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How to Keep Your Novel Notes Neat!

How to Keep Your Novel Notes Neat!

(and no, it’s not with sticky notes)

Let me start by saying, I really do love sticky notes.  I use them all the time for notes, plotting, and random doodles.  At this very moment, my office space is covered with colorful reminders courtesy of sticky notes.  

But as I edited book 2 (A Slice of Christmas Magic, coming out later this year, eeek) I discovered a new helpful tool – spreadsheets.  

I originally wrote the first two book in the Magic Pie Shop series in quick succession.  The details of the characters and the setting stayed (mostly) clear in my mind. Then there was a gap between the time they went off to my editor and the time I was editing them, and some of those details I thought I’d never forget had faded.  

I started making notes.  Notes on my outline, notes on my characters.  What color were Lena’s eyes again? How many tables did the pie shop have?  

These notes got lost in pages of a notebook and sticky notes that fell off the wall, and I still struggled to find the information I was looking for.  Then even when I did find it, I sometimes struggled to read my own handwriting. Does anyone else have handwriting that’s really neat when you’re focused, but looks like a full on toddler’s scribble fest when you get excited and write quickly?  I knew I had to try something different.

I started keeping track on a spreadsheet.  

Not only were my notes legible, but I could also cut and paste lines directly from the manuscript.  I kept separate tabs for the main characters, supporting characters, and settings.

The plot tab was really helpful – especially when editing.  I put each chapter in its own column and filled each cell in the column with scene notes.  I was able to see where additional scenes would work. Then I highlighted the added scenes so I would know that I still had to write them.  

If I were to do it again, I would start a spreadsheet as soon as I began writing book 1.  It would have definitely saved me some time. I’m always exploring different writing techniques so I can figure out what process works best for me (check out my post 5 Ways to Get Unstuck in Your Writing), and keeping notes on a spreadsheet is something I highly recommend – especially if you’re writing a series.  

Do you keep notes when you write?  Where do you keep them – notebooks, sticky notes, chalkboards, spreadsheets, somewhere else?  Share in the comments below!

Writing Magic

Writing Magic

Writing about magic is, well, magical – but it’s not always easy.  As a child, I lived in an enchanted world full of fairies and elves (see my previous video on Magical Memories).  In my books, I’m trying to capture the mysterious thrill and excitement that magic can bring to the table.

Here are a couple of the struggles I’ve faced when writing magic.

How do you balance reality and magic?

People want you to prove that magic exists (at least within your book), but how much proof is enough?  How do you draw people in and help them put their own realities aside?

As a kid, I was always looking for confirmation of magical things.  I wrote letters to Santa asking him for proof he existed so I could quiet the questions in my mind (and silence my non-believing friends).  He responded by leaving me a reindeer hoof print on the back of a piece of paper. Later I learned this magical piece of evidence was created by using the heel of one of my dad’s dirty shoes, but it satisfied my curiosity for a bit.  

For me, I’m always seeking a balance between reality and just enough sparkle and magic that they think to themselves “Maybe, just maybe…”    

How do you keep magic from being the remedy to EVERY problem?

As I was writing A Slice of Magic, I would create a problem and build a whole scene around it before realizing the characters could easily solve it with magic.  When your characters can magic away every single problem, there’s no conflict. I struggled with the question – what are the limitations? There has to be someone or something that gets in the way of these magical solutions.  

There are many different ways you can limit magic.  

You can make it a skill that has to be learned.  Is your charactertrying to fill up their cup of coffee from their armchair or trying to keep bad guys from breaking down the back door?  Maybe they haven’t learned the spell yet. Maybe the spell they try goes wrong which could lead to disastrous (or possibly hilarious) results.

Maybe they need a specific item to perform magic – A wand?  A ring? A book? What if they lose that item? How will they find it?  Does it get destroyed? Can they do any magic at all without it? Can they find a new magical item before it’s too late?

How about you?  Do you write about magic?  Have you faced problems that can’t be fixed with a pinch of fairy dust?  Please share in the comments!

5 Ways To Get Unstuck In Your Writing

5 Ways To Get Unstuck In Your Writing

Do you ever have one of those days where no matter how hard you try, the words just don’t come? Maybe you’ve discovered a major plot hole and don’t know how to fix it. Maybe your characters are refusing to talk to you. Maybe you haven’t been getting enough sleep and your brain is working in slow motion, but you have a deadline approaching. Here’s some of my favorite ways to break through when I just feel stuck.

1. Make notes by hand.

If you’re like me, you do most of your writing on the computer. Whenever I get stuck, I love pulling out a blank sheet of paper and jotting down ideas by hand. I don’t know if it’s the ability to make doodles around the edges or if it’s just the enjoyment of holding a good pen, but it often unleashes creativity that gets stuck when I sit at the computer too long.

 

2. Talk to yourself.

I talk to myself. Like a lot. I’ve found the best place to do this is in the car. There’s something about hearing ideas out loud and talking through them. I have whole in-depth conversations working out plot points and generating new ideas.

 

3. Talk to your characters.

Along the same lines, pretend your characters are in the car with you, or in your kitchen, or surrounding your writing desk, or wherever you’re having your conversations with yourself. Ask them what they want to do next. Sometimes their answers will surprise you. Sometimes they’ll tell you what they want to do next, and it will give you the idea to do the exact opposite. Just remember, if you’re doing this at home and you don’t live alone, this step can lead to a lot of, “I’m not talking to you, I’m talking to my characters,” conversations.

 

4. Take a break.

Everyone, this is a risky one to try. It’s probably best to set a timer. Maybe 15-20 minutes. I’ve gotten up for “short” breaks before and suddenly it’s five hours later because I realized the great importance of dusting the back of every drawer in the house. I’ve recently found a new trick. My husband got a rowing machine. If I tell myself I can take a break only to use the rowing machine, I’m guaranteed to limit my breaks to 5-10 minutes (or less, if we’re being honest) because that thing is hard! After I use it, muscles I didn’t even know I had are sore. But stepping away from your writing, even for a few minutes can reset our minds.

 

5. Make a list of 10 things that can happen next.

Whatever you do, don’t overthink this one. Grab a blank piece of paper (Or sticky notes. I love sticky notes!) and make a list of 10 things. They could be things that could happen next. Maybe it seems really far fetched. A long lost sister returns? But maybe that will turn into a major plot twist in your story. Maybe you list some items that could appear in the story. An old red stocking hat? A 20 year old TV Guide? Maybe the ideas will sit on the list until the next book, or maybe they’ll sit on the list forever. But it’s a great way to get your mind open and free. Just make sure you don’t edit yourself while you make the list!

What are your favorite things to do when you feel stuck? Please share in the comments below!

Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog!

Hello, everyone!  I’m so excited to begin blogging.  I’ve had this idea bouncing around in my head for awhile, but I wasn’t sure where to begin.  I finally stopped making excuses and jumped in.

I’m going to post a lot about writing. My first book is out, and I’m working on another. Writing has been (and continues to be) an exciting and emotional journey. I’ve learned a lot along the way, and I still have so much more to learn. I will be sharing those bursts of inspiration and information here!

I also spend a lot of time thinking about baking (mostly pies, of course). I’d like to learn to bake beautiful, delicious pies. Watch my trials and errors as I make a mess of the kitchen. And please, share your baking tips!

Of course, I can’t forget about the magic. Maybe you know what I’m talking about? The beauty in everyday life that makes you hold your breath a believe? I’ll share these moments in my life, and I hope to hear about your magical moments too!

I hope you enjoy the blog, and I look forward to meeting you!

 

 

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