Friday, August 30, 2013

Changes on the Blog

Happy Friday, everyone! If you take a gander around the blog, you'll notice some major changes. I've moved the link list everyone knows and loves to the top of the page, under my banner. You'll find all the links you need to get to your favorite goodies right there. No need to bounce all over the blog.

Yes, I'm OCD. No, you can't have any of my cookies.

I do hope you all have followed me in some way. Come on, don't be sore about the cookies! I'd like to take a moment to share some stats with you.
  • I've been blogging for 19 months.
  • I've written almost 400 posts (this one makes 384).
  • My blog didn't find direction for almost 12 months.
  • I didn't start blogging every weekday for almost 1 year.
  • I have 2 blogs with identical content.
  • One has 13 subscribers via e-mail.
  • One has 60 followers.
  • One has 101 followers.
  • I average 5-10 RTs a day.
  • I only update via my social networks 3 times a day.
  • Links that I send out only drive folks to the blog with 60 followers.
  • I average 6500 views a month between the two blogs (For those of you counting, that's more than 100 page views for each blog per day. While that's a drop in the bucket, consider most of those views didn't start until I'd been blogging for almost a year. If I use those stats, I average 355 per day per blog or, 10k+ views per month).
  • One of my posts has 142 likes and 52 shares.
  • I've enjoyed over 600 comments.
  • I read and respond to every single one (not right away, but every week) so I've left at least 600 comments as well.

I bet you're all wondering why in the hell I'm going into all this, huh?

Well, it's because it just wouldn't be possible without all of you. I wanted you to see what you've helped me achieve and send a great big:

out into the void.

I changed up this blog so it's easier to find the follow buttons, the meaty part has more real-estate, and it doesn't take so dang long to load. Here's hoping you all like the new layout and that it gives you a more enjoyable reading experience. I do what I can to make visiting my blog and finding the content you want as easy as possible.

So, thank you, dearest fans and followers. Without you, this would all be an exercise in futility!

What's your favorite post on this blog?

Monday, we're back to our regularly scheduled program!

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Thursday, August 29, 2013

Shocking News - Both Literary and Actionary

Happy Thursday, everyone! Today, I'm talking about some things I ran across on Flipboard yesterday. Lots to talk about so let's get going!

First of all, you should all be aware of how I feel about people talking. If people are talking, good or bad, you at least know you're on their minds. It could become big news if you're controversial and folks will flock to your wares to find out what all the fuss is about. Getting people to notice us is a huge hurdle for Indie authors.

Stop and think for a moment. J.K. Rowling enjoyed a lot of front page time because of Harry Potter. How many people were outraged that she was writing about, and *gasp* encouraging, people, children even, to believe in witches and wizards? How many of her books were purchased for the express purpose of being burned? What did this do for her? It made people sit up and take notice of her books. Whether they agreed with what she was writing or not, she was on their minds. And think of all the royalties she earned from the sales of those books they torched!

Why was this brought to mind? Well, because of dear little Miley Cyrus and her antics at the VMA awards. MTV said, "2013 MTV VMA’s Shatters Records Across Web, Mobile and Social." All because she twerked (more on this word in a moment, I just threw up in my mouth a little) Robin Thicke on stage - in underwear the color of her skin.

It's not that I give two nickles about what she did; it's that it worked. People are talking. Think about that.

I'm not telling you to go find a pop star to twerk on in your underwear. I'm saying that you need to write a book so good or so shocking that folks clamor over one another in an attempt to get a copy.

Just sayin'.

Moving on!

I also saw an article yesterday about words that were recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary (that link will take you to a whole page of add-ins). Take a look at this list:
  1. Stressy - Adj - displaying or characterized by anxiety, tension, or stress
  2. Boyf - Noun - a person’s boyfriend
  3. Bezzie - Noun - denoting a person’s best or closest friend
  4. Jumping the shark - Idiom - a particular scene, episode, or aspect of a show in which the writers use some type of "gimmick" in a desperate attempt to keep viewers' interest
  5. Cruft - Noun - badly designed, unnecessarily complicated, or unwanted code or software
  6. Dumbphone - Noun - a basic mobile phone that lacks the advanced functionality characteristic of a smartphone
  7. Phablet - Noun - a smartphone having a screen which is intermediate in size between that of a typical smartphone and a tablet computer
  8. Digital detox - Noun - a period of time during which a person refrains from using electronic devices such as smartphones or computers, regarded as an opportunity to reduce stress or focus on social interaction in the physical world
  9. Twerk - Verb - dance to popular music in a sexually provocative manner involving thrusting hip movements and a low, squatting stance (pop, drop, and lock, anyone?)

Here's a whole list of the updates for August, 2013: Buzzworthy Words Added to Oxford

Can I just say, "Holy crapballs, Batman!" *note, as of this post, "crapballs" is not a word* I wear black today to mourn the loss of intelligence in my world.

Please, take me out and shoot me. Is this really where we're headed? As a word-nerd, I'm a little bit offended, especially at the addition of: srsly.


What do you think of these new additions?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Checklists for Novels - Part 3 of 3 - Scenes, Dialogue, Complexity, and Character

Happy Wednesday, good people of the blogosphere! Halfway through the week, we are. Wow, the volume of that cheer blew my hair back. Guess you're all looking forward to the three day weekend, huh? Well, I hope you all have a novel you're editing right now and can print these little checklists and make good use of them with your *ahem* time off. Today, you get checklists for scenes, dialogue, complexity (in one), and character (there are three of these). At the end, you'll find a link to a PDF you can download, print, keep, and share! All I ask is that you don't alter it in any way. Thanks! Let's get going!

  • Do your scenes ebb and flow well?
  • Are the four basic happenings taking place?
  1. Action - This is the objective of the scene.
  2. Reaction - What the emotional state of the protagonist is.
  3. More Action - What they do about it.
  4. Deepening - This happens only in the most dramatic scenes.
  • Do you have a great hook, intensity, and a good setup for the next scene?

  • What value are you supplying to your reader (values can be life lessons or new opinions)?
  • Is there a sub-plot that could be added that would give your protagonist (or antagonist) more depth?
  • How will any sub-plots assist you in changing the values of your character?

  • Have you used a lot of he said, she said?
  • Can you turn any of the dialogue tags into action tags?
  • Are you using the proper dialect?
  • Contractions. Do you use them?

Characters (this is broken out in the checklists)
  • Full Name - First, middle, and last along with any other names they've had along the way.
  • Location - Where they live, where they were born, if different, why it changed.
  • Age - Includes birthday, zodiac sign, and recent celebrations.
  • Physical Description - Height, weight, hair color, eye color, shoe size, skin color, manicure?, pedicure?, hair length, eyebrows (V shaped, bushy, pencil thin, etc...), identifying marks, for women: bra size.
  • Mental Description - Self centered, egotistical, timid, brash, vengeful, etc...
  • Reasons for Mental Description - What happened in life to make them that way.
  • Friends - Other characters. Are they major? Minor? Plot changing?
  • Relationships - Spouse, kids, parents - with names and nature of relationship.
  • Goals - What their ultimate life goal is.
  • Career - What they do or want to do.
  • Skills - Any skills they may have.
  • Magical Powers - For fantasy or paranormal. Can they shoot fire from their asses? Lightning bolts from their eyes? Levitate? See through peoples' clothing?
  • Sexual Orientation - Straight, gay, bisexual, etc...
  • Fun - What they do to let their hair down.

Here's the link to the full PDF that has tweaks and little boxes to put checks in: GIMMIE MY FREEBIE!

Enjoy and share!

Have these changed the way you look at your novels?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Checklists for Novels - Part 2 of 3 - Deepening Plot and Structure

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! And isn't it a grand day! The sun is shining and words are everywhere for the grasping. Today, I'm continuing my printable checklists and taking the plot and structure lists from yesterday a bit further. No pens and notebooks. Just bring your mouse and printer, please. Let's get going!

Deepening Plot:
  • Does my protagonist have a goal?
  • What is that goal and why does it matter (who cares scenario)?
  • When do I introduce the doorway of no return (should be in the first 1/4 of the novel)?
  • Is my antagonist evil/bad enough?
  • What's the relationship between my protagonist and my antagonist?
  • Is it strong enough to warrant their continued angst? Why?
  • What does my protagonist believe in deeply?
  • How does that change?
  • Did I make the change believable?
  • What opinions did I alter to garner a change of core beliefs?
  • Is there a sub-plot?
  • If yes, could the sub-plot stand on its own?
  • What was the reason for it?
  • Can I take it out and keep the suspense/action going just as well?
  • When I lay my plot out, does it flow in a linear fashion?

Deepening Structure:
  • The Beginning
  1. Have I shown the protagonist's world in enough detail so the reader understands the rules?
  2. How did I do that?
  3. Is the protagonist directly involved in creating or upholding those rules?
  4. How so?
  5. Do I have a dynamite opening line?
  6. Is my prologue necessary?
  7. Action first?
  8. If no, how can I rearrange the story so explanation comes later?
  • The Middle
  1. Is there a sense of death hanging over my protagonist's head (physical, emotional, professional, or psychological)?
  2. Could my protagonist simply walk away from the conflict and lose nothing (this should be a no)?
  3. Why?
  4. Is there plenty of action, reaction, and more action going on?
  5. Are my stakes high enough?
  6. What can I (or did I) do to raise them?
  7. How did I set up the final battle or show that it's coming?
  • The End
  1. Did I answer all the questions I brought up in my reader's mind during the tale?
  2. Is my ending a knockout, that'll leave my reader breathless or scratching their head?
  3. Was my ending predictable?
  4. What kind of ending do I have (objective reached, objective lost, or dangling)?
  5. How did I set that up?

If you can answer all these questions without a second thought, your novel is very well built. These aren't checklists for when you're starting to write. They're for the final product. It'll help you spot holes you need to fill.

Remember, feel free to print these out or save them as you wish. If you want to share them, I'll be putting up a PDF tomorrow of all six together. All I ask is that you don't alter them in any way if you redistribute on your own site.

Tomorrow, a checklist for scenes, dialogue, and complexity and one on character. Be sure and come on back for those!

