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Got Plot? #AmWriting #AmPlotting

Business man writing plan ABC
When I first decided to try to make a living doing this thing I love called writing, my first step was to learn as much as I could about anything writing or publishing.

One of the biggest helps  when I was starting out were the online workshop/classes hosted by RWA, among others. Authors teaching authors. This community is kind, helpful and always willing to share knowledge 😀

After a ton of blog reading, I settled on my first topic to study and improve.


I still enjoy the book, 20 Master Plots by Ronald Tobias (I have the 2003 edition, there’s a new 2012 edition now). Even Tobias states, though, that no one knows how many types of master plots there are (his guess is not 20, he only gives you an overview of different plots such as Revenge, The Quest, Adventure, Love, ect.)

Okay, I thought. *I think* I can work with that, LOL.


Next step, plot elements.

Free Rollercoaster Track Royalty Free Stock Photography - 6322557And this is where it got really interesting.


3 Act Structure

5 Act Structure

 I even heard of doing an 8 Act once.

 Spider web plotting


Snowflake plotting, and on and on.


Yup. I read books and/or took classes on them all.

Guess how many worked perfectly for me?



But it was definitely worth it. Because I took away so much information from each and every step, that I was able to form a mutt-mix bastardization method of elements from them all into my own questionable path to plotting.

Since I’m at the beginning of creating a new world and series for the first time in a couple years, I decided to revisit some of them.

It’s always interesting what new information I find, now that I have more writing under my belt.


So, my Q4U: How do you plot? Or, how do you pants it (no pre-story/outline writing)?

 And, how did you learn or decide on your method?

Writing Masters: Jim Butcher


I was reading some articles about writing, and it suggested googling one of your favorite authors, plus the word writing. I googled “Jim Butcher Writing”, without the quotations.

Google page: http://www.epublishabook.com/2014/06/09/writetip-elements-subplot-writers-writing-amwriting/


Product DetailsProduct Details


He writes both High fantasy and urban fantasy, but his tips apply to any genre





Some awesome pages that came up:


Jim’s LiveJournal

He hasn’t been on this for years, and the later posts are sporadic, but he talks about how he plots and writes



This is a blog that lists direct links to Jim’s writing articles




Google Docs that someone collated Jim’s tips (Can be saved as a document)







How Jim got Published



Q4U: What authors would you like to see writing tips from?


Hope you find these helpful : )

~ Amber

Writer research…AKA–getting to live other people’s lives…

What do you think of  when you hear the words ‘writer’ and ‘research’?  When I first began to seriously pay attention to the necessary skills inheritant to a writer, I had this vague image in my head of an investigative reporter in a fedora and topcoat skulking around dark corners, spying on nefarious types.  Unfortunately that’s not the way it really is. My reference library of actual books has increased exponentially over the years with such titles as: The Ultimate Encyclopedia of Mythology, The Search for ‘The Manchurian Candidate’, Monsters and Demons, Letters of Enoch, Navaho Indian Myths, Conflict, Action & Suspense, The Scene of a Crime,The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, Werewolves, The Book of Everything Feckin’ Irish, and so on.

It’s varied enough, the titles are housed in my  bedroom closet so the impressionable minds in the house have limited access.  Trying to explain to a teacher why my sons understand how to tell a were from a shifter and what weapon is easily modified to take out hearts is not a conversation I want to repeat.

But, as much information as you can gain from various books from a wide range of subject experts, nothing beats expierecing it for yourself or talking to those who’ve already been there and done that. Granted, for Urban Fantasy, finding a reliable source who’s fought off a werewolf or back a slavering vamp down is a bit hard to find, but there are ways around such things.  For example, in SHADOW’S MOON, most of my research circled around wild wolves and their behaviors.  Not because the story is packed with information, but because I needed my characters reactions to read true to their animal natures.  Conversations with my brother in law who enjoys spending time dressed like a tree, helped me consider how a human hunter’s mind could work in conjunction with a wild predator’s intellect.  Viola! Alpha werewolf in human skin.

In my current work, I’m pulling on other sources. Sources Knight and I have known for years, and we’re lucky enough to still have in our life considering their chosen lifestyle revolves around repeated tours overseas to keep me and mine safe.  Not to say I’m not pouring through various texts on military tactics or the psychology of special forces, but those can’t show me the depth of courage and honor it really takes to face something that most of us (thank goodness) never have to face.  Not only has our friend been a great resource in the creation of my characters, but the more I talk to him, the more I realize how lucky we are to have him in our lives.

Despite my anti-social, watch from the sidelines typical reserve, I’m discovering just how much more beneficial it is to go and start a conversation with those in my life.  All those personalities, all those stories, it’s a treasure trove out there.  Each person has stories that boggle the mind, each of them have something to contribute  to my growing mental library of character motivation, scene creation and plot devices.  More than books, there is no better research tool than the world we live in, because more time than naught, it’s the unexpected realities that make heart pounding adventures we writers depend on.

What are some of your best research tools?



PS  Join us next week when LIV RANCOURT comes for a visit….

And you’re doing this why?

