Stephanie Hurt – Romance Author

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Plotting through the hard spots…

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Good morning! It’s been a little while since I’ve posted, but tax season is kicking my backside. With all of the new tax law changes and programs having to catch up, well, it’s cost me a lot of writing time. And you know what that does to me.

But, on to this post. Plotting… Yes, it’s something I love to do. And there are so many ways to do it. Either on paper, on a computer program or in your head, which I don’t suggest this last one because sometimes our memory doesn’t serve us well.

Plotting to me is like building a structure. You’ve got to make sure to get the base right, or the rest of the structure will fall. Novels need structure in order to come alive. Why do I say that? Because with structure, you don’t just babble on and can easily lose the reader.

As I’ve said before, a novel needs a beginning, a middle and an ending. And in each section you need to start with a rise in action, then reach the climax, but come back down into the next section without losing your reader. Stay focused on the story, don’t add a lot of fluff that will make your reader lose interest.

This is where plotting helps me. I write down the scenes and then I make sure there is enough to the scene to make it work. It needs to be able to stand on it’s own and shine. If the scene falls flat, then the story will too.

So, try plotting and see where it goes. Not everyone is a plotter. Some are pantser’s which is fine. Just make sure your writing flows.

I’ll post a plot outline in my next post.

As always, good writing and May God Bless You…


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Monday Morning Outlining…

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Happy first day of March! Can you believe we’re already into March? But, in other news, my new series, In Harm’s Way is coming along smoothly.

This weekend the first book, Safe, took a new turn, which means I’m adjusting my outline. You may be asking, why even outline if the story is changing anyway. Well, the original outline got me going in the right direction. And I’ve always said that the outline can change. That’s the fun of writing, sometimes your characters take over.

I was able to get in almost 5000 words this weekend, which was an accomplishment considering I working in my accounting office most of the day Saturday. But the story is filling my head with so many possibilities. Although I know how it will end, I’ve been thinking about the middle and last part of the story. As I was writing this weekend, I ended a scene and something else came to mind. I decided, or rather my characters decided to take another turn. Now the story is going in another direction. It’s the same story, just a little deep into the back story that will pull it all together in the end.

As with any outline, things can change. It doesn’t have to written in stone. And never, ever stick to the outline like glue if something isn’t going well. It’s best to make changes than to keep going in a direction that doesn’t make the story pop. Your story deserves the extra effort to make it flow as it should.

With this series I’m working extra hard on going the extra mile. Although I always work hard to make my work go as it should, this one is pulling something in me. I’m excited in a way I haven’t been in a while. And on top of that, I haven’t put it on preorder, so I’ve got the time to make it the best it can be.

As always, good writing and May God Bless You…


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Let’s talk Scrivener…

Good morning! Who wants to write in an organized way? Who wants their outline and characters right at their fingertips? Me! Here’s how I do that…

I use the program, Scrivener. And no, I don’t get any money for talking about this program. What I do get by using this program is piece of mind. So, here are my top five reasons that I use Scrivener to bring my words to life.

  • Easy to use. Folks, once you sit down and start using Scrivener, you will realize that even though it has all those bells and whistles, it’s so easy to use.
  • Character Bio list. Yes, this is amazing. I have all of my main characters running down the left side of my manuscript. And if I forget a characters occupation or eye color, all I do is click and double check.
  • Place list. This is a life saver. I can keep the places in my story straight. Because it’s hard to remember everything, but with Scrivener, I have it at my fingertips.
  • Outline. Yes, I’m an outliner most of the time. And with Scrivener, I have my outline to the right. And it’s always open. The fun thing is, I can separate it by chapters or sections, then mark done when I’m finished with that section. This helps because Scrivener also separates by chapters.
  • Word count progress. I have a window to open that tells me how many words I’ve typed in a session. I also can put a daily word count need, manuscript word count expected, and keep up with my progress. It helps keep me on track!

So, this is just a little look into all of the things that Scrivener can do for you. There’s also a script writing part integrated in the same window. And you can change the way your Scrivener looks at every turn. I use cork board for my outline, which gives a story board feel.

As always, good writing and may God Bless You…


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Timelines… Yay or Nay?

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Good Sunday morning! Hope everyone is getting some great writing time in on the long weekend. Me, a little.

So, let’s talk timelines and writing. Do you do them? I mostly do them with my historical romances. But, I’ve been known to do one for my contemporary series. Why? Well, let’s dive into why you’d need a timeline.

There are different types of timelines. Maybe you need on to keep up with what happened in history during the time period your book is written in. If it’s based during the Civil War, then you don’t want to speak of the war being over in the middle of the Revolutionary war. Face palm, yes, I did that. Thank goodness I caught my date mix up.

