Writer’s Digest | Creating a Flexible #Novel Outline #NaNoWriMo2016

I love Writer’s Digest, and I really, really like the guest columns that Brian Klems will often feature in his corner of the WD world: The Writer’s Dig. He’s thoughtful, funny, and always seems to show up just when I need him. Would that make him a superhero? In my world, I guess, but you’d have to determine that for yourself…

Just like whether or not you’d like to outline your novel. You don’t have to, of course, but it is one way to get the proverbial ducks to align without worrying about missing one or two details . . . er . . . ducks? along the way. Now, this is coming from a dyed-in-the-wool, to-the-letter Virgo who makes to-do lists for her to-do lists. I write down the money I owe for my monthly bills in three different places to make sure I don’t miss any due dates, but I almost never outline a novel once I start writing it. I have a line, a scene, or even just a character with a loose idea of the plot and start. It’s the only place in my mostly structured life that I can actually kinda let loose and fly by the seat of my pants, which might explain why I put my money-making efforts into reading books for a living and not publishing them.

Having said all of that, here is the article from the brilliant K.M. Weiland hosted by Brian Klems and Writer’s Digest.


Mention the word outline in a room full of writers, and you’re sure to ignite a firestorm of passionate debate. Writers either love outlines, or they hate them. We either find them liberating, or we can’t stand how confining they are.

My experience has been that more often than not, those who swear they dislike outlines are thinking of them in the wrong ways. Outlines are not meant to trap you into preset ideas or sap your creativity before you start the first draft. Outlines are also definitely not meant to be lifeless Roman-numeral lists.

Read more here: 7 Steps to Creating a Flexible Outline for Any Story | Writer’s Digest


The Guardian | What You Might Not Know about the #Novel

For those partaking in National Novel Writing Month this year, I’ll aim to share some interesting writing tips, motivating quotes, and intriguing articles about novels and their creators. I want to keep your spirits up, be your cheerleader as I am not participating myself this year. The last couple years I’ve missed NaNoWriMo, but I’m aiming to get back in the swing next year! Now, on to the article about the legacy of the novel and how its history may not be as recent as we once thought…


I was misled by my advisers, as Bertie Wooster would say. At university in the early 1970s, I was led to believe the novel originated in England in the 18th century, and no professor told me otherwise as I pursued my PhD in the 1980s. Sometimes Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe was mentioned as a prototype, but according to literary dogma the novel experienced a kind of virgin birth with Pamela, Samuel Richardson’s epistolary novel of 1740. But outside the walls of academe, in those alternative classrooms called used bookshops, I kept coming across books that certainly looked like novels but obviously predated Pamela. There was not only Lady Murasaki’s Tale of Genji, a huge novel written around 1010, but the shorter Tale of the Lady Ochikubo, written a few decades earlier. I picked up the Everyman’s edition of The Story of Burnt Njal, a 13th-century Icelandic fiction that was labeled a “saga” but looked very much like a realistic novel. I came across multivolume Chinese novels from the Ming Dynasty like The Golden Lotus, a sordidly realistic novel from Shakespeare’s time. I read Robert Graves’s White Goddess and was puzzled by his reference to “a novel called The Recognitions” that dated from the 4th century. There were novels in the 4th century?

Read more here: The Guardian | The novel is centuries older than we’ve been told

Good luck on your first day, and may the writing come easy!

#NaNoWriMo Day 24 | The Dry Spell and Big Finish! #AmWriting

Source: NaNoWriMo.org
Source: NaNoWriMo.org


Holy Crap Bag! Talk about an extended, involuntary hiatus. I got some editing gigs (Yay!); they were bumpier rides than I expected (Yay for ‘lessons learned’!); and I have less than a week left to the month and for my goal (Yay for working under pressure!).

Good thing I have motivation:

Marc Bolan (pictured here in 1977), of T.Rex fame, has been my rock ‘n’ roll muse for the last month or so. And at his beckon call, in the last couple of days, I have been able to complete my rough draft of Survival Instinct! I was worried there for a bit, but it’s in the trunk and growing some flavor as we speak. It’s strange with the shortcut missing from my desktop now, but Midnight Ladies is keeping its spot warm. Making a beckoning call of its own.

I know I’ve been an absent parent the last week or so. I hope that you’re all staying on better track than I did. But, being able to blast out a couple scenes whenever I could take a moment or two to write was a great feeling! I haven’t written in bursts like that for years. At least not since graduate school. And, it felt really, really good!

It was also kind of nice to “know” which scene was coming up next; though, not necessarily what would happen in that scene. Because, as usual, my characters surprised me. And those things may get redacted in the beta-reading and editing phases, but for right now, I’m pleased with how my characters reacted or acted out in certain scenes, and then held back in others.

