Writing a Series? These Links Might Help (Penny Rader)

Totally forgot today was May 31st!  On the 31st of the months I try to share links to articles I've found that might be helpful to someone out there besides just me. And since I'm trying to plan and write a series, I trolled the internet for a bit of help.

Here are a few snippets of what I found. I hope you'll see something that'll make you want to click through and read the articles I found and perhaps find something helpful for your writing process.

The Continuity Challenge (Debby Giusti)

Steeple Hill Assistant Editor Emily Rodmell was in charge of the project, and I applaud her patience in keeping us on track and ensuring each book fit into the overall vision for the series. Shortly after she invited us to take part in the continuity, Emily sent out the “bible,” a 31-page, single-spaced outline for the series. Packed with information, it included an overview of the stories as well as the major threads, settings and brief character descriptions. The continuity elements and teasers needed in each book were part of the bible, as well.

Creating a “Series Bible” (Dame Jenna)

My preference is to work on my Series Bible when I’m in the proof-reading stage of a manuscript’s life cycle.  …  On a table right beside me are a handful of worksheets that are what I need to later create my “formal” Series Bible. The worksheets I have are: Recurring Places, Major Characters, Minor Characters (these being the “mentioned once and never heard from again” set, and Recurring Characters (these being secondary/minor characters who I know for sure are going to appear again). … As I read through the proofs, I jot down notes on my worksheets.

Easy Tips For Creating a Book or Series Bible (Angelique Armae)

…steps to creating a “Book Bible’ – a binder for keeping track of important threads that weave your work into a marvelous book

1. Gather supplies
2. Included contents

  • Characters
  • World
  • Clothing/Accessories
  • Research
  • Glossary

How to Write the First Book of a Series (H.V. Long)

H.V. discusses:
Planned versus Unplanned Series
Questions to Answer for Any Series
Series Bible
Types of Series

 Kate Douglas on Ending a Series

On ending a series:  It doesn’t kill the characters, but it can be hell on authors.

The Series Bible (Nathan Bransford)

The Series Bible is a lifesaver when your brain has reached capacity.
Worlds/Planets/Lands/Classrooms, etc.
Rules of Law
Any backstory that happens off the page
Inventions/Special Powers
Anything else you need to remember forever

Series Business – Three Types of Series (Misty Evans)


Tips for Building a Series (Mima)

 In this post, I’m going to give you some tips, but these are tips directed at creating a very particular kind of series: a dynamic one. This is my mantra: Thou Shalt Not Be Repetitive. Here’s my recipe: It’s two parts common sense, one part restraint, and one part layering.

Why the Word "SERIES" Should Be on Every Writer's Tongue... And How to Get There With Minimal Blood Loss! (Tina Radcliffe)

1. Find a series-oriented author you love
2. Copy them (not blatantly)
3. Don’t box yourself in


Have any tips you care to share?  What works or doesn't work for you?

P.S.  I apologize for the odd formatting.  Blogger seems to have it in for me.

Summertime Memories

Since I established earlier that finding the time to write is the hardest part of writing for me, I decided to share some summer memories.

For many people, yesterday marked the first day of summer.  For children, it's freedom to play, from the first light of day, until Mom calls them in when the sun sets.  For adults, it can be the fulfillment of a week or two of vacation after a long year of going to work.

I remember summers as a kid.  There were several of us in the neighborhood.  The girls were older than me by five or six years.  Margaret, who lived in the house to the west of us, then the house across the street, and finally the house on the east of us, taught me all the songs she learned in Girl Scouts.  We played with dolls and she'd cut out the clothes for my paperdolls.  Anyone remember those?  Her brother David taught me how to shoot a basketball and ride a bike.  As I grew older, she grew up and had different interests--boys, rock and roll, boys, suntanning, boys...  That left me with the boys of the neighborhood, who were mostly a year or more younger than me.  Looking back, I think that may be the reason why, in high school, some of my best friends were boys.

