novel

How to Construct a Story in 5 Step.

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How to Construct a Story in 5 Step.

 

With NaNoWriMo on the horizon I thought now would be a great time to talk about how I come up with a Novel Idea. Get it. ;)  If you were wanting to participate in NaNoWriMo or simply wanting to start writing fiction in general but don’t know where to start I hope this helps! With the disclaimer that what works for me may not work for you. Feel free to take away what you like from my methods.

 

Step 1: Story Concept.

It always starts here for me. It usually comes to me randomly when I’m driving somewhere or while I’m in the shower. You know, doing mindless stuff, like when I’m at work.  It’s the question that drives us. “What if?”  For example: What if your planet was destroyed? What if you found out you were royalty? What if you lost something so valuable you would do anything to get it back?  

From here I start answering the question and other questions that it incites.  Almost like reverse engineering a story. What if your planet was destroyed? Well that tells me you must not have been on that planet. Why weren't you on the plant? (Maybe you’re an astronaut or you were vacationing on Neptune.) How were you not on the planet? (Mission to repair spacey type telescope or Space cruise liner.) Who destroyed the planet? (Natural disaster or pissed alien race.) Why was the planet destroyed? (Maybe those aliens were having a really bad week.) How will you now survive?

Keep the Q and A going. Keep what you like and toss what you don’t. Eventually a story concept will emerge and even a very, very rough outline.

 

Step 2: Characters.

Sometimes my concept and my characters come to me at the same time, sometimes they don’t. After you have your concept you can ask yourself; what kind of person would be in this situation?  How do they handle the situation? Are they funny? Are they serious?

There are hundreds of Character building lists on line. So I’m not going to get too crazy in depth with this section. Basically I flesh out my main Character then ask; who is their support system? Family? Best friend? Significant other? Then I have my secondary characters.  

Then time for what might be the most fun part. Who is making my hero’s life harder? My protagonist! Everyone loves a good bad guy these days.

 

Step 3: Building a Strong Outline.

So the world of writers boils down to two types of writers. Planners and Pantsers. I’m, (if you couldn’t already tell) a planner. Pantsers like to make it up as they go. Don’t get me wrong making it up as you go can be freeing but… every time I have tried this it’s like looking up to find out you're in the middle of a field miles from anything. Where’s my plot? It’s just not for me. So planner that I am, I start working an outline.

The setup: In which I do just that, introduce my character, tell ya a bit about their life. Right before a change it all.

The Trigger: Which is the event that sets the story in motion. (Boom your planet gets destroyed!)

The Midpoint: Now you throw rocks at your character. (Plot point rocks that is) Conflict, conflict, conflict!

Rising acting: Time to start solving some of your small problems and giving your character much bigger ones. All leading up to…..

The Climax: When your story reaches its crescendo. It all gets as bad as it can get and then you figure out how to fix it.

The Resolution: Where this all ends up after the conflict is over.

That’s all crazy overly simplified but that’s how I start simple. From these simple points we can build them into a lot-o-plot!

 

Step 4: Conflict!

After my outline I have to work out what the conflicts will be. I generally like things to be easy so I have to push myself to make life harder for my Characters. Sure the overall conflict of my story is there, but I have to work to figure out what rocks I will throw at my hero.

 

Step 5: Resolution.

The resolution, as I previously mentioned, is where everything ends up when the conflict is over. I’m going to so real and tell you this is my weakness. It’s always the hardest part for me. Nothing like having a story with no idea how you want to end. I usually come up with 3-7 options and stare at them for un undetermined amount of time.

So my advice to you and myself is this. Come up with lots of options. Stare at them for an undetermined amount of time. Then start the process of elimination. Cut the ones you know you don’t like. Cut anything that’s overly cliché. Till you’re left with only the top contenders. If you still don’t know, this is the time having a writer friend can really come in handy. They really don’t have to be a writer but having someone to bounce ideas off of can help you in your decision making process. Who knows, something they say might even inspire you to have a totally different ending than you thought. I’m, of course, not saying take someone else's idea. I’m just saying you don’t have to be alone.

And remember if at the end of your story you blame aliens in a story that had nothing to do with aliens till that point or you end it with a variation of “and then they woke up.” expect your readers to find you and punch you in the throat.

 

After those 5 Steps it’s all about putting in the work. Choosing to work on your story and write instead of watching Netflix or browsing Pinterest. Honestly this is really and truly the hardest part. Coming up with the ideas can but so exciting and invigorating that when the time to write comes it’s a snooze fest. Writing is a rollercoaster. The downs come very suddenly and the ups can be a long arduous climb. But at the end you have an amazing experience to look back on and hopefully a first draft.   

