Slice of [my] Life

a writer's piece of the pie

How to be a Plotter & a Pantser at the same time

I’ve been working on The Blood Within, part of my House of Reinhardt series, for the past few weeks. While I’m having a blast writing it, it’s still being a pain in my bum. See, I’m usually a hardcore plotter. I’m talking outlines, timelines, diagrams, post-its & bulletin boards. And normally, those things work for me. But when I started TBW, I wanted to take things a little differently. I wanted to let the creative process find it’s own way. I have the basic points mapped out in my head, sure, but how am I going to get there? I don’t know! It’s been…interesting. Sometimes, I surprise myself with my spur-of-the-moment-quick-thinking. Other times, I want to bang my head against a very sharp, metal instrument.

The first few chapters were super awesome! I wrote them quickly and with no problems, and they don’t need much editing. But the further in I get, the worse off I am. Some of the chapters took me DAYS to write and they still need a serious round of red-penning.

I thought things couldn’t get much worse. A few days writing a single chapter–no biggie. I can deal.

Boy, was I wrong.

Nothing has been as trying as Chapter 8.

I’ve had some serious bonding issues with Chapter 8 for about 3 days. THREE. He just wouldn’t play nice, and by ‘wouldn’t play nice’ I mean I’d spit out 200 words and Chap 8 would throw them back in my face, laughing! I’m talking I’d write 1000 words only to delete 1500. Yes, he’d actually make me delete words that had NOTHING to do with him! Can you believe that? Chap 8 has a mind of his own! I mean, come on; get with the program!

Despite our domestic problems –after much fighting and hair pulling– Chapter 8 is done (for now) and I’ve moved on to the next part (which I’m calling Chapter 8B since it’s still in 8 but is a different scene).
Now I’m trying really hard to get 8B to play nice but I don’t want to piss him off, so I decided to do a little exercise to get the creative juices flowing. It’s not exactly “pantsing”, but it’s not quite “plotting” either.

Mind Mapping is a great way to get the juices flowing & get a little direction in your writing. The key is to keep both halves of your brain working together. The left side is your analytical side, and the right side is your creative side. Personally, I tend to let my left side take over. I start putting things in organized columns and rows, complete with bullet points. But that ends up stifling your creativity! If you can Mind Map correctly, you’ll be a much happier writer and your story will thank you. You’ll use both logic and creativity. When you Mind Map, don’t let yourself focus on order or neatness. Let the ideas fill up the page. Use bright colors in random places. Make squiggly lines, little doodles, lots of notes jotted here and there. Use lines and bubbles to keep your ideas in order (you’re right brain needs a little action, after all..) but don’t let order override your creativity. Maybe your Mind Map will be a little prettier, but this is what I came up with.

Here’s my Map, just starting off. There are a few key pieces that I already knew were going to happen. ((Sorry about the lighting…))

photo

And here’s my Map finished. See all the craziness?!

photo2

**Does Mind Mapping seem like something that could work of you? What methods do you use to piece your books together?

March 24, 2011 Posted by | Plotting, Writing | Leave a comment

*Cough, Cough* Plot

090206-sick2_istock-hmed.hmediumI’m sick. Both literally and figuratively. So sick, in fact, that I skipped my classes, but not sick enough to shut off my overactive imagination. So, not-sick, that when I should have been sleeping, my creative bastard of a mind decides that it has the perfect idea for a new novel. That’s right—a new novel. 

Sorry, Professor Grooms, I’m too sick to come to English class. No, no—don’t bother e-mailing me the assignments; I’m busy creating another novel.

Oh yes, I’m a sick, sick mother.

Picture me, swathed in a bundle of warm, fuzzy clothes, cup of hot Theraful at my side, thermometer in mouth, while sitting at my desk (because my laptop is also sick), researching the perfect setting for my knew book … and my mother-in-law pops in to see if I’d like some dinner. Hmm.

British ColumbiaThe good news is, I found the perfect setting and my fever broke. Yay! The bad news — Theraflu sucks. Really, the shit tastes awful, but it does help a sore throat.