Are these lists something you've done in the past; or, is this all new to you?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Monday, August 26, 2013

Checklists for Novels - Part 1 of 3 - Plot and Structure

Happy Monday, good people of the blogosphere! I hope you all had a great weekend and are looking forward to the week ahead. On an awesome note, I managed to land exhibitor space at UtopYAcon 2014 and will be sharing a table with a writer I greatly admire, Ms. Tia Silverthorne Bach. I'll pass on more news to you about this awesomeness as it becomes available. For the next few days, I'm giving you all checklists you can run down and tick items off of that'll help you with the construction of your novel. I'm creating images out of the lists so you can save them and print them out. Today will be plot and structure. No pens and notebooks needed; just bring your printer and mouse. **NOTE** You may save and print these as you wish!** Let's get going!

  • Critical Elements - Do you know what they are?
  • Strong Lead - Is your protagonist deeply layered?
  • LOTE - Do you have the following: Lead, Objective, Trouble, and Enticing Ending?
  • Identification - Can readers identify with your protagonist in one of these ways: Sympathy, Likeability, Inner-Conflict, or Power?
  • Objective - Is it strong and will people care? Ask yourself, "So what?" It must be something the protagonist must have to live a happy life.
  • Ending - Does it make your reader feel satisfied that all loose ends were tied up?

Structure (3 Act):
  • Beginning - Does it introduce your protagonist and the world they live in? Have you had the reader shake hands with the antagonist? Is the threat eminent? Has your character passed through the doorway of no return?
  • Middle - Have you deepened the relationships and character of the protagonist? What will the antagonist do to make life more complicated? This is where the action happens. Do battles rage? Have you set everything up for the final bang? Is there a revelation?
  • End - Have you wrapped everything up? Was the final battle full of enough tension? Do readers believe the ending could've happened?
Tomorrow's checklists will go into elements of the plot and structure.

Make sure you come on back for that!

Do you use any kind of checklists once your novel is done?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Friday, August 23, 2013

Showing vs. Telling - When Telling is Okay

Happy Friday, good people of the blogosphere! I hope you're all looking forward to the weekend as much as I am. I see so much in reviews about showing vs telling. Today, I'm going to explain why telling is okay now and then, how to gauge when to do it, and when not to. So, grab those pens and notebooks and let's get going!

I wrote a post a while back on tension. This is the meat and potatoes of my discussion today. If you haven't read it, do that now so you understand what I mean when I say 5 or 1.

Every chapter of your book should hit at least a 2 or 3 on the tension scale. A 5 should be reserved for those special chapters where you want your reader to bite their nails. Never should you fall below a 1. So what does this have to do with showing and telling?

When you want your reader to feel what's happening on the page, show them everything about the scene: Lay of the land, emotions of the MC, action taking place, what could happen, what is happening, and actions/reactions of other characters.

But to get to that place, sometimes it's okay to tell. While you don't want long passages of filler, you may want to move things along without bogging your reader down in excessive description. I've discussed this before; here's the link: Descriptions - How Much is Too Much?

When the tension is high, launch into those descriptions in vivid detail. Every scene should be rated on the tension scale and adjusted accordingly. A reader won't tolerate scenes with a rating of 0; so, if you find such a scene, either cut it or re-write it.

But, when getting to those moments that bring your scene to the most tense point, you can tell rather than show. The ebb and flow of your story is natural, and should be allowed to happen.

Remember! You can please some of the people, some of the time; but you can't please all of the people, all of the time. In a group of ten, some will love it, others will hate it. Don't let opinions drag you down. After all, there will be people who loathe even the most popular books.

I hope this helps you in some tiny way.

What book gave you too much description or plodded along with chapters ranking 0?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Thursday, August 22, 2013

Things I've Unintentionally Learned From Books

Happy Thursday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, we take a little break from writing to discuss reading. If you're a writer, you're a voracious reader (or you should be, because one cannot write without reading). I'm going to share a few things I've learned over the years through reading books, research when editing books, and proofreading jobs. Buckle in and let's go!

As any of you who've followed my blog for any length of time know, one of my favorite authors, who's now deceased, is Alice Bordchart. She's the author of The Night of the Wolf trilogy and a series she never got to finish (that ties in with the others) called The Dragon Queen. Because I love book covers, here's one of them:

What I learned from this series: Caesar was a vile man. His wife, Calpurnia, was a psychic. Why Greeks were sent to the Colosseum to fight. How Romans and Greeks interacted. What the land looked like back then. And oh, so much more!

From the other series, I learned: Guinevere was the one Arthur needed to save him from his mother. How wolves in the wild interact with one another. Much history about wars that erupted over Europe.

Now, not only was Alice an expert on Ancient Greece and Rome, she's also the sister of the famous Anne Rice. I didn't realize I was learning at the time. But when asked questions in World History I, I knew the answers because I'd read Ms. Bordchart's books.

Another one of my favorite authors is Rick Riordan. From his Percy Jackson series, I've learned a ton about mythology and Greek and Roman beliefs. A new book comes out in October in that series and I'm super stoked! From his Kane Chronicles series, I've learned about Egyptian gods and goddesses. You wouldn't believe how much of it is discussed even today!

Master of medical suspense Robin Cook has taught me about DNA alteration, how insurance companies are raping the consumer, and how medical professionals sometimes get around claim restrictions. One of my favorites by him is Chromosome 6.

