Special Q&A: Creativity Secrets from Bestseller Dianna Love (and free books!)

Hey writers,

Today is an excellent day at Promptly, as we welcome New York Times bestselling writer Dianna Love, a RITA-award winner and co-author of Break Into Fiction and a popular thriller series with Sherrilyn Kenyon (Whispered Lies). When not standing dumbfounded in front of dollar-gobbling slot machines, I met Dianna in Las Vegas, where we were both teaching at a writing conference.

Going along with Promptly’s goal of boosting creativity with writing prompts and exercises, I checked in with Dianna about breaking block, plotters, pantsers and other topics, and she even provided us with today’s regular prompts.

Check out her advice below, and feel free to weigh in (post in the Comments section of the blog) with your thoughts, any questions you might have for Dianna, or a response to her prompt. On Wednesday we’ll randomly select two commenters to receive copies of Dianna’s new book, Break Into Fiction: 11 Steps to Building a Story That Sells. So don’t be shy: Chime in! Dianna will be dropping by to respond to your questions about the writing world, and having heard her speak in the past, I know she’s an excellent source of industry and craft knowledge.

For more on Dianna, catch up with her at authordiannalove.com, or on Twitter: @diannalove.

In your writing, what slows you down the most on a daily basis?
Now that I’m published, I have so much more to do than “just write,” but the writing must come first. My time gets eaten by anything from answering e-mails (some take a lot of time and I get over 100 a day) to working on promo opportunities to interacting with my publisher on an upcoming marketing campaign or edits to dealing with nonwriting related issues (you know … life :).

How do you tackle it?

Prioritize, prioritize, prioritize. I keep lists going all the time. I schedule things to be done by a certain day and try to get to anything early that I can. I set my “personal deadlines” for writing ahead of those my publisher is depending upon, so that if I run late, it’s on my schedule, which means the books are still on time. I’ve just finished a very difficult run of days for the past month and have three days to “catch up” on everything else while the next book is with a cold reader. That means those three days have to be productive, not spent taking a leisurely break.

?What best drives your creativity?
Riding my motorcycle feeds my muse. I ride a BMW 1150 RT through scenic back roads to give my mind a chance to breathe. I often come back with a scene or even the basis for a new plot.

What tips do you have for overcoming writer’s block?
I used to wonder why some writers got terribly blocked until I started developing the Power Plotting workshop Mary Buckham and I created in our Break Into Fiction™ program. We figured out the reason most people get “stuck” on a story is because they don’t know where it’s going next. This is especially true for pantsers, or seat-of-the-pants writers, because their process is to just sit down and write. BUT that does not mean a pantser should learn how to plot. That is not their process. Pantsers need a way to fix problems or get unstuck in a way that works with their process. That’s why we created the questions in our Break Into Fiction program that show a plotter how to develop a story in advance, and show a pantser how to break out of a mental log jam or how to fix a book during revision.

What’s the best craft advice you can offer?
Do not EVER let anyone change your writing process. Find what works for you and go with it.

Some writers cannot write if the book has been plotted. Some writers cannot put a word down unless they have everything plotted out. Some I call “hybrids,” because that’s what I am. I like to write a chapter when I start seeing the opening in my mind, and get a feel for the characters. Then I sit down and plot. I don’t go to the extremes of some plotters, but I create complex stories with strong subplots and everything has to hit at the right time for the climax to be powerful. For me, that’s a very freeing process, but if I had to follow someone else’s process it wouldn’t work. Write a couple books to figure out your process. ?

What’s the best publishing advice you’ve ever received?

To be careful not to let promo and marketing opportunities bankrupt your time.

?Writing mantra:

Nothing is worth more than today. That is a Goethe quote and it has been in my office since I started my first business at 17.


(photo courtesy of authordiannalove.com)


WRITING PROMPTS:
Courtesy of Dianna Love
Below are five opening lines for a scene. The first three are in third person, the fourth is in first person and the fifth can be either one. You can change the point of view from third to first or first to third. There are no names, so you pick the characters. Write the first scene that comes to mind. Don’t worry about being correct on anything—just write and have fun. 
He opened his eyes and slowly took in his surroundings, searching for one thing that looked familiar. 
?
If she didn’t make the last ridge before the portal closed in the next 15 seconds, she’d end up losing her bounty and getting blood on her new solar boots. 

He appreciated having a choice, but generally he was given at least one option that allowed for a chance to walk away alive even if he had to sacrifice dignity. 
  
My mouth fell open in shock at the gangly man carrying a cardboard box, not believing he would dare to enter my real estate office again.  

A palomino horse trotted into the yard sans rider, daisies braided into the mane and a sword hanging from a leather loop on the saddle. 

???

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12 thoughts on “Special Q&A: Creativity Secrets from Bestseller Dianna Love (and free books!)

