Outlines, Plug-Ins, and Beta Readers — Oh My!

Hi everyone! There’s a lot going on in my writing world, starting with yesterday’s exciting accomplishment: I downloaded the Kindle plug-in for Adobe InDesign that allows you to format an ebook from the page layout program. This may not seem exciting to you, but as a designer I pride myself on figuring out how to do things on my own (well, I pride myself on that in all walks of life. My dad used to fret that he raised me to be “too independent”, but that’s another story for another time) so formatting my own ebook is important to me.

Beta ReaderBUT! Before I start formatting, I need to finish revisions. Feedback from my second round of beta readers (Beta Readers 2.0?) is trickling in so I’m ready to “go deeper”, as one reader suggested.

I hope to wrap up this next draft by the end of next week (my husband’s taking me to a hockey game for Valentine’s Day and I don’t want to be worrying about edits THEN), pass it off to a final, really tough, reader, then zing, bang, boom—PUBLISH!

In the meantime, I’ve finished the 13-page outline for book three in the Flicker Trilogy—FADED—and have written the first few pages. I’m very ready to go on the next book and am excited with how I’ll wrap up Biz’s world. AND, I’ve outlined my shiny new idea, tentatively (but definitely not permanently) titled SHREDDING THE NARD. That started as a joke with my bowling team and since I hate writing anything with a title WIP #7 (yes, this is my seventh manuscript!) I had to name it something. The new idea revolves around snow skiing so watching the Olympics is very entertaining research. Have I mentioned that I love writing?

So that’s where I’m at. What’s new with you? Are you watching the Olympics? Learn any new software lately? Looking forward to the Amazing Race and Jimmy Fallon taking over Late Night?

When Inspiration Strikes

Ideas are a very important part of a creative person’s life, be they a writer, designer, or someone just looking to redecorate their office. All three of those labels apply to me, but I only have trouble generating ideas for the first one.

People often ask “where do you get your ideas?” A common writerly response is something snarky, along the lines of “from the idea book” or “I have a monthly subscription to Ideas-R-Us”, when actually writers get idea from everyone and everything. The entire world is fair game. Overhear a juicy conversation at Panera? Spin it into a book! Find yourself in a situation that’s too unbelievable not to share*? Make it happen to your main character!

Unless you’re me. I can’t go out in public without coming up with a backstory behind all the people I encounter, but the stories end as soon as they walk away. I struggle with coming up with an idea worthy of an entire novel. Add to that my inability to begin a story unless I know how it ends (even loosely) and I can count on one hand how many plausible ideas I’ve had for a novel.

So color me surprised when last week a new idea came to me while I was working out (a kickboxing video, for those curious). Before I’d finished a full circuit of jab-jab, cross, hook, kick I had a main character, a love interest, a group of protagonists, two “earth-shattering” dilemmas (this is YA so everything is earth-shattering), and the big climax at the end. That evening I wrote several pages of notes, and the ideas continued to flow well past bedtime.

All this happened as I was working on edits to FRACTURE. My plan has been to start outlining book three, tentatively titled FADED, as soon as I sent book two out to my next group of beta readers, so I’ve been dutifully brainstorming that book.

But the new idea won’t shut up. My only solution was to outline BOTH books. At the same time.

Outlines are my lifeline when I’m writing, yet I don’t always devote the time to them that I should. I decided to kick it old school and bust out a pencil and paper. I sketch when developing new design ideas — and even when I’m figuring out a new layout for a room — so I don’t know why I never considered it for a novel. I do write notes in a notebook but that uses a different part of your brain. Sketching out an actual line for a timeline helps keep the story arc… well… arc-ing towards the end of the novel.

Two hours later I had two well-developed outlines!


Now I just need to decide which I should work on first…


*A couple weeks ago I was meeting with the president of my company when he spilled a full cup of coffee all over his desk. Needless to say, that will soon be happening to Biz in book three, with a few subtle changes. This is one of the RARE times I’m working a real-life event into my fiction.

The Importance of Beta Readers

For those of you who are NOT writers, a beta reader is someone who reads a draft of your manuscript to tell you where you’ve screwed up and how to make it better. Some even tell you where they laughed out loud, gasped, or wanted to punch a character (thanks Nadine!).

Dictionary.com defines the slang version of beta as:

1. Mostly working, but still under test; usu. used with `in’: `in beta’. In the Real World, systems (hardware or software) software often go through two stages of release testing: Alpha (in-house) and Beta (out-house?). Beta releases are generally made to a group of lucky (or unlucky) trusted customers.
2. Anything that is new and experimental. “His girlfriend is in beta” means that he is still testing for compatibility and reserving judgment.

In the case of a manuscript, the author really hopes that while beta reading may be more tedious than regular reading (since the person is commenting and marking up your document), that the reader still gets some enjoyment from your work.

Sometimes that enjoyment is unintentional.

My friend Nadine and my mother recently read the first draft of Fracture, and they both caught something that I never noticed. In the paragraph below, my MC Biz is explaining fickering to someone.

“I come to wherever I was twenty-four hours earlier. Sometimes it’s class. Every now and then I’m in the bathroom, which is my favorite because then I have a minute to get my shit together before I see anyone. The worst is eating because I always choke.”

While “getting my shit together” is a common phrase, doing so in the bathroom creates a visual I wasn’t going for. If I hadn’t shown this to anyone and figured my work is genius and ready to publish (which IS a perk of self-publishing) readers would be envisioning a whole other side of my MC that I hadn’t intended.

For those of you who’ve beta’d for friends, what’s a funny oops you caught? Or writers, what’s a gaffe that you were embarrassed made it through the first pass?

Help Me Name Book 3

Happy almost new year! I hope everyone had a nice holiday and is ready to close out 2013 with a bang.

The first draft of Fracture is currently with a couple beta readers and while I wait to hear back from them, I’m brainstorming the yet-to-be-titled Book 3 in the series. I know the overall stuff that needs to happen but I’m pretty much useless without an outline and as of right now I’m not too sure what will happen.

So while I’m thinking of that, I thought I’d ask you, dear reader, for some help naming Book 3. I’d like to keep with the two-syllable ‘F’ theme, and yes, I’ve already considered the obvious and decided that’s not appropriate for a YA book (or any book you hope to sell).


Let’s hear your thoughts!

If I use your suggestion I’ll even mention you in the acknowledgments!

Every New Beginning is Some Other Beginning’s End

I finished the first draft of Fracture! I missed my self-imposed deadline by a week, but considering how long it took me to get back in my writing groove, I’m okay with that. The first draft ended up being 8000 words longer than I expected, so there’s the extra week!

In all I’m happy with how it ended, but now begins the next stage: Editing. I already have two levels of readers ready to shred this puppy so that when it’s ready for YOU, it’s perfect. Or as perfect as anything I write is going to be. ;) (Which better be perfect.)

Today I’m working on a Character Bible, something that’s important when you’re writing ONE book. The fact that I didn’t put one together and I’ve written the SECOND book in the series means I have a lot of backwards research to do. The one thing that’s still eluding me and is rather embarrassing to admit:

I can’t remember my main character’s last name.

That’s right. At this point I’m thinking I never GAVE her a last name, but that seems weird. So I’ll keep digging.

Unless one of you knows what it is?

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