Like many of you who may be reading this, I’m a writer. A fiction writer. That means what I write is rarely true, though of course it needs to be logical and, hopefully, enjoyable.
And how do I figure out what I’ll be writing? Well, my mind is always at work. Whether I’m intending to or not, I’m always coming up with ideas. That, too, probably sounds familiar to many of you.
While watching a TV show a couple of weeks ago, my mind glommed onto its theme as being a great idea for a story. A mystery? Probably. A series? Hopefully.
But unlike many of my ideas, how to proceed with this one didn’t become automatically clear. As a result, I’ve been doing a lot of pondering and research and jotting down possibilities. And reading what I can about the general concept.
That’s an important part of writing, of course. The plotting and writing and character development are all essential. But so’s figuring out how you will determine each of them and where your story’s likely to go.
I knew I was scheduled for the WinR blog today and, while at first not knowing what I’d write about, this blog idea finally came to me, too. It’s important for writers to recognize how their minds work at least some of the time. Ideas and me–well, I’d better make note of them and run with them when it makes sense. And writing here about coming up with and following up with ideas–why not?
So how do you do it? Where do ideas come to you? How do they come to you? Is it always by a similar way, or, like me, do you just keep your mind open to whatever it wants to throw at you and then follow up on those ideas?
And me? Well, I’m sure I’ll figure out the direction I want to go, probably soon. Will I run with it? Depends on whether I wind up liking my direction as much as the initial idea.
Ah yes – that’s what so many of us are wishing for this coming year.
For Maeve Binchy fans, this was the title of her best-selling novel about festivities over Christmas and New Year, amidst a tumultuous family saga. The book has a happy ending, of course. And I think that’s what we all want from the happenings of the last nine months.
The frustrating thing is that the challenges facing people all over the world were not of our choosing – or our fault. Unimaginable circumstances were thrust upon us. We did the best we could. In the beginning, somewhat stunned, we froze. We did as we were told. Because not only lives were at stake – but livelihoods, businesses and careers – and our sanity, due to the forced isolation of most of us.
As writers, we were luckier than many, because we are used to being isolated, to working on our own. But for others it was – and is – extremely difficult. But we are survivors and we became adaptable and very creative. Across the nation – and indeed across the world – we worked together and reached out to our neighbors, watched out for strangers and became concerned for those living alone. Especially the elderly. We became better people because of it – and appreciated each other all the more.
We acknowledged our great appreciation for all those Front Line workers, the store clerks, the delivery people, the drivers – all those that had to go out to work to keep our lives running. We learned to appreciate the little things and to count our blessings, remembering that many were far worse off than us.
People became eager to support their local stores and restaurants by having goods and food delivered for the first time. They recognized how we each depend on each other and that together we could survive. “No man is an island,” wrote English poet John Donne in 1624. It still works well today. During both World Wars our parents and grandparents recalled that ‘everyone pulled together.’ They all looked out for each other and took ‘waifs and strays’ into their homes, as they fought a common enemy. Adversity usually brings people together. It also makes us stronger and more resilient.
As Helen Keller said, “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.”
For so many people last year, their lives changed forever, as they were forced to re-evaluate how they earned a living, after their usual work was shut down by local Governments. Some business owners were able to reinvent their small businesses, but many still struggle for survival.
As writers, we are very blessed. We rely on ourselves to accomplish our work. No-one else can do it for us. Yes, I know, we then have to get literary agents to accept our books and stories, or publishers to produce them – and our readers to buy the finished product. But, think of it. Today, we now have so many news ways to accomplish all this ourselves. We can do it!
Winston Churchill said: “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.”
Think of the changes in the writing world in the way our work is published, just in this past year. Our work doesn’t even have to be in printed paper form. Writers have found a new voice in Blogs, Vlogs, Podcasts and many other venues. For the printed books, more and more writers have turned to self-publishing, with the help of Amazon and other sales approaches. Once marginalized, self-publishing has become legitimized – mainstream even.
