Throughout the year, she gives us pep talks, organizes writing sprints with us, and even volunteers periodically to read and critique pages from your work in progress. The support this woman gives to the writing community is amazing!
This year, I budgeted to finally attend Cherry’s Master Writing Class, held in conjunction with the Romantic Times conference, and meet her in person.
I’ve been writing for year, and I’ve taken way too many writing courses. But Cherry’s system is touted as a no B.S., sit-down-and-do it, finish the damn book. It sounds like exactly what I need. She has a patented method to plot your entire book, using a large display board and colored post-it notes.
I’m looking forward to tackling Book Two in my Ancient Magic series, surrounded by other writers willing to help fill in everyone’s plot holes, as we all listen to Cherry’s unedited tips/tricks/strategies.
She said to bring everything I have about the book I want to plot, those scraps of paper with story and character ideas. I’ll come home with a “fabulous, intricately plotted book. Whoopie!
“I loathe writing first drafts,” she says. “To me it’s like wading through wet cement, and it takes me forever because there’s always something I’d rather be doing. Which is why I stopped writing by the seat of my pants very early in my career and came up with my plotting by color method. Now the map of my story is easy to follow and relatively painless. Once that first draft is done, it’s another story. I can’t be torn away from my computer. I go back and layer and texture, polish, tweak, and fluff!
She’s now the author of forty-plus books, so I want to do what she’d doing!
I’m already a plotter, but I can’t wait to learn how to do it faster, and with a plan and structure that will work book after book. Yes, I already know to include an opening hook, a Black Moment, scene goals. But I’ve heard her “9 P’s of Plotting” handout is an eye-opener that will have you planning your book actions with more authority.
She says while you’re writing you should always have open a “snips folder,” Master document and/or Story Bible, and your manuscript. I don’t know exactly what those are, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
She also says you don’t strictly have to write only what you know personally. She likes writing about Venezuela, Egypt and diving, for example, even though she has no desire to learn to dive. And she’s been known to have her students build their characters from Linda Goodman’s Sun Signs. Hey, I’m game. Think I’ll take a deck of Tarot cards for character traits also.
We visited Scotland last year so I could research this next book first-hand, but I feel like there is so much to learn about the Paleolithic sites there that I’m going to get bogged down for months trying to research it all.
For Cherry, research is green. I’m hoping her workshop will help me drill down to the most important places and people, and then be able to slap on those green sticky notes without guilt.
Cherry also talks about good characters, bad ones, and gives special emphasis to the “grey” ones. I have a lot of grey characters, including my male protagonist, Nicholas Orenda. Even without hearing what she has to say, it’s nice to know she acknowledges those people who live on the edge of good and evil (think Severus Snape). I’ve gotten dinged in a few reviews on the first book, Song of the Ancients, because those readers couldn’t understand why Samantha would fall in love with a man like Nicholas. In my humble opinion, ladies, we fall for the Nicholas’s of the world a LOT. And, just like in the series, we often suffer the consequences. But that’s life—it’s not black and white. It’s primarily shades of grey, and the trick is to figure out where we’re going to shove our moral stake in the ground and stand firm.
She also suggests watching movies to see where the beats are, preferably movies you know well. Watch the clock to spot the beats and you’ll be able to translate that timing into your own writing.
Now, you’ll have to excuse me—I need to get to Reno to play in my stack of brightly colored sticky notes—and hopefully come back with the full outline of a new book!