Monday, April 26, 2021

The Plotting Dilemma

Writers are always asking me how do you write your books? Do you plot everything in advance or do you do it scene by scene, or do you come up with a whole detailed outline? One thing I have learned over the many years of writing fiction – writers have so many varieties of ways to plot that it all comes down to whatever works for a particular person.  However there are some basics you can learn that can help a writer get the story in order. 

Still another way to plot your book is to do it by using multiple scenes. 
Use one scene to an index card and line up the scenes in order. You can also do this on your computer by putting the scenes onto separate pages into a file that you can save in a folder
 in the computer.  This method is great for the writers who don't like to come up with a formal outline because each scene can be written individually and then shuffled around to come up with the desired plot.  Each scene can be moved back or forth until it is in the "right" place.

Writers who don't like to plot often prefer to write their books a scene at a time.  If they have an idea for a certain event or scene, writing that scene out of order can help the creative process.  Getting the scene down while it is still fresh in their mind can improve the book.. 

A scene shows what happens as the action or the emotional problems/reactions unfold minute by minute. A typical book of let's say 85 to 90,000 words has about 70 or so scenes, give or take a few depending on the length of each scene,  with each scene moving the story forward or giving the reader insight in the growth of the main protagonist.

 Each scene should have a small plot in it:

·         time and setting - however this is often understood by the reader and therefore not always necessary

·         because of the action of the scene, the character MUST react in some manner either to the previous scenes problem or to the plot's overall situratio

·         and also show an emotional change or reaction

·         the reader needs to know (the motivation behind the character's actions)  and understand the goal of the protagonist

·         the conflict can be in the action, or it can be in the emotional tension

·         and finally the protagonist or whoever has that scene's POV needs to make some sort of a decision         

 Scenes can be a variety of lengths, depending on what you choose to include.  Some action-filled scenes may run two to three pages, while a simple conversation may be only half a page...but, on the other hand, it could also be three or four pages.  It all depends on your style, genre and whose POV the scene is in.

Learn to be careful how you treat the setting of your story...pages and pages of description, while maybe interesting, should be broken up and used sparingly and scattered in various scenes.

The main things to remember is that the scene must propel the story forward.  Each scene needs a reason.  If a scene does not serve a purpose, then that scene should be deleted.

  Keep in mind as you begin to put the scenes in order that you will want a variety of action-packed scenes intermixed with slower scenes or reflective moments.  Too many fast-moving scenes coming one right after another can leave a reader breathless, while too many long, emotional scenes can lull a reader to sleep.

Mix the length of the scenes with a progression that makes sense in moving the story forward and that allows the reader time to think and react along with the characters.

Remember - Each scene needs to contain a reaction to what has just happened or to the dilemma with the choices to be decided upon.  A decision, which reveals the character's determination and the direction of the overall plot and some type of goal set up for the next scene should end the scene.  This is called the hook. 

In my mystery, Blues at 11, I worked hard to make certain each chapter contained some sort of hook to pull the readers into turning the pages. What would happen to Anchorwoman Kimberly delaGarza, and could she prove she was not guilty of killing her cheating ex-boyfriend? 


Captain Hook in Peter Pan, although a villain, always caused Peter a great deal of trouble and his problems were almost always a surprise to both Peter and the reader. Writing hooks are like that.  We as authors use hooks to keep the readers turning the pages and to keep the interest in the plot. We don't want the reader to put down the book. We want them to know what will happen next. Hooks are usually used in two ways

             1 - At the end of a scene (or chapter) so the reader will keep turning the  pages

              2 - At the beginning of the scene to get the reader "hooked" into reading                                   all of the following pages.

          Let's see how the hooks work in the various scenes in the movie, Romancing the Stone

·         In one scene in the very beginning of the movie, the opening hook is where Joan returns home to her apartment and finds her place trashed. The closing hook is when her sister calls and Joan learns about the map that has been mailed to her. She then realizes that the bad guys have been looking for the map in her apartment.  This makes her mad and determined to do something about it.

·         The scene in the wrecked airplane, in which Joan and Jack get drunk and Jack finds the map, the opening hook is finding the plane as it is raining and they need a place to stay...finding an old plane in the middle of the jungle certainly is not expected and the ending hook is when Jack not only finds the map, but puts it back.  We, the reader, now know that Jack is up to no good and we wonder what will he do next?

