Tuesday, August 28, 2012

FINDING THE STRONGEST CLIMAX with Martha Alderson, The Plot Whisperer

Sandra here to introduce to you a special friend I met at the Desert Dreams conference last April.  Martha Alderson is the Plot Whisperer.  She has a wonderful gift that helps the author bring out the best in their plot.

She wrote the book THE PLOT WHISPERER and if you've ever had a chance to study it, you will agree it is a terrific aide in developing plot.

I asked Martha to join us today because this week her new workbook is debuting.  It is a wonderful aide in applying the techniques taught in her book.  Martha will be donating three copies of her new workbook, THE PLOT WHISPERER WORKBOOK, to three lucky winners who comment or ask her a question today.

Martha, can you give us a sample of the kind of thing we will find in your workbook?

Finding the Strongest Climax 

In the buildup to the climax of a story, the protagonist must keep her wits and strength about her. She may enter the final quarter of the story relatively weak. When she meets with an antagonist who is stronger than she is, the protagonist still can be knocked off course. When that happens, she is forced to readjust her course and follow an altered direction toward her goal. Still, during the entire final quarter of the story, the energy of the story moves steadily higher. Even when she meets up with a stronger force and needs a change of tactic, she is steadily climbing upward toward her goal.

The stronger the pressure is against her, the greater the strength the protagonist gains when she confronts and overcomes that force. The greater the force is against her, the bigger the change in her direction. The more dramatic the change in direction, the greater excitement and anticipation in the reader and audience.

The amount of power and strength, confidence and esteem gained and lost by the protagonist at the end and the degree of change in direction toward her goal determines when the energy of the story is at its greatest. As she gains more and more strength, her interactions will weaken her antagonists and may result in the actual destruction of her foes (internal and external). Finally, the words she speaks and the ideas she voices are heard and, for the first time, actually make an impact. The stronger the foe being destroyed by the protagonist makes for a stronger climax at the end.

A story is all about relationships. How a protagonist interacts with others in the beginning and the middle of the story predicts the self-knowledge she needs to gain to prevail at the end. Her relationship with nature, friends, family, community, her faith—or lack thereof—predicts the self-knowledge she needs for transformation. How she interacts with herself is the greatest predictor of all.

The protagonist suffers in the middle of the story to gain strength and courage and to learn to trust herself. To withstand modification and alterations, the protagonist must assess her values and ideas she has been taught and her beliefs around those ideas. She must ultimately assess life itself and her part in it.

What Doesn’t Work

I am often asked what the #1 problem writers have with plot. My answer varies, depending on the most recent plot consultation or plot workshop I've just done.

Today I say as I have before, the #1 plot problem writers struggle with is the climax and resolution.
So much time and thought and writing goes into developing a compelling protagonist with a mysterious back story, deciding where is the exact right beginning of the story, how to make the action exciting and the book concept big, the details just right, the dialogue snappy, the setting exotic, the crisis disastrous.

I rarely (and I mean rarely) find a writer who has thoroughly thought out the climax and written the end quarter of the story as many times or more than the beginning.

Sure, writers bog down in the middle and thus the climax seems incredibly far away -- nearly out of reach. By the time a writer limps her way to the climax, the story is lucky to have an ending at all, much less an ending that is meaningful and different and leaves the reader satisfied and wanting more.

The end of a romance novel, even if it is for a teen, especially if it is for a teen, is so much more than... they lived happily ever after. You have been so careful not to use clichéd phrases, metaphors, settings and have worked to make every element uniquely your own. Why settle for a clichéd ending?

When a character rises in triumph at the climax, what does she look like, act like? In the resolution, what does the world look like now that she is new and different and transformed and has shared the gift she came to share?

Take an ending you're sure has no value and turn it on its ear. See the ending from a different angle or perspective. Write that.

Strive to give the reader something new and fresh and miraculous...

The Story End

That fabulous beginning of your story and that wild twist in the middle do not count nearly as much as to a reader as the end of the story. Sure, you hope she looks back and sees how everything is seamlessly tied together. In fact, what she’s going to think about first is how the story ends.