September to Remember!

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September to Remember!

My goodness, she’s still alive and hasn't given up writing?! Ya it was touch and go there for a minute. My apologies for my recent leave of absence. I will now insert reasons/ explanations/excuses here -------> LIFE.

I know best explanation ever. I didn’t want to go into any long winded explanations that really aren't all that interesting. The point is, I wasn't writing or posting and felt that twinge of failure. So now I’m back to right the wrongs and wash away the injustices my former self has done.

At least I can say that before my hiatus I went out on a high note. “The Protector of the Night” received great feedback and my deepest thanks to all that took the time to read and enjoy it. You’re all awesome.

Since this is technically a Manuscript Monday I suppose I should talk about how some of my goals are coming along. Back in April I posted “Goals for 2016” progress report…  My reading goals for the year are going better than I would have originally expected I’m only 2 books shy of being right on schedule. That means I’ve currently read 16 book this year. For me personally that’s nothing to turn your nose up at.

My book’s progress on the other hand... I’ll be totally honest… Right now it’s not looking too good. Still sitting at 37,000 words and might be facing a POV hiccup. Let’s just say that just because you’re a new writer doesn't mean all your first choices are wrong.

November NaNoWriMo is only a month away and I do plan to participate. I have a concept, characters, and have started a brief outline. So keeping my hopes up for November.

 

In closing, I’m working my way back into the swing. Thanks for your continued support and I hope to bring more entertainment with every passing month. Have a good week!

May's Marvelous Manuscript Monday

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May Progress Report

 

May is over in just a few days and my current word count is just south of 35,000 words! That means I am almost to my 40,000 word halfway point. When I say it that way I feel kinda like a badass. I’m also FINALLY done with my first person to third person point of view conversion which I should have finished doing around a month ago. So when I say it like that I feel, not so accomplished, but I’m not gonna let it get me down.

I’m also on track with my book reading goals. Man am I crushing it! So far 2016 might end up being my most gratifying year to date, when it comes to personal growth and accomplishment. We still have half the year to go but I’m confident it’s only going to get better. You might have noticed my good mood and that’s probably heavily influenced by the fact I don’t have to go back to my day job for another week. Yippy! The rest of my week will be filled with reading, writing, and the less enjoyable yard work. (It’ll be worth it, I repeat to myself over and over.)  I’m hoping to get another 5,000 words on my manuscript to get me to that 40,000 word halfway point. The only thing that keeps distracting me… my own ideas.

It’s hard to focus on just one story when your brain is constantly coming up with new ones. Other than my current manuscript, which will be the first in a three book series, I have three other unrelated story concept I am itching to put on paper. One post apocalyptic adventure of rescue, one science fiction and fantasy fusion tale and one romance turned grim murder mystery. If only I could write them as fast as I come up with them. My brain is starting to feel a little overheated just thinking about it all.

One goal at a time is what I’ll be sticking to. Finish my current work in progress by November 1st. If I can finish early then I can start working on another story. In fact maybe that will act as more motivation. Or maybe Bilbo said it best and I’ll end up feeling thin, stretched, like butter scraped over to much bread. We shall see, as it stands I’m feeling good about the coming June.

 

Also if you're interested in what I'm reading now or have been reading and how I feel about it, the best way to find out is to check out my Instagram account. @jamie_scifiohmy It's also a good place to see the most beautiful, sweetest, and smartest black lab that ever existed.  You've been warned.

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The Ocean and I

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This week we are taking a small break from "How to get by in the Galaxy" for a bit of Flash Fiction. In a style I have never really tried before. (Present Tense Writing) It might work, might not, but that's kinda the point. A place for me to try new styles and find out what I like and what I don't. Enjoy.

 

The Ocean and I

By Jamie Burns

 

I had said it so many times. As a way to bring humor to a real fear that plagued me. People would always laugh and ask “Is it?” I guess I always really did feel like the answer was, Yes. The Ocean was out to get me.

That’s what I would say. “The Ocean is out to get me.”

“Is it?”

“Yes, it wants me for it’s own.”

I would just smile and  laugh, they would laugh and chalk it up to another one of the silly things I say.

Now as I panic inside this sinking ship it was less funny. I’m not sure what made me agree to get on this ship in the first place. Ever since the situation has turned for the worst I was starting to forget things. Why I was there in the first place, what we were doing there, who we were traveling with, it was all becoming more muddled in my head as the water on the ship rose.