Back in those days--yeah, the olden days ;)--we didn't sit in front of the TV all day.  There was no cable, no DSL, not even Sesame Street, which didn't come along until I was out of high school.  But boredom wasn't something we dealt with often.  We each had a bike, often representing our faithful steed, and we rode the neighborhood, whooping and hollering.  Swing sets often lost their swings, and we'd hang from the top bar from our knees, pretending to be circus performers.  No, my mother never knew. ;)  I had roller skates that became skis, and I would ski the slope of the next door neighbors' driveway, because it was steeper than ours.  I became an expert at hopscotch and jacks, and learned to Hoola Hoop and walk on stilts, up and down the porch steps.  We ran through the sprinkler on hot, summer days, sometimes with blue lips.  Going to the neighborhood pool was a rarity.

For a long time, Boys State was held at West High School, half a block from where I grew up.  Never heard of Boys State?  From their website:  American Legion Boys State is among the most respected and selective educational programs of government instruction for U.S. high-school students.   Each morning, they'd march out of the school to raise the flag, and each evening, complete with marching band, they'd march again  for the flag lowering ceremony.  I can remember standing on the corner, the base drum pounding in my chest, as they marched around the large expanse of grass in the front of the school.  Is it any wonder I love the sound of a marching band, playing traditional music from Sousa and others?

"Those were the days, my friend."  We honed our imaginations in the truest sense.  We became the characters in our minds.  We were tan and brown and healthy, spending little time in front of the TV, except for an occasional Saturday morning cartoon or Westerns--Annie Oakley, Sky King, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.  Or old reruns of The Little Rascals and Shirley Temple movies--of which I knew all the songs.  ;)  There were Mouseketeers--Annette and Karen and Cubby.  Yeah, the originals...in black and white, because color TVs weren't around yet.  Those were the things that kept us busy on rainy days, along with marathon games of Monopoly and telling ghost stories.

Our childhood summers were learning experiences, full of play, fun, and laughter...and the occasional fight after too much time together.  Those lazy days of summer helped make us who we are today.  I'd gladly go back to learn more.

Life Is A Balancing Act

I started on my blog last week. I had a minimum of four notes that said, "Write blog!" So why am I sitting here at eleven pm staring at this computer? Because I went to see Star Trek today with a friend instead of writing. We visited for two hours after the movie. After arriving home I cooked and ate my dinner. Then I flopped on the couch. I think my subconscious sabotaged me, but I also think I needed that down time. 

Finding balance in our daily life is difficult. How do you fit job, family, household chores, groceries, writing, yard work, church, car repairs, doctor visits, a social life and everything else in without getting out of balance?

Seriously, anyone have an answer for that? I know I don't. I guess you just do the best you know how to do and let the rest go. So, I'm taking a short cut today. Instead of producing a totally new blog, I spiffed up an old short piece of mine. It's imagery helps me relax, something I need. I hope it does the same for you.

The man lay upon a grassy hilltop, a small child tucked up next to him on either side. Observing the beauty around him, he marveled at the newness of life. Watching a covey of baby quails bobbing in and out of the pussy willows, a gentle breeze brought the scent of distant rain to his nostrils.

Entranced by the dance of life all around them he enjoyed butterflies and birds, bugs and bluebells. The children’s innocent, bubbling laughter echoed quietly over the landscape. The brilliant sun warmed their backs and the damp ground chilled their little tummies.

Oh, the glories of spring! A feisty squirrel scampered up a nearby birch tree, his feet displacing bits of peeling bark in his rush to the top. Red and yellow tulips interspersed with wild violets and gently waving field grasses, dipped their heads in time with the rhythm of life. No wimpy pastels marred the view, but vibrant, rich colors of purple, red, yellow and green. Each spoke of the passion from which life springs.  

Looking about, he saw the majesty of God evident in every splash of color. With each fragrance blown upon the winds and every musical note rippling from a bird’s throat, he experienced God’s abundant creation.

Glancing at his wife, he smiled. The swell of her stomach announced the culmination of their own passion, the imminent arrival of their own private spring. In times like these when he observed, enjoyed and reveled in the glorious beauty of God’s extravagance, he gave thanks. There was no greater love, no greater relationship, no greater glory, than the one which he shared with his Creator.

Trying not to murder all the characters in my mystery (Melissa Robbins)

What is the hardest part about writing?  Not the actual writing.  That’s easy.  I love to write about my characters to see what wonderful adventures they get themselves into.  I have done that since I was a kid. 

