Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Evernote is software you can access on iPhone, Android, or whatever phone floats your boat, and of course, it’s easy to use from your home computer. It allows one to enter a quick note via text on an idea you might be having or photograph something that catches your eye. Evernote saves your info so that it will be available for later use. The voice recorder is probably my favorite thing since I have enormously fat fingers that have trouble with basic texting. With that little application, I can simply speak whatever brainstorm of inspiration I’m having into my phone and play it back when I’m ready.
Imagine the possibilities as a writer on the go! No more waiting till you get home to jot down that idea or stumbling around in the dark for your notebook in the middle of the night when the muse comes. Evernote keeps it safe for you!
I’ve been using it to organize thoughts on my new manuscript, but there are lots of other things this handy app can do. Check it out and let me know how it works for you!
Sunday, December 26, 2010
The concept seems relatively easy and straight forward. They give you the tools to format, assemble, and test your eBook, all for free. You can “copy and paste content into the manuscript in Word or PDF, or import content from your blog.” They say there’s no obligation to purchase anything and registering is free, as is building your book.
The catch is that once your book is ready, you have to purchase one of their “self-publishing packages” for $89.99. They will assign an ISBN and distribute your book to online booksellers. They said it works with Borders, Kobo Books, Amazon.com, iBooks, and Barnes & Noble.
I haven’t tried this out yet, and I’m not endorsing it, but I wanted to get it out in front of like-minded individuals. I think it might be worth a little more research, especially with the eBook formats becoming more and more popular.
Monday, December 13, 2010
After you have a first draft, you'll have to rewrite and edit to get to your second draft. And your third, and your fourth. Do you have an organized way of doing edits?
I incorporate all the comments from my critiquers that I think appropriate (that means the ones I agree with), then set about going through my stuff. Here are some of the tools I use.
Scene by scene, I make sure each scene has some sort of purpose. Either the standard goal and obstacle with either resolution or further complications resulting, or explanation of a character or his/her actions, raising the stakes, changing the tempo, or something. A good reason for being in the story, in other words. Chris Roerden has a good list of what scenes should do in her book, DON'T MURDER YOUR MYSTERY.
At the beginning of each scene, I ground the reader. That is, let her know where we are, when it is, and who's there. This is especially important at the beginning of each chapter, in case the reader put the book down and went to sleep! Which, of course, we don't want him to be able to do.
I set hooks where I think they need to be, based on Chris's book and a course I took from Mary Buckham on pacing.
I also like to try to put each of the five senses in each scene. Taste is always the hardest for me, but it's surprising how often I can work it in if I try.
Eventually I go over my manuscript with colored markers and a summary from Margie Lawson's class called "Empowering Characters' Emotions". This shows me the balance I've achieved between dialogue, exposition, and description, among other things.
Also based on that course, I see what little tricks I can incorporate to wring the most out of my words. Backloading is one of these that is also recommended by many teachers. That is, rearranging a sentence so you're putting the most powerful word in the sentence last. There are several others that I learned from her that I like to make sure I'm using.
When the scene is shaping up well, I put it through some paces. I use wordcounter.com to see which words I've overused. My critique partners usually catch these, but not always. I seem to LOVE the word *little*.
The last thing I do is take each chapter through the free downloaded program, ReadPlease. After I paste in the chapter, I start ReadPlease, quickly switch over to the open Word document, and follow along. I'm watching for awkward rhythms, repeated words I haven't caught yet, typos of course, and anything else that just doesn't sound right. When I detect something I want to change, I pause the reading program, make the change in my document, then start it up again. This gives me a very clean final copy for submission. I'm sure some typos still get through, but I catch tons of them this way--words and phrases that my eyes and the eyes of my readers have skipped over, making them right in our brains, but leaving them wrong on the page.
I can't recommend classes by Margie Lawson and Mary Buckham too much. Nor Chris Roerden's books. The one she wrote for non-mystery writers is called DON'T SABOTAGE YOUR SUBMISSION.
LASTLY, here's a fun short story contest using fairy tales for a basis.
Good luck if you submit here!
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
Ugh! Editing. It’s so…uncreative. Or is it? I used think editing was just about fixin’ your grammar. In reality, your rough draft is like an unseasoned steak—not exactly the tastiest thing on the menu. But, add a little seasoning, a nice side of potatoes, a yummy vegetable and—presto! You have a meal fit for a king. Editing is sort of the same way. Add some character development, a side of plot, a really interesting world, and before you know it, you’ve got a tale fit for a reader.
Try these simple tips to get you started on the editing journey:
Write the dreaded synopsis before diving into the first draft. Keep it short and simple for the time being. Once the manuscript is fleshed out, then you can go back and re-work the synopsis. While not always the easiest thing to create, this tool can be an invaluable guide which keeps you on track as you tackle the editing process.
Here’s another little time saver: cut the words “that” and “was” where you can. “That” is a filler word. We use it all the time in every day conversation without really hearing it. Yet, in a novel, “that” really clutters up your word count and is often unnecessary. Many writers have a heavy “was” addiction, too. “Was” tends to lead to passive voice (though not always!) and is good word to try and distance yourself from.
Editing is a lengthy process, and as writers, we all use different tools to guide us. What do you find are your most common writing mistakes?
Tuesday, December 7, 2010
I'm sort of waiting to hear from some NaNoWriMo writers about their experiences this year. I didn't do it, but only because of what I learned the first year I participated. I learned that I don't have wrists or fingers that can do 1666 words a day every day for a month. I succeeded in putting out the words for about a week and a half my first time, then had to resort to ice and NSAIDs.
But I got a cool spreadsheet out of it. NaNo no longer uses it, but I do. The writers that year were encouraged to borrow the spreadsheet, adapt it, and use it however they wanted to. I still use variations of it for my projects.
So my main takeaways were the knowledge of just how much I CAN write per day and survive--and the spreadsheet.
I'd like to know if anyone else gained insights, self-knowledge, practical tips, or a full novel from the experience this year.
Saturday, December 4, 2010
I follow a lot of famous and not-so-famous authors on the various social media sites. I notice that most of these authors frequently blog to drive traffic to their websites and ultimately, their books. And blogging is becoming more and more popular as a means to drive traffic to your website.
I’m also starting to notice is that there is a big difference between bloggers. Some bloggers are rising to the top of the blogging heap, not because of their writing, their words, or the way they say it. It’s in how their blogs look.
I know that sounds strange, but the blogs I like to visit most are the ones that are visually pleasing, as well as good to read. Take a look at the blogs you visit and see if it isn’t so.