Although I’m out on the road with Knight and the Prankster Duo visiting Grandma’s House, over the hills and through the snow, I wanted to share a very short blog post with you all.  Plus, I have to let you all know that the awesome Faith Hunter, author of the Jane Yellowrock novels will be visiting us next week, so mark your calendars and come help us welcome her to our lovely and slightly noxious Swamp!

While we traveled over the roads and pathways, I began to ponder some of the reasons behind the “why”s of my fourth of novel. Things in the Kyn world are a bit unsettled at the end of Shadow’s Moon, so now we have to fill in the blanks.  One of the things I’ve learned from the first three books, as the writer you best know the “why”s behind the story.  Why are your characters acting this way, why do they need to address these questions, why are they doing what they’re doing, why, why?

Once you have an idea of the answer, then you can start your story.  I know where I want to start the fourth book, I know who the main characters are, I know what problems they are going to face, I know why they act the way they do, but this time, I need to know what they’re going to do to solve these problems and why.

Character motivation and character evolution is critical to a good story. Your characters, especially in a series, have to continue to grow and evolve. Not just in an emotional sense, but in the challenges they face and how they triumph over said challenges. Sounds easy, right? It’s not.  For me, my characters have become real people, and rarely does a person have just one reason behind why they do something.  There are always a multitude of factors involved no matter how complex or simple our decisions. Getting this across in our writing, that’s true talent.

For the writers out there, how do you figure out your character motivations? Do you do interviews, use worksheets, just know because your crystal ball has fantastic reception? I’d love to hear.

For readers out there, how complex do you like your characters? Do you enjoy it when there are multiple factors playing part in their decisions and actions or do you like things straightforward and simple? Share, please.

Since I have to pay attention to the road as I’m the one in control of the vehicle, I guess I’ll let you go until next week.  Remember, Faith Hunter is coming, so make time and visit with us!


Character or plot?

I’m a plotter, I can admit that fully. I like my little road map laid out before I begin writing, even though I know full well that at the end, the book probably won’t look much like my initial outline.

That’s because as I write, my characters take on their own personalities and decide from there on out where they’re damn well going to go.

But being a plotter, I still need to know quite a bit about my characters before I can start that initial outline.

I recently sat down to plot book 5 in my Heart of a Vampire series. I wrote two pages of outline before my heart sank and I showed it to Wicked.

She laughed.

My characters were wimps and the story was going nowhere.

Which is when I finally realized I didn’t know nearly enough about my characters to even begin plotting.


So, my Q4U: Writers – how well do you need to know your characters before you begin to write?

Readers – Are you drawn to books with more action oriented plots, or by great characters (or both)?

NANO, Just Writing

The plan for NANO (National Novel Writing Month) is to just write, not edit, not outline, just write.  But how do you just write?  What does that even mean?

When I begin writing, I naturally crave some kind of structure, some kind of guidelines to follow.  Often my characters take me off my decided path, but then, a new path is created based upon what my characters want.  Does that make any sense at all?

BUT, this month I am just writing.  I am creating words on a page, without my usual obsessive compulsive behavior.  I am not going to re-read my work (at least I’ll try not to).  This plan, however, really worries me.  I think I might end up creating more work for myself in the end by doing things in such an unorganized way.  But at the same time, I am really looking forward to trying a different writing process.  Hey, I may even realize I like this way of writing better!

What do you think?  Does writing without a plan simply cause more problems in the long run?

NANO- National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month!  We Evil Dwarves are proud to say we are participating this year (and November is ALMOST here).  I have prepared my blogs ahead of time with a plan, so I can spend November working on the second novel in my new series.  But, I do have some reservations.

First of all, you have to understand my writing process to understand why something like NANO could get me a little stressed, so here it is:

  1. Wake from an intriguing dream.  Write it down.  Mull it over.  Write it down again, with some of the weird that doesn’t make sense when you wake up stuff, gone.
  2. Start writing.  Understand my character and my world.  Adjust how the character changes what I originally thought.
  3. Stop writing.  Create a general outline for the remainder of the book.
  4. Start writing again.  Make it to about the halfway point in the book.
  5. Stop writing again.  Go back and edit/revise the first portion of the book.
  6. Rewrite the outline with more details, adjusting for the changes that have occurred during the writing process.
  7. Start writing again.  Write until the end of the book.
  8. Finally, the hardcore revising begins.

Okay, so I never claimed my writing process was neat and organized.  What is your process like?  Also, this is why I fear NANO so much.  I am expected to go against my obsessive writing behaviors and just write for an entire month.

I don’t know how successful I will be in this process.  Our expectation is to write 50,000 words in one month, BUT it has taken me three months to write the first 50,000 words of my current novel.

So, wish me luck!  I hope I can proudly say, come the end of November, that I accomplished my goal, but if I end up mumbling something less than 50,000 words as my accomplishment, don’t judge me too harshly.

Also, does anyone else plan to participate this year?

Prepping for NaNo…

Welcome back, Swamp visitors!  I hope you enjoyed last week’s jaunt into the wonderful world of new writers.  I hope you found something wickedly cool to add to your reading lists! 

