Tag Archives: writing process

Beginning, ending, and what’s in between


How do you ensure a story has a good beginning, a satisfying ending, and good continuity in between?

Honey, if I could answer that one, I’d be on the New York Times Best Seller list, or at least my novels would be top sellers in their category onAmazon.

Ah, well.

But of course, I do take care to try to ensure a good beginning, ending, and continuity.

I am not one of those writers who outlines their novel in detail, but I do need to know the beginning, the ending, and the high points of what’s in between when I start out. Or at least, I think I do.  So far I have been fairly on target about the ending, even when I don’t know how I’m going to get there. For example, in my novel Broken Bonds, (WARNING: Spoiler) the main character, Major Brad Reynolds, is accused of treason. I knew which way I wanted the case

One of my drawings of Aleyne, mountains wiith the multi-colored desert sands in the foreground

against him to go, but I had no idea, until I wrote it, how I was going to manage to do it. Fortunately, my subconscious is a better plotter than I {wry grin}.


As to the beginning, that’s trickier. I wrote a children’s chapter book (that has yet to appear) about a little boy who loses his mother in a fire.  I initially started with the fire, but finally realized that the story really started in what was at the time Chapter Three where my main character’s mother is dead, his father still in the hospital, and he is going home with his grandmother. I discarded part of the first chapter of the earlier versions of Broken Bonds, too.

As for filling in the middle, since I don’t outline in detail, I have notes for the chapters I ‘know’ about and fill in the ‘blanks’ as I write. I tend to have more detailed notes a couple of chapters ahead of where I’m writing.

And when I reach the end of the first draft, I go back and revise. At that point I have an overview of the whole novel. I revise more, I believe, than someone who has a detailed outline. That’s the trade off. However, I don’t know enough about the novel to do that before I’ve written the first draft.


Skye Taylor http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/blog/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Margaret Fieland https://margaretfieland.wordpress.com
A.J. Maguire  http://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/
Beverley Bateman http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Rhobin L Courtright http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com

Anne de Gruchy  https://annedegruchy.co.uk/category/blog/


Guest Post: The Pitalls of Creation, by Heather Haven

I’m in the process of creating a protagonist for a new humorous mystery series, called Persephone Cole and the _______ (insert subject here). It’s agony. Getting to know a person — even a fictitious one — takes time, thought, energy, trial and error. Sometimes they get pissed off and you don’t know why. Sometimes they laugh when you think they should cry. You thought they’d like bagels in the morning but they don’t. A living, breathing character, even one on paper, has a will of his or her own. It’s maddening.

It brings to mind the latest of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, Death Runs in the Family, which debuts in May. One of the central characters takes off for Rio de Janeiro, just like that, out of the blue. I mean, excuse me? I don’t know anything about Rio de Janeiro. I’ve never been to Rio de Janeiro. I’m sure it’s a terrific place, but come on; I’ve got a novel to write. Then this character has the effrontery to park herself in Ipanema, a fancy schmancy beachside community, and at a pretty posh place. What now? So I did scads of research, which took me weeks and weeks, cursing the day this character was born, even though I birthed her. Some kids are really ungrateful.

Thank Gawd, Lee Alvarez, the protagonist for the Alvarez Family series, has never betrayed me like this…yet. I’m waiting. I need to be careful. Every now and then Lee does something I’m not expecting her to do. She isn’t your typical protagonist and it’s starting to worry me. She’s funny, impulsive, smart, talented, loves dancing, handbags and a good joke. She knows her own worth, but has moments of self-doubt. She also has a mind of her own. These are all recipes for danger for the wretched author.

Agatha Christie hated Hercule Poirot. She wanted to dump him like crazy, unwrite him, banish him. She was sick and tired of him going his way when she wanted him to go hers. Like Arthur Conan Doyle, she even killed him off. But Holmes came back four years later and I suspect Poirot is wandering around London searching for an unsuspecting author to give him voice. I say, be careful England’s writers. Avoid any egg-shaped little guy with a mustache.

But back to me and my characters. I keep creating these strong women with minds of their own who breathe disdain for anyone who tells them what to do. Pity this poor novelist. I’m in for it, I can tell.


Heather is a story teller by nature and loves the written word. In her career, she’s written short stories, novels, comedy acts, plays, television treatments, ad copy, commercials, and even ghost-wrote a book.
Her first two novels of the Alvarez Family Murder Mysteries, Murder is a Family Business, and A Wedding To Die For are now out in bundle at MuseItUp Publishing: https://museituppublishing.com/bookstore2/index.php?page=shop.product_details&flypage=flypage-ask.tpl&product_id=227&category_id=1&option=com_virtuemart&Itemid=1
The 3rd of the series, Death Runs in the Family, will be out in May 2012. Heather says they are a joy to write. She gets to be all the characters, including the cat! She lives in San Jose, California, with her husband and, yes, two cats.

