Jennifer's Journal


Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Writing Tip of the Day

"Begin in the middle" is a classic bit of advice on plotting.  It means start the first scene of your book in the middle of a dramatic incident, showing the main character in action.  You can add snippets of setting and character description as you go, but should save the backstory for later.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Writing Tip of the Day

Every story should start with a change in the life of the main character.  The sooner this change takes place, the more likely it is the reader will continue to turn pages.  Chapter 1, page 1, line 1 is not too early.
Monday, September 28, 2009

Writing Tip of the Day

There are no new plots; all possible events which can happen to human beings have been used millions of times..  Experts contend that there are only 33 possible plots, total.  The job of the writer is to take a known story situation and make it seem new and different.
Sunday, September 27, 2009

Writing Tip of the Day

Dramatic outside events, such as a death or a divorce, etc., may alter the life of your main character beyond her/his control in a plot driven story, but it is still the decisions she/he makes as a result which carry the story forward.
Saturday, September 26, 2009

Writing Tip of the Day

Character driven stories depend on major decisions by the main character for their plot points.  Make sure she or he decides the course of future action as each crisis occurs.
Friday, September 25, 2009

Writing Tip of the Day

The dramatic incidents or crises which propel a story are often called "plot points."  Plot points in a story are said to "turn" the story, which is another way of saying they alter something in the day-to-day life of your main character, turning it in a new direction.
Thursday, September 24, 2009

Writing Tip of the Day

Category or series romances average 50-60,000 words.  Three dramatic incidents, plus a climax, are required for the story framework.  Word restrictions in category books result in less descriptive detail and fewer digressions for backstory or psychological insight, but story movement is still paramount.
Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Writing Tip of the Day

The average mainstream book has 100,000 words.  To maintain reader interest in a story of that length, you need to create five dramatic incidents as a framework for your story, plus a climax which will bring everything together in the most dramatic event of all.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Writing Tip of the Day


The classic description for a fiction plot goes: An interesting character overcomes great odds to reach a worthwhile goal.  Note the words "interesting", "great odds" and "worthwhile."  These are crucial.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Writing Tip of the Day

Event-driven stories or character-driven?  Neither process is fundamentally better than the other.   Change is the thing that drives a story forward, whether in story events or in the attitudes and beliefs of the characters.  Plotting is the creation of interesting events or changes that will drive your story toward a climax which tests your characters and allows them to triumph.    
Thursday, September 03, 2009

August-September Newsletter



Summer is almost gone again. A couple more weeks, and we'll all be putting away the sandals and getting out the sweaters. Where did the time go? Just yesterday, so it seems, I was heading to the mountains to escape the heat. Now I'm thinking of going again to see the aspens turn to gold. And like so many others, I can't point at much that I've accomplished in between. I did correct the page proofs for TRIUMPH IN ARMS (February 2010 release) and write the proposal for the book I'll be working on this winter.  I also finished polishing my September 1 deadline book, BY HIS MAJESTY'S GRACE, and zapped it to my editor.  These things don't add up to a lot, however, compared to what I intended.  Isn't that the way it goes?


The deadline book was a day or two late. I had the best of intentions, of course, but life intervened. An extra problem was that I know this book, along with the other two in my medieval Three Graces trilogy, won't be published until 2011. The manuscripts will be "warehoused," as publishers term it—held in my editor's office—until all three are done.  The books will then be brought out in October, November and December two years from now. As long as I deliver them all by April 1, 2011, everything should be fine. Though it's nice to have this relaxed timeframe, it does take away the incentive to finish on the dot.


On top of this, I'll admit I've been playing. When my computer crashed last spring, I lost a lot of family history information stored in my genealogy program. After buying a replacement program, I registered with one of the genealogy sites online. These sites are so interactive now, with automatic search functions and access to hundreds of detailed family histories. With their aid, I've gone back more than 20 generations on several family lines and added literally hundreds of ancestors to my database. Tracing a line is like unraveling a mystery; once started, I don't want to stop.  Interesting bits are always popping up, too.  I really thought I had a fairly "melting pot" heritage, but would you believe most of my ancestors emigrated from England and landed in Virginia? I've also discovered that I am distantly related to the poet, William Blake.  Funny, I've always loved his poem "The Tiger."  And how neat to think that the love of words could be genetic. :">


Another new toy that has distracted me is a voice recognition computer program called Dragon NaturallySpeaking.  It allows me to talk to my computer and watch the words appear on the screen as soon as I speak--I'm actually writing this newsletter with it now. I had tried earlier versions of the program without much success—the need to go back and correct mistakes interfered too much with my thought processes to use it for books. But this latest one seems much more intuitive, so I may actually be able to dictate with it. What a dream! I used to dictate my novels, using a regular dictating machine, back when I was writing 300,000 words per year. I would then transcribe the pages every morning before I begin dictating again. It was a time-consuming process, though transcribing the pages served as the first round of editing. I abandoned this method when I wore out my second dictating machine—which happened about the same time that I became more adept at composing on the computer. Now what was old is new again. I look forward to training my "Dragon" to understand my accent better, then sitting with my feet up, talking my books onto my laptop screen.  Hey, maybe I'll finish the next one early instead of late!


I hope all of you have something just as fascinating to occupy your time this fall.


With warmest wishes for a great Labor Day Weekend,



Challenge to Honor, 2005
Dawn Encounter, 2006
Rogue's Salute, 2007
Guarded Heart, 2008
Gallant Match, 2009
Triumph in Arms, 2010