What is the one thing you have to have before you can really work on your plot?

For me I used to think it was the ending but lately I’ve come to realize I need something even before that. I need a cast of characters. I might not end up using everyone on the list but knowing the family/friend structure as well as the other interesting relationships that surround the main character I can begin to see how all those complicated relationships could create conflict and opposition in the character’s life. It becomes organic. The original spark of the story will push the story in certain directions and as I populate the character list I can decide whether to move with or against those directions. It’s actually quite magical.

So the next time you are plotting a new book create your list of characters from the potential relationships you think your main character would need and see if it helps you to plot your story too. I know it has made a huge difference in how I plot my novels.

Update and Upcoming Live Streams

It’s been a while since I’ve posted a blog so I thought a quick update was in order.

I’ve been writing the first draft of a standalone novel, lovingly called Project M, that is a prequel to my next project, a fantasy series. I’ve made Project M my April Camp NaNoWriMo project. I went with a 50000 word goal which I crushed April 20th! Now my goal is to finish a complete draft of Project M. I’m sitting at 67994 words as of this writing with the last quarter of the story to write. I have today and tomorrow and I figure I need to write about 10000 to 15000 words to do it. It’s a stretch goal but I’m going to try.

The YouTube channel is doing well and I have some exciting things planned for it. So if you haven’t already done so, search The Revised Writer and like and subscribe and don’t forget to hit the bell so you can receive notifications of my upcoming lives and the exciting future content that is coming soon.

I’ll end off this post with a list of upcoming lives. Bring your writing projects and let’s conquer our writing goals together. Hope to see you soon.

Upcoming Live Sprints Schedule

May 1st 5-7pm EST (Double Down Day)

May 2nd 3-5pm EST

May 8th 9-11pm EST

Sunday Planning…Why?

We do things in life on certain days of the week because it makes sense, but what happens when it doesn’t make sense for you?  Planning on Sundays may be one of those things for me.  It didn’t matter that I scheduled it in every Sunday, I just didn’t have time to do it. 

It takes a bit of time to plan well.  30 to 40 minutes usually. And unlike many tasks I find planning needs to be done in a block of uninterrupted time. So what was happening? I would find myself on Monday or Tuesday afternoon or evening finally finding that block of time which meant I wasn’t working to a plan in the beginning of the week most weeks.  Instead I was working from memory or worse, forgetting stuff, because my plan wasn’t written down. 

This week I decided I should plan earlier.  I am using the HB90 Method for my weekly planning.  I’ve been using it for about five months and am in the second quarter since starting it.  I’ve been struggling but I think I’ve figured out why.  I always do the weekly review before I plan the next week.  It makes sense, review the previous week before planning the next.  But Sundays are busy and I don’t usually have time to do it so it gets pushed to Monday or Tuesday or a couple of times, Wednesday. This is not good. 

This week I decided I could plan the next week before doing the review.  I looked through the review to get a feel for what I might not complete and would need to continue with and what next steps I would have on my plate.  And it worked.  I planned the week ahead and I have a solid plan in place.  I feel like I can focus and use the hours I have this weekend to focus on my writing and family stuff and I can start the week right. All because I decided I didn’t need to do it like everyone else. What are you doing on a certain day that isn’t working for you?

What Makes A Perfect Writing Space?

Currently I find myself in a rental where I feel unsettled most of the time. I have two desk setups but neither bring joy or focus. One is in the bedroom so when I do live streams I can close the door and immerse myself in that world for two hours. My other desk is downstairs in the living room and I kind of hate it there. I feel exposed. I feel like no matter what I’m trying to do I feel like they are looking at me and wondering why I’m not making dinner or doing something with them. I love my family but this feeling, that I mostly put on myself, is not conducive to writing. So what is needed to have a “perfect” writing space?

A desk

A good chair

A computer

Favorite pens and pencils

Notebooks and planners

A well lit area

Headphones that block out the chatter and noise of a modern day family

And peace of mind?

I’m missing the peace of mind. The ability to fall into the flow of writing. Of losing myself to the imagined worlds I create. So how do I find this illusive thing? Do I move my desk? Would that change anything? My gut says it wouldn’t. I think the answer lies within me. What do I do to make your writing space work for me?

I accept that it will never be perfect and I write. It is the only way. The rest of it is just extras and niceties. The sooner I accept that basic truth the sooner I can honor the words within me and be the writer I am.

Compromise Is King

When it comes to your writing and your writing time and the realities of today’s world it is sometimes hard to stick to a schedule.  So setup a schedule for your weekly writing goals but also take advantage of free moments and bonus time.  And don’t beat yourself up too much if things don’t go to plan.  Do your best and progress will be made. 

Compromise as needed.  200 words today is something.  Maybe your original plan was for 1000.  Don’t tear yourself apart.  Instead pick yourself up and start anew.  Progress, not perfection.  You can beat yourself up and lose 3 days spiraling at what you didn’t do today or you can reset and make it a new day and another attempt.  Because what is life but one attempt followed by another until success is achieved. 

These are the rules I use:

Rule #1 – Show Up!  (Butt in chair) 

Rule #2 – Have a plan/goal (Then do my best to follow it) Broken into smaller tasks and goals (one strategy I use is the pomodoro technique)

Rule #3 – Have a weekly goal – allows for more flexibility.

