Tag Archives: Lori Devoti

Mastering the Art of the Semi-Plot: A Tale of Plotting Gone Graveyard

Today my goal was to outline my entire story.  From beginning to end.  A bold task that required getting up early and focusing by planting my butt in a chair for the time it takes to drink a venti passion tea.  Three hours later (I savor my drink, ok?…I got lost in social media, ok?), I had at least figured out the “want, motivation, but” for my protagonist, that wasn’t difficult.  But I got stuck on my antagonist!  I know what he wants, but I have no motive, and without that motive I can’t outline major turning points!  Damn it all to hell!  Excuse me, I needed to get that off my chest.

If I lost some of you at “want, motivation, but” it’s a plotting tool I learned at the Writers Institute by the wonderful Lori Devoti.  Lori is a paranormal romance author and if you want a great deal on e-books, she’s running one on her blog right now.  What Lori showed us at the conference is a chart where you list what your character wants, which needs to be the goal of the story so it has to allow growth in your character.  For example, someone’s goal might be to save her marriage.  After you’ve named the goal, you have to know the motivation behind it.  What is it that drives the goal for the character?  What is the best thing that could be if they get their want?  And finally, you put the BUT in there.  The obstacle that prevents them from achieving their goal.  For example, if the goal was for the character to save her marriage, but her husband dies, her motivation and goal become something different, possibly about creating a better life for her child.  Lori’s advice was to draw up this chart with the protagonist and the antagonist side by side because as much as you can pit them against each other with conflicting wants, motives, buts, then the easier it will be to plot them against each other.

Today my problem is that I haven’t figured out my antagonist’s motive yet.  So I decided to stop staring at a blank piece of paper and definitely STOP getting lost in social media world, and do some research for the book to get my brain spinning again.  So, I spent the better part of an hour walking through a graveyard.

Part of my walk in the Oak Grove Cemetery

No, no, this wasn’t a suicide mission.  Not in the slightest.  It’s the main setting of my story, and I thought a stroll through my character’s world would help clear up the muddy bits.  Despite the fact I had to hide my camera from the protective groundskeeper who kept driving past me while I sauntered around, it was a productive visit.  I got several great shots that will help me create scenes in the graveyard.  And best of all were the names!  Many of the graves in this cemetery are from the 1800’s and the names and variety in the tombstones was something spectacular to see.  I also found the FREAKIEST tree that may or may not make its way into the story (I’m almost too creeped out to write about it).

I still haven’t quite nailed down a motive that doesn’t leap beyond the borders of “yaah, right, Witkins!” so I’ll keep working on that.  But I still consider this a productive day that will help me when I am scene building.  I mean, look where I was!

I like the way the different kinds of trees overlap here. Each a different color and texture.

What do you think?  Any advice for this stuck writer?  What helps you sculpt your characters and outline better?

Also, don’t miss out on a chance to win a free book!  Read my review of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, leave a comment, and you’re automatically entered to be a part of the World Book Night Giveaway!     

The Do Re Mi of Conference Attending

I took the next step this weekend.  I invested in myself, and attended the Madison, Wisconsin Writers Institute Conference.  I got lost in the city with its one-way streets, froze by Lake Mendota in 40 degree weather, and hammed it up with some really great writers.  I love it here!

The conference was exactly what I needed.  The breakout sessions alone gave me all the tips I needed to improve the book I’m working on.  I found some holes in my story, but that’s good, because now I can work on them.  As one attendee put it, “Well, they’ve given us all we need to know to write a successful book, now it’s up to us.”  I tried my best to attend a variety of topics so I could improve my plotting skills, learn about non-fiction, learn about the publishing business today, and along with that how to write query letters and synopses.  There was such a plethora of people I met and am excited to now know.  What I loved about this conference is how many hands on exercises the speakers had us do.  And from that point, it was up to us what we did with that material.  I pushed myself to participate a lot and challenge myself.  So I shared work a few times, I asked smart questions, and I even volunteered for an improv activity.  Jess Witkins, Acting Extraordinaire…  Anyway, I’m so glad I did.  I met more people because they came up to me and told me they loved my voice, what I wrote, and apparently, I’m FABulous at improv.  😉

Lori Devoti

The speakers at the conference came from across the country and were able to speak to a variety of genres/writing styles.  Lori Devoti is a paranormal romance writer who hosted a plotting party at the conference.  It must have been her magic wand waving over me at the conference because I got paired in the best group for our plotting exercise.  We had so much fun talking about our projects and all of us started marketing them for each other.  Which reminds me, I’ve got a theme song to work on…  Ok, back to Lori, she’s amazing!  She talks fast, she’s shows you the basics, and then she puts you to work.  Her workshop on character was also so helpful.  If you’re struggling with any characters in your own works ask yourself these three questions:  What do they love fearlessly?  What haunts them?  What do they think they cannot do? — Now, make them do it.  See what I mean, she’s brilliant.  So simple, and so sound.  Thank you, Lori!

Josie Brown

Josie Brown is a women’s lit fiction writer and HUGE advocate for social media.  I felt good knowing that none of the terms the panels were using about social media were new to me, and I’ll give all that thanks to Kristen Lamb, Social Media Expert!  Kristen, I wrote in your name and blog site on the evaluation sheet as a person to bring to future conferences.  Please come to Wisconsin!  The last panel on sunday discussed the writer’s role in digital media and Josie was so knowledgeable about the importance of creating an author brand before you seek publishing.  I was able to ask some questions and she really gave me some concrete ways to use my blog and  my twitter account and my facebook to get my VOICE out there and she continues to do this with her own blog.  I really appreciated the encouragement.

Ted Weinstein

I chose not to pitch to an agent at this conference.  I’m simply not ready.  My story isn’t developed far enough and I had too many unanswered questions MYSELF that it didn’t make sense to pay for 8 minutes of rejection from someone ELSE.  But Ted Weinstein is the man!  He was one of the agents meeting with writers working on non-fiction books.  If I were ready to pitch my memoirs to an agent, I would want Ted on my side.  Ted sat on panels and did his own session giving writers an inside scoop on what agents are looking for.  His feedback was depressing and honest and invaluable.  And I mean all of that as a high compliment.  He emphasized that as writers, we have to look at this path as a career and be professional about our publishing plans, i.e. how do we plan to market ourselves, because the publishing houses aren’t going to do it.  Not unless you’re writing the next Oprah Book Club Book, but that’s right she’s retiring! Nooooo!  Seriously, if I hadn’t listened to Ted speak I wouldn’t know what to expect when it came time to publish.  For example, ask the agent your pitching to what they’ve recently published?  Don’t you want an agent that is successfully selling people’s books on the market?!  I think Ted is a rare gem in the world of agents, a man who wants to help his writers with their careers.  Careers?  Jess, you mean we could potentially make a living from writing?  *Borrows Lori’s magic wand* Yes, dearest writers, you can feed yourself and your families by writing for a living, you just have to be somebody famous first.  Which takes us right back to Josie, use your blog, your facebook, and your twitter account to show the world YOU.

Are you following me?  No I mean that literally, SUBSCRIBE right now!  I’m not going anywhere!  I just claimed my area of expertise, check it out in my newly edited About page.

Your turn!  What are the areas of writing you are working on in your path to publication?  Are you already published?  Share with us what got you there!  How have you been shaped by other authors, reading them or meeting them?

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