Focus Isn’t Just For Photography
By Pat Jager
Janice, thank you for having me here today.
My current release Secrets of a Mayan Moon was finished, or so I thought, months before I put the finishing touches on it to publish. It had gone through my three critique partners, a doctor of psychology who traded reads with me, and two writer friends. I kept sending it to people to read because in my gut I knew there was something wrong and I couldn’t step back from it enough to see what it was and kept hoping one of the readers I sent it to could shine a light on my gut ache.
In April, I attended the Rose City RWA Spring Intensive. I went with the sole purpose of attending Larry Brooks’ workshop and hoping a light bulb would come on about my story. I sat through the first day, taking notes, listening, and having a few small affirmations about my writing and capturing a few tidbits, that taught differently, made more sense to me.
But it wasn’t until the next day, when he challenged us to take either something we’d written or were working on and used his boiling down method of “what if” that I had the breakthrough I’d been hoping for.
At first I felt stupid. He asked for people to give examples of their “what if”.
I volunteered. “What if your family isn’t what you think it is?”
Larry said, “That’s okay, but what is visceral about it? Tell me more about the story.”
As I threw out things like “She wanted to belong” “She wanted family.”
He asked, “Why is she in Guatemala?”
“Because she’s there to decipher a tablet.”
Larry: “Why would someone want to read about that?”
“There’s villains, drug traffickers, artifact thieves.”
I kept on about her wanting to belong and prove herself.
Someone in the crowd asked, “What about the bad guys?”
“They try to use her for a human sacrifice.” I’d no sooner finished the sentence than everyone gasped and Larry shouted, “That’s your story.”
My problem all along was I couldn’t get past the original concept that she was a misfit and was trying to find a place to belong. That, is her journey through the book series not this one book.
This first book is: “What happens when a brilliant anthropologist is lured to the jungle to be used as a human sacrifice?”
With this newfound knowledge I went home, reworked the beginning, tossed out four scenes and a whole chapter all the while upping the suspense and writing in new “triggers” for the visceral hooks and aiming the whole story toward the black moment and the sacrifice.
Once I did that I no longer had a gut ache. I sent the story to my proof reader and published it. The first review came in and I’m very happy I played Larry Brooks’ “What if” game and put myself and my story out there for scrutiny so I could make it a better story.
Blurb Secrets of a Mayan Moon:
Child prodigy and now Doctor of Anthropology, Isabella Mumphrey, is about to lose her job at the university. In the world of publish or perish, her mentor’s request for her assistance on a dig is just the opportunity she’s been seeking. If she can decipher an ancient stone table—and she can—she’ll keep her department. She heads to Guatemala, but drug trafficking bad guys, artifact thieves, and her infatuation for her handsome guide wreak havoc on her scholarly intentions.
DEA agent Tino Kosta, is out to avenge the deaths of his family. He’s deep undercover as a jaguar tracker and sometimes jungle guide, but the appearance of a beautiful, brainy anthropologist heats his Latin blood taking him on a dangerous detour that could leave them both casualties of the jungle.
Secrets of a Mayan Moon is available at Kindle, Nook, and Smashwords.
This post is part of a two week blog tour. I’m giving away a $5 egift card to a commenter at each blog stop and will give a bag full of goodies to the person who follows me to the most blogs and a gift to the host who gets the most commenters. You can find the blog tour hosts at my blog: http://www.patyjager.blogspot.com or my website: http://www.patyjager.net
Wife, mother, grandmother, and the one who cleans pens and delivers the hay; award winning author Paty Jager and her husband currently ranch 350 acres when not dashing around visiting their children and grandchildren. She not only writes the western lifestyle, she lives it.
Her contemporary Western, Perfectly Good Nanny won the 2008 Eppie for Best Contemporary Romance, Spirit of the Mountain, a historical paranormal set among the Nez Perce, garnered 1st place in the paranormal category of the Lories Best Published Book Contest,and Spirit of the Lake, the second book of the spirit trilogy, was a finalist in the Gayle Wilson Award of Excellence.
You can learn more about Paty at her blog; www.patyjager.blogspot.com her website; http://www.patyjager.net or on Facebook; https://www.facebook.com/#!/paty.jager and twitter; @patyjag.
Thank you for being the last day of my blog tour!
You’re welcome. It was great having you on today. 🙂
Paty, I was at that Larry Brooks workshop and remember the gasp of the crowd when you reached that moment of “Ah Ha!” You did a good job of putting the information to work for your story. I enjoyed it immensely. 🙂
Hi Laurel, It was like the whole room lit up wasn’t it? That was such an aha moment I couldn’t believe it. Thank you!
Paty, great brainstorming idea.
Hi Ella, Thank you for stopping in.
I remember that at the Larry Brooks workshop. It was so cool to watch it all come together!
Hi Melissa, I have to say it is one of the best workshops I’ve taken that showed me where I’m lacking and how to overcome it.
You truly did distill your story premise to the thing that makes me want to read it–good job, you!
Along with your beautiful cover and great writing, this story is sure to sell.
Off to buy it ….
Hi Cathryn! Thank you for the kind words and purchasing the book.
I love the title of your book.
I think sometimes we get stuck on an idea that doesn’t work for some reason, but we can’t figure out why it doesn’t work until we step back and ask the ‘what ifs’ or do some other brainstorming.
Celticchick, That’s exactly what happened to me. I needed to step back and have someone make me look at it differently. I like my title too. ;0) Thank you for commenting!
Great aha moment in figuring out what wasn’t quite right! Glad this clicked in for you and made your story work!
HI Genene, Thank you!
I’ve had a similar ah-ha moment in my own writing. Great tips for brainstorming. I loved “Secrets of a Mayan Moon”. Great story!
HI Diana, Aren’t ah-ha moments the best! It’s when you realize you are writing a bunch of rubble and a couple tweaks make the story what you had imagined. Thank you!
Paty, that log line is soooo good. He was absolutley right, human sacrifice is the hook and you executed it beautifully.
I completely get how one can be stuck on a character premise. I had the same problem in one of my books because the inciting moment was what had caused me to write the book. IN the end, my 15 pages of that inciting moment was cut down to two paragraphs and it didn’t happen until page 50.
I’m glad you are doing an entire series of Isabella Mumphrey mysteries/adventures, because I think your underlying character feeling of being a misfit will continue to play well–even if it never is in the logline. I can’t wait to read the next book!
HI Maggie! Yes, once that logline was put out to the world I saw exactly what was wrong and what I needed to do. And it made a much stronger story.
I hope the other books in the series live up to your expectations. That’s the problem with coming out swinging on the first book, making the rest equal to it feels daunting!
Hi Paty! I remember that “aha” moment for you. Brilliant!
Hi Melia! Yes, I think the whole room felt my aha moment! Thanks!
celticchick is my egift certificate winner. Please send me an e-mail to patyjag(at)gmail(dot)com so I can get that sent to you. Thank you for commenting on my tour.