Tag Archives: plotting

What Doesn’t Work

In Friday’s post I mentioned some ideas that I’d come up with for the villain of my current novel that were just too far fetched to use.

Like having him be some sort of ancient evil being who is trapped in a human form that drains people’s life force so he can live forever.

And the one where I had him body-hopping into the body of his own eldest son down through the generations.

And I’m probably not going to go wit the demon-summoning, either.

How, you may wonder, did I come up with such weird things to begin with?  Did they just happen while writing the way my village of zombies did in my first ever NaNoWriMo?


For one thing, I haven’t gotten that far in this novel yet, although I am currently starting to give the reader the idea that the antagonist is… not normal… and that there is something going on that my protagonist doesn’t know about yet.

For another thing, my first NaNoWriMo novel was the first – and last – time that I went into November without some sort of outline.

So, nope, these weren’t November insanity ideas.  These ideas came while working on the outline.

Where did they come from?

Free writing.

It’s like a brainstorming session with yourself.  Or yourself and your muse.

You just write down ideas.  They don’t have to be good ideas, just ideas.  And you keep asking yourself questions and writing down the answers.  Do it longhand on unlined paper because it’s fun to draw arrows all over the place.

When you’re done, you’ll have a mess.   A big glorious mess of hilariously bad ideas, some of which you may really like but which just won’t work in the world of your novel.

But that’s all right.

Because somewhere in that mess, when you start discarding the stuff you wrote down but didn’t like, you are left with some ideas that will work.  And even if they aren’t perfect, they can spawn another round of brainstorming and free writing.

And what about those ideas that you like but that won’t work?


Non-workable ideas are frustrating.  They seem like such good ideas, and often they are, but just not for that story.

And that’s okay, because there’s always another book, and what might not work for the current one may be a plot bunny for another, so ideas you don’t use in that book can be saved to be used somewhere else.

And sometimes, in order to find out what works, you have to find out what doesn’t.

“I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
― Thomas A. Edison

(Who am I to argue with him?)








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I Am SOOOO Not a Pantser*

This novel is going to be the death of me.

I was so eager to start this story when I first came up with the idea, but now that I’ve started writing it, not so much.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m really starting to get into the story and my momentum is picking up as I leave myself notes to check this and retcon that, but… I don’t know.  I think this might not have been the best story for NaNoWriMo.

For one thing, it’s not really in my usual genre.

For another, I didn’t really have the outline cemented down.  Oh, I know what happens – or at least what I think is going to happen – and I even have an end scene.  Some things aren’t happening exactly when I had them planned, but as long as everything does happen (and I have a list of stuff that needs to happen) then it’s all good.

But there are some things that are just not well thought out.

Like the bad guy.

The antagonist’s motivation and back story were never finalized so I’m having a bit of trouble making the story make sense.  Some of my brainstorming for it was way too far fetched for this, although might work in a different story so I’m saving the notes, because, you know, I don’t have nearly enough plot bunnies.

So I’m still trying to get a handle on why he does the things he does.  I think jealousy is part of it.  And the fact that he’s power-hungry. (Aren’t all villains?)

But I think I really need to ditch the part that he’s some sort of ancient evil being who is trapped in a human form and drains people’s life force so he can live forever.  Yeah.  That and body-hopping into the body of his own eldest son down through the centuries. Yep.  That needs to go too.  And possibly the part about summoning a demon.

(Actually, I also created some back story for the protagonist that is a bit too far fetched as well, but I’m going to just run with it for now and take it out in revision, as it doesn’t really impact the story line enough to worry about it this round.)

I also need to figure out exactly how and why the protagonist’s father died.  That’s kind of important because it involves the antagonist and his motives – which aren’t finalized yet.

Solve one and I’ve solved the other.

And there’s an aunt that may never make it into the story.  She’s kind of tied into the antagonist, but I’m not seeing her as really being necessary, so she may not make an appearance after all.  (Pity – she’s kind of interesting.)

So, yeah.  I wish I’d done more to nail down the details of the outline.

But on the other hand, I’m learning to just trust the process.  Just keep writing, and trust that sooner or later everything will fall into place.

I hope.


*Pantser: one who writes without an outline, who writes by the seat of his/her pants


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Ready and Not

It’s almost NaNoWriMo.

Am I ready? Not really.

I mean, I have a fairly detailed outline, but…  I’m not ready!

For one thing, I’d like to have the outline in a little better shape and with more details worked into each plot point.

