Tag Archives: Writing Toolbox

Author Toolbox 5: The Logline

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


What I know about marketing isn’t much. I’ve taken part in Facebook parties—not alone—thank goodness. I’ve posted my share of cover reveals, and blog tours posts was well. As a supporter and as an author. It’s all a learning experience and all worth doing. If for nothing else, to find out what works.

I keep notes and so should you.

Authors are expected to promote their work. A publisher will pay for the editing and cover and they will promote as far as they can. But here’s the thing, our moment in the sun is only one of many they will promote that year, possibly that month.

You may think

“I can’t toot my own horn.”

then don’t, but there May be consequences.

Low sales means you not only hurt yourself but also your publisher. And maybe the next book you pitch to them will be a pass. Why? Because they didn’t make their money back. Bottom line—a business makes money.

Stand on a soapbox and shout you wrote a book.

Be proud of it. Try to get as many readers as possible to at least read the blurb.


Start with your logline. You know the one. It’s the one sentence, stating the characters (not by name but by description) and the stakes they face if they fail or succeed, that keeps you on track when you’re writing,


If you don’t do this, then start.

I tweaked my logline into a 140 characters twitter pitch to find my readers—publishers and agents—during #PitMad and #WritePit.

Here are some examples that sold, White Light:

  • Great Aunt Alice has one dying wish. Emma, lend me your body long enough to solve my murder and maybe get lucky one last time. #PitMad Myst
  • Given a chance to prevent a murder, Emma will do anything. Even if it means, a trip back to her old room in the psych ward. #Pitmad A Myst
  • When a psychic warns two busybodies where danger lies, she doesn’t let her death stop her from joining the fun #WritePit #A Myst
  • She’s older. She’s smarter. What’s stopping her from solving her murder? Two friends on the job and the fact she’s a ghost. #WritePit #A #Myst

The goal is to come up with something that will catch a reader’s eye.

Any marketing secrets you’d care to share? I’d love to learn something new.


Author Toolbox 4: Discover The Layers Of A Story

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


I call the writer that uses both plotting and pantsing a framer. I’m one of these people and it has made my writing life much better. It’s given me a chance to discover the layers of my story.


I’ve already mentioned I outline (synopsis) the overall story. My thinking is simply: if I can tell the story in a coherent manner, I can sell it. Or that’s the theory. I make sure the tension rises, the plot holes are filled and all the little threads are tied up in a nice bow before I begin pantsing. The threads I leave hanging are because I like to imagine my characters carrying on. As if I popped in for an exciting part of their lives and popped out again. Who knows, maybe I’ll return at a later date.


I break the outline into doable sections with specific directions of what needs to happen.

I let loose. The creative juices flow. They know what direction I’m going and how fast I have to get there. No doubt many of us do this part. hehehe.

It’s why we’re here, reading and learning new techniques.


During all of this I think about the layers of the story because to me there are a minimum of two. The one on top is the one the reader enjoys until they realize more is going on than just surface stuff.

I give every character an agenda. Their own goal and what they are willing to do to achieve it.

Where I start

I give several characters an overlapping background that I don’t give away so much as let them react to. For example, as kids someone’s parent ran over another’s cat and someone is not letting the memory go. Another possibility is someone was a no-show at the prom, leaving their date to go alone. When they meet again, it’s time for a confrontation.

The layers of the story is where the character connect/disconnect with each other. I like to write mysteries, so each one of my characters has motive to kill the victim. Each one of them has a reason to kill another cast member. Each one of them had opportunity and the means to kill the victim or each other.

Going Deeper

I write the underlayer before I let my creative writing loose. Then once I’ve written a few more chapters, I adapt my underlayer again and again. Until it guides me through the worse/best of them. Motivations become clear when each character has an agenda, feelings that drive them down only one road—it may be interrupted, but is never forgotten, and then I try to write the story I first outlined.

The surface may appear smooth. But like a duck, much of the action hides below the surface, churning up all kinds of fun and trouble.

Have you done this? Any tips for me?

Other links you may like:

Toolbox 3: Settings is more than a Stage.



This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


Besides giving us place to act out a scene, a setting can add other elements as well.


Some places have memories. I can’t drive by the local grocery store by my family home without remembering that a hospital once was there. The place I was born. The place I played after it was demolished.

It carries feelings that have never gone away. Your characters can carry attachments too. They go to a park, swimming hole, elementary school, etc. and become overwhelmed or flashback into their past. It’s not a choice.

They remember their first kiss or their one and only marriage proposal. They remember saying goodbye to an old friend and watching them walk away forever. The place their child was born. Or the last time they went skinny dipping.

Mood or Atmosphere:

Mood could be based on the protagonist’s memories or it could be as simple as weather or a social function that sets the mood or atmosphere.

Thunderstorms set a mood: it was a dark and stormy night. And a sunny day at the beach also give us a sense of wholesome fun. Until the water rises and the little kid making the sand castle at the water’s edge can’t be found anywhere.

Family barbecue is one feeling, and a funeral is another. A group gathered around a phone waiting for a call—kidnapper, job offer, or dream date.

Things to consider when planning a scene.


People are not the only antagonists on the page. A disaster could stop them from achieving their goal. To save a life, they need to cross a washed-out bridge, or fix a tire without a tire iron. A blizzard could stop them from chasing after someone—villain or soul mate.

Not only stopping the hero, but also cutting them off from help. There is no rescue or police to investigate. The hero is on their own.

Whatever the circumstance it could increase the stakes.

Concrete Details:

Smells, sights, sounds, tastes, textures, internal feelings, space, time and the unknown should all be considered. Reactions to these specific details can be more powerful than any vivid description of setting, and characters.

End Result:

It’s all about reaction. Is it the history of the place? Is it the mood that always seems to hang over it like a cloud of doom? Or is it a physical problem like a washed out river. Any of these elements could be a contributing factor as a scene plays out?

No matter where you start, consider the setting.

What does your setting do for your story?

Have any techniques that help connect your characters to their setting? Please share. I’d love to read them. 🙂


Author Toolbox #2: The Emotional Connection and Subtext

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


I’ve been thinking about how to connect with my readers. Some say you need a hero that the reader admires. I’m not sure that’s the only way to connect. After all, antiheroes are not all that loveable at first.

But we all share the common ground of emotion. It doesn’t matter what the history. We’ve been hurt, angry, happy, lonely, etc. And to me, it’s the link between all of us.

Motivation-Reaction Unit

I don’t know how many of you know about the MRU. There’s a quick explanation below and if you need more, and there’s the internet.

Motivation: something happens to the main character. Reaction: the character —feels, thinks, acts—then speaks (if they do speak). Any of these reactions might be omitted at the discretion of the author.

And the unit is repeated over and over again.

Subtext is expressed in the silent reactions

The silent reactions, the unspoken word, shows the true internal workings of a character. What’s revealed indirectly is subtext. I’m working hard to understand and incorporate subtext into my copy.

An Example:

I remember the first time I got a ticket; I’d run a stop sign with the police officer watching the whole thing. While he wrote out the ticket, I maintained a polite and calm facade, but inside I had a twenty-year-old meltdown.

If I’d been a character, the reader would have seen how hard I tried to laugh off my mistake. All the while frightened by his authority over me. They’d have seen my raw embarrassment after the cop drove away and how I hid this horrible event from everyone in my family. Very ashamed, I didn’t want to admit to them what I had done.

It was just a stop sign, but it didn’t matter. I hated making mistakes back then.

Our Characters

The unspoken word introduces the reader to the unprotected core of your character. It’s private. It makes the character vulnerable. The MC may hide their true feelings from the other characters—maybe, even from themselves—but not the reader. This intimate and trusting moment reveals who they are.

The inner workings and facade they show the surrounding people is revealing as well. Their choice on how to express themselves may be direct, indirect, or a bold face lie. For example, their inner thoughts contradict what they do—hurt expressed as anger.

The character may not work out why they reacted they way they did, but the reader will. They have the information of all the point-of-view characters and know exactly what’s unfolding within the story.

The Reader

Subtext allows the reader in where they can’t go in day-to-day life. It tells them secrets they’ll savor while also enjoying the story. They’ll anticipate what may happen next and be surprised when a twist occurs instead. It allows the story to become their story. Isn’t that what we all want when reading?

I’m doing my best to incorporate more subtext within my work. Do you do this? Do you have any tips for me?

Gleaned from:

Author Toolbox #1: Plotting, Sub-Plotting, and Series Threads

This post was written for the Author Toolbox Blog Hop where we share our new discoveries on the craft of writing, editing, querying, marketing, publishing, and blogging tips. Posted every third Wednesday of the month. For rules and sign-up click here.


Hi I’m new to the toolbox meme, and I wanted to thank Erika. I read one of her posts and before I knew it I was signing up too. I regularly post about my latest discoveries. When I’ve spent hours root them out, I figure the least I can do is share.

You’ll note I’ve included some links to previous posts. Not because I’m all knowing—we all know I’m not. It’s more of a just-in-case-you’re-interested kind of thing. Enjoy.

This month I’ve being reviewing plotting, sub-plotting and how to drag the threads through a series. Here’s what I’ve gleaned so far.


Plotting seems straight forward to most. A person telling a story around the campfire knows the tension is increasing, and the twist is a surprise from the listener’s reaction.

Not so true when the work is happening in front of a computer. There may be no one but the writer tapping away, throwing in one great idea after another, and topping it all off with a twist or two.  Eventually ending it by blowing the reader away.

Well that’s the plan. Okay that’s usually my plan. Turned out if I don’t do a bit more planning I land up with something else.

So now I come up with a core idea (usually a mystery) that I plot along a three-act structure, striving for one thing—increasing tension and at least one surprise. Without feedback, I have to use my instincts; later, when the time is right, I’ll pick on a few beta readers.

How do I know I’m succeeding?

Once I get all my bright ideas and twists down I write an outline. Please don’t judge me. I do this as a substitute for people around my campfire. Without an audience, I have to be quite critical to get it right. The final copy looks very similar to a synopsis and I’ll use it when I’m querying.

Since this rarely lets me reach my word count, I need to find ways to enhance the storyline. Adding some depth to my supporting cast works by giving them plots of their own.


I guess the biggest question is where does all the tension come from? The protagonist needs to get something done and one person is out to stop them.

Not always.

Personally, if the antagonist showed up on page one in my work and the two of them battled it out, the story is over before it started. As I’m sure you know, mysteries tend to hide the villain until the end.

The supporting cast can fill in for the antagonist and get in the way of achieving the goal… But they need reasons to do so.

One word that always pops into my head is mother. I’m a perfect mother and never annoy my twenty-something son. He never feels I’m interfering or meddling in any way.

But don’t ask him about it, he may tell you the truth. hehehe

So my protagonist always has mother issues. Sometimes best-friend issues and boss issues as well. Keep the list growing and the sub-plots will be plentiful. I’m sure I’m not the only one who noticed that life can get in the way: broken limbs, engine trouble, lenders, borrowers, unexpected ninjas visitors, unemployment, pregnancy, love, hate, and boredom.

Some links:

Series Threads (and the bible):

I write mysteries and very often mysteries lead to a series. With that in mind I try to keep track of people, places and events. The collection of series’ details is called a bible.

Consistency is paramount when writing something over several books. Be kind to yourself and keep track of it all. Unless the mother figure in the book is constantly dying her hair, losing/gaining weight, and shrinking and/or growing. Plan on some kind of reference material.

It can be as simple as bookmarking a special copy of your work to cutting and pasting a special file for each person, place, or event. No one wants to be the person who has to go all their work looking for their mother’s neighbor’s dog’s name because it is suddenly the crux of the next book.

What have I learned?

That only I know the direction my story is going and how exactly I want to get there. Although I seek out feedback, I don’t always take it. I do, however, give each piece of advice serious consideration, knowing the bones of the story really helps me stay on track.

I work hard at being a good storyteller because only a few have been kind enough to read my work. The ones that do deserve my very best effort and I try to put it out there by doing quite a bit of preparation.

What about you? I know you know something I don’t, so share some of your wisdom that gets you through plotting, sub-potting, and series-fact tracking.