Sunday, July 29, 2012

The Planning Stage

I keep saying that I am a "pantser" - that I write by the seat of my pants. And that is very true. But it is also true that I like to have at least a bare bones outline, so that I have a clue where my story is going, and how my characters relate to each other. Without that, they could get into all kinds of trouble! Knowing where I am going (and yes, this can change as I write) creates boundaries for me to work within. They don't stifle me, but they do give me a grid to work within.

If I try and stay within the confines of this grid (which can get very complex!), I have to do less rewriting. It is not at all fun when you realize that your chapters don't hold together ... and that they aren't holding together in a very glaring fashion! Definitely a "How could I have done that!" moment. Hopefully, I have learned from my experiences.

I work with a bare bones outline - but it is an outline. It not only keeps me organized (very important for us Cappies!), but it allows me to revise in a timely manner, without having to look things up, or sit there wondering how I got to where I am in my story. I actually love to do the outlines for my stories - it is a wonderful way for me to get into the creative process. I put down whatever comes to mind, then go back and edit it to bring the elements together, and take out elements that obviously are not going to work. Saves me time, saves me headaches, and my fur kids have a happier mommie!

What can your outline do for you? For a mystery writer like me, it can help establish clear motives. (Readers tend to wander off without finishing a book when things like motives are not clear.) The primary plot and the sub-plots are able to sort themselves out. (The sub plots make the story, IMHO. I just finished reading "Stranger In The Room", by Amanda Kyle Williams, and the sub plots are so finely woven in that the story just flows - one never questions what is going on, or why.)And ... your story stays on track ... no wandering off into its own little world!

One last word on outlines - you can do them however you please! Write them in a file, in traditional outline format. Get out the junior high index cards and work with them. Go high-tech with a spreadsheet (very cool, but not for a non-techie like me!), or use writing software of some type (there are plenty of options out there!).

It doesn't matter how you plan your story ... it just matters THAT you plan it!

(c) July 2012 Bonnie Cehovet

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Write First, Plan Later - Plan First, Write Later

Do you write first, then plan later, or plan first, and write later? I am a pantser - I write first, by the seat of my pants, then go back and pull things together. Oh - I have my Bible - a written out guideline for each of my characters that paints the picture of what they look like, what they have accomplished, where they went to school,where they live, where they work, what makes them tick. Without that, it would be all too easy to get off track, or worse, to get them confused! And I do have a general direction that I want my story to go in. I just allow my characters to write it.

I write whatever my characters want to write. And I let it flow, even when I know that I am going to have to research a detail to make sure that my character was right. I tend to do a lot of research on designer cloths, as some of my characters have the larger view of life. I write until I stop. I don't edit as I go along, I don;t check spelling or punctuation - I write! Then I go back and read my story back to myself. Does it sound believable? Does it move well? If it doesn't sound right, or doesn't move well, I may change a word or two. I eventually want this story to sell, after all!

Sometimes I note that I am using a word or phrase with too great a frequency. I try to change what I can, but if I cannot come up with something, I will check a Thesaurus. I try not to get too clever, though. I want the words that I choose to fit into the story, and not take on an unintended life of their own! At times I will take a phrase, or even a sentence or two out. Sometimes even a whole paragraph, if it just isn't working. If it is truly bad, I will just delete it. No harm, no foul. If it sounds good, but just doesn't work with this story, I may save it in a file. I never know when I might need it!

Make sure that you are using the right words for your story. They have to match the story, and they have to move it forward. If they are weighing it down, they need to go. To know in your heart what good writing is, go read some good authors. Look at how their words flow, at the choices they made, and at how those choices affect you the reader.

Here's to the awesome art of storytelling!

(c) July 2012 Bonnie Cehovet

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Backstory & Flashbacks

I am in the process of completely reinventing a story that I began several years ago. I started out by fleshing it out, then recognized that tossing the majority of the material out, and beginning anew was the way to go. One of the things that I kept, aside from the major character, was the theme that the basis for the current issues was lodged deeply in a very murky past. Now the issue is - how do I bring the past into the present in a way that it doesn't overwhelm it?

At this point I am researching flashbacks, and how they can be woven into the story. One of the first pieces of information that I read was that they need to be used wisely. The article noted that beginning writers (I still qualify here) tend to bring the backstory in too early, to give too much away too soon. Point taken! When the story is in the past, it can be difficult to move it forward. I need to be careful here for another reason - I intend for this particular mystery to be the first in a series, so I want to leave it very open to movement and characters.

The next piece of information that screamed out at me was that the backstory must be shown, not told. Had I not seen this, I would have jumped in, head first, talking about the past, rather than showing it. Again ... point taken! If we show the past, we take t he reader their and involve them emotionally. They want to read more, which is what we want them to do!

There are many ways in which backstory can be shown. The primary method that I have chosen is recollection - my characters will remember bits and pieces of the story, until it finally becomes a whole, clear picture. I haven't decided if I am going to write full scenes into the recollection. Perhaps once or twice, but not more than that. I may also include letters, journals, diaries, or pictures. Whatever will make the most impact on the story at any given point int he story.

(c) July 2012 Bonnie Cehovet

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Google + Companion

Google + Companion Author: Mark Hattersley John Wiley & Sons, Inc. 2012 ISBN #978-1-118-18646-6

As writers, it behooves us to know a tad bit about social media sites, and what they have to offer. Google + is making huge inroads in the social media venue,and what better person than Hattersley (Editor in Chief of Macworld UK)to help us navigate this new and rich territory. I am someone who is not exactly tech savvy - and not exactly too worried about that. I look for articles, books, and videos that will help me make best use of the sites that I work with (as well as best use of my time). I love Hattersly's mindset - that technology helps people to unlock their creativity. Well said!

This 279 page book is organized into sixteen highly usable chapters, with an appendix of resources that includes links to the Microsoft Safety and Security Center, a strong password generator, articles like 5 Steps To Branding Your Social Media Profile, and much more. The chapters address issues like what is Google +, why it should be sued, how to set up a profile, how to navigate Google +, what circles are, and howto use them, how to hang out with your friends on Google +, how to upload and manage photo's, what is 1+, and how to use it in conjunction with Google +, how to manage Google + settings, using Google + on a mobile device, managing privacy and personal information, and much more! There is an index at the end of the book, and each chapter is broken down in the Table of Contents so that even someone like me can pick up this book and immediately go tot he section that will answer my questions (and I do have a lot of them!).

Each chapter takes you step by step through the information, including screen shots where appropriate. In this case a picture is worth 1,000 words, and then some! This book literally is a companion - you sit down in front of your computer, book at your side, and easily accomplish your goal - whether it is setting up a Google + profile, adding friends, creating a circle, creating a business page (yes, there are person and business pages!), uploading photo's ... whatever you want to do, this book will walk you through doing it!

Things that are very important - that we don't even think about - are addressed. One such thing that slowed me down was working with the Google + bar. Had this book been available when I first joined Google +, I could have saved a ton of time!

This is one book that is staying right by my computer!

(c) July 2012 Bonnie Cehovet

How To Get Characters To Interact

You have your plot worked out, and you have defined your  characters . The next step is getting your characters to play nice and interact...