#writingcraft: What Worksheets Work?

#writingcraft: What Worksheets Work?

I started out as a pure pantser with my only guide being yWriter. That rough draft still sits in a folder of one of my clouds waiting patiently for me to return to it.

The poor thing needs so much revision, when and if I get back to it, it will be a total rewrite. One of the major problems is I did not to any preparatory work on the project except for a short worksheet on the main character. Even with that, I changed so many things about my protagonist, the worksheet became worthless.

At a snail’s pace, I have been learning to accept the fact I need to be a plotter–of sorts anyway. My short-term memory loss issue is getting in the way of me ever having a book published, that and those rare days when my motivation cannot be thrust into motion no matter what I try. If I am ever going to get any manuscript finished, I need outlines and summaries already done. The incidental days are not of great concern to me; that is as long as they are not frequent. As they are so far, I will call them mental health days meant to be used to take care of myself instead of the project I am working on.

Trying to find the right approach to this preliminary work has been vexing. Googling for worksheets generated page upon page of sites offering guides of all kinds promising to make the task of writing easier. I find myself being reluctant to use the templates that have more than three pages worth of questions for me to answer about the characters, plot, and/or scenes. Bits and pieces of the plot are already in my head so that all that is needed is a brief summary. The fine details will come to light as I need them. The same goes for the characters and scenes, although, with the former, I like having “complete” worksheets on the main characters so if I forget the color of the hair, how tall or short they are, or any of those pesky details, I can just click on the worksheet to get the prompt.

In the end, I went with the worksheets from Creative Writing Now. The site also offers courses but, as you have probably guessed, I cannot afford them. One thing I noticed right away about one of the guides was there was not the word, plot, or any form of it on the page. They call it a novel outline. Even at that, it is more of a summary with prompts. It should not make any difference but, psychologically, I felt as if the authors of the site, Nancy Strauss and Linda Leopold Strauss knew what type of writer I am and had addressed their offers in such a way that I was sure to accept them.

My worksheets include:

  • Novel Outline Summary
  • Character Outline
  • Scene Outline

I do not need a world building outline because my project is in the historical genre. Still, as I write each scene, I am doing research on the era of my story, hoping I am putting the reader into the thick of the tale I am writing.

Some authors use what is called beat sheets. They kind of combine the three outlines using a spreadsheet mode. Jami Gold has several templates of this kind at her blog. If I feel I am getting stuck on this journey, I will pop over to her domain and pick one of the forms to download and use.

Have you found the worksheets that do the job for you? I am interested in knowing which ones and why you picked them.

“I’ve always said, ‘I have nothing to say, only to add.’ And it’s with each addition that the writing gets done. The first draft of anything is really just a track.” ― Gore Vidal


Twists on Style and Technique

Twists on Style and Technique

I’m smack dab in the middle of The Pocket Wife by Susan Crawford, a thrilling suspense of a woman who is bipolar. The story is good, no doubt about it, but that’s not what I’m writing about in this post. After all, I haven’t finished reading it. Second, I’m the worst at writing reviews. [Makes me wonder how I’m going to ever write a synopsis or query letter.]

I’m marveling at Susan’s characteristic tone and delivery of writing. Chances are I’ve seen it before, but where and when totally escape me.

She uses the deep POV approach. Duly appropriate because of the syndrome the protagonist has. Knowing what happens when she switched to manic is a main but not only twist in the story.

Susan chose to write this novel in third person, which is common enough, but she uses in the present tense. I find this atypical, although it could definitely be that my list of books isn’t reaching out far enough to find others. Anyway, putting third person with present tense is unexpected.

She has a few scenes where the POV is one of the other characters, but so far anyway, most of the scenes are from the perception of the first main character. [Am I using too many POVs?]

I’ve been writing my WiP in third person using past tense–prosaically common. I want to stay with the third person approach, but maybe I should think about switching to present tense to bring the reading in closer; have them feel that they’re standing right next to the character.

Susan does have some scenes that are done in past tense though. She’s done this to give back story. She brings the back story into the other scenes, but only glimpses because the bulk has already been addressed. I like this technique. Sure, it interrupts the story, but it enriches the knowledge about the character and, therefore, deepens the POV.

I’ve been trying to give out tidbits of back story as I write. It’s been such a struggle. I’m seriously thinking about going back and using Susan’s method.

