I get asked a lot about my writing process, and while we all have our processes and most writers are cool sharing what works and what doesn’t, I think the real value in knowing how other writers write is in knowing that there are so many different ways to write a book. There is no singular right way. You look at what is working for you and you adjust accordingly. My process isn’t the same even from book to book. Some books I write beginning to end. Some books I write out of order. Some books I turn in and realize that I need to rearrange a few key areas. Books are beautiful, frustrating, really weird things. But.
You knew there was going to be a but.
But, there is one thing that stays true with my process: my WIP Notebook/Project Planner. So I thought I’d share that part of my writing process with you guys this week because it might help you, too. My WIP notebook becomes a kind of catch-all for each book. It has details like drafting/editing deadline, series name/information, and detailed plot and character notes. I love it because having all the details in one spot makes it easy to double-check a character’s eye color or change names when you realize every.single.name begins with “M” or to fill in the “blah blah make this funnier” notes we leave in our WIPs while we’re fast-drafting.
Here’s how my WIP notebook works for me:
The brain dump: The brain dump is exactly what it sounds like: a dump of information. I write everything I think I know about the book, characters, and backstory on these pages. Things I think might happen, things from the past, where my characters are emotionally at the beginning of the book, where they are at the end, what the romantic storyline is, what the personal storyline is. It takes up the bulk of the notebook and is usually four of five pages of…stuff. Stuff that I need to get out of my head before I can actually start parsing through to see what works and (more importantly) what doesn’t.
The Plot Worksheet: After I’ve written down the pertinent backstory stuff, character stuff, maybe even opening or closing scene details, it’s time to start parsing through that to create an actual sort-of plot. That’s where my plot worksheet comes in. Here I’ll list the tropes for the book, the series (if it’s part of a series), title and length details. But, the real work is in the scene listing. I’ll write out scene ideas for the different acts of the book – some will make it in and some won’t, but having the scene ideas written down is very helpful in create an actual outline.
The “W” sheet: From that dump of information and general scene listing comes some actual outline information. I’m a fan of the “W” plot and I kind of integrate it with a three-act structure to create my outline – and for those of you who think this is too rigid, just know that I go into every outline knowing that once the draft is finished I’ll probably move at least 2-3 scenes around in the book. Back to my worksheet. So we have the highs and lows of the initial trigger and problem, the first turning point, a second triggering moment, a deepening of the conflict, and so on. Some of these moments will be in my brain dump of information. Some in the plot worksheet. It’s why I do a brain dump, a plot worksheet, and then a W sheet – because genre romance is all about certain moments happening at certain times. By winnowing all.the.details. into specific.plot.ideas. and then into an outline form I get a clearer vision of the conflict. Conflict, as we all know, comes from the past. Something bad happens as a child. Something bad happens as an adult that confirms to the character that they are not worthy of whatever it is they want/have/need. It’s conflict math. 1+1=2 or Incident+Incident=Confirmation. For me BrainDump+Plot Workheet=Solid W plot-plan.
Character Sheets: Then come the character sheets. Each character gets a main sheet with details about their physical features, their home, their family, their wants/needs, job information, hopes/dreams, nicknames. Why they have what they have and don’t deserve what they want…all that good, emotional stuff.
Setting Sheet: Keeping track of business names and locations, seasonal details, big events, even the town layout and a timeline of events can be hard in a single book…its even harder when you write a series. Having a setting worksheet keeps all those minute details in one place so that I can refer back to find that I called the local bar Shorty’s in book one (or, heck, chapter one) and Logan’s in another book/chapter.
If you like these pages, I have printable versions that you can print and use for your WIP notebooks. Do you use a WIP notebook (either online or offline!) to help your plotting?
One of our favorite things to do in the summer is grill. Heck, one of our favorite things to do year-round (hence the grill not only in the backyard but also in the garage) is grill. Burgers, chicken, brats, steaks, kabobs. You name the meat and we’ve probably grilled it. The last time we were in the Caribbean (Jamaica) part of our stop was a beach day with a barbecue – and they included a pineapple grilled salsa as part of the condiments for the burgers. OMG, y’all, it was the best.thing.ever. This weekend, we’re recreating that and I can’t wait. If you’re looking for something a little new to go with the same-old Labor Day barbecue try this recipe, I think you’ll like it!
Pineapple Salsa Recipe
- 1/2 fresh pineapple – peeled, cored, and sliced into 1/2-inch pieces
- Tin foil
- cooking spray (I like Pam, use whatever you like)
- Pinch of ground black pepper, to taste
Heat your grill to medium heat. Once prepped, spray your sheet of tin foil with cooking spray. Side note: you can grill the pineapple directly on the grill grate but I have a tendency to lose the pineapple *in* the grill when I do that. The tin foil keeps the pineapple from falling through and it doesn’t change the taste. If you’re a better griller than me, feel free to skip the tin foil and simply spray the grill grate with cooking spray and put the pineapple directly on it. You’ll cook the pineapple for about 7 minutes; you know it’s ready when it’s lightly brown and caramelized. Remove it from the grill and allow to cool. Use your food processor to chop and dice the sweet online, jalapeño, bell pepper, and garlic. I love my Ninja Master Prep for this step, makes it so simple! Combine all these ingredients, along with the cooled pineapple, lime juice, sugar, salt, and pepper in a serving bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour; this will allow the flavors to blend.
Top your burgers or chicken with this salsa or, heck, eat it right out of the bowl with some tortilla chips – you’re choice! Enjoy!
Do you have a favorite holiday grill recipe? Share in the comments!
Habit. It kind of sounds like a bad word…probably because for most of our lives we’re told we need to “break that bad habit”. Be that habit smoking or drinking too much soda or indulging in a candy bar once too often.
