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June 2017

My Favorite! <3 Actions Scenes for Easily Confused Writers

When searching for my favorite post here on Bad Girlz Write I stumbled across this one and couldn’t resist.  Here’s one last post about my crazy writing process with a picture of my giant plot board of doom! Enjoy! 🙂

***

I am easily confused. There. I said it. Know my secret shame.

For one entire year I thought I was a year older than I was in reality and even celebrated the wrong birthday. Then, there was the time…(s) *winces at the plural of that word* I drove to the wrong state when navigating the interstate. We won’t discuss how this happened more than once, but let’s just say it’s been a hard mishap to live down in my family. So, when I attempt to tackle the writing of a book, I’m super organized about the process. Surprising? Not really.

I’m likely the most plotsy plotter you’ll ever meet, with a giant cork board in my office where scenes are tracked and color coded, and graphs of characters hang beside timelines in organizational harmony. It’s beautiful, isn’t it? *sighs*
Plot Board 7-4

But, even with this level of organization, there are scenes I struggle to write. Action scenes have a lot of moving pieces in them—not the best for this befuddled author. But, they are also necessary in every story. So what’s a Bad Girl to do? I use two tactics that I picked up from football and spy movies—obviously, because that’s not random at all.

The first concept has helped me ever since my editor wrote in the track changes of one of my books, “There are a lot of people running around in the woods. ???” I knew then I needed a way to track characters movements so that I wouldn’t lose anyone as I wrote, and I wouldn’t lose my readers as they followed along.

The Football Locker Room White Board

 

I use a version of this concept with the Xs and Os in my office to track characters’ locations. It’s helpful in climactic scenes where bad guys are surrounding the heroine. Or, as you can see in this example, when characters are moving around at a party and the scene crosses over between 2 books. The use of a whiteboard makes complicated scenes easy to see as you write.
white board diagram

The second concept I’ve recently added when I found myself getting lost in my own scene. “Wait…She can’t trail her hand across his bare chest when he’s still fully dressed.”

Where did I look, but to spy movies to solve my problem? At 08:00 hours, we’ll meet at the ridge line above the enemy camp…It works for spies. Why not use this idea to simplify complex scenes?

The Spy Movie Action List

 

I’ve started listing out a play by play in a bullet point type of list. I change the text color in my document to red and then delete the list as I write in standard black type. It keeps everything in the scene moving along in the right direction, and allows me to focus on the emotion of the moment and not what comes next in the scene.

He sees her across the room and moves in her direction.
She escapes the conversation she was in and turns for the door.
He catches up with her on the front steps and they move into the shadows.

I hope these organizational tips from a mixed-up Bad Girl are helpful! Happy writing!

Are you easily confused? What tactics do you use to stay organized? Let’s chat about it!

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Brighton’s Favorite Bad Girl Post: Every Step is Worth Celebrating

I went diving in the archives to find my favorite post, and I’ll admit I had a few in the running. But in the end I chose this one. Why? Because it is still very much applicable. And because, quite frankly, I needed to read it again. A lot has happened in the 3+ years since I first wrote this—lots of amazing things I haven’t always celebrated because I was too busy looking at the future instead of the now, even some of those things being items on my someday list. So this is my reminder to stop doing that already! Enjoy every awesome step on this amazing journey.

Every Step is Worth Celebrating

When I first started on this weird writing journey three years ago, all I wanted was to be published. It was my end goal. The one thing where I thought, if I can just get my first publishing contract, I’ll have made it.

Well, six months after I started on this journey, I received The Call, got that publishing contract, and was ecstatic.

But…

I still felt like there was more to it. Like there was something missing. I still felt like I hadn’t quite made it, even though I was getting paid to write and my book was available for the world to read.

So I set a new goal. A new, “I’ll make it once I ________” goal. That time, it was “I’ll make it once I get an agent.”

So I wrote a(nother) book. I queried. And then I got an agent. And while I was, once again, ecstatic, it still didn’t really feel like I’d made it.

Huh. Weird.

 

Maybe I’d feel like that when I got a print publishing contract with one of the Big Five? Maybe that was what I needed to really feel accomplished.

You know what happened next, right? Yep, I got a contract with Penguin, and shortly after another contract for another series with Macmillan. That’s two different contracts with two different publishers within the elusive Big Five.

