Novel Preparation 101

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

We writers have habits, some quirky, that help us get started on new writing projects. Today I’d like to share with you how I organize my thoughts and preparations before writing chapter one, line one of a new novel. I’m mostly an organic/pantster writer, but some things I have to know before I begin.

  1. Idea! Oh, these come from so many different places—from a movie, a current happening in the news, overheard conversation, a what-if from everyday life, and dreams.
  2. Prayer. Not sure about you but if I’m not onboard with God, then my story will fail.
  3. Premise. This is what guides me to create a story line. For example: What if a young woman chooses death if she learns she can no longer be with her beloved? Or . . . What if a man is framed by a sheriff for a murder he didn’t commit? Or . . . A young woman finds herself in charge of ten little girls after a tornado wipes out a wagon train.
  4. Character. Who is the hero or heroine of the story? Why would working through the premise and storyline (plot) be difficult for him or her? Why would this character be the only person who could walk through this story? What are the character’s weaknesses that make this journey necessary? What motivates my character into action? What happened in the character’s backstory that shaped who this person is in chapter one?
  5. Characterization sketch. This is a continuance from question number four above. The most important part of any story is the character. A powerful story is one in which the writer knows the character inside and out. We live with the character, breathe, suffer, rejoice, embrace truth, run, and the list goes on. A complete characterization sketch should be completed for every POV character.
  6. Setting. Where is the best place to set the story? What setting forces my character to change and grow, catch the character unaware, and generally make life miserable.
  7. Research. This covers a lot of ground from the character’s occupation, the problem or goal, setting, and even dialogue according to the character’s personality and background.
  8. Summary. I despise writing a synopsis because my story will change in the writing process. But my editors need an idea of where my characters are going and why.
  9. Spreadsheet. Yes, writers, I create a spreadsheet that I will use long after the manuscript is turned into my editors. I have columns that read: Chapter, Scene #, short scene summary, blog ideas, contest ideas, Facebook post, Giveaways, Hashtag, Pinterest Board, Speaking Topics, Tweetable, Video, Images/Memes. I only use the first two columns during the writing process, and the others are completed during the final line by line editing to help with promotion efforts.

Once I have these things completed, I’m ready to place my fingers on my computer keyboard and create. 

What about you? How do you plan to write?

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9 Things Even a Panster Must Know Before Starting To Write~ Diann Mills (Click to Tweet)

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DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an


adventure. Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.
DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure.

She combines unforgettable characters with unpredictable plots to create action-packed, suspense-filled novels.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Firewall, the first book in her Houston: FBI series, was listed by Library Journal as one of the best Christian Fiction books of 2014.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Sisters in Crime, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson where she continues her passion of helping other writers be successful. She speaks to various groups and teaches writing workshops around the country.

DiAnn has been termed a coffee snob and roasts her own coffee beans. She’s an avid reader, loves to cook, and believes her grandchildren are the smartest kids in the universe. She and her husband live in sunny Houston, Texas.

DiAnn is very active online and would love to connect with readers on Facebook: www.facebook.com/diannmills, Twitter: https://twitter.com/diannmills or any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.

Freeze Frame: Creating a Stronger Scene

by Beth Vogt @bethvogt

We all know the advantage of prep work when we paint a room or cook a Thanksgiving turkey.

In the same way, it helps to do some prep work before writing a scene. I’ve used several techniques from author Susan May Warren – FOCUS and the 5 Ws are two favorites. And when I attended a writers conference last year, I learned the Freeze Frame technique by agent and author Donald Maass, and found a fresh new way to prep a scene.
DISCLOSURE: Maass shares this method in his book The Fire in the Fiction, recommending it for writing scenes of violence and sex. I don’t write those kinds of scenes. However, I still recommend using this tool to create stronger scenes for your novel.

When doing the Freeze Frame process, think of the scene you want to write like a movie scene. You’re going to divide your scene into five segments: Freeze Frame #1, Freeze Frame #2, Freeze Frame #3, Freeze Frame #4, and Freeze Frame #5.