As unhappy as I am with the situation I find a twisted satisfaction in being right about the Ocean and it’s intentions for me. If I was going to be dead at least I was going to be right. It’s important to remember these things at times like this.

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As we try to make it to the upper decks of the ship I can see my companion bounding up the stairs in front of me. The stairwell is square with steps lining all four walls, ever going up and up. When the ship wasn't filling with water you could look over the side of the railing and see all the way down to the bottom decks. There must be people waiting for us at the top of this never ending stairwell. Who those people might be is gone from my mind. The only thing I can focus on besides trying to stay in step right behind my companion is the raising water. It gets faster as we do and it is now just two steps behind me.

My lungs are starting to burn from the pace, but I can’t slow down. I feel the water lap against my shoe as it takes me too long to pull it up from the step behind. I look ahead to see that I’m falling behind now. In an effort to pull myself back to the pace of my companion I reach out to grasp the railing.

I’m not sure what happened next. My best guess is that I must have just slipped. For a brief moment I feel a lurch in my stomach, I see my hands reach out to try and grasp at anything. Its so fast that I barely have time to call out, my companion turns back toward me but I have already hit the water.

It’s not as cold as I expected. Infact its pretty warm, the water wraps around me, my face drops just below the surface. Through the wave of dancing water I see my companion, his face filled with concern. Before either of us have time to react I feel something I never expected and could never have imagined.

The cold icy grip of two large hands reaches up from the depths of the Ocean, grabs me at the hips, wraps it’s arms around my waist and pulled me down. The sound of the water rushing around fills my head. My companion's face is filled with a mix of confusion and horror. Because as I am pulled down the water recedes, as if the Ocean was satisfied now with just me in its grasp. I am pulled down into the dark, the water lowers rapidly back down the steps leaving my companion on his still dry step, the water quickly far below his feet.

The humor of my statement still lingered in my mind. The Ocean truly was out to get me,  and now it had.

 

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

How to get by in the Galaxy Part 8

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How to get by in the Galaxy Part 7

How to get by in the Galaxy

Part 8

By Jamie Burns

 

In a universe that seems vast and infinite, every once and awhile the stars align. When they do it fills you with a sense that maybe, just maybe, the galaxy isn't totally out to screw you. That’s how I felt when Clara and I found Lucinda.

Right up till the moment that Lucinda punched her little sister Clara in the face.

The people in the crowded bar looked at the commotion for a moment before quickly looking away. Almost like they didn’t want to be caught looking. No one made a move to stop the tussle. After Clara landed a backhanded slap across Lucinda’s face the fight digressed into that of school girls pushing each other and pulling hair. The three large men that had been surrounding Lucinda moved the crowd back. I was going to try and put a stop to it but one of the men's overwhelmingly large hands pulled me back from the two swinging blondes.

“Clara!” I yelled.

My voice seemed to bring her back from the edge she had gone over. Clara pulled herself back from Lucinda. They both huffed with heavy breaths. “Damn Lu.What in creation was that for?” Clara asked, rubbing her bruised jaw.

Lu’s voice was so similar to Clara’s they were almost interchangeable. The deep draw of each word pulling on the air. “Six years, you don’t contact me. You don’t want nothin’ to do with me? Then, I hear someone's looking for me, because they need a favor. That someone turns out to be you. How you think that makes me feel Clara Bell?” Lu said with a conviction that made even me feel bad.

“Don’t you lie to me Lu. You knew I was the one looking for you.” Clara retorted.

The large man, had released my shoulder and moved back toward Lu. I realized now the three men were obviously Lu’s bodyguards.  I watched as the two sisters stared each other down. I had never imagined Clara with siblings. She had never mentioned a sister even though she had told me several stories of her parents and when she was younger. To find out now there was another Bell family member present in those tales changed the way I saw Clara. We were both the younger sister. But somehow Clara had cut Lu from her stories. It felt strange, I couldn’t think of a single memory from my childhood that didn’t involve Nathan in some way shape or form. He had always been there, my ever present big brother. Even if he was only a few minutes older than me. Was Lu that way for Clara in the beginning? Her best friend, her co-conspirator, her backup?

The women stayed a fair distance from each other. “I’m sorry it turned out like this.” Clara said and she really sounded like she meant it.

“So am I Clara bug.” The comment brought a hint of a smile into both the Bell women's faces. “Yes, I knew it was you. I have eyes and ears all over this rock. I knew you were here the second you stepped off that wind-up toy you call a ship.”

“What do you mean eyes and ears everywhere?” It was the first time I had spoken since breaking up the fight and I realized that Lucinda had no reason to know who I was. That fact didn’t faze her.