  1. Dianna Love

    Hi Kelly –

    Thanks for the wonderful feedback on our book. By the way, for those who might not know Kelly’s second nonfiction book has just come up that is called THINKING WRITE – it’s a wonderful book "with a cd" that teaches you how to find information buried in your subconscious. I’m sure I’m not doing it justice, but I am really excited to get off the road in two weeks and use her program. You can find out more at http://www.kellylstone.com

    Her prior book is called TIME TO WRITE – for those always asking "how do you find the time to write?" Kelly has answers she gathered from top authors across the country.

    Thanks for stopping by Kelly and I hope you have fun with the writing prompts. Isn’t this a great blog? No wonder Writers Digest is THE place to go for writers.

  2. Kelly L Stone

    Hi Dianna,

    Great to see you here. Your book "Break Into Fiction" is the absolute best book on writing fiction I’ve found. The templates were a major "light bulb" moment for me and I now use them as a part of my daily writing process. The book can be used by pantsers and plotters equally well.

    I like what you say about never letting anyone change your writing process. I think that also ties in with believing in yourself as a writer and cultivating that confidence, which in turn stimulates creativity.

    Thanks for the great writing prompts. I plan to use them this weekend.

    Best,
    Kelly

    Kelly L Stone

  3. Dianna Love

    Jacqui –

    That’s a wonderful scene! I love the way you gave us setting and description. Then you ended on a super hook!!! Kudos on a great writing example.

    I do love that you picked something that was different from what you normally write. That is exactly what you should do because it challenges you as a writer. Back in one of the first workshops I took I had an assignment to use something like pink roses in a horror scene. I really did not want to do that because I don’t read horror for one simple reason – scares me to death! But – I wanted to learn and this instructor was giving us exercises. I wrote a scene that scared everyone and got a good laugh out of that, but more than anything I realized I could stretch by trying something outside my normal genre.

    Thanks a bunch for a great example!

  4. Dianna Love

    Hi Jacqui –

    I love that you have your writing process down! Very interesting to write all out for a couple days then edit. Sounds productive.

    As for writing partners – it is a marriage as a minimum. The one thing Sherrilyn and I agree upon right up front was that the story came first. In other words, regardless of her having 19,000,000 books in print and eight #1 NYT best sellers in just over a year and me being a newer author – both of our words were up for editing. Nobody backs away from changing anything. We have a great respect for each other’s expertise and story telling ability.

    I think it’s important to collaborate based on strengths and not because of a friendship. Sherri had started the series we co-write and it wasn’t edgy enough because she writes funny & sarcastic. She asked me to collaborate because I write dark/edgy thrillers. We played to our strengths and keep an open mind about anything for the story.

    We don’t "split up" parts or characters. We’ll literally hand the book back and forth in the middle of a scene, then edit what the other one has written so that we keep a single voice flowing.

    I hope that helps. Looking forward to reading your writing prompt next. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  5. Jacqui Lyonelle

    Writing prompt. I used the first one. This is completely different to what I usually write. I had fun 🙂

    Oh and I forgot to mention how extremely helpful Mary Buckham’s and your Break Into Fiction book has been to be in the last couple of months. Your way of character driven plotting really DOES work. 🙂

    On to the writing:

    Ben Caron opened his eyes and slowly took in his surroundings, searching for one thing that looked familiar.

    Nothing. All he saw were trees, trees and more trees. Wonderful brilliant colors in the leaves but nothing he recognized. Only thing Ben knew was he was lost. And that he had lost conscious for a few minutes. At least he hoped it was only a few. Then again it had to be a long enough time to be some place he had never been.

    He squashed that trepidation of fear that started to come forth. No use panicking. Remain calm and figure out what to do next.

    First things first. Get up off this muddy ground. Ben slowly rolled from his side to a sitting position, thankful that his walking cane was nearby as he used it as leverage to get his sixty-eight year old body to stand up. His back cracked as he did so, sounding very loud in the quiet of the woods.

    Ben took out the hankerchief he always kept in his front trouser pocket and wiped his face, bringing away dirt, sweat and…blood. He had feared that was the metallic taste in his mouth when he had opened his eyes a few moments ago. Yet, when he felt around his face and head for any bumps or cuts he found nothing. Nor were there any when he checked out the rest of his body.

    The mud oozed into his shoes as he limped a few steps to the nearest tree. He needed something to lean against. His cane could only help him up to a point and in this mud, as it kept getting stuck in the mire, it wasn’t much at all.

    Ben wanted to take off his shoes and socks, empty it of the mud and filth, but he knew he’d have a heck of a time repeating the process of having to stand.. Not to mention who knew what he’d find if he did sit and look at what was in his shoes? Right now ignorance was bliss..

