Tag - writing

Tuesday Talks: Between Plotters and Pantsers

TuesdayTalksCCochet180As a writer, one of the questions I'm asked often is in regards to plotting. "Are you a plotter or a pantser?" What if you're a combination of both? I can safely say I fall somewhere in between. I don't plan out every single detail before I start my story, nor do I sit down in front of a blank document and allow my muse to take the wheel. Heaven knows where I'd end up.

My method of writing has been changing and evolving since writing my first short story for publication. I was once a panster, but I soon discovered I needed some form of structure. Before I start writing any story, I allow myself time to brainstorm my plot, get to know my characters, research my setting, and figure out POVs. I ask myself what my story is going to be about, what's going to happen, what's the tone, then I start collecting information into my Evernote, everything from inspirational imagery, character descriptions, to maps. After I've done this, I start a loose outline.

CCOutlineInitially, it's more a list. At first, it's very basic, a rough sketch of what's happening to who and when, conflicts, resolutions, and timing. There's pages and pages of information, of ideas, and snippets of conversations. Later, as I start developing my story, and as my characters become fleshed out, I start adding to this list, removing, changing, and eventually I start breaking off chapters, expanding on those until I've planned out each one. Here's an example of an early outline for Johnnie's book (click image for full view). It might look like a list of random words to you, but I know exactly what they represent. Sorry, no spoilers, you cheeky monkey.

I have a notebook for each book or series, and I start everything out handwritten. When my list starts growing, I start typing it up. Soon I end up with a nice little synopsis of my whole book, yet at the same time, I've given myself room to let inspiration flow. If my characters decide to take a different direction, I go back to my list/outline and make the necessary changes.

I try to write straight through when I can, but if a particular scene comes to me, or inspiration hits, I never put it off. If I ever sent anyone a WIP they would run screaming in the other direction. It's usually a mass of random chapters, paragraphs, and scenes with highlighted bits, a bunch of *** and notes to myself, but that's fine because it doesn't have to make sense to anyone but me. It's a first draft, and the last thing I want to do is interrupt my flow.

With my historical stories, I research enough details beforehand to give me a sense of time and place, the bigger picture, while smaller details are researched later. I tend to work out big emotional scenes first because they have a habit of sweeping me away which helps with flow.

I need some structure to guide me toward that HEA and keep me from wandering aimlessly, but I still need the freedom to let my characters surprise me, and well, these fellas have a way of changing their own destinies.

Conclusion: Write however it feels right for you and don't think because you've been doing things a certain way for a long time that you can't change. There's no right way or wrong way, as long as you get there in the end.

What about you? Are you a plotter, pantser, or both?

And I say Hey, What's Goin' On?

hmHello all! Another month has gone by and some of you may be wondering if I'll ever have another book out. Well I sure hope so! With so many new releases coming out every day, it's easy to feel left behind. My last release with a publisher was Mending Noel for Christmas. It might all seem a little quiet on the western front, but I assure you, behind the scenes, it's non-stop. Sometime I have to remind myself what I've actually accomplished, because it's all too easy for me to forget when there's so much I want to get done. Taking a moment to think about it, I haven't done too bad since the new year started, and I feel I've been making up for lost time--a good part of that is thanks to strict deadlines and mass organization.

I started off my newbie writing career as a full blown pantser, and although there's still a good deal of that involved, I no longer write everything on the fly. Julius's book, A Rose by Any Other Name was completely outlined from beginning to end, everything worked out. I also made myself work on solely that story until it was done. No jumping around to two or three stories at once. I had planned on 60k and ended up with 96,415 words. I submitted it in mid-January, so hopefully it won't be too much longer before I hear back, though I know the publishing house that I've sent it to have been very busy.

Next, I wrote The Only Star for Remi & Hawk's 1 year anniversary. It came in at 17, 419 words. I also created the cover for it which meant finding stock photos and putting it all together.