Lu smiled “Oh sister, you think I would come to a place like Exodus and I wouldn’t naturally take over?”

“Take over what?” Asked Clara.

“I’m the ‘Queen of Chems in six different quadrants.” Lu twisted her wrist in the air with a flourish.

“You’re a drug lord?!” Clara exclaimed.

“Oh Honey, don’t say it like that. But yes.”

I wasn't sure what Clara had expected to find when we went looking for her sister but I was sure a drug lord was not it. Clara was speechless with her mouth agape. I hated to interrupt the thought process that must have been running through Clara’s head but I needed to.

“Clara, we’re running out of time.” I said to her.

She composed herself again. “We need help Lu."

“And we need it in the next 3 and a half hours.” I added.

I wasn't sure what Clara said to Lu while they sat in Lu’s privet both in the back corner of the bar. The conversation took less than five minutes and I was elated. Clara and Lu returned, with Lu’s agreement to help us get Nathan back, as well as get the three of us back off Exodus. Now with Lu’s help and her unexpected resources my plan was looking more like a plan and less like a suicide mission.

Copyright 2016 JAMIE BURNS ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Keep it Up, Buttercup.

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Keep it Up, Buttercup.

The good news is… I’ve hit 30,000 words on my manuscript! The bad news is I’m convinced a quarter of the thing is gonna need to be deleted and rewritten. I write one chapter and everything feels right. My characters are funny my plot points make sense, then BOOM next chapter everything is awful. Why does that happen? So that’s how the Manuscript is going. I’m a rollercoaster of self-confidence and self-loathing. I’m in a glass case of emotion.

There are things that help me keep on keeping on though. First would be my human support system. Constantly proofreading my posts and gently reminding me that if I don’t write at least 2,000 words a week on my manuscript I’ll never finish by Nov 1st. (Thanks Honey, not sarcasm.)

On the more technical side, one of the things that really helps me to keep pushing through is consistency. If I’m writing at least 3 times a week it helps keep up my momentum. Even when things are looking bleak on the page. As opposed to, let's say, not writing anything three weeks in a row (Oops, I swear I’ll be better.) Really I would rather write something mediocre and change it later than write nothing. So I’m adding to my list of goals, write at least 3 times a week. Preferably it will be on my manuscript but I’m leaving my options open.

Another thing that keeps me both motivated and distracted is reading. This feels like my constant battle, reading takes up time I could be writing, but it inspires me hearing a great stories. Reading more also teaches me the difference between a bad writer, a good writer and a great writer. Over all I think it’s worth some loss of time to keep up my reading. Plus, I’m 2 books behind my yearly reading goal. This writer is a slow reader, go figure.  

The last thing I can think of that really makes me want to keep clacking away at the keyboard is my outline! I have mentioned briefly before that I have my entire plot outlined in color coded index cards on the wall of my office. Complete with 4 different colors of index cards and 4 other colors of post-it notes. It also sports thumb tacks with bits of string going from here to there keeping track of some “Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey stuff.”- The Doctor. My husband lovingly refers to it as my serial killer wall. I have the entire story arch of my series on the wall. Anytime I hit a rough patch on a section I’m writing I can look at my outline and remember the awesome things I have planned and tell myself I have to take my character through this, so they can get to that. Oh how I want to skip ahead, but writing time travel is hard enough as it is.

Well that’s how it’s going this Manuscript Monday. I hope you writers out there are getting them words out, be it on paper or through glorious technology. (Always backup your work!) If you have things that motivate you to keep writing when all you really want to do is go binge watch Netflix (like I want to) let me know what they are.

Getting to know a Character

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Getting to Know a Character

Anyone that has even read a book or watched a movie can not deny one thing. We all like characters. We might not all like the same characters but we are all there for the same reason, we are interested in the characters. Whether you’re a villain loving hero hater (i.e. Siths, Death Eaters, Hydra members) or you’re the kind of person that roots for the home team (i.e. Avengers, Jedi Order, Justice League, or any protagonist hero really) .  We all want to know more about characters and how things turn out for them. We can all agree this is true, if you don’t, Well you’re lying mister.

We want to know the characters, then once we do they can often become like old friends to us. It’s the reason we always buy the next book in the series, reread old favorites, re-watch movies and binge watch season after season on netflix, it’s the characters. Getting to know characters is the best, when reading and writing.

If you love a character in a book you are totally invested in them by the end of that book. You get to know them as if they were a living breathing person. In fact sometimes we know them  better that we know real people.  Gasp! Because we have spent the time getting to know them because some awesome author spent the time to make that character.

