Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Release Day For My Friend's Book!

Today is release day for my friend William Bernhardt's book, Capitol Offense.

Capitol Offense is a thrillers about attorney Ben Kincaid. Ben is approached by a man who asks for his defense for a murder that hasn't happened yet. The man is beside himself with grief over the horrible death of his wife and wants to kill the detective involved. That same day, someone shoots the detective down, killing him. Against good advice, Ben decides to defend him.

This proves to be yet another riveting thriller from William Bernhardt, no doubt packed with gasping moments and page turning nights. Think of a cross between Stephen King (without the supernatural) and Tom Clancy and you're getting close to how great he is. Bernhardt will shock you and change the way you think about legal thrillers in a very good way.

Check it out: http://search.barnesandnoble.com/Capitol-Offense/William-Bernhardt/e/9780345502995/?itm=2&usri=C
Bernhardt's site: http://williambernhardt.com/

Monday, September 28, 2009

Calling All 2011 Debut Authors

While I'm not yet among them (fingers crossed), I wanted to get this info out for those of you lucky writers who are. However, for those of us who haven't joined those prestigious ranks yet, it might not be a bad idea to follow their journey and see what their books are about. Following anothers path of success can help point you in the right direction.

There is a community of 2011 debut authors being put together as we speak. So why should you join a community of other debut authors, aren't they your competition after all? No! They are your comrades. Success is not achieved alone nor is it an easy feat. Take a few friends of mine for example. They met on line and started a community of 2009 debutants, a great group of female writers who debuted this year. They support each other, blog about each other, and have even done some touring together. That kind of support is priceless in this industry!

The fantastic Alice Pope from Writers Digest is looking for 2011 debut authors to interview and feature! She does have a few guidelines to follow, I think you have to be published traditionally, it's all on her blog. Jump on that folks, it's great publicity that won't cost you a thing. Even if you aren't among the chosen yet, follow along and track how they pull this amazing feat off. It will help you when your time comes.
http://cwim.blogspot.com/ Alice Pope's call for debut authors
http://www.escapewith7.com/ 2009 Debut authors
http://community.livejournal.com/debut2009 more about the 2009 Debut authors (these girls have been busy!)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Writing a Page Turner

It would be great if I could give you a magical formula or link that would map it all out, but with most things in writing, it isn't that easy. There are a few tips and tricks I've learned that help make it less of a mystery though.

The first thing you have to achieve is identifying your audience. A page turner is different for everyone. Some people enjoy Shakespeare while others like Stephen King. Know who your writing for. There are as many audiences as there are books, young adults, children, men, women, thrill seekers, fright seekers, adventure lovers, the list goes on and on.

After identifying your audience you must get to know them. How in the world are you supposed to do that? Look at what's on the shelf in your genre, that will give you a good idea of what's hot which gives you a good idea of what people like. Don't forget to read the books that are hot. Now you're starting to get to know them!

Now comes the hard part, your actual writing. Writing a page turner is all about pace and keeping the readers interest. You don't have to have action scene after action scene to achieve this. In fact that could be overkill. Meaningful dialogue can speed up a slow page or chapter. Leaving out anything that doesn't achieve anything for the story is another way. Cut out all excessive adjectives, adverbs and unnecessary words such as 'that', 'so', or 'suddenly'.

Put all this together and you're on your way to writing that page turner!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

To Be A New York Times Bestseller

Every writer dreams about achieving this goal. But do you really know what it means? How do you become one of these elite and how does it really effect your career as a writer? We'll start at the beginning.

New York Times bestsellers are based off how many books are ordered in by the booksellers, not by how many are sold. But if they order more in won't they sell more? Not necessarily and here's where it gets tricky. If a bookseller orders a bunch of your books in and they don't sell, they get sent back. You could still make the list but may not even make your advance back for your publisher! This decreases the chance that your publisher will want another book or could mean you'll be getting a much smaller advance the next go around. There is good news. If your publisher gives you a large advance they are going to do their part in making sure you get a lot of publicity to increase the chance of your book selling very well. They want to make that advance back and then some! So don't panic, they'll be putting in the work to make your books sell. But don't just sit on the sidelines either, be active in your own promoting.

So how does becoming a NY Times bestseller affect your career? There is no doubt that it's a good thing. It's great to be able to put on your letter to editors and even better to be able to print it on the cover of your next book. But, will you be able to tell those editors that it sold through, meaning all those books weren't returned? Hopefully so.

