Monday, March 14, 2016

Battling Through Your Manuscript … One Scene at a Time

Missy Tippens
Photo credit: Bigstock/Yastremska

Have you hit a wall? Do you often get to Chapter 4 or Chapter 5 and say, “What in the world is going to happen now????” Are you at the midpoint of Speedbo (the Seekerville book-in-a-month writing challenge) and having a moment of panic, wondering where your story is supposed to go?

I’ve been there with you, and I’m going to give you two methods that have helped me battle through.

1.   Mine Your GMC Chart

If you’re stuck trying to figure out what’s going to happen in your next scenes and chapters, go back and take a peek at your Goal, Motivation and Conflict Chart (for more information, check out Debra Dixon’s book, Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction). If you haven’t already considered your characters’ GMC, then take some time to figure this out. I’ve already done a couple of posts on this (Click here and here.) Also, Tina once shared an example of her chart on her white board, so you can take a peek at that (click here.)

So once you have your chart, look at each block on the chart. Brainstorm scene ideas that have to do with that particular block, scenes that will show that particular aspect of the character.

I thought I’d share an example. Below is my GMC chart and scene ideas cut and pasted directly out of my brainstorming file for the book that became The Doctor’s Second Chance from Love Inspired. (note: I = Internal and E=External, G = Goal, M = Motivation and C = Conflict)

Example: GMC Chart for The Doctor’s Second Chance
(This changed a little while writing the full book and after critique.)

EG—Work hard and play hard
EM—he’s enjoying his freedom; he deserves to have some fun after the responsibility that was thrust on him from a young age (parents’ death and aunt and uncle who worked all the time leaving him with brat cousin)
EC—Cousin Remy has dumped a baby on him (and he goes back into responsible mode)
Int need: secure family unit of his own
IM—deep need for security/belonging/connection
IC—He doesn’t believe that it’s possible so tries to act like it’s not important (instead goes for freedom and living in the moment—even dangerously)

EG—build her new practice and take care of children
EM—she didn’t like impersonal large city practice/clinic and felt rootless
EC—it’s a small town where everyone knows everyone, and she’s an outsider so business is not picking up like she’d planned.
Int need: connection
IG: Have kids by doctoring in a small town community
IM: she gave up a child for adoption and thinks she’ll never have her own (thinks she doesn’t deserve it)
IC: She really does want her own but is afraid to risk loving (maybe harbors bitterness toward parents who made her feel worthless for her huge mistake. Needs to forgive and let go to get rid of the bitterness)

Scene ideas:
EG—Work hard and play hard (although this is really a lie—he’s just a hard worker, and has always felt he needed to earn his way)
Scenes that show him working
Gets asked to go camping but can’t. Asked to go skydiving but can’t (first inkling of having someone to care about besides himself)
Show in charge and strong in his job/contrast with lack of confidence with baby
EM—he’s enjoying his freedom; he deserves to have some fun after the responsibility that was thrust on him from a young age
Discussion with Remy so we know he took care of her
Comment from someone at church about him always being responsible
Scene where he realizes the baby is like him—“deserted” by parents
EC—Remy has dumped a baby on him (and he goes back into responsible mode)
Opening scene
Scenes where it’s difficult to get work done
Fish out of water scenes
Int need: secure family unit of his own
Flashbacks/dialogue where we hear of him missing parents and family of his own—especially when Remy resented him.
Showing him realizing he likes time with Violet and baby better than skydiving or time outdoors with friends (it gets easier to turn down offers of fun adventure)
Realizes Violet is filling needs he didn’t know he had
Doesn’t feel like the 5th wheel with her
IC—He doesn’t believe that it’s possible so tries to act like it’s not important (instead goes for freedom and living in the moment—even dangerously)
Scene where he’s scared of how close he feels to Violet; feels vulnerable and doesn’t like it. Says he doesn’t need that closeness or someone to know him and makes plans to go skydiving, which V doesn’t like. (or does something else against her wishes on purpose to push her away)

EG—build her new practice and take care of children
She agrees to help Jake just because she’s helping a baby
She checks up on Abigail, worries for her
Tells him she did not rip off his family—tells him he doesn’t know details
Begins to ask patients to spread the word that she’s good
EM—she didn’t like impersonal large city practice/clinic and felt rootless
Show her enjoying small town life—she sees advantages of being known, appreciates that others know her business
Goes to church and meets people; show first time she goes out and someone recognizes her, making her feel good
EC—it’s a small town where everyone knows everyone, and she’s an outsider so business is not picking up like she’d planned.
Show her going to church and no one really knows her; she’s an outsider
People call her Doc, but she realizes they don’t really know her at all; there’s no one around who knows her likes and dislikes or about her past; they don’t know Violet
Int need: connection
She has struggled and fought her way through medical school and now has trouble opening up and being vulnerable with new friends
Scene where she meets a new friend—in lab, Darcy, gets to know her better, feels she’s actually met a friend (could meet over the winning of the auction)
First time she attends church since the auction—a few people remember her by that. It’s a small sense of connection
She remembers that one time she went and decides to go back because of connection of the auction. It’s her only tie other than work.
IG: Have kids by doctoring in a small town community
Show her bonding with a patient; child reaches for her, which warms her heart. This could actually happen at church or in town so Jake witnesses it.
IM: she gave up a child for adoption and thinks she’ll never have her own (thinks she doesn’t deserve it)
Scene with Remy, can relate to feeling she’s not worthy.
IC: She really does want her own (family/child) but is afraid to risk loving
Scene where fear over loving Jake makes her want to give up
Realizes she needs to call parents and make effort to heal
Goes to see parents, takes Jake/baby for moral support

