Recipe for Writing a Novel

by Brenda on December 30, 2014

From the archives of Writer’s Rite by yours trulygood words

Elements for writing a story:

2 or more hearty characters, preferably one with a problem in need of solving (you can proceed with 1 character, but with two there is possibility)
Peppering of quirks
1 major plot
½ dozen, more or less, sub plots
Multiple dashes of conflict
Heavy sprinkling of tension
Senses on the pages in equal parts:
1/3 touch
1/3 smell
1/3 sound
Believable dialogue
Just enough narrative
Adequate setting – too much and your readers get bored, not enough and your readers get lost
Imagination

Not required, but helpful:

Unlimited patience
1 good chair
Belief in self
Support of family and friends (note: some friends may abandon you during the writing of a novel)
1 Dictionary
1 Thesaurus
One ream of paper or 2-dozen blank moleskins (or journals of preference)
Time (scheduled, measured, managed, and respected)
Daily word limit
A room of your own

On a large blank canvas combine the essential ingredients, stir with equal parts vigor, passion, blood, sweat, and tears, in unquantifiable measurements. Note: The time required to complete is unique to the writer. The approach in which the writer mixes and stirs with vigor is unique to the writer. How the story unfolds on the page is unique to the writer. There is no class or how to book that auto-magically makes the words appear on the page. Only the writer sitting at his or her desk, hour after hour, day after day, until the story is complete, makes this happen. After mixing, place printed pages in a shoebox and store in a dark place for days, in some cases weeks, in rare cases, hours. When ready proceed to the next step.

Writing SuccessOnly proceed with this step when your head is clear, the heart is pure, your objectivity is solid. This phase will require the strength of Hercules, a heart of stone, a swift hand with a blade (or the delete key) to cut and chop, remove the backstory, the excess, the pretty little words that have nothing whatsoever to do with moving the story, the adverbs, the that’s, the passive verbs, and all the shite that sounded really good when you wrote it the first time, but makes no sense when you read it aloud. CHOP IT.   CAUTION: This first attempt — often referred to as a draft — may often require a new blank canvas. In rare cases, a bottle of wine is required to face this fact. DON’T CRY. Keep calm and write on.

The above measurements are not exact and merely a suggestion based on personal experience, loss of friends, numerous bottles of wine, several blank canvases, a new chair, three new computers, endless journals for notes, software, unnecessary funds spent on writing books.

At the end of your journey — perhaps 100,000 words give or take — you’ll have a story as unique as you are, one only you could write. You’ll walk around the place where you live in awe of yourself. You’ll be amazed. You’ll shout to the moon. Tears of joy will run down your pale cheeks. You’ll dance a jig. You’ll tell the checkout clerk at Safeway, your hairdresser/barber, your great aunt Tootie, even you best friend from second grade, Elvira, about the book. Some will smile, some will say, “WOW,” some will wonder if you’ve lost your mind and remind you of the missed episodes of Dancing with the Stars. Some will even go so far as to ask, why.

You might even wonder the same thing. After all, those lost hours spent in front of the computer will not bring you instant fame and fortune (that might require a few more books and a heavy sprinkling of Tinker Bell’s fairy dust). Something in you will know there is no answer that will satisfy the person asking the question. How do you explain the sublime, the surreal, and the burning passion to create from inside of yourself? Personally, I shrug. If pressed, I say, because it was the only way to quiet the voices in my head. Of course, they run for the hills when I say that, but I don’t mind. I mean, I don’t ask them why they watch reality television when they could be writing. Fair is fair.

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Abigail Owen on Writing

by Brenda on December 18, 2014

Hello Abigail! Thanks for joining me today on my sweet little corner the virtual world. The word on the street is you have a deep love of desserts. So…. If you were a dessert, what would it be and what would it say about you?Abigail Owen

Hi Brenda. Thanks so much for having me!

