Tag Archives: How Kim Outlines

Stuff I can’t share . . . and stuff I can

That’s what I’ve been working on for the last two weeks.  Stuff I can’t share.  Despite the popular theory that I LIKE TEASING YOU, (which I sort of do) sometimes it sucks pixy dust to be working on ideas that won’t see the light of day for years.  I’m talking book thirteen here.  🙂 OMGosh, it fell into place yesterday–after two weeks of plotting and a new-to-me plotting technique.

Horrors of horrors, I’ve actually plotted this thing out in a flow chart.  I know some writers use them extensively, but it’s not much use to me yet apart from helping me organize my thoughts, but I do have a new-to-me plotting technique to share, one that I’ve been using lately to help me mesh several diverse story lines into one cohesive plot.  If you’re struggling to organize your thoughts, this might help.

After coming up with the general story line, I write each separate plot down without regard to the other stuff, sort of like mini synopsis.  The elf thread, the magic thread, the relationship thread, the vampire thread.  Each one takes up a page, maybe two.  Then I transfer those ideas (and motivations) to cards, one idea per card. (This is the new thing for me.  Cards.  Sheesh.)  So I end up with about six to fifteen cards per thread.  I work making my card piles for a few days.  Long days.  I take it slow, and do lots of revisions here since I’m still putting the main plot together.  Lots of handwriting, lots of notes.   I do this with each plot thread–several times–and then sit down with my stacks, looking at the first thought in each thread.  And start weaving.  If you do it right, one idea flows into the next, and you don’t forget anything that needs to be included.  I usually break my woven piles down into chapters and days.  The trick is to be loose and free, and don’t rush it!  It took me two weeks.  I fully expect I’ll be doing some changes as I get into the writing, but if I don’t know where I want to go when I start, I can be paralyzed by the feeling of being afraid of wasting my time.

I’ve used cards for each thread now for a couple of books.  Peri needed this kind of organization badly, but I found I liked it so well that I’ve been using it on the Hollows too.  It lets me be convoluted without asking the reader to work too hard.  The flow chart?  I don’t know.  I got to use tape and scissors . . .


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Drop back and punt-NaNo style

I’m not very good at sports analogies, but this one seemed appropriate for my progress on the new book.  I am about at page 60 or so where things should be starting to really roll, the story laid out and moving forward–and as I was looking at my three-page synopsis and writing out the day’s dialog to turn into text, I suddenly realized that my plot had evaporated due to little changes along the way.  This is not unusual.  Let me say that again.  This is not unusual.  It happens enough that I’ve learned not to panic, but just get my clipboard back out and solidify some new goals.

Sometimes, the difference between the writer who finishes a book and the one who has five manuscripts going but nothing done–is decided here.  If you’re one of the latter, take heart that this is not an uncommon issue, nor is it a reflection on your writing skills.  It just means that things have changed and you need to take a day or two and jot down a few goals and rebuild a story to address them.  In my case, I had to reassess and define the issue of the entire book, what the end goal was, and what the complication is.  I then had to go back and brainstorm five things my main character has to do in order to get there.  I also used the addition of a new character to push things into high gear, which worked out wonderfully since he complicates and involves everything wonderfully.  But the main point to this post is that plots fall apart.  The professional does not abandon them, but pushes it all back together and finds the new goal, issue, and complications, and continues on.  Today I should make some good progress and be back where I want to be by Thursday.

And, since I was at my clipboard yesterday, getting very little done on the keyboard, I took the time to change a few names.  If I have to stop and remember my main character’s name repeatedly, I know I’ve chosen the wrong one.  Taylor is out, Peri is in.  For now.  I don’t like names ending in a vowel, but there it is.

Also, the voting for the preliminaries is over at Goodreads and we are two days into the semi finals, but I don’t see any change over at the website.  If you’ve not voted for your favorite in each category, maybe it’s not too late?  Goodreads, choice award, favorite book of 2011


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Okay, now it’s Friday

Yay!  Just Yay!  I’m so glad it’s Friday.  I’m thinking of doing a little light holiday shopping this weekend, and to get me in the mood, it decided to snow.   Just a dusting, but it’s pretty to see it on the roofs.  Not all the leaves are down yet, so it feels more like spring.

Yesterday’s work went pretty good.  That tough chapter is still on my desk, but I got ten pages of dialog down, which should translate into 20 pages of text today if I don’t have a lot of interruptions.  My writing style is constantly evolving, but the “trick” of writing down dialog first to keep myself on track and stave off writer’s block is one of the first things that really helped me move my consistency from five pages a day to twelve.  It’s very much like a free-flow exercise where you open yourself up for new ideas while still keeping the backbone of the story.

