And on the fifth day of plotting…

If I’m quiet, I’m working. ūüôā And I’ve been quiet! I should have a release date for AMERICAN DEMON for you soon But what’s on my desk is THE RULE. (followup to AMERICAN DEMON) Yep,¬†I’m in full cry, chasing the next Hollows story. A reader¬†recently asked about my plotting process, which has become¬†fairly stable by now,¬†though I admit that every book is built using different tools¬†depending upon how much new magic/new characters/difficult themes/new techniques it has. But rather than tell you how I plot using AMERICA DEMON or THE RULE, and give away a lot of spoilers. (Pike. OMG. Pike.) I dipped¬†back into my files and found a few posts from 2009 that pretty much encompass the process. You can go back a few posts from here to get to the first nitty gritty of how it starts, but today, I’m¬†going to share a post where I’m at about day five in my plotting process. (In a new world/series, this would be about day ten.)

About the only difference between then and now is that I’ve begun using index cards¬†with one sentence plot movement to help me place where¬†certain¬†information becomes known: the red herrings, actual clues to solving the crime, or¬†knowledge of how to build the spell. I’ll have a stack maybe an inch thick when I’m done, divided up by chapters, which I then use to help me structure the one-page chapter¬†synopses. ¬†It helps when I’ve got two or more plot lines going because I can easily move¬†realizations, discoveries, and new-skill¬†attainment around before¬†anything goes on paper.

So here is my original post from 2009, as I worked up THE OUTLAW DEMON WAILS. ¬†I’ve got one more post to share after this concerning my plotting methods, but as always, everyone writes¬†differently,¬†and what works for me might not work for you. Just keep trying things. The only wrong way to write, is to not do it. Oh, and my chapter synopses always change when I begin writing. Always. If they didn’t, I’d get bored. Gotta follow the story where it leads!¬†

It’s about day five of the plotting/outlining stage of the next Hollows book, and I’ve got my 13 page synopsis broken into ten chapters so far.¬† Hopefully I’ll finish the chapter breakdown today, and can start on the actual writing tomorrow.¬† (whoo-hoo!¬† I’ve got to catch up with you guys doing the NaNoWriMo!)

So far, while using my character grid, I’ve found that I’ve got a slow spot, and I moved some things around to quicken it up.¬† I also named a new character, learned a few things about him,¬†and Rachel has told me she likes him better than the guy I thought she’d be interested in.¬† He¬†kind of likes her, too, or maybe he just likes the way she makes him feel.¬†¬†(Be smart, Rachel.) ¬†I’ve also learned what the story is about besides solving the crime and settling the love interest.¬† (By the way, it’s not settled.)¬† What I’m talking about here is the character growth, I suppose.¬† And without character growth, not only would the story be stale, but I’d be bored to tears writing it.

So¬†today,¬†I know what inner demon Rachel is going to slay this book–or at least come to terms with, and can work it in even at this early stage.¬† Previous demons?¬† Trust, adrenaline, her sexuality, independence. ¬† That I’ve realized it this soon is good.¬† Sometimes I don’t see it until the end of the book, which goes to prove that I’m still learning my craft.¬† Thank all that is holy.



Filed under Drama Box

Character Grid

As I begin work on the next Hollows book, THE RULE, I’m sharing my plotting methods. ¬†Today, I’m at day three of my¬†process, which is¬†where my character grid comes into play. It’s ¬†basically a spread¬†sheet that lets me see the entire book at a glance and helps me organize my thoughts. It’s invaluable in a rewrite when I have to insert a¬†snippet of information and am not sure where to logically do it.
The post below is from 2009, but it’s still¬†
accurate. Though a lot of my plotting methods have changed through the years, I still use and keep my character grids for future reference.

For those of you who haven’t been to the drama box in a few days, I’m taking the opportunity of NaNoWriMo and me just starting rough draft to detail out my plotting process.¬† Disclaimer:everyone writes differently, there’s no wrong way to do it.¬† This is what I’ve come up with over the last ten years or so, and what works for me.¬† It’s a process that’s still evolving.¬† Oh, and my word count is still zero.

Yesterday I rewrote my plot to take out the demon plotline and expand two others of crime and love.¬† It made a much more tidy¬†story and I was able to dig deeper into the relationships instead of skimming over them.¬† My one page synopsis turned into a 13 page synopsis, casually broken into maybe-chapters.¬† Today I’m going to begin to break this up into clear chapters so I can better balance the entire work as to pacing, place, and characters.¬† I don’t want to spend too much time in the church, or be moving from place to place in any given chapter.¬† My rule is no more than one scene shift per chapter, and try not to stay in any one place for more than two consecutive chapters.¬† Same thing with characters.¬† Variety¬†keeps the reader interested and the story moving.¬† So to better see the patterns that the story is taking and head off any potential problems, I have come up with a character grid.¬† It’s about the only piece of “software” that I use, and it’s just an Excel spreadsheet that I’ve modified¬†to my needs.¬† Here’s the one I used for ODW.

Characters are down the side, the locations of the scene are on the top, and the action is at the bottom.  (this is an early version, so it might not dovetail perfectly into the published book) The color shift is an indication of a change in day (which can be seen by the dates) and the chapter numbers are under that.  The Xs are when a character is an a chapter, and sometimes I use an O to indicate that they are in the chapter by way of phone or scrying mirror.  I usually have the month and day the book takes place in across the top, and the sunrise and set and average temps at the bottom,

My character grid is¬†how I first realized that Jenks was in almost every chapter in the earlier books, and I’ve become better at getting him out so other characters can shine.¬† It’s also how I know if I have a character who is needed for a crucial¬†scene, and yet is not introduced anywhere until that scene.¬† Very bad.¬† Same thing with the bad guys.¬† I try to have them show up early, and then at least one more time before the end.¬† Another rule of thumb is don’t introduce too many characters in the same scene, even if they are returning characters.¬† I like to have only two at the most, and will break a chapter just to avoid this.

A character grid of some sort is¬†also a great way to make sure that your male to female ratio isn’t wildly out of balance.¬† Mine usually slant to the male end of the ratio, but since Rachel is female it works out.¬† Oh, and when you go to rewrite and need to add something that¬†revolves around a character, it’s really easy to go the grid, see where they are, and place your clue instead of spending an hour thumbing through the file and guessing where to put it is.

Tomorrow, after I break this monster into chapters, I’ll let you know what balance issues¬†I encountered and nipped in the bud, but for now, I’ve not a clue as to what problems the manuscript has.¬† I can’t wait!



Filed under Drama Box

Day Two Of The Plotting

I’m sharing my outlining process this week, thanks to just having finished outlining THE RULE, (sequel to AMERICAN DEMON, out in 2020) and a curious reader. Friday I gave you my bare bones of how I start with a list of “I wants” to do a very rough plot plan of two or three threads, as well as figure out which characters will be the most useful in reaching my goals. It takes a day for me to do this if I’m working in the Hollows. If it’s a new world, it can take a week, or even two if I’m developing all new characters, magic systems, and mythologies/species.

Below is the beginning of step two of my process. It’s a reposting of several years ago when I was¬†working on book ten or so, but not much has changed.

Friday was the second day of my plotting out of the next Hollows book, and still no words on the screen, but I’ve plenty of notes, so all you people taking part in NaNoWriMo, be assured that you are way ahead of me.¬† At this rate, I will be hard pressed to meet your 175 page count by the end of the month.¬† And I still have a few days of plotting before I can begin.¬† So what am I spending my time on?

Well . . .¬† I took my six pages of notes from Thursday and wrote up a¬†free-flowing, one-sentence brainstorming list of “ways to start” and a list of ¬†“ways to end.”¬† I still don’t¬†have a good way to start the book, and I won’t until I have the end, but my goal is to have in the first five pages the hint of the problem that is settled in the last so to make a full circle.¬† I’m more successful at this some times than others, but if you break¬†the stories apart, it’s there.¬† By the way, I found the ending by the time I turned my office light off.¬† Damn.¬† This is going to be a fun one to write.¬† As usual, Tim helped with finding the kicker.

