Thursday, May 16, 2019

Plotting 101: Google Docs Review

Let's start our review of writing tools with the affordable and easy to use Google Docs!

Google Docs

Google Docs is a cloud-based word processor owned by Google. It's free for anyone with a Google account to use. Since it's cloud-based, you can access it anywhere you have internet (and you can configure it to be available without Internet, provided you already have the document downloaded and available offline).

What It's Good At

Google Docs is perfect for the writer on the go. If you have Internet access through a laptop, tablet, phone, or anything, you can open your Google Doc and work on your writing. While you can work on your document offline, configuring this is tricky, and you will eventually need a good Internet connection to get all your changes synced with the online version of the document. 
Google Docs does keep a revision history, so you can go back and re-open a previous version of a document, or see what changed. 
It also comes pretty pared down. This makes it load fast, and eliminates some of the overpowered parts of Scrivener and Word that can feel confusing to use if you're not as familiar with word processors. There are add-ons you can get for free that let you customize Google Docs as you like. 
Probably my favorite part is how easy it is to share the document. If I want a beta-readers' eyes on it, I can just share the document with them. 

Where It Falls Short

What's interesting with Google Docs is how the things that are great about it are also the things that are...not so great about it. 
For example, the cloud-based part of it is great or awful depending on your situation. And while you can work on things offline, figuring that out can be difficult for someone who isn't as familiar with the product or the interface. And if there's an unplanned Internet outage (A storm takes out my power, but hey, since I can't vacuum now I'll open my laptop and write until my battery dies...or not) you may not be able to do your writing. And while there are ways around this, when considering how it fits into the flow, it's both great and awful. It's great because I can open my document and do a little writing just about anywhere. It's terrible because I have to have an Internet connection to do my writing unless I really plan ahead. 
The pared-down part is really frustrating for me, personally. I use Word a lot with work, so I know all the features it has. And while many of them aren't necessary for drafting a novel, finding an add-on to add the functionality I want to Google Docs is annoying. Granted, once I get my add-ons sorted, that annoyance goes away (sort of). But the way you use the add-on is often different and can feel clunky depending on how well the developer integrated it into Google Docs. Sometimes they're buggy, and sometimes they don't work like you think they will based on the description. I mean, it's free, so I guess you get what you pay for?
And finally, the ease of sharing also means it's a lot easier for someone you don't want to see the document to see it. And while you can take steps to mitigate this, it's still riskier than having a hard copy on your hard drive. 

Renee's Rating

Overall, I give Google Docs 3.5 stars out of 5. It's a decent solution, and it's definitely affordable. The integration with other apps makes it easier to meld Google Docs with some basic plotting tools, like Sheets or Excel. For someone who values availability and ease over functionality and security, it's the perfect solution. 

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Plotting 101: It's All About the Tools

Ok, not gonna lie...I feel a little like this guy:
Tim the tool man - With The Right Tools Anything Is Possible

Seriously though, I am a serious plotter...and a plotter is only as good as her tools! There are SO MANY out there that as part of this #WIP series I wanted to go over some available tools and review them.

What's In a Tool? 

For those of you who just sit at the computer and start writing: bless you. I just can't do that. Call it my high-functioning (self-diagnosed) anxiety, but I kinda have to have a plan to start writing. So when I evaluate a tool for writing, I'm looking at it through the lens of a plotter. I've found there is no perfect tool that works for everything, but that as I write I bring together the best tools I find into some sort of weird amalgamation. 
So that means when I judge a tool, I look at two things: how well it does its job compared to other tools, and how well using it fits into my flow of writing. 

What makes a tool "Good"?

A tool is good if it's useful. But by useful, I don't mean it can do a job. I mean it makes the job easy and effortless. I don't have to repeatedly configure things, I can easily access and add or edit my writing, I can customize the dictionary to not constantly tell me my made-up names are misspelled, I can easily share or post my work for review, an audit trail or version history is kept so I can see what's changed and restore older versions, I can use the tool at all levels of my plotting...and so on. I am making a small assumption that most writers who plot have similar needs to me. \

What is a tool "fitting into the flow of writing"?

