Archive for the ‘Berta Platas’ Tag

Pointers from the Pros: Author Berta Platas on the Basics of Novel Writing

Pointers from the Pros” gives tips from authors and publishing industry professionals on everything from craft to querying to their experiences on the road to publication.

I spoke at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in beautiful St. Simons Island, Ga., two weeks ago and took copious notes at the sessions.  Although I couldn’t go to all the faboo classes, I’m sharing some tips from some of the ones I was lucky enough to attend.

Here is what awesomesauce chica lit author Berta Platas* had to say in Beginning Novel Writing.

Platas herself!

THE BASICS

  • Novel: a long work of narrative fiction
    • could be based on a real event, but you change it up
  • Novella: a 60-100-page work of narrative fiction
  • Short stories: under 60 pages
    • Novellas & short stories are not published on their own—but in anthologies
  • Genre: a category of story type—where you’d find a particular book in the bookstore
  • Stories can be character- or plot-driven (strong suspense).
  • Pace-heavy books most often get made into movies.

A book similar to Angela Landsbury's MURDER, SHE WROTE series would be an example of what would be classified under "cozy mystery."

CHARACTERS

  • Your hero cannot be perfect—perfect people do not exist.
  • Give them flaws—but not too many.
  • Internal conflict: conflict within the character’s own self
  • External conflict: some outside factor is stopping the hero from attaining his goals
  • Be mean to your characters—it’s hard, but do it!
    • Figure out what your characters are most afraid of—and then stomp on it.
    • What are they afraid to lose?  Take it away from them.
  • The main character has to change or you have no story.
    • If the MC does not change, then there has to be a reason.

GOAL, MOTIVATION, CONFLICT

  • An easy way to craft interesting characters: goal, motivation, conflict
  • Goal: What does the character want?
  • Motivation: What causes the character to want this?  What drives her to seek it?
  • Conflict: What (or who) is standing in the way of the character attaining her goals?
  • Do this for your heroes as well as your villains.
    • Everything your villians do, they have reasons for (in their minds)
    • They think their actions are right or justified in some way.

IN THE FLESH

  • Flesh out your characters—interview them (character sketch)
    • You don’t have to use all of it, but if you’ve got everything down somewhere, you will have more believable characters
  • This will also keep your characters true to who you know them to be.

POINT OF VIEW

  • Who is the best character to tell your story?  It may surprise you, after you flesh them all out.
  • 1st person POV – uses I/me/we/us/our/etc.
    • This is limiting in that you can’t see anything the main character isn’t seeing.
  • 3rd person POV – uses he/she/they/their/her/his/etc.
    • Close third is 3rd person limited feels like 1st person, but it isn’t.
    • You can have other POVs with 3rd person limited.

Sketch out your characters.

  • Multiple POVs allow you to see different parts of the story.
    • When doing this, however, the voices need to be very clear.
  • Be careful not to “head-hop”—going between multiple perspectives within one scene or chapter = confusing.

OTHER SUGGESTIONS

  • Stick to 10-page chapters (helps the pacing).
  • Make sure there’s a hook to each chapter. (“She opens the door and sees something amazing.”  Makes you turn the page.)
  • Give your character a friend, in order to impart info.
    • But don’t have a cast of millions; keep it as slim as you can.
    • Sometimes these secondary characters have subplots
  • Don’t give walk-off characters backstory.
  • Don’t have unnecessary actions or details because your reader will invent reasons and fixate them.
  • Kill off all your characters—and then bring them back to life as needed. :)

*Click here for my SWA Presenter Spotlight on Platas.

Conference Corner: Southeastern Writers Association

Interested in writing?  Want to come see me?  I’ve got just to conference for you: the Southeastern Writers Association conference.

THE 4-1-1

The 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference will be held June 20-24 in scenic St. Simons Island, Ga.

The full conference fee is $395, and it includes:

  • Up to three manuscript evaluations
  • One-on-one critiques with instructors
  • Entry into up to 15 contests (in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, inspiration, humor, romance, juvenile writing—children’s through young adult—science fiction and fantasy)—cash prizes for winners!
  • Access to all workshops, evening speeches, and open mic night
  • A one-year membership to SWA

WHY YOU NEED TO REGISTER NOW

While registration is open until the conference takes place, you’ve got just one more week to take advantage of the manuscript evaluations and contest entries—the deadline is April 1.

WHY SWA?

Held at the beautiful Epworth by the Sea in St. Simons Island, Ga., SWA’s annual conference is the perfect place to soak up some rays along with some writing knowledge from seasoned professionals.

As well, at $395 for a four-day conference, SWA is a steal.  Check around; most other conferences and writers’ retreats charge extra for manuscript critiques and contests.

ADDED BONUS

Did I mention I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing?  Come heckle me!**  To learn more about my workshop, click here.

Go easy on me!

I LIKE YOU AND EVERYTHING, BUT WHO ELSE WILL BE THERE?

This year’s presenters include:

To learn more about these presenters, click here or click on the presenters’ names above to see my interview series featuring several of them.

For more information about the Southeastern Writers Association conference, please see their registration page as well as my recent post.

Again, you must be registered by April 1 in order to gain full access to all this conference has to offer, so reserve your spot today!

**Actually, while I would love to see you, I’d rather you didn’t heckle me!

SWA Presenter Spotlight: Berta Platas

As I announced in December, I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in June 2010.

To gear up for that, I am featuring some interviews and spotlights with this year’s presentersFor more SWA Presenter Spotlights, click the appropriately-named category in the right-hand sidebar.

Next up is romance author Berta Platas.

ABOUT THE PRESENTER

Havana-born Berta Platas writes what she refers to as “fun, sexy romance.”

The martini-loving mother of four is the author of several chica-lit novels, including To Catch a Dream, All of Me, Miami Heat, Livewire, Cinderella Lopez and her latest, Lucky Chica.  She has also co-authored a few titles, including Names I Call My Sister, Friday Night Chicas: Sexy Stories from La Noche and Blessings of Mossy Creek as well as published essays in Everything I Needed to Know about Being a Girl I Learned from Judy Blume and Fifteen Candles: 15 Tales of Taffeta, Hairspray and Drunken Uncles.

Every month on her blog, Straight Up and a Little Dirty, Platas hosts a contest, where she awards a $10 Amazon gift certificate.  Please visit her Web site for more details on how to win.

THE INTERVIEW

RS:  How did you get into writing?

BP: I think I decided to write a book in the same way many authors do.  I read a book which had an unsatisfactory ending, and kept thinking of different and better ways it could have been concluded.  Finally, one of the options spawned an idea for an entirely different book. I pitched the idea to my husband, who was also a writer, and he encouraged me to write it myself.

RS: What keeps you writing?

BP: Right now, nothing motivates me more than a contract and a deadline. I’m the world’s worst procrastinator; however, if I didn’t have a contract, I think I would still write, just much more slowly. Writing is like a chronic condition, and one for which I seek no cure.

RS: What do you do when you’re not writing?

BP: I love to spend time with my family, help my husband build an HO-scale railroad empire in the basement and watch television. I try to stay away from the TV because it’s so darned addictive, and it really bites into my writing time.

I also enjoy building period costumes, with a particular love for the late eighteenth century and mid-to-late- nineteenth century, and love to make miniature room boxes—little stage sets in one inch scale.

I used to plunge into these hobbies after finishing a book, but now I have back to back commitments and don’t have the time.

Perhaps these 19th century shoes would fit Platas's fancy.

RS: What draws you to the romance category?

BP: I love happy endings. And it helps that the romance market is enormous, even in these tough economic times.

RS: What are you currently working on?

BP: I’ve got a young adult manuscript due on March 1, which is finished, but I’m cleaning it up.

