Category Archives: plotting

Writing Process Blog Tour – My Part!

Many thanks to my friend and fellow fictioneer, Jerilyn Dufresne, author of the charming and funny Sam Darling mystery series. She tagged me in her recent blog post (Read it here). Thanks, Jer! I enjoyed the challenge.

What are you working on now?

Lately, I’ve been emulating a scattergun – I’m working on four books. In addition to researching and writing the sequel and prequel to Memory’s Child, I’m also updating and revamping a mystery/suspense novel (Dying to Meet You) and a romance/adventure novel (Trial Run). Both of the latter are set in Florida.

How does my work differ from others in its genre?Memory's Child

Well, how many books do you know of that were generated by a can of tuna? Seriously, I found myself in a small, neighborhood grocery store one day, staring at an entire shelf section packed with cans of tuna. I thought about all the grocery stores in my city and all the cans of tuna they stocked, then all the stores in the country and so on. The idea of all those dead fish was staggering, and I wondered how long the ocean could continue to pro
duce so much fish if the population keeps growing.  You see where that kind of thinking is likely to go.

Memory’s Child is more than a cautionary or post-apocalyptic tale about humanity outgrowing the resources of this planet, though. The idea of prejudice as a fundamental part of humans’ makeup is another of the book’s premises, and it’s an important one, I think. In Memory’s Child, the circumstances of the past have changed the focus of prejudice. As Shelana, the protagonist says, humans no longer have “distinctions of color or collar or cash,” but have replaced that with another kind of prejudice – against intellect. “Hate what you do not comprehend, wage war on what you fear, and destroy what you cannot have. Prejudice is as old as mankind,” she says. I thought that idea was unique enough to explore.

Why do I write what I do?

Good question, and I have no idea. Much of the story in Memory’s Child simply erupted shortly after the tuna incident. I was not planning a novel, had not thought about this story, and had no idea it lurked in my pen, waiting to attach itself to paper. I wrote the word “aberration” on a blank page in my notebook, and from that point forward, I just went along for the ride. If you can imagine trying to write, longhand, every word of a book as it is read to you, that’s what it was like getting Memory’s Child on paper. I wrote as fast as the pen would move, terrified that I would miss something important, eager to read what would happen next.

Over the cpen_nib_with_reflectionourse of about four days, I learned the story as it appeared on the page. I only stopped writing when I fell asleep, pen in hand. I still have the original manuscript with odd little squiggles marking the page. My husband, Randy, brought me food and made sure nobody bothered me with visits or phone calls.

Those were among the very best days of my life. Later, typing the manuscript from those handwritten pages, I added descriptions and other details that weren’t in the original narrative. The story came first, the details later.

How does my writing process work?

Sadly, no other stories have flowed from my pen the way Memory’s Child did. Writing would be so much easier if they did! Instead, I write more than I should, adding and subtracting scenes as I go, until I find what works. I still write longhand and I do not outline as many authors do. Once I tell the story, I’m done, and an outline is, to my odd brain, the same as telling the story. The book would never get past the outlining stage. Instead, I start at the beginning and just keep going to the end. When the story is written, I add in transitions and descriptions (I prefer dialogue and action to writing description). This is my first edit. The whole thing is put away for at least a month to let the story steep. Then I pull it out and edit, edit, edit until I’m happy with it, which can take months. I still itch to edit Memory’s Child as ideas continue to occur to me.

What are my writing plans for the future?

Once the prequel and sequel are finished, I plan to complete the rewrite of Dying to Meet You, then Trial Run. I have a couple more novels in the very-rough-draft stage: Fair Warning and Katie Enigma. My goal is to finish at least the first four this year, if recent health issues allow. After that, I’d like to take my time on Fair Warning, especially, since the plot of that one is quite intricate.

I haven’t warned them, but I’d like to tag Allyson K. Abbott, author of the Mack’s Bar mysteries, a unique new series, and Lauren Clark, author of Dancing Naked in Dixie, Stay Tuned and Stardust Summer.

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Let’s all ‘Dance Naked in Dixie’

Even if you aren’t a fan of contemporary women’s fiction, or “chick-lit,” Dancing is a good read.

Before I write my review of Lauren Clark’s Dancing Naked in Dixie, a couple of notes. First, I am pleased to call Lauren Clark a friend, though we’ve never met. She’s been friendly, incredibly helpful and a joy to converse with via Facebook and e-mail.

Second, I received an advance reader’s copy of Dancing, but the author did not ask me to review the book in return.  She did ask for a very brief blurb later, which I provided.

Okay, with all that out of the way, here’s what I think: read it.

