My Must Haves – when beginning a new book Part I

This blog is for fellow writers.Library

I’ve just finished writing one book and must now begin another.  Whenever I begin a new book I panic.  How the heck am I going to get the story dancing around in my head onto the computer screen?  Where should I begin?

Many years ago the San Diego chapter of RWA offered a bootcamp for authors, which sounded like it would solve all of my “start the book” problems, so I signed up.  It was an intensive weekend and I learned so many useful things, many I still use. They concentrated on Laura Baker and Robin Perini’s Story Magic. If you’ve never taken a class on Story Magic plotting method, I highly suggest you do.  In the San Diego Bootcamp, we covered character examinations and profiles, character archetypes (Thanks Tami Cowden and Enneagram personality types) and they asked each participant to come prepared knowing the character’s overwhelming strength, fatal flaw, quirks, contradictions, fears and beliefs.  In other words, your characters needed to be fairly well fleshed out before showing up. Tough weekend, but well worth the effort.  I worked on my current self-published book, which has finaled and placed in several contests – ONE FOR THE ROAD.  One_for_the_Road_final_2500

Laurie Schnebly gives a fantastic online class on Motivation, which includes life lessons, how to build conflict and so much more.  Finally, she boils the entire process of motivation down to fourteen fill-in-the-blank question/answers for each character, which overlaps the course of the plot. She also makes this gender specific. I highly recommend taking this workshop, if you struggle with starting or finishing your books.

Lyn Cote does an annual online class on Conflict which pits the hero and heroine against each other in seven steps, each completely necessary in building the characters in a satisfying novel.  This class is a gem!  I used the Lyn Cote conflict grid method (which is similar with variations to the SD bootcamp form) when plotting The Medic’s Homecoming, and to date that book has required the least amount of editorial input of all of my books.


Then there’s Jenny Crusie’s conflict grid.  A box divided into four parts, protagonist on the top half and antagonist on the bottom.  Top and bottom left side boxes are their respective goals.  The boxes to the right are their respective conflicts.  Each box/goal must be in direct conflict with the other character. If in doubt with your WIP, check it out with this important exercise.

There are so many methods out there, it makes my head spin!

Susan Wiggs describes conflict as having the characters bump up against each other in the plot. Her summing it up is short, sweet, and perfect.

Beginning to see a pattern here?  Conflict. Motivation. Goals.  We cannot overlook these important factors when we begin our stories, otherwise we will cause ourselves undue heartache somewhere around chapter three to five.  That stall-out can derail the rest of the book leaving us walking away in defeat.  To be honest, the lack of conflict in a book is detectable in chapter one.

So how do I mix all of these ingredients together in my writer’s caldron and wind up with a well-seasoned book?

Stay tuned.  Next week I’m going to explain.

Lynne’s big news of the month:  My third Special Edition, and the first book in a trilogy set in a storybook-like town with a secret, has been accepted and will be released July 2014. I’m told the editors are down to two potential titles.  I’ll keep you posted as soon as I know which one they choose.

More exciting news.  One for the Road is now available for NOOK!  YAY.

P.S.  I am sitting at 47 reviews for One for the Road at Amazon.  I am told 50 is a magical number that helps the book with discoverability.  If you’ve read this book and haven’t reviewed it for Amazon, I sure would appreciate your help.  If I ever find out what the magical number fifty does, I promise to share!

Until next week, Part II of the Must Haves blog, make it a great one!









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2 Responses to My Must Haves – when beginning a new book Part I

  1. robena grant says:

    Hi Lynne:
    I love this list and it’s great advice. I’m familiar with all of the suggested techniques except for Lyn Cote. I’ll have to check her out. Congratulations again on the forthcoming Special Edition, hope you get a fabulous title. : )