Category: Big Ideas Page 1 of 2

History Repeats Itself

I think I’ve mentioned before that the series I’m writing right now came about because I heard a couple songs together while I was driving one day. Sometimes when I’m listening to music, especially in the car or on the bus when my head is only half-focused on it, a verse or even a line will catch my attention and my mind is off and running. So that was that, but I’ve been struggling for awhile to make the end of the story come together and wrap up all the loose ends. The solution I originally came up with felt less than original and had some holes that I knew I’d have to fill.

As a result, it was difficult to get motivated to start writing the final installment in the series, and after mocking up an outline riddled with holes, I idled.

Ahh, but then. Once again, whatever literary muse that seems to live inside my iPod struck again. One verse of one song, a song iTunes says I’ve played dozens of times, fixed my porous plot problem. Not only that, but my new ending sort of flips the bird at some genre conventions.

The funny part is for a long time I was actually mishearing the lyrics, and it wasn’t until I learned the correct words that the idea was born. Oops.

Posting the song would be a huge spoiler so I’m keeping it under wraps, which is too bad because I love it. Someday, maybe.

But that’s not all, folks. Not long after, while navigating a traffic circle after dropping the kids off at school one morning, the iPod muse hit hard. One line was all it took. New book, could be a series. Completely different from what I’m working on right now. And I’m so excited to start writing it, so much so that I’m conflicted on what I should be working on right now – finish the series I’ve been writing for the past two years, or new project? I’m terrible at making decisions so I might literally pick one out of a hat and run with it.

While I’ve been waffling over that decision, and now that I’m starting to climb out of the dark hole I was mired in (yay), I’ve finished the ninth (!) draft of The Unraveling and I feel like I’m ready to start querying again after my less-than-successful results last year. With my new opening scene I hope to get some positive feedback this time around.

I often turn to music for ideas when I write, but my favourite moments are when the iPod gives me an unexpected gift, a real moment of inspiration, and it’s encouraging to know that I still have that spark despite the pall of depression that is thankfully starting to dissipate. I’m excited about life and about writing again. It’s good to be back.

If You Love A Girl Who Writes…

How To Love A Girl Who Writes

A friend and fellow writer posted this for me to read today. She said it made her tear up, but she might just be tired. I said it made me tear up too, but I also might be tired. I don’t think so, though. I think it’s just the truth.

It’s worth a read, both for writers (female ones, I suppose, although I imagine much of it describes male writers as well) and their partners. I sent it to mine, and he concurred with basically all of it.

“She will not always tell you how she feels out loud.

And even if she does, trust to the fact that she’s rolled it around in her brain (and possibly her journal) for quite some time before she comes out with it. Her words are her tools, her armor. She’s best with them when she can shift and spin them on the page. In her throat, sometimes they get caught and fall out all at once—or worse—slide back down and vanish until they flow through her fingers into her next story.”

If I could make people understand one thing about me, it might be what that quote above outlines.

Good Advice (NSFW)

Written as advice for designers, but I think it applies to writers too.


See also The Pledge. I plan to print and sign it then post it somewhere where I’ll see it… but my kids won’t. Cause of the F word and all.



What do you think about spin-offs in the literary world? A spin-off is not a sequel – those follow the same chracters through several parts of a story. With a spin-off, the characters from the original story may show up occasionally, but are not the focus. It’s also not a remake, where a different person reinterprets an existing story originally by someone else. A spin-off, to be clear, is a work of some type (book, TV show, movie) that takes a character from one book or series, and gives them their own. Think Frasier from Cheers or Angel (sigh) from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

When it comes to books, in some cases it seems like the author just trying to milk more out of a storyline that had already ended satisfactorily. In others, it can provide a new angle or perspective on a well-loved series. In TV and movies, spin-offs are common – it seems like half the shows have been derived from another one these days, with all the CSIs and Law and Orders and NCISs. Books, maybe a little less so. I can’t think of too many, anyway.

I’m pondering this because I have a vague sort of idea where one of the secondary characters from my trilogy could have a book or two of her own somewhere down the road. 99% of the notion is “and then a bunch of stuff happens” which is also a common notation on my outlines, but the seed has been planted, and I’m curious as to whether I should consider watering it and letting it grow. I suppose it all depends on whether or not my trilogy is at all popular and there’s demand for it, and/or whether the character steps up in my head and starts yelling, “what about meeee?”

Something to think about in the distant future, anyway.

And Away She Goes

I sent off my first query last night, after the eleventy-first revision. I think I like it. Just to be 110% sure, though, I sent it to the Query Shark. Hopefully I’ll be chosen for evisceration. I’ve also decided this fulfills my goal to send out my first letter by the end of January and my new plan, after some helpful advice I read on another blog (Query Quagmire I think?) is to wait until March-ish to start querying in earnest, since apparently many, many people who are either post-NaNo or fulfilling New Year’s resolutions are also querying right now. I’d rather wait until things settle down a bit and there aren’t so many fish in the water.

