How We Write: Day 5, One Step, One Leap at a time…

When you have to go back to the beginning, do your step outline. Steps and leaps are what we’re talking about today. When you’re rewriting and you can’t see where you’re going, it’s time to retrace your steps. Every step. Every leap. What have you had your characters doing? Why are they doing it. What’s in their way (conflict), stopping them from getting what they want (goal), and how does that change their goal or the reason they keep fighting (motivation)? In EVERY scene. In EVERY story turning point.


That’s what I’ve been doing for two days. We’re going to forget Day 3 and 4 like they never happened–because they didn’t for me, from a work standpoint. That’s how my life’s going these days. I can’t move forward, in the midst of chaos. But that doesn’t mean I stop working on my story. It means I find different ways to look at what I have so far–and this week, I’ve worked on another rewriting/manuscript deconstruction technique I’ve learned…step  outlining  what I’ve already written, to discover where my story AND character arcs need to be refined and deepened. Not just one or two scenes. Every scene. From the beginning. Until you realize what’s blocking the escalating conflict and flow of your characters and plot.

Yep. That’s a lot of work.


But it’s so worth the effort. It so pays off in the end. Promise. I’m teaching this weekend at the Virginia Romance Writers chapter, and I’m working on my Jan release every extra second I get. And if I can’t get a volunteer to share her story with the workshop, so we can apply this and other techniques during the 6 hours I have with the group, I’ll use Love on Mimosa Lane as an example. I’m not proud. I’m not shy. I don’t care. How many books I’ve sold or novels I’ve written, it’s just as hard for me to do this stuff as it is every other writer. I have to take this one step at a time, too…


An example from my WIP, to show you what I mean–let’s trace my steps for the protagonist/heroine, antagonist/hero, and the romance arc (which always gets its own analysis in my novels, because if the relationship doesn’t hit on all cylinders, readers won’t stick with me for all the rest).

Scene 1


Goal–engage the single father she’s been avoiding without letting him know she’s smitten

Motivation–help the lost boy she’s responsible for, without losing her heart/the distance she needs from the town bad boy (antagonist)she shouldn’t want to know better as much as she does

Conflict–attraction/sparks as soon as protagonist is close, and he’s no happier about it than she is


Goal–talk with heroine, only because he thinks its about his daughter, his only priority now, no matter the distance he’s carefully kept between himself and the ultra-conservative woman a man like him has no business wanting as badly as he does.

Motivation–he’s going to make sure his little girl knows she’s his only priority, no matter how much trouble his ex makes

Conflict–as sparks fly, her realizes the heroine isn’t so prim and proper after all and might be an even better fit for him–and therefor more of a threat to his hands-off policy for the women in their small town–than he thought


Goal–protagonist and antagonist have been circling each other and avoiding personal contact, for very different reasons

Motivation–both suspect the potential danger the other poses to the distance they insistent on keeping between them and emotional connections they’ve learned only bring more damage to their lives

Conflict–Both are soul-deep defenders of the most vulnerable people in their lives (heroine is an assistant principal worried about hero’s daughter and the “lost boy” she needs him to help; hero is a worried single fat committed to helping his daughter, and instantly feeling a connection to the lost little boy who reminds him so much of himself). Because of that shared value, they’re connection to help the kids in their lives is an instant/unbreakable link they’re scrambling to deal with, while still retaining the the distance that keeps them safe.

So, that’s the opening scene. Just one scene. And I’m in the process of mapping the same for these characters and their relationship conflict for the first half of my novel–so I can see the work I need to do up to that crucial midpoint/point of no return for my story/character/relationship arcs.

Can you map the goal, motivation and conflict for your opening scene? How about the Inciting Incident???

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2 Responses to “How We Write: Day 5, One Step, One Leap at a time…”

  1. Ann says:


    At the risk o becoming a stalker, do you ever use the same GMC for several scenes in a row? I’m working on rewrites now and I have a few scenes with the same GMC or with very similar GMC. It changes slightly each time as the characters, goal, or conflict change, but the motivation always stays the same. Thoughts?


  2. Raven Clark says:

    Wow. This is fantastic. You need to pat yourself on the back for this one, Anna. This post has given me a massive “Eureka” moment. Let me explain. LOL.

    I’ve been struggling with the same book for years, and I recently figured out it needed to be a romance, not a fantasy as I initially thought. So I started trying to switch the focus to the relationship between the hero and heroine, instead of their outer conflicts, which as it happens, are world in peril, epic type stuff. So I plotted it out, knowing that if I don’t, I have too hard of a time keeping the story focused. I had help to make sure the romance stayed at the forefront. And yet, whenever I tried to write it, the focus of the story kept shifting, so it felt more like a fantasy than a romance.

    After reading this post, I know what I was doing wrong. For the most part, when my critique partner and I mapped it out, we only wrote down the action in the scene, focusing on the movements, where characters go, what they do. We weren’t writing into the outline the romantic conflicts for each scene, only the basic, point by point, this happens, then this, conflicts. now I have an idea of how to map the story out so that it stays a romance – by mapping out the EMOTIONAL conflict between the HERO and HEROINE for every scene, and keeping all the other stuff secondary! If I know what the emotional or romantic conflict is in every scene and I can track the progression of the story ROMANTICALLY, then when I try to write it, it will come out as a romance.

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, Anna! Off to read a few more posts before bed and see what other brilliant tips you might have hidden in here. Then tomorrow, it’s time to tear apart my outline and get to work, implementing what you’ve taught me here today. :D


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