So if you’re blogging to drive traffic back to you, take the time to see what you can do to improve the appearance of your blog. There are tons of themes and ideas available to you all over the Internet. And you don’t need to be a graphics designer to make it work. Just see what looks good to you and go with. Just don’t settle for what you have. Take a look at it from time to time and see what you can do to improve it. It just might make a difference.
Monday, November 29, 2010
These keep us going:
"Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working." - Pablo Picasso
"It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop." – Confucius
"You have seen, but you have not observed." - Sherlock Holmes
So all I can say is patience is the art of concealing your impatience, and, as always: "If you drop a dream, it breaks." – Denise Dietz
“Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
This one speaks to me, loudly:
"I have lost all sense of home, having moved about so much. It means to me now -- only the place where the books are kept." -John Steinbeck
A comment that seems to pertain to the publishing industry lately:
"Change is a dragon. You can ignore it, which is futile. You can fight it,
in which case you will lose. Or you can ride it.” -- Arianne Wing on the
closing of the world-famous Imperial Dynasty restaurant in Hanford, CA;
quoted in The Hanford Sentinel, Dec. 17, 2005.
And lastly, something to think about from the world of dance:
“There is a vitality, a life force, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and there is only one of you in all time, this expression is unique, and if you block it, it will never exist through any other medium; and be lost. The world will not have it. It is not your business to determine how good it is, not how it compares with other expression. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, to keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself or your work. You have to keep open and aware directly to the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open. No artist is pleased. There is no satisfaction whatever at any time. There is only a queer, divine dissatisfaction, a blessed unrest that keeps us marching and makes us more alive than the others.” -Martha Graham
What's your favorite quote? Do you have one that keeps you going?
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Well then you’re in luck, because there’s an app for that (sorry, I couldn’t resist). Seriously, there’s a program called Freedom that you can install on your computer that will block Internet access for the amount of time you specify, up to eight hours. It’s available for both Mac and PCs.
And you can’t cheat. You can’t just turn off the program for a second and then turn it back on. Once you set it, the only way to get back to the Internet is to reboot your computer. They say they do that to discourage cheating.
The program is available for download from http://macfreedom.com/ for ten dollars. But you know, if it makes you more productive, “Freedom might be the best 10 dollars you’ll ever spend.”
I haven’t personally tried this program, but I saw some favorable reviews out on a NaNoWriMo forum. It seems like if you’re going to try it, November just may be the month.
Monday, November 15, 2010
And then it happens, right there in mid-stroke of the keyboard, the computer decides that for whatever reason, it can’t go on. Maybe it was because the computer couldn’t keep up with the speed at which their fingers flew across the keyboard. Maybe it was because they were always out on NaNoWriMo.org updating their word count. Or maybe they should have updated their computer years ago but didn’t want to give up the last working copy of Windows 95.
Whatever the reason, whatever the excuse, they didn’t back it up their NaNo-novel and now their life is filled with anguish and remorse. But this sad story doesn’t have to happen to you. It’s not too late!
Backup that novel! Do it now. Don’t wait. And do it often, maybe, dare I even say it, daily. Backups are like insurance. You never need it until you need it. But when you need it, you really need it. Don’t be that one NaNo-Novelist who is on the outside looking in on November 30th.
Sunday, November 7, 2010
While it doesn’t get into the details that I’d always heard rumors about, like the heroine had to be kissed by page ten, it does give seven vital ingredients for the perfect romance novel. Without going into great depth, the seven elements are: a loveable heroine, a great hero, something that throws them together, an insurmountable object to overcome, a black moment (something that, once revealed, will keep the hero and heroine apart forever), a monkey wrench, and a happy ending.
That’s it. It seems pretty simple. I know it isn’t really, but it sounds easy. So I was wondering, what are the seven vital ingredients for your genre? Horror? Mystery? Science Fiction? Fantasy? Memoir?
Have you thought about it? I haven’t. But I might now.
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Don’t worry. That’s the beauty of NaNoWriMo! This is your chance to experiment. Put your character in an impossible situation and see what happens. More than likely they’ll discover a way to not only get out of the situation, but create an interesting new one.
Some possible situations:
Aliens land in your character’s back yard.
Two nuns get in a bar fight and it’s up to your character to stop the fight or dive right in.
Your character catches his/her main squeeze smooching with your character’s mother.
See? Anything is possible in NaNoWriMo, and you can always go back and change the story later. For now, don’t stress and just let the impossible flow into the probable.
Have fun! Now back to the writing….
Monday, November 1, 2010
Write by Night offers workshops, one-on-one instruction and consultations, and more. They have locations in Texas, Florida, and of course online. You can get the complete lowdown on their website.
For those of you in Austin, Write by Night also has free meet up times available at their headquarters where writers can go and write for hours! This is perfect for Nanowrimo write-ins. Here is the blurb from their website.
They also have a blog with resources for those of you (like me) who can't seem to get enough info on writing and publishing. So, check them out and make use of their writing space and best of luck during Nanowrimo!Make WriteByNight's headquarters your own personal creative space during set times throughout the week. Come to write, read, collaborate or just kick back and dream. We've got a library, writing prompts, coffee and free Wi-Fi. What more could a writer ask for?
The best part: Write Here is free and open to the public, so bring your friends.Wednesdays, 5 - 7 p.m.; Tuesdays and Thursdays, 11:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.
1305 E. 6th Street, Suite 4
I hope this helps some of you. Happy Writing!
Friday, October 29, 2010
So what is horror? As Mort Castle so eloquently stated, horror is “anything that scares you.” Broad to say the least, Castle hits on a very important point—horror can be anything. Think about it. What frightens you? What keeps you up at night? Is it chainsaw wielding serial killers, or something more realistic like losing a loved one? I know that I have the occasional zombie nightmares, but the ones that really frighten me are the dreams where my family is in danger whether it be from zombies or tornadoes.
With that in mind it is easy to see that there is an element of horror in almost every genre. Nonetheless, some identifiable subcategories of horror have emerged as literature has evolved and no doubt the list will continue to grow. Here is a brief introduction into the many types of horror that can be found on the bookshelves.
Gothic: There is some debate within the genre as to what is truly “gothic.” Often times there are strong elements of both horror and romance woven with other themes such as the paranormal. Often, characters are placed in an oppressive setting where old dogmas reign and reason and logic are seen as threatening. The Castle of Otranto by Horace Walpole is often credited as the first work of fiction in this genre. Other notable authors are Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne.
