27
AUG
2016

Assignment #4: GMC

Your next assignment goes hand in hand with assignment 3. GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) is another peek at into the mind of your character. It’s also a great reference point to make sure each scene is moving the story forward based on these things.

I’m going to be honest and say I have a really hard time wrapping my brain around GMC before I write. I can tell you the GMC of any of my characters in books I’ve already written, but when it comes to characters I haven’t written yet or am writing now, I just can’t get GMC to work for me. That’s not to say I don’t know them in some roundabout way, because I do and it’s what I work toward while writing. But condensing it into three key pieces before the book is done is really difficult for me. If this is you, too, that’s okay! I’m a firm believer in trying new crafting tools, but not forcing anything that’s obviously not working for you.

That said, I have a lot of friends for whom this works fantastically, and you might be one of those. If that’s the case, let’s get down to it.

GMC is really very simple at its base. It consists of:

S/he wants X (goal) because Y (motivation) but Z (conflict).

My friend, Ellis Leigh, likes to use this very basic example:

He wants to get laid (goal) because it feels good (motivation) but his pants are in the way (conflict).

She also says, “But that example is super shallow. Some GMCs should be deep. Like, if a character wants to be married, the writer needs to unpack that. What does marriage represent to them? What is it that fuels that need? There’s a base desire at hand, more than love. Usually it’s something like security (physical, emotional, financial).”

I have smart friends.

So delving deeper into your characters’ goals and motivations could come directly from the character questionnaire you filled out, or vice versa. See how all this stuff works together?

For a more in depth look at GMC, check out Debra Dixon’s book. It’s something I own and a book that comes highly recommended. This blog post also goes much more in depth on GMC and may be helpful to some of you!

If you have a favorite GMC reference, don’t be shy! Share it in the comments.

26
AUG
2016

Assignment #3: Character Questionnaires

In case you missed the first two assignments I posted last year, you can find them on my blog. Assignment 1 is on beat sheets (super important for everyone, as I’ve yet to have a mentee who didn’t need help in some form with pacing. It’s a very common problem.) and assignment 2 is on finding a CP (also super important so you can find your tribe). For this assignment, we’re going to talk a little bit about character questionnaires. What they are, how they work, and why you need them.

character questionnaireWhat are they?

They’re pretty simple. It’s a list of questions you answer as your character. If you google character questionnaires, you’ll find loads of examples on questions you can use. I have a total of 300+ questions covering almost twenty pages. Yes, it’s a lot, but it has always helped me get in the mind of my characters. I use Scrivener and a couple years ago tackled the project to break them down into categories for ease of finding the answers I need at a later time.

How do they work?

The idea is to answer the questions rapid style (remember playing the word association game by saying the first thing that came to mind? That’s exactly what you’re doing here.). You don’t want to think about how your character would answer it; you just want to answer it. Another cool tidbit: the questions you leave unanswered sometimes tell as much about the characters as their actual answers do.

Why do you need them?

For one major reason: deeper and more consistent POV. If you know your character inside and out (which you will by the time you’re done answering these), you’ll have an easier time portraying that on the page and you won’t get as easily stuck when you come to a part in the book in which you’re not sure how your character would react.

I fill this out for my hero and my heroine in every single book I write. It’s a lifesaver for me and allows me to fast draft novels because I’m so in tune with how my characters think and act.

Any questions? Leave me a comment or head over to Twitter and fire away. And if any of you are super hardcore, Type A writers and want my ridiculously long character questionnaire, leave me a comment with your email and I’ll send it along. For the rest of you, just google “character questionnaires” and combine/cut/edit till your heart’s content to get something that works for you.

13
JUL
2016

Writing Tips & Tricks Catch-all

Now that this is my third year mentoring for #PitchWars, it’s getting a little difficult to gather up all past info I’ve shared. I figured it was a good idea to put it all in one place, as much for me as for any writers out there who are interested. While some posts are specific to Pitch Wars (and marked as such), most are relevant to all writers on their publishing journeys.

