Starting A Novel

Freebie Character Worksheet: Getting to Know Your Main Character

Posted by on Aug 16, 2013 in Pen and Muse Summer School, Starting A Novel, Writing | 1 comment

Freebie Character Worksheet: Getting to Know Your Main Character

It’s important to know your main character inside and out. In order to write him or her believably, you must be able to tell the readers what he / she is thinking, how they would react to a situation, and even what they like to wear. If your main character is just in the beginning stages (or even if you’re looking to do a little character soul searching), take a minute to fill out this freebie worksheet! It will allow you to think hard about what your character loves, wants, and truly desires. Once you have this filled out, you’re on the right track to getting to know your character even better. This is in no way the only character building exercise you should do, but it’s a solid start to begin your love affair with your fictional...

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Starting a Novel: Classifying Genres

Posted by on Aug 16, 2013 in Pen and Muse Summer School, Starting A Novel, Writing | 2 comments

Starting a Novel: Classifying Genres

Starting a Novel: Classifying Genres When you’re writing a novel it’s very important to know your audience (who you’re writing for). Knowing your audience, knowing your age of interest, and knowing your genre is significant in your world building and story crafting. The age of your readers will affect the verbiage you use, the characters, and even the ending! Not worried about it? Well, if you’re planning on publishing your work (traditionally or non-traditionally), people will ask you these questions. You must know your genre and age of interest like you know your first name. A serious writer always knows this! Now, if you’re currently not sure who you’re writing for, that’s okay! That’s what I’m here for! After today you can walk away with confidence knowing how to tell what the differences are.   First off, let’s figure out the age groups.   Writing Ages of Interest Who is your book written for? Children – This book is written for kids. This could be very small children and picture books or  older kids and chapter books. Middle Grade – Books in the middle grade genre are for readers usually aged around 8 – 12ish. Obviously this isn’t the end-all age range, but this is typical of middle grade. It’s typical for the main character to also be in the age range of the reader. Young Adult –  Young adult literature has a broad range.  I’ve seen novels with main characters from ages 12 – 18 considered YA. Usually young adult novels are set in high school and the main character’s age goes all the way up to age 18. Sometimes upper YA can even include older than 18, but for the most part this is now covered by new adult. The reading level is more advanced than middle grade books. New Adult –This is an age group that categorizes the time between adolescence and adulthood. It’s reserved for main characters out of high school and exploring a time in their lives where they are trying to find themselves, whether that be with a first job or heading off to college. Main characters are normally around 18 to 25ish. Adult – Adult books are novels written for adults over the age of 18. They include a variety of genres, including erotica that isn’t normally found in any other age bracket.   List of Genres / Subject Matter   Now that we’ve figured out the ages of interest, you should be able to identify which one your book falls into.  Now, let’s move on to literary genres! In addition to knowing your audience and age of interest, you should know what genre your book falls into. I’m listing genres below but please know that this is in no way a final and complete list.  This was gathered from personal knowledge and some reading forums that I found. If you see any genres or subject matter that I missed, feel free to comment below and let me know! Science Fiction / Fantasy Alien Invasion Cyberpunk Dark fantasy Dystopian Fairy tales Hard science fiction Soft science fiction Time travel Saga, myth, and legend Sword and sorcery Time travel Paranormal powers   Romance Action Christian Contemporary Chick Lit Erotica Ethnic/Multicultural GLBT Historical Inspirational (New Age) Men’s Paranormal Romantic Mysteries Regency Romance Victorian Romance   Horror Aliens Dark Fantasy Dark Fiction Erotic Extreme Gothic Noir Supernatural Paranormal Psychological   Mystery Amateur Investigator Bumbling Detective Caper (heist) Cozy mystery Hard-boiled detective fiction (noir / tart noir) Historical Locked Room / Puzzle Private Detective Romance Crime fiction Suspense Supernatural mysteries Thriller Aviation Comedy Conspiracy Disaster Espionage Exploration Legal Medical Paranormal Political...

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Fun Ways to Plot

Posted by on Aug 16, 2013 in Pen and Muse Summer School, Starting A Novel, Writing | 4 comments

Fun Ways to Plot

  It’s no secret that my favorite part of the writing process is plotting. I know – I’m in the minority here. I actually bribe myself to finish goals by allowing myself to start character building and plotting the next project. (I also bribe myself with cookies – I got two cookies for writing this post.)     How I Plot Technically, I’m a half plotter, half pantser. I still want to be surprised during the writing process, because if I’m surprised I figure the reader is more likely to be. Sometimes characters write themselves in. One of my favorite characters in my last manuscript basically showed up in my notes, demanded to be in the story…and never ever stuck to my plot. As frustrating as it can be at the time to change everything, flexibility is a really important part of my writing process. I start with whatever spark of an idea inspired me, and create a short synopsis. Spark: Sidonie Violette dreams of the day when she can touch the ocean, see a shooting star, and step outside the gates.   How do you build a synopsis from here? You ask questions. Why hasn’t she ever seen an ocean? Where is she at night that she can’t see shooting stars? What gates is she behind? Once the base is decided, you need to know what the focus is on. What could happen to dear ol’ Sid that would be the most interesting? What would shake her little behind-the-gates world up the most?  I just mark  basic bullets. What are the essential things that have to happen to your character? Extra details can be filled in later – if you want. As long as you have stepping stones, there’s room to keep hopping along.     The Sims Yes, I’m serious. I’ve worked through many a plot by playing them in a game, so I could see how it actually looked to me. Find – or build – a town that resembles your novel’s world close enough. Create characters who resemble them, and have similar characteristics. Maybe you’ve got a nurturing neurotic genius who wants to have a full household of children…but is single.  Easily done (in Sims 3 at least).  Create that character, plop her into a town, and follow her escapades. Do you have a plot point that you can’t figure out? Maybe you can’t figure out which of your hunky characters will be most compatible with her. Add them to the town, and see how you interact – you may learn some things!   Pinterest The best example of this is told by Justine Musk who started with a simple vision board of her work-in-progress, tracking images which matched the atmosphere and a few of the events of the novel. What started as simply a vision board of the atmosphere turned into adding images which could work as plot points. You never know when an image you see could inspire your next plot idea!   Use A Book Wait, what? Yes, a book. Try using a book which has you plot in a different manner. Until you try you never know when something new might turn out to be wonderful for you. My suggestions: Tarot for Writers Want to try a plotting idea that Stephen King has used? Apparently tarot is it. Traditionally tarot was designed to tell a story – many of the cards are basic archetypes or events.  Why not lay out these characters and events in a way that forces you to create a story around that plot? There’s several different ways to...

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Starting a Novel: To Sequel or Not to Sequel by C. Elizabeth Vescio

Posted by on Aug 15, 2013 in Cara Elizabeth, Pen and Muse Summer School, Starting A Novel, Writing | 7 comments

Starting a Novel: To Sequel or Not to Sequel by C. Elizabeth Vescio

Sequels. Just the word makes me giggle in anticipation. There’s this need to know what comes next. As a reader, I tend to want the stories to keep going… there is no end- there can’t be. Continue the story, please. Then comes the reality. It’s not always needed… and it’s not always so. It didn’t end how I wanted it… you [exploitive deleted] author on your high horse. Today, the drive of the sequel comes from our marketing system… it mainly involves money. Is your story good? Write a sequel. Is your story marketable? Write a series. Are you marketable? Take ten years to write the last book. As a writer, you set off to tell a story. You probably sit down and write out your idea as an outline- or just humor me and pretend you do. During this time is when it’s a super awesome idea to figure out if you want to write a sequel. It’s a relatively painful four step process:   Step One: Take away the fear of unknown. don’t think about how you’re book is going to do in the market. Don’t think about people loving or hating it (they’ll do that anyway). Think about your story and how you want that story to unfold. How much of a story do you have in your head? What’s it going to take for you to get this story out? It’s your tale to tell- don’t think too much about your consumers in this step… that comes next. This step is about you. It’s about rounding up that dream in your head and taking those first steps. As small as your first step may be- take the time to think about the bigger picture. Step Two: Think about time and your support system. A novel- if written well and edited properly- should take a long time to become whole. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know! If you’re spitting these ideas out semi-annually then your idea- while good- might not be refined, and that takes away from you as an author. It’s more like a television show with plot holes. It’s not a race. Realistically, you’re looking to dedicate a good chunk of your life to this book- and if you’re self published even more. Make sure you have that support system. Sit down with your friends and family and lay it out for them. They need to know you’re planning on not only writing one book, but writing possibly two or more. My book’s first draft was written out fairly quickly… then came over a year of thinking, adding, editing and learning. During this time, I realized I wanted to write a series. I wanted the first book to be more of an origins story and then two to three more books would carry out a larger story. Then, when the first book released, the reception was better than I expected on a few different fronts. I knew I’d have to continue writing. Better yet, I wanted to- but it’s good to get some justification. I said goodbye to my time. Writing and tending to my family’s needs became my priorities. This would be my life. That’s not to be taken too seriously- obviously you make time to do other crap. What I’m talking about is always having this story in the back of your mind. Always be prepared to write something down: ideas, characters, quotes, details of a place you’re visiting… everything can be used as inspiration. It can be overwhelming at times. Writing one book can take up most of your time for about a year...

