Thursday, August 7, 2014

Troubleshooting Tips for Problem Plots

Good morning, Everyone! Audra here. Plot is the most difficult aspect of writing I've encountered. How much of this? How much of that? And what was I supposed to throw in a pinch of? OMG, starting a book always has me trembling in my boots. And then one day, the good Lord took pity on me. I discovered Rock Your Plot and haven't looked at plotting the same since. I've invited Cathy Yardley to join us in Seekerville and give us some plotting tips. 

Are you having trouble getting the plot for your novel worked out? I’ve worked with people in various stages of their novels, and the thing I hear most of all is – well, “Help!” 

Sometimes, you have a great picture of a hero or heroine.  Maybe you’ve got a sense of the opening.  Perhaps you can clearly picture several scenes, some action, a fantastic setting.

Then, that whole pesky plot thing gets in the way.  You might know how it ends, but you’re not quite sure what happens in that vast wasteland of the middle.  Or you sense that your pacing is slow, repetitive… but you’re not sure how to speed things up and fix the problem.  Scenes may not seem to flow well.  You may have too many characters – or maybe you suspect you don’t have enough.  Should you add a sub-plot?  Condense a few secondaries? How do you decide?

Here are a few troubleshooting tips to help you hone in on what might need fixing, and how to repair it.



1.       Check your protagonist(s). 

Who is this story about, and why will the reader care?  If you’re writing romance, that generally means you have a hero and a heroine.  You’re going to want to write plot points for both of them, to weave together into the story.  You’ll also want to make sure that the reader cares enough about them to follow them along on the novel’s journey.  It doesn’t mean that they have to be likeable, necessarily.  It does mean that they need to be interesting, or empathetic, or larger than life.  Think of some of your favorite protagonists by your favorite authors if you’re looking for inspiration.

2.      What does your protagonist want?

This is the “goal” portion of the “GMC” equation, and it’s crucial.  Look at any back cover blurb or book description, and the goal of the book is clearly stated. 

-  “Jack Ryan needs to stop the terrorist.” 
-  “Lucy Smith just wanted to make her cupcake store successful.” 
-  “Darla Kaine returns to her old home town to bury her past.”

Whatever the goal, it needs to be something tangible, something where you know when the character has achieved it.  “Bury her past” is, admittedly, a bit murky.  But if you then clarify in the story itself that Darla’s goal is to prevent a specific secret from coming out, and that means convincing a reporter who has followed her to bury a story, then her goal is clear:  convince the reporter.  Can you think of what your protagonist clearly wants?

3.      Why is your protagonist’s goal important? 

If you’re having trouble figuring out what to do with your plot, it may be because you haven’t set a large enough goal to begin with.  Let’s say your protagonist’s goal is to win a pie baking contest. That could be cute, or interesting, but it’s not necessarily enough to turn pages.  An easy way to test this is to ask:  if my protagonist does not get her goal, what is the consequence?  If there isn’t a consequence – or if your protagonist simply won’t be very happy – you might not have enough at stake.  With the pie baking, if your heroine made a deathbed promise to her mother, that would be much higher stakes and a much stronger reason for winning the contest than “because she likes pies.” 

4.      What’s standing in the way?

Conflict is one of the biggest challenges for writers, new or experienced.  We love our characters, which can mean we don’t want to see them go through a lot of pain!  But conflict is crucial.  It’s the tempering process, the catalyst that helps your protagonists grow and develop their way through their character arcs.  No pain, no growth!  A handy tip:  write a list of twenty things that can make your character’s goal even harder.  The first ten things tend to be cliché.  That next ten? That’s where you’ll strike gold.  Finally, don’t just threaten bad things – actually have bad things happen to the character.  The threat is often not enough.

5.      Is your ending satisfying?

If you’ve been ramping up the conflict and the pacing, delivering a satisfying ending is crucial.  But maybe you’re not sure how the story is supposed to end.  Or you might find yourself forcing situations or relying on coincidence or luck to get your protagonist out of his/her problems.  For a satisfying ending, you want the character to use what she’s learned on the journey of the novel to get to the ending.  Ask yourself:  how do I want my protagonist to be different at the end of the novel, as a result of the conflicts she’s been through?  Make sure that the protagonist has a hand in the resolution.

Where do you have the most trouble when creating your story’s plot?  Leave a comment, and get the chance to win a one hour “plot session” phone call with me, complete with recording and notes! 

Audra here. I can't help but raise my hand and say, "Pick me! Pick me!" LOL. Cathy's method of plotting turned my writing world around!! As an extra bonus today, I'm adding 3 additional ebook copies of Rock Your Plot! Check the WE to see who gets to work out their plot with Cathy and who gets her ebook : )

I also want to let you know that Cathy and a number of other writers are raising funds to help mothers with young children attend a writing conference. The full bundle of what they're offering can be found here:  http://www.writermamas.com.  Having an 8 year old son herself, she understands how difficult finding the money and juggling the responsibility can be. Don't we all! Check out the website, the bundled offer is phenomenal!


Cathy Yardley is the author of seventeen novels, published with Harlequin, St. Martin’s, Entangled, and Avon. She is also a teacher, editor, and writing coach at her website, RockYourWriting.com. Sign up for her free e-course Jump-start Your Writing Career, and check out her e-books on plotting, revising, and writing every day!  

78 comments:

Marianne Barkman said...

Thanks, Audra for bringing Kathy. I'm not a reader, but find it enthralling, and the novels so much more meaningful, to learn more about your craft!

Lyndee H said...

Hi Cathy,
You have provided a wonderfully clear example of goals our writing should contain. You just may have gotten through my thick skull!

And thanks for the opportunity to win a call with you. What an amazing prize!

Hi Audra,
Thanks for telling us about the Mom's writing program! I will certainly check out that website.

Mary Curry said...

The timing of this is too funny. I've been deep in plotting madness for the past two days, every time I think I have the problem resolved, I think of some reason it won't work. Definitely count me in for the drawings.

Thanks for sharing your advice today, Kathy, and thanks Audra for bringing her.

LeAnne Bristow said...

Love this post! Plotting used to be the bain of my existence. I've been using the 6 stage plot structure (Michael Hauge) and it has completely changed the way I look at plots. That being said...I love your breakdown and can't wait to apply it to my current WIP. Please put me in for the drawing!

Glynna Kaye said...

Good morning, Cathy, and welcome to Seekerville! Audra's mentioned the "Rock Your Plot" book several times recently, so I just HAVE to find the time to get it ordered!

I have TONS of "ideas"--but it's the converting them to a full-blown story WITH A PLOT that is always the challenge for me. :) And since I write on proposal now, I have to work all the GMC and structure details out in advance for a synopsis and 3 opening chapters in order to get contracted. So thank you for the additional tips!

Audra Harders said...

Good morning, Marianne. You are such a great friend of ours, I love opening up the secrets of our writing world to you!!

Audra Harders said...

Mornin' Lyndee! I agree, Cathy's generous prize of a hour of coaching with her stunned me! I love her methods of plotting and revising.

Certainly broke through MY thick skull, LOL!!

Audra Harders said...

So glad our timing is working in your favor, Mary!

MY timing is awful today. I'm in the middle of our County Fair right now, so I'm hoping to pop in and out today as I have access to a computer.

I know Cathy is in good hands in Seekerville!

Audra Harders said...

Don't you just love it when you find something that works, LeAnne? Michael Hauge definitely makes you think through the wheres whys and hows of your plot to the end.

I've found I'm a "backwards" writer. I put in enough elements of my plot to find the HEA, and then write the story backwards.

I know that probably doesn't work for anyone but me, LOL

Audra Harders said...

Mornin' Glynna! If I sold on proposal, I'd be pulling my hair out to try and write the book I actually sold. LOL!

Stay on track girlfriend, you're doing a great job!

Jackie said...

Thanks Audra, and welcome Kathy.

I've begun thinking of my next story and started taking notes. This is perfect timing for me. Thanks for sharing!

I'd love to be included in the drawing. Thanks!

Janet Dean said...

Welcome to Seekerville, Kathy! Thanks for the excellent post. I need the reminder to make my hero and heroine's goals and motivations strong enough to create conflict and keep readers hooked. That requires the brainstorming for depth you suggest instead of stopping with the easy first ideas that come.

Thanks, Audra, for bringing Kathy today! The prize rocks!!

Janet

kaybee said...

This has nothing to do with plot -- or it has everything to do with plot -- but I just found out that me, Walt and Myra just finaled in the Georgia Romance Writers Maggies! Myra in published, me and Walt in unpublished. OH, I could get hit by a bus and this would still be a good day.
Kathy Bailey
Feet not touching ground in NH

kaybee said...

Kathy, yeah, Pie baking! That's the kind of thing that gave romance novels a bad name in the 50s and 60s. They are much more complex now.
These are good points for me to ponder as I move to my next WIP and let the current one "rest." I'm off the Oregon Trail and in to 1920s New York City. With Prohibition and all there's plenty to plot with, I just have to make it plausible. I am going to Rent-A-Mobster this afternoon and see what I can find out.
I would love a phone consult, please put my name in drawing.
I found my mug shot, now I just have to figure out how to attach it to this.
It's Always Something.
KB

Glynna Kaye said...

KATHY B. AND WALT! Congrats on the Maggie finals! (I'd already sent Myra congratulations, but I'm congratulating her in Seekerville, too!) Good going everyone!

Myra Johnson said...

CATHY! What a delight to have you with us today! Great tips on troubleshooting our plots!

The point that really grabbed me is creating significant consequences if the protagonist fails to reach the goal. If the response to a failure is "Oh, well . . .", I know I need to ramp up the stakes.

kaybee said...

I THINK the plot I'm dealing with now is working, She's an Irish girl in the Oregon Territory to find her brother and make him come back to Ireland to avenge their family, brother refuses and she asks the man she's falling in love with, He's a hardened drifter who's been on the run for 19 years after witnessing a brutal rape and murder, He refuses to go back to Ireland with her because He thinks it's a fool's errand and He also doesn't want to avenge her dead fiancé, They are at loggerheads about this and She determines to go back without Him, just when the enemies from His past begin to close in on Him again.
I use a variety of methods in plotting, all knit together by the proverbial "make it worse" -- and the even more proverbial, "Make it make sense."
Kathy B.

Mary Hicks said...

Kathy, this is a wonderful post, thank you!

I'm in the middle of my novel, and Just when I think I have it all 'plotted' out, I hit a snag.

Please drop my name in the pot! :-)

Myra Johnson said...

KATHY and WALT!!! I am in such great company! Congrats to you both!!!

Um, can we just skip over being hit by a bus? That doesn't fit into my plans for today. ;-D

kaybee said...

Well MYRA that is a good book and it deserves to win, let alone final. And I'm not just saying that because I won a free copy from Seekerville.
KB

Mindy Obenhaus said...

Oh, my goodness. You had me in mind when you wrote this post, didn't you, Cathy? I bet my picture was tacked right up there on your computer because I SO NEEDED THIS TODAY!!!!!

I've got the end of the story ready to go. I always struggle with where to start a story, but I made it through. Now I'm in the middle of my story and I can feel it trying to sag. But along comes YOU with some fantastic exercises--although they might be a bit painful--to shore up that sagging middle.

SCORE!!!!

I am printing this out now, grabbing my notebook and heading to my writer's gym, aka my thinking chair. :D

Cathy Yardley said...

Thank you so much for the warm welcome! It's been a pleasure posting here on Seekerville, and I'm glad that you guys find the plotting tips helpful. Plotting is my form of sudoku -- I absolutely LOVE helping authors find their plot points. I also love talking shop with other authors! :)

Cathy Yardley said...

