Break Into Fiction® Tips for Troubleshooting Plot Holes By New York Times best selling author Dianna Love

Dianna Love has joined us today to share Tips for Troubleshooting Plot Holes in stories. Dianna and award-winning author Mary Buckham wrote the Break Into Fiction®: 11 Steps to Building a Story that Sells (Adams Media/June 2009) book based on the innovative Break Into Fiction® writing programs they teach nationally.

Dianna sold the first novel she wrote – WORTH EVERY RISK – to Harlequin that went on to win a RITA® award under the name Dianna Love Snell. Her next releases were by St. Martin’s Press and Pocket, all three books hitting the New York Times list. Prior to those publications the suggestion was made to shorten her name to Dianna Love, which she now uses. Dianna co-writes a romantic thriller series with #1 NYT best selling author Sherrilyn Kenyon based on a covert national security group known as the Bureau of American Defense…or BAD. Their current release is WHISPERED LIES (Pocket/May 2009). For more on Dianna visit www.AuthorDiannaLove.com and www.BreakIntoFiction.com

A big thanks to Mary Barfield for inviting me today.

I get this question often: What mistakes do writers commonly make in plotting?

There’s no way to answer that thoroughly here, which is why Mary Buckham and I finally wrote a book so writers could find those answers while working on their own story. But to address some bullet point issues, let’s start with plot holes in general.

A plot hole is a point in your story where the reader stops reading to question why something did, or did not, happen. Or the reader is taken off the ride because the character made an illogical action or decision. Or it happens because the writer inserted an action because “the writer needed X to happen at a certain point,” not because the action was motivated properly or because there was any logical reason for that action/situation.

Plot holes stem from a lot of things, but the simplest answer is “lack of motivation.” Or lack of the ability to answer the question “Why?” If you find yourself explaining why something happens in your story – this is red flag for a plot hole. Your story has to stand on its on merits with you thousands of miles away from someone reading it when you can’t explain anything to the reader.

Even if an agent or editor would let you explain it – why would that be okay? You can’t stand in the aisle at the bookstore and explain to every person who buys your book, “When you get to ______ scene, this is why that happens…”

Key points to ask yourself when working on a story are –
• Would “I” do this in this person’s shoes? I can’t tell you how many times I work with a writer on a story where they have an implausible situation and I ask the writer if they would make the same decisions or act the same way as the character? Too many of those writers will start saying, “You don’t understand…” Then they go on to explain why their character has to do this, but they still have not answered the question of “would YOU do that?” You are selling books to real, everyday people who are going to judge your character based on what they feel is believable.
• Why would your character do this now? You may “need” your character to do something at that point to force an action or decision, but if you can’t answer that question from the character’s mind then you may have them acting “out of character” – again, not believable.
• What is this character risking at each twist point in the story? There are 3 twist points in the story that ups the stakes and risks, places where the character faces obstacles and have to have a good reason for continuing to move toward their external goal. Too often, I see where stories have one thing happening after another with no real change occurring and the character does not face increased stakes or have a good reason to keep trying to save the world or find the killer.
• Why should we cheer for this character at the end? If you are writing commercial fiction, we need a reason to do high-fives for the character at the end. If you don’t have an answer for that question, something has broken down midway in your story. If your twist points are weak or missing, your ending will have no punch. The story arc has to continue to rise with higher stakes and risks to the point where everything is on the line.

If after each time your character(s) makes a decision or takes an action, you have trouble answering “why?” that will indicate of a plot hole. Sagging middles come from lack of strong twist points. Weak or missing twist points undermine the power in your story and the ending.

As I said, I can’t address everything here because there is so much more to creating a powerful novel. In Break Into Fiction®, we give both Plotters and Pantsers (writes by the seat of their pants) the tools necessary to build a compelling story with strong characters. The worksheets in our book are intended to have you start at chapter one working on YOUR story.

A Plotter will be able to assure their story is going in the right direction from the beginning with significant actions that will force the character(s) to grow and change, and the story arc to rise in a logical and believable way to a powerful ending.
A Pantser (writes by the seat of their pants) will use the questions in the worksheets to locate plot holes and character issues during the revision process, and to brainstorm the changes needed to fix problem areas.

What better way to learn than to apply the information immediately with your story?

Mary and I created a program and book that we wished we’d had when we first started writing. We wanted a book that would work like a personal critique partner to ask you questions about your story. That’s how Break Into Fiction came to be written and published.

