Tag Archives: randy ingermanson

Get A Log Line Baby!

Moonday Mania

a nano-istic blog

NaNoWriMo PARTICIPANT 2014 graphicI’m starting NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) today. Okay, it should have started on Saturday, but I couldn’t really start then. I had plans. And I’ll be blogging more about how that works with Nano next Moonday Mania, so check it out. We’re Nanoing romance all month on Jessica Aspen Writes!

So, how do you keep your focus and end up with a terrific story at the end of the month? Kristen Lamb knows. You need a log line. She wrote a terrific blog last week about why people fail with their stories and how even bad stories can get made into movies. Check it out:


What is a log line? It’s your elevator pitch. The one thing you should be able to get out of your stumbling mouth when that famous agent, editor, author asks you when you’re waiting in line for drinks at the bar, “So, what’s your book about?”

A great place to learn about log lines and writing that story idea down is by checking out author Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. If you follow me at all you know I’m a big Randy Ingermanson fan. I love the Snowflake method and it’s perfect for Nano.

You start with a character with a goal. It’s that simple. Frodo needs to get the ring to the mountain. But Randy suggests you put it into non-specific terms. Small, underestimated hero takes powerful evil ring across an entire world, facing great danger and discovering the meaning of loyalty and true friendship.

Okay, that’s more than the fifteen words Randy recommends, but you get the drift. Let’s winnow it down even farther:

Underestimated hero takes powerful evil ring across an entire world and discovers the meaning of true friendship.

Still more than fifteen, but I like it, so I’m leaving it.

Write it down on a sticky note and put it where you can see it when you write.

And that’s how you do a log line. And how you keep Nano and the end of the 50K in your focus.

Do you use log lines in your writing? Can you winnow down your favorite stories to just a few words? It’s actually a fun game. Go ahead and try it!

Author Bio:

Jessica Aspen

Jessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies. You can find out more information and read about Jessica’s paranormal romances at http://JessicaAspen.com

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Filed under Moonday mania, Nanowrimo, Nanowrimo, writing craft

Writing Backwards

Moonday Mania

a blog about writing

As I develop as a romance writer I find that everything changes. When I first started writing paranormal romance I was a dedicated pantser. I wrote the first draft of The Dark Huntsman without much idea of where my story was going. I let my writing meander this way and that—until I had a story. Which, now that I look back, is funny.

For everything else in my world I’m a long term planner. I think in terms of what might be happening in my life years ahead. At any given moment I might be wondering about next month, five years from now, or where we might retire. At the same time I’m working on current stuff about kids, dogs, and writing this year’s steamy romances.

So, if I’m thinking thirty years ahead about my life, why didn’t I do any long term planning with writing my first novel?

I think it’s because it’s difficult to learn what outlining/planning style worked for me. And it seems antithetical to plan something that is so creative. Shouldn’t creativity be instantaneous?

Well, yes and no.

It turns out that The Dark Huntsman wasn’t a stand alone book. I realized while writing it, that it was going to be one of three books about the MacElvy’s and Underhill and the evil queen. Once I realized I was writing a series I had plans for the other books. I had the characters and the fairy tales and a general idea of what was going to go on. But I didn’t outline the entire series. Nor did I outline each individual book until I was sitting down to write it. And that was well after the previous book was finished.

Turns out that that is a difficult way to write a series.

I now plan my writing. It doesn’t mean I’m not creative or don’t create in the moment, or change my plot on a whim. It just means I have a better idea of where I’m going to end up when I’m finished. I now use a combo of the Snowflake Method, created by Randy Ingermanson, and a plotting technique called Story Structure, by Dan Wells. They fit nicely together. The Snowflake method is a short way to give myself a scaffolding to hang my plot on, and Story Structure helps me to create that plot.

Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method has you start with a one sentence overview of your plot and work at enlarging it, piece by piece. It’s a painless way to plot for pantsers. But I found myself trying to create a plot without writing, and sometimes that was difficult for my creative brain. Once I watched Dan Well’s story structure presentation I was able to see where the plot points needed to come from. And he does something unusual. He recommends starting at the end of your story.

