BLOG MOVED 

Phew.  Okay, it’s been a whirlwind trying to figure moving websites out. I was worried Wix wouldn’t work well with my blog and unfortunately I was right… AFTER designing the website and moving everything over to Wix, I discovered they are not the best platform for blogging (no “follow blog” button, formatting posts and getting them to stay is a pain, no easy sidebar options, etc).
Unfortunately, I’m moving again ha.  I wanted to quickly do this –even while tweaking the newer design–  since I’ve only been on Wix for a week (awesome) and before everything gets settled.  But I’m so happy with the response I got with moving (over 120 views in the past week!).  Thank you for moving along with me!
A Little Southern Grace will be moving to WordPress.org.  I debated getting this for a while (even before starting with WordPress.com), and finally jumped in and paid the fee for my own domain/hosting for the next 3 years.
Sorry for all the confusion if you’ve been jumping around with me!!  The blog will definitely stay on WordPress.
Here’s the link for the PERMANENT (promise) blog:  A LITTLE SOUTHERN GRACE.
(I’ll be deleting this website in a couple weeks once SG is on a roll again…)

One Year Blogiversary & Big Surprise!

**EDIT:  The website now has its own domain! Scroll down to the link to the new blog.

So it’s officially been ONE YEAR since my first post!  March 7, 2015 was the day I created this blog and pushed the publish button.  And to celebrate, I have a super huge announcement:

I’M MOVING!!!

No, not houses. Instead of a new design on WordPress to celebrate MaddyCakes turning 1 (YAY), I’ve decided to relaunch the site through WordPress.org under a new name. New pages, completely new design, newsletters, and a celebration for the blogiversary: it’s all there!

A Little Southern Grace

AHH I’M SO EXCITED TO SHOW YOU GUYSSS so go ahead and explore A Little Southern Grace!

Don’t forget to let me know what you think 😀

 

A Peak Inside the Story: R+B

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You got it (or in case you missed the title and the picture ha): I’m featuring R+B on the blog today! This story still doesn’t have a name. Lovely.  Is it just me or is that one of the hardest parts? The silly TITLE. So for now, let’s call this work R+B – or Rob.

INSPIRATION

My inspiration for this story comes from a couple different places.

I read Reedeeming Love by Francine Rivers and really enjoyed the Biblical story retelling. I believe the story the author drew from was fairly vague so she had a lot of fun with the details.  Her romantic plot line…..GAAAHH   The  understanding guy.  The lost girl.  The details.  The hints.  My favorite love story by far.

And – what I love about Rivers’ writing so far – she fits God into her stories with ease, making it sound completely natural and not preachy.  So why not write my own retelling drawing from these details?

The history. The exact time period keeps changing, but I love the vintage style.  I love the old-fashioned romance.  My notes for Rob consist of Alaskan census information during the 1930s and major events in Alaskan history.  Not my favorite history topics but interesting nonetheless!

I wanted to write something new.  Something different.  My repertoire lacks a  villainless story.  Yes, there are characters against my main characters, but no big baddie with henchmen and scary entraces.

I’ve never written a story about some one’s life without adding a huge villain, so something new will be learning to keep it interesting without fight scenes (except maybe an occasional brawl with the main guy *cough cough*).

BLURB

Ruth Holmes is far too young to be a widow.   When her grieving mother-in-law Mara announces she’s traveling back to her hometown, it doesn’t make life easier. Following Mara into the Alaskan wilderness, Ruth must learn how to survive in a town with a surplus of rough trackers and miners where the only gentleness is in the peaceful stream flowing beside her tent.  

Born and raised in a cabin outside a growing Alaskan town, Harrison Boaz’s life changes when he earns a share of his father’s farm land.  He soon discovers this new business to drain his freedom and squash his mountain adventures out of existence. Fighting the tug of the wilderness, Harrison struggles to fulfill his duty of keeping the family business strong.

MAIN CHARACTERS


The starring lady in Rob is Ruth Holmes. She looks a little murderous upset in this picture but still resembles Ruth slightly.

She’s young, stubborn, slow to seek friendships, and perhaps – with what few friends she has-  loyal to a fault.  And VERY underdeveloped…

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Harrison Boaz:  gentle and quiet, yet adventurous.  Also,  he may (hopefully!) have his own POV in a couple chapters.