For Freeze Frame #1:

  1. Think of an interesting moment and then write down what is happening. Sometimes I write down snippets of dialogue, as well as action. 
  2. Add what it is like – Comparable to what? It is like (_______.) This is a great chance to discover a metaphor or a simile to use throughout your scene. Ex: It is like my character is standing before a judge, defending himself. 
  3. Add one detail only the POV character will notice – something not obvious. It doesn’t have to be visual. This is a great reminder to engage all five senses. 
  4. If we could get into the POV character’s head at this exact moment, what are they feeling? Cross out what you wrote down. Answer the question again: What is your POV character feeling? This is an opportunity to move past the surface and dig into the deeper emotions. 
  5. Repeat this step four more times (#2, #3, #4, #5), always advancing your scene, staying in your POV character’s head. 

As I’ve utilized this tool, I’ve realized that I won’t necessarily use all five “what is it like?” elements that I develop. Five similes or metaphors can end up cluttering a scene. Rather, what I’ve discovered is that one comparison – metaphor or simile – is often stronger than all the others and can be woven through the entire scene.

I’m using the Freeze Frame process as I fast draft my current novel. But you could also write your rough draft and then use the Freeze Frame tool to rewrite your manuscript – improving and strengthening your scenes. It’s all about considering your POV character and:

  • slowing scenes down 
  • looking for interesting aspects/actions 
  • finding potential metaphors or similes
  • digging deeper than your POV character’s surface emotion 

Why not go ahead and try the Freeze Frame technique on a scene you’re working on? Or share how you improve your scenes in the comment section.

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Beth K. Vogt
is a non-fiction author and editor who said she’d never write fiction. She’s the wife of an Air Force family physician (now in solo practice) who said she’d never marry a doctor—or anyone in the military. She’s a mom of four who said she’d never have kids. Now Beth believes God’s best often waits behind the doors marked “Never.” As a contemporary romance novelist, Beth is a 2016 Christy Award winner and 2016 Carol Award winner for her novel Crazy Little Thing Called Love. She was also a 2015 RITA® Finalist for her novel Somebody Like You, which was one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Books of 2014. In 2015, Beth introduced her destination wedding series with both an e-novella, Can’t Buy Me Love, and a novel, Crazy Little Thing Called Love. She continued the series in 2016 with the e-novella You Can’t Hurry Love (May) and the novel Almost Like Being in Love (June). Her novella A November Bride was part of the Year of Wedding Series by Zondervan. Beth enjoys writing contemporary romance because she believes there’s more to happily-ever-after than the fairy tales tell us. Find out more about her books at bethvogt.com. An established magazine writer and former editor of Connections, the leadership magazine for MOPS International, Beth is also part of the leadership team for My Book Therapy, the writing community founded by best-selling author Susan May Warren. She lives in Colorado with her husband Rob, who has adjusted to discussing the lives of imaginary people, and their youngest daughter, Christa, who loves to play volleyball and enjoys writing her own stories.

Write What You Know or Not?

By DiAnn Mills @DiAnnMills

We’ve all received the following writer’s advice:

“Write what you know.”
“Write what you don’t know.”
“Stretch.”
“Visit the novel’s setting.”
“No need to visit the novel’s setting.”
“Write family dysfunction.”
“Avoid family dysfunction.”

There’s evidence to substantiate every one of the above comments: the guidance has worked successfully for several writers.

Challenges are buried beneath the best of advice.

Do we write what we know, or do we research for the information we need? How do we writers discern what works best for us?

Perhaps the best answer is the wealth beneath each writer’s wisdom. When a writer conducts research, she steps into writing what she does know. The following are seven items to consider when adding detailed research, and the result is a powerful story.

  1. Focus on Sensory Perception. People remember events according to their own experience. These memories can add a personal touch and help you sort out truth.
  2. Visit the setting, but when that’s not possible, interview and read first hand information that addresses sensory perception. Churches, diners, museums, libraries, newspapers, and historical societies are rich sources of information. Study the people you interview. What does their body language reveal as they speak about special moments? Painful moments? A great way to communicate local flavor is by evoking the sense of taste. Whether you are in the States or halfway around the world, depicting food and drink brings a plus to your writing. Ever watch a travel show? By showing a restaurant, a food vendor, or a meal in someone’s home, you can offer awareness into that culture. Brushing your finger across the vegetation, dip your feet into the water, pet an animal, or embrace someone different. Experience the surroundings. Pick up a baby or hold a hand. Laugh. Cry. Ask questions. This may be difficult, but it always brings a reward.
  3. Use Emotion. Readers identify with how people experience and process the happenings in their lives.
  4. Write actively with strong nouns and action verbs to root readers into your adventuresome story.
  5. Enlist your imagination with what you learn about the area. Some years ago, my son and I visited Gettysburg. We were so moved, we thought we heard the cries of the soldiers. Listen to the sounds of nature. Tune your ear to the dialect of those you interview.
  6. Subscribe to logic that blends all you explore and choose to use.
  7. Dig into the traditions and customs for the setting’s richness. This can be a gold mine of authenticity. 

