Las Vegas Romance Writers, a chapter of RWA.
PLOTTING YOUR BOOK
Don’t let plotting intimidate you. Following are a few useful tips.
Read published books in your preferred genre. Put on your writing cap and jot down notes about the construction of each chapter. How did the author end the chapter? Did they include a hook that would keep the reader turning the pages? Does his/her chapter have a beginning, middle and end? If there is a complete change of scene, is there a smooth transition?
Determine the events that you want to include in your novel. How will your main character address these events? What or who keeps her/him from reaching their goal? What can you write that will keep the book moving? At this point, don’t worry about what your character eats, wears, or other mundane details unless it’s essential to the plot.
Consider creating a synopsis to use as a plotting tool. If you have a picture in your mind of how your book will proceed, plot it out chapter by chapter. This doesn’t mean that during the writing process that other ideas might emerge that will make your plot more interesting, but it will prove to be a guideline.
Know how your book will end. This is important. It will provide a goal while writing your novel.
Remember the four C’S. CONFLICT---COMPLICATION---CRISIS---CONCLUSION
HOW TO PREVENT THE SAGGING MIDDLE
Once you’ve determined the structure of your story, don’t linger on any one plot point longer than you need to. Tell it well and move along. The scenes in the middle of your book should heighten the drama. Keep it to the point and don’t allow yourself to wander off into sub-plots that don’t move the action. This is a good place to introduce your character to their worst nightmare, and then lull them into a false sense of security. Sometimes the plot leads somewhere you haven’t preplanned. That’s okay. Keep it fresh. For those of you who are “Pantsers,” if the plot is unfolding as you write it, make sure you’re surprising yourself. If you don’t experience surprise as the writer, you won’t relate it to the reader.
LET’S WRITE THE BOOK
Now that you have the outline, open your book with a sentence that grabs the reader’s (and Editor’s) attention. That first paragraph could make a difference. Carefully introduce the time, place, setting and your main character, but don’t spell it out like a job interview. Decide whose point of view you’ll use. The first chapter is a good place to introduce your character’s flaws. Humanize them. No one likes to read about Miss Perfect, but they enjoy reading about someone they can identify with. Hint at the main character’s goal. What is the tone of your book? Romantic? Humorous? Supernatural? Dark? Mysterious? Be subtle, but prepare the reader for the plot and suggest the conflict.
Know everything about your characters. Make a list. This information will keep you, the writer on track. Nothing stands out more than to write in the first chapter about “her clear blue eyes,” and later mention, “her brown eyes grew darker...” Or, “he put the top down on the convertible, but later “backed his truck out of the driveway.”
In a romance novel, the hero and heroine should meet within the first three chapters. This is a good place to write the first conflict. Ask yourself, what could happen. Add inner conflicts and struggles. Life doesn’t always run smoothly so magnify the events in your character’s life. Allow for redemptive moments, but don’t solve everything immediately. Don’t judge your characters, but allow them to make mistakes that maybe you wouldn’t do. The transfer of emotions moves from the writer to the characters and on to the reader.
Write the first draft. It doesn’t have to be perfect…it doesn’t even have to flow at this point, but get your thoughts down on paper. Write every day, even if it’s only a few sentences. DON’T EDIT. I know that’s difficult, but editing can come later, and believe me your finished book will look nothing like your first draft.
Once you have the first draft down on paper, question every scene. Have you added the five senses to your scenes? Adding scents, sounds, sights and tastes to your novel will make it vivid and come alive. Close your eyes. Can you see the scene? Are your descriptions clear and concise? You know what you mean to say, but will the reader? How about the use of repeat words or unnecessary explanations? Did stay in the character’s POV or did you head-hop? Did you write deep POV? Show not tell?
Be ruthless with the delete key on your computer. Cut out the scenes that don’t push the story forward. Did your main character grow or change? Did you give your villain an ever so slight redeeming quality? In a romance novel, always create a happy or satisfying ending.
Tips: Resist the urge to explain everything. Give your reader some credit.
Action before reaction.
Avoid author intrusion. You can only write what your POV character sees, feels, tastes or hears.
Revise, revise, revise.
Show, don’t tell. Write deep POV.
Don’t make your story predictable. Life isn’t.
Don’t use exclamation points. Your writing should relate surprise and irony.
The shorter the story, the more important each word becomes.
Know the rules of writing before you attempt to break them.
Use strong verbs, and eliminate the unnecessary adjectives and adverbs.
Skip the constant ‘she said, he said’ when there are only two character in a scene.
Find an honest critique partner or group.