Sometimes, it feels like the story almost writes itself. Sometimes it takes more effort. The third book is almost through the editing stage, and should be published before the end of the month. Book three has taken a little more effort to get the story how I wanted it.
Not book four, though. Book four was outlined in about twenty minutes. I didn’t expect that, as I had only a vague idea what the story was, no details at all. No, I started writing, putting in the various stages of the story, and before I knew it, the book was outlined. I was surprised by a few plot points, actually, but when they just appeared on the “paper,” I knew it was what I wanted.
Seriously, as the story appeared before me, I was delighted and surprised. Now I’ve had a chance to write the story for a few days. It’s again working out almost as if the story exists, and I’m just releasing it to the world.
This is also in direct contrast to the martial arts book I’m writing. That story outlined easily, but my outlines are fairly vague. No, book four is already forming details, but the martial arts book is proving to be a harder write. I’m almost halfway through my first draft on the martial arts book, but I have a better feel for the fourth Forest Guardians book.
How can some stories just appear before us, while others take effort and time to materialize? Why do we sometimes have a book flow, while other books feel like effort? Part of it is passion and enthusiasm. Part of it might be that some stories touch our hearts in ways other stories do not.
Now, my first few books didn’t flow, though there were times when writing them was done from the flow state. I was too busy learning how to write a book to have the whole book come from a flow state. That’s okay. It takes time to learn to be an author. As I get more experience, I find it easier to tap into that flow state for more steps in the writing process.
The flow state is when ideas pour from us and appear as if they were already there. Athletes can experience the flow state, where their body responds perfectly, and their movements are easy. Anyone can experience the flow state. Concentration comes easily and we’re more productive than normal.
Now that the holidays are over, my life is settling down, and I’m finding my way back into my normal routine. That means I’m working on more fun books to share with readers, and more stories I’m passionate about. I get to write more books I love and improve my skills. Here’s to many more years writing!
I've always been a dreamer with my nose in a book. I've been a reader since I learned to read, devouring books as I discovered them. In fact, it was only in the last decade I stopped reading as much. It feels good to get back to reading again, like I found a piece of myself that was lost.
Given that I spent so much time dreaming and living in worlds inside books, I have an amazingly active imagination. For me, starting a new book with a clean document is exciting. What will I create?
It all starts with who the main character is, for me. I'm a character driven author, so my stories are all heavily influenced by the characters. Sure, all kinds of things happen, but the stories belong to the main character as much as me. Once I know who they are and what they want, the story becomes all about them. Each story I began, I knew who the characters were before I began. At least, I knew the main characters. In the Forest Guardians books, more characters keep coming along as she explores more of her world.
Okay, so I have a blank page and a character to play with. Now what? Well, once I know what that character's issues are and what they need or want, I can decide how best to challenge them. What would make them grow? Life is full of ups and downs, so I get to play with both and see how the character reacts.
Still, what's my big conflict? I start with the inner conflict. What's going on inside the character? Now, how can I represent that in an outer conflict? With Aili in the first book, for instance, she was a lonely kid with no place to belong. She needed something that would make her depend on others, while learning more about her own strengths. What does she care about? Her forest, of course. Okay, forest in peril, here we come.
From there, I can fill in the details. This is where the Save the Cat method helps so much. Following the storytelling "code," I simply write the book I want to read, now. Stuck somewhere? What would I want to read about there? What would be fun for Aili, or push her, or help her somehow (whether she likes it or not)? That's what I write.
I may not even have the story fully plotted when I start. I outline using the Save the Cat method, and fill in details as they come. By my first 20 000 words or so, I always have a full outline and the beginnings of a story I enjoy. Will everyone enjoy my story? Of course not. That's not why I write. I write to let characters live, and to go on adventures. Some people will love them, others, not so much.
How many Forest Guardians books will I write? As many as Aili wants. Does she still have an adventure in her? At least one more, as there's a forest she hasn't been to yet. Sometimes the setting gives me a plot, like in book 3. Maybe I'll keep going, if she has a new adventure after that. Maybe it'll be a quartet. Aili will tell me. I have other stories on the go, too, and a whole file of ideas to play with when those are done.
Every writer has their own method, so find what works for you and go for it. Do you love characters like me? Do you want a gripping mystery? Prefer fantastic settings? Great, write with more focus on what you love. Just write!
Writing is a skill we can improve with experience. Not even a year ago, back in April, I decided to be an author. I’ve been writing stories for years, but I had no idea how to write a novel. How the heck was I supposed to plot something like that out? What am I supposed to do with characters?
I started by taking courses. The first couple were simply on writing fiction, whether it’s short stories or novels. I learned about writing descriptions and working with emotions. Still not knowing enough to write a novel, I took courses on plotting. I learned how to build a story and what significant points were needed. My favourite place to take writing courses without spending a lot of money is www.Udemy.com, as they always have sales each month.
The biggest compliment people can give me as a writer is that they didn’t want to put my book down, they had to keep reading. So far, multiple people have said that about my first novel, Runaway Magic. People are starting to read my second novel, and feedback has been similar there. It’s all thanks to the information I learned from writing courses.
Also, aspiring writers, learn tips and tricks on language use and powerful ways to string sentences together. Some words are less powerful, and sometimes simple sentences are better than long and drawn out sentences. The number one thing that stops me from reading books is how easy the sentences are to read. Sometimes I’m lost by the fourth comma in one sentence. Sometimes simple really is better.
I’m still taking courses and now watching webinars on different aspects of writing. I’m always seeking to grow my skills for both writing and publishing. There are all kinds of webinars out there by established authors to help writers hone their craft. Take advantage of them, but always think critically. Anyone can post anything online, so learn all you can, but be careful. You can even try things, but be ready to change and adapt as you gain your own experience.
The last couple of months I’ve been doing a lot of webinars and reading books on different aspects of writing. I’m proud of my first book, even with how I see I could now write it better. Already with my second book, I was a better writer. My third book is going even better for me. Again, my skills have improved. Who knows how well I’ll write in a few years? I look forward to finding out!
I’d heard that sequels can be hard to write. I didn’t know if mine would or not. I’m still finishing the editing of my first book and am getting ready to publish soon, but the sequel is now almost a third written.
Initially, I plotted and outlined as much as I could. The ending was sort of eluding me. What exactly was the main conflict? What was the nature of the item that complicated her life? Not having the answers, I did what I always do. I write what I can.
As I was writing the first section, my characters started interacting with their world. Things started happening that I didn’t expect, but that I could work with. Challenges appeared, and new villains emerged (though they didn’t know at the time they would be the villains).
I had a few spots in the plot/theme that I wasn’t sure how to fix or fill in properly. I knew as I got writing, it would present the answer for me. I never fully know how things are going to turn out until after the second draft is done, anyways.
Well, today everything fell into place. In many ways it was more like writing the second half of the first book and not a whole separate book, and in other ways everything is new and fresh with familiar characters. While the plot is related, it’s not exactly a continuation. That gives me freedom in the writing.
I was writing some new details into scenes I’d already thought I’d finished, as I was clearing up a plot point, and that got me on a roll. Then I added new scenes, and those new scenes handed me my ending. New characters were added, needed characters, and depth and backstory were added to familiar characters a bit. It’s like watching my characters grow and evolve before my eyes. Why was he so gruff in the first book? Here’s the answer. Will he find healing? At some point, now that I know why he needs it.
What about her, my main character? Well, I remember how hard it was to grow up different. I remember how confusing some things seemed. I know how she’d feel in similar situations, and what kind of support she’ll get. I have some ideas how people around her might react, and who will help and who won’t help. After all, growing up takes a while and is full of challenges. Add magic into the mix and things can get confusing for her really fast.
Well, now that things are worked out, the rest of the writing will go quickly in comparison. I intended to spend a little time on a second story, too, but the sequel grabbed me and hung on. I’ll spend some time with the first story this afternoon and do some more editing and proofreading, too. Almost there!
Well, instead of the up to ten business days, I’ve been assigned my ISBN numbers and have my account. That was fast! A single business day? Really? This is getting more real now...
My first ever reader loved the story. Soon I do my final edits, then prep the book for publication. There’s both the ebook and the paperback to get ready, but that’s okay. I’ve decided what names to publish under, as well, I think.
Best of all, my outline is nearly done for the sequel, and I’ve begun writing, even as I edit and prep other books as well. This series is just flowing out of me in draft form. While I still take care to edit it and make it the best I can, the characters have their own lives already and want to go on more adventures. I can sit down for an hour on the martial arts book and get 1000 words out, but I’ll sit for 1 1/4 hours on the sequel and 2000 words flow in the same time.
I always remind myself - write the book you want to read. It helps me plot and plan. It gives me characters I love. It gives the story meaning to me, and lets me write about themes I love, like friendship and loyalty, struggling against adversity, and personal triumph.
Also, I need to let myself write the way I do it best, which means jumping all over the place and writing out of order. I can fill things in as I go, if the important scenes get written first.
He’s getting me a journal for this series. I need to start recording things about the characters, places, settings, items, and so on. Things need to remain consistent through the books. Being able to open a journal and look at the information quickly will make everything go better and more smoothly. There’s also something about hand writing that really appeals to me. My gratitude journal and my personal journal are hand written for a reason.
They say that unless your goal scares you it’s not big enough. I’m not sure who they are, but this definitely is a little scary. I’ll be putting myself out there, even with a pen name, and opening myself to criticism. I don’t care so much, though there’s still an element to fear about it. There’s so much to learn and so many steps. That’s okay, it’s a journey every bit as much as what my characters go through. A labour of love, if you will.
Alright, I admit it. I really am a writer now. I started another story, mostly outside my official writing time. It’s a story I want to tell, hopefully with some surprises and twists. I love writing about martial arts, so it’s going to be another Young Adult book one day.
I do love writing about friendship and mentors, love in all its forms, including platonic love. Buddy love, as it’s sometimes called. Even when it’s not the main theme, or secondary theme, I do love including that level of connection between characters.
I also miss the process of the writing flowing, making the story complete and letting it come out as it will. Now that I’m editing my two books, I miss the writing. Sure, I’ve been writing some personal stories, but I miss the process of starting a novel already.
Amazing how something so new only a couple of months ago is already a part of me. I can’t not create. Stories are within me and demand that they come out. I’m still spending my mornings focusing on the stories that are almost done, but this next one wants out, too. I’ll play with it in my free time.
I have it outlined already. I do use the Save the Cat method, which I’ve already discussed, and it makes the story take shape. I know what the story should say and how and where things will be revealed. Later, the real fun begins and I add in characters and start writing scenes.
Some days you get up and everything just works well. The writing seems to pour out of you and you have a scene all lined up, as well as getting ideas for other scenes. This is where being able to make notes is invaluable. I tend to do this within Word, as I have my own personal outlining system set up.
I use the Heading 1 settings for Chapters and major breaks in action that I want to go to quickly. Really important scenes may have this heading if I want to jump back at them quickly. By starting with the headings from the Save the Cat method, I ensure I get what I need in each location. Initially this may only be notes or single sentences with thoughts on what may happen. These may change, depending on where the story goes, and sometimes scenes may move headings completely.
Heading 2 is for notes, like scenes within the larger framework I still need to write or want to edit. By keeping the navigation bar open on the left of my screen, I know at a glance how many heading 2 styles are left that I want to work on. I can fill them in and finish my story as I am ready, deleting them as I go. When they are gone after my first draft, I know I’m ready for editing.
On days when the writing flows, I’ll write as much as I can anywhere I want in the story, making notes in other places as I need. I may get a couple thousand words out in just over an hour when I’m in a flow state, then typically I’ll repeat that on my second story as well. By being able to jump around with the headings, I can keep it clear where I am and what I should be writing about.
Sort out what works best for you, and get writing!
Sometimes you just have to map things out to know where you’ve been and where you want to go. I was stuck on a scene Just before the middle of my book. I knew what came before and after, in a broad “I already wrote it” kind of way, but I needed something more.
Out came the white board. In this case I wasn’t mapping a plot, but her progression through the story. I even colour coded it for my own at a glance convenience. It helped me make sure her journey was on track.