This is one that's never hit the mainstream. He was the genius behind Contagion and Invasion, too!

From Cornelia Funke, I learned a little imagination can take you places you never dreamed, and that most readers actually fall into their stories (and I wasn't alone in this).

An Indie book I'm reading, titled Looping in Limbo, is teaching me so much about golf it's unreal! And I'm loving it!

Now, from some of my own writing, proofreading, and editing.

I learned more about Genghis Khan than you could shake a stick at when writing Yassa. Never one to care much about vicious tyrants, I found him to be extremely intriguing and unearthed a strange truth about his life: He had to fight hard to get what he ended up with, and it may have all been for the love of a woman.

When I edited Canopy, for Crystal Lee, I learned a lot about construction of buildings and what it was like to be in the head of a fifteen-year-old girl.

Inzared: Queen of the Elephant Riders, by Linda Leander, forced me to research the circus, the early 1900's, and Gypsies when I did the edit. I learned a lot about snack food and when it was invented. For example, did you know popcorn wasn't a popular treat until the Great Depression hit in the 1920's? Neither did I!

I've also learned about Japanese culture, what it meant to be a Samurai, and how the mind of men in that country work. Through the edit for Chasing Memories, I did research on Wiccans, Yellowstone park, and Colorado. And when I proofread Sixty Days of Grace, I learned a lot about raising a child with Bi-Polar disorder and how to be thankful for each and every day I'm given.

When I wrote The Bird, I found out there's a cool place in Pennsylvania called Ringing Rocks National Park where, if you hit the stones with a hammer, they ring.

My daddy always told me reading was a waste of my time. But, without books, how would I have had the chance to learn all these wonderful things? Sure, I could sit down and read the dictionary; but learning it through a story is so much better. Either way, I'm reading.

So, when people tell you to put down that book because it's rotting your brain, tell them you're studying and to stay out of it. After all, you never know what gems of knowledge a novel may unearth.

Besides, books like Pride and Prejudice tend to change us into the best versions of ourselves.

What have you unintentionally learned from a book?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

5 Ways to Bond Readers and Characters

Happy hump-day, good people of the blogosphere! Today, we'll be talking about ways to get your reader to really give a crap about your character. In reality, that bond is the most important. Forget plot, structure, and tension for a minute and think about your favorite book. What do you remember most? The Journey? The Problems? Or was it a character that made you say, "I want to be like them."? Grab your pens and notebooks and let's get this party started!

Here are five ways to create a tie between your reader and your character without resorting to handcuffs:

1. Likability
I'm sure you've all come across characters you didn't really like very much. Stop and ask yourself why. Were they cruel? Did they have too big of an ego? You want a character who can laugh at themselves. One who is kind or commits random acts of heroism. They need to care more about others than they do about themselves. There is one caveat to this: Power. If you make a character who's vile, give them obscene amounts of power. Above all else, you have to make them interesting enough to hold attention.

2. Inner Conflict
A character who has their mind made up, and one who doesn't struggle in some way, is boring as hell. Yes, this goes back to the doorway of change. Someone who has it all figured out and has no reservations will turn your reader off in a nanosecond. Show the inner conflict of your character, and let them come alive on the page. They'll seem much more real. Check out some of the entries in my Human Nature series of posts. That leads us to...

3. Identification
Here, I'm sure you're saying, "Well, duh, Jo!" But this is something a lot of people miss. Create a human that lives and breathes and your reader will identify with your lead. When we read about people that we can visualize, we tend to care about them. I've talked before about creating perfect characters and why it's never a good idea. Make your reader love the character (for all their flaws). This means...

4. Create Sympathy
There are four ways to do this:
  • Give your character hardship. Some kind of hurdle in their life that wasn't self-imposed. If you make it so the character put themselves in that situation, they'll come off as whiny.
  • Put them in jeopardy. Trouble is coming and there's no way out of it (or so it seems). Emotional jeopardy is just as heart-rendering as physical.
  • Show their vulnerable side. If your lead could lose at any moment, your reader will care. Make them nervous for the protagonist and you'll win.
  • Create an underdog. This is the long-shot. Know that horse who was slated to come in last in every race because of a prior hoof injury? What if it wins against all odds? There, you have your underdog. It's the same with characters that are humans.
5. The World and the Rules
Show the reader what life is like for the character. A character could be working or playing, but use this to create a bond and show the rules of their world. Perhaps a humorous mayor or a tough aristocracy is what your world will have. Portray the character in their setting and make one of the rules something they don't like or feel strongly about. It will help it feel like a reality to the reader. They'll inevitably compare it to their own if they believe it; and, bam! you have that special link.

Think about this post from last year: Writers that Cannot Feel, Cannot Write and ask yourself why that holds true. It's the same for readers. They have to feel something when they read your story.

Which of your characters do you love the most? Why?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

20 Ways to Plot Ideas - Part Two of Two

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope your Mondays weren't too bad. I know mine was super duper busy. Melody is in round three of edits and I'm into chapter four of Coralie. I hope you're all as excited as I am about that! Lots coming! But, today, we're continuing the discussion on how to come up with plot ideas. Here are the final ten! Grab your pens and notebooks and write these down!

