Tag Archives: plotting

June 2016 in Review

In Review June

Last year, I decided that I would post my accomplishments for the month and what goals I hope to achieve in the following month.

Now that I’m completely free from school and waist-deep in Dead Magic, I have been writing my little fingers off and being shockingly productive. Part of me is pleased and part of me is wondering when it will all come crashing to a halt.

What I accomplished in June:

  1. Wrote 21,000 words of Dead Magic
  2. Wrote 6 blog posts and a guest blog on Mariella Hunt’s website
  3. Published a Spanish translation of The Earl of Brass entitled El Conde de Latón, which is available here.
  4. Published the audiobook for The Winter Garden, which is available here.
  5. Planned out the beats for a forthcoming Ingenious Mechanical Devices novella
  6. Read 4 books
    1. Magic Bitter, Magic Sweet by Charlie N. Holmberg (2 stars)
    2. Ninety-Nine Righteous Men by K.M. Claude (4.5 stars)
    3. Fiction Unboxed by Sean Platt and Johnny B. Truant (4 stars)
    4. Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (5 stars)

What I hope to achieve in July:

  1. Write 20,ooo words of Dead Magic
  2. Write 10,000 words of the unnamed novella
  3. Write 6 blog posts
  4. Work more on my syllabus for freshman writing
  5. Work on the cover for Dead Magic with my designer
  6. Read 3 books
  7. Enjoy life in between everything mentioned above

I love watching my word count steadily increase from month to month. June was wonderful in terms of productivity. I feel like I got so much done and that the rest of Dead Magic should go smoothly now that I’ve hit the 2/3s mark.

There are quite a few balls in the air with my series. I have my Spanish translator working on The Winter Garden, my Italian and Portuguese translators working on The Earl of Brass, and my narrator is working on the audiobook for The Earl and the Artificer. Then I have Dead Magic to start wrapping up soon and the novella I’ve been plotting. I’m confident it will all get done, and that I can manage.

I’m seriously excited about my writing projects. Ideas are bubbling out of me, and now if only my productivity could keep up with my ideas. The one thing that was completely neglected in June was editing. I told myself I would edit chapters 1-8, but in the end, I decided to dump that idea. I’ve been spot editing as I go, fixing issues that arise or adding foreshadowing of future chapters, but at this point, editing without being finished or having a clear goal in mind seems pointless.

Right now, my tentative release date for Dead Magic is November 15th, BUT if the book is done before then, I will happily move the date forward. I’m really hoping the book will be out sooner than that.

Finally, I will be taking part in Camp NaNoWriMo and am sharing a cabin with some fantastic authors. What will you be doing this July?

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Plotter, Pantser, Gardener

If you have ever seen an author interview, very often you will see a question about whether the author is a plotter or a pantser.

A plotter is fairly self-explanatory. It means that the author plots out the points of the story before writing (some plot every point, some do only major points).

Pros:

  • Author always know where they’re going
  • Organized- less time spent figuring it out as they go
  • Easier editing (probably)

Cons:

  • Lacks spontaneity
  • Author may not feel the need to write as they already know the ending
  • Author spends a lot of time prepping and not writing

A pantser is named such because the author flies by the seat of their pants while they write, typically not making use of an outline or using a very vague one.

Pros:

  1. Plenty of room for change
  2. More writing, less planning
  3. More “fun” for the author who enjoys surprise

Cons:

  1. More editing (probably)
  2. The author may get stuck more often
  3. Messy, which doesn’t work well if the author is more of a structured person

Most authors fall along this spectrum of rigidity, but what about if you fall somewhere in the middle?

This is where the gardener comes in.

I describe a gardener as someone who begins with a basic plan but allows for a lot of wiggle room. It takes the best of both worlds when it comes to plotting and pantsing. Why call it a gardener? Well, a gardener has an idea of what they want the garden to look like when they start. They know where the plants will go and maybe what types they want. They plant the seeds (plot strings) and tend them until they grow to full-bloom. Along the they way prune or add fertilizer as needed. They may notice that a plant needs to be moved or gotten rid of, and they take that into consideration as they tend the garden. As a gardener, I have a hard time thinking of cons because the style of gardener varies greatly with the writer. It can be a bit messy and will lead to at least some editing later, but it lacks the rigidity of plotting and the “winging it” aspect of pantsing. Here is an outline I wrote while working on The Earl of Brass:

eilian-hadley outlinePlease ignore the crazy diamonds, I was marking off what I covered at the time. As you can see, the major points are plotted out with arrows from event to event. What you can’t see from the final product is that I actually filled in several major events that I knew I needed, and then I added the smaller events in between. This is the basic idea of a gardener. They know the major points and fill in the smaller ones along the way but not to the point of completely locking the plot. For me, I need flexibility while I write to let my characters breathe and do their thing. They often surprise me, and I haven’t been disappointed yet.

So are you a plotter, pantser, or gardener?


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5 Tips for Beating Writers Block

Sorry for not blogging sooner, but I have been under the weather for the past week.  Today’s post will be about the dreaded writers block.

Writers block can be one of the most crippling experiences for a writer, and after experiencing a bout of this recently myself, I thought I would post a few tips that may help to get through it.

  1. Ask, “Would your characters actually do this?”  Sometimes being stuck is caused by something as simple as trying to force a scene. Step back for a minute and think about how the scene can be reworked. Is your character doing something out of character? This can be the bane of a plotter’s existence because they have their outline and want to stick to it, but at times, a character can be whispering to you that they don’t want to or wouldn’t do what you are intending them to do.
  2. Free write.  Is another story knocking at your brain but you’re 2/3 into another one and don’t want to give up on it or throw yourself into a new project? Take a few minutes to let the scene out. Save the file in a separate folder of scraps or future projects and let it go. You can always revisit it when you’re finished with your current project, but for now, it’s out of your brain and on paper for later.
  3. Make an outline. Sometimes you need to see it on paper to get going. It’s often a case of where have I come from and where am I going? Draw out what you have thus far and then where you know you have to go. Typically, I use a blank sheet of printer paper and a brightly colored pen to stimulate ideas and remove constraints (no idea why it works but it seems to). Don’t put the future points too close together, leave space to fill-in with ideas. What do your characters need to do and how do we get them there?
  4. Look for visual inspiration. You have ideas, you know what you need to do, but the spark just isn’t there. Try going onto sites like Pinterest or Tumblr and looking for pictures that have to do with your story. If it’s set in the Victorian era, look up historical photos or vintage clothing. Is there a celebrity who looks like your characters? Look them up. Throughout the writing process, I create a Pinterest board of inspiration and look to it when I’m feeling stuck or meh about my writing.
  5. Read. One of the best pieces of writing advice I have ever gotten is to read. Reading will not only stimulate ideas, but it will be a refresher for craft. How does the author get to the climax? How are the characters built with depth and how do we find out about them? Read authors who inspire you and see how they did it. Learn from the masters, and let their words power yours.

Hopefully this helps you in your writing. The block is often caused by stress or fatigue and not laziness on the author’s part, but when you feel stuck, try some of the tips mentioned above and see if they help get you through. If nothing else, go for a walk and clear your head.


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Errant Plots and Acccepted Proposals

The other day I received an email from the director of my graduate program that my thesis proposal was approved! Not only that, but she wanted the file to use as an example of what a proper MFA thesis proposal should look like. I beamed with pride for most of the day, and I feel as if a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. In the fall, I will officially begin my thesis and finish up with my MFA in May of 2016, which really means I’ll be going into book three full force as soon as possible.

Part of the reason I hoped my proposal would pass in one shot is that I am trying very hard to separate myself from what I wrote in it about book three. For the professors to approve your proposal, you need to show that you have your shit together and are really prepared to take on a big project and actually finish it, so you have to provide a lot of info about your work even if you really haven’t thought it through yet. It’s all subject to change (thank god), but I had to do quite a bit of cooking up of ideas in a brief amount of time. Now, my very anal analytical side wants to take all of my half-assed ideas from the proposal and check them off, but I know it won’t turn out well. The ideas I wrote down aren’t forming the story I would like to read.

Because of this, I know I need to take a step back and re-evaluate my ideas and where the story is going. It’s been on the backburner for about three weeks while I was working on classwork, but now that the semester is wrapping up, I can finally go back to it. It feels great to be able to finally go back to my writing after a self-imposed hiatus, yet it’s daunting knowing that I need to figure this out before moving forward.

My writing style is somewhere between plotting and flying by the seat of my pants. I don’t like to plot the whole thing out, but I need to know where I’m going before I begin writing a chapter. This system gives me structure but allows for fluidity and for my characters to stretch their legs a bit.

At the moment, I feel a bit lost with The Earl and the Artificer. I have a few chapters done, which are shaping up to be a good foundation, but it feels like an insurmountable task to figure out where I’m going.  The good thing is, I say this every time I begin working on a new book and by 10,000 words in, I’m usually fairly on my feet. I don’t think the anxiety goes away until I’m two chapters away from finishing it.

I’m also back to reading historical fiction again, which always seems to help. I’ll be outlining and diagramming and creating monstrosities that look more like summoning circles than outlines, but now that my proposal has been accepted and my final paper is well under way, I should be able to finally get into book three. I plan to keep everyone posted on the writing process and what I discover along the way with research or writing or myself, but first and foremost, I must write.

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January 2015 in Review

I’m starting to think it may be a good idea to look back at each month and see what I have accomplished in my writing and marketing as well as reflect upon what needs to be improved in the future.

The biggest thing that happened this month was that I finished The Winter Garden (Ingenious Mechanical Devices #2).  I’m still shocked that I can now say I have two novels under my belt.  It’s pretty amazing, considering a few years ago I couldn’t finish anything and had plots that meandered for a hundred pages.  So far, I have finished The Winter Garden and gotten through a major round of editing.  Continue reading

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