Laughter Lifts the Heart
Several years into it, and this blog still refuses to be categorized. It's eclectic and includes everything from writing posts to snippets from my ordinary life.
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Past few weeks, I’ve been letting y’all know of my creative process for developing an entr’acte for what I’m now calling the Romance on the Circle Bar Ranch series (title subject to change . . . again). Time for another installment.
As you know, I’ve been rather haphazardly following Katie Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel workbook. I didn’t start with her “what-if” questions because I didn’t have enough of a story line in mind to come up with any. Instead, I have established characters and two complete novels flanking this novella. That gave me enough to do a little character analysis and a list of scenes that must happen in this in-betweener. With this information in hand, I came up with my premise:
After her old boyfriend re-enters her life, new Christian Marie Lambeau must confront her guilt and shame before committing herself to the new love in her life.
I moved from there to Katie’s “Big Moment” list and started developing the big moments that happen throughout the novel. After a few hours of brainstorming and jotting notes, I realized that the concept of confronting “her guilt and shame” existed only in the premise. Well, Katie said it was likely to change. The story is supposed to be lighthearted, after all. So here’s where we stand now:
Sparks fly when old boyfriend meets new boyfriend. With both vying for her affections, which will she choose?
This premise allows for more humor in the story than the heavy soul-search of facing guilt and shame. I think I like it better–not that the other isn’t good. I may save it for a new series and a new set of characters. But the title, Ride into the Shadows, has now become A Ride Through the Past, which is also subject to change. (If you have any title ideas, let me know.)
One thing hasn’t changed, though. The “old boyfriend” idea. Maybe you’d like to meet him.
His name is Lee Holmes, and he’s a fashion photographer-turned-freelance news writer and photographer for the fashion industry from New York:
Yes, I want to be a writer. That’s all I want to do when it comes to this business. I want to write and send my manuscripts to someone who will turn them into books and market them and promote me and make me lots and lots of money like the authors portrayed on TV.
A girl can dream.
While I don’t mind public speaking–actually enjoy meeting everyone in person–and I don’t mind playing on social media, I don’t like marketing. There seems to be something inherently wrong with tooting my own horn. That idea was probably ingrained in me from the first time I learned the verse saying “pride goeth before the fall.” But I’m learning (still) about marketing/promoting/public relations, etc. because it is part of the job.
I’m also learning how to format. Originally, I thought that if I wanted to get some books out on my own, like A Ride in the Shadows, I could save some money if I at least learn to format. I know several authors who know how to do it and have the procedure down pat. I’ve resisted all this time, because it’s simply not something I want to learn. I just can’t muster up the interest. But I signed up for a course through my editor’s organization, The Christian PEN, and I’m going to try to learn.
Since self-publishing became so popular, we’ve seen a rise in entrepreneurs to serve those enterprising authors. Editors, cover designers, formatters, video producers, promotion experts, organizations with huge followings that’ll mention your book for a day at a price. An author can spend a lot of money just trying to catch a ride on the highway to success. Like most writers I know, I sink what I earn back into my business and have to decide how it’s best spent. I can, will, and have paid folks to help promote my books. When the original publisher released Give the Lady a Ride, I paid for someone to help get it back out. She did the book cover and formatting, and got it with the right distributors. Things I don’t have a clue how to do–not to mention how to manage all my releases once they’ve been out for a while
It would be great to do this all myself, and I’m trying to learn, but at this point, if I have the money to hire someone to help, I think I will. All this is among the reasons I want to remain with a traditional publisher. Yes, I’ll still have to do a lot of my own marketing, but the rest of it would be someone else’s headache.
In the battle between traditional and independent publishing, I may have to come down on the side of traditional simply because I don’t have the brains to go indy.
By now, if you’ve been reading my blog for the past few weeks, you know of all my major events in my writing career:
- The Final Ride is finished and awaiting approval from my publisher,
- While I semi-patiently wait for their verdict, I’ve been researching and studying marketing and promotion ideas (not my favorite activity), and
- I’ve been trying to develop an entr’acte between book one in the Ride series and book two.
Since, as I explained in “Bruisin’ My Forehead,” I didn’t have an idea for the in-betweener, I’ve been working with K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel in hopes of coming up with something viable. I haven’t been able to follow her order of doing things–she starts with a series of “what if” questions, which is a whole lot easier when you have a clue what it is you want to write. She even said that before she sits down to this, her idea has been bouncing around in her head awhile. Me? Nada.
But I’m plowing through, playing with her book and trying to throw things together. Monday, I showed you my character comparison table based on information from Katie’s book. Since my characters are already established for the new story, exploring what I already know about them has been the stimulus I needed to come up with a premise–something Katie expects us to do fairly early. Granted, she says it’s not written in stone and is likely to change throughout our course of story-exploration, but I think the one I came up with is really worth pursuing.
So, here’s my thought process, based on what I know of Patricia Talbert’s best friend, Marie Lambeau (derived from Give the Lady a Ride):
- she’s a former runway model, a fashionista and very much a girly-girl.