I then wrote out a¬†handwritten, ten-page summary¬†of the book, starting at the beginning and going all the way to the end, saying who died, who got jailed, and who got pregnant.¬† No, none of those things happened, but you get¬†the idea.¬† Some might say it’s a waste of time, but I just saved myself three to six weeks of grief as I realized that my original three plots of demons, love, and crime were taking up too much page count and there were too many characters.¬† My solution?¬† Get rid of the demon story line for this book, much as I love it. (It will show up in the next book where it belongs)

After some thought, I realized that¬†the story¬†would work that much better with some new limitations that no-demons engenders.¬† Now I can expand on the other two story¬†lines and bring in some secondary characters that I’d have had to skimp on.¬† I’m going to miss Al, but let’s hope it’s absence makes the heart grow fonder rather than out of sight, out of mind. . .¬†¬† Today, I’ll rewrite my 10 page summary and maybe start on some more detailed chapter outlines to be sure I’ve not forgotten some bit of logic and to nail down the character lineup.


Leave a comment

Filed under Drama Box

Writing starts with “I want”

Wendee asked me if I might detail out my outline process, seeing as I’d just finished prepping THE RULE for some serious keyboard time and I was happy dancing online about it. I thought it was a great idea, so I went back into my old¬†Wordpress files, and found where I’d already done it! Not much has changed in the last nine years as far as my process goes. I’ve trimmed some things out, and added a new¬†tools in my toolbox. I’m just going to drop my old post here, and maybe add a few notes as to what’s changed in the preface.

I decided to detail out THE OUTLAW DEMON WAILS to help reduce spoilers, but if you’ve not read it . . . well . . .¬†there it is.

Even now, I still start each book with a list of “I want to see,” but by this point, much of my list is things that stem from the previous books, things that rise from Rachel’s actions as she tries to make her world a better place for everyone, not just herself.

I’ll have the next step¬†for you on Monday, but for now, here is how I begin my plotting:

So, it’s NaNoWriMo, and though I’m not taking part, I am just starting a rough draft of book ten and thought it might be cool to detail out what I do as some of you are scrambling for page count.¬† Mine is zero right now.¬† I’m way behind.¬† I just finished the last of my personal rewrites on book nine.¬† (insert wild happy author dance here) and am ready to rip into the next, so what do I do first?¬† (disclaimer:everyone writes differently.¬† I’ve been developing my writing style for over a decade, and this is what works for me.¬† There’s no wrong way to do it as long as you’re making progress.)

I want. . .

That’s what it’s all about at this point for me.¬† What do I want to see or accomplish in this 500 page monster.¬† So today I’ll be sitting down with about ten sheets of paper and a pencil.¬† No keyboard for about a week or so.¬† I’m going to go over what I just finished and where I want to be in about three books from now.¬† I try to write¬†down the gottas for story movement, and even some fun things that make the story interesting.

Since I’m not going to share with you my want list for book ten, I scrounged up my want list for THE OUTLAW DEMON WAILS.¬† (Yes, I keep everything)¬† So don’t read if you don’t want spoilers.

Set around Halloween–cause I want to know how¬†Inderlanders celebrate it.

Matalina dies, Rachel does black magic¬†to save Jenks¬† –Obviously this didn’t happen.¬† The pixy just won’t die.¬† (laugh)

Marshal out of the books, and Pierce starts moving in.¬† (no sex).¬† —¬† This one I managed.

Rachel bites Ivy?¬† Maybe work the demons in this way with a spell or charm?¬† —¬† again, this one didn’t make the cut as it’s written, but it still might be used in a later book.¬† Don’t know yet.

Find out Art killed Kisten and bound Rachel.¬† —¬† Okay.¬† Art did kill Kisten, but it wasn’t good for the story if Rachel had been bound.¬† But man, it make for good character development when she realized how close she came to it.¬† Positive, positive.

Work in more demon culture¬† At least one night with Al¬† —¬† Questionable success here.¬† Work in progress.¬† Oh, and one night with Al doesn’t necessarily mean sex.¬† If I mean sex, it will say sex.¬† (grin)

Robbie comes back to Cincy to take Mom to West Coast to reduce Rachel’s strengths.¬† yeah.¬† That kind of happened.

Ford finds Pierce when trying to recover Rachel’s memory.¬† –That one came though pretty much intact.

Oh, and the main story line fits in there as something like, work with a new species.  Banshees?  Use them to touch on auras more.

And there it is.  Not a lot of detail on the structure or the plot, just wants

Then I wrote up a page on what’s going to limit Rachel in this book:¬† Winter, so Jenks is curtailed, Robbie takes mom, Trent not going to help, David¬†on a retreat, Witches won’t sell to her.