Don't think any less of the prestigious title of NY Times Bestseller, but now that you understand what it really means be prepared. No matter how much your publisher promotes your book, get out there and do all you can to promote it as well. Blog, get a web site set up, Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace, whatever it is you prefer, or all if you prefer. Start to build your audience and then amp up your efforts once your book is ready to hit the stores. Be the key to your own success!


Monday, September 21, 2009

How I Got My Agent

Since I've managed to land an agent twice now everyone has been asking me what my secret is. I wish I had a simple answer to that question but as with everything in the writing industry, it was anything but simple. I'm a firm believer that the first agent I landed was a complete fluke. He must have seen the glimmer of a talent to be beneath the layers of soot of my manuscript. Unfortunately at the time he picked me up I just wasn't at the stage I needed to be and he wasn't really sure how to get me there. We have since parted ways but I will be forever grateful for the kick in the computer he gave me. I learned a lot about self editing while working with him.

I kept writing and working to improve my writing. Since getting that first agent I've completed five books and am working on the sixth. Never stop, that's the most important thing. I've attended the Hawaii Writers Retreat twice and their conference once. Because of it my writing is at a completely different level than when I first started submitting. I've been networking with other writers and learning from them. Two of them just debuted their first novels this year and are doing fantastic. During all this I've been researching the market, keeping up with the trends in my genres, and reading what's hot. A lot of this is simple stuff you can do yourself! Network and read, you'll be amazed at how much it helps your career.

When I finished my first young adult novel I edited it several times and started sending it out. I was much pickier this time about the agents I sent it to. I knew what I wanted in an agent and I only submitted to people who fit that bill. This time around I had a lot more read requests and far fewer rejection letters. Last time it took me over thirty five, this time under fifteen. That's what improving your craft can do for you!

So how did I get this particular agent? I met him in Hawaii in 2008 when I went to my first Hawaii Writers Conference. He loved my idea and we clicked rather well. But when I returned home there was already an offer of representation waiting for me. I let him know it was no longer available but that I would keep him in mind for future endeavors. When I finished my YA book (which is actually my fourth book) my current agent didn't want to represent it. He doesn't do YA. Since he hadn't sold my first book yet I wasn't overly disappointed. In fact, I was eager to submit to new agents since I had a better grasp of how to go about it this time. After a few months of submitting I found the business card for the agent I met in Hawaii. I e-mailed him and told him about my new book. He was happy to take a look at it. Nine weeks later I got the phone call that left my fence only half painted.

Persistence pays off!

Friday, September 18, 2009

I'm Represented!

I was painting a fence yesterday with black roofing goo (it's the only thing my horse won't chew on!) when I heard the distant ring of a phone. Dropping the goo-covered paint brush into the bucket, I ran for the house. After an athletic feat of leaping over the dog, tripping up the stairs, and dropping the phone, I managed to pick it up before the answering machine. Expecting yet another solicitor (even though my number is unlisted!) I was shocked to hear a nice woman From Atchity Entertainment saying she was calling about my novel. A moment later I was connected to Ken Atchity. At this point my heart was in my throat and I was trying to remember my own name. It was The Call.

You know the call I'm talking about. It's the one every aspiring author dreams about. And Ken said all the things I've dreamt about, so naturally I figured, I must still be asleep. Who doesn't paint fences in their sleep right? My husband reassured me I was definitely awake because in a dream I would actually manage not to get black goo all over me. He had a point. But could it really be true? Was someone besides me in love with my novel? Apparently so.

Time to wake up and start the real work! Bad news is, once that's done the waiting game starts all over again. Looks like a friend of mines prediction may be spot on, check it out here: http://fantasybookcritic.blogspot.com/2008/12/fantasy-book-critics-2008-review2009_30.html

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What to Expect With Agent Contracts

This was a huge mystery to me when I started submitting. I had no idea what came after, 'we'd like to offer you representation.' I just read an article in Writer's Digest that reminded me of the whole terrifyingly wonderful process. Having now been through a portion of it, I shall demystify it a bit for you.

First, here's one myth I'll squash: Agents expect you to sign a contract with them right away. Wrong! Some will, some won't. Especially if you're a first time author they may not want to tie themselves to you until they know they can sell you. That way if things don't work out they aren't saddled with a book they can't sell or a client they can't work with. Don't panic if they don't expect you to sign a contract immediately. If you did your job right to begin with and researched them, checked their clients, made sure they were a member of AAR (there are reputable one's who aren't a member, just tread those waters cautiously), then you're probably safe. If you have any doubts, check again.