As a writer knowing your character makes it easier to write in “their voice”.

“Their voice” meaning how or what they might say. It doesn't have to be words it can be just a reaction or a look. Knowing your character means knowing their personality and how they handle situations. Making it easy to believe that they are the ones reacting or speaking, not you as the writer. That’s the goal right? I know it’s my goal.

Loving your character can really help you when you’re writing. I always get excited when I know I’ll be writing a scene where one of them gets to be cheeky, clever or funny. It’s what drives me. The parts of the book that come along and tell you who the character is, these are pretty much the best parts. With every reaction and statement the writer is helping determine who that character is to the reader. That’s a lot of power as a writer. 

This is why short stories are hard for me, because it gives you so little time to get to know everyone. That’s probably why I have yet to write a Fiction Friday that I didn’t plan a continuation to in my head. Sorry it’s just too difficult.

Whether you're writing your hero or your villain make them their own person, everyone reacts differently to different situations. A book that is full of people with the same personality sounds really boring. I love my cast of character and I hope readers will too.

I Hate Plot Holes

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I’m not going to lie. I’m a person that has WAY too many pet peeves. Right at the top of my list of pet peeves is Plot holes! This hatred runs deep. Here is an example. Do you remember the Disney version of The Hunchback of Notre Dame? I do, well not the whole movie but here's what I do remember. At the end of the movie there is a big fire and Quasimodo almost falls to his death from the bell tower into the fire. Thankfully he is caught by... the blond guy. (I can’t remember his name, not important for the point I am making) After he is saved our three main characters come down from the bell tower and when they open the doors… the city looks totally fine, it’s a nice sunny day, nothing seems to be burnt, there is basically no damage from the crazy amounts of fire that had just been raging moments before. I remember sitting in the theater thinking, “Wasn't there just a fire? Why is everything fine now?”  That was in 1996. I was 6 years old. Movie mistakes, plot holes and things that just don’t add up in a story have been bugging me since I was 6!

Now, I tell myself it was just a kids movie, don’t worry about the magical non consuming fire, but the example just shows how deep my idiosyncrasies run. Flash forward 20 years from the questioning 6 year old to my current self. The person who decided to write a book heavily based around the most plot hole ridden subject of all time and I mean ALL time. TIME TRAVEL that is!

Plot hole problems slow my writing process way down. Because as much as I try to tell myself to just keep writing, I’ll go back and fix it later, I just end up stuck. I can’t stand to leave the tiniest potential plot hole in my book. I fall into those holes and I don’t get out till I solve them. This can be considered a good thing or a bad thing. Good for people like me that want all things to line up in the end and bad because it puts a heavy block on my creative writing process.

This is were a good outline comes in handy. Thankful I have a pretty good grasp on my story and where the plot holes are that I need to address. But those 3-4 unanswered questions are like giant gaping hole in my head. Things some people could just simply look past and write off as unimportant details. Not me though! Instead I sit and stare at the wall for what seems like hours trying to solve the problem. Don’t worry it’s not a blank wall, I have my entire plot outlined in color coded index cards on the wall I stare at. So not crazy at all.

I just don’t want to do the same thing that is constantly driving me crazy in books, movies and TV.  Don’t even get me started on all the plot holes that have developed in Doctor Who in the last 6 years. But I’ve digressed.

How do you feel about plot holes? Are you the kind of person that gets consumed like me? Or are you one to look past them and enjoy the story? If you are I’m jealous. Tell me your secrets so that I might learn. :D then maybe I’ll stop getting stuck in the hole.  

No NaNoWriMo for me.

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No Camp Nanowrimo for Me

April is Camp Nanowrimo month. If you don’t know what this is, here’s a quick summary. A community of writers band together via the internet and support each other with the goal of each writer finishing an entire writing project start to finish with in the month of April. This is the spring Nanowrimo the sister to the original Nanowrimo that happens in the fall during National Novel Writing Month in November. See what they did there National Novel Writing Month, Nanowrimo, so clever.

I love the whole concept of Nanowrimo. I have even participated in the 2011 November Nanowrimo, and I failed miserably. Not even making it through half of my project. What an embarrassment. But I still think it’s a great idea and the support everyone brings each other is a wonderful help to motivate you through the monumental task of writing an enter book in one month.

However, I will not be participating in this April’s Nanowrimo and here's why. I know I will fail again. That’s not me not having the confidence or dedication, I just know I won’t have the time needed to get it done. I wish I did but with the full time job, my commitment to this blog, oh and of course it’s that time of year when we need to start up the yard work again, so it’s out of the realm of possibilities, the hours just aren't there.