Despite the bad timing (and the whole being-sick-thing) I’m pretty excited about my new plot. It’s a romantic suspense that takes place in British Columbia, Canada.

I just love the countryside. Who needs over crowded, pollution filled cities when you can have wide open spaces and crisp fresh air—air so fresh it would burn my unworthy nasal passages? Sure it may get a bit chilly up in the mountains, but at least the summers wouldn’t reach 110° and an ozone Banffwatch of level red. Okay, maybe I wouldn’t survive the winters but I can always dream, can’t I? And come on—there’s wildlife! Real, honest to God wildlife! The only wildlife I’ve seen in Dallas are the coyotes on the golf course, the rabbits that my cat kills, and the blasted owls that hunt small cats and dogs in my neighborhood. Not that a bear would be any better, but…

Moving on…


I’d like to make a SHOUTOUT to Leslie! Leslie posted a comment on my blog Monday, Feb. 8 wishing me a great week and giving me a Sunshine Award. Unfortunately, the link to her profile (and blog) didn’t work, so I can’t get to her blog ;(  

Leslie, I’d love to give you a proper thank you and support for your blog. I hope you get this shoutout. Can’t wait to hear from you!


chickenvalentine

Valentine’s Day is coming up, and if you’re like me, you’ve sorta…dropped the ball on the I-love-you chocolates for your special someone. Hmm. I’ve been so busy getting ready for the Valentine’s Day Love at First Site Blogfest that I actually forgot about Valentine’s Day. Whoops. I should probably get started on my Happy V-Day honey present. Have a good week everyone!

 

February 9, 2010 Posted by | Blogfest, Plotting, Research, Romantic/Suspense WIP | Leave a comment

Let’s Write a Story

I’ve had some people ask me about the different kinds of scenes that can be submitted for Blogfest. Now, this may sound crazy, but—any good old scene where one, or both, of your characters realizes “Wow, I love this person” will do. love

I like to see where my characters take the scene. Initially, I may have some sort of rough draft or outline about what’s going to happen, but the characters are the ones that get the final say. If they end up taking the story somewhere else entirely…so be it. They know what they want more than I do (consciously, anyway).

13 days until the Love at First Sight Blogfest and I’m still shuffling  different ideas around in my head. There are so many potential characters that are battling for my attention, and even more that keep popping up to say “how’d’ya do?”. So how’s a girl to chose one scene to post?

There are ways to form the barebones of a story. The Story Architect by Victoria Lynn Schmidt is a great place to start. In her book, she lists 56 “classic” story themes that are used in every genre of fiction. If you want to take a look inside, you may view a bit of it here. While I love this book (and recommend it to anyone writing fiction), it isn’t exactly cut and dry for a romance scene for the LaFS Blogfest. We don’t want a whole plot do we? Some people may be inspired to create a novel around their LaFS scene, but for now, I just want a scene—a hot and steamy scene. 

So, in lieu of anything better, I’ve decided to write my own list of themes—themes for Blogfest.

Blogfest Architect: Types of Love

  • Opposites Attract: the wrong people with the right feelings. Love against all odds.
  • Holy cow—I love you!: Some personality types fight the whole love-at-first-sight experience. Instead, write the scene where your character(s) realize that they are in love.
  • Head Over Heels: Do your characters steal little glances at each other when no one is looking? Do they blush when the object of their infatuation speaks to them? If so, they may be head over heels .
  • Infuriating Infatuation: ‘The woman drove him nuts! Pompous and bossy—a pigheaded know-it-all. He thought he’d always wanted a nice girl with a pretty face. Now, he wasn’t so sure.’ This is another of the holy-cow-I-love-you themes.
  • Forbidden Love: Romeo & Juliet is a classic for a reason. Who doesn’t love the idea of breaking the rules for love? How can something so wrong feel so right?
  • Unrequited Love: Taylor Swift’s Teardrops On My Guitar says it all. Pining after someone who’s in love with another person is a hell of it’s very own making. No one said love at first sight has to be mutual.
  • Fairy Tale Love: The stars align and falling in love feels so easy. Talk about a fairy tale…
  • Childhood Love: Jack and Jill have been in love since the day they went up the hill. Jack may have broken his crown but Jill stayed by his side while he healed. After all these years, he’s never forgotten her. Now, it’s time to track her down and confess his love. Maybe she feels the same way…
  • Hero Love/Damsel in Distress: Need I explain?