Lovecraftian: Named after H.P. Lovecraft, it is often psychological work that is based on the premise that the world was once ruled by a dark and supernatural race that is waiting for the opportunity to reclaim power. Misanthropy, a fragile sense of reality, and an antiquated use of terminology is often associated with the style. Many writers have developed works within this genre including Stephen King and Caitlin R. Kiernan.
Paranormal: Anything outside of the typical, physical world fall under this category including ghosts, werewolves, zombies, vampires, etc. Many sub categories have emerged under this group and it often overlaps with several other categories of horror and other genres. Dracula and Arabian Nights are often cited works in this category.
Dark Fantasy: Combines both horror and fantasy elements. It is often used to describe works that can also be labeled as paranormal since they both deal with forces or creatures that lie outside of humanity’s understanding of reality. Most comic books fall in this category such as Batman and The Crow, as do works from Anne Rice, Neil Gaiman, and other fantasy writers.
Splatterpunk: Here is where the blatant gore and gruesome elements of horror come to play. There is nothing suggestive or hidden in this genre. Authors in this field take the “don’t look away” approach and reveal every horrific element to the reader in often sickening detail. Clive Barker and Jack Ketchum are famous for this type of writing.
Weird Fiction: Also known as “bizarro” fiction, it is a broad category that includes works with unusual structure and other weird elements. Essentially, it is any strange and outlandish fiction that seeks to provoke and challenge the reader and often contains a significant amount of humor. Noted authors include Jeremy C. Shipp and Eckhard Gerdes.
Psychological: Here the horror element is not so much a person or thing, but often the slow decay of reality or some other psychological bent. The antagonist in this genre is often the protagonist (man versus self) as he or she slowly succumbs to their own fears or other irrational beliefs. Lovecraft and Kiernan are again cited in this genre.
I hope you've enjoyed this basic introduction to horror. When you trick or treat this weekend be mindful of the many ghouls and goblins running the streets and be safe!
Monday, October 25, 2010
My short story collection is doing better than I thought it would on Smashwords, but I keeping hearing and reading about the superiority of Amazon. Sales there are said to far surpass ebook sales anywhere else, even though the Kindle application is very limited.
I admit, there's just something about Amazon. I needed a cable last week and went first to Radio Shack, who doesn't carry that cable. I then went to the company who sold the product years ago, but they longer carry the cable. So, I went to Amazon, the WalMart of the cyber world. Yep, there it was, cheap. For less than $10 including postage, I had my cable within a few days.
Therefore, today I saved my Word file as an HTML file using Open Office, opened a DTP account (Digital Text Platform), and uploaded my cover and text. It will take 48 hours for my book to appear for sale on Amazon, but that won't stop me from checking every couple of hours, I'm sure.
I asked a couple of people why they uploaded to Amazon separately when it would migrate there eventually from Smashwords. I never got a good answer--well, I never got any answers, maybe because they didn't quite know--so I just decided to follow the herd. Knowing Amazon, I'm sure they like it much better if you jump through their--I mean go through their channels.
After having already spent a little over two hours formatting my document for Smashwords, it took about an hour to completely fill out the DTP information and load my files up. And that's because I first loaded a file that claimed the publisher is Smashwords, so I took that out and loaded up a better one. Luckily, I noticed this in the preview option before I pushed the final button. I'll bet it would have been harder to take it down and start over than to just do another upload before I finalized and published.
I'll report back in to let the readers of this blog know if sales are good at Amazon. That would be nice!
Friday, October 22, 2010
Monday, October 18, 2010
This weekend, at the Texas Book Festival, I mentioned to an acquaintance that Kaye George isn't actually my real name. She asked which name I prefer to be called. I said I answer to either.
"Isn't that confusing?" she asked.
You know, sometimes it is. But only in the sense that I sometimes don't know which identity is more real. I feel that I AM Kaye George. I've worked for years to establish myself with that name and I was first published under that name in 2005, five times. That was my birth as a published fiction writer.
My daughter said to me last month that I should not spend so much time in cyber space and should get back to the real world.
But which world is real?
The places I create are very real to me. Sometimes I imagine myself entering my worlds, like Alice entering the Looking Glass, or Flynn entering Tron. It's easy to see where those writers got their ideas. Sometimes a writer WANTS to be in the world she has created.
Am I crazy? Do other writers sometimes feel like this?
If I don't get any supporting comments, I'll see if I can crawl into the computer. I don't feel like getting therapy for this.
Image used under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation
Monday, October 11, 2010
After being gone for a month, I'm dropping in with a quick note. I know, I know. And it's BSP, too. But maybe some readers can benefit from my experience.
I've just put out my own short story collection on Smashwords and they immediately started selling. If you follow the direction exactly, you end up with lots of different convenient formats. I even did a table of contents, which works in most of the versions. I'll warn that the rtf versions don't hold the formatting and I left those out when I redid my book the next day.
I'd advise publishing it, downloading all the formats you can, proofing, then re-doing. I found that I had left one story out of my table of contents, and my cover said there were 8 when there were really 9! It's simple to reload everything. When the book is as perfect as you can make it, then is the time to start publicizing.
You can peek at the first two and a half stories in my collection at
A Patchwork of Stories on Smashwords. The book will make it to Amazon in a couple of weeks.
If anyone is thinking of self-publishing for any reason, I'd highly recommend this site!
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
It’s not that I’ve given up on wanting an agent. That’s an avenue this author is still pursing, but after getting lots of mixed signals from agents, I decided that the best thing I could do was to pursue publishing my novel down a different path. Enter Lyrical Press, Inc. and their wonderful editorial staff!
Since this is a small press, there are no advances, but Lyrical authors do get paid royalties for their work. This house publishes in both ebook and print on demand form. They are committed to working with their authors on developing their novels to their fullest potential, as well as, helping to provide marketing opportunities.
As of yet, I do not have the official release date for my urban fantasy, Nephilim, but I will keep you posted. Curious about this publishing group? Check them out at www.lyricalpress.com.
Friday, September 24, 2010
OK I never blog. This is my first blog. Literally, my very first, but I do like to write, and I do (for reals) write a lot. I thought I’d share a concept that helps me stay focused and get things finished in a relatively short amount of time. As the title suggests, that concept: Never whistle while you’re pissing.
I didn’t make that phrase up, it’s from the 1975 Illuminatus! trilogy, but I think it still holds true. Roughly translated, put everything you have into what you are doing, and do it well.
Having said that, most writers have other things going on in their lives – kids, spouses, ‘real jobs,’ hobbies, extreme sports, etc. Between all those moments, on the drive back from soccer practice, while waiting on the bus, as you walk the half mile from one end of the your office building to the other, you’ve got some free time, and I say why waste it?
For example, a friend of mine recently joked that I should write a Steam Punk novel. I think he was tired of reading the reams of writing I regularly put out, and was hoping by tossing a confusing new genre at me it might slow me down. I of course took it as a challenge.
First, I ordered some Steam Punk anthologies. Now right before drifting off to sleep or during my special alone time in the bathroom, I read about Steam Punk. I keep a notebook and pen with my anthologies, and I take notes on speech patterns, clothing types, and the world in general. I broke out the old Sherlock Holmes anthology as well for more Victorian Style atmosphere. And I took more notes. I found websites on Steam Punk names, Steam Punk art (lots and lots of Steam Punk art), Victorian Slang, Victorian habits and lifestyles. I even developed a monetary system based on the same unequal distribution of wealth as Victorian London.
I stopped short of Victorian London though. That’s a little too spot on, so I decided this would be a fantasy world, something Tolkien-like, but jump-started with Steam Punk technology. I added goblin professors, ork mercenaries, fairy messengers, four-foot-tall elf-type creatures with butterfly wings, and threw them all into a medieval city populated with Victorian style and sensibilities. I mapped out the city too, including the different sectors and important locales, and I hadn’t written a word yet.
All this occurred during breaks at work or while waiting for the bathtub to fill up for the kid. When I went running or otherwise worked out, I rejected the ipod and music and instead choose to listen to characters interact in the Victorian style, or to imagine their world, their style, other people they might encounter, and then afterwards furiously typed up notes before I jumped in the shower. Even during writing exercises with the other people in this blog, I took whatever writing start point they gave us, and put it in a Steam Punk world. I had a main character, a winged anti-hero named Gossamer, and a world for her, and I started writing.
I still needed to add details to the world, so I kept an eye out for them. What sorts of things we enjoy now might exist in a Steam Punk world, especially one with fantasy creatures?
I think the greatest example came while my wife and child and I were at the mall one day. They were picking out earrings. There is only so much I can do with a wife and 5-year-old choosing earrings, and wasted witty commentary and dry sarcasm hurts me in my heart. So I borrowed a pen, dug out an old grocery receipt from her purse, and wandered out into the main throughways.
The first person to walk past was a heavy woman wearing expensive sunglasses and headphones. She moved quickly, wearing tennis shoes, possibly working out. Hurm. Sunglasses = goggles, that makes sense. What to do with headphones? Ah, got it. I jotted down,
A thick upper class woman in bejeweled night-vision goggles almost knocked Gossamer down rounding a corner. As the woman passed, Gossamer noted the small fairy clutching her back, attached by a braided silver leash, singing soft melodies into the woman’s ears to drown out the cries of the unmentionables in the streets.
I wandered back into the jewelry store to check on the family. No change. Some sort of debate between silver studs or loops. Then I turned to see a mother and grandmother taking pictures of their baby getting her ears pierced, even as the baby screamed in pain. I pulled out the receipt and the pen again.
A shriek nearby startled her, and she shifted her focus to a toddler boy crying out to the gods while a group of men held his arms and a blacksmith branded him with a tiny guild mark. All while his father and grandfather toasted and celebrated this ritual with their tankards of cinnamon beer.
What about zeppelins? Gotta have zeppelins… Ah, there, advertisements hanging from the ceiling became hanging scrolls from tiny fairy-flown dirigibles, with massive passenger balloons hovering way up in the sky.
And so it continued. I kept writing even when I didn't have time for writing. A big flat screen TV looping video of Chinese female dancers became a steam-powered window looking in on the performing dancers in an extra-dimensional Aether. An electric train running up and down the center of the mall became a miniature steam carriage with a goblin coachman carrying noble children around the outdoor market. A blog request became a blog about Steam Punk.
Hey, never whistle while you’re pissing.
Wednesday, September 22, 2010
This installment of the "Dear Literary Agent" contest is open to works of Urban Fantasy or paranormal, both YA and adult. The submission consists of a log line and the first 150-200 words of your completed manuscript (read the guidelines included in the link above for full details). In addition to bragging rights, the top three winners get the first 10 pages of their manuscript critiqued and a year's subscription to Writersmarket.com (not a bad haul, if I do say so myself).
The agent judging this installment of the contest is Marisa Corvisiero of the L. Perkins Agency. Marisa is actively seeking works of science fiction, fantasy, horror, romance as well as YA and children's.
Don't miss your chance to test your manuscript's hook! Happy writing!
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
One of my favorite columns in the magazine is called Reject a Hit. As a multimillionaire in rejection, the idea of writing a fake rejection letter for a well known novel, appeals to me on more levels than I can count. A few months ago, the magazine published a rejection letter to Bram Stoker in regards to his classic novel, Dracula, saying that such vile creatures as vampires will never sell. This month, some brave writer wrote a letter to J.K. Rowling, passing on Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone with the reasoning that no child would want to read about a dorky tween’s experiences in the world of wizards and magic.
So of course, I have to put it out there…
Who among us is brave enough to select a hit and then write the all powerful, evil rejection letter? Me! Me! Me!
Of course, there is so much to choose from. Faulkner? Hemingway? King? Meyers? After some thought, I believe Charles Dickens will be in my line of rejection fire. I’ve never been a fan of A Christmas Carol. Bah humbug!
I’ll be posting my completed rejection letter next week, but I’d love to see some others. Feel free to post your letter in the comments section of this blog, or if you’re super brave, submit it to Writer’s Digest at firstname.lastname@example.org with “Reject a Hit” in the subject line.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
Self-publishing is not right for everyone (neither is traditional publishing). There are many cons associated with self-published books:
- No barrier to entry: Meaning anybody willing to pay can get published (whether the work is good or not).
- Negative stigma: Because there is no barrier to entry often times the editorial, print, and design of self-published books are of poor quality. As such, many retailers won't shelve self-published books and many media outlets won't cover/review them.
- Poor distribution: A printed book is worthless if you can't get it out into the retail chain. Often self-publishers don't have the contacts, reputation, or resources to effectively distribute their books.
- Cost: No advances here, the author foots the bill on the entire project as well as serving as project manager and marketer
- Creative control: You can say how it looks, what it says, and where it goes.
- Ownership: You're not selling your rights to a publisher, so you get to keep full ownership of your material.
- Time to market: traditional publishing can take years to get a book to market, whereas most self-published books can get to market in a matter of months.
- Higher returns: There is no one else to pay but you, so you get to keep the money you earn on the back end.
- No ownership or creative control: You sell your rights to the work, and often times your rights to final say in cover design and other elements.
- Time to market: As stated earlier, it can take years to traditionally publish a work.
- Barrier to entry: You have to go through an agent, which also adds time to the publishing schedule (and another mouth to feed).
- Small royalties: Most authors never earn back their advances, much less start earning royalties (if you think you can get rich as an author, you're in the wrong industry).
- Credibility: Traditionally published books are thoroughly vetted, so retailers and media know they are good quality.
- Strong distribution: Traditional publishers have established national distribution to all the major outlets.
- Small up front costs: You're still responsible for your marketing, but here you're not expected to make any other investment and often times you do receive an advance (though those are shrinking).
To learn more about your publishing options, read this white paper.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
But then the question arose: What does Xenia write?
Christian erotica, of course.
Now I’m not trying to offend anyone—far from it. Actually, I’m trying to stimulate your writing juices. See, Xenia got me to thinking about writing in a different style and certainly a different genre than I’m used to. While I don’t think Christian erotica is for me, coming up with a pen name and a author bio was a lot of fun.
So I have a challenge for you, Faithful Followers. Come up with a pen name for yourself and a short author bio( 100 words or so). Post it in the comment section of this article, and we’ll select a winner whose bio will be posted for all to see. Try to keep it reasonably clean! Funny is always good…
Thursday, September 9, 2010
Why am I able to talk about this, you ask? I sit in on book review every week. My desk is right next to the woman who receives the submissions. I hear all the mistakes author's make. Here are the biggest ones that come through on a consistent basis:
- Being rude. Our submissions team truly cares about the writer, not just the project. If you're kind, they'll go the extra mile to champion you in review. In fact, it is standard practice for them to reveal in review whether the person was nice or difficult. Who do you think we would rather work with?
- Not following guidelines. Agents and publishers clearly post their guidelines for a reason. Following them will boost your chances of getting a favorable review.
- Not submitting to the right people. If the agent or publisher says they only represent nonfiction, don't send them an epic fantasy or book of poetry. You're just wasting everyone's time including your own.
- Properly formatting your manuscript. Funny fonts, bizarre margins, or adjusting the font to skew page count only reflects bad on you. Look at Formatting & Submitting your manuscript for guidelines, but typically your manuscript should be double spaced, 12pt Times Roman, with one inch margins. Start each chapter 1/3 of the way down and put the page number and title/last name in the header of every page.
- No contact information. What good is submitting if we have no idea who submitted? Yes, it's that common.
- Promoting yourself. Yes include a brief bio, but don't say you are the greatest at anything, don't start with a sales pitch, and please, please, please do NOT mention the word bestseller. It's a four letter word in the submissions process. No one can predict bestsellers. Don't assume that your novel will be one.
- Don't respond negatively to rejections. Publishing is not a one size fits all venture. There are many factors that make an author a good fit for one house over another. Yes it's difficult getting rejection after rejection, but its much better to unleash your anger in private or at your writer's group meeting rather than ruining your chances forever with one or more publishers.
Thursday, September 2, 2010
In order to attract readers, the topic or hook of your book needs to be something people are interested in. If you are writing a business book, it needs to be a subject that can improve a professional's business. If you are writing a middle grade novel, the hook needs to be something an 8-12 year old would want to read.
There needs to be enough people interested in your topic in order to justify the cost of developing the book. Publishing and promoting a book takes a great deal of time and money. There's editing, design, printing, warehousing, shipping, publicity, marketing, etc. Be sure you are making it worth their while.
The writing needs to be good. Something about the book needs to stick with the reader after they're done, whether its character development, voice, setting, or a combination of many factors. This is what creates the desire in the reader to tell other people about the book. Word of mouth promotion is essential to the life of a book.
You need to consider all three of these elements before you even start writing. You need to develop your book with the reader in mind and you need to be able to clearly communicate to the publisher who the reader is and how many of them there are. Remember, publishing is a business. You need to approach it with both your business and your artist hat on.
Monday, August 23, 2010
The basics, for me, are the conversation loops I belong to, almost all of them as Yahoo groups, and my webpage, KayeGeorge.com. Those can't be called social networks, but they certainly figure in and are ways for me to network.
Of the ones I use, I've been on Facebook the longest, since my son informed me all the grandkids' pictures would henceforth be there. He thought better of that after posting one batch, but by then I had been found by a co-worker from 12 years ago and my massage therapist who is remarried and moved out of town. I'd also discovered my cousin's wife, whom I have only met twice, is a hoot.
Soon, I decided I wanted a Facebook account for my family and another one for my writing life. This was easy for me, since I don't write under my real name. Now I use the writing account a lot and have met some interesting people there, too.
I made a New Year's resolution to start a blog in 2010 and, instead joined one and started two. So I'm firmly both feet into that world. I now follow a bunch of blogs and have made new friends that way.
Twitter? I resisted Twitter as long as I could. I use it less than the others, so far. Maybe I'm just too wordy to fit easily into Twitter. It's not for the verbose! Although, again, I made a valuable connection with some people interested in archeology and Neanderthals (I've written a Neanderthal mystery, still unsold).
I signed up for Goodreads and I thought I was on Shelfari, but I don't seem to have a presence there. I barely have one on Goodreads. LinkedIn is another one I recently joined and have no idea what to do with.
Why do any of these? As a writer, the idea is to get yourself known, and to sell books. For this, the connections should be with readers. Most writers I know are interacting mostly with other writers.
But making the connections with fellow writers is a good enough reason for an internet presence, IMNSHO, as they say. Writing is a lonely process and the friends and family of a writer aren't the ones who understand what goes on inside our heads. I'd hate to be without all my writer pals!
I'd love to hear what sites you use and how. Which are your favorites and why?
Thursday, August 19, 2010
- Fold a piece of paper so that it looks like a book jacket (legal size paper works best, but anything will do).
- On the front, write the title and subtitle.
- On the inside flap write your elevator speech for the book. Keep it to 3 sentences max.
- On the back, write 2 endorsements/blurbs for the book--what you would want people to say about it.
- On the inside back flap, describe why you are the person to write the book.
- On the inside of the jacket, describe how you are going to structure the book to make it compelling to readers.
Monday, August 16, 2010
James Lincoln Warren has an audio link of his talk for Sisters in Crime, Orange County, plus some gorgeous charts. If you're a visual person, click over and take a look at his take on short story structure.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Showing instead of telling means that the writer is describing behaviors, settings, or elements in a way that allows the reader to see what is happening and infer certain things like character conflicts, flaws, and emotions. Telling is simply dictating, and though at times it is unavoidable to tell the reader something, the less it is used the better.
For example, telling is something like:
Sarah was obsessed with Tom.
A more evocative method is to show the reader that Sarah is obsessed with Tom:
Sarah watched Tom from her perch across the cafeteria. He laughed, revealing a captivating smile. She imagined herself, sitting at the table with him and his friends, wearing his letterman jacket and a promise ring on her hand. She scribbled his name for the seventy-eighth time on her notebook. She traced over the letters, engraving Tom Peterson into the paper with her green pen. His laughter cut through the crowded lunchroom once more. Sarah smiled as she surrounded his name with a green heart. Beneath it she wrote Mrs.Sarah Peterson.
The reader understands that Sarah is obsessed with Tom because the passage reveals her obsessive behaviors. Her behavior carries more meaning then the statement “she is obsessed” and creates a more visceral response in the reader.
Brian closed the apartment door behind him. Jennifer emerged from the bedroom with a cardboard box in her hands.
“What are you doing here?”
“I live here. What are you doing here?”
“I came to get the last of my stuff.” Jennifer walked over to the book shelf and picked up a copy of Catch-22. She threw the paperback into the box.
“What are you doing with that?”
“Like I said, I’m getting my stuff.”
“That’s not yours, that’s mine.”
“No it’s not.”
“Yes it is. I bought that at the bookstore while I waited for you at the coffee shop. You know, the day you were twenty minutes late.”
Crimson burned her cheeks. “Fine, keep it.” She grabbed the book and threw it at him. “Do you want any of this other stuff?” She grabbed a picture frame and tossed it across the room. “Because you can have it all. I don’t care.”
Brian dodged a well aimed bottle of shampoo. “Will you calm down? You can take the damn book if it means that much to you.” A pink gorilla from a travelling circus ricocheted off his chest.
“None of it means anything. It’s all a lie.” Jennifer slammed down the box. She yanked her purse down from the counter. Like a level five hurricane, she blew through the apartment, knocking off several picture frames as the door rammed shut behind her.
Much of the relationship between the two characters is revealed in the dialogue. The reader can sense the break up is recent and that it was not under good terms. It also makes the reader wonder what exactly happened between the characters and is it truly over, since Jennifer made a point of coming back unannounced. Such questions keep the reader interested, which after all is the writer’s big goal.
If you are still unsure of the difference between showing and telling, you may want to look into Jessica Morrell’s Thanks, But This Isn’t for Us. It’s a simple and easy to read guide that helps writers quickly identify missing elements and areas for improvement. It’s also a good practice to study the works of published writers. Read multiple passages and see how the author creates a balance between showing and telling. Ask yourself what makes that passage work, how did the writer convey certain ideas and emotions, and how can you incorporate those techniques into your writing. Studying (not stealing) published works is one of the best ways to improve your writing.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Monday, August 9, 2010
Here are a few more links I found intriguing. If you've got time to go clicking around, something here might catch your interest.
You have to see Marian's digital processor. Really cool piece of equipment, and versatile.
As a former computer programmer/systems engineer (note the "engineer" part), the steps listed in this next link are all things I do already, left over from my telecommuting jobs, for which I had to account for my time and report how much time was spent on each project. This is essential if you're ever audited for taxes, to show you are seriously pursuing a career in writing, since so many of us have so little published work to show for all our hard labor.
If you're self-publishing, it's easy and inexpensive to copyright your online work, and should be done within 90 days of publication. There's even a link to do this online, complete with a tutorial.
Not a link, but a quote by way of Hank Phillippi Ryan:
"Noting in the world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not. Unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not. The world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence, determination and hard work make the difference."
Read 'em and weep--the facts and figures laid bare at the Cozy Chicks.
Sadly, the last issue of ThugLit, maybe.
For readers and writers, a couple pieces of news, signs of our times.
This image has been released explicitly into the public domain by its author, using the Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication.
Thursday, August 5, 2010
- I don't have the time
- I don't know anyone
- I don't know how to critique
- I wasn't happy with my last experience
There are several groups available on the Internet, but I suggest finding writers that you find writers that you connect with on a personal level first. Here are some general tips for starting or finding a critique group:
- Be realistic about what kind of time you are willing to commit: Do you only want to swap shorts, or are you willing to share and read a full length novel.
- Stick to your genre: I used to think that it wasn't a big deal working with others outside my genre until I realized how many conventions and standards are ignored or misunderstood because of a mis-communication between writers of different genres. It's just easier to work with someone who knows what works and doesn't work and who is aware of the trends and writers you are competing against.
- Keep to groups of 3-5 people: Just swapping with one other person is enough to get the ball rolling, but 3-5 gives you many perspectives without a heavy time commitment. I find three to be the best for time reasons.
- Use Review Tracker: Review tracker in Word is so easy to use and saves paper so you don't have to print and send full manuscripts. Plus, this way you can work with anyone anywhere in the world.
- Like begets like: Find critique groups that cater to writers of your same caliber. If you are a newbie, stick to a newbie group. If you have been published and studying the art, you may be frustrated working with a young or aspiring group of writers. Keep that in mind when reviewing groups.
- Loosey goosey with a purpose: If you are starting a critique group or joining an existing one, you want to make sure there are some systems in place but you don't want something so rigid that its uncomfortable or difficult to work with.
- Remember its THEIR work, not yours: You should not rewrite their work in your voice or style, or completely overhaul it to the way you would produce it. Each writer has a unique voice, perspective, and style that should be respected at all times. Do point out what works for you as a reader though. Knowing what works is just as important as knowing what one is doing wrong.
- Use the "sandwich" approach: Present your comments as "compliment-constructive criticism-compliment." This softens the blow of the critique, because lets face it, we all hope we are perfect and its hard to hear when we are not.
- Focus on the big picture: Unless you make a living as a copy-editor, its best to focus on big picture issues when assessing another's work. This means looking at such questions as character development, plot, setting, style, etc instead of nitpicking word choice or grammar.
- Critique the work, not the person: It's about the document, not the person writing it so stay focused on the task at hand.
- Practice tolerance for differing viewpoints: Not everyone shares the same views on religion, relationships, politics, philosophy, etc. Respect the other person's beliefs and the beliefs of their characters. You don't have to agree with their point of view, just be able to see it unfold visually. If it bothers you that much, find a different critique partner.
