A Personal Writing Process

I’ve been to many NaNoWriMo write-ins in my day. Naturally, I’ve conversed with many authors and have heard about personal writing habits that differ from others. I don’t mean planning versus pantsing. Sometimes it’s simple, like a naming convention for files, or a color code for highlighting certain passages for editing. Most authors write a 500-page draft and then whittle it down by one-third; I simply can’t operate in such a manner.

The manuscript for M&M: The Tales of Tyrennia Book II now stands at 235 pages. Sounds a bit short, doesn’t it? Well, in a word, No. The original first draft was only 112 pages. My creative writing classes were in screenwriting; therefore, I tend to write a first draft (which I playfully call Version 0.5) that is 90% dialog. It’s a nasty habit, which I do not recommend for any author. This method is a rather personal quirk or “comfort zone.” I prefer having my plot laid out, no holes or characters ignoring the path of least resistance. Also, it helps me to scrutinize my dialog. pencil

Version 0.5 of Book II moved like a rocket-powered roller coaster. Way too fast and somewhat overwhelming for a reader. Most authors love to write a “page-turner,” but there can be a point where a reader needs to come up for air. My current draft certainly leaves them underwater for way too long. But there were other problems.

Book II’s disparate events in separate locations on a collision course created a dizzying story line. Not only was information zipping by too quickly, but such a plot demanded many shifts in point-of-view (POV).

To solve this problem, I wrote out a small synopsis of each chapter’s events and noted the POV shifts. Yes, way too many. But I also noted the need for characters to perform certain actions, and subsequently work on solving glitches in their plans of action.

So far, I’ve fleshed out the first four chapters and have written a new chapter 5. I saw the necessity of other new chapters as well. For instance, the original chapter 5 is now chapter 9. Because of the minimalist nature of my first draft and outline, the plot is still rock solid. *wipes brow*

Do you have any personal writing quirks in your process?

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Balancing Your Chapter Titles

Back in 2016, while still writing and editing my first fantasy novel, I wrote a post concerning the pros/cons and naming conventions of chapter titles. Since then, I’ve learned more about the ins and outs of creating them. First, a chapter title must be true. An author should never title a chapter something like “A Stampede of Pink Elephants” when there is no stampede or even a mention of a pink elephant, real or imagined, within the chapter. This notion of truthfulness brings us to the next problem, and the reason that creating chapter titles requires writing and editing skills, too.

We may label this second can of worms “honesty to a fault.” Imagine a sub-plot dedicated to the romance between the main character, Mary, and the detective, Richard. Naturally, the pages spent building up the romance teases the reader and forces possibilities and questions to grow in his or her mind. Will one die? Will they break up? Will they get married? Perhaps the end of chapter ten is a cliff-hanging hook. Will Richard save Mary in time? Too bad you titled chapter sixteen, “Mary and Richard’s Wild Wedding.” The author created an honest title, but his/her table of contents is nothing more than an extended spoiler list of the novel.

Here are the chapter titles for Storm of Divine Light:

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Chap.  1 The Signs & Portents of Mage-Sense

Chap.  2 The Confessions of Brother Maynard

Chap.  3 Religious Relics Are People Too

Chap.  4 How to Roast a Goblin

Chap.  5 Secret Steps

Chap.  6 The Metamorphosis of Liberon

Chap.  7 Under the Stolen Kiss

Chap.  8 In Hot Pursuit of a Mouse

Chap.  9 Affection’s Afflictions

Chap. 10 The Last Wagon

Chap. 11 The Incredible Gnomish Vision Tube

Chap. 12 A Bloody Fragrance

Chap. 13 Soft Footsteps in the Dark

Chap. 14 Forks in the Road

Chap. 15 Suns, Moons, & Stars

Chap. 16 May the Light Shine upon Thee

Chap. 17 Something Stirs in the Wood

Chap. 18 Across the Queen’s River

Chap. 19 Ancient Rites Fulfilled

Chap. 20 Red Desert Rezzin

Chap. 21 Palatial Brevity

Chap. 22 The Price of Blood

Chap. 23 Golgent on the Horizon

Chap. 24 Weapons of Light

Chap. 25 Bulls, Ballistae, & Bandoras

Chap. 26 Guilder’s Gambit

Chap. 27 Stronghold of Shadow

Chap. 28 Full Circle

Chap. 29 Vows

I hope these chapter titles create an air of mystery and will entice the reader rather than reveal the whole plot of Storm of Divine Light. Of course, they are all truthful descriptions as well.

Do you use chapter titles when you write or prefer them in the books you read? Which chapter title of Storm of Divine Light intrigues you the most?

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Are You a Hooker?

An author needs to hook a reader from the very beginning. Inciting incidents or a slam-bang opening line leads to an intense first paragraph, then a great first page, which then expands into an irresistible first chapter. Let’s face it, authors are professional hookers. However, never forget that every chapter must have a “chapter-ending hook” as well.