Readers and audiences are affected first and foremost emotionally by the story they read, whether the story evokes fear or anger, joy and celebration, or sadness and resignation. Connecting with readers emotionally to the point they become instinctively involved in the story is the dream of every writer. The best place to search for this emotional effect is at the climax.

Think Different
Look beyond the words and sentences and scenes to the deeper pattern of your story. Every protagonist begins a story wanting something. The real reason that she goes after what she wants never (or rarely) is her stated reason. In fact, at the end of the story the protagonist can, and often does, fail at her stated goal. The reader cares because she knows the protagonist has actually won what she wanted and all that really matters is herself. She has gained self-knowledge and because of that she has been changed and transformed.

After having all of her layers stripped away one by one as false or unreliable, the protagonist reaches the point where she either must break down and live an unlived life or stand straight and rely on herself. To do that, first she must find the self on which she can rely. This is why often in a story, the protagonist’s stated goal fades and is replaced by the real goal.

This is an excerpt from Martha Alderson, aka the Plot Whisperer, new plot workbook: The Plot Whisperer Workbook: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories – a companion workbook to The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master (Adams Media, a division of F + W Media).

She has also written Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple (Illusion Press) and several ebooks on plot, including one for romance writers.

As an international plot consultant for writers, Martha’s clients include best-selling authors, New York editors, and Hollywood movie directors.

She teaches plot workshops to novelists, memoirists, and screenwriters privately, at plot retreats, through Learning Annex, RWA, SCBWI, CWC chapter meetings, at writers' conferences and Writers Store where she takes writers beyond the words and into the very heart of a story.

As the founder of Blockbuster Plots for Writers and December, International Plot Writing Month, Martha manages the award-winning blog for writers, awarded by Writers Digest 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012.

Her blog, How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay covers 27 steps to plotting your story from beginning to end:

Sandra again.  Please check out the above links.  The last one, How Do I Plot a Novel features YouTube lessons to watch.

Find Martha on Facebook

Thank you again Martha for joining us today.

And don't forget to check the weekend edition to find out if you're a winner of one of Martha's workbooks.  It is wonderful.  I can hardly wait to start using the one I purchased.

I brought Martha's favorite treat---carrot cake with lots of yummy cream cheese frosting.  And to go with that we have a huge pot of chocolate velvet coffee, a selection of flavored ice teas (raspberry and green tea is really refreshing and so is the peach and chai),


  1. Hi Martha:

    What do you think about writing a ‘stand-up- and-cheer-I-can’t-wait-to-buy-the-author’s-next-book’ ending first? Then, knowing you have the best possible ending serving as a motivation, make every scene and action in the story support and lead to the inevitability of the already established ending.

    How many books have you read with this kind of ending? Think how many more books could have sensational endings if only they were the starting point and not just ‘the best you could do’ given the story that went before the ending. (Often pantsered.)

    I’m a last chapter writer first. As a plot expert, what do you think of this approach.



    Vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

  2. I love this take on plotting. It's something that I plan to take to heart, because usually I just have a flash of the ending, like a film reel that went by to fast. It's the beginning portions that I visualize almost in slow-motion.

    Thanks for this tip, Martha!
    the character therapist

  3. Sandra, thank you for introducing me to Martha.

    Martha this is an amazing post for someone like me who battles to write a strong ending.

    When my son was small he said if he wrote a book, he'd have the last page printed at the beginning and the end of the story because he liked endings. Maybe I should adopt his idea when writing my WIP and write and print out the last page so that I keep the end in sight as I go.

  4. Hi Martha,

    I'm so excited about your visit I "liked" you on FB and follow you on Twitter now.

    Reading over your post today, I discovered something I did right and a lot I can do better. So excited to discover you.

    Thanks for stopping by and I'd love to win today.

    Jackie L.


  5. Martha, welcome to Seekerville!!!!

    I'm heading straight for the CARROT CAKE, my fave, too! Clearly in a plotter vs. pantser world, we agree on the love of carrot cake as being the best thing ever!

    I will backtrack a little and say I always have my ending nailed before the middle is done. And then I tweak it, because I think Vince is right...

    How do you get there, if you have no idea where you're going? Great questions, Vince!

    Chocolate velvet coffee, carrot cake and delightful convo about plotting! As long as no one tries to convert me to story boards, charts, post-its (although I do love computer post-its!!!! LOVE THOSE THINGS!) et al, we're ready to rock!

    Sandra, can you pass the cream?

    Marth, how did you get yourself started doing this? Tell us more about how this all began.

  6. Good morning, Martha, and welcome to Seekerville! Along with Sandra, I got to meet you when we sat at the same table at Desert Dreams that first evening and I also enjoyed seeing you "in action" in your several meaty workshops! (I've also been going through your series of vlogs & taking notes!)

    Many of us here in Seekerville are writing romance of some variety--contemporary, historical, suspense or young adult--and many of our publishers like our stories to be portrayed from both the hero & heroine's points of view. So, TWO goals, etc. Do you have any tips on how to weave those into an equally strong climactic ending for both?

  7. Morning Vince, I'm sure when Martha comes on board she'll tell you that is exactly what she recommends.

    In her workshop at Desert Dreams she advises one to start with the ending and work your way back.

    I'll let her give you the details. smile

    And yes, its those endings that keep us coming back for more.

  8. Hi Jeanne, Isn't it fun how we all end up with a story but get there in such different ways.

    That is what I like about Martha's ideas. She helps you strengthen the story you came up with.

  9. Ruth Ann, That is similar to what Martha recommended in her workshop. If you have that ending in sight it strengthens your character development, goals, motivations, etc.

  10. Hi Jackie, Isn't it great when we find out we're actually doing something right?


    Love it.

  11. Ruthy the carrot cake is my favorite also. I had these baked for me from Fry's Bakery down the street. It isn't quite as yummy as yours but close. smile

    PS No one bakes cakes like Ruthy.

    And she writes great endings for a panster.

  12. Hi Glynna,

    You were the one who introduced me to Martha. Thank you.

  13. Hi Sandra! Hi Martha!

    Lots to think about in today's post.

  14. This is going in my Writing Tips folder.

    I am finding a lot of my little crises in my book do not add up to a big climax. This is going to help me rethink what I am writing.

    Thanks and off to "like" you too!

    Peace, Julie

  15. HI Rose

    Peace to you also Julie. Glad this helped.

  16. Sandra said:

    Ruthy writes great endings for a pantser.


    I'm trying to figure out if I should say "thank you" or throw darts at Sandra's picture, LOL!


    Thank you will suffice!

    In all seriousness, I am a pantser, but I have to go into a story with a three-chapter proposal, just like everyone else. And a synopsis. And I do know the ending before I do anything, at least how I see the ending happening, so my goal is set before I write page one.

    I think that's what Martha is referring to, and it's something we've talked about often. You can take the road less traveled, but you still have to arrive at your destination, right?

    And in romance, that's the HEA we all sigh over. ;)

    Sandra does like my carrot cake, though! ;) Phew!

    (still laughing in upstate!)

  17. WOW, MARTHA and SANDRA -- EXCELLENT POST and one that really nails it on the plot ups and downs!!

    Martha said, "A story is all about relationships." I couldn't agree more because especially in romance, for me, relationship is everything -- how the hero and heroine react/interact with each other on that roller-coaster called "plot"!!

    And I am SOOO relieved to have read the following statements you made, "(The Heroine) may enter the final quarter of the story relatively weak" and "during the entire final quarter of the story, the energy of the story moves steadily higher." Most of my novels really crank up in the last quarter, and I worried that might be too late to shift into high gear, like maybe it would be better to upshift halfway through, but your statement seems to indicate the last-quarter mark is okay?

    Thanks again for a great blog, Martha and Sandra!


  18. Howdy Martha, thank you for whispering.

    In my current story I have braided three character POV's. (A mother and her two sons.) Each character has a climax moment, the strongest climax is last. Should they all happen right after another (bam,bam,bam) or should I stagger them a bit?

    Thank you for your time and input and wonderful advice.

  19. This comment has been removed by the author.

  20. Wow. I can already tell that I'll be reading this post again. Thanks so much, Martha, for sharing your insights about plot.

    Like Jackie, I was thrilled to discover I'm doing at least one thing right. I'm also seeing how much I can work on. This is good. :)

    When you talked about the heroine, this section really made some things clear in my head: "After having all of her layers stripped away one by one as false or unreliable, the protagonist reaches the point where she either must break down and live an unlived life or stand straight and rely on herself. To do that, first she must find the self on which she can rely. This is why often in a story, the protagonist’s stated goal fades and is replaced by the real goal."

    Thanks so much for sharing your insights!

    PS--Ruthy, thanks for the chocolate velvet cake--could sure use some today. :)

  21. Ruthy you are tooooo fun to tease.

    And darts???? You've tossed those before and I still live on to tease you another day. chuckle chuckle

    And yes, Your cakes are to die for.

  22. Julie I love how your heroine's crank up at the end.

    That's what makes it so difficult when the book ends. I want more.

    And then you write another book and I get more. yeah!

  23. Hi Becky and Jeanne T,

    Martha lives in Pacific daylight time and its still early here. She'll be on board soon to answer your questions.

    Thanks for commenting.

  24. This sounds like a wonderful tool for writers! I like to consult writing books or articles online when I know the basic plot but feel like it needs tweaking to get the perfect twists and endings. So please put me in the drawing!

  25. I've really enjoyed watching Martha's video blogs. She has several series and I'm still gradually working my way through them. They're short and sweet so if you have just five or 10 minutes to spare you can listen to one. That's what I did one day when working on my next book proposal--I'd set the timer for periodic breaks to get up and way from the computer, but before I'd leave my desk I'd first log on and watch a video or two to give myself a mental break and something to think about on my walk. Good stuff!

  26. Okay - this makes TOTAL, TOTAL sense to me! And I didn't "get it" until I read it here. And I'm one of the "bad ones" who doesn't have her climax plotted out AT ALL.

    I am SO needing this. Thank you, Martha, for sharing this, and, of course, I would LOVE to win the workbook. Looks FAB.

  27. I am in the process of editing my MS and know there's something not punchy enough about the end, something's missing. That happened in the last MS I finished also. So this makes a lot of sense. I know where I want it to end, but the question is how to get it to be satisfying. And some of the YA books I've read lately end with a new book in mind. It's not really resolved, just ended so you buy the next book. That can be frustrating for a reader. I don't want to do that with mine. I used to think once you put the THE END on the paper you were finished. So not true!

  28. Hi Martha,

    Thanks for the insights on developing plot. I tend to have a good handle on the ending before I even start writing. Of course my characters often surprise me along the way, but we still all end up at the same place. :)

    Congratulations on your new release.

    Jodie Wolfe

  29. Hi all!
    So sorry to be so late coming to the party. I sure hope there's some carrot cake left for me...
    I delivered my next book to my editor yesterday and overslept this morning.
    Let me get myself a cup of tea, update my blot to send friends this way and I'll be back myself to comment on comments.
    See you all soon!

  30. Congrats on getting your book delivered to your editor, Martha! Tell us a bit about THAT one, too!

  31. ohhh yes, I'd love to hear about it as well. Its bound to be something beneficial to us writers.

    And yes, there's plenty of carrot cake.

  32. Thanks for the fabulous post, Martha. I love that you talk about how the goals can change. Sometimes, as the heroine grows, her needs change and she realizes the things she thought were important at first are not so important as her life story unfolds, but other things are very important. As she realizes key points about herself and her world, her goals can shift. I knew this, but never really thought about it so pointedly before. I can already see how this will help me improve a few scenes in the story I'm working on currently, and also tie some things together better at that very important ending. So glad you could be here today.

    The rest of your post is awesome also!

