Outlines

Today’s post was inspired by a dear friend from college. Although we haven’t always been able to spend a lot of time each other, we have always been able to learn and grow as writers. So, thank you, Parris, for giving me something to blog this evening:

 

“I’d love to know what your outlining process looks like. What are the first things you do when you have an idea that you want to turn into a story? Also, I know you have a series in the works. Do you plan the series out before you write the first book or do you create as you go, book by book?”   —Parris Sheets

 

Alright. Full disclaimer: I am not a master writer and my way is by no means the best. I’m still just experimenting with different methods for my creations. So my outlining techniques are absolutely not the only options out there.

 

Usually, when I first come up with a story idea, I write it down. Otherwise, I forget it. I always keep a dozen notebooks handy, just in case. A lot of what I originally write down never actually makes it into the actual story, but that’s okay; the important thing is to get all the thoughts out of my head so I can edit the notes later. I also use the notebook to start organizing the characters, setting, and parts of the main conflict.

 

When I have a good handle on the story–usually months or years later–I start to outline individual chapters on note cards. I started out trying to write out cards chronologically, but that just becomes a headache when I can’t think of something good that happens next. As ideas come to me, I jot down a couple thoughts and throw the card into a pile. I then organize them into a timeline when I have a substantial amount. What normally occurs, is that I have to go back through them and add some filler chapters to expand on the characters or introduce enough side conflicts in order to support the main arc plot lines.

 

This probably goes without saying, but I’ll mention it anyways: the outline is NOT set in stone. As I’m writing the first draft, it’s fairly common that I am confused by my own notes or appalled by how awful and simple the chapter outlines are. So, yes, I regularly revise my outline note cards as I write.

 

Now I feel like I need to address something before I go on. NOT ALL WRITERS ARE OUTLINERS. There is a sect of authors who do what’s often referred to as “Discovery Writing.” Many wordsmiths hate the constriction of having their stories meticulously organized before they write. These writers feel that characters become “more real” and the plot feels “spontaneous” when they write as they go. All they have is a couple thoughts in their head and they let their fingers discover the story one word at a time.

 

I’ll admit that I’ve done both Outlining and Discovery Writing–most writers combine the two. Although I like to plan where a story will go, sometimes I love just starting the tale without preparation to see where it can go. I rely mostly on Discovery when a story is fresh in my mind and I need to start generating some ideas.

 

However, I get discouraged if I spend too much time Discovery Writing. I need to know where I’m heading. Otherwise, I get into a rut and the dreaded Writer’s Block sets in. (Note: I realize that many modern authors deny the existence of Writer’s Block; I’ll cover my thoughts on it in a future post.) So I normally abandon the Discovered story, but not before surgically adding pieces of it to the book I’ve finished Outlining.

 

Moving on to the next question Parris asks, I’d like to address how I’ve gone about planning a series. To refresh your memory, she asked: “Also, I know you have a series in the works. Do you plan the series out before you write the first book or do you create as you go, book by book?”

 

The series that she mentioned is The Rygom Narratives. I’m still deciding on a number, but there will likely be at least nine volumes by the time I end the Narratives. Only Book 1, “Iris,” has been completed. I have an abominably horrible first draft of “Alteration: Book 2” that I wrote in college years ago; but it is in desperate need of months and months of revision. I plan on releasing it by the end of 2017, though.

 

So to answer Parris’s question, yes, I had the series planned before I began writing–to a point. I had spent over three years “World Building” the culture and population of the Megacity Rygom. I was going to school full-time all those years, so it took quite a bit of time until I was confident enough in the story to actually START writing it.

 

I knew what would eventually happen to each of the main characters. I knew how they were secretly connected, or how different characters would meet if they had no elaborate past interactions. I knew the struggles and main conflicts they would go through as they pursued their version of happiness. I knew who would triumph and who would perish.

 

That doesn’t mean that I knew EVERYTHING! Like I mentioned earlier, strict planning can lead to stiff, uninteresting characters. I left room for a little discovering as I wrote out their individual journeys. And that definitely doesn’t mean that I have nine books of outlines all laid out. Most of it is still in my head, stewing in my subconscious as I grow as a writer. But I’m glad that I have a sense of direction to lead and nudge my characters as they each live their part of The Rygom Narratives.

 

On a similar thought, “Undoing Life” and “Reps and Royals” had originally meant to be stand-alone-novels. I had absolutely no intention of revisiting the tales of the twenty-fifth century time-travelers, nor returning to the quirky but dangerous planet of The World. However, I’ve gotten such good feedback on those stories from readers on how much they’d like to see more of those tales. I’m considering it–possibly. So it’s okay if you don’t have an entire series planned before you begin Book 1.

