We’re still in the midst of the pandemic that has affected us for more than six months now. People get sick, and fortunately many heal . . . though not everyone does. And it’s affected us in ways beyond illness–economically, for example.
Even when things seem to improve some, they don’t always stay that way. Sometimes they get worse again. We still don’t know when things will settle down and start resembling normal once more.
And as a writer, I’m wondering when to use all of this.
Right now I’m still working on my third book in the long-running Colton series for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, featuring characters in one of the many branches of the Colton family spread all over the country. I’ve known what has to happen in this one, and that’s what I’ve done.
But I’m also plotting some other ideas. Stories that will take place at least a little in the future.
Should I mention the pandemic? The social unrest? What it’s all done to our economy?
Or should I assume that readers will prefer that I don’t go there, that I ignore all that nasty stuff and just create my own issues in my stories, the way I used to?
I’m pondering all of that even as I plot. But like everything else these days, who knows what the future will bring–and if things will ever return to what had been deemed normal before?
Of course, as a writer, I want to satisfy my readers. It’s okay to scare them in romantic suspense and mysteries, but we need satisfying endings in which all gets resolved in a reasonable, acceptable, perhaps optimistic way. Never mind what happens in real life. I write fiction!
Well, I’ll figure it out and decide which direction to go in each story I write.
And hope that reality gets better even as my stories continue.
What’s the fun of being a writer? Everything!
And part of that includes the fact that writing is always there. It becomes part of you. At least it has with me. Everything I do, everywhere I go, my writerness is part of it. And yes, that’s an unusual word although when I Googled it, other people have apparently used it, too.
I was on a cruise to Alaska last week with family and friends. It was lots of fun. We sailed near land going north, then south through the Inside Passage, visited several cities, took a few tours, and enjoyed the onboard food and entertainment. That entertainment sometimes included dogs, and you can imagine how much I liked that.
I particularly enjoyed the wildlife we saw, including young and adult bald eagles, other birds including those that flew over and sometimes dived into water like marbled murrelets, a few bears on the shoreline in the distance, some spouting whales, including humpbacks, and small breaching dolphins.
We got to wade in the water in the middle of a river—because, as you might surmise, that river wasn’t full of water.
We visited Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, and took a tour that included visiting a formerly private castle.
And, oh yes, I did some writing and editing . . . and came up with an idea for another mystery series.
Will I ever write it? Who knows? But plotting and researching it will definitely be enjoyable. Plotting is who I am, and my subconscious is always at work.
And yes, that’s part of the fun of being a writer.
I’ve been going to a lot of movies lately. Why? Well, my husband and I now subscribe to one of those movie packages where you pay a monthly fee, and can then attend several movies a week for no additional charge. Although we’re allowed to see three, we’re mostly seeing two, and occasionally just one.
As a writer, I find that fun. I try to analyze each plot, note which ones I like and which ones I don’t. Most of them aren’t documentaries, so even if they’re supposed to be based on a true story they’re generally at least somewhat fiction.
Sometimes we just pick a show that sounds vaguely interesting, but we always hope to jump onto one that sounds a whole lot more—fun, exciting, inspirational, whatever.
And sometimes I get new ideas for my own writing from them. I’ve begun a proposal for a new mystery series which might not go anywhere, but, yes, I was inspired by movies!
I suppose that the fact I live in the Hollywood area also gives me ideas involving films, both novels and, occasionally screenplays—that I never write myself, although I’ve taken classes.
I’m wondering if the theater chains and companies that offer these multiple movies are actually making money. I hope they’re doing well enough to keep it up.
Do you go to movies? Do they inspire you to read or write?
And Happy Holidays to all of you! I’ll have a post here in early 2019. (Wow, that sounds as if it shouldn’t be happening so soon!) And when I do, I’m hoping to have some writing news to convey.
Do storyboards, sticky notes, spreadsheets and index cards give you hives? Does your manuscript wander in circles – yet you’re afraid a detailed outline will suck the heart and soul out of your writing?
All you need is a simple word-processing program to stitch together the perfect quilt of a plot to keep your novel on track and moving in the right direction – while still giving your muse room to play. We’ll use a step-by-step technique to plot a novel from start to finish, and give you a huge head-start on your first draft (and the dreaded synopsis).
This will be a working course! Bring your best idea (the one that’s been bubbling in your brain for six months) or a manuscript that’s wandering in the desert, and we’ll shape it up and get it moving. We’ll also be deconstructing one of my own novels as part of this class as well as using examples from a variety of books in different genres.
Suzanne Johnson is the author of more than twenty published works, including the award-winning Sentinels of New Orleans urban fantasy series, of which book six, FRENCHMEN STREET, will be out on July 17. Writing as Susannah Sandlin, she is author of the Amazon top-selling Penton Legacy paranormal romance series, as well as The Collectors and the Wilds of the Bayou, both romantic suspense series. A displaced New Orleanian, she currently lives in Auburn, Alabama. Suzanne loves SEC football, fried gator on a stick, New Orleans, all things Cajun, and (hangs head) reality TV. She writes full-time along with running her own developmental and copy-editing business and dabbling in mixed-media art.
For more information about Suzanne, please visit her website: http://www.suzannejohnsonauthor.com/. Click on the “Newsletter” tab for updates, release news, sneak peeks and special giveaways: http://suzannejohnsonauthor.com/newsletter.
This is a 4-week online course that uses email and Groups.io. The class is open to anyone wishing to participate. The cost is $30.00 per person or, if you are a member of OCCRWA, $20.00 per person.
For more information, check the class page at the OCC/RWA website: http://occrwa.org/classes/june-online-class/
Note: I took Suzanne’s class on Monster Revisions last year and can personally attest that she’s a wonderful teacher, and yes, the class was a working course.
OCC/RWA Online Class Coordinator
Are you a plotter? One who fills up twenty or thirty pages, sometimes more, with scenes, settings, motivation, goals, conflict and character profiles before you can sit down and write the first chapter?
Or are you a pantser? Someone who gets an idea, makes a short list of ideas on one page and then sits down and starts to write, letting the story tell itself and unfold before your very eyes?
Some of you already know you’re a plotter and you follow a strict routine that helps you write pages and pages without too much trouble. While a synopsis is great for getting an editor or publisher to gain interest in your story, it can also be a great tool as a guide for your manuscript. It’s much shorter than the thirty to fifty pages of story plotting but with less detail. Some writers need more and some less, but whatever method you use, it has to be right for you or you’ll never finish any story. You’ll try many different methods before finding a style of writing that’s a perfect fit and will carry you through many manuscripts. I tried many many plotting methods in my search for a writing system that fit me.
A pantser, like some writers I know, still has some idea of the beginning, middle, and the end of the story to be able to tell it. I think most writer’s fall into one of these categories but many don’t. I fall somewhere in between where my plotting is kept to a minimum of one to two pages. I also write my synopsis as I go, working out some of the characters’ external conflicts as my characters interact.
Writers are creative, unique individuals who will find what works for them and employ whatever means they need to make it happen. A muse is all and good and well, but a beginning writer has no idea what that is. Or even which genre their writing style falls into. So we read everything we can in many genres. For example, we read dozens of books on craft, we attend multitudes of workshops and online classes, sometimes so many that we lose count, and we fill small notebooks with our notes. Only to find that where we fit isn’t such a great mystery.
So we write, and we write, and we keep on writing. Because with every page we pen, every character we bring to life on the page, every heart we tug on, our writing becomes stronger, better. All of this is done with the purpose of finishing a novel someone will read and enjoy, and maybe even recommend.
A novel that will be critiqued and revised many times over. A novel that will change with every revision, every re-write, and every idea that pops into your head. A novel that will eventually make it to an editor or publisher’s desk and then most likely go through more revisions and re-writes, regardless of whether you’re a plotter or a pantser.
That’s not to say your story isn’t good, only that it can be better. Just like a good critique partner can help your story in it’s beginning stages, a good editor can help you polish your manuscript before it’s ready for publication. As long as people change, their tastes in books change. That means the industry is constantly changing. Editors and publishing needs will change to keep up with current trends and the only way for an author to survive against the millions of books competing with theirs, is to write the best book they can – straight from the heart. So whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, whether you’re new to the world of writing or have written thirty books or more, you’ll never stop learning. Because when it comes down to it, we all want our romance book to take the reader on an emotional trip through our characters. To feel the rush of falling in love all over again.
So plot to your hearts content, or pants the story of your heart, because in this complicated time our world is in, everyone wants and needs some spiritual uplifting and lots of happily ever afters.
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