Tag Archives: writer’s journey

Goals: Increase Writing Productivity

Moonday Mania

a blog where I set the bar high—and then try to clamber over it

the winter queen's dragon a fantasy romance by jessica aspen

Publishing Update:

I’ve finished my rough draft of THE WINTER QUEEN’S DRAGON. Yay! It won’t be ready for publication for a while, but it’s finally finished and I’m happy dancing. Meanwhile, I have a few other projects sitting on the back burner that I’ll move to the front.

If you’re a member of my mailing list and have read your free book, ROGUE ENFORCER, I’m writing more wolf shifter romances that have that paranormal suspense feel. And at the end of September, I’ll be attending a Romance Reader Convention—Rom Con—in Denver, Colorado. Other than that I’m going to be editing, editing, editing, so that THE WINTER QUEEN’S DRAGON is ready for publishing in January 2017.

Now on to the blog…

Well, it’s that time again. I’ve finished a rough draft and it needs to sit for a little while before I dive into editing it. So, it’s time to start writing another one. And this time I’m trying something different. I’ve been using something called, The Chunky Writing Method originated by Allie Pleiter, to keep track of how many words I write in a sitting, and how long my optimal sitting is.

It turns out, I’m a large chunk writer. In other words, I like to write for a very long time (with short breaks) and write a lot of words. Now, I’ve known this about myself for a while, but I hadn’t really thought about how it affected my writing organization until I read Allie’s series of articles in the Romance Writer’s Report this year. My life doesn’t have very many large chunk moments in it, but I need those large chunks to write effectively.

I like sitting down for three hours in the morning and writing a total of 3,000 words. So, I’m goaling a new rough draft at 50k. That means I need seventeen large chunks of time. If I want to write this book in about a month, and I do, I need to organize my life so I have seventeen large chunks. Allie recommends that as a large chunk writer I try to write in some small chunks too, and I understand why, but I won’t be able to finish this draft by the end of the month if I plan to do smaller chunks, so for this one, I’m aiming for the big chunks.

And, if I’m able to squeeze in a few smaller chunks of say…1k per hour, than that’s great!

So…how does this thing play out?

Step One: Figure 17 3-hour days, if everything goes well. And we’ll add in a couple of extra to give me some wiggle room.

Step Two: Plan the days.

Oh, this is the tough part! but I’ve gone to my calendar (Click here to see the calendar) and put my writing days down for the month of September. And I have a progress meter there too, so I’ll be tracking my word count as well.

I’ve got myself writing every day with this plan, except for the weekends. And Labor Day. Oh, and the long weekend at the end of September when I’ll be partying it up with the romance readers at Rom Con.

Step Three:

The thing that will really make this work is having a fabulous outline with detailed scenes and chapters. So I’ll be working on that for the end of August and then, watch out September, words are going to be flying onto the page! 🙂

Check back and see how this goes.

I’ll update how this went at the end of September. Or actually, more likely the beginning of October since I’ll be at Rom Con the last weekend in September. If I stay on track, I’ll have a brand spanking new book at the end of the process. If I get derailed, I’ll still have a great plot outlined and lots of words done. And then I’ll start planning October.

How do you plan? Do you figure out how long it takes you to do a job, and then how many days you need to schedule to do it? Or do you do what I used to: schedule the days and then see what kind of work you get done in those days? What method works best for you?


Check out the five top things I’ve learned writing romance on these blog posts:

  1. As soon as I think I’m on a writing roll, life will intervene.
  2. The plot can be thought out in advance, but the characters are bound to have issues with whatever you’ve decided. So be flexible and roll with it.
  3. There is no such thing as the muse.
  4. There is such a thing as resistance.
  5. Writing is a muscle. Use it, or lose 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

To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s newsletter and get your link to download your exclusive FREE book, please click HERE.

Rogue Enforcer by jessica aspen

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

The Writing Muse, and other deadly myths.

Moonday Mania

a blog for the readers and writers

This summer, I’ve been blogging on the five top things I’ve learned writing romance and today we’re on number three: There is no such thing as the muse.

  1. As soon as I think I’m on a writing roll, life will intervene.
  2. The plot can be thought out in advance, but the characters are bound to have issues with whatever you’ve decided. So be flexible and roll with it.
  3. There is no such thing as the muse.
  4. There is such a thing as resistance.
  5. Writing is a muscle. Use it, or lose it.

