"A Candle Loses Nothing By Lighting Another Candle" - Father James Keller

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Pulling from our writing libraries...

Well, it’s our last day here on Authors By Authors. Thanks again to Kiki for having us. We’ve so enjoyed participating in the blog. Later this evening, we’ll draw a winner from all the people who commented for a $20.00 Amazon Gift Certificate. Check in after 10:00 pm EST.

Since this is a blog site for authors, we decided to spend our last day talking about books that have helped us with our writing careers.

Books from Donna’ s shelf:

I have quite a few books on writing craft. One I find myself going back to time and again is Debra Dixon’s GOAL, MOTIVATION & CONFLICT. Sometimes I know something’s wrong with what I’ve written, but I just can’t put my finger on it. A quick run through of Dixon’s GMC will usually point out my problem. Most times, my character is acting out of character. Go figure.

Another book I find useful when plotting a new story is Christopher Vogler’s THE WRITER’S JOURNEY. It contains a roadmap the story should follow in order to be successful. I use this as a guide to plot my beginning, middle, and end and the scenes in-between. It’s a tough concept to grasp, but after you work with it a while, it’ll become second nature.

After I’ve drafted a bare bones outline of my story, I’ll use Jack Bickam’s SCENE & STRUCTURE to flesh out the first draft. Bickham breaks story parts into Scene and Sequel. A scene contains a Goal – what the POV character wants, Conflict – what keeps the POV character from achieving that goal, and Disaster – what complicates the POV character’s situation. I actually create an outline that details each of these parts. I ask myself – what is my POV character’s goal for this immediate scene that will help propel him/her toward the story goal (story goal is created with Dixon’s GMC. See how this all ties in together?) I then think of problems/conflicts to the scene goal and finally a disaster. I color the Heroine’s POV parts in pink and the Hero’s in blue. That also helps me see if I’ve relied too heavily on one POV or the other. Then there’s the Sequel which follows the scene. This is also broken into three parts, Emotion – The POV character’s first reaction to the Disaster, Dilemma – the POV character’s review of options to the disaster, and Decision – the POV’s character arrives at a decision to get back to the overall story Goal.

So there it is. Donna Dalton’s method of getting story from idea to paper. I hope you’ll find these books as useful as I have.

Books from Shara's shelf:

I have a library of craft books that I often don’t finish, because I am a “pantser” (someone who just writes before figuring it all out) and reading too much about craft when I’m writing just makes me want to quit writing. I do find myself reading a lot of books about inspiration, writer’s block, and “finishing the damn novel.” Things don’t hang me up on what’s wrong with the novel, they help me push forward with it instead.

To this end I find this piece of advice from Revision by David Michael Kaplan very helpful. “You’re pages into the story and discover that your main character or characters are the wrong age, or sex, or occupation or whatever… Don’t worry about going back and changing everything to match up with their new sex, age, occupation, diction, whatever. You’ll do that in the next draft.” This book doesn’t focus on punctuation, grammar, passive vs. active—other books do that. It’s when I really have to revise content that I turn to this book.

But to learn, check, and fix grammar and punctuation, as well as sentence structure, active voice, etc. grab a copy of The Elements of Style by Strunk and White and hold on to it. Do not lend it out. I’ve had to re-buy this book many times after realizing it wasn't going to be returned.

Write Away by Elizabeth George is a sink-your-teeth-into-it kind of book (and I love her Inspector Lynley novels). “All suspense actually is is that state of wanting to know what’s going to happen to the characters and how it’s going to happen to them… But if a novelist is doing her job, no matter what kind of novel she’s writing, it contains suspense because it contains characters readers care about.”

Okay, this book—Passionate Ink by Angela Knight—features erotic romance, but it presents the basics (brainstorming, the story question, GMC) in a bold and interesting way. “The external conflict is a sort of anti-romance that makes the romance shine brighter by contrast. The villain’s brutality and selfishness emphasizes the heroes’ love and self-sacrifice….By standing up to him, the heroes show they’re heroes.”--I hadn't thought of it this way before. And this is one I always try to keep in mind when ending a story: “For a satisfying climax, the hero must be directly involved in whacking the villain.” And “whoever the villain hurt the most should have a role in killing him.” More than once I've realized that I have the wrong person as hero or the wrong backstory or focus (which is just plain aggravating).

So this is our last post for the week, other than choosing the winner of the Amazon gift card. Thank you for joining us. I hope you had fun—we certainly did.

Check back tonight for the winner!




  1. Shara and Donna,

    I have definitely enjoyed your blog time. I enjoyed learning about your books and all the discussion questions. You both seem like enjoyable ladies to be around. I have already added your names to my TB pile.

    P.S.- Donna, I am going to be looking out for Her Rodeo Man :)

    Thanks Kiki for having these two guests. I have enjoyed it.

  2. Thanks Judy, for joining us this week and all your thoughtful comments. Her Rodeo Man is with a beta reader, and once I get her comments back, I plan to submit it to Harlequin Romance. Keep your fingers and toes crossed for me :)

  3. I want to add our thanks to Kiki for hosting us this week. It's been a great experience.

    Judy, it's been a pleasure having you hang out with us this week!

  4. Your comments have been fun to follow. I love Shara's "Finding Mr. Right Is Murder"! I reviewed it for JERR. I wish more authors were as dedicated to their craft as you two-it would make reviewers' lives much easier!

  5. Hey Marcy--you rock! Always love my JERR reviews. I relate to reviewers when I judge writing contests ;-)

  6. You too, Shara! I LOVE reading/reviewing your books! My only problem is that you guys don't write as fast as I read :0!

  7. Sorry about that--a serious downfall of mine :)

  8. Tsk, tsk! You are not the only writer with that downfall!

  9. I went back and read your previous posts. Some great info. I'm currently reading Angela Knight's Passionate Ink myself. I love her online workshops. She's a great instructor.

    Good luck with all your books.

    Beth C.

  10. I love all the books you've mentioned, they are excellent. I also like Julia Cameron's Artist Way just for the renewal it brings. Another favorite is the pocket guide Idiot's Guide to Grammar. I have found it to be a lifesaver.
    Great post, thank you!

  11. Thanks, Ladies, for a fun time! I've enjoyed checking in with you this week.

    Thanks, also, for the list of resources. GMC is on my list, too.

  12. I find it very interesting when writers talk about their writing process. It seems that as many authors that there are that many different ways they go about the process.


  13. Beth, I had taken two of Angela's online workshops before PI came out, which made me extremely excited to get it.

    Jennifer, I really like Wild Mind for renewal, too. I've got half the pages bookmarked and the other half highlighted.

    Debra--You're welcome! We're glad you joined us.

  14. Larena--that's so true! And I think it's very important for new authors to realize that when they get bombarded by how-tos and must-dos. It's very demoralizing when you try to write one way and can't do it and don't realize your way was just fine.

  15. I have to recommend On Writing by Stephen King. But I have Angela Knight's Passionate Ink book, too. I haven't spent much time reading writer's craft books, but I have attending conferences and workshops. I think they help tremendously.

  16. I have loved reading the blogs. I love it when authors say the books that inspire them!



In accordance with the new FTC Guidelines for blogging and endorsements, Kiki Howell of An Author's Musings, would like to advise that in addition to purchasing my own books to review, I also receive books, and/or promotional materials, free of charge in return for an honest review, as do any guest reviewers.