The biggest slab of advice I can give on the subject is something you've probably heard a million times, but deserves reiterating. Reputable agents don't charge reading fees! Of any kind! It's a big red flag if they do. The only expense you should have is sending them a hard copy of your manuscript, or any other mailed correspondences. I don't care what they say they can offer you or who they know, if they charge a reading fee, they're probably bogus.

When you get to the stage of signing a contract with them read it carefully. Don't make a knee-jerk decision and swoon over them immediately. Remember, finding an agent is finding a long term business partner. You want to like them and you want them to like you but don't worry, you don't have to be the best of buddies. Make sure the contract is to represent your book, or series (be specific about the number therein!), not to represent you. You don't want to sign with them for all eternity (or a ridiculous or unknown number of books) and later come to realize you don't work well together. The same thing goes with the publisher. If you don't think this is stated clearly enough in the contract ask the agent about it. They're people too, they'll listen and address your concerns. If they don't, then there's another red flag!

Getting an agent is an exhilarating process that shouldn't be painful. You've waited a long time to hear those words. Keep your head about you, don't get starstruck, and you increasing your chances of it being a wonderful partnership.

Tips from Writer's Digest: http://www.writersdigest.com/article/writer-agent-negotiations/
Advice on a problem we all hope to have, choosing between agents, by agent Caren Johnson:

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Maintaining Optimism

You tell your friends you wrote a book and the first thing out of their mouth is, 'are you going to get it published?' Ah, the naivety. Wouldn't it be nice if we could just say, 'yeah, I think I will.' But alas, it doesn't work that way. Anyone who has wrote a book and then attempted to get it published knows the really hard work begins when you finish the book. To make matters worse, the publishing industry is getting harder and harder to break into. A failing economy is making editors afraid for their jobs which in turn makes them afraid to purchase a manuscript that they aren't positive will make back it's advance. The domino affect continues with falling advances. What are we to do?

Well for one, keep buying books. You must support the industry you want to work in, when you can. Everyone falls on hard times and can't afford the luxuries at times and that's understandable. Pick up a paperback every now and then if that's all you can afford to do. It's best to read when your writing, it helps keep you up with the trends.

Keep in mind that an author makes very little off discounted and wholesale books and nothing off used books. I never really thought much about it before. My wallet was light so I always went for the discounted books or stopped by Costco. Authors make pennies off books sold in this manner but I had no idea. I no longer buy bargain books or wholesale books and the only time I buy a used book is if it's rare and/or out of print. An author will make more off you buying their book in paperback than they will off you buying it at Costco or off the bargain table at the book store. Just something to think about.

And I must reiterate one of my favorite lines, never stop improving your book. At the retreat I just attended I heard several people say it was like shoving a college education on how to write a novel into one week. And it was. Maybe you can't afford college, but maybe you can afford a retreat or seminar. Look for them in your area so you don't have to travel far. They're all over the world, chances are you'll find one pretty close by. We invest in our careers or jobs all the time. Think of writing as your career or job and invest in it! More than just improving your craft though, a seminar or retreat gives you the chance to immerse yourself in a positive atmosphere teeming with people who have the same goals. Even if you can't afford these, read. Writers learn from reading. Stay positive, keep writing and growing, and it will happen!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

What Book Is Your Book Like, and How Is It Different?

When pitching your book, either in person at a conference or through a query letter, it is common to compare your book to something similar. This is a double edged sword. Agents want to know what your book is like and the easiest way is to compare it to something similar. On the other hand, if they've recently sold something like it, or if they feel the market is flooded with books like it, they are going to pass. So how do you overcome this dilemma?

You must answer both questions: What book is your novel like, and more importantly, how is it different than anything out there right now? The second part is the part that will hook the agent in and make them want to read more. It's what will hopefully make them think they can sell it despite the similarities to what's currently on the market or about to hit it.

Think long and hard about what makes your book different. If it is too similar to something on the market, you may need to alter it a bit. But if you have just the right combination of tapping into something that's hot, and introducing something different at the same time, you'll have agents excited about the project and hopefully lining up!

Here's a link to part 2 of What Agents Hate on Guide to Literary Agents: http://www.guidetoliteraryagents.com/blog/What+Agents+Hate+Part+II+Author+101+Series.aspx

Monday, September 14, 2009

Earning Back Your Advance

Writer's Digest twittered a great link to an article in the New York Times about book advances. Did you know that 7 out of 10 books don't earn back their advance? Writer's Digest posed an excellent question. What are you going to do to prove to agents and editors that you'll be those 3 out of 10? You have to have a plan. Remember that platform thing? Yep, that's what you need. More than that though, this is where everything I've been talking about kind of culminates and mixes for the recipe of success.

William Bernhardt (NY Times Bestseller several times over) says the best way to get your book to sell is word of mouth. Not signings like you might think (though he still recommends doing them to connect with booksellers and readers).

In comes another thing I've been preaching about, networking! When your book is getting ready to come out, that's the time to gather up all those e-mails & phone numbers, blog, Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace friends you've accumulated and talk your book up. Get people chatting about it to generate excitement. This is where all your hard work on your platform is really going to come in handy. I expect all my friends to contact me when their book is coming out. I'm excited for each of them that makes it over that hurdle and I'll absolutely talk their book up. This will give you someone to do book signings with. Two heads are always better than one!

Don't forget that web site either! Once your book is slated to come out it's time to set one up. Giveaway's and contests on your site are a great way to bring readers in and keep them excited while they're waiting. Give away books similar to yours, better yet, copies of your friend's books. Work just as hard to promote your book as you did to write it and your chances of success will be that much greater!

Here's a link to that article: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/12/books/review/Meyer-t.html?_r=4&src=twt&twt=nytimesbooks

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Difference Between Wanting It, And Earning It

How bad do you want to see your name on the spine of a book, or read it on the New York Times Bestseller list? Any aspiring author can answer that question, 'more than anything!' But contrary to popular belief, it doesn't come down to how bad you want it or chances are it would have already happened. Unfortunately, it comes down to something much harder and much more complicated. Are you willing to earn it? The difference between wanting it and earning it can lead to publication.

So how do you earn it? First, never stop working on your writing. Improve it every chance you get. Attend conferences, seminars, retreats, book fairs, college classes, do whatever it takes. If you want writing to be your career you have to approach it that way. Anyone can write a novel. It takes dedication and hard work to get one published. The economy is in a rough state and no doubt so are your finances. If you can't afford classes, glean what knowledge you can from others who've attended them. The most important thing is to keep improving, keep moving your writing to the next level. If you can do that, then eventually, you will have earned it.

Best of luck!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Knowing When To Move On

Acquiring a literary agent is one of the most exciting moments in a writer's life. With it comes validation and a sense that your work is going to go somewhere. 'I'd like to offer you representation,' are probably the sweetest words an aspiring author ever hears. However, the relationship between author and agent is like any relationship, it takes work on both ends. So what happens after the glow wears off, time has passed, and you feel like you're the only one doing the work? How do you know when it's time to move on? I hope you never have to answer either of those questions, but chances are if your career is a long one, you'll have to at some point.

Hopefully you've been attending conferences, retreats, writer's groups, or at least joining on line writing forums and have met other writers. Getting a published author's opinion of what is normal and expected in an author/agent relationship is worth it's weight in gold. Knowing when to push and when not to is a careful balance you must maintain. No one likes a client who calls or e-mails every week to see what's up and ask if there is any news. On the other end of the scale, if you only e-mail once a month or less, your agent will most likely be happy to speak to you. The first thing you have to understand though is that if there's any news, they'll get a hold of you. That doesn't mean you can't ask questions or update them on how your writing is going. But remember, it's a business relationship. For the most part, your correspondence should remain business like. Chances are you're as yet unpublished client, which means you haven't made them any money yet, so don't be a pest.

But how do you know when it's time to move on? If your only e-mailing once in a while with legitimate questions or concerns and not getting any response, chances are your agent is either too busy with paying clients, or is losing interest in your manuscript. If you think the latter may be the case, talk to them, don't be afraid to ask. When an agent loses their excitement for your work it may be time to move on. Chances are they'll be honest with you about this. Thank them, hang onto your dignity, take your manuscript and move on.

Here's a great link to an article on '5 signs a Literary Agent is a Good Match For You':

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Revision Lecture by Ann Hood

Sorry for my absence readers, I've been working on revising. I learned so much at this years retreat that I've been slaving away at the computer ever since. But I'm loving every second of it because it's making my work that much better!

