Ten Minute Writing Prompts

Maybe it’s living in Michigan where the summers can be brief and the weather is unpredictable, but summers bring out the carpe diem in me. In addition to all the regular items on my to-do list, I am always snatching every chance I can to get outside in the sunshine, off to the lake, and into the woods. All this means that time is at a premium, but writing must happen regularly or I can’t call myself a writer anymore. So what’s an author to do? Even if it’s only ten minutes, if it is regular and thoughtful, it is better than nothing at all. So here are ten good ten minute prompts to get you thinking and working out your writing muscles, and still have time to enjoy summer!

  1. Find a beautiful scene, and describe it through action. Use as many verbs and adverbs as you can in ten minutes.  It’s best if you can actually go out and be present in the moment there, but a photo can work, too. Imagine or observe who or what lives there. How are its actions communicating the setting? If there is a child, are they laughing and splashing through the stream? Scowling after being scolded for her muddy escapades? If it’s a bird, is it singing joyfully, or warily watching the dog napping below its tree? Beautiful places are great. What happens there is what makes writing interesting.
  2. Spend ten minutes creating a character. You may or may never use this information later, but its excellent practice. Who are they? What drives them? Who/what is stopping them from getting what they want? What do they fear? What are their ideals? What are their flaws? You only have ten minutes, so don’t filter, do not edit. Just zip it on out. Try it every day for a week. You might come up with some  interesting and quirky side characters for your next story.
  3. Brainstorm as many plots as possible in ten minutes using the following format:  [blank] discovers [blank]. The cat discovers a crayfish. The Martian discovers ice cream. The toddler discovers the camera. Use these for further writing prompts later!
  4. Expand on your discoveries.  Take one of the possible plots from number three, and expand on it. Spend just ten minutes fleshing out a vignette describing each of the more promising discoveries.
  5. Imagine a vacation gone impossibly wrong.  Take the most perfectly planned vacation. A honeymoon, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a celebration. Plan out the itinerary. Now sabotage it. At every step along the way, insert some disaster. The plane is ridiculously delayed. Or crash lands in the wrong climate. An obsessive ex happens to be staying in the hotel room next door. The bus breaks down. In drug lord territory. How bad can it get?
  6. Play the eternal optimist. Take the vacation gone impossibly wrong, and create some twists that turn each stab into a surprise win. The plane is ridiculously delayed, which means your travelers get to see an event they thought they’d miss. They crash land in the wrong climate, but that forces them to take a hilarious shopping spree. The ex next door hits it off with your new love and is finally able to let go. Get creative!
  7. Write a haiku. Or ten. Remember, five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, and five in the last. Focus on one moment. The stark collection of images can tell a provocative story.

    Haiku by Richard Wright
  8. Ten minute tabloids. Tabloids take sensationalism to the extreme. Take a political view, extravagant lifestyle, or belief and push it to the most narrow, untempered boundary. What does that look like?
  9. Write up a tourist brochure for your hometown. What are the must-see locations? What’s the best restaurant in town? Best house to stay in if they offered it on VRBO? Places/people to avoid?
  10. Ghost Story Revamp. What was your favorite (or least favorite) campfire story as a kid? Take it and change the protagonist. Change the villain. See if you can give it a twist of humor or a shake of realism. See if you can come up with something even better than the original.

The Great Copy Editing Quiz No. 2

by Catherine Foster

Do you want to be a copy editor? Maybe you just enjoy catching other people’s grammar errors and rampant punctuation mistakes. Do you think you have what it takes to find the flaw in every phrase? Take our quiz and find out!

Choose the correct sentences:

1.
A) The girl thought that all of her pudding were missing.
B) The girl thought that none of her pudding were missing.
C) The girl thought that some of her pudding were missing.
D) The girl thought that some of her pudding was missing.

2.
A) Neither Erik nor Christine have played violin.
B) Neither Erik nor Christine are playing violin.
C) Neither Erik nor Christine is playing violin.
D) Neither Erik nor Christine were playing violin.

3.
A) Either of us were capable of doing more work.
B) Either of us are capable of doing more work.
C) Either of us have been capable of doing more work.
D) Either of us is capable of doing more work.

4.
A) Some of the cookies is on the platter.
B) Some of the cookies has been on the platter.
C) Some of the cookies was on the platter.
D) Some of the cookies are on the platter.

