Some News!

Well, it has certainly been a whirlwind the last couple months… And once again, my schedule has gone all to hell.  My apologies for that.  But I have some exciting news, at least I think it is quite exciting.  I have finished a manuscript!  Currently, I am working on edits (or trying to– it isn’t going quite how I want it to, but that will change).  As soon as edits are completed, it will be going to some beta readers.  Eventually, the hope is that I will be sending it off to some agents.

To that effect, I am in the process of doing a few things, including creating a website for myself as an author.  The new site is coming along nicely.  There will be a blog attached to the site.  That means, this blog will be retired.  I’m not getting rid of it.  In fact, it will remain and it is being linked to the new site so folks can peruse the content here.  But after today, all new updates will be over on the new blog.  If you wish to continue to follow me, be sure to take a gander over there!  It’s jb-wolfe.com.  Hope to see you there!  If not, I want to thank all my readers and those who have commented over the years.  You guys are amazing!

Book Review: Behold the Dawn

Title:  Behold the Dawn by KM Weiland
Medium: Book
Genre:  Historical Fiction

165-pxInitial Thoughts: I’ve been wanting to sink my teeth into this one since I first started to read Katie’s book on Outlining.  It was used in a number of examples and it piqued my curiosity then.  It took me a bit to get into, not because it wasn’t interesting, but more because my lack of focus of late played a part in that.  Once I got into it, though I was hooked!

Favorite Part:  My favorite character was by far Marek!  His foil to Marcus’s character was a lot of fun.  I loved their by-play.  Marek is Marcus’s squire and not always by choice, though you can tell their relationship is one of mutual affection, even if neither will admit it.

Overall Impression: I thoroughly enjoyed Behold the Dawn.  If I had one complaint, it was that I wasn’t as fond of Mairead as I would have liked to have been.  This is no fault of the author’s, by any means.  It stems more from a personal hang-up.  The character is actually a strong one, though it takes a bit for that strength to come through.  I just happen to be a more modern woman and the meekness often expected in the time period that this story takes place makes me a bit crazy at times.  Again, no fault of the author, but my perceptions of what I hoped she would do didn’t quite pan out.

Recommendation: I would give this my whole hearted recommendation to anyone that enjoys historical fiction, especially if they like a well-researched historical fiction.  It’s a great read for anyone that is curious about the tourneys and for anyone that likes a good journey/adventure story along with a sprinkling of romance.

 

Keeping Track of Goals

Since my last spate of regular updates, I have been looking for something to really help with keeping track of my writing goals.  At the moment, I have a day job (which I love, don’t get me wrong) and sometimes it can make writing difficult.  I’m really struggling some days to help get myself on some kind of writing routine.  For me, setting myself a goal (and a deadline) helps.  For something like writing, there are a myriad of ways to set yourself a goal.  It can be in how much time you want to spend.  It can be in word count (my preferred method), or characters, or– the list goes on.

Finding a reliable way to keep track of your goal can be a bit troublesome.  I did some Google searching one day.  I was looking for a way to keep track of word count.  I love the graphs and the progress bar that you get with NaNoWriMo; I wanted something like that, but not just for November.  I stumbled upon Pacemaker.

It has become invaluable in keeping track of my goals.  I’m the type that getting to see Pacemaker8how far I am can help me keep going.  It gives me motivation and satisfaction.  What I like about Pacemaker is that it is supremely flexible.  You can use a lot of different metrics like word count, time, sections, chapters, pages.  They have even added things for those needing to keep track of other goals like money, fitness, steps, etc.  I used it for outlining and since I tend to do outlining in my WriteMind before I start writing, I used pages for my metric.  It also has a wide variety of ways in which to proceed.  For example, using a steady goal means that it will automatically calculate how many words (or whatever) you need a day during the Pacemaker5time limit you set.  You can do other settings aside from a steady pace as well.  There’s Rising to the Challenge, Biting the Bullet, Mountain Hike, Valley, Oscillating, and Randomly.  The great thing is, you can change it as much as you want and it calculates automatically based on your settings.

One of the other things I love about it is that if you know specific days or specific dates are going to be better or worse for your goals, then you can either skip them, have the daily goal change to be less than other days, or more depending.

