Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sticky Points by Morgan Mandel

Some people say to write what you know. Others say write so you can learn.

No matter which advice you follow, I predict you won't be able to figure everything out yourself. There will be sticky points which can prevent your manuscript from getting finished, or worse, getting finished wrong, if you're not careful.

I ran into one such spot in my current work in progress, Forever Young - Blessing or Curse. My heroine needed to go to a hospital to have her baby. I'm not a mother, so I needed a few answers to such simple questions as, Will hospitals accept you if you have no insurance, How do birth certificates work, etc. I asked a fellow Chicago-North RWA member, Christina Fixemer, these questions and she readily supplied me with answers. The Internet may have been an alternate place to find what I needed to learn, but in this case, someone who'd been through the experience was an easier and better source.

What about you? Would you like to share a sticky point in one your books and where you turned for help?

Morgan Mandel



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16 comments:

Mona Risk said...

Good post Morgan. For sticky points, I go to the experts. I write medical romances and often ask my daughter (a pediatrician and neonatologist) and my sister (a psychiatrist) for medical questions. I consult google a lot. For grammar--yes, I get stuck on grammar questions too--I count on my CPs.

Celia Yeary said...

Good topic, Morgan. Oh, I could list many sticky points. Because I write so much Western Historical, I'm forever needing information. My main go-to source is On-Line Texas Handbook. This tells me anything I could possibly want to know. I do have other such sources, but the Handbook is the best for me.Celia

Warren Bull said...

Dr. D. P. Lyle has helped me out more than once. Thanks, Dr. Lyle

www.DuffyBrown.com said...

I do write myself into corners then think "How the heck am I going to get out of this one?"
I take a shower and it usually comes to me...something about running water and being naked? Who knows.

bo parker said...

They may not be the exact type of sticky points you're looking for, but mine are probably a holdover from my newspaper days. I did not create the problem. I wrote the story on how it was resolved.
These days, I tend to create a big hole filled with problems (not that hard to do), and toss poor old Joe McKibben into the mess. The sticky point is figuring out how to extract Joe from my creation.
I find one of the best methods for doing this is to hit the road, drive somewhere, and spend time in a public place, watching people and the word go by.
Many "ah, ha" moments--that'll work--come during these excursions. A few words into the digital recorder preserves the thought until I'm back home at the computer.

liana laverentz said...

I can get lost for hours researching sticky points online. Usually in a manuscript I insert the works (look up later) and keep writing. That way I don't get as distracted, and then at the end, when the manuscript is completed, I can take a couple of days to look up everything that needs to be filled in. Great topic, Morgan!

Maggie Toussaint said...

Sticky points are big time sinks for me. I start looking for one thing, get distracted by something else, then there's this other thing. Well, before you know it, two hours has gone by.

So now I try to have a shopping list, just like I"m going to the grocery store. Get in and get out with just the right amount of information.

For my mysteries and romantic suspense stories I've received lots of help over the year at Wally Lind's crimescene writer loop.

Maggie

Heather Haven said...

I had finished the arc of the 3rd novel in the Alvarez Mystery Series and was heading on to the finale, I thought. I discovered instead of winding things up, I was droning on and on, introducing new characters, setting new scenes, and any other bad thing I could do. I threw the characters out, and did some telling instead of showing. A wonderful writer, Meg Waite Clayton, once told me that there really is a time for telling something rather than showing. Once I did that, the ending started taking shape. But for about two days, I was panic-sricken about not coming to a close, like, ever.

Heather Haven said...

By the way, that's panic-stricken. I can spell, sometimes I can't proof!

Morgan Mandel said...

I'm having a similar problem, Heather. I'm not sure if my heroine has had enough bad things happen to her and if I should stop tormenting her, or add another one!

Morgan Mandel

Cheryl said...

Great post, Morgan. I get stuck often because of historical research. As I was writing the latest chapter of my MG novel, I realized I wasn't sure which train station my character would have taken and how far by coach she would have to go to get there.

The Internet isn't always perfect, but I did find some information. I think I'm going to end up contacting the local historical society just to be sure.

jenny milchman said...

Great topic. My approach is a definite YMMV (Your Mileage May Vary).

I do a first draft making everything up. From architecture code violations to police procedure, I write what feels right for my characters. In subsequent drafts, I drag in the experts, and plead to pick their brains or ask them to read pages.

The weird thing is that a fair share of what I imagine turns out to be true. Some has to be discarded and rewritten, of course, but it's always less than I anticipate.

Hey, maybe I sleep walk a lot during the night...

Chris Eboch said...

The Internet is definitely a help when it comes to clearing up minor details. It also helps to have a wide and varied group of acquaintances. For my new Southwestern romantic suspense novel, Rattled, I needed to know about helicopters, bareback riding, and to what extent hundred-year-old bodies in a New Mexico cave would be decayed (turns out they'd probably be mummified!) Fortunately, I have friends who are experienced in all of those things. (Desert hiking and rock climbing I could take care of myself, so I guess it also helps to be involved in interesting activities.)

Chris Eboch writing as Kris Bock

Keena Kincaid said...

Most of my sticking points happen when I can't figure out how to resolve one crisis and move onto the next. I've discovered that what unsticks me is moving. If nothing else, a plane trip, car trip or just a long walk is what I need to find the solution.

Deb Larson said...

I tend to keep writing, but make a list of things to look up later. I love research and if I don't have a list I'll wander way off the track!
DL Larson

V.R. Leavitt said...

Great post...I write fantasy, but I set it in the real world, so I run into a few sticky points. One being the fantasy...how much is too much? It's fantasy yes, but still needs to be believable since it's in the context of the real world. The other sticky part is the real world. My current wip is set in the Sierra Nevadas which I've only visited once...12 years ago.

Like other people have said, the best thing to do is consult experts, look things up. Eventually you'll get unstuck. :-)