Stephanie Hurt – Romance Author

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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…

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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…

Lily Release ad!


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Word Counts, Outlines and Covers…

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Good Friday morning! It’s been a busy week and it will only get busier. Tax season is in full swing and my calendar is getting full, but that’s a good thing. I included a nice, warm picture for all of you caught in the polar vortex and to those of us that just want to walk down that dock and plunge into the water, washing the everyday stress away. AHHHH… As as writer I can imagine it…

I’m often asked how I keep up with my word counts during tax season. To be honest, it can be really hard, but I manage somehow. As you know, I do an outline for each book. With each line of the outline, I try to do a certain amount of words, according to the final length of the book that I have in mind. The outline keeps me focused while my mind is scattered with thoughts of tax returns, numbers and deadlines, both book and tax.

Of course and I’ve said this often, writing is how I stay sane when it’s busy. Writing takes the stress out of my mind and takes me to another place, sometimes another time. When I’m finishing my work day, thoughts of putting words into a manuscript fill me and make the stress start slipping away.

Right now I have a rather high word count daily, but it’s supposed to be less. I originally had figured into my daily writing for tax season, only 2000 words a day. If I do more then good for me, if I do less, well, that has to be carried over to the weekend writing sprint. With my brain going over so much paperwork during the day, sometimes I just have to do something creative, other than with words. That’s when I start

With my brain going over so much paperwork during the day, sometimes I just have to do something creative, other than with words. That’s when I start working on covers for upcoming releases and preorder releases. Here lately, I’ve been struggling with the cover for a historical romance that’s coming out at the end of April. But it will come to me soon, just right now, it’s giving me the hiccups 😉

How’s your week been? Have you kept up with your word count? (I’ll catch up on mine over the weekend, I hope!)

As always, good writing and May God Bless You…

Just a little note… Seaside Beginnings came out Wednesday and it’s been a great success. I’ve received some of the sweetest messages about it. I’m so excited and awestruck at the response for this book about an over forty woman starting over.


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Word Counts…

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Word count, the eternal question for a writer… I’ve been asked this question so many times that I’ve lost count. How do you know how many words your manuscript should be? How do you forecast it?

Words form themselves in a manuscript and if you’re a writer, you totally understand that statement. Now with preorders available on many book sites, the first thing they ask is what will be your word count, you have to ask yourself that very question. Do you know? Any round about figures?

Here’s how I figure the word count or where it should be by the time I type The End.

Well, as most of you know, I do an outline for almost all of my books. As I do the outline, each part of the outline is a chapter and each chapter should have an average of as little as 1200 words and as many as 2000 words. (That’s my figuring, not a science 😉 )

Then of course, when I finish the outline, I go back and figure up the chapters times the average chapter length. My outline helps me to make sure the story can go the length of the book. If I can only get to number 10, then it will be a fairly short novella, but if it can go the distance to around 20 or more, well, I have a good size book on my hands.

You may be asking how I know it will go the length I’ve figured, well, in outlining, each section should have a good position. Meaning you should be able to make at least a chapter out of that one section. If not, then it will be shorter than expected. When I do my outline, I think deeply over each section and make sure the story can carry enough gusto to finish the chapter.

So, how do you figure your word count? Ever figure too short or too long? It happens, but if it’s not published yet, don’t sweat it…

As always, good writing and May God Bless You…

Don’t forget to go by and preorder “Seaside Blessings” at many ebook retailers. It’s available at several sites…

 

 


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Monday morning!

It’s Monday morning and my weekend was way too short, but exciting. Saturday was my book signing in Zebulon. It turned out really well and I’m excited about the future events that could spin off of it.

Now to add to my excitement, today the article I wrote for Southern Writers Magazine’s Suite T blog is available on their website. Here’s the link for you to go by to read and share: http://southernwritersmagazine.blogspot.com/2015/11/lining-story-up.html. The article goes over the way I line up a story before I write it. I do hope it helps other writers.

My manuscript that is on Wattpad is still racking up the votes and reads. The comments are really good and I hope that helps with the stories success. It’s still in the hands of Harlequin, so fingers crossed that it does well.

As always, good writing and May God Bless You…Southern_Writers_button