  33. Hi Martha and Sandra!

    Martha, you said "Connecting with readers emotionally to the point they become instinctively involved in the story is the dream of every writer. The best place to search for this emotional effect is at the climax."

    This is exactly what I've been working on in my own writing - plot, climax, protagonist's outward and inward journeys - all carrying the reader through the story emotionally tied to the protagonist. I see it when I'm reading, but I'm still struggling with it when I'm writing.

    And it's hard work, but oh, so rewarding! Your book is going in my Amazon cart...

    I'm going to be checking those links through the day, Sandra!

    Thanks for the Carrot Cake! Yum!

  34. This is really great stuff to keep in mind about the climax! (I went back and finished reading the post!) I definitely want to look at this closely when I get my next round of edits back! Which should be any day now!

  35. First things first. Thank you, Sandra, and all your Seekerville partners and friends. I've been excited about meeting your friends for months. Everyone is so nice!

    I love your approach, Vince. What I find most fascinating is the diversity in all of our methods as we each attempt to reach that one same goal -- to write a sensational story.

  36. Jeannie, I find that the beginning of things -- writing and otherwise -- is a much calmer and nicer place to hang out than the turbulence and discomfort of the middle and actual fear in the end.

  37. I love your son's idea, Ruth Ann!
    Jackie, I love how you speak about yourself -- completely accepting and positive.
    Uh, oh, Ruth, I teach a lot of my ideas using visual aids both of which could very easily be consider charts and post-it notes...

  38. Hi Martha,

    Your books sound wonderful. I so need help in plotting my stories. That's the part I struggle with. Obviously I'm a character writer first - and I always have great backstory for the hero and heroine. It's knowing what to do as the story progresses where I flounder!

    Would you recommend the book to go along with the workbook or can you use the workbook independently?

    Also, for romance writers, does your book specifically address our challenges?

    Thanks, Martha!

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca

  39. Hi Glynna. Nice to see you again!
    I'd plot out both characters' individual plot lines on one plot planner.
    See, this is what I'm talking about, Ruth. A chart, a graph.
    I have a hard time getting around without them because I'm such a visual learner. I learn best when I see the concepts and manipulate them, along with reading about them. My approach seems to work best with people who are pretty visual.

  40. I meant to add that I so agree about the endings.

    In so many books I read, the ending leaves me disappointed. The author builds up and up, and then in two seconds it's over! I want a bit more time with the HEA! (Probably why I love Epilogues).

    Give the reader a bit more to relish at the end - that's my motto!


  41. Julie, I think we're both talking about where she is emotionally when she steps over into the last quarter. She's just suffered the crisis a bit before the 3/4 mark where the story reached the highest point in intensity and drama in the entire story so far.
    A drop in action, then the steady build to the climax.

  42. Becky, I believe your answer lies thematically within the story itself -- if it's a high-action, fast-moving story from the start and continues that way throughout, then the choice of one right after the other in quick succession sounds right.

    If, on the other hand, your story is slower, perhaps the cause and effect takes a bit more of a set-up and thus the two scenes building to the ultimate climax build a bit slower, too.

  43. Hi Martha:

    I just love plotters! Having a plotting expert to question is too good an opportunity to pass up. I hope you don’t mind some more questions.

    As a reader (and big fan of romances that have great HEAs), I’m very interested in plot endings.

    It just seems to me that so much of plotting advice is based on the suspense novel. The paradigm is having ever raising stakes cumulating in an ultimate conflict resolution at the end. The great book, “Story: Style, Structure, Substance, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee seems based on this idea. (Even to the point of having the fate of the entire universe at risk at the climax).

    But this is only one model for arriving at a HEA. I don’t even think the raising stakes model is the most rewarding method for a romance.

    In a mystery, for example, the conflict could actually be the growing complexity of trying to solve the murder. The mystery can get more complex but not necessarily more dangerous or conflicted. Then at the end of the story the detective solves the crime with an amazingly clever solution which has the mystery fan stunned and cheering and wanting more! This takes the ultimate in planning. Sherlock Holmes is great at doing this.