If you missed day one, here's a link for you: 20 Ways to Plot Ideas - Part One of Two

11. Start With a Title
You can come up with so much from just a title! Think about it: Runner (what does that bring to mind?), The Fae of Ferion, Clockwork Cricket (maybe Cricket is a humanoid), A Piece of Peace. The possibilities are endless!

12. Create a Character
Develop a character using this outline: Character Bios. Then see where that character takes you. Don't forget that the Enneagram Personality Type List can help you decide how that character will act and react. Maybe the character you create will be a supporting cast member. That's okay, too! Change your bratty little brother into a bratty little sister and let them lead the protagonist. Run with it.

13. Make a List
Close your eyes and visualize something from your past. Use the memory to begin a list of things. Write down a couple of words for each scenario. Example: 1. Puppy (the one we found that was half starved) 2. Snow (the time we were homebound) 3. Accident (the time I drove my car into a tree) These all contain the thread of a story. Perhaps it can be woven into the blanket of a novel.

14. Trending
Read the paper or a magazine that deals with a specific subject. If you can read an issue of Popular Science and not get a billion ideas for a plot, you're not paying attention. See what's emerging in the world and write about it. Find something interesting and ask yourself these things: Who cares? What will the trend bring in the next ten years? How can it change the world if everyone takes to it? What if everyone fights it? Who will be impacted? And let your mind go nuts.

15. Prologue Writing
Lights, camera, action! Write a scene filled with action. Pretend it's a short story and use it to build a plot around. Make sure it causes your reader's heart to beat fast. Make them want to turn the page.

16. Write a Sentence
Come up with a fantastic first line for a story and go bananas. Write the entire prologue based on that sentence. Once you have that line, you can back up and flesh your character out or run forward and let him/her lead you where they may.

17. Playing the "What if?" Game
This is a fun game to get your brain working. I came up with an idea for a zombie novel by asking, "What if?" It's easy: Everything you see, question it. Say, "What if that squirrel could talk?" or, "What if people could turn invisible?" You'll find yourself with more plot ideas than you can shake a stick at (this is how The Bird came to be).

18. Do Research
Take a topic you love and plug it into the search engine of your choice. Read everything you come across and take notes or just hold it in your head. Once you've got a good grasp of your subject matter, start writing. All that research will give you a ton of reference to draw from (this is how Yassa came to be).

19. Just Write
Write about anything. It can be the chair you're sitting in, your dog, or the grass in your yard; but get something down on paper. You'll be surprised at how far it can take you. Your dog may be from a shelter, which is run by a corporation, which has a CEO that's a little kinky, and so on. See where I just took that one? It's all about letting your fingers fly.

20. A Dynamite Ending
Come up with the end first. Perhaps your character wins a race. What did he/she do to get there? What stood in the way? Maybe the character is disabled in some way but that didn't happen until he/she was in their thirties and the win is a miracle stemming from hard work and determination. If you have an ending with impact, you'll have little trouble backing up and creating the rest of the story.

I hope you all have wonderful plot ideas in your heads now; or, at the very least, intend to do a few of these exercises.

Thanks for joining me for these two days. Come on back tomorrow for more writing tips!

Which of these do you see working for you?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Monday, August 19, 2013

20 Ways to Plot Ideas - Part One of Two

Happy Monday, good people of the blogosphere! I hope you all had a wonderful weekend and are sitting with your muses for the writing days ahead. Today, I'm gonna tell you ten ways you can get great plot ideas. I hit on this a bit before when I gave you a little bit on How to find an Idea.This will be a lot more in depth. Don't worry, ten more will come tomorrow! So grab those pens and notebooks and let's get going!

1. Fire in Your Belly
I've breached this first one in the past. It's all about what fires you up. What issues get you all riled up? Pick one and apply some pressure. If you care, your reader will care. But be sure and turn it into a story that people can identify with. No one likes a long lecture.

2. Listen to Music
Sometimes music is just the thing to get your creative juices flowing. Listen to the words and close your eyes. Picture scenes in your head and write a few down.

3. Visualize Scenes
Before you begin writing for the day, take a few moments and watch a little movie in your head. Think of an issue, character, or situation you'd like to hit upon. Free write for at least an hour. Don't think about plot, structure, or punctuation/grammar. Put it away and don't look at it again for a few days. After that, go back and give it a read through. See what makes you smile. Cut it out and use it.

4. Pick up a Newspaper
See what's going on in the world at large. Twist it around and use it as a plot. Those six people who got arrested for cooking meth in their house? They must have a background! Who better to write on a compelling story like that than you?

5. Fetishes/Obsessions
Think about what people are into. Is it a weird predisposition to wear other peoples' shoes? How about a desire to collect things (hoarding)? What could they collect? If you're a fantasy author, this could be pixies they keep in jars; and the MC could be willing to do anything to get that next, rare one.

6. Thought Web
Back when I was talking about Blog Topics and Where they Come From, I discussed thought webs. This technique works for novels, too! Choose a word and go nuts!

7. Jobs
Start with a job and work your way around what the person in that profession must be dealing with. Maybe the stress leads down a path of self-destruction, maybe it leads down the road of homicide. Perhaps that job has made everyone crazy because of a bug in the ventilation system. Your imagination is the only thing holding you back with this path to plot.

