Confessions of a Plotter #SFWApro

Posted at Mar 4, 2015 9:30 am

I confess. I’m a plotter.

Part of it’s out of preference, part out of necessity. Anymore, when I turn in a manuscript, editors want an outline. Or they want an outline as a part of my contractual obligations, even before I set a word to paper. They want to know the hell I’m cooking up, so that there will be no surprises. That’s the necessity.

As far as preference goes…I dislike staring at a blank page. It’s intimidating. I want to have some idea of where I’m going and how I’m gonna get there.

I begin with a high-level outline. A skeleton or scaffolding. As I work through the manuscript, it becomes more detailed. Flesh gets added to the bones. There are ideas that need to be reiterated, loops that need to be closed, threads to tie up. It eventually breaks into a scene-by-scene outline.

The scene-by-scene outline allows me to easily create a timeline (another frequent editorial request). I find that I’m less tempted to try to pack a superhuman number of events into my heroine’s day if I have a visual representation of how much stuff I’m trying to cram between sunrise and sunset.

Breaking a story into scenes helps me to control chapter lengths. If I scribble down the gist of one scene POV, and the number of pages on a notecard. I can mix ‘em up and put them together in many configurations. Keeps me from getting too wedded to a certain order and keeps me questioning breaks and POV shifts. I also try to write down on the notecard the purpose of the scene. If I can’t come up with at least three, it goes into the trash bin.

As you may have guessed, my outline starts out small. At the outset of a project, it may be only three or four pages. But, as the project grows, I faithfully record what I’m doing on paper and cards. When I’m done, I have a detailed outline that I can analyze for pacing issues, logic gaps, and general WTFckery.

That’s not to say that I have no serendipities, no flow. I do chase ideas down rabbit holes and find my own little synchronicities. The outline is not sacred – it’s meant to be torn apart and reconstructed.

But I like having a light in the darkness to show me where I’m going.

#SFWApro

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Guest Post: B. E. Sanderson

Posted at Mar 2, 2015 9:00 am

 

 

Thanks for having me today, Laura!

The day before Valentine’s Day of this year, I published a novel – Dying Embers.  It was a novel I originally started writing almost seven years ago.  Then it was called Manhunter.  The earliest file date I can find for the first incarnation of this book is dated March 30, 2008.  I finished the first draft in May and the final draft in September. 

And then I began the journey toward publication.  I gave it a catchy title, because, let’s face it, Manhunter was lame.  I created query materials like I was supposed to – a query letter with a catchy blurb, a couple of synopses (a long one and a short one).  I sent out dozens of queries and received dozens of rejections.  I rewrote the query letter and tried again, with the same results. 

In the interim, I continued to write.  After all Manhunter wasn’t my first book and it sure wasn’t about to be my last. 

I got a couple of really good nibbles that Fall.  I even got the nicest rejection letter ever to a request for full (when an agent asks to see the whole book), but it wasn’t what she needed.  Since she was my best hope, I set the book aside and went on to the next book, and the next, and the next—each time facing the same hurdles and doing my darnedest to jump them. 

Last year, I made a New Year’s resolution to take my writing more seriously.  I would up my game.  I would spend as much time and money as it took to find myself an agent and get a publishing contract.  Except the more I did, the farther I felt from my goal.  And the closer the brick walls I’d been bashing my head against for years seemed to get, until I felt like I was standing in a coat closet. 

Then I remembered something my husband once told me.  It was a tale of a rat in a rice paper maze.  The rat would run and run through the maze to reach its goals, when really all the rat had to do was rip through the super-thin paper.  It never did, because it never saw how easy it could be free.  All it saw was the walls. 

It still took a while for me to stop fearing the walls, though.  One day last summer, when Hubs and I were discussing budgets, I found the courage and floated the idea of self-publishing.  I feared he’d tell me it wasn’t possible because we’re on limited fundage, but instead, he jumped on the idea.  Not only did he jump on it, he ran with it.  We researched every aspect and discovered self-publishing didn’t have to be nearly as expensive as we’d made it out to be.  Sure, it’s not cheap if you want to do it right, but it wouldn’t break the bank either. 

Then next step was going through all the manuscripts I’d written over the course of ten years and deciding which one would be the most marketable out of the gate.  And then came a bunch of other steps I won’t bore you with.  Needless to say, I did the work, I ticked all the steps off, and I launched my own book.

It wasn’t easy.  But every little thing I did was something I accomplished and I knew the end result would be a published novel with my name on it.  No one else had control over my destiny and I saw that the brick walls I’d been fighting all those years were only so much rice paper.

If you’re interested in reading Dying Embers, it’s available now for Kindle and in paperback format. 

Good girls don’t play with fire.

Emma Sweet is tired of being a good girl. When she catches her husband cheating, she hits on the perfect plan to pay back all the men who ever broke her heart. Revenge isn’t as simple as seducing her old lovers and tossing a match, but watching them burn is deliciously satisfying.   

