Out of Order

by Milli Gilbertout of order

No, not that kind of out of order. The out of order that doesn’t have its ducks all lined up. We’re talking non-linear out of order. This type of order doesn’t mean it’s broken. Just… rearranged.

For some, myself included, I write like a squirrel with ADD. I have all my nuts scattered around in my head, and I need to go dig them up. Sometimes, I find the one labeled “14” first. Sometimes I find the one that says, “The End” or “Epilogue” on it. But most of the time, I find the one labeled, “1” first. I write whatever comes up when I find my nuts. *makes a note to change the analogy to something like a raffle drawing instead, to avoid the euphemistic/dirty pun that just popped up*

I pull the raffle ticket out of the hat. I write the scene. I pull another scene out of the hat, then write that as well. I go through this process on repeat until I’ve written the entire story. Thanks to Scrivener, this method of writing has gotten much easier. I write each scene on its own card, and I can just move the card to get it in the right place. This process will happen several times before I get things in the right order. You can imagine how hard it is for me to write things in order. Sometimes I get two scenes that are back to back in the timeline and were written back to back, but mostly, nothing lines up until I lay them out straight. It’s torture for me to intentionally write the book one scene at a time, in order.

Linear writers are very different from me – and I know because I used to be one of them. I used to write in order because I needed to write what was happening “now” because it was the direct result of what “just happened” or “happened a while ago” and the precursor of what’s going to happen next. I needed to write “now”, not “then” or “next”. And I get that it probably improves productivity, by doing everything together, by having a plan and sticking to it. In all honesty, I have more completed longer works that were written this way than shorter pieces. It is cruel and unusual punishment, to make a linear author write something that is not linear to the story’s current position.

My guess is that a majority of us fall in line somewhere in the middle. Most of the time, I don’t write with any kind of an order decided on, other than maybe a couple key plot points in the story, but even those, I might not write in order.

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Milli Gilbert is a stay-at-home mom who loves to play with words almost as much as she loves to play with her kids. All of her stories involve romance, and maybe a little bit of mystery. She loves to write about cowboys, shifters, and dragons. And smut. And can usually be found trying to find interesting ways to combine them. She just took off after a cowboy-dragon shifter in search of his one true mate… Don’t worry. She’ll be back. Or you can find her on:Twitter, FacebookGoogle+, and Pinterest, and of course, on her blog, Hairballs of Genius.

Why? Or Channeling Your Inner 4 Year Old

Why do I write? Because I have all these stories in my head that want to be shared with the world.

Why? Because every time I read a book or see a movie, I think of a different way that could have gone. And I can’t rest until I make it go that way. Continue reading

Co-writing a Book or Series: How it Works, by May Burnett

How it started

Sometime in the fall of last year,  another member of Scribophile (my favorite writers’ site) was looking for a writing partner. There was a short discussion about the matter on the forums, in which I was skeptical. I had heard of co-writing teams, but imagined that such enterprises can easily end in quarrels or tears.
Nonetheless I was tempted to try the experiment, since one should never decry something without direct knowledge. Moreover, the other writer’s strengths complimented mine. She can write fast, and produce saleable copy with a distinctive voice; since she used to earn her living as a ghost writer, charging above average rates. I am better at plotting (when I bother) and have more experience at editing, after self-editing over a dozen regency romances.
The project she proposed – a first-person, Urban Fantasy series “with a kickass heroine” sounded appealing, a pleasant change from regency romance. It is very important that both writing partners are and remain enthusiastic about the project, and familiar with the chosen genre. We decided to give it a try.

Legal and organizational parameters

First, we discussed and agreed in writing (via email) the practical details. What pen name to use, how to share the hoped-for income and expenses, who would put be the one to put the book up on Amazon and/or other distributors, what was our budget for editing and promotion, and for the all-important cover?

If one of us had been too poor to devote even a bit of cash to the project, it would have made matters more difficult, but fortunately that was not the case. While I invested more in this joint project than I ever have in my own books, it was not a big deal for me, and has proved to be an excellent decision.
(Nonetheless, if I ever do this again with another partner, I would probably insist on having a written and signed contract spelling everything out at the start.)