And there are a few silly last minute things I’d like to research – nothing of earth-shattering importance, mind you, but not knowing is going to bug me.

And I really need to sort out and clarify some back story that is kind of essential to the plot – it explains the antagonist and why he does the things he does.  I kind of have a handle on it, but I’d like it sorted out better so that it’s right there in black and white instead of the hazy shade of grey that it is now.  (It would probably be a lot less hazy if I hadn’t changed it half a dozen times in the course of an hour yesterday.)

But other than the antagonist and a few minor details, it’s pretty much ready to go, except…

Except I’m not sure how it starts.

Do I start with the phone call from Jacob, telling Cara about her grandmother’s death?

Do I start with her driving into the town of Crossroads?

Do I start with the funeral?

I know I’m starting at midnight, but other than that…

Yeah, I know.  Just start. Start with the phone call and write through the other two possible starts and sort it out in the revisions.  That’s probably good advice, but it just feels weird.  See, I love beginnings (that’s probably why I have so much stuff started) and I don’t think I’ve ever not known how my stories start.  I have always had the first scene completely worked out in my mind.  This… indecision… just doesn’t feel right and it’s making me a little nervous about the rest of the story.

Oddly, though, I do have an ending scene.  Usually I have no idea how or when the story is supposed to end, so having the ending worked out instead of the beginning is completely backwards for me.

And I also have a title.  And a really bad blurb.

The genre is still a little foggy, which isn’t really a whole lot of consolation.  I’m not sure whether to classify it as urban fantasy or paranormal. I’m pretty sure it’s probably not horror.

And the worst thing facing me?  One of the other nurses where I work quit, so I’m looking at extra shifts at work.  I’m currently part time, and have been working three days one week and four the next, but I just saw the new schedule and I’m working five days during the second week of November.  The money will be nice, but did it have to happen during NaNoWriMo?

All I can say is I’d better get my outline nailed down because ready or not, here it comes!


(And somehow I managed to screw up the scheduling of this post, so pretend that it posted on Friday instead of Saturday, okay?)

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Plotting Epiphany

Just under two weeks left in the month.  Where has time gone?  I don’t know the answer to that, but I know the answer to where the rest of it better go: into my word count goal and getting pocket letters done and sent before November and NaNoWriMo hit.

And, of course, into plotting.

I’m working on two outlines right now.  One for Hedge House, my NaNoWriMo novel, which is coming along nicely except for a couple rather hazy areas where I’ve left notes to myself that say:




Those are okay for now, but I’m going to have to have something more specific by November.

The other is for Book 6 of The Academy of the Accord.  It is also coming along well except I need to add a lot more to it – I’m pretty sure that I don’t have enough outlined to make it novel-length.   And I need something more to tie it into the overall arc of the series.  But at least I know what the last scene is.

What I really need for it is motivation for the antagonist – and I’m thinking that his motivation will also help with tying it into the overall story arc for the series.  But I’m not sure what that is yet – it’s just this nebulous hazy half formed idea.

So how do I make it more concrete?


I brainstorm it.

Here’s the question: Why does [BG] (Bad Guy – he doesn’t have a name yet) kidnap Shander?

Well, why does anyone kidnap someone? He wants something in return?  But what?  I mean, Shander’s an orphan, so it’s not like he can demand a ransom from his family – unless he’s trying to get it from the school, and the wizards and Warders there are more likely to see to his early demise than to give him any kind of reward.

And who is [BG]? Knowing that will help with the answer to why.

Or maybe he thinks he’ll get a ransom from Rahmael (Shander’s Warder).  If so, he’s underestimating not only Rahm and his family (and his family’s resources) but also (again) the leaders of the school.

Or maybe he’s a disgruntled customer upset because the orphanage was closed down and he had planned to buy Shander back once he was “trained” (or had sent him there for “training.”) (The Headmaster at the orphanage had a side business of training young boys to be sex slaves – he was shut down by some of the people from the Academy, which not only made him unhappy – and a prisoner of the Crown – but no doubt left some unhappy customers as well, and ooooo!  There was a thread I was going to use in that book but decided not to in order to focus on something else and take the book in a different direction and it’s going to tie in beautifully here and solve a lot of problems! Woot!)

And there you have it.  That is how I work out plot issues and do my outlining. I just keep talking through it and asking questions and writing answers and generating more questions until something clicks.

In this case, I have not only solved the problem of who kidnapped Shander and why, but I also figured out how to give some clues and foreshadowing for something that happens in Book 12, and, with perhaps a bit more tweaking, tie it into the overall arc.

