28 May 2010

To Those Who Never Make it to the End

My last post was a bit harsh. I take it back. It is not necessary for a writer to have to go through all that.

In my own defense, my purpose here is to support writers achieve their dreams of completing a worthy project. So what about all those half-written stories that end up in the trash bin or at the bottom of a cabinet drawer? Not reaching it, our dreams hound us relentlessly. We never truly forget that which we long for. 

People who have faced death say they do not think about the work they missed at the end but of family and friends. Really? Don't you think for even a moment your story might flash before your face and ask, what if? 

How does a resistant writer make it all the way to the end?

I wish I could say with grace and splendor but my way is messier. Commit to your own hero's journey as your protagonist embarks on hers. 

Learn as much about yourself through the process as you learn about your character. 

Recognize the similarities. 

Invite in the antagonists. 

Ask for answers.

Push yourself.

See what happens.

27 May 2010


The final 1/4 of a story carefully builds in tension with several "above-the-line" scenes that culminate at the Climax with an ultimate emotional release.

Each culminating ending scene builds in energy to the next scene. Thanks to the earlier Crisis (at around the 3/4 mark of the story), the protagonist becomes more and more conscious of her flaws and strengths and of the world around her. No longer bogged down by fear or pity, she shows through dramatic action the release of pent-up feelings, of tension and of the past. Having died to her old personality, she embraces new ideas with the ultimate expression of mastery at the Climax. 

The relationship between a girl and her father represents a universal archetype. Can a writer who has not resolved her own personal issues with her father write the end of a story about a daughter and her father with truth and emotion?  

Yes, I believe she can. But... not necessarily in the first, or second, or even third drafts. The section of the story she will find the most difficult to write is the final 1/4 of the story.

If the writer's own feelings about her father are bogged down with self-pity, the story is likely to end angry and unresolved. If the writer fears her own pent-up feelings, the story is likely to end superficially and in cliche. 

Until the writer honestly accepts her own truth , she will struggle. To accept new ideas, she herself must first die to her old personality. Then, she can fully allow her protagonist a free rein to embrace all possibilities and ultimately discover the unexpected. 

20 May 2010

Hero's Journey: Protagonist vs Writer

I'm on the edge of my seat. Will she or won't she?

I left her last time right after she had written the Crisis. Euphoric for having faced every one of her own demons in order to send her protagonist to death -- metaphorically speaking, of course. Still, she wrote it and survived. An embarrassing mass of slop? Likely. All that matters now is getting the scenes written. Before we hang up last time, I gently coax her to face what is coming. She hears my words but does turn around and thus has no idea of the size of the mountain behind her still left to scale.

This time, when she calls, I hear it the minute she speaks. For the first time since we started working together and at the base of Climax Mountain, she hits a wall. Her voice has no energy. She sounds wary. Shell-shocked. Numb and filled with disbelief.

I scramble to assess the damage and uncover something quite unexpected.

From the time she left the middle of the Middle, I worried about her writing the scenes leading up to the Crisis around the 3/4 mark and the Crisis itself. I never even considered her real demons would hit at the End on the way up to the Climax. 

Both the protagonist and the writer are drug addicts. The protagonist is killing herself because of her addiction. The writer is in recovery. Not, however, for long. "Two years," she told me. "This time." Having fought my own addictions, I shiver when I hear the second part of her answer. It implies there could be a next time.

Of course, the protagonist has to hit rock bottom at the Crisis. The fact the writer survived the writing of it herself is a tribute to her heart and her spirit.

Now what I think is happening is that because the writer herself has not experienced her own personal transformation fully nor seized her own personal power, she can't quite see the way for the protagonist here at the beginning of the End. 

I encourage her to let the protagonist do what she needs to do (the writer knows exactly what she wants to happen at the Climax and thus has only to get her there for now).

Let go of trying to get in the character's head and body. Write purely action now.

Ask the protagonist to reveal herself to you through her fledgling actions as the powerhouse she can and must be.

Then let her loose, sit back and watch what comes...

Like I said, I'm on the edge of my seat.

18 May 2010

Mock Plot Consultation

Radio Show today, Tuesday, May 18th at 11AM PST

For the first hour, I plan to do a "mock" 1 hour plot consultation with our host and friend-- Kim McMillon on one of her children's books she's preparing for publication.

Second hour, Teresa LeYung Ryan helps Kim identify the core issues of her story and link her name to mission statements for publicity and marketing purposes.

In case you'd like to see who you'll be listening to, here are the three of us several years ago at BEA in NYC:

Stop by for a listen today at 11AM PST

Writers Sanctuary

14 May 2010

Happy Birthday Blockbuster Plots

Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple (BBP) turns six years old today!

Never I will forget the many times I limped from my writing cave, whining that I need more time, the book isn't good enough, I'm not good enough. Over and over again, my very supportive, finger-pointing husband banished me back to my cave to finish.

BBP had many editors, one of whom is the famed Melanie Rigney and one-time editor of Writers Digest. Even so, the first printing was filled with typos. I didn't even see them. The moment I held the bright red ball of light in my hands, I was... geez, every adjective I reach for is so cliched and unfitting for the actual moment of sublime contentment, awe, love, excitement...