    In a romance the HEA could be the combined result of having the plot and two unsuspecting subplots (the reader may have forgotten about these or just considered them unimportant loose ends) all unexpectedly producing multiple HEAs at the same time.

    Here you get the expected first HEA. You feel good and you think the story is over but then there is an unexpected second HEA! This makes you feel even better -- even more delighted. Next there is even a third unexpected HEA! At this point you want to stand and cheer. How clever, you think.

    Finally, to top it all off, there is a grand finale HEA in the Epilogue that doubles the emotionally enjoyment! What an HEA payoff! What a generous author providing so much extra desert!

    In New Orleans, they would call this generosity a lagniappe. I believe the romance plot should give readers a lagniappe HEA! It should leave the reader delighted!

    Then it should show the reader how to buy more books from the author’s backlist! (It is said that the last chapter sells your next book. I’m a marketing guy. I want to sell the next book. If writing a great ending does that, so be it!)

    An author told me once, “not every story can have such at a great ending,” and I agree; however, every book by an individual author could have one. That’s not many books compared to all the books that are published each year. But the author must start with an ending like this to make that happen. It’s not something one stumbles into.

    I write comedy and I like to compare this type of ending to the multi-staged joke. The comic tells a short joke and the crowd laughs and loves it. They think the joke is over and a new joke is coming. But instead the comic adds a second unexpected stage to the first joke and it makes the joke twice as funny because the crowd was not expecting it. The crowd even feels tricked for thinking the joke was over. Then the comic hits with the third, totally unexpected, phase of the joke. The crowd cheers and the comic pretends to leave the stage to signal that the joke now really is over. He comes back with a new joke.

    This multi-staged joke is very hard to write. But the audience loves it when it works.

    I’d like romance authors to think epilogue and lagniappe. Be generous with the happiness your story provides the reader who reads your romance because of the way it makes her feel.

    The author may be selling a plot with a story to the publisher but the reader is buying a basket of feelings.


    P.S. I just downloaded "Blockbuster Plots Pure & Simple: Take the Panic Out of Plot" for my Kindle so I’ll probably have a better knowledge of your plot ideas by tonight. : )

  44. Hi Martha,
    Oh, I have to get my name in for this one. I have been following you on your site.
    You have helped me so much with plotting.
    Thank you,


  45. Waving to Melanie, Dawn, Jodie, Bethany, Jan and Susan.

    Joanne don't you just love it when something all of a sudden clicks?

    Martha, Love all this feedback. Great info here.

  46. Great comments Vince, I'm looking forward to what Martha has to say.

  47. Martha, what an amazing post! Thank you. It just took me an hour to read it because I kept running over to my plotting notebook file to make notes on new ideas that hit me for my proposal! :)

    Sandra, thanks for having Martha! I'm heading to check out her blog, etc, now. I already own The Plot Whisperer but will check out the workbook and others you mentioned!

  48. Martha, I downloaded the sample of The Plot Whisperer to my iBooks and was so impressed with all the great info in just the sample! The table of contents looks super. It's definitely on my 'to buy' list as soon as I replenish my account :-) Would love to be entered in the drawing for the workbook to go along with the book.

    Terrific information. Thanks!

    Nancy C

  49. I love that, Jan, I can see it in books I'm reading and still struggle writing it. That you can see it is key. The more you see it, the more you'll see the build-up to each key scene and know how best to write it to meet the dramatic action, character development, and thematic significance parameters of your story.

  50. Thank you for asking, Sue, about how the two plot books work together.
    The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master explains the plot concepts needed to create a compelling plot and some of the many pitfalls when writing a complete story.
    From filling out forms and answering questions, plotting your story and tracking your scenes in The Plot Whisperer: Step-by-Step Exercises to Help You Create Compelling Stories you end up with the dramatic action and character emotional development and thematic significance to write your novel, memoir, screenplay.
    The next book in the trilogy that I just turned into my editor is designed to carry you through the actual writing of every scene when you're committed to writing a story from beginning to end.