That’s right. Decide what you want the ending to be, so that you know where your beginning should be.

In other words, write backwards.

This was a radical idea for me. I’m pretty linear. Sure, when writing, I skip around the parts I have trouble with and come back later to fix, or finish, them, but I’ve always thought you should begin at the beginning and write until you have an ending. Deciding on the ending first was pretty radical.

But beginning at the end works.

Once you know the ending, and you have your beginning, filling in the middle is easy. You are either moving away from one, or toward the other. Now you know what steps you need to fill in those highs and lows in the center of your story.

And it works particularly well for series. I now loosely plot several book together, that way they have more continuity. I’m toying with the idea of even writing all the books in a series before I release them. That way I can go back and forth and connect them even better, just like I do with a single plot book.

I highly recommend you watch all of the videos in Dan Wells YouTube series. And if you have the opportunity to go see either Randy Ingermanson or Dan live, I recommend you do that as well. Randy also has a newsletter he sends out for writers, and it’s full of good stuff on plotting and the state of the industry. You can find all of that at his website, http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/

How do you plot? Do you think it makes a difference to do all your books together? Are you a pantser or a plotter or something in between?



Filed under About the Author, Moonday mania, Writer's Journey, writing craft, writing organization

To Write Faster, And Beyond!

Moonday Mania

a speedy blog

I’ve dedicated the month of April to exploring how to write faster. You can check out the first post on The Speed of Writing HERE, the second post, Writing at the Speed of Rachel HERE, and last week’s post Writing Even Faster, Zoom! Zoom!, HERE.

We’ve covered why we might want to write faster, some simple steps I’ve borrowed from Rachel Aaron including managing writing time in a different way and managing your planning in a different way, but we’ve missed Rachel’s third step: enthusiasm. Rachel found that she wrote faster the scenes that she truly wanted to write. You know, those scenes we writers think of in the car, driving way too fast, and you’re so excited you can’t wait to jot down a few notes, but you have to wait. In fact Rachel had to wait until she’d covered obligatory parts of the book first.

But wait, what obligatory parts of the book?

You know, those introductory things, back story, important plot pieces that if she didn’t write them then the reader wouldn’t get the story or understand the exciting parts. But then Rachel had an epiphany. If she was bored by those obligatory scenes, wouldn’t the reader be bored too? So she stared not writing those boring scenes. She changed them until she was excited about them. And a funny thing happened. Her writing speed increased!

So, how do we do this? How do we decide if a scene is important or how do we even know it’s exciting before we are deep in the bog of writing a boring scene?

This is what I’m going to work on next. I’m going to try to look ahead to the next day’s scenes and see if I’m excited to write them. I’m going to try reading my notes just before bed and lie down and see if I can’t stop plotting and planning the possibilities. And see if I’m excited about the scene and maybe if I am my unconcious mind will work on those scenes during the night so when I sit down to write I’ll know if they’re exciting, and I’ll have imagined all kinds of amazing new fun ideas during my dreams.

Getting excited about her writing is what pushed Rachel Aaron the final push to 10k per day. So maybe it can be the push that gets me to 3k per day.

Writing fiction for dummies by randy ingermansonNow on to some of the tools that have helped me speed up. The first one is Scene and Sequel. We’ve all heard of it, some of you even use it. I first was introduced to it via Margie Lawson, but she pointed out that Randy Ingermanson has summed it up succinctly. Randy Ingermanson is the genius behind the snowflake method and he helps you write easily in his Writing Fiction for Dummies. I’ll leave it to Randy if you want a more detailed summary, but basically it’s deciding if the scene you are writing is a scene or a sequel.

Scene has the following three-part pattern:

  1. Goal
  2. Conflict
  3. Disaster

Sequel has the following three-part pattern:

  1. Reaction
  2. Dilemma
  3. Decision

So I break my scenes up into these sections and Ka-Chunk! They fall into place. Now this brings us to the next tool I use, Scrivener. Scrivener is basically a word processor, but unlike Word I can break my chapters up naturally into individual scenes. But another tool of Scrivener are these beautiful sections of the screen that hold a notecard right next to your writing. I write my Scene and Sequel notes there and while I’m writing I know, this is a scene. The Goal is to get the chalice, the Conflict is the Nazi’s want it too, the disaster is just when I think I’ve found it my father is about to die. Okay, this is the scene from an Indiana Jones movie, but you get the picture. My notes keep me on task, but my imagination has room to take flight.