In the meantime, I was rudely awoken at an ungodly hour this morning (okay, 7:00, but I’m a special little princess who likes her beauty sleep) with a bit of an idea to add to The Unseeing. In adding it to my outline, I gave the rest of it a quick skim and got excited all over again to begin writing. There’s so much going on! I can definitely see myself starting writing for real this weekend, if not tonight.

I’ve also decided I deserve to have my own writing space. Right now, my “office” is the couch in the basement rec room, a few feet away from our only TV, and the majority of the kids’ toys. So if I want to work, I have to ensure that the kids aren’t around (really, only when they’re sleeping) and that my extremely understanding husband doesn’t want to watch TV. It’s also cold as hell down there and kind of dark because there aren’t any windows. At first I wanted to build a nice loft office above the garage, but that doesn’t look feasible based on the way the garage was constructed. So now I think I want one of these: minus the kitchen and trailer, but definitely with the loft. There’s a nice corner in my backyard where I think it would fit perfectly, and I bet I could build one on the cheap with salvaged materials. It would make a nice spring project, because I don’t have enough on my plate already…

It’s nice to have things to look forward to.

The Up-and-Coming

Well, the arbitrary date we’ve assigned to indicate the beginning of another pass around the sun has come. I’m all for any opportunity to think about goals and aspirations for the future, as well as doing some planning. It’s like outlining, but for your life.

That was deep, hey? Anways.

I’m finished the third draft of The Unravelling. Other than the possibility of a few more minor tweaks, I feel like what I have now is what I’m comfortable querying on. I have a critique scheduled for my first 15 pages early next week, and based on how that goes, I may do a bit more work on the first two chapters, then start figuring out who I’d like to send it off to. I started researching literary agents this week and plan to spend a good amount of time in the next few days working on a framework for my query letters.

  • Goal: Send out my first query letter by the end of January. Try to send one a week after that.
  • Goal: Be organized about this shit. Keep track of everything in a spreadsheet (I do loves me a good spreadsheet).

I’m on the fence about using a professional editing service. Before, I felt like it was something I definitely wanted to do, but now I’m wavering. I might send out a few rounds of queries first, and if there are no bites, then go with a paid edit.

  • Goal: Curb my chai latte habit (slightly) so I can save for an editor if needed.
  • Goal: In the meantime, find a few people who don’t know me at all to read the thing.

I’m also looking ahead to starting in on The Unseeing in earnest sometime soon. I think my outline is pretty much complete, and things are starting to build themselves up in my head around the few scenes I’ve already jotted down. I’m not at the bursting point yet where I won’t have any choice but to start writing, but I feel like it’s soon. I miss sitting down here on my writing couch in my writing room and just letting my thoughts carry me away every night. It’s been so long!

  • Goal: Start my first draft no later than March.
  • Goal: Finish my first draft no later than the end of 2013 but hopefully sooner.

Can’t forget the most important one:

  • Goal: Be awesome.

Relationship Outlines

I searched high and low for a guideline for fiction writers to plot out the relationships between their characters and couldn’t find anything, so I created my own. Since this tool doesn’t seem to exist (or my googling skills are poor) I thought I’d share it so others might benefit. I find things like this enormously helpful when it comes to tricky parts in a story when I’m trying to figure out why two people are treating each other the way they are, how they might react in certain situations or how to move forward when their relationship is evolving. I also think it would be very useful when trying to define the relationship between a protagonist and an antagonist, especially if they know each other well. These would work best if you’ve already done individual chracter outlines.

Copy into the word processing document of your choice and fill in the blanks.