While most of my revision is based on things I learned in William Bernhardt's class, I must attribute some of it to Ann Hood's lecture on Revision. For your benefit, here is what I garnished from her lecture:

Ann said, 'don't confuse wanting it, with earning it.' There's a huge difference between the two and if you really want something, you will dedicate yourself to it and earn it. She gave us ten points to cover during our revision process. The first thing you need to remember is, once you've finished your book, that's when the real work begins. Revision is not an option.

1. 'Put away the time clock.' This is not to mean you shouldn't have goals, this just means you
should revise until it is perfect. Don't stop and think it's good enough as is because you hit a
2. 'Put away your manuscript before you revise it.' How long depends on how long it takes you
to stop thinking about it. When it's time to go back to it, read it in hard copy form and be
3. 'Cut, add, fix.' She suggests writing these three words next to the areas that need either
cutting, fixing, or something added. She also says to check your facts at this stage, cross
check names and descriptions. Cut what the reader already knows, cut adjectives, adverbs
and extra unnecessary words. Add for clarity and depth only where needed.
4. 'The big stuff. Beginnings, endings, settings, character arcs.' Look at your opening and closing,
make sure they're related. Make a list of your settings, make sure there aren't too many that
are related or the same. Make a list of your main characters and their emotional timeline.
5. 'Grammar.' Use spellcheck but don't rely on it. It's, its confusion will throw off and tick off
some agents. Highlight then delete (where you can) the seven deadly words: very, suddenly,
so, look, turn, smile, and nod. Replace them with action words where appropriate. Make sure
you're not always starting a sentence with a noun and following with a verb, or vica versa.
You should do both.
6. 'Enter the changes into your computer. Then print it out again.'
7. 'Pluses and minuses: If it starts on one, it should end on the other.' This doesn't always work
but it's a good reminder to keep the pace of our work changing.
8. 'Read through it again, fix it and repeat until it's perfect.' Meaning until you can't find
anything else to fix.
9. 'Use your friends. Three preferably.' Have them read it, then listen to their comments and
adjust your work accordingly where needed. However, I have to add that you must choose
these friends carefully. Someone who just says it's great, I love it, will not help you.
10. 'Prepare your manuscript for submission.' The standard is: double spaced, 12 font, Times
New Roman, number the pages. Add a title page with the title in 14 font centered, then
below it 'a novel by. . . ' and send it off!
Check Ann out at: http://www.annhood.us/

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Retreat Wrapup

When all the lectures and the classes are over it all comes down to what you got out of your writer's retreat. From my postings you can see a lot of what I got out of individual lectures and classes. But the real question is, what did I get out of the retreat as a whole? In one easy and completely complicated answer, a life changing experience.

The first thing I realized while sitting through my first class with William Bernhardt this year was how far my writing has come since last year. Last year I was the bumbling beginner in Bill's class with a propensity to over use adjectives and adverbs and bury my writing in gratuitous prose. I fought tooth and nail to keep my old (and bad) writing style and thankfully lost. What I uncovered was that I could actually write something publishable! And I owe that revelation completely to William Bernhardt. If he hadn't pushed me beyond my comfort zones into a whole new way of writing, I may never have learned.

This year I approached the class with a much larger sense of humility. I was an amateur there to learn from the very best and I understood and embraced that. This year my writing was in a whole different place than it was last year, a much better place. I wouldn't say leaps and bounds ahead of last year, I'd say light years. And I attribute that to Bill's lessons. You may be wondering, if that's true, what could she possibly have to learn? Volumes, my friends, volumes.

I discovered that when I thought I was done editing, I wasn't. Editing once and then sending your work out is not enough, not by a long shot. Instead of working on the sequel to my young adult book like I'd planned, I worked on the first one. It's a book I felt pretty confident about but it quickly became clear that it could be better. It wasn't anything big, but it did amount to the difference between a book that looks like a professional author is submitting it and one that looks like a first time writer is submitting it. That may seem like a small thing, but believe me, to an agent and editors, it's not. More importantly, I realized why my novel is such a great book and learned how to communicate that. Bill also taught me a thing or two about agents which will help me out in the submission process.