And yet…

Yep, you guessed it.

Now I’m on the, “I’ll make it once I see my book in a bookstore,” goal.

And you know what? That’s bullshit.

Because even though I still have lots of “I’ll make it once I ______” goals (like getting picked up by Target, making it to the NYT or USAToday bestseller lists, making enough money so my husband can quit his job…), they’re not the end-all, be-all. They’re just pit stops on the journey. Awesome pit stops I’d love to get to, but if I don’t, you know what? That doesn’t mean I’m a failure or that I haven’t made it yet.

It took me three years—three years filled with lots of great accomplishments—and a blog post written to my pre-published self before I came to the realization that publishing is not a destination in which you have to tick off a set of goals before you ever truly make it. It’s a journey, and if you’re so focused on the next goal all the time, the next destination, you miss every beautiful landmark along the way.

I wish I could go back now and truly celebrate all those amazing steps I’ve taken. The day(s) I got The Call(s), every release day, when I held my book for the first time… Because every single step is an accomplishment in this ball-busting business. And every single one deserves to be celebrated.

I’m thinking about getting a tattoo that I’ll add to with each new book I have published. I know…that might be a huge ass tattoo by the time it’s all said and done, but whatever. What do you do or will you do to celebrate each milestone?

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My Favorite Bad Girl Post: How Do You Bounce Back?

To be completely honest, my favorite post in my 5 years of Bad Girl blogging is my Sebastian Stan post. I’m pretty sure anyone who knows me could’ve predicted that. However, in the years since, the pictures have had to come down and it doesn’t make much sense re-blogging an image-less post. Especially when it means robbing you of the beauty that is Sebastian Stan. Instead, I’ll simply include these 

and move along to a post of mine that I think was most helpful.

How Do I Bounce Back?

Resilience. Some people are naturally inclined to have it, others struggle. I’m here to tell you, if you’ve decided publication – of any kind – is your goal, you’re going to need it.

Resilience comes into play when you have to push through a rough part of your story, produce words when the words are being little bastards, bounce back after some hard truths from a critique partner, or when you get rejected by every agent in the universe – plus a few from the Delta quadrant. Then, even after you sign with an agent, there will be more rejection, in the form of passes from editors. Even after you sell to an editor or publish, guess what. You got it! You can still face rejection for other projects or in the form of low sales.

Aren’t I just a little ray of sunshine this morning?

So, how does one conjure up the resilience to keep going in this brutal business? After bouncing back from a recent rejection, a friend asked me, “How are you so resilient?” It got me thinking.

Part of it is who I am; the life experiences and beliefs that come together to give me resilience. I don’t say this to throw rose petals at myself. In fact, I wish I could’ve skipped some of those life experiences, but it is what it is. It makes me ME. The other part of bouncing back is habit. I have some bounce back steps, and today, I’m going to share those steps with you.

Step 1: Digest the rejection, in whatever form it comes, and grieve. I mean it. Being upset, angry, hurt, resentful, envious – whatever the emotion, don’t fight it. Be honest with yourself because if you deny that you’re disappointed and feel like you got slapped in the face with a cold fish, it will eat you up inside.

Step 2: Wallow a little. This is your Big Black Moment, the part of your journey where all is lost. A pity party is to be expected. Eat some dessert, have wine. Have both together. Navel gaze. Beat yourself up, compare yourself to others, doubt everything you ever thought about yourself. Oh come on! You know you’re going to do it anyway. Own that sh*t! BUT, you are allowed no more than 48 hours of solo woe. It gets toxic very fast, so set a timer, grab some bon-bons, and make it count.

Step 3: Reach out to your people. Not just any people, because while your spouse or sibling is probably awesome, they aren’t going to understand this process. You need to talk to a writer friend who has been in the trenches too. Make sure they are wise and reasonable, not a hot mess who will lead you astray. Tell them what happened. Let them be upset with you and for you, and let them reassure you.

Step 4: Listen to their reassurances. Absorb it. You aren’t friends with dummies, so don’t be that guy who can’t take a compliment. Your pals know what they’re talking about. Let their words of wisdom soak in.

Step 5: Get over yourself. This is the hard part, but it’s time. You’ve had your moment of sad, now it’s time to dig deep and keep going. The black moment is over; it’s time to move toward your resolution. Focus on the facts. Look at the substantial takeaways from this experience. How can you improve? How can you grow? What can you learn from this? Take those lemons and make a lemon drop martini.

