Back to Basics for Writers – Plotter or Pantser?

by Tammy Trail

You might be a PLOTTER if you have ever wondered if you should be more organized with your writing. Plotting is a systematic way of putting your story thoughts together. You might decide to do it by scene or chapter. You will need to know what each character’s goal, motivation and conflict are for each scene. This system may require you to write an outline of your story idea.

A writer friend showed me one method when I first started working on my story. You simply take 3 X 5 index cards and write each chapter idea on a card until you have each chapter worked out for the whole book. If you’re writing romance, a suggestion with this method is using different colored index cards for your hero and heroine. For instance, pink index cards for the heroine and blue for the hero. Using index cards gives you an opportunity to change the cards around to rearrange your chapters, or change the time frame of your inciting incident.

There are many different plotting systems you can find with the help of the internet. I have read the “Plot Skeleton”, by Angela Hunt. Randy Ingermason has a Snowflake system that you can purchase from his website. Scrivener is a downloadable system that helps organize your story and allows you to keep your notes, pictures, outline, and your manuscript all in one place. This is also a great tool if you decide to self-publish your novel.

Some writers may consider themselves ‘free spirits”, and refuse to use any kind of plotting system because it stifles the creative flow. This is the PANTSER method – you fly by the seat of your pants. I started out with an idea for a story with no formal plotting method I imagined my heroine’s appearance, her personality and motivation. Then I created a life for her in the 18th century that I incorporated into a story.

My initial first chapter is now my third chapter, and I finished the book just shy of 70,000 words. When I began to edit my story, I found plot holes; places where my story lost connection and became a dead end. Now that I’ve had time to think about my story, I’ve written a whole different first chapter. Sounds a little crazy, huh?

Well, admittedly I am flustered with the complete process. Do I feel that I’ve wasted my time? Not a bit. I have learned a lot from this first draft. I went back to my index cards and began to look at them in a whole different light. I began to fix plot holes, and really think about deep point of view for my main characters. It’s still a work in progress.

Whichever method you choose, neither is wrong as long as you write the story. I haven’t given myself a label. I guess I’m just a bit of a rogue. I love my characters and the journey I envision for them. One day soon I hope to call myself a published author. I’m still learning through my own journey. How about you?

Writing Prompt:  Tracy pushed the off button on the remote just as the first clap of thunder shook her little house. She went to the kitchen to retrieve her flashlight; storms and electricity didn’t get along in her small town. The flashlight was forgotten when she heard a  rattle at her back door. She watched in awe as the doorknob shook violently from left to right. Then the lights went out.

Click to Tweet: So you want to #write. Back to Basics – Plotter or Pantser?

Back to Basics: Types of Classes for Writers

By Jennifer Hallmark

So you want to be a writer. You’ve heard the stories about writer’s block, low pay, long hours, little feedback on blogs, and book sales you can count on your fingers. But you aren’t deterred and excited about your future anyway.

My number one piece of advice?

Learn. Study the craft. Dissect books and movies. Gain knowledge on publishing, editing, and your computer. Immerse yourself in what goes on in the writing world.

There are many classes you can find in schools, groups, and on the Internet about the basics of writing, advanced courses on the craft, and all about publishing, marketing, and online ventures. I’ll make a list below. It’s by no means exhaustive, but I’ve learned a lot with a smaller amount of money than you’d think.

Education-If you’re still in school, there are high school writing courses. College offers writing classes and majors such as professional writing, technical writing, journalism, business writing, creative writing, publishing, and communications. You can also find community education classes through your local Board of Education or college. Many of these run for six weeks or so and can jump-start your career. My adventure in writing began with a six-week writing course at our local Board of Education.

Blogs and/or Websites-For years, I’ve followed blogs and websites that teach an aspect of writing I’d like to study. For social media, I go to Edie Melson’s The Write Conversation.  I read and write for the Southern Writers Magazine author’s blog. The Write Life is helpful for freelance writers. I also follow the Positive Writers and here’s their list of the top writing blogs in 2017. Check them out for the ones that can help you.