So, what stumps you when it comes to plotting?

I’m giving away BOOKS! Post a hello or a question today for a chance to win a copy of Break Into Fiction® and a copy of PHANTOM IN THE NIGHT (the first BAD Agency book Dianna co-wrote with Sherrilyn Kenyon).

For more about Break Into Fiction® visit www.BreakIntoFiction.com where you can sign up for a chance to win critiques and books. You can attend one of our special upcoming workshops at the Moonlight & Magnolias conference this October 2-4, 2009.

58 comments

  1. Scarlet Pumpernickel // June 28, 2009 at 12:05 AM  

    Diana welcome to the Pink Fuzzies, we are pleased pink to have you with us today. I can't wait to get a copy of this new book! It sounds like just what I need to have while completing my current wip! You achievement are amazing! You go girl!

    Scarlet

  2. Mary Marvella // June 28, 2009 at 12:18 AM  

    Hey, Dianna!

    Ladies, I heard Dianna announce the sale of her first book. Too Cool and she's going strong.

  3. Dayana // June 28, 2009 at 12:43 AM  

    Diana welcome and very nice to meet you.

    You have given me wonderful food for thought in this post.

    I guess I would be on the pantser side with a slight bend toward plotster. Weird huh?

    Anyway, I think you book will be a great addition to my craft book collection. Right up there with Block and Sistrunk books.

    Thank you so much for dropping by to hang with us today.

    Oh and congratulations on the sale of your first book:)

    Dayana~

  4. Jane // June 28, 2009 at 2:55 AM  

    Hi Dianna,
    Will you continue to cowrite with Sherrilyn?

  5. Shelley Munro // June 28, 2009 at 4:01 AM  

    Hi Diana - thanks for the wonderful post. One thing that always makes me stumble a little in plotting is finding a fresh way for my characters to do something that readers haven't read in a dozen other books.

    Do you have any hints or advice for setting up unexpected twists?

  6. Edie Ramer // June 28, 2009 at 7:00 AM  

    Diana, that's amazing and awesome to have your first three books on the NYT bestselling list! I'll keep your bullet list in mind in my revisions.

  7. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 7:29 AM  

    Hi Scarlet -

    Thank you to you, Mary and the rest of the Pink Fuzzies for inviting me. You have a real fun blog.

    I appreciate the wonderful comments on Break Into Fiction and the kudos. Definitely complete that wip so we can cheer you when it goes out.

  8. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 7:31 AM  

    Hi Mary -

    Yes, I remembered meeting you at my first Georgia Romance Writers meeting. For those of you visiting who might now know Mary - she's bright, funny, talented and a very welcoming person.

    thanks again for asking me to blog.

  9. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 7:36 AM  

    Hi Dayana -

    I think I have name envy. "g"

    Thanks for the congrats and warm wishes. I call myself a "hybrid" because I like to plot so that I know where all the complicated threads in my story will go and I don't have to stop half way to figure out if I'm too far along here or not far enough along there or if I've missed something.

    But once I have some of the key elements of the story figured out and a good idea who my characters are I like to write a chapter or two to get a true feel for them. After that I settle down to plot in more detail.

    That's why Mary and I are always pushing that you do what comes naturally and find a way to assure your story does not fall apart in the middle or your character doesn't do something unmotivated.

    thanks for stopping by.

  10. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 7:41 AM  

    Hi Jane -

    Yes, I plan to continue cowriting the BAD Agency series with Sherrilyn. We're thrilled with the response to the books we're doing together and we enjoy the new thriller feel for the stories. But they will always be romantic thrillers.

    That is the only thing Sherrilyn and I are cowriting right now. I have a mainstream project going out and an urban fantasy series I'm thinking about taking out because of the response I've had to my UF novella - MIDNIGHT KISS GOODBYE - that was in the Dead After Dark anthology. Just depends on how much time I have next year. I have several major projects in the works so I don't want to overload my schedule.

    I have a rule of writing better books rather than more books.

    thanks for the question and for stopping by.

  11. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 7:56 AM  

    Hi Shelley -

    The first step to having your characters to do something (accomplish a goal, perform an action) in a way that hasn't been used in a stack of other books is to develop the 3 major twist points. It's too involved to go into in detail here (we lead you through this in the plotting templates in our Break Into Fiction book), but once you develop those twist points you've got the worst part of the battle behind you. The twists are external actions that influence internal change in your character, which is what creates story questions.