As writers, we have been stopped from doing our usual book-signings, our promotional events at bookstores, both local and across the country. With bookstores shut-down and in-person Book Festivals cancelled, due to the pandemic, we no longer had those resources as a way to meet our loyal readers, to introduce ourselves to new readers or to promote our books and garner new followers.
We learned to be flexible and creative when we couldn’t get out to bookstores, launch our books, attend conferences, and travel across country to book festivals. We went online and explored Zoom rooms and Skype events. We explored, we joined forces with other writers and created different styles of conferences, workshops and writers’ groups.
As a result, we have widened our horizons considerably. Whereas before, we travelled to local bookstores, now we can reach out to readers and other writers, not just across America but across the world. We have quickly adjusted to different time-zones and we are exploring a variety of other writers and new readers across the Globe. How exciting is that?
And having had our vacations cancelled by assorted Governments restrictions, our wanderlust has been channeled into armchair travelling.
I have read books by an array of writers new to me and had wonderful escapes in Crete, snowy Scotland, Mandalay, and Paris during World War II, the Greek Islands and India. I’ve visited far more places from my armchair without the struggle of today’s air travel – and it doesn’t cost anything.
I’ve also learned a lot about growing grapes, spinning silk, constructing large houses, farming and how to make really good humus. What’s not to like?
We’ve all been reading a lot more – especially with people being shut-in, they have turned to reading books. Lots of them.
Some people, forced to abandon their usual nine-to-five work, have turned their hands to writing for the first time ever. They told themselves, “If I only had time, I would write a book…” Well they have and they did. See. Out of adversity, good does come.
And yes, this year it will be different. We are older, wiser and more appreciative of everything and everyone around us. Happy New Year!
This page was written by Rosemary Lord and posted by G.B. Pool.
I’m taking a break from BACK TO BASICS: WRITERS BOOT CAMP, which I’ll complete in my next posting.
Goodbye 2020, and good riddance. The year began horribly when last January, a bizarre mishap led to a friend of mine getting shot while having dinner at an upscale restaurant. An 80 year old woman, healthy, mentally alert and physically active, who golfed, gardened, rescued animals and took piano lessons; if you saw her back then you’d never guess her age. She survived, but complications led to amputation of both her legs. If you told me back then that anything worse could top what happened to my friend, I would not have believed you.
Back in May I wrote, How will YOU tell the story?, referring to “…an experience unprecedented in our lifetime*”. That asterisk referred to the few exceptions, including my then almost 105 year old aunt who’d lived through the Spanish Flu pandemic. She celebrated her birthday last July, but passed away on Veteran’s Day. Thanks to the ‘unprecedented’ times, I could neither celebrate her milestone birthday with her, nor attend her funeral.
When I originally wrote that post, we had little to guide us other than grave concern and dire predictions, most of which came true. Being married to a scientist who spent his career analyzing data, I took those predictions seriously, unlike too many. As we close in on a year of living dangerously, I have to change my question: it’s no longer a matter of how will we write about this, but how can we not?
I can see endless possibilities for mystery writers, from deliberately using COVID-19 as a murder weapon to inadvertently causing a beloved family member’s death. All writers may focus on how the virus instills fear, closes down communities, has us scurrying furtively between home and car, car and essential travel. Many people who live alone have had cognitive issues worsened by quarantine; those who suffer from depression have declined, whether secluded or not.
How will we react when we finally crawl out of our caves of isolation into the light? When will we feel safe? When will we feel normal? Will it ever happen in our lifetime, or will this haunt us as the Great Depression haunted a generation almost a century ago?
I also can see COVID used as a symbol for the dark fears held within us, and the hopes for a brighter future. Exploring the idea of can we versus should we. Or writing about it as part of a cleansing ritual, to wash away the disappointments, pain and sorrow of 2020.