I'm sure we've all experienced this. You're trucking along, getting those words when...what should I call this character? Is that how weird is spelled? Or is it wierd? I need to describe this...what does this place/culture/character look like again? 
And just like that, you've stopped writing and are doing "research" on the web, or scouring notes for a reminder for something you're pretty sure you decided months ago...but can't find. 
If a tool minimizes or eliminates the need to stop writing and search for something, it fits into the flow of writing. It's like having all the information you need accessible in seconds so you can find the note or picture you wanted, get the info you need, and move on with the scene. 

So with that in mind, I've made a list of tools I plan to review. Don't see your favorite on the list? Comment with your tool, and I'll add it to the review schedule! 

Remember, comments on any #WIP post earn you chances to win a free copy of the Druid book when it's published! This counts!

Word Processors

Google Docs
Microsoft Word

Plotting Tools

Microsoft Excel/Google Sheets

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Character Creation: Lore and Established Characters

Working with Established Characters

Quick Update: I have to schedule these in advance (or they don't happen). So while you won't see this until May, I'm writing it early on (like, April 5th). Sorry to ruin that for you. But it means that I don't have a last name for Carrigan yet. 

I did want to look a little more at characterization, and I realized that I did talk about Morrigan, the patron goddess of our protagonist. And it got me to thinking:

What do we do when a character (or anything, for that matter) in our story comes from something in real life?

So this could include settings, pop culture references, or in my case, mythological figures. 
It's not easy, because these ideas can be very fixed and rigid in our culture or in our minds. There's only so much subverting of the idea we can do before it's no longer believable or accessible for our readers.
Luckily for me, Morrigan is not that well known--most Irish and Celtic mythology is eclipsed by the Norse, Greco-Roman, and Indian mythological figures. So I have a little bit of freedom to interpret her as I want. 

Things I looked at to establish her character:

I started with Myers-Briggs personality. What's great about this is how it lets me consider different aspects, and by thinking which one both makes sense for the myth as well as my interpretation, I can create an instant personality profile. You could use DISC theory, or (for my D&D fans) Good versus Evil and Lawful versus Chaotic. 
Or if you're a bit of an overachiever like me, you can use all of them. 
What's great is that they feed into each other--so no matter where you start, you can use great free resources to shape your character, working from the outside in or the inside out.
What's great about these resources is that they help explain things that already exist. So if you're working with a character in particular that already exists, you can make educated choices to pin said character down. 

Making Them Real

Just because your character already exists doesn't mean you can skimp on the prep work. Morrigan will have a tab in the character spreadsheet I shared last week, just as Carrigan will. 
You can, however, look through the lore that already exists, and keep what works for you (and dump the rest).

WIP Time

So I did promise you bits of worldbuilding: here it comes. I'll try to start giving these tidbits about once a month.
I usually start with worldbuilding. I gave you some character information first, because I think it helps you feel more invested in what I'm doing, whereas building a world is somewhat abstract. So if you remember the early post, where I wondered about druids in the world, and how to reimagine them in a modern setting, here's how I fleshed that out:

Idea 1: You are born a druid, not made one

So part of the premise here is that certain people are born-druids. It makes sense from a worldbuilding perspective if you consider a druid's abilities to be magical. Just as in many fantasies, magical abilities in my world are inherited. 
A druid would be someone with:
  • An eidetic memory (to memorize the oral lore and laws)
  • Innate connection to the world (to access the spiritual world at times other than Samhain,  inspire and lead people)
  • Healing touch (for when they give medical aid)
These are just a few, but I liked the idea that someone is born with an ability. It makes sense to me, and explains how one person can be so good at memorizing something, or singing, or learning languages, while other people aren't. 