    Story questions are what keep your reader hooked into turning pages.

    Once you have the major twists worked out, consider having a secondary character do something unexpected or make a decision or action that causes your character to have to tackle his/her obstacle (there will be obstacles along the way to make your character earn their goal) from a different point. Characters will continue on a path, doing the most expected moves until put into a position of having to make unexpected choices or decisions.

    Too often we focus too closely on what our main characters are doing and allow everyone around them to act in accordance to the "plan" for the overall story goal. You don't want a character acting out-of-character, but if you motivate it properly you can have any character, particularly your secondary characters, throw the main character a curve and up the conflict at the same time - which creates story questions.

    Once you take a character out of their comfort zone they will probably surprise you by how they come up with a solution to a problem that they MUST solve. So the key is to put them in a difficult situation where the "expected" solution can't be used.

  12. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 7:58 AM  

    Hi Edie -

    Thanks for the compliment. I'm glad you can use my tips in revising and editing. I enjoy writing, but I much prefer editing a written page. I use edit days as carrots to get through the tough writing days.

    thanks for stopping by.

  13. Barbara White Daille // June 28, 2009 at 8:29 AM  

    Diana - great post, thanks!

    I think what stumps me most with plotting is being both a plotter and a pantser, so I'm glad to hear you call yourself a "hybrid."

    Any tips for making the most of working with this dual personality?

    Best,
    Barbara

    www.barbarawhitedaille.com

  14. Dayana // June 28, 2009 at 8:40 AM  

    Oops, Diana! So sorry, I was momentarily stunned by Mama Mary's 'first book' comment and felt compelled to respond to it, though it did confuse me.
    Reading it now in the bright morning light it makes sense that Mary was around for your first book sale, LOL I know in the body of the post, Mama clearly states you've had three books on the NY best seller's list, so let's blame it on the late hour, *scuttles off to hide*

    Forgive me.

    Best,

    Dayana~

  15. Donnell // June 28, 2009 at 8:52 AM  

    Dianna, I have a question about your writing team. You and Mary Buckham live on opposite sides of the country. I'm not sure where you are in relation to Sherrilyn Kenyon. Do you do all this laborious work via e-mail, which I find exhausting, do you brainstorm via phone, do you hop on your leerjet or hook up with your BAD team and have them transport you via chopper. Curious minds (me ;) would like to know. Plot holes, they're quicksand to an author. Great post, thanks Mary for having Dianna here!

  16. CAROLYN RAE WILLIAMSON // June 28, 2009 at 9:17 AM  

    I enjoyed Worth Every Risk. I would like some advice on how to treat information which is correct (Witness Security Program) but TV and movies have given people different ideas. Do I include explanations in the forward or have "official characters" explain difference to main characters?
    Carolyn Williamson

  17. Judy // June 28, 2009 at 10:19 AM  

    Great job,Diana! I'm so happy for your success and your willingness to share all you've learned. Continued success...

  18. Marie Campbell // June 28, 2009 at 10:37 AM  

    Hi, Diana,
    Thanks for spending the day sharing your knowledge with all of us. I'm looking forward to seeing you in August when you come to Birmingham for the Southern Magic workshop.

  19. Barbara Monajem // June 28, 2009 at 10:39 AM  

    Dianna wrote: I use edit days as carrots to get through the tough writing days.

    Yes! I love editing. Usually, I start the writing day by editing what I wrote the day before, because it's fun and it gets me back into the mood of the story.

    I have chronic plot hole problems, but if I asked myself what I would do in a given situation, my stories would fizzle to nothing. I'm way too much of a wimp! I have to ask "What would I do now if I were a feisty, no-nonsense, kick-ass (insert appropriate adjective) heroine?" Otherwise my heroines would do a lot of sitting and waiting. LOL. So for me it's a two part thing -- put myself into the head of a heroine, and *then* ask "What would I do?"

    I'm looking forward to your workshop at M&M. I took an on-line synopsis course from Mary Buckham a few years ago, and it was extremely helpful.

  20. Mona Risk // June 28, 2009 at 11:39 AM  

    Diana welcome to our PFS. I had the pleasure of meeting Mary Buckham two years ago. I took two of her workshops and more recently I interviewed her on a different loop. So I heard about your Break Into Fiction book. I can use suggestions and techniques from the book to bounce back from a hole in my current WIP, a romantic suspense.

