Sunday, May 8, 2011

Attitude Makes the Difference

Last time here I posted about Ambition. Hopefully I got you thinking about what you want, why you want it, and if you’re willing to pay the price to get it.

Ambition is the key ingredient necessary in answering these questions. Chances are if you’re reading this blog, your chief ambition is to write a novel or polish that novel enough to get it published. Even thinking about writing a novel requires more ambition than 95% of the world possesses. But you have the desire, you’ve counted the cost, and you’re ready to do whatever it takes to attain your goals.

What matters now is ATTITUDE.
"It is our attitude at the beginning of a difficult task, which more than anything else, will affect its successful outcome." William James

Our attitude is the only thing we have control over. Positive or Negative. Success or Failure.

We all face doubts—artists and those in the entertainment industry possibly more than any other group. Think of all those amazing, talented, tortured souls before us who committed suicide or drowned their doubts and demons in the bottle. This is a tough, tough industry. It is not for the faint of heart.

Our attitudes determine our actions. Are you pumped or pitiful? Pestering or empowering? Bothering people or blessing them?

The best way to check your attitude is to measure other people’s reaction to you. Do friends come to you for advice and encouragement? Do they avoid sitting next to you at parties? Are you a giver or a taker? If friends must continually prop you up and feed your ego to keep your engines firing, your probably need an attitude adjustment.

A good or bad attitude doesn’t only affect those around you. It affects how much effort and zeal you put toward reaching your goals. If you approach your goals with the attitude that you don’t have time or a supportive spouse or whatever else is holding you back, then you probably won’t accomplish much.

So how’s your attitude? Are you determined to give your dreams everything you’ve got? Or are you going to wait to see what the economy does or how your mother-in-law reacts to another of your silly pipe dreams?

If you suspect you have an attitude problem, you probably need to rekindle your passion. The best way to do that is to surround yourself with people you wish to emulate. If you haven’t already, join some writing groups, online and in your local area. Follow some encouraging blogs online (like this one, I hope). Nurture positive relationships that have nothing to do with what you want. The world is bigger than ourselves after all.

“You’ve got to give something to get something.” Billy Blanks—Taebo creator and fitness instructor

Next time we’ll talk about taking ACTION. All the best laid plans in the world won’t do any good if you don’t have a plan of action and the tenacity of a pit bull to stick with it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Ambition--What drives you?

Ambition—the desire for achievement of distinction and the willingness to strive for it.

For the next few days I’m going to post a series of articles about how to achieve your goals. For most of us, that means stepping out of our comfort zone. Come on, we’re creatures of habit. We do things the same way over and over, whether it’s taking the same route to work or disciplining our children the same way our parents disciplined us, sadly with much the same results.

But to succeed, to change the way we've always done things in order to break the chains that hold us back, we must step out of our comfort zone.

Three things are vital to step out of our comfort zone in order to reach our goals.
The first component necessary in reaching our goals is AMBITION.

Quick, without giving it too much thought, answer this question. What do you want? Come on, it’s an easy one. Don’t think too much. Just blurt it out. Better yet, write it down. What do you want?

My response comes easy. Since you’re here at You Can Write a Novel, yours probably will too. I want a new book contract. Right up there with acquiring a new contract, I want to finish the four or five nearly finished books in my hard drive so I can get started on the next four or five books trapped inside my head.

Next question: Why do you want it? This one shouldn’t take much thought either. Writing is my passion. My ministry. I have a story to tell. It’s exciting and I want to get the story out.

Now here’s the tough one. Are you willing to pay the price? Hmm. This one gives me pause. Am I willing to turn off the TV, stay off the phone, work through the frustrating parts when the story isn’t coming together, and get these stories finished?

Let’s face it. This business is hard. It’s lonely and frustrating and easy to throw up my hands in defeat. How hard we’re willing to stick with it totally depends on how much we want it.

I have a friend who keeps a money jar next to her workstation at the beauty salon where she works. Every tip and every extra dollar she can get her hands on goes into that money jar. She’s saving for a trip to Hawaii with her friends. They go every couple of years. Anyone who’s been to Hawaii knows it’s an expensive trip and sacrifices need to be made to make the trip a reality, especially on a stylist’s salary. But the sacrifice is worth the pay-out for her. It's important enough that she's willing to go without other things.

What about you? Do you want to go to Hawaii? Back to school? See your book title at the top of the New York Times Bestsellers List. What are your dreams worth to you?

While you're chewing on that for a day or two, you can think about my next article; Attitude Makes the Difference. Ambition is vital, but it will only get you so far. Is your attitude holding you back?

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Well, that changes everything

We’ve read a lot and given much thought to the construction and execution of our book’s opening hook. Writers have one page, tops—usually one paragraph—to hook a reader into the story.
The key to launching a story that readers will remember is to begin with an inciting incident that changes everything for the character.

In Gone With the Wind, Scarlett only cares about going to attending the barbeque at Twelve Oaks where she will see her beloved Ashley Wilkes. Early on, she hears Ashley is engaged to his cousin Melanie. Well, Scarlett isn’t about to let that happen. But before she can figure out how to remedy the situation and make Ashley realize he can’t live without her, the blasted war gets in the way. Poor Scarlett has several inciting incidents that change her narrow little world forever.

The fun part for the reader is to sit back and see how our lovely heroine gets out of the predicament the writer has thrust upon her.

Think about the last 5 books you’ve read, the last 5 movies you’ve seen. What was the opening incident that changed everything for the characters? Something major was at stake or you wouldn’t have kept reading or watching.

The last movie I saw was THE TOWN with Ben Affleck. The opening scene shows Ben and a group of friends robbing a bank. I won’t spoil the movie in case you haven’t seen it, but for reasons I can’t divulge, Ben and his cohorts go against their usual modus operandi and take a hostage. This event is triggered by Ben’s reaction to said hostage. Of course taking this hostage changes everything for Ben. The robbery and its aftermath make it impossible for Ben (or Doug, as he’s known in the movie) to go back to the way things were.

How do we create a situation like Scarlett’s or Doug’s that will irrevocably change everything they have ever known or will know?

First off, you must know your character. What are they hiding from? What is their greatest fear? Doug was abandoned by his mother. Rejection, abandonment, fear of losing someone he loves has contributed to the man he became though he probably never realized it.

Scarlett is headstrong and used to having men throw themselves at her feet. The fact that Ashley Wilkes does not react the same as every other man she’s ever met might have something to do with her illogical attraction to him. It doesn’t take long for the reader to realize Ashley could never handle a woman like Scarlett. This doesn’t affect Scarlett’s determination. As we see played out over and over again throughout the story, what Scarlett wants, Scarlett gets, no matter who gets in her way.

So who is your character? What makes him tick? What’s the one thing he wants that he’s not equipped to handle? What is the worst thing that could happen to him? What incident will change everything for him?

It doesn’t have to be a civil war in his backyard. He doesn’t have to get shot during a holdup. It can be something as simple as seeing the girl who got away just as he walks into the church alongside his best man. It can be hearing a baby cry as she swallows the pain of losing a child in a car accident. It can be hammering a For Sale sign in his front yard.

An inciting incident. This incident is a turning point. There is no going back. A realization of no do-overs.

Ponder the chain of events your inciting incident will cause for the hero. There’s your story. Everything else will stem from what happens in your opening scene. It’s huge. It’s paramount to the rest of the story. It’s a jumping off point from which your character can never go back. Make it terrible. Make it magical. Make it a reason the reader must turn the page.

Happy writing.