Outlining My Novel

Sometimes it’s hard to go back to the basics. Ever since we began essay writing in elementary school, we have always been instructed to create an outline. In my haste to start writing my novel I skipped the outline (hey I had it in my head) and dove write into the dialog. I found that this was a huge mistake because I was writing in circles and finally quit writing for a few months

I started to research outlining  to get my ass in gear and start on my book again. I came across the article, “How to Write a Novel Outline and Structure a Story” by Eric Dockett. This article is great for new novelists who are looking to to make a checklist before they get started. I could see my story in my head, and the sequence of events, I just needed a visual to keep me organized. Here are the main points highlighted in the article:

  • Creating Your Novel Outline
  • Overall Novel Structure
  • Structure of Each Act or Section
  • Chapter Structure
  • Setting Goals

After reading Dockett’s article I rushed out to Office Depot and bought a new white board and went crazy for an hour, getting an overhead view of the structure of my story.

outliningSo here I am, BIG outline made, now I just have to break it down again a few more layers. I am going to keep dissecting  until I have an outline for each chapter.

Wish me luck!

The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm: The Frog Prince

For my 27th birthday my husband Miles bought me “The Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm” edited by Noel Daniel and translated by Matthew Price. Published by Taschen.

The collection begins with a wonderful introduction by the editor Noel Daniel about the history of Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm. I didn’t know that the German fairy tales were not actually written by the Grimm brothers (although there was an extensive amount of rewriting), but they were collected, edited, and translated by the brothers. The Grimm brothers originally targeted the tales for scholars, but noticed over time that they had a split audience and children were enjoying the stories just as much as the adults.The collection was then tailored towards a younger audience. The edition I was gifted was derived from 1857 when they released their “child-friendly” version.

Aside from the 27 charming stories the book contains, the illustrations that accompany each story are enchanting. Through various mediums, the stories are brought to life in a Büffet of illustrations ranging in dates from the mid 1800’s to mid 1900’s.

I am going to pick and choose a few of the tales to review in forthcoming posts. The first story I would like to start with is “The Frog Prince”.


The “Frog Prince” according to Daniels dates back to a medieval Latin manuscript. The colored engraving featured above was done by Walter Crane in 1874. The illustration seen above captures the young princess and the frog as they bargain for a golden ball and friendship. The frog agrees to retrieve the golden ball that was accidentally dropped in a well. As for payment he requests not money, “But if you would be fond of me, and cherish me, and if I were your friend and play mate, sitting next to you at your table, eating from your golden plate, drinking from your cup, and sleeping in your bed-if you will promise me these things then certainly I will slip down below and bring you back your golden ball.” The princess flippantly agrees thinking she would never see the frog again. She gets her ball back and walks home.

When the frog comes knocking on her palace door the princess turns away coldly and demands that he goes on his way, but her father the king forces her to keep her promise, “Whatever promise you have made, you must also keep.” (Go Dad!). Eventually the princess and the frog go to bed and in a fit of frustration the princess hurls the frog against the wall and the frog turns into a prince and explains that the princess broke a spell that was placed on him that only she could undo. He then stays the night with the princess (very racy for medieval literature). The next morning he rides off with his princess and his faithful servant Heinrich who “..had been so downcast ever since his master was transformed into a frog that he had bent three iron bands around his chest, lest his sullen heart burst with grief.”

This story holds the obvious morals of keeping your promises and don’t judge too harshly before you know someone. But there is also a lesson about true love that is explained not between the princess and the frog prince, but from loyal Heinrich whose heart had to be bonded to keep from breaking apart when his prince turned into a frog. There is also a lesson directed to parents, perhaps the most important: Hold your children accountable to their promises and commitments.

DSC_2471Note: If you would like to read the same edition I have, you can purchase it here.

Literation is REALLY A Word

Literation is defined by Merriam-Webster as “The representation of sound or words by letters.” I know, I didn’t think it was a real word either until I looked it up. When I tell my friends the name of my blog they give me a funny look and inevitably ask, “Is literation an actual word? Do you mean alliteration?” Even as I type, spell-check is accusing me with its read squiggly line of making up the work literation, but I swear it’s real. Hopefully I didn’t slit my blog’s throat before it took its first breath by giving it an impossibly complicated name.

Final argument: Scrabble recognizes it as a 10-point word.




Shakespeare Fail

I woke up Friday morning bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to get a good start at my “real job” and then come home and work on my book. I bought a large white board for the office and let the ideas flow. (Outlining will be the topic of my next blog post.) I was really excited for Saturday because I was going to the Island Shakespeare Festival. Every weekend they feature a Shakespeare performance and we were going to see Richard III. I am embarrassed to admit that even though I was an English major I haven’t read ANY Shakespeare. I hear he is a big deal in the literary world? Although I was obsessed with this quote in high school after watching Romeo+Juliet. I had it tapped to my wall for years,
Quotes from Romeo And Juliet (3)

Anyway, Miles and I boarded the Kititat ferry from Mukilteo to Whidbey Island, it’s a short 15 minute ride. This was a busy weekend with campers, hikers, wedding attendees, and everyone looking for a little local adventure. After snapping some pictures on the deck we walked back to our car with a fine sheen of mist and salt coating our skin.

Before the play we did a short hike out to Fort Ebey with our friend Ben who writes for the local paper. As you can surmise, Ben’s local knowledge was a major bonus to our day.  If you have never been to Fort Ebey, I highly recommend making it a point to visit. The rolling fields and ocean cliff side are simply dreamy.

We rushed to get dinner and make it to the venue on time, but we failed. Richard III was already five minutes in by the time we made it to the front gate, and tardiness was not acceptable. Lesson learned, sometimes in life you can’t be late. So we hung our heads and walked away.

But alas! We had food and we had wine in our backpacks and we decided to make the most of the day. The three of us sat down in the center of Langley and talked about family and friendship. We talked about my book, the holes and gaps and how I am trying to fit the pieces together. I told them both that I worried it would be another YA literary heap-o-garbage. Not even voicing my worst and most obvious fear that my story will be ignored, looked over, passed by. Ben assured me, “I will review your book, and I will not let you attempt to publish crap!” This reassured me immensely, because I know Ben, and he would indeed never let me turn in crap. My unvoiced concern…well that is just a very harsh and very possible reality.

We moved to the beach and sat on a bench  where we passed a Nalgene bottle of red wine and talked about our careers, and how we viewed them. We noted that I  focused on the past and my journey, Ben focuses on the present, and Miles looks towards a future where maybe he can escape spreadsheets and live through his lens (he is an amazing photographer). We laughed when we contemplated what this said about us and our lives.

The hell if we know.

The three of us ended our evening back in Everett at The Cannery. We got to see more great friends and listen to the power vocals of the band Joseph (always a treat to hear live).

Sometimes the best days happen by mistake. Even though I am sure the performance of Richard III would have been entertaining, I think it is a rare gift to spend unforced, quality time with people who matter most in your life. Those moments and those people are what inspire me to just.keep.writing.

Out of My Lazy Coma

After taking three months off, due to a severe case of writers block I am back to it. I swear though, finding your writing mojo is like digging for gold. I’m just waiting for a nugget of enlightenment to show up after chipping away at this petrified wall of bullshit.

 I will take my 5 new pages today and call my short-lived retirement from writing over.

Getting Into Character

I am learning that to successfully write from your character’s perspective, you must dive deep into who they are. I imagine it’s very similar to what actors have to do to get into character. You must dig deep into the character’s psyche and spend a long time there and report everything you see. Which, when you think about it, is really digging into the complete totality of your own mind, but that’s another blog post all together…

Today I am going to talk about exploring the outside influences of my foremost character Brian. Brian is born and raised in Alaska, but finds himself Washington bound at the age of 17 (against his choice). Brian knows all about surviving cold winters, hunting, fishing, and poaching. He understands how to sustain a farm without a lot foreign technology and influence. Washington is not mammoth in terms of change, but he learns quickly the reason for hunting, carrying guns, and knives is more of a trend for the kids he will meet in his new high school. They throw on a Carhart and watch a few episodes of Duck Dynasty and think they are set for life in the wild.

 I know zilch about guns, bow hunting, and my fishing skills are only slightly better. But these things are a way of life for Brian and I can’t imagine writing about his passions if I don’t experience some of them first hand. Coincidentally, my desire to connect with Brian through his survival skills is answered unexpectedly when a trip to my Dad’s house provides me with the tools I need.

I offhandedly mention to my dad that I want to learn how to shoot, and low and behold, sometimes you ask and you do receive. No more than ten minutes goes by and my dad comes back with his father’s .22 rifle and a .22 pistol both at least 60 years old. I am unprepared for the swell of emotion that hits me. My grandpa died when I was only 6, and holding the guns that belonged to a man I hadn’t seen in 20 years, is an unexpected gift of kinship. I don’t have any living grandparents and it is amazing to hold a piece of my grandpa’s history and share for a moment a hobby he loved. The smooth indentation in the wood lets me know he spent many hours with the rifle. I know both of my grandfathers would be ecstatic to know that their granddaughter has an interest in shooting. And almost as if he doesn’t want to be outdone, my father goes back into his room and retrieves a beautiful bow that my mother’s father gave to him. So my husband and I left my Dad’s house carrying pieces of family treasure from both of my grandfathers.

The following weekend my husband (Miles) and I travel to Sultan, Wa. with our friend Steven to his grandparent’s cabin. The house is beautiful, built by Ray, Steven’s grandfather. The property is surrounded by woods, with a river in the background. In a clearing there is a target already set up. His grandpa being an avid marksman is very helpful teaching us about our newly acquired guns. I am pretty nervous but also very excited to begin. I start with my grandpa’s bolt action .22 rifle.

Ready, aim, POW!

Next, we test out the Colt .22 revolver. I like shooting this much better, and actually it is a big hit with Miles, Steven, and Ray. It is easy to shoot and aim, and it makes me feel like a cowboy. I want to rapid fire the six shooter, slamming the hammer back repeatedly, but I am moving in slow motion today making sure I don’t make any mistakes. I like to get ahead of myself… but not today.

Loading the bullets

My friend Steven also lets me shoot his shotgun! Wow those things really do have a kick, but I love it!

As you can see from the picture below, I am quite amused.

Brian is going to be a bow hunter as well so I am really excited to try the Damon Howatt bow we got from my grandfather. But it is a 50lbs re-curve bow, meaning I will have to live vicariously through Miles because I can only pull the bow string back about half draw. And me trying to string the thing would be a joke.

Here is Miles stringing the bow. He uses mostly his leg muscles.

I am very jealous of him at this point. But the good thing is that Miles loves to shoot the bow, he went to Cabelas and bought a target for home. I will pester him with questions when I have them 🙂

It is a good day with great people. Good thing Steven and Ray were there to show us the basics. I feel much more comfortable going with people who know what they are doing.

Steven and his grandpa Ray

Now I can write about what it feels like to hold a gun, to anticipate that punch in your arm when you pull the trigger. I plan on doing a lot more target practice in the future. This is just the beginning of trying to understand Brian and what drives him, but hey at least it’s a start.

Discourse Discussion: Avoiding Disasters

Discourse in literature is fickle,and when you fail hard, it can be debilitating. One minute you are running freely with an idea, page after page you are flying through your story. Your characters are forming wonderful conclusions, they are growing through their conversations and observations with other, just as wonderful, characters. Life is good your story is going to inspire a generation, hell, maybe even the genre as a whole. Only to T-bone into the fatal, stone hard, self destructive wall your subconscious constructed while you were busy on your joy ride. You start to think “What the fuck am I talking about? My writing is awful!” And in a catastrophic, dramatic show of your own self-loathing you hit the backwards delete button page after page… gone…

So how do we, as writers move past this crippling experience? No really, if you have a suggestion tell me because I don’t have it figured out. This is my first attempt at writing since I graduated with a degree in English Literature.Which by the way, my diploma might as well say R.I.P. any imagination  this student may have had prior to entering our facility. Because NOTHING strangles your creative voice like writing scholarly essays for two years. So I am back to learning how to explore my emotions through writing and not give up.

Here is some advice from artistic rebels, who like me, need a break from their day job.

1) Stop caring so much and let shit go. I’m paraphrasing an amazing facebook status from a fellow graduate and friend named Danielle. And she wasn’t talking about wasp nests in her career as a writer, she was talking about her personal life with friends and family. What I gathered from this is that if you hold on to grudges and negativity it will show up in the creative aspects in your life. You need all the energy you can collect to devote to your creative outlook when you are working 40 hours/week and has god knows how many other responsibilities.

2) My co-worker David gave me this little gem, that you have to create a pile of poop in order to fertilize the foundation of literary greatness.  Just keep writing. Sometimes your discourse will fall flat, just keep going. Eventually that horrendously long, painful inner thought dialogue will end for your character and like a bumpy, organic path, it will lead to a field of wild flower ideas. You can go back and smooth out the path later for your readers, don’t get held up on this!

3) “Don’t be hard on yourself, that is what editors are for.” This brilliant quote cam from Ashley, another co-worker. And it is so true! You have to be your own advocate because noone else will be. When you complete your book your editor will find all of your mistakes (yes the ones you know about, and thousands you never realized). In fact, people will be slamming you left and right. Your job is to glean what you can from the criticism and accept varying tastes in literature… and try not to break their up-turned noses.

My guess is that the most important discourse you have as an author is the one you have with yourself. If you keep seeing failure in everything your characters say.. they will fail and so will your story. Keep the line of communication open and don’t let your self doubt bully what your heart is trying to say. And most important, don’t you dare touch that backwards delete button!

My Inspiration

I am writing a novel (which I don’t have a title for at the moment) because the characters are begging to tell their story. I have known my main character for two years now, and I must say Brian has been patiently waiting for me to begin. Why the name Brian? Well I guess now is a good time to share my inspirations.

I was CRAZY about this novel as a kid. I had no idea what Brian looked like, but I knew that I loved him. Brian was my first literary crush (I must admit I have probably had 100 since then). I admired his perseverance and determination. My Brian has similar attributes to Gary Paulsen’s, but mine will have a fierce character attribute that proves necessary when violent choices have to be made.

 Also, my story will be one of survival as well.

As for the heroine in my story (Sophia) I would like her to have a tough spirit as well. She will at first come off as a Cher from Clueless (as if!) and later transform into young woman you can actually admire, think Katniss Everdeen.


This combo will prove interesting, I just hope in a good way.

The villain who I hate already, is a mix between Nils Bjurma from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and back country, ignorant asshole.

      So that’s in on characters for now. Thank you for reading!

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