Also, congrats Kathy B., Myra and Walt! The Maggies are phenomenal -- well done!

Myra Johnson said...

"Writer's gym," MINDY???

There is such a thing???

And it involves a chair???

Mindy Obenhaus said...

Myra, it's that's place we go to for a mental workout. Mine happens to be my favorite chair. I mean, hey, if my brain is getting a workout, at least my body can be comfortable. :D

Tina Radcliffe said...

Welcome, Kathy and boy is this a timely AND helpful post.

I'd also like to know more about your writing series of books and your young mom writer mentorship program.

Jeanne T said...

This was fabulous! Thanks for sharing all of this, Cathy. I especially liked the idea of making a list of 20 things that make it harder for my characters to achieve their goals. I'm doing that one today. :)

I'd love to be in the drawings, both for the plot session and for the book. :)

CONGRATULATIONS to Kathy and Walt for finaling!!!!!

Cathy Yardley said...

I've written four books in the series -- ROCK YOUR PLOT, ROCK YOUR REVISIONS, ROCK YOUR QUERY, and WRITE EVERY DAY. They're short and sweet, and they walk you through exercises to help you either define your plot (and come up with a scene outline, if you're willing), or give you a process to approach your revisions, and then a template to query an agent/editor and write a synopsis. The last book helps you figure out what's really stopping you from writing every day: whether it's time management, energy management, fear, or process. The fundraiser is to get some writing mothers of young children to the Writer Unboxed Un-Conference in November -- if it's successful, we may be able to expand the effort. We're selling several ebooks and courses for 50% off retail -- the bundle is $100. It includes my Painless Promotion course, which isn't available yet, and which walks you through how to figure out how to create a promotion plan. I'm also offering my editing services for 50% off to anyone who buys the bundle! You could use that on any one project, all the way to next July if you're not quite ready yet. If you all could help me spread the word, I'd really appreciate it! http://www.writermamas.com

Sandra Leesmith said...

Hi Cathy, What a great post and great tips. Thanks Audra for bringer her here.

Thanks for coming to Seekerville Cathy. Have a fun day.

Pam Hillman said...

Such great tips! Thanks Kathy.

I love to plot it all out, but it's executing that plot that gets me! :)

Off to execute someone... uh... something.

Meghan Carver said...

Make a list of 20 things that could happen? Brilliant! Thank you for the help, and thank you, everyone, for your honesty in the comments. It always helps to know you're not alone in a problem. :-) Even if I don't win a copy of the book, I'm buying it anyway. Kindle for $2.99? Can't beat that...well, except for winning. :-)

Amber Schamel said...

Goal, Motivation and Conflict is a book that TOTALLY changed my writing. I'm one of those that had a ton of conflict happening to poor characters, but the characters ended up being like ping pong balls with no clear goal or motivation.

I would love to win Rock Your Plot. I'll have to check that one out regardless. I'm always on the lookout for good writing books. I have a learning obsession. lol

Amber Schamel
Bringing HIStory to Life
www.AmberSchamel.com

Ruth Logan Herne said...

My breakthrough plotting came from AnnE Goldsmith, former Tyndale editor. What a great lady! She told me to always ask "Why?" and then show why a character would do something....

And then the "what if" of the situation, how to deepen the moment.

Those two things help me to plan through the emotion (Like Mary Said Monday!!!) of the story by having the characters' actions reflect their "why?".

Why is he really angry?

Why does she care about the dress?

Why did he long for a normal home and family?

Why did she keep herself that little bit aloof, out of the mainstream?

Why doesn't he look left and right, but always straight ahead?

Ruth Logan Herne said...

MUST BAKE.

Audra Harders said...

Kathy B, Walt, Myra! Congrats on the Maggie Finals!!

Couldn't happen to a more deserving bunch of folks : )

Audra Harders said...