January always brings the promise of better things to come and we’re all rooting for that. The man who shot my friend goes on trial that month. Ironically, that’s when I’m scheduled for jury duty – what are the odds?
As we head into the holiday season, may 2020 end on a more harmonious note for all of us, and may the new year shine like a beacon, beckoning us toward a safer, calmer and healthier future. At last, something we can all agree upon.
Miko Johnston, a founding member of The Writers In Residence, is the author of three novels in the historical saga A Petal In The Wind, as well as several short stories in anthologies including LAst Exit to Murder. She is currently completing the fourth book in the Petal series. Miko lives on Whidbey Island in Washington (the big one). Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Marketing our mysteries is probably one of the least preferred tasks on our to-do list but it is crucial if we wish for success and sales. I truly dislike having to hawk my books and with so many different avenues than ever from which to choose, the effort becomes far more onerous than ever. But with writers’ conferences shut down and virtual meetings on the rise I found time to think about how to increase my book sales.
In isolation, I decided to buckle down and educate myself further about book promoti0on, buying five guides to add to the two I already own which are The Frugal Book Promoter by Carolyn Howard Johnson, and Red Hot Internet Publicity by Penny Sansevieri. I must confess I barely cracked open either of them but added them to five new books from amazon: The Tao of Book Publicity by Paula Margulies, How I Sold 80,000 Books by Alinka Rutkowska, Marketing Books on Amazon by Rob Eagar, Book Marketing…Reinvented by Bryan Heathman, and another by Penny updated in 2019., titled 5-Minute Book Marketing for Authors. Naturally there are overlaps in all of these guidance books, some of them explained well with detail and others just glossed over. I offer my opinions herewith.
The 5-Minute book intrigues me the most. Five minutes? That’s just 30 minutes spread over a six-day week. Surely we can all handle that. Packed not only with advice on how to promote, Sansevieri includes a generous selection of web sites to contact after each point she makes. For example, to promote eBooks Penny presents dozens of free sites where you can list your book, as well as sites on Twitter worth notifying. She also has several advice sections on how to use amazon’s author page, book page, reviews, how best to demystify amazon’s categories, key words, etc. if you self-publish with them. Her book offers the main benefits of Instagram, Pinterest, BookBub, Goodreads, Facebook, Google Alerts, blogs, and other social media, as well as creating your own newsletter for visibility.
While on the subject of amazon, Bob Eagar’s guide focuses entirely on making the best use of the online global bookseller. He tells us how to find and understand their bestseller rankings, how to estimate your book sales, and why the rankings aid marketing efforts. Eagar also debunks a few myths about those rankings, as they change every hour of every day but at least give an idea of your sales, unlike traditional publishing houses. If there’s a spike upwards does it mean that your recent marketing campaign was effective? Or vice versa? Your non-amazon publisher probably buys ads on the amazon site which means you can check your rankings without self-publishing with them. Is amazon advertising your book? You can find out from the site he cites in his book.
How to Sell 80,000 books
Moving on, I was eager to know how to sell 80,000 books. The author’s name alone fascinated me and I wondered who Rutkowska is. Turns out she is a bestselling USA Today and Wall Street Journal author and founder of Library Bub that connects indie authors with 10,000 libraries although you can find this list yourself online now.
A third of the book sets out interesting interviews with bestselling authors as to their promotional strategies, and Alinka shares how she sold those 80,000 books and more not only on amazon but also through online sites, bulk sales, foreign rights (there’s a service site for this), networking, and clubs. Happily, most of us are already skilled as panelists and speakers. She tells us something I never knew – that Apple is the second-largest book market player after amazon and publishes books, she says. Something also new to me, that Kobo is the second largest eBook retailer in Japan and has 3% of the market in the U.S. Is your YA plot linked to the ocean? If so, Alinka says we should contact the retail department of the cruise lines. They ordered hundreds of copies of her children’s books for their gift shops.