That night I interviewed bestselling mystery writer Laurie R. King with my red book beside me. Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple rarely left my side that first year.

The heavily flawed first printing sold out quickly, thank goodness. I continue to edit and change and add big and little issues in every printing since then. (My deep desire is to write a 2nd edition...)

My gift to you for visiting this blog is just to say keep at it. Whether your first attempt or hundredth story, there is nothing like finishing and seeing your words in print and receiving reactions from readers, satisfied and otherwise... And, even more profound? You'll be transformed in the process...

(Oh, and in honor of the august occasion, I'm discounting all the Blockbuster Plot tools for writers. The deals are up on Blockbuster Plots for Writers.)

Beginnings and Endings

Beginnings hook readers. Endings create fans.

The other night when talking about readers with a writer friend, she interrupted to comment that she did not believe many writers consider their ultimate readers when writing a story. She went on to say that most writers she knows spend most of their time perfecting the beginning and usually peter out at the end.

The next day I received an email from a mighty disappointed agent friend who had just finished a 400 page manuscript she was SO hopeful for and realized "in the last 60 pages or so there must be a book in there, somewhere," but not in the shape she needs it to be.

How many of you do endings well? Not just with your stories but in other aspects of your life, too. Ending a relationship. The end of a visit. The end of any phase. Often, we just let things peter out...

All that to say, a friend and prolific writer, Penny Warner, has a terrific blog post about beginnings. Check it out. (NOTE: I just realized all the mystery writers who make up The Lady Killers are blogging about beginning. Penny's post is on May 12th)

12 May 2010

Great Cause

New York Times bestseller romance writer Brenda Novak is at it again. For the sixth year, Brenda is raising money at her Annual Online Auction for Diabetes Research. Her youngest son was diagnosed with Type 1 at five years old. Last year she raised nearly $280,000 and is hoping to break that record this year. If successful, her grand total will reach over $1 million toward finding a cure through the Diabetes Research Institute at the University of Miami. All cash donations are tax deductible.

The list of prizes and offerings is astounding, and not just for writers. Although many of the items for bid are specifically for writers, anyone will like the gift certificates to Macy's or to win an iPad or a trip to paradise. Check out some of the big ones at: Brenda's website

I heard about the event several years ago. Ever since, I have donated plot consultations, books and eBooks in honor of family and dear friends who suffer from diabetes.

If you'd like to bid on a Plot Consultation or a Romance Writers Plot eBook, join the fun!

1st Romance Writers Plot ebook

2nd Romance Writers Plot ebook (this item is a one-day bid only on the 26th)

1st Plot Consultation Session

2nd Plot Consultation Session

(PS: The plot interview I did with Brenda is coming out in this month's Plot Tips eZine that I am committed to getting out by next Wednesday. I will get it out. I will get it out. I will...)(PPS: To sign-up for the free monthly Plot Tips eZine.)

11 May 2010

A Balanced Relationship with Your Writing

One of the most exciting aspects of writing is what we learn about ourselves in the process.

I work primarily with fiction writers, memoirists and screenwriters. I also support non-fiction writers through the process of finishing. Though the writer I post about today is non-fiction, her problem and her solution fit for any writer, fiction and non-fiction.

I've been working with this writer for months. Throughout that entire time, she has had tremendous resistance to actually sitting down and writing her project. Only by checking in weekly for a pep-talk and ongoing help with structure and accountability does she find the strength to continue.

Having never considered herself a writer, she is fraught with uncertainty and insecurity around the act of writing. She is confident when in her role as an expert in her field. When discussing her writing project, her voice turns unsteady and her resolve fragile.  

She refuses to succumb to her fears and doubts and continues to show up for her writing. In the process, she has been transformed. An epiphany hits. With insight into the parts she wants to write and those parts she feels she "should" include, she forms a new relationship with her book. Now that she sees the book in new ways, new energy flows, allowing her to take true ownership of the project, helping her to narrow and refine her focus in her work and thus narrow and redefine the book.

With the relationship in balance -- you being true to who you are and the book reflecting that -- the more effortless the completion...

05 May 2010

Deepest Gratitude

For the second year running, Plot Whisperer blog is awarded 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writers Digest magazine -- quite a thrill.

Last year, we fit in Publishing Resources which resulted in a shift in my own personal take on this blog. In order to be published, writers need a solid structure and sound plot for their novels, memoirs, and screenplays. I got it....

This year, we fall under Writing Advice. I am in the company of 16 other blogs/websites. Having been chosen out of more than 3500 nominations is a high honor indeed.

Thank you Writers Digest for the help you offer writers everywhere. Thank you for finding Plot Whisperer a "valuable website for the writing life." Thank you for believing I am "always inspiring." Ha! No, really. Thank you. You make me feel like an insider. For one who routinely hovers on the sidelines, I am honored. Your recognition fuels my passion to keep at this plot and structure work I do with writers.

Thank you writers and reader for following this blog, commenting, and sharing your success stories along the way.

Deepest gratitude to you...