While I considered one track of evidence to hook my antagonist, it was a surprise character–that I’d felt lurking in the background, but wasn’t certain of his existence–who ended up turning the tables. The homeless squatter was not completely on his own, though, because some outlying character connections among the supporting cast also came to the surface that really brought the plot to a head. Again, while those “logical” connections seem so now, it’s going to be some distance, a round of editing, and then some beta reading that will really test how those connections support or detract from the story.

Overall, coming back to this story after considering the option of letting it go unfinished–not all of them are home runs, kids–has added fuel to the fire. I’m excited to get back into Midnight Ladies, even if I don’t meet the end of the month goal. I got halfway there, finishing this rough draft, and I’m willing to take that for a win!

How are you all doing going into the final week? Are you close to making the 50K goal? Are you struggling? Did life get in the way for you, too? Don’t let it stop you. Keep on keeping on, Authors!


#NaNoWriMo Day 5 | New Characters and a Face-Off #AmWriting

Source: NaNoWriMo.org
Source: NaNoWriMo.org

So, I purposefully took the day off to do some reading yesterday–I’m in the middle of Jack Ketchum’s ebook Peaceable Kingdom right now–and I’m so much the better for it! We met a new character and my antagonist and protagonist finally meet face-to-face, and it’s kind of unceremonial–but I like that aspect of it. It’s low-key (for being a response to the protagonist’s first escape attempt) and isn’t a big, bloody fight–at least, not right now. All that might change. There is a whole other 24 hours that they will have with each other. Does she get away? Will they be discovered? And by whom?

Like I mentioned the other day, I have scenes plotted, and there are a handful of people who may discover them. The new character already knows that a woman is being held against her will, but will he be able to make it to the police? Will the police believe him when he gets there?

Got over 2000 words today, cleared two scenes away, the new character and the instigation scene I started the other day. Now, we’re going into the third and final day for the story. I’m so excited to wrap this up! So glad I decided to go this route this year.

How are you all doing on Day 5? Are you making goals, struggling? Keep on keeping on, Authors!

Words written Day 5: 2,178

#NaNoWriMo Day 3 | Character Surprises #AmWriting

Source: NaNoWriMo.org
Source: NaNoWriMo.org


Today was a great stretch of writing. I’m one more “scene” (Well, sets of scenes because until today my antagonist and protagonist hadn’t technically shared a space, except for the kidnapping, which took place off-camera, in a word.) closer to being done, and boy, did my characters surprise me today!

The antagonist seemed so much more prepared for his captives, then my protagonist got a crazy idea. She’d, apparently, had enough of her antagonist, too. Though she didn’t articulate the reason why to me yet, she may still have a chance because my antagonist isn’t done with her. But, she took a chance, got creative, and felt like she had the power to. It flew out of my fingertips, and I love when the writing goes like that.

I’ll also be introducing a new character tomorrow, minor but important to what remains of the plot. Like some of the other minor characters in this book, I think I’m going to have some fun with him. I’m already working on a profile–well, in my head anyway–and I can’t wait to come back tomorrow and round out this surprise-laden scene!

How did your third day go? Are you making your daily goals?

Words written Day 3: 1,863

#NaNoWriMo Day 2 | Catching Up and Finding the Path #Writing

Source: NaNoWriMo.org
Source: NaNoWriMo.org

So, here we are, back at it a year later, and hopefully you’ve had a successful first day! Getting back into the swing of writing everyday has been bumpy for me so far, but I’m not going to let that get me down. I spent Day 1 re-reading my two-year-old manuscript and getting reacquainted with my plot and characters. Some of them surprise me, as if someone else had written them. Coming back to a manuscript I’ve left for an indefinite amount of time always surprises me.

For the sake of moving quickly, because I have much more ground to cover in Midnight Ladies later this month, I’ve plotted what I think will be the last five or seven scenes that will need to happen in Survival Instinct for the story to be completely told–without any loose ends, anyway–neatly tied up but not necessarily “done.” I don’t normally plot, but I also don’t normally “know” how the story will end.

In this case, because I was watching a lot of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit at the time that I started, I had an idea where the story would go. Having just a sentence of who is in the scene and what may or may not happen, how that scene will propel the story, is already making me feel like I’m close to the end. And, I want to be. I don’t like being in my antagonist’s head, and I really want my protagonist to get out. It’s just a matter of getting there.

How was your first day? Will you be able to write on your second?

Words written Day 1: 355 (Paltry, I know. But, I did spend most of the day re-reading, mildly editing the 74 single-spaced pages that already existed.)

Words written Day 2: 1,340

#NaNoWriMo2015 | This Year’s Goal

Source: NaNoWriMo.org
Source: NaNoWriMo.org

Hello Fellow Writers, Readers, and Annual Novelists!

NaNoWriMo is up and running, and I’m so sad to say that I won’t be starting a new novel this year. I won’t even technically be taking part in NaNoWriMo (or, National Novel Writing Month) as a word-tallying member of the website, that is.