Now on with today’s blog:

There is no debate among professional writers: the muse is a myth.

I first read about this total disbelief in the writing muse in Stephen King’s On Writing. A fabulous book that almost scared me so much, I nearly stopped writing altogether. Luckily, I persevered.


Because of that mythical muse.

Huh? If the muse doesn’t exist, then how could it have motivated me to write?

Well, I’ll tell you. Productive, professional writers are correct, from horror to romance to thrillers they all say the same thing: If you want to actually publish and be successful, you cannot wait around for inspiration to strike. I let too many things interrupt my writing schedule, but I know that in order to be successful you have to sit down in the chair and write. No matter if you don’t have the time, or the energy, or the muse hasn’t shown up. You just write.

This is what a synopsis is for.

When I don’t know what to write, when my characters don’t want to cooperate, it doesn’t matter—because I have a synopsis to guide me. I don’t have to have inspiration to get myself kick-started. And, if that piece isn’t the most inspiring, that’s okay. That’s what editing is for. And believe me, I edit. A lot.

So, wait a minute. Didn’t you just say that the muse kept you in the game when your fear of Stephen King almost made you stop?

Yeah, I did say that. That’s because this is where I believe in the myth. The muse may not have to show up every day to get you to write. Writing is a job and muse or not, you need to do it. But, the muse does have to show up sometime. And when she does, wow! That’s when your fingers fly over the pages. Or it happens when you’re out walking and a fabulous idea for a tricky scene pops into your head. Or, she visits you in your sleep and whispers into your dreams.

That’s what the muse is for. Kick-starting. Not for everyday working the job.

So…here’s the skinny:

Get to work without the muse, but be grateful when she does flit into your writer cave; because, those are the moments that make it wonderful to be a writer.

Tune in next week for topic number four: There is such thing as resistance.



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

To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s newsletter and get your link to download your exclusive FREE book, please click HERE.

Rogue Enforcer by jessica aspen


Filed under channeling success, Moonday mania, Writer's Journey, writing craft

Lesson Two From the Writing Path:Your characters will try to wrestle for the controls

Moonday Mania

a blog about writers, writing and the roadblocks we all face

Last week I started this series of blogs about my romance writing lessons, well, roadblocks really, with a post on how life gets in the way of my goals. You can read that HERE. This week I’m addressing lesson two. And in the following weeks I’ll be hitting the other three top lessons I’ve learned by writing and publishing paranormal romance.

On writing, plotting, and how characters are lying in wait, ready to derail your best laid plots.

Lesson number two:

The plot can be thought out in advance, but the characters are bound to have issues with whatever you’ve decided. So be flexible, and roll with it.

You’ve heard of it. Writers who detail all their plots in advance, and then stick to every single plot point.

Well, I’m here to tell you that those writers are the minority. You see, writers are divided into different camps. There are the pantsers: those who don’t plot at all, but just sit down and write, never knowing where the plot is going. Then there are those stick in the mud, rigid plotters: they stick tight to their plan, even if the characters beg plead and threaten mutiny. But most of us are somewhere in the middle. We have an idea of the story. We know the begining, maybe the middle, and the end. We know the highlights.

Some of us fill in the story from there. Some of us, like me, write down as much as they can of the plot points from begining to end, trying to peg down the route like you would plan your summer road trip. But, as we all know, not all road trips are smooth driving.

Yeah, those characters are frustrating sometimes.

It’s taken me a long time to work out how to plot a story. I have a very effective method that gives me a beginning, middle, end—and lots of hot romance and exciting plot points in between. But rarely do I end up sticking with the whole thing. That’s because, even though I have my plot down, my characters are never quite pressed out. They tend to pop up with ideas and motivations that I had no idea about when I was outlining their stories. And so, I need to be flexible and change the story when they ask for it.

Demand it.

Absolutely refuse to cooperate until I rewrite.

Characters drive the story.

In addition to outlining your story, you have to decide if your tale is plot driven or character driven. While I love having a good, fast-paced plot, in romance the characters have to drive the story. That’s because, no matter what else is going on, it’s the emotional changes of the couple and how they go from not meshing to totally being immersed in each other, that is the essence of romance.

And that’s where my characters will change my plot lines.