Follow Heather’s blog at: http://tinyurl.com/4nensnp
Murder is a Family Business Youtube book trailer:
A Wedding to Die For Youtube book trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zE5dfVzMRzA
Follow Lee’s daily Twitters at: http://twitter. com/PILeeAlvarez

I Try “Creative Calisthenics” by Terri Main

I just started reading “Creative Calisthenics” by Terri Main. Being the person that I am, I started at the beginning of the book. The first exercise called for a pack of index cards (I didn’t have any handy), but the second is “My Computer Went Crazy.” This is major fun.

So here’s my story. Stay tuned for more. If I can write them, y’all can read them.

Here’s the link to Amazon, where you can purchase a copy of Terri’s book

My Computer Goes Crazy

Today my computer went crazy. When I went to boot it up, it said, “I do not wish to boot up this morning. My data cache hurts.”

I said, “I’ll take you to the Cache Doctor.”

“No,” it replied. “I am an extensionalist, suffering from angst. You have downloaded too many extensions. I am shutting down.” Then all the little blinking lights went out.

So, doctor, can you help? I hate to see a computer suffer.

Guest Post: Alliteration in Literature

Today I’m delighted to host Jennifer (J.R.) Turner on my blog.

Award-winning author J.R. Turner lives in Central Wisconsin with her husband and three children. She began writing in high school, and after a decade working as a commercial artist, started her first novel in 1999. Aside from crafts, camping and cooking, she loves holidays. A favorite is Halloween, a combination of spooky supernatural fun and chocolate. Visit her at http://www.jennifer-turner.com to learn more!
Alliteration in Literature

Writing is a journey—and often this journey takes us places we never thought we would go. I enjoyed poetry in my teens and played with the different forms and variations over the years. In fact, the very first time I wrote something I was proud of, (in 2nd grade, bless you Mrs. Sanders!) turned out to be a poem:

1-2-3 Birthday wishes go so fast
Like the breeze in the willows
Dancing among the grass

As you can see, I never forgot those three lines. Of course I used slant rhyme and my meter was way off, but this began my love affair with alliteration. The way words can come together, sounding so similar, intrigues me to no end. When I write, I often fall back on alliteration to heighten the pace or the sense of place. There’s a difference between the lines:

The farmer struggled to control the tractor and steer it away from the derelict henhouse.

The farmer fought for control of the tractor, turning to avoid destroying the derelict henhouse.

For me, the more the words slide together, the less intrusive they are. My mind can melt into the story and forget I’m reading. You’ll find tons of this in all my books and short stories, and yes, even in those few poems I still write today. Just look at the title of my new series:

Delbert Dallas and the Dragon Diaries: #1 Voyage to Viking Island (link: http://www.omnilit.com/product-voyagetovikingisland-527701-228.html )

#1: Voyage to Viking Island—Release Date: March 22nd.
When the new guitar Delbert Dallas got for his birthday turns into a dragon named Barbecue Bob, the adventures are just beginning. First stop—Viking Island where Prince Rolloff is running away from his wedding—at the age of twelve. A Viking afraid of a girl? Even more shocking is Rolloff’s new best friend.

Walter Wheeler, a bully held back two grades, has discovered his own time-traveling dragon, Firebrand. When the prince offers a bag full of gold to get him off the island, Walter happily accepts, once he hears the plan is to escape on the royal longboat. Not only will he take Rolloff’s gold, he’ll take all the treasure on board.

Can Delbert convince Prince Rolloff that Walter Wheeler is no valiant Viking in shining armor? How do you explain a dragon named Bob to a Prince? What will happen when the rival dragons meet snout to snout? Find out in the first adventure of Delbert Dallas and the Dragon Diaries.

Each story in the series will be released on the 22nd of each month:

#2 Civil War Skirmish
#3 Viva La Francine!

The first in a series of once-monthly releases for reluctant readers, part of the Electric Shorts program for middle-grade kids, is just the beginning of the fun I have writing with alliteration. So what do you think? Do you enjoy reading or writing with allitearation?

Thanks so much for having me here, Margaret!


