In keeping with my 2021 writing goals and my ramped up writing process, I’ve been using an iPhone app—WordKeeper—to measure my daily fiction writing progress.
You can enter different projects, such as short stories or novels. I’m in the early stages of working on novel number seven: plotting and outlining. My project page is below. WordKeeper displays my daily target word count based on the completion date I set. It shows daily progress as well as total progress toward my projected word count. It also provides stats about time, sessions, words, writing phases, and locations (which I don’t use). (Scroll down past the image for the rest of this post.)
When I sit down at my laptop to write, the first thing I do is open WordKeeper and start the timer. Then I write for an hour or two, stopping the timer when I’m done. Last evening, I got home late from dinner and only got 50 minutes in.
WordKeeper then displays the Session page, showing my stats for that session: start and end times, any pauses I made, and the duration of the session. If I were writing, I would enter a word count. But right now, I’m still outlining.
WordKeeper is helping me track my fiction writing progress so that I can be more productive.
When I get to the writing phase, hopefully in a week or two, I will start racking up the word count. WordKeeper will keep me on track to meet my deadline.
I like WordKeeper. It’s easy to use and has more features than I have time to explore. It’s $2.99 a month—the cost of a cup of coffee.
If you’re looking to track your fiction writing progress and productivity, you can learn more at https://wordkeeper.app/.
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A few weeks ago, I posted my 2021 writing goals. Toward that end, I’m ramping up my writing process. Here’s the well-greased chain I’m shooting for to increase my fiction-writing productivity:
Ideation > Brainstorming > Plotting > Outlining > Drafting > Editing > Marketing
Ideation: This is generating a story idea. I do this purposely several times a week on Twitter. For example:
You open the front door to get the mail. In the mailbox is a severed hand. Who put it there and why. How do you find out?
Brainstorming: Great idea. (I’ll write it someday.) But it needs a little—okay, a lot—of work. Here’s where I go through a process of answering questions about my character and their goals. I do a lot of work before I tackle structure. After all, I need events and motivation to plot. This stage may include incubation—time away to let my subconscious work.
Plotting: I develop character arcs for all my major characters and conform the brainstormed material into classic story structure. More at How to Write Stories that Sell.
Outlining: Here, I sort the information into a sequential scene-by-scene list from which I’ll write. I like my ducks in a row so that when I plant my butt in the chair, I can write without interruption.
Drafting: Using my outline, I write from beginning to end, incorporating all the information from my brainstorming, plotting, and outlining. I use Scrivener to build my manuscripts.
Editing: After one or more days, I’ll print the draft and edit it, making sure all the necessary information is in place and that I’m using the best language to tell a story. I go through at least five drafts before I consider the story ready for the reading public.
Marketing: I now have everything beta read. (If you’re a published writer and are willing to beta-read my fiction, contact me.) After final changes, I submit it to markets. If I don’t place a work after a while, I publish it myself.
This is my process, and I hope to perfect it this year so that I’m regularly churning out story after story, novel after novel. Expect to see more published this year. If learning about my process has been helpful to you, please leave a comment. I’d like to know your process, too.
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What makes for an effective monster in a horror story? Noel Carroll in his dissertation, The Philosophy of Horror (Routledge, 1990), asserts that a proper monster must be both threatening and impure.
Broader scopes of fiction seek to induce fear in the reader. But Carroll states:
…[T]he character’s emotional reaction to the monstrous in horror stories is not merely a matter of fear…. Rather, threat is compounded with revulsion, nausea, and disgust. …[T]he tendency in horror novels and stories [is] to describe monsters in terms of and to associate them with filth, decay, deterioration, slime, and so on. … The monster is not only lethal, but also disgusting. (p. 22)
Is Your Monster Threatening?
The monster in horror fiction must be threatening—physically, psychologically, socially, morally, spiritually—or all of the above. It must be able to hurt your body, your mind, your relationships, your conscience, or your soul.
If you’re working on a story of your own, consider the following exercises, helpful in the planning stage.
Build Your Threatening Monster
Describe how your monster is threatening to your characters in one of more of the following ways:
Is Your Monster Impure?
The horror monster must also be impure. What do we consider impure? Anything that “violates the generally accepted schemes of cultural categorization.” We consider impure that which is categorically contradictory, such as:
- The categorically ambiguous: amphibians (they both swim and hop, can exist both in water and out of water)
- Incomplete representatives of their class: rotting things, things not fully formed, things with parts missing (think Invasion of the Body Snatchers)
- Formless things: dirt, blobs, fog
More Carroll categories of the categorically contradictory (what a horrific tongue twister!) include:
- Fusion: Disparate entities fused into one stable being. Example: The spider-like erector-set creature with the bald, one-eyed doll’s head in Toy Story.
- Fission: Disparate entities that change into and back from something horrible at different times (or a multiple figure being whose identities are opposite). Example: Werewolves and other shape-shifters. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
- Magnification: Enlargement. Example: Giant people, giant sharks (Jaws), giant animals.
- Massification: Hordes. Unnaturally large numbers of something dangerous or relatively harmless. Example: Jellyfish in the movie Sphere. Birds. Rats. Locusts. Snakes. Spiders in Arachnophobia. Zombies. Vampires in I Am Legend.
- Metonymy: Something not revolting in itself associated with things that are. Example: The rats and wolves that attend Dracula.
Build Your Impure Monster
Describe how your monster is impure in one or more of the following ways:
- Categorically ambiguous
- An incomplete representation of its class
- Fusion (disparate entities fused into one stable being)
- Fission (disparate entities that change at different times, or a multiple figure being whose identities are opposite)
- Magnification (enlargement)
- Massification (hordes of something dangerous or relatively harmless)
- Metonymy (something not revolting in itself associated with things that are)
Fire Up the Tesla Coils!
To give life to your horrific monster, you must build it from the right parts. Your monster must be regarded as BOTH: 1) threatening, and 2) impure.
If it is only threatening, then the emotion is fear. If it is only impure, the emotion is disgust. But, if both, the emotion is horror! (p. 28)
We’ll talk more about the philosophy horror in future posts. You’ve been warned…
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This post has moved to http://wordsmithereens.net/2013/05/12/ferreting-out-filter-words/.
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Do you want to develop your psychic skills to write better fiction?
In this 47-minute live audio recording presented at Seton Hill University’s 2012 In Your Write Mind writer’s workshop, writer and medium Lee Allen Howard teaches about psychic development for fiction writers. From the presentation:
Inspiration comes from the same source as psychic information, and delivers creative information along the same channel. By learning to open your psychic channel, you become better able to receive inspiration and channel creative information that makes fiction work. In short: If you widen the psychic channel, you’ll get better ideas.
To receive this information, you must:
1. Connect to higher sources.
2. Bring that information into your waking consciousness.
You’ll learn how to do this with actual development exercises.
What People Are Saying about “Psychic Development for Writers”
Lee Allen Howard’s “Psychic Development” gave me insight into how my creativity works, as well as working out a “stuck spot” in my manuscript through his guided meditation. It works! —Meg Mims, author of Double Crossing
This dynamic and thought-provoking workshop by Lee Allen Howard is accessible to anyone, regardless of his or her spiritual path. Lee’s presentation is clear and straightforward, and the guided exercise at the conclusion is worth multiple revisits. Highly recommended! —Chris Stout, author of Days of Reckoning
What You’ll Receive
- CD of the live audio presentation of “Psychic Development for Writers” (tracks split per slide), including the psychic development exercises that you can use at home
- Session handouts that include slides, psychic development exercises, an article about gifts vs. skill, and a bibliography.
CD with handouts are $15, which includes shipping to locations in the continental US. To order, click the following link:
To widen your psychic channel for better fiction, order “Psychic Development for Writers” today.
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Channeling My Muse
On June 24 last year I spoke at Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction In Your Write Mind alumni retreat on the topic, “Alternative Methods of Idea and Story Generation.” I talked about being open to receiving story ideas and writing assistance from higher consciousness.
I also work as a Spiritualist medium. My metaphysical musings are posted on my other blog, Building the Bridge, which you might want to subscribe to. I’ve channeled through writing since 1989. (Channeling means to open yourself spiritually to communicate the thoughts and voice of discarnate intelligences.)
Here’s something my guides spoke to me the other night concerning my fiction writing. I was concerned that the idea I was working on was too big to handle, something beyond my abilities. They told me to take it one step at a time. (I know, not really profound, but I found it comforting.)
As we continue to prompt you concerning your writing endeavors, continue and be faithful to respond, and we will lead you to the next step. Do not fear that you cannot construct a masterpiece quickly in one sitting. These things take time. Be faithful to follow the process, and you will see your productivity increase, and you will grow to become more prolific.
Fear not about the future, for we have a design and a plan laid out for you. If you will but follow and yield yourself to the gifts we have placed within you, they will make a way even before kings. Step by step, day by day, follow the way, and we will lead you onward.
If you feel called to write, I hope you also will find this encouraging.
As always, feel free to leave a comment. I’d love to hear from you.
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When you’re an independent author or self-publisher, you get to wear all the hats and do all the work, so any advantage is a plus. Here’s a terrific tip to help polish your work for e-readers.
You’re in Charge
I’m a big believer in self-editing. Even if you submit your work to a traditional publisher, you can’t count on a quality in-house edit. So it’s up to you.
Reformat for a Fresh Perspective
I write my manuscripts using Microsoft Word with a template I’ve devised especially for fiction, but I do most of my editing on paper. When I get to the point where I’m ready to publish my work (or submit it to an editor), I import my manuscript to Adobe FrameMaker to format it like an actual book. Then I print it again and do another edit.
It’s amazing how changing the format will help you spot improvements to make that you didn’t catch previously.
You don’t need to import your work to another program to take advantage of this trick. Simply make a copy of your manuscript file and either attach another template with different formats, or select all the text and change the font.
E-format for a Fresher Perspective
Now that I’m publishing for e-readers, in addition to reformatting my printouts for editing, I now send my final manuscripts to my Kindle for a last edit. I urge you to do this if you want to give your work the ultimate spit-polish.
You can send a Word file to your Kindle email account, but the file converted and sent to your device may still look like a manuscript, and you don’t want that. I recommend converting your manuscript to a MOBI file (or EPUB for Nook) using a conversion program such as Calibre.
I save my Word manuscript as Filtered HTML, drop the HTML file into Calibre, and then convert it to MOBI. I send the MOBI file to my Kindle email address and then sync my device to download it.
E-dit on Your Device
On my Kindle, I review the manuscript one final time. I’m always surprised at what I find. Things I’ve read a dozen times on paper suddenly stick out like a sore prehensile digit. The need for shorter paragraphs becomes evident.
I use the notes feature to make comments and corrections. When I’m finished, I copy the MyClippings.txt file from my device to my PC and then consult the entries there to search my Word manuscript file, where I make the final corrections.
As I said previously, I urge you to try this out and see what a difference it makes in your published e-books. It’s a step you won’t regret.
If you found this article helpful, please share it with others. And if you have any questions or tips of your own along this line, please leave a comment. Happy e-diting!
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All fiction seeks to get the reader to identify with story characters. But there’s a special element of identification in horror fiction. In horror stories, the emotions of the reader should mirror those of the story characters in a certain way. Here’s how to recognize and employ this technique in your writing.
In his dissertation, The Philosophy of Horror (Routledge, 1990), Noel Carroll claims that “…[T]he appropriate reactions to the monsters in question comprise shuddering, nausea, shrinking, paralysis, screaming and revulsion. …This mirroring-effect… is a key feature of the horror genre” (p. 18).
Here are some common character emotional and physical reactions to the horrific that Carroll points out:
- dry mouth
- hair bristling
- heightened alertness
- increased respiration
- involuntary screaming
- momentary arrest
- muscular contractions (tensing)
- racing heart
- tingling (spine-tingling)
- being weak-kneed
Examples of Horrific Emotions
In Brian Keene’s Ghoul (Leisure, 2007), characters Pat and Karen are getting it on in a graveyard. (Note to reader: Bad idea.) When the monster arrives on the scene, we get these reactions:
Then the stench hit him. … It smelled like something rotting in an open grave. … Karen’s eyes grew wide, staring at something behind him. She screamed.
Without even describing the monster, Keene has encouraged reader identification with a nauseating smell. When Karen sees whatever it is behind Pat, her eyes go wide, prompting her to scream. So, without even describing “it,” we have the crucial emotion of horror displayed by character reaction. What your characters feel, your reader will feel.
From Scott Nicholson’s The Red Church (Pinnacle Books, 2002), little Ronnie and his brother are trying to escape a flying monster by heading into the dark woods. (Scared already, arent you?)
Something brushed his shoulder, and he bit back a shout. His body was electrified, sweat thick around his ankles and armpits and trickling down the ladder of his spine. The monster is going to get me.
Here we have the desire to scream, electrification, and sweating. All without seeing the monster. If your character is scared, so will be your reader.
And from my own The Sixth Seed (2011), we have the reaction of sweet six-year-old Emil who at first thinks he’s dreaming about being taken into a spaceship:
When he got real close, he noticed an opening like a door. Inside it stood some kids not much bigger than himself. Maybe as big as Whit. They looked like skeletons. Skeletons with big heads and bug eyes. They were looking at him, reaching out with their skinny arms and long fingers. One, two, three . . . three fingers and a thumb.
Emil barely felt the warm urine he released. It soaked his pajama pants and sprinkled down onto the backyard grass.
They reached for him, and all at once he thought he should be scared.
And then he was.
When the impure and threatening creatures reach for him, he wets himself—and his emotions catch up with his physical response. Scare the piss out of your character, and your reader will run for the bathroom.
Exercises for You to Practice
Print the previous bulleted list of horrific reactions so that you can use it as a checklist. Take three or four horror novels off your shelf and leaf through them, finding the places where your characters react in fear. Check off reactions from the list. Be sure to identify not only the explicit reactions, but ones that are implied. Which are most commonly used?
When you are writing a horror scene, stop to evaluate what your characters’ reactions might be. When crafting your character reactions, can you use ones that are not so commonplace? And your reactions must be tailored to your character; what scares one will not scare another. For instance, if your character is a herpetologist, she is not likely to react like a fashion model to a monster that is slimy or scaly. Put in the extra work, and find out what scares your characters as individuals. Your readers will break a sweat in fright—and love you for it.
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Novelist Len Deighton has an article in the Word Craft section of the Wall Street Journal online. It came at an opportune time.
Lying in the tanning bed this morning, I was meditating and praying about what my next writing project should be. When I arrived home, smelling a bit toasted, I sat down to check Facebook and saw that book reviewer extraordinnaire, Curt Jarrell, had posted a link to Deighton’s article. Thank you, Curt. I don’t mind starting a new project with a little direction from the Universe—and a friend.
“Facing the Hard Questions Before Chapter One” is an overview of Deighton’s planning process for writing a novel. It’s fairly general, but it’s always good to understand a writer’s approach to starting a new book. He makes an important point that I’d like to quote here:
I always have a “consideration period” during which I ask myself if I can live for a year or more with a book, its subject and perhaps its characters. Several projects did not survive this initial test.
This is something I need to consider. I hope to post more about my planning process in the coming months. I don’t want to give anything away, but perhaps it will prove helpful to you to see how a shophomore writer gets into and develops a new project.
In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you about how you get from the idea stage to practical planning.
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