  21. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 12:15 PM  

    Hi Barbara -

    I'm chuckling about you also being a hybrid, because I was so sure I was doing it all wrong from the beginning but that was my process. As for making the most of our "dual personality" of a plotter and pantser - I think you figure out what works the best for you in most situations.

    I write just enough (anywhere from 1-3 chapters) to get settled into the main character(s) then I plot through the story. If you prefer to do all the writing before it's completely plotted, that's probably going to mean more revising, which isn't a bad thing. Just a matter of personal preference.

    The main thing is to find a way that keeps you productive. A Plotter personality is someone who is more productive when they can relax to write only after they know where the story is going. That's very freeing for this personality (which I tend to be primarily) because you can write scenes at will and explore new ideas that pop up while not worrying about going too far off track that you have to throw away huge chunks of the book (a plotter wants to slit her wrists at the idea of throwing away 100 pgs).

    On the other hand, a pantser will feel like her hands are bound if she has to figure out everything in advance. If you're primarily a pantser then write away with the confidence of knowing you can fix problems later even if it means tossing some pages. I see this as nothing different than using the first draft as a major outline.

    The point of our Break Into Fiction book is to give you a plan to follow if that's what you need or a safety net for flying by the seat of your pants.

    What you have to do is give yourself the freedom to write the way that makes you happy and keeps you excited about your story.

  22. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 12:17 PM  

    Dayana -
    Please don't apologize. I consider any compliment a gift. And my first book will always be special to me.

  23. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 12:35 PM  

    Donnell -

    You asked about how I collaborate with Mary Buckham (lives in the Seattle, WA area) on the nonfiction and Sherrilyn Kenyon (lives near Nashville, TN) on the fiction books. And I live in the Atlanta area.

    I see Mary and Sherri quite often since we're all on the road a lot and many times with each other. I definitely work with each one via phone and email. I know Mary and Sherri so well that I don't have to be face to face to brainstorm or work through pages. However, for anyone who is considering collaboration - you should get to know each other first and don't depend on "friendship" to make it a good partnership.

    You have to be willing to hear constructive criticism and to give it as well, regardless of the point the other person is at in their writing career.

    Sherrilyn - who has 17 million books in print and six #1's in a row in a little over a year - and I made one deal when we started cowriting the BAD agency series. We agreed the story came first, that my words and her words were all up for editing. But it takes a tremendous amount of trust and mutual respect for each other's ability for us to work the way Sherri and I do, and how Mary and I collaborate.

    If anyone is considering a writing partner, you might want to spend the time critiquing at least one full manuscript written by each other to see if you can do that first.

    As for the BAD team having a Leer Jet for us fly around on...wouldn't that be nice with a full team on board.

    Plot holes are definitely quicksand to writing. But here's the tip on that - You can fix anything that is wrong with a story if you know what is wrong. The biggest thing Mary B. and I teach is how to find those weak spots and problems on your own so that you can revise and make your story strong.

  24. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 12:47 PM  

    Hi Carolyn -

    Wow, you're all coming up with great questions.

    You asked how to deal with using "correct" information in your story about things like the WITSEC program when tv and movies get it wrong.

    It depends on the information. If it's general procedures just work those in as normal (without overloading the reader with too much technical information, which is what happens often when a writer learns a lot of a new, exciting info). If you need to use something specific to your story you think a reader will just not believe or not understand then the easiest way is to have a character that needs to be informed.

    Big warning - do not set up a walk on character just to do an info dump. If your protagonist is not an expert in something and that information is pivotal to the plot then your protagonist can go to an expert for information. But don't just have your protagonist ask some leading questions so the expert can unload in bullet points. Create a realistic dialogue that has purpose and give us an expert that has life, not a cardboard walk on.

    I believe if you can probably wait until someone (outside cold reads, an agent, editor, etc) questions something significant before spending a lot of energy figuring out how to tell the reader your information is accurate. Readers are very bright and willing to trust your story if what you give them makes logical sense. I think we all like to learn something new when we read.

    I don't think having your information correct will stop an editor or agent from reading your full, unless you spend a lot of time telling them information that could have just as easily been part of an "off scene" action.

    In my and Sherri's most current book - WHISPERED LIES - there's an unusual situation near the very end that someone asked me about during a signing. The reader questioned the possibility of a particular material making it through a security screening. I explained that I spent time with a friend who is ex-Special Force who loves it when I bring an unusual idea to him. It's a bit scary, but I believe that idea is very possible.

    That technical information was pertinent and did not slow down the readers at all.

  25. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 12:49 PM  

    Hi Judy -

    Thank you for coming by today and for your kind words. I'm fortunate to have met both published and not-yet-published writers along that way who generously shared information with me. So I'm always happy to pass along anything I can when I have the time.

  26. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 12:53 PM  

    Hi Marie -

    You're so welcome. I'm happy to be here.

    And I'm looking forward to visiting my buddies in Birmingham,Al the weekend of Aug 22nd. For those who don't know, Southern Magic is hosting a one-day retreat where Mary Buckham and I will teach our new Thought To Plot program on how to expand your thinking to develop stronger characters and plot premises before you sit down to plot or write.

    See you then!

  27. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 1:01 PM  

    Hi Barbara M -

    So nice to see you the other day and I really enjoyed meeting your daughter (she works at Borders).

    I like to review pages from the day before when sitting down to write, too, but I try to keep myself from doing much editing or I'd spend all day there. "g"

    I agree about climbing into your heroine's head. When I mention asking a writer "what would you do?" it's for the times that someone has maybe their heroine walk away from a situation that makes her look unsympathetic or reactive instead of active. Of if a hero is crossing the line from being an Alpha to being Abusive - would you allow a man to do that to you and still say you love him?

    Mary B and I are looking forward to M&M, too. For those who don't know, M&M is Moonlight & Magnolias conference in the Atlanta area (Norcross, GA) the first weekend in October (2nd-4th) this year and hosted by Georgia Romance Writers. Mary and I have created a special wrap up workshop for Sunday morning called POWER UP YOUR PROPOSAL.

    OH - if you're thinking about signing up, do it soon so that you're in the early sign up drawings for special prizes. Mary and I have donated a 30 min one-on-two with us during the conference, plus a copy of our new Break Into Fiction book and the first 25 pages of your story critiqued.

  28. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 1:07 PM  

    Hi Mona -

    How fun to have met taken some of Mary Buckham's workshops and met her. She gives quite a few online workshops as well (www.WriterUniv.com)in case any of you don't know about that.

    I'm glad you're going to revive a manuscript. I bet you'll be surprised by what you brainstorm as you ask yourself the questions on our worksheets. When we have time to do the live Power Plotting Retreats, it's really exciting to watch someone break through and come up with that key ingredient for their story.

    Good luck with that and don't forget to send good news through our Break Into Fiction site. That's for everyone - Mary and I love to celebrate your good news.

  29. PJ von Detweiler // June 28, 2009 at 1:36 PM  

    Diana,

    I've always enjoyed your workshops and look forward to getting my hands on this book. Since I don't plot, things can get a bit sticky along the way. My characters usually show me where I should be going, but even they stumble occasionally. Have you any advice geared to writers like me?

  30. Autumn Jordon // June 28, 2009 at 1:58 PM  

    Hi, Diana. Congrats on your success and on your new books. And thanks for the great post. Very informative. Every question I had was asked by a few others and your answers were awesome. I'm looking forward to adding your and Mary's book to my shelf. Will you be in DC? To sign?
    Autumn
    2009 Golden Heart Finalist
    www.autumnjordon.com

  31. Kathy // June 28, 2009 at 2:07 PM  

    Diana, I think your book with Mary will be worth every penny.I just recently submitted a partial. It was based on a request that I never dreamed it would happen. I won The Southern Heat Contest last year and the editor asked for a partial. This is a story that started out in purple ink plagued with head hopping to a properly formatted, one pov story.

  32. carrie-on // June 28, 2009 at 3:20 PM  

    Hi Diana and welcome!

    What a great group of questions and comments...I have your book on order..lol..
    I am a plotter who wants to be a pantser. I wrote my first ms, just finished it two weeks ago and am now in revisions...several times throughout the writing of it, I really wished I had known where I was going with the plot, because I seemed to be wildly making things up as I went along. (Of course 2 vodka lemonades will help that along a bit.) when I re-read the story I was stunned at how many holes, and BIG holes I had. So I think my pantser-ing days are over. =)
    Thanks for the article, can't wait to get your book and get rid of those darn black plot holes!

    carrie

  33. Donnell // June 28, 2009 at 3:25 PM  

    Dianna, thanks for the explanation regarding collaboration. I would think you would need alligator skin and a great deal of give and take, common sense. I have to get my hands on Breaking Into Fiction. Best of luck to you!