Then you have a timeline to keep up with births, marriages and deaths. This is especially helpful when writing a series that all of the books surround the same people or town. There’s nothing more frustrating then being elbow deep in book three of your WIP and forgetting the birthday of a character or when the character got married in book one.

So, timelines can be important in many ways. All it takes is pen and paper.

As always, good writing and May God Bless You…


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If your story falls apart, use Duct Tape!

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Duct tape is a house staple, just as salt, sugar and flour are food staples. For many years people have fixed almost everything with duct tape. At Church we even fixed a broken Christmas tree with duct tape, no really we did. It’s strong and durable. Also you can get it in any width and color so it’s versatile.

What if your story is falling apart? We all have those manuscripts that start out really good and we have a phenomenal ending planned, but the middle has so many holes and fractures that it puts a real stink on the beginning and ending. Well, put a little duct tape on it. What am I talking about? Well, here goes the answer in a nutshell.

By duct tape I mean sit down with your beginning and ending. Then really look at it. Where is the character headed? The middle needs some suspense or issue that needs to carry the reader over the hump to the end. It needs something that only the ending can shed some light on. This is where the duct tape comes in.

As I said above, duct tape is strong and durable with lots of versatility, so the middle of the book needs to be taped up neatly. But be careful not to just add fluffy filler that makes the reader fall asleep with boredom. If the first of the book is power packed, then make the middle explode with tension. This is the strong duct tape. Add an element of complete surprise. Let the main character have a major problem that needs solving, or maybe a secret that is threatening to come out, but the secret has to be life altering.

But make sure that it can mesh with your great ending. I did this one time and a book that started out being only around 30,000 words went over 50,000 words with a little duct tape application. Crazy, but true. I had this really great beginning that pulled you in and the ending left you breathless, but the middle was just a bunch of fluff. As I did my first read through I was almost dozing and that’s not good. I sat down and spread out the beginning and ending, then totally restructured my characters. I added a whole new dimension to them that took them on an adventure that meshed well with the ending and soon I had a complete story that I was proud to hit the publish button on.

So, get you some duct tape and pull that story together. If you use the right duct tape it will hold together nicely.

As always, good writing and May God Bless You…


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In the Right Order…Or NOT!

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Happy Thanksgiving week! It’s Monday, so forgive me if I ramble a bit. After a busy weekend, I need multiple cups of coffee just to get my eyes open. But, for now, let’s talk writing.

Do you have to do things in the right order? Well, it’s according to what you’re doing. You can’t bake a cake before you make the batter. You can’t ice a cake before you bake it.

With writing, you can write the ending before you write the beginning. How? For some writers, they have to get the last scene written in order to get a grip on the first three fourths.

I’ve posted several things on outlines and writing technique. And I’ve always said, put your ideas together, so that you know where you’re headed. Before you ask, yes, I’ve written the last scene of a book first. Of course, when I did, the ending changed slightly as the first parts were written and put in place.

Since I write in Scrivener, sometimes I go ahead and put in the Chapter heads that go with my outline first. That way I can write different scenes ahead of time. If I get stuck on a certain part, sometimes skipping ahead helps to beat writers block.

The goal of the post is to let you know, it’s alright to write your book in the wrong order. Just make sure that it fits together like a puzzle. The pieces need to fit, but not forced.

As always, good writing and May God Bless You…


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Outlines, Notebooks & other such things…

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It’s Saturday morning and I’m ready for a little rest and restoration. Of course, you know I’ll be writing, it’s my Saturday thing to do. When you run a busy accounting office, most of your intense writing comes on your days off.

Take notes... You'll need them later...

Now with intense writing sessions, you have to use your time wisely. This is where detailed notes and outlines come in handy. When I sit down to write, I like to have everything at my fingertips. If I’m writing a book, say, for instance, Breakwater Lane, I want to have my character information close at hand. Why? Well, it helps me to just look at the character list beside me. If I forget a secondary characters name, I just glance at the list and keep going. But without this list, well, I’d have to go back to where I last wrote about them to check. That takes away valuable writing time.

Outlines are helpful…

I’m an outliner, most of the time. When a story comes into my head, I like to sit down and outline it while it’s fresh. If the story comes in bits and pieces as some do, then I just write down the basics of what has come to my head. As with Sky Ridge Series, I have in my head what each of the three books will be covering, but without the outline, I’d overtake the story from the next book. I want to make sure that each book covers its own situation.

Don’t let a lack of organization throw you off track…

Some people say that outlines mess them up and that’s ok. Everyone has their own style. It’s the way we’re made. But for me, outlines keep me focused on the story at hand. You might ask if I’ve ever changed a story from the outline? Yes, several times. Take, for instance, Finding the Right Time. I had it completely outlined, but my characters would not behave and they went off script. If you’re not a writer, that might sound a little off, but it’s true. Characters can have a mind of their own and they go off down the rabbit hole, leaving the outline in the dust. That’s when you pick up the outline, dust it off, then adjust as needed. It works, believe me.

Notebooks… Notebooks… Notebooks…

Now, I have notebooks for each of my series. I keep details about characters that are in each book. That way I keep up with who died, who left to never be heard of again and such as that. On my stand-alone’s, I don’t always have a dedicated notebook, just an outline with notes in the margins. I put the characters at the top, then the outline. But the notes in the margins can be added characters, character flaws or just location descriptions. Anything you think will be needed later, add it.

It only takes a second to lose that train of thought…

So, to sum up, my rambling from above, if you feel disoriented or unorganized when writing, it’s normal. But there are ways to make it easier on yourself. These are just a couple of the things I do.

As always, good writing and May God Bless You…

 


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Beginning…???…Ending

Has this ever happened to you? You sit down with a story in mind and it’s a great story. You know it like you know yourself. Your fingers hover over the keyboard. The words flow easily from your fingertips. Everything is good with the world, then snap… something happens and you stop writing. The words are gone…

This happened to me recently. I was working on a manuscript that I’ve been trying to finish for some time and it was going along good, then …………. Yep, that’s how it went, nothing. It’s like I had the beginning and the ending, but the middle was a huge, gaping black hole. I couldn’t see it for nothing. The sad thing is, I had it completely outlined, but the middle part wouldn’t come together, at all.

So, you might ask, what did I do? Well, here’s what I did and if you’ve ever experienced this black hole, I hope it helps you too. Of course, this is not a tried and true method…

1: I stepped back. I looked at the screen before me and it was blank, just as the story had gone in my head. That’s when I took a deep breath, stood up and walked away from my laptop. I had to put distance between me and the story. That’s not easy to do when the characters are screaming loudly in your head.

2: After a cup of coffee to clear my head, I picked up the outline, knowing there had to be a way to get this story flowing again. I knew I had it right there in the outline, but it refused to come out. So, I read the outline, several times, but nothing.

3: In complete frustration, I put aside the notes, outline, and anything to do with the story. Now, don’t think the characters were quiet. No, they were ticked off at this point. They were screaming so loud, that I had to do something, so I started the next manuscript that was in line on my schedule. It helped quiet them somewhat, but they were still pulling at me.

4: As I worked on the other manuscript, pieces of the other story filled my head. You as writers know all too well the problems that can cause. I pulled out my notebook for the other story and as things came filtering through, I wrote them down. But, I didn’t work on it, I just jotted down notes. Pretty soon I had a couple of pages of notes.

5: Then, one morning as I sipped my coffee, scanning through my emails, social media, and work in progress, getting ready to start my writing session, it came flowing in. At first, I was afraid to give it a chance. I was afraid that if I got started again and it quit, I’d end up chucking it altogether. But, that’s when it hit me, write the ending. So, that’s what I did. I wrote the ending that I knew so well in my head. The moment I hit the end, I knew the middle as though it had been lurking there the whole time, it just needed the guts to move forward. Once I knew where the story was headed, the middle came in so fast that my fingers could hardly keep up.

So, sometimes you have to iron out the ending to get to the guts of the story. That’s what happened with ‘Highlanders Son’. I had to know that my characters would be alright and that the story would hold up. Once I finished the first draft, I could breathe again. It was done.

I’ve written things in the wrong order before, but never because it was the only way to finish the story. Most of the time I do it because the ending comes to me louder than the beginning, but it’s always there. With Highlander’s Son, it wasn’t there anymore. I had to get it back straight in my mind. The funny thing was, once it was completed, I looked at my outline and it was just as I’d envisioned it, to begin with. With a smile, I printed it, handed it to my editor and knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt that if that happened again, I’d immediately go to step five above and finish the story…

As always, good writing and May God Bless You…

“Highlander’s Son” is coming soon…

highlanders son front cover


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Series Writing…What I learned…

 

img_2612Good morning! I hope you’re having a blessed day. Me, I’m in mama mode, or as my son calls it, flood mode. By that I mean, our son graduates from high school tomorrow night and every time I think about it, I cry. I’m so proud of him and happy for him, but as a mama, well, I get a bit nervous and anxious, knowing he’s about to embark on a new chapter in his life. It’s hard to let go, but we do have to let them spread their wings. Ok, enough of thought, salty tears in my coffee isn’t very good.

Series… Have you written one yet? If you have, then you know the struggles. The first one goes pretty well as writing goes, but when you start on the second, if it’s a continuing series, well, the problems start. Do you remember this about a character? Do you remember the neighbor’s name that will be appearing some in the other books? What did you name the dog? Wow, yeah, that’s where the fun really begins…

Here’s what I learned, the hard way and hopefully it will help guide some of you into writing series without the struggle… I’ve attached a picture of the front of one of my series notebooks for the Sky Ridge Series.

When I first started writing, I decided to do a series where a couple of the books were connected. The problems didn’t start until the second book. I was constantly looking back to see about facts and such. It was horrible. I had so much to write but between the looking back and double checking facts, it took longer to write the next couple books.

So, when I started the Women of Magnolia Hill Saga, I began a journal on the series. I kept a timeline, character sketches, and places. Since this is a historical romance series and I tried to stay in line with history, somewhat, I printed out a timeline of the time period and marked where each book started and ended. This helped some with details.

Then the fun really begins. I had to keep up with who the oldest sibling and youngest sibling were. Also, in this series, it spans many, many years, so, sadly some of the main characters from the earlier books die. I had to keep up with their age when they died and how. That way when a character looks back, it’s factual, not pulled from my brain which doesn’t remember a lot these days.

The character and place parts are very critical. If your character has a child, well, you can’t just go on with the story and not include the child. That child will eventually grow up and surely he or she isn’t kept in a dark closet until future episodes. So, detail is very important.

In the Magnolia Saga, there is a magnolia tree in the front yard where every member gets married. I have to remember where it is. In my mind and my notebook, I have a sketch of the property. It helps.

With my newest series, I have a composition book for each series and I include the outline, characters and where they all cross paths. Since the Wishful Harbor series is all around the same time period, I have to make sure to keep up with the comings and goings of everyone, even the mailman. LOL!

I’ve sketched the town of Wishful Harbor and plan to have the sketch at the front of each of the five books in the series. That gives the reader a sense of knowing the town and lets their mind live in that town. I’m so excited about this series because it intertwines together to make a beautiful story about a sweet town. But, it couldn’t happen without my notebook of facts.

So, how do you keep your series straight? Does this help you to possibly tackle a series in the future? I hope it does. But remember, I’m always here if you have a question.

As always, good writing and May God Bless You…

 


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Start to Publish…

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Good Tuesday morning! I hope all is well with you. As for here in Georgia, it may be Spring, but someone forgot to tell the weather. It’s chilly again…

As for my writing, things are going well. I have several manuscripts in various stages of production. You might ask, what stages are you talking about? Well, here’s a simple guideline that I follow as I bring a manuscript full circle into publication.

1: Of course, first things first, the idea. Sometimes the idea for a book can happen months before I even start the first page of the manuscript, but when the idea comes, I put it down on paper, if not I’ll lose the excitement of that moment. I have a small notebook that holds my story ideas, some have come to be and others have incorporated themselves into other stories.

2. As you know from previous posts, I do an outline. It’s basic, but it leads me through the story, the bones, so to speak. I’ve told you before, most stories come to me in whole, or large lumps of information. The quicker I get that outlined, the quicker the story can come alive.

3. Now it’s time to schedule it into my calendar. Right now, I’m scheduled through the end of the year with stories flowing over into 2017. This way I know in the back of my head what I need to finish on this manuscript in the future, like blurbs, covers and such.

4. Once it’s time to start the manuscript, I sit down with my outline and notes from thoughts I’ve had along the line. Even as I work on other books, things pop up in my mind that would work with other works. That’s when I pull out the outline from my portfolio and jot down the thought for future reference. That way I don’t lose the moment.

5. It’s time to write. This is when I get in the structure and bones of the story, fleshing out the outline points and filling in the characters as I go. This is also when Scrivener is my best friend. All of the characters are lined up down the left of my screen, reminding me of names and people involved. This part of the writing is fast and unedited, very unedited. It’s the write by the seat of my pants, knowing I’ll go back later to correct.

6. Ok, so I have my rough, rough, rough draft ready, now it’s time to go back and fix the many errors, misspelled words, horrible grammar and left off punctuation that leads my editor to want to plot my murder. Now it’s ready to go to her for the red pen, this is the scary part!

7. As I wait for the edited manuscript to come back, I’ll work on covers, blurbs, advertising and setting up the pre-order for the book that’s being worked over.

8. Now the manuscript is back, needing some work and ready to be corrected. I input the changes, make additions and get it formatted. I add the front and back matter, then scan back through to make sure I’ve checked everything. Oh, and just for giggles, I go back through, doing a spellcheck. I’m human, I forget stuff.

9. Wow, it’s now ready for publication! This is the moment an author sweats profusely, hoping you haven’t left off anything major, forgotten to correct something and hope upon hope that your readers love the book you’ve poured your heart into.

This is why most people that say, ‘I could write a book and publish it, it’s too easy’, they don’t ever publish a book. A book doesn’t just appear when you have the thought, it’s a process, one that needs to be taken seriously. So many authors don’t take it seriously and when they hit send, it’s missing something or hasn’t been thought through. Take it seriously, it’s your reputation as a writer.

As always, good writing and May God Bless You…

P. S. Don’t forget Lily comes out the 27th. Get your preorder now…

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