After that came An Intrepid Trip to Love which came in at 35,168 words, as well as the cover, plus I managed to squeeze in 20, 502 words of Hunter's book. I had to pause that to finish Johnnie's book.

Johnnie's book, I did the same as Julius's. Outlined everything, worked on only that. I gave myself a strict deadline, used a handy new spreadsheet the lovely Svanja Liv created for NaNoWriMo. Although I've yet to take part in NaNoWriMo (I plan to change that this year), I thought I would give the spreadsheet a try. I'm so glad I did. This little spreadsheet has worked wonders for me. It's helped with my motivation in a lot of ways.  I'm very visual and if I can see how I'm doing, it makes me want to do more. Seeing the word count in Microsoft Word wasn't enough. On this spreadsheet, not only can I put in my writing goals , but seeing that running tally rise while the words left went down, as well as the progress bar,  well, it was great. The Impetuous Afflictions of Jonathan Wolfe came in at 68,465 words and was submitted May 31st. I'll keep you posted on any replies.

My next deadline is for July 1st and that's for Jack Frost's story. He and Rudy were in Mending Noel. I had decided last Christmas that these fellas would get their own book this Christmas. So stay tuned for more on that. After Jack's novella, I hope to finish off Hunter's book and submit that. So, what are the figures?

2 novels submitted: 164, 880 words. 2 free novellas written and posted: 52, 587 words. 2 works in progress started: 20, 502 words.

Since Jan (not including blog posts or guest posts) 139,551 words written.

By the end of the year, I hope *fingers crossed* to have 3 new releases.

I scare myself sometimesAside all the writing, there's also been guest posting and day to day shenanigans. All in all, not a bad year so far. I have big plans for a new series I've been working on for the last two years on and off. It's 4 books initially. I'm hoping to get it ready and scheduled for release early next year. I'm very excited but it's all a little hush hush at the mo.

Now my only thought is, if all my stories get accepted, will they all come back for editing at the same time? I think we both know the answer to that one.

x Charlie

Techno Trauma: Part 1

Welcome to part 1 of Techno Trauma, a series on the various programs and apps I use as an author--though most aren't author specific and can be used for everything from recipes to shopping. I admit, I'm not as techno-savvy as I once was. Probably because I just don't have the time to learn all these new programs that keep popping up. As much as I like keeping up with the latest gadget, I'm also partial to the phrase "if it ain't broke, don't fix it". However, as an author in this fast-paced industry, I can't afford to be left behind. We never stop learning.

For writers, there are countless programs meant to make our lives easier. I don't always go looking for these programs, because a lot of the time, in trying to make my writing life easier, I end up complicating it. If I invest time in a program, it's usually on someone's recommendation or because I happen to stumble upon it and a light shines from above when I learn my way around it in a few minutes. For writing, I use Microsoft Word because it's familiar, I know my way around, so why change it if it works for me? Obviously everyone will have their favorites programs and apps, but these are my faves and what works for me.

Google Chrome - Yeah, I know, Google evil, taking over the interwebs, blah, blah, blah. The fact is, as annoying as Google can be at times, their apps are easy to use, and the way everything connects makes things easier for me as an author. With Google Chrome, I can have apps I use on a daily basis sitting there when I open my browser. Just one click away. Here's what my browser looks like when it opens (click image for full-size view):

Charlies browser

As you can see, aside the gorgeous theme created by Cath Kidston, these are my most used apps at the moment. When I click on my Gmail icon, I'm already logged in and there's my email. On the top right hand side, you'll see a little Y! icon. Clicking on it will take me to my Ymail address which I have set up solely for my yahoo groups. That way I don't miss all the lovely posts from folks, and my Gmail doesn't bust something from all the emails. I have 5 email accounts, and no, it doesn't get confusing, because 3 of them are Gmail and all accessible under one button, which also happens to be next to the Google + button which notifies me when someone adds me to their circle.

But why so many emails? It helps me keep track of everything, prioritize, and not miss anything. Keeping separate emails has been one of the best things I've ever done in my world of crazy organization. And aside the rare occasion when something goes to spam, so far it's worked out great. Let me break it down.

  • Gmail 1: For business use. This email is for my communication between me and my publishers, where work-related receipts are kept, this is my personal author email address. Notifications from Goodreads and my author website come here, as well as my website backups. Emails that have to do with my writing and its process, uses this address.
  • Gmail 2: For personal author use. This email address is the one I use to chat with author friends, my lovely beta, reviewers, where my subscriptions to author, review, and writing websites come. I also receive Facebook notifications here.
  • Gmail 3: Personal. This is the address I use to chat to friends and family. It's under my real name, and is also where Netflix tells me what DVD has just shipped. Also, this way when I sign up for a shopping website or anything, it doesn't get shuffled between important emails.
  • Email 4: Official Charlie address. This email address is for all things Charlie. It's where all the lovely readers get in contact with me. It's where comments from the Tea House come, where I connect to folks and set up promotional stuff. I use Thunderbird for this email address which is the little blue bird pinned on the bottom bar next to the heart. This email address is part of my domain name so I need an email client for it, otherwise it would probably be Gmail too.
  • Email 5: Yahoo. I like to keep up with all my different yahoo groups, though I don't always have the time. Most of my groups have heavy participation which is great. The thing is, if I put my notifications on digest, I never look at them, so I keep almost all of them on individual emails. Of course that means A LOT of emails. So my inbox doesn't look like a war zone, I  keep a separate ymail address for Yahoo related stuff.

I also have all my email addresses connected to my smartphone, so I'm notified whenever I have a new email. My phone is set to either make a notification sound or buzz depending where I'm receiving email. All this makes sure I'm always connected and don't miss anything. It also makes getting back to folks a whole lot easier. Keeping most of the email addresses with the same client makes it easier, and Google lets you switch between accounts with one click.

I also have Gmail offline which allows me to access my email account when I'm not connected. These days, nothing's more frustrating than losing your internet connection. I have my YouTube button, my Google Search button, Picassa--where I host my images, Wordpress-which I'm always logged into so I can access my dashboards, Thesaurus--for when I'm writing posts. This next one is Wunderlist.

Wunderlist is a nifty, super easy to-do list/task manager which you can set up to email you reminders. I have to have things jotted down in several places to remind me or things will slip my mind. When it comes to scheduling, I use my wall calendar, my daily diary, and Wunderlist. Between the three of them, they keep me informed of when something is due either from me or a fellow poster. (Click on image for full size). I love it's simplicity and look. You have your lists on the left, you add your item at the top, pick a due date and a reminder date. You will then receive an email reminding you on said chosen date and time. That's it. Then like any list, you check off an item once it's completed. And yes, I also have a Wunderlist app on my phone which syncs up with the one on my PC.

Charlies Wunderlist

The next apps will be featured in other parts in this series. One being Evernote, which I started using recently and LOVE. I can't believe it's taken me this long to give it a chance. I'll go more in depth into Evernote in Part 2. Then there's Feedly.

When Google announced recently that they were going to get rid of Google Reader, my first reaction was, "Well, crap. Now what." I did a little research and admit that the look of a program does make a difference to me. I want something that's user friendly, and very easy to access. I have enough content in my reader without having to take up classes on how to use said reader. Feedly, in my humble opinion, is awesome.

Charlies Feedly

Feedly imported all my Google Reader feeds, which I was dreading having to find all over again. It also let's me sign into Facebok and Twitter, the feeds appearing on the right hand side under recommended Amazon books. You can choose from different layouts, different themes, you can organize your feeds, tick them off as you read them, see how many likes they have, and more.   I also have Feedly on my phone. See, with my Gmail email address, I can log into all these apps and have them all synced up on my PC and phone. My Google Chrome app on my phone syncs up with my PC which means all my bookmarks are on there as well. And that's why Google's okay in my book.

Thursday, May 2nd will cover Evernote and why you need it, especially if you're a writer. Soon to come, Dropbox, Google Drive, Photoshop, and more.

Hope this post was a little useful. Stay tuned!

Do you have any programs you'd like to see covered? A program you're curious about, or do  you have one you can't live without?

Charlie's Guide to Writing Historical Gay Romance - Part 5: Conclusion

Charlies Guide conclusion

Hello all! Welcome to part 5 of my series on writing historical romance and the final installment. The last four weeks we've covered: character, atmosphere, setting, and detail. When you gay put it all together it might seem daunting, but the more you work at it, the easier it gets.

If you want authenticity, it's very important to do your research. Don't forget to look up timelines if you're going to mention a specific brand, event, or style of fashion. Clothing, speech, frame of mind, architecture, music, movies, technology, all lend a hand in creating authenticity. Modern phrases will jolt readers out of the story, so keep a lookout for those. When naming your characters, give them appropriate names of the time. Think about how they dress and if it fits in with their social standing. What about their level of education? Their background? Family history? Think about society and the way it's had a hand in shaping your character, how it continues to shape them, and what it means for the relationships they have with others.

Use references such as movies, books, and photographs to help you with setting, fashion, and speech patterns. Read books written during that period for a sense of voice. Remember that you can't hold your characters up to the same standards as today's modern thinking individual. Where certain situations plausible then? Create atmosphere by describing more than what your character sees. Immerse your readers with a feeling of depth using your other senses.  Like with any well-written book, research is always required. Granted that with historical, it usually involves a great deal more, but if you enjoy getting lost in an era long gone, writing in this genre will feel wonderfully satisfying, not to mention you'll have fun too! Hope these posts have been of some help to folks. If there's anything I didn't cover or you're uncertain of, feel free to leave me a comment or drop me an email! Happy reading!

Links to previous posts in the series:

Part 1: Character Part 2: Atmoshpere Part 3: Setting Part 4: Detail

Charlie's Guide to Writing Historical Gay Romance - Part 4: Details

Charlies Guidedetails300Hello all! Welcome to the fifth installment of my writing series on Gay Historical Romance. Today we're talking a little about details, something which makes a huge difference in a historical. I love to put details in my stories, but I also like for them to be subtle. Sort of like background scenery in a movie. The details are there to add to the story and its authenticity, not to distract.

By now I know a good deal about the periods I write in, so if I have a scene where let's say the characters are listening to the radio, I'll know what sort of brands were around at the time, what radio programs were on the air, and have even listened to a few myself or read a transcript or three. The scene isn't about what they're listening to unless it's an important news flash or presidential speech, so I don't want the focus to be taken away from what's happening with the characters, I just want to create an image in the reader's mind. Even if it's only in passing, naming a specific program or having snippets from an actual transcript will lend authenticity to the scene. It should all blend seamlessly together rather than shout out, "I did research!" Take this scene from When Love Walked In where Bruce finished work for the evening and crosses the street to his favorite cafe.


"Hey Joe, what do ya know?" Bruce greeted the handsome blond with a wink as he set himself down at the counter. Apple'n Pies had the best pies in New York City, and Joe was the godsend who made them.

"How's it going, Bruce?" Joe replied with a bright smile, chuckling when Mittens meowed for his attention. "I'm sorry, sweetheart. Hello to you too." He gave her a little scratch before reaching under the counter and placing a large, brown paper bag in front of Bruce.

"One roast beef sandwich with extra roast beef, a side of potato salad, one slice of pie, one coffee—easy on the creme, and a reminder to go to bed before sunup."

Bruce glowered at him. "Gladys called you, didn't she?"

"You bet," Joe laughed. The phone rang, and he gave Bruce a wicked grin. "I'll bet you five dollars that's her calling to make sure you're taking home more than just pie."

"Five dollars? Who do you think I am, Rockefeller? I ain't got that kinda bank to lose." Bruce said his goodbyes and high-tailed it out of there before he got another earful.


Now this is a very short scene, but it required research nonetheless. What Joe gives Bruce for dinner had to be looked up. I wanted a common, full, but inexpensive meal a fella like Bruce would go for. Being a private investigator, he doesn't exactly make a mint. He's not going to go down to a restaurant for dinner and if he did go somewhere it would probably be an automat or cafe. Coffee is essential for any detective, and pie is non-negotiable for him--as brought up by his secretary earlier in the story. I could have just had Joe hand him a paper bag with some food, but having it be a pretty popular meal of the time adds that little bit extra. Also it says something about Bruce and the time he is living in regarding the bet. $5 for Bruce would be $87.63 for us now. Times are tough to be making bets you know you're going to lose. Dollar Times.com has a handy inflation calculator.

799px-Soda_jerker_flipping_ice_cream_into_malted_milk_shakes._Corpus_Christi,_TexasWhen I'm writing, I'm constantly pausing to look up the term for something, a particular brand, or a visual so I can get the description right. If it's something I need to come back to later because I don't want to break my stride, I place a *, which to me stands out and tells me research is to be inserted there. My first drafts are full of these little stars. I also use (these fellas) and then type a quick description of what I need so I don't forget when I come back to it later.

For details, I tend to refer quite often to particular music, songs, movies, clothing, food, prices, sports, technology, consumer products, reading material, cars, brand names, pop culture, communication, and so on. I also make certain to use the correct term for the item at the time as well.  Lisa's Nostalgia Cafe offers a great source of every day life items for referencing, including jobs. There were a lot of positions back then that are either uncommon now or no longer around, such as cigarette girls, soda jerks,  and telegram delivery boys. If one of my fellas goes to a drug store, it's going to be completely different to the drugstores of today, offering flavored soda water, malted milkshakes, juice, and more.

Bishop MuseumMaybe he's got a nasty headache and he decides to buy some Anacin. So he walks down to the nearest drug store. Let's say that drug store is similar to the one pictured here. While my fella walks in to do whatever he's going to do, I would integrate a brief description of the place. Size, the black and white tiled counter, the chrome and red leather stools, how airy and bright it is, maybe how new, clean, or modern it is compared to his usual drug store down on 12th, the people sitting enjoying a meal, the person who serves my fella. The ten cents he pays for a glass of orange juice, and what the hell, he'll have a slice of pie, too. Maybe as he walks in while the song, "You've Got What Get's Me" floats up from the radio behind the counter, and just then the soda jerk looks up, holding our hero's gaze slightly longer than he should. I'm a fan of placing a line from a song or two in my books. The songs are always relevant to the year and the story. I always look up the lyrics of the song to see if it fits with what's happening with the character(s).

Research the architecture of the time as it would influence a lot of the interiors. In the 1920's Egyptian themes were popular, in the 1930's Art Deco was everywhere, consisting of specific materials. There was a lot of chrome about, certain color schemes, and shapes. Remember not everyone kept up with the times and you'll have different generations which may mean using brands or songs from much earlier.

Conclusion: Details are important, but remember they're there to add authenticity to your story, not to distract. Things such as brands, architecture, pop culture should be blended seamlessly throughout your story depending on what your characters are doing, rather than being pointed out. Readers will know how much research went into your book by the way all the elements come together.

Next week is the final installment of the series. Part 5: Conclusion, putting it all together. Thanks for dropping by!

Charlie's Guide to Writing Historical Gay Romance - Part 3: Setting

Charlies Guide SettingHello all! Welcome to the third installment of my series on writing historical gay romance. Today we're talking about setting. Setting is more than a time and place, it also encompasses the social milieu--the culture which will help shape your characters and the world around them. To fully immerse your character in his time period, you need to research the timeline leading up to your current setting.

Society can change drastically in a few years, and your character will have lived through these changes. For example, in my stories set in the thirties, my characters would have grown up in the early 1900's and spent their young adult lives in the 1920's. There were huge changes for them to deal with on their way to adulthood. Much the same way some of us look back at our own childhood or teenage years and what was happening around us at the time.

Times Square NYC 1908

Some of my fellas, like Bruce and Hawk would have been children during the early 1900's, their parents undoubtedly of a certain mindset, one that was challenged after the Great War, of which by then, these fellas would have most likely fought in. Then came the Roaring Twenties, which might not have affected them had they lived in a small rural town somewhere out west, but as they were both born and raised in New York City, this new, fast-paced, 'anything goes' attitude would have swept up these now twenty-something year old young men. They survived a war, they're young, they're going to say 'the hell with it', and get their kicks while they can. Come the stock market crash, things change. Society no longer tolerates them. It's now illegal for them to be served a beer down at their local bar should anyone question their sexuality. Of course if someone found out, being refused a beer would be the least of their worries. They'd lose their jobs, face imprisonment, or considering their careers in law enforcement, probably face worse. The country is in despair, millions unemployed, soup kitchens at full capacity, the breadlines never ending. To fully understand the 1930's and the fellas who resided there, I had to research the years leading up to it.

Times Square NYC 1927

Let's discuss location. The further back in history you go, depending on place, the more difficult it may be to come up with research material. But in order to have believability, you need to research your locations, find out what was and wasn't around at the time. For my stories, I often refer to the WPA Guide to New York City, which is a guide to 1930's New York City. It has in-depth coverage of all five boroughs, including photographs and detailed maps. It's an amazing book, but I always have to double check my facts, because the book was published in 1939, and my stories tend to be set in the early 1930's or in the 1920's. Obviously a book published in 1939 will be closer to how things were at the time than a modern day guide of NYC, but I need to make sure if I mention a certain building or landmark, that it actually existed at the time. I can't have Julius and Edward in awe of the Empire State Building when it hadn't been constructed yet.

I use a lot of photo references of locations, people, and maps. It's always far easier to describe something when you've seen it. Even if you don't use a specific photo for your location, it gives you an idea of the area. With larger cities, it's usually easier to find books on that city's history, and at times you can even narrow it down to specific boroughs or towns. Small details like architecture, design, stone color, building facades, shops, cleanliness of the streets or lack thereof, all help toward a more believable image. You're not just writing in a backdrop, you're breathing life back into this long gone era. This is the world your characters live in, where they work, interact, fall in love. What's it like for them there?

Once you have enough reference material for your setting, you can then add your atmosphere.   Combining the two will go a long way in creating a believable world. You have your location, then you add your mood. When we watch a film, why do we feel as though we're there? What do you see, hear, feel? Don't forget colors. They also help set moods. The other day I watched Cinderella Man, and aside being a very enjoyable film, I really liked the look of it. I noticed there were a lot of browns and muted colors, which added to it's historical feel and went well with the depictions of the Great Depression, whereas The Gangster Squad which was more of a homage to the gangster films of yore, was filled with bright neon signs, popping colors, and sharp Art Deco architecture. It was all about glamour.

As I mentioned before, you can refer to Hollywood movies, but don't forget these films have a way of being over-dramatized and exaggerated where the history is concerned, so if you are going to turn to films for inspiration on setting, make sure to double check your facts. They have a habit of sneaking in things because it looks good even if it technically doesn't belong in that period. Here are a few links with some pretty amazing photographs from various periods of history.

http://www.old-picture.com/ http://www.old-picture.com/american-life-1920s-index-001.htm http://www.old-picture.com/american-history-1900-1930s-index-001.htm http://www.paris-in-photos.com/paris-world-fair-1900.htm http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/charles-dickens/9018185/Dickenss-London-in-pictures.html http://www.talktalk.co.uk/lifestyle/galleries/view/lifestyle/victorianlondon1888/browse/127007 http://www.historicalstockphotos.com/

Conclusion to Part 3: Setting is more than just location, it includes the culture and social mindset of the time, all things which would have an impact on your characters and the men they grow up to be. How does the world view them? What are society's laws? The government's laws? What occurred in the years your character was growing up? Was there great change? Very little change?

I hope you enjoyed this week's post! Stay tuned next week for Part 4: Details.

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