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This picture from Pinterest is my original inspiration for what Ruth and Harrison look like. Especially the red nails and lipstick and the peacefulness.

 

OTHER CHARACTERS

 

The rest of the cast is a little rough right now…but these three have definitely made their way into the story: a nosy businessman from out of town, a girl with a talent for trouble, and a not-so-wise mentor.

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AESTHETIC

wilderness.  animal tracks.  mud.  coffee on the stove.  cinnamon.   freshly cut crops.  white tents.  dust-covered faces.  dogs.  cold streams.  warm fires. 

STATUS

Rob is in the DRAFT 1 stage right now.  After plotting, I gave in and created a scene list so I could (hopefully) eliminate some wasted time staring at my computer screen, thinking of what to write next.

Goal words:  75,000ish
Genre:  Romance, Christian

I’d like to push up the goal words once the first draft is done, but for now 75K is longer than any previous story I’ve written.

EXCITING PARTS

GUYS.  I can’t wait to write a romance.  Writing the scenes that are SO ANNOYING to read. You know the ones – where the couple is so amazingly close to looking at each other and then…..they don’t.  It makes the end so much more fulfilling.  Unless it’s one of those stories that ends with the main character dying *wink wink*

Also, the different plot lines.  I have several lines that will be so fun to intertwine so the focus isn’t completely on the two main characters.  Throw some politics and craziness in there to mix things up.


Annndd there’s Rob!  Messy and thrown-together with underdeveloped characters, but I’m excited!

What is your current story about?  What stage are you in: plotting, drafting, editing?

 

Writing Buddies & Why You Need One

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When writing The Dove of Hope, I had a full-time buddy that chatted with me on Google Hangouts every day.  We talked through plot problems, shared our favorite writing excerpts, and celebrated break throughs.  We both wrote 50K words that month and both finished our FIRST full-length novel (YAY!).

Now my “writing buddies” are whoever will listen! I grabbed my sisters (11 and 13) to help me outline R+B, a recent story idea.

SIDE NOTE: One of my favorite writing tips is think of what the reader would expect, and make the opposite happen.  

So I talked through a few scenes in R+B and asked my sisters what they thought would happen next or how a certain character would react.  Lemme tell you, it was SO MUCH MORE HELPFUL than I thought.  Originally, I thought I would listen to what they thought would happen and switch it up so readers wouldn’t expect the plot.

A few times they came up with the same thing I had outlined, so I made a note and moved on.  But the rest of the time – oh my goodness, they gave me such exciting ideas!!

So, here are the reasons why YOU need a buddy when writing – and like my sisters, they don’t have to be writers themselves.

 A fresh look is ALWAYS helpful.

I think we’ll all agree that it’s both ridiculously hard yet necessary to let someone read your work. Whether it’s during the outlining process or during DRAFT 5, you need it. Whenever you prefer to share your work.  A new set of eyes will help you find plot holes and weak characters.

 In the blogging world, it seems much easier to find people willing to talk which is a huge bonus to blogging for both writers who have support at home and those who don’t!

Encouragement is a must.

Seeing someone get excited after reading your story is amazing.  Yes, it’s hard to let someone in, but you’ll be glad you did.

My sisters have read (without my knowledge at the time…..girls)  a few of my stories. And the fact that they remember little things about the characters makes me SO SO happy.

You can work through problems.

Just like having my sisters’ opinions during outlining -it’ll save some time if you know your plot isn’t predictable BEFORE the words are on paper.

If you’re frustrated trying to figure out how to make your villain seem creepy or your climax more powerful, ask for ideas.

You don’t have to be an unsociable hermit.

We’ve all seen it happen during NaNoWriMo.  You lock yourself away, fingers flying, eyes locked on the screen.  Let’s not even talk about that last day when you’re scrambling to meet the goal and  may or may not be heard from for hours.

With a buddy, it forces you to come back to reality and chat – which is important.  And this is coming from an introvert 😉

It’s a 2 way street.