I’m sticking to my plan, finish the first draft of my book by November 1st. That will set me up so I can then participate in the November Nanowrimo, yay! I already have a project in mind for that (Insert maniacal hand wringing here). I like to think this plan will simply help drive me in my goal to finish my first draft.

To all who are participating in this month's Nanowrimo, you’re awesome! You show that book who's boss! If you’ve never heard of Nanowrimo but it sounds like something you would be interested in, you can head over to https://campnanowrimo.org/sign_in to get more information and sign up, it’s not too late.  I mean it’s a little late, but never too late to start living your dreams. Have an awesome April, writers!

Writing is the Easy Part?

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Writing is the Easy Part?

I have read a lot of blogs and articles about writing, publishing, what it take to be a writer and all kinds of subjects in this wheel house. When reading about what comes after you’re done writing your book and how to get published something you hear a lot is that the writing was the easy part. Really the writing is the easy part?

I can see what they mean in a way. Of course the writing is the easy part. It’s just you and your story, you write what you want and no one is going to tell you what it do. It’s pretty low pressure, no one breathing down your neck to get it done (Usually). You can be creative and have a free reign over your stories world. You don’t need to rely on anyone but yourself. So yes I can see how the writing is the “Easy” part.

Speaking as a writer in the midst of my first manuscript, hearing that the writing is the easy part is super terrifying! So you’re telling me that this task, that someday’s seems completely impossible and crushingly overwhelming is the easy part? Yikes! I’m spending hours trying to make my story something that people can follow, find interesting, entertaining, and hopefully even suggest to there friends. Sometimes I even get stuck for weeks on a single idea or chapter, this is the easy part?

Sorry to be in such shock, but wow! The thought makes me almost want to turn tail and run. It’s probably just because I’m currently in a funk with the part of my story I’m working on. I know some parts will come easier than others. But it’s an up and down process. So I keep trudging through the “easy part”.

They say (you know “They” the all seeing, all knowing, made up people, that control all information sent in to the world. Yeah them) Well, they say, once you finish your book the hard part starts. Seeking representation, getting a publisher, marketing, promoting, putting yourself and your book out there, that’s the hard part. I believe them, I do. And when the time comes I’ll be ready and willing to do that hard work, but can we all just agree it’s a totally different thing. Can’t we just say “Writing a book is hard.” AND “Getting a book published is hard.” Both are difficult tasks. I’ll eventually be taking on both.

It might feel impossible some days but I’m still the master of my own fate at the moment.  So I’ll try and hold on to that fact as I push myself through the HARD part of writing my book.

When Inspiration Hits

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When Inspiration Hits! I had a stroke of inspiration this last week! Unfortunately (in a way) it was not about my current WIP (Work in Progress). It was a totally different story, that lay itself out before me and said. “Jamie, you better write me down now before I leave you.” So… I did.

I spent more than a few hours of my time plotting and outlining a totally new projects. Which in turn took more than a few hours, away from my current project. I even started writing a chapter of the new project, it ended up feeling like a forward. I’m not a big fan of forwards. So that fact brought me to my senses. Right out of the gate it didn’t have the flow I was looking for. I realized trying to figure out a whole new story style and flow was not what I needed right now.  Plus I was conflicted about taking any time out of my already full writing schedule for something new. I’m already bouncing back and forth between my manuscript and my blog. So the idea of starting another thing sounds like lunacy. I’m not sure how other people manage it.

But I’m happy I took the time to outline the new idea. I firmly believe that one should always write down a good idea the moment they have it. It’s an awful feeling, try to remember something later and only mildly grasping what it was, usually totally forgetting the part that made it great. Inspiration can hit anytime and we should take advantage of it. It helps me feel like it offsets the times I’m sitting in front of my computer drooling not knowing what to write next.

As far as a manuscript update I’m still on track. But the “inspiration” did slow me down. I’m at about 20,000 words, give or take a few hundred. Shooting for 25,000 words by the end of March, so 11 days. (Oh My)  We shall see about that.

Writer Intimidation!

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Writer Intimidation So you just finished reading an amazing book! You never saw that crazy plot twist coming! And once the narrator weaves the intricate detail that now masterfully link the first chapter to the last your mind is blown! Left reeling at the amazing story to behold! If you're an aspiring write such as myself your next thought might be… “HOLY CRAP, I SUCK!”

