Tag Archives: Writing Toolbox

Toolbox 7: Elements of a Mystery

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.

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What I’m focusing on is my favorite genre.

Elements of writing Mysteries are broken down into: victim, suspects, villain, hero(es)/police, support cast + series potential, clues/red herrings, violence + sex, and setting + cross genre.

Here’s what I try to do with them.

I work out who will die and how my hero will become involved in the crime. Here I determine how/why the person died.

The victim, suspects and villain must have a connection. They’ve all crossed paths and each has left marks on the others. Strong emotions  and unresolved issues flow between them, leaving room for confessions, unpleasant truths and/or discoveries. At first everyone has a motive, opportunity and an alibi (several false).

NOTE: I write out the incidents that left the marks and use these as the source of motives.

My crime solving cast will be the hero, best friend, information source, tech guy, nosy neighbor/mother/pain in the neck, possible lover. Now I mix and match and put several of the people together  in one character depending on what I need . I usually have three: Hero, best friend (pain in the butt) and information source.

When I’m putting together, my crew of crime solvers I also consider series potential each and every time. They need their own ARCs—goals and hardships—as they assist/hinder the hero.

I include romance and love interests but I choose to close the door on sex and violence. It happens off stage–mostly.

Setting brings with it a possibility of crossing genres. I’ve written fantasy, contemporary paranormal, science fiction, and am trying my hand at magical realism. The core of the story is always a mystery, with a touch of romance.

I’m still striving to improve my craft. While I’m learning and growing, I’m enjoying the journey.

what’s your favorite genre and why?

Here are some of my favorite sites:

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Author Toolbox 6: Adding To Word Count

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.

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A new year and I’m hoping for new ideas that lead to new outlines. I’ve been throwing around an idea about dissecting and expanding some shorts and seeing where they might go as novellas or novels.

Obviously the short would be the core of the story but adding words means adding new ideas or/and adding sub plots.

Here’s what I’ve been considering:

  • add a reversal into the main plot line
  • add subplots and characters complications
  • dig, sift, and seek out places for more tension
  • deepen the point of view, descriptions, atmosphere, arcs
  • transform summaries into scenes
  • dig into the layers of the character’s past and add some regrets, grudges, and unresolved issues

The biggest challenge of lengthening a project is making the additions intricate parts of the story, to move it forward and not be bits of fluff I’ll land up cutting on my next round of revisions.

How do you add to your word count? Any advice for me.

Gleaned from:

Toolbox 6: How I found my lost Scrivener files and 65k of work

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.

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About a week ago I gave my laptop permission to do an update and restart but I forgot to close Scrivener first. I use Dropbox as a backup and link between my laptop and desktop. A few days later I went back to work on my WIP and it wouldn’t open. I was at about 65k and ice immediately ran through my veins.

It suggested I make a copy, because another app was using the file. The problem was the file was not open anywhere else and the project’s copy wouldn’t open either.

There was an HEA

I’m writing today to explain how I made it to a happy ending even though I made many mistakes along the way.

I started by going through the rest of my files in my Dropbox and tested them for issues. There were a couple but this time copying the files worked fine.

Alas not so for the story I was working on. All the files were there but it wouldn’t open. I could see them and there weren’t any obvious issues. But every time I tried to open it, Scrivener crashed, claiming there was no application for the executable file.

A little about my WIP–A scifi mystery that involved tons and tons of research. It was hours of my time I didn’t want to repeat.

Scrivener keeps it all straight so I don’t have to memorize it all.

As I rebuilt my WIP by going through all the rtf files and putting them all in the right places, it didn’t occur to me my research would be lost. The rebuild took about eight hours.

And I didn’t mind. At least my work was there. Then I went through the project: all of my settings were gone, all my links, and all my research. I couldn’t find it anywhere.

This left me very unhappy. You probably noticed my laziness sticking its nose out. So I walked away. I kept telling myself I had the work and to quit being a baby about the rest.

So after stewing, and some pouting, I decided to revive my original Scrivener project no matter what.

It took exactly one afternoon and a coincidence to bring about my happy ending.

Windows 10 and Calibre

Before I realized my research was gone, I was trying to add a plugin to Calibre and ran into some trouble with a zip file. Yes, Windows 10 does unzip most files for easy access. It works great if you are the user, but when an application tries to access them, it doesn’t always fly.

For the longest time I couldn’t figure it out. I fiddled with the zip folder for quite a while trying to install a new plugin and landed up having to unzip it manually to make it work.

Back to the Scrivener Project.

I had run out of ideas with Dropbox. But as I searched on the internet, a post made something very clear. Scrivener does their own backups.

So I went looking.

I found them all BUT apparently Scrivener didn’t have authorization to open any of them.

Wrong! Remember Calibre.

All backups were stored as zip folders and it needed someone—me—to unzip them first and then Scrivener had access.

Fool that I am I did this first on my desktop and not my laptop. I felt like one of my characters. Failure after failure. But when I went to my laptop, I knew exactly what to do.

I’m still smiling.

I did a comparison with the copy (that would not run from Dropbox) and added what was missing to my restored backup project. Once it looked like the original, I opened it. My research, links and settings were all there and waiting for me.

There is something to be said about being stubborn and I’m all that.

So here’s a quick suggestion for the Scrivener User that also uses Dropbox.

  1. In Scrivener, go to Tools–>Options and then find the Backup tab. Check and make sure “Turn on automatic backups” is ticked.
  2. At the bottom of the Option (backup) Window choose a good place to save your backups. As in, a place you can find them easily. (You may want to create a shortcut)
  3. Carry on and hope nothing goes wrong and know if it does you know exactly where your WIPs are waiting.
  4. Depending on your memory, make a readme file with the directions about unzipping the file you’ll need, and you’re set.

Has this put me off Dropbox or Scrivener? N0pe. I love both of them. It was my fault. I should have closed all my apps down before the windows restart.

In case you don’t know:

Scrivener is an application that supports outlining, tracking research, structuring and restructuring of long documents—novels, novellas, etc. Its purpose enables a writer to go from idea to first draft as painlessly as possible. My plots tend to be intricate and this app allows me to rearrange my work for the best narrative.

Dropbox is an online cloud where data, written work, can be saved and accessed by more than one computer. It allows for collaboration as well as ease of access. For me, I can write from anywhere and save my work in one place.

Calibre is an application that maintains an elibrary. All soft copies of your books, collected or written, can be saved, organized, and backed-up in one database. I use mine to read my work on my ereader.

Here’s something else you may like.

Scrivener NaNo’17 Trial is’s available now. You can buy it for 50% off if you win NaNo or 20% off if you participate in NaNo. So if you’ve always wanted to try it but found it too expensive here’s your chance to try before you buy.

There is also a Facebook Support Group for Scrivener if you have any trouble. They are quick with answers and support.

And for someone who prefers freeware, try yWrite6.

I’ve tried both until I bought Scrivener after NaNo2015. There’s a learning curve, but it is worthwhile.

You got any freeware or trial apps I might like. Leave a link and why you like it in the comments.

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.

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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.

How?

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,

LogLine:

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.

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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.

Plotter

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.

Pantser

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.

Layers

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: