When Your Writing Misses the Mark

This post is for the writers. The aspiring authors, the seasoned veterans.

Sometimes, you write a story and it just flows. It comes together like it has a life of its own, fully-formed and perfect. This isn’t about those times.

Because even when you have those stories, you’ll also have stories that are just… off. They’re missing something, the something that makes them a story worthy of telling.

Maybe it’s your structure or conflict. For me, it was an under-developed character.

I couldn’t figure out: how did this happen to me? Me, who spends a month or two pre-writing. Polishing characters’ histories, their GMC, plotting out a story based on those things before ever putting fingers to keyboard and executing. I spend as much time pre-writing as I do writing the first draft.

But, there was no denying that’s exactly where my story was at. The bad news came from my editor. (Mistake number one–I was in a hurry and didn’t have it beta read by my trusted critique partners before submission.) My heroine’s backstory and motivation were… weak.

I couldn’t believe it. In the weeks following my grandmother’s death, I’d written Exactly Like You, edited it, submitted it, and it was published in June. It was one of the aforementioned stories–it just flowed together perfectly, seamlessly.

How could I have done that so well and missed the mark so completely in the other story? For one, I didn’t dig for backstory and motivation. I latched onto the first idea that came to me. The first idea is never the best idea–don’t let anyone tell you any different. (This would be mistake number two, in case you’re counting.)

I revised and then sent it out for beta with two very smart CPs (all my critique partners are smart, but I digress). They came back with the same verdict–I’d missed that mark again. She was still underdeveloped. Her motivation wasn’t quite believable. That’s what happens when you try to make your character fit your story rather than the other way around. (That, friends, is mistake number three.)

I’m very happy to say that I conferred with one of my CPs, sending her five pages of notes to address the specific issues she called out, then had another CP take a look at my opening and made adjustments again. This had become the story that would not live.

But I wasn’t giving up. All is well now (I hope–it’s been resubbed to my editor, so we’ll see). I can tell you that I don’t think there’s much more of me left for that story. If it’s not enough? This may become one of those stories bound for the far reaches of my hard drive.

I wish I had a happy ending, but don’t all the true life-lesson stories end ambiguously? Take what you can from this, writers. Dig into that back story, then dig some more. Don’t skimp on character, ever.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Birthday Gifts for the Reader in Us All

This month is my birthday. I’ll be 43, a rather middle of the road, nice-early-forties birthday. No biggie. Which is all the more reason to celebrate by sharing some monumentally cool gift ideas for the reader in your life–you, me, whoever!

Romeo and Juliet Cover Earrings

I’m not a huge fan of Romeo and Juliet. They were too young and it’s not a romance by any stretch of the imagination–Happily Ever After, anyone?

All the same, when I came across these earrings, I couldn’t resist how beautiful they were. And, hey. It’s Shakespeare and a classic. We’ll bend just a little to own these beauties.

Romance Novel Notebook

I’ve had my eye on one of these for years and I think I may just indulge myself this time…

Who doesn’t love 80s romance novel covers? They remind me of the books my grandmother devoured a book a day. I never read this one, but it speaks to the nostalgia in me, plus it’s spiral bound. It’d be perfect for dropping in your purse to jot down notes.

By the way, what is she wearing? A pantsuit? In denim blue? Clearly at work, since there’s a desk and that ginormous leather briefcase in her hand. And, seriously? That hair. Bangs for the win!

Jane Austen Pendant Necklace

Getting serious again, I absolutely love this necklace. The quote rings true for any avid reader and, come on–it’s beautiful. I’d be happy to wear this anywhere. And, honestly, for $14.18, it’s a steal!

 

Literary Cofee Mug

Last but not least, I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t include a mug. You may not know, but I collect mugs and hang them all around my kitchen. I also collect mugs just for drinking. It is such a great way to start my day by asking myself, which mug will I start the day out with? Is that weird?

Anyway, I love this quote. It’s a shoutout to book lovers and a demand to be accepted on our own terms. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Did you see anything you just had to have? If so, let me know in the comments, share your finds, or even your own cool book lover swag. I’m all about the book swag.

Have a great July!

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

Cupid’s Cafe: What’s That About?

Hello, my friends in Romancelandia. I wanted to write a little about my new release (coming June 20th) titled Exactly Like You and the premise behind the series.

My book, about a depressed, former social worker who rehabilitates feral cats and a sexy fireman widower, is the first book in the Cupid’s Cafe series. The books are all standalone. Landra Graf‘s Painting for Keeps (the second book) will be out June 27. They can be read in any order or pick your poison. The common thread is the cafe and the universe in which the story is set.

Cupid’s Cafe is a fictional, mystical coffeehouse in Lousiville, Kentucky. It’s fully functional with lots of patrons and exists, in the stories, on Bardstown Road, an eclectic and exciting part of town.

