Using Your Resources Wisely To Get StartedOkay, I had a Girl Scout meeting yesterday, and the Using Resources Wisely is part of the GS Law (Girl Guides for my friends outside the US). Today I'll be talking about the resources for getting your story started, but at the end of the blog entry...a little something about using all those resources wisely. By the way, I'll give away a book from my backlist - details at the bottom of the post.
I was asked the other day how I began a new story. Since the first time my fingers hit the keyboard to now (some 10 books later) my stories have always started in my head as a scene with dialogue. From there, I write the first chapter or so, then move onto a loose synopsis.
I do not fill out character sheets, do hero and heroine interviews or do long plot diagrams timelines and such. Does this sometimes get me in trouble - yes. But I find out who my characters are as I write, and so I keep a word doc at all times next to my wip at all times where I jot down notes such as - Ian's eyes are brown. Ava never spent any time in the US...that kind of stuff.
Do I think the character sheets/interviews/plot diagrams are important? Yes. When I first began writing, I used absolutely every one of those kinds of things that I could find. I'd buy them, go to RWA meetings and get them as handouts and attend workshops. As someone who could very easily be a professional student...these things were like gold to me. I don't use them now...but for the most part, I think that is because I took what worked for me, made it my own and internalized it.
That is your challenge now. Find out what works for you and make it your own (you don't have to internalize it - that's my right brain thinking telling me I don't NOT to use all those worksheets and things to keep me saner). If you missed the right-brain/left-brain discussion - you can click here.
So, there are a lot of resources out there. I'm going to list some of the ones I found invaluable, and please join me by listing your resources in the comment section - I'd love to see what everyone uses!
It's been mentioned before, but I think this book is so very, very good, I can't NOT mention it again - Goal, Motivation and Conflict by Deb Dixon. Hang around a bunch of romance writers long enough, and you'll hear GMC mentioned a dozen times. I find it in contest judging sheets and I've even found myself wondering what a person's GMC was when they go off and do something completely bizarre!
Two more books that I think really complete a writer's how-to bookshelf are both written by Jack Bickham. Scene and Sequel and 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes: (And How To Avoid Them). Honestly, if you could make a check-list of the 38 and review your manuscript next to each one - that's half the battle right there.
To get your ideas generated try The Writer's Brainstorming Kit by Pam McCutcheon and Michael Waite. Pam also has a lot of free writing tips on her website which you can access here.
The last book I'd like to recommend is on characterization and specifically - archetypes. The Complete Writer's Guide to Heroes and Heroines 16 Master Archetypes by Tami D. Cowden, Caro LaFever and Sue Viders has all you'll ever need on the subject.
Okay, so on to worksheets. For plotting, the first system I used was by romance author Carolyn Green (some call her the Plot Doctor). There's also Discovering Story Magic by two romance authors Laura Baker and Robin Perini - they give a great workshop you can usually catch at conferences. Another intensive workshop you might want to look into is Break Into Fiction with Mary Buckham and our own Noodler Dianna Love Snell (there are a lot of great, free articles on that website, too!).
Speaking of free - there are tons of free resources out there. A quick google search is all you need, but some favorites of mine are Leigh Michaels' Characterization Worksheets, which you can find here. Leigh also has extensive worksheets on plotting.
Many, many authors have articles on their websites. (Often they're asked to write articles for their local chapter newsletters.) Look up a favorite author's website and see what they have. Two favorites of mine are Virginia Kantra and Stephanie Bond. Plus, if you're already a member of Romance Writers of America you have at the click of a mouse a whole host of articles in the Member Only section. Check out the Pro Career Booklets and Keys to Success.
Okay, so now I'm back to using your resources wisely. There is too much help. There is too much information. There is no magic bullet out there. There is not one tip, one piece of advice one anything that will automatically get you published. Sometimes we spend all our time (and when I say we I mean a great big I as in Jill) looking for the next great bit of information that will suddenly make writing easy.
There won't be. Easier, but not easy. Okay, when they have the device that takes the ideas directly out of my head and puts them on paper in an understandable fashion - then it will be easy. But until then...use your resources wisely.
Don't let your resource gathering take time away from your actual writing.
1. Think about your own weaknesses as a writer. Is it plotting? Is it characterization? Match the resources out there with what you'd like to focus on.
2. Determine how much money you want to spend on books. If your budget is tighter, ask for these books as gifts, or look at Stephanie Bond's list of quick 49 cent downloads - her articles on Self-Editing are particularly fantastic!
3. Don't use not having a particular book/worksheet/tip as a crutch for not writing. Not writing is the surest way of not selling.
4. Find out what works best for you, and do it. Don't feel you have to use someone else's system to a t or even at all. My way of writing probably only works best for me. Also, be aware that as your skills and experiences change, so will your writing. You may want a characterization worksheet for Book # 5 and never used one before and might not again.
Okay, so share a favorite resource. Or just say how you work on getting started. I'll be giving away a book from my backlist chosen from the commenters (drawing at 8am CST Thursday morning - look for the winner in the comment section).
You can also read all about Ian's brown eyes in Primal Instincts, which should be hitting the shelves in just a few days as a February 2008 release!
Primal Instincts has received a 4 1/2 star Top Pick from Romantic Times - I couldn't be more excited! "Sizzling-hot sex, compelling characters, humor and a dual plot make Primal Instincts (4.5), by Jill Monroe, a book you can't put down."