As you can see, I got a lot of scene ideas just from mining my GMC chart! If you’ve read the book, you may recognize some of these ideas that became scenes. (If you haven’t read it and want to, here’s a link! :))

2.   Know the Middle … And Then Aim for It

I love James Scott Bell’s book Write Your Novel From the Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between. Since I bought the book, I’ve read it each time I’m plotting a new story to help with the scene ideas. (BTW, it’s a short book.) I’ve found that deciding on the mirror moment in the middle gives me something to aim for once I get past the opening chapters. So no more sagging middle! The basic premise of Bell’s how-to book is that once you know your mirror moment in the middle, that moment when the character takes a hard look at himself and wonders what kind of person he is, what he will do to overcome his inner challenges, then you can go forward to figure out the pre-story psychology or go backward to figure out how the character transforms by the end. Knowing this middle scene will help all the scenes have unity. And like I said, for me, it gives me something to aim for.

I thought I’d share another example. Again, this is from my brainstorming notes, directly cut and pasted, for the story that became The Doctor’s Second Chance. (Spoiler alert! I give away a lot here, all stuff I figured out before I finished writing the book.)

Example: Midpoint Brainstorming for The Doctor’s Second Chance
Story Question:
Will Jake be able to take care of this newborn and locate his cousin before Violet gets the court involved? Can Violet fulfill her goal of helping children without falling in love with the baby…and with Jake? Or might the two of them discover that family comes in all shapes and sizes?

Mid-point mirror moment:
Jake: Is there really such thing as a secure family…this ideal little family bubble? For me? And if so, do I dare go for it? What if it got taken away? Show him taking a risky step: asking her out on a date. It’s a concrete move toward making them a unit.

Violet: Do I deserve to be happy? Can I really move forward and let go of the past? Show her admitting some weakness to him. Maybe she shares about rift with her family (but not why), how she’s felt she has to do everything herself. And then she opens up with how she needs him somehow (maybe she needs him to support her in town, by letting people know his opinion of her has changed). [but I’d kind of like him to do this on his own, and she discovers he’s done it because he cares. So maybe she doesn’t ask him to do that. Maybe she just opens up and shares her hurts.]

Pre-story psychology:
Jake: Parents died, “abandoning” him. Aunt and uncle took him in but he always felt he needed to be good for them to keep him. That “being good” alienated his cousin, so he never felt part of the family. His aunt and uncle worked a lot, and he got stuck trying to keep Remy out of trouble since he felt like her destructive behavior was probably his fault. Once she ran off, he felt a sense of relief, of freedom. Has been working hard so he can play and enjoy that freedom. Thinks he has just what he wants. The baby being dropped on him limits that freedom, and he feels that renewed sense of guilt, as if he does owe her. Plus, he’s just naturally responsible.

Violet: Parents were socialites, valued what others thought of them, worried about appearances. Were often gone, lots of baby sitters. She fell for a guy who needed her, and got pregnant. Parents insisted she give up for adoption, would not consider helping her keep baby, claiming she couldn’t give up her lifelong goal to be a doctor. But she felt they were more worried about how it would make them look. She resented them. No relationship since, even though they’ve tried and dad has apologized (mom insists it was best for everyone). She has been independent, putting herself through school and medical school. Feels she was weak and failed her child. Decided she would help other children by becoming pediatrician. Didn’t like large clinic and impersonal medicine. Bought small town clinic to be part of patients’ lives.

How can I show it?
Both have had ideals of the perfect family that they never had. Have to learn to let go of that. Have to accept a new picture of what family means to them now that God has brought them together, and to let go of fear of the rug being yanked out from under them. Must learn to trust God instead of themselves (what I’m learning now).
Jake: In the beginning, he’s still trying to be responsible and take care of others, finding it hard to ask for help. Connection is out of a sense of duty rather than out of love. Needs to extend love. Needs to accept love freely given. He doesn’t have to earn the right to be part of a family.
To show his transformation…He’ll ask her to be his family (scary and risky but worth it). And he’ll ask it even while she’s still acting cool toward him, so it’s even riskier. He’ll do it with God’s strength (when he is weak, God is strong).

