be brave. Take the risk. Open your mouth and blurt out something. Then open your mouth again and again until something coherent and compelling comes out. Perhaps in that moment -- right agent, right time -- magic happens… Worth the risk? A resounding Yes!

I now speak to crowds of 500. And… I actually quite enjoy the experience. The anticipation still makes me quake and I still try to schedule an entire week off after I return home from conferences. I suggest you try to make time, too, to gather yourself hung-over from anxiety, fear and the exhilaration of stepping into the arena in belief of yourself and your story.

Take the leap this weekend, August 15, 16, 17th and join me at the Writer's Digest Novel Writing Conference in L. A. For my followers, register with the promotional code WDSPEAKER. Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.


PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises

10 August 2014

How to Show Character Mastery and Transformation through both the Internal and External Plots

The final quarter of your story carries the responsibility of getting your characters to the right place at the right time for one final confrontation and support the final opportunity that leads to success and ultimate transformation.
The scenes that comprise the final quarter of your story are filled with the tension of not knowing whether protagonist will win or fail at the climax.

Writing to the end of your story may very well be filling you with tension. Will I ever finish this thing???

Not just with your writing, you may find that with other parts of your life that somehow when your back was turned (though if you retrace scene by scene, you'd note the clear path) your antagonists have grown stronger and more determined and the stakes rise in intensity as you become more and more aware of all the ways you sabotage yourself from finishing and seizing that which you most desire (because, ultimately, no one else can fell us. We--us personally--are the only ones who give up).

Writers make symbolic gestures, like writing down specific daily writing goal and turning off the cable and removing the TV from the premises, promises to their writing lives and living proof of their commitment to themselves to write. Such dedication and willingness to do what's demanded to succeed at your goal!

You've been making good progress and then Bam! Blindsided by a familiar antagonist you'd mistakenly believed was sleeping, the backstory wound you've patiently been been nursing to health activates. This time, rather than touch off your transformed emotional maturity, the blow sends you spiraling all the way back to your old ways of dealing with hurt and betrayal or whatever your backstory wound oozes by beating yourself up and/or raging. Even so, slowly, you find yourself recovering more quickly after each hit and back to writing or whatever your passion as you continue to internally incorporate the you who you are becoming. New strategies and actions you learned during the hard times now serve you well.

Each time you take positive, conscious steps toward your goal, you find yourself acting with more and more emotional maturity than at any other time in your life. You take responsibility for the pain you've suffered and inflicted to get to where you are now and suddenly delight, finding gifts awaiting you and gaining confidence as you prove to yourself and everyone around you that you're passionate about growing and changing. You begin to see how you yourself influence the action around you at your weakest and now how you can change the action around you to benefit your goals through your new strength and determination and maturity.

In this last quarter proving ground on the way to mastery and your prize -- finishing your story, making peace with the past, falling in love again for the first time -- even as you fall back, you pick yourself up, learn, remind yourself of your goals, imagine your character at the end through a clear lens and take the next step needed to move forward.

Today I write!
~~~~~~~~
For more: Read my Plot Whisperer and Blockbuster Plots books for writers.
~~~~
Need more help with your story? 
  • Looking for tips to prop up your middle with excitement? 
  • Wish you understood how to show don't tell what your character is feeling? 
  • Are even you sometimes bored with your own story?
  • Long to form your concept into words? 
We can help you with all of that and so much more! View your story in an entirely new light. Recharge your energy and enthusiasm for your writing.


PlotWwiMo: REVISE YOUR NOVEL IN A MONTH
PlotWriMo: Revise Your Novel in a Month includes 8 videos  (5.5 hours)  + 30 exercises