Tag Archives: Writing

How I “Outline”

(Spoiler Alert: not very well)

A writer I know recently shared the outline for her last book and I was amazed at how elegant and organized it was.  The whole format was really simple and clear – Chapter 1: this happens, Chapter 2: this happens, etc.  I wondered if this was something that could work for me.

Then I realized that I don’t actually do outlines.  When I’m writing a story, I generally have a bunch of vague ideas and scenes floating around in my head.  They usually don’t get put on paper until I’m actually writing the scene, or if I’m “thinking with my pen”*.  There are no charts, no graphs, not even a list**.  It’s kind-of a mess. Continue reading How I “Outline”

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The End is Near! Sort-Of…

At one of the panels for Avalon Expo, someone asked “How do you know when to end a story?”

I can’t remember exactly what I said, but I’ve had time to think about it and I thought I’d share some of my current musings. This is especially relevant since the big project I’m working on has spun so far out of control that I have no idea how it’s going to end…  Or if

Honestly, this advice is for me as much as you.

*

So, how do I know when to end a story?

Short answer: Mostly intuition.

Long answer: There are a few ways…

  1. I’ve written the ending first.

Usually I know the end before I even start writing. Most of my short stories start out with that final moment, and then I just have to figure out what happens to bring me to that point.  It happened with The Gemini ProjectThe Invisible Boy; and the two horror stories I’m currently working on.

There were a few times where, when I got to the end of a longer story, I realized that the original idea no longer fit and it was going towards a new ending. But that’s not a bad thing – stories change, it happens. Sometimes you plan on killing all of your characters but a few of them end up surviving somehow. But then you write the final line (for the new ending) and you think to yourself “Yeah, that’s a fantastic ending line”. And all is right with the world again.

  1. I’ve written a really good end-line.

I love a good ending line as much as I love a good opening line. In fact, if I write a so-so ending line it bothers me to no end, because I know it can be better. It’s like looking at a row of pencils that aren’t quite perfectly in line….

Some examples are: Virginia Wolfe’s To the Lighthouse: “Yes, she thought, laying down her brush in extreme fatigue, I have had my vision.” And George Orwell’s 1984:He loved Big Brother.” There’s something about those lines that are so final and yet mean so much more.

  1. The story I wanted to tell is over.

Once I wanted a project to have 25 chapters (for symbolic purposes), but when I reached the end of chapter 22 I realized that I was done. My character’s journey had ended. I’d said all I wanted to say about this particular story, and to write any more would do a disservice to the fantastic ending scene I’d just written. Yes, I wanted to continue with these characters, but I knew that it would be best to start a new plot, with new themes and ideas, instead of dragging this one out.

The Hobbit ends when Bilbo returns home; The Fellowship of the Rings ends with the breaking of the fellowship; Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone ends when Harry’s school term ends.  Even though their stories continue, their current task has ended and it’s time to take a breather before the next adventure.

*

Typically, when I plan my ending, I try to resolve matters – either for better or worse. I don’t like leaving huge plot holes or dangling plot threads. It’s fun to have hints and intrigue and something to look forward to, but I’m not happy when the ending to a book is more like the ending to a chapter (yes, there’s a difference – As Fierce As Steel left me wanting more, while Mindspeak made me regret the time I’d spent reading it).

When in doubt, I think of who’s journey this is. Then I try to find a way to bring them to the end point – to let the character finally achieve their goal, or fail horribly, or realize that they need to change their way of thinking.

Originally, I had no idea how to end The Six Elemental. I tried to resolve what I could, while leaving certain things unsaid, but the end just didn’t feel end-y enough.  Finally I thought about Kit’s journey and how she had changed over the course of the story.  I thought about what I was trying to say with this story and made that the ending, so when people close the book that’s the impression they’re left with.

*

And with that, I return once more into the void from which I came…

“We were on a break!”

I’ve been a bit neglectful.

See, I started to panic about the progress of a story I was writing. I was wondering if it was going to be long enough; if I had enough plot; if I was only writing things for the sake of filling up the word-count; if I’d taken the right direction or if I was way off course.

Doubts, man, they can really get in your head sometimes.