They also have four different ways to view it.  There’s the table, the graph, the calendar,

and the bar graph.  Personally, I keep it in calendar as I’m working on things, but I love looking at the bar graph every so often and when I complete it all, I plan on saving the graph and printing it out.  There is also a progress bar up at the top of the screen at all times, which is lovely.Pacemaker7

Now, I have the Premium account because I wanted to be able to use everything they have as well as everything they plan on coming out with.  Their free account gives you the ability to make two plans at a time.  The premium account (at $8 a month or $72 for the year) gives you no limitations plus more features.  I have found it more than worth the price, but even the free account might work well for some.  One of the features you can get with the premium account is another calendar view that shows all of the current projects/goals you may be working on at one time.  So if you are working on a novel, maybe another outline, or a short story plus if you want to keep track of how often you go to the gym, it would all be there at a glance.  There is also the ability to put a small description for each project and I do believe that is only for premium as well.

There are a few things I would love them to do, mostly have a mobile app and not just browser based, as well as maybe a built in timer.  But then I’m greedy and I love one-stop shopping as it were.  The less windows/apps/things I need, the better!  As it is, I use Pacemaker and an Android app called Writeometer.  But overall, I do love Pacemaker and I love the fact that they are so responsive to their community!  They quite lovely and I can’t wait to see everything they come out with in the days, weeks, months, and years to come!

A Long Few Months

Hello everyone.  My track record for keeping a blog schedule went right out the window.  I am sorry about that.  Things got crazy.  The bookstore I work at did finally get moved.  The space is wonderful.  I will plug it, for anyone that might be interested: fireflybookstore.com.   The new building is about 3 times the space.  We are even organized, finally (it took two months or close to it to finish that part).  Still a few things to do.  One of the things we’re still waiting on is to raise funds to help make our building accessible.  Our town is fairly old and most of the buildings were built in early-middle 1800’s, including ours.  It’s one of the oldest, in fact.  But that means it has stairs at both entrances, front and back.  We do have a GoFundMe up to help with defraying some of the costs.

Anyway, that was a large part of my absence.  Moving 45000+ items (most of which are books and are heavy) plus all the furniture and bookcases, as well as getting a building ready took a lot out of me.  There is also some personal issues, including health concerns (nothing serious) plus somethings going on with my family.  In fact, we just welcomed my new nephew last Monday.

Now that explanations are out of the way, I am going to try to keep a schedule, but because things are still a little chaotic, going to try to keep it to once every other week, maybe with a few more in there when I get the time.  For right now, I am still writing.  In fact, I managed to get through an entire outline of a novel.  I used K.M. Weiland’s method and have fallen in love.  I talked about it in previous posts.  I highly recommend checking it out.  In fact, her blog is amazing and has so much great information!

I am over halfway through the first draft of the novel that goes with that outline.  I hit 50k words just yesterday.  The beautiful part is, I’m not losing motivation.  Well, not entirely XD I have good days and bad days.  I’m learning that having those is perfectly fine.  There’s a fine line between getting the words out, keeping yourself motivated and burning yourself out.  Allow yourself a day or two to relax, to reset things when needed.  I’ve been using a site called Pacemaker.  Not only can you use it for writing and/or editing all sorts of things, but they have added several new ways to use it.  You can add dates, subtract them, set up your goals, your end and start date.  It’s been very helpful.

So that’s what’s been going on.  Look out for a new post come the end of the week!  I’m not entirely sure what it will be about at this point and time, so it’ll be a surprise for everyone!

 

Apologies

Hello everyone!  I know, I missed a post this past Friday.  Truth is, last couple weeks have been a bit rough.  Insomnia is pretty bad and work has been stressful as we prepare to move to a much bigger space, which is great, but we’re in that stretch of construction/deconstruction where things can kinda go pear-shaped fast and the costs tend to go up quick.

I haven’t done any writing in almost two weeks and it’s starting to get to me a bit.  So there won’t be a post this Friday either, but come February 3, I will be back on a regular schedule.  During this next week, I will be doing a number of organizational tasks for the blog and for my own writing in general.  Going to make a long list of topics to begin to cover, so be prepared!  Thanks for reading!  We’ll be back to regular schedule come February 3.

Book Review: Creating Character Arcs

Title: Creating Character Arcs by K.M. Weiland
Medium: Book
Genre: Nonfiction (writing, how to)

Initial Thoughts: As always when I read something by K.M. Weiland, I love the break down of how she looks at each part of what she’s talking about. In this case, it is Creating Character Arcs. There’s a great explanation of how character arc, structure, and theme all play an integral and inter-twining part of any story. So it really sets things up as you read and gives you something to pay attention to, to think on as you read. It takes something that can seem quite complicated and breaks it down into something not only quite manageable but a lot of fun.