Co-writing step by step

The next step was to do the world-building, since this was a fantasy set in an alternate world. (For a romance, that part would have been easier, we would merely have decided on location and era.)
We drew up fairly comprehensive descriptions of the world, its politics, history, species, magic, etc. and background info on our main characters, in a Word-building Document and a Character Sheet. I did most of that part, but my partner contributed additional ideas and feedback.
The next step was the outline. Since I was in charge of plotting, and my partner of the actual writing, the outline had to be a lot more detailed than I was used to. After a bit of back and forth, until we were both satisfied, it amounted to several thousand words, over 10% of the finished book. This was all much more time-consuming than I had reckoned on, but at the same time interesting and instructive; I learned quite a bit from the process.
From the outline, my partner produced a first draft literally within the week; she can write up to 10 000 words per day. Despite the long outline the first draft was only just over 60 000 words, but decidedly “fast-paced” – other writers would have made a book twice as long from my plot.
We sent the (unedited) book off to a dozen beta-readers and sat back to wait for their reactions.

Final Adjustments

Influenced by the many romances I had written over the past year, I had included a strong romantic sub-plot complete with a hot scene. From the beta feedback, we realized that the romantic arc would do better extended over the whole series, and replaced that erotic scene with something more ambiguous, that merely promised romance at some future point. Fans are now downloading the subsequent volumes to see if (and when, and how) the protagonists finally get together, and from several accounts, keeping the romance low-key made the series more interesting to our male readers.
The main female character has some flaws (too impulsive and reckless, prone to act without thinking matters through, can be aggressive and foul-mouthed) that not everyone likes, but many readers love her. We keep getting feedback from beta readers of later volumes that she should not use the “f-word” and so on, but it’s an important part of her character, and we are not going to change it.
After my partner had re-written several scenes on the basis of the beta feedback, the book was sent to a professional editor for line editing, followed by yet another editing pass plus proofreading.

Publication

On Christmas day 2015, the first book came out at last, exclusive to Amazon for the time being. Due in large part to the excellent cover contributed by my partner’s boyfriend and her marketing savvy, it immediately got on several bestseller lists, and remains among the first 1000 books sold by Amazon to this day, as does the second volume that came out in March. Both books have already garnered over 100 reviews, mostly favourable. The third volume is already written and will be out in May, and the outline for the fourth is finished as I write. We are looking into audiobooks and translations too.

Lessons Learned

• If two writers have a professional attitude, similar tastes and complementary talents and connections, co-writing with a clear division of work is an excellent way to leverage their respective input to a higher level.

• At least one partner should be good at marketing, and like doing it.

• Co-writing a book or series takes at least as much time as doing one by yourself. Time-wise, the bits the partner is doing are outweighed by the need to consult on everything.

• The co-writing process led me to take the business of self-publishing more seriously, not as a lucrative hobby but a professional challenge, that demands a well-presented and well-marketed product. The result amply justified our efforts. This was quite a learning experience, that I am planning to apply to my own books as well.

• In times of low motivation, the fact that your partner is relying on you is highly motivating. There were some recent months when for various reasons I neglected my own books and lost enthusiasm for writing and promotion, but I still completed my duties for the joint project, so as not to let my partner down. In consequence, my writing income has not suffered and even increased.

• All in all, as long as your partner is trustworthy, you are compatible as writers and have the same goals, I can definitely recommend the practice.

Warm and Fuzzy, reboot

Can never be too sure!

 So, you just found out your boyfriend’s a werewolf. Relax and take a deep breath, everything’s going to be fine. There will just be a few… quirks you’ll have to live with.  Not like any of us don’t have our moments.

All those old legends, superstitions, and myths had to come from somewhere, right? This means you’re not actually going crazy. I’m hoping as you read this post some of the fears will be soothed, because let’s face it, Alpha males don’t go away easily (especially if they have it in their mind you’re theirs).