Violet: In the beginning, she’s independent and all business, only willing to reach out for the good of the child. She feels driven to work to deserve anything good that comes to her. She’s driving herself, fighting her nature to want closeness and family. She learns she doesn’t have to work hard to earn happiness just because of her past. Needs to accept love freely given. She is worthy of love, because God loves her just as she is.
Or maybe what she thought she needed was control over her life when what she really needed was to give up control, to just accept love.
To show her transformation…she’ll sleep in past sunrise. (maybe in epilogue? On honeymoon?)

So you can see how I started by figuring out the middle. Then I backed up to figure out some backstory and scenes that will show it. Then I figured out how to concretely show the ending of the story with my characters in a new place emotionally.

I hope sharing my methods helps some of you! If you’re stuck, try brainstorming using these two methods. Come up with as many ideas as you can. You most likely won’t use them all, but you may find some nuggets that you end up loving! And at least you can keep moving forward on your first draft, even if you change some of it later.

Do these methods resonate with you? Share your brainstorming ideas or what you do when you get stuck. I’ll be giving away a fun spring tote bag and a wonderful spring floral sachet to one commenter. Just let me know you’d like to be entered. If you’re sensitive to fragrances but are interested in the tote bag, never fear! When I get the winner’s contact information, I’ll ask before sending the sachet. :) [Just ask Vince about the sachet! He won one from me before and they could smell it while approaching the mailbox! LOL]

Missy Tippens, a pastor’s wife and mom of three from near Atlanta, Georgia, made her first sale to Harlequin Love Inspired in 2007. Her books have since been nominated for the Booksellers Best, ACFW Carol Award, Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence, Maggie Award, Beacon Contest and a 2013 RT Reviewer’s Choice Award. A House Full of Hope was a Romance Writers of America 2013 RITA® Nominee. Her recent releases include The Doctor’s Second Chance from Love Inspired, and A Heart Full of Christmas, an Indie published boxed set with fellow Seekerville bloggers. Visit Missy at, and


Cate Nolan said...

Hi Missy.

All that caffeine that powered me through the first day after "springing forward" has me still awake to read your excellent post!

I'm more inclined to do my scenes according to your second method with Bell's book. I have a "Super Structure" template that is based off the companion book Super Structure: The Key to Unleashing the Power of Story. I use that to outline my scenes - very roughly. ;)

Writing suspense means I have to be careful to include enough scenes with the characters in jeopardy, and I find sticking to his 14 signposts makes that easier.

Thanks for such a detailed post. I'm one of those people who learn best by example so your samples of your process are really helpful.

Missy Tippens said...

Cate/Mary, I have that book as well. I need to read it again and try using the signposts. I've started doing that method but haven't finished. I can see how it would be very important in a suspense!

Missy Tippens said...

Decaff coffee is on for the night owls! I've brought the Italian Sweet Cream creamer and stevia. :)

Tina Radcliffe said...

It's only 9:23 in Arizona. I've got hours.

This is a great refresher as I work through revisions and find myself having to add scenes. Thank you. Thank you!!

Drinking Dirty Chai with Italian Sweet Creamer. I should be up until Ruthy arrives with that much caffeine on board.

Off to 1K1Hr to check in with the night crew.

Marianne Barkman said...

This is why I like Daylight Saving Time, and probably the only reason. I get time to check in here before I head off to bed! Great post, Missy. The tote looks delightful, but I'm not sharing my points, cause I'm not a writer. Go Writers. Go!

Missy Tippens said...

Oh, wow, Tina! It's almost 1 am here! I'm heading to bed soon.

Missy Tippens said...

Marianne, you can be entered for the tote without sharing tips! :) I'll add you.

Keli Gwyn said...

Great tips, Missy. I'll be referring to this post as I plot my next story.

The Artist Librarian said...

Thanks for the behind the scenes look of your writing, Missy! As a reader, I found it fascinating. =)

Sally Shupe said...

Great post, Missy! Thanks for sharing your tips and notes.

Caryl Kane said...

MISSY, thanks for sharing. When I seem to "hit a wall", I step away for a while and come back with a fresh perspective.

To those participating in SPEEDBO: WRITE ON!

Have a wonderful Monday!

cathyann40 said...

I'd love to be entered. I love your books.

Jackie said...

Hi Missy,

This is definitely a keeper post. I loved The Doctor's Second Chance, and going through your GMC notes really is helpful. Thanks so much for sharing!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Missy, I see so many writers that can jump around like this. I'm totally linear, like a plodding turtle, but I love seeing the various methods that end up as beautiful stories.

The beauty of authoring anything is the individuality it respects. We all have our own way of putting the finished product together, and that's part of the appeal to me.

Because I love going my own way, as we know.

I brought fresh coffee!!!!

Debby Giusti said...

Great blog, Missy! You've ironed out so many problems writers have at the onset...and shown how to overcome the sagging middle.

I need James Scott Bell's book! Sounds perfect.

Love your books. They're always so heartwarming. Thanks for sharing the steps you take to create award-winning stories!

Missy Tippens said...

Keli, I hope it's helpful for your next story!

Missy Tippens said...

Jenn, yes, you get to see our our crazy brains work! :)

Missy Tippens said...

I'm glad you dropped by Sally!

Missy Tippens said...

Caryl, that's a great tip! It does help to move around some. I think it frees up our brain. Thanks for sharing!

Missy Tippens said...

CathyAnn, I've got you entered! Thanks for stopping by.

Missy Tippens said...

Jackie, I'm glad it was helpful! I always find it helpful to look at how people write. One of the most fascinating workshops I've attended at ACFW was a brainstorming session with Susan May Warren and Rachel Hauck. They worked with participants to plot a story. I learned so much!

Missy Tippens said...

Ruthy, I've very linear too! I never skip around writing scenes. This method just helps me plot the scenes to include in my synopsis (if I'm doing it before I write). And helps me figure out where I'm heading if I get stuck while writing. I have a general idea for scenes I can use in the story. But I don't write them until I get there. And sometimes the story changes as I write! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Thanks, Debby! Yes, give Jim's book a try. It's a very interesting approach!

Elizabeth Van Tassel said...

Thanks for your ideas Missy! Always love hearing about your world and your attitude is so great, it makes me smile. I attended Teen Book Festival this weekend in Ontario and Marissa Meyer said she usually plots linearly, and likes to be very organized, but for the finale Winter, she got stuck after the first three chapters. The she worked from the ending backwards as an experiment and it worked. I've used this before and it does free up your mind a bit when you get stuck like a wall!

Best to everyone on their adventures!

Jill Weatherholt said...

Great stuff, Missy! Thank you for the fantastic tips. This post is a keeper for my Seekerville notebook. You can't go wrong with a James Scott Bell craft book.

Missy Tippens said...

Elizabeth, thanks for sharing that suggestion! Isn't it fun to see the creative ways we can get un-stuck. :)

That sounds like a great festival! I love YA books!

Missy Tippens said...

Jill, I hope it was helpful. And you're right about JSB's books!

Myra Johnson said...

Excellent tips, Missy! Jim Bell has become one of my favorite go-to's on the writing craft. I've been reading his contribution to Writing Success: Your Book from Start to Finish to Publication. Good stuff!

Chill N said...

Missy this is JUST what I needed with my Speedbo project -- and I can see mining GMC in the future. Thanks bunches!

Nancy C

Yvonne Weers said...

Good morning, Missy!
I'm delighted to read this post because this is exactly what I did over the weekend. I hit a wall last Thursday and couldn't figure out why. So, I reworked my GMC charts and took them to a writer's retreat this weekend to run by my peeps. I discovered that the stakes were not high enough for my heroine's motivation to avoid the hero. He's a risk-taker and her misguided belief is that love isn't safe. But why? It turns out that the stakes weren't high enough for her reasoning. Maybe it's because her ex-husband was also a risk-taker and put her in some kind of physical danger where she lost a baby, like a car accident.

I also found that the incident at the first turning point came too early and should have been located at the third turning point.

It's amazing how the story quickly righted itself after I shored up these key elements.

Thanks for your post. It's nice to know I was doing the right thing to get back on track.

Jeanne T said...

Such a great post, Missy! JSB's Man in the Mirror moment concept has really helped me think through my middle. I loved reading how you came up with so many ideas as you thought through your GMC. I try to know where my character begins and what they look like at the end. This helps me better understand what will help bring about the transformation in my characters.

Missy Tippens said...

Myra, I have that book but haven't jumped in to read it yet. I need to do so!

Missy Tippens said...

Nancy C, I'm so glad you found it helpful! I love mining my GMC chart! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Yvonne, thanks for sharing your experience! I've had to re-work my GMC chart a bit on my wip. Another thing I figured out is that I didn't know my hero well enough. I've had to work on him some, to dig and find his true motivation.

I'm glad you're back on track in your story!

Missy Tippens said...

Jeanne T, it has really helped me to think of ideas for how to SHOW each aspect of the character. I love my GMC chart! :)

Sandy Smith said...

Thanks for the great post Missy. I am at the place where I don't know what I need next so will follow your tips. What I have been doing is starting with a general idea and just writing. A lot of it isn't very good but it is helping me to see where I need to go or where I need to go back and put something earlier in the book.

Please enter me for the tote.

Sherida Stewart said...

Missy, you must be reading my mind! Or you can hear my frustration all the way over in Georgia!

I switched directions during Speedbo to work on a different story than expected. With Seekerville's coaching, I know where this new story is going and do have the "mirror moment" established, but I'm having trouble with the developing scenes. I'm struggling to keep the hero and heroine on the same page as much as possible. He's a loner and she has a demanding job. Your ideas will definitely help me think through the possible scenarios.

Thank you so much! Glad you had some special break time with your daughter!

Connie Queen said...

I don't think I could ever be that organized Missy for the whole book. But when I do get stuck and I know I need a few scenes before the next big moment, I mentality go back the goals/motivation/conflict. I may jot down notes on the back of a bill or something, and then lose it later. But it's the action of writing it down that makes me remember.

You give a lot of great ideas! Thanks.

Wilani Wahl said...

Speedbo is on hold. I was admitted to the hospital this morning .

Connie Queen said...

Speedbo update!

My goals have totally changed. The Matchmakers contest wasn't interested in a lady Pony Express Rider so I've dumped that story. I was struggling w/it anyways.

Last Wednesday before LIH made the announcement I went to the ER w/stomach pains. Had surgery. The next day my stitches were tore so they had to put me under and re-do it. I've been high on pain meds and a little sick at my stomach.

I did manage to do some revisions on another story though on Saturday. Now for Speedbo I need to add about 5-8k words to that story to finish it. It always takes me longer to add words through revisions/heightening scenes than writing a rough draft. I want to at least finish this story and then start another one if there's time. So writing 30k is out the door.

Missy Tippens said...

Sandy, I hope it helps as you move forward!

Missy Tippens said...

Sherida, was it that loud growl I heard?? :)

You know, I have trouble keeping the hero and heroine together sometimes. If the character's growth involves family members as well, I tend to write scenes with moms and dads and grandparents--which is what has gotten a proposal or two rejected. So I'm learning to fix that!

Missy Tippens said...

Connie, it sounds as if you've found a nice method that works for you. That's great! I tend to actually figure out what's going to happen in scenes right before I write them. Sometimes they're scenes I brainstormed earlier (like you saw here in this post), sometimes not. I plan a little more in detail about a chapter at a time (as I'm heading toward that middle point).

Missy Tippens said...

Wilani, I'm so sorry!!! I'll be praying for you. Please keep us updated as you can.

Mary Connealy said...

Excuse me now, while I go punch my manuscript in the nose.

Mary Connealy said...

Connie, take care of yourself. So sorry for all the pain! :(

Myra Johnson said...

Praying for you, Wilani & Connie!

Sandy Smith said...

Connie, hope you heal quickly. Wilani, so sorry to hear you are in the hospital. I will pray for both of you.

Sherida Stewart said...

Wilani and Connie, you are both in my prayers for healing!

Julie Lessman said...


Your post addresses RIGHT where I am -- in the middle of both SpeedBo AND my book -- which means this post reallllllly came at a good time, so THANK YOU!! It pretty much hit dead-center, hopefully to help me crash through that mid-point wall I've run into!

And I've seen Tina's GMC chart before and probably printed it off, but I'm creating one today to help me pick up steam once again and get this novella done a the same time as Speedbo, God willing!

Thanks again, my friend, for such a timely post. Off to Speedbo!!


Julie Lessman said...

ELIZABETH SAID: "She worked from the ending backwards as an experiment and it worked. I've used this before and it does free up your mind a bit when you get stuck like a wall!"

VERY INTERESTING, Elizabeth, and I think I actually did this on my 2nd book, which I wrote in about one month (two months working a part-time job), and that puppy ended up being almost 500 pages!! I actually was on the treadmill one day and one of the last scenes in the book (a surprise/twist scene) just popped in my brain. I was SO enamored with it that I wrote that scene first, then basically worked a synopsis out from that ending-scene point all the way back to the beginning, which is one of the reasons I think I wrote it so fast. I remember one of my girlfriends telling me she really felt I hit my stride in this book, and I thought so too.

All that to say that your idea of working from the ending back really worked for me, although I must admit, I haven't done it since. Mmmm ... maybe I will! :)


DebH said...

Hi Missy
as a visual learner, I love the examples you've given in today's post. I really need to read my copy of James Scott Bell’s Write Your Novel From the Middle as I work on my next ms. I've read it once, but it's good to refer to as I attempt to plot.

Of course, I've gotten next to nothing done of late. Will keep taking baby steps though and "start over" each day I muck up. Tweaking a bunch of short flash stories for Speedbo to see if I can submit to magazines.

Also, I meant to buy Doctor's Second Chance but was waiting for budget and then forgot (me ADD? no way. Oh look... bunnies!) Today's post has me hankering to head over to Amazon and get that book. I'm a particular softie for abandoned baby stories since I'm an adoptee.

Thanks for the great post Missy!!!!

Meghan Carver said...

Good afternoon! I'm in the middle of Speedbo, counting words to make sure I make my goal, but I missed all last week and wanted to pop in and say hi! Great ideas here, Missy! I have Bell's book about the middle and loved it when I read it. Now I need to apply it! Thank you for such concrete examples. :-)

Jan Drexler said...

Prayers for Wilani!

Jan Drexler said...

I'm on my third cup of caffeinated beverage this morning, and it's only 10:15 here. I keep telling myself it's only Monday. I'll adjust. :)

My favorite way to get out of a slump is to go to my research sources. I quite often find a nugget I can use to get the ball rolling again. This weekend I found that when the Potawatomie Indians were "removed" from northern Indiana to Kansas, one tribe was able to get special permission to stay in the area. That started a whole passel of ideas flowing for my WIP!

And one of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten is to know what's going to happen in the middle of the story before I start writing it (actually, I need to know the beginning, middle and end). That helps so much. It gives me a point to shoot for.

Thanks for the ideas, Missy!

Missy Tippens said...

Connie! I'm so sorry to hear about your surgery and then having to have it re-done! You're amazing for writing at all right now. Good for you!

Missy Tippens said...

Mary, you just need to always ignore my posts. Stick to your successful methods. Why mess with perfection?!

Missy Tippens said...

Julie, I'm glad the timing was just right! I hope your GMC chart helps.

Missy Tippens said...

Julie, isn't it funny how we can write each of our books in different ways? :)

Missy Tippens said...

DebH and Meghan, I'm glad the examples were helpful. That's how I learn, so I hoped it would be useful on the blog.

Deb, good luck submitting the short/flash stories!
Meghan, keep up the good work on the word count!

Missy Tippens said...

Jan, thanks for sharing that great find nuggets! :) That's something I need to try.

My wip is set on a thoroughbred horse farm. A friend who owns one brings me magazines that she subscribes to. It's been nice for giving ideas.

Missy Tippens said...

Keli Gwyn just emailed me and let me know The Doctor's Second Chance is listed on Harlequin's website right now on a list!! I'm so excited! (I'm sorry I have never managed to make a live link, even with repeated tutorials and attempts at doing so.)

Keli Gwyn said...

I'm so happy for you, Missy!

Once upon a time a tech-savvy friend taught me how to create a live link, so I'll try it and hope it works.

It's the March Best of the Bests!

Keli Gwyn said...

Yay! It looks like the link works. If you scroll down to The Top Docs category, you'll find Seeker Missy Tippens. Four other LI/LIH authors made the lists, including some Seekervillagers: Margaret Daley, Linda Ford, Arlene James and Jessica Nelson. How cool is that?

CatMom said...

Very helpful post, Missy - - thank you!
I've been so tempted to order James Scott Bell's book about writing from the middle, and now after reading your post I think I WILL.
Your suggestions today were very timely as I move on with my SPEEDBO story (going into my Keeper File).
I hope in your area of Georgia trees are starting to bud as they are here in my part---not all the trees yet, but some of them. LOVE a Georgia springtime! :)

Thanks again for this post, and please enter me in your drawing.
Hugs, Patti Jo

p.s. Connie and Wilani, prayers for you both!!

Missy Tippens said...

Keli, thank you for doing the live link!! I'm usually somewhat decent at technology. But for some reason, the links have been a big huge wall for me. LOL

I was excited to see the other LI names on the list!!

Missy Tippens said...

Patti Jo, it's been gorgeous here! The redbuds, Bradford pears, crabapples and even dogwoods are starting to bud! My Japanese magnolia is almost past peak of blooming, starting to get leaves.

I hope JSB's book is helpful to you!

Tina Radcliffe said...

I have to admit, the whole idea of aiming for the middle is new to me as I usually write the first and last scenes first. Must mull this over.

Missy Tippens said...

Tina, I never write the middle or ending scenes until I get there. But before I write, I often know about how the story will end (I like to have it reflect on the opening scene). But it has really helped me to figure out what the character will need to do to change to get to that ending, and he/she gets to have a moment at the middle where he/she will see what needs to change. Stanley Williams talks about the same type thing in The Moral Premise. That moment of grace, as he calls it.

Even before I read Jim's book, I used to sort of aim for the first kiss or bonding moment, which usually happened for me around the middle. Now I spend more time thinking about that mid point.

Janet Dean said...

Missy, excellent post! Like you, I often go back to the GMC charts to remind myself that I need to write scenes that show the h/h pursuing their goals and creating trouble for themselves or others in the process. Through pursuing the external goals, my characters are forced to change internally/emotionally. Have you written a story where the protagonist sacrifices her goal for the good of another?

Thanks to Scott Bell's book, I now ensure the protagonist takes a hard look at herself and decides she needs to change. Brainstorming how she got that way and how she can bring that change about are great triggers to come up with scene ideas.

Wonderful jam-packed post!


Missy Tippens said...

Janet, you've been great to remind me to show scenes where the h/h are pursuing those external goals! Looking at my chart is one way to remind me. :)

As for sacrificing a goal... I think I usually end up with both characters compromising. Or one character realizes that love is more important. Or realizes the goal was not what he really wanted after all. He just had to overcome fear to go for his deepest need. :)

Debby Giusti said...

Missy, I love how you have scenes in mind before you start writing. You seem so very organized, which is good. Do you find a synopses helpful? That's want allows me to see the holes and whether everything is fitting together as it should.

Janet Dean said...

The GMC charts are a great help for any writer!

My characters usually get their goals rather than sacrifice them. Either way, they must grow and change. As you said, if the goal prevents love, then love has to win. A romance must end happily.


Janet Dean said...

Tina, I'm impressed that you write the last scene right after the first! If I remember right, I think Vince favors that. I've never tried it. I just don't know who these people will be yet. But it would be great to see it all tied up and write to get there.


Missy Tippens said...

Debby, this brainstorming helps me find something to put into my synopses! :) But yes, as much as I hate writing them, the synopsis helps me write the story.

But don't let this fool you. It's not organized! I'm all over the place as I try to figure this stuff out. I have tons of notes and lots of stops and starts. I had to fix some typos when I cut and pasted these excerpts from my notes.

Missy Tippens said...

By the way, Jan Drexler is sharing a yummy recipe for Cincinnati Style Chili at the Yankee-Belle Cafe today!

Toni Shiloh said...

How did you know the middle was getting to me?! :)

Lara (Storm) Hitchcock said...

Thanks for sharing, Missy. It's always instructive to see how different people approach the problem of creating a story. I think I do something very similar to what you described ... a combination of writing scenes and brainstorming. I do write scenes out of order and there are times I've started at what I thought was the beginning only to realize, as I flesh out the backstory, that it was the middle instead. The good thing about not being a linear writer is that when I lack inspiration for one scene, I can jump ahead and work on another. And often this will clarify all the scenes as a whole. So ... it helps me solidify the story and characters in my mind although it does require some retroactive adjustments in the already-written scenes. You mentioned a synopsis and others have mentioned outlining. I've never been very good at either of these things except after the story is written. I often start with just the seed of an idea and it takes quite a lot of writing and brainstorming to flesh it out. Very disorganized but it sort of seems to work.

Praying for you, Wilani and Connie ... and anyone else with health issues. Hope everyone's writing is going well!!

Myra Johnson said...

I guess I'm too linear. I can't imagine writing scenes out of order! Even if I envision something that I'd like to have happen later in the story, by the time I work my way to that point, things have changed in the characters' lives so much that I can't make it happen without everything feeling forced.

Missy Tippens said...

LOL, Toni! It gets to me EVERY time. So I just assumed it got to others, too! :)

Missy Tippens said...

Lara, your method does sound similar. It's great that you're able to move ahead to scenes that inspire you! I haven't been able to do that, but it sure helps to have plenty of brainstormed ideas when I do get to the point of needing a particular scene.

Missy Tippens said...

Myra, as I said to Ruthy, I'm very linear too. That's why some of the scene ideas never get used. They just don't fit by the time I get to that point. I sometimes have to stop along the way and brainstorm more ideas if things have changed too much. Like with my ending! A couple of times I've realized I had my planned ending all wrong! So then I had to brainstorm new ideas for scenes to get to my new ending that fit the new character arc.

kaybee said...

Missy, this is good. I'm pantsing my Speedbo project and I usually plan, so I expect to get stuck at some point. Like maybe tomorrow.
It helps if we know our characters, which is where GMC comes in.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Don't be too impressed Janet. The first scene and the last are my favorites and like a movie, come to me first.

It's that whole big middle that scares me.

Jess * Jessie * Jessy said...

Thanks Missy. Great post that is certainly going to help me rewrite/revise my novella. I set it aside for a few days before I start my rewriting. I usually sail through the first three chapters of a story then sink like a rock in the middle. I never write scenes out of order but I do write each book differently. Sometimes I'm a pantser; other times I outline. No matter how I write, the middle is always my bug-a-boo.

Missy Tippens said...

KB, NO, you won't get stuck tomorrow! :) We'll use positive thinking! :) :)

Yes, knowing our characters is crucial. We have to know how they'll behave.

Missy Tippens said...

Tina, those are my favorite scenes, too--especially the ending. When I get near the end, my writing speeds up like crazy.

Missy Tippens said...

Jess, that's me exactly! I know where I'm heading for the hook at the end of chapter 3 (the proposal hook). And then I freeze. :)

Laura Conner Kestner said...

Loved this, MISSY, thank you! I've been hanging around Seekerville for a few months now and I'm learning so much! GMC is more than a vehicle, and I definitely have trouble with the whole sagging middle thing (in more ways than one :-) I'm fascinated by the steps and tips you've shared here. I've only finished one book - and I wrote the beginning and ending first, and I write conversations first and then fill in around them. I was worried about that method, until Tina said she does that too, which makes me feel much better about it!

Thank you again for such an interesting post. I'm bookmarking it so I can return to it again as needed.

Sandra Leesmith said...

Oh Missy, this was so helpful. What a great resource and I love the links to the past posts on the same topic. Great going. AND SO HELPUL.

That's funny about Vince winning a sachet and smelling it on the way to the mailbox.

Tanya Agler said...