Another aspect of Susan’s writing that I would love to practice so I feel comfortable with it is the abundance of narrative and less of dialogue. She has page upon page of narrative that moves the story right along. Somehow she gets the deep POV in there without any character talking.

This isn’t to say she doesn’t have any dialogue, but the conversations  I’ve seen in other books  are used for explanations vital to the story. This doesn’t seem to be the case in her stories. Instead, it’s the conversations that would be normally heard in such situations in real life. She gracefully enters the needed information in her narrative in such a way that the passages flow.

Yes, I’m one of those who has been using dialogue for clarification and description. I’m not even sure why I do it because I’d much rather use narrative for these aspects. I think I’m probably being lazy.

I’m glad I have found this incredible author. She has shown me possibilities I think I’ve needed to consider.

– that so much of what determines who we are, who we become, our sanity or lack of it, depends on circumstance, on voices from the past that whisper in our ears or lodge themselves in our heads. ~ Susan Crawford


Am I afraid?

Image provided by chandrika221 https://www.flickr.com/photos/14554939@N08/
Image provided by chandrika221

I’m not a “fraidicat” by nature. I walk up to strangers and say hello. I’ll scream out about injustice to anyone who will listen. I’m the first one to stand before my opponent. Yet, I look at what I’ve written, knowing certainly that it’s not meant for anyone else’s eyes–not yet–maybe never.

The irony is I write post after post for this blog that is anything but for commercial use, in other words a personal affair. I’m not giving one iota about who reads it.

Is there that much difference between writing a book and writing a blog post? Both reach out to the world at large. Both have a message to give–or at least I hope both do. Sure, one is miles longer and takes more time. True, a post is just my thoughts. It’s nothing more. With a novel, again, it’s my thoughts, but woven in such a provocative way–hopefully–that it keeps the interest going until the end. The post, being so much shorted, doesn’t need the extra elements to entice.

Could it be that I’m intimidated by so many trees I’m seeing in the forest? The saying is “Can’t see the forest for the trees,” but maybe it should be the trees are acting as monsters, distorting the whole scene. Am I lost in that forest? Hmm… If this is true, this could mean that I must change my writing process. My guess–and I think it’s a good one–is I need to become an all-out plotter, that path that leads me out of the forest.

I cringe at the thought. Giving up the free flow of creativity wrecks me to the core. Yet, this urge, this compulsion to write is surging in me and through me day and night, not giving me a moment’s peace.

If I go with this conjecture of turning pure plotter, I’m going to have to start this damn story all over again. Do I hear someone whispering the notion of just stopping where I am for the time being? It would work, except I know I’ll be changing major parts of the story from the very beginning, almost making it brand new. Once I make one change, hoards of them will follow. Yes, I know me that well.

Another possibility for my reluctance with my writing progress could be the thought of the critique of a writing buddy, the notes from a editor, the remarks from a beta reader, the review from a critic. Rationally, I’m well aware of the good the first three will do. Their intentions are not to harm my poor little ego. They want only to assure that my work is received successfully. The fourth… we all know they have their own agenda that never really included the writer’s feelings or success.

The first three…, each one is going to make me feel the way my mother always made me feel when I’d give her my homework for her to scrutinize. She’d find every flaw, no matter how small, and circle them with her red pen. She’d hand me the assignment telling me to start again, and turning away to do some household chore. I always felt as though someone had killed my puppy or kitten when she’d do this. (We had a family dog but never actually had a pet of my own growing up.) She didn’t mean it that way–I don’t think anyway. She was trying to help–or was she gloating? Naw, she couldn’t have been doing that, could she?

This is preposterous. Later this year I embark on being sixty-two, for God’s sake. I need to get a gripe. As April would say, I need to put on my big-girl pants and get myself to the business of writing. I need to take heed of those who have taken on the ways of plotting, as much as I detest the notion right now, organize, and write this tale that won’t give me any peace.

Am I afraid? You better believe it. I have to get through this.


Confront your fears, list them, get to know them, and only then will you be able to put them aside and move ahead. ~Jerry Gillies



Image provided by
Drew Bennett
@ https://www.flickr.com/photos/abennett96/

Have you ever had an idea in your head that seemed to expand, giving you a headache with each passing minute? Ideas of this nature can only be squished by doing something with them. At least, that’s been my experience thus far in my life.