- she owns a clothing boutique in Manhattan and can “sell the thorns off a cactus”
- she enjoys the company of men and has had several boyfriends
- she bores easily
- she’s always up for something new and different
- she’s worldly, but tenderhearted
- she fell in love with Chance Davis at first sight (and she didn’t fall alone!)
- Chance led her to salvation
- she’s a new Christian
Taking what I know of her alone, the “what-ifs” started flowing like the falls in Niagara, and a premise developed:
After her old boyfriend re-enters her life, new Christian Marie Lambeau must confront her guilt and shame before committing herself to the new love in her life.
Like I said, I think it’s a good one, but don’t hold me to it. It’s still early in the outlining game, and I don’t know what’s going to transpire.
Now comes the question–an early evaluation, so to speak. Do I like outlining?
Okay, the question is a bit premature, but I do love having a guideline and stimulus questions to help me get ideas.
Usually, I already have a nebulous idea and just start writing to see what develops. That practice has proven successful–I wrote my award-winning Give the Lady a Ride totally by the seat of my pants, without outlining at all. By the time I wrote The Final Ride, I already had two other novels under my belt and was beginning to see the value of some outlining. I still wrote the first several chapters, but as ideas hit, instead of committing them to the manuscript, I’d chase them on separate pages to see where they’d go. I learned to like having a blueprint to work by.
Question #2: Will I stick to my “commitment” of not writing before I have a completed outline? Who knows? Not long ago, as I was writing The Final Ride, I “committed” to the idea of not editing while I wrote–just write trash. Just get it down. Don’t worry about it until it’s all done. Ha! No, I couldn’t do that, so I’m not sure I’ll succeed at completing an outline before I give in to the urge to write the first chapter.
What I’m wondering, though, is whether I can “just write trash” while I’m following an outline. The process I go through while I’m writing intuitively is similar to the process Katie presents in her book, but my first draft is my outline. Everything gets explored in a helter-skelter way, the same way I’m skipping around in Katie’s book. So when I’m writing, and my “outline” changes, I have to go back and fix everything that went on before (a.k.a. edit). I don’t think it takes any longer for me to fix things than it does for someone else to develop an intricate outline–but when I’m finished, I have a novel that needs to a final edit, and when the outliner is finished, she has an outline that needs to be turned into a novel which will need to be edited.
So, once again, I have my backside balancing uncomfortably on the fence. But I’ll try to give this outlining thing a fair shake before I come to a decision. What I do know now is that it really helps when I don’t have a clue what I’m going to write about. Whether I’ll follow the process when I do have an idea is something I’ll decide in the future with Book 3.
Oh–I think I finally have a working title: A Ride Through the Shadows. What do you think?
By the way: Writer’s Digest is hosting Katie in a live 90-minute webinar August 27th, “Outlining Your Novel: Create a Roadmap to Storytelling Success.” If you’d like hear her as you read my struggles as I try to follow her book, sign up here!
Last week, I mentioned I was trying to come up with an “entr’acte” to land between Give the Lady a Ride and The Final Ride. I didn’t have a clue what I’d write, I just knew I needed something to tie a 2011 release with a 2016 release and regenerate interest in a series I didn’t know would be a series in 2011.
So, with a totally blank mind, I turned to K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel—and it helps. But it would help far more if I did have an idea in mind. Which is caveat #1. Caveat #2 is that I don’t think like Katie does. I can’t follow her process in the order presented in her workbook. But that’s okay with her. She says in the book that we’re free to skip around. Good thing, too, or she’d appear in my dreams to fuss at me for doing exactly that.
Katie has questions and exercises in the workbook that help stimulate the ol’ brain cells and kick them in to creative gear, which does help when you don’t have an idea in mind. One began forming for me slowly last week, and I think I like it, but I still have to play around with it. The only thing I know for certain right now is that, as with The Final Ride, I’m going to have to bring in some new characters to provide the conflict.
But last Friday, instead of playing with the new characters, I played with my main characters: Marie Lambeau and Chance Davis, my secondary couple from Give the Lady a Ride. I took everything I knew about them from the first novel and jumped ahead in Katie’s workbook to the chapter called Personality Profiling. She missed the one based on where in the familial line-up a kid lands at birth–another one that can be helpful when developing a character’s personality–but she hit the other big ones. You can see them listed and explained in her Outlining Your Novel, or find them online: The Four Temperaments, Myers & Briggs Type Indicator, and Enneagram Personality Type.
I made a chart, using what I already know about each character–which, I’m ashamed to admit–isn’t really all that much. I never did personality profiles on them, never developed their bios, because I never thought I’d turn Give the Lady a Ride into a series. I allowed their personalities to develop as I wrote and kept them true to what transpired as my writing progressed.
But it’s amazing what information I can glean out of these two by reminding myself of their interactions with the main characters and with each other, and by rereading what few snippets of their backstory I did bother to develop. (One thing that tickles me as a seat-of-the-pants writer is how fully developed they appear to be, even without me going through the outline method. Yes, I’ll admit it, I’m patting myself on the back, because I did a great job in my award-winning novel!)
