As promised, the “The Proposal” moment!

Last time I blogged I talked about finding my “anchors” for the story that allowed me to go deeper with the characters and the plot.

As I worked through the middle part of the book, I came out of my office and said to my husband, “I need a “The Proposal” moment!”

“Like??” he said.

“You know when Margaret (Sandra Bullock) is trying to convince Drew (Ryan Reynolds) to marry her and they are standing out on the sidewalk?”

“Yes…”

“And she tells him, if you don’t marry me, I’ll be deported. They’ll give Bob my job and he’ll fire you. Which means you’re out on the streets starting all over again.”

“Okay…”

“I need that kind of detail. Why does Joy allow Spear to come and work with her on HER show?”

So we mulled it over for a bit and I worked out a good scenario. I needed my cooking show host to allow her new producer to bring in a co-host. But why? It’s her show? I new why the producer wanted to add the co-host, but why would the talent go along?

I needed a “Bob will fire you” reason which would send my protagonist farther from her dream.

One of the reason I loved the movie The Proposal was because the writers really took the time to set up a valid, real, hard hitting scenario for why Drew would lie about his affection for the boss he hated.

He was desperate to become a book editor.

Too many times we fluff over the reason our characters make choices they would never make. Donald Maass says, “have your characters do something they would never do.” So, in the course of writing, an author just randomly had their character turn left when they always turn right.

Or, we make up a flimsy excuse. “I just felt like I should give the producer a shot, you know, see if a co-host  would be fun.”

No! Too nice. Joy is hiding something and a co-host would bring her world down on her head.

So why would she go along? Now, you’re going to have to read the book to find out. But think of your own WIPs. Have you backed your hero or heroine into a corner? Squeezed them into an unseemly decision? GREAT. But tell us why. Give us a solid reason, not a surface on.

In most Hollywood movies, Margaret would’ve had some stupid detail on Drew like, “I saw you making out with the boss’s daughter,” or worse, his wife. What? No. How does that impact his dream.

They set up the scenario to kill his dream if he didn’t go along.

Set up your backstory and reasoning so if the protagonist doesn’t go along, his or her dream is lost.

Think. Dig deep. Take your current ideas and ask “what if?” and turn the ideas upside down.

Happy Writing!

What I’m Learning This Week

I started my book over. Why? Because I was struggling with the middle because I lacked something in the beginning. I had a map, pieces and  parts, but my anchors were not drilled down into the plot.

Where were my anchors? Floating out there in the vast wasteland of Rachel Hauck’s imagination. Er, I mean the beautiful tundra, wild and free, of Rachel’s mind. A-hem.

There are some components of this story that are just hard for me. I’ve never been a cooking show host. Never even been on TV. Well, once, when I was five, on a Tulsa kiddy show. I kept changing seats with the kid next to me. Or was she the one moving all around? Focus! Focus!

Anyway, I remained on the surface of the story with moments of diving-deep, but last week I came up with a new opening line. This is my litmus test. I write a new opening line and if suddenly I can see the path, where to go, then I keep going. When I did that last week, next thing I new, chapter one was rewritten.

My anchors were starting to sink down.

What are the anchors? Emotional thread, Physical thread (plot), Spiritual thread and Romantic thread. Also, what each protagonist — hero and heroine — were facing.

I’m still struggling a bit, but I’m getting there. I know where I’m going, I just have to figure out how to get there.

Some times you might be struggling because your anchors are not thrown overboard being allowed to sink down into the water of your heart and mind.

The answer is to keep writing. Keep thinking.

Next week, I’ll talk about my “The Proposal” moment!

Meet the Voices: Susanne Lakin

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This week, Meet the Voices welcomes Susanne Lakin. Her novel, Someone to Blame (contemporary fiction), won the 2009 Zondervan First Novel competition in April, 2009, with a publication date of August 2010. Lakin has also accepted a contract for her three fantasy novels in the Sacred Sites Collection of Fairy Tales with AMG-Living Ink Publishers. The first book in the series, The Wolf of Tebron, is schedule for publication Fall 2010. Her contemporary mystery, Innocent Little Crimes, made the top one hundred finalists in the 2009 Amazon Breakout Novel Award contest, earning her a Publisher’s Weekly review that noted her book was “a page-turning thrill-ride that will have readers holding their breaths the whole way through.”

Lakin grew up collating television scripts for her screenwriter mother. As an adult, Susanne assisted in developing series for television, and while raising two daughters and running a bed and breakfast inn in northern California where she wrote her first three novels and a cookbook. She currently works as a freelance copyeditor and writing mentor, specializing in helping authors prepare their books for publication. She is a member of The Christian PEN (Proofreaders and Editors Network), CEN (Christian Editor Network), San Francisco Editors Guild, CAN (Christian Authors Network), and ACFW (American Christian Fiction Writers). She is currently completing her ninth book: Conundrum, her fourth psychological suspense novel. She has also written the first book in a Young Adult sci-fi adventure series: Time Sniffers.

If she didn’t spend all her time writing and copyediting in Santa Cruz, CA, she would be sixty feet underwater, taking photographs, or backpacking in the Trinity Alps with her dog, Sweetie, and her two daughters, Megan and Amara. She confesses to a serious chocolate addiction, which she shares with her husband of twenty-six years, Lee Miller.

What is the biggest writing challenge you’ve encountered this past year – craft, career, writing life, etc.?

Doing my macroedits for Zondervan for my novel, Someone to Blame, coming out in August. Although I make a living telling others how to fix their manuscripts, and I’ve had plenty of critiquing from critique partners, I wasn’t ready for the stress and anxiety that welled up as I tackled the edits for my publisher, knowing I wanted to please them and still feeling a need to preserve what I felt important to the story. I’m sure I’ve been a complete wreck and annoyance to my very sweet and patient editor!

How did you solve it?

Of course, prayer first and foremost. I had to remind myself to pray, trust God, know he has a purpose for this book, and knows just how it needs to come across. Sometimes I get so embroiled in concentrating, I do forget to take time to pray, walk away from the book, clear my head. Also, it helped a lot to consult very seasoned authors with lots of books under their belts. Having a great writers’ group with gals I can consult and ask advice is such a blessing. They gave me very wise advice, and also told me how much I can press to keep things that are important to me. I am grateful for their taking the time to listen to my worries.

What is the one thing you learned that you can share with other writers?

THE one thing??? In twenty-two years of novel writing I’ve found there is no one thing. But…wait….maybe….persistence. I keep hearing over the years that the one who persists the longest will get published. I never thought I would see the day…but I’ve signed contracts on four books this year. One of my agents assured me last year I would eventually get published, for if you stick with it and keep improving, you will get published. I really do believe that with all my heart AND, being a Christian, I know God’s timing is perfect. I thank him for this long wait and know there are very important reasons for it—not just for my growth as an author (developing and honing my writing), but to serve as an encouragement to friends and clients who are struggling to get “there.”

Tell us about your current WIP.

Conundrum is the most difficult book I’ve ever written. It’s my ninth novel. I prayed to God to tell me what to write next and he gave me the title and whole first chapter in a dream. I didn’t want to write it. It is a mystery set in 1986, mostly autobiographic, exploring the strange death of my father at age 33. It is set against the backdrop of a cruel family betrayal, which I experienced, so brings up a lot of pain. I’ve never written a novel that I resisted so much. It’s almost done but I’ve set it aside until I get that aha moment of redemption and purpose. I’m also starting book four of my fantasy series—The Unraveling of Wentwater, which should be fun–deals with words and how they can unravel lives. Fantasy is my calling, but somehow God veers me aside to write literary mysteries. Oh well….

Susanne, thank you for being our featured Voice this week and sharing about your writing life. For more information about Susanne, be sure to visit her website. Visit the My Book Therapy forum and chat with Susanne!

Be sure to join us on Monday, November 16 at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST for a My Book Therapy chat with Susanne and our book therapists, Susan and/or Rachel. To access the chat forum:

*Log into My Book Therapy.

*Click on the forum button.

*Sign in with your username and password, if necessary.

*Click on the Chat tab.

*Your name will show up in the box on the right hand side. To comment, type in the box in the bottom under the yellow smiley face.

*In the chat room, we will abide by chat etiquette–type ? for question, type ! for comment, and type GA for go ahead after you’re completed your question or comment.

*If you have any questions, e-mail lisa@mybooktherapy.com