 

Well, Parris, I hope this answered your questions. To anyone else, reading this, I hope it gives you some ideas about writing your next book or clarifies the thoughts that go into planning a story.

 

If there is anything that you’re curious about, please leave a comment. I’m kinda floundering for blog post ideas, so I’d love input from my readers.

 

Tune in tomorrow for a Sample Chapter of my upcoming book, “Mended by Ashes.”

 

Amy

The Impossible Challenge

I’ve recently had the pleasure of meeting a lot of wonderful new people. I’m growing so much spiritually and emotionally, and I’m even being inspired to take better care of my body. For the most part, it’s been wonderful.

 

However, I met a man today who told me to do something that is completely impossible. I had mentioned that I’m a writer and currently writing my 4th science fiction book. He then asked if I blogged. I replied that I have a website, but never have time to post–what little time and energy I have to write goes towards my book. But he was not to be deterred by my excuses. Very matter-of-factly, he said that I should be blogging every day.

 

EVERY DAY! This complete stranger is telling me what I should do. My stubborn, defiant nature automatically shot down the idea.

 

Of course I’d love to blog EVERY DAY. But what will I write about? I teach full-time (a very emotionally-demanding and time-consuming job). I can’t write about my students–it’s very frowned upon to post on the internet details about what happens in the classroom.

 

The other lunch guests then all offered a dozen different ideas on what I can blog about, all of which were activities that I had told them I’m involved with. Still, I was skeptical that people would really want to read about my life.

 

But what the man said has been pressing in my brain all day. Even if it’s only a couple paragraphs, I could write a little SOMETHING every day. I reminded myself on my daily walk how much I love challenges and that I had recently prayed for God to give me something to break up the monotony of my life.

 

So I’m going to undertake this impossible challenge, starting with this exceedingly long explanation on what I’ll be doing. I keep trying to back out, telling myself that I should only write a couple times a week instead of every day. But I know myself well enough to know that I will fail at this challenge being unmotivated like that. I hope that any readers I might gain will keep me accountable. I want to find outraged comments after my posts when I fail to write a day; that is the best way to get me to stick with it.

 

If you’re still reading this and aren’t bored yet, thank you so much for your time. If you are a fellow author and would like to see posts about certain aspects of my writing process, feel free to leave me a comment and I’ll get to it.

 

Oh, and if you downloaded one or all of my books for free this past week, I hope you are enjoying those as well. I’ll try not to let this challenge interfere with my progress in “Mended by Ashes,” which will hopefully be released by the end of the Spring. I’ll trying to post a bit about how that story came to be sometime in the next few weeks.

 

PS: You can also get in touch with me through my Contact Form. I’d love to hear your questions and comments on “Undoing Life,” “Iris” and/or “Reps and Royal.”

Spring Break Free Books

I’m happy to announce the upcoming release of my fourth book, “Mended by Ashes.”

In honor of it’s impending completion, I will be offering my currently written works for FREE this next week. See my Amazon page for details about all three works. Stay tuned to hear more details about “Mended by Ashes.”

~March 14-15 (Tuesday & Wednesday), 2017: “Undoing Life

Sal Chancellor is just an ordinary man who is stuck in dead-end job and is unable to keep a girlfriend–that is until he finds a discarded watch that lets him travel backwards in his time line. Armed with his new gadget, he goes about changing his life for the better. But little does he know that he’s being experimented on by people four-hundred years in the future. Tragedy has struck all that have played with time; it’s possible that Sal Chancellor might help them better understand how the time-travelling technology affects everyone in the past, present, and future.

~March 16-17 (Thursday & Friday), 2017: “Iris

Alteration research has been declared illegal in the Megacity Rygom. Too many gave their lives in pursuit of making humans more powerful. Those few fortunate Alterations that survived have gone into hiding, fearful of what might happen if the Agency finds them.

Despite her father’s warnings, Iris Kayn has enrolled in the prestigious Agency Training Program, pursuing her dream of becoming an Enforcer. Dr. Norman Kayn’s concern for his daughter increases as Agent Tobias Vega and his sons take an alarming interest in Iris. Unsure of how much they know, Norman hopes that the Vegas aren’t seeking the truth about his beloved wife’s death.