I’ll think the plot goes one way, and that’s a perfectly great way for the plot to go, and then the characters’ emotional changes will move the plot an entirely different way. A great example of that is in the third book in the Tales of the Black Court. I knew the Black Queen had to die. I’d known it since the first book. But, when it came time for her to die, she threw a total twist at me. I’m not going to spoil it for people who haven’t read Broken Mirror, but suffice to say, Aeval’s death was nothing like I’d planned.

And that’s okay. That just means that I have another book to write!

Does life ever throw you curves when you think you have it all plotted out? Do people sometimes do things totally unexpectedly? 

Want to read the rest of my five lessons from writing romance?

Here are the rest of the lessons I’ll be addressing.

  1. As soon as I think I’m on a writing roll, life will intervene. (Check out the first post)
  2. The plot can be thought out in advance, but the characters are bound to have issues with whatever you’ve decided. So be flexible and roll with it. (That’s this one!)
  3. There is no such thing as the muse. (Next week’s post)
  4. There is such a thing as resistance.
  5. Writing is a muscle. Use it, or lose 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

To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s newsletter and get your link to download your exclusive FREE book, please click HERE.

Rogue Enforcer by jessica aspen


Filed under Moonday mania, Writer's Journey, writing craft

Filling the Nest

Moonday Mania

A blog about the writing journey

Free Stock Photo - Bird Nest

The other day I was having a conversation with fellow author, Mart Ramirez, about children heading off to school next week. Which led us to discussing when they leave the house as adults. Mart’s afraid she’ll be sad when she gets to the point her child leaves home. I’m not. It may be callous, but I’m looking forward to it.

I love my kids, truly, wondrously, desperately love my kids, but at times I feel like a teenager waiting to get out of the house. I want to be me! I want to enjoy my spouse without being afraid a child will walk in. Drink a glass of wine without someone sniffing my breath (yes I have teenaged police at my house.) Travel without finding a sitter, or (even worse) leaving teenagers in charge of themselves and the house. What kind of vacation is it if you are constantly worried about what is going on at home?

I didn’t always feel like this. When the kids were younger, they were my life. I did everything with them and scheduled my life around theirs. Okay, I still have to schedule around them sometimes, but now I have a full life without the kids, and they are not even out of the house. Committing to writing has done more than fill my hours with satisfying work that I would do above just about anything. It has also filled my life with social obligations, travel opportunities, and real friends.

I will not be lonely when the kids go off to school, the husband is at work, and the house is empty. I’ll be on my computer discussing the best use of the word “t’will” and when did contractions come into common use. I’ll be at meetings, trying not to over-volunteer. I’ll be at writers retreats, conducting workshops on improv and taking workshops on NANORIMO prep.

In other words: Fill your life up and the empty nest won’t be empty, it will be full of you being you.

Oh, and the other thing I’ve done to prevent empty nest syndrome? I have a dog. She’s the baby now.

Stock Photography - Man wearing rucksack
What have you done to fill your life up? Will it be you or your husband who misses the kids most? At my house, it’s bound to be my husband when I’m off at RWA and he’s home by himself. Maybe he needs a hobby, like hiking.

Do you have other hobbies besides writing? Will they fill up your life the way writing does, so much that you merely wave at the kids as they trundle off to school and hope you remembered to kiss them?


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

I’m a Techno Superstar! Ur, Well, Maybe Not.

Sensational Saturday’s

a blog for whatever I feel like writing!

I have an amazon author page!


And a Goodreads author page!      


I’m pretty stoked!

Me, the person who nearly a year ago was stumbling through her first blog, is now stumbling through the author pages at Amazon and Goodreads! I would never have thought I could do any of this. I still have technical issues sometimes. Yesterday I had to call my husband at work to beg some help with my Excel spreadsheet.

You people who come from a corporate background understand Excel. Me? I’m just tripping through somebody else’s ten page spreadsheet trying to figure out how the tab-by things work. I’ve lost my scrolling capability, but that’s not what I called him for. I’m finalizing the scores for the Colorado Romance Writer’s Award of Excellence and the page is so long that I can’t see the whole thing. And since I’ve lost the scrolling ability, I’m tab, tab, tabbing along to one side to see if the book has made the finals, then shift-tab, shift-tab, shift-tabbing to the other, so I can see titles.

So I figured out how to squooosh the page in the middle so I could see both ends at once.


But then I needed to see the middle again. And I couldn’t. It was lost and I didn’t know how to get it back!


Lucy! Where did you put my page????

So I had to make the phone call to hubby’s work and get help from none other than his bosses wife. (She’s a star!) She helped me to un-hide my page, and now I’m a happy camper again. Now if those last few judges would just email me their scores, I’d be thrilled!

Running a contest of this size is something I’ve never done before. Okay, I’ve never run a contest before. I’m learning Excel the same way I learn everything nowadays, by the seat of my pants. By experimentation.

That’s why my motto is, back-up the file, and back-it-up  again.

So at least I wasn’t too panicked when I realized I couldn’t see any of the scores. I knew I had a back up. Whew!

Anyway, as I learn things you’ll see changes occurring on my website. Most will be things you may not even notice, like me being able to blog here and have it appear (like magic!) on my Goodread’s page. But some you might see. I hope they make the site better. I’d do it  all at once, but I’m a pantser, remember?

What are you learning that you never thought you would? Is technology an easy thing for you? Do you take classes, or call a friend for help? What would you like to learn, but haven’t yet?

I’m still looking for people to claim their prizes from the contest! Check out either the Rafflecopter Widget or my contest page for the list!


Filed under channeling success, Optimisim, Writer's Journey

Kristen Lamb

Moonday Mania

A blog on the craft of Writing

Once an author becomes serious about being a professional author it is difficult not to find yourself wondering what in the world is this marketing thing and where do I start?

Never fear, Kristen Lamb is here!

My go to expert for social media is Kristen Lamb, one of her recent posts (click HERE) touches on something I am just now starting to struggle with, analytics. Kristen’s blog always has something of interest to writers, but her social media expertise is what keeps me coming back. She is the author of my favorite social media book, We Are Not Alone. We Are Not Alone is the book that got me thinking about how to blog, not just spitting out words on the page.

In We Are Not Alone, Kristen focuses on the whys, wherefores and what the hell-do-I-do nows of social media. Kristen walks you through every step from developing a brand to what you should and should not be doing on your blog.

I am in direct violation of Kristen’s advice with this very column! Kristen says you should be blogging on what you are writing in order to reach readers. And of course, blogging on writing violates that very idea. That is exactly why I added my Thursday’s Bite blog, which focuses on Paranormal. It’s also why I developed Paranormal Freebies “A place where paranormal readers and authors converge.” Both of these endevours tie me to readers who may or may not be authors.

Kristen’s other book Are You There Blog? It’s Me, Writer is blog focused. That is on my TBR list, once I finish We Are Not Alone. I’m sure I’ll find out just what else it is that I’m not doing right. Actually I plan on doing most of what Kristen says, and on ParanormalFreebies.com, I actually have. On that site I have book reviews coming up on the first Monday’s of the month. I have a variety of interested authors blogging on interesting topics, and I get to blog there myself on all things magical and mystical.

Kristen not only has these two fantastic books to help you along, but she blogs regularly on topics ranging from marketing to editing to the social faux pas that can kill you on Twitter. And she’s funny. Did I mention that? Just go look at the tab on her website about the Pants of Shame. 

It’s because of Kristen that I started reading The Tipping Point and I’m now thinking about how to make not just my posts “sticky” but maybe somehow my book or my pen name. Hmm, who knew we’d all want to get sticky? The Tipping Point is a great audio read when you have a long drive, although I hear the rights are in turmoil so I don’t think you can purchase it in audio. The library is where I had to go to read Malcom Gladwell’s thought provoking book on what makes epidemics tip. Now I understand the Twilight epidemic.

Kristen also teaches classes at Bob Mayer’s site Who Dares Wins Publishing. I have on my to do list to take a class from either her or Bob or Jennifer Talty this year. It’s on my bucket list and at an affordable $20-$40 for an online class all I have to do is find the time. Okay, I’m making the time.

In the meantime you’ll find me in doctor’s office’s, waiting in the car to pick people up and at the breakfast table, highlighter in hand, pouring over We Are Not Alone. And of course I drink my coffee in the mornings looking over Kristen’s blogs. You should too. Just don’t have a mouthful of coffee when looking at the “Pants of Shame”. I refuse to be held responsible.