Guest Post by author Kat Duncan: The Root of all Emotions: Fear

The Root of All Emotions: Fear
Dwight Swain and Jack Bickham both wrote that authors need to give the reader “something to worry about”. People read for feeling and that doesn’t mean it needs to be sappy, but it does need to hit an emotional nerve. You can hit an emotional nerve with tension or suspense. And I don’t necessarily mean the kind of suspense in a thriller-type novel.
My personal definition of suspense is: expecting something (usually bad) to happen and it doesn’t happen or something else (equally bad or worse) happens instead. My personal definition of tension is wanting something (usually good) to happen, but it won’t and you have to wait or work harder to get it to happen. Do you need both in a story? No. One or the other will do. Both are nice too.

Swain says, “So what’s behind suspense? Fear.” I think the same goes for tension. What’s behind tension is fear. Fear that you won’t find that “special someone” or that you aren’t good-looking enough or thin enough or your teeth aren’t white enough for this person to like you. The worst kind of fear of that type is being rejected. Swain also says “fear is subjective”. My fears are not your fears. Things that would drive you crazy don’t bother me one bit. Situations you’d sail through give me the creeps or make me shake my head and say “I could never do that.” If I think about it, I might even suggest that fear is at the root of all emotions. So how can we use this information?

Would it make sense to match up characters whose fears overlap, dovetail or squash one another? For example: two people want the same thing. They both can’t have it, and it can’t be shared or divided.
So far, so good, but I’m not feeling the tension. Ok, one of these people is afraid of having his estranged wife run away with their children. If he can get the thing, his estranged wife will accept a divorce and let him have the kids because she doesn’t want them anyway and he does.
Getting more interesting? Ok, the other person who wants this thing is a woman who just got divorced from her husband after finding out he made some bad investments and lost all their savings, then ran up their credit cards to the max to cover his tracks. She was so eager to divorce the guy that she signed the divorce papers without realizing that most of the debt is hers because she got the house. If she doesn’t get the thing right away, she’s going to lose the house and her two kids will be homeless.

Better? Do you think this problem is solvable? You shouldn’t. Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to tell me how you are going to decide which person gets the thing. These two people are each afraid of losing their kids. Fear is a powerful motivator. Look for the underlying fear in your character and you’ll have good insight into why they behave the way they do.

By the way, this technique is known as The McGuffin. The McGuffin is the “thing” that the characters want and will do anything to have. It was popularized by Alfred Hitchcock, no less. So, what do you think? Do you have a McGuffin in your story? Do you think it matters what the McGuffin is or is it just about the characters themselves? Can you find the fear in your characters’ actions?

Thanks for stopping by. Share your comments here today and check out my year-long novel writing course that begins in May at Savvy Authors. You can also find me on the web at

November Chapbook Challenge: Lessons Learned

Robert Lee Brewer’s November chapbook challenge has come to an end. Check out the comments section of Robert’s blog for November for all the wonderful poems written by all of us participating writers.http: //blog.writersdigest.com/poeticasides

Since I was also participating in NaNoWriMo, In order to not go completely crazy I wrote poems that I hope will be part of the book. They are supposedly written by the ancestor of one of the alien characters in my novel, and thus I wanted them to reflect the moral, spiritual, and ethical viewpoint of the aliens. It ended up being a very rewarding experience. The poems were considerably more “religious” than I would normally allow myself to write, and also contained more metaphoric imagery than I normally find in my poetry. As this lack is something that I have been wanting to address, I find this a particularly interesting development.

Guest Post by author Jane Sutton

Here is a guest post by author Jane Sutton. Jane has had several articles published and has won a couple of short story contests. Her first novel, The Ride, received an honorable mention for best first chapter of a novel. Her second novel, Reigning Cats and Dogs, (due to be released later this year) was a finalist in the 2009 Royal Palm Literary Contest.
Jane lives in Florida where she’s an active member of the Gulf Coast Writers Association and the Florida Writers Association. When taking a break from writing, she enjoys walks along the beach or in the park, bicycling, kayaking and playing with her grandson.
The Ride is available in hardcover or on Kindle on Amazon.com . http://www.amazon.com/Ride-Jane-Kennedy-Sutton/dp/1595071938/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1233850866&sr=1-1. It is also available through other online bookstores or can be ordered by your favorite brick and mortar store.
To find out more, please visit her blog http://janekennedysutton.blogspot.com/ or her web page http://janesutton.com/.