Want to challenge yourself?

  • I’ve read that some people are going to switch point of view Blogfest. If you usually write from the female perspective, try writing your scene from the male POV and vice versa.
  • Try writing a “historical” love story based on characters that already exist—or existed. Take advantage of creative license! There are plenty of time periods to chose from. Try on of these stories or find one of your own.
  • Retell a classic and make it your own.
    • Cinderella
    • Gone With the Wind
    • Ariel the Little Mermaid
    • Aladdin
    • Jack & Jill
  • FanFic. Is there a book, TV show, or movie that messed something up? Fan Fiction lets you fix it…
    • Lost
    • Burn Notice
    • Weeds
    • Desperate Housewives
    • Vampire Diaries
    • Twilight
    • Outlander
    • Werecats Series
    • Avatar
    • Bones

Have I forgotten a good one? Anyone have any other themes to add to the list?

I hope I’ve stuck a creative nerve. If not, there’s always the next blog posting. Don’t forget to sign up for the Love at First Sight Blogfest!

Happy writing!

PS. If anyone needs additional inspiration, I have some terrific poems on my inspirational blog, To Keep it Going.

January 31, 2010 Posted by | Blogfest, Characters, Inspiration, Plotting, Writing | Leave a comment

Plotting the Properly Paced Prose

(I’m sorry about the title; I just couldn’t help myself…)

Plotting is one of those hit-or-miss kind of things. Sometimes, ideas will flood your mind with incredible possibilities of unbelievable (or completely, “well duh“) images. But, then there are the days when you can’t, for the life of you, think up one tiny, little scheme to foil the bad guys. Now, I’ve seen some writers tackle the plotting process like some football players tackle…oh, let’s say Aaron Rodgers. Unfortunately, I am not one of those writers. I need highlighters, post-it notes, dry erase boards…divine intervention…to even put a dent in my plots. Fortunately, once I get going, there’s usually no stopping me. Usually.

Over time, I’ve found that I need to revisit the plotting-boards to make sure that everything is all-fine-and-dandy. Even then, after countless plot revisions and agonizing editing sessions, I’ll discover a looming plothole that stands out despite the rest of the uber-cool plot. And, as most civilized writers would do, I simply flip my shit.

How could this happen? I’ve geared countless sticky notes with the sole purpose of protecting my unsuspecting manuscript from the evils of plotholes and–possibly worse–pacing problems. And yet, when editing fever rolls around…*wham, bam, thank you ma’am!* Houston, we have a problem.

Before I go any further, I feel I should warn you that while I’m not a perfectionist, I do have OCD tendancies. And I’m very visual. And I’m a masochist.

But I like plotting. In fact, I re-plot every five-or-so chapters just to make sure that my plot is the best it can possibly be. I’ve been meaning to do this post for a while now, but it’s been a bit of a trouble maker for me. Everyone plots differently, and even I can’t commit to a fool-proof way of doing it. I can, however, show you the jist of how I plot. I can only hope that it helps someone else to do their impossible plot.


  1. I start off with a package of post-its (extra sticky, because I move them around a lot!) then I take my trusty dry erase boards (two of them), a few markers, and sit down with a glass of wine (or the whole bottle) to get started.
  2. As the juices start flowing, I write down each idea onto a post-it and stick it to the dry erase board. At this point, it doesn’t matter what order they are in so long as I’ve got them written down and stuck to my handy-dandy white board.
  3. Once my imagination dries up, I grab my second dry erase board–and even more post-it notes–and start to organize the chaos. I start re-writing the plots-points on different stickies based on what they mean to the story I have in my head.
    • Main plot points are on blue post-its.
    • Secondary storylines are on green post-its.
    • Romance plot points are written on pick stickies.
    • Comments/questions are on yellow.
    • Ideas that I’m not so sure about get put on purple.