All these elements play a vital element in the plot and that is what the writer needs to keep in mind what the end purpose is. Putting things together so that the viewer or reader can say at the end, "wow, I didn't see that coming," or "I missed that. I should have known."  Those are the type of statements that will have readers coming back for more. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

The Joy of the Writing Life

Writing has always been a driving force in my life. From the moment I took up a pencil and pile of notepaper, and later notebooks or tablets, I always found myself writing something –whether it was the random thoughts of my first diary (complete with lock to journaling in the park during college to banging away on my first manual typewriter on weekends, I was always writing something. People in my apartment building in Seattle called me “the typist” whenever they saw me come out of my apartment to catch the elevator. (The elevator was right next to my apartment door)

            What was I doing with all that typing”  Well, fictional stories, of course. I had enough of writing true life stories every day in day job in a TV newsroom. The murders I committed on the written page were easier to write than the true life murders or diseases and other problems I had to write about that actually happened to real people or affected those around me.

            At times though I had those real stories in mind as I wrote my fiction. At least in my stories, I made certain the women were not left waiting at the train station or searching for children they might never find. I got to decide the outcome of the story and that made them easier to write. At the same time, the emotion I saw in people deeply affected by traumatic incidents stayed with me and allowed me to put some of my frustration into the fiction I was writing. I got to decide if there was a happy ending for the woman who so badly wanted to find a loved one or bring down the roof on a bad actor who was hurting those around him. I got to make those decisions and give the reader a satisfying ending. 

            True life can spawn real stories and ideas gleaned from happenings every day around writers can be taken and spun into wonderful tales. I don’t know how many times I have heard writers asked where they get ideas for stories, and so often the answer is familiar or similar to one of my thoughts.  Those stories are all around us.  The idea for my first romance came from a simple phrase my mother told me when I was young. She was a teenager the first time she saw my father wrangling broncs at her uncle's ranch. Her first thought when she saw him -- "I'm going to marry that boy one one." And she did!  True it took her some growing up and a war that came between them for a while, but she eventually got her happy ending.  It took that comment and wrote "Home Fires Burning" around it.

          As fiction writers, all we really need is a snippet of an idea or a person with a problem. The best part about writing fiction is that we get to make up the story we want. We get to decide how the bad guy gets punished or if he or she doesn’t get punished and comes back to wreak further havoc.

         We get to make the decisions about how much misery we want our main characters to suffer and we get to decide which characteristics they have that will help them to overcome their problems.

            But there is more we as writers need to keep in mind as we weave those tales spun from ideas that might spring around us. We also want to teach lessons about humanity in our work – whether it is to show someone who is a really good guy or to show someone how that person might be able grow or learn about themselves. I was living in Las Vegas when I got the idea for a woman who lives for others, and never realizing her own value or worth from a friend's story. It grew into the story of a woman rediscovering herself -- becoming a Desert Blossom. 

            The joy of writing can also carry with it the responsibility of helping the world. As a newswriter, I always knew we were charged with doing our best to be fair as journalists, to get the facts right or to make certain both sides of a story got told.

            As  a fiction writer we can have bad guys win sometimes but we still have to be careful not to glorify certain things. The ability to write carries responsibility as well. Yes, some might have the power to spin an evil or false tale. A responsible write keeps that in mind. And, while good guys don’t always win, we need to show why or how much they tried to win.

            When I first began writing romance, I was told we always had to have an ending that is happy, and sometimes that can be a real challenge. Bringing the bad guy or gal to justice is also important, but sometimes that doesn’t always work in a story.  As writers we need to be able to decide which works best. Making the wrong choice can mean you’ll never sell another book. 

           At the same time, making a choice that makes you uncomfortable as a writer or is against your own wishes doesn’t work either. As writers we need to remember why we are writing and make the choices that work best for us and for our characters.

            The result won’t necessarily give you that happy ending as a writer, but it can make you a better writer in the end.  