For the beginning or end of a chapter, “hook” is simply a term used for clever device that which will grab the reader’s attention and hook them like fish. With their emotions and curiosity sufficiently teased, their hands will flip pages.

A Brief List of Chapter-Ending Hook Ideas*

Revelation: We learn something new about a character or a clue to a mystery. The revelation can either be character or plot-based.

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New character: Method to introduce a new character (almost self-explanatory).

Questions: Sometimes an answer generates more questions.

Decision: Your MC has a decision to make and all choices have dire implications.

Sex: Never end a chapter with sex, end it with the probability that something carnal could happen.

Temptation: All heroes or MCs should have “feet of clay,” as in a flaw or weakness. Tempt your characters and you will also tempt your readers to keep on reading.

New Conflict: If some conflict is resolved then a new one must be introduced. Or take an existing conflict and augment it.

Danger: The classic “cliffhanger.” A villain’s reappearance can mean a new danger as well.

*Well, what are you waiting for? Add some below. 🙂

Watch Some TV

As much as I hate, despise, and loathe some of the banal nonsense that passes for entertainment on the old “boob tube,” I must admit that you can learn a lot about hooks from TV. Television writers have to deal with hooks all the time. They are usually inserted for a commercial break because they don’t want you to reach for the remote control.

Take care that you watch something current. I know that it is always nice for an old rerun of the original Star Trek or The Twilight Zone, but their commercial breaks happen whenever the station decides to sell you something. Also, there were fewer commercials back in the 1960’s (or whenever) and they’re timed differently these days.

Stop Being So Nice and Polite

Perhaps you’ve noticed that to effectively hook, you have to be something of a “meanie” to your characters. Sometimes you have to be brutal and vicious. Just turn on the news, bad things happen to good people all the time. Any guilt you feel will be erased by your pride in producing a higher quality end product.

Every Time You Reply – Little Frankie Doesn’t Cry

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An Easterly Sojourn: Chapter 7 Added

Every time The Queen and I are done #editing a chapter, I copy and paste it into a large manuscript document. That is the one which will get printed and sent off to Beta Readers. The file now contains the first seven chapters of my fantasy novel, An Easterly Sojourn.

What’s the big deal about chapter 7? Why didn’t I write a post after chapter six or five?

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Public Domain Image Courtesy of Pixabay

 

The current draft of An Easterly Sojourn has 28 chapters. Therefore, adding chapter 7 to the manuscript file means that we’re 25% complete. That is to say, if one goes by chapter count rather than words or pages. For me, the sweat beads are lessening. I bragged in a post a couple of weeks ago that this #fantasy novel will be published rather than should be published.

Doesn’t Endless Editing Get Tiresome?

Yes it does. However, there are some short stories to edit as well. The tedium level reduces when you jump between different types of work and I don’t feel stagnated or repetitive. I even switch between projects while #writing as well. Perhaps I’ll put the brakes on after chapter 10 and switch to one of the short singles waiting on the proverbial “back-burner.”

Do you switch between projects? Does working on a single project, whether writing or editing become tiresome after a while?

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Rethinking Some Chapter Titles

For all who read and commented upon my previous post The First Dozen of The First Light, it should come as no surprise that I’ve since renamed chapters 2 & 4. Originally, chapter Two was called “Contemporary Antiquity,” which does fit because it reveals part of the history of Tyrhennia – a history that has ramifications for the current day. Of course, the key word is “part,” and that’s why the title irked me.

I’d love to call the chapter “True Confessions” but alas, that’s the title of a major film from 1981. Horrid thoughts about Robert DeNiro banging on my door and screaming “Are you talkin’ to me” made me drop that idea. I could use the word “Confessions” alone, but it isn’t very descriptive and sort of swipes an ancient title from St. Thomas Aquinas. (Catholic guilt alert) God knows that I don’t want to steal something from a Saint, and have Sister Attila the Nun smack me across the knuckles with a huge wooden ruler.

However, in the chapter, two characters do reveal something important to each other. Therefore, “Mutual Confessions” seems to be the winner.

QM Photo Dennis Hill (Creative Commons License)

I presented Chapter 4 to my critique group this past Saturday, and they all agreed that “The Creeping Shadow” was not a good title. In this chapter we get our first glimpse of the Tenebrae, and learn about how patient they are at implementing their plans.

However, much more is revealed about the personalities of two dark mages, Lamortain and Xymphilia (I think she’s getting a name change as well). They’re twisted, psychotic, and utterly violent. The manner in which their evil is shown within the chapter led a critique reader (Colt) to propose the new title “Lightning and Fire.”  I think I’ll stick with it. Thank you Colt, it’s so good to have author friends.

Do you perform mental gymnastics when creating chapter titles and character names as well?