  51. PS -- yes, Sue, several examples I use come directly from romance novels.

  52. Martha and Sandra! Thanks for great info today, and new how-to books to buy.

    I love that your process works best for visual folks, Martha, which I am. YAY! Plus, I have to know my ending before I start to write the story.

    Vince, loved your escalating comedic humor as applied to romance. I got it! YES!!!

    Suspense is often an easier sell for that escalting tension. Love when the problem seems to be solved and then the hero or heroine gets another punch to the gut that sends him/her reeling. Dragging out the emotion and the danger keeps me turning pages.

  53. I recently finished a book on plotting but like the conciseness of your writing. I would love a copy of your workbook!

  54. For the first time, I'm working on a WIP where I really don't know how it's going to end. I know that X will happen, but I have no idea how that will look blow by blow in the climax.

    So I'm in for the book drawing. Puhlease!

  55. I'm with you Janet, Missy and Nancy. Even her samples help.

    When she did her workshop at the conference, just that outline helped tremendously and yes, Debby, I'm a visual learner also so the visual aspect really helps.

    The line she draws in her book and workbook are great visual aides.

    And Susan the technique applies great for romance novel. All novels need plot.

  56. Hi Elizabeth, Her samples are helpful too. The blog posts are great also.

    Sally, I think you'll find it easier to write your book when you know the ending. It helps me anyway.

    The bakery sent another fresh carrot cake. I have iced tea to go with it.

    I added a platter of fresh fruit also. Peaches, nectarines, blackberries, figs, apples and pineapple.

  57. Yay! Just in time for the fresh carrot cake. Ready to begin partying. Tonight is the official release date launch party at our local Bookshop Santa Cruz. For a picture of the cake I brought to the PW launch party visit my FB page -- Sandra has a link to the page at the end of the post.
    Excited to see what the PWWorkbook cake looks like!
    The highlight of the evening though I'll also attempt to give 5 tips to immediately improve the plot of your story.

  58. Vince, I love what you wrote:
    The author may be selling a plot with a story to the publisher but the reader is buying a basket of feelings.

    So true. And so true about the necessity of rising conflict or the lack thereof.

    I go overboard about the conflict, tension, suspense and / or curiosity because I want writer to remember to keep the story exciting so the reader turns the pages faster.

    The idea of increasing the complexity works well. Multiple plotlines work well, too.

    A story is all about a character changing or transforming -- to do that, usually the character need to be challenged to change her ways. Challenges create conflict, tension, suspense and curiosity -- will she succeed or won't she?

  59. Martha's books have saved my writing!! I would advice any serious writer to pick them up and devour them. They've helped me organize and deepen my stories, which have always been tough to do for me.

    Thanks Martha!

  60. This book sounds like a MUST READ. I love the "basket of feelings" comment above. I'm going to try to keep that in my head when I'm writing :)

    So if I don't win on Saturday, I'm ordering this workbook for my current WIP. Thanks so much for today's post.

  61. Oh a launch party. We love to party here at Seekerville.

    Stephanie, I'm so glad to hear how these books have helped you. I bought them myself and look forward to improved plot and characters.

  62. Hey Martha, I went to your blog and couldn't find where to post a comment. Thanks for mentioning Seekerville in your post.

  63. Bless you for the food and the post!
    Thank you for the chance to win. I believe your book will be helpful!


    A good evening to you all!

  64. Wow.
    This is exactly what I need as I complete the final polishes on the story.

    Definitely another keeper!

    Thank you all!!!

  65. I'm always so struck by how passionate writers are to learn more about this craft we all adore so. As if the more we write, the more we come to appreciate how little we truly know.

    Thanks for everyone's comments. Always fun to hear about how writers feel about plot.

  66. Thanks for the excerpt! Just what I needed today.

  67. I'm a HUGE plotter, sorry that I came in late for the conversation, but I wanted to get thrown in the hat! Must get back to kiddos......