Lol. I’m so known for my sweet tooth among my friends that no one asks if I’m having dessert when we’re out, they just ask which one. If I was a dessert I’d say I’m a no bake bar. They’re easy to make – I’m a very laid back person. They take very little time – I have very little time to mess around. They have tons of layers that still blend really well. I find that people who know I’m a writer are surprised when they find out I was an analyst for Intel for almost 10 years. And my coworkers were always shocked to discover I was a skydiver.

Paranormal and Contemporary, Indie and later published by The Wild Rose Press. Ok, this is a big one, why Indi first and later a publisher? Paranormal to Contemporary – a calling or a deliberate choice? And finally, which is/was your preference for both?

Phew. Big one. Okay – I started with Indie a few years ago. I had finally finished a book, Blue Violet, and found an awesome editor who helped me polish it. I loved the idea of learning the entire publishing process from start to finish (something which has helped a lot as I’ve worked with The Wild Rose Press). I was also in the middle of getting my EMBA and looking for a final project. So I decided to self-publish the book and make the business plan for that my project. I did start querying with that book around the same time. But I also got such positive feedback from readers that I finished out the series faster than I’d anticipated.

For your second question…I write what I love to read. I have TONS of ideas for both paranormal and contemporary. I’ll be flipping back and forth between them over the years I suspect. I might even add historical in there at some point, though the research end of that is intimidating. I grew up on contemporary and still enjoy a good office romance or cowboy or small town. Paranormal is so fun to write with the limitless worlds we can build and the added dynamics that can give a relationship. And historical…I was a history minor so I guess I just love to look back at by-gone days. I’d say my preference is a 40/40/20 split contemp/paranormal/historical romance.

rewrite-black-orchidWhat do you think are the biggest challenges for a writer today? And how do you overcome them?

I’d say the biggest challenge is the “noise.” Noise from so many authors in the mix with self-publishing become so easy with access to a worldwide audience. More authors isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but just makes it harder as an author to be heard. All I can do with this is keep writing, keep trying to improve as a writer, and keep querying. The rest I’ll leave in God’s hands.

Then there’s also the noise that comes with this tech-savvy world. Wading through the tweets and posts and workshops and yahoo groups and emails and newsletters. It’s a TON of information, and I find most of it to be beneficial, but how to keep up!?! My method? I don’t even try to read all of it. I check all my feeds and my emails several times a day. I take a lot of notes in OneNote so I don’t lose the information and can search to find it again. That’s the best I can do.

How do you balance the day job as a technical writer, wife and mom, published author, and your creative-self?

I keep a daily list of stuff to get done. There’s no other way I’d keep up with it. It helps that I’ve finished my MBA (a few years ago now) and I dropped the day job to focus on my family. I still write and do my author gig mostly in the evenings after they’re in bed, and my day is dedicated to kids and home. I’m blessed to be able to do that. It may also help that I have ADD. You’d think that would be a hindrance, but actually, I find it helps me focus more if I’m constantly doing.

And what advice would you offer to others on keeping sane and meeting your personal writing deadlines without too much compromise?

I would say don’t beat yourself up on the nights you can’t get it done. For most people, this starts as a passion. Don’t let that fade in the face of deadlines. For me personally, I find I write best in bursts. I give myself permission to let other things slip for a few weeks while I obsessively get the first draft on paper. I spend more time on the drafts. But find what works best for you – steady pace of 3 pages a night (and I do that sometimes too) or bursts. But mostly, don’t beat yourself up about not writing, or not keeping up with the house, or whatever else you’re beating yourself up over.

Of course, no interview would be complete without the obligatory question about the moment you realized you wanted to write. Where, when, and what?

When – I was 10 and placed in an essay writing contest at school. The what came later. I spent 10-18 writing horror (strangely, since I’m not really a horror fan – but maybe that was my first paranormal forays). Then I realized that I mostly read romance, and since that’s what I loved to read, it stood to reason I’d love to write it. But it took me another 15 years or so – and many tries – to finish a book. That first book is like finishing your first marathon. After that, you realize you can do it, and it comes more easily.

Can you share with the readers (and me) some insight into your creative process? How do you approach the blank page and start a new project sort of thing.