Selling the Sizzle
Heathman’s informal and friendly book includes branding and marketing formulas and understands the angst authors feel about the work that is necessary. He gets down quickly to the nitty-gritty of selling the sizzle, and like the other guides, talks about the various avenues available except that he adds how fortunate we are these days to have so many ways to promote our work and exactly how you approach Barnes and Noble through their CRM author signing schedule. I like his emphasis on reading local print media so you know what they are looking for regarding author interviews, and especially regarding radio. Don’t leave it up to organizations and clubs to publicize your event, get to work! However, his advice to create a daily series of social media posts sounds a bit daunting. I like Heathman’s list for getting quality book endorsements you can use for your back cover, press releases, and on your website and blog. Particularly useful is his 15 Week Book Marketing Checklist chart.
A ‘How-To’ Guide
The how-to book promotion guide I have taken a special liking to is The Tao of Publicity. Margulies directs it to beginners trying to figure out how to publicize one’s books but even those skilled at it can learn something from her pages. Like the other guides mentioned above except for Penny’s lengthier tomes, the Tao is around 145 pages but is crammed with tips, ideas, website content advice, timing your launch, Q and A questions for the media to ask, the pros and cons of a blog tour, why limiting social media sites can be a better way initially to build relationships with readers, and many other issues. Ever heard of dashboards Hootsuite, Threadsy, and Tweetdeck to post information about your books? And make sure you take into consideration America’s different time zones.
After reading all seven guides I found something in each one that was individual enough to make a note of, writing down the page numbers. However, I am now too exhausted to figure them out.
If you care to share, which promotional ideas bring you the most reward?
I’ve always wanted to use the word “Alas” as a title for something because the word says so much to me, and sounds so much nicer, than therefore, thus, consequently…and for me, it does not have a negative connotation
As they often are, my posts tend toward being egocentric—having to do with something I’m dealing with. My thinking is, if I’m going through/learning/puzzling over something, maybe my thoughts will help other writers going through the same thing? So here’s the latest from my little corner of the writing world.
I’m on the umpteenth adjustment/edit of my latest, “Never Forgotten.” My first novella. And though scheduled to be out right now—unfortunately “Never Forgotten is turning into seemingly “Never Finished.”
And I blame it all on Writers in Residence!
Alas, I’ve listened to both what my fellow Writers in Residence, and what our commenters have said here; and most importantly, I’ve tried to incorporate their insights into my thinking. If that sounds like a plug, it is. My advice to myself and others, has always been, listen, listen, listen.You may not use it all, or disagree…but if you don’t listen, you’ll never know if you missed a great tidbit.
And a lot of the great tidbits I’ve picked up are not direct editing(in the traditional usage), but incorporating concepts, ideas, story-telling enhancements. Refinements that raise your writing to a higher level. And that kind of editing, for me, takes longer than fixing misplaced commas et al. (not that I don’t do an awful lot of that)… Here’s a recent example. I had several lead characters doing the activities in one day that you or I would need at least three days to do. I noticed that in this latest edit because of Gayle Bartos-Pool’s excellent post on laying out your time line.
Here are a couple more time consuming review items that I’ve picked up on this writing trail…
I write in third person and as such consider I need to be a disaffected narrator of events, while also getting inside the head of the current scenes POV(usually the protagonist or villian) character and emotions. Keeping that straight …
And of course, have I used the best words? i.e. Holding, clasping, clutching, or grasping LC’s diary in his hand.
Redundancies, and its counter-balance—not clearly explaining at least once.
Conclusions left out, because one is assuming the reader put my two and two together correctly.
Pictures of characters not clearly drawn (hard one), and again, its counter-balance, letting the reader develop their own picture from people they’ve known.