    I place them all on the second board in a logical order…

  4. …then go through the pointless step of writing them down again, by hand, on the freshly cleaned, first white board–by coordinating colors, of course. There’s no point in telling me how utterly stupid this step is–I’m well aware it is repetitive and tedious–but this is one of those OCD/Masochistic tendencies I warned you about earlier. Normal people, feel free to skip step 4.

    Step 4 ends up looking like this:

  5. Once all of that is done and I’ve started the actual writing, I keep a spreadsheet of my word that helps to keep everything in order and tracks the pacing of the novel. This log tells me all the major details of my plot, starting with the act, chapter, chapter-summary, the time and date of the chapter, the point of view, setting and chapter word count. I also have two extra columns called “Point of Chapter, which helps to keep me from including pointless scenes, and “Changes“.
    The Changes column is there to help me keep track of what I need to change based on my instincts, and what my critique partner and critique group thinks I should change.
    The last column is the Total Wordage column which uses an auto-formula to tally up the total word count of the whole novel.
    Here’s a screenprint of what my spreadsheet log looks like:

Now that I’ve shown you how I do it, why don’t you drop me a comment and tell me how you do it?

Want your own plotting-spreadsheet? Here’s my template.



December 28, 2009 Posted by | Plotting, Writing | 2 Comments

Plotting, Characters, & their Complexities

Plotting & Characters—The Two Elements

When writing, there are two basic elements that make up a novel: plot and characters. These two elements must coexist—and coexist well—for the book to be anything worth reading. And let’s face it, why bother writing something that no one wants to read? It’s the plotlines and the characters that hold a reader’s attention. They are the glue that not only binds the story together, but connects the story with its audience.

I have a love/hate relationship with the plotlines of my books. Out of all of the elements that go into novel writing, it’s the plot that is my Achilles heel. I constantly worry that the plot is missing something, that it could be better. Or—when I’m having a particularly bad day of writing—that it’s absurd. While plot-holes can be patched up, a bad plot is seldom able to be revived.

I’ve been planning to write a blog post on plotting for the last few weeks. After all, It only makes sense that I write about the devil I know best. After reading a blog called Why You Should Interview Your Characters by Carolina Valdez Miller, I realized two things.

One—I don’t struggle with character relationships in my books. If anything, my characters keep the story alive. My books are (mostly all) character driven. They are about people and their journeys to the other side of the rainbow.

And two—obviously—plots and characters go together like babies and diapers. Basically—put the diaper on the kid’s head and you’re in for a messy time. But, put the diaper where it goes, and one element complements the other. When I look at it this way, I can really see that the more you know one, the better you will understand the other.

Plotting

I’ve spend countless hours plotting and re-plotting my novels. And I know, I’ll be re-plotting again and again before I’ve finished my currrent WIP. To date, my two plot boards look like this:

I know–I’m not the most organized person on the planet, but it works for me.

I’ll add new notes to the boards as they come to me because I need everything written out or I start to feel lost and overwhelmed. It helps when I can look over and see where I am and where I need to go.

Character Interviews

First off, I’ll be interviewing Kate, one of the main character of my current WIP, “Book 1” or the Immortal Series. Here goes…

I waited for Kate for about ten minutes in a small but comfortable private sitting room in the vampire palace. I knew she’d be late—I’d been warned by several of my characters that the reclusive assassin wouldn’t willingly submit to an interview. But, luckily for me, the King himself had extended my invitation to her, making it impossible for her to refuse.

Of course, that didn’t mean she’d have to be generous about it…

When she did arrive, she smiled politely—though it didn’t reach her eyes—and took a seat across from me on an antique settee that coordinated perfectly with the armchair I had chosen.

Me: “Hello Kate, how are you today?”

Kate: “Busy; I’m getting close to nailing another Dark Cell. No offense to you or anything, I just don’t see why you couldn’t have found someone else to interview. I don’t have time to be back in Crehmor, let alone sitting down for an interview.”