Rules #4 – Use a Good/Better/Best style goal structure – example: weekly word count goal = 3000/5000/10000.  My plan is to write 5 days with 2 days off.  Each day averages out to 600/1000/2000 per day. 

Rule #5 – Do the work – outlining your novel doesn’t take an hour.  It takes ten hours or more.  So be prepared to show up and show up often.  Make the time and do the work.

Rule #6 – Be Realistic – The average novel length is between 50000 and 100000 words.  If the novel you are writing is going to be approximately 80000 words long and you write about 1000 words an hour you are not going to have it written in ten hours.  You need at least 80 hours just to write the first draft and that’s if everything goes to plan.  My current writing plan is 45 days to write 90000 words. The problem is I have to write 2 hours everyday for that to happen. I haven’t been writing everyday. The reality of time and my relationship with it is changing. But as I learn, I do better. And I’m learning to be kinder to myself and still get the writing done.

These rules are bringing me closer to success. Harness your time and soar!

How Long Does It Really Take To Write A Novel?

I think the biggest mistake writers make is thinking that an hour a day is going to be enough time to write that book in a month. At an average word count of 1000 words an hour that would leave you with a 30000 word novel. Not enough. So do the math and realize that an 80000 word novel is going to need at least 80 hours to write plus time to brainstorm, plot, outline and edits.

So the next time you sit down to schedule your writing time put a word count goal in brackets next to the time goal and take a constant measure. Hint: not everyone averages 1000 words per hour.

Be true to you and set your goals according to what you can accomplish comfortably.

Politics and Writing

January 6, 2021 I had plans to continue the read through of my first draft and to write a blog post. Neither happened. Why? My eyes were glued to my phone as the chaos unfolded at the US capitol. It didn’t matter what I tried, my mind was consumed by what was going on. It was the same on November 3, 2020. I have come to realize that when political conflict is occurring or likely to happen that I need to book that time off from completing creative work. We may all want to be super heroes and do all the things but that’s just not very realistic.

So going forward, I will schedule my time and take into account when I think the outside world is likely to become distracting and I will book that time off. January 20th is coming and I now know that I will keep my schedule light that day. Maybe it’s just the political soul that I am but there are just going to be some days when I need to give it my attention. I wish I had planned with that thinking in mind January 6th.

And if you’re like me, don’t beat yourself up for falling behind when the world invades. It happens, we are human and the actions of others affect us. Be kind to yourself. And be kind to others. Our world needs it right now.

First Draft Read Through – What to look for with your first reading.

What to do with the words you’ve written? It would be nice to fix everything all at once but that simply isn’t possible or a good use of your time. There’s no point in fixing spelling errors when there are huge plot holes or underdeveloped characters. So what should you look through and note down as you take your first pass at reading your first draft? Well, character and plot structure of course. You are looking to see what actually got out of your head and onto the page for one thing. Did the story you mean to write make it to the page? You are reading like a reader, not a writer here. Does the action of the story happen on the page or did some of it stay in your head? What’s missing? Are you grounded in the story world or are you floating through it, no idea where you are?  How could the character better interact with the world?  How do they experience the world around them? Do you follow the action? How do you feel about the characters? What do you like about the story? What needs work? Don’t fix it now. Just jot down your first impressions and keep moving. You have to know what you have, all of it, before you can take the next step. You are effectively taking inventory of your story so you can make a plan on what to keep, what to throw out and where to make changes. So keep moving through it. Read as quickly as you can. This is your one chance at a first impression.

Goodbye 2020, Hello 2021 – What I’ll take away from this challenging year

2020 wasn’t good for a lot of people. For me I dealt with a house fire and losing “my life” as I knew it. I was “homeless” with my husband and two kids and our dog for over three weeks as we lived in a hotel room together and salvaged whatever we could from our home. It was a time of grief and strength and a reminder of what was important. We were all safe and no one was hurt. But that didn’t mean that we didn’t hurt in different ways.

Our lives had been turned upside down by the careless actions of another. I’m a careful person by nature. This still doesn’t sit well with me. But I have to move forward and 2020 has taught me that I was waiting for things to be perfect. There’s no such time.

Since the fire I have changed. The need for perfection and the fear of the unknown have been quieted as I jumped in with two feet and started live streaming for a community that I love. I finished a complete first draft of a novel. Why? Because until I did so I was never going to have a book I could edit. A partial book is something you will never edit because there won’t be enough there to do so. I have the partial manuscripts to prove it. And one that is proving I can do this.

I also realized that I could have lost everything that mattered to me that day. I could have lost my husband who’d been asleep a short time before it started. We could have gone out and the kids and dog might have been there alone. Would they have gotten out unharmed? Would they have been smart about it and left the moment it was clear the fire on his deck was going to affect our home too? I don’t know but I’m thankful that we were there and we all got out safe.

This year has taught me that I’ve been ready to take the first step as an author and begin to grow my online presence for a while. I just needed to stop stopping me from taking that next step and letting fear dictate my actions. 2020 taught me I don’t have forever so I started. I picked a few goals and began. Have my efforts been perfect? Far from it but I’m doing it and I’m learning everyday.

So 2021, bring it on. I’m ready to keep growing as an author, writer, mother and wife. And I will acknowledge my fears and do it anyway because life is short and my time is now.