If you're serious about your writing and you ever get the chance to learn from someone fantastic like William Bernhardt, do it. Don't hesitate. As the economy struggles, so do writer's retreats and conferences. If they disappear that means a door to the publishing world will close to us forever.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

What A Retreat Is All About

With all this talk about classes and lectures I've failed to touch upon the best part of a retreat. That is, of course, your book. It's a week of precious time with your manuscript, something you will not get at home unless you're a hermit without a job, family, or technology. Not to say I don't get distracted at a retreat, obviously I'm blogging, but this break with technology is exactly that, a break. The rest of the day I'll spend with my work.

So what exactly is a day at a retreat like? We have the option of attending a morning lecture, many of which you've read me blog about. I love to attend these because I wake up thinking about my book and want to start learning right away. The lectures are giving by great writers, many of which are New York Times bestsellers or prize winners of some sort or another. I learn something from every lecture.

After that I get to sit in a classroom with ten of my peers and William Bernhardt, not only a New York Times Bestseller (and well earned folks, this guy writes an outstanding thriller!) but an exceptional teacher. This week we've been working our way through three chapters, our synopsis, and query letters. One cannot be shy. Bill has been reading our work out loud to the class! The feedback is fantastic and well worth the pulse pounding moment of trepidation. Getting the opinion of eight of your peers, and a master of the craft is priceless.

Aside from sharing our work and giving feedback, Bill has been entertaining us with excellent lectures on the craft of writing. Often he'll look at me and say, 'now Heather, you can't blog about this!' before telling a great anecdote or story. If only I could tell you! But alas, some things stay in the classroom.

The day is then wrapped up with another group lecture, then we're off to battle up our mountain of homework. I love every second of it, especially the homework. Speaking of lectures, it's that time so I'm off.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What to say to 'What's Your Book About?'

Practically in the shadow of this amazing geological feate, Diamond Head, I listened to an excellent lecture by author and communication/creativity consultant, Sam Horn. She answered the question of what to say when people ask, 'what's your book about?'. If you ever get the chance to see this lady speak do it, she is compelling.

'First she said, don't tell what your book is about, tease them to incite curiosity and interest'.

If you ramble on then they will tune you out and you'll have lost them. The worst thing you can do it bore people. If they start to get that faraway look in their eyes or keep glancing around for exits, you're talking too much and not engaging them.

'Don't explain your book, ask them something to turn it into dialogue'. A statement leads to a dead end, while a question leads to a conversation.

'Don't do run on rhetoric, give a real life example using imagine or 'have you ever' type of questions'. This gets them to relate to your story in some small way.

'Don't confuse them, finish with an airtight sound byte'. Give words that have a rhythm of rhyme, something memorable. Make it memorable!

'Don't lecture, but do link your project to something familiar or fond'. What book, novel, or author are you like? Be careful when doing comparisons though, an agent or editor may also want to know what's unique about your project (my words).

This is only a fraction of Sam's advice, forty five minutes wasn't nearly enough time to cover everything in her amazing repertoire. For more of Sam's invaluable advice check out her website, it may just help launch your career!

Retreat Day 3: Plot Type

Today Bill's lecture demystified plots and broke them down into five simple formulas. Again, Bill's words will be in quotes, my take on what he said will not.

'Plot is the writers choice of events to tell the story of the character's progression toward the goal or desire.' This sounds like it goes without saying but alas, if it must be said, then someone screwed it up. If there is no progression and more importantly, no goal, chances are you don't have much of a novel and need to go back and build a skeleton for it.

'Plot is composed of a series of conflicts.' Here we come back to the idea that something must be happening. Bill says conflict can be internal, external, or personal. 'Inner conflict is within their head, personal is between them and other people, and external is what's going on between them and the world. The best stories [possess] all three.'

'There are only five plot types.' These have to do with your character's journey.
'1. The Educational Plot'-character grows, it's a coming of age type story.
'2. The Disillusionment Plot'-things aren't what the character expected and their view of the world changes in a bad way. Think Macbeth.
'3. The Testing Plot'-the protagonist is tested by overwhelming opposition and despite the odds, refuses to give up.
'4. The Redemption Plot'-protagonist loses everything then works to get it back or does something redeemable. Think Chronicles of Riddick.
'5. The Corruption Plot'-good guy turns bad. Think the Godfather.

If you look at books throughout all genres chances are you can match them to at least one of these plot lines. Bill explained that a book doesn't have to be limited to one plot line but that without at least one it has no sense of direction or character arc. And we all know a book without direction tends to sit on the shelf and collect dust!