Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Story Board

Today's blog is about a topic that has been very helpful to me in plotting. The story board. Some writers fly by the seat of their pants. I can't. I'm a plotter. And just how do I keep all those scenes straight...certainly not in my head. I use a story board.

My story board is a large cork board. It contains several items, including photographs of each of my main characters. I scour magazines until I find the perfect photos that depict what my characters look like in my mind. I then cut them out and pin them to the story board. This helps me envision the characters and get to know them on a more intimate level. Also, I fill out a character biography in order to get to know each main character better. You can find many examples of these on the web. Pick one that works best for you.

My story board also has chapter headings pinned to it: chapter 1, chapter 2, etc. Under these headings, I place a small post-it note of each scene in each particular chapter. For example, first date, first kiss, and since I write suspense, first victim. On one side of the board, I pin post-it notes of every scene in my novel. I move them over under the appropriate chapter heading once they've been included in the novel.

Many times, I'll decide that I want to make changes to a certain scene I've already written or I may decide that I want to move that particular scene to another chapter. But, what chapter is that scene located in? A quick look at the story board gives me a guide on where to find that scene.

I hope you found this blog helpful. This is how I plot.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Contest Tips

Since we have so many contests coming up in June, I thought it would be appropriate to post few tips for entering contests.

1) Choose a contest that’s appropriate for your genre. For example, if you write for the Christian market, you may not want to enter a contest that doesn't have an inspirational category.
2) Hook ‘em from the get-go. The first sentence of your manuscript must shine. It should jump off the page and make the judges long to read more.
3) Read and follow all guidelines. Points will be deducted from your score if you don't follow the proper format. For example, some contests may require 3,000 words and some may request 5,000 words.
4) Consider the final judge. Is this person an editor who has already seen your manuscript and turned it down? An editor who works for a publishing company who you'd want to review your manuscript? An agent you’d like to land?
5) Have a friend or critique partner proofread your entry. If you don’t have a critique partner, now would be a good time to find one. Friends and family mean well, but they’re prone to be nice when what we need is a brutal critique by someone who know the mechanics of writing.
6) Review the score sheet before submitting your entry. This will give you an idea of what the judges are looking for. One problem I’ve had with an entry of mine that’s making the contest circuit is that sparks don’t fly between my hero and heroine soon enough. They meet in the first chapter, but my heroine is too upset at being booked into jail to really notice him. She’s so caught up in her own problems that she’s not drawn to him as she would be in other situations. This has given me a low score in this section of the score sheet.
7) If you’ve entered a snail mail contest, spend the extra postage in order to get your entry returned to you so that you can review judge’s scores.
8) Enter electronically when possible in order to save money on paper, ink and postage.