Friday, July 24, 2015

Planning by the Seat of my Pants


If you’ve spent any time reading the inner musings of novelists then you know there are essentially two types of writers – pantsers and planners.

To define each, a pantser is someone that flies by the seat of their pants and writes whatever comes to them in the moment their fingers hit keys while a planner meticulously details a full outline of each book and sticks to it through the end.

Which is better? As far as I’m concerned either way is terrific if it works to produce a quality piece of fiction.

Me?

To the tune of the Osmonds: I’m a little bit pantser, a little bit plan it out. But to fully understand how that’s possible, let me share a bit of my writing process.

Outline pantser

When I sit down to start working on a new book I think about the characters, the basic plot and some of the scenes. I’ll start writing and maybe come up with one or two gems that stick around but at the beginning all I really try to do is figure out what the characters are trying to say and why they do what they do.

In other words, I am an outline pantser.

An outline can be a great tool while working on a book. Consider how many characters there might be in a piece of fiction. Then how many personality traits each of those characters have. How many places they go, things they do, moments they have that push the story forward.

Those little nuances are what give a book a feeling of completion, fullness.

But I couldn’t possibly plan for those moments, sometimes spontaneity is crucial to a story so it feels organically birthed and not contrived.

The first 25 or so pages I write will work toward developing a story. One that isn’t real yet but is on its way. Meaning that I haven’t spent enough time with the characters yet to understand their motivations or background.

Think of it like this: you get invited to a dinner party but know no one other than the host. Could you tell me what will happen at the end of the night before you even arrive? (If you can then you might be a planner!)

Likely, the answer is no.

What might happen at the end of the night only becomes apparent after a glass of wine, some food and dialogue among your peers. A book is the same thing with the only difference being it all comes out of your head.

Planning plot points

That’s the point where things get interesting for me as a writer. After meeting and getting to know all my characters in a pantsy way, I start to dwell on the good and evil sides of their personalities.

After all, I write mystery fiction. Which means every character in the book will have something to hide as well as the face they put on for the general public around them. Good guys aren’t always 100% good people, just like killers aren’t always 100% evil.

But once I have a general idea about who those characters are, because of the handful of pages I write to work it out, that’s when I can get down to the planning phase.

In the past I mentioned my novel journal where I make notes of the various aspects in my book. That journal is a direct result of caution-to-the-wind pantsing (and yes, I’m using this as a verb, sue me). The cast is established, motivations of the killer/victim/observers are clear and the setting established.

Then I can take that info and start building scenes because, like a game of chess, I can now see three moves into the future.

The moments that make a book special are the ones that seem to spontaneously appear on the page though, the unexpected things that turn a corner or change a reader’s perception of a character.

All that stuff comes with pantsing an outline.

They surprise me in a good way and then I work hard to fit those surprises into the greater structure of the story as a whole.

Some make it, some don’t, but all of that early work has merit because it gets you closer to your character’s inner motivations.

But I don’t get bogged down

To be a pantser means writing stream of consciousness and not caring much about how it will fit. Because, to be a pantser also means you understand how much editing you’ll be doing later, regardless if there’s a solid outline or not.

For me, to embrace being a pantser means to just keep writing. Even when I encounter things that trip me up.

For example, a new character can be confusing at times. I’m just getting to know them so sometimes I can’t name them until more of their “self” shines through.

In that instance I use brackets and come back to the issue later. Sometimes not until the end of editing the first draft! Here’s how that might read as I pants my outline:

I looked out the driver’s side window at this twenty year old kid in front of me. He was average height and build and his fancy nametag read [VALET NAME] but all I could think of was that episode of Friends where Ross bleached his teeth. The kid’s smile had to glow in the dark.

How I do it:
  • Use the bracketed label in the story as I write
  • Immediately note down the character and bracketed info in my journal (for reference)
  • Use the same label throughout the book
  • Take advantage of Word find/replace when the name comes to me
  • Note the name in the journal (for future reference)


So, as you can see, I feel there’s a lot of merit in both styles of writing and I use both in the crafting of my books.

Which do you use? Do you do a little of both, like me, or does your writing tend to lean one way or the other?



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Friday, June 26, 2015

Excerpt from soon to be Released Reckless Hearts


For the past few months I’ve been writing, editing and creating a new adventure for Shaw McLeary, the main character from my first book, Reckless Abandon.

And I’m really excited to announce that my sassy leading female will be back for book 2 in The Shaw McLeary Mystery Series – Reckless Hearts.

My latest work of fiction is slated for novella length of about 25k words and a release in July. And I can. Not. Wait!

If you read Abandon you remember there were a few nagging questions that didn’t quite get answered. Things that could totally alter the direction of Shaw’s future. The wait is almost over for those answers. Hearts will answer them all!

Of course that begs a new question – what might Shaw have to work through this time and what decisions did she make after finding out the truth?

Want a little taste of what’s to come? Just go ahead and continue reading. Then don’t forget to sign up for my monthly newsletter so you’ll be the first to know when you can pre-order Reckless Hearts!

Excerpt from Reckless Hearts A Shaw McLeary Mystery #2**






**as of draft June 10, 2015

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Friday, May 8, 2015

Reckless Abandon Cover Re-release!


After weeks of design consultation back and forth, the re-booted, re-designed cover for Reckless Abandon is HERE!

But before I get to showing it off, first please allow me a minute to thank my kick-ass cover designer extraordinaire – Judi FitzPatrick!

For those of you who don’t know Judi, here are a few fun facts:

  • She’d been snapping fine art photos for more than half her life.
  • Judi started blogging about photography and her process 8 years ago.
  • She loves to do collage and manipulation to bring ideas to life in visual format.
  • This isn’t her first rodeo (AKA: Not her first book cover).
  • Judi is my mom.


Now, you might be thinking that I’m super biased and the truth is, well, I am! But as an objective artist I can also see so much freaking awesome in this new cover that I can’t even stand it!

Let’s review my old and lame as hell cover first. Remember this exceptionally boring design:


SNORE!

That’s because I had no idea what I was doing. Not really. Three years ago when I asked my mom to put the original cover together I was so green and had just started reading Indie Author books. Covers were one of the last things on my mind.

Of course they shouldn’t have been last, I even wrote about judging a book by its cover.

But now…

I knew the cabin image had to remain (because it has SO MUCH plot intertwined) but didn’t know how to really convey the book in visuals. So what to do?

Well, that’s where my mom came into play. Because, now I've got this:



Can someone say BOOM?!

Even if you haven’t read the book there’s no denying a sense of the mystery, the story and the characters (maybe even some of their motivations?) just by looking at the cover.

And that’s what a cover should do after all, right?

Right!

Judi, AKA: mum, totally nailed it! Thanks so much mum, I am in love with this new cover and I'm so excited to share it with the world!

Please visit Judi’s (AKA: mum’s) website and check out some of her work to see if she can help you put together a cover that really pops and sings - like this one!

If you haven’t read Reckless Abandon yet you'll want to pick up your copy soon because book 2 in the Shaw McLeary Mystery Series – Reckless Hearts – will be out this summer.

And wait until you see the cover!

Pick up Reckless Abandon for your eReader today, just go here.


Plus, to get the inside skinny on when Reckless Hearts hits the stores sign up here for my newsletter and be the first to know!

EDITOR NOTE: Due to a severe spike in spam, I no longer accept comments from Anonymous users. All comments made on posts 3 days or older will be moderated. Spam will be deleted (and I decide what's spam). A new window opens when you click to comment.