The characters in the story are usually invited to the cafe by the mysterious Mr. Heart. They receive a letter with a date and time to show up. They don’t know it, but it’s a “date” with someone from their past and their last chance at love.

The manager, Angel, is definitely an omniscient supernatural being and guides the invitees to their appointment with fate. A sense of serenity falls over them when they walk in the door (which tends to make my heroine, Roxie, a little uncomfortable–she never feels “serene”). There’s a beautiful, hand carved bar with mermaids at each end. The baristas may or may not be demi-gods from ancient mythology. They serve everything from coffees to pastries to alcoholic beverages. Anything is possible at Cupid’s Cafe, including a second chance at love.

Exactly Like You

Homeless and jobless, ex-social worker, Roxie Fisher, is convinced she’s cursed to never find happiness and an invitation to Cupid’s Café isn’t going to change that. All the same, against her better judgment, she gives it a try. What else does she have to lose?

After the death of his wife, accountant-turned-firefighter, Aidan Craig, can’t stop taking ridiculous risks and never turns down a dare. So an invitation to Cupid’s Café is an offer he can’t refuse. What he doesn’t expect is to meet the social worker who helped him through the darkest days of his life. Now she’s the one struggling, and he’s compelled to help.

The two of them experience an immediate attraction, but Aidan swore to never become involved in another relationship, and Roxie can’t imagine daredevil Aidan being interested in a boring, cat-rescuer like her.

Will they resolve the problems tearing them apart or lose their last chance at true love?

This is the first book in the Cupid’s Cafe series, a Kismet book, from After Glows Publishing. Would you be interested in writing for this series? Email me at lori (at) lorisizemore (dot) com.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

If I Knew Then: Writer’s Edition

Today, I thought I’d blog about craft. Specifically, the things I wish someone had told me (or helped me understand better) when I first started writing. I’m focusing on three main areas today.

Goal-Motivation-Conflict

There’s this fabulous book, if you’ve never heard of it, by Debra Dixon, called GMC: Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. When I first started writing, I kept hearing about GMC. Maybe you have, too. No one really explained it in a way I understood or, worse, they assumed I knew what GMC was. At that time, you could only order a hard cover from the publisher to get this book. I paid $20, plus shipping, and I’ve never regretted it. It’s incredible.

To summarize, characters want GOALS because MOTIVATION but CONFLICT. It’s a little more complicated than that. For instance, goals are the future, motivation is the past, and conflict is the present. If you can pull all those together, give your character an achievable goal for a realistic reason (motivation) and then have someone stand in their way, you have instant conflict.

Protagonist/Antagonist

Speaking of someone standing directly in the way, pushing back against the hero/ine, that is your antagonist. You really do need an active antagonist. It can’t be your characters drunk, dead father because he can’t push back. Alcoholic daddy can be part of the motivation, but he can’t be the antagonist.

The protagonist has a goal they are working toward. The antagonist has a goal (GMC of his or her own, in fact) and they are actively standing in one another’s way.

Conflict Boxes

Conflict boxes are these nifty, simple little boxes that help you show how the protagonist and antagonist are in opposition. They’re explained best, in my opinion, by Jennifer Crusie in this blog post. Their goals are mutually exclusive, which means only one of them can achieve their goal. The other has to lose. Sometimes, if you aren’t sure who you’re antagonist really is, a conflict box will show you in about two seconds.

If Only That Were It

Obviously, there’s more to learn, but these concepts will get you well on your way. I highly advise reading GMC and checking out the Basics of Fiction blog post by Jennifer Crusie if you’re at the beginning of your writing career or even if you feel you need a little help in these areas.

We’ve got a slew of helpful writers here, so if you have a question, one of us will do our best to answer. Or maybe you have a tip for a new writer. Just post it in the comments below.

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

On Critique Partners Part 2

As previously mentioned, we’ve all heard the horror stories that can happen when youcrit partners graphic 2 get mixed up with the wrong critique partner. Everything from hurt feelings to making changes on a story you probably shouldn’t have made. The question is how do you find the right one?

There are multiple websites and groups via Yahoo, Facebook, and a simple search can set you on the right track.

What are you looking for? Depends on what you want, a one-on-one partner or a group. For a one-on-one partner, you’re looking for someone with similar goals, career, and writing, to your own. Reason being, you’ll both be working towards a similar path and help support one another to get there. It’s as simple as asking the potential partner what they want out of the relationship. If they just want someone to bounce ideas off of, but you’re looking for a partner to help you get ready for publication, then this may not be your person.

Additionally, you want a person whose strengths will build on your weaknesses.  An example: One of my writing weaknesses is writing dialogue. I found a partner who excels at it, through this, I learn from her.