After all, in a story about magic, I needed to keep track of what she learned and could do, so I made sure I put in enough information and scenes about her learning, so she doesn’t just “know” something later that she wasn’t able to do earlier in the story. It worked. At a glance I was like “yes, that’s the missing scene.” I also found two more spots where I need to link segments of the ending together.
Now I have a clear path forward for that story. My “editor” is eager to read it, too. The next step is to “rewrite” the book with pretty language and vivid imagery, without being too boring, descriptive, and floral in my writing. A new challenge that I’m looking forward to.
Still, I learned two separate ways to chart my story now. My erotica was mapped with plot activities and whether they were positive or negative for the main character, and the young adult novel was plotted by character abilities. Both work, depending on the nature of the story. More tools for my writing toolkit. Who knows what I’ll be able to do in the future!
As it happens, some stories take on a life of their own. My erotica - turned romance is turning back into an erotica story again. I thought I was done, and that the story was just going to be a very short novel. Then I knew that wasn’t true. The story wasn’t done.
I didn’t expect it to go from his story to her story. I didn’t expect to see the story from her side at all. Still, I knew it would be better finished from her viewpoint. She’s the more sensitive and meditative of the two, so any erotic scenes from her point of view would be richer in imagery and bring a female reader into her world better.
What I thought was the big finale turned out to be the midpoint. It’s the finale of his part, and a good closing point, but definitely not the end of their journey together.
So, here I sit, letting plot ideas for her story run through my head. The good news is her story doesn’t need to be as long, though it will be just as deep. She has her own transformation to go through, as relationships touch both partners, not just one. I’ve already got some of the basic framework down for her, I just need to fill in the details. As I already worked out her past, that can come back and affect her present with him.
It’s amazing how one novel can be going so smoothly and simply and the other can take such a winding path to being written. One was pretty well plotted and set from the start, while the other has been reorganized twice, and now needs more plotting work because it added to itself. Writing is definitely an interesting journey.
I have a couple of other story ideas ready for when I finish these two books. Both are somewhat plotted out already as well, in varying levels of detail. It seems that it’s the erotica and romance books that are more likely to wander from the plan than the adventure books, where the characters wander around the worlds. Maybe that’s the reason? A physical journey is easier to write than an emotional journey, as the surroundings make everything new for an adventurer. In an emotional journey, the journey itself is on the inside, and we’re complicated people. Characters would be, too.
Go have fun, learn about plotting, and write something!
Well, my Young Adult novel is almost fully done the second draft. Almost. I’m still filling in the scenes that were missing from my first draft, but it’s going very well. I’ve been reading through the book as I go to make sure I don’t forget any scenes, and have found a way to leave myself notes that I can easily find again.
During the writing of my first draft I found it very helpful to write the beginning, very middle, and end, then go back and fill in the rest. By knowing the endgame, I knew what to work towards. Even now, as I fill in scenes, I know where I’m going.
Here’s the thing - by going back and now filling in the missing scenes, I know what I need to include, but sometimes it also includes surprises that I end up adding to an already roughed out scene that makes it better. Working back helped me get to where I am, but working forward will be what finishes my book.
I love how the details are really falling into place now that the story framework is shaped. This is when I add the small moments that turn out to be useful or game changing for them in the end. She’s learning this skill or acquiring this item, and...oh look! There it saves her backside.
Sometimes it’s more about what she doesn’t know or do that comes back to bite her in the butt. Nobody is perfect, and a growing girl who’s trying to learn who she is has her share of mistakes in the process. The third draft is where I look at that kind of detail, as well as language usage. Then there’s the rest of the drafts.
Still, I’d rather put out a quality story for people that I loved to write than a rushed manuscript with errors. I have a secret superpower in my pocket - an analytical engineer who will find every inconsistency in the story. He’ll get to see it once the full story is complete, but before the final drafts.
Working out of order works well for me in the early and early-middle stages, but the point comes where you have to actually read the book. That’s where you find the time skips and holes in the narrative. There’s many ways to deal with them, but you won’t know they’re there unless you read from start to finish.
Read, plot, plan, enjoy...just go write!
I’ve been writing stories for myself for years. Now, I’m a published author. No genre is off limits, though I have some favorites.