The hard part comes in when I have to create the stories the rest of the planet wants to read.  I dread the editing part, but if I want to be published, it has to be done.  Writing is no longer fun and becomes work.  Imagine that, huh?  My characters start to annoy and pester me to the point I want to murder my entire ensemble just to be done with the process. 

During editing, the doubts and fears emerge.  “This story stinks.”  “No one would read this ridiculous story.”  If you are able to chase away those demons (good for you), hopefully you have a piece of work you can share with critique partners and submit to contests.  Then it gets even uglier when your fellow writers come back with feedback you would rather not hear.  For the most part, the feedback is helpful and makes your story even better.  

What is your hardest part of writing?

The Hard Parts of Writing ... for Me (Penny Rader)

This month we're talking about the hardest part of writing.  For me, it's:

Getting past the fears
  • Fear I won't have anything to say. (Stop laughing.  Yes, I'm a charter member of the "Help! I'm talking and I can't shut up!" club.  Talking's not the same as writing.)
  • Fear no one will want to read what I write.
  • Fear someone will read what I write...and hate it...or think it's stupid.
  • Fear I'll never finish another book.
  • Fear everyone will discover I'm a fraud, that I don't know what the heck I'm doing, that sometimes the only way I get words on the page is by using writing prompts or exercises.

Getting words on the page
  • Snippets of dialogue will filter through my mind...but don't always get onto the paper as powerfully as I heard them in my head.  
  • I'll see something amazing or intriguing but can't figure out how to describe what I'm seeing, how it makes me feel.  It just seems so...flat.
  • I'm sure this is quite politically incorrect, and please forgive me if I offend you, but here goes. Ever read Little Black Sambo?  Remember the scene where the tigers run around and around the tree till they turn to butter?  Well, that's my brain.  All sorts of stuff in there whirring around, churning into butter, leaving me unable to focus and pluck out what it is I want to get on the page.
  • The cursor on the screen just blinks and taunts and does nothing to coax forth words.
  • The blank page has so many lines to fill and nothing comes out of my pen or pencil.

  • I avoid conflict.  Actually, I pretty much hate it.  There.  I said it.  Conflict makes my stomach a jumbled mess, makes it hard for me to breathe, to think, let alone find the words to stand up for myself. 
  • Even though I know stories must have conflict between the characters to make readers care about them, to keep turning page after page, to follow the tale all the way to the end, I struggle with torturing my characters, with finding true conflicts that will genuinely make it impossible for these two people to be together...at least till I figure out their happy ending. I want happy-happy joy-joy, peace and harmony. Being mean doesn't come easily to me.  Unless you mess with my kids.  

  • I'll get a snippet of an idea and get a couple pages down and then not know happens next.  I kid you not. I have at least 15 stories started -- most of them haven't made it past 5 pages.  
  • Sometimes a scene bit will pop into my head and I'll know that if I don't get it on paper it will disappear.  That bit of writing magic does not happen often enough.
  • I have learned that if I know where the scene or story is going, I can come up with the words.  It's the figuring out all the steps, or even the big moments, of the characters' journey, of their relationship that I struggle with.  

So, why do I keep torturing myself? I often think about just hanging up this writing thing, but I've never completely been able to do so, at least not since it first occurred to me back in 1986 that maybe, just maybe I could write books like those I love to read..  Mostly, I guess, because even if I'm not getting words on the page, characters and scene snippets continue to flit through my mind.  Perhaps getting out of my own way is hardest part of writing for me.

How about you?

The Pearl in My Oyster or The Sand in My Cleavage

Long Version (because this is a blog, dang it, and is supposed to take up some space!):

Self worth is the value we come up with when we judge ourselves.  Our inner judge is a snarky, dark creature with fickle attitudes. If you don't get the things done you think you'd like to get done, then your self worth takes a dive. I've lived under that little sand pile for years.

I am learning to quit listening to the nag. No one else hears my self worth. Everyone else has one of their own. Now, I'm going by the pearl in my oyster/sand in my cleavage method of living.

I recommend it. It is satisfying and others notice how happy I am.

Sand in my cleavage: If it bugs me, do something about it now or ASAP.