8. Change the Genre
Alice in Wonderland and Snow White have been redone so many times! Why? There's a great plot there that's begging for a makeover! Grab a book and think about how it can be changed to suit a new genre. Make The Princess and the Pea a Sci-Fi story, change the names, outcome, and situation. At the very least, it'll give you direction.

9. I really want to write...
Take twenty minutes out of your day and grab a sheet of loose-leaf. Start with "I really want to write about..." and fill in the rest with what your heart desires to put on paper. Let it take its own direction. Don't force it.

10. Borrow
Do you have a favorite novel? Borrow the plot line. Change everything but the plot. Give characters the personalities you always wanted them to have and write about it. Remember, there are few original plots. It's what happens from point A to point B that's different.

I hope this gets you writing if you were in a slump.

What do you do to get plot ideas?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Friday, August 16, 2013

Character Arcs

Happy Friday, good people of the blogosphere! I'm looking forward to the weekend SO much. Melody is in round three of edits (see this post for the editing steps I take) and Coralie's story is flying from my fingers. I've been an emotional wreck the last few days because her story is truly terrifying. But, today isn't about those books, though I may use them for reference, it's about Character Arcs. What the heck is a Character Arc? Well, grab your pens and notebooks and let's get going!

If you've been a regular visitor to the blog, you've probably read a lot about doorways and change. I'm always talking about how a character should pass through the doorway of no return and how that moment should end up changing your character in a profound way. But what are the steps from doorway to epiphany?

An excellent character arc has these things:
  • Meeting
  • The Doorway
  • Impact on the Persona
  • Moment of Change
  • Finale
Meeting is where we're introduced to the character and learn a little about them. This isn't full disclosure, it's a tasting of the character's basic beliefs, values, attitudes, and opinions. Now, the basic beliefs and values a person holds are a direct result of their attitudes and opinions. Change enough of the opinions and you end up changing a core belief.

This is where The Doorway comes into play. Your character must waver on the threshold. Because of their beliefs and values, they won't want to step through that door. Find a way to shove them through. Leave them no choice in the matter. This is the beginning of change.

A few examples: In Mystic ~ Bronya, she has to leave the town she's in and give up on the possibility of love. I shoved her through the door by taking away all she cared about and leaving her no other option. While she answers the letter from WSTW with gusto, she almost turns around at the airport because she's still trying to retain hope that she'll end up with Cecilia. In Mystic ~ Lily, she's made to face the person in the mirror and practice self-love. She fights it because drugs and alcohol have served her well in taking away the pain up to that point. I added Markaza to the mix to shove Lily through the doorway; kicking and screaming.

Impact on the Persona happens throughout the story. These are what lead a person to begin to change their beliefs. Maybe hate is erased or judgment tendencies are quelled. But there are always outside forces at work. People the character interacts with or things they witness will begin to change their opinions, thereby changing their attitudes, values, and beliefs.

There has to be a Moment of Change. From everything that happens to the character from the doorway beyond, it will bring about the epiphany. It's that "ah ha!" moment. And it can't come out of nowhere. Outside forces are always at work on all of us. It's the same with your character.

You don't have to write out the moment. It can be shown via actions during the Finale. New things the character does or says can show the reader just how monumental the change was, and how the values and beliefs of the character were altered.

In a series, the Moment of Change doesn't usually happen in the first book; but in the last. For example: In the Mystic series, none of my ladies have really had that moment yet. Markaza is off collecting the girls,  each book is a sampling of their individual doorways, and some of the Impact that occurs to force the girls to pass through. There's no outside forces changing their belief systems just yet (though there was a hint of it in Mystic ~ Shelia when Aunt Ivy shows up).

Now, how to keep it straight?

Try creating a Character Arc list. Four columns on a sheet of paper, each with a heading. Here's an example:
Temujin begins life believing he's the end-all be-all and has very astute ideals about how things should be. When he breaks his values during the story, he ends up with a lot of humility and understanding about life and love. This can be ramped up with a little bit of tweaking, but it'll give you a map to work from. I didn't show what I have in store for the women of WSTW because that would spoil the last book.

I hope you all have a good grasp of Character Arc and a handy tip that will help you formulate a plan.

Question of the day: Do you plot out your characters beyond page one? How has it helped you/hindered you?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Plotting, Pantsing, and 'Tweening

Happy Thursday, good people of the blogosphere! Today I'm gonna talk about plotting, pantsing, and 'tweeners. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you're in the right place for learning! So, grab those pens and notebooks and let's get going!

First, let's discuss plotters.

If you're a plotter, chances are you have copious notes about where your character is going, what they're going to do, and where they'll end up when the story comes to an end. How many different plots are there? A ton. But every plot will tell you exactly what your character will face and achieve by the end of the story.

Plotters often go all out and make an entire outline before they begin writing.

Pros of Plotting:
You're almost guaranteed a well structured plot.
There are no holes in your story.
You have a lot of control over what happens and when.
A huge sense of security is provided for the writer.

Cons of Plotting:
Possible loss of spontaneity by the lead.
You can become stuck going in a direction you don't want to go in.
Twists that could happen are beaten into submission by structure.
Index cards can become overwhelming.

Now, on to the pantsers.