I write the first draft very quickly – 2-3 weeks. I find the first draft to be an odd sort of torture, and much prefer editing. I spend months drafting. I’m more of a pantser than a plotter. I’ve tried plotting in detail, doing in depth character discoveries, etc. And I find that as soon as I start writing, all that goes by the wayside and I discover as I go. I do a very high level plot outline for the first draft. I take a lot of notes as I go along, things I want to fill in or go back and add. After a couple of rounds of drafts I start looking at things more mechanically. And eventually I send the thing off to Wendy. For my indies she was my editor. For my published stuff I still have her beta for me because her feedback is always well worth it. I also have a few critique groups and a new critique partner. Like I said, drafting is where I spend the majority of my time.

Your latest publication, Andromeda’s Fall, a story of a mountain lion shifter, the fantastically gorgeous heroine, death, being stalked by wolf shifters, making hard choices and doing some things she’d rather not to secure her fate and save others like her, hits all the must haves for a Brenda read. I don’t generally ask authors where they get their stories from because it’s not an easy answer, besides the answers might reveal are weirdness. Instead, can you share with us a bit about the process you used to plot out the book and how you created the timeline? Do you follow the same process from book to book? And finally how has your process evolved from your first book to the latest?

The book started with a single scene in my head. A mountain lion shifter on a rock ledge overlooking a forest. She’s on patrol, and she has something to prove. There’s a male mountain lion above her observing. That’s it. From there I had to figure out the details like who she is, how she got there, what she had to prove, and where to go next. I tend to like feisty heroines, so that part was a no brainer. The rest fell in place as I did research on real mountain lions and what they’re like. That helped me build the world and come up with what she’s running from.

My first book, Blue Violet, was entirely pantsed. And took a LOT more editing with Wendy to polish. I learned a lot from that process. I’ve also taken a lot of workshops since then. I actually keep a list of things I’ve learned from every book that I go back over each subsequent book and make sure to apply. Simple things like “no talking heads” and more difficult things like pacing and hook. But the overall process, at a high level, remains the same. Fast first draft (which has gotten faster) and then lots of drafting and editing after that.

Do you have a favorite author? Who, why, and what have you learned from his/hear books?

Not a single favorite. A bunch. I love J.K. Rowlings world building. I love Lucy Monroe’s heroes and how their character develops over the course of the book. I love Heather Killough-Walden’s heroines and how strong they are. I love Rebecca Zanetti’s ability to connect through a series so effortlessly. I love George R.R. Martin and J.R.R. Tolkein’s fantasy worlds and the complication of their plots. I love Laura Hillenbrand’s ability to draw you into a historical story like it’s fiction. I could go on and on.

Have you ever written a letter to an author? Why not, and who would you write if you did?

Never. Although I’ve tweeted and commented on Facebook. Usually liking their latest releases.

What can you share with other writers about self-marketing and social media?

You can go as heavy or as light as you like. My personal experience, is that the more I pop up online, the more I sell. However, I’ll also say that I really enjoy interacting with my readers, so I’m usually happy to do the social media stuff. The hard part is finding the time. I create a monthly master schedule of blog posts, giveaways, and facebook posts to help me spread everything out (and remember). I keep a list of things I’ve seen other authors do on social media that I’ve liked and try to mix up my own activities. I do depend on scheduling (Hootsuite is awesome) to help me with a lot. I also use Masquerade Tours for to do a cover reveal and blog tour for every release. They’re awesome.

What’s next for Abigail?

A lot! (Yay!) Sarai’s Fortune (Shadowcat Nation #2) is in my Wild Rose Press editor’s hands as we speak. I’m in the drafting phase on a skydiving contemporary romance before I query it out. I thought I was done with another contemporary set in small town Texas, but got feedback from an agent recently that means back to drafting. After those are done…I’m still debating which project to start next. The Shadowcat Nation will be a four book series, so probably the 3rd book.

Thanks for joining me today, Now tell us where can we find you?