Have you checked out Kristen’s blog? What is your favorite piece of advice she gives? Have you read the post on WHAT WENT WRONG WITH THE STAR WARS PREQUELS? If you have, tell me, isn’t that the best Darth Vadar costume ever!?


Filed under Moonday mania, website

Expert Advice on Finding Experts

Moonday Mania

a blog centered on the craft of writing

My writing days are centered on two things.

One, writing! (Okay, you probably knew that)

Two, marketing.

When I decided to become an author I had no idea that I would need to become an expert at websites, blogs, peeps and tweeps. And if you had told me that I would need to become an expert in all this internet stuff, there is a distinct possibility I would not have even started down this path. You see, until three years ago, I didn’t even own a cell phone.

But I am now an expert! Okay, not an expert. But I am a person who my writing friends now go to for advice about where to find the experts. And that is a giant step for me! Last year at this time I didn’t have a blog, a Facebook account, or a Twitter account. And now I have all three (and Goodreads, don’t forget Goodreads!). But still I struggle with how to wander their myriad pathways. And here is where my expertise of finding experts come in handy.

Gloria Richard is another fellow writer struggling with creating a blog. Her solution has been to enlist the advice of the expert Brinda Berry to help her “Pimp my web”. Not only is Brinda the author of a new YA book, The Waiting Booth (Click HERE for her fabulous article, Interview with a Synesthete) but it turns out she is also a terrific source for how to improve your blog.

For some easy step by step ways to get going on the path to bloghood (globhood?) visit Gloria’s site (HERE) and go back to Brinda’s first post (HERE). That should get you started on pimping your own web.

Brinda, through Gloria, has helped me with the ever challenging widgets on WordPress. I did buy a book, WordPress for Dummies. But I’m with Gloria and I think I need a more basic book. The Guide to WP for the really Dummies would suit me just fine on those days when I am searching for a how to. Hey Gloria, which book did you buy??

Eventually I hope to get this blogging, tweeting, posting, work down to a science. In other words: the more I learn, the easier it should be. But for now, like Gloria, I’m stumbling through getting it all together. So for that I need the experts. Tune in next Moonday Mania for more advice on who to get your advice from. (Okay, not grammar advice, never end a sentence on a preposition.) In the meantime leave a comment for me. I’d love to know how all of you are doing with your forays into new worlds, blogging or otherwise!

Only a few months left till my debut novella Little Red Riding Wolf is released! Tune back to this station for details as we get closer to February 18, 2012!


Filed under Moonday mania, website

Halloween Treats 2011 Grand Prize Giveaway Today!

Moonday Mania

a blog about the craft of writing

Today is the day I announce the  Halloween Treats Grand Prize Winners for the entire month! Three lucky people will win a swag bag with wonderful Jessica Aspen Swag and a Barnes and Noble $15 Gift Certificate! But hold your horses, I have to gab for a minute first.

This has been a whirlwind October for me, and believe you me,  I have enjoyed riding the whirlwind. From running my first big contest, Halloween Treats, to exploring the world of Flash Fiction with Rach Harrie’s Third Writing Campaign, it’s been one new experience after another. I feel like I’m at the amusement park on my game board of life.

And I expect the rest of the year to continue to be filled with wonderful and scary new experiences. I’ll be working on my first professional edits, with my new editor from Passion in Print Press. I’ll be researching my options for my first professional blog tour. And I’ll be doing all this while running CRW’s Award of Excellence, our amazing contest for romance authors with books published in 2011.

This year not only was the beginning of this blog, but it also marked the beginning of Paranormal Freebies. A blog and ezine that I share with ML Guida, Hillar Seidl and Marilyn Wigglesworth. We’ve had great fun creating a place for paranormal readers and authors to converge.

My latest ride on the whirlwind came on Monday, October 24th with the opening of the Choose Your Own Adventure blog hop, Ahoy Sea Serpent. If you havent tried it start at  Kerri Cuevas’s blog and find out what happens when a group of random bloggers get together to write a story, and make you, the reader, the decision maker. Thanks Kerri for a wonderful opportunity.