Words inconsistent with scene POV character’s life experiences
My point to all this whining is: because of Writers in Residence, “Never Forgotten,” whenever it’s finally out, will be better for all the advice and knowledge I’ve gotten here. So, I most heartily, not only encourage other writers to read our blog (another blatant plug), but if not us, find that group, that person, that editor—that can not only give “editing” advice, but also address good writing concerns. Having a story go from your head—to paper, is not enough. I definitely want a reader to understand and enjoy my little stories. And hopefully, want to come back for more. My egocentric opinion I know, but I really think a genuine area for thought.
As a side note: being privileged enough to be a Writer in Residence, has led me into thinking about my writing a lot, and I’ve received and taken in soooooo much great advice. And finally, on the “Never Forgotten” front, my LAST(smile) pass is currently being reviewed by my trusted editor Kitty Kladstrup.
A further nugget here besides just me bellyaching about editing…is to point out that good writing, I think, takes effort and hard work. That being said, I can’t really see Agatha Christie at her Remington Home Portable typewriter agonizing over whether Hercule was sitting, lounging, arranged in his chair… Hmmm.
When I was asked to teach a writing course for Sisters-in-Crime/Los Angeles, I decided I better evaluate how I wrote a story first. I write novels and short stories and figured there were similar fundamentals all writers use in both endeavors. Then I remembered the Aristotle course I had taken in college. I still had the textbook, The Poetics, so I dusted it off and read the part on the 5 Basic Elements in any story: Plot, Character, Dialogue, Setting, and The Meaning of the story.
I have covered most of these points in previous blogs, but there is one crucial thing a writer needs to make sure all these elements fit and that is a Timeline. I looked back over the files I had on all the books and stories I had written and lo and behold, I actually made a timeline for just about all of the stories.
What does a Timeline do? It keeps track of Who does What, Where, and When, and sometimes Why. I worked as a newspaper reporter a long time ago and those points were necessary in any article I wrote.
I actually use several methods to achieve these goals. If the story doesn’t cover very much time or utilizes few locals, I write a simple Timeline noting the date and time certain things happen and where the action takes place and who does what each time. If there is a lot of time covered, I use a calendar.
I generally have a basic idea what my story is about before I start putting words on paper. I write the opening (usually about 20 times) until I know where I’m going and the tone I want in the story. Then I jot down the relative time of day each event happens as the story progresses. I break them into no less than 15 minute intervals. Usually it is thirty minutes or by the hour. You can’t have more than 24 hours in any given day, so it keeps you honest and organized.
If my characters are driving around the city, take for instance Los Angeles, I use Google Maps to see how long it takes to get from point A to point B. I’ve seen TV shows where people in L.A. can get someplace in thirty seconds… Only if they use a teleporter. (“Beam me up, Scotty.”) I discipline myself and make my fiction a tad more real.
When I have finished the story, I’ll go back over the Timeline to see if I have crammed too much or too little into that given time frame. And I do something else. I’ll see if the plot holds together. Sometimes a destination doesn’t make sense or maybe some other character should be involved or eliminated. And sometimes I need to add a high point or low point just to give the story movement. I know movies today are all action and explosions and no plot, but I prefer plot and character.
There is another type of timeline I make: A List of Characters. I include their date of birth in case they age throughout the story. You want to make sure you don’t have a character born in 1920 be only fifty in 1990. And you don’t want a character to remember seeing news of the Hindenburg when she was born in 1947. Keep track. I start out with a piece of paper that I print off just for this task. I pencil in the character’s name as I write them. I give a brief description of their role and age. Many times I change the name. I put an alphabet at the bottom of the character page. I circle the first letter of the character’s name in that alphabet. I want each name to fit each particular character, but they can’t all begin the same letter unless I’m having fun.
When I’m finished with the story, I copy all those names and descriptions into the computer and add even more description and start evaluating those characters. Do some need more personality? Does one need to be meaner? Or smarter? Or should a particular character add something to the story that is needed? Or should the character be eliminated? One time I wrote a book knowing who the bad guy (or in this case gal) was going to be, but when I was finished, I had another thought. I bumped off the initial suspect and then my private detective had to go back over the case to see what she missed… or was it time to hang up her .38s and retire? It was by reviewing that list of characters that allowed me to see a “What if?” scenario. And I am glad I did. It made for a much better and far more exciting conclusion to the novel.
And here is another benefit in having that Timeline. It gives you an Outline for your story in case an editor or publisher wants a synopsis of your book. And even better, that quick rundown of the plot lets you see what your story is about so you can more easily write the all important blurb for the back of your book. You only need the first third to tell any reader what is in store. Think of the Timeline as the dry run for that “elevator pitch” you have heard about. The fact that you have consolidated your story into a few pages of a “time-lined” plot; you can easily tell someone what the story is about.
I have put most of my writing course into books: The Anatomy of a Short Story Workbook and its companion book: So You Want to be a Writer.They cover many of the things I have posted on our blog, but as an added bonus, they give you diagrams and pictures of the worksheets I employ. I use them in all my writing. I never create a story without them. Maybe they can help you. Write on!
After a tumultuous 2020 (Who saw that coming??), I’ve found writing has become easier – easier for me to escape what’s going on in the world and become immersed in my characters’ worlds.
I’ve also discovered that readers are looking for an escape these days, more so now than ever before. I hear it over and over in the emails that I get.
For those of you who have never heard of me, I’m a Christian cozy mystery writer, with several published series. Most feature a mature female character who has faced some life-altering event and been forced – or decided to – start over. As each series progresses, the characters develop strong and lasting friendships and relationships.
So…if you’re a seasoned writer or just beginning, I’ll share a few tips on how I have decided what to write and then once I start, how to find my happy place so that the words flow.
I love what I write. Back in 2015, my husband and I were brainstorming one day, tossing out ideas for a new series. We came up with the idea for me to write one about a woman who became assistant cruise director on board a mega passenger cruise ship since cruising was something that we both loved.
Not long after, I released “Starboard Secrets.” After writing the first book, I was hooked. I had so much fun joining Millie, my main character, on her cruise ship adventure. That series has continued for five years with book twenty releasing a couple weeks ago.
The joys of research. Researching about cruising makes me happy and when I’m happy, the ideas flow. What better way to write a cruise ship adventure than when I’m sitting on my private balcony gazing out at the vast ocean and breathing salty sea air?
I use my own experiences. Adding my own experiences helps make my stories more authentic. Readers are smart – they pick up on that and appreciate it.
I love cruising, but I also love visiting Savannah, Georgia. Thus, the idea for my “Made in Savannah” series, which is also popular with readers.
After the third or so visit to this great city, I decided that Savannah would be the perfect location for a new set of characters and adventures.
The main character, a mobster’s wife, promises her husband on his deathbed, to get their sons out of the “family.” After his death, she discovers a key in his pocket that leads her to a property he owned in historic Savannah, Georgia.
Keeping good on her promise, she moves from New York and starts over. It’s a bumpy journey and the lead character realizes escaping her past isn’t quite that easy. Readers love learning about this unique location, her commitment to her family and they are emotionally invested in her and her children’s success.
The latest release, “Christmas Family Style” is a fan favorite – and one of this writer’s favorites, as well. It has elements of things that I love…Savannah, Christmas, family. I’m already getting emails from readers, asking when the next book will release.
What’s new? I currently have three “WIP” – works in progress. Actually, they’re the first three books in a spinoff series for my first cozy mysteries, The Garden Girls, set in the fictitious town of Belhaven, Michigan.
So…if you happened to hop off here to take a peek at my author page, you know that I have several ongoing series…four to be exact. I have devoted, die-hard readers for each and am convinced they would hunt me down if I ended any of them.
