Monday, July 16, 2018

5 Reasons to Write with Plot Flexibility + A mom moment

5 Reasons to Write is a Return Series on my Blog

This series includes 5 Reasons to Write ____ (fill in the blank)
If you are interested in guest posting, please see the upper button for ideas, but don't limit yourself to them. Then, shoot me an e-mail, even if the topic you want has already been touched on by someone else.

5 Reasons to Write with Plot Flexibility

Sometimes, we run into a wall of frustration. We have to step back and re-read previous scenes, check our plot points, re-read character profiles, look at our plot map or sticky notes, gaze at our Pinterest board and just ask ourselves: why am I stuck? Is it me? Is it the theme? Is it the characters? Is it the plot? 

Sometimes, it is the plot and we have to change it to move forward.

1. If the plot points aren't lining up with what you're really writing. 

Have you ever written out a 5 to 25 point plot outline and then, after two months of draft, you realize you've drifted far away from your plot outline? 

I know I have. Sometimes, we need to revise the draft, but most of the time, I think it's best to see what the good parts are the page and adjust the plot, instead.

2. If the characters are refusing to do what you want them to do. 

Your character refuses to take another step.

 Every scene feels awkward. You can't write that kissing scene or that sword-fight scene or that intergalactic space battle. The characters just seem to keep slipping out of your grasp and doing everything but what you planned for them to do.

This means it's time to step back and think about what the characters are telling you as a writer. 

Yes, I know they don't really talk, but they are figments of our imagination and maybe, unconsciously, we really want to write a different book than we put in our plot outline. If the characters are being difficult, that might be the case.

3. If showing versus telling seems to involve the minutiae of life.

Readers like fast-paced novels. Although we may want to stop and explore the gorgeous castle library from one book to the next, most readers want a brief description (unless there's a murder weapon or a secret entrance to an underground lair in the library or the love interest is giving all the books to an MC who loves books). 

We also don't really want to know what they eat every meal, unless it's a foodie-based book or a food-centered saga, or if there's poison. One of my writing teachers, Pamela Goodfellow, used to say, "Don't include food, unless you plan to kill someone with it."

Don't include showers, unless you are writing steamy romance or it involves a Bates Motel type scene. 

Take out those minutiae plot points unless they reveal plot or character points. (In the rough draft, they are okay because we might be telling ourselves something about the character that we need to know before we can write more.)

4. If the tension has deflated like an old party balloon.

It's time to figure out why there's no "oomph" to the plot. 

Are the stakes high enough? 

Are the plot points of high tension too far apart? 

It might be time to tighten up the writing and shorten or cut the plot points of "rest."

5. If there is pointless dialogue.

This is similar to point #2. When characters are not doing what we want them to do, we often find ourselves writing pointless, somewhat pouty dialogue. 

Or, maybe we want the characters to interact, but we lost the tension while they were talking. It might be time to cut the dialogue and make them do something while talking in short moments between hurdling over hedges, kissing heavily, fighting for their lives, or sharing a taxi awkwardly with a wild driver careening through the city.

Reason for me to write this post: I recently had problems #1-5 all at once with my current WIP. I decided the book really wasn't hitting the right points for me as a writer because I want the characters to be older and able to handle some grittier stuff. I needed to include villains in nearly every scene (even if they are hidden in the background somewhere, waiting to be revealed later), and my characters were definitely having pointless dialogue in scenes with the minutiae of life on full display, including lots of meals in a non-foodie plot, although I am hanging onto Gran's cookies because they are essential to her character and how she attempts to deflate tension. 

So, out with an attempt at Middle Grade fiction, and onto Young Adult Superheroes (and Villains) with baggage. Same characters, similar, but with a different timeline. So far, my changes have breathed new life into a novel that had lost all forward momentum in draft #2. So, yes, this looks like another major revision/rewrite, but I'm actually excited about it. 

Do you write with plot flexibility or do you have an iron-clad plot outline? What reasons might you have to change your plot?

More plot posts are coming in August!

Mom Moment: My youngest daughter was featured in a news video about Olympic Hopefuls who were training in Oklahoma City for Olympic Hopes, an international regatta for teens:

Summer Sales:

99 Cents for Champion in the Darkness and Champion in Flight for Kindle readers until July 31st.

Smashwords Sale Items until July 31st.
FREE - Flicker: A Collection of Short Stories and Poetry
FREE - Dynamic Writing 1: First Semester E-book
$1.50 Champion in Flight (I couldn't get it to 99 cents and put it in the sales catalog, probably author error).

Don't Forget #IWSGPit is Tomorrow!

Two of the images are free from

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Writing Focus: Strengths of Protagonist (Primary) Narrators and Secondary Narrators

Welcome to a new series of posts on writing. I'll be getting into the mechanics of plot, character, metaphors, and more. I'll be posting these once a month, interspersed with my IWSG posts, my 5 Reasons to Write series (guests and me), and some guest posts from fellow writers (who comment here and visit fairly often). I may also work on some movies-and-books-for-writers posts that I'm not sure how I'll name. On my Wordpress blog (hardly used, was thinking of changing but didn't), I'll be posting posts on heroes and villains and/or re-posting content from this blog.

So, what do I mean by Protagonist Narrators and Secondary Narrators? What are their strengths? Here's a bit of what I think: 

Protagonists (Primary Narrators) are the center of the plot. 

The plot revolves around their action or inaction, their choices or their refusal to choose.
Protagonists are the heart of any plot.

Examples of Protagonist Narrators:

  • Would The Hunger Games still be The Hunger Games without Katniss? No. Katniss and her choices drive the plot forward. Even when she doesn’t want to play along, the other characters view her as an important figure and her action or inaction makes the story come alive. 
  • The Hobbit is obviously centered around Bilbo Baggins from title page to first paragraph to finish. the book is Bilbo’s book, his adventure, and all from his point of view. It’s why we don’t know what Gandalf is up to until he comes back to report things to Bilbo and the dwarves. While I do prefer the novel to the three movies, I enjoyed the three movies based on The Hobbit because we were able to see Gandalf’s adventures. 

Movies are almost always from a third person omniscient perspective, which is a bit different than a true protagonist narrator, or even a narrator who is not the protagonist.

Can a narrator not be the protagonist? 

Secondary Narrators can hold the plot within their point of view without being the protagonist. 

Their perspective colors the events, but the events are not centered around them.


  • Dr. Watson narrates most of the Sherlock Holmes stories and novels, but Sherlock is definitely the protagonist. Sherlock may rely on Dr. Watson, but the action and solution of the great detective stories center around Sherlock.
  • In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Mr. Utterson (a completely forgettable busybody) is the narrator of the events in the story. There is almost a sense of an omniscient narrator since the story is told in 3rd POV, but it is Mr. Utterson’s steps we doggedly follow through the strange rumors and events that lead to the revealing of Dr. Jekyll as Mr. Hyde.

So, how should we, as writers, create our novels and stories? Should we use protagonist narrators or (non-protagonist) secondary narrators?

I think it depends on our style as writers and what best viewpoint there is for the story at hand.

Strengths of Protagonist Narrators:

  • We get some of the thoughts and emotions along with the character’s actions. Why does Katniss struggle to “perform” for the audience even when her life depends on it? We find that answer in her point of view in the novel.

  • We have a front row seat for events in the novel. The protagonist narrator is the center of the plot and therefore, the plot is right there and in our faces when we read a protagonist narrator. Katniss takes us with her for a brutal game of combat and heart-ache. 

Strengths of Secondary Narrators:

  • We see the story with a full picture as the secondary narrator ferrets out information that the protagonist may not even be thinking about. In The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Mr. Utterson gets eye-witness accounts and gossip in his quest to help his friend, Dr. Jekyll. Many of the other characters are able to voice their perspectives and since we see Mr. Utterson worry over his friend, we know that Dr. Jekyll is usually a decent person.
  • Secondary narrators may keep the grisly stuff off the main page. When Dr. Jekyll is Mr. Hyde, he relishes in his adventures, which include murder, child rape, and other things that we, as an audience, might not want to see from the front row seat of his mind. Although Mr. Utterson is horrified and shocked, we are just seeing the actual crimes from a perspective of hindsight and unspoken graphic details.

Can we mix these two types of narrators, protagonist narrators and secondary narrators, in the same story or novel? 


  • Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card revolves around the early life of Andrew (Ender) Wiggin, but every chapter starts with a short, disembodied conversation between two adults who are “training” him. 
  • In my trilogy (The Champion Trilogy), the point of view jumps between the protagonist, her mentor, the villain, another mentor, and some of her friends (one of whom is a secondary protagonist/love interest). Each of these characters takes control of the plot in certain points of the trilogy, but only one is truly the main protagonist. 

There are many styles of protagonists in novels and short stories.
I hope to do a more extensive set of blog posts and articles on them, eventually.

However, next week, I will be starting a lengthy series on plot.

For a related post on characterization, check out my May post at the Insecure Writer’s Support Group: Writing Realistic Antagonists.

What kinds of narrators do you like best? 
Protagonist (primary) Narrators or Secondary Narrators?

Summer Sales:

99 Cents for Champion in the Darkness and Champion in Flight for Kindle readers until July 31st.

Smashwords Sale Items until July 31st.
FREE - Flicker: A Collection of Short Stories and Poetry
FREE - Dynamic Writing 1: First Semester E-book
$1.50 Champion in Flight (I couldn't get it to 99 cents and put it in the sales catalog, probably author error).

Don't Forget #IWSGPit

Notable Post from Summer so far:
Ellen Jacobson's 5 Reasons to Write Cozy Mysteries (Guest Post)

Monday, July 9, 2018

Guest Spotlight: Diane Burton and Numbers Never Lie


A Romantic Suspense
By Diane Burton
Romantic Suspense
Length: approx. 80,000 words
Available at Amazon  
Free with Kindle Unlimited

A shocking secret brings danger to Jack Sinclair and his sister Maggie.

As kids, they were the fearless threesome. As adults, Jack's an accountant; Drew, a lawyer; Maggie, a teacher and camping troop leader. Upon returning from a weekend camping trip, Maggie receives horrifying news. She refuses to believe her brother Jack’s fatal car crash was an accident. If the police won’t investigate, she’ll do it herself. Convincing Drew Campbell to help is her only recourse.

Drew Campbell was too busy to return his best friend’s phone call. Too busy to attend a camping meeting important to his teen daughter. Too busy to stay in touch with Jack. Logic and reason indicate Jack’s accident was just that--an accident caused by fatigue and fog. Prodded by guilt, he’ll help Maggie even if he thinks she’s wrong.

A break-in at Jack’s condo convinces Maggie she’s right. Then her home is searched. What did Jack do that puts Maggie in danger?


Maggie Sinclair wondered for the tenth time that morning why she hadn’t had her head examined before agreeing to Ellen’s offer. The week before, Maggie called off the trip when not one parent volunteered to chaperone. She hated disappointing the girls who had been crushed when their leader moved away. For the past two months, they talked about camping again. But week after week they returned with the same news. Their mothers refused, and their dads were too busy.

So when Ellen said her dad would help, the girls went wild. And Maggie, who should’ve known better, believed Ellen who swore she’d asked and her father agreed. Maggie should have followed up with a phone call, but years of avoiding Drew Campbell prevailed. Years of unreciprocated longing—from when her heart first took notice, through the years when he was single, then when he was married. Except for that one time, she never let him know. Avoidance was best.

Now here she was needing his help with the girls. Preparing them for a week-long camping trip to Isle Royale had been Trish Morrow’s goal when she started the group four years ago. The girls loved roughing it. They just needed more hiking and camping experience before tackling the primitive island in Lake Superior.

Though they’d gotten a late start this morning because of the fog, Maggie noticed the girls’ energy start to flag after the fifth mile of the hike. That was when she put Drew Campbell at the front of the line. From the rear, she watched him trying to set a faster pace—especially after Gretchen’s assurance that they could keep up. The man was in a world of hurt even if he was making a concerted effort not to show it. He looked so trim, so athletic, Maggie had assumed he was in good shape.

Typical desk jockey. He probably got his exercise in a climate-controlled gym. No, wait. In a health club.

For better or worse—and she was afraid worse was the operative word—she was stuck with him for the next thirty hours.

Are we having fun yet? she mocked herself as she tromped through the woods with eight tough little girls on the brink of womanhood and her brother’s best friend. From the back of the line, Maggie watched his long-legged stride and the way his navy golf shirt revealed his strong shoulders and the way his obviously new jeans conformed to his butt. She lifted the tail of the bandanna knotted around her neck and wiped the sweat from her upper lip. She couldn’t blame the sun for the heat coursing through her.

Okay, Sinclair, she told herself, keep your mind on the matter at hand. And not how good Campbell’s butt looked in tight new jeans.

Good Lord, she felt fifteen again—instead of thirty-four. Her stomach in knots, her skin on fire. 

Numbers Never Lie is available at Amazon.

About the Author:

Diane Burton combines her love of mystery, adventure, science fiction and romance into writing romantic fiction. Besides writing science fiction romance, she writes romantic suspense, and cozy mysteries. Diane and her husband live in West Michigan. They have two children and five grandchildren.
For more info and excerpts from her books, visit Diane’s website:

Connect with Diane Burton online

Goodreads: Diane Burton Author
Sign up for Diane’s new release alert:

 Rafflecopter Giveaway!

Tweet to help Diane get the word out!
Was Jack's car crash an accident? NUMBERS NEVER LIE #RomanticSuspense #humor #MYSTERY @dmburton72

A camping trip, an accounting nightmare, and a car crash. But was the crash really an accident? Or worse? NUMBERS NEVER LIE #RomanticSuspense #humor #MYSTERY @dmburton72.

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

#IWSG July 2018 The ULTIMATE Writing Goals

The Insecure Writer's Support Group

The Insecure Writer's Support Group hop is an awesome opportunity to share insecurities and to encourage each other as writers! The website and newsletter offer great writing and business tips. The Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads Group, and Instagram pages are all places offer places for us to connect on a daily basis. 
This whole group was started by Alex J. Cavanaugh.
The administration team has awesome, caring writers involved.
And, our co-hosts this month are: Nicki Elson, Juenta Key, Tamara Narayan, and Patricia Lynne.

Optional Question: What are your ultimate writing goals? And, how have they changed over time, if at all?

My original, ULTIMATE writing goals are huge (and require those capital letters, really).

The last two years have been all about writing survival.

 I've written over 250,000 words of rough draft material, most of which has yet to be read by anyone other than myself. Much of my writing this year has been in my journals. The entries there range from goals to reflections to Bible studies to prayers to stories and character profiles. My laptop writing has been all over the map, as well from fiction to non-fiction, goals, etc.

However, my ULTIMATE writing goals are still intact. Despite feeling several times like I should throw down my writing torch, the writing flames just won't die. 

No matter how sick I've been, no matter how few sales I have on certain months, I can't stop writing. It's in my blood, my brain, my fingertips, and when one of my doctors (I have several due to multiple physical health issues) asked what I really loved to do, I told her about my writing. She listened to me for fifteen minutes into her lunch break.

I usually hate talking about my writing, but I've felt so held back by my health that the passionate cry for writing in my soul just wouldn't shut up. She was looking me up on Amazon on her phone as I left her office.

Since my goals are super huge (spanning several typed pages in detail) and I've already spent sometime circling the topic, I'll just give the basics.

My basic, ULTIMATE writing goals:

1. Write every day for the rest of my life. (I think I have this one.)

2. Complete all of the project ideas I have in partial to full draft format (15).

3. Write and complete a minimum of 50 books (fiction and non-fiction).

4. Get them published - any which way that works.

5. Get one book on the bestseller list. It could be way down in the rankings, but I would love to make the NYT bestseller's list. This is one of those goals that I doubt a lot, but it's still there, so I'm being raw and honest with this crazy idea.

6. Write a minimum of 100 poems that get published.

7. Get over 300 short stories published.

8. Help other writers. Specifically, I hope to start (not now, not ready yet) at least an online quarterly magazine with a yearly publication attached to it. And, I hope that some of my posts and my non-fiction are helpful to writers. Originally, I wanted to start my own indie publishing press, but I'm not ready yet and I'm not sure I will be for a several more years. If I do it, I want to do it well.

9. I also have this super-crazy, pie-in-the-sky idea in which I would help create a Writer's Refuge/Writing Center in the community where I live. There's one in Seattle, but that's a bit of a drive (ranging from 45 minutes on a good day to 2 hours on a heavy traffic day). This is far, far off.

The good news is that I've made progress on most of these goals. I have books, stories, and poems published. I have tried to help fellow writers here at my blog by showcasing books and by providing some information posts (more of which will start coming next week). So, now, onto the next word and the next word, and onward.


#IWSGPit is coming soon! The Admin team, especially founder Alex J. Cavanaugh, has been working tirelessly to prepare for this event and I think it will be the best one yet!

What are your ultimate writing goals? Have they changed? Do you have any cries of the writing soul that just won't be silenced?

Summer Splash Days for IWSG Instagram:

BTW, I'm taking part in the summer Smashwords Sale for all of July!
Flicker: A Collection of Short Stories and Poetry is FREE
Champion in Flight is only $1.50