I’ll continue to keep this updated with any new tips and tricks I post, any blog posts that are relevant, etc, so feel free to check back regularly. And, as always, I’m available to answer questions on Twitter. (Please remember the underscore when tweeting me. The non-underscore WriteAsRain doesn’t like to be bothered, to put it mildly. LOL)

Editing:
Dialogue
Garbage/Distancing words
Beat Sheets
Formatting your MS
First chapter do’s and don’ts
Showing vs Telling

Synopses:
Yes, You Need One (Pitch Wars specific)

Random:
Critique Straight Talk
Find a CP
It’s Okay to Say No
The Power of Perseverance
Are You Ready (Pitch Wars specific)

Miscellaneous Writerly Things:
Ten Things I Wish I Knew
Finding the Perfect Agent (for you)
The Road to Publication: Twitter Question Style
Do You Really Know Your Characters?
Every Step is Worth Celebrating
So You Feel Like a Fraud, Huh?

 

04
SEP
2015

Assignment #2: Find a New Critique Partner

If you completed the first assignment, you might have uncovered some issues in your MS. If you didn’t, one of two things have happened: A) you already have a good handle on pacing and know how to work it in your own stuff. Yay! Or B) what you think are your beats aren’t actually your beats, which means something isn’t going to add up for your readers.

So how do you find out if you’re A or B? Enlist new CPs (Critique Partners). The second assignment I gave my mentees was to swap work. Why? Several reasons. First and foremost, it builds relationships. My CP and beta readers are my rocks and people I absolutely could not do this journey without. Finding those people and nurturing the relationships are good for this career. Besides that, the more you read and the more you help others with their books, the easier you’ll be able to see those same errors in your own and fix accordingly.

How do you find CPs? Well, right now is a perfect time to throw it out on the Pitch Wars hashtag. I’d also like to propose you use #PWCPSeek. Hop over to the hashtag, post your category, genre, and hook, and see who would be a good fit. I suggest you swap with at least two people. Three is even better. Having multiple opinions help you see if it’s a subjective opinion (1 person comments), something to seriously consider (2 people comment) or something you really need to work on (3 or more comment).

Next up? Should you take that feedback or not? How to decide what to take and what to leave from the comments your new CPs give you. This will be up sometime next week to give you guys time to do your homework!

03
SEP
2015

Your First Assignment: Beat Sheets

As I mentioned on Twitter, my lovely Pitch Wars mentees this year, Lisa and Suz, gave me the thumbs up to share with you some of their homework assignments. That way, those of you who didn’t get picked can whip your MS into shape as best as you can. (Please note, this doesn’t negate the necessity of CPs and/or beta readers!)

I’m going to post the homework assignments here on the blog, in separate posts, as well as tweet about them. Some will be super short, so don’t expect a novel every time you come here. These will be posted after my mentees have been given them, and will be done when I have a spare minute to do so.

Your first mission, should you choose to accept it: Beat Sheets.

I know not everyone likes them. I also know some people are plotters and some are pantsers, and those who are the latter get terrified at anything like this. And that’s totally okay. However, it means nothing to me in this stage.

You’ve already written the book in whatever fashion you preferred, whether you used a beat sheet or the snowflake method or a cocktail napkin. Regardless, now it’s time to see if that actually worked for you. Enter the beat sheet.

A very common problem in manuscripts is pacing. Every story needs to follow an arc. I am going to be only talking about romance novels, because that’s what I write and that’s what I mentor. If you write something else, google beat sheet. I’m sure you’ll have no problem finding one for your specific genre and category. For all you romance junkies, here’s the one I like to use from Jami Gold.

The reason I want my mentees to do this is so they can see in black and white where issues might be. Once you fill this out, adjusting it for your book specifications, you’ll be able to see if there’s an issue within your book. Your points (or beats) should fall within a 10-15 page range, I’d say. And if they don’t? There better be a damn good reason for it. I’m always a fan of breaking away from rules when warranted, but this is not one of those rules. 99% of romances follow these beats for a reason–it builds the right amount of tension for the characters and the readers. Of course, there are always exceptions to some of these beats (first kiss and first intimate encounter, specifically), but never on the conflict, black moment, and resolution. Or at least I have not read a successful example of it.

Another very simplified way to look at beats is: 25% for first kiss, 50% for first intimate encounter (I’m being so proper for you guys…), 75% for the beginning of the end, 90% for the black moment/all is lost, and then the resolution.

Once you’ve got those filled out based on your MS, you’ll be able to see what, if anything, needs changing and can adjust your MS accordingly. Let me know in the comments or on twitter if you accepted the challenge and what you learned!

Up tomorrow: I don’t know. Come back to find out.

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