by Orly Konig-Lopez
Last month Sharla Rae wrote about switching genres. She’s a historical romance writer and has decided to take the leap into a futuristic. The common thread between the two genres that gave her the courage to try: research.
That post has been on my mind. I’ve had a particularly bad case of ‘Fussy Brain’ lately and have been jumping around between various projects trying to “find” a creative spark.
Rewind to December.
I started a new women’s fiction project. And man, did it start out strong. Oh yeah! The pieces of the WIP puzzle were fitting into place, the words were flowing, the characters were singing, happy times. Then life happened. The creative flow came to a screeching halt. Every time I sat down to write, I’d end up with a to-do list or fuffing about on social media and internet sites or spraying my orchids, again.
Fast forward to last week.
After spending two hours staring at a blinking cursor under the sad words “Chapter 3,” I gave up and started cleaning my office (orchids had already been sprayed). In my “current project” drawer is a notebook from the November PiBoIdMo – that’s Picture Book Idea Month for those who may not be familiar. Out came the notebook.
Stick with me a few more minutes.
We’ve all heard the advice to go for a walk in nature or manhandle exercise equipment or clean toilets or use all the hot water in the shower or whatever gives you that change of scenery and mental break when you’re struggling with a scene. Picture books work much the same way for me. Here’s why:
When I write women’s fiction, I have to be on a computer. I’ve tried longhand, nothing happens. The first draft has to be typed out. Editing is longhand, but that first messy draft is a collaboration between my brain, fingers and MacBook Pro.
Picture books, on the other hand, flow from brain, to colored pen, to legal pad. Those I edit on the computer but first messy draft must be longhand. Go figure!
That switch in format and genre, releases the bunched up undies on my creative braincells.
There are also a lot of similarities –
Characters – Regardless of the story you’re writing, you need strong characters … main characters, secondary characters, a good guy, a not-so-good guy, a mom, a dad, a friend, an I-thought-you-were-my-friend friend, a dog. Characters must have unique traits that help to both increase the conflict and create the solution. Every character must come to life for the reader but you should adjust your character brainstorming for the appropriate audience. After all, a booger-picking-and-flicking six year old will probably have more appeal to one audience over another.
Conflict – Who wants to read a story where every character is perfectly happy and nothing ever goes wrong? Conflict! We want conflict. Internal, external, high drama, humorous, angst filled, tricky, straightforward, doesn’t matter, it just needs to be there.
Story Structure – Every story has a beginning and the central problem or conflict, then the middle as the problem increases, and finally the end and resolution of the problem. Easy peasy. 325 pages or 32 pages, the structure is the same.
Tight writing – Show of hands … who’s heard the phrase “write tight” from a crit partner? My first drafts ramble. I leave editing for the second and third and sixth pass. Each time, I tighten a bit more. In a novel you have 75,000-100,000 (or more) words to make all the great things mentioned above happen. In a picture book you have under 1,000, preferably closer to 400-500 words. Talk about an excellent exercise in making every word count.
This week, I’m back to my women’s fiction WIP and excited about the ideas flowing.
Your turn … how do you untangle your creative braincells?
After years of pushing the creativity boundary in corporate communications, Orly decided it was time for a new challenge. Three women’s fiction manuscripts later (plus a handful of picture books), it’s safe to say she’s found her creative outlet. When she’s not talking to her imaginary friends, she’s reading or at least trying to ignore everyone around her long enough to finish “just one more paragraph.” Orly is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association.