E has to figure out JT is not DoD…

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A million years from now, scientists are going to find one of my notebooks perfectly preserved, and pull it from my house.

Scientist one: English alphabet. Very ancient. Can you read any of it?

Scientist two: Well…the writing is a bit sloppy…

Scientist one: I’m pretty sure that says “has to”, but what does E mean?

Scientist two: I have no idea, it appears to be a name of some sort….

Knowing my luck, it ends up in a museum somewhere with the title, “undecipherable text” and no one would ever figure out that handwriting takes too long if you spell out the entire name of your character EVERY time.

What does your notebook look like? Could it stand in for an almost final draft, your thoughts are so precise? Is it sloppy and all over? Do you ask a lot of questions? Do you even have a special writing notebook?

A new technique for novel editing

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One of the biggest problems I had with switching from short stories to novels, is the sheer size of the project. It’s easy for story lines to get lost and end up unfinished at the end of the story. I complained to my mother-in-law about how hard it was to keep track of each story character and their sub plots, and she gave me a simple yet ground breaking solution.

Print it out, and highlight each story thread in a different color.

Simple, yes? But it works so well. The father of my MC is supposed to be critical to the story, yet he gets a grand total of three sentences in my rough draft. Mom is piled on at the beginning, and she almost takes over the main character. Her plot also seems better developed than Elizabeths, which means..I need to beef up the MC. She’s more important, after all.

The list goes on, but I can see how this story can go from good to ground breaking, in just a few edits. How exciting! Have you ever tried this? If not, what’s your technique for keeping track?

Escaping Technology

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This morning began like every Sunday, with me taking my dog to agility. I spent the morning blissfully romping in an arena with the puppy, nothing outside of the arena except a dusty old barn and mile after mile of sheep.

As soon as I got in the car, technology took over. My phone bleeped, telling me I had an e-mail asking me for a writing article. While my husband drove home I’d typed out a speedy reply on my phone, and hastily began searching for information on the topic through my google connected droid.

When I got home I went to my computer and wrote out the article, sent it, and turned for entertainment to…my e-reader. An alternative choice would be the TV, or nintendo, or wii, or a great number of other things that all involve a screen.

It made me wonder. We want to escape so badly, yet we escape away to just another screen. Escape my phone by playing on the computer? Escape my computer by watching TV? What?

My head is pounding from staring at all these screens, and then it hit me…I’ve still got my notebook.

I am going to go spend an hour wallowing in the one thing I own that doesn’t have a screen attached to it. I suggest you try it too. Go ahead! Unplug!

Jim Butcher: Why he works

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I don’t give my reading heart away for free, see my sad tale here for why. As most of you know, it is also my principle never to read a series until it’s complete. My friends, Jim Butcher has changed that for me. It all started the weekend of my wedding, when my future bride’s maid and I were trolling the Border’s bookshelves, looking for new reads. Well, she was looking for new reads, I was looking for anything by any author I knew wouldn’t let me down.

Somewhere in the sc-fi/fantasy section she asked, “Have you ever read Jim Butcher?”

Patricia Wrede had a new book out, Thirteenth Child, and I was pondering getting it. “No, I–”

Suddenly I was snatched up in a whirl-wind of enthusiasm that is not my friend’s normal energy level, and cycloned over to a set of books for a grand choice between picking a book out of the series, or dying at her hands. I chose, “Dead Beat” the seventh in this series, and planned never on reading it.

Until she flipped it over and read the back cover to me, and what a back cover it was. It summed the whole story up, but made it sound sizzling and exciting, in two paragraphs! Most books I see have a great big picture of the author on the back. >_>

Fascinated, I flipped it open to the first page. A great opening sentence welcomed me, followed by a great first paragraph, followed by a great first page.

I read the whole book in eight solid hours. I went back and bought every available one the next day.

It begs the question though, what worked for him? What was so great about Jim Butcher it broke through my trust issues?

The book had a great back cover.

As mentioned before. Since the back cover is often used as an example of how query letters should be written, keep this in mind when you tap yours out. When I flipped that first book over, I was given an instant, fantastic overview of his plot, and the plot was good. I know, you don’t have much say over it, but this was step one of my transformation. All you authors who replace the back cover with an enormous picture of yourself, keep that in mind.

Internal monologue to die for.

Since you ought to know that a great hook is one of the key elements to landing readers, agents, publishers, and everything else in the writing world, I will not point out how fabulous his hooks are. I’ll just point you to this post here so you can make yours just as fabulous.

Jim Butcher writes his stories in first person. Normally I don’t care for first person, but Jim Butcher does first person so well, he makes third person feel lifeless and empty when you switch back. One of the keys to this is his internal monologue.

Harry Dresden’s voice colors the entire book. The details he notices about the world around him are noticed because he’s thinking about it. He came to be looking at that rug on the floor through some natural thought. He thinks about the characters he meets, and all the things he sees are colored with Harry Dresden tinted glasses.

I love it. I love how I can hear Harry’s voice through the whole book, and that voice in turn becomes my voice.

Detailed Research

Harry Dresden knows what he’s talking about, whenever he speaks of the supernatural. Every time he mentions a werewolf, he talks about which specific species. It’s not just magic, but what kind of magic. Harry Dresden speaks with such authority on magic, you have no doubt it’s real.

I shudder to think how many thousands of hours Jim Butcher spent with a notebook, trying to work out exactly how magic feels, or how many hours on the internet looking up the technical name for seeing the future. It is definitely one of the strongest features of the book though.

I think we writers can learn a lot from reading books like this, by figuring out exactly what part of the books work. Share with me a little. Who is your favorite fiction author, and what works for you? What can we take away from that book?

A new month!

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Ink in Progress has been open since July 21st, and this is our 75th post. I believe this is the most frequently updated blog I’ve ever owned, if not the longest running. I’m so glad to be meeting new friends, and hope to have this month under our belt with no missed posts too.

I’d love it if you took the time to share with me how you’re doing on your blogs, and your writing. What are your ideas? What’s going on in your world?

Thanks for sharing.

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