Favorite Part: Once again, I love the examples. Just having examples is always helpful, but using the same examples throughout for each part is a great way to really get to SEE how each part plays into the whole and gives some concrete ideas of how it might look in your own story. This, combined with the clear explanations make this an invaluable resource on how to write proper character arcs.

Overall Impression: I really enjoyed this read and am finding it super helpful in my own planning. In fact, I am using the questions listed in this book for my own characters as I outline my current WIPs. It is organized in a clear, concise way that builds on each section. THere’s also a great FAQ about character arcs in general and a nice little section on character arcs in series which is helpful since I seem incapable of writing just one-off pieces… Go figure XD

Recommendation: I would recommend this for anyone that has ever had any questions on how to write a good character arc or who may need help with writing characters in general. This is also great for someone that may just not know how to set up a character arc. If you’ve read her Outlining and Structuring novels already, this is a must-read!

To check out this and others, go here! https://www.kmweiland.com/ For further reading, she also has a terrific writing blog here: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/

Outlining in Scrivener

Ok, so today I’m going to show you a bit how I do some of my outlining in Scrivener. I’ve fallen in love with this program. I won’t extol the virtues of it because I can go on about it for a while. I also won’t go through how to use step by step because there are already quite a few great resources out there that explain things a lot better than I can, so when I talk of things, I will be assuming you know the basics of Scrivener, so apologies if you don’t! But I know it can be helpful to see the process for other writers.
I will say that my process is ever evolving and it can be different for each project I work on. But I’ve found a layout for myself that works quite well. Now, the amount of time I spent looking at examples of how other writers set things up is pretty ridiculous actually, but I find I am a person that does best when I have something to go off of. I tried using some of Scrivener’s templates and while they are helpful, they didn’t quite fulfill all of my needs. So I have begun to create my own templates. I actually have templates for novels, one for blog posts, and one where I keep a collection of story ideas that don’t have their own Scrivener project yet.
draft-binder The layout for novels is ever changing, as I said, but I’ll show you the layout I am using for my current work-in-progress. Because I can’t seem to do just one off novels, I originally set up a blank document and set it up where I have the first level as Book 1. Each Book is divided up into chapters, then of course scenes/sequels.  That’s the “manuscript” part of Scrivener in the binder. Then, it gets a little—complicated, I guess you could say XD I do like to outline, though I don’t do as much as others I have found. I tend to go right in the middle. I like a solid idea of where I’m going, but I don’t want to plan so much that all of the fun is gone for me. This is an entirely personal preference, of course.
plot-binderAfter the Manuscript or Draft section, I set up one called Plot. There, I keep a number of things. The story idea (if I did one) which is a template I set up so I can just fill it out for each project goes there, as does the Premise that contains several things including: premise, theme, dramatic question, as well as subplots. I also put my “What ifs” here as well, which is something that I learned from KM Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel. Highly recommended to check out! I also keep what I call a Plot Plan here, which is marking down a few things like: the inciting and key events, theme, the hook, the first plot point, the first pinch point, the midpoint, the second pinch point, the third plot point, the Climax, and the resolution. It lets me see a sort of road map, just something to keep me on track as I go. Again, this is from Structuring your Novel, another read I highly recommend!
Last but not least, I keep a separate folder in the Plot part for Scenes. This is where I use another template to record the ideas for scenes I already have. Now, for those that really love to outline everything, you can sit down and just record all the planned scenes you have, detail their goal, their conflict, all of that. I don’t detail out every scene because things often change a bit as I go, so I mostly just detail out scenes that I know I want to hit. So starting out, I’d do those my plot plan and any others I have off the top of my head. I may or may not detail more as I think of them during the project or I may just write them out and see how it goes.
character-binderThe next bit is Characters. I really enjoy getting to know my characters both during the Outlining phase and of course, writing phase. I have several things that go here. Each character gets their own folder. In that folder are a few things: they get a checklist which is a list of about 60 questions that I try to answer for as many characters as possible. Many characters also get a Character Questionnaire that involves their arc, and then lastly, I do a bit of a questionnaire that outlines their character arc based on structure. It seems like a lot, but I do enjoy this process because it helps me to see where certain parts of the character arc fits within the novel.
world-notes-binderAfter that, there’s the Settings folder, which is where I keep track of well, the setting. I put any world notes here, keep track of locations, cities, etc. I even might keep house layouts here (yes, yes I actually do this XD). In the Research folder below that, I often will keep what I call inspiration pictures of my characters, maps, research notes and the like.
This is a quick explanation of the beginning of my outlining process and how I set up my Scrivener projects. I am going to pause on this and do a review of K.M. Weiland’s Creating Character Arcs for next week! But I will pick up on this the following week, so if there’s anything you want to see, let me know in the comments below or contact me via the form.

Beginning Writing and some Outlining

I was going to break down my process by what I use, but I realized that I use most of my tools at all stages of the writing process, so for now, I am going to go in a more chronological order for how I write.

The beginning of any writing process starts with the obvious: an idea. For me, an idea can be a character th20161222_191719_censoredat pops into my head (this is a frequent occurrence), a setting, or even sometimes a scene that comes fully formed. If I’m smart (sadly, I am not always smart when it comes to story ideas), I write whatever it is down. OR, I have recently begun using a simple recording app on my phone if I am absolutely in a place or situation where I can’t write something down. With the WriteMinds, there’s a handy little Story sheet that I’ve begun to use.

Now, ideas can be a very odd thing. As I said above, ideas come in all varieties. Sometimes they are crystal clear and other times it’s like trying to peer into a murky lake to see what might be lurking on the bottom.

This is where I like to free write. Once I write down what my initial thoughts are, I give myself a bit of time to think and then just start writing. K.M. Weiland calls it ‘What ifs’ and that is definitely part of it, but I write down everything and anything I think of, even if I have no intention of using it. Sometimes, that kind of thing makes it’s way into another idea, or becomes a new idea all its own! Hm… that might explain why I am having the problem of not finishing anything! Too many ideas! Anyway, trying to record as much as you can is a good habit to get into.

Once I have a solid handle of the kind of story I want to tell, I start working on a premise statement. I don’t follow any kind of format for this part. I just do a sentence or two of the kind of story I want to write. Once I have that in mind, I tend to go in a couple of different directions, all depending upon what sparked the idea to begin with. If it was a character that popped into my head, I try to get to the know the character first. I do that by filling out a character checklist that I have from a book called “Fantasy Fiction Formula” by Deborah Chester (this is another great resource and highly recommended, though details will be a future post). I tend to tweak it as needed, either deleting or adding questions when I need them.

If it was a scene that popped into my head, I write it out, often taking notes as things about the world or characters occur to me in the margins (or as footnotes). If it was a vague idea, or a general premise, then I tend to have a bit more fun and just start free-writing. I may even jump around from character interviews/sheets to worldbuilding to planning out a few scenes.

I tend to go back and forth between my WriteMind Journal and Scrivener here. Sometimes, I just like to write long-hand and then transcribe it into Scrivener. This is especially true if I start this at work or when I’m out and about scrivener-premise_censoredwithout my computer. Once it gets into Scrivener, I compile it and then print it out so I can put it into my WriteMind. Once I have the initial ideas down, I begin to flesh things out. Lately, after doing some important reading (especially ‘Structuring your Novel’ by KM Weiland), I try to look at some of the themes and the Dramatic Question (Deborah Chester calls it SPOOC) of the story in question. Once those are figured out, I again jump around to characters and more worldbuilding.

It’s often at that stage that subplots start to form and so they get noted down as well. One of the things I struggled with previously is how to outline without feeling as if I had trapped myself. The secret is in jumping around. Don’t feel you have to follow a linear plan or do it in just such a way; it took me a while not only to realize this, 20161222_191750_censoredbut to feel comfortable with it. I like my plans and knowing what to do when XD But this way seems to help spark a lot more creativity and it is all very much connected. While it makes sense to start with your initial idea and the premise, trying to complete just one thing before moving on is actually more limiting.

Once I have enough of an outline (and this tends to vary for each piece or project I’ve found), I sit down and start writing. I tend to prefer to do this part almost exclusively in Scrivener. I also use Scrivener to help plan scenes out. I don’t plan each scene out beforehand all the time. Some scenes don’t come to me until I’ve begun writing. One thing to keep in mind; just because you have a plan doesn’t mean you have to stick to it. If you find a side-road to take, take it, see where it leads!

Welp, that’s the beginning part of my process. Next week, I’ll show you some of the things I do in Scrivener, both while Outlining and what I do during the actual writing process. See you then!