  68. Thank you so much for "spelling it out" for us. The entire aspect of writing can seem overwhelming unless it is laid out for us to follow. I think I have hit favorite on every Twitter #writetip so far.

    huntergerrard (at) gmail (dot) com

  69. Hi all,

    I'm off to our local bookstore for the book launch party. I'll check back in upon my return.

    Thanks for all your comments and kind words.

    See you soon,

  70. Hi Martha,

    Loved hearing your take on the strong climax. I usually have a good idea of how the story will wrap up, I just need to give it punch. By the time I've written three quarters of the book, I'm tired (and so are the H and H!!)


    I own the Plot Whisperer, and I think the workbook is an absolute necessary to go with it.

    It's been great catching up on all the comments. Great ideas, guys!

  71. okay, I'm commenting but take me out of the running for a workbook. I just bought one. (Obsessive plotter alert!) Great post and comments! thank you Martha and Sandra!

  72. Hey KC and May, woof woof Great to see you.

    Congrats on being at that stage. Best wishes.

  73. Waving to Ganise, Linnette, Melissa, and Audra

    Angela, good for you to Twitter. I haven't figured that one yet.

    Hi Debra, Good for you to order the workbook. I think we will enjoy it.

  74. Martha, Thanks for joining us today. It is always great to learn more about our craft.

    Thanks everybody. Check the WE this weekend for winners to Martha's workbooks.

  75. Late. Late. For a very important date.

    Welcome Martha and I know you are coming back in October for our birthday bash.

    Whoever saved me a piece of carrot cake I thank you.

    I am excited to get myself a copy of your book and workbook!!!

  76. I can see where I want to end up in my story, but I struggle with finding the inevitability in the conflict which leads to a solid, powerful climax that sweeps my characters and my story to it's resolution. I don't want to short change my readers, my characters, or myself. I hate trite endings, and I definitely want to capture the emotion of those moments, and that sweet, sweet tension that crescendos till it thunders to a great climax! I want to be able to deliver that. =)

  77. DBC, always look to the thematic significance, the deeper meaning of the sequence of scenes in relationship to the overall meaning of the story for answers.
    If the ending is thematically tight or tied tightly together you'll be delivering that which you wish for before you know it.
    Thanks to everyone. Sandra, I had a ball. Thank you.
    11:09pm PST. PWWorkbook successfully launched to a standing room only crowd and books sold out.
    Whew! what a whirlwind it's been.
    Sweet dreams...

  78. Sandra and Martha,

    Another great post from Seekerville!

    Like Julie, I have been worried that my climax came too late and too powerfully at the end but because it does, there's an element of surprise that works.... My husband (brave and noble champion that he is) read my 1st romance novel out loud to me so that I could hear it in someone else's voice and right near the end, he got upset when I called it a night just 2 chapters shy of The End and refused to stop reading because he had to know how it would wrap up. That made me think I was doing something right.

    Great insight into how to handle climax - loved it.


  79. Lots to look through here - fantastic stuff. Thanks Martha!!

  80. Hi! I missed last night's conversation but had to drop by to comment.

    "...the protagonist reaches the point where she either must break down and live an unlived life or stand straight and rely on herself. To do that, first she must find the self on which she can rely. This is why often in a story, the protagonist’s stated goal fades and is replaced by the real goal."

    That crystallized what I've been floundering to accomplish with my heroine. Thanks, Martha!

  81. Hi Martha! Love this post. I've been following your blog, bookmarking posts and absorbing as much as possible for a couple of years now. I see myself learning less about plotting and more about storytelling. Like when you say "Look beyond the words and sentences and scenes to the deeper pattern of your story." Thanks for another good lesson.

  82. I love the ideaa of writing the ending, at the beginning and end. lol
    Thank you so much for the wonderful and helpful blog article. I am sending my writing 15 year old grand daughter to check Seekerville out.
    She is great and beginnings that just
    drag you right into her story and make you want to say
    "hey, don't stop now, I want to know what happens next." lol

  83. I agree--finishing strong is the hardest thing for me as a writer, too. Please enter me!