Plotting Your Novel by Writing from the Middle

As a writer, I am always learning. I think that’s what I love most about writing — the learning never stops. I am either learning something new about myself and writing as I write, or I stumble across new information as I am looking to learn more about writing. This time it was the latter. Recently on Twitter, I ran across a book recommendation for plotting that I loved so much I had to share it here.

Write Your Novel From The Middle: A New Approach for Plotters, Pantsers and Everyone in Between by James Scott Bell is must read for anyone serious about writing. This book goes into detail about why writers should start from the middle of a story instead of the beginning or end (who would of thought!). And how finding a character’s “mirror moment” is essential to true character development.

I definitely believe character development is a key element in a story. The more a reader can relate with a character and feel for a character’s journey, the better the book becomes. And this method certainly will help with that!

This book also helped me realize that I’m a Tweener (I always thought myself a straight up Pantser). I do love writing by the seat of my pants. That’s how I get some of my best ideas, but I also know where I’m writing too as well. I have a loose idea of events I need to reach and about where I need those events to happen. Also, I find already knowing my ending is a necessity to writing, even if I don’t know specifics. Just having a good idea of where I need to stop gives me a clear goal to reach for. But after reading Bell’s book I have an even better way to approach my writing. Start in the middle and Pants my way to the beginning and end. I’ll still have those events and goal posts to reach, but I think it will be far easier to get there knowing exactly what the character’s journey should entail.

And you know this book couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I’ve become somewhat stalled on writing the first draft of my second novel. I think this technique will get things churning quite nicely. Thanks Bell. 🙂

 

Common Phrases Used by Authors

commo phrasesNow this is an interesting little chart I stumbled upon as I browsed Facebook. This post from the Writer’s Circle. I often enjoy the posts this page puts up, but this one made me stop and think. And the question that popped in my brain was… What would be the most common phrases in my writing?

An argument could be made for the listed words and phrases as being too simplistic and possibly boring. But considering the intended audience (young adult), is that really a bad thing? And it opens the question… is simplistic writing possibly a better way to go? After all, these series are best sellers.

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Why Word Count Doesn’t Matter

It’s like “the thing” every writer talks about in reference to writing… word count. Have you ever had a conversation about a project you are working on or another writer is working on without asking or telling about the word count? Impossible, right?

It’s always about the word count whether it is self-imposed or a count the publisher set. And it’s sad, because there is so much emphasis put on word count, a writer can be fooled into thinking it matters, when really it doesn’t.

Oh boy. I know I pissed off people with that statement. lol… Good, because what I have to say next is important, so listen up.

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To Be a Good Writer Means to Be a Good Thinker

Writing is 99% thinking, and the rest is typing. — Ray Bradbury

When I first started writing, I did it the hard way. I just wrote the first thing that came to mind. I got an idea, character, setting, or ect. in my head and I wrote it down immediately.

It was fun. I produced a story, or maybe a part of a story, or maybe really just words on a page. But damn if I didn’t feel proud of my accomplishment. A proud Momma with her precious baby.

And then I got some experience under my belt and that happy bubble popped when I realized I was doing it all wrong.

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Listen to the Story

I have always heard that it’s important to listen to the story, the characters, and the plot in any piece as it’s being written. To let these things be the guidelines for how a story is developed. For the most part I do try to do this, but in the case of a specific story, I did not heed these words of wisdom.  In doing so, I created a lot of heartache and work for myself that I could of otherwise avoided.

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Publication: Why the rush?

There are two kinds of writers; the ones who are published and the ones who are not. The ones that are published are constantly looking for new things to write about and launch into the world (they make it look so easy). Then you have the writers who aren’t published, looking at the published authors and saying, “that’s what I want.” So these unpublished or newly published writers race to break into the field, because it’s what’s expected of them. 

What is the first thing that people say when you tell them you’re a writer? I usually get, “Make sure to remember me when you become the next Steven King (or whoever)?” Or if you talk to a friend or family member you haven’t seen in awhile, “So when’s that big novel coming out? Did you get it published yet?” It’s all about the rush to be published to get your name out there, because if you can’t justify your writing by publication, then are you really a writer at all?
Interesting that writing has such a push to get results when other pastimes don’t (usually) get that sort of attention. Do your friends ask when you’ll be the next Emerald or Michael Jordon? Do they wonder when you’ll try out for an Olympic team or become the next Picasso? Why the rush?
Why can’t you take the time to make your writing better? What’s the big rush? Do you really want to look back five years from now and say, “What the hell was I thinking publishing that?” Wouldn’t it be better to slow down and make sure you get it right? Good writing cannot be rushed and great writing can only happen when you let it. Just because the piece is “okay” doesn’t mean it should be rushed to the presses for the world to see. Do you really want to be known as an author with just okay stories- or worse?
There are some people (and I know this from experience) that have stories they’re just tired of writing on. A burning desire deep within to get something published makes the rash decision that the piece is “good enough” and sends it out knowing the story could be better- much better. Why the rush?
I have come to the belief that all good things come to those who wait. Those who take the time to make themselves great instead of putting stuff out there and then regretting it. Once a piece of writing is published, it’s out there- forever. There is no going back, no do overs. It’s immortalized in black and white, so why run the risk of having a black mark on your writing resume when you can take your time. Why the rush?

You might be thinking, “Yeah, everyone thinks that way about their work.” Maybe, but wouldn’t it be better knowing that your best foot was put forward, instead of a hurried rush to get to the finish line? I have certainly felt that way about some of my work and have decided that my time means more to me than that and I want do something more worthwhile.

Then you’re thinking, “But if you wait until that happens, you’ll never get anything published.” Maybe, maybe not, but again do you really want something that you aren’t that proud of immortalized in print when you know deep down that you can do better? Why the rush?
Why is it so important to be published right now? Unlike many things in life, writing is one of the areas that you have complete control over. You control when you writer, what you write and what you let the world see. Next time that burning desire comes over pushing to send a story out before it’s really ready, just ask yourself… Why the rush? Why not spend a little extra time getting it right?

Description Part 3: The Secret to Good Description


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I’ve already discussed the 3 Elements of Good Description and the 6 Pitfalls of Description, but I saved the best for last. What is the true secret to good description? Is there the one thing that will open the door to allow a writer to touch the reader and dive them into the wonders of a story? The answer is yes and that one thing is word choice.
The word or words chosen to describe something can make all the difference in the world. It can influence the reader’s mood and change the entire context of a sentence, paragraph, and even the characteristics of a character.

 

I recently wrote a short story and gave it to a fellow writer to critique. She called me out (and rightly so) on a minor character because she thought he was too much of a stalker. It wasn’t my intention to make the character stalkerish, but I went back and saw that I actually used the world stalker to describe the character. So if I didn’t want him to be a stalker then why use the word? In my case, it was a slip of the word and I was in too much of a rush to go back and fix it. I wanted a different word but failed to chose it because I was too lazy to find the appropriate word.
Is this something you find yourself doing? I find I do it quite a lot. I settle for a word when I know it isn’t the right one. I know that the word I’m using isn’t setting the right picture or mood for what I want the reader to see and feel. Sometimes finding that perfect word can be difficult (even when I actually have the time to find it), in these cases the thesaurus is my best friend.
Still not convinced that word choice is so important? Check out the examples below. You be the judge.
Okay: The clown was enjoyable.  
Definition of enjoyable: giving or capable of giving joy or pleasure. www.dictionary.com
Better: The clown was amusing.   
Definition of amusing: pleasantly entertaining or diverting; causing mirth or laughter; humorously entertaining www.dictionary.com
As you can see the words enjoyable and amusing have similar meanings but amusing gives the sentence an extra punch. It says that the clown was entertaining and fun, maybe even funny. Between the two words amusing evokes a better picture of what kind of effect the clown has on the people in the story.
Okay: The sunset was a beautiful.
Better: The sunset was breath-taking.
This example shows a difference because it takes the sunset from being just plan beautiful to breath-taking. The words breath-taking gives a whole different picture. It is more descriptive because it makes the reader feel a since of wonder. The words even give the reader the reflex of taking in the breath. 
(Notice the highlighted word since. It should be sense. Yet, another important thing to remember when choosing the right word. Make sure it means what it’s suppose to mean. The dictionary is your second best friend.)
 
Don’t be afraid of words and get the best use out of them to expand on a thought or idea. This is most important when describing characters. Use emotion and attributes to embellish a character and describe them. Don’t rely on the physical alone and if you do a physical description make your words count.
Okay: Charlotte was intelligent for her age.
Better: Charlotte was a wise old soul. She understood more than most and always was quick with a solution; despite that she was barely old enough to drive.
Okay: Anthony was a handsome man. He was very athletic and it showed.
Better: Anthony’s skin felt taunt against the flesh of my hand. My eyes traveled the mountain ranges of his sculptured abs and I was afraid to meet his gaze. I knew those sapphire eyes were waiting for me to look up. His perfection made me feel small, unworthy.
Words are powerful. They have the ability to shape minds and make the reader see what you want them to see, so they must be used carefully and placed just so. Make it a practice to take the time to find the perfect word.