Next Week

I'll have a fleshed out character sketch of Morrigan, with as many details as I can create. I'll also continue the worldbuilding ideas, and start to tie them together.

Comment to get a copy of this book for free!

As a reminder, frequently commenting on this series can earn you a free copy of this book once it's published. This week, tell me what parts of Irish mythology you want to know more about.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Character Creation

Character Creation

So last week, we looked a little at developing a character--kind of my spaghetti train of thought as I considered things for the character. 
Since I'm scheduling these posts in advance (that's the only way to make sure they happen) and I'm waiting on the comments to get a last name for my protagonist, I wanted to sidebar and look into character creation as a whole. 

There's a lot of resources out there...

Yep. Tons. And it makes sense because, as I said last week, the characters really do make or break the story. 
I come from a different place than a lot of writers, however, because I have a background in acting and theater. What has always been REALLY cool to me is how much overlap there is. The biggest difference is that for an actor the information is there for the character, they just interpret it, whereas for the writer, we have to come up with everything from scratch.

So I started compiling my resources.

Some of my favorite parts of acting class were the portions dedicated to character development. We got all sorts of sketches, worksheets, and other materials to help us develop our characters. My favorite was probably where we did a study--we picked a person who we wanted to base the character off of, and (sometimes covertly) studied how the person breathed, walked, moved, everything. It was really cool, and it definitely helps you get physically into the character. 
Anyways, I looked through all these notes, and compiled them with some other resources I found on the Internet to make a master spreadsheet. 
If you want to download your own copy, use this link.
It's so cool (yes, I am a nerd). You can expand or collapse categories as needed, and by the time you get all the information together, you have a fully fleshed character. 
I'm going to start working on that now, with the plan of sharing a few other characters while I wait for the winning post with an awesome last name for Carrigan. 

Comment below!

As with all these posts, commenting frequently can earn you a free copy of this book once it's out! If you're an author, you can share your favorite character building tools...and if you're a reader, share some of your favorite characters!

Thursday, April 18, 2019


Main Character

Nowadays, characters are what REALLY make a story. Let's face it, most stories have already been told. What makes them new, exciting, and different are the characters. And since our protagonist is the main character, we really need to like her. We should identify with her, want to be her, and root for her to win the whole time.

This is easier said than done.

Those of you who are writing friends know this. Our protagonist should be awesome...but not too awesome. Because no one likes someone who is perfect. So our character needs a flaw--and a real flaw, not the lame "I work too hard" answer we all give at interview when asked what our biggest weakness is. 
I actually started a spreadsheet just for capturing character traits, including weaknesses, and whatnot. I'll fill that out on my own, but for here, I want to try to capture some high level ideas, and brainstorm a little. 
To be honest, I can't wait to see what your comments are!

The details

So I've already decided to align the protagonist with Morrigan, the goddess of war. In fact, on the name Morrigan means War Goddess. Like most Irish myths, however, she wasn't a one-trick pony (no Ares here). She also cared about sovereignty, and would predict the death of warriors in battle. She appeared often as a crow (but we're going to use ravens, because then I can feel like Poe as I write). She was crafty to a fault, and with her ability to prophecy, she was very powerful indeed.
I like the idea of her as an outcast--she was instrumental in the death of Cuchulain, one of the greatest Irish mythological heroes. So if every druid has a "sponsor" deity among the Tuatha de Danann, the Morrigan's druid would meet with a lot of dislike, hostility, and opposition among the community. 
To me, this makes sense. The person who has to do what is right (protect sovereignty) even if it isn't popular, and who can see and predict the death of brave warriors in a martial society would certainly be...well, not the first picked for the dodge ball game, that's for certain. 