That’s it, that’s how I’ve increased my writing speed and how I plan to increase it still further. I’ll keep you posted. Currently I’m not writing fresh words, I’m working on my rough draft of the second book in the Tales From the Black Court series. But in the fall I plan to be writing book three and I will be reviewing all my notes and diving into my goals of three thousand words per day.

And let me know how your writing speed is going. Are you writing faster? After reading how easy it is, do you want to?

Want to explore some more? Here are some links for you:





Filed under Goal Setting, Moonday mania, Writer's Journey, writing craft, writing organization

Examining Excel from the a Non-Techie Perspective

Moonday Mania

a blog on the craft of writing

The last two Moonday Mania’s I’ve been discussing the Snowflake method of plotting and how it’s changing my pantsing ways. You can read the first post HERE and the second HERE. And today I’m going to talk about a tiny piece of the Snowflake method that has expanded my non-techie universe just a little more.


(cue scary music) DA-NA-NA-NA!

Here is what Randy Ingermanson says about writers and spreadsheets in ‘How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method’:

“For some reason, this is scary to a lot of writers. Oh the horror. Deal with it.You leaned to use a word-processor. Spreadsheets are easier. You need to make a list of scenes, and spreadsheets were invented for making lists. If you need some tutoring, buy a book. there are a thousand out there and one of them will work for you. It  should take you less than a day to learn the itty bit you need. It’ll be the most valuable day you ever spent. Do it.”

I read those words and I thought; ok, Randy says to just do it, I can do it.

Now like a lot of writers I have avoided the Excel side of life. I took a class, many moons ago, and about the only thing I remember is that you plug in rows of complicated formulas into the cells and they work their math magic all by themselves. But writing isn’t math, so how the heck is this going to work? Can I plug my scenes into the cells and my story will automatically write itself?

I wish!

I do have a little more experience withe Excel. I am part of an investment club, The Queens of Green, and we have been blessed with a woman with a masters in accounting. She created amazing spreadsheets for our stock evaluations. Every month I go to the Excel spreadsheet for my stock (until recently, Target) and I open up a two sheet multi-column spreadsheet with detailed instructions from the CPA goddess on how to plug in numbers.

It goes something like this:

I open the spread sheet and read the first instruction. Copy last column and paste. Ok, I do that. Then each color coded square has similar step-by-step instructions on where to find the correct numbers online. What site to go to, which tab to click. Go to this page and plug in that. Very detailed. I stumble through, and at the end I have some idea of what’s been going on with my stock. The color coding tells me if we want to retain it, or dump it.

And each month I have to figure it out again. Why? Because I’m non-techie (read: resistant to change.

But Randy says I need a spreadsheet. So last month, I bravely opened up Excel and did it. I, all by little old lonesome, created a scene spreadsheet for my new novella (working title Snow and the Seventh Wolf). And guess what? It was way easier than I thought it would be!

You see, I’ve been getting very cozy with Microsoft Word and Excel is its kissing cousin. Yes, they look very different on the surface, but underneath they are more similar than I thought. The navigation bar at the top looks almost the same, and there are many things you can do that are the same. So I started to play.

Yes play. I think the main thing that keep us non-techie writers from using Excel is fear. Fear I will make a mistake. Fear I will lose all my work. So the secret is to back it up, and back up frequently. Once you start doing that you realize that you can play in the sandbox with the other kiddos without being scared.

I now have a lovely spreadsheet where I can cut and paste my scenes. I can easily add extra scenes by adding a row, or cut them with a ruthless click of my mouse. And how has this changed my pantsing, um, plotting? Well, I’m figuring out my plot before writing. And even after I started writing (when those darn characters changed their motivations on me) I was able to shift scenes and change the plot.