In honor of the looming presence of NaNo, I thought I’d share a bit of my prep experience for this year with you.  Yes, I know, a pantser who preps? What an oxymoron.  Except I’m finding it necessary before I dive head long into the roaring abyss of NaNo next week. 

Writing by the seat of your pants is not only a creative whirlwind, but it’s terrifying.  Here’s why:  when you get stuck, you get stuck and sometimes you can’t tell up from down and start digging deeper into the mire of fragmented concepts and useless plot points. I call myself a pantser, but in actuality, I cheat because I do plot out the major plot points.  You know the ones, this happens in the first third to start the ball rolling, this happens in the second third because this is where everything is going to change for the characters, and this has to happen in the last third because now that my characters have a new reality, this is how it will solve the problem.

Since I’m stuck just past the first third of Shadow’s Moon, I have been paying attention to various blogs about structure and plot and planning.  I know, I know, I can hear the screams of denial from my fellow pantsers–but really, what else can you do if you want your story to work?

As I continue to write and improve my craft, I’m discovering that the OCD that rules my life in every other aspect, is starting to bleed over.  Not as much as it can, but enough so that yes, I am preparing for NaNo to make sure I can get unstuck and tuck Shadow’s Moon under the “completed” section of my writing checklist.   I am going back to make sure that I have down my characters’ motivations, what’s driving my protagonist and why, where is the central conflict (romance or mystery?), what other conflict layers are there (and there are more than one!), what are my three major turning point that change my characters’ goals/motivations, drive their darkest moments, and then enable them to beat the bad guy. 

Do you see how the picture is starting to form.  Not really an outline per se, but more of road map.  I’m hoping it will allow me to keep my pantser identity, but I have a feeling no successful writer is really a true pantser, because at some point we all have to plot.

Because I’ll be swimming with the NaNo sharks all of November, my blogs will just be a word count with maybe one or two sentences (if I can form them) on what’s happening.  Keep your fingers crossed I survive NaNo and bring forth some awesome habits and new writing skills! 

Now onto NaNo!

PS: If you want to add me to your NaNo buddy list, feel free! I’m at NaNo Wrimo under Jami Gray!


My Evil Plot

Okay, it’s probably not evil, but for me plotting is evil. I am a panster at heart and I find it very difficult to force myself to have a cohesive plan. But after last week’s revelation I decided I needed to try something different. Now that I have Scrivener (plotters personal holy grail) I have no reason not to give it a go. For those of you not familiar with Scriviner it has a side bar where you can can put various chapters/scenes/notes/research all in a cohesive manner. This is difficult to explain so I highly recommend checking out a Youtube video or going to http://www.literatureandlatte.com/ to browse a bit. 

I also decided I needed to analyze my characters more and decided to see what the web had to offer me. I found this character worksheet http://jodyhedlund.blogspot.com/p/character-worksheet.html and have begun the process of psychoanalyzing my characters which is both fun and tedious. I have to admit I am learning a lot about my characters. For instance I had no idea that Peg’s favorite color was orange or that she was a big Stephen King fan. She also collects tea cups (fun fact for all of you). 

So far this journey has been fun and I have to admit my favorite part is finding all of these wonderful tools online. Writer’s are truly fortunate these days because we have so much information at our finger tips. That is if we have access to the internet (I’m going to assume that you do if your reading my post). I have found a lot of things this past week that I believe will make my novel rock my socks off and hopefully one day a larger audience. 

Let’s Try This Again

Okay, fair warning, don’t eat while you read this blog because for some reason analogies of festering wounds have been coming to me regarding this topic. Well, this week I had an epiphany: I realized that whereas I liked the general storyline of my WIP, there were certain elements that I no longer felt were a good idea. Also, I realized that I had some of those pesky little holes in my overall plot. The other evil dwarves don’t seem to think “it just does” is a good answer when they question the dynamics of my world building. 

I know that everything is fixable, but at the same time after being with the group for a few months, I realize there are certain things I would like to add to the story, and that my setting isn’t working for me. Plus those lovely dwarves have also been helping me with formatting (my current formatting skills are lacking). So with all of these various items weighing on my mind, it became a bit overwhelming. Cue the epiphany.

Time for a rewrite. This WIP is one of those I have gone back and forth to over the years because while I loved the story idea, I wasn’t 100% sure where it was going. In retrospect, after joining a critique group, I know why I wasn’t sure, because the story has issues. So as not to disappoint those who set aside their lunch: a good story is like a wound. The initial idea is when the injury first occurs and the closing of said wound is when all of a writer’s plotting comes together perfectly. If a writer has a deep enough connection with a reader,  a nice scar may be left behind, and the reader will never forget your story. On the other hand, sometimes stories don’t close up well and they start to fester. You ignore them until you realize you can no longer deal with the infection,and at this point you can amputate (give up on the story if you’re sure nothing else you do can fix it), or you can tear off the scab, clean the wound, and start over. I’m choosing the latter.

So I bought Scrivener as I believe it will help help me with at least a general outline (I’m a bit of a panster) and organizing my research. So today is to new beginnings. I’ve got a fresh band aid so let’s close this one up.


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