This month I’ve given away a book with every blog post and today is the grand prize drawing! If you’ve been hanging out here you know that I’m running the contest in celebration of my novella Little Red Riding Wolf’s acceptence from Passion in Print Press. Little Red Riding Wolf will be available February 18th, 2012

My last giveaway book winner from Saturday’s blog is Gloria! WOOT!

I will be doing a whirlwing blog tour during January and February and promoting Little Red Riding Wolf‘s release date. And I’m thinking I just might run another contest in February. It’s not only my release month, but it also contains romance’s biggest holiday, Valentine’s Day. So don’t forget to check back during the month of February and find out what fun prizes are being given away. Who knows? I might even have copies of Little Red to give away.

So, on to what you’re really here for…

Drum roll please!

And the winners (you had to have commented during the month of October during my blogs to win) of the three amazing Jessica Aspen Swag bags complete with Barnes and Noble gift certificates are…..




Congratulations! Send me your contact info through the contact page and I’ll get your prizes to you! Any prizes not claimed by November 30th will be forfeit.

And for everyone who dropped by and commented this month, thank you very much. I’ve enjoyed getting to meet each and every one of you and hope to keep hearing from you on a regular basis.


Filed under Moonday mania, Writer's Journey

Advanced Plotting with Chris Eboch

Moonday Madness

A blog about the craft of writing

Today’s guest is multi-published author Chris Eboch. Chris is not only an accomplished fiction author, but she now teaches what she has learned. Her book Advanced Plotting will help you smooth out those bumps in the road. 

A woman heard I was a writer with 12 books published, and she said, “Why aren’t you living in Beverly Hills?”

I managed to keep a straight face. Besides the fact that I prefer New Mexico to Beverly Hills, 12 books in about as many years does not pay a living wage. It does, however, mean that I’ve learned a lot over the years. I’ve written historical fiction (The Eyes of Pharaoh, a mystery set in ancient Egypt, and The Well of Sacrifice, a Mayan adventure, both for ages nine and up), an original paperback series (the Haunted series, which starts with The Ghost on the Stairs, also for kids), and various types of work for hire. I also recently started writing romantic suspense for adults under the name Kris Bock (Rattled is a treasure hunting adventure in the New Mexico wilderness).

Besides my published books, I have a dozen unpublished manuscripts – part of the learning process. I learn a lot from teaching other writers as well. I lead workshops, work with students through a correspondence school, and do private manuscript critiques. You can’t analyze thousands of stories and novels without learning a few things about what works and what doesn’t.

And yet, somehow, that doesn’t mean it’s easy to see the flaws in your own work. But I’ve found a method to help. I call it the Plot Outline Exercise, and I discuss it at length in my book Advanced Plotting. The short summary is, you make an outline of your finished manuscript, briefly describing the main action and any subplots in each chapter. Then you analyze your plot. Looking at the outline, rather than the entire manuscript, makes it easier to see the big picture without getting distracted by little details.

That doesn’t mean it’s easy. It takes a lot of work to make a manuscript strong, so I ask over 40 questions, divided into sections for Conflict, Tension, Main Character, Subplots and Secondary Characters, Theme, and Fine Tuning. For example, here are the opening three from Conflict (and each of these bullet points I consider to be one question, despite the multiple question marks):

·         Put a check mark by the line if there is conflict in that chapter. For chapters where there is no conflict, can you cut those, interweave with other chapters, or add new conflict? The conflict can be physical danger, emotional stress, or both, so long as the main character (MC) is facing a challenge.

·         Where do we learn what the main conflict is? Could it be sooner? Is there some form of conflict at the beginning, even if it is not the main conflict? Does it at least relate to the main conflict? The inciting incident—the problem that gets the story going—should happen as soon as possible, but not until the moment is ripe. The reader must have enough understanding of the character and situation to make the incident meaningful. Too soon, and the reader is confused. Too late, and the reader gets bored first.

·         Where do we learn the stakes? What are they? Do you have positive stakes (what the MC will get if he succeeds), negative stakes (what the MC will suffer if he fails), or best of all, both? Could the penalty for failure be worse? Your MC should not be able to walk away without penalty.

As you answer each question, you make notes on the outline for where you need to make changes on your manuscript. Then, of course, you need to actually make the changes. Advanced Plotting has over 20 additional articles to explain how to make these changes, covering topics such as getting off to a fast start and using cliffhanger chapter endings.