Desert Blossom -

Sunday, April 11, 2021

A Winning Combination

 Books with a sports background have always been among my favorites to read or write. Sports stories were a staple when I visited the library or bookstores. My first attempt at fiction writing involved a romance between a young woman involved with a football star, and my first published book was about a baseball manager and a sports broadcaster. M  longtime career was as a journalist (though I started out wanting to be a sports reporter) Years later, my first published novel was about a female broadcaster and a baseball manager.

This week in My Writing Corner, I am pleased to feature authors Liz Crowe and Desiree Holt and their latest book -- a story involving the combination of my favorite subjects -- sports and romance.

USA Today best-selling and award-winning author Desiree Holt writes everything from romantic suspense and contemporary on a variety of heat levels up to erotic, a genre in which she is the oldest living author. She has been referred to by USA Today as the Nora Roberts of erotic romance, and is a winner of the EPIC E-Book Award, the Holt Medallion and a Romantic Times Reviewers Choice nominee. She has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and in The Village Voice, The Daily Beast, USA Today, The (London) Daily Mail, The New Delhi Times and numerous other national and international publications. 

Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville living in Central Illinois. She's spent her time as a three-continent expat trailing spouse, mom of three, real estate agent, brewery owner and bar manager, and is currently a social media consultant and humane society development director, in addition to being an award-winning author. With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, inside fictional television stations and successful real estate offices, and even in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are compelling and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, at times frustrate, and always linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.

Let's get more on their new book, Numbers Game:

Former pro football player and coach Duncan "Hatch" Hatcher fumbled his career and marriage. Now divorced and ready to tackle his future, he has an opportunity to redeem himself as coach of his college alma mater's football team. But how can he can turn the team's losing streak around and keep the secret of his downfall buried when the school agrees to a documentary that will allow a lovely journalist to dig her way into his past...and into his heart?

Olivia Grant's ex-husband almost wrecked her journalism career while he definitely did a number on her self-esteem. The documentary on Duncan Hatcher is the perfect way to rebuild both. As a freshman in college, she'd had a crush on the senior football hero, but he hadn't known she existed. She never expects the sparks that fly between them as they work on the project nor the struggles they must face if they both want to win.

Sounds like a great read! Let's dig into those characters, starting with Duncan:

What frightens you about having a journalist dig into your past?

Oh, pretty much everything. Just kidding. Actually, having a good relationship with the media is something I’ve always prided myself on. And it’s not always easy to be either a player or a coach and sustain good relations with people whose job it is to be a fly in the ointment, to ask tough questions, to force you to face your own failures with questions like “How does it feel to lose that game, coach?”

I’ll admit that when the AD asked me if I’d be willing to do this, I was reluctant. The public eye has not been kind to me the last few years, even though I’ll admit my own part in that. But Olivia has the best interest of the program in mind, and I trust her completely to do right  by it, and by me.

What draws you to her personally?

Her tenacity, her strength of character and spirit, her alma mater, her cooking skills, and her ass. (Can I say that? Oh well, I did. It’s very appealing.)

What is your strongest drive or appeal?

Me? Well, I’m told I’m a good coach, I like to think that I am. I worry sometimes about trying to lead young men who are all barely teenagers into adulthood. I know what a knuckle head I was at their age, and sometimes I’m afraid I won’t have the courage or patience to do it right. But ever since I pulled myself out the giant hole I made in my own life, I’ve been 100% focused on turning things around in my life. And you can ask anyone who’s ever coached me in anything: I do not like to lose and I’m loyal to a fault.

How do you want people to see you?

As the man who was lucky enough to meet, fall for, and convince Olivia to be with me forever.

Now let's talk to Olivia? 

What draws you personally to Duncan?

His strength as a person and as a coach, without being overbearing or demanding. His willingness to share with the media without being arrogant. I see the way he runs the team, fully in charge but at the same time aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each player. I think what impressed me the most in the beginning was not something on the field, but aa few minutes he spent with a handicapped child after a race we both ran. His sense of humanity is so incredible and shows the softer side of him.

What frightens you about him?

Not much, really. Maybe his total dedication to the game that can sometimes separate him from everyone and everything else. I’ve known men for whom their career was the absolute focus of their life and people came second. I don’t see it in Hatch but as his success with this program grows I worry…just a tiny bit…that it will eclipse everything else.

 How has being a woman in what is basically a man's world shaped you?