After that, I have three more projects to finish and get to their various destinations. One is women’s fiction, another is a young adult novel and one is a paranormal, a genre I love to read but had never attempted.

RS: Speaking of dabbling in new writing genres, what’s another type of writing you’d like to attempt but haven’t yet?

BP: I adore murder mysteries, but I don’t think I’ll ever write one.  I’ve got enough to do right now, and it’s nice to have a genre that I can read without dissecting the plot. I love following the clues and being surprised at the end.

RS: What book(s) currently adorn your nightstand?

BP: That’s sort of a trick question, since I have 250 books on my nightstand, all on my Sony eReader!

I also have a few good old-fashioned paper tomes: James Howard Kunstler’s World Made by Hand, Patricia Brigg’s The Hob’s Bargain, Edith Wharton’s The Bunner Sisters, and Nora Roberts’s Bed of Roses, Linda Fairstein’s Lethal Legacy.

The eReader holds mostly my favorite authors, which include many classics, including Dickens and Twain, as well as modern authors such as Patricia Briggs, Charlaine Harris, Nora Roberts, James Patterson and Susan Elizabeth Phillips.

Platas embraces e-books, the future of publishing, with her Sony e-Reader.

RS: Name an author that helped shape who you are as a writer and how he or she had that effect on you.

BP: Wow. There are too many to name them all.

As a child, I read a lot of Vonnegut, Asimov and Poul Anderson. Science fiction and fantasy were my favorites.

Then I spent a rainy week at the beach reading a long shelf of Barbara Cartland’s Regency romances. It was like too much candy, but I’d never read romance novels before and enjoyed the light-hearted tone.

Soon after, I read every Agatha Christie book I could get my hands on and got hooked on murder.

So there are a lot of influences, but all have one thing in common: a good story.

RS: Can you give us a quick teaser about the course you’ll be teaching at Southeastern Writers Association?

BP: I’ll teach novel-writing at Southeastern Writers Association, with classes devoted to creating memorable characters, determining point of view, plotting a story, different ways to plot (including planning a trilogy or series), worldbuilding and tools for organizing a book.

I’ll have handouts that give an overview of each class, as well as a short one on formatting a novel and writing a query letter, in case anyone needs it. I hope I can fit all of that in!

My goal is for each student to have an understanding of what their strengths are, and I’ll try to tailor the class for the type of book the students are writing or want to write.

THE PLUG

For more information about the Southeastern Writers Association conference in June, please see their registration page as well as my recent post.  Don’t wait to sign up—and you must be registered by April 1 in order to participate in contests and manuscript evaluations, so reserve your spot today!

To learn more about the workshop I’m teaching, click here.

Join Me at the Southeastern Writers Association Conference

As I announced in December, I will be teaching a workshop on journalistic writing at the 35th annual Southeastern Writers Association conference in June 2010.

To gear up for that, I’m going to be featuring some interviews and spotlights with this year’s presenters:

  • Professional freelancer and PR master J.M. Lacey
  • Celebrated poet and creative writing instructor Susan Meyers
  • and moi (OK, I’m not interviewing myself.  If you want the gist of what I’ll be teaching, click here.)

ABOUT SWA

Held at the beautiful Epworth by the Sea in St. Simon’s Island, Ga., SWA’s annual conference is the perfect place to soak up some rays along with some writing knowledge from these seasoned professionals.

In addition to workshops led by the aforementioned instructors, the SWA conference offers:

  • Up to 3 manuscript evaluations, including personal conferences with instructors
  • Free entry in up to 15 contests (in fiction, poetry, nonfiction, inspiration, humor, romance, and science fiction & fantasy)
  • The chance to network with a literary agent, successful authors, and writers in all stages of their careers
  • A place to sell your books, whether you are pubbed or self-pubbed

Don’t wait to sign up, however.  Registration is open—and you must be registered by April 1 in order to participate in contests and manuscript evaluations, so reserve your spot today!

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