Missy, Thank you so much!!! This was beyond helpful. I am presently starting to brainstorm in my head my next book, and having someone share their charts and seeing the thought and emotion was immensely helpful and a great resource. Thank you so much. I am a plotter (my books do very strange things when I try pantsing it), and this is wonderful for me to see this and learn from it.

Thank you.

Missy Tippens said...

Laura K, I'm so glad you found this helpful! Hallee Bridgeman is another writer who writes in layers. That's how she writes so quickly. :) If you didn't see it yet, check out her post from a few months ago to see if it might help you.

Missy Tippens said...

Sandra, I'm glad you found the links helpful! I love looking back at older posts. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Tanya, I'm glad you found the examples helpful! Good luck with your new story! I hope it comes to you easily.

Lara (Storm) Hitchcock said...

Myra, I don't think you're too linear. I think it's just that different things work for different people because God made us so differently. (By the way, I love your name. My mother's mom was Myra.)

All I know is that my mind won't let me write linearly in most instances because all of a sudden I start hearing this dialogue or narration/description in my head and it is NOT in the correct sequence :-). So I write what comes when it comes and when I feel the inspiration to write that particular scene, whether or not it ends up being used in its entirety in the final story.

Laura Conner Kestner said...

Thank you for the link, MISSY, I will check it out.

Prayers for you, Wilani and Connie

Laura Conner Kestner said...

LARA, my mother is a Myra, too. You don't hear that name often any more. Btw, I love your description of your writing process, "I write what comes when it comes" - I do that, too :-)

Walt Mussell said...

This may be one of my challenges as I never get this detailed in what I do.

CatMom said...

P.S. Any updates on RUTHY'S TOOTHACHE??
I skimmed the comments and saw she posted this morning but didn't see anything else.
Ruthy, I hope it's much better. (and that's the tooth!) ;)
Hugs, Patti Jo

Mikal said...

Missy, thank you, thank you, THANK YOU for this post!!! I've been reading James Scott Bell's book and have already seen *huge* improvement in direction and confidence writing that middle, but your post---and your examples---have just knocked my socks off and given me fantastic help!! Thank you! I can't wait to put this into practice tomorrow morning!

Missy Tippens said...

Lara H, I think it's so smart for you to grab those snippets when you get them!

Missy Tippens said...

Walt, it's not so much detailed as it is coming up with lots of different ideas for scenes. It helps me keep writing. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Patti Jo, this evening she said she was getting the pains less often. But not gone yet. :(

Missy Tippens said...

Mikal, I'm so glad!! Have fun with it tomorrow. I loved doing the work on my stories. I love feeling like they're coming together. :)

Missy Tippens said...

Lara H, I also meant to comment on what you said about writing the synopsis, and I don't think I ever did. It's very difficult for me, too. I can probably write a whole book in the time it takes for me to figure out a proposal (3 chapter and synopsis). So I understand that feeling! The work I shared with you all today took me quite a while.

Natalie Monk said...

Thank you so much for this post, Missy!!! Comes just in time.

I've just finished plotting a few scenes, but I had a gap and needed some fresh inspiration for brainstorming. I plan to read GMC this year. I'm always second guessing myself when it comes to the internal and external GMC. I've requested the book at my library and hopefully I'll be able to study it soon.

I love how you've explained and shown "mining" your GMC chart. Brilliant! I've heard a lot of good things about James Scot Bell's "Middle book," too. Will have to check it out.

Whenever I get stuck, I try to think of a scenario or situation I'd love to read or watch in a movie if I could put everything away and kick up my feet for a good story. What would I love to see characters doing? What would entertain me at the moment? When a few things pop in my head, I try to translate them to the story I'm writing. No matter how outlandish, usually there's a believable way to work it into the GMC. The theory is, if I think of a scenario that bores me, it'll probably bore my readers, too. But hopefully if I'm being entertained by the idea, they'd be entertained, too.

Missy Tippens said...

Natalie, I think you'll love GMC. The great thing is that Deb Dixon uses examples. Of course, I still struggle with the internal/external stuff too.

I love your idea to kick back and think of what I would want to see happen next in a movie! I want to try that tomorrow for my proposal! Thank you for suggesting it. :)

Sierra Faith said...

that was really interesting to learn about GMC! I have the hardest time planning out my novel and this is really helpful!!! Thank you :D

ohiohomeschool said...

So interesting. I am a reader, but enjoy reading how you work through a novel. It makes me appreciate books more. :-)
Thank you,
PS would love the sachet and tote bag.

Missy Tippens said...

Sierra, I'm glad you found it helpful! Thanks for stopping by.

Becky, we love readers! Thanks for stopping by and reading the blog. :)

Rachel McDaniel said...

Thank you for sharing! The thought never occurred to me to start in the middle! That solves a lot of issues from the get go. Excellent post :)

Janet Kerr said...

Starting in the middle sounds like an interesting way to try. This whole post is filled with wonderful information.
Thanks so much!