A Slightly Dampening Realization

So, this week, I had planned on delving more into my writing process, but I think I am going to delay that one for a week or so. I’ve been talking with some friends of mine about Works in Progress (hereby known as WIPs). I had said I was a bit scared to go back and see what all I have to work on (I’ve been collecting ideas for far too long XD). Well, last night, I did some cursory diving into some of my writing folders to see just what I had.
I’ve come to the conclusion that I REALLY need to just- finish something. I have about 15 novels just from past Nano projects (starting in 2013), plus at least another 15 novels from other projects, some of which have been kicking around since junior high, or even before. Of those 30 novels (and that’s a low estimate, honestly since some of the other projects might need to be split up into more), there is only one completed first draft.
As I came to this realization, I made a few decisions. The first one is: I need to finish something, not just the first draft, but all the way through. The second one is- I have no idea how to do that. I tend to go into fairly intense cycles when it comes to working on projects where I will be almost manic when it comes to working on a project. I’ll devote large chunks of time, focus, etc on working on it for days, weeks, even months. But eventually, that peters out. And then I will lose focus, lose motivation. I need to find a way to keep plugging on a project. I have attempted to slow down a bit, do little parts at a time, hoping I don’t burn myself out, but that only works for so long and then the same thing happens: I lose that motivation.
Right now, I plan on trying to pick a project, a new one and go from first step (outlining), then to the first draft, and even to editing. I have never managed to do it. The reason I am telling my readers this is because I am truly curious to know any little secrets you may have for your own writing, any advice. I have been writing since kindergarten and still, I can’t seem to stick with a project long enough to finish it. I hope to change that and again, any advice (including links to blogs, books, just personal stories) would be greatly appreciated!
So feel free to reply in the comments or through the contact form. Next week, I will tell you a bit about my writing process, where I start and I will be focusing on my WriteMind planner!

A Few Writing Tools

Each writer has their own little routine that best suits them. That routine is going to be comprised of several components. One of the more important components is the actual tools used. I thought I’d share about what tools that I use for writing.
Scrivener
OneNote
Laptop
Microsoft Word
WriteMind journal

scrivenerI’ll go one by one. For those that don’t know what Scrivener is, it is a program by Literature and Latte that is made especially for writers. It is a very comprehensive program where you can keep all of your notes and research all in one space while you are writing. It has many many features and there is a slight learning curve, but it is definitely worth it. Using the basics is fairly simple and once those are mastered, finding uses for the other features makes things so much easier. It has taken me a bit of time to get used to it, to figure out how to use it to suit my own needs. But now that I am, I am loving it. I will most likely do another post with how I actually set it up and use it (not a how-to, since there are quite a few better examples of that). I know I find it helpful to see how others use it for their own writing, so I will do that later on.
onenoteThough most of my writing and notes and research are in Scrivener, I do still use OneNote for a few little things. I like to print out inspiration pictures so inserting the pictures in there is a bit easier since I do use an odd size sheet because of the WriteMind and while you can insert pictures into Scrivener, I like the bit more freedom I have in OneNote, for pictures at least.
asusOf course, both OneNote and Scrivener are on my little laptop. It’s a 2-in-1 Asus Tranformer Book. I love this little thing. It is a 7 inch screen which works well. One of the requirements for a writing laptop for me at the time was portability. I was using a 17 inch Dell and it was just too big to take with me. This is a great size and very portable. It runs Windows 10 rather well (after dealing with 10 being annoying) and allows me to use all the other programs I need like Scrivener, OneNote, Word, and anything else.
wordI use Microsoft Word to print out my notes. Scrivener has a wonderful compile function that converts your Scrivenings into a Word document. I find it much easier to get the formating I need by compiling notes into Word and then printing them from there.

writemindI need the notes because I put them into my WriteMind Journal. I will most likely be doing another post on the WriteMinds to show them off, so for right now, I have to say that they are wonderful. I like to write long-hand when I’m having issues, or sometimes when I’m out and about and can’t take my laptop with me. It’s small and compact and I keep all my notes in there.

Aside from the actual tools, I often need some form of noise. This takes the form of music or sometimes a show or movie I’ve seen quite a lot that becomes background noise. A cup of tea or a drink is also a requirement. While all that is wonderful, there are times I don’t have that. Like when I’m at work. I always carry my WriteMind with me though so I can jot down any ideas that may strike me… which they often do because my characters like to give me ideas at the most inopportune moments! But this way, ideas are not completely lost.
This is just a quick run down on what I use for writing.  As I said, I will be doing some more detailed posts on a few of the items and programs I use as well as what my actual routine may look like.  So stay tuned for those!