Cathy, I love hearing about the extras offered over and above the wonderful fundraiser bundle.

I've got to start searching for extra $$.

DebH said...

hi Cathy
bought ROCK YOUR PLOT after Audra's last post. Reading through it now (yay). I'm the Queen of Sagging Middles *sigh*. I think that is what happened to my Killer Voice entry (still waiting to hear back on that...).

put my name in the draw - i know i could use plot point help. i shall be bookmarking your website post haste.

thanks Audra for inviting Cathy. thank you Cathy for your generous spirit of teaching/helping.

have i mentioned lately how big of a blessing Seekerville is?? well, HUGE blessing - thanks ladies.

DebH said...

p.s.
congrats Kathy B., Myra and Walt on the Maggie finals. that's awesome news!!!!!!

(please, no under the bus accidents, 'kay?)

Jan Drexler said...

Oh, this is fabulous. I have to get this book!

I'm at the very beginning of a new story and am ready to tackle my hero and heroine's GMCs today. So this post is perfect.

Thanks, Cathy!

Audra Harders said...

Who's ready for Fair food?? Concessions are open and I'm bringing foot-long all beef hot dogs, healthy turkey and ham wraps, and the most awesome milk shakes you've ever had!!

Of course, I'll be dropping in with ice cream cones all day, so put in your order : )

Jeri Hoag said...

This has been incredible I am studk right now because of my plot I can't seem to figure out why protagonist wants to do things, but I do know where it ends. I just don't know how to get them their. I also think my pacing is always slow. I have great scenes but not tendons to connect them. UGH! Thanks for the post Jeri

Jeri Hoag said...

sorry about the typos I was just excited for my comment to be entered into the drawing. Thx!

Vince said...

Hi Cathy:

I have an important question for you: “Will you do an audible version of "Rock Your Revisions"? I have both your “Rock Your Plot” Kindle book and the audible version. I read the Kindle book and now listen to the audible file at work when I am doing physical things like getting orders ready to mail out. Since I bought the Kindle book, the audible version was only $1.99. I see you have a audible file for “Write Every Day” but not “Rock Your Revisions” – which is the book I need the most at this point. I have several WIPs that are languishing for the lack of revisions.

BTW: your voice on “Rock Your Plot” is far better than many of the professional narrators that I’ve heard. It felt just like you were talking to me alone and not reading anything from a script. I’d love to attend one of your live workshops. Are you going to hold any near Tulsa anytime soon? If anyone wants to hear an excellent narration, they should listen to your Audible sample. It is an extended sample and it is informative.

Now, I’d love to have your take on my view of conflict. I often have different POVs on many old writing chestnuts. I’m a plotter who likes ‘backstory’ (which can often be more interesting than the front story) and ‘telling’ (which can move the story ahead ten times faster than showing does and has the potential to invest the reader in the story much sooner.)

There are best selling writers who don’t believe in keeping the reader disorientated and unknowing as the story progresses as a way to keep the reader turning the pages. Rather, they prefer to fully invest the reader in the story at once and then rely on their exciting writing to keep the reader reading. I’m with them. Keeping the reader in the dark is like giving your live audience caffeine to keep them awake. Use your exciting presentation to keep them awake! (This is said by someone who has given over 3,000 live seminars.)

"If this be heresy…

There are many ways to keep a reader reading besides the use of conflict. Think of these many ways: humor, information, inspiration, dozens of reader rewards, beautiful poetic writing, wisdom, vicarious travel, inside access to hidden worlds and professions, experiencing the vicarious feelings of being loved, appreciated, needed, valued, feeling the achievement of success, personal growth, insightful ways to face and solve problems, etc. Conflict is but one arrow in the author’s quiver.

Start with an inherently interesting and ‘plot rich’ initial state. Next create your story to be a page turner without the need for the conflict. Then, after this enrichment is in place, add the conflict. In this way, the conflict acts as the fuel that drives your reader’s luxury limousine and not just as the rocket your reader has to sit upon.