Maybe I should first start with congratulation, you survived. Yay! Well, that look of horror your giving me would never go over well.  What guy, after opening up about something important, wouldn’t be hurt.  I’m not saying he’d kill you, geesh, dramatic much? The initial shock and the glance at the closest exit should have clued you into your new reality: Your boy can read you! Don’t all women want a guy in tune with our moods and can step in?

Look at this development as a good thing. Turn that frown up side down.  You passed the first test, because more than likely he would have chased you down if you tried for that door. Silly werewolf guys and their need to tackle prey running away.  You’re not dealing with a dog here that would rather run after bones or cars or something. This instinct is far greater, along the lines of stalk and consume. I’m getting entirely too off track…

Should I mention my qualifications? I’ve worked with animals of various kinds for thirty some years; either, finding them along the way on my own or through the Veterinary Clinic where we treated dogs, cats, horses, cows, and the local zoo. There’s nothing quite like having a panther stare you down to show how insignificant you are in the grand scheme of things. But again I’m veering slightly sideways since we’re talking werewolves. (were-panthers are an entirely different species though if you like purring and have a constant supply of raw meat…) I also write a lot of paranormal stories. This life experience translates into furry creatures that go bump in the night, often times more than once. ;}

Yes, lucky you! This guy of yours has to be pretty great if he’s showing off his furry side; normally they’re not allowed to do this for just anyone. I mean there’s a reason you were drawn to him to begin with- the muscles (and I’m sure they are pretty) or possibly the dark and brooding vibe. The whole bad-boy, Alpha Male mojo? I don’t blame you, who could resist!?!

Once you’re past the physical prowess, something had you stare at the phone for days on end waiting to hear his deep, rumbling voice. That spark of awareness from when he touched your hand the first time and pulled you closer. His ability to shred clothing quickly? If any of these pertain, then life could only get better. Werewolves have a tendency to be very hands on and possessive. He might say ‘mine’ a lot too. Who doesn’t want a cute pet name?

Don’t worry; you’ll get a few hours to yourself once a month -during the full moon. (There are several myths and superstitions that are easy to look up and find that’ll explain in more detail so I won’t go into that now) They may be a bit more intense during this time because of the wolf-needing out. Run and play, sounds fun. The whole supernatural community revers the moon though, but only the werewolf has to shift forms during this time. Isn’t that cool! So, remember he might be a tad bit of a Mr. Grumpypants, but it’s not like we don’t have our moments during the month ladies. But don’t fear, there are a few apps out there to help track the moon. Just make sure your Fluffy stays inside. Better safe than sorry since that would be an awkward conversation the day after.

There have been rumors going around about vitamin combinations that help were-creatures not shift. I’m only mentioning this because werewolves might be a tad bit more irritable when avoiding the call of the moon. The vitamin option would be needed though for those that have to work. It’s not like a hunky cop, firefighter, or strapping military dude can just call in with an excuse of needing to run naked under the moon. *sigh* Sorry, had to take a break for a moment and …

Speaking of gainful employment, werewolves have a great work ethic. Once they sink their teeth into something, doesn’t take long for them to devour it. Maybe their assertive approach to life, or that they like to work with their strong, capable hands, comes in handy. Haha, made a funny!

Werewolves are generally pretty social creatures and generally belong to a pack.    Each wolf within has a position in the hierarchy. The occasional “Lone Wolf” survives on their own though. Can you believe your luck of finding a guy that belongs to a gang. From what I’ve heard, these packs, they’re a great support system and alibi. Bonus!

And, if you ever get lost, the wolf heightened sense of smell and hearing would come in handy. This extra ability makes them great trackers. Your guy will be able to find you anywhere.

All I’m saying is to be proud. This werewolf chose you. Give those furry ears a stroke and let him run on the moon. He’ll come home to you as soon as he’s chases the last critter away. Who wouldn’t want to be Team Jacob or Alcide? Sign me up for some of that!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Addict Problems

This was the week I was going to finish my draft. There were a few chapters to go and I was pumped. Not only because I’m finishing the draft, but I’m excited to dive into the edits. This is the second novel I’ve written and unlike the first, which is still in a fairly rough state, I know this one isn’t bad.

