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Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers by Become An Rmfw Guest Blogger - 3d ago

Pants or Plot? This is THE question.

A confession: I am a pantser, sometimes spelled pantzer. No, nothing like a panzer. I write by the seat of my pants, plot on the fly and rake up scattered thoughts of villains, protagonists, settings and an occasional animal. When finished with a first draft of an historical fiction piece—of which I didn’t plot one little bit before writing—I’m still editing, re-editing, re-editing edits and re-edits and re-re-edits.

I started with a full head of hair.

Presently, I have small blotches of skin on my head and ten calendars from 1860 to 1865. Having made several appointments with an unsuspecting therapist, I then purchased a ticket to the Railroad Museum in Golden (even though this story does not now involve trains), and a How to Outline Your Report instruction booklet and accompanying CD from some shyster in second grade.

Alas, my editing includes long verbal chains of “Dang.” “Yuck.” “Oh, crap!” “How many edits can one woman make?” “What the…?” “When the…?” “How in the world did I come up with that date?” “There was never a train in that town!” “What was I thinking?”

I’m exhausted. Should I have plotted this…historical monster?

You may ask, “Won’t plotting kill my creativity?”

Jeffery Deaver states on his website:

“I spend eight months outlining and researching the novel before I begin to write a single word of the prose. The skills I use to do that are the same I used when practicing law—researching and structuring a legal document or case.”

So, he uses his left and right brain to write. Logical. Jeff’s a logical man.

I’ve heard it said that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote by the seat of his pants, but J.K. Rowling plotted all her stories.

“...plot, the absolute line between two points which I've always despised. Not for literary reasons, but because it takes all hope away. Everyone, real or invented, deserves the open destiny of life.”
Grace Paley, Enormous Changes at the Last Minute

“Story is honorable and trustworthy; plot is shifty, and best kept under house arrest.”
Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

“Plot is no more than footprints left in the snow after your characters have run by on their way to incredible destinations.”
Ray Bradbury, Zen in the Art of Writing

Even when plotting, the ending is never set is stone, is it?

Nope.

Can an author plot everything, except the last couple of chapters? Of course. Sure. Go ahead.

Write the way you feel is best for you, your plot and your characters. Follow your gut, your intuitive self. You can revise your plan of attack any time! Remember: writers must experience, and learning how to do something is a part of life.

“Put down everything that comes into your head and then you're a writer. But an author is one who can judge his own stuff's worth, without pity, and destroy most of it."
Colette, Casual Chance

I re-read the quote from Colette. Okay, been there and still there.

I re-read Bradbury’s statement. He most likely wrote a perfect synopsis.

Hey, what if I write the synopsis first, and then my story? Sure. Dig in. Great idea.

Oh bother, I am horrible at synopses.

Remember: research, learn, follow your gut and get a good critique group.

A Colorado native, Rainey Hall (writing as L. Treloar) has been an RMFW member since 2012 (or so) and is happy to belong to one of the best critique groups ever: The 93rd Street Irregulars. She has self-published The Frozen Moose, is currently re-editing the first manuscript in a political thriller series, and has entered two contests with her 2016 NaNoWriMo historical fiction novella. In her spare time, she enjoys organizing anything from closets, to military family retreats, to rodeos and parades. Along with teaching her cat to retrieve, she volunteers at church and the Horse Protection League. With an Associate degree in Applied Science/Land Surveying, she learned she far prefers words over math. The Frozen Moose, a short story, is available on Barnes and Noble in e-book.

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Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers by Nathan Lowell - 6d ago

Unless you've been completely disconnected for the last month, you're probably aware that RMFW is considering changing its tax status from 501(c)6 (a professional trade organization) to 501(c)3 (an educational charity). If it happens, it will mean some changes.

But that's not what I want to talk about.

Over the course of having these discussions in our various virtual smoke-filled cyber-rooms, I remembered something that I'd forgotten about my early days as an RMFW member.

When I joined RMFW, there was no IPAL. I joined anyway because I've learned over my various careers that having the kinds of opportunities that an organization like RMFW provides really does help. What I remembered was that there wasn't really a forum for me as an RMFW member to talk with other members. Sure, I could email a board member, but I couldn't find the kind of "can we talk?" channels that would let me converse with other RMFW members.

Which made me wonder about things. Things like how many members do we have? (Something around 700.) How many aren't published yet? (Maybe as many as two thirds of us). How and where do the people who aren't in one of the published author loops - like PAL and IPAL - congregate? How can we reach out to each other outside of our silos?

Recently I discovered that there is actually an RMFW Facebook group with only about 30 members where we can communicate with each other.

I understand that writing is a solitary effort, and that not everybody is on Facebook for one reason or another, but I'm looking at all those members who haven't crossed that final hurdle to selling a book. Doesn't matter to me if you're trying to sell it to an agent or acquisitions editor or if you're trying to find those first few readers on your own. We all have a common interest in writing, in becoming better writers, better storytellers, and more informed participants in a very old career. Not exactly the oldest - regardless of what some might think - but storytellers have been around since humans started huddling around campfires.

I'm looking for those people who need help, need advice, or just feel like they have no campfire to tell a story around. I'm urging you to join that RMFW group on Facebook. I'm asking you to step out of the darkness and pull up a log beside the RMFW campfire.

If nothing else, maybe we can tell each other stories.

RMFW group on Facebook

Image credit: Tony Webster from Portland, Oregon, United States (Campfire) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
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Kristen Lamb - Stories & Branding  

Every Spring, Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers puts on a day-long education event.

This year, the event will be held on Saturday, May 12 and it’s a two-parter. In the morning, it’s The Art of Storytelling and in the afternoon, The Art of Author Branding.

Both are being presented by Kristen Lamb.

For a sneak peek at both topics, we’ve got Kristen on the podcast to give us a sample of the topics she is going to cover in her down-to-earth style.

Kristen Lamb is the author of the definitive guide to social media and branding for authors, Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World. She’s also the author of #1 best-selling books We Are Not Alone—The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer. She’s just released her acclaimed debut thriller The Devil’s Dance.

Kristen has written over twelve hundred blogs and her site was recognized by Writer’s Digest Magazine as one of the Top 101 Websites for Writers. Her branding methods are responsible for selling millions of books and used by authors of every level, from emerging writers to mega authors.

Kristen Lamb's website

Intro music by Moby Gratis

Outro music by Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

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Whether you write historical romance, historical fantasy, steampunk, or good old-fashioned historical fiction, there comes a time in the creation process when you have to do research. We love the element of history because it reminds us of different times and cultures we will never be able to visit, while giving us a sense of the relatable. It challenges us to think creatively around their limits of technology and social norms. We smile with joy when we come up with an ending that resolves the conflict while fitting neatly within the time period we have chosen. We see history as a story in and of itself.

Which is why many of us never finish our novels. We get stuck in the glorious details of history.

So, how do you stay focused on writing your story? How do you decide how much research is enough?

It’s about the story.

Author Mary Wine once told me historical romance was about the story you were telling and not the history. The history is the setting in which your story is being told. No one is going to get three semester units of credit for reading your book of historical fiction. So stop obsessing.

Realize that you’ve got to get the specifics of that time period right. You’ve got to make the setting seem real. (Repeating rifles came into use very late in the American Civil War. The bustle dress became fashionable in the early 1870s in the United States. Stirrups on horses weren’t common in Western Europe until the late 11th century.) But none of this means that you have to obsessively research if it’s not related to the plot. If you’re writing a murder mystery set in Leadville in 1875, you should know that Horace Tabor was living there at the time. But if your story has nothing to do with how boots are made or how silver was mined, don’t include it. Don’t even research it. Having that knowledge, while pleasurable, will only slow down the writing of the story.

First steps.

Whatever you do, don’t go and buy books. Don’t drop $60, $100, or $200 on a set of books you’ll probably skim through and never really read. Start with an internet search. Read a couple of websites. I like to go to Wikipedia to begin my research. I know colleges don’t like students citing Wikipedia in their college papers, but we’re not writing a college paper. We’re writing a novel. For general background information, Wikipedia is a great place to brush up on a topic.

Make a timeline.

I like to make a timeline of relevant historical events before I begin writing. That way I know what’s topical to the characters and what’s going on culturally and politically. This really helps when I’m writing characters and trying to figure out their backgrounds and skill sets.

Focus on character and plot.

I once wrote a sweeping novel that took place during the O’Neil Rebellion in 1597 Ireland. When I went to research what one of the female characters was wearing, I fell down the rabbit hole and spent a day and a half researching Irish women’s headdresses. I used the information in two scenes that were each a paragraph long. Those two days, I could have been writing the rest of Act 3. Instead, I researched something that only came up twice. Clearly not good use of my time. In the future, I will focus on the history that will directly affect my plot. If I have to research tiny details, I’ll wait until the second draft to put such things in. In fact, I will leave notes in my manuscript about what needs to be researched at a later date. Get. The draft. Done.

Those people.

One of the great problems of historical fiction are those people. You know who I’m talking about. The horse people, or the weapons people, or the clothing people. The people whose pleasure in reading historical fiction only revolves around whether or not you were obsessive-compulsive about their thing.

The story was all right, but the author totally lost me when she wrote about Arabian horses. They weren’t even in that part of Europe for another ten months.

The romance was fine, except for the description of farthingales in Queen Mary’s dress. Everyone knows the English Court used French farthingales and not Spanish.

Look, those people can be annoying. I have actually met people who tell me that when they come across an inaccuracy, they cannot go further. Plot, interesting characters, conflict, none of these things matter to those people. So what do you do?

You have to see them as your allies. Yes, they can hurt your feelings and frustrate you. But learn to use them to your advantage. Ask their opinion on your manuscript. Did you get everything right? The things these readers want are usually very small. So it's worth it to get them on your side and make those minor changes. If it is a major flaw and not a minor one, you’ll be glad they caught the mistake. Nothing torpedoes a book of historical fiction faster than a premise based on an inaccuracy.

In conclusion...

History is fun. Trying to figure out what drove people to move across continents, fight other people, fall in love, and build great towns, cities, and countries can be very romantic. But you don’t have to know every detail. You don’t have to have the knowledge of a college professor to write your story. Start small, focus on your characters and your plot, make a timeline so you know what else is going on, and remember that only you can write your story.

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Hello, Campers!

It’s finally spring. What that means in Colorado is: dress in layers. It could be snowing in the morning and, by noon, the sun is out and you’re in short sleeves.

Last month we looked at the Midpoint Mirror Moment. Now it’s on to the Crisis. In a romance, this is usually where the hero and heroine break up and go their separate ways. It’s the effect of the Dark Moment.

As Susie May Warren says, “This is where the biggest Why Not (Obstacles) rises up to push them apart and scrape open their wounds.” It’s when the goal of being together is seemingly lost forever - with no way of fixing it.

The Crisis is when the wounds of the past are opened up again and the characters go back to believing the lie. Remember, you’ve set up the lies your character believes in Act I. And throughout the moments together in Act II, your characters have loosened their grip on their fears.

But now you’ll pull the rug out from under them.

For example, your hero has trust issues and that’s why he refuses to fall in love. All through Act II, the heroine gains his trust little by little. In the Dark Moment, the hero learns something that topples that trust. And he’s back to “People can’t be trusted. They’re never who they say they are.” The effect is - you got it - the Break-Up.

Or maybe your heroine is running from a bad guy throughout the book and she’s certain that falling in love would put the hero in danger. But, over the moments of togetherness in Act II, she lets go of that fear - again little by little - and allows the wall to come down. What happens at the Dark Moment that leads to the Break-Up? C’mon, this one is a bit cliched, and I know you’re way ahead of me here.

So, remember that all the blocks you’ve built along the way add up to this moment. You may have had this moment in mind before you even began plotting your romance. Many authors have three things in mind when they start exploring the what-ifs: the basics of the Boy Meets Girl, the Mirror Moment, and the Dark Moment that leads to the Break-Up. And they build from there.

Just remember “The thing I feared the most has happened.” And that will likely give you your Dark Moment. From there, the hero and heroine go their separate ways. Sometimes they’re angry. Sometimes they’re bewildered. Sometimes they’re just so very sad.

BUT you see the rest of the story! This is ROMANCE. So, your readers know how the book will end and are counting on you to give them a wonderful reunion. We’ll talk about that resolution next month.

Until then, remember: BiK-HoK - Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard.

You can do it! Cheers, Jax

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FOMO has me in its clutches. Or tentacles might be a better word.

For those who aren’t up on the current slang (or slang from six months ago, which now dates me as being really old), FOMO is the FEAR OF MISSING OUT.

I have it. I’ve been infected. The only thing that will save me is a shot to the head, zombie style.

Or to recognize that I can’t do everything.

You see, RWA, Pikes Peak Writers Conference, Left Coast Crime, Bouchercon, and best yet, the Colorado Gold…so many places to go, as well as RMFW events monthly and even bi-monthly. A writer could spend all their time going to these fabulous events and conferences.

Every time one of my friends posts from an event, I’m filled with the fear that I’m missing out. And honestly, I probably am. There is much to learn and enjoy when it comes to writing and my writerly friends. This fact was driven home when the WOTY and I-WOTY nominees came out and I didn't recognize a few names. Terrible, I know.

But one lesson I’ve learned over the past six years of being a published writer is my words come first. And in order to get them on the page, right now, I have to step back from the fun stuff like conference attendance and teaching gigs. It’s a tough lesson to learn. And sometimes one I struggle with. I miss you, my writer friends.

So be a pal, and share with me all the good stuff you’ve learned lately and things you’re excited to do this year. And please, smack me in the head if I start to drool and crave brains.

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2018 WOTY and IWOTY Finalists!

Looking forward to learning more about the Writer of the Year (WOTY) and Independent Writer of the Year (IWOTY) finalists?? Coming this month on the blog - learn more about each of the finalists in their author interviews!  Stay tuned!  Voting for WOTY and IWOTY starts in May!

Curtis Craddock (WOTY Finalist) was born in the wrong century and quite possibly on the wrong planet. He should have been born in a world where gallant heroes regularly vanquish dire and despicable foes, where friendship, romance, wit, and courage are the foundations of culture and civilization, and where adventure beckons from every shadow.

Instead, he was born on Earth and lives in a world bounded by bureaucracy, hemmed in by cynicism, and governed by the dull necessity of earning a wage. An exile in this world, he is a biographer of friends he’s never met, a chronicler of events that never happened, and a cartographer of places that never were.

Given that the mundane world supplies a dearth of oddly progressive kingdoms to be saved, he spends his time saving cats, dogs, and the occasional bird of prey. By day, he teaches Computer Information Systems classes to offenders at a correctional facility. By night, he puts on his writer’s cap, the broad-brimmed one with a feather, and, into the prison walls of reality, etches defiant words of legend.

His debut novel An Alchemy of Masques and Mirrors was released by Tor in August 2017

Sue Duff (IWOTY Finalist) is the award-winning, bestselling author of the fantasy/scifi series The Weir Chronicles and has recently released Dim the Lights, the final book in her epic five-novel series. In addition to managing her own publishing house, CrossWinds Publishing, she is a contributing author of speculative fiction short stories with the award-winning authors at Wicked Ink Books. The group of Colorado women writers have published two anthologies, TICK TOCK: Seven Tales of Time, and OFF BEAT: Nine Spins on Song, both of which have won the coveted EVVY Awards through the Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA). Their third anthology will be available October 2018. The RMFW 2018 Anthology Committee recognized Sue when they selected her short story, Adrift, for this year’s anthology, False Faces.

When not saving the world one page at a time, Sue works as a speech therapist in Denver Public Schools, specializing in assistive technology support for low cognitive, severe needs and autism students. She is honored and thrilled to be recognized alongside Bernadette Marie and Corinne O’Flynn for the 2018 IWOTY. For additional information, check her out at www.sueduff.com, follower her on Facebook at Sue Duff–Writer, on Twitter at sueduff55, and on Instagram at sueduffauthor.

Award-winning journalist Gwen Florio (WOTY Finalist) has covered stories ranging from the shooting at Columbine High School to the glitz of the Miss America pageant and the more practical Miss Navajo contest, whose participants slaughter and cook a sheep. She’s reported from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, as well as Lost Springs, Wyoming (population three). She turned to fiction in 2013 with the publication of her first novel, Montana, which won the Pinckley Prize for Debut Crime Fiction and a High Plains Book Award. Under the Shadows (Midnight Ink, March 2018) is the fifth novel in the Lola Wicks series, termed “gutsy” by the New York Times. She turned to literary fiction with Silent Hearts (Atria, July 2018), a novel set in Afghanistan. She’s the city editor of the Missoulian newspaper in Missoula, Montana, where she lives with her partner, Scott, and an exuberant, manuscript-chewing bird dog named Nell.

Corinne O'Flynn (IWOTY Finalist) is a USA Today bestselling author of The Expatriates fantasy-adventure series featuring SONG OF THE SENDING and PROMISE OF THE SCHOLAR, the Witches of Tower Hill paranormal suspense series featuring the award-winning GHOSTS OF WITCHES PAST, the Aumahnee Prophecy urban fantasy series which she co-writes with RMFW member Lisa Manifold, and the Half Moon Girls murder-mystery series. She is also a publisher with Wicked Ink Books, whose titles include the award-winning anthologies TICK TOCK: Seven Tales of Time and OFF BEAT: Nine Spins on Song. Look for a new anthology from Wicked Ink Books in the Fall 2018, and the final installment of The Expatriates series, SOUL OF THE SWORD, this summer.

Corinne is a native New Yorker living in Colorado who wouldn’t trade life in the Rockies for anything. She considers RMFW her writing home. She got involved in RMFW after attending her first conference and has served on the board of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers since as Technology Co-Chair, Conference Chair, and Retreat Chair, as well as helping out in various roles over the years.

Corinne is the founder and Executive Director of Rowan Tree Foundation, a local non-profit dedicated to providing support to bereaved families after the death of a child. She is a self-proclaimed scone aficionado, a professional napper, and she has an entire section of her kitchen devoted to tea. When not working on her author business, she can be found hanging with her husband and their four kids, playing board games, attending live music and stage performances, knitting, reading, or binge watching some fabulous shows—all while sipping tea!

Bestselling Author Bernadette Marie (IWOTY Finalist) is known for building families readers want to be part of. Her series The Keller Family has graced bestseller charts since its release in 2011. Since then she has authored and published over thirty books. The married mother of five sons promises romances with a Happily Ever After always…and says she can write it because she lives it.

Obsessed with writing since the age of 12, Bernadette Marie officially started her journey as an author in 2007 when she finalized a manuscript she'd been writing for 22 years, shelved it, and wrote 12 more books that year. In 2009 she was contracted with a small publisher in a deal that would eventually go bad. From that experience, she knew she could take control of her career and that's what she did.

A chronic entrepreneur since opening her first salon at the age of twenty, Bernadette Marie established her own publishing house in 2011, 5 Prince Publishing, so that she could publish the books she liked to write and help make the dreams of other aspiring authors come true too. Believing there is a place for the fresh author's voice, she not only publishes but coaches others who wish to publish their work independently. Bernadette Marie is also the CEO of Illumination Author Events and Services offering smaller intimate author/reader events as well as author services.

Mandy Mikulencak (WOTY Finalist) has been a writer her entire working life. First, as a newspaper reporter, then as an editor and PR specialist in the nonprofit sector and for the UN. She is the author of two novels of historical fiction: The Last Suppers (Kensington, December 2017), which is set in 1950s Louisiana; and Forgiveness Road (Kensington, March 2019), which is set in 1970s Mississippi. Her first novel, Burn Girl, garnered a 2016 Westchester Fiction Award for young adult literature. She currently resides in Durango, CO, with her husband, Andy. In her spare time, Mandy loves to hike and bake, the former necessary because of the latter. Readers can visit her website at www.mandymikulencak.com.

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I’m not a morning person in any sense. I stagger around for a while, lucky if I can manage to feed the pets and make some tea. Then I sit down at the computer. Even though I’m still groggy and half-functional, amazingly, I can write. In fact, it’s my best writing time. I believe it’s because the creative part of writing is like a continuation of the dream state. Dreaming—that amorphous under-realm of thoughts, images, memories and feelings. Dreams have no logic, reason or sense of time or place. Every night we spend hours in this fantastical world and remember only tiny glimpses of it. But I believe this seething maelstrom of connections and ideas is the source of my creativity. In the morning when I first awake, I'm better able to access that world because I’ve just left it.

Most children are amazingly creative, but as they grow up, they are forced to focus on things in the outer world. (“Stop daydreaming and pay attention!”) The connection between that creative underworld of their imagination and their conscious self withers away or is repressed. For whatever reason, writers keep that connection. Sometimes they lose it for a while, then when they’re older, it seeps back into their conscious thoughts, reminding them it's there. And they once again begin to seek out that swirling vortex of thoughts and feelings beneath their outer persona. As writers, we have to connect to that part of ourselves and use it, or we will never be happy.

As a “non-plotter”, I use the power of the creative unconscious all the time. I often mull over my story and try to figure out where it’s going before I go to sleep, as well as when I wake up (either in the morning or, alas, in the middle of the night). In those hazy, half-awake periods, I often find the direction I need to write myself out of the corner I’ve written myself into. Plot ideas come to me and the story begins to fall into place.

Even while I’m wide awake, the whirring maelstrom of ideas and images simmering below my normal awareness sometimes breaks through with an idea or thought about my current work-in-progress. Out of the blue, I get that epiphany, which often has little to do with what’s happening in the real world around me. I believe this under-realm is the source of all the really good stuff, the magical moments in the writing process when everything flows and fits together, the essence of storytelling.

But because that part of your brain is not under your conscious control, it can be fickle and elusive. Too much stress in your life can create a kind of static that interferes with your connection to that well of ideas and images. Or, it can exhaust you to the point where your unconscious can only focus on the absolute essentials and has nothing left for creativity.

Scientists have a new theory about why we sleep: that we sleep to forget. During good REM sleep, our brain is actually trimming back synapses, getting rid of data we don’t need, the stuff that just clutters up our brains and makes it hard to remember the important things. If you’re under great stress, your unconscious is so overwhelmed with the cascade of emotional responses and thoughts that it gets overloaded. It probably starts paring away synapses randomly. In fact, I’m certain it does. When I’m under great stress, my mind goes blank, as I lose synapses and memories I actually need to function.

The unconscious is always messy and turbulent. But when we are struggling to deal with problems and issues in the outer world, it becomes so chaotic and disordered that creating becomes difficult. But sometimes we can reverse the process and make the magic go the other way. In the act of writing, we can calm our unconscious self and allow it to reach a kind of equilibrium.

Many writing books, classes and forms of writing instruction concentrate on organization, plotting and structure. And those are important. Our books can’t be like dreams. They have to make sense and generally have a logical order. But maybe as we learn more about the mind and about dreams, we can find better ways to access the magic that lies beneath our conscious mind and use it to enhance our writing.

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There is a saying, "Doing anything is better than doing nothing." For the indecisive and deliberate decision maker, this means the longer you take to make a decision, the more likely the decision is going to be taken out of your hands, made for you by fate or the actions of others, and not likely in your favor. You could also say that refusing to make a decision or to act is, in effect, making a decision. There is statistical proof that given a choice of two options, the chance of making the correct choice goes down every time one changes one's mind. Then there's the whole Let's Make A Deal scenario.

Said most simply, fortune favors the bold.

Okay, so here's another patented Kevin-Tracy-Pointless-Digression, right? Stick with me. I'm going somewhere with this, and yes, it pertains to writing craft.

I'm currently re-reading Bram Stoker's Dracula, a Victorian Gothic novel about the eponymous vampire. The narrative is among some of the tightest prose I've read in classic literature, which is sometimes criticized for pointless digressions or slow pacing. At approximately 500 pages (depending on the edition) the story does move at a deliberate pace, but every scene is germane to the plot. For a Victorian-era novel, there is little or no characteristic sidetracking or erroneous scenes. The plot is advanced at every turn of the page.

I write about pacing your novel a lot, and it's because I think the pacing of a story is critical to keeping a reader's interest and holding them in a story. Your plot doesn't have to be action-packed so long as it's tightly plotted and paced, such that every turn of the page reveals story progression in such a way that makes the reader want to keep turning pages. Don't let your pace lag; keep it moving. Again, not necessarily fast per se, so long as it does move.

What's the difference between a sidetrack and a subplot? It's a fine line, but to me a sidetrack or digression usually has no connection to the main plot, and often ends up going nowhere. It stands to reason, then, that a subplot bears some impact, even if only tangentially, on the main plot. For example, there is a science fiction writer I won't name because he's held as one of the giants, but I don't care for his writing because it is, in my opinion, nothing but sidetracks and digressions, all sorts of minor storylines, none of which ultimately go anywhere (or at least nowhere satisfying), including the main plot.

So when you find yourself in the swamp (that hot mess of a middle where you've opened strong and you know where you want to end up, but you can't think of what to make happen in the middle to make the end an interesting destination for the reader), what can you do? Here's where bold action can save your book, and it can even be fun.

When you're stuck, get up off your writing chair, go for a jog or go grocery shopping, anything you clear your head. Then the moment you sit back down, pick something totally random to happen to one of your characters and write it down immediately. Don't think too hard about it, just write it. Many writing coaches and teachers will tell you to ask yourself, "What's the worst thing that could happen at this point in my story?" then make it happen. That works too.

This sort of bold action shakes up the swamp, can make it interesting and pick up the pace again, and might even change your ultimate story for the better. Try it next time you're stuck and let me know what happened!

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Shannon Baker - 2017-2018 RMFW Writer of the Year  

Last summer, Shannon Baker was named Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers’ Writer of the Year – for the second time!

So life as a published writer should be on a never-ending upward spiral of success, correct?

Well, Shannon Baker is a survivor of the wild and ever unpredictable publishing-world roller coaster and on the podcast she talks about the bruises and how she managed her way through the sometimes challenging gauntlet.

And she’s here to break some fresh news that proves the roller coaster goes back up. Shannon has started a new series and developed a new approach to writing focused on a brand new character.

Shannon is also co-chair this year of the Colorado Gold writing contest and she chats a bit about that process and, of course, the benefits of RMFW in general.

A self-proclaimed desert rat and (aspiring) NYT bestselling writer, Shannon Baker is the author of the Kate Fox mystery series set in the remote Nebraska Sandhills.

She generously brings this unique setting to life with humor and affection so you don’t have to actually go to Nebraska to experience it.

Kirkus says: “Baker serves up a ballsy heroine, a colorful backdrop, and a surprising ending.” She is grateful to be voted Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2017-18 Writer of the Year.

This is an inspiring chat about never giving up and Shannon provides ample evidence that writing and publishing can be a highly subjective business.

Shannon's website

Intro music by Moby Gratis

Outro music by Dan-o-Songs

For suggestions about content or to comment on the show, email Mark Stevens. Also feel free to leave a comment about the podcast on iTunes or your favorite podcast provider.

Host Mark Stevens: http://www.writermarkstevens.com

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