So I took a break. I stopped staring blankly at the screen, writing half a sentence and then deleting it. Instead, I worked on a couple short stories. Then a couple more. Then I was chatting with someone who’d read The Six Elemental and that gave me an idea for another short story. Then I got distracted by an old novel I’d written a few years ago and sunk WAY too much time on that (long story short: I decided to move from first person POV to third person, and now I’ve basically got to re-write the entire 50,000 words).

But last week I decided to go back to that first story, and you know what? I started to fall in love with it all over again. I was getting new ideas, fixing problems, making motivations clearer… It was like meeting up with an old friend.

When I’m in between edits, I’ll try to take a break from what I’m working on. It gives me a chance to come back to it anew and see things that I might have missed because my face was jammed so close to it. But there are times that I need to take a step back from a project because something isn’t working, and I need the space to realize what the problem is.

It can be tough to step away. It might feel like you failed your work or your characters, or that now you’ll never get it finished. But the best part is that you can always go back to it. And sometimes, when you come back, you might see that you were actually doing a pretty great job.

 

Female Characters in Sci-fi and Fantasy | The Writer’s Block

51ptLF0akDL._SY346_The next Writer’s Block course we’d like to announce as happening during Avalon Expo is ‘Female Characters in Sci-fi and Fantasy,’ which is tentatively scheduled for Saturday August 26th from 1-1:50PM.

This panel will be essential to anyone looking to make sure they craft strong, reliable, and realistically-portrayed female characters into their genre fiction, a must in today’s market! It can be daunting — for writers of any gender — to get this delicate balance correct, partially because many of the traditions of genre writing are rooted in gender-norms that aren’t always reflective of today’s societies. How does one navigate the challenges of writing for today while respecting the greats that paved the way before you? The author-editor team behind As Fierce as Steel Christopher Walsh (the Gold & Steel Saga) and Erin Vance (editor of the From the Rock series) will help guide you through this path as an author… with a third special guest panelist yet-to-be-announced! Continue reading Female Characters in Sci-fi and Fantasy | The Writer’s Block

Fairies, Mermaids, Vampires, and Zombies, OH MY! | The Writer’s Block

The first Writer’s Block course we’d like to announce as happening during Avalon Expo is Fairies, Mermaids, Vampires, and Zombies, OH MY!, which is tentatively scheduled for Saturday August 26th from 4-4:50PM!

This panel will be a fun and informative look at the staples of genre fiction — tried and true literary trends like fairies, mermaids, vampire, and zombies, some of whom have been with us since the oral tradition of storytelling. This panel discussion, aimed at authors, interested parties, and fans of genre stories, will be headed by an all-star cast of authors who have taken these pillars of fantasy and horror and used them in fun, exciting, and innovative ways! The panel will include: Ellen Curtis (editor of Fantasy from the Rock and author of the Infinity series), Charles O’Keefe (the spellbinding author of The Newfoundland Vampire and its sequels), Paul Carberry (author of the Zombies on the Rock series), and Amanda Labonté (author of the mermaid-inspired Call of the Sea series and the Vampire-Werewolf medical drama Supernatural Causes). Continue reading Fairies, Mermaids, Vampires, and Zombies, OH MY! | The Writer’s Block

Dude, Where’s My Character Sheet…? (AKA I am the worst at titles)

I have a very long To-Do List when it comes to writing projects. It’s so long that I’ve had to separate it into sub categories:

  • Ideas to develop further
  • Stories to start writing
  • Plays to start writing
  • Stories/Plays I’ve started writing and need to finish
  • Finished works I need to edit
  • What even is this idea/story/play and where is it going?

And, finally:

  • Reference binders to create

Continue reading Dude, Where’s My Character Sheet…? (AKA I am the worst at titles)

The 48-Hour Writing Slideshow!

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This past weekend was the first of what we think will be many 48-Hour Writing Marathons, sponsored by THE Tutoring Center, Engen Books, and Thrive! A great time was had by all, we raised a lot of money and collectively wrote over 60,000 words, the majority of which (over 10k!) went to Sci-Fi from the Rock author Stacey Oakley.

Lots of authors and writing enthusiasts showed up to write and enjoy a quiet creative space with which to work and bounce ideas off of similarly-motivated individuals. All said an amazing weekend, and we thank Call of the Sea and Supernatural Causes author Amanda Labonté for arranging it!