  • First Person’s name:
  • Second Person’s name:
  • Current status of their relationship (friends, enemies, siblings, lovers, etc):
  • Current feelings for each other:
  • What was the First Person’s first impression of the Second?:
  • What was the Second Person’s first impression of the First?:
  • Describe briefly their first meeting:
  • Have their first impressions changed since the first time they met? If so, how, and why?
  • How long have they known each other?:
  • How often do they see each other?:
  • Where do they usually meet? What do they do?:
  • Describe briefly a typical meeting or encounter:
  • How do they speak to each other? (tone, language, feeling):
  • Is their current relationship what the First Person wants? If not, what would they like to change?:
  • Is their current relationship what the Second Person wants? If not, what would they like to change?:
  • Does the First Person trust the Second? Why/why not?:
  • Does the Second Person trust the First? Why/Why not?:
  • What are some things they have in common?:
  • What are some things they are opposite about?:
  • What does the First Person like most about the Second?:
  • What does the First Person like least about the Second?:
  • What is the First Person’s favourite memory of the Second?:
  • What’s the most hurtful thing the First Person has done to the Second? How did it make each of them feel?:
  • What does the Second Person like most about the First?:
  • What does the Second Person like least about the First?:
  • What is the Second Person’s favourite memory of the First?:
  • What’s the most hurtful thing the Second Person has done to the First? How did it make each of them feel?:
  • What do they fight about?:
  • How do they resolve their arguments?:
  • What bonds them together? (common goal, mutual interest, etc):
  • If their relationship is not already a romantic one, is there the possibility of romance between the First Person and the Second?:
  • If so, why hasn’t it happened yet? What’s holding them back?:
  • If romantic, which one pursued the other? How did he/she do it? How long did it take?:
  • If romantic, how is their sex life? Do they both find it fulfilling? If not, why not, and what would they change?:
  • What will their relationship look like in five years?:
  • Is the intensity level of their feelings about each other the same, or does one like/dislike the other more?:
  • Describe the defining moment in their relationship:
  • Is there anything unusual or unconventional about their relationship?:
  • Are they honest with each other? If not, what are they dishonest about?:
  • Do they keep secrets from each other? If so, about what?:
  • Are either of them jealous of each other? If so, about what?:
  • Would the First Person die for the Second?:
  • Would the Second Person die for the First?:
  • How does the First Person think he/she has changed the Second?:
  • How does the Second Person think he/she has changed the First?:
  • What, if anything, does the First Person see of him/herself in the Second?:
  • What, if anything, does the Second Person see of him/herself in the First?:
  • What is the First Person blind about when it comes to the Second?:
  • What is the Second Person blind about when it comes to the First?:
  • What would it take for their relationship to become the opposite of what it is now? (ie: from lovers to exes, enemies to best friends):

If you find this as useful as I do, please let me know! I hope this writing exercise is helpful to other novelists out there who are trying to better define the relationships between their characters so that their writing can become more meaningful.


I’ve just put all this into a spreadsheet that people can download and fill out for themselves, if they’re so inclined. View and download relationship outline spreadsheet here. Feel free to share it with your other writer friends!

And This Is Why It Pays To Share Your Work

Hey, first five chapters? Select-all-delete. I have a better idea for you.

I am becoming better at what I do thanks to the sage words of others. I was afraid to let my friends and family read my novel, but I shouldn’t have been. And it looks like I get to do some real writing this month after all!

I’m so excited for this.

OMG Outlines

My brain apathy wasn’t lending itself to making words that fit nicely together tonight, so I decided to bang out some point-form notes on everything I wanted to have happen before writing THE END (or TO BE CONTINUED I guess, technically).

What a fantastic fucking idea that was. It’s, like, all right there. In order. And even while I was writing it out, some parts that were just vague notions – “they’ll find this thing, somewhere, somehow” turned into well-thought-out, logical scenes. There are layers. There is conflict that I hadn’t even considered. And while it’s too late tonight to get started on any new words, tomorrow when I sit down I can look at my little outline and say “BAM here’s what you’re going to write about tonight,” instead of twiddling my thumbs for twenty minutes wondering how things should progress.

And I am so excited about this. I do love the spontaneity of leaving some things to figure out as I go, but having a basic beginning-to-end map (in this case, a halfway-through-chapter-17-to-end map) to refer to is solid gold for my overfilled mind. So thank you, everyone ever who said outlining is important. Also, thank you everyone ever who said outlining isn’t important because you gave me the confidence to write 17 1/2 chapters without one and that went just fine too.

Tomorrow my fingers are going to be nimble and my brain is going to be sharp and I’m going to tackle the first of my 11 bullet points. November isn’t that far off but now I feel like I know how to get there.

Putting It Out There

I’m thinking about doing Six Sentence Sunday for the next little while. One thing I haven’t done on this blog is add any samples of what I’ve been writing. I like what I write – I really do – but I have this inferiority issue where I think that no one else will. Even though the few people I’ve shared with are all “MORE WE WANT MORE. MORE CHAPTERS. RIGHT NOW.” Well now it’s time to punch fear in its fucking face. I don’t want to spend hours sifting through my writing looking for the bits that I think are the awesomest, so I think I’ll just take six from whatever I’ve written that day. And there will be rules, because I like rules.

1. Thou shalt not receive any context. All thou shall get is six.

2. Thy own post shall be true to what I have written.

3. Wretchedness shalt not prevail shouldst thy forget to post.

4. Thy use of autopost shall be permitted in cases of grand voyages and other distractions.

5. Such a challenge as this shall inspire thy best writing lest thou giveth words of woe.

Seriously, people used to talk like that?

Stay tuned for the first edition, coming September 2.

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