Conferences-I love to attend writing conferences to learn, network, and just hang out with other like-minded people. Workshops are offered as one-time learning experiences.

Practicums are smaller classes with hands-on experience offered. Continuing classes are usually a series of studies held throughout the conference where each day expands more on the topic of study.

Writer’s Groups-I belong to two types of writer’s groups. One meets in person monthly, the other is online. I enjoy each group for different reasons. Beside local groups, here are a few national ones: ACFW, RWA,  Word Weavers, and Poets.org.

Writing Coaches or Mentors-During my twelve-year career, I have had some wonderful people mentor me. It’s great to have someone show you the ropes to avoid the pitfalls you can find in writing. Writing coaches can also be helpful, but it’s easy to pay too much with little improvement to someone who says they can help. Research coaches and mentors, looking for testimonials from people or groups you know.

I hope this quick overview of classes will help you find your way through the maze that is a writing career. Come back and visit our blog throughout the year to read about first-hand experiences in writing, marketing, social media, and other subjects of interest.

Click to tweet: My number one piece of advice for writers? Learn. Study the craft. Immerse yourself in what goes on in the writing world. @InspiredPrompt #amwriting #writing

Maze

Remember: Here at the Inspired Prompt blog, our goal is to educate and inform writers, with an emphasis on new and Indie writers. We offer clear, basic information in four areas: how-to, marketing, encouragement, and our “signature” prompts, thoughts, and ideas. We hope to inspire writers/authors to reach for and attain their personal best.

We want to see you have a “significant” career in what you love to do…

WRITE.

Writing Prompt: Sue stopped in front of the cold, metal door and took a deep breath. Her first class and…

  

 

Is There Room For Indie Publishing?

By Tammy Trail

The traditional publishing road reminds me in many ways of a dark alley without street lamps. At the end of the block is a shining orb of illumination where an author’s dreams are fulfilled. On that road to publication are potholes of promises not kept. Deep ruts of relentless proposals, and query letters with rejection notices. Like weeds on each side of the road killing off blossoms of hope for a book with your name on it. With this kind of image in mind, it is no small wonder that many wordsmiths are looking at other avenues of success, namely Indie Publishing.

I first thought this was also referred to as Self-Publishing. The more I researched, I found that this is not the case. Self-Publishing is hiring a publisher or press to pay to see your book in print. This is a risky business at best. Some works of print may not be edited well, have unattractive typesetting, and cost way more than it ought to for the privilege. A promise of marketing your book may be just getting it on a list for availability for wholesale before it reaches your local bookstore.

And then there is Amazon. Now granted, I have found no evidence in my research of plagiarized books in the Christian fiction market, but it has happened in other genres. We know how much of a creative toll our works of art take on us. The hours spent developing characters, plotting, and eye strain from spending time in front of a  computer is an investment. Then some unscrupulous, lazy writer comes along and steals your work. Not only do they steal it, they make money from your idea. One author confronted her attacker in an email. The thief apologized. With this apology email, the original author took their evidence to Amazon to demand her earnings. Others have not been so lucky. In Amazon’s defense, they now have a team of folks who watch for plagiarized material.Writers' Resolutions for 2017 by Karen Jurgens

Traditionally published authors didn’t like the idea of self-publishing either. It mocked the literary social norm. To be honest, some of those who flocked to get published quickly just want a book out there with their name on it. These works were flawed and set a bad example for a fledgling writer. They cheapened the hard work of big name authors. It has improved. More writers who follow this path are taking the time to pay for a good editor, realizing a good product produces better results.

Now Indie Publishing has once again rocked the boat. They have cut out the middle man, and all the bumps in the road by doing it all for themselves. From written word, to editing, typesetting, cover design and marketing. Is there a downside to this? I would imagine it takes a lot of time from blank page to whole book. Some would argue that if you honed your skills a bit and studied the craft more, a traditional publisher would eventually buy your book. On the other hand, there are writing styles and genre that the traditional publishers won’t even look at, and that is frustrating. Controlling your own piece of work without worry of what percentage of the profits will line your pockets is an incentive too.

As an Indie Published author, you are the product. You are the company that invests, markets, and gains the profit from your own written works. I don’t really see a downside to that, except that maybe all the middle man stuff could take away from the creative aspect of your work. Perhaps there is someone out there that has managed to do this well enough to teach the rest?

Time will tell.

Click to tweet: Indie publishing has once again rocked the boat. #IndiePub #amwriting

Writing prompt: Sally received another rejection letter. Crumpling it into a ball she vowed to…………

Five Reasons Why You Should Attend a Writer’s Conference

By Jennifer Hallmarkpen-994464_1280

It’s August and we, at the Writing Prompts blog, are dedicating the whole month to writer’s conferences. I’ve attended several, and they’ve made a major difference in moving my writing from hobby to serious vocation.

We’ll be sharing our own experiences this month about some of the different conferences we’ve attended, both large and small. You’ll see what you can expect if you’re trying to decide whether or not to take this big leap of faith. What goes on there? What do people wear? Whom can I meet? What if I don’t have a clue about what I need to do? Hopefully, we’ll answer these questions and more. So stick around and learn a little more about the place where writers go to connect with others, celebrate accomplishments, attend classes, challenge ourselves, and conquer fears and doubts about their personal writing journey…

What are five specific reasons to attend a writer’s conference?

  • Connect-Writers tend to work alone so connection with other writers is always a positive. I’ve made some wonderful friends at these meetings and enjoyed talking shop. And don’t forget about meeting editors, agents, and publishers. I like to discuss current trends in the industry and if I have an article, short story, or novel ready, to pitch my idea.
  • Celebrate-At most conferences, there is some type of writing contest. It’s a good place to enter your work and celebrate victory if you’re chosen. It’s equally important to celebrate with others for their achievements. I always buy a few books and chat about good news with other like-minded people.
  • Classes- And don’t forget all the classes and workshops offered to strengthen your writerly skills, learn about marketing and current trends, and just be encouraged to keep going a little bit longer. I can’t tell you how many times I felt like giving up, only to attend a class that filled up my depleted soul.
  • Challenge-As an introvert, conferences are extremely challenging, and that’s the main reason I try to go as often as possible. I need to be stretched and take chances if I plan on writing material that will lift up, build up, and stir up the people that God wants to reach through me. I also make sure to schedule appointments, though I’m usually shaking and sweating by the time I make it to their table. I keep finding out that people really are nice at these conferences.  🙂
  • Conquer-By the time a conference is over, I’m tired and overloaded with new information. I’ve exchanged business cards with numerous people and usually have arranged with at least one editor or agent to send a query or proposal. I load everything back in my car and release a giant sigh as I drive away. Once again, God has helped me to put most of my anxiety and uncertainty aside so I could enjoy and benefit from another conference. I’ve conquered, and there is no better feeling when I make it home and rest a day or so before going back over all that I’d learned.

 

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Betty and Jennifer at the Atlanta Christian Writers Conference

Below I’ll list a few of the ones that you can attend in the upcoming months. I would encourage you to schedule one of these conferences to visit in the future. You’ll be glad you did…

Aug 3 – 6, 2016: Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference  (Langhorne PA)

Aug. 12-14, 2016: Writer’s Digest Conference East (New York, NY)

August 15-18, 2016: Oregon Christian Writers Summer Conference

Aug. 1820, 2016: Atlanta Christian Writer’s Conference

Aug. 20, 2016: Toronto Writing Workshop

Aug. 25-28, 2016:  American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) annual conference, Nashville, Tenn.

Sept. 9, 2016: Sacramento Writers Conference (Sacramento, CA)

Sept. 10, 2016: Writing Workshop of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)

Oct. 7 &8, 2016: The Tenth Annual Breathe Christian Writers Conference (Grand Rapids, MI)

Nov. 5-6, 2016: Show Me Writers Masterclass (Columbia, MO)

Nov. 19, 2016: Las Vegas Writing Workshop (Las Vegas, NV)

Feb. 17-19, 2017: The Asheville Christian Writers Conference – Writers Boot camp (Asheville NC.)

