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How Our Pets Help Us Write

How Our Pets Help Us Write

As writers, we often spend our time alone with our imagination – which is wonderful, don’t get me wrong – but every now and then it helps to talk to a living, breathing being. And yes, I mean our pets.

As I’m typing this, my dog is sleeping next to me. She’s snoring so loudly, I’m longing for a nap of my own. This might be a case where she’s not actually helping me improve my productivity…

My dog has listened to me go off on angry spiels about the terrible thing my characters are doing to each other and excited a-ha moments that leave her wagging her tail and hoping for a treat. (For the record, I do sometimes reward my dog with a treat when I make a major breakthrough because she helped me get there with her patient listening and well-timed snuggles.)

Talking through plot problems out loud can be a huge help. Or sometimes when I’m feeling stuck, I serenade my dog with my made-up song, “What Should I Write Next?” She usually only lasts through the first verse before seeking shelter in a quieter part of the house.

Do you have a pet? Does your pet help or hinder your productivity? Share in the comments below!

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!

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