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Starting a Novel: Write Your Own Damn Rules by Julie Hutchings

Posted by on Aug 15, 2013 in Guest Post, Pen and Muse Summer School, Starting A Novel, Writing | 11 comments

Starting a Novel: Write Your Own Damn Rules by Julie Hutchings

I heard you have this killer idea for a novel, right? Oh yeah? But you’re not only afraid to tell people because you’ll get laughed at, but you’re afraid to even start it because of all the dumb feelings? First of all, screw those guys. Anyone who doesn’t support your writing, even if you are the worst writer that ever existed in your own mind, has no idea what it means to risk bearing your soul to not just those you trust, but EVERYONE. Way worse. Secondly, everyone has ideas that start as mediocre sometimes. It’s the digging into the idea and building on it that makes it yours. There are worlds of reasons it’s hard to start your novel. But you listen to me; IT’S HARDER NOT TO. Don’t let the idea fester until you look at it with regret, longing and a little hatred. Don’t wait for someone else to come up with the idea that you could have done better. START. BE BRAVE. So, you’re scared that you’re going to do it wrong? There certainly does seem to be a lot of rules to writing, plenty of advice, and it always seems to come at you when you feel the most unsure of yourself. Then you take that advice, hold it close to your heart like a cancer, go to bed half in the wrapper and dream of the book you might have written. There is much talk of word counts, writing sprints, outlines, drafts, ARC’s, a whole bunch of stuff that makes it seem like just writing a damn book is a whole lot more process than you were bargaining for. Maybe the rules are too hard, and how can you possibly be as good as these other writers that put blinders on and just seem to fucking know everything? If none of these methods jump out and hit you in the face as something that works for you, then don’t do them. I’M HERE TO TELL YOU THERE ARE NO GODDAMN RULES. YOU’RE A WRITER BECAUSE RULES DON’T SUIT YOU. RULES AND GUIDELINES ARE JUST IDEAS THAT OTHER PEOPLE HAD. YOU HAVE THOSE THINGS TOO, WRITER. You’re a creator. Create your own set of rules, goddammit, if you want them. Or do what I do, make it up as you go along. If the reason you’re not starting this novel is because you don’t know how, I offer this; 1. WRITE SOMETHING. Sit in front of a blank document and type something. Anything. Doesn’t have to make sense, it may come out sounding like a journal entry or some crap. It may turn into a first chapter. It may surprise you and be just a paragraph of words that barely seem to go together, and it makes you cry for some reason. Your subconscious will lead you down a path sometimes. Let it. This is how my second novel started. I ended up with something I never expected, never saw coming, but my subconscious wanted. No outline, no idea it was in there.   2. If you have an image, a scene, something that you’re dying to describe, DO IT. It’s not wrong that it isn’t the first scene in the book. You don’t have to write from start to end. If you have this little gem you need to get on paper, do it. It’s like interior decorating, because I know what I see on HGTV. You start decorating the room with a piece of artwork, or the piece that you absolutely have to have, and build the room around it. Build your...

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Writing Resources for Plotting by A.L. Kessler

Posted by on Aug 14, 2013 in Pen and Muse Summer School, Starting A Novel, Writing | 5 comments

Writing Resources for Plotting by A.L. Kessler

It’s an age-old question: should you plot or write by the seat of your pants? I, for one, am a plotter. Over the years I’ve changed my methods, my technology, and how much I plot. Today I want to bring to light some of the resources out there for plotting. Everyone plots a little differently, so I want to try and cover a variety of resources. My advice would be to try several different ones and see which works best for you.   Software Programs   There are some wonderful programs out there designed to help you plot, here are some of my favorites: Writer’s Café. It has a neat pin board feature you can use for timelines. They provide three of them so you can get an overall look at your story. It has a scrapbook for you to put random things (text, pictures, links) that you can refer back to or use for other projects, tips, prompts and many other features. If you want something a little simpler, I fell in love with Microsoft’s OneNote (For Mac’s there is GrowlyNote, a very similar program and free It’s a digital notebook that has different tabs to separate what you need. I have one for Characters, Plots, World and Notes. Scrivener is also a great program. It allows you to have notecards for chapters and scenes as well as a feature where you can rearrange them and save the order if you want.   Web-based Programs   A while ago I ran across a website/webzine called Scriptorium, which has a great toolbox with plenty of resources for plotting, anything from character building to scene layouts. It’s a great place to go if you’re not sure where you want to start. You can print them or save them and fill them out on the computer. Whatever you prefer.   Some people like to write out everything point that happens in a chapter, some people just like to write a little overview of the chapter. I’ve gone from one extreme to the other, where I had to have every single detail written in an outline (think like the outlines you wrote/write in school for essays, that’s how I used to novel plot) and now I write just an overview with major plot points. There are people who do a three act type of planning. You split a paper into three pieces, beginning, middle, and end, and you work with that. Act. 1, Act 2, and Act 3 all have different plot points that need to be filled and expanded on.   What About If I’m Writing A Series?   Okay, so all that works well for one book/story, what if you’re writing a series? Then things get crazy because you don’t want to end up with giant plot holes between books or drop important details. My suggestion is to take all these great resources or others that you find and use them to create a bible. Keep characters, overviews of the book plots, and anything else you need in it. Either digitally or physically but it needs to be easy to access. Keep that in mind. A great way to lay out your plot for a series (if you have the room) is to take sticky notes and write plot points, times, character deaths, anything you need to keep track off and place them on a wall. (I’ve also seen it done with paper on a clothesline) Or it could be done on a pin board with the title of each book above where you place the pins.   There is...

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