Life is good!

Now I’m off to put all this down in less hazy words so I don’t forget my brilliant flash of insight.



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Or maybe just “organizing” since “re-organizing” implies that there was some semblance of order at some time in the past.

Despite having it sitting where it can stare at me whenever I’m on the computer my list of things to do does not seem to be shrinking in the least.  Of course, the migraine that sidelined me all day on Tuesday didn’t help – I lost an entire day to being hypersensitive to light and sound, feeling like my head was being squeezed to the size of a golf ball, and battling my stomach’s desire to lose all of its contents.

And the fact that I keep adding things to my to do list probably doesn’t help either.

Still, you’d think it would have the courtesy to at least pretend to be getting shorter instead of longer.

I am resisting taking on anymore pocket letter projects, though, so there may be hope for me yet

Unfortunately, deadlines are fast approaching and some of them might go whooshing past me, depending on how this morning’s errands go.  (The plan is to hit Wal-Mart, Dollar Tree, Big Lots, and maybe Trader Horn and be home by 11:00 or 11:30.)  (You all can stop laughing now.)


I have worked out a way of organizing my current commitments so I can keep track of them and get a better handle on what needs done and work on them in some semblance of order instead of all willy-nilly.  (“Willy-nilly” needs to be used a lot more. It’s a great term.)

And even better, I’m getting back on stride for writing, which is a happy thing, especially with November looming closer.   Now, if Book 6 of The Academy of the Accord just had an outline…  (Although I did just figure out the first step to get me from where I am to where I need to go, so that’s a start.)

So, writing is starting to pick up momentum and I’m starting to get a handle on other commitments.  Life is good.

Now, if that list would just get shorter…

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A Writer’s Work Is Never Done

August is over already?

I managed to meet my 1K-a-Day Challenge for the month.  I wasn’t sure I was going to make it, as I was about 14,000 words behind at one point, but then I found a great group on Facebook that has really helped.  It’s called The Writing Desk  and its sole purpose is to keep you accountable for writing.  From the group’s description:

“The Writing Desk serves to be an anti-procrastination station. Here, everyday members are expected to post their production and together as a team we can cheer one another on. Think of it as a year long NaNo.

“Here, there will be no forum talk (that’s what forums are for), no political debates, no self-promotions, no book reviews, no writing prompts, no videos of cats, no reason to procrastinate. I know it sounds cruel, strict and militant but hey- if you want to procrastinate go to YouTube!”

So, anyhow, even though I caught up on word count, I don’t think I’m going to get Book 7 finished this month.  For one thing, I’m back to a section where I’m patching other stuff together, and that is slow going, as well as confusing.

And for another, I’m not sure exactly what the “end” is. Hopefully I’ll recognize it when I get to it.

But I’m off today, and for the first three days of September, so my new goal is to have it finished before I go back to work, and maybe have the patchwork part of book 6 (there isn’t as much of it) done too.

And be a few thousand words ahead of par.

And update the outline for my NaNoWriMo project, and set up a three ring binder with pocket dividers to hold outlines for future novels:  the NaNoWriMo novel; sequels to Song and Sword, Onyx Sun, and Sanguine; and anything else too insistent to ignore.

And I need to get to work on the revisions for Onyx Sun.  I do have one scene written to add in, and plans for at least one other.

Unfortunately, the scene I wrote spawned an idea for a spin off using a minor character who became very intriguing in that scene, with a back story that really needs exploring, so I suppose I should add that to my outlines binder.

I can’t seem to write fast enough to keep up with the plot tribbles’ breeding habits.

So, to summarize:

I’m revising one novel
writing another
doing first edits on another
and outlining another one — or four or five

And I need to start getting stuff ready for NaNoWriMo — putting up fliers, etc.

And worse? When I’m not looking some more things will sneak onto the list.

It’s never ending.

Never done.



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What’s in a World?

Normally I write fantasy (sometimes science fiction) and they are not set in our modern world, which means I get to create the world pretty much from scratch.

I wish I could tell you that I have a logical systematic approach to world building.

(Actually, I wish I had a logical systematic approach to world building.)

But I can’t, because I don’t.

I tend to be very character-driven when I write, which means that I create the characters, let them talk to each other and interact with each other and just generally do stuff, and the story flows out of that.

And along with the story comes the world that it happens in.

The positive part of this method is that the world doesn’t restrict me in any way, since it’s being created as needed.

However, it does also tend to have some drawbacks. For instance, I find myself with names for places so I end up with things like “[BRY’S HOMETOWN]” scattered through the narrative of the rough draft.  Or, worse: “[HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO GET FROM WIDNA TO CLAIMACH?]”  Or even worse: “[REALLY NEED TO FIGURE OUT HOW THIS WORKS AND STICK WITH IT.]”

So, for my NaNoWriMo novel this year (What? You’re not planning yours yet? It’s only two months away!) I’m actually creating the world in advance, as I do the outline.

This novel is set in the “real” world and in modern times, although in a fictional town.

In a way, this is easier – I don’t have to figure out how things work or how long it takes to get from one place to another, etc.

In another, I’m somewhat limited by the setting.  There are still a lot of elements of fantasy/paranormal in it, but I am caught in the mesh of reality.

I’d like to say that setting it in the modern world requires less world-building, but I’m not finding it to be so.  I may not be creating an entire world, but I am creating an entire fictional small town, and since all of the story is set in this town (as opposed to everything else I’ve written in which the characters wander around quite a bit) I need to make the town be a living breathing thing all its own.

Have you ever stopped and looked at all the things that are in a town?

Streets, stores, restaurants, businesses (like a notary public or insurance agents or car dealerships), bars, churches,  people, parks, schools, playgrounds, fire companies, town government and maintenance, utility companies, police, library…

And then towns – even small ones – have sections with locally known names.

And there are surrounding towns and stuff on the outskirts of towns, and…

And it’s really a lot more involved when you’re creating on a smaller scale (one town/local area) than when you’re creating on a grand scale (an entire world).

So, what’s in a world?

A lot!


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Love It Or Hate It

Writers have a love-hate relationship with our stories.

We love the characters we create and we love sharing their stories with the world.

Some of us even love creating entire worlds to share with the world the rest of you live in.

In short, we love writing.  If we didn’t, we wouldn’t do it.

And while we’re writing, we are totally in love with the story and the characters and the setting and the plot and subplots and…

And then we finish it and we are so excited about it and want to share it with the world.

But we know better.  We know it has to be edited first and we know that editing as soon as you finish writing is usually a bad idea so we put it away for a while and go back to it a month or more later and reread it.

And we hate it.

The characters are flat or whiny or pointless (or all three) and the plot drags and wanders and ceases to exist and the whole thing is just garbage.

But we loved it once so we can’t just trash it, so we put it away again.

And eventually we pull it out again and read it again and…

Surprise!  It isn’t as bad as we remembered.  (It’s not as good as we’d thought, either, but at least now we think it’s salvageable.)

And then we start to edit.

And rewrite.

And write new stuff to replace the stuff we take out.

And about halfway through we start to hate it again.  And we want to quit because the story sucks and editing sucks and we suck and what’s the point and…

But we keep going because we remember that we loved it and we have hope that we can at least really like it again someday.

And eventually the bright shiny idea we started with and the sparkling pile of excrement we finished with have merged into something that doesn’t reek.

And while maybe it doesn’t sparkle and shine like it did in our memory, it glows.

Because excrement is great fertilizer, so now the little gem is pregnant with possibility.

So we keep polishing.

We edit each page, each line, each word, over and over again in a search for that perfect brilliant shine until we start to worry that in our search for perfection we might be losing the spirit of the story.

So we put it away for a while, then bring it back out, dust it off, maybe tweak it a bit more, and share it with someone else.

Just one or two people.

People who are not us.  People who are not inside our heads and who are looking at the story with virgin eyes and hearts.

People who aren’t already emotionally invested in the story.  People who are not already in love with it and who don’t already hate it.

Beta readers.

We give it to them and we sit on our hands and wait and hope and pray for feedback.

And then we make more changes and eventually we take a deep breath and release our stories into the world, scared to death and loving and hating the whole process.

And then, being masochists, we start all over again on the next story.

Because as much as we hate it, we love it, and we are addicted to it.

I was wrong.

We don’t write because we love it.

We write because we have to.

We have an addiction to feed.



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In Like a Lion

March roared in with a snow storm. I shoveled three to four inches of heavy wet white stuff of the sidewalk and out from around my car, and dug a path through the piles the plow left.

Then I still had to clean my car off and go to work.

Aside from the fat that it wasn’t fifteen degrees below zero, so far March isn’t much of an improvement over February.

But it is a whole new month in the 1K-a-Day Challenge.

I made February’s goal – barely – but this is a whole new fresh start – fresh like the snow.

And so far so good.

I got my 1K in for the first and I’ll get today’s thousand words in before I go to bed so I’ll be on track.  And then I’m off for three days and am finally kicking this evil virus so I hope to kick up my word count, too.

I’m rolling again.

I got the whole where, when, and why of the fight scene sorted out, and if I don’t get it written tonight I should knock it out tomorrow.

And then some smooth sailing for a bit and then… another fight scene.

The plan has been for some happy emo stuff for a while, but now I’m not so sure.  I might save that for the end, after the next fight scene, which isn’t just any fight scene – it’s going to be a major battle.

But that’s at the end of the book, which means that the trilogy will be done.

And that is my goal for the end of the month.

Now let’s just see if life will be a lamb and let it happen…


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Raining On My Porch

Wednesday was my day off and it did not get off to a good start.

I was in the bathroom and the furnace was running. When it stopped I thought I heard water running and the water pressure in the bathroom was low.

And I wasn’t running any water…

We’ve had problems with the hot water pipe to the kitchen sink freezing up this winter, but I hadn’t heard any water running when I’d passed through the kitchen, but I checked anyhow.

Nope.  Not the kitchen.  Still had cold water but no hot.

Now, one of our neighbors (we’re the center unit of a triplex) had managed to break pipes in her apartment and blow up the boiler, so at first I thought they were doing something over there, but, nope, no signs of anyone.

I started investigating, and found the source:  water was pouring out of the porch ceiling. It looked like it was raining on the back porch.

So, I went out into the rain on the porch and can’t tell where it’s coming from except that it’s running between the boards on the ceiling.

On a hunch, since I could still hear water running through a pipe, I turned off the hot water to the kitchen and the rain slowed and stopped, and the water pressure in the bathroom went back to normal.

But then we had a drip inside.

This just keeps getting better and better…

The drip is coming not from a water pipe, but from where the vent pipe from the hot water tank joins the air intake (I think) for the furnace. I put a towel under it and then a bucket, but that drip stopped too.

Crisis temporarily under control, the next step was to notify the landlords.  I have three numbers for the landlady and couldn’t reach her on any of them.

My roommate was at work, so I left her a voice mail (and a text) for her to call and have landlord call me, because I know she has the right number in her phone.

Roommate called back to see what was going on so I explained.

She called back again — landlord was tied up until 3:30, but since it’s not an emergency situation anymore, that’s fine. She got emergency leave to come home, though, so that’s even better.

So, I go up to my room to catch up on the world and try to settle down and do some writing.

No such luck.

Shortly after noon there is a knock on the door.  The landlord stopped over on his lunch break to see what was wrong and how bad it was.

And he solved mystery.

Our kitchen is actually over the back porch. I knew this but didn’t make the connection to the fact that the pipes for the sink run up the outside wall and then make a sharp turn and go under the kitchen floor/over the porch ceiling before turning up to the sink. That’s where they’ve been freezing and that’s where the break is. (This also explains why the cold water pipe has been freezing up. As he pointed out, water lines three feet under ground have been breaking this winter.)

The good news is that it’s an easy fix and he can do it himself.

The bad news is that he can’t do it until the weather breaks, so we’ll be heating water on the stove to wash dishes for a while. (He’ll have to cut a hole in the porch ceiling, fix/replace the pipe, and repair the hole.)

Looks like we’ll be eating a lot of pizza…

(Okay, so there is a bright spot.)

Meanwhile, all of this is happening while I’m battling the cold from hell, so that little incident pretty much ate up my energy for the day.

So, needless to say, not much writing got done.

Actually, not much writing has gotten done this week at all.  I’ve been too miserable to focus so I’ve been lucky to kick out a hundred words or so instead of a thousand. (What a difference a zero makes!)

But I will hit my monthly goal today. (Good thing, because tomorrow is the end of the month.)

In part because I’m feeling slightly better (although I’ve started coughing a lot this afternoon) and partly because I need to stay off FaceBook for a while because all of the Leonard Nimoy posts are making me cry (which is not exactly helping the sinuses).

Part of the problem (besides being sick) has been a struggle with an upcoming scene.

It’s a fight scene, which is bad enough, but the real problem is that I’m not sure where to put it.

So I did some brainstorming in 750words.com the other night.  I still don’t know where to put it, but I’m pretty sure that it shouldn’t be the next thing I write: I need to show the lead up to it a bit so it doesn’t come out of nowhere.

I also need to decide who dies.



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