Tag Archives: writing advice

Alpha Squirrel Blog Tour Day 3

12583801_1673532822885388_1966367572_n Day three takes us to the following blogs, and their excerpts from the Shifting Times Bestselling Parenting book Your New Life as a New Adult:
Nephy Hart
Bonkers About Books
Open Skye Book Reviews
My Fiction Nook

You can go here to enter the Rafflecopter for your very own werehummingbird with a Napoleon complex, and to catch up on the rest of the tour.

In Tales from Real Life, putting the new flue in was great. It’s nice to be able to light the wood furnace without that nagging concern that this time will be the time I set the house on fire. But, with all the dust and insulation floating in the air, the lung monster has reared it’s ugly head and all I want to do is sleep, so there’s not much happening on the word front. I did make it 7.5 thousand words on Proud Flesh this weekend. You’re all going to hate me–I’m just warning you to take the sting out of it. And The Wall Nuts–the third story about Nathan–is sitting at about 5K. I should get it up in the progress bars, but I’m starting to get a bit embarrassed about how many there are. And there’s more I could throw up there too, but I’m trying to focus. (Hahahahaha!) I would like to get the little science fiction story finished, but the culture is giving me fits and I can’t find my story bible for it. It’s probably in a pile of papers somewhere. Maybe a nap this afternoon will loosen up enough energy to get some words down. 🙂

Three Dirty Birds and Pacing


In which I have a light bulb moment about why some books do so well. 🙂 Over at Ana’s blog!

Three Dirty Birds Talk Theme

Or at least I think it’s theme. Still waiting for my new laptop fan, then I get to play computer tech! But until then, it’s all the poor computer can do to keep Scrivener open. Internet is on-again, off-again–I’m assuming from the heat. I have a backup plan, though. I have an old desktop I can put the hard drive in, if I have to, but I’m really not looking forward to it.

Check out our thoughts on Libbie Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants! over at Zoe’s blog. 😀

My usual method of writing is reasserting itself. I got 2K on my firefighter and paramedic story, which does not have an outline. And 500 on my outlined story. There’s something off about those numbers, I think. 😛

The Three Dirty Birds and the Ally

Over at Ana’s blog.

No picture today–my computer fan is dying and stuff just isn’t working like it usually does.

Three Dirty Birds and the Antagonist


The Three Dirty Birds are back and plotting! (Not that we ever aren’t plotting but this time, even Kitty is plotting. As in, has an outline. Prepare for Armageddon.)

Zoe: I’ll be right back, guys. I’ve never seen pigs fly before, and I don’t want to miss the view out the window.

Ana: Flying bacon!

Kate: I have a flying toy pig at work. We call him Kevin.

Zoe: Breakfast is on Kate! (But we won’t eat Kevin.)

Ana: Did you name your MC in your story after a flying toy pig?

Kate: No, his name is Thilo. Random name generator, clicked through until I found something that I liked. (I never thought about that with respect to Kev, though. Hmmmm)

Zoe: I love the random name generators. My favorite gives me a first and last name, saving me so much headache.

Kate: They are such a great jumping off point. I used to use a baby name book, but I found myself in the same letter all the time.

Zoe: Yes! I go to the same ones all the time. The generators save me from myself, and keep my world from being populated with D- and R-names.)

Ana: And here I thought I was the only one with favorite letters. There’s something about Ds, though… isn’t there?

Kate: I have an ANT problem. A, N, and T. Oh, and I. (Why I?)

Zoe: Speaking of ANT…we’re up to the Antagonist section in Take Off Your Pants now, aren’t we?

Ana: Right, I’ve always had trouble identifying clear antagonists in some of my books. When I try the ‘what your character wants most’ angle (meaning, the antagonist is the one who’s after the same thing), I almost can’t help but make my Love Interest the antagonist.

Zoe: And I can see that working in a lot of cases. They both do want the same thing, and what gets in their way is the other person.

Ana: Maybe this is why so many romances build on miscommunication. When the protagonist and the antagonist realize their goals aren’t in opposition, it’s all over.