When a storyteller creates what she knows by carefully examining setting, she’s an expert in her own right.

How do you view your story’s setting?



TWEETABLES
Write What You Know or Not? by DiAnn Mills (Click to Tweet)

7 Things to Consider When Adding Research to Your Book~ DiAnn Mills (Click to Tweet)

Challenges are buried beneath the best of advice.~ DiAnn Mills (Click to Tweet)



DiAnn Mills is a bestselling author who believes her readers should expect an adventure.

Her titles have appeared on the CBA and ECPA bestseller lists; won two Christy Awards; and been finalists for the RITA, Daphne Du Maurier, Inspirational Readers’ Choice, and Carol award contests. Library Journal Best Books 2014: Genre Fiction award in the Christian Fiction category for Firewall.

DiAnn is a founding board member of the American Christian Fiction Writers, a member of Advanced Writers and Speakers Association, Suspense Sister, and International Thriller Writers. She is co-director of The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference and The Author Roadmap with social media specialist Edie Melson. She teaches writing workshops around the country. DiAnn is active online and would love to connect with readers on any of the social media platforms listed at www.diannmills.com.

Ugly Duckling Writing

by Linore Burkard


Since surely you are familiar with the fairy-tale of the ugly duckling who became a beautiful swan, I won’t bother with a recap. But what is “ugly duckling writing,” you wonder?  In a nutshell, Rachel Hauck described it in a recent post here on Novel Rocket

“I fast draft a very ugly novel, then I rewrite. Almost from scratch. I layer and fine tune, change and deepen.” Rachel Hauck

Since I wrote the lion’s share of my current novel, RESISTANCE
in little more than a month,
the above quote fits my experience for this
book. I have a first draft that is, in literary terms, “a very ugly
novel.” But to me, it’s like  gold. Because I know that the finished
novel–the graceful swan–is in there, and that I will hone the work, develop the best parts,
revise and rewrite and come out in the end with a book
that–hopefully–many will want to read. 

I
expected to let the book rest during this past busy Christmas season, but I found myself working on it, rewriting and fine tuning.
Changing and deepening.

And, when I think about it, I realize that all of my novels started out as ugly ducklings in some degree or other. In all likelihood, whether you’ve got one published book or thirty, yours began that way, too. As ugly ducklings.
Newer writers often don’t realize that this is not unusual. I hear from some who get so discouraged when faced with an ugly duckling novel that they want to quit. 
So here’s my takeaway for them–or for any writer discouraged by a messy novel. 
Don’t give up on a book just because you feel, after finishing the
first draft, that it is in no shape to get published. The truth is, if
you keep working on it, haven’t lost your original vision for the work,
and are determined to find the real story and make it work–you probably
will.
   
There
are times when it’s right to put a manuscript away in some drawer,
never to see the light of day. This is often the fate of a first attempt
by writers at novel-writing, and there’s nothing wrong with that. We all need to practice and learn somewhere, somehow.
My first hatchling!

But it is not a universal
experience. My own first novel must have gone through a dozen drafts before it was publishable. But eventually, it became a swan. I might have given up any number of times when it looked like an awkward, ungainly fledgling–but didn’t.    

How to tell if your novel is drawer-worthy or worth editing? 
I believe most books can be salvaged into good works IF the original vision is strong.
What is a strong original vision? A great story!
Do you have a great
story? Something that can touch a heart, strike a deep chord with readers? Then keep working on it.
Chip away at that thing until the beauty of it shines, and your ugly duckling is a thing of the past.
After that, you can release your beautiful swan–to an agent, an editor, or to the world.   
Linore Rose Burkard writes historical romance and, as L.R.Burkard, YA/Suspense. Linore enjoys teaching workshops for writers, is a mother of five, and still homeschools her youngest daughter, preferably with coffee in one hand and her iPad in the other. Linore’s newsletter (another labor of love) includes two book drawings per month. For a chance to win one of her novels, simply join the mailing list at either website. (http://www.LinoreBurkard.com, or http://www.LRBurkard.com)