Basically all I do is spend about ten minutes jotting down in that big white space at the beginning of a chapter the things I want to get done in the next 15 pages or so.  Then I drop down and spend about three paragraphs to set the scene.  After that, I stop writing in sentences and start writing what I can best describe as a very messy “play”.  Because this version of the chapter only lasts a few hours to days, I don’t even bother separating action from dialog.

T     In dark corner office.  Hears a noise, starts to move after it, use motion to describe athletic body, black clothes.
J     From desk.  Stay in my sight, Taylor.
T     grimace.  I can’t do my job from here.
J     I can’t do my job if you’re not in my sight.  I’m almost done.
T     Ten seconds.  Slips out.  Grins.  Moves through dark outer office, noting things.  See security guard.  Looks at watch.  Swears and backs up.
T     Pads over to desk.  We got an early bird.
J     monitor light glowing up on his face.  There’s more here than Sam told us.
T     Well, shut it down for a sec.  He’s checking doors.  Pad back to the door.

It goes on from there, and when I turned it into text, I got about two pages out of those 8 lines because I had to set the scene and some of the plot as well. But one of the most helpful things to come out of setting up a chapter’s action through dialog is that things can change fast, and usually they follow a more logical path than you originally planned out.  For example, yesterday’s chapter was supposed to keep my main character in the dark about what was really going on until the magic happened, whereupon she finally understood what was going on, and then the bad thing happened that the reader knew was going to happen all along.  But when I started putting down dialog, my character got smart faster, figured it out before the magic happened, yelled a lot, got excited, and reacted much more strongly when the magic happened.  The bad thing still happened, but when it did, she was expecting it, which made it even more heartbreaking, and her not stupid, just unlucky and overpowered.

So there it is.  Now I just have to turn my dialog into text, and I will be able to relax and enjoy my weekend.  There will likely still be changes, but it’s like carving a sculpture.  Chunks, to slices, to slivers, to tiny little shavings, and then the sandpaper!



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Good, solid forward movement on the NaNo book yesterday.  I’ve still not caught up to where I should be on the graph, but seeing as I don’t work on weekends and I missed the first three days.  -shrug-  I’ll be there by the end.  And I’m in no hurry.  The story flows as the story goes.

However, one of my writing-rough-draft tips saved my butt yesterday.  When I write rough draft, I make it a practice to never go back into a chapter I’ve finished, even if I want to make major changes.  What I will do is briefly open the file back up and jot down the changes I want to make in that big white space I always leave at the beginning of the chapter, and then proceed onto the next chapter as if I had made those changes.   Hey, I make things up for a living.  It’s easy to pretend.

This novel is no exception, and as I began my dialog for chapter three late yesterday, I found the few notes I penciled in the day before (for changes I wanted to make in chapter one) were now useless.  After moving forward another step, I found I needed bigger things, such as an additional character, I had to change how someone dies, and I found the way to begin the betrayal I’d already planned on, but in a much stronger, faster way.  Had I taken yesterday and worked my original, now useless, changes in, my word count for the day would have been very near zero, and all for nothing as I have since thrown them out for something better.

Even though I have practice doing this, (making notes of what I want to change and then moving on as if I’d done it) it is hard.  I very much like knowing exactly what I’m working with, especially when it comes to emotion.  But I also know that I’m going to be going over this thing three or four more times, bare minimum.  I can fix it then.  Like Anakin Skywalker’s mom says, “Never look back.”  And to that, I would add on, “Until you reach the end and start over.”  And who knows.  I might get into chapter five and discover that the new person I need in chapter one works better if she’s a woman, or someone that Taylor already knows, or should be two people, or that the one guy really didn’t have to die.  No harm, no foul.  Lots of words on the page mean lots more toys to play with.

Happy NaNoing!



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I call her, Ms. Reed.

I finally got my rewrite of book 11 done on Tuesday, and it’s ready for my editor.  That freed me up tremendously, and with nothing huge scheduled to land on my desk for a while, I can NaNoWriMo!  I’ve often played along, but never officially participated.  This year, I signed up, so if you want to be my writing buddy, I’m there under Kim Harrison with the burning bunny avatar.  I’ve got two buddies the last time I looked, and both of them are leaving me in the dust as far as word count.  I can really see how this can keep you motivated.  I’ve got to get some words down.  Someone help me here . . . do I have to search my current writing buddies out and “buddy” them as well, or is it automatic?

So if  you’ve been to NaNo and seen me there with my paltry 100 words, you will note that I’m working on something not Hollows related.  My editor was not wowed by my offerings this September in terms of possible next-series, and I came up with something new in the interim.  I can understand why she wasn’t roses and candy.  I suck at writing, I excel at rewriting, and much of what I gave her was not what I’d be writing on in the actual series in terms of characters anyway.  I gave her worlds and magic systems, and I’m character driven when it comes down to it.  My schedule has gifted me with time, so I’m dropping back and just writing a damn book–for me.  It might never see the light of day, but I’m up an hour earlier this morning, sitting at my keyboard, dying to get words on paper, so I don’t care.