One thing I’ve learned over time: it’s much easier to learn a bad habit than it is a good one. I think because the bad habits can be so fun – I mean, who doesn’t want to spend a day in the pool rather than at the office? Who doesn’t want another slice of Chocolate Decadance or one more drink of that mojito? We’re human. We like the things that, in many cases, aren’t great for us.
According to Mr. Webster, an habit is “a behavior pattern regularly followed until it has become almost involuntary”. In other words, a habit is a learned behavior, and it doesn’t have to be a bad learned behavior.
I think the key to creating any habit is to begin by looking at it as a positive rather than a negative. Instead of “I can never eat chocolate again” look at it as “I’m going to enjoy one slice of the best chocolate cake ever and I’m going to enjoy every second of it”. Instead of “I can never laze in the pool on a hot summer day!” think “I’m going to meet __(goal)__ before I laze in the pool this afternoon”.
Y’all know I love my planner – it’s so much easier to have a list of to-dos and deadlines and expectations and family events all in one place that I can keep track of. But, another thing I do is track my habits – the good and the bad. Up above you’ll see the habit tracker I created for 2018 (feel free to download my Habit Tracker and other printables for writers here). I don’t fill it out every month, but I do find it helpful to use it every couple of months, just to make sure I’m doing the things I need to be doing – like exercise, like drinking enough water, like making my bed time. I’m happier, in general, when those things are going well, and I’m more likely to follow through on work goals when I’m also meeting my personal/health goals.
Here’s a copy of the tracker so far for August. Making those checkmarks is very satisfying…and as you can see, I’m not perfect. I haven’t been tracking my meals like I should (which is probably why, even though I’m hitting my bed time goal, I’m still feeling a little tired and “off”). But, now I can see where I’m not being the best me I can be (as bebe’s teacher liked to say in 4th grade), and I know how I can make a small change to start feeling better, in general.
Have you tried tracking your habits? Did it work for you? Share in the comments!
During my yearly reading challenge last year, I rediscovered my love of the memoir. I’ve been a fan of autobiographies for a long time, but I’d gotten away from memoirs because they seemed too preachy or too vague or too…something. But, I’d set a reading goal for the year and I was in a bit of a rut and so I decided to step outside my reading comfort zone to pick up a book I’d heard writers buzzing about for a few months.
I’m so glad I picked up this book! Part memoir, part writing guide, part advice, Shapiro’s book helped me get a better handle on where I was both professionally and personally. 2017 was a big year of change for our family – the line I wrote for at Harlequin closed, my husband changed jobs, a magazine I’d written for for several years cut way back on freelancers…there was a lot of upheaval and had left me wondering what the heck I was doing with my life. When I picked up Still Writing I wasn’t sure what to expect. I ended up laughing a little and crying a little and being really inspired to take control of the things I can control: the writing. Publishers will come and go, and so will editors and publicists and cover artists. What I can control is the writing. I can sit my butt in the chair every day and write the words. And the next day, I can write again. By controlling the writing, or at least putting myself in the chair to write, I’m doing my part in this crazy roller coaster ride of publishing.
If you’re looking for an inspirational read – whether your in a creative field or not – I think you’ll find something to enjoy about Still Writing…What are you reading right now? Feel free to share in the comments!
Hey, readers! I have a new release out this week and I can’t wait to share it with you! Here’s a fun excerpt to get you started !
“I’m sorry I gave you such a hard time about finding the right guy. The partners will be so caught up in their own dates, no one will notice me.”
Nick had his doubts about that. From the way Howard put himself between Nick and Daisy’s door, he had a feeling her boss would keep a close eye on them. But Daisy didn’t need that kind of worry.
“Did you really send Joe back because he drove a Smart Car?”
“I don’t have a death wish, Nick,” she said wryly. “Other than the trip to the airport, when is the last time you drove on the San Diego freeway?”
“Point taken. And Andrew?”
“I need complete silence when I sleep, and his voice was very nasally. I thought he had a bad cold and offered him some orange juice, but he insisted he was fine. That leaves adenoidal issues.”
Nick chuckled. He’d never paid attention to Sam’s voice, but now that he thought about it, he did sound a bit stuffed up most of the time. Maybe he should set up a specialist appointment. “Mitch?”
“Mitch of the Callused Hands?” She raised her eyebrows. “I just had a manicure.”
“Right.” He bit back a smile when Daisy held up her perfectly manicured, blue-painted fingernails.
“And if you weren’t desperate, what would my crime against dating have been?”
Her brown gaze shuttered, but not before a little flash of something crossed her pretty eyes. A flash that made his stomach muscles clench.
“Nothing,” she said finally. “You’re perfect. On paper.”
About Perfect on Paper:
Nicholas Vega started ManServants as a way to make extra cash in college; five years later, his business is bigger than he ever imagined. And it’s in trouble. An angry ex-client wants to sue because one of his employees didn’t sleep with her. To keep things going, Nick takes on a client of his own – his best friend Daisy MacIntosh.
Daisy needs a boyfriend in a bad way. Her current boss – and ex-lover – has planned a retreat and makes no bones about wanting her back in his bed, at least for the weekend. Daisy wants a barrier between them, and an on-paper boyfriend seems like the best idea.
The problem? Once they’re playing at being in love, their fictional relationship might blow their real life friendship out of the water.
Hey, everyone! Welcome to my brand-spankin’-new website and blog! I’m so glad you’re here. I haven’t been a regular blogger for a while, but I’ve decided to delve back into the world of blogging. I’ll be posting every Friday about new book releases, writing tips, some deadline recipes, and even some planner stuff, so come back often and enjoy!
If you’d like to dip into the old blog, it’s still there, you can click over and search some of my older posts, and maybe find a little inspiration for dinner, too.