That’s right I call it “Writer Intimidation” When the sheer genius of other writers causes you to crush your own self worth as a writer. Don’t get me wrong it’s not their fault. It’s just that as humans we can’t help but compare ourselves to others. Most of these writers have years of experience. I suppose it’s not really fair to compare myself to writers like C.S. Lewis, J.K Rowling, and Arthur C. Clarke. I just might be a bit hard on myself.

It’s easy to look at a great book and tell yourself you can’t write something like that. Don’t listen to that b**ch, yes you can! Yes I can! Will it be easy? Probably not. But that doesn't mean it’s impossible. We are all different and our stories are going to come out different. Thank God! But every amazing author was once just someone with an idea. I’m constantly needing to give my inner writer a pep talk. Things like. “It’s ok, you can do this.” , “It doesn't matter if it sucks right now just get the words out!”, ‘It’s only the first draft.”  And “Even if you’re the only one who ever loves your story you still have to write it.”

Reading makes us better writers, so I’m not going to stop reading just because I get intense “writer intimidation”. I’ll just have to push through the self doubt and learn from these great writers!  

The POV Conundrum

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The POV Conundrum

When I started my manuscript it was in a usual First Person Perspective. I found it easy to capture my main character's voice, and the way she perceived situations. My favorite part was how easy it was to show her sense of humor. I have read countless articles and blog posts all about the different kinds of writing perspectives or types of POV which stands for Point of View. There are many different styles but let's really just talk about the major two. First person, (the main character tells you the story) and Third person (an omnipresent narrator tells the story).

A lot of articles said that many writers find the first person POV easiest to write and I can see why. You just pretend you're telling a story that once happened to you. Don’t get me wrong, I’m definitely not saying writing in first person is easy. All writing has its rough patches, I’m just telling you what I’ve experienced. Doesn't mean that it’s always that way or that it won't be different for you.  (Little disclaimer for ya there.) It’s said that a common problem with the first person POV is you might, accidentally, end up writing yourself instead of your character. Although I feel like every character you write will have a bit of yourself in them, I never really felt my character was me. My heroine is much more extroverted, educated and far more clever.

I was loving the first person writing style. Then the dark cloud of reality settled in over my writing desk.  

As my story progressed and I discovered where I was taking my character and her companions things got complicated. It was becoming increasingly more difficult to give the reader all the information I wanted them to have by only telling the tale through my main character's eyes. That's when I started the POV research. After the information had it’s say it was clear to me I needed to change my manuscripts POV. Third person it is! That rain cloud over my desk started to pour!

In fact, I’m almost done with the conversion and I still don’t see that cloud letting up. I’m getting the results I want in some areas and falling short in others. I miss how easy it was to let my character do all my leg work. She who was much funnier and smarter than I, had been doing a fine job and now that I had taken over, it was all feeling a bit forced. I’m sure all writers second guess themselves, but I wish I would stop. I have to force myself to look at my outline and repeat how it would never work in first person, or more accurately, it just won't be as good. I need that omnipresent voice to pull my story to where I need it to go, instead of only where my heroine is going.  I have many moments I think about switching back to first person then I mentally slap myself across the face and say “No Jamie! Don’t you dare!”  Then I whine something like, “How will they know how funny she is if I can’t put in every little thought that runs through her head?” Oh boy. I guess you’ll just have to work for it, Jamie. Work on your dialog. Make her say it out loud, sing for your supper!  And the whiney writer in me says, “Fine!”, puts her head down and goes back to her laptop. Get back to work!

Tales of Revision

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Happy Monday to all! As if there could be such a thing. (Insert grumpy eye roll here.) I hope your weekends were filled with unicorns and rainbows… and Deadpool. I know mine was. But I also made a lot of progress on my manuscript. By progress I mean I still haven’t moved on to new sections because I’m still hard at work revising the old ones.

Usually one wouldn’t worry about revisions until after their first draft was done. But due to my own lack of foresight and commitment this wasn't an option for me. If you read my post “I have no Idea what I’m doing” You might remember (or not) that I had taken an extra-long break from my story and when I returned all I had to work from was a hard copy of my first 20 pages. Did I also mention that those 20 pages were written in a First person POV (point of view)? A format that I have since changed to a Third person POV.  So… that’s a thing.

My personal and very small amount of experience with revision will be summed up like this...

You're having an argument with two different versions of yourself, in which both versions think that the other is a moron, and in the end they are probably both right. Once things start looking very bleak they will find a minuscule and unimportant thing that they both agree on. Through this stupid detail they find a way to work together to accomplish their goals. Much like a Buddy Cop movie. (Writers, please let me know if this has ever happened to you. Or something like it.)

Despite that summary, I still found things to be thankful for while in the midst of my revision mess. Before I restarted I took a little over a week and a half to just focus on my characters. I wrote an in depth character profile of each of my main and secondary characters.

Where they’re from.

Who their parents are.

What kind of education they received.

How their childhood was.

Where they work.

What they like to do in their spare time.

Skills and Talents.

What they look like.

Their personalities.

Even what kind of foods they like.

The list goes on and on. My principal characters ended up with around 5 pages of notes on each of them. It wasn't the most fun part and I really just wanted to get back to my laptop and start, but I forced myself to finish the profiles. Now that I’m knee deep in revisions I’m so glad I did. Now, when my mind goes blank and I think… Wait. When was that? or Where were they from? It no problem! Just pull out the character profile and the information is right there. Hooray! Second best decision I have ever made! Regarding my manuscript that is. The character profiles have been invaluable to my long, tedious revision process. Oh, and the best decision was getting Scrivener. Which I’ll be talking about in a future post.

The good news is, despite wanting to bang my head against a wall after rewriting the first three chapters, (for the third time!) I’m really starting to like the story again. And I foresee being done with the rewriting portion by the middle of March! I wish it was sooner, but hey I work a full time job too. If that all works out it will put me about 25% of the way through my manuscript. YAY! Woohoo for premature celebratory "yays"! 

"I Have No Idea What I'm Doing"

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“I Have No Idea What I’m Doing.” We’ve all felt that way. It’s one thing to have an idea for an interesting character, or even better, an idea for an interesting story. It’s a completely different thing to able to take that idea and make it into something others want to read. That’s all I had, an idea. Along with it a vague idea for a lead character. I was set, right? That's all you need, right? Like the “Pro” that I am, I started writing. That was five years ago.

Got over 8,000 words deep before I looked up from my computer. With what I’m sure must have been a shocked look on my face. I had NO CLUE where my story was going! What was the point? What was my character trying to achieve? At the end of the story where would she be?  I shut my computer and walked away. (Smooth, real smooth.)  I didn’t look at that document again for two years.

I was working the kind of job that is probably important, but mostly just makes you wonder what on earth you're doing with your life. (Much like I felt about my story’s character) So on my breaks I was looking for an escape so I started rereading some of my favorites. Enter “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban”. All the books in the series are amazing. (Really don’t get me started) The third one in particular ways got my mind turning. Where did my mind go? Yep! Back to my dead in the water story. So pulled up the metaphorical dusty old document and started writing again! Learning basically nothing from the last time. (Like an Idiot) I planned out nothing and got another 2,000 words. Then, because everything in life goes my way all the time, my computer's motherboard decided it was sick of my nonsense, and killed itself. (Perfect) I used the fact that I had no money to replace it as my solid excuse to stop writing again.

THREE YEARS! Work stayed the same except for the part where it got worse. I started listening to audio books. You know, as an alternative to actually talking to people. Once again my favorite authors made me want to create a world of my own. Just like that Tolkien's words awakened the dream again. I got the long awaited replacement for my computer. Since my last computer went down in flames the only thing I had left of my original work was a hard copy of the first twenty pages. Transcribe, Transcribe, Transcribe. I spent a month transcribing and rewriting the 20 pages. I didn’t love my story. I loved parts of it, but it was touch and go, mostly go. I finally opened my eyes. After groping my way in the dark grasping at anything that felt like a plot I wasn't going to take another step till I turn on a light.

Valuable resources, Pinterest! Yes, that is where I turn to for answers. Because I’m a 20some female in 2016, don’t judge me. What do those pins lead to articles and (drum roll……) Blogs! I read about a hundred articles and blog posts on plot development. (I’m using the word hundred loosely here) That’s when my hero arrived. I knew what the 3 Act Structure was but I never looked too hard at it till then. The beautiful concept that could save my story.

Pretty simple Act One: Introduction, inciting incident, rising action and first turning point. (Things get bad) Act Two: Obstacles, more rising action, second turning point (Things get REALLY bad) Act Three: Climax, descending action, and resolution. That’s basically the over simplified version. Isn't it glorious!  I’ll be talking about this more in upcoming posts. For now just know that I have a literary crush on the 3 Act Structure.

I stopped writing, but this time it wasn't just a stop it was a time to regroup. I would get my plot together and really find out what my character was doing with her life. (At least then one of us would know). It took me five years to figure out I’m not the kind of writer that can work without an outline. You don’t have to have an outline to write, but boy does it help. Especially if you're writing science fiction with overlapping time lines.

Basically that’s how the 3 Act Structure became my new  BFF.