  34. Helen Scott Taylor // June 28, 2009 at 3:26 PM  

    Hi Diana, fascinating blog.

    I can't tell you how many times I stop and wonder what the heck is going on in both films and books. It always annoys me. I think there are a lot of screenwriters out there that need the Break Into Fiction book. This is such a valuable tool for all writers. Wish I could come an take one of your workshops. Maybe one day.

  35. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 3:28 PM  

    Hi PJ -

    Thanks for attending some of my past workshops.

    You said, "Since I don't plot, things can get a bit sticky along the way. My characters usually show me where I should be going, but even they stumble occasionally. Have you any advice geared to writers like me?"

    I can answer a specific question about a particular part of your story here, but the best general advice I have for how to figure out where your characters might have led you astray or the story might be breaking down is to suggest you use the questions in our book to vet your story. That's not meant as a plug since you all know about our book by now, but it's really my best answer. I used to only be able to help one writer at a time on one story where we'd work through their plot problems and brainstorm the answers. Once Mary and I started teaching our live Break Into Fiction Power Plotting retreats we realized the writers were leaving with the ability to do it on their own with the templates. That's why we finally decided a book was the best way we could offer many writers help instead of small groups in private retreats.

    Even plotters run into issues after completing a manuscript - it's just that their revising may not be as extensive. And the time spent completing a manuscript is often the same regardless if you put in the time up front plotting or on the back end revising.

    I really got tired of hearing some writers tell pantsers "you wouldn't have that problem if you plotted your story in advance."

    That's not helpful if you don't naturally plot. You won't ever hear that from us.

    The questions Mary and I developed in our 11 Power Plotting templates (in the Break Into Fiction book) are meant to be used either before you sit down to write to deal with plot issues before getting into story pages OR after you've completed a manuscript to figure out if the plot fails to arc and develop into a strong story.

    We wrote the book so that "any" writer could use the worksheets on their own and stick with their natural writing process.

    thanks for stopping by.

  36. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 3:32 PM  

    Hi Autumn -

    Thanks for the wonderful comments. Congratulations on your Golden Heart finish. That is so exciting. You're going to have wonderful time in DC.

    Yes, I'm going to be there and I'll be at the Literacy signing on Wed. They won't let us sign the Break Into Fiction book there, but Mary and I will both be happy to sign anywhere. We love to meet everyone in person when we can so please don't hesitate to walk up to either of us at any time to say hello.

    And - I'm doing a workshop (Do you really know what a BIGGER book is?) on Friday from 2-3pm with Mary Buckham and my Pocket editor Lauren McKenna. Mary is also doing a Body Language workshop on Sat from 3:15-4:15. So those are good times to find us, too.

    thanks for coming by.

  37. Mary Marvella // June 28, 2009 at 3:35 PM  

    You're doing a great job, Dianna! I knew you would.

  38. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 3:36 PM  

    Kathy -

    Congratulations on your Southern Heat win and getting the request!! You're definitely moving in the right direction.

    I hope you find our book makes the writing process easier. That was another part of the reason we built the plotting program - as published authors we could write more efficiently if we knew the key elements to brainstorm for turning an idea into a powerful story.

    Good luck with your writing and thanks for stopping by.

  39. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 3:55 PM  

    Hi Helen -

    So nice of you to stop by.

    I think the same thing when watching so many movies - how could they miss the basics? My husband and I love to watch movies, but it seems in the last year or two we get one good one out of 20 mediocre ones. And several will be so bad we have to walk away.

    That's nice of you to say they could use our book - though they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on consultants to tell them what works or does not, it might cost a few jobs if they thought they could get those answers for $15. "g"

    Congrats on winning the American Title last year and on the success of your debut book THE MAGIC KNOT this year.

    thanks for stopping by and I hope you make it over for national in DC (Helen is in the UK).

  40. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 3:58 PM  

    HI Carrie -

    I missed you somehow. I'm laughing over the plot holes maybe being due to the vodka lemonades - "g".

    I don't hesitate to write a scene that comes to me even if I'm not ready to plot, so don't ever give up on that free mind type of writing. There is no one way or the other, but just as I can't tackled a huge story without knowing where it is going, neither can a pantser sit and plot when they don't want to know where a story is going yet.