As I said, it isn’t easy to do this kind of revision, but when the result is a much stronger manuscript, it’s worthwhile. Since I now outline before I start writing, I use the Plot Outline Exercise at that planning stage and catch a lot of problems early, but not every writer can – or wants to – sketch out a manuscript in detail in advance. However you write, making an outline at some point can help you see what you really have, so you can identify and fix problems.

Learn more about Chris and read excerpts of her work at www.chriseboch.com (for children’s books) or www.krisbock.com (for adult romantic suspense written under the name Kris Bock) or see her Amazon page at http://www.amazon.com/Chris-Eboch/e/B001JS25VE/. You can also read excerpts from Advance Plotting on her blog:http://chriseboch.blogspot.com/.

Thanks Chris! Leave a question or comment for Chris and you will be entered in today’s Halloween Treats drawing for an autographed copy of Michelle Celmer’s A Clandestine Corporate Affair. All commenters will be entered in the drawing for three grand prizes to occur on October 31st, so check back to see if you are a winner! Saturday’s winner is Gloria Richard! Congratulations Gloria, send me your address and I’ll send you the book!


Filed under Moonday mania, writing craft, writing organization

Bijou from the CRW retreat, Margie Lawson

Sensational Saturdays

where I blog whatever I want

I’m thrilled to see so many new commenters on Jessica Aspen Writes! I love communicating with everyone. Those who know me know I am pretty talkative, so thanks for jumping in and feeding my conversational need. Once again this was confirmed at the CRW writers retreat I attended in September where we were lucky enough to have the talented Margie Lawson helping us figure out our personalities and our self defeating behaviors. Don’t forget to leave a comment to be entered in today’s contest!

Are you riding the horse, or is the horse riding you?

Self-knowledge is one of the things Margie Lawson teaches in her Defeating Self Defeating Behavior courses and she was only able to cover a teeny tiny portion during the retreat, but I could still spot the wheels turning in everyone’s brains as they looked a little deeper into themselves and their various reasons for not getting the job done.

Are you like me? Very social and liable to be caught up in too much tweeting or blogging and never having enough time to finish your project? Or are you caught up in repeating the self defeating, it’s never going to happen so why bother. Whichever you are you have a problem. Either the work doesn’t get finished or it doesn’t get sent out. Whichever one is your problem, or if it’s something altogether different, Margie has it covered in her course. Margie is the woman with the solution.

If you’ve ever taken a Margie course, you know she fills it with tons of wonderful information. At the retreat we only had enough time to take a quick peek at our personalities and what might be holding us back as well as make lists of doable goals for the retreats. I discovered I’m pretty balanced on three out of four of the personality styles in the survey she had us take. This means that my talent for organization and my ability to socialize are just as strong as my positive enthusiastic side. What I’m lacking is the self-confidence and forceful pieces that might push me to say, submit my work?

Once again, Margie is the woman with the solution!

Her terrific system of goals have helped me tremendously since I started her Defeating Self Defeating Behaviors course. Making two lists, winner and superstar, keeps me on task and keeps me from beating myself up when I don’t get everything done. It also lets me reward myself with something fun, say Tweeting, when I have to do those tasks that are not so fun, say sending another letter after the first query asking “what happened to my query?” Rewarding my efforts that are difficult has helped me to achieve the things that are hard for me. Thanks Margie!

If you haven’t take a course from Margie Lawson I highly encourage you to do so. Her online courses have a tremendous amount of information and she has several for each stage of writing. We only had a taste of Defeating Self-Defeating Behaviors at the retreat, but I know (from my personal experience with Margie’s courses) that you will discover things about yourself that you never knew. And address those issues that hold you back. Even if you feel that you’re on track, you can still find a wealth of information to get you organized and over any issues you might have.

You can find Margie’s courses like Defeating Self Defeating Behaviors, and many more, at her brand new online school, Margie Lawson Academy!

What kind of self defeating behaviors do you struggle with? Have you ever taken Margie’s course? What strategies work for you?

Leave a comment and enter to win today’s Halloween Treat book, Kate Moore’s To Save the Devil. All entries go into the final drawing for the three grand prizes! Thursday’s winner is Sharon Clare! Send me your address through my contact box and I’ll be mailing prizes out next week! Congratulations Sharon!


Filed under Sensational Saturday's, Uncategorized, writing craft