The one time in her life Agent Jace Douglas wasn’t a good girl, she lost her family.  Now she would rather run far and fast when it comes to fire.  Too bad for her, she can’t walk away from a case where fire is the killer’s signature.  Jace needs to face her fears and catch this murderer before the flames of her past—and the smoldering heat she feels for Detective Ben Yancy—reduce her life, her career and her self-control to ash.

And to celebrate being on Laura’s blog, I’ve made Dying Embers Kindle edition free for today only (March 2nd from 12am PST to 11:59pm PST – according to Amazon).  Thanks again for having me, Laura, and thanks everyone else for stopping by!

 

And if you want to know a little more about me, here’s my official author bio:

Former sales ‘road warrior’ and corporate ‘Jack of all trades’, B.E. Sanderson now lives the hermit’s life in southwest Missouri, where she divides her time between doing writerly things, inhaling books, networking on the internet, and enjoying the ‘retired’ life with her husband and her crazy cats.

 

You can learn more and connect with me at:

The Writing Spectacle

B.E.’s Writerly Space

B.E. on Facebook

B.E. on Twitter

 

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DARK ALCHEMY at RT Book Reviews: 4.5 Stars! #SFWApro

Posted at Feb 27, 2015 11:00 am

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I’m thrilled that DARK ALCHEMY got a 4.5 star review from RT Book Reviews! RT Book Reviews says: 

“Dark Alchemy reads like a stand-alone work, but Petra is such a likable protagonist and the slightly off-balance world in which the town of Temperance exists is so well drawn that it’s hard not to hope we’ll see more of Petra’s adventures.”

#SFWApro

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Boundaries in Writing #SFWApro

Posted at Feb 24, 2015 5:14 pm

 

 

Boundaries are a good thing. They serve to protect things that are new and delicate. We put cages over young tomato plants to keep them from being nibbled by the wildlife. We ask relatives and neighbors to call before dropping in. We learn to say “no” to events that clutter up our calendars and drain our time and energy.

 

It’s a harder task for some of us than others. I know it’s hard for me. I’ve been guilty of being a doormat in the past, allowing the tide of demands to wash over me, until I was thoroughly resentful. Learning to say “no” to people and things was a difficult process for me in my daily life.

 

Writing is no different. It’s a precious thing that deserves to be guarded from incursions. To be certain, most of the things that encroach upon writing are benign, like that pile of laundry that I really should attack before bedtime. That last volley of e-mails that we ought to finish for work. Facebook updates. The phone. Twitter. Television.

 

Writing can slide to the bottom of the to-do list, becoming the last thing I hope to accomplish before we fall into bed at night, thoroughly drained from the people and tasks of the day. Days slide into weeks without tangible progress on a project. I let the easier things on my to-do list take priority. And also the ones that are more visible to other people. It’s somehow easier to be prouder of a presentation or a freshly-painted room than something that’s for my eyes only. There’s immediate positive feedback, a pat on the back right away. Progress on writing is so often invisible to the world, and it’s easier to mitigate the importance of it.

 

But it’s important to protect the work in progress, especially in the beginning stages of writing. A book, or a grain of an idea for a book, is fragile. I’ve got to plant it in a safe place, away from wind. It needs the right amount of sunshine and water. I have to put it first on the to-do list – first thing in the morning, before it gets a chance to get pushed off.

 

I’m not much of a morning person.  I always dreaded the standard writing advice of getting up an hour early to get writing stuffed into a day. I’d much rather pull the covers over my head and finish up with dreaming. But…even though it’s common advice, it’s good advice. We do first what we deem to be most important. And I was letting writing slide to the back of the list, rationalizing that I’d get to it around midnight because I was a night person. More often than not, I’d throw in the towel and want to just veg in my jammies in front of the TV.

 

I had to learn to create not only priority boundaries, but also time boundaries. I have to force myself to sit in a chair and not surf the internet, check-email, or mess with a host of other distractions. No television. It’s only then that I seem to get the really good stuff done. And…it feels pretty darn good to have that to-do crossed off my list. The rest of the day feels lighter. I feel sort of virtuous. Charged. Sometimes, I squeeze in an extra session of writing during the day because the momentum is so good.

 

And I have to defend writing in other ways, too. A new idea may or may not work. I need some time and space to explore it, so I don’t really talk about it. It’s too easily bruised and can wither under too much judgment and scrutiny. When asked, I’ll talk about it in the vaguest of terms: “Oh…it’s a YA story.” “I think it’s gonna be UF.” But I don’t really know. Not until it’s grown up, and I can see if it’ll become animal, vegetable, or mineral. Mostly, I don’t need anybody poking at it, at this stage. I may decide to go through with the project, or I might not. I don’t know if it has the shiny yet. It may not make it past thirty pages. If so, I want to quietly bury it in the backyard without having to explain myself with a full post-mortem.