Now for the protagonist

So our protagonist should be sympathetic enough with the Morrigan that they connect, and it makes sense that the Morrigan would sponsor her. But I feel like there should also be some conflict--some pieces that don't connect, as that would make DRAMA (which we need) and help make things difficult for both characters to get what they want. 
The character should also be able to be a druid--meaning perfect memory, able to learn lots of language and memorize codes of law, sing, and just be very smart. 
I think the foil of having the Morrigan not care about death, but just about results as opposed to someone who is sensitive and cares a great deal about life would make for a difficult relationship--but would also make the character a perfect druid (they are, after all, usually pacifist). 
I also like the idea of Morrigan being very calculating, whereas the protagonist is more impulsive. 
But they should both be fighters at heart, who will not back down. 

And for the name:

I'm thinking Carrigan. It's nice that it's spelled like and rhymes with Morrigan, which will help link them together. It also means pointed, or spear, which highlights that she is more blunt, more direct, more impulsive than the calculating Morrigan. It also makes her Morrigan's spear, and an instrument of the goddess's mission to maintain sovereignty and balance. This will tie in well with where I think the plot is going. 

Don't forget to comment!

Tell me what you like, what you don't, what you want to see.
Also, I would LOVE some suggestions for a last name for Carrigan. It should be Welsh, Scottish, or Irish if possible. If I love your idea, you DEFINITELY get a free book, and a note in the acknowledgements!
If I don't pick yours, keep commenting--you'll get that free copy if you interact with enough blog posts!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Inspiration Strikes

Time to Start a New Story!

So on my dad's side, I'm Scot Irish. Like, completely. 
And I LOVE it.
When I learned this, I started researching and learning all I could about Celtic and Irish mythology. To me, it was MUCH more interesting than the Greek/Roman we all learn in school. 

That was almost 20 years ago. 

Fast forward to now, with the huge success of Rick Riordan's Percy Jackson series, and I want to bring my Irish myths into the mix!
I actually got the idea at lunch at work one day. I worked in this office building that had a few nice outdoor tables. I was out at lunch, and the most beautiful glossy black raven decided to chill out right next to me (by right next to me I really mean about 100 feet away...).
The thing is, ravens are SMART. And very important in Irish mythology. Badb Catha and the Morrigan are both shown with ravens. 
So I got the idea of someone having a raven as a familiar, or a spirit animal, or something like that. 

That was over 5 years ago.

I hadn't done a whole lot with the idea besides note it and move on. I was planning my wedding, then buying a house, then focusing on my career...
When I decided to start writing seriously, I had other projects in mind. But I keep coming back to this idea. So about a year or so ago, I started researching, and developing an idea in my mind.


For those of you who aren't as familiar with Iron-Age Irish and Celtic cultures, druids were the people. They acted as priests, doctors, lawyers, historians...they did everything. All their lore was handed down orally, and they trained for years before becoming an actual druid and being allowed to practice. Even Kings deferred to them, or (if you're familiar with the Ulster Cycle) regretted ignoring them.
So my character with the raven...she would have to be a druid.
Oh, and would have to be a she, because I love writing female characters (sorry guys! I promise I'll have some awesome men coming soon!).

And then I got this crazy idea...

What if druids still existed? What if they served as a tie to the spiritual world? What if they helped keep our planet healthy? And as sacred places were destroyed (that is, developed), they lost the power they needed to keep our planet healthy?
Now I have everything I need to start some serious worldbuilding:
Setting--modern day, in North America, preferably close to my Eastern PA base, so I can do research while on hiking and camping trips (tax write off, anyone?).
Characters: Protagonist would be the up and coming druid, and would have a foot in two worlds--new friends who are also druids, but old friends from college as well. 
Plot: Well, I think a traditional hero's journey and a little saving of the world would be perfect. 

Next Time

I want to start fleshing out this world some--so I'll look at druids some more, and start the plotting part (which is still top secret!).
I hope to have some rough drafts posted in May--so keep checking in!

Don't forget to comment on the post! Commenting on #WIP posts can get you a free ebook!

Thursday, April 4, 2019

New WIP!

Rough Draft Time!

So, how would you (my like, 5 readers?) like an in-person look at developing a manuscript, from beginning to end? Since I really should blog with this account (more than once a quarter) and I really should work on my writing, I've decided to put them together.

What's In It For You?

You'll get to see the start of an idea, see how I flesh it out...and fix it up to make it better and better! And feel free to toss me some feedback along the way. 
If I see you commenting regularly, I'll give you a free copy of the ebook when I publish--just for your help!

What to Expect

I'll start by posting about my inspiration so far--and get into worldbuilding! 
Once I have the background fleshed out, I usually outline--but I don't want to ruin the story for you. So once the outline is complete, I'll go ahead and post the rough draft chapters as I write them. 
Warning: This may take a while.
Warning 2: Rough draft is just that--rough. There will be some issues. 

Start Commenting!

Comment on any of the #WIP posts to get entered for the free ebook. Ideally, I would love to see you commenting on at least 5-6 posts--but depending on how many comments I get, I may have to adjust. 
I want to send as many free copies as possible, so tell your friends!!!

Thursday, January 10, 2019

New Year, New Me...

Yep, it's January. Cue the multitude of blog posts with resolutions, people Instagramming themselves at the gym, and skyrocketing sales of Nicorette patches. As much as I dislike the new year "let's change everything" while changing absolutely nothing, there are some perks in sharing ones resolutions. Namely, accountability.

So to the 3 readers I have here (yes, I know that's how many there are...) let's do this differently. Let's not make resolutions--let's make goals and stick to them!!!

Resolution: Write More

I have SO MANY story ideas...but I have to sit down and actually do the work. Finding time is hard. And this resolution, if I just make it, won't change anything. So, let's make it a goal instead.

Goal #1: Outline Druid Work

So I had the idea of a modern-day druid. Sort of a cross between a Rick Riordan work and an adult paranormal fantasy work. And I have some outlining done, but I want to get it more solidified. My hope is to start writing it, and have something finished by the end of the year, or be in a good place to start for the next year. So, going to have this outline done and posted on Scribophile by March.

Goal #2: Finish 1001 Days Edits

My first work. I need to finish with this already. So, I will finish the edits on it by April. So far, the feedback I've gotten on the edits I've finished has been pretty good, and I think if I can get the A4A editor to crit it as well, I can get this on the shelves in the fall. So, finish it by April.

Goal #3: Finish drafting East of the Sun and West of the Moon

I'm so close with this one, y'all. It was the NaNo project of 2016--and while I "won" NaNo and wrote 50,000 words, I didn't actually finish the story. I really only have a few chapters to go. I need to finish it and get the rest on Scribophile for crits. Once it's up, I want to leave it there, and then do an alpha read cycle for it with my critique group. I don't want to work on it again this year once it's done, so it will be a major editing work for 2020. So, finished and posted by June.

Goal #4: NaNoWriMo 2019

I failed NaNo 2018 SO hard, mostly because with the lack of time I didn't have the outlining done that I needed in order to really dig in. Once I have my other projects out of the way, I want to really dig into the outline for this one. I anticipate it taking a good chunk of summer--and I'll be doing it while (hopefully) preparing 1001 Days for publication. So outline must be done by October 31, prepping me for NaNo 2019, and at least 50,000 written for this work through November. 

Resolution: Exercise

I'm actually going to put this on hiatus--because they're building a gym at my office, and once that's there, it will be SO MUCH EASIER to do this. Once the gym is up, however, coming back to this hardcore. 

Resolution: Time Management

In order to get this writing done (as well as my fair share of work for A4A) I'm going to step back from other things I've done throughout the year. So less hours teaching (or the same hours, but consolidated down). No more other extra projects. 

I want to try something different--I want us to make these goals and keep them together. So, post your goals as a comment, and let's hold each other accountable!