If you're a pantser, you probably write with abandon. There are no notes to guide you, and your lead goes wherever he/she wants to. You're but a follower and chronicler. Just the thought of an outline leaves you running for the hills, screaming gibberish about how you can't work under this kind of pressure.

Pantsers often grab a story idea and run with it; having no idea where the characters will end up.

Pros of Pantsing:
You have the freedom to let your characters do as they wish.
With a set word count goal every day, you write what you feel.
There is no direction you have to force your way toward; opening your story up to twists and turns.
Characters feel real and you have an excellent understanding of their nature.

Cons of Pantsing:
Your plot may have gaping holes.
Characters can get sidetracked in a big way, leading to parallel plots you didn't intend.
You have no control beyond what you decide to put on paper.
Fixing your manuscript when complete can be a huge pain in the ass.

What the hell is a 'tweener?

A 'tweener writes out a loose plot and pantses their way through the rest. If you're a 'tweener, you'll oftentimes change the plot halfway through or end up abandoning the finale you had in mind from the beginning altogether. You're in a class with some of the most creative writers because you hold an idea in your head but are open to changes along the way.

'Tweeners write down an idea, work it through, then write with a kind of abandon that sticks loosely to the original.

Pros of 'Tweening:
You have structure from the beginning, but aren't pigeonholed to one story line.
Your characters go where they choose and do whatever strikes their fancy with no prerequisites about how that should happen.
Your plot is generally solid.
Index cards are your friends, but you aren't afraid to set fire to them or put them through the paper shredder when need be.
Stories written by you are full of adventure.
There's a hint of security in that you have an ultimate goal for your lead.

Cons of 'Tweening:
You may find yourself burning those index cards only to re-write them and tack them back on the board because you lost your plot along the way.
You're more susceptible to writer's block because twists leave you with no way to get back on track.
Characters can take over your story and run amok.
You must keep copious notes as you go.

No matter what kind of writer you are, every story has a Lead, Objective, Confrontation, and Knockout (ending). Every story also has a doorway (moment of decision) through which plotters lead their characters, showing them exactly where to put their feet and telling them what to expect on the other side, pantsers shove their characters and step back to watch what happens, and 'tweeners send their characters to the door, educate them about what may be on the other side, open it, and note what happens next.

When doing your first round of edits, look for holes, fat, and structure. Make sure it's all working the way you want it to. If you know what kind of writer you are, you know what to be leery of.

What kind of writer are you? Why?

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Beautiful Books in Print

Happy Wednesday, everyone! What a lovely day it is. So, I was poking around my e-mail and came across a post that went up on The Book Designer. It's all about layout and page margins. If you have more than a moment, go check it out. Totally worth your time. So, today I'm gonna talk about another aspect of print book formatting: beautification. So, grab those pens and notebooks and let's get going!

Joel makes some excellent points in his post about a book designer needing to be detail-oriented. We pay attention to the things you may miss or may think aren't important. What I think needs to be added to that post is something about the designer beautifying the book beyond the typography (which is the number one consideration). If your designer doesn't know typography, your book won't look (or read) like it should. But, that's another post. For now, let's talk consistency and artistic elements that will make your book stand out from the crowd.

When I'm formatting a book, elements and typefaces from the cover can be found within the pages. Sometimes, I'll set the books text in one of the fonts used for the cover, but this is rare (display or title faces do not good reading make). Rather than use a font that doesn't flow well, I tend to use the display or title fonts for the details. Running headers (or footers) can be set in any typeface you'd like because they aren't put there to help you read. Page numbers can be adorned in many ways because they serve only to mark a place or add a bit of glamor to a page.

My favorite place to use the cover fonts is in the chapter titles and numbers. And, man, are there a ton of ways you can format that first page! It's the page where the text generally begins about halfway down and you have all that white space to play with. You can add flourishes, decorative type, images, logos, anything! Drop caps are fun, too! But any good designer is going to take the time to make sure it's consistent.

You don't want a flourish on chapter one and then not again until chapter thirty. You don't want story breaks to have boring white space between them. Above all else, you don't want someone to open the book and be shocked by how different the inside is from the outside. They should be wowed.

If I've read the book, my imagination goes a little wild when I'm adding those little details that make a book sing off the page. I sometimes use elements from the cover or story throughout the design.

Here are a few of my interior designs (I'm including the covers so you can see how they match):

(There's a chance to win a printed copy of that last book shown, Borrowed Things, running right here on this blog! Check it out!)

Those are the types of things I love to do when formatting books. That logo on Borrowed Things is repeated for every story break (smaller in size, of course).

A couple of books I was wowed by when I opened them:
Splintered by A. G. Howard
Reckless by Cornelia Funke
Fearless by Cornelia Funke

These are the book designs that stay with me. Sure, I remember stories from many books, but it's when I'm wowed by a design that I remember the story with vivid detail. Each of those links provides a look inside option. Go look inside! See what these people are doing. Love it. Learn from it. Your only restraints are your imagination!

I hope you all got a new perspective on book beautification and consistency in design today. I also hope you checked out Joel's blog and took his advice to heart. Remember, don't sacrifice readability for lower printing costs! Margins matter!

If you're interested in having a book formatted for print, contact me using this form.