Kate: That’s how this story that I have most of an outline for is working–not the miscommunication, but one MC wants to change the part of the other MC that he’s embarrassed about, without seeing all the good things about it. I think miscommunication is often cheaply handled. There’s so many stories out there where if one of the MC’s didn’t just have a childish tantrum and actually spoke to the other person like the adult they’re supposed to be, the story wouldn’t exist. And then, there’s the misunderstanding after misunderstanding type of plot. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be done, but it needs a lot more thought put into it than seems to happen, and it’s a lot harder story to write well.

Zoe: I think it winds up being the crux of the conflict because the author didn’t give the characters arc-relevant flaws. They’re bratty or have abuse in their past or whatever, but it’s not really tied to the character growth (or character destruction, though you wouldn’t have that arc in a romance), so they wind up falling back on miscommunication and misunderstandings for lack of anything else, rather than through intention.

Kate: Drama for the sake of having an exciting emotional moment, rather than something that actually contributes to plot or character development.

Zoe: Yeah or, there’s nothing really to keep these two apart, so something has to be manufactured.

Kate: I really want to read that Truby book she mentions.


Kate: Epub? I like being able to blow up my text on my Kobo (which seems to be on the point of breaking again. Next time, I’m getting an H2O so I can read in the bath).

Zoe: Ebook is probably the way to go.

Ana: Yeah, I just found it on kindle for about €10. But I think my next read will be Super Structure by James Scott Bell.

Kate: And, to Google I go…

Zoe: What do you think of Libbie’s assertion that the antagonist is a mirror of the hero, that he’s a “there but for the grace of God” version?

Ana: That’s the part I really can’t work into my story.

Kate: I think for most stories that works. I’m trying to figure out how that can work in a romance, especially my little ‘trapped together during a storm’ story, where there’s only two characters. Maybe it doesn’t work for romance? (although it does kind of work for Knight, if I change some of my emphasis. But that’s because I have crazy Michael in it.)

Ana: The problem with using this for a romance novel where you cast the LI as the antagonist is that this take on the antagonist paints him as a bad person, not necessarily someone you should strive to have a relationship with? Although of course you do have the MC1 saves broken MC2 romances.

Kate: I’m not sure even that fits into it. I really feel that her antagonist, if you always define him or her as being the photonegative version, doesn’t work for Romance. The definitions of ‘someone who wants the same goal as the MC, but not in the same way” works very well for romance where the characters themselves are a big part of the problem.

Zoe: This is a good example of how the spirit of Libbie’s book is valuable, and she’s got a great way of explaining things…but when you get to the nuts and bolts of your own story, you may not actually use everything in Pants. Even taking Charlotte’s Web as an example: we can agree that Wilbur and the farmer want the same thing—Wilbur’s life. But the farmer’s not a photo negative of Wilbur; he doesn’t really represent what Wilbur will become if Wilbur fails. Unless the farmer is made of bacon.

Ana: Good point.

Kate: Now I want bacon.

Zoe: It is the case in other stories, of course. I can think of a number of action thrillers where the hero and the antagonist are very much alike; they’ve just chosen different sides.

Ana: Those are usually the characters I slash in my head.

Zoe: [Yes. Those guys are so doing it.]

Kate: Yes, that’s pretty common, and it adds a nice tension to the story. (Not the slashing, but the mirror image stuff.) (Although, slashing adds a nice bit of tension too, just not the same kind. 🙂 )

Zoe: Where I run into problems is with the Ally (because I keep going, “Wait…wasn’t he the antagonist?”), which we’ll be discussing shortly….

Kate: I found the Ally tough, until I made myself sit down and really think about it. Maybe we should talk about that…

Three Dirty Birds Talk about Take Your Pants Off! Another try to convert Kate

Okay, that really isn’t the title exactly. It’s Libbie Hawker’s Take Your Pants Off! Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing.

The Three Dirty Birds are back, once more throwing themselves into the fray and trying to turn Kitty into a plotter. Today we’re talking about Libbie Hawker’s Take Off Your Pants! (which seems weirdly appropriate for people who all write erotic romance)

Ana: I feel like I’m in a sect and trying to get Kate to join.

Kate: One of those cults. Oh no, they’re brainwashing me!

Ana: I never thought I’d be in a plotting cult.