How do I successfully keep them running, keep readers buying the books and turning the pages? I’ll share a couple of my tips with you:
Be mindful of “Cookie Cutters.” If you write a series, or plan to write a series, always remember that your readers have expectations. They want to pick up your book and know what they’re getting. That’s why they bought it, right? But there can be a fine line between meeting expectations and writing cookie cutter books. (I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard the phrase wash, rinse, repeat – but that can be misleading, because there is SO. MUCH. MORE.)
If you write the exact same (for example) mystery story over and over – and the only thing you change is the basic mystery, the names of the suspects and the “whodunnit,” you run the risk of cookie cutter burnout – for you as the writer as well as the reader. I believe that a series needs to progress…just like life. New characters are added while others fade away. Difficult circumstances arise – divorce, death, yet the main character prevails no matter what.
If your plan is to start a new and long series, spend some time thinking about it. Where do you want to start? Where do you want the series to go? How many books do you plan to write? How will you keep the series the same – to meet readers’ expectations, yet fresh, where they’re eagerly and anxiously waiting to find out what happens next?
Be original! A few years back, the hot, new cozies were all about donuts. There were donut shop settings everywhere. After a while, the covers and stories all looked and sounded the same. I couldn’t tell one from the other.
So, be original and your work will stand out.
I’ll end with this – a piece of advice I wish I’d had before writing my very first fiction story. Keep notes, notes and more notes.
I keep copious notes on each of my series…characters, descriptions, locations, a synopsis of every story. I even track the seasons. This helps me “jump right back in” when returning to a series, so I’m not totally overwhelmed or completely lost.
It also saves me from backtracking, spending valuable time poring over previous books to track down details that are important to the story, which takes me out of the moment and makes it harder to get the creative juices flowing again.
A lot of my readers re-read my series and they read straight through from one to the next, which means I need to be on my toes with the details. This is particularly important if you write long series.
We’ve certainly faced some challenging times this year. As I write, I keep reminding myself that those words mean something to readers…to my readers. I’m helping make the world a little brighter by bringing a smile to someone’s face or have touched their heart.
Perhaps it was a Bible verse I included that struck just the right chord and encouraged someone. (I have gotten emails from readers who have told me this and let me tell you, it never fails to give me chills that God is able to use me in such an incredible way.)
My last piece of advice is to find joy in your writing, because when you love what you write, your readers will, too.
If you would like to find out more about me or my books, you can find me at:
My fellow Writers in Residence always seem to come up with some wonderful writing advice when they blog here.
Me? Not so much.
Oh, I love writing. It’s what I do. And years ago, I used to attempt to learn, and follow, all the rules I could.
Now, I’m just used to doing it my way–which, yes, does include some rules, at least.
And what is that way? Well, first I need to come up with an idea. What kind of idea? That depends on what I want to write next. These days, that’s nearly always a romantic suspense book or a mystery that is part of, or might become, a series.
Then what? Well, I sit in front of my computer and plot. And plan. And more.
Over my many years of writing I’ve come up with what I call a “plot skeleton.”
It has various blanks to fill in, although I don’t always complete everything. The beginning is just a blank where I put down anything that appears in my head. From there, I’ll focus on my main characters and write all that comes to mind about them: their backgrounds, what they’re doing now, why they get involved in this story, and what’s likely to happen to them–often putting it into a character arc.
I also make a list of other characters at the end, though it doesn’t have to be complete.
Eventually, I get around to my actual plotting part, where I have blanks to fill in that generally follow screenplay plotting: grabber, three acts that are each ended by a plot point, a black moment, climax and ending. Do I follow them all exactly? No, but having the skeleton there to fill in is a good reminder if I choose to do so.
And then–I use that screenplay plotting to create the synopsis. From there, if I need to put together a full proposal, I write the first three chapters.
Simple? Yes… and no. But it works for me.
So Happy Post-Halloween, and my skeleton is still keeping me company! And if you’re a writer, may you plot the way that works best for you.
Photo by Matthew Schwartz, Unsplash
(Linda O. Johnston's article was posted by Jackie Houchin)