Meanwhile in the Lower Region, Azure Clan Leaders, twins Rikani and Tays Rye, attempt to recover from a tragedy that nearly wiped out their entire family. Rikani works tirelessly to build a safe, prosperous community for her tenants and remaining relatives. All the while, Tays must deal with the ghosts from his past; his former mentor and ex-lover both seek to ruin his plans of reuniting Upper Society and the Lower Region, each for their own nefarious reasons.

Plans are hatched. People are manipulated. Pending doom awaits those in Rygom who fail to see the strings being pulled.

~March 18-19 (Saturday & Sunday), 2017 “Reps and Royals

Princess Juzeera’s twenty-first Birth Week celebration was meant to be the highlight event of the year. However, that all changes when two space visitors arrive on her planet to spoil her fun. Tired of their accusations that her home is a dangerous place where people disappear, The Princess finds ways of turning situations to her advantage.

Newly-appointed as a Representative for the Space Colonization Guild, Tybrik strives to make his mark on the world. Ironically, his first task as mission leader is on an aptly named planet called The World. He is determined to prove that he has what it takes to be in charge and live up to the Director’s expectations. Tybrik finds this difficult to do when he suddenly finds himself blackmailing Princess Juzeera to keep his identity a secret.

After barely arriving at The World in one piece, Haelon puts her guard up. It doesn’t help that her half-brother, Tybrik, has gotten himself mixed up in a pretend relationship with Juzeera. While her incompetent sibling and the powder puff waste time convincing the Worldians that they are a couple, it is up to Haelon to take control of the mission and discover what happened to the SCG Reps that have disappeared on the planet. All the while, an missing item from a past assignment has been sent to her as a “gift.” Haelon must determine if she can trust her stalker or handle her situation on her own.

Ninety-Nine Cents

It’s been a crazy past couple months. I realized that I haven’t posted in almost two months.

 

So I just want to quickly update what’s going on in my writing world.

 

First and foremost, I’ve slashed the prices of all 3 of my Kindle books. Each is only $0.99 for the time being. So go get whichever books you haven’t gotten yet!

 

Next, I finished draft 2 of my next book. I’ve finally decided on a some-what decent tentative title: “Mended by Ashes.” It might change in the future, but that’s what I’m calling it now until a better title comes to mind. The goal is to–hopefully–publish sometime in January 2017.

 

November is National Novel Writing Month. Writers are encouraged to write 50,000 words in 30 days. This will be my 4th year participating. I’m proud to say that I’ve met my goal every year so far. Now I’m doing something a little different this time. I’m going to be writing 3-4 novellas instead of 1 book.I’m a little nervous about not making my word count because I’m currently working 60-70 hours a week. But that’s okay. The point of NaNoWriMo is to get stories out of your head and into some kind of physical form. It will at least give me something to work with after I publish “Mended by Ashes.”

 

Thanks for reading. Have a great day!

 

–Amy

Don’t Panic

So, it’s been awhile. I had every intention of writing a post at least once a week. But teaching 7th grade English has proven to  be more time-consuming that I had anticipated. Working seventy-hours-a-week has taken it’s toll on my sanity, health, and energy. But since this is a 3-day weekend in observance of Labor Day, I’m feeling rejuvenated. My mantra–“Don’t Panic” from Adam Douglass’ “Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy”–has come in handy as I’ve been surviving countless emails, meetings, and germs that keep threatening my teacher-productivity.

 

It had been my goal to finish “Alteration,” the second book in my series, The Rygom Narratives. I even have a first draft that I had written years ago in college. But as I had re-read what I had, I was discouraged by how awful the manuscript was. I kept trying to motivate myself to work on it. However, I could never find the desire to work on it. I know established writers say to write every day, but I just don’t have any energy to work on a project that I’m not passionate about. So I’ll get to it eventually. Just not right now.

 

In the meantime, I’ve gotta write something. I wrote a story for NaNoWriMo last year that I really enjoyed. It doesn’t need as much work and I think I can finish it in a couple months. I’m hoping that will invigorate my creative energy so that I can work on “Alteration” later on this winter or early spring. For those that are curious, the tentative title of my current project is “Wisps of Honor”–it very well might change since I’m not 100% happy with it.

 

One last thing for now: I’ve cut prices on all my books on Kindle. I realized that I had been charging too much. Most of the indie writers I’ve come across have lower prices. I’m sure that they don’t make as much commission, but they sell a lot more books. So I thought I’d give it a shot, too. You can check out all my books here.

 

Thanks for reading! Have a blessed day!

Expanding the range of science fiction–one speculation at a time.