Lauren Clark’s first offering was Stay Tuned, set in the town where I live, so it caught my interest right away. Plus, the setting was a television news station. I have a (very) little experience with television news and three decades of experience with print journalism. I enjoyed the book and appreciated the spot-on setting and characterizations, though contemporary women’s fiction isn’t the genre I normally choose to read.

Some authors write book after book with about the same level of skill, and some authors can never quite produce anything as good as their first books.

Some, like Clark, improve with experience. While Stay Tuned was a fun read and I certainly don’t resent spending my time on it, Dancing is a leap forward. Clark seems to be fine-tuning a native skill for storytelling.

Dancing starts off funny and fast, then proceeds to send the reader off on a roller coaster ride of romance and adventure, sprinkled with more humor. You might even shed a tear or two, though I won’t say why.

Here’s the synopsis from the product page on Amazon:

Travel writer Julia Sullivan lives life in fast-forward. She jet sets to Europe and the Caribbean with barely a moment to blink or sleep. But too many mishaps and missed deadlines have Julia on the verge of being fired.

With a stern warning, and unemployment looming, she’s offered one last chance to rescue her career. Julia embarks on an unlikely journey to the ‘Heart of Dixie’—Eufaula, Alabama—home to magnificent mansions, sweet tea, and the annual Pilgrimage.

Julia arrives, soon charmed by the lovely city and her handsome host, but her stay is marred by a shocking discovery. Can Julia’s story save her career, Eufaula, and the annual Pilgrimage?

I grew up about 30 miles from Eufaula, Alabama. In addition to camping, fishing and one truly foible-filled 4th of July picnic, I once worked at the newspaper there. I know Eufaula, and when you read Dancing, you will get to know it, too, because Clark shows the town to you with exquisite accuracy.

You can almost taste the sweet tea and hear the slow drawl as the characters interact. Clark is careful to include all the senses, gifting the reader with the sights, sounds and scents of this lovely old Southern town and its people. I laughed out loud when Clark revealed that one of the characters is named Shug Jordan, after the famous Auburn football coach. She even explains the correct pronunciation: JERR-dan. Now that’s nailing it!

While I’m not as familiar with New York City, I suspect Clark, a former television newsperson herself and thus accustomed to extensive research, nailed that city’s “personality” as well.

The pacing is well done. The characters are distinct and generally well-defined. You don’t get handed everything – some subtleties may dawn on you a page or two later. I like that.

Dancing is interesting. As a writer, I read books not just for story but for craft, and Clark has a good grasp of both. I expect we will see her writing career grow exponentially, and I’m looking forward to her next book.

While I received the reader’s copy free from the author, I bought the Kindle edition as soon as it was released. Why? Because I wanted to read the final, polished version, and because I firmly believe in supporting good authors as much as possible.

Click on the image of the book cover to go to the product page on Amazon. Dancing Naked in Dixie is available in e-book and paperback form.

Let it Flow, Let it Flow, Let it Flow

Do you outline your novels? Do you write synopses of the chapters before you write them or make lists of pivotal scenes for each chapter?

Although most of the zillion books on writing that I have read insist that you must outline or in some way plan the course of your story, I don’t do it.

I like surprises, but only in books and in writing fiction. I like to go with the flow, wherever the story takes me, rather than drag the story to some predetermined finish line whether it wants to go there or not. Too heavy. Too much trouble.

Besides, I know me better than the authors of those how-to-write-well books do. If I write an outline, detailed or bare bones, or synopsize the book chapter by chapter, I will never write the darned thing. Once I’ve told the story in any fashion, it’s told. The fun has been had and the party is over.

That is also why I rarely tell anyone what my work-in-progress is about. I may talk about a troublesome scene or even chapter, but never the whole storyline. Partly because I don’t know the whole story myself, yet, and partly because, as I said, once the story is told, it’s told.

I have used Cyn Mobley’s go-to plot points system in her BAM: Book A Month ebook, but mostly for problem areas that have me stumped, like a pivotal scene that refuses to pivot. That is when planning comes in most handy for me. I stress that because your experiences may be (and often should be) wildly different.

For me, outlining and short chapter-by-chapter synopses were most helpful when working on a query letter to an agent or publisher. Since I’m deeply in love with indie publishing, the outline/synopsis helps most with writing blurbs.

I usually have a pretty good idea of the story I want to tell before I begin writing.  Nothing specific or concrete, just an idea that has germinated and begun to grow.  Memory’s Child was an exception – I not only had no plan for the plot, I didn’t know what was going to happen until it flowed out of my pen. I had no inkling that the story was there, lurking in my brain’s creative half. I wanted to write romances!

If outlining works for you, hooray. If it doesn’t, hooray. Forcing yourself in either direction will only make you miserable and the writing more difficult. Whatever it takes to help your writing flow more easily, do that, no matter what the how-to books say.