If you have a friend who is writing a story, then not only do you get help writing your masterpiece but you get to experience some one else’s amazing work! It’s so exciting to see my 11 year old sister ask for character name ideas for her own story after she helps me with mine. ❤

 

So next time you’re having some trouble with your plot, find someone willing to listen and start brainstorming! ((An amazing place to do this with online buddies is here – NaNoWriMo.org))

Do you have a writing buddy? Have you ever written a collab story (a HUGE goal of mine)?

 

How to use Pinterest to Storyboard

I’ve talked about a few specific story ideas on here but I have so many ideas stuck inside my head that haven’t made it onto the blog.  Or only have a photo collage on my stories page. Each – not matter what stage of planning – has a Pinterest board:

Here are a few reasons why you should storyboard on Pinterest….

  • Aesthetic inspiration.  Lemme tell you, aesthetic boards are so pleasing ❤   If you’re not sure what you want to happen in the story or want a feel for how a certain location looks, make an aesthetic board. Set a mood. I recently created one for a coffee shop for one idea:

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  • Characters. Finding characters is easy on Pinterest – people in fashion, makeup inspiration, actors, etc.  And don’t settle for just one reference! I went through several men before I found the perfect Hunter (that sounds more romantic than I intended haha).

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  • Scene ideas.  Between photos from movies and writing prompts floating around, scene ideas are endless.  You can also pin quotes that create a scene in your head. For example:

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And thus was born the backstory to why Beau, a young soldier from The Davidson Effect, is not allowed to carry a weapon. Poor guy.

  • Shared authors. A fun thing about Pinterest boards – you can share boards with other pinners! When I was writing a script for a short that included every one of my friends and their siblings, I added each friend as an author.  I was able to see how they pictured their character and scenes they wanted to see in the script.  Very helpful if you have a writing buddy!
  • Frequent edits.  As the story changes,  I always go back and clean up my Pinterest boards. Make sure the pictures are still relevant to your story. Maybe I’m a little OCD, but I can’t stand boards that have over 300 pins….way too many to find inspiration.

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  • New story ideas.  While you’re looking for that perfect character for Novel X, you may happen upon a quote that sparks a new idea.  This could be considered a downside to using Pinterest haha – you may find yourself adding LOTS and LOTS of new stories to your mental to-write list!  Come on, we all have one, don’t we?

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So what are you waiting for? Go create a storyboard!  If you already have a few, it’s always fun to look through and see a visual representation of your future novel 😀

Do you use Pinterest for writing? What are your favorite things to look for – characters, quotes, scenes?

How I’m Plotting 

Plotting generally doesn’t work for me.   Extensive, scene-by-scene outlines make me lose excitement after plannin so many “boring” scenes.  AKA scenes that don’t involve fighting or romance.  But not plotting ends in me never starting because I never know where to start.

With the only novel I’ve finished – The Dove of Hope – I had a writing buddy that chatted with me daily so we kept each other writing without outlines to guide us. (SIDE NOTE: WRITING BUDDIES ARE AMazInG) We talked about endings and shared excerpts, but that was the extent of our plotting.

Without a friend to write with, I have a million unfinished projects.

When starting my most recent project, I decided to try a mixture of two plotting techniques – the zero plot method and the snowflake method.

To start off, an overview!

The Zero Plot Method

This method involves writing a quick draft without any details.  You describe the main events that happen with any important details and leave out the rest to fill in in Draft 1.  For example, here is part of my zero plot for the the first chapter or two for R&B, my current project.

R, a young widow, follows her mother-in-law M to her home town in Alaska after World War I. She is forced to sell her wedding ring in order to pay for room and food during the first few weeks. They come into town and discover it ridden with miners and railway workers after the Treadmill Mine incident the year before. In new surroundings, R is forced to quickly find a job, despite the abundance of workers, in order to open L’s broken-down shop. She runs into B, a handsome farmer, and M remarks how much he looks like O’s husband.  

Ignoring how rough it sounds – gotta love first/zero drafts – I wrote the main events in present tense to quickly get the words on paper. Try not to think too much about it and write through the whole story.

The Snowflake Method

This method takes plotting a little slower, leading up to a summary that basically is a zero draft.  I found the snowflake method on this site.  It takes you step by step, starting with a one-sentence summary:

A young widow struggles to open a shop in a growing Alaskan town while falling for a rich man.

You go on to create a quick one paragraph summary about each character in your novel. Next, you expand your one-sentence plot summary into a full fledged paragraph with characters and conflicts.

You continue to expand each sentence of the character and novel summaries into full paragraphs until you have a few pages of each. At this point, you have a zero draft and pages of character arc information.

The website leads you into creating a spreadsheet to lay out each scene from your summaries before writing the first draft.  I prefer not to do this step.  I also don’t expand the character summaries beyond one paragraph.  Once I go much farther past these steps, I lose inspiration and start drowning in the details.

Merging the Two

By the time I finished using these two methods (following the first steps of the snowflake method and jumping to the zero draft), I had created the following for my novel in a couple hours:

  • A list of major characters
  • A full paragraph description of each character’s goals, motivations, and a brief plot line.
  • A one-sentence book summary.
  • A full paragraph book summary with each major conflict and the ending.
  • A 3 page “zero draft” of my novel with major scenes involving the main characters.

What I didn’t create from the methods:

  • Full page character descriptions with small details like dislikes, favorites, physical descriptions, and backgrounds.
  • A spreadsheet of in-depth scene descriptions.

If you’ve read my other posts, you know that my favorite part of writing is creating characters.  That’s where the planning stops for me. I have a general view of what I want the character to be like but details don’t come out until I’m writing the first draft.  Once in the middle of writing, I create a more in-depth description of each character once I get a feel for them.

Remember, your plotting doesn’t have to be pretty either…this may or may not be a scene idea in my zero draft:

He has to find R is some amazing, exciting way and he FINALLY professes his love to her. Kisses may occur mwahaha

Then you start pounding out the words, filling in scenes here and there and most likely changing your outline as you go.

I’m excited to put these methods to use in all my unfinished projects!

How do you plot?  Or do you prefer to jump in without outlines?


 

Also, forgot last post, but I have a new blog design! I know…this is not the first time I’ve changed it.  But oh well!  🙂

//A Mingling of Souls// A Book Review

Introducing my first book review!  A Mingling of Souls is not a book I would typically pick up in a bookstore, but I absolutely loved it.  A friend from my online Christian school recommended it after I asked for advice on our Facebook group.

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Authors

From Amazon:  Matt Chandler pastors The Village Church, a multi-campus church attended by  more than 10,000 people.  His sermons are regularly one of the top five podcasts on iTunes and his book, The Explicit Gospel, has sold over 135,000 copies.  Matt lives in Dallas with his wife and three children.

Jared C. Wilson is an award-winning writer and author of the popular books Your Jesus is Too Safe, Gospel Wakefulness, Gospel Deeps, and the curriculum Abide. He is a pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Vermont and blogs daily at TheGospelCoalition.org.

Back Cover 

The Song of Solomon offers strikingly candid – and timeless – insights on romance, dating, marriage, and sex.  We need it.  Because emotions rise and fall with a single glance, touch, kiss, or word.  And we are inundated with songs, movies, and advice that contradicts God’s design for love and intimacy.

Matt Chandler helps navigate these issues for both singles and marrieds by revealing the process Solomon himself followed: Attraction, Courtship, Marriage…even Arguing.  The Mingling of Souls will forever change how you view and approach love.

Overview

I honestly haven’t read more than a dozen Christian books, but every one I ended up loving.   The Mingling of Souls is no different. I never thought I would enjoy a book like this, but I’m a killer for romance so why wouldn’t I enjoy reading about the ideas behind it?  I read the entire book in one morning, highlighting like crazy.
Chandler walks through Solomon and his love’s relationship from first glance to when they are old and wise, guiding younger generations. He describes how each event – commitment, courting, marriage, passion – should praise God and he provides modern day applications in between stories.  He discusses issues such as the godly views of attraction, dating and courtship, what wedding vows actually mean, how to handle arguments, seeking advice from godly peers, and staying together through difficult times.

Favorite Quotes

I found myself highlighting so many sections that seemed to answer exactly what questions I have as a young woman: anything from relationship guidelines to what to look for in a godly spouse to examples of Solomon’s adoration for his wife.  Here are a few of my favorite excerpts:

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(Solomon’s bride pursuing him after conflict)

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Rating

 4.5/5.  I recommend the beginning of this book at the very least to single ladies and gents.  The dating and courting advice is fantastic and will help you set clear guidelines on what and what not to do.  The second half of the book describes marriage life and, although it was a great read in preparation, it is not usually applicable to most people my age.
I love how Chandler constantly compares modern day love to Biblical love, both with Solomon and his bride and Jesus Christ.  He recognizes the difficulty staying away from modern worldly romance, and urges his readers to follow Solomon’s example of pursing a godly relationship to give glory to God  This book is not only advice for “singles and marrieds” but also a brief study of the Song of Solomon.  All in all, a great quick read!

 

DIY “What I Love About You” Cards


Seth and I have been together for a little over a year.   When the big 1 year anniversary rolled around, it called for a gift!  Can you already tell this post is a little late? Haha. If you’re like me, gifts are hard to come up with.  What would they like?  Where do I buy it? How much should I spend?   What if they get something for me that’s better? (Yes, a legitimate fear of mine – my gift not measuring up to the one given to me!)

Hand made gifts, in my opinion, are more special than store bought gifts.   I love to put together gifts in cute ways, however long it takes to think of something unique! It usually ends in me searching Pinterest for ideas and tutorials.  So much for originality. 😉

For Seth, I decided on “What I Love About You” cards. They work for friends, boyfriend/girlfriends, spouses, family – you name it!

After finding this idea a couple years ago, my siblings and I created “44 Things We Love About Mom” cards out of scrap book paper for her 44th birthday. She loved it so much she got our family, her sister’s family, and my grandmother to write a deck for my grandfather’s birthday. It’s super easy and so meaningful.

Like the “Open When” letters, this DIY gift has been floating around Pinterest.  The majority of photos shows the cards made with a deck of playing cards labeled “52 Things I Love About You.”

For Seth’s project, I stuck to plain white cards so I can have more freedom to play around with fun fonts and decorations.  To me, white seems more crisp and neat than playing cards.

Supplies

  1. Cards such as blank post cards, index cards, or playing cards.
  2. A pen.
  3. A hole puncher.
  4. Something to bind the cards with – ribbon, rings, etc.
  5. A list of things you love about your special person.
  6. Optional: scrapbook paper/ribbons/stamps/stickers to decorate.
  7. Optional: A laminator to seal your cards before binding

How To

So since taking the tutorial photos on our actual anniversary (in November) I somehow managed to delete them. I luckily kept the finished product photos. Face palm. Awful, I know…

For my project, I ended up using watercolor paper.  I recently tried dabbling in watercolors and wanted to throw some color on the cards. Feel free to decorate with other supplies such as scrapbook paper or markers! (Also, make sure you shift your decorations away from where you will bind the card – my hole puncher cut off some of the watercolor.)

  1. I started by cutting the 8 x 8 inch sheets into quarters. I mixed my colors together and added some blotches here and there on the front of the cards. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
  2. Grab your list of things you love about your person and start writing! You can write lightly with pencil first if you use a pen like I did.  Play around with different fonts (I typed my list up on Word with a brush font for reference) and don’t forget to make front and bag covers!
  3. On the back of each card, write a short note explaining why. For example, on my “you’re super sweet” card, I named a few thoughtful things he regularly does and how much I appreciate it.
  4. Grab your hole puncher and punch a couple holes in the side of each card, making sure they all line up.
  5. End by binding! I used twine for mine – it seemed more hand made and crafty than metal rings.

And…..you’re done! How easy was that?

Here are the end photos:

And the front and back covers:

Super simple and so fun to make!

Honor Flight: Honoring World War II Veterans

My grandmother is a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution – or DAR.  I’ll be honest and say  I know nothing about the DAR aside from the two events I’ve tagged along to, but I loved attending both times.  According to their website, DAR is “a women’s service organization dedicated to promoting historic preservation, education, patriotism and honoring the patriots of the Revolutionary War.”

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Within this organization, my grandmother signed up for the Veterans Committee. Last year, she invited me to help pass out Valentine’s Day cards from elementary school children in a veteran clinic near her house.  It was so much fun seeing the veterans’ faces light up with smiles as they read the cards and snacked on some goodies we brought.  So when she told me about something called an “Honor Flight” a couple months ago,  I couldn’t resist!

On the Honor Flight website they state their mission: To transport America’s Veterans to Washington, DC to visit those memorials dedicated to honor the service and sacrifices of themselves and their friends.

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 The specific flight welcoming party I went to was a couple days after the Pearl Harbor anniveresary for World War II – around 10 veterans, 2 of which survived Pearl Harbor.   I grabbed my camera and headed off to welcome home these AMAZING heroes.

   It was a huge turnout!  There were several different groups waiting at the airport, not only DAR members.

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When the news came that the veterans were about to be pushed into our area in their wheelchairs, we all got ready….

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The welcoming party was a complete surprise!

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After we had finished cheering and clapping, the person in charge had us gather around the veterans while a few people described the mission behind the Honor Flight and handed out special books and awards to the men.  It was so amazing seeing all these people – toddlers to grandparents – come together to cheer these men on.  After the speakers, everyone spread out to shake the veterans’ hands and talk.

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I had never heard of the Honor Flight organization before December and am so thankful I had the opportunity to welcome these men home from their memorial in Washington, DC.

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Hey! I’ve been super lazy recently and haven’t written in about two months….yep. No excuses.  I’ve had these pictures on my phone for the last few weeks so I wanted to at least get these up here despite writing being a little slow.

Happy New Year!!

The Importance of Planning

When I started the September writing challenge, I took a step back and evaluated my current novels for several hours. Attempted to plan and organize my ideas, I looked over my plots, settings, characters,  etc.  This led to lots of changes. A lot.  Despite not writing anything in September,  the changes I made will help in the future when I do finally sit down and write.

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Take The Davidson Effect. I almost threw out the entire story. Instead, I took out four main-ish characters, threw two of them into another story and the other two into my “character pit” for later use.

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The Stone Brothers? Changed the time period by 60 years. Considered (still am) taking out the two main characters. Added two characters from TDE into this story.  The new characters are actually going to visit the coffee shop (the main setting) from From Behind the Counter since they’re now in the same time period.  I love it when I can casually connect characters across novels!

Magical bird takes flight.

The Dove of Hope: changed the personality of the main character, developed all characters and plot more, and actually created an in-depth outline. Made the story more “mature” instead of sticking to my 13-year-old mind’s view of what makes a story exciting and interesting.

I cleaned up the Pinterest storyboards as well, cutting TDE down from about 422 pins to 120.  Now everything feels crisp and new!  My novels are slightly more planned now.

Even as a pantser,  I can appreciate how this helps.  Just like in chess, you have to plan your moves in advance to save you trouble later on.  Ignoring my lame attempt to connect the picture with the post (it’s late….), here are a few advantages of planning:

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// It helps create a more complex story.  Most people plan a couple scenes in their head before they write, but I’m talking about taking a look at each piece of the novel briefly.  Characters, plot lines, resolutions, surprises, relationships, etc.  It doesn’t have to be long, but try to figure out how each aspect of your novel is going to connect.

// You can decide what’s needed and what’s not before you start writing.  Granted, there will be things you have to remove and redo in your story afterwards but you could save yourself a little editing time if you determine beforehand whether or not to remove that one random character.

// You can evaluate the complete story.  I don’t know about you but when I wing it, I tend to forgot a few things.  With TDE, I rewrote the story several times and it just never worked.  Examining the story before I dive into writing yet another draft helped me determine what wasn’t working.  You don’t have to hope something will workout.

// You can avoid several roadblocks.  One of the fun things about being a pantser is even you don’t know what’s going to happen before you write it. It’s exciting to not have an idea before you get there.  Staring at a blank screen because you’re not sure where to go next, however, doesn’t help the story get done. If you write down a brief overview of a couple scenes (doesn’t have to be detailed or EVERY scene) you have in mind, it helps keep the story moving.  You may have an easier time transitioning from scene to scene if you know where you’re headed.

All of this said, you can’t plan everything.  Those times always come up when you’re a couple hours into writing, brow furrowed, eyes locked on the screen, cold tea beside you, enthralled in the story, and you add an impromptu plot twist or a new character.

What do you think about organizing before writing? Are you a planner or a pantser?