I was expecting this kind of response from her. I knew she hated the vampire city of Crehmor and wouldn’t be thrilled to be here, so I’d prepared myself for this line of argument.

Me: “You’re a main character in the upcoming book, Kate. Everyone wants to know a little about you, including myself.”

Kate: “I’m here because Gabriel told me to come, so ask your questions so I can get back to work. There is a war going on, or haven’t you noticed?”

Me: “Speaking of the war, what part do you play in it?”

Kate: “As you well know, I’m the General of the Assassins—the Assassins being a branch of the Vampiric Army. I work undercover to collect intelligence against our enemy, the Shade. Once I, or one of my people, infiltrate a Cell, we join up with the Slayers—the other branch of the army—and take them out. Then, we move on to another Cell.”

Me: “Sounds like dangerous work.”

Kate: “It can be.”

Me: “Don’t you ever worry about the things that could happen to you while you’re undercover?”

Kate: “Not much. I’ve thought about it, sure, but someone’s got to do it. Might as well be me—I don’t have anything to lose.”

Me: “Except your life…”

Kate: “It’s a war, Ms. Reese. People die every day—people with husbands, wives, children… I don’t have anyone. My family’s dead. Besides, I’m not afraid to die.”

Me: “You have someone; Micah. Tell me about him.”

Kate: Sighs and slouches back in her seat before answering. “My father was killed when I was a child. Micah had been very close to him, and he became my guardian. He’s…like an uncle to me.” Realizing where I had been going with this, she added, “Micah knows the risks of what I do. He also has his own life to live.”

Me: “I see. So you take on the tough assignments? So the soldiers with families don’t have to?”

Kate: “I’d rather risk my life than the lives of my men.”

Me: “So there’s no one in your life? No boyfriends or special someones?”

Kate: “No; I don’t get attached to people.”

Me: “No one?”

Kate: “No one.”

Me: “I’ve heard the gossip around the city. They say that you and the King’s cousin—the King’s Right Hand—are involved?”

Kate: “Caleb and I are acquainted only through our work; we’re both on the High Council. That is our only connection.”

Me: “He is quite attractive…”

Kate: “Your point?”

Me: “Well. He seems like he’s interested—”

Kate: “Well he’s not; and neither am I. Are we finished here?”

Me: “Not quite; I have a few more questions. You’re a legend throughout the immortal world—an icon for young girls. Why is it that you are afraid of relationships? Even the soldiers in your unit say that you can be cold as ice. They say you’re afraid of attachments.”

My bluntness must have taken her off guard. She glared at me and I added a mental note to add “deadly as explosion” to her bio…

Kate: “I can’t afford attachments, Ms. Reese. My job isn’t just a danger to my life, but to all those around me—”

Me: “Your father was killed in this war. Are you afraid to put your own loved ones through that pain if you are kill as well?”

Kate: “My—that has nothing to do with this interview. Leave my father out of this. As for your little observation, no, I’m not afraid of dying.”

Me: “No, you aren’t afraid of dying—we’ve established that. But that wasn’t what I asked. Are you afraid of getting involved because of the work you do?”

Kate: “Next question.”

Me: “After you answer my last one.”

After a long pause, Kate stood and smiled.

Kate: “It’s been a pleasure, Ms. Reese. I hope you got what you needed for your report. I’ll tell a servant you’ll be leaving now so they can escort you—

Me: “Oh, don’t bother. I have one last interview today…with Caleb. He should be here shortly, if he isn’t already waiting in the hall.”

The look she gave me could have triggered heart attacks in the elderly. I, however, stood and extended my hand.

Me: “Good luck, Kate. I’ll see you again soon.”

Yay! That was fun. I’ll be doing that again soon!

November 12, 2009 Posted by | Characters, Nightling Series, Plotting, Writing | 2 Comments

Army of Darkness

It’s way past time to get back to my writing. Once again, I’ve taken too much time this past week to read or watch the new episodes of Bones, NCIS, CSI, and Lie to Me. Go figure… I’m a TV and book junkie. I read books 1-3 of the Texas Lone Star Series by Susan Mallery, which was of course superb. But now, back to my actual writing.

I did a tiny bit of plotting last night and am starting to get somewhere with a few loose ends. They aren’t quite right just yet, but they will be soon enough. I wanted to write yesterday or at least update my blog, but my right hand was not cooperating. Carpel tunnel (or something with similar symptoms) had my hand and wrist sore and achy. It was even swollen. It isn’t nearly as bad today; it’s a little sore but that’s it.

I’m working on the “ball” scene still, which just goes to show how much I haven’t been writing. Unfortunately, my mind has been in another frame of mind entirely. I have been thinking about the battle scene that I have coming about three-fourths way through the first book. Keep in mind, I’m not even a fourth a way into it… Still, I’m the kind of writer who skips around and writes what on her mind. I just haven’t given in to the temptation just yet; I’m really trying to stay in the “ball” frame of mind. 😛

Oh yeah! Speaking of battles, I found this picture online of the Army of Darkness. Pretty funny.

October 12, 2009 Posted by | Nightling Series, Pain, Plotting, Writing | Leave a comment

Another little detour

Between my busy work schedule and my lovely beau, I’ve spent the last few days not writing. I did some re-plotting of the Immortals series I’m working on, as well as on the two other books I’ve been playing with in bits and pieces. To be honest, I didn’t plan to work on plotting my two other books just yet–I’m not quite ready to focus my attention on them because of how well my first book in the Immortals is going–but, seeing as how “book one” was pissed off and not speaking to me, I switched my attention to first Bitten, and then to a Young Adult book I’m toying with, which remains nameless…

As it turned out, switing my attention actually was a good thing. I suppose the best way to explain it is that it “opened me up” and made me more compliant in dealing with the issues I was having in my plot with “book one”. When I turned my attention back to the Immortals, poof–problems solved.

So, in a miraculous stroke of luck, fate, or divine intervention, I knocked out three birds with one stone. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. Now,  since I just mentioned it, I should point out that no, my books are not actually named. I happen to be the worse writer ever at inventing book names. If I had my way, my book series would be titled A, B, C, and so on, while the books themselves would be numbered 1, 2, 3, etc…

I also spent the last two days (while not working or with my fiance) reading a magnificant new book (that’s actually been out for a few years). The Rest Falls Away by Colleen Gleason was bloody brilliant–no pun intented. Now, for anyone who has actually taken a look at my library and seen the number of books–no, I have not read all of them, and no, there is not enough time to read them all. However, Josh (because you know I’m talking to you), If I did not purchase books at random, I would never have come across The Gardella Vampire Chronicles, and therefore, would not be so completely amazed by how expertly put together Gleason’s “world” is. So, ha! There is a very good reason to let me indulge in my Borders addiction–I truely enjoy it.

Now that’s it Monday, it’s time to get back to work with my writing…
Laters

September 21, 2009 Posted by | "Bitten" Series, Fiance o' Mine, Nightling Series, Plotting, Reading/Read, Young Adult Series | Leave a comment

Detour…

Sometimes, I feel like I’m treading water. Today is just one of those days. I figured chapter seven would be somewhat simple because I’m basically writing some backstory for the characters and bringing my main characters together for a little one on one time. But, I keep putting it off…because it’s a little harder than it sounds. Kate and Caleb are still in that awkward stage of falling for each other. So, I’m taking a little detour and replotting the whole chapter…again. Who knows, maybe the third time’s the charm… After which, I will continue with chapter seven no matter what–and I’ll finish today, or at least, before I go to sleep again…

September 15, 2009 Posted by | Nightling Series, Plotting, Writing | Leave a comment

First Posting!

Yay! My first post! Starting off–always the tough part in my opinion.

I’ve spent most of the day plotting the outline of my first book in my new vampire series (which still does not have a name…go figure). It’s gone much smoother than I imagined it would. Everything fits together nicely, and yes I was worried they wouldn’t. There are so many little-big-things that occur in this book–getting a complete world created and explained in book one isn’t easy, but I think I’ve done it!

Updates soon!

August 19, 2009 Posted by | Nightling Series, Plotting | Leave a comment