Skip to content

Getting Organized

January 17, 2009

I feel a little weird writing this, giving any kind of advice on writing a book really, especially lately. My own productivity is way down, and though I tell myself it’s because I’m pregnant and its screwing with more than just my hormones, part of me worries that I’m making excuses for myself. Making excuses for not writing is something a lot of writers excel at. We’ve got busy families, day jobs, we had a killer day, we have a headache…

The list goes on and on really, and it’s just one of the ways we’re our own worst enemies. But if you really want to write that book, you’ve got to find a way to get past all those reasons that pop up and make you procrastinate, especially if it’s your first book. Once you’ve got that first one under your belt, at least then you know you can do it.

There are a lot of writers who spend an obscene amount of time on the same three chapters, or bounce from project to project without completing anything. I know how easy it is to fall into that “perfecting and polishing” routine. It took my four years to finish my first book. Three of those were spent (not seriously committed) rewriting the first five chapters over and over. It wasn’t until my first son came along that I realized I needed to finish it more than it needed to be perfect.

Before I ramble on any more, I’m going to jump right into some tips for starting and hopefully finishing a book.

1. Finish this sentence: What if…

What if a witch got roped into playing the girlfriend of a sexy detective who’s a serious pain in her family’s butt? (Say You’re Mine)
What if a demon slayer came face to face with the man who died in her arms? (Unbreakable)
What if a woman was saved by the city’s mysterious vigilante and didn’t know he’s the sexy neighbor she can’t stop thinking about? (Waitin’ on a Hero)

Your “what if” probably might not be as condensed as this starting out and that’s okay.

2. Characters. Every romance needs a hero and heroine. Some authors spend a lot of time fleshing out their characters before they start to write, others just dive right into the story and discover who these people are as the story unfolds. I’m a little of both. I like knowing the basics—physical descriptions, their job, their GMC (more coming). When I wrote my first couple of books, I did fill out the character questionnaires you can find online, but have since found it’s easier to get to know them as the book goes along when I don’t bog myself down with too much information.

3. Plot. The process of brainstorming your plot and executing it really varies by author. I started out favoring index cards. I just turned on some music and just wrote random scenes that flashed through my mind down on the cards. It made it really easy to shuffle those scenes around until I had the beginning, middle and end, complete with the turning points, cliffhangers and climax in between. The more books I write, the less thorough plot I need to see me through to the end. But I’m still a plotter. I’m open to surprises and scenes I never saw coming, but I still need to have a couple jotted notes about what is going to happen before I write each chapter. I have no idea how people sit down and write by the seat of their pants, but that works for a lot of writers. A lot of authors write start to finish while others tackle the scenes they’re inspired to at the moment and shuffle them around to fit later.

The key is figuring out what method works for you, and the best indication of that is whatever method gets you to The End.

4. GMC. Goals. Motivation. Conflict. Every character has something they want, a reason they “need” it and the obstacles that are preventing them from having it. They are a must. Otherwise, you won’t have much of a plot.  I’ve read a ton of articles on GMC, but in my opinion, the best way to learn about it is to read. Look at your keeper shelf and pull out your favorites. Look at what the hero and heroine are after (besides each other). A lot of the time their goals conflict with each other, creating that awesome thing we call tension. Your favorite books no doubt have a lot of external forces keeping the couple from getting what they want and from each other, and they probably have internal forces, which are usually even harder to overcome.

I’ll definitely be asking my editor to talk more about this in a future blog post. I know that every time we talk about GMC for a particular book, I come away with a stronger understanding of executing it. I guess that means you’re on notice, Lindsey. 🙂

5. Determination and Discipline. So you’ve answered that “what if” question, you have characters with concrete desires and motivation to get what they want. You’ve got lots of obstacles for them to overcome, lots of tension and conflict and you have an idea of where it’s all going to end–assuming you’re a plotter. 

But having all these notes and ideas does not a complete book make. This is where the hard part comes. The part that actually means plunking your butt down and writing. Some people need to do that first draft by hand, some wouldn’t dare try it without their keyboard. Whenever I do get stuck, I find the words do come easier with pen and paper. Or maybe that’s just because it’s harder to hit that “inbox” icon to check my e-mail when I’m using a notebook. 

You can research until you’re blue in the face and take a dozen creative writing classes or workshops, but at the end of the day, it’s your own determination and self-discipline that ultimately makes it happen.

6. Support. Every writer needs it. Even on a good day after achieving a killer word/page count, self-doubt still sneaks in now and then and cripples creativity. Tagging a writing friend or group online can help get you past those low moments and inspire you to push harder to reach your goals.

7. READ! The books you’ve fallen in love with can be just as useful a tool as any writing article. Instead of just reading about building characters, GMC, turning points, sexual tension and black moments, you can see how it’s done. It’s hard when you’re caught up reading a book for the first time to see how all the pieces fit together, but when you’re looking to see how specific elements come together, reread a favorite.

Hope that helps and good luck with starting and finishing your book. Feel free to leave a comment or question below if I can elaborate on anything for anyone.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. Anonymous permalink
    January 19, 2009 5:35 pm

    GMC is still in print and can be gotten from the publishers.

    Don’t pay high prices on Amazon!!

  2. Sydney permalink
    January 21, 2009 2:21 am

    Debra Dixion’s book is definitely a useful tool. Thanks for posting about it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: