Chick Lit Clique is a blog devoted to encouraging women (and those daring men!) to try their hand at writing chick lit. I offer advice and tips on writing and character development, as well as motivation, prompts, and challenges.
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This was taken from a seminar by author Stephanie Lehmann. The eight-part structure works like a timeline. Remember, it does not need to be slavishly adhered to. Use it as a guide to the extent that it helps you conceive of your book. 1. The set-up. The beginning of your book sets up...
This was taken from a seminar by author Stephanie Lehmann.
The eight-part structure works like a timeline. Remember, it does not need to be slavishly adhered to. Use it as a guide to the extent that it helps you conceive of your book.
1. The set-up. The beginning of your book sets up who the main character and what she wants. Both her outer need (an action in the world, like a career or ambition) and her inner need (her feelings, her psychology) are established. The outer need is what the heroine thinks she wants, and the inner need is what she really wants.
2. The love interest. Our main character meets the guy who is going to make her suffer for most of the rest of the book. Or do they already know each other? If so, what’s wrong with the relationship, and why can’t they take the next step, whatever that is.
3. The stakes. Opportunity presents itself. Something happens that makes the situation more exciting. The main character’s expectations are raised. Her inner problems (what are they again?) make whatever is going on in her life become even more intense. And/or… something happens in her outer life that makes her inner problems more intense.
4. She rises to the occasion. Most likely, she is experiencing early success. Things seem to be going her way. She seems to be achieving her outer need.
5. Things start to go wrong. The antagonist makes things more difficult for the main character. Her inner need may be preventing her from achieving her outer need. You are weaving together the storylines so that they all are inevitably crashing towards…
6. The Crisis. Everything falls apart. The antagonist seems to have prevailed. Your heroine hits rock bottom. She is losing everything. Her love interest doesn’t want her. The worst happens. I like to have a crisis in mind from the beginning – a scenario in which I can imagine everything that I’ve been setting up going wrong. It needs to be the “right” crises, in that it needs to be an event that helps the heroine learn something about herself.
7. She takes a risk. Your heroine does something extreme, acts totally unlike herself, goes beyond the call of duty, does “the right thing,” finally tells the truth… She is facing down her demons.
8. The resolution. Our main character has changed – or, in a more Chekhovian ending, perhaps she just learns to accept the highly imperfect way she is. Or perhaps a mixture of both. In any case, she either ends up with the guy or she doesn’t.
If you want to get into the writing business, or if already ARE in the writing business, failure is inevitable. I’m not going to pretend that you’ll succeed every time. The good news is that as long as rejection doesn’t make you lose your confidence, you WILL eventually succeed. Perseverance is key. This seems like...
If you want to get into the writing business, or if already ARE in the writing business, failure is inevitable. I’m not going to pretend that you’ll succeed every time. The good news is that as long as rejection doesn’t make you lose your confidence, you WILL eventually succeed. Perseverance is key.
This seems like quite a basic concept, I know. Not everyone will like your writing. Most people can accept that. You will have stories rejected by magazines, agents, publishers, anthologies, contests, and anywhere else that accepts submissions. It’s a lot easier to keep that in mind BEFORE the rejections file in. Once you’re actually reading a rejection letter, though, it’s hard to stay unbiased and remind yourself that it’s nothing personal. But keep those rejection letters on your desk. Look at them often. Use them to keep pushing yourself. Let them start a fire beneath you. Vow to eventually add a positive letter to the pile.
Just remember that every professional author was where you are right now. They’ve all been rejected. Some of your favourite books were rejected before being accepted for publication. But does that mean those books aren’t worth anyone’s time? Does it mean the story or the characters weren’t good enough to sell? Does it mean it’s a bad book? Of course not! There are hundreds of reasons for a book to be rejected, and as difficult as rejection may be, it doesn’t mean you should give up. Maybe the publisher just bought a similar book. Maybe they’re biased against your genre or style. Maybe they’re not accepting any new manuscripts at the moment. Maybe you even just sent it at a bad time, and the editor’s bad mood made it hard for them to see the good in it. Just because you received a rejection letter doesn’t mean you’ll ONLY receive rejections. After all, Dr. Seuss was told by his art teacher that he had no talent, and Michael Jordan was cut from his basketball team in junior high. Just imagine how different their lives would be/would have been if they took that as an indication of their talent?
Remember; professional writers are just amateurs who never quit.
Money is what writers earn for their time and energy. Furthermore, writing careers are built over time not overnight. So don’t put your career in jeopardy by paying attention to everything else at the expense of your bottom line. Here are nine prosperity-increasing tips that can quickly become habit and put more money in the...
Money is what writers earn for their time and energy. Furthermore, writing careers are built over time not overnight. So don’t put your career in jeopardy by paying attention to everything else at the expense of your bottom line.
Here are nine prosperity-increasing tips that can quickly become habit and put more money in the bank for the same number of hours you already work or maybe even less:
- Make a list of paid work vs. unpaid work, if you don’t have one already and update it monthly. Add to-dos like upcoming deadlines and prep for future efforts, to make sure you don’t have to scramble later.
- Prioritize the work you do that is paid over the work you do that is unpaid. This doesn’t mean the unpaid work is not important or doesn’t need to get done. It simply means that you will get the paid work done first and then tackle the unpaid work.
- Spend time with other writers who make money writing. If they are too busy (making money) to spend time with you, sign up for their newsletters, read their blogs or connect with them via social networking whenever possible. When contacting successful writers, keep your expectations realistic. There’s a reason they make the big bucks and it’s not because they are just hanging out all day. When you are working, whether online or off, be aware of folks who drain your energy or co-opt your time. You simply don’t have time for those people when you are supposed to be working.
- Don’t confuse “nice” people with profitable people. Let’s say one writer invests all of his time trying to make sure everyone knows what a great guy he is, while another writer invests his time landing assignments, delivering on deadlines, and landing the next gig. Who is the more successful writer? I’d say it’s the more productive writer (the second example). And he’s the one I’d be more likely to trust, as well. So go ahead, broadcast your success!
- Tackle the types of assignments that pay directly. Forget about any kind of writing job you “might” get paid for. Also don’t count writing you do for exposure as “paid.” And when someone offers you vague future money for today’s actual work, take twice as much time to carefully consider the offer. Why not just take on the sure-thing assignments, which are the projects that pay you directly for your work? If you keep things simple, you are more likely to prosper in both the short run and the long run.
- Spend the most time doing whatever you do best even if that means doing a few different things. For example, I don’t only write because if I only wrote all day, I’d soon be bored out of my mind, no matter how interesting the topics were that I was writing on. A restless person like me needs to do a variety of things. So I also teach and speak and the three efforts feed each other and increase my overall value as a writer.
- However, don’t spread yourself too thin. I do a lot of different things but I’ve noticed that I can only do so many things before I hit overload, especially since I am a busy mom and wife, as well as a working professional. This overload point is going to be different for everyone and can change with your life circumstances, so adjust your expectations accordingly. You want to do everything you do well, not just scrape by.
- Capture all of your business expense receipts as the year ticks along so that you can benefit from every deduction available to you when you pay your taxes. I am not the queen of filing things, so I just get a big basket and toss all my receipts in there until I’m ready to sort and report. If you need a primer on the specifics of what you can and can’t expense, pick up the March/April issue of Writer’s Digest magazine and check out the article, “Taxpertise For Writers” by Bonnie Lee. In fact, the theme of the issue is, “Your Economic Survival Guide,” so why not read the whole thing?
- Be timely. Seek and adopt the simplest systems to help you meet your deadlines, pay your bills, get your taxes submitted, etc. It doesn’t matter which system you use. What matters more is that you make good use of the systems that work best for you and switch when one method stops working for you.
I bet you want to spend as little of your time as possible being inefficient, so that you can get back to writing. So keep things simple: write, earn and prosper. An efficient writer is a profitable writer.
And now if you’ll excuse me, I have some writing deadlines to meet.
This is a guest post by Christina Katz. She is the author of the forthcoming Writer’s Digest book, The Writer’s Workout, 366 Tips, Tasks & Techniques From Your Writing Career Coach. She also wrote Get Known Before the Book Deal: Use Your Personal Strengths to Grow an Author Platform and Writer Mama: How to Raise a Writing Career Alongside Your Kids. A slightly extroverted introvert and online social artist, Katz holds an MFA in creative writing from Columbia College Chicago and a BA in English from Dartmouth College. A “gentle taskmaster” over the past decade to hundreds of writers, Christina’s students go from unpublished to published, build professional writing career skills, increase their creative confidence, and succeed rhythmically and steadily over time. Christina hosts the Northwest Author Series in Wilsonville, Oregon, where she lives with her husband, daughter, and far too many pets.
Writing is such a simple task, when you think about it. Sure, there’s an art to doing it, but the process is just putting your pen to the paper, or nowadays, your fingers to your keyboard. You can write absolutely anywhere, rather than just being confined to one space. Even if you do all your...
Writing is such a simple task, when you think about it. Sure, there’s an art to doing it, but the process is just putting your pen to the paper, or nowadays, your fingers to your keyboard. You can write absolutely anywhere, rather than just being confined to one space. Even if you do all your writing on a desktop computer, you can grab a notebook and pencil and head out somewhere for an afternoon. I don’t write much in my house anymore. Here are my top ten favourite places to write:
10. Library – I will write in the library sometimes, but we don’t have the greatest one where I live. The chairs are uncomfortable, they don’t let you plug in your laptop, and the wifi is unreliable. That being said, sometimes when I’m in the area anyway, I’ll spend an hour or two doing some writing there.
9. My bedroom – Just because I don’t write in my house much doesn’t mean that I don’t. It’s a great way to unwind just before going to bed. My problem with writing in my room, though, is that there are so many distractions, and I often end up reading or watching television instead. I tend to save my bedroom writing for night time, when there’s nowhere else for me to go.
8. Starbucks – First of all, I’m allergic to coffee, so I can’t drink most of their drinks, and they don’t have free wifi. Sometimes that’s a plus, though, so I’m not distracted. Unfortunately, more often than not, the local Starbucks is crowded and there aren’t any seats by an outlet. But sometimes if I feel like a hot chocolate, I’ll head down and get some writing done.
7. Bus – Most people think it’s weird that I write on the bus, but I love it. Since it’s a short ride, I write even quicker, wanting to get to the end of whatever scene I’m writing before getting off. I’ve written on my iPod, notebook, and my laptop while riding on the bus. There’s nothing much to do during the journey, so I’ve always found that writing is a good way to pass my time.
6. Bathtub – Again, people think it’s really weird. But my mind is never at rest. Even when I’m relaxing in the bath, my mind is still going a mile a minute. I usually end up cutting my baths short because I thought of something I had to write or do. Bringing a notepad along with me has always solved that problem. My pages get a bit damp, but it’s worth it.
5. Backyard – I only write out there in short increments, since the ground gets quite uncomfortable, but I love lying on there on a blanket with my laptop. I’m close enough to get the internet, but still get the fresh air!
4. Cafe – Food and writing? So ideal. My only issue is the fact that many cafes don’t have accessible outlets, so my laptop ends up dying. I’ve tried bringing along a pen and paper, but my writing looks like a ten year old boy’s. I rely on my laptop. I’ve found some great cafes to write at, though. There’s a little one down my street with a convenient outlet, and the fact the owner always brings me free tea makes the lack of wifi bearable!
3. Beach – I’m Canadian, but I’m living in England at the moment. I live RIGHT on the coast, and the beach it only a few minutes down the road. Listening to the ocean while doing some writing is an amazing way to spend an afternoon. But again, the lack of an outlet usually ends up playing against me, and I can only write for a couple hours.
2. Park – Perfect place to people watch! I’ve been mauled by quite a few dogs, but I live across the street from a park, so when I’m uninspired in the backyard but still want some fresh air, I often head over to get some ideas.
1. Art Gallery – There’s an art gallery in town that has a little cafe in it. Really comfy chairs, delicious brownies, and free wifi! Well… maybe not. I have a writer friend who works there, and she gave me the password for it. I went there today to write, but the internet wasn’t working. I’m hoping it was a one-time thing, and they didn’t change the password, since it’s the business wifi. And usually, with no internet, I’d spend more time writing. Instead, however, I usually head down with friends from NaNoWriMo. Having no internet today only made us talk more. I’m hoping I have more luck next time.
Where do you like to write? Do you have a top ten, or do you have one designated writing space that you consistently use?
I posted my top ten favourite writing quotes the other day, and one of them was Peter De Vries**, when he said, “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” I feel like that is such a crucial and often overlooked piece of advice, so...
I posted my top ten favourite writing quotes the other day, and one of them was Peter De Vries**, when he said, “I write when I’m inspired, and I see to it that I’m inspired at nine o’clock every morning.” I feel like that is such a crucial and often overlooked piece of advice, so I just wanted to bring up that quote again and talk about it for a moment.
So many people won’t write because they’re uninspired, don’t feel like it, or they claim to have writer’s block. But in my experience, half of the time it’s backwards for me! Rather than getting inspiration then writing, I write and then get inspired. If you’re writing a bunch of crap, then just keep going until something decent comes out. I think Jack London said it best with “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.”
Everyone has some pretty daunting tasks in their days. Personally, I hate going to the gym… at first. I’ll be tired from working, have other things to do, and would rather just curl up with my laptop for an hour or two before going to bed. Since the motivation often isn’t there, I have to force myself to go. And once I get there? I forget about all of my excuses. Getting started was the tough part. As soon as I start my work-out, I can finish it with no problems and actually enjoy it.
So if you’re feeling uninspired, just write about anything. A childhood memory, what the people outside your window are doing, what you had for breakfast that morning… just keep writing until something worthwhile comes out. If you sit around waiting for inspiration to hit you, you might be waiting around for a while. Just write, and the rest will follow.
But if you’re still stuck on what to write in order to get your muse flowing, here are a few prompts for you:
- “I’m only as real as you make me. No excuse will ever change that.”
- The chill down my spine from the raindrops was nothing compared to the chill I got when he finally put his arm around my waist.
- I opened her bedroom door, planning on peaking in to ensure her absence, but I saw much more than expected. I was treated to the sight of a man holding a gun.
**It’s been brought to my attention that William Faulkner may have been the one to actually say that (or say something very similar), however Google’s being unhelpful and providing equal proof for both of them, so I can’t be sure who actually said it. If anyone has any additional information on that, please leave a comment! Thanks to Kris, for letting me know!
Quite often, when I try to encourage someone to write, they come back with the age old excuse of “But I don’t have any ideas!” That’s a load of BS. Ideas are everywhere. You don’t need to be a creative mastermind in order to form a story idea. Even the tiniest idea or moment can...
Quite often, when I try to encourage someone to write, they come back with the age old excuse of “But I don’t have any ideas!” That’s a load of BS. Ideas are everywhere. You don’t need to be a creative mastermind in order to form a story idea. Even the tiniest idea or moment can sprout into an entire story, whether it be a short one or a novel.
Sophie King has some excellent suggestions in her book, How to Write Short Stories for Magazines- and get Published, so I wholeheartedly suggest you buy her book or check it out at your local library. One of my favourite tips is to just ask questions about any situation. A boring situation can be easily spiced up if you just ask yourself “What if…”
For example, I’m currently writing this blog post outside. It’s a gorgeous day, so I’m laying in the backyard with my laptop. I can hear the neighbours arguing from out here, and the woman just accused the man of never listening to her. I don’t know these neighbours, so I have no clue what exactly they’re talking about, nor have I been able to make out enough of the argument to make an educated guess. But I can still make that one sentence blossom into a situation. What if she’s accusing him of not listening because he thought taking her to a wrestling match was a good idea for their anniversary, despite the fact she constantly told him she wanted jewelry? But what if he had gotten her jewelry? What if the wrestling match was just to throw her off of the trail? What if she was too irritated to hear him out though, and he doesn’t get a chance to give her the jewelry on their anniversary?
Or maybe the neighbours are arguing because the woman told him that he had to pick their child up from school that day, but he forgot and assumed she was doing it. What if by the time they did get to the school, their kid was gone? What if the kid was actually still there, but had to run inside to use the toilet? What if the kid heard them arguing on his way back from the toilet, but decided to stay hidden for a bit long as “punishment” for them forgetting him?
I want you to start paying better attention to the people around you. People-watching is an excellent way to form ideas for stories. Question everything you see, and I guarantee you’ll get some great ideas to work with. Eavesdrop on conversations as you walk by, and use the sentence or two that you heard to formulate an imaginary conversation they could be having. Watch the body language of the people across the room, and try to guess why they look so ecstatic, confused, tired, or irritated.
Even question the things that you do. A large part of the plot for my second novel, Ringality Check, formed as I was folding the laundry for the kids I nanny for. This is how my thought process went:
“They sure have a lot of clothes. It’s so sad how other people don’t have any. And it would suck if you had clothes, but didn’t have access to them, so they were just taunting you. What if someone was stuck wearing the same outfit day after day, despite owning clothes? What if they were stuck somewhere, like a mental institution, and weren’t allowed to wear their own clothes for security reasons? What if the character breaks out of the place just so she could go wear normal clothes again?”
Now, that’s not exactly what happened. Wearing normal clothes wasn’t her reasoning for trying to break out, nor did she even successfully escape. But it still sparked the idea, and opened up a wide range of questions. Why was she in the mental institution in the first place? Why was she trying to break out? Does she ever get released? Did she have someone helping her in her failed escape? Something as small as folding up a toddler’s t-shirt was able to start the ball rolling on an entire novel.
After reading this, I challenge you to look out the window at someone walking by, or start a conversation with your significant other/parent/sibling/friend/coworker/etc. Use whatever you saw or heard to form a story. Whether you write it or not is up to you, but I’d love to hear how your ideas were sparked! Alternatively, if you see or hear nothing, try turning on the tv and using the first thing you saw to build your idea, or feel free to use this as a prompt. I scrolled through my document for Ringality Check and stopped at a random sentence for you to work off of:
I heard a shrill voice nearby, but I ignored it, until the piercing noise hit me again.
“What are you doing!?”
Please comment with what you came up with and let me know your own tips on coming up with ideas!
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