    "Ben! Benjamin Caron! I know you’re around here!" A man’s voice echoed through the woods. "You better tell me where you are old man!" The voice was harsh and getting closer.

    And in that split second Ben knew where he was and more importantly why he was in this particular place. He looked down at his hankerchief that had traces of someone else’s blood.

    No not someone else’s. His son’s.

    Now Ben panicked.

  6. Jacqui Lyonelle

    Do not EVER let anyone change your writing process. Find what works for you and go with it."

    I so agree with the above ‘rule’ Dianna! I would say I’m a pantser-hybrid: I do a rough outline of my story, nothing too set in stone, however I have very detailed profiles on all my characters so that I know whatever situation I may put them in I know how they’ll act and react.

    Also for the writing itself I have found (being that it takes alot out of me NOT to self-edit as I write) that I can write two days all out, putting words on the page but that third day I’ll go back and edit. I’ve tried to go longer but then I break out in a cold sweat lol. Thing is I know when my manuscript is done I’ll still need to do more editing but there’s no way I could not do an initial edit. It works for me. 🙂

    Question I have is regarding being a co-writer. Along with my solo works I also write with someone. What is your best and worse advice you could give us about working with another writer?

    I’m going to do the writing prompt in another comment 🙂

    So good to see you here!

    Hugs!

    Jacs

  7. Dianna Love

    Hi Nicki –

    Have to woohoo on you. Nicki just won the Maggie Award this weekend, which is a fiction award of excellence!! I got to watch her receive that award.

    Yes, I do read everything from fiction to nonfiction to memoirs to thrillers to romance to comedy…you get the idea. "g" Everything we teach in Break Into Fiction is about Character-Driven Plotting (we actually coined that term). I think you’re asking for an opening line for a womens fiction. I’ll have to think on that and send you one as soon as I get my brain off of conference time. "g"

    As for energy – I soak it up from all the vibrant writers I meet at conferences and book signings. thanks for coming out to say hello!

  8. Dianna Love

    Hi Lisa –

    I have an excellent book to suggest to you. It’s called Time To Write by Kelly L. Stone. She compiled interviews with a lot of authors on how they find time to write. I have friends who are published and hold down jobs. I have a company I built that I still have to run in addition to basically writing full time, too. But I’m always saying it’s much harder to write a book if it isn’t published, so if you haven’t published yet – kudos on working toward publishing.

    I write everywhere. One of the best things I ever bought was an AlphaSmart (www.AlphaSmart.com), which is a very lightweight and simple word processor that fits in my brief case and travels everywhere with me. I lay down all my first draft pages on it (I have the NEO). The other thing I do is work anywhere, anytime. I try to keep editing for when I have to work in a very distracting situation like sitting at a dentist office or when I’m too tired to lay down new pages. It’s much easier to edit than write the first draft. You might try to write in your time at home (I do not watch TV at night) and edit on your lunch hour. Another thing is to turn off the radio in your car and stay off the phone when you drive – use that time to just think about your book and if possible go into work a little early to write down the ideas that come to you while driving.

    It’s not easy, but it’s worth the effort. Thanks for coming out to visit today.

  9. Dianna Love

    Hi Zac –

    Thanks so much for inviting me today!! I never have writers block, but that is very real for many writers. It’s awful to sit in front of a blank page or a half written page trying to figure out what comes next. And that’s the main reason a writer gets blocked. They don’t know what comes next.

    Start asking yourself – and your character – questions like – What would naturally happen next (got that one from the wonderful author Hank Phillippi Ryan this past weekend)?
    What "current" external goal (something tangible) is the character trying to reach at this point in the story? Why is that goal important? (If you can’t come up with a strong reason for the character working toward that goal, the lack of motivation could be stalling your story or if the character doesn’t have a tangible goal he/she is floundering and just moving through space).
    Is there an obstacle to that goal? If not, find one because we aren’t interested in characters who do not struggle.
    What has changed since the character began the story? If nothing has changed something should.
    If something has changed and the story is log jammed, go back to the last change and see if the character "acted" in character? Or ask yourself how that change is still pushing your character toward his/her final goal.

    That’s what we do in Break Into Fiction – ask questions like a critique partner to help you think/brainstorm your way out of a dead end. Any store can be brainstormed past a stall point.

  10. Nicki Salcedo

    Dianna, you harness energy like a superhero. I’m going to use the last prompt because it in no way shape or form fits with my story! Do you read any literary or women’s fiction? Any suggestion for authors with stories that are more character driven? Thanks for all you do.

  11. Lisa

    Thanks for the advice – I think I’m a "hybrid" also. Do you have any time management advice? A little thing called a "job" keeps getting in the way of my writing!

  12. Zac

    Hi Dianna,

    I’ll jump in with an immediate follow-up: You mentioned your program has distinct ways to break both plotters and pantsers out of block. Can you share a quick tip for each?

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