5.
A) Here is the blue ballpoint pens you requested.
B) Here’s the blue ballpoint pens you requested.
C) Here are the blue ballpoint pens you requested.
D) Here are the box of blue ballpoint pens you requested.

Please correct the following sentences:

6. It is us whom must decide whether to eat pizza or buffalo wings.

7. Between yourself and I, this movie is boring.

8. Whom do you think you are to give me advice about the test?

9. Whomever makes up these silly games?

10. Whomever do you think should come in first place?

11. Our puppy is much more sweeter than his sister.

Answer Key:

1. Correct Answer: D The girl thought that some of her pudding was missing.
Explanation: Some is a portion word that is singular or plural depending on the object of the preposition. In this sentence, “pudding,” is the object of the preposition, so use “was.”

2. Correct Answer: C Neither Erik nor Christine is playing violin.
Explanation: when neither and nor connect two singular subjects, use a singular verb.

3. Correct Answer: D Either of us is capable of doing more work.
Explanation: “Either” is the singular subject, which requires the singular verb “is.”

4. Correct Answer: D Some of the cookies are on the platter.
Explanation: see Explanation 1.

5. Correct Answer: C Here are the blue ballpoint pens you requested.
Explanation: the subject is “pens,” so use “are.”

6. Correct Answer: It is we who must decide whether to eat pizza or buffalo wings.
Explanation: After “is,” use the subject pronoun “we” to rename the subject “It.” Also, use “who” as the subject of “must decide” because you would say “we must decide,” not “us must decide.”

7. Correct Answer: Between you and me, this movie is boring.
Explanation: “Between” is a preposition and the pronouns that follow are objects of the preposition, so use “me.”

8. Correct Answer: Who do you think you are to give me advice about the test?
Explanation: despite the tricky word order, the sentence is actually asking, “Who are you, do you think, to give me advice?”

9. Correct Answer: Who makes up these silly games?
Explanation: “Who” is correct because we would say, “He makes up these games.”

10. Correct Answer: Who do you think should come in first place?
Explanation: despite the tricky word order, the sentence is actually asking, “Who should come in first place, do you think?”

11. Correct Answer: Our puppy is much sweeter than his sister.
Explanation: never use “more” with a comparative adjective (“sweeter”).

Extra Credit

As lover of language, we never tire of a good discussion on the topic. So please choose your favorite subject and tell us about it. Do oft-overlooked rules of ellipses fire you up? Should/can you use the virgule in formal writing? Do you have a stance on the Great Oxford Comma Debate? What’s your take on rampant semicolon abuse? From the differences to em-dashes, en-dashes and hyphens to the subject of adverbs, we want to know what makes you a passionate editor. Here’s your chance to shine!

July Events

Looking for something to do this July? Well you’re in luck—here’s a list of 10 events in Michigan that every writer should try to attend this month! These events vary from book fests, to author meet and greets, book signings, and even some writer’s clubs that you might not have known about near you! If you’re worrying about the price tag that most writing events have, don’t fret, all ten of these events are free to attend!

July 11th – Kinsley – You are Never too Old to Dream
This is an author visit featuring Evelyn Harper, who shares her experience of becoming a published author in her later years, a truly inspiring story. Click the link for more information!
https://www.tadl.org/event/you-are-never-too-old-to-dream/

July 12th – Kalamazoo – Author visit with Lisa Jenn Bigelow
A meet and greet with author Lisa Jenn Bigelow, who is releasing her new book, “Drum Roll, Please.” Don’t miss this opportunity to meet her!
https://www.bookbugkalamazoo.com/event/lisa-jenn-bigelow-presents-drum-roll-please

July 14th – Southfield – Book Signing; “This is Kindness”
Meet Richard Patterson, check out his new book, “This is Kindness,” and get your copy signed! See the link for more information!
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/book-signing-this-is-the-kindness-tickets-46159890475?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

July 15th – Detroit – Bookfest
Detroit’s 2nd annual festival of books! With tons of book vendors, food, and free Wi-Fi, how can you say no? An amazing event to connect with others who love reading and writing just as much as you!
http://detroitbookfest.com/event-details-facts/

July 16th – Ann Arbor – Lillian Li on Publishing Your First Novel
Lillian Li presents her experience with all the ups and downs of writing, editing, and publishing her book, “Number One Chinese Restaurant.” Find out more through the link!
https://www.meetup.com/Write-On-Ann-Arbor/events/251263341/

July 17th – Bay City – Creative Writing Workshop
Strengthen your writing using prompts and conversing with others! See The Bay Community Writing Center’s website for more information and events!
http://baycommunitywc.weebly.com/

July 18th – Dearborn – Author Talk by Suzanne Dalton
Dearborn local author Suzanne Dalton speaks about her book, “A Year Lost, a Life Gained: Fighting Breast Cancer with Wit, Humor, Friends, and a Perky Poodle.” More details through the link!
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/author-talk-by-suzanne-dalton-tickets-47125653097?aff=ebdssbdestsearch

July 25th – Battle Creek – Battle Creek’s Writer’s Block
Have your writing critiqued and discuss a variety of topics at this writing group! Click the link for more info!
https://www.meetup.com/Battle-Creek-Writers-Block-Meetup/events/252163545/

July 26th – Royal Oak – Book and Bottle Club
Looking for something different? Then maybe you should look into this book club! Besides, what goes better than books and wine? Find out more through the link!
http://detroit.carpediem.cd/events/6867846-book-bottle-club-royal-oak-at-michigan-by-the-bottle-tasting-room-royal-oak/

July 28th – Detroit – Writing Workshop Series
A great opportunity for all ages to improve their writing skills! For more information, check out their allevents.in post below!
https://allevents.in/michigan/writers-workshop/20002505899828

Don’t forget to tag us when you tell everyone what an awesome time you had! Didn’t see an event you know about near you? Comment and let us know about it! Have a great July everyone!

The Ruthless Side of Storytelling

Ira Glass is one of the most recognized voices in radio. He’s the man behind This American Life, which has landed no fewer than six Peabody Awards, among other accolades and nominations. Glass has spent the last 30 years of his career as reporter and host for numerous NPR programs and was nominated for an Emmy in Outstanding Writing for Nonfiction Programming. He is known for his thoughtful, relatable stories and was acknowledged for setting the aesthetic standard for nonfiction programming in both radio and television when awarded the Edward R. Murrow award. What is it about Glass that captivates audiences so effectively? Let’s take a look at two undervalued bits of wisdom from this four-part interview shared on YouTube.

1.      Finding the Right Story

 

“Often the amount of time finding the decent story is more than the amount of time it takes to produce the story… if someone wants to do creative work, you have to set aside just as much time for the looking for stories.”

–Ira Glass

 

Did you hear that? Just as much time needs to be set aside for finding the story for TV or radio. Maybe not in exactly the same ratio, but this counsel is so relevant and necessary in the lives of so many writers, both fiction and nonfiction. It takes time to really find the right story to tell, and it’s important not to be discouraged every time you hit a dead end. That’s just the way this works! Ira admits, “between  half to one-third of everything we try, we go out, we get the tape, and then we kill it…I think that not enough gets said about the importance of abandoning crap.” I’d like to add that this time spent on odds and ends that don’t pan out is not time wasted. All of that work, every interview, paragraph, and character sketch is just making you better at what you do. It’s an essential part of the creative process.

 

“… failure is a big part of success… you’re going to run into a ton of stuff and it’s going to go nowhere, and you should be happy about that.”

–Ira Glass

 

Why would we be happy about that? Because it means we’re doing it right. You have this lightning bolt idea, but toss it around, do the research, spend some time on it, and ultimately realize there are some key flaws and it’s not going to take shape the way you need it to. It’s okay to let that idea die! There’s a reason the age-old adage, “kill your darlings,” never goes away. It’s just a fact of creating good art. The key is knowing when to quit. Stop shoving effort into a blah story. Be encouraged by those discarded scraps of Not Quite. They are freeing you up to pursue something much better. Just keep looking, keep showing up and doing the work and you will be on the road to creating something special.

 

“You will be fierce. You will be a warrior. And you will make things you know in your heart aren’t as good as you want them to be. And you will just make one after the other.”

–Ira Glass

 

2.     Ruthless Editing

 

“You have to be, like a killer about getting rid of the boring parts and getting right to the parts that are getting to your heart, and you have to be, you know, just ruthless if anything is going to be good.”

– Ira Glass

 

You’ve found the right story to tell? Fantastic! Don’t hang up your machete. The savage work has just begun. Create and stitch and solder together your anecdotes, reflections, and revelations. Then get brutal. You will have to make tough choices about what needs to be there, and what is a distraction.

 

“Things that are really good are good because people are being really, really tough, and you’re going to be really tough.”

–Ira Glass

 

Evaluate the purpose and power of each part of your manuscript, and if in doubt, cut it out. Read it again. Does something new stand out? It is surprising how much impact is made when you’ve left only what’s most meaningful. If it’s causing your work to lose focus or spin off kilter, it’s got to go. It can be hard to see your work objectively, which is why I recommend letting it rest before diving in with the carving knife. If despite all this you know you’ve got a story, you’ve cut what you could but still aren’t satisfied; consider hiring an editor to point out the areas that need work.

 

“You don’t want to be making mediocre stuff… that’s not why anyone gets into this. The only reason why you want to do this is because you want to make something that’s really memorable…”

–Ira Glass

 

Author Spotlight: Brett Petersen (Video)

Brett Petersen was our very first client here at The LetterWorks, and fourteen of the pieces we’ve edited for him have been published or accepted for publication as of this posting! In addition to being a writer, he is also a musician and visual artist.

Brett and Josh sat down for a freewheeling conversation about what inspires him, his process and artistic hierarchy, goals, Star Wars, and… Hanson? Watch now, and scroll down for links to his stories and music!

Short Fiction:

CAVO
The Parasite From Proto-Space
Friday Tradition
A Free Ride to Pleroma
Inanimate Object Fibromatosis & Asbestos Leprosy
The Epic Quest of the Three ARMS
The Light in the Sky
Billy-Sally
The Summoning of the Memory Eaters
The Funeral Machine
The Walrus Who Touched the Sun
Ca-Caw
Sleep is One of Those Luxuries
Crystal Donut World
Cats and Dogs: A Bildungsroman for the Post-Post-Post-Modern Age
Javi and Bobby
The Labyrinth & the Jingling Keys

Music:

Raziel’s Tree
Brett Solo

The Writer’s Bullet Journal: Do & Done

The bullet journal is a DIY paper planner beloved of many writers. Popularized by Ryder Carroll, this analog system features: 

  • an index
  • to-do lists: each task is assigned a bullet point
  • collections” of related ideas e.g. a reading or fitness log
  • task migration, or review.

The average bullet journalist is constantly refining their system and I’m no exception. Here’s a new addition to my bullet journal: Do & Done.

  1. Reserve the “Do” list for appointments or priority tasks.
  2. Fill in the “Done” list daily with anything you achieved or completed.
  3. That’s it!

Above you can see my bullet journal for Week 19. On the left are my appointments and errands for that May week. The “Do” column is a typical planner view and many people stop there. However, in Week 19 I also reflected every evening on what I had actually accomplished and made those entries under “Done.” This created a mindset of “What can I achieve tomorrow?” So mythological research on Monday led to a freewriting session on Tuesday and a scene outline on Wednesday. Brainstorming character motives on Friday led me to tweak the story arcs for the heroine and her antagonists over the weekend. Not bad for a week where I had planned to do no writing at all.

Writing is a solitary job and motivating oneself can be difficult. Therefore it’s really important to record your daily wins and personal milestones. The Do & Done tracks your progress through the week, inspiring you to continue a creative cycle of work. Don’t break the chain!

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into one writer’s bullet journal. For more inspiration, search Pinterest and Instagram to see what other writers choose to record in their “BuJo” notebooks.

Further Reading

Ryder Carroll: https://www.bulletjournal.com/

Kim Alvarez’s reference guide: https://www.tinyrayofsunshine.com/blog/bullet-journal-reference-guide

Reader Request: How do you clear your head to write?

We love the comments we receive from our readers and occasionally are asked really great questions that deserve an entire blog post to adequately answer. Thank you for your comments!

 

One of our wonderful readers recently lamented:

“I truly do enjoy writing, however, it just seems like the first 10-15 minutes tend to be wasted just trying to figure out how to begin.”

How do you center yourself and clear your head for writing? Great question! First off, I have to say, “you are not alone!” In fact, the best writers I know intentionally spend those initial writing moments something other than the work at hand.

