The Debutante Ball Welcomes (back) Joelle Anthony!

 We’re extending a big Deb Welcome (back!) to past Deb Joelle Anthony today. It hasn’t been that long since Joelle was here–she was in the 2010 Deb Class, but in case you’re new in these parts, here’s her official bio:

Joëlle currently lives on a tiny island in British Columbia with her musician husband, Victor Anthony, and two cats, Sophie & Marley. As for the future, their only plan is to avoid real jobs, write and play guitar in front of the woodstove, and live happily ever after. Her debut young adult novel, Restoring Harmony, was published in the spring of 2012, and her latest release, The Right & the Real is available now, both from Putnam.

And about Joelle’s latest book, The Right & the Real:

From the author of “Restoring Harmony.” Kicked out for refusing to join a cult, 17-year-old Jamie must find a way to survive on her own.

Jamie should have known something was off about the church of the Right and the Real from the start, especially when the Teacher claimed he wasn’t just an ordinary spiritual leader, but Jesus Christ, himself. But she was too taken by Josh, the eldest son of one of the church’s disciples, and his all-American good looks. Josh is the most popular boy at school too, and the first boy outside the drama geeks to give Jamie a second look. But getting her Dad involved in a cult was not part of the plan when she started dating Josh. Neither was her dad’s marriage to the fanatic Mira, or getting kicked out, or seeing Josh in secret because the church has deemed her persona non grata.

Jamie’s life has completely fallen apart. Finding her way back won’t be easy, but when her Dad gets himself into serious trouble, will Jamie be ready to rescue him, and maybe even forgive him?

Sounds AMAZING, Joelle!  And now, Joelle talks plotting with us.

Let me just dust off my tiara and I’ll be right with you. Okay…there!

In 2010, when I was part of the Ball, my day was Friday. After reading four stellar posts on whatever topic it was that week, I felt like if I couldn’t add anything just as good, I better be funny, and that’s usually the approach I took to the post. Since this is posting on Saturday, I figure I better be stellar and funny. Ummm…no pressure.

When I first started submitting, the rejections I got often included something like, “Great voice!” or “The voice is strong.” What they never included was, “Excellent plot!” In fact, if they mentioned plot at all, the notes were more likely to be, “Lots of holes in the plot.” “Implausible.” “Convoluted.” They probably could’ve added boring to the mixture, but by then the editor was too sleepy to bother.

So how did I go from boring to “fast pacing” and “page turner” (Publisher’s Weekly for The Right & the Real)? I wish I knew because then I could write a book about it and maybe do a TED talk or reign supreme at the SCBWI-LA conference next summer.

The truth is that I do know. Here’s the secret:

I started paying attention to the plot.

I know. That sounds so simple, but it’s actually true. As an actor, I’d pretty much let the playwright take care of the plot, and I worked on character and voice. And that’s what I was doing in my writing. Except there wasn’t any playwright to save my butt.

I started by reading craft books on plot. While most are useful, I’ve discovered books on mystery writing are often exceptionally helpful, even if you’re not writing a mystery. Essentially, all books to some extent are mysteries anyway. I mean, you don’t give the big climax away until the end, do you?

The next thing I started doing was paying attention to plot and pacing while I read other people’s novels. I’d like to say that after a handful, I got the gist of it, but honestly, I read about 300 books over two years before I really started to get a sense of plot. Also, during that time, I was lucky enough to land a critique group, an agent, and eventually, an editor willing to work on plot with me. I cannot begin to express how much they all helped me with this.

If you’re struggling with plot, the first thing to do is ask yourself, “Have I been giving it its due?” And if the answer is no, then you now know where to start.

Thanks for having me on the Deb Ball.

Oh, and one more thing on plotting. This is my plot to take over the world!

And if that video wasn’t gift enough, Joelle has generously offered up a copy of The Right and the Real to one of our lucky commenters! Just tell us a little about YOUR plot to take over the world and/or what your cult would be like.

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16 thoughts on “The Debutante Ball Welcomes (back) Joelle Anthony!

  1. Welcome back and thanks for being with us today to talk about plotting, Joelle! Your words are very timely for me as I very recently struggled with plot and realized that I wasn’t giving it its due. You’re completely right and thanks for the wise words!
    THE RIGHT & THE REAL sounds AWESOME and I can’t wait to dig into it-happy launch week!

  2. Welcome home, Joelle! I understand that Friday Deb pressure to come up with a different take on every week’s topic. I tend to default to “funny” whenever I can, too. I figure by Friday folks are ready for a laugh.

    Love your thoughts on plot–we do need to give it its due–and your video is brilliant! I giggled all the way through it.

    I wish you much success with THE RIGHT AND THE REAL — it sounds like a fantastic read. 🙂

  3. Thanks for your sketch on plotting Joelle. I was particularly impressed by your statement that every story is a mystery. How true! Look forward to reading your latest novel.

    • I think I might’ve read that in one of the mystery books, but regardless, it’s something I’ve held onto while plotting – unfold the story, but don’t tell it all in the beginning!

  4. Hi Joelle! Welcome back! I’m so intrigued by THE RIGHT AND THE REAL’s premise and can’t wait to get my hands on a copy.

    Your plotting thoughts are wonderful. I have such strong memories of an agent early on in my writing sitting down with me and telling me that my plotting was the biggest weakness in my writing and that always (rightly so!) stuck with me. For so long, plotting seemed (and frankly, still does some days) to be an elusive thing–so hard to pin down and yet so many writers make it seem effortless.

    Thanks so much for coming back to see us–and wishing you all the best on your launch!

    • That’s a good memory to have, but no one every told me that! I was too excited by the “great voice” notes to notice the “your plotting sucks” ones!

      • And I fought the advice at first–thinking it was just a one-time fail on the part of that one manuscript–nice try, Erika!! It’s amazing how we can live in denial about certain parts of our writing–but then we learn and we grow (and I’ll stop here before I break into Alanis! 😉

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