So, here’s what I came up with for Marie and Chance:
What’s fun about having this in a chart is that I can compare the two and see what aspects of their personalities lend themselves to conflict. For instance, when faced with a problem, Chance is logical, Marie is emotional, but they both make snap decisions as to how to handle it. What happens if those decisions are on opposite ends of the spectrum when they’re dealing with the same problem?
What part of Marie’s personality will drive Chance nuts, and vice versa? Are there aspects of their personalities that are so similar they’re likely to clash?
Using this tool, I can determine what types of things will upset my characters’ little love nest and how one will respond to the other when issues arise. In turn, this can help me hype up the tension between them.
Great tool. Well done, Katie. Well done.
I’m trying to be creative in two different fields right now–marketing and writing. That’s not unusual for most authors. We have to wear both caps these days.
Now that The Final Ride is finished, I have to come up with some brilliant plans to let everyone know about it–hence Monday’s report on Let’s Get Visible and the previous posts, “What Comes After ‘Book‘” and “It’s Done, Now What?” Yes, I’ve been reviewing books on marketing/promotions/publicity, etc. (right now, I’m rereading Carolyn Howard-Johnson’s The Frugal Book Promoter), but I also cheated this time. I hired someone to help me develop a timeline that comes complete with a set of ideas I can pursue. That alone is a huge weight off my shoulders. At least I feel organized.
I’m also trying to write an “entr’acte” for what I’m tentatively calling The Circle-Bar Ranch Series (a name that changes on a regular basis) to connect the 2011 publication (and 2014 repub) of Give the Lady a Ride with the probable 2016 publication of its sequel, The Final Ride. Considering Give the Lady a Ride was supposed to be a stand-alone and was never intended to be made into a series, this has been a challenge all the way around. I’m tickled with The Final Ride, and I know my readers are going to love it, but the entr’acte? I’m getting bare glimmers of ideas for it.
Entr’acte, if you didn’t know, is French for “between acts.” I thought it would be fun to come up with something in my secondary characters’ POVs. Marie Lambeau and Chance Davis play a huge role in Give the Lady a Ride, even though neither ever have a POV scene. My readers grow to love them as they fall in love with each other off-stage, so I decided to make them the center of attention in the entr’acte.
And that’s as far as I got. I don’t even know what I’m going to call it, so Entr’acte is its working title.
Going back to the idea of being organized–and in keeping with my constant experimentation with my writing style (remember all those posts about how I refused to “edit while I write,” only to have to admit I can’t break the habit?)–I’m writing an outline, of sorts, for this in-betweener. I’ve never deliberately sat down with pen and paper to outline a novel. I always have a general idea of that first chapter, and after I get it written, I just go from there. This time, I don’t have an idea for the first chapter–or anything else for that matter.
Monday I pulled K.M. Weiland’s Outlining Your Novel from my shelf, along with the workbook, and sat down to figure out how to do this. Katie starts by having us come up with a series of “What ifs,” which stumped me, I’m afraid. Since I didn’t have an idea bouncing around in my head, the best I could come up with is, “What if Linda decided to write a book starring Chance and Marie?” and since I already knew I was going to do that, the ol’ brain simply shut down.
But bless her little Nebraskan heart, Katie doesn’t expect us to take this outline-creation business in the same order she does. Yesterday, I jumped ahead and looked at her questions to help develop the two-sentence premise, et voila! Ideas started jumping like kids on a trampoline, and I finally grasped enough of them to kinda, sorta, maybe have an idea of . . . something. Which, as hazy as it sounds, beats what I had when I sat down to all this Monday. It’s a start, right?
Now that my manuscript for The Final Ride is finished and awaiting my publisher’s approval, I have to turn my attention toward marketing the thing. I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve read a gazillion books about marketing and promo, and it seems they all have the same things to say: have a blog (or not); work the social media; have an Amazon page, a Goodreads page,a Facebook author page; develop a tribe; join organizations. Find a niche. Don’t be spammy. Develop relationships.
All that advice is great for developing your platform, but when it comes to the nuts and bolts of marketing, these books seemed to fall short. There are helpful blogs out there–like Joanna Penn’s, The Creative Penn–where you can get some great ideas, but I need a strategy.
Let’s Get Visible, by David Gaughran helped me develop one. Gaughran goes into detail about how to work Amazon, like how to work it’s different list: Best Sellers, Top Rated, Hot New, Movers and Shakers, Popularity. The book is primarily centered on Amazon, though Gaughran does have a chapter dedicated to working the other sites (or, better described as explaining why the other sites aren’t author friendly), but Amazon is king of his book and he provides a convincing argument as to why that’s so.
The book is aimed at those who self-publish and have control over pricing, categorizing, and tagging their novels. He provides strategies for launches, free pricing, and pulse pricing which are invaluable for the independent publisher.
I don’t intend to self-publish The Final Ride, so I don’t have the same kind of control over my novel. But Gaughran’s launch strategies make sense. He has one called “Spread the Love,” intended to slowly bring the new release up on the lists. The novel won’t hit high on the charts right off the bat, but the goal is to get it on one or more of the lists and keep it there for a while.
Since marketing and promotion are on my shoulders, I can do this part, and I can work closely with my publisher to implement other strategies too.
It’s great to find a book that actually has strategies. I’m anxious to see how well they work.