The Task At Hand

A baby was born, books were read, words were written, and education progressed. The seasons changed and now we’re looking at the road ahead.

There is only so much time and I have spent the last month or so thinking about how I want to spend that time. The answer, dearly, does not flesh that out very well. However, like a girl picking her prom dress, I know my time is unique to me and how I put it all together will matter. The big ones, given by God, are the wifing and mothering. All else concedes to those.  Also, as a family we are in an intense phase of life with school and family growth, etcetera. 

All of that coming together made me stop and look critically at how I spend every other moment of my day. Also, in this there are two non negotiable. 

A) I need to steward my body for my family

B) I still should be capable of maintaining a godly house and appearance. 

In the last month everything went on the chopping block. And the results are in. 

Picking Up The Pace

Reading

I am starting a directed reading plan for the next year in order to cut out time wasted in browsing my online libraries. This is what I did instead of Facebook and potentially I waste more time by reading whatever was available.  

Readings and reviews will be posted here. 

Writing

As far as the different writing projects go, editing comes first, then new novel development. I’m tracking word count. The goal is to have my first novel in beta reads by the end of the summer and my second in edits around the same time. 

Also, I will be experimenting in writing a new novel on my typewriter. 

Blogging

The blog is not an end in itself. However, it is a tool to discuss and chart stories. There is much to write about. I’m limiting my post writing to thirty minutes per day. If I have that big of a time chunk, I should be editing or writing my novel. 

Time’s up. 

I need to learn to type faster. 

How Reading Builds Relationships (My Fall Reading Plan and Why I Really Should Be Reading Right Now)

In a book I read recently someone called reading selfish. The reader pretested until the antagonist suggested it was only solipsistic. It creates a world where only one self exists. Reading is frequently seen as isolationist, rude,unpersonable, and retiring. It can be all of those things especially if you are avoiding people at a dinner party by pulling out Ulysses during hors d’oeuvres. However, it can be adventurous, a shared experience, inspirational, and aggressive. Reading can cultivate relationships and bind people together on a deep level.

Continue reading “How Reading Builds Relationships (My Fall Reading Plan and Why I Really Should Be Reading Right Now)”

4 Books For Word Lovers

To tell a story you must use words. Words are the building blocks that shape the kind of people we are. Try to think without using them. Words are such a part of us that we seldom recognize their value.

I grew up loving words. Even now my husband and I joke that our main arguments are about grammar and whether I can use gherkin in Scrabble. While it is completely obvious that I can use gherkin, the value of using gherkin instead of pickle might be harder to understand. The words we choose build the nuanced spaces in our mind. Continue reading “4 Books For Word Lovers”

Alphabet Exploration

I love libraries and I’m especially thankful to our local library for having both infant and toddler reading time. It has helped my son open up to people in a new place, make friends, and learn the letters of the alphabet. They sing songs, practice sign language, read three books, do a counting game, and wrap it up with a craft! But coming up with three quality books for the letter X is difficult. Recently, I listen to them read books about the selfish snail and a mad mouse. Two separate weeks. Finding good books, beautifully illustrated and interesting, every week is a challenge for brilliant librarians. Continue reading “Alphabet Exploration”

Telling Your Own Story: Journal Previews

Journaling is an excellent way to keep track of events, tasks, general goals, the world around you, and anything else you can think of. However, with all of the different purposes it is difficult to order them in one place. The notebooks, styles, and even paper affect your progress. I currently have six journals, all of them in use. Hopefully, this preview of what works for me will help you to figure that out for yourself.

Continue reading “Telling Your Own Story: Journal Previews”

Reading The Name of the Rose: Introduction

Embracing the Classics is something anyone can do, at any stage in their reading. In my post on books I haven’t read, I said I was looking forward to reading a few that have gotten pushed back multiple times. So, I’m starting now.

My goal each week is to get through one section of Umberto Echo’s The Name of the Rose. Continue reading “Reading The Name of the Rose: Introduction”

Writing Rhetoric in Fiction: Narrative Voice and Dialogue

The writing craft books I read range from Stephen King to Aristotle and they all come back to the words we chose and how we use them. When we think about rhetoric, we usually think about nasty overused patterns covering poor content and worse logic. Excellent rhetoric uses natural patterns to add clarity and bouy sound logic. It is beautiful and memorable.

Continue reading “Writing Rhetoric in Fiction: Narrative Voice and Dialogue”

A Discovery Writer’s Guide to Planning

My mantra is to just start writing. Whether it was an English essay, the short story, or novel, I work best when I just go. My first lines hit me in the head.
“Tuesday is a bad day to get shot.”
A Weaver’s last words are respected. Unfortunately, they a usually the ravings of a lunatic or expletives.”
Once I’ve got the line, I’m in for the whole ride. This is the crux of what it means to be a discovery writer. You have no idea where it’s going, but it’s gonna be a whole lot of fun finding out.
However, I have found three reasons for me to stop driving around aimlessly and ask for directions. All writing is discovery writing. You are putting words on paper or screen that have not been put there before. It is an act of discovery. So, whether you know what each page holds or you have an amorphous view of your ending there are alway things to discover along the way.
When to Plan
The opposite side of the coin is where I struggle. I bite off more than I can chew, forget things that excited me earlier, and generally slog through the middle because I have forgotten what I was doing.
Planning for a discovery writer can happen at any point during the writing process. It helps you with complex storylines, ensure their continuity, and helps your readers know where you’re going. The other thing I found is it helps you from just stopping at the end. With the number of times readers have complained about a book stopping, but not finishing, this is worth taking a look at.
Up to this point, I have outlined my novel at the editing stage before going into rewrites, but after the first big read through. In my current project there are so many threads I had to stop and write them down at the halfway point to keep them straight.
As we walk through planning for discovery writers, I hope this helps you think about the different aspects of your novel and what will work for you.
What To Plan
The first question to ask is what do you need to plan? In all other aspects of my life I overplan. I ask this question so that I stop planning. In this case it helps me establish the problem, so I can find the correct solution. On a sidenote, the things I plan out are the things that bring my writing to a screeching halt. Essentially, planning for a discovery writer clears the road for further discovery.
How To Plan 
It falls into one of three categories: the bridge, braid, or a branch.
The Bridge
A bridge is needed when you have a starting point and an ending point, but no concept of what happens in the middle. This could be due to a kink in world building, stricky relational issue, or something assumed earlier, but did not explain.
1) Establish the Milestones
   What is being transitioned between?  This is a very specific issue. These problems in writing can cause pileups because you don’t know all the details. You were just driving through. In order to build a bridge, first you must stop and define the edges.
2) What Kind of Transition?
List with tasks need to be completed, how characters need to be developed, and the big change that must occur for these two milestones to link together. If this is a first draft, write it out and move on.
     If you’re planning on the editing pass, The bridge needs to be a permanent answer to both sides of the problem. Think of the math problems that you did in high school. You found x by working from either side. As your editing, check how the problem developed and the progress of the resolution. Milestones do not mean the end of problems, just that the character was able to get through them.
The Branch
The second area of the plan is the branch where the plot lines meet or diverge in scenes. These are highly intricate segments where information is revealed, characters interact, and tension is gained and lost.
1) Prioritize the Information
Which plot lines take priority in the scene? If this is a scene where both characters know something the other character needs to know, but they aren’t talking about it, you need to establish a very good reason. If this is a point where characters are going their separate ways, you need to be clear about their goals. Know which plot line takes point and why.
2) Write the Consecutive Events
Walk through the scene. Write it from beginning to end focusing on the priorities. Look at the undercurrents of tension and wind those in. Make sure the weight of the priority is proportional to the weight of the leaving or joining. Creating an ensemble or breaking up the team should not be done lightly or without thought.
3) Check Downstream
Check the ripple effect of plots and characters coming together. In a first draft, the general sketch of this is fine. When editing these scenes track the linchpin points of the story. Mishandled branching points can derail the flow of the story. So, know who is interacting, why they are interacting, and what will come of them.
The Braid
    The final aspect of planning is the closest thing to outlining that I do. It is the braid. My biggest problem as a writer is holding all the details in my head. The braid helps me handle multiple plot lines, get an overview of the milestones, and gives me a general diagnostic for my novel. I usually do this about halfway through my first draft because of the middle muddle.
  If I can’t figure out what my character is supposed to be doing, they go on random side quests until I decide to write the ending I’ve been excited about. Creating the braid in the middle of my writing helps me re-align with the story, with what excited me about writing to begin with.
     I have also done this just for the editing process to check the flow of the story. It gives me an overview of the milestones and lets me know where I lost track.
1) Title Each Plot Line
     If it is a story line, then it should have a name. There are times when I will have multiple plot lines for a character, so don’t just title it “character name”. Call it something that shows the progression of the story.
2) List Key Points
     For each plot line, list the main things that are going to happen. As each plot line interacts with other lines call them the name from the perspective of the plotline you were using at the moment. This will give you explicit markers before you hit branching points.  If you were planning a series, mark the unresolved plot lines at the point where the current book ends.
3) Divide Your Book
     This can be beginning, middle, and end – the steps in the heroes journey or three act structure. Whatever you are using, lay it out.
4) Braid the Plot Points
It is time to weave the plot lines together. Put them in chronological order and ensure that dependent events occur in the correct order. The second part of this is to put them in their place from beginning to end. Where does this need to be in the book, so that the tensions in the plot lines build correctly?
5) Identify Specifics
It is easy to lose track of what milestone goes with plot line. I  color code each plot line so I can follow it through the story visually. This helps me identify places where it has been left out completely, fails to fill expectation, or takes over the story .
6) Check for Completion
The final step is most important during the editing process. You know where you want to end up, but your readers do not. The end of the braid should try to get there even if some of the plot lines are unresolved. Your task is to find a way to get each of your plot lines to a stopping point.
In the first draft, once you have the list of milestones you can jump from scene to scene following list down until you reach the end of the weave.
During the editing process you need to develop cohesion between the links and check how they are woven together. This is when you go back and look at branching and bridges for continuity.
Closing Thoughts 
For discovery writers, the braid plan has a lot to offer. It gives you milestones, a sense of progress, and a diagnostic tool to figure out what is and is not working. It clears the road, so that you can forge the bat plan has a lot to offer. It gives you milestones, a sense of progress, and a diagnostic tool to figure out what is and is not working. It clears the road, so that you can forge through and figure out what is next.
It does not give you how to get there, or the points along the way between the major events.
This is one way to discovery write.
Outlining Adaption 
If you are not a discovery writer, you can still use this method. You start by developing the braid, layout key plot points and position them in the book. Keep the threads defined, but tightly wound.
Layout your branches and build beats off of the diverging an intersecting scenes. Finally, go through and flush out the bridges between each milestone. It is a top-down way of planning.
 So, I hope this is useful in your writing and helps you track the shape of your story. What is your planning method? Do you do it at all?
Happy Writing,
– Kate
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Ten Books Unread (Why We Don’t Read Books)

Ten books I have not read:

1) Middlemarch by George Eliot
2) The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
3) Moby Dick by Herman Melville (unfinished)
4) The Alchemist by Paul Coelho
5) A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Bettie Smith
6) Dune by Frank Herbert (unfinished)
7) The Name of the Rose by Umberto echo
8) Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (unabridged)
9) The Time Machine by HG Wells
10) A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole

I read a lot. When I hit my stride, it can be more than a book a day. In linguistic anthropology there’s a principle that for every word you say, you don’t say 1000 others. It is the same for books. Every time you pick up one book, you do not pick up any other book that has been written. This is why there will always be books you haven’t read.

More interesting are the reasons why we don’t read them.

1) Stubbornness

When I learned piano, I refused to learn Fur Elise. I could listen to it without being annoyed, but it was what every other person was learning to play. This is what has prevented me from reading The Scarlet Letter. I have nothing against Nathaniel Hawthorne. I picked up a book of his short stories once. But the way that they push it on highschoolers could give drug dealers lessons.

As with Beethoven, this has led me to miss out on a work of literature that has stood the test of time, is revered by many, and provides introduction to American literature to most.

Not a good enough reason for me not to read it

2) Forgotten and Someday Books

The Alchemist and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn fall into this category. I only remembered these two specifically because I was browsing through my new library and saw the titles. I thought to myself, “I’ll read them later.” Then I moved on to something else. I probably will read them later, but only if I remember to write them down. Neither of them have been impressed upon me by other readers and, while I know they are modern classics, I always seem to have another book that is more insistent.

This is also not a good enough reason to not read a book, but it is easily alleviated. I keep a book journal. In it I list out the books I would like to read and read them as I can get a hold of them. Both Both books are the available at my local library, so they will probably come off the list in the next year.

The forgotten books are usually those that I don’t feel like buying and are not worth going out of my way to find. Frequently, I discover I’ve missed out on something quite wonderful by putting them off.

3) The Projects

Even though I write posts on making classics accessible, there are the classics that I haven’t approached. While I am not avoiding them, I usually want to dedicate a period of time to them to treat them as they deserve. Then I make excuses if I have a different time block. The problem with this logic is that I can indefinitely put them off. The three books in this category for me are Middlemarch, the Name of the Rose, and Moby Dick. Each of these books I intend to read this year, partly because they are towers of their own and partly because they have lasted for a reason.

3) Story Dread

There are books that I have begun and gotten significantly into, but I can see the trajectory of the story. If it follows through on its promises, then horrible things are going to happen. Or it isn’t going to follow through on it’s promises and I’m going to be grumpy about the storyline. The main book for me in this category is Dune by Frank Herbert. I have really enjoyed the combination of science fiction and fantasy, but I cannot bring myself to finish it. I have picked it up four times, most recently in audiobook format and only made it halfway through. I don’t subscribe to the hundred pages minus your age way of assessing a book. As Alan Bennett said in The Uncommon Reader, “one learns to finish ones books.” I can’t do it with this one. I could list on one hand the number of books in this category.

The thing is I cannot decide if this book will just fall into the next category or if I need to get over myself.

4) Books I Never Intend To Read

This is where A Confederacy of Dunces falls. Like I said at the beginning to choose to read one book is to choose to not read many others. I have read the back cover, the Kindle excerpt, and talked to people who have read it. It does not interest me. And that’s OK. It is not keeping me from reading other books or from talking to people about them. Does not having the intention of reading a book ever mean I never well? No, if someone I wanted to get to know or cared about deeply wanted to read it with me, I would. At that point it is about the person, not the book.

Good enough reason.

5) Other Books Sound Better

In this category are Gulliver’s Travels and The Time Machine. I have read some crummy children’s version of Gulliver’s Travels. I’m sure it does no justice to the real thing. Every time I pick up these two they go back on the shelf for something else. They aren’t forgotten and they aren’t on my
‘to read’ list, they are passed over. I would rather be reading Poe, Goethe, or Jim Butcher. They are adventures and they might sound better than something else someday, but until then I won’t read them sometime at all.

Good Reason.

What we read and what we choose not to read are a part of what make us unique individuals. I need to lay aside my prejudice against The Scarlet Letter. As to the rest, as long as what I am choosing fits the guidelines of quality, diversity, and good old fun what is on my unread list doesn’t bother me too much. The most important thing is not to read in fear or be ashamed of what I haven’t read. Reading is a conscious choice and so what we don’t read should be too.

Happy Reading,
– Kate

Think about the books you DO read and why for the next thirty days.

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