Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Goal, Motivation, Conflict!

For months now I've been struggling with the first chapter of my completed novel. I just couldn't seem to nail those open pages. I kept writing new first chapters and not understanding why they weren't working.

Then, my friend Suzanne took a look at the book. She took the time to write out what she thought the Goal, Motivation and Conflict was for each of my characters. It was an aha moment. First, I couldn't get the first chapter right because I was starting the book in the wrong place. Second no one loved one of my characters like I did because his goal, motivations and conflict were not apparent.

The concept of thinking about each character and what their internal and external goals are, why and what's keeping them from achieving them wasn't new to me. However, it was the first time I'd really applied it to a finished story to see what worked and what didn't.

Thank goodness for critique partners! I'm going to have this book in shape by early December to enter in the RWA Golden Heart and to send to the two agents and one editor who have requested it.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Whatever you're pitching... you can make sure it gets caught!

I adore the rush of speaking in front of groups. I love sharing, meeting new people, teaching and learning. I'm the kind of extrovert who jumps up on stage and feels nothing but excitement, not a bit of nervousness.

But when I have the opportunity to pitch an agent or editor my books, my stomach churns and my tongue goes numb. There is something about laying out the story you've nurtured and loved for judgement face-to-face that makes my blood run cold. Luckily, I have great friends who helped me learn how to pitch. While I don't have an editor or an agent yet, I've never pitched and not gotten a request and that's something! Not everyone reading this is interested in pitching agents and editors, but these hold true for any pitch you have to make in your life: pitching an idea to a decision-maker, pitching yourself for a scholarship or a job or pitching something you've created for launch into the universe.

1. Write a first draft, then throw it away
It's a great idea to get your thoughts in order. Write an outline, a script or just a few random thoughts on paper. Don't type it. Studies show that you retain information better when you write long hand. Write, read what you've written out loud at least six times. Then put that piece of paper away and commit the concept to memory, not the exact words. No one wants to talk to a robot. If you're going to make a sale, you've got to use the power of story and genuine belief in your material to do it. That comes from your heart, not just your head.

2. Practice for a positive hat and a negative hat
Once you've committed your story to your heart and your mind, find two friends. Ask the first to wear a positive hat and the second to wear a negative hat. By giving someone permission, actually asking them to find negative things, you will learn what you can improve and at the same time it won't hurt your feelings, because you are asking them to find something wrong no matter what. Knowing that the person is working hard to find something wrong, you get to decide if its something you want to change or not. But you get the valuable feedback you need to get better. Your positive person will build the confidence you need to remember you can and will do this.

3. Remember a human being sits in front of you, not an alien
Take a moment to introduce yourself. Find common ground. When you remember the person sitting in front of you is just another normal human, it takes the nerves away. It also helps them to feel comfortable with you, which is important for building a positive relationship.

4. Be the super hero you already are
Don't doubt yourself. You've got this. You can do it. Research shows that if you stand for five minutes with your shoulders squared and your hands on your hips, super-style, you will feel more confident. Give it a try before you pitch. It just might help!