    Good luck on the revisions. Recognizing plot holes and figuring out what is wrong is way more than half the battle - you know how to write something new or differently.

  41. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 4:03 PM  

    Mary M -

    Thanks for the nice support and for having me come out.

    BTW everyone – I get caught up in answering writing questions and forget to mention the other authors out here. I’d like to send a congrats and kudo back to the ones visiting today that I know of:

    Congrats to Barbara Monajem on her first sale, but I don’t know the title off the top of my head (and she’s in my GRW chapter so I should) so Barbara is going to have to share that and her release date.

    Shelley Munro – I jumped over and checked out your website with a bazillion books – love your covers.

    Mona Risk – Wonderful cover on To Love a Hero

    Dayana Knight – Congrats on your book Bestial Cravings – nice dark cover.

    If I missed someone, please put your book out there for us to celebrate. I told you, I’m all about good news.

  42. Linsey Lanier // June 28, 2009 at 5:05 PM  

    Hi Dianna!

    Thanks so much for all the great advice! That's a lot to think about. This post is a keeper. I'm just about finished with the first draft of my wip and plan to use your BIF worksheets as I revise. I know I'll learn a lot.

    Thanks so much for your support of us pre-pubs.

    I love everything you've said about "hybrid" writing. I'm one, too. It took me the longest time to figure that out, since I can't stand filling out long lists of character details but I also can't stand not knowing what's going to happen next in my book! I was really having an identity crisis for awhile. :)

    Btw, I'll be citing "Break Into Fiction" along with a couple of other books in my post about Conflict this Wednesday on Petit Fours and Hot Tamales (http://petitfoursandhottamales.blogspot.com). Hope you can stop by. :)

    Linsey

  43. Mary Buckham // June 28, 2009 at 5:09 PM  

    Dianna ~~

    You make writing fun and exciting and do-able all in the same breath! I always learn something new anytime I read your postings. A quick hello to all the Pink Fuzzy Slipper Writers and to those folks I get to meet come M&M and at Nationals and Birmingham -- lots of fun coming down the pike!

    Cheers to all ~~ Mary B

  44. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 5:34 PM  

    Hi Linsey -

    Thanks for coming by today. I'm glad our templates are working for you.

    I'll definitely stop by Wed to check out your blog on Petit Fours and Hot Tamales. You can never know too much about conflict. The better the conflict, the stronger the story.

    Can't wait to see what you'll post.

    It's so nice to have blogs like that one and Pink Fuzzy Slippers where writers can share information with each other. This is such a solitary business I believe the internet is making that part of this business better so that you aren't all alone trying to figure out what's going on.

    Kudos to everyone who keeps these blogs alive. I know it takes a lot of work and dedication.

  45. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 5:38 PM  

    Hi Mary (Buckham) -

    Hope you took a bow while you were here.

    Everywhere I go I hear praises for Mary's online workshops (in addition to the live ones). She gives a 150% to her students and doesn't let small things like cross country flights to teach live workshops slow her down in responding.

    thanks for stopping by - see you in New York next week. Mary and I will be at ThrillerFest next week and DC for the RWA national.

  46. Dianna Love // June 28, 2009 at 6:02 PM  

    I'm going to take off (my husband is cooking dinner so - I can never pass that up).

    Thanks a bunch for inviting me today. I appreciate your interest in my writing and in Break Into Fiction.

    Good luck to everyone on their writing. Don't ever let any thing stop you from your goal.

    Hope to see some of you while I'm on the road in the next couple months. I'll be with Sherrilyn on her Bad Moon Rising Tour too - so stop by and say hello if I"m in your area.

    Thanks again to the Pink Fuzzy Slippers for a wonderful Sunday visit.

    Dianna

  47. Walt M // June 28, 2009 at 7:20 PM  

    Dianna,

    Great advice as always. I still need to pick up a copy of Break Into Fiction.

  48. Beth Trissel // June 28, 2009 at 8:21 PM  

    Great advice. I appreciate all the pointers you shared, especially those for the panser trying to be more of a plotter. Thanks for joining us here on the Fuzzies.

  49. Pamela Varnado // June 28, 2009 at 8:55 PM  

    Diana,
    Thanks for the words of wisdom. Plotting has alway been tough for me. That's why I'm looking forward to taking your class.