The end result is a detailed list of chapters with an approximate word count, so my plot can stay on target. One line per scene, not too onerous for a pantser like me, still leaves lots of room for flexibility with my writing. And an entire book plotted in just a few days.

Is it life changing? You bet! I’ve never been one for shuffling the notecards, but here is an easy way to do it, without all the pesky hand writing. I know there are programs out there to do this for you, in fact I bet Randy’s Snowflake program comes with something to do it for you, but I’m glad I am doing it this way. Because I am also learning (although in tiny baby steps) how to work Excel. One more step along my road to writing as a career and a personal celebration of overcoming my fears.

One more note. Randy’s program, Snowflake PRO, is one of the most affordable writing/plotting programs out there. It only costs $100. And he is running a special. If you buy his book Writing Fiction for Dummies, he’ll cut the price to $50. Go to his website for details on how to get this amazing special HERE.

Have you used Excel in your writing? Or maybe a writing program that utilizes spreadsheets? What about new skills, have you ever taken on a skill that you were terrified to do? What made you try?

Enter my Little Red Riding Wolf contest HERE. Still lots of opportunities to enter and win! Contest will close at the end of February, so jump on and win some chocolate or the best sticky notes ever! And check out Romance and Beyond for my interview by the fabulous Sherry Isaac!


Filed under Moonday mania, writing craft, writing organization

Making the Arduous Journey from Pantser to Plotter

Moonday Mania

A blog about the craft of writing

I’ve always been a pantser. From the moment Mr. Brown in fifth grade introduced us to outlines, I knew I hated them. I even had to write my ten page research paper two weeks before it was due so I could fake the outline, turn it in, then pretend I’d written the paper from the outline. I desperately didn’t understand why anyone needed an outline.

In college I would get up the morning a paper was due and write it, then go turn it in. Well, only if it was a short one. Longer papers required writing the night before, but none of them got more than my brain turning them over and over. Maybe a few notes scrawled in my spiral notebook, but no outlines. Nada.

So when I really started to write I of course sat down in front of a blank screen and thought about my first scene. Then I typed. This worked well. For the first few scenes. Enthusiasm drove me along through chapter one, then chapter two, then chapter three. By chapter four I was sinking fast and when I hit the second quarter of the plot, I was stumped.

Without a road map I had no idea where my characters were going. Without character sketches, I had no idea why they were even on the journey. I had to change. Even if change meant kicking and screaming and acting like a two year old, I was going to learn how to plot.

Of course what I really did was read books. Lots of books. Books on how to fill out sheets with your characters names and descriptions and deep motivation. Wait, deep motivation. How could I possibly know how my characters were motivated without seeing how they acted? I couldn’t. So I struggled through completing my first book. And then came the editing.

And then more editing. And then the re-editing.

You see without a roadmap I had created some serious issues. I had discovered my characters so far into the plot that I had to go back to the beginning and re-write. A lot. And when I had done that, I found out that some of the plot didn’t work so well, so I had to re-write it. And when I had done that, I still needed to polish the whole shebang. And then I had someone say that they didn’t understand my hero’s motivation, so it still needs more editing. ARRGH!

It was then that I realized that I needed to plot. At least a little bit. And it was then that I discovered the Snowflake method. Randy Ingermanson (author of Writing Fiction for Dummies) has a free Advanced Fiction Writing e-zine that you can sign up for, but what got him started on the e-zine was his plotting method. So many people wanted it he was called to post it online. And now he has a program to help you do it yourself. It’s simple, it’s fast, and better yet, it works for anti-plotters like me.

Next Moonday Mania I’m going to share how I use the Snowflake method and how easy it is for even a committed pantser like me to make the switch to plotter.

Are you a pantser, plantser or plotter? How do you know? Have you tried to make the switch? Leave a comment and tell me your plotting story.

And don’t forget to record it on the Rafflecopter widget. Every day is a new opportunity to enter the contest and win prizes HERE in celebration of the release of Little Red Riding Wolf. More opportunities to comment when you visit the blogs on my blog tour. Tuesday visit with me at Her Story Calls and leave a comment there too!


Filed under Moonday mania, writing craft, writing organization