Helpful Assets for Writers

It’s not enough to simply be a writer these days. Authors must develop certain skills and traits in order to be able to survive to write another day. Here’s my list of what I think every writer needs.
10. A basic understanding of grammar and punctuation
9. Patience, patience, and more patience for nothing happens quickly in the publishing world
8. The tenacity to edit your work several more times after thinking you’d rather die than to have to read your entire manuscript again
7. The strength to delete a paragraph (page or chapter) that you spent the last eight hours perfecting after realizing it has nothing to do with the idea you were hoping to convey
6. The ability to grow skin as thick as a rhinoceros or thicker in order to handle rejection notices or not so glowing reviews
5. The self-discipline to sit down and write or rewrite daily, even during those periods when playing solitaire might seem a bit more productive
4. To keep your publisher happy, you must be able to focus on writing the next book, while trying to arrange signings, interviews and other innovative marketing techniques for your currently available book(s)
3. The skill to set up and maintain a presence on dozens of social media sites—which also means you must be able to express yourself in 140 characters or less.
2. The knack of retaining all the passwords and log-in info for the numerous sites and forums you’ve joined
And the number one thing a writer must possess:
1. The ability to cram at least 48 hours’ worth of writing, marketing, blogging, reading and networking into a 24-hour day and still have a life
What assets would you add to this list?

Tomorrow: Next on the VBT tour, visit Dianne Sagan when she features author Marietta Taylor

Wednesday Poetry Prompts, Chapter Buddy, and other updates

Every week Robert Lee Brewer posts a poetry prompt on his blog This week’s prompt is to write a shopping poem

Here’s mine — it’s one of my series of “Blues” poems…

No Money, Honey, Blues

Pay is burning in my pocket, stop into my favorite store.
T-shirts, only twenty dollars if you purchase three or more.
I pick up six or seven though I’ve got a dresser full.
I start humming the no money, honey blues.

Next door is the bookstore, and I find I’m walking in,
buy a largish cup of coffee, wander by the bargain bin.
I buy myself a bag full though I’ve already read them all.
I am whistling the no money, honey blues.

Then I’m in the liquor store. I buy a case of wine.
Though I never drink it, salesman says it’s mighty fine.
I fork over ninety dollar. Now my money’s almost gone.
I am singing the no money, honey blues.

My house is overflowing, no more room to fit things in.
I can call Salvation Army, I can rent a storage bin.
I hand my money over and I clear my basement out,
while I chorus the no money, honey blues.

I got my chapter buddy EJ’s comments on my chapter 14 and rewrote parts of the chapter as a result. Ej’s comments are always a great help, and this time was no exception. I sent him my chapter 15, and I’m working on chapter 16. I’m close to the end of my book, and the chapters feel harder and harder to write. Of course, I already have an idea for a sequel. I also have several other book ideas, because I often finish a novel with “but I want to know what happens after that ..”

Weekly Chapter Challenge

Well, another week has passed and I’ve sent E.J. another chapter. I’m nearing the end, and the chapters are getting more difficult to write. I’m so, so glad that I’m participating in this — I don’t know how long I’d let myself procrastinate about these final chapters if I weren’t accountable to someone for that new chapter every week.

I’ve also written a few more poems, and again this week they’re all rhymed. I’ve been on an orgy of rhyming lately, as I’ve stopped fighting my urge to write unfashionable rhymed poetry. Ah, well, two of my poems (rhymed!) are recently published in a new online journal – Dark Eye Glances. Do check it out.

Another week for Weekly Chapter Challenge

Well, EJ and I have again exchanged chapters {claps self and worthy chapter buddy on back}, and I’ve started working on comments I received from my in-person critique group, too. Today I’d like to start on another chapter and finish up working through the comments I got.

Oh, yes, and I was able to pass on advice I’d received at a recent teleseminar to fellow WCC-er
Melissa Dean, who will be going to a conference soon.

I didn’t do much writing yesterday — instead I finished eading a nifty sci-fi novel, “Veracity” by Laura Bynum. I highly recommend starting it when you have all day to devote to it…

And here’s one that I plan to buy:
“A New Birth of Freedom,” by Robert G. Pielke

It’s an alternative history sci fi novel. Here’s the blurb:

The world shatters for University history professor, Edwin Blair, when his wife and daughter are killed by an invading force of alien monsters. Life no longer seems worth living and the eminent destruction of everything else he once held dear no longer matters. So when the scientific team tasked with repelling the invasion approaches Blair with a request, he agrees without a second thought.

His task?

Convince Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee to bring their combined armies to bear on the invasion instead of attacking each other at Gettysburg on July 3, 1863.

The fact that they lived and fought 300 years before Blair was even born is the least of his worries.

I absolutely love alternative history sci fi {drool}. But I promise, really I do, to write my chapter and finish my edits before I run out to buy it…