Step 6: Get out there and enjoy life. Do the things that make you happy, let the brain rest and renew. That is when ideas strike.

Step 7: Get your butt back in the chair, put your fingers on the keyboard and WRITE THE NEXT BOOK. This is the single most important step for any author, regardless of the issue. The solution to 98% of every writer issues is Write. Keep writing. Then, write more. You will get better. Your voice will get stronger. You’ll find that hook or genre or magical formula that will put your story in front of readers. You will not move from where you are unless you keep writing, so go for it! Tell us the next story and start bouncing.

 

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Trish Goes Back to the Beginning

Since we’re doing our “best of” posts, it seemed appropriate that I’d go back to my very first post for the Bad Girlz — one that features a pretty cool bad girl herself. Note that this post is from 2015, and I’ve seen further episodes of Orphan Black since then.

First off, let me say how excited I am to be one of the new Bad Girlz. Thanks to all the Bad Girlz for inviting me to join all the fun. I’ll endeavor to be interesting and not a sure cure for insomnia. So we’re going to start off with one of my favorite topics and pastimes — TV! Some people call it an idiot box, but I disagree. Sure, there are shows that are total brain rot, usually of the “reality” variety, but we’re also experiencing what has been called the second golden age of television. There are a lot of really well-written, well-acted shows out there. And as a writer, I draw inspiration from well-written TV and from how actors bring characters to life. The latest addition to my TV viewing is Orphan Black. I’ve just mainlined the first season and am part of the way through the second season, all in preparation for its return on BBC America for season 3 this spring. Not only is it a pleasure to watch as a viewer, but there are several lessons to be learned for writers.

Some background — The show stars Tatiana Maslany as not one but several different clones. The main character, Sarah, never knew she was a clone until she sees someone who looks exactly like her step in front of a train to commit suicide. That’s the inciting incident, and one that really draws in the audience. They want so many questions answered. Why do these two women look alike? Why did the one kill herself? What will be the repercussions of Sarah assuming Beth’s identity? FYI, turns out Beth was a cop, and she was aware there were other clones and that they were being watched by whoever created them in the first place.

Characterization — Maslany is amazing. Even though you know it is the same actress playing all these different parts, part of you believes they are different actresses. Each character has a different background, different mannerisms, speech patterns, likes/dislikes, different lives. Watching all the differences Maslany puts into these women who are genetically identical is a great lesson in how to shape our own characters. And as the seasons progress, we can see how Sarah changes and grows. She goes from being a con artist to wanting to change, to be a part of her daughter’s life. And then she changes from caring only about her daughter and foster brother Felix to feeling, in a way, responsible for the various clones who come into her life. They band together for their common good, even though they don’t always agree.

Even the secondary characters are interesting, particularly Felix. He often provides comic relief in a show that can be dark. But he isn’t just a two-dimensional funny guy. He’s supportive, loving, often the only person in her life that Sarah can really trust.

External Conflict — Someone is killing off clones, so not only does Sarah and her “twins” have to try to figure out who, but also why and how to avoid getting offed. Is it the big, secretive corporation? Or the crazy religious nuts? Or someone else entirely? They also have to identify their monitors, the people put into their lives to watch them, without letting those monitors know they’ve figured it out. Sometimes finding out who these people are is very jarring and bleeds into internal conflict. How can you trust anyone if the person you’re closest to is just an employee of some organization that is watching you like a lab rat? It leads to a lot of paranoia, especially in Alison, the suburban soccer mom clone.

Internal Conflict — One of the things that makes us human is our individuality. But what if we’re not unique and there are other people just like us? Okay, so that isn’t really likely in real life (unless, perhaps, you’re writing about twins), but we do all struggle with or at least think about what makes us unique. What do we have to contribute to the world? Do we matter? Our characters can experience some version of this.

Plotting — This is a show that has lots of action, lots of tension, but there is the occasional quiet, emotional scene too, like when Sarah spends time with her daughter, Kira. But I’m never bored. Nothing drags, which we all know is the death knell in a book. If a reader gets bored, she puts down the book and may never pick it up again.