I’ve tried just pushing one of these notions out of my head, telling myself the scheme is ludicrous, even if someone else has succeeded in implementing it for themselves. After all, what works for one may not necessarily work for someone else. Sure, what has worked for one could work for someone else, but for me this is the exception instead of the rule. I’ve never understood why this is with me, but, nevertheless, it is.

The last time I had an idea that fit into this category was a couple of weeks ago. I was at the climax of the first draft of my book, knowing that the end was imminent. Even though the final draft was and is still months, maybe even a year or two away, I thought now is the time to start working on getting potential buyers for my book. I figured if I did it slow and nonaggressive there wasn’t any way I’d look presumptuous.

And how was I going to get this do? Many bloggers get followers by putting out a newsletter. Some do it every time they publish a new post. Others fill the inboxes once a week. There are a few who get their newsletter out bi-weekly or once a month too. As a ‘new author’ (please don’t go by my age), I had to come up with an article or two to put into my newsletter for each time I would send it out. This isn’t an easy feat so I opted for a quarterly newsletter. It wouldn’t intrude on my time writing on my WiP or my blog posts with it being so infrequent.

My newsletter would have articles about strategies I’m learning along my journey to becoming a published author of novels. (I am already published as a journalist, as minuscule as it is.) The concept would be to give other writers suggestions that might help them in their struggles that they may have missed on their adventures through cyberspace. Plus, I’d be promoting other writers blogs by giving them credit for the initial strategies.

Does this sound promising? Well, it did to me anyway.

The one thing I didn’t realize — or maybe just refused to acknowledge — was most of the people who read my blog aren’t really interested in learning, at least not from me. What they do want is for me to entertain them. I guess I do an adequate job at this because I do have repeat visitors.

What made me act so preposterously? I don’t know. The foolhardiness of it is just astounding. Moreover, how, in the world, is having followers of my blog reading a newsletter I write going to help me find buyers for my eventual book? My marketing strategy was, most definitely, haywire. I should know better too. I took business courses in college, which included marketing along with management. First rule is to know your market, know what group you want to target. I went flying right over that when I knew I shouldn’t have.

I still like this idea about the newsletter. I just need to make sure that my target audience is right.


Whether you’re a writer or are in some other entrepreneurship, take heed. Do not be  impetuous. Cover all bases before proceeding. This is important when you only have yourself to rely on.

Though no one can go back and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending. ~Carl Bard


Weekly Recap 3/21

Weekly Recap 3/21
Image provided by
epSos.de @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/epsos/

I’m a little earlier this week with this post. 😛

Life can get hectic at times and it usually chooses the most inopportune moment to do it. Here I come up with this total unoriginal idea for my blog (one regular post and one 7-day summary of writing and what-not) and my personal life gets all screwy.

Well, here’s what has been going on:

  • Hubby had gallbladder surgery March 9th. He’s been recovering nicely, but a few days ago he started milking the situation for all that it’s worth. Of course, this is just my opinion. Maybe he isn’t feeling as good as he was when he first came home from the hospital. I’ll just let things be and watch from a distance.
  • The WIP isn’t as far as I’d like it to be, but I am making progress. I’ve done the first scene summary, 2 character development sheets, and have started writing the first scene. I’m starting out by writing the scene in longhand to see if my clarity is better that way. Because I’m using a pen instead of a pencil, I’m seeing and having to keep my mistakes and the sentences I adjust. Is this good or bad? I don’t know yet.
  • This last week’s regular post was a writing prompt. Probably most of these posts will be this. It was a little fluffy for me but, at the same time, the overall theme was good.
  • The days are getting a little warmer. I’m anxiously waiting for it to be warm enough for me to sit in the car-port to have some time for reflective thinking.
  • During this past week, I’ve felt myself pulling away and becoming more unorthodox and withdrawn. This could be something selfish on my part, but I find myself wondering why I’m letting others govern how I act and who I am. In many ways, these unaccustomed feelings are  accelerating. I know, how can being withdrawn be stimulating. All I can say is that it’s nice not being weighed down with so many things that I know I can’t do anything about.

This next week I want to get that first scene done, write my regular post (of course), and work hard at making this house more of the home I want it to be.

How was your week?