Example: I am bugged that I don't have time to write--sand in my.....
Solution: Put in a load of wash, set timer, go write for that long.
Other solution: Put in load of wash, turn on dishwasher, set timer.....
    write for that long, go to bathroom, fold laundry.

Example: I am bugged by bug on window sill
Solution: Grab tissue, get bug, dust window sill, dust stuff on way to trash

Example: Bugged by Pile on desk.
Solution: Set timer, deal with pile, if overwhelmed, pick one thing off pile, deal with it, and go do something else. One thing can make you feel very good.....

Do the piddly little things bugging you and you'll feel so good about getting rid of those little bits of sand in your cleavage that soon all you have left in your Self worth sack are pearls of virtuous feeling in your oyster of life.

Life is not about getting things done. Life is about living your life as happy and content as you are able under your circumstances. Don't let things that self worth thinks is important keep you from the pearls of dealing with things that bug YOU.

Oddly, my self worth has decided to whisper happy tunes at me instead of snarky comments. Maybe things were bugging her too.

Short version:
Do what bugs you most as soon as possible, no matter how silly or small. A tiny flush of gratification will happen.  Soon--about two to three weeks, you will have spaces open up in your life to do other even more wonderful things.

Like writing, reading, even a nap....

Come back and comment after three weeks or so, I'd be interested in hearing about your sand/pearl situation....

Nothing Comes Easy

What do you find is the hardest part of writing?

  • Ideas?  There are times when I think I'll never have another idea for a story.  So far, that hasn't happened.  Will it?  Maybe.  But ideas for most writers are plentiful.
  • Characters?  Those are the fuel that power the story.  With ideas come characters.  With characters come ideas.  Those are the easy parts of writing for me. 
  • Setting?  Most of us have our favorites.  Our hearts seem to find them.
  • Plotting?  I've sometimes thought I will never have a plot for the idea of a story.  And then something magically happens.  The ideas, characters, setting, all come together to tell me where the story should go, what it's about, what will happen to those characters--if they haven't already told me.  Sometimes it takes longer than I'd like, but if I start struggling, I rely on writing friends for brainstorming and we put it all together.
  • Writing?  The actual putting words on paper?  Unlike Pat and Joan, the actual writing is what I enjoy most.  It may not always be right.  It may take making changes, but as long as I have an idea of where I'm going, where the characters are taking me, what the setting is and the direction of the plot/story, I can write and write...sometimes to the point of writing too much.
So where's the hard part for me?  Finding the time.

I don't have an outside job that keeps me from home.  In the past, that's been true, and I quickly learned that if an idea or a piece of dialogue popped into my head, I needed to write it down.  It might not be perfect, but it's a start.  The fact is, writing while working outside the home was often easier than working from home has become.

That sounds silly, doesn't it?

You see, I have a family.  All of us do, whether it's children, grandchildren, parents, husbands, or siblings...or all of those.  They demand--and deserve--a part of our time.  Sometimes they take priority, and writing is put aside.  But there are times when I have to say no, I'm working, when I'd rather do something else. Nothing comes easy, does it?  Especially the things that reward us the most.  That includes family.

But even though I've figured out that even short blocks of time can be productive, it isn't as smooth as it could be.  My family knows that I "work" during the day and often into the night, and they respect that.  But there's still a shortage of time, especially quiet time, with no interruptions.  And sleep.  There's never enough time for that.  In my shortest bios, the words, "sleep is highly underrated" are the truth.

Would I give it up because it's sometimes difficult to juggle a life that includes constant interruptions, too many things on my to do list, a shortage of time, and days when it's hard to keep from falling asleep?  No.  Never.  And whether anyone reads what I write or not, I'll still keep writing.

No matter what we do, no matter how hard something about it might be, we keep doing it because without it there'd be a void.  We're no different than the crafters, the soap opera addicts, the sports junkies, the volunteers or anyone else who has a passion, and that includes family.  It may not always be easy, but we don't give up.  The harder something is, the more joy we have from the accomplishment of it.  After all, if everything was easy, where would be the joy in getting through it and finishing?

Give me more time, and I'll fill it to overflowing.  It's the nature of the Time Beast that lives inside me.  There's no use fighting it.  Somehow I manage to muddle through and find The End.