Zoe: I wish I’d had this book two years ago. 🙁

Kate: If any book is going to do it, it might just be this one. She strikes very close to the Seven Point Plot Outline that I’ve had some success with. (Mostly because it just points out the signpost moments in the story.) But the story she tells at the beginning–I’d love to be able to do that.

Zoe: Someone in another group I hang out in said that they’re a lot like the Save the Cat beats with different names.

Ana: I might have to look into that because I wasn’t happy with all the names.

Zoe: I’m not familiar with the Save the Cat beats, but in the discussion it was said that it calls the Ally the Love Interest, so I’m not sure the names are much better. 🙂

Kate: We could do a comparison for our next book.

Ana: The Ally isn’t the Love Interest in my plotting. But maybe that’s because I write Romance?

Kate: That’s what I think.

Zoe: No, I think it’s just that the “love interest” doesn’t have to be an actual love interest—it’s just a weirdly named beat.

Kate: Zoe, you’re going to have to explain that a bit more, because I’m not getting what you’re talking about.

Ana: Maybe that there isn’t a love interest in every book?

Zoe: I can only explain so much since I haven’t read Save the Cat, but apparently his ally role is called “love interest,” although it doesn’t have to be an actual “love interest.”

I think that Libbie’s beats pair nicely with James Scott Bell’s 14 signposts from Super Structure (also mentioned in Write Your Novel from the Middle). They hit different points, different aspects.

Kate: Another one I have to read. I got sidetracked by a book on character naming, which is way more interesting than I thought it would be.

Ana: There’s a book on character naming?

Kate: Sherrilyn Kenyon, through Writer’s Digest. She goes into naming conventions, then gives a bunch of names by nationality.

Zoe: Naming conventions would be useful if you’re writing non-Anglo-Saxon characters…or fantasy.

Ana: If I were writing non-anglo-saxon characters from a country whose naming conventions I’m not familiar with, I’d probably look at a few of those top 100 baby names list for a few years… I mean, from a few different years, not that I’d be looking for years.

Zoe: lol I thought you’d be looking for years at first. I’m not sure the baby naming sites would help—they just give first names. I had to name a Hispanic character in a book recently, and looked up those naming conventions specifically. (Then I had to look up how it was handled once the family was an American Hispanic family because the character is actually second generation.)

Kate: That’s how this book handles it. There’s a section on Japanese and Korean, Ana.

Ana: Ah yes, I rarely think about last names. I’m good with Japanese! Probably won’t write Koreans.

Kate: The Japanese section talks about last names too, and how a married couple can take either his or her last name. Interesting, weird little tidbits.

And, we’ve gotten off track again. (Not like there’s ever a day where we don’t 🙂 )

Zoe: We have. So Libbie sets out in the beginning to tell you that her method will help you gain more confidence in your stories at the outline stage and write faster. Having now read it and done three outlines and gotten back to work on my WIP, my thoughts on that claim are “yes” and “maybe.” I can see myself taking less time in rewrites because I’ll have fewer story problems to fix, but I’m not sure that I’ll first-draft any faster.

Kate: I’m looking forward to trying it out on something from scratch. I have two in-progress stories that I’m trying to work on where I plan to give it a whirl, but I don’t think it’s the same thing.

Zoe: Ironically I started a new story from scratch last night…and haven’t outlined it yet. (But her book still helped, because I wouldn’t have been able to grasp what I have if I hadn’t just learned all that stuff about character flaw.)

Ana: I tried the outline thing on a short project I’m working on now, and it’s going well so far. I’ve yet to test it on something longer, but will probably do so soon. At least, with this outline I get my story split into chunks that I can make into story goals so I know how much to write each day and about how long it’ll take me to get to the end.

Zoe: Yes! I made a list of scenes in Evernote with little checkboxes next to them, then broke them into days, with more scenes on weekends than weekdays, and now I can see that I can finish this draft by the end of the month. (I love ticking the little boxes…though I’m contemplating switching to index cards for the next one.)

Ana: I want little boxes to tick!

Zoe: Get you some Evernote!

Kate: I love having a goal to write toward, which is why the 7 Point Structure worked pretty well for me. But it would be nice to have more smaller goals, so I’m not spending days writing toward one goal, but can accomplish one or two each day. (Push the button, get a pellet. Repeat.)