I’m on all four of the below regularly. You can also join my newsletter for monthly updates. On my website, go to the contact form and check the box for the newsletter.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest

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Thanks For the Rubies, Now Pass the Moon

by Brenda on December 15, 2014

Manic Monday on Grandmothers and the lessons they teach usRubies

Grandma Della always said, with death comes a reckoning. She was big into living within boundaries and maintaining harmony with the greater universe. Latin women from her generation believed what the Pope said and generally didn’t have a clue about new age teachings. I don’t think she knew about the Yin and Yang of things. Mostly I’ve come to believe she figured out balance through life lessons. God and the Pope have nothing to do with reality. Rather they are part of the bigger picture, and like everything else unexplainable, are part of the checks and balances. She didn’t express it this way, but it was clear in her words when I fussing with outcomes I hadn’t predicted. I often wonder if Buddha, maybe even God, had her on direct dial.

 

“Bren, stop fighting the outcome. You had to know it was coming, girl. Make a bad choice and bad will come. Make a good choice and the heavens will smile down on you.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, Grandma D, I didn’t make a bad choice. I am manipulating the variables. Heaven has nothing to do with what’s going on in my world. I am insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I am…”

“You’re wrong Hijita, you are significant. You carry the same voice, have the same chances, pay the same dues, and put your Levis on just like the rest of us. You’re responsible and accountable for your choices and actions. It’s the way of life. ”

“No one up in your heavens has a clue I am around. I control my destiny as I control what is coming. My life, my canvas, my destiny, my outcome is mine to determine.”

 

Grandma and meShe’d laugh at me and return her attention to the raw tortilla dough sitting on the yellow Formica counter in front of her. With the rolling pin and the might of her forearms she’d roll up, down, lift and turn over the dough, repeating the motions until the dough took shape. Once it was thin and circular like a salad plate she’d lift the edge with her fingertips, peel the dough off the floured counter, and play patty cakes with the masa until it resolved into a perfectly shaped tortilla.

At whatever age I was in any one of the seven hundred ninety-two plus conversations she and I had about my cavalier attitude towards life over the years, I’d repel her words at their utterance. What I thought I knew she didn’t is beyond me. Now when I need her guidance I have to turn my head towards the heavens. Back when she was feeding me warm tortillas filled with fire roasted green chilies, the wisdom of her words would slip through me, and my consciousness without so much as a tickle as it passed into me. She’d passively impart valuable wisdom I’d need at some future date in my yet un-lived young life. Without consideration of the time she’d accumulated or regard for the nexus of my circumstances to hers, I’d spit her street corner philosophies back out as if I’d eaten lox a week beyond its sell-by-date. I was never aware her knowledge—given freely and for my well being—clung and held on for the sake of my dear life.

I hadn’t a clue I was wired like Della until she died. I’ve come to realize everything she taught me is right where I need it when I need it. I have the mystical instinct to reach inward and pluck it out when an occasion arises. If I am confused, floundering, or lost in grief and uncertain about what comes next, I react as if being guided by some unknown force, like a Jedi sort of power. Despite my youthful ignorance, my budding Jedi-self hoarded her words, gleaned and stored all her teachings as she imparted them.

Now all I have are memories of her and the scripture according to Della on life and living, which I pass along to my kids whether they want to hear it or not. Of course, they give me the same sort of look I gave her, but I don’t stop because one day they will need the mystical, innate, Jedi power required to weather life’s turbulence.

What was the most valuable lesson you were gifted from a mentor? And have you passed it along?

 

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The Slippery Slope of Becoming a Writer

December 8, 2014

Manic Monday: On Writing What I know about writing is elusive. It’s as fleeting as the sunrise over the Rockies but can linger as long as some enchanted evening sort of love–a lifetime or the length of a night. I didn’t know this about writing when I took up this all-consuming passion. I was arrogant […]

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Nora Blithe on Writing

December 3, 2014

Welcome Nora Blithe to my virtual corner of the world, where the coffee is expensive, and the wine is free. It will never give you a headache. Drink up. Bummer. I just had three cups of coffee. Is it too late to switch to wine? And can you loan me some cash? I’m out now. […]

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