Another page was reminders:  Trent still not trusting her, Lee-low profile, David and Weres are happy, Ivy, Cormel, and vamps not happy, FIB is worried, the IS is in with the vamps, the coven is watching her, Nick is unknown, Ceri is four months preggers, and Al knows about Pierce.

From that, I can sort of decide who is going to be in the books, but I just keep it in the back of my head at this point.

So for me, it starts with “I want” and a whole lot of time with my pencil.


Leave a comment

Filed under Drama Box

Quiet doesn’t mean nothing’s going on

Hi all.

I’ve been shunning my social obligations lately because, well, how many pictures of birds and plants can you take? But I’ve been busy. Very busy–keeping my mouth shut.

It’s shut no more. After spending a nice chunk of time cleansing my writing palette and playing with a few new-to-me writing techniques, I’m officially back writing the Hollows. AMERICAN DEMON, the next Rachel and Trent book that follows right after THE WITCH WITH NO NAME–has ¬†found a home, and a rough publishing date.

(insert wild-Snoopy-dance here)

I am tickled to be back working with Anne Sowards at ACE, which is where and who I got my start with the Truth and Princess series. ¬†I couldn’t be more pleased.

You guys are going to love this.



Filed under Drama Box

PERfunctory afFECTION shipping, and almost gone

Hi all.

I’m just about in happy tears this morning after an email from my publisher at Subterranean Press. Perfection is at the warehouse and being shipped out as fast as it’s coming in. They have retained about 100 of the signed and numbered hard covers, but the e-book is now available, and the audio as well. So if you are one to wait, or know someone who is interested, please let them know.

But the tears? That’s because of you guys. I can’t tell you thanks enough for giving this experiment of mine a fair shake. I love the Hollows, and I’m eager to return to it, but only because I was able to play in a couple of different worlds for a while, stretch my thoughts, explore a new way to write. So thank you. Your support as I try to grow as a writer is humbling. I’m not active on my social sites anymore due to family issues, but knowing you are still there is gratifying. (Tim and I are fine. It’s just life.)

On a more personal note, I haven’t looked at reviews in a long time, but I will admit I peeked last night before turning my bedside lamp off with a pleased snap. They are mixed, really mixed, for one of my usual releases, but I’m not unhappy.

Meg’s story is not for everyone, and I knew that going in. One of my goals with Perfection was to craft something that could be interpreted two ways depending upon your expectations, or even your desires. It’s not a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure, but I tried to balance it so how you interpret the ending is up to you.

Those early reviews seem to be saying just that, and as a writer, it’s good to know you’ve accomplished your goals–even if that means one- and two-star reviews. (wink)

Feels good. Really good.

Happy sigh as I return to work.


Subterranean’s signed and numbered hard cover

e-book: Go to Subterranean for links to all major retailers.




Filed under Drama Box

e-book price drop, pass it on!

Two of the Hollows titles are on sale right now for 1.99, e-book format. It’s a good chance to make a late gift to the Hollows addict on your list, or even for yourself if you are trying to round out your e-library. And please pass the word!

The Witch With No Name: Nook. Kindle

White Witch, Black Curse: Nook Kindle

But while I was looking through my archives for a past post I could easily modify to tell you about the sale, I found this little gem from 2015. It was during an unusual -30 cold snap that seemed to last all winter. When it gets that cold, the mind wanders, and the poet in me claws its way out.

The Breaking of Silence

Kim Harrison, February, 2015

I was awake early this morning, long before the sun came up. It gave me an almost singular chance to sit in my office and drink a cup of cocoa and witness the breaking of silence. There was no wind, eerily still with no sun to push even molecules into motion, no birds to mar the perfect beauty of temperature gradient slices of air so defined you could breathe them in like flavors of ice cream. Too desiccated for clouds, only the black bare branches mark the subtle shadings from apex black, to blue, to a hint of watery pink at the horizon. Definition comes from what lacked, not substance itself.

A foot of Sandman‚Äôs sleep lays upon the world, the swollen, ugly red of sun devoid of even a whisper of warmth as the earth rolls in its gravity track and pushes it up through the bands of cream and blue‚Äďrainbows so stretched and thin that their color can‚Äôt be seen.

It is so cold my attic is cracking.


Filed under Drama Box