Ana: I’m almost sad this story I’m writing isn’t going to be submitted anywhere. I already have a synopsis!

Zoe: Lol!

Kate: 😀

I can certainly see the point of having an outline, or a serious plan, when you start writing. Libbie’s story about taking two years to write one book, then three weeks to write the outlined book, is one of the reasons I keep coming back to the “There must be some way to make it work with my brain!” idea.

Zoe: Kate, I have to ask now that you’re about halfway through the book: have you been an irritated bird yet?

Kate: Not once. How’s that for strange?

Zoe: (True story: I only wound up buying this book because I wanted to see if it was going to piss Kate off. Then I got hooked.)

Kate: And this is what I live with–writing buddies who do things just to see how far my tail will fuzz.

Zoe: I’d have told you not to buy it if it had been cranky-making. (After quoting all the cranky-making bits in chat.)

Ana: I would have been there for moral support. And popcorn.

Kate: That I can believe. But I have to say I’m glad you bought it and got me to buy it. I’m finding the specifics of the plot section a little harder to get into, but part of my method is that I write myself into the characters as I go. There’s a lot of stuff that comes out on the page that I have no idea where it came from, but then later something else comes out and the first one turns out to be foreshadowing, or necessary characterisation. And that all depends on the characters.

Zoe: Some people I’ve talked to had problems getting their heads around some of the stuff in this—I’ve seen discussions going on about the antagonist, the plot stuff, and the idea that the character has to overcome their flaw, which should make for interesting discussion in our chats as we get more into the specifics of the book.

Ana: To come back to what Kate said about the specifics, I think that even if you don’t follow the outline in the outlining part of the book, it can still help you if you got your character flaw and theme figured out before you start writing. (And possibly also how you want the book to end.)

Zoe: Yes. I think this book works for pantsers as well as plotters.

Kate: It does feel less “This is the word of our Lord” to me, which means I’m more likely to take a kick at what she says to try, and be less frustrated when and if it doesn’t work.

Zoe: I also see most of the book as more what you’d call “guidelines” than set-in-stone rules. I’ve been loosey-goosey with a lot of the plot stuff, changing headings, moving them around, grouping them together. But the book indicates you can do that as well.

Kate: One thing I figured out right away, and haven’t had time to go back and apply my new knowledge, is that you have to use this book either with notecards or a computer–you can’t just pull out a sheet of looseleaf and go to town. It’s definitely designed to be flexible, and for you to move stuff around, add and subtract, etc. Which is very much my way of doing things. (Although I do love my looseleaf)

Zoe: (I have a binder full of blank looseleaf. I bought it with the best intentions. Over a year ago.)

So, are we ready to dive into the Story Core in our next discussion?

(Ana: Nice, Zoe, ending the chapter with a question.)

Three Dirty Birds Talk about What We're Reading


Over at Zoe’s blog!

Three Dirty Birds Talk Bunnies. Plot Bunnies, that is


Since Zoe got plot bunnied during our Monday discussion, we thought it was only appropriate to talk about plot bunnies on Ana’s blog.

Three Dirty Birds Chirping about Sequels, Series, and Sequelitis

In which Zoe is bunnied while we watch, and the Dirty Birds risk excommunication.

It’s a Random Dirty Bird Day! Today we’re talking about…what are we talking about?

Ana: We’re talking about how sad we are that we can’t get guest birds.

Kate: We need some guest birds. That whole work-life balance thing is doing us in.

Ana: I have to eat so much chocolate because I can’t get people to bird with me. -puts it on her list of excuses for her chocolate lifestyle-

Kate: Mmmm, chocolate. I’m eating the first Easter bunny of the year right now. I can’t wait for the kid to come up looking for some, so I can offer her his bum.

Zoe: I keep eying the Easter bunnies at the store, but I haven’t bought one. Yet.

Ana: I don’t have any either.

Kate: Now I feel special. 🙂

Ana: Only because you got the first Easter bunny bum of the year.

Kate: The Great Fluffy Orange Hunter triumphs!

Actually, today we’re not talking about how much chocolate we’re eating (though I’m sure it’s going to come up, because we are who we are). Instead, we’re talking about sequels, and series, and sequelitis.