 

There’s a time for editing, critique, and the harsh polish of good scrutiny. But not until I’ve worked with it for a while. Not until it’s grown up under my wing and I’ve had a chance to enhance its strengths and diminish its weaknesses. I don’t want to subject anybody to a first draft. As I work through a manuscript, I keep notes of things that need to be fleshed out or fixed. Once it’s complete, before it goes to any beta readers, I do a round of editing to repair the things I know need work.

 

There’s also an odd thing about being a writer: defending the process. To outsiders, writing can seem like a really self-indulgent process, where not much seems to be happening. I get to close myself off in a room and stare at a screen for a long time. Kind of luxurious, hmm? Isn’t there a better use of my time? Shouldn’t I be going out with friends or scrubbing my grout with a toothbrush?

 

I’ve gotten much better about saying “no.” This is work. Just as much as any other. I have to respect the process and respect myself in doing the process. I have no problem turning down social invites by saying that “Gee, I’d love to, but I’m working.” And I am. I have no issues anymore dodging intrusive questions about what I’m working on or when I’m going to share it. “Soon.” “Someday.” “When it’s done.” “Not yet.”

 

So…boundaries. They are a good thing. Because that tomato plant needs a cage to protect it from the garden nibblers. The nibblers are many and varied: time, guilt, demands from others. I’ve got to put these boundaries in place to allow the project to produce some good fruit. And that’s not going to happen if I neglect to water the project or let other people pick at the flowers.

 

Someday, I’ll have tomatoes to show. But not yet.

 
 
#SFWApro

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THE DAY BEFORE by Liana Brooks Cover Reveal

Posted at Feb 20, 2015 9:00 am

Check out the lovely cover for Liana Brooks’ April release, THE DAY BEFORE!

 

DayBefore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A body is found in the Alabama wilderness. The question is:

Is it a human corpse … or is it just a piece of discarded property?

 Agent Samantha Rose has been exiled to a backwater assignment for the Commonwealth Bureau of Investigation, a death knell for her career. But then Sam catches a break—a murder—that could give her the boost she needs to get her life back on track. There’s a snag, though: the body is a clone, and technically that means it’s not a homicide. And yet, something about the body raises questions, not only for her, but for coroner Linsey Mackenzie.

 The more they dig, the more they realize nothing about this case is what it seems … and for Sam, nothing about Mac is what it seems, either.

 This case might be the way out for her, but that way could be in a bodybag.

 A thrilling new mystery from Liana Brooks, The Day Before will have you looking over your shoulder and questioning what it means to be human.

 

About Liana:

Liana Brooks once read the book GOOD OMENS by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett and noted that both their biographies invited readers to send money (or banana daiquiris). That seems to have worked well for them. Liana prefers strawberry daiquiris (virgin!) and will never say no to large amounts of cash in unmarked bills. 

Her books are sweet and humorous with just enough edge to keep you reading past your bedtime. 

Liana was born in San Diego after bouncing around the country she’s settled (temporarily) in the great wilderness of Alaska. She can be found on Twitter (@LianaBrooks), on FaceBook, and on the web at www.lianabrooks.com.

LINKS:

 HarperCollins – http://www.harpercollins.com/9780062407658/the-day-before

 Amazon – http://www.amazon.com/Day-Before-Jane-Doe-ebook/dp/B00Q33ZRTW/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1417452140&sr=8-7&keywords=liana+brooks

 Barnes and Noble – http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-day-before-liana-brooks/1120818378?ean=9780062407658

 iTunes – https://itunes.apple.com/gb/book/the-day-before/id945085387?mt=11

 Kobo – https://store.kobobooks.com/en-US/ebook/the-day-before-2

 GoodReads – https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23607748-the-day-before

 Website: http://www.lianabrooks.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DayBefore cover

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How Collecting Action Figures Made Me a Better Writer

Posted at Feb 16, 2015 10:50 pm

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Yeah. I never really grew up.

 

I give a good impression of being a responsible adult, though. I’m happily married, pay my bills, and remember to clean out the fridge before fuzzy green civilizations start hailing me as the Bringer of Light.

 

Yet, I collect action figures. I had some when I was a little girl, to be sure. I had the 1970’s Lynda Carter Wonder Woman doll. I had a handful of GI Joes that wound up using Barbie’s Dream House as their command center. But the things that I most avidly collected were He-Man and She-Ra action figures. My brother and I staged epic wars on snow days when we tore the cushions off the couch and set them up as forts and canyons on the floor. We turned the dog into an armored personnel carrier (he was a very patient Good Dog). And the Christmas that Castle Greyskull arrived under the tree…OMG. Epic rejoicing.