There’s a lot more to learn from this show, but I’m still in the midst of watching and processing. Are you a fan of Orphan Black? Have you learned any writing tips from it? If you’re not a watcher, are there any TV shows that have been particularly enlightening to you as a writer? And for the pure fans of Orphan Black, who is your favorite clone? I like all of them in different ways, but I’ve got to say Alison cracks me up in all her uptightness (yes, I just made that a word). And though he’s not a clone, I love Felix. Also, even though I haven’t figured out quite what I think of her yet, I’m glad to see Maria Doyle Kennedy back on TV. I really liked her as Catherine of Aragon in The Tudors.

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Bon Voyage, Bad Girlz!

Five years ago, seven wishful writers sat around a large oak table at a mountain retreat, and decided they wanted to start a blog. A few months later, Bad Girlz Write was born.

Our hope and purpose was to help other writers on their journey toward and through publishing. Even those adorable, wide-eyed 2012 Bad Girlz knew the publishing industry was tough. We knew we’d need a cornerstone for all of the education and emotion required to write and sell fiction. Over the years, this blog served as that stone. More Bad Girlz joined the blog, and we shared the joy and laughter, the sorrow and stress, and the triumphs and defeats that come with being an artist and professional. (We shared some pics of hotties along the way too.) We hope this blog has served as a place of information and education, and as a comfy spot to commiserate with other writers. A place where you know you’re not alone.

But, we’re coming to a time when the Bad Girlz need to retire from adding new posts. The blog will remain here for years to come, but on August 29th we’ll have a huge final post to commemorate Bad Girlz Write’s retirement. Like all great parties, there will be music, dancing, drinks, and laughter. We hope you’ll visit the blog on that day, and party with us.

Over the next rotation, we’re going to post our “Best Of” or favorite posts from the blog. After that, each Bad Girl will share a post about the last 5 years; what she’s learned and how much has changed.

We want to send Bad Girlz Write off with a bang! This blog was a dream of ours that came true. Now, we turn the page toward new dreams and adventures, but we want to take the summer to thank our followers and celebrate all we’ve learned with you. Please join us over the next couple of months as we say Bon Voyage, Bad Girlz Write!

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Debut Blog from Tanya’s Dog

*taps keys* Hello, humans? Is thing on?

I am Buffy. Since my human Tanya is on deadline, she asked me to post a short message for her. Can I just say, I don’t know how I feel about this “deadline” thing? When my human is caught up in telling her stories, I sometimes get as few as 30 belly rubs a day. I think we can all agree that falls way below the recommended minimum. And she was so busy trying to “get a scene right” that she didn’t let me in promptly. I had to spend AN EXTRA 130 SECONDS WITHOUT AIR-CONDITIONING. Which is like 910 dog seconds.

On the other paw, she’s so distracted she drops more food than usual, so that’s good.

Anyway, this is not the first time I’ve helped my human out with writing. In fact, it was MY idea to add a dog to her latest book THE COWBOY UPSTAIRS.

I’m glad they put the dog on the cover, but why not in the title too? Wouldn’t you be happy to read THE GERMAN SHEPHERD PUPPY UPSTAIRS? My human told me authors don’t always get final say in the titles, though, so I’ll forgive it. I’ve heard her tell other humans about the book, and it sounds good. The story has Texas barbecue (yum), a smart heroine running for mayor of a small town, a great cowboy hero and a little boy. I like little boys because they usually drop a lot of food too. And of course, there’s a puppy, who is named Trouble, which is obviously some kind of weird human joke because dogs are a delight.

You know, if I’m going to keep helping my human with her books and blogs and whatnot, maybe I need an official author portrait? Photo shoot!

Or

Wait, I think I blinked in that one.

Better.

I’m not 100% sure what “dog days of summer” are but I assume they must be great, as DOG is right there in the phrase. What I do know is that you need some summer reading!!!

Take books to the pool or the dog park or to the couch, where you plan to read between napping and eating cool ranch Doritos. (Dogs don’t judge.) Whatever your plans, here are my top picks for fun summer reads:

ABOUT A DOG by Jenn McKinlay
NEW LEASH ON LIFE by Roxanne St. Claire

Oh, and please get THE COWBOY UPSTAIRS! When people buy my human’s books, it helps keep me in kibble, treats and rawhide bones.

Happy reading & have a pawesome summer!

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