- Distance yourself: It's not a critique of you, its an honest opinion about the work in front of you.
- Maintain veto power: You don't have to accept every suggestion or change made. It is ultimately your work and should reflect you and be something you are proud of. If you truly want to keep something, then keep it, but do consider their reasons for suggesting changes.
- Recognize patterns: If more than one person says the same thing, take notice. If on every critique you hear that your characters are flat, you may have to accept that your characters are flat and strive to correct it. The point here is to improve as a writer.
- Respect their opinion: Show the one who critiqued you the same respect you expect by acknowledging and thanking them for their time and feedback.
- Even Steven: This actually goes both ways. If someone takes the time to honestly and thoroughly look at your work, you'd better be willing and able to do the same in return. It's just as frustrating to receive little to no feedback as it is to receive too much, so don't send back one or two comments on fifty pages and think you've done your job when you're receiving more than that in return.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Members of the Short Mystery Fiction list started a discussion recently about the structure of the short story. So much has been said and written about the structure of a novel, even whole books devoted to mystery, thriller, and suspense structure, but I hadn't ever paused to consider the structure of the short story before that.
But I'm sure all short story writers should!
The first posting gave the opinion that short stories have two forms: vignette and mini-novel. The vignette, Graham Powell contended, has its action in the same place and it all happens at the same time. The mini-novel would give room for more character and plot development.
Mark Troy gave his opinion that a vignette is an expanded scene/sequel combination with the sequel being the most important part. He considers them incomplete and not as effective as the other form. Although he says he wouldn't use the term mini-novel, saying any effective story of whatever length should have protagonist/antagonist, setting, theme, 3-act plot, conflict. He said he does something that I think I will start doing: he marks the places where the acts begin and end, and marks the crisis, where the antagonist appears, where the theme is stated. I would imagine I would have to give a story at least two readings to do all that!
Graham answered that he thought his definition of a vignette story might be a 1-act tale and the other a 3-act story.
Fleur Bradley chimed in with the opinion that the vignette are stories that are like a fly-on-the-wall experience for the reader. Almost like an overheard conversation.
Then Jack Hardway/Dan said there IS a conventional short story form that has five parts, although many mystery stories don't contain all five. They are found most often in literary stories. When asked, he gave these two references:
If you click on them, you'll see they both reference a Freytag Pyramid. The first states the five parts as exposition; complication and development; crisis or turning point; falling action; catastrophe. It goes on to talk about other structure points, too.
The second reference says the five parts are exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and denouement.
Wikipedia uses these latter terms for its illustration (I hope it's not illegal to copy wiki illustrations).
Then Chris Rhatigan posted this statement: A creative writing teacher explained another good five-part structuring technique for short stories similar to the one Jack discussed: 1) Action 2) Background 3) Development 4) Climax 5) Ending. One thing I like about it more--especially as a crime fiction writer--is that the reader gets dropped right in the middle of the story, then you get into the history of the characters, setting, etc. So in this case the piece would have two sets of rising and falling action.
I think I like this one best of all, at least for a mystery story. I'd love to hear from other short story writers and readers on this subject! Do you writers think you use any of the above structure devices? Do you readers see them?
Monday, August 2, 2010
An amusing grammar lesson. Don't click if language offends you.
Mostly of interest for mystery writers, an article for New Orleans LEOs on interviewing techniques from BJ Bourg, a writer I admire.
This was added to my last post in the comments, but I'll put it here in case you didn't click on those.
A simpler website that just counts repetitious words is here.
And a place to buy fancy software that might be even more helpful, but you have to watch your language here. Page down for an amusing pledge that prevents me from buying this.
Here's a somewhat pessimistic look at promotion with some interesting comments. This, BTW, is a blog worth following.
Get your flash fiction news (contains contest and market listings) here! And visit the companion blog for more flash fiction info.
That's what I gathered. Hope some of it interests or helps you!
Thursday, July 29, 2010
At this site, NPR wants you to vote for your top 10 favorite thrillers
I wish they'd limited it to ones published in the past year. The list too choose from is long! Some of these aren't really thrillers and they've left off a bunch!
This one is just plain fun.
And here's an article on the above link telling about the guy who created it, and his future plans.
What does your book smell like? New Yorker article on marketing book/perfume tie-ins. Who thought of this?
This Mysteries and Margaritas blog entry could be helpful for editing your first draft
Ever want to know how to use the mouse less and the keyboard more?
Part of a speech by marketing expert Seth Godin. He explains infinite shelf space and what's happening in the publishing industry.
Kristin Lamb gives a humorous view of being a writer at this blog.
Thinking about self-publishing? Here's a whole bunch of info on that.
101 ways to market by Joanna Campbell Slan, which is another name for the Energizer Bunny. I got the link from Victor Banis. He recommends using only the promotional tools you feel comfortable with, or those you enjoy.
Sandy Parshall says she picked up all the links below (except the last one) from a DorothyL post by a librarian. Interesting stuff. They're about to articles/blogs/e-books.
Why e-reader adoption will be slower than people think
Piracy of e-books
What if Amazon dominates the field
NPR on how reading and writing will be changed by e-books
A blog on issues re e-books for librarians and publishers, written by
Sue Polanka, head of Reference at Wright State University
AAA&S panel from Symposium on the Impact of Technology on Society,
entitled "Information Technology and the Future of Books, Publishing,
Here's how to contact Sandy, author of the fabulous mystery BROKEN PLACES:
Her web site http://www.sandraparshall.com
Blogging at http://www.poesdeadlydaughters.blogspot.com
And lastly, this is a treat for mystery fans. Sir Arthur himself speaking about Sherlock! This comes via Janet Rudolph.
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Three things beginning directors learn to identify when reading a play are the inciting incident, the crisis, and the climax. Usually the inciting incident happens in the beginning of Act 1 or thereabouts. The crisis can occur in Act 2 and, that’s right, you guessed it, the climax occurs in Act 3. In case you don’t know, the inciting incident refers to whatever event happens to get the party started—someone dies, a discovery is made, a wicked spell is cast that affects the chances of beauty pageant participants. The crisis is the action a character takes that will ultimately effect the outcome of the play—the hero decides to murder the bad guy, someone decides to stand up to the abusive husband. The climax, sometimes called the resolution, is how the problem is solved.
If you start to think about your novel in this way, it can really help keep your writing tight and on track. I like to write might first draft rough and loose so I can go back and identify those three things. Once I do, I separate my novel into chapter sections that represent Acts 1, 2, and 3. This makes for easier rewrites, and I can hone in on sections at a time, making sure they are how I want them to be.