One time-honored method for waking your muse is to dedicate those 10-15 minutes (and more) to a writing prompt or creative challenge. Don’t try to write for your official assignment or creative project yet. Just write. Here are some suggestions:

 

Set a timer. Do not stop writing. That’s it! This is called freewriting. It is a stream-of-consciousness, totally does NOT matter what you write or how you write it exercise that is destined for the trash. It’s a method invented in the late 60’s, early 70’s that’s still used today because it works. One study showed that freewriting significantly improved English fluency amongst ESL students’ writing samples as well as bolstering their confidence in the language. Something about releasing that need for control over every comma enables the brain to tap into that lusher landscape of language needed for quality writing. So “waste” those 10-15 minutes with gusto! Even if all you are writing the first time around is, “I have no idea what to write and this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever tried…” keep at it. I’ve occasionally salvaged some interesting phrases that have emerged from freewriting exercises. But that is NOT the purpose. You aren’t writing for anyone or anything. You are just writing. And writing. And writing.

 

Tune in. Close your eyes for a moment and focus in on all that you feel, hear, and smell. Open your eyes and write it all down. Get every detail. Every hum, every rhythm, capture it the best way you can. If you still have time, choose a corner or space to describe visually in great detail. You are warming up your mind with rich vocabulary and practiced perceptions.

 

Zoom out. Start small. Focus on a detail. A fly on a machine. Zoom out to see the room where it rests. Who else is there? Now what about the building? Keep zooming out to take in the big picture. Show an entire town. A society. A world.

 

Josh’s recent post offers some more great prompts to get your creative gears engaged!

It may seem counterintuitive, but I am sure you will find that allowing your mind to wander along its own paths first will help it settle down to the writing you would like to see. My article on Writer’s Block also shares several proven tips for clearing the head and getting ready to move forward in your writing when it has come to a dead standstill. Best wishes and we’d love to hear how these suggestions have worked for you!

 

 

Grease Your Gears: Writing Prompts!

Grease your gears with these writing prompts!

Feeling stuck? Here are a few prompts to lube your brain cogs!

 

  • Pick two of your favorite (or least favorite) animals from anywhere on Earth and write them down. Now compose a fable involving those animals using each of their specific natural traits, á la Aesop.

 

  • Take an indisputable scientific truth, such as gravity, that humans can’t breathe underwater, the nutritional value of rocks, etc… Once you have decided upon your basic truth, change it! How would the world look and operate with this steadfast rule rewritten? How will your characters take advantage of, or be hindered by this change?

 

  • Think of an irrational fear, such as fear of spiders, dentists, or those weird roots growing on the potatoes you’ve had a little too long, and write a day in the life of a character who is governed by this specific fear. The more outlandish, the better!

 

  • Write a letter to a fictional character or historical figure as though you were old friends. Reminisce on an old adventure or plot a new one, apologize for a misdeed or demand an apology from them, congratulate them on a major event in their life and fill them in on some of your own. Be as straight-laced or absurd as you’d like and see where it leads!

 

  • Your protagonist is awash in conspiracy theories. They spend every free moment contemplating, researching, and rationalizing the most absurd claims. One evening, they check the news and find one of their wildest theories is proven to be true… now what?
Now get out there and sling some words!

The Great Copy Editing Quiz No. 1

by Catherine Foster

Do you want to be a copy editor? Maybe you just enjoy catching other people’s grammar errors and rampant punctuation mistakes. Do you think you have what it takes to find the flaw in every phrase? Take our quiz and find out!

Choose the correct sentences:

1.

A) Some of the parfait was left by the end of the party.

B) Some of the parfait were left by the end of the party.

C) Some of the parfaits was left by the end of the party.

D) Some parfaits was left by the end of the party.

2.

A) Your bright smiles almost makes up for your tardiness.

B) Your bright smiles almost make up for your tardiness.

C) Your bright smiles makes up for your tardiness.

D) Your bright smiles has made up for your tardiness.

3.

A) Neither Erik nor I am playing violin.

B) Neither Erik nor I is playing violin.

C) Neither Erik nor I are playing violin.

D) Neither Erik nor I were playing violin.

4.

A) All of the class is willing to take part in the play.

B) All of the classes is willing to take part in the play.

C) All of the class are willing to take part in the play.

D) All of the classes has been willing to take part in the play.

5.

A) Two-thirds of the voters tend not to cast their ballots in local elections.

B) Two-thirds of the voters tends not to cast their ballots in local elections.

C) Two-thirds of the voters tends not to cast their ballots in local elections.

D) Two-thirds of the voters tends not to cast its ballot in local elections.

Please correct the following sentences:

6. He is one of those veterinarians that make house calls.

7. Dr. Raoul is one of those conductors who does whatever it takes to get his point across to his musicians.

8. He is the only one of the conductors who do what it takes to help their musicians.

9. Her and him are always together.

10. When him and Christine come over, we always have dinner.

Ex. Credit: Do you know the difference between issue and problem?

Answer key:

Choose the correct sentence.

1. Correct Answer: A Some of the parfait was left by the end of the party.

Explanation: Some is a portion word that is singular or plural depending on the object of the preposition. In this sentence, “parfait,” is the object of the preposition, so use “was.”

2. Correct Answer: B Your bright smiles almost make up for your tardiness.

Explanation: “bright smiles” is the subject of “make up.”

3. Correct Answer: A Neither Erik nor I am playing violin.

Explanation: when neither and nor connect two singular subjects and the second one is I, use am.

4. Correct Answer: A All of the class is willing to take part in the play.

Explanation: “All” is a portion word that is singular or plural depending on the object of the preposition. In this sentence, “class” is the object of the preposition, so use “is.”

5. Correct Answer: A Two-thirds of the voters tend not to cast their ballots in local elections.

Explanation: “Two-thirds” becomes plural because the object of the preposition, “voters,” is plural. Use the plural verb “tend.”

Please correct the following sentences:

6. Correct Answer: He is one of those veterinarians who make house calls.

Explanation: “who” refers to “veterinarians,” not to “one,” so the plural verb “make” is required.

7. Correct Answer: Dr. Raoul is one of those conductors who do whatever it takes to get their point across to their musicians.

Explanation: “who” refers to “conductors,” not to “one,” so the plural verb “do” and the possessive adjective “their” are required.

8. Correct Answer: He is the only one of the conductors who does what it takes to help his musicians.

Explanation: in this sentence, “who” refers to “one,” not to “professors,” so the singular verb “does” is required.

9. Correct Answer: She and he are always together.

Explanation: “She” and “he” are the subjects of “are together.”

10. Correct Answer: When Christine and he come over, we always have dinner.

Explanation: “Christine” and “he” are the subjects of “come over,” so use the subject pronoun “he.”

How did you do? Let us know in the comments!

Five Brilliant Ways to Write a Compelling Series

When I started writing fiction I had no idea it would turn into a series. I just wrote a story that compelled me to do my best, and as it turned out it was significantly longer than one book. It has been thirteen years since I began my journey as an author, and I’ve just released the second book in the Stealing Time Series: Shattering Time. Through that journey I’m half way through a four-book series, and I’d like to share my best tips for writing a compelling series.

  1. Develop complex characters One of the first tasks I took on as a new author was to get to know my characters. Following the advice of Evan Marshall, in The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing, I developed a bio on each character, delving into all parts of their world. I cut out pictures of them in various poses (from a JC Penney catalog) and imagined the details of their life, physical characteristics, flaws, even their parents’ jobs. As impatient as I was to get started, I think this step allowed me to feel their motivations and add layers as I moved throughout their story arcs. As I have written their dialog and mapped out their journeys, they have taken over my subconscious. Now, after the second book, they’re so much a part of me I don’t need to refer back to these notes anymore. They move through my subconscious and often dictate their path whether I like it or not.
  2. Add layers that build towards the next book When I wrote the first draft the basic story came together nicely. The editing process brought about number of layers that added a richness to my work that I believe keep the readers coming back for more. Let me share an example of this: In the first book, my main character Ronnie Andrews mentions that her father died five years in the past. As I was writing the second book, an idea developed that created an entire backstory for the father and will be an integral part of the third and fourth books in the series. It started as a tiny kernel of an idea, but as I kept exploring the possibilities a passing detail from Ronnie’s bio became an entire underlying plot driver for a future novel. Knowing this as I wrote the second book, it was easy to drop bread crumbs about this character that revealed a huge bombshell for the reader. It is one of the lingering questions at the end of book two that will bring my readers back to find out where this story thread leads.
  3. Develop the larger plot for the entire series Before I started writing the second book in the series, Shattering Time, I loosely plotted the remaining books in the series. There will be story elements that develop as I write, like the father’s backstory, but knowing where the future books will go gives me the freedom to maneuver in those parameters, add clues about what will come, and prevent me getting caught up in a plot hole in the future. This is another key strategy that allows those delicious layers to form and provides opportunities to build towards a