I learned to fight hard for my place without losing my femininity. I played soccer in college so I am tuned in to competitive sports, and I still run races when I have the chance. But I also know I have to be confident without being obnoxious and not let men who think sports is a man’s world knock me off the track. And also be a complete student of sports, so people know I’m knowledgeable and know my subject and the world of sports. I want to be very successful without being, a you know…

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope this video will be a huge, huge success and open a new path for me to do more of them. I am hoping for recognition and respect for me as a knowledgeable sports reporter. And I hope Hatch sees me as the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with.

These characters are great, and the book sounds like an off the field winner! 

Here are Liz and Desiree’s links for more information on their new book:

Desiree Holt: 

Twitter: @desireeholt

Pinterest desiree02holt


Follow me  on BookBub 

Amazon Holt/e/B003LD2Q3M/ref=sr_tc_2_0?qid=1505488204&sr=1-2-ent 

Signup for my newsletter and receive a free book:

 Liz Crowe:


Facebook Author Page:

Book Bub Page:




Website (new version coming soon!):

Sign up for newsletter/get a free book!:

Thank you both so much for bringing us your latest book! Any comments or questions?

Monday, April 5, 2021

A Look Back to Go Forward

 As we begin to come through the pandemic,  and we become more confident due to vaccines, our schedules may be returning more to normal -- especially as we move toward the warmer months. We will be able to be outside more, and even get back to visiting our extended families or attending the writing groups in person.  In other words, some of our lives will return to normal.

In preparation for that, this may be a good time to look around at what changes we might want to make in our writing lives. Do we want to go back to all the old bad habits or do we want to change and perhaps develop some new good writing habits.

One thing that has happened for me is the the loss of attending regular writing groups. Critique groups were no longer meeting in person and our weekly critiques turned into online critiques. Our regular writers' organization meetings were held virtually, which to me was actually a wonderful opportunity. I was able to partake more easily in the discussions from my comfortable writing chair as opposed to spending an hour or two driving to the meetings and looking for parking.

Perhaps what I missed most was the opportunity to check in with others on their writing during those breaks in the meetings or when we were waiting for the sessions to start. But the online sessions have also given me a chance to attend Zoom sessions with writing groups all across the country..  I've even attended one that was given by a group on Canada, which was very worthwhile since I am working on a book that is a sequel to one of my early books set in British Columbia. While I didn't get the chance to visit my favorite spot in Vancouver, I was able to learn about the court system given in a lesson aimed at helping writers get their facts straight.  

The pandemic and Zoom meetings have also given me the opportunity to connect online with other writers who are also stuck at home and looking for ways to keep their muses busy while so many things around us are unpredictable. Writing a book set in a dystopian world where half the popular has fallen victim to a pandemic no longer seems like a subject I would want to tackle in a book. 

At the same time, it also has given me time to go back and look over old projects and go back to work
on sequels I might have wanted to do -- hence that plan to bring back some of my old favorite characters and place them in a new setting or a new story.

As writers, we often live in our own little worlds, worlds we create and it's sometimes easier to retreat to those places to dwell among our characters. I was always stricken by a comment made by best selling mystery author Robert Crais at a writing convention years ago. The convention was held in Los Angeles where he lives and the scene of his popular Elvis Cole and Joe Pike novels, and one of his comments to us was that he was a little late because he'd found it difficult to leave the world of Joe and Elvis.

 Sometimes I know exactly how we feels. As writers we need to take ourselves into those worlds and see and feel the world about which we are writing. I guess that's part of why I'm feeling bad about not being able to visit that world in Vancouver that I am creating on the written page. But I take myself into it to get the feel and that in the end, may give me a better story. By taking myself there visually and emotionally I will be better prepared to take my readers there. 

It's a lesson that we can all learn -- put yourself in that other world in your mind. It will make your story stronger. Use all the senses -- whether it's what you see, what you smell, what you feel about your location. Putting yourself there can help you to put your readers there. 

In the meantime I'm going to enjoy being able to get out more as spring comes and I'm going to soak up every part of what I feel so I can put it into my next story. 

Characters Lead the Way

We're in the heart of the summer and it is time to relax and enjoy a few good books by the beach or in some secluded mountain cabin. To...