A good rule of thumb would be to have your inciting incident happen within the first 50 pages. Exposition is important in a story, but it doesn’t always forward the action. Keep us in the moment and only provide back story when it’s necessary. Remember, those first chapters are what the agent will be reading and if the action isn’t moving, they won’t keep reading. Act 1 typically ends with a small crisis.
Take a look at your novel. What is the climax of your story? Where is the big event from which there is no turning back? Hone it, refine it and make sure it raises the stakes—this is your Act 2 section.
How does it get resolved? This is Act 3 and it wraps up the story. I usually find Act 3 the most exciting to write—it’s fast paced and the pieces of the puzzle are coming together.
If you are looking for more information on what should be included in your “acts”, check out Jessica Page Morrell’s book Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us. She goes in depth on the importance of the three act play style of writing.
Monday, July 26, 2010
- How can you know what's selling in your genre if your not reading it?
- How can you grow as a writer if you're not exposing yourself to new styles of writing?
- How can you expect to be feed by a system if you're not buying in to it?
- Is this working for me? Why or why not?
- What makes it fit into its genre?
- What sets it apart from others in the genre?
- What techniques are they employing (e.g. sentence structure, word choice, point of view, etc.)?
The Book Smugglers: They review many of the latest and greatest in speculative fiction and paranormal romance. They are very thorough with their reviews and even participate in and share information from many industry events like Book Expo.
Flashlight Worthy Books: Flashlight Worthy covers all genres and gives great book recommendations for all age groups and interests. They compile handy lists based on themes and age groups, which have also been good for helping me find new books for family.
Of course we are always making recommendations on this blog for great books on writing, because books on the craft are still important. However, it is the books in our genre of choice that we need to support most and that can teach us what we need to know to break into the industry.
Saturday, July 24, 2010
My boss pointed me to this website called I Write Like. You enter in a few paragraphs of your writing and the software compares your writing to forty well known writers to see which one you write like. The algorithm that runs the software makes the analysis based on sentence structure, word choice, and other factors. Once completed, you get a badge that you can place on your website, facebook, or blog so everyone will know who you write like.
By the way, I write like Stephen King.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Here are the topics for each session:
Session 1: Industry Overview—How the industry works and publishing options available to authors.
Session 2: Content Is King—What editors look for in a great book.
Session 3: Killer Covers—What makes a book stand out and the basic elements of a cover.
Session 4: Storming the Market—Marketing and promotion before, during, and after a book release.
Session 5: Take Control of the Internet—How to build an online platform.
Each session features one of Greenleaf's experts. Session 4 and 5 will also have a publicist and Bookstore associate on hand to answer questions on placement and marketing. I will be presenting at the 5th session, but I will be on hand for all five to answer any questions and to also serve as a liaison for the Writer's League. We are creating downloadable one sheets on topics like how to query, getting an agent, putting together a book proposal, and marketing. Resources and links will be available on the website in the next week or two and more will be added throughout the year.
You can also follow what's happening by using the twitter hashtag #austinpubu or by becoming a fan of APU on Facebook. This is a great and affordable opportunity to learn about the industry and what publishers look for. You can also learn more by viewing our white papers on what publishers want and other related topics.
Monday, July 19, 2010
As promised, here's my second main use for spreadsheets. I know I've discussed this somewhere before, but can't find where. (If I could I'd copy it.)
I use a spreadsheet to keep track of my characters and my plot and don't know what I'd do without it. Probably make a lot of mistakes, like having a person's eyes change from brown to blue, having clues talking about before they're discovered, having them discovered twice--that kind of thing.
After using several methods, I've settled on this one. I label the first worksheet "names & desc". I could call it "characters & settings" because that's what it is, but that's long for that little tab.
I dislike reading books whose character names confuse me, whose characters I can't tell apart. One reason for this is sometimes that too many begin with the same letter. This is SO easy to avoid. See those columns labeled A to Z? (And beyond, but we don't need them for this.) I type "character names" on the first line, skip a space and type "first names", skip several spaces and type "last names". Then I slap the first and last names into their columns. If left to my own devices without this tool, many of my names end up starting with M for some reason.
I'm constantly collecting names, of course, as all writers are. Off signs, TV, radio, and I even look at the fictitious people who send me spam, trying to sell me watches and drugs and, well, that other product that, as a female, I don't really need. I collect these in a spreadsheet so I can alphabetize them and, when I see that I have names beginning with A, B, C, but no Rs or Ts, I can see if there's one on that list I can use.
Below those rows I have columns headed: complete name, description, age, role, vehicle, and other columns for more description if I need it. It's surprising how soon I can forget what vehicle I had a character driving, even though I carefully picked it to make a statement about the character, of course.
At the bottom I list the main settings and describe the main features in case I forget what I put where.
The second worksheet is the plotting timeline. But I do the third one first, plot beats. I use three acts and have three plot beats per act, sort ofin general. Act I has plot beat 1, plot beat 1, and plot point for the end of the act. Act IIa has plot beat 3, plot beat 4, and middle point. Act IIb has plot beats 5 & 6, and plot point. And Act III contains plot beats 7 & 8 and the end. These are just a phrase to tell me what important thing happens at that point. There are 12 items and, if I can get 5500 words for each one, I'll have a decent length novel.
I don't always have all of them filled out when I begin, but as the story unfolds, they all get filled in.
Then I put these on the second worksheet in RED. These are the writing points I'm aiming for. They can change, of course, but if I don't have something to aim for, I have a hard time getting started. The red events go down the first column under the heading "Events". The next column is "time" and the next one, for my current WIP, is "clue or suspect", that is what does this event relate to. Sometimes I color code by theme, by clue, or by suspect so I can see if too much of one thing is bunching up.
The rest of the columns have the names of the main characters, beginning with the protagonist. I fill in more detailed events leading up to the plot points, and put details about what separate characters are doing at that point in their columns. It's easy to glance across the sheet and see if I've been neglecting a theme, a clue, or a suspect for too long. It's also easy to see if I have a character doing two things in two different far-apart places in too short a time.
I like to bold the first column and unbold the event as I write it. It's very easy this way to make sure things happen in the right progression. Especially if you decide to make a big plot change and need to shift things around.
I used to have the characters on a different sheet, but decided that I'd like them all together. Just have to do control-page-up and control-page-down to shift between my worksheets. And I use other worksheets to keep track of things specific to that project.
That's how I do it! I'd love to hear other methods or ways this one could be improved.
[Image used under the terms of the GNU Lesser General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation]