Josh and I bw

Writing and Kids

No rest for the wicked, not even the extremely wicked

(no subject)
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I’m many days late,  I’ve been trying to finish up an editing job
before November. Here is the first take of my plot done up in the 7
point system.

I wrote them up in the order I listed in the previous post, but I’m

typing them up here in the order they’ll come in the novel to make sure
they make sense to me.

I don’t think I need an Ice Monster Prologue, but I haven’t decided which will be my first scene yet.

Main Ghost haunting plot

Protagonist: Kate

Antagonist: Ghost of Myra’s ancestor, who died in the building

Hook: The ghost is angry because Kate and Myra are arguing

Plot Turn 1: The ghost vandalizes Kate’s yarn shop

Pinch 1: Kate and her friend Esther spend the night in the yarn shop and they get distracted and miss the vandal.

Midpoint: Kate realizes it isn’t vandals, but it’s a ghost

Pinch 2: The ghost begins to act out even worse

Plot Turn 2: The ghost settles down when Ted comes into the shop

Resolution: The ghost is not exorcised, but is now at peace

Try/Fail 1: Hire a ghost hunter, but the ghost is too wily

Try/Fail 2:  Hold a séance, but the ghost is too angry to speak nicely to them.

Historical plot

Hook: Myra wants the house Kate lives and works in to be a museum honoring her family

Plot Turn 1: Myra and the former owner of the house had a verbal agreement, but it fell through when he died and left the

house to his daughter, who sold it to Kate

Pinch 1: Myra charges into the store, argues with Kate

Midpoint: Myra hires a lawyer to sue Kate

Pinch 2: Lawyers are too expensive and Kate thinks she’ll have to sell and move so she doesn’t loose everything.

Plot Turn 2: The ghost chooses Kate over Myra

Resolution: Kate agrees to honor the dead

Try/Fail 1: Kate tries to hire a lawyer, but he won’t take her case because she can’t afford him.

Try/Fail 2: She tries to talk to the town council, but they won’t hear a personal problem like that.


Romance plot

Hook: Kate bumps into Ted at the donut shop and is a little flirty with her

Plot Turn 1: She invites him to her shop

Pinch 1: They argue in the parking lot

Midpoint: She realizes he’s Myra’s brother and asks him to help

Pinch 2: The ghost behaves when he’s in the yarn shop, because the two families are getting along

Plot Turn 2: He mediates the problem between Kate and Myra

Resolution: He asks her to lunch

Try/Fail 1: He says he can’t work with her against his sister

Not as much detail as I might like so far, but it’s a start and with November coming up soon it may be all that I have time for.


Dan Wells' 7 Point Plotting for Novels
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Today we get to my current favorite method of plotting, Dan Wells’ 7
Point System. (Disclaimer – I call it the Dan Wells system, but he says
he shamelessly pilfered it from the Star Trek RPG book) I love this
system because it gives me enough detail to keep writing and not get
stuck wondering what happens next, but it leaves me enough room when I
think of fabulous things I just have to add in. Best of all, it’s just
as easy to plot your subplots with this system as well.

I first saw this presented as a series of videos on YouTube .
The 5 of them take just under an hour, so once you’re done here, go
watch them. And while I’m linking to things, Dan Wells has written a YA
trilogy that my son and his girlfriend both like (they’re 13), starting
with I Am Not a Serial Killer .

So, on to plotting. The seven points are:

  • Hook
  • Plot Turn 1
  • Pinch 1
  • Midpoint
  • Pinch 2
  • Plot Turn 2
  • Resolution
  • Ice Monster Prologue (OK, so this is optional, but can be used effectively)

You don’t develop your plot this way, though. Here’s the order you work in:

  • Protagonist
  • Antagonist
  • Setting
  • Resolution – This is the climax, not the
    denouement. Everything leads up to this point and you need to know what
    happens here, and whether it’s plot-based, external conflict or whether
    it’s character-based internal conflict.
  • Hook – This is the opposite state of the
    resolution, automatically creating an arc of progress. You must get your
    readers invested in the story with your hook or risk them putting your
    book down after the first few pages and never buying another written by
  • Midpoint – This is where your characters move from
    reaction to action. They realize they need to change something, fix
    something, make something happen. In a mystery, it’s where the sleuth
    takes the case.
  • Plot Turn 1 – Introduction to the conflict. The
    character’s world changes through meeting new people, a call to
    adventure, confronting a new idea, learning secrets – whatever you want.
  • Plot Turn 2 – Here your character obtains the final
    thing to do the thing he must in the Resolution. How’s that for vague?
    It’s the last piece of the puzzle before he can move on to victory. It
    could be realizing “the power is in you”, or grasping victory from the
    jaws of defeat. Your character may not even realize he has everything he
    needs at this time, too.
  • Pinch 1 – A pinch is when something goes horribly
    wrong and forces your characters into action. Often the villain is
    introduced here. The bad guys attack, peace is destroyed, someone is put
    into serious danger. Your characters surmount this problem using powers
    they already have, to help them prepare for bigger conflicts later on.
  • Pinch 2 – Here you add more pressure until the
    situation seems hopeless for your characters. Their first plan can fail,
    their mentor could die, the villain seems to win. You are putting your
    characters into the jaws of defeat – make sure the teeth are pointy!
    Their victory cannot be easy or the reader will feel cheated.

Phew! That’s a lot of pain for your characters. But wait, there’s
more! Every novel should have at least two try/fail cycles to make sure
the victories are hard-won. Readers love hard-won victories and scoff at
simple solutions.

You should also consider The Ice Monster Prologue (IMP). It’s not a
real prologue, it can be your first chapter. If you’re writing in world
not like our own, you’re going to have to do some world building and,
let’s face it, that can be slow reading. The IMP will give your readers
danger, excitement and a strong connection with your characters that
will sustain them through the next bit of ‘here’s how it all works in
this world’.

The first scene in The Matrix is an IMP – Trinity is being chased,
running across rooftops in tight leather pants – we’re all interested in
what’s going on and stay in our seats to see what happens next. Imagine
if the movie started out with Neo in his messy apartment, going to a
club but being a wallflower. How interesting is that? Sure, we might
watch some because Keanu Reeves is easy on the eyes, but that’s not
enough to hold everyone in their seats. If you need one, go ahead and
write one.

As I said, you can plot your main storyline and subplots using these
seven points. Once you do that, you can interweave them to give your
novel the pacing it needs and line them up when you need to create a
powerful scene. Give it a try on your plot. I’ll be back tomorrow with
my plots in the 7 point system and I’ll show you how I’ll arrange them
to have the maximum impact on my readers.

Keep plotting your own novels – a few days until we start!

Plotter or Pantser - Which are You?
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In the writing world, it can seem like there are two camps: Plotters and Pantsers. I’ve done both and they each have merit.

 A plotter is, well, someone who plots her novel before she starts
writing it. Beginning, middle and end are all known. Characters,
motivations, even scenes, all known beforehand. I find it faster to
write with an outline and since speed is of the essence in November, I
at least start out with an outline.

Pantsers write by the seat of their pants – there’s a variety of
levels of “pantsness” – some people know a character or two, some know
their situation, some know nothing at all. It’s an exciting way to write
– every day is a surprise, every paragraph a revelation.

It can be easy to go astray but the excitement of having your characters act seemingly of their own volition is exhilarating.

There are pros and cons to both methods and fantastic works of
fiction have been written by both plotters and pantsers. It doesn’t
matter what method you use, it only matters what works for you at this
time. Yes, it’s true, some novels may cause youto change your plotting

Do what feels right to you, don’t doubt your genius and remember – everything can be fixed during revisions.

The way I tend to write is this: start with a fairly detailed outline
and write my heart out until, seemingly out of the blue, what I had
planned no longer fits with who my characters have become. At that
point, I sit back, re=evaluate and rework my outline to see my new
direction. And it’s not just the super-fast NaNoWriMo drafts that I do
this for, either. If I take all the time I need to plot, I still wind up
doing a mid-novel course correction.

Of course, like almost everything in life, there is no black and
white. The plotter/pantser dichotomy is really a continuum. The closer
to November 1st you begin to plan your novel, the more of a pantser your circumstances will force you in to.

So tell me – are you a plotter, a pantser, or somewhere in between?

This Post Brought to You by the Letter Samech
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Tonight is the beginning of another Jewish holiday,
Sukkot(sue-COAT).  I love the holidays and there are a couple more
coming up soon, but some times I wish they were more spread out.

At Sukkot, we eat in a Sukkah- in English, a booth, for a week. Every
year we make our Sukkah out on our back deck, and every year I remember
how much I love my Sukkah.

It’s beautiful and at night, with the lights and candles, it’s
downright romantic. Try having 7 romantic dinners in a row and tell me
it’s not good for your marriage…

Oh, I suppose I should explain that in Hebrew, the first letter of Sukkot is a samech (looks like a circle, sounds like an s).

DON'T PANIC! or Do I Have 50,000 Words in Me?
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Back in the depths of time, 2001, imagine me, a young mother with three children under six, wondering if I could write a novel.  Did I really have 50,000 words in me? And if I did, could I get them all outin November?  I’d heard stories of people taking 10 years to write their novel – ten long, painful, soul-stripping years. Who was I to think I could write a novel in thirty measly days?

Given my circumstances, I was a little frazzled and full of self-doubt but I didn’t want to give up this idea that made me wake up early with character sketches and kept me up late at night, thinking about plots. So I did a test. One night, after the kids were (finally!) all asleep, I sat down and wrote 1667 words.  It wasn’t fiction; it was stream of consciousness about how I didn’t know if I could write.  Yes, I was writing about how I thought I couldn’t write.  The irony got me right there and I’ve been writing since.

In an hour and a half, I had written my daily quota. I was shocked.

I thought writing so much would drain my brain in a way that I wouldn’t be able to keep going for an entire month. I was so pleased that I was wrong, I told my husband, “I’m going to write a novel in November.”

And he just looked at me. I don’t know exactly what he was thinking –probably wondering exactly when I had gone off the deep end. To his credit, he’s always been supportive, if a bit leery of the impact on our family.

So, if you have a full-time job, I know you can do it. If you have small children, I know you can do it. If you’re a student, I know you can do it.

Don’t believe me? Take a day, write 1667 words. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you can do it – the key is to just keep writing, don’t doubt your staggering genius and don’t stop until you’re done for the day (unless the house is on fire or someone is bleeding).

NaNoWriMo is one of the best things in the world. It’s free, it keeps your brain strong and it’s one of the most fun things you can do atyour computer with your clothes on.

Here are a few tips I’ve found helpful:

1) Delegate chores to others, or get tasks done before November 1st

2) Cook in bulk and freeze meals. Eating fast food just because it is fast is no way to feed your brain and your muse may get really mad at

3) Exercise at least a couple days a week

We’re all busy, and we all think there’s no more time in our lives for anything else.  Now is the time to look at your schedule and find
where you can carve out the time to write.  You may have to postpone something or give something up.  Remember, at the end of  November, you’ll be able to say “I wrote a book.” That’s worth a lot!

Can you wake up earlier? I work from 4 to 9 am, before anyone else is awake, I work after 9 as well (it’s 2:30 pm right now) but I know I can count on those 5 quiet hours.  Can you give up or postpone some TV watching? DVR, Hulu and Netflix are a TV-loving writer’s best friends.

You can watch TV when you’re too tired to write, you can use it as a reward for making your daily quota, or you can watch TV while you’re
exercising.  Our treadmill is in the living room, where I can watch TV and get my mileage in. It’s awesome to no longer be held hostage to my TV’s schedule and I can watch an entire season at a time, which is my favorite way to watch a series.

You may have to get strict with yourself. Friday nights out with the guys at work? Make it a reward – hit your daily quotas and you can go.  Don’t make your quotas? Maybe next week.  Sunday afternoon with the in-laws? Oh, so sorry! My muse is calling.

Plan on an average of two hours a day to write your novel. Some days you’ll finish early, some days (I hate to tell you) it will be like pulling teeth to get your quota written.  That’s okay, it’s all part of the creative process.

I’ve talked a lot about your quota.  1667 words a day, 10,000 words every 6 days.  However you want to schedule yourself, stick to it. Learn to love your quota, it will keep you on track and you won’t wind up having to write 25,000 words in three days.  I’ll never let that happen again – it was ugly and I didn’t write for 3 months after that. The cost was way too high.

Posts coming up in the next few days:

To Plot or Not

How to Write a Novel by the Seat of Your Pants

Plotting Techniques: The Snowflake Method.

Helpful links:

Time Management for Writers

Feed your Creativity

And this post – 874 words, more than half a day’s work.

Photo by: Marc Falardeau

NaNoWriMo - A Love Story
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NaNoWriMo, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

1) You taught me I could actually write 50,000 words in on month

2) You taught me making stuff up is fun

3) You taught me to keep writing forward, because everything can be fixed in revisions

4) One very undisciplined year, you taught me I could write 25,000words in three days, and you taught me why I didn’t want to do that ever again

NaNoWriMo may be one of the best things I’ve ever done.  Ever.  The forums are open today – go check them out and once you’re sufficiently inspired, use the rest of October to plot your Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius so we can write together in November. Give me a shout – my new and improved user name is Lisa Bouchard. Y’know, for a writer, you’d think I’d be more creative…

We all have a novel in us – make 2011 the year you write yours!

Late breaking news! To add me as a writing buddy, this may help: – I think you need the number
at the end.


Advice for Creatives, From Ira Glass
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What else is there to say? Thanks, Ira.

New to Twitter? Tools to help
Josh and I bw
So, I’ve got a new Twitter account, the more professional sounding @Lisa_Bouchard.  It can be hard work, populating your twitter follower and following lists with people who 1) will read what you write and2)won’t spam all the time.  I don’t mind some ads, but if that’s all a person has to contribute, well, my time is too valuable to wade through a million ads.

To make Twitter more user friendly, here’s what I use:

  TweetDeck -TweetDeck allows you to view and update several social media sites – Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, FourSquare, GoogleBuzz and MySpace. I use Twitter and Facebook right now, because I’m a social media noob.  What I like about TweetDeck is there are separate columns for @mentions, New Followers and Direct Messages – whenever something pops up in one of those it’s easy to see and that way you won’t miss responding to someone.  You can also add other columns which will search on a keyword or list everything a particular user or group of users posts.  Very handy for keeping track of your interests (like #steampunk) or a list of followers with a specific interest.  And I almost forgot, you can use TweetDeck to schedule updates to the social media they support – a great feature, but remember to use your powers for good and not evil.

  Tweet Adder -Not free ($55), but has saved me a lot of time.  With Tweet Adder you can easily make lists of people to follow and then Tweet Adder will do the manual labor – you just set it and forget it.  If you use Tweet Adder, don’t annoy Twitter by going over their limits. Your list can be as long as you like, it will just take you a while to get through it all.  You can also use Tweet Adder to automatically unfollow people who choose not to follow you.  There’s a good tutorial on their site to help you get started – it can be a little confusing at first.  If time is money, I’d call the $55 for Tweet Adder money well spent.

ManageFlitter -Helps you determine who to continue following.  Why clog your list with people who never tweet? With ManageFlitter, you can sort your list by people who are inactive (not tweeted in the past 30 days) or quiet (tweet less than one time a day on average).  I think people get busy and not tweeting for 30 days isn’t a crime, but you can also see if a person seems to have abandoned their account (one tweet in the past 2 years, for example) and that’s helpful.  You can also use ManageFlitter to search through the bios of all the people you follow – very useful to help make lists in TweetDeck.

These are my three top picks to make Twitter more manageable.  Overthe past three weeks I’ve done well for myself and once I go through and weed out the bots and spammers, I’ll be great.

What social media management tools are you using?  I’m always looking for something to make life a bit easier.


First Day of School, sort of
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School for us always begins on August 30th, which is my birthday. When the children were smaller I told them there was nothing I wanted more than to spend my birthday doing school with them. They don’t believe me any more, but it still makes a good first day.

Since it’s still warm, we don’t bother with new school clothes. We don’t have new rooms, new classmates, new lockers or new desks. Other than new books and classes, there isn’t much to mark the start of a new school year (if you don’t count the whining about how summer was too short).

For the past two years, though, the children have been going to Hebrew School at our Temple (the fabulous Temple Emanu-El in Haverhill, MA), and it has all the hallmarks of the excitement of a new school year. Finally, this year I remembered to take a photo of our first day of school. This is the look I get when I tell the children to act like they love each other.

This photo was taken on 9/11/11, the first day of Hebrew School. Ben is in 10th grade, Zach is in 8th grade, Josh is in 5th grade and Tirzah is in 3rd grade (to keep her with her age mates so they will have their b’nai mitzvah in the same year – at home she’s a 4th grader). Ben and Zach didn’t start school until the next day, and in this photo they were heading to school to assist the third and fourth grade teachers.

9 years down, 8 years to go in my homeschooling career.

Recommended Listening
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So, I’m very far behind in my Escape Pod listening but I’ve recently listened to Greg van Eekhout’s story “Will You be an Astronaut” and I loved it.

Will You be an Astronaut

It starts off rather innocently and gets dark and creepy. By the end of the story you completely understand why Steve Ely warns that it is not a story for children even though it sounds like one.

Crossposted from my website - you can comment here or there.


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