I’m going to be taking part in my own version of NaNoWriMo, which I will handily call NaNoFinMo, or National Novel Finishing Month. In 2012, when I officially began taking part in NaNoWriMo, I actually completed the story I started writing. In 2013 and last year, I only got about 3/4 and 1/2 way through those stories, respectively.

So, for this year’s NaNo goal, I will be taking the first two weeks-ish to finish the serial killer novel I began in 2013 (working title: Survival Instinct) and the last two weeks for the dark lesbian erotica I chronicled last year (working title: Midnight Ladies). Though, I think that “little” collection may take me beyond that amount of time. Maybe Survival Instinct won’t take the full two weeks at the beginning of next month *crosses fingers, partakes in wishful thinking*.

What’s great about this is that I technically don’t have word counts to meet each day, because my overall goal is simply to finish the stories, get a rough draft I can “trunk” until I feel ready to come back and polish them. My plan right now is to chronicle the spectacle adventure as I did last year: so, tune in to the same MeliSwenk channel for the same MeliSwenk fun as you had last year!

You did have fun with me last year, right?

Because I certainly had fun with all of my readers last year. And, I’ll be glad to get back into some regular blogging, too! I have recently cut some of the fat and scored some extra time for networking and general, all-around friend-making.

Looking forward to getting started! Who’s with me? And, what are your writing goals for NaNoWriMo (Or, NaNoFinMo) this year?

#NaNo Update | Bringing the #Characters to Life

And, since I know you’ve all just been waiting for it, we have a surname for Julia’s family: Edwin. Ah, Meet the Edwins: Kevin, Kathy, Julia, Jessica, and Joe. Yeah, that feels right.

Today, I spent some time going back over what I’d written and making some small editing changes. Punctuation and continuity errors and such. I also spent some time focusing on the details, because I’ve realized that’s where the characters really come to life. In the details. Their nuanced conversation and the choices they make in the knowledge they have can make them pop off the page or lay flat. It’s tied up in the moment where solid writing intersects with the clarity of a character’s fate.

Sometimes, for some characters, all they have is waiting for fate to come along and happen. Some characters go headlong running toward their fate with teeth bared and claws sharp, grabbing for it, pursuing at a break-neck speed. Julia and her family are meandering into the hole fate has dug for them; some characters never see it coming. This is the bad thing that happens to good people, unexpected bumps in the road–in a road that already feels so bumpy.

But, it is also the depiction of the resilience or the complete breakdown a character experiences that can make them pop or flop–being an effective writer means being able to show the reader what the resilience or the breakdown does and putting the reader in that situation; showing them what can happen when a person is faced with what seems insurmountable but can be defeated with courage and self-awareness.

Words Written Today: 1,263

#NaNo Update | Control of Information

If there’s one element of story writing that I love it’s the control of information, and I have so much more respect for writers who handle this element deftly. I thoroughly enjoy a good plot twist, and unlike other readers, I love it even better if I never saw it coming. I also enjoy red herrings and unsolved mysteries–sometimes things don’t come with happy endings.

In my third story, with Julia, there has been a current of information that has been murky since the beginning: who “owns” the house they just moved into and what is its history. I mean, it’s easy to find out who’s purchased the house and then lived in it and fixed it up. But, how did it get there? What’s up with the attic? And, should they really be utilizing that treasure trove of furniture “stored” in the low-ceiling basement?

Who has what information and when will it come out? Joey, Julia’s younger brother, and Julia herself heard a warning and the actual danger straight from Hale’s mouth. Their parents also heard about the history of the house from Hale, but when will they get together and compare notes? What will have to happen?

For now, though, Julia, Kevin and Kathy (her parents), and Joey and Jess (her younger twin siblings), are settling in quite nicely. Their house, so far, has been warm and welcoming to them. But, how much longer will that really last?

Words Written Today: 1,407

#NaNo Update | Establishing Location

I’ve put my poor little family (and still without a surname!) in quite a strange little house, and now I’m at the point in Julia’s story where the family is interacting with the house and finding their places within it. In the basement is a collection of discarded furniture in various styles from a variety of different eras–it’s clear the previous tenants were not just upgrading or remodeling.

I wonder what made those families leave, without their belongings?

Julia just found out that her parents were given some kind of information about the history of the house–which has been scant since the beginning–by Hale, but she isn’t quite ready to hear it yet. So, she doesn’t ask, and when she does, she doesn’t give her mother a chance to answer. And now Joey has disappeared from the backyard.

It is a strange and unsettling little house Kevin has brought his family into, but what is Hale’s angle in all of this? He seems a little too interested in Julia, Kathy, and their family. He also doesn’t seem to like Kevin very much? Was his bumping into Julia’s dad at the cafe more than coincidence? And why was he warning Julia about the attic, to be careful there?

The location seems to be becoming as much of a character in this story as any of the people. I only wish I had all day to write! Glad I was able to get some in though.

Words Written Today: 1,678