Ana: Actually, did you make that last word up?

Kate: It’s the illness you suffer when the stuff you wrote in your original story makes it impossible to do the cool thing you thought up for the next one, because it violates canon. It’s an illness that involves much weeping and eating of chocolate.

Ana: I want to say that’s an illness I’m deeply familiar with, but the only time this has happened is with a story that was never, well, officially published so I just went back and changed the first story. Again and again. While eating chocolate. (Now when I sent stories to publishers I’m always scared that I’ll think of things I want to change later.)

Zoe: It would be handy if we could publish our stories on those Magic Doodle pads, so we can just change it as we go and no reader will ever know. (They’ll just think they went crazy.)

Kate: Live action editing!

Ana: I like making readers think they’re crazy.

Zoe: I just love erasing my tracks.

Ana: Is it just me or does Zoe get scarier every week?

Kate: I sleep with a cross and holy water now, because garlic makes me wheeze.

Ana: I thought you did that because you live with a teenager.

Kate: Naw, that’s the ring of loose change in front of my bedroom door. By the time she’s picked it all up, she’s forgotten what she wants me for and is rejoicing in her new-found riches.

Zoe: : I need to try something like that with Mr. Rider. He’s starting to become inured to the sounds of gay porn playing loudly at the doorway.

Kate: Lol, here we go again. It’s like herding cats–we never seem to go in the direction we plan, even when we’re the ones making the decision. And we promised ourselves!

Ana: Sorry, my brain stopped at ‘gay porn’ and didn’t hear what you were saying.

Kate: Lol.

Zoe: I’m writing a sequel right now. I’d say “remind me to never do it again,” but honestly it’s on par with writing any book. A lot of work.

Ana: When I wrote my sequel to my first book, I liked that I had most of the characters worked out already. But at the same time it’s more difficult to give them new arcs.

Kate: I find I have to keep rereading the first one, even though I’ve made notes, because I don’t remember some of the little details and things that were said or implied, and those are often the things that the next book hinges on.

Zoe: Since Word takes so long to open an 82,000-word file, I’ve just been sticking brackets in the sequel to remind myself to look up the info later. Fortunately it’s been minor details, not anything I need to verify in order to make sure I don’t go down a wrong road.

Kate: I’ve been considering a third monitor, so I can keep the original open on one screen and flip through it. Or that might just be my tech greed showing it’s ugly head. I do like toys…

But seriously, I do find myself going back to the original a lot, for stuff that wouldn’t be covered by Weiland’s character interviews or extended outlines.

Ana: There’s things she didn’t cover? Oh right, kinks and such….(Not that I’d have to remind myself of those)

Kate: I’ve kind of got myself coming and going, because I’m doing a prequel and a sequel for the same book, so I’m writing in both of them at the same time in order to keep things in line with each other. It’s weird, but it’ll be fun to see stuff foreshadowed in the prequel and show up in the sequel.

Zoe: I wonder if I started working on book 3 of the trilogy now if I’d finish it before book 2. What I didn’t think about before I decided to do a trilogy was that the sloggy middle would now be an entire book long.

Ana: Poor Zoe.

Kate: It’s an idea. Even if you only get part of it done, it might shake things loose for number 2.

Zoe: It gets more exciting in the later half of book 2, but the set up… *sigh*

Kate: Add some zombie Easter bunnies, that’ll liven it up. “Eat them, before they eat you!”

Ana: Zombie Easter bunnies are your solution to everything. It’s like a substisolution.

Kate: High risk, high reward.

Ana: I was pondering adding a third book to my… book with a sequel. But I’m not sure about it and that makes it difficult because I want to get book one and two out of the door, but I keep thinking that if I eventually want to do a third book, I should set it up in book 1 and 2 before publishing those. (As I tend to want to go back to change things so other things can happen)

Kate: I wonder if all pantsers feel that way. I know I do.

Ana: I just have to stop dragging my feet and come up with a definite plotline for book 3 so I know what’s needed. (And then I’d have to somehow stick to that plotline.)

Kate: Hahaha, that’s funny! We both know how that goes.