    Sometimes I develop great plots that doesn't fit the character I've developed. Is it better to plot out your story idea first and then develop a character to fit that plot or should it be the other way around?

  50. Sandra A // June 28, 2009 at 9:02 PM  

    Hi Diana, wow this has been a great blogging session - thank you and the PFSW for inviting you. I've been waiting for Break into Fiction to come out.
    Have you always been a semi - plotter?
    Just curious - you talk about the 3 twists aka 3 acts - do you use more?
    I admit I'm a pantser but I think I should try and become a duel p/p get rid of those chasms that have a tendency of opening up.

  51. Anonymous // June 28, 2009 at 10:40 PM  

    Hey, Dianna,

    Great blog and very timely since I'm stuck in the dreaded middle. Since I already have your book, I guess tonight is a good time to pull it out and start reading.

    Connie Gillam

  52. Dianna Love // June 29, 2009 at 7:53 AM  

    I heard there were more posts after I signed off last night so I'm back to answer those.

    Walt - thanks for stopping by. Always great to see you in person or online.

  53. Dianna Love // June 29, 2009 at 7:53 AM  

    Beth -

    Thanks for having me here on Pink Fuzzy slippers. I totally understand how tough it is to think about plotting when you're a pantser. The good news is you don't have to become a plotter to improve your stories. You just have to know how to find the problems when you revise. The final product just has to be a good book and the reader doesn't care how you get there.

    thanks for coming by.

  54. Dianna Love // June 29, 2009 at 8:01 AM  

    Hi Pamela -

    So nice to see you here. You asked if it's better to plot your story first then develop the character or the other way around.

    Some writers begin a story by figuring out the premise first or by figuring out the basics about their character first, but when it comes to actually plotting you want to develop the "arcs" of both at the same time.

    That's why we teach Character-Driven Plotting - because it's obvious when you "lay" a character over a plot or vice versa. The plot and character need to be braided together. Striving toward an external goal, facing obstacles, overcoming set backs - all those external actions and the results of these external actions are what changes the Character internally, which is why plot and character arcs are woven at the same time.

    In our Break Into Fiction book we show you how to accomplish this one step at a time so it isn't overwhelming.

    thanks for the question and for stopping by.

  55. Dianna Love // June 29, 2009 at 8:11 AM  

    Hi Sandra -

    So nice of you to stop by. The book is on the shelves and available online. Thanks for your interest.

    You asked, "Have you always been a semi - plotter?
    Just curious - you talk about the 3 twists aka 3 acts - do you use more?"

    As for how long I've been plotting or a hybrid - pretty much since I started writing in 2001. I think everyone starts writing with a blank piece of paper, which is how i started my first book but half way into it I got tired of backing up to make changes and plotted it out. I didn't realize I was actually plotting so much as figuring out where certain threads were going to lead.

    I believe by book 2 or 3, most writers know if they are more comfortable planning in advance or revising afterward.

    As for the 3 acts - I've never could follow the 3 act system because "to me" it felt as thought the story stopped and started each time. I like to start a story and for it to constantly race ahead with no thought of a "break." The twist points spin the story and character in a different direction each time, keeping the intensity high and the character focused on their goal.

    After the first two twist points, the stakes rise significantly and the character is changed each time. The last twist point is the moment where I've coined a very technical term of "suck and suckier." "g" At the last twist point (or climax or Big Black Moment), your protagonist(s) (both hero and heroine if it's a romance) should face a choice of two bad options where one is a sucky choice and one is a suckier choice.

    Each twist point keeps us hanging on the edge, wondering how in the world your character is going to do X or choose X.

    thanks for stopping by.

  56. Dianna Love // June 29, 2009 at 8:13 AM  

    Hi Connie -

    Yay on winning our book at the last GRW meeting. I"m glad it will be of help. Yes, the middle has killed more great stories than I want to think about. I hear wonderful plots with interesting characters that don't end up making the cut because the middle fell apart. That's why the twist points are so important.

    thanks for coming by to post.

  57. Nightingale // June 29, 2009 at 10:33 AM  

    Sorry I'm late. Enjoyed the blog and the comments as well. Thanks Dianna!

  58. Liz Jasper // June 30, 2009 at 12:32 AM  

    I think one of the hardest things about being an author is knowing what to do when you're stumped. Cleaning the bathroom with a Q-tip is one way of dealing with it, but having a book like Break Into Fiction is SO much better.
    Thanks!
    --Liz