Feb. 22-26: Florida Christian Writers Conference (Leesburg, FL.)

Feb. 26 – March 3, 2017: Writers Winter Escape Cruise (departs Miami, FL)

Writing Prompt: Deanna placed her hand on the door knob, biting her lips. Her first class at her first writing conference. What was she thinking when she signed up? Too late to back out now. She turned the knob…

3 Questions Wednesday with Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

Angela AckermanIt is my privilege to welcome Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi to our blog. These ladies have written many books that help other writers. In previous interviews this year, their book, The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression is mentioned more than any other. . .Becca2

Hello, ladies! I’m so excited you’re here because I love The Emotion Thesaurus. 

Please let our readers know what books have fortified you as a writer? How?

Angela: I have read many great writing books; in fact, Becca and I once spent an entire year studying different craft books together so we could talk through the lessons and make sure we’d absorbed them correctly. Some of my favorites have been Writing Screenplays that Sell (Hauge), Writing The Breakout Novel & Writing 21st Century Fiction (Maass), Save The Cat (Snyder) and Description (Wood). You can find the links to these and more favorites here.

I’m actually reading Writing The Breakout Novel and it’s great. Thanks for providing the links for the books!

Becca: Certain books stand out as being instrumental throughout my writing journey. Self-Editing for Fiction Writers (Browne and King) was huge in helping me hone in on the various parts of my writing that needed work. Save the Cat (Snyder) and Structuring Your Novel (KM Weiland) gave me a crash course on story structure. Writing Screenplays that Sell (Hauge) cleared up a lot of my confusion over character arc.

I love Self-Editing for Fiction Writers too. It was such a help to me…

What secret talents do you have?

Angela: Hmmm. I don’t know if I have any stand-out talents, but I know my way around a kitchen, I am a creative thinker and problem-solver, and I would say I am probably pathologically helpful, haha!

Helpful is always good 🙂

Becca: Secret talents? Let’s see…I taught myself to type at the age of 9 and type about 100 words a minute. That’s helpful. I’m pretty good at getting out of speeding tickets, though I admit to not knowing exactly how this happens. Also, I don’t want to brag, but I’m kind of awesome at Plants vs. Zombies.

Plants vs. Zombies, huh? Haven’t tried that one. I’m more of a Candy Crush girl. 🙂

If we came to your house for dinner, what would you prepare for us?

AngelaBourbon Pecan Chicken, roasted potatoes, strawberry salad, and for dessert, Sticky Toffee Pudding Cake. Or, I’d do a big fondue dinner, because those are just so much fun. 🙂

Wow. I’ll have to add that cake recipe to my “to do” list…

BeccaBluegrass chicken. Bacon, sour cream…It’s the most fattening meal on the planet, which is why it’s SO GOOD. And chocolate cake for dessert. Because there must be dessert.

Yum! And yes, dessert is essential…

Thanks so much for dropping by, Angela and Becca! 


 

new thesaurusThe Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces

The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Personal and Natural Places

As far as story elements go, the setting is one of the most necessary, yet it’s often underutilized by writers. Together, The Urban Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to City Spaces and The Rural Setting Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Personal and Natural Places can help authors create stronger, more powerful descriptions by showing how multisensory details can draw readers in and enhance the story. More than a simple backdrop, the setting can also be used to establish mood, steer the story, foreshadow, and build tension. Through their sensory exploration of over 200 city, natural, and personal settings, these books will help writers create realistic, textured worlds that readers will want to return to long after the book ends.


Angela AckermanAngela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi are Becca2bestselling authors, writing coaches, and international speakers. Their books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world.Angela and Becca also co-founded their popular Writers Helping Writers site, a hub where authors can hone their craft, as well as One Stop for Writers, an innovative online library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.

If you like, stop by between June 13-20th and Rock The Vault to win some amazing prizes as Angela and Becca celebrate the release of two new books, The Urban Setting Thesaurus and The Rural Setting Thesaurus.