I got much of my prep work done yesterday, picking out a title (which has changed already), names (most of them are weaving terms), assigning rules to the magic (because without rules you are at a severe disadvantage in what-comes-next), getting the beginnings of character profiles in my thoughts, and writing out a three-page synopsis.  I usually will take a few more days at this point and write out more detailed breakdowns of each chapter, but because it’s so new, I’m going to forgo that this time and begin writing from the synopsis.

The one thing that sticks out in my mind and makes me like this project more than the others I could be working on (besides the last Hollows book) is that my main character is happy with her life and herself.  She is productive, and good at her job, and is in love.  She is, again, the girl next door–before everything falls apart and she has to scramble to figure it out.  I know her issues, and I like her already.

I’m writing the first chapter today, and her name is Taylor, Taylor Reed.


P.S.  Pictures of the event at Nicola’s are up.  They have lots of signed HOLLOWS INSIDERS and will ship.


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NaNoWriMo? Maybe . . .

I burned through the last couple of days of my rewrite, finding out that the last chapter that I was concerned about read better than I thought, so I’m good to go and can actually start writing something new.  Seeing as it’s only the 3rd, I’m going to jump in to NaNo and play along on the sidelines.  🙂  I still have a week or so of plotting to do, but I might be able to catch up.

Today is going to be interesting as I spend most of it at my desk with a pencil and clipboard, writing out things I WANT.  Things I want to see, want to do, want to touch on.  It’s like looking at your box of toys and picking out what you want to play with.  These wants can be as simple as I want to see Jenks kill a bird to as complex as I want to see Jenks fall in love.  (Which he won’t.  We don’t have enough time to show that, but we will see healing, and that’s satisfying, too.)

I’d love to share my I WANT list, but you can understand why I don’t.  -grin-  I take my list of wants, then start tossing them into piles of where and how I can accomplish getting them on the page, which starts to naturally begin to organize everything into places and characters, which then leads to a story itself.  Ahhhh, I miss the days of writing as a pantster.  -laugh-

For those of you who like their voice to be heard, I’ve been made aware of a contest going on over at Goodreads for the best read of 2011.  If you’ve never been over to Goodreads, you seriously need to.  They are an excellent resource on the web for what is out there for your literary consumption.  Pale Demon is in the Best Paranormal Fantasy category, but until the prelims close on the 13th, you can add in your favorite, even if it’s not listed, so go take a look, scroll around, and let your voice be heard!

Goodreads prelim voting for best read of 2011-closes Nov 13

And for you readers who actually get their storytelling fix the original way (by audiobooks) I’ve just updated my website to include links to audio samples of the books that Harper produces.  I have the widgets parked at each individual page at the web site, but here is one so that you know what to look for.  I absolutely love how Ms. Gavin reads the books.  She has truly become the voice of the Hollows.


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Ten! And we have a few teaser pages!

 Tucking my hair back, I squinted at the parchment, trying to form the strange angular letters as smoothly as I could.  The ink glistened wetly, but it wasn’t red ink, it was blood—my blood—which might account for the slight tremble in my hand as I copied the awkward-looking name scripted in characters that weren’t English.  Beside me was a pile of rejects.  If I didn’t get it perfect this time, I’d be bleeding yet again.  God help me.  I was doing a black curse.  In a demon’s kitchen.  On the weekend.  How in hell had I gotten here?

More . . .

I got the all clear from my editor, and the first few pages, (not chapters, sorry) of Black Magic Sanction are up at the website at the books pages.  Enjoy!

I’m chugging along with the last two chapters of book ten, and it’s finishing well, following the path I thought it would with a few surprises.  It’s the last chapter, which I will probably get dialog done today, that will be the most surprising.  This is the one chapter that I don’t plot out until I’m ready to write it.  Because the chapter before is where the crime is solved, the puzzle finished, or the deed finally done, the last chapter is where I take the last bits that have been dangling, and somehow put it all together in a comfy, cozy, coda.  Pizza parties, solstice bonfires, baby showers, family cookouts, and coming home from vacation to find the house stale and quiet are some of my favorite “last chapters.”  Parties, especially, are good ways to get sundry characters who seldome share page space in one spot. 

Besides pulling together characters for one last time (to assure the reader that they are okay) I have to touch on the threads I’ve left dangling so the reader knows I haven’t forgotten them and will pick them up later.  It helps the reader find closure when the story clearly isn’t done.   Emotions, too, must be considered, which made the ending for FDM very hard for me to write.  I like happy endings, and eating cake and crying was the best of a bad situation.

I’m glad to say that I’m back to my happy endings, but Rachel is sort of beat up in this one.  Growing up is hard to do.  (snerk)



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