Conflict is a one trick pony. It’s like a loud siren blasting in the night. To keep your attention, hour after hour, the siren must increasingly get louder. While the reader may well wonder what all the noise is about, the blasting soon becomes both boring and annoying.

“Conflict is the heroin of heroes and heroines.” (with apologies to Marx.)

…so be it".

Martin Luther, Diet of Worms in 1521

Vince

Myra Johnson said...

Sitting quietly in a comfortable chair to think about my story . . .

That is definitely my kind of workout, MINDY!

If only my bathroom scale would agree. :(

Cathy Yardley said...

Wow, Vince! Thank you so much for commenting. To take them in order:

1) "Rock Your Revisions" will come out in audio this year -- my producer's working on it as we speak. Thank you for your kind words! It's been a surprisingly fun process.

2) I don't do much in-person teaching at the moment, because my son is 8 and it's hard to juggle time away. Much as I love writing, family's first! :) But hopefully as he gets a bit older and more independent, I'll start speaking and teaching again.

3) RE: your take on conflict... I often say that there's no One True Way to do anything writing related, and this can be the case. I know it can be reductive to say "stop with the backstory dump" and "add more conflict." And I agree, you don't want unrelenting STUFF to keep hitting your protagonist. (A friend of mine calls that "falling asleep at the edge of your seat." ) But conflict doesn't have to be explosions. I think that's a mistake most authors make. Conflict simply needs to be believable, increasing obstacles, with additional stakes. Why it's important -- nay, crucial -- and why it's currently not possible. That does need to happen in every scene in a genre novel. I stand by that.

And as fascinating as a backstory can be, it's a matter of presentation, too. I find that most people who "info-dump" their backstory don't present it in a compelling way. It's the difference between going with someone to Paris and taking them to your favorite places, versus showing them your selfies in Paris and telling them about your favorite places.

Backstory tends to be introspection. Which brings us to the 'telling vs. showing" which you touch on. I think that telling can be useful when you need to adjust pacing. Sometimes, too many details can be as damaging as too few! But as with so many things, it depends. Telling me about a character isn't going to be as effective as showing me his personality in action.

Finally, this advice really is more applicable to genre fiction, rather than literary fiction. Genre readers appreciate a certain structure, but still love being surprised while maintaining that same structure. If you can do something as "stock" as a romantic comedy, but still have them wonder how you're going to pull it off, and then pull it off in a way that surprises them believably and delights them... then, you're truly exercising your craft. :)

Natalie Monk said...

Hi, Audra! Hi, Cathy!

I'm reading "Rock Your Plot" right now and am checking each of my plot elements as I go. Great stuff!

I love what you said about conflict, with the first ten ideas falling flat but the next ten being gold. I struggle with the falling flat stuff! :) I'm going to try this exercise right now!

I'm a scaredy-cat when it comes to talking on the phone, but go ahead and enter me for the phone chat, since I'm determined to get these plot wrinkles ironed out.

Cathy, thanks for coming today and sharing these tips! Thanks for inviting her, Audra!

Mindy Obenhaus said...

Myra, unfortunately, while the mental workout is fine in the easy chair, we can't get away from the physical workouts. If only...

Cathy Yardley said...

It is tough to balance the physical and the writing "exercise," isn't it? :D I've found a dog (two, actually!) helps with both. They demand walks, then sleep on my feet to make sure I stay at the keyboard.

Sandy Smith said...

Please, please enter me in the drawing for the plot session with Cathy! I would also love the book. I am getting back into the novel I started plotting a long time ago. i am ready to get serious about working on it. I know what each character's basic problem is and where I want them to end up, but I am like everyone else and unsure what to do with them in the middle.

May the K9 Spy (and KC Frantzen) said...

Seems so simple and yet...

Back to the basics. Thanks for just the post I needed! Would love to be entered for the drawing too.

Appreciate your being here, and thanks Audra for inviting her!

Debby Giusti said...

Cathy, thanks for providing such great advice today! Plot is tough. So is conflict. Heck, writing a book is hard work. Your tips help ease the process.

Waving to Audra. Thanks for sharing Cathy with us today!

Jeanne T said...

MYRA, I am so sorry I missed congratulating you earlier for your final as well! It's always fun to see Seekers get recognized! Congratulations!

Cara Lynn James said...

Thanks Kathy for your wonderful post! I always run into problems during the middle of a story even though I know what is supposed to be there.

I just bought your book this morning and already it's given me really helpful ideas.

Audra Harders said...

Hi Kids, just checking in from the Boulder County Fair. Isn't Cathy wonderful? Keep the questions coming while we hold her captive today!!

Cathy, any advice on how to keep your characters on task? Seems like every single one of my characters, especially my heroines, tend to have severe ADD.

Could have something to do with their author, right???

Cathy Yardley said...

Yes, please, ask anything! :D I really do love to talk shop.

Audra -- re: "ADD heroines", it is important to keep your protagonists on track. Putting her GMC somewhere clearly visible, and then checking your scenes to make sure each somehow ties into following either the external or internal goal, helps enormously. If a scene doesn't, see if you can combine it with a scene that does. I'm all for multi-tasking in scenes! :D

Becke said...

Mercy was this timely. I'm preparing to plot my WIP. I so needed this.

Thank you, thank you
b

Terri said...

Oh wow, I'm just going to say it. Pick me! Pick me! Lately plotting has been killing my stories. EVERYTHING you mentioned above. I'm taking some time to really study the plotting process. Reading this post made my day! Thanks Cathy for sharing your knowledge and Audra for introducing me to Cathy's book and website.

Vince said...

Hi Cathy:

Thank you!

Yours was one of the most comprehensive and thoughtful responses I’ve ever received. I’ll be looking for “Rock Your Revisions” to come out in audio. I might even record it myself (for my use only at work) and then compare how I stack up with your presentation. : )

Seriously, given your professional narration, I thought you were out giving workshops all the time.

BTW: I really loved this quote:

"falling asleep at the edge of your seat."

I wish I would have written that. Great visual mental images make a concept so much more memorable.

About my ideas: I’m not an absolutist. I am just trying to break through absolute dictums like “Show, don’t tell.” And while I know ‘conflict’ is necessary, it is not a ‘necessary and sufficient’ condition of a successful story.

Just imagine how wonderful a book would be if it were a fully rewarding reading experience – even without the conflict!

I’m also a big believer is what you wrote here:

“If you can do something as "stock" as a romantic comedy, but still have them wonder how you're going to pull it off, and then pull it off in a way that surprises them believably and delights them... then, you're truly exercising your craft. :)”

I taught “surprise & delight” as essential elements in my copywriting classes. I always try to write the last chapter first so that the story will have a ‘twisty’ surprise ending that has the power to motivate me to find a way to reach the end of my WIP. I like to know in advance that if I can just write my way to the last chapter, I’ll have a ‘stand up and cheer’ ending! Having such an ending ‘in the bank’ is like seeing a shining city on a hill during the long arduous trek up the writing mountain. : )

Thanks again.

I’ll be looking often for the sound of “Rock Your Revisions.”

Terri said...

I just got back from checking out Cathy's website. Awesome. I can see I need Rock Your Revisions as well as Rock Your Plot.

Terri said...

Cathy - are the books available in print form or only Kindle?

Chill N said...

I checked out the Rock Your Plot book and saw the Rock Your Revisions book -- which is is exactly what I need. Like right now. Immediately. So I'm downloading it next.

Thanks for the pointers and for making me aware of Rock Your Revisions!

Nancy C

Mary Curry said...

WHY Must Ruthy bake? ;)

Sorry, couldn't resist. I do agree with the asking why part. That's what has me stumped on something right now.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Cathy, I'll put that info in the Weekend Edition, which is our news blog post, that comes out on Saturday.

Thanks for all the explanations.

Cathy Yardley said...

Terri -- my books are available in a print compendium. It's called ROCK YOUR WRITING. I know it's available on Amazon, I think it's available elsewhere or for order...? (I should know this! Bad, bad author! No cookie!)

Cathy Yardley said...

Oh, I meant to mention -- I know the idea of a plot session can seem a little strange, but basically, I will ask you questions about your characters, why they want what they want, and then guide you through a series of possibilities based on what I'm hearing. After one hour, you get a recording of the phone call, as well as my notes on your protagonist GMC, and your plot points: inciting incident, plot point 1, mid point, plot point 3, black moment, and resolution. I'd say it works 95% of the time. It's one of my favorite things to do on earth, period. If it wasn't my business, I'd do it for free -- I simply couldn't help myself. :)

Audra Harders said...

It's been a long day, but I'm finally home. OMG, I've got a lot of conversations to catch up on!

Thank you, Cathy for all the helpful advice and explanations. It's going to take me a long time before I say I actually like plotting, but your help and suggestions have made it easier.

Thanks for joining us in Seekerville today! I hope you'll come back!

Chill N said...

Kathy, Walt and Myra congratulations!!

There's nothing like finally getting to read the comments late ;-)

Nancy C

Walt Mussell said...

In plotting, I think I have the most trouble in making the goals of my hero and heroine diametrically opposed to each other.

Wonderful post!

Walt Mussell said...

Everybody, thanks for the congrats. Chill N, I'm getting to the comments late, too.

Donna said...

Cathy, I loved Rock Your Plot! I can't wait to check out your other books. Please enter me!

Great news Kathy B., Myra and Walt

Janet Kerr said...

Great information Cathy. And, your book is so helpful. Please enter me in your draw as I am just in the middle of plotting.
Jan

M.V.Freeman said...

I am always late to the party-- but this came at the perfect time- I'm prepping my plot for a writing push-- and I realize as I read this, I had external plot (very important in this story) but not enough for my hero/heroine if this makes sense....
I have an emotional arc but not enough actual physical goals for for hero and heroine. *head desk*
Thank you...

Julie Lessman said...

AUDRA!!! I cannot believe I'm a day late -- FORGIVE ME!! Yesterday apparently got away from me, which rather scares me, you know???

Anyway, REALLLLY enjoyed Cathy's tips for troubleshooting plots because I've actually been struggling on my latest WIP, so THANK YOU!! She and you helped clarify some points for me and now I need to get busy!!

I just LOVE it when the Seeker blog coincides with EXACTLY what I need at the time ... kind of like the Bible, you know?? ;)

Hugs,
Julie

Jennifer Fromke said...

I'm struggling with a new plot this week. This post is perfect timing for me. Thanks! Count me in for the drawing!!!

Anna Weaver Hurtt said...

Awesome post! I have a page full of notes to apply to my wip. Thanks for sharing!

Glynis said...

I'm too much of a seat-of-the-pants writer and plotting ahead feels somehow wrong to me. But then I get bogged down in the middle and can never finish. These ideas are wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing them!

Cathy Yardley said...

Thank you so much for all the kind comments!

And Glynis -- I work with a lot of "pantsers" as well, ones who tend to derail and get stuck in the middle. I say honor your process and your inherent nature, but definitely experiment with very basic plotting. Just basic plot points, so you have a sense of where you're going. Also, remind yourself they're not carved in stone -- no matter how much any writer plots ahead, things always, always change a bit when you get into the actual draft! That's what keeps it alive. Hopefully, that will feel less restrictive. I hope that helps!

Chris Bailey said...

Cathy, I got Rock Your Plot last week (or the week before) and had a great time following the steps to create a new plot. I think the part that may give me the worst trouble is perched somewhere between the goal and the obstacle. I've had some "why" feedback. Why does your protagonist need to pursue this goal? Why is she so determined?

Thanks for the post and the opportunity to win a call!