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Imagery and Writing Places You've Been

Happy Tuesday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, I'm discussing writing about places you've been. It's something I've discussed before when I talked about keeping a feelings bible and when talking about writing what you know. If you're new to the blog, welcome! Take a moment and check out those links. Then, grab those pens and notebooks and let's get going!

Almost everyone I know has a cell phone. 99% of cell phones have cameras. This is what I implore you to do: Take photos of your surroundings when you visit a place and use them in your feelings bible as soon as you return. Add a picture and say what you remembered feeling as you were in the space. It'll give you a two-fold return. 1. You'll have the feeling down before you can forget what it was. 2. Imagery will help you recall how to describe the location.

Time for examples!
The Best Boyfriend in the World and I went to a B&B in Dahlonega, Georgia, called the Mountain Laurel Creek Inn & Spa. I took some photos of the room in case I want one of my characters to visit there one day. Because I live in Georgia, a lot of my books will be set here. Makes sense, right? Here's what I wrote in my feelings bible and the images that went along with them:

What a lovely decor this room has. Lighting made me feel like I was in a five-star hotel and the room smelled lovely. I couldn't wait to lay in the huge bed and feel the sheets! *They turned out to be softer than a chinchilla, which I have touched in the past* I could live in this room and be happy as a lark. I was filled with a sense of peace as I entered.
One of the best things about the space was the furniture. It all looked like it was reclaimed or antique, but it all worked together seamlessly. There was this interesting table that looked like it was made from tree branches near the door. Colors were bright yet seductive in a wow kind of way. That closet could've held a small city!
An old makeup table reminded me of a sewing table and brought back memories of my mother and her sewing machine. I loved sitting in the big, squishy chairs on the floor. That unit in the corner was a fireplace and we had our own air conditioner which made for a perfect temperature experience.
What can I say about the bathtub other than, "WOW!" We both fit in it very nicely and the jets felt so good on our achy muscles. Settling down in the water, I felt all my stress melt away.
In the shower was something I'd never seen: dispensers for soap and shampoo! My hair and skin felt so soft after I used the on-site products. They obviously spared no expense with the toiletries. Wearing those robes was like wrapping up in butter. Soft and warm, they were top of the line.

Reaction: Wow! Ooooh! Ahhhh! I want that!

Descriptions, photographs, and feelings you had are all integral to the writing process. Don't leave anything out! It's not difficult to snap a few pics for later reference.

Just in case you missed it, I'm posting the rafflecopter entry form from the IBGW blog here. This is a gorgeous book and has some awesome reviews. I haven't read it myself, but I formatted it for print! If you like pretty, enter to win a copy!
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck to you all!

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Monday, August 12, 2013


Happy Monday, good people of the blogosphere! Today, we're back to our regularly scheduled program: All things writerly and good books! One of the things I hated in school was diagramming sentences. It made English class boring. I just wanted to read books and write stories, ya know? But, alas, knowing the difference in a preposition, verb, adjective, and noun matters. Do you know what a gerund is? If you paid attention in English, you do. If you didn't, read on!

First, a definition:
ger·und  /ˈjerənd/ Noun - A form that is derived from a verb but that functions as a noun, in English ending in -ing.

Now, some examples:
Asking a question is easy.
Baking is her favorite past-time.
We went swimming in the ocean.
No matter which way we looked, the trees prevented us from seeing the car.

Grammar girl goes into a deeper definition, even giving examples of nouny gerunds, verby gerunds, and, the thing many gerunds are confused with, present participles.

But, for now, just know that gerunds end in -ing.

Pop over to the IBGW blog to hear about the latest book we've worked on and see inside!

I hope this gave you a little refresher course.

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!


Friday, August 9, 2013

Winners and Mystic ~ Coralie

Happy freaking Friday, good people of the blogosphere! I know I've been out for a week, but I was in Missouri, the setting of The Bird. How exciting is that? I've also been doing some formatting and writing. I'm happy to announce that book four of the Mystic series, Melody, is now written and will be hitting the shelves within a month! Coralie, book five, is a chapter in. Today, I bring you the synopsis and cover of Coralie and the winners of my birthday week giveaways! The kids returned to school yesterday and I'm all fired up to get back to work. Without further ado...


Coralie Meyers is struggling to find her footing as an actress in New York. A malicious attempt to thwart another girl's career ends in catastrophe and Coralie soon finds herself in a precarious situation.

As the fifth and final member of Women Save the World, a company created by Markaza Turner, Coralie possesses all the cunning the young ladies will need to defeat the evil that's rising under Central Park. If the women fail to save her, evil will rise and destroy the world.

Now that Markaza has gathered four of her chicks: Bronya, Lily, Shelia, and Melody, all that's left to do is bring in Coralie, train her, and go to war. But the ladies are struggling with their powers and their personal demons. Will they find the power within themselves in time to destroy the monster and save the world? Only time will tell; and that's one thing they're short on.

This fifth installment of the Mystic series is a lesson in what lies, hate, and judgment can do to the world when left unchecked.

Now, for the winners of the rafflecopter giveaways! Congratulations to everyone and thanks for participating. I'll be in touch today to find out how to get you your prizes.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Well, that's all for today, folks! Until next time, WRITE ON!