So the plan was write the final two or three chapters (which already exist in rough draft form), hand them over to my critique partners and while I waited for final feedback, make some adjustments to the storyboard. Continue reading

Just the Facts, Ma’am: Tips on creating characters with emotional relevance

by E. M. Youman

Sniff, sniff. Why am I dabbing my eyes, you ask? I just finished watching season three of Once Upon a Time. I think it’s rife with great storytelling tips for beginning writers. Spoiler alert: If you haven’t been watching this awesome show, stop reading. Go fire up Netflix and then come back and read this article. I’ll be talking about some pivotal scenes from the show. Continue reading

Beyond the Page-First Steps to a Great Cover by Kate DeHart

Before getting more serious about my writing, I’d never put much thought into book cover design. Of course there were covers that caught my eye, but I never dug much deeper into why that was true.

As I got further into my first novel, I began to think about what kinds of things I wanted on my own cover. I started on a design with the help of a friend, and actually ended up really happy with it. The cover got great feedback from those I showed it to.

Continue reading

Subtext Versus On The Nose Dialogue

I recently received some feedback on my story pointing out I have too much on the nose dialogue. It’s a problem I’m aware of, but struggle to put right, so decided on a little more research.

What is on-the-nose dialogue? It’s when a character says exactly what they mean and reveal his/her exact emotions. The result can be flat and lacking in depth. The reader is deprived of opportunity to interpret the underlying meaning and to be more actively engaged in the story.

As an example. My main character, Leo, finds a stray dog outside his office and his personal assistant says:

‘I bet you keep that dog.’

‘Definitely. She’s a great dog,’ Leo replies.

Here, both characters are laying their cards on the table and the dialogue feels stilted and boring, without emotion. The solution is to use subtext; the unspoken meaning beneath the words. In life people rarely say what they mean for many reasons. Maybe we don’t know how we feel, or believe it to be true at the time. Perhaps, admitting how we really feel will leave us open and vulnerable in some way.

Back to Leo and his dog, here’s take two. I have him asking the PA to try and find the dog a good home with a large garden.

‘Like yours,’ the PA asks, one eyebrow raised.

‘I’m not keeping her,’ Leo responds immediately.

At no point in the story does anyone tell Leo he’s going to keep the dog, and he continues to deny he wants to. But hopefully it’s clear that everyone, including the reader, know where the dog will end up.

In her book, Subtext: What Lies Beneath, Linda Sager likens on the nose dialogue to “the tip of the ice berg, but the subtext is everything underneath.”

Leo’s continual refusal to admit he wants to keep the dog, hints at other issues simmering beneath the surface. He lost his parents and sister in a car accident aged 16. He doesn’t want any more attachments in his life because he’s worried about losing them too.

So this was my attempt at using subtext, and I didn’t make a conscious effort, it just happened. In writing, some things seem to happen instinctively. The problem comes when it isn’t instinctive. Further on in the story, nearly all my emotional moments feature on the nose dialogue which I don’t seem able to put right. I kept hoping there might be a place for it at the end of a romance story, as surely to be together, the hero and heroine must both express how they really feel.

But then I remember the movie Jerry Maguire. When Tom Cruise returns to get the girl, instead of ‘I love you, I’ll take you back,’ Renee Zellwegger responds with ‘You had me at hello,’ now one of the top 100 movie quotes.

In his blog post,  9 Steps To Writing Dialogue With Rich Subtext, writer/director, Charles Harris, suggests creating two random characters “and give them something they mustn’t mention. Say, two prisoners are waiting to be hanged. They talk of anything but that – the weather, their last meal, a mouse in the cell. See how every word, every pause, can be filled with unspoken meaning.”

He also says to practise.”Subtext is a muscle, like any other writing skill. You develop it by working it.”

So, for me, it’s back to the drawing board….

 

 

Writing is Like Folding Laundry

On Scribophile’s Writers Who Love Romance group, we have developed a habit of including our daily chores along with our daily writing goals. Because Life can get in the way of writing, so it’s good to keep them under surveillance. And every day is laundry day, somewhere. Continue reading