Ana: Remember how I said I was going to pants my Goodreads m/m group story? And then I was all “I accidentally plotted it like I’ve never plotted a story before” ? Yeah, I’m back to pantsing already. 7k in. I think the outline lasted all of 3k.

Kate: Not surprised at all. I would dearly love to outline something and have it stick beyond the first five paragraphs.

Ana: So we’ve talked about sequels. Do we have thoughts on series?

Kate: I think you need to have strong characters for either of those. And a real goal in mind, growth for the characters and a gradual increase in the conflict over the whole thing.

Ana: I’m not sure. In romance, I often see series where you have side characters take over the next book of a series, even if they were barely present in the ‘original’ book and then the prior main couple gets a few cameo appearances.

Kate: I’m a bit iffy about those. If a character is going to get his own story later on, he should really play more than a bit part in the first story. At least, have some impact on it. Although, I’ll admit to reading books, not because I’m interested in the main characters, but because of the cameos of previous characters. Although, if you’re going to do that, it better be a damn good cameo, where they still have some agency, and not just a quick, “I know you like these guys, so here they are for a total of two pages doing nothing.” (I was just disappointed by a book that did that.)

Zoe: My fear with starting a series is that it will suffer the GRRM effect—plot threads multiplying like rabbits beyond any possibility of being able to tie them all up without having to write forty-seven-zillion brick-sized books.

Kate: Oh, yes, that’s a tough one to keep on top of. The plot-lines I’ve killed off…

Zoe: What if our existence is all the result of a series God decided to try writing, and it just got way out of control?

Kate: I hope he has something good planned for me. Wonder where he keeps his outlines?

Zoe: He gave you a bunny butt. What more do you want?

Ana:I think he’s more of a pantser.

Zoe: I have a feeling that’s the case.

Kate: That makes me nervous.

Zoe: Now I’m imagining him up there going, “Shit. I shouldn’t have killed Kennedy off back in ‘63. I could have really used him here.”

Ana: Better throw a random hurricane here to distract people from my poor plotting skills.

Zoe: I see that he only tried the “Shit. What if I bring this character back from the dead?” trick once before realizing how cheesy it was.

Kate: That was probably a good choice. Though, did he not do it twice? Or was the first one foreshadowing?

Zoe: At any rate, he did it less often than GRRM or the American Horror Story writers.

Ana: There’s an anime studio called Studio Sunrise who does it so often fans have coined the term ‘sunrisen’ for resurrected characters.

Kate: Lol, gotta love the fans.

Zoe: “Sunrisen” is an awesome term. ~Is totally not thinking about how to work that into a vampire story~

Kate: Like an un-vampire? How would that work?

Zoe: I’m thinking more that sunlight turns vampires into zombies.

Ana: How do vampires turn into zombies. Are they suddenly undead? Wait…

Zoe: Okay, it’s probably not perfect. Scratch the vampire part – what if sunlight turns dead bodies into zombies? (I guess that would cut down on the incidence quite a bit. Just bury them overnight.) (So scratch that idea too.)

Kate: Depends. How fast does it happen? Is it like being infected where if you die and the sunlight hits you, even if they bury you, you still turn? Or do they change within minutes? That would make car crashes fun. Imagine a train or a El going off the tracks…

Zoe: What if sunlight just brings dead people back to life? They seem perfectly normal. But of course, over time, you discover they’re not. But for a while…they look and act normal. Some people wouldn’t even know they’d died, because they’d pass out, then wake up.

Kate: Oh, you have to write that.

Zoe: People’d be digging up the recently buried, dragging their loved ones out on the lawn.

Kate: This is such a creepy idea. I won’t be able to sleep tonight.

Zoe: Poor Kate. Just eat the bunny bum. It’ll make you feel better.

Kate: Nom, nom, nom.

Zoe: The what-if part of the idea is always the easy part. The real work is in figuring out what the story is. And then, to get back to the discussion topic, WHAT TO DO IN THE SEQUEL!

Ana: Luckily we have a talk on plot bunnies coming up!

Kate: Are they chocolate?

Zoe: I wish. Then they’d be easy to get rid of. Om nom nom.

Three Dirty Birds and The Bonus Tweeting (Because we ran out of chapters)

It’s a secret bonus, so you have to go to Zoe’s blog to find out what it is!