 

This was my first exposure to fantasy as a genre. Seriously! I grew up in a pretty rural area, a place where there were no sci-fi conventions or channels beyond basic cable. Magic swords and green tigers and winged horses…oh, my. This was completely accessible to kids, and I reveled in it.

 

Especially She-Ra. I already owned Teela, Evil-Lyn, and many of the male figures from the He-Man group. But I was super-excited to see a line of female figures. She-Ra was their leader, the sister of He-Man and the most powerful woman in the universe. This was pretty revolutionary for the time – powerful girls in charge of the storyline and saving the world! I tuned in to watch She-Ra’s adventures ever day after school, wishing that I had my own flying horse and magic sword. But I made do with my pink plastic sword and the family dog (again, the long-suffering dog who was less than thrilled about being dressed in construction-paper wings).

 

These toys helped me think about the world in a different “what-if” way. What if life and adventure were really unlimited, and I could create and defend the ideals I chose? What kinds of heroines could I develop with my own crayons, magic markers, and pens? What if there really were no rules about how a heroine “should” be?

 

I remembered that, the feeling of no limits. And I keep some reminders around. Through the miracle of eBay, I’ve gathered together quite a few action figures. I remember a lot of them from my past, but others are new to me. Having them around forces me not to take myself too seriously.

 

And they also remind me that there aren’t any limits. They keep me in touch with that childlike wonder. And the possibilities are all mine…even if they are covered in pink glitter.

 

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Falling In and Out

Posted at Feb 5, 2015 4:44 pm

 

Writing a novel is like falling in and out of love. It’s a relationship with stages. There’s bliss, angst, reconciliation, and letting go. There are beginnings, middles and ends. And also sometimes shouting and tears. 

 

Beginnings are tough for me. Nothing intimidates me more than staring at a blank page. There’s absolutely nothing there but a sea of white. I chew on my lip and doubt myself. Can I conjure something from nothing? What if it never comes together?

 

I reluctantly tap out a first line. A hook. I squint at it, chew on my lip some more. 

 

Is this concept worth pursuing? Is it attractive enough to chase through the next several months, through research and dreams and the flu? Is it going to be one of those easy relationships, with effortless flow? Or will this one be like pulling my own teeth?

 

There’s no way to know. I futz and mumble to myself and stare at the first five pages, dawdle around the first chapter. I fret aloud and talk to the cat about the new relationship. 

 

The cat usually ignores me. I screw up the courage to take the plunge. I decide that I like the idea. I flirt with it a bit, chase it around like a butterfly. I court it. Sometimes, I can be trusted to even put on a clean T-shirt while typing. I’m trying to impress it. I even make an outline. 

 

And it flirts back with me…with snatches of phrases. Images. I type and scribble notes, fearful of losing anything. Typing, typing…

 

And then I’m suddenly at the middle. I’m all of a sudden in a committed relationship with the book. I can feel it taking shape, developing a life of its own. It starts to have its own moods.  Sometimes, it’s cloying. Sometimes distant.

 

But we fall into a rhythm, greet each other at the same time every day. A standing date. 

 

We talk. We do more than that. The book and I have discussions. In the middle, there are multiple ways for things to go. I try some things that work. I try some that don’t. I pull out the note cards, fuss with my outline. I spread cards out on the floor all around me, trying to analyze and dissect what’s working, what’s not. 

 

Sometimes, it’s a test of endurance, pushing through. But I can see to the end. When I have the ending firmly structured, the last ten thousand words fly. It’s bliss. I see where all the tendrils of thought and plot threads I had developed in the beginning curve back around. I think I understand the story, now: the hidden symbols, the growth of the character. I understand what it is about the story that attracted me to it. I understand what I’m afraid of about it.

 

The end is the best part. It gathers momentum, takes wing.

 

And flies right out of my hands. I type THE END on the last page. 

 

And I feel a pang of sadness. It’s gone. It’s moved out of my life, out of my mind and my heart. There’s still some tweaking to be done. Editing. Smoothing. But that part feels like the post-mortem of the relationship. 

 

The story’s gone. I did what I needed to: I gave the story a voice. And it left me. The nest’s empty. Lonely. 

 

And the only solution is to fill it again, with another egg of a story. Another beginning.  

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DARK ALCHEMY Receives a PW Starred Review!

Posted at Jan 26, 2015 5:49 pm

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I’m over the moon! DARK ALCHEMY received a Publishers Weekly starred review. PW calls it a “…charming adventure, wrapped up with a perfect ending.”

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DARK ALCHEMY Cover

Posted at Jan 18, 2015 3:31 pm

The cover and latest info for DARK ALCHEMY have been released! Check out the official cover reveal over at Tez Says!

 

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THE HALLOWED ONES on Sale

Posted at Dec 29, 2014 2:40 am

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THE HALLOWED ONES is now $2.52 for the Amazon Kindle for a limited time! Details here

 

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