The Danger of Plot Bunnies

I don’t trust plot bunnies.

A long time ago, I was trying to write an early Victorian/late Regency romance about two sisters (of six sisters, for the sake of series potential and the nod to Jane Austen.) Elder Beatrice was trying to make a good marriage in all the usual places in the London Season, and younger Alice was impersonating her twin brother in order to prevent the property from going to an uncle while gambling to keep them in funds.

One day the inspiration wasn’t all that hot, but I had the itch to write anyway. I asked for a writing prompt from a friend who asked me to write about a particular fanfic pairing and coffee. That two word prompt sprawled into a 120k fanfic about a piano prodigy who leaves the shelter of his religious cult to study music and falls in love with his roommate, a cellist with an anxiety disorder and an obsession with rope bondage. (I’m not joking.) it’s a huge mess narratively but my most popular story, with close to 50k hits on Ao3.

Beatrice and Alice never even made it to Almack’s.

My plotbunnies have an evil sense of timing. They wait until my manuscript feels like that roommate who leaves their discarded clothes on the bathroom floor and drinks milk straight from the carton. That’s when I usually get an idea, a shiny enticing neat idea that’s so much better than that slobby idea that leaves dirty socks on the floor.

Here’s the dilemma. If I follow the bunny, I leave partial manuscripts behind. But when I scribble them down and leave them in the bunny folder, the idea doesn’t have the life it had when it was tempting me away from a manuscript that wasn’t all wine and roses.

I can’t afford to linger with the idea that tries to tempt me away from finishing a book. But I’ve never had another story like the one I wrote when I threw away my orderly plan and ran off with the idea that came when I was struggling. When that plotbunny comes, I am so tempted. I wish they would behave a little better and wait their turn instead of flashing those big soulful eyes in the middle of a project.

~ C.L. Polk

Coming Sept. 4… Plot Bunnies!

RWchat Sept 4You know, Plot Bunnies? The cute little ideas that show up when you least expect. Most often when you’re in the middle of desperately finishing another book, and out pops this shiny new idea. It bites at your heels and screams, “Write me, write me!”

It won’t let you ignore it and finish your other project, and worse, if you forget about it, you risk losing it completely because… what if this plot bunny is actually a better story than the one you’re trying to finish?!

Hence, the need to discuss the delicate, nagging, often torturous plight of caring for plot bunnies.

See you Sunday at 7pm EST, 4pm PST!

~Robin Lovett

Reading as Research

DeathtoStock_Clementine2You know the feeling. You’re reading a book, and for some indefinable reason it completely sucks you in. When you finish, you seek out the rest of the author’s backlist, and devour them. Wow, you think. This is a really good book!

Great. We all love good books. But as authors, we also want to write really good books. The problem is, a really good book will make you forget you’re reading a story created in the imagination of someone who labored over a laptop for months at their kitchen table. It takes a lot of work to make a book read effortlessly. At the end of such a book, you’re left wondering, how did they do it?

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Coming Aug. 28th… Learning from our Favorite Books

RW chat learning from your favorite booksIt needs to be capitalized, I think. Our FAVORITE BOOKS are like living breathing things to us. But how do we make OUR books like THOSE book?

All of us have favorite authors and favorite series, but when we read, it’s so easy to get lost in the story, we forget to think, how did she do it? Join us next Sunday when we’ll talk about how to learn from our favorite books to help our writing and how to learn from our favorite authors to help our careers.

See you Sunday 7pm EST, 4pm PST!

~Robin Lovett

Feedback – you can run from it but you can’t hide!

Submitting your work for feedback is like putting your heart in someone’s teeth. If you’re lucky, they’ll hold it gently in their hands. If you’re not so lucky, they’ll bite down and make it bleed. But if you’re REALLY lucky, they’ll take the time and effort to help your work be the best it can be, even if it means tough love. And there’s a reason why they call it tough – it ain’t easy to take.

But before we chat tonight about receiving feedback, I’d like a word about GIVING it. I admit, I didn’t know how to give it at first. I was one of THOSE people who coated others’ work with so many comments, it looked like a sea of red by the time I was done. I was brutal. And I definitely owe some people formal apologies for the feelings I hurt. I was new, and I didn’t understand what good feedback meant.

Here’s my understanding now of what good feedback means, or at least the kind I like to get:

Good feedback does not mean taking the person’s work and nitpicking it until you’re trying to make it your own. That’s not feedback, it’s rewriting, and it’s rude. (See the guilty sign on my back…)

Good feedback also does not mean sugar coating – telling someone glowingly how wonderful their work is without any critique. That is shallow and superficial and unhelpful. (I’ve done that too, out of laziness.)

Good feedback, great feedback, falls in the middle. It means taking the time and care to highlight in detail the strengths of a writer’s work. Because let’s face it, most of us don’t know what our strengths are, and it’s important that we know what we do well.

It also means giving the attention to make constructive, deliberate critiques. To look carefully at a writer’s work and find the potential that has yet to be realized. Great feedback is given with respect and wanting to bring the work to a higher level. It’s given with a belief in the other writer’s ability and the integrity of their story.  It’s investing the time and effort to uplift the work, not degrade it.

Great feedback is a giant compliment of YOUR WORK IS WORTH MY TIME. Accept it with grace, consideration, and discernment. Having the dedication to take every piece of it seriously is a hallmark of a great writer.

Given compassionately and well, great feedback is the foundation of building the great relationships we have going in this wonderful community of ours.

Looking forward to hearing your insights on receiving feedback!

See you at 7pm EST on #RWChat.

~Robin Lovett

 

 

Coming Aug 21st…Feedback Etiquette

RWchat feedback etiquette August 21One of the hardest things for us as writers is to take our hands off the keyboard and let someone else view our work. However, before it’s ready for public consumption, we need to make use of critique partners (CPs), alpha and beta readers, writing groups, and of course, editors. With online writing forums, contests, and the ability to connect with other writers on Twitter and other platforms, finding CPs, beta readers, and editors for hire has never been easier.

But what do you do with all the feedback? How do you decide what comments to keep and what to toss? And worse, what if the feedback brings you down? We’ll talk about these dilemmas and more during the next RWchat on Sunday, August 21st, 7pm EST. See you then!

~Alexis Daria

Core Story—Wtf is that?

The first time I heard about core story, it was at RWA 15 in New York. I got to hear about it from my romance writer hero, Jayne Ann Krentz. (She’s pretty much the author and the person I want to be when I grow up, but we can fangirl about it another time, because Robin and Alexis will probably shank me if I don’t put a blog up soon.)

jayneannkrentz

Jayne Krentz is my hero. She can be your hero too, if you want. I’m willing to share.

If you follow Jayne at all, you know she has a boatload of pen names. Seven in total, although three are currently active. I found her through Amanda Quick, firmly solidifying my love of historical romance. She pioneered the futuristic/paranormal genre as Jayne Castle, and she freaking kills it under her own name writing contemporary suspense.

Hearing about core story from Jayne Ann Krentz was amazing because…homegirl knows. When you write that many genres under that many names, you find out who you are as a writer. You find out what the heart of the story you’re trying to tell is. I can’t remember what she said her core story was—she said it, I just can’t remember—and I’m not willing to tell you what I think it is. But I know what mine is, so I’ll tell you about that.

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