For a group of partners, you want to seek a balanced environment. Look for a group with published and unpublished authors.  This means you’re getting a wealth of knowledge from those who’ve been at this a little longer than others. The success of a group is based on the diversity of the authors. Similar rules to the ones above apply. Within a group, you should find authors with similar goals to your own and those with strengths that will help you shore up your own weaknesses.

You found your potential partner/group how do you get started?

For individuals, do a trial run. Test out a couple chapters, set expectations, and discuss them at length. Schedule chats to review feedback and ask questions. Critique partners are supposed to be your best friend, your confidant, and the person who helps you work out all those pesky problems. Mine talks me back from ledges, a lot.

For groups, apply (if it’s necessary), follow the rules, and as Lori mentioned in her first post, be respectful. Crits are about the positive and negative. It’s constructive criticism, not tearing someone apart either.

What if I disagree with the feedback? It happens. The best part about crits is that partners (good ones) will tell you to use what you think applies and ditch the rest. It’s universally known that not all feedback may apply. Additionally, don’t dismiss anyone’s feedback. I personally, follow the rule of 2. If 2 critique partners call out the same thing then it’s something that needs to be fixed, hands down. Otherwise, a good tip is to follow your gut, but it’s also highly recommended you let those crit comments marinate for a few days before taking action.

Here’s to the search for the partner and the group. I recommend both and, in most cases, more than one. To find those gems is like having a personal treasure chest.

Missed part 1 – Check out Lori Sizemore’s original post from earlier this month.

 

About Landra Graf

Landra Graf consumes at least one book a day and has always been a sucker for stories where true love conquers all. She believes in the power of the written word, and the joy such words can bring. In between spending time with her family and having book adventures, she writes romance with the goal of giving everyone, fictional or not, their own happily ever after.

The Writing Blahs

I had a rough January. My grandmother passed away after a long battle with dementia, my mother was in the hospital for the first 25 days (she’s doing much better now), and my daughter had her baby 8 weeks early due to pre-eclampsia (mama and baby are also doing very well). My brain, my energy, my heart–it was elsewhere.

And I had self-imposed deadlines to meet. Those may seem unimportant, but they’re just as important (to me) as “real” deadlines. I suspect many of you understand. Unfortunately, my writing output began to slow to a trickle. I was in that dreaded middle of a story, before you top the hill, when it seems like there are a million bad words behind you and a million new words to go. I had the writing blahs.

I asked the wonderful ladies here at HSG for advice and they, to a one, suggested reading a good book. I haven’t taken their advice yet, though I tried, because I just can’t seem to turn my brain off. When I do read, I have writer-brain. “Oh, nice hook,” or “I see what you did there.” I’m going to persevere, even as I try to reach my writing goals daily.

I did some research (because I certainly wasn’t writing) and came up with some great quotes and articles I thought I’d share with you.

From Lydia Sharp on Writer Unboxed:

There are times I must immerse myself in research, or pull out an old story and do line edits, in order to refresh. This is the result of a right brain/left brain imbalance. The scales are tipped, and equilibrium can only be achieved by adding to our noncreative side. Fact begets fiction.

From Carly Sandifer on One Wild Word:

If you’re tapping out your sentences on your computer, pick up a pen or pencil and write by hand in a notebook. For that matter, some people enjoy typing on an actual typewriter.

I’ve done this plenty of times in the past, but deemed it too slow for my higher output. I’d cut out the middle man (I thought), but maybe sometimes you need the middle man to negotiate a treaty between you and your brain.

This great post (which is more about writing blogs) from Henneke Duistermaat at Smart Blogger:

Feeling a little frustrated?

Well, let it out.

Before you start writing, curse like a sailor. Get angry. Be emotional.

Write something you’re passionate about. Have a good rant. Don’t worry about going too far.

There’s worse advice out there. After all, if you’re writing flat, your reader will be able to tell. Maybe move on to a particularly moving scene?

What’s you best writing advice for defeating the writing blahs and getting past a block?

About Lori Sizemore

Lover of nail polish, pens, her Kindle, and fresh coffee. She likes romance filled with messy, real characters and lots of snarky banter. Reading was (and still is!) her BFF; when she discovered writing she fell in love. Come for the snark. Stay for the story.

  • Our LATEST Buzz!

    Cyn D. Blackburn's Wrapped Up in You releases on November 13. *** The first two books in the Cupid's Cafe series were released in June by Lori Sizemore and Landra Graf *** Lori Sizemore's Infamous was released on December 14. *** Julie Jarnagin's Cowgirl in the Kitchen is available now. *** Bethanne Strasser LETTERS FROM HOME from Entangled Publishing is available now! *** Nina Croft's latest books, Her Fantasy Husband, a hot contemporary romance from Entangled's Brazen line, and The Order Boxed Set, a compilation of the three full length novels, plus a new novella, exclusive to the boxed set, both released in April 2016 *** Debora Dennis's holiday novella, CUPCAKES & CUPID is available.