Tag Archives: How Kim Outlines

Last day to send me your costume pictures

Today, midnight EST is the cut off to send Guy your Halloween pictures.  I’ll have the winners for  you on Monday!  Group winners get signed cover flats, and grand winner gets an ARC of BLACK MAGIC SANCTION!  I’ve got all the pictures up now, so if you don’t see yourself there and you sent me a picture, send it again.  😉  Rules and how to submit are at the website.

For those who have been participating in NaNoWriMo, I finally have page count!  If you’ve not been to the drama box recently, I began plotting out the next Hollows book the first of the month.  (explained in previous posts in excruciating detail.)

Yesterday I finally finished my plotting and started actually writing the thing.  Taking my one page of notes on chapter one, I spent the morning writing out the dialog, then in the afternoon, I turned it into prose.  Today I’ll take my one page of notes on chapter two and do the same, and in about three to four months, I’ll have turned my 27 pages of notes into a 500 page manuscript.  I don’t usually keep track of word count, but since I know a lot of you are for NaNoWriMo, I had six pages of dialog/short action (1363 words) and turned it into 12 pages of prose (4182 words)

So what does a page of my dialog look like?  Well, I was going to show you the cover of the next Madison book today, but here’s a page from ODW instead.  This is the beginning of chapter six, page 78 in the mass market, and it’s dialog between Rachel and Marshal as she enters Carew Tower to attend a meeting with a Mr. Domo

pg 78

I write dialog fast, so I just use notations for the character names, and don’t bother with punctuation, even to separate the actual dialog from the action, but since it’s only useful for a couple of hours, I can remember my intent.  And as you might have noticed, I’ve got the date in the header, which is a no-no when you submit, but I like it for my record keeping.  The title is not ODW, either.  Ley Lines don’t say “magic” to the public at large, so no Ley Lines in the finished title.  (I used it in a novella, though.  grin)

The big question some of you might be asking is why?  Why take the time to write out the dialog if you’re only going to rewrite in just a few hours?  For most genres, dialog needs to be fast give and take, especially if you are writing first-person, and this helps keep it quick.  I usually take the first page or so in a chapter to set the scene and Rachel’s mood, but after that, the balance of description vs dialog should be heavy on dialog with one-sentence or one-word reminders of setting and mood.  Work it into the action.  (Sets coffee cup in beam of sun coming into kitchen window says a lot.  Kitchen.  Day.  Breakfast.  Mood–set it down hard or soft.) Use action to the fullest.  

Different genres have different balances, and a gothic romance will have tons more description than an urban fantasy, so don’t necessarily take what I’ve said here as the end-all.  Know your genre.  Take a highligher to your favorite book and see what the author did where.  Find the patterns.

Writing out the dialog first helps me stay on track to what I want to accomplish.  I can choose to put in the description where it needs to be, not right when I think of it, and that makes the process faster.

Today, I’m hoping to get through chapter two.  It’s going to be heavier on description than the first was, but now that the main characters have been introduced, I can do that without tiring the reader or throwing too much at him or her.

Have a great weekend!  See you Monday.  I’m baking this weekend!!



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And now . . . it begins

. . . again.  (grin)  Last night, I finished breaking my 13 page synopsis into chapters, using it as a guide to write about a page of handwritten notes about each chapter, being careful to include who is in it, where to begin, and what poignant thought to end it with.  It’s here that I usually find my hook into the next chapter that gets you to turn the page instead of turn off the light and go to bed. 

There are definite no-nos when ending chapters.  Be careful ending with “I don’t know what to do.”  Never end with the main character going to bed.  Passing out occasionally is okay, and by that, once a book is almost too much.  Ending by taking a walk to clear her head is chancy. (Unless she’s thinks aloud that she’s going to talk to a neighbor about problem X.) 

I’ve found it most effective to end chapters with a thought or word that implies story movement.  “I”ve got to talk to Trent”  “Soon as I find Nick, I’m going to kick his butt”   “That’s the third body in as many days, I’m going to turn into a rat and do some investigation”  “Three, two, one, go!”  Something that teases the reader into turning the page to see what she says to Trent, how she finds Nick, or if she is indeed fury for the next 40 pages.  It’s all about pinging the readers curiosity.

So now I’ve got 27 pages of notes, I know the ending.  I can make a solid beginning that circles back to the ending.  I know the slow spot that I’m going to have to try to beef up.  I have some character growth that stems from the problems she’s dealing with, and I’ve got a way to end it that is satisfying, and yet makes you eager for the next book.  I know.  It sounds so easy the way I say it.  The hard part is finding ways to do it, and the only way you can learn to find the hooks and patterns is to practice–a lot.

Now I’ve just got to write the thing.

Today I’ll spend the morning writing out dialog, and hopefully turn it into prose in the afternoon.  Is the plotting lesson over?  (grin)  Mostly, but since I’m writing a first chapter, I’ll take some time tomorrow to tell you how an editor or agent knows how much time you’ve put in honing your craft–by simply looking at one page.   Yep.  That’s generally all it takes to decide if they will read more, or write their “Thank you, but no” letter.  Doesn’t seem fair, but if you’ve not put the time in, there are people who have, and that’s whom they want to talk to.

Puppies are sassy again, barking, not wheezing.  And tomorrow is the last day to send me your Halloween photos!  You guys really outdid yourself this year.  This is going to be hard to judge.



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And on the fifth day . . .

My internet service is out, so I rested.

No, really.  My service is down, but alas, I’m not resting.  I’m going to try to keep it short today since I’m using my Verision card to get internet service, and it’s really slow out here.

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.

Tomorrow I’ll have a picture of the cover of the next Madison book, EARLY TO DEATH, EARLY TO RISE.  I’d give it to you now, but my connection is way to slow.  It’s beautiful!!!

P.S.  Puppies are okay.  They have a virus of some sort which is aggravating their throats.  Because they are kenneled often, they were previously immunized for kennel cough, but you can be sure I’ll be watching them close.  We’ve had some sheet rock work done in the house recently, and that probably isn’t helping.



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Character Grid

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, but I recently had a software upgrade, and I lost my headers and footers in Excel.  (sucks big time)

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!

P.S. I think the puppies caught something at the borders last week and I’ll be taking them in this afternoon.  They are coughing and wheezing when they get up to do anything.  If they were big dogs, I wouldn’t worry so much, but Aleix is only six pounds.  I’ll let you know.



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Day Two Of The Plotting

Whoa.  I had a great weekend, but I’m feeling it now.  It’s been six weeks since I’ve been able to work in the garden, so now my body is really complaining.  The yard, though, looks great, with about six more inches of rock on the front rock wall and tidy trimmed bushes.  I also put in some tulips for the first time in about twelve years.  I may have been a little aggressive in the bulb count, but there it is.  I really needed the break, and you know I was thinking about the Hollows while I had my face turned to the earth.

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, Guy 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. 

Halloween contest is still open to submissions, so if you haven’t gotten around to taking your pictures out of your camera, you have time yet to send them to me.  Contest closes Friday, winners announced on Monday. 



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Procrastination: I’ds da queen.

DaQueenYesterday I was able to sit down and start my outlining for book ten, which I’m doing alongside of some of you frantically scribbling for NaNoWriMo.  My word count is still zero, but I’m almost ready to start writing.  My post yesterday gave you some indication of how I went about organizing my thoughts for a new book.  Well today, I’m going to tell you exactly what I did.

First order of business:  Pick out the color I’m going to use for this book.  It’s a little known fact, but every book I write has a color which I help to quickly identify it in my file cabinet and scattered on my desk.  DWW is red.  GBU is pink.  I’ve had to get creative as we inch up on book ten.  Book ten is a sort of teal blue.  I’ve got matching paperclips, binder clips, and sticky notes, and if you think finding color matching office supplies is easy, then you’ve never tried to find teal blue paperclips.  I found them three months ago and tucked them away, knowing I’d need them.  Heck, I even checked out my sock drawer to see if I could go all blue for the day.  (nope, I had to stick with my purple socks)  The sooner I identify a book with a color, the easier it is to remember it in my head.

Second, I picked out a working name for the book.  No, I’m not going to tell you what it is.  This year, it took me five minutes.  Sometimes, it will take an hour.  It never stays the same all the way to the shelf, but I have to have it in order to print out my header sheets.

Third, I print out my header sheets.  Since I’m writing my notes out longhand, I like to have a header with my name, the book title, and a spot for the date.  I usually go through 30 to 60 sheets when I organize and outline.  Laughing?  Fine, but when someone comes whining to me that thirty years ago she wrote a book about a chipmunk and a shaman living in a monastery fighting crime, I can prove that great minds think alike.  He who has the most data wins, and I’ve got a lot.

I then pick the month the book takes place in, print out my calendar and sun and moon tables, and check the average temps so I know where Jenks sits.  (You can make a calendar page for any month of any year by opening up “new office document” if you’ve got windows and scroll through to “other documents” and find calendar.)  The sun and moon tables that I use are here.  Government sun and moon tables  They don’t take into account daylight savings, so watch it if your characters do.  I’ve used these for ten years, and no one has ever asked me why they don’t use daylight savings after the Turn.  Well . . . this is why.  I’m lazy and don’t want to do the math.

I also print out a blank character grid so I can start to keep track of how many characters I’ve got going.  If there’s too many, I know I need to start trimming plots or combining characters.  I try to keep it under 20 characters, and that includes the bad guys.  I’ll have more on the character grids next week.  I know I’ve been promising a look at one to a lot of you for a long time.

Now I’m ready to plot and plan, writing out my wants, my remembers, my three-sentence plots (I’ve got three this time.  Solve the crime, settle the love interest, and pacify the demons.  It’s a busy book.)

But first I have to change the icon on my computer files from a file to a big star so it’s easy to find.

Is it procrastination, or is it organization?  Beats me, but I’m happy so it doesn’t matter much. 

PS  I also want to tell you about a contest that I’m going to be judging where you have the chance to win an ARC of fellow author Faith Hunter, Book Two in her Jane Yellowrock series.  BLOODCROSS  I have read the first one and loved it.  I’m desperately waiting for the second, but because I’m the judge, I’m out of the running for the ARC.  Not to mention Aleix or Xander would pee on my pillow if I dressed them up.  If you like reading, and you have a pet, jump over to her website for the rules.   Faith’s website

I’m still getting a few Halloween pictures for the contest to win the ARC of BLACK MAGIC SANCTION, most of them will be going up today, but keep sending them in.  Contest runs to the second week of November.

Have a great weekend, guys!  –Kim


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Writing starts with “I want”

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.



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Where you at in NaNoWriMo?

I’ve been thinking . . . which is a dangerous proposition in itself, but in this case, It might be useful.  As a lot of you probably know, this month is NaNoWriMo, which is short for National Novel Writing Month.  The deal is, you sit down and write a 175 page novel (50,000 words) in a month.  The emphasis is on quantity, not quality.  NaNoWriMo

It’s day four, so if you want to do this and haven’t started, then you’re already behind.  Its main aim is for people who can write only part-time in little snatches, which is sort of how most people get started.

If you’re wondering, I’m not taking part.  (grin)  However, I am going to be writing rough draft this month, and it might be fun to compare and contrast with some of you who are participating. 

So if you’re going to take part in the NaNoWriMo, write in and tell me where you’re at.  I’ll be doing the same with my plodding along, outlining format.  And again, there is no right way to write, so we are all doing this the correct way.

Today, in my official Not-NaNoWriMo, I have again procrastinated with other work, confining my rough draft of book ten to ideas in my head.  Tomorrow, I will pick up my pencil and write something down.  Promise.  How about you?  Where you at?


PS  Halloween pictures are still coming in fast.  Here are today’s offerings.


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