Writing. Difficult? Sometimes. by J Vincent

The hardest part of writing isn’t research.  Research is exciting and seductive.  I’ve been searching for the location of British HQ in Spain during the latter stages of the retreat to the Lines of Torres Vedras in 1810.  Each clue I come across fires excitement.  There is much to be said for the “hunt.”

The hardest part of writing isn’t deciding the setting--the where and when.  That’s pretty well set for me with the Napoleonic Wars.  It isn’t discovering the characters.  Discovering?” you ask?  That’s what it is like a lot of the time.  I had a perfectly vile villain who now in book four I learned actually had a heart.  Characters are like friends--you never know them completely and they can surprise you.

So what is the hardest part of writing?  Well, it’s the writing.  It’s the day to day sitting at the keyboard and hoping the words flow and forcing them (or trying to) when they won’t.  That usually isn’t good writing but a book will never get written if you don’t make yourself put words down one after another.  Some times the words gush so fast my fingers can’t keep up with them.  It’s like watching a movie and being a court reporter, afraid to miss anything.  Other days it’s similar to pulling pin feathers for those of you lucky enough to have had to “dress” chickens.  I never thought that an odd term until long after I stopped doing it.

Most days it’s a matter of just doing it.  Sit down, put the hands on the keyboard, and type.  If you’ve prepared well--that is, you’ve gotten to know your characters and you’ve plotted out the story--the words will come.  Perhaps not in a gush but with a steady enough flow.  If you are a “by the seat of your pants” writer as I am, you plot out the broad parameters of the story.  No, I’m not saying you only need to know that boy meets girl or vis a versa, girl gets boy and they live happily ever after.  I plot the different twists and turns of the story, though often I don’t know exactly what my characters are going to do.  Like recalcitrant children they often do their “own” thing.  I know the broad chapters and some of the scenes but not all.  So every now and then there is a hiccup of sorts where the action stalls.  At these times I try to just push the story forward.  I have learned that if I don’t take the right direction (right according to my hero/heroine) the story goes no where.  If that happens I simply backtrack and try again.  At this point you are probably wondering why I don’t plot out the entire book, scene for scene, like some writers do.  I’ve tried it and it just doesn’t work for me.  It uses up a lot of time as I throw out the outline from where my character deviated and rewrite it.  Over. And over.  Perhaps I’m just plot-challenged.  But different strokes for different folks, to use a trite, over-used expression. 

Different aspects of writing prove troublesome now and then but nothing is more rewarding than writing that final scene (there is no such thing as final in writing, only the last time--ask any writer if they won’t find something to change every time they look at one of their books!) and knowing you’ve created a story.  You’ve told a tale.  There isn’t anything better no matter what proved “difficult” on the way to The End.  
 How final is your writing?

The Hardest Thing About Writing.

Patricia Davids here. This month the WARA blog topic is… The Hardest Thing About Writing.

The hardest thing about writing is…writing.

That's it.

That's all I've got.

Okay, I can elaborate to increase the word count on this post a little bit.
The hardest thing about writing is actually typing words on a blank page.

For me, dreaming up the story is the fun part. The what if this happened, and why would she do that, and what would he say then? That's fun.

Verbal stories don't have to be spelled correctly. There is no punctuation needed. They can be long or short. They don't have to come in somewhere between 55,000 and 60,000 words. I love the seeds of a story. I don't like planting, weeding, watering, fertilizing, picking, cooking, canning and putting a pretty label on it. In other words, I don't like the work.

But a tomato seed will never become a delicious bowl of tangy salsa unless all the work gets done. It is, at best, only the promise of a good thing.

So, like any devoted gardener, I put in the work so that others may enjoy the bounty of my labors.

In my latest book the seed was, how could I a write an Amish story like You've Got Mail?
The salsa is, Plain Admirer. Love is only a letter away.
In case you couldn't guess from my blog, I'm not into vegetable gardening. I don't like to plant, weed, water, fertilize, pick, cook, can. I enjoy growing flowers. They take only half the work. Plant, weed, water, fertilize, done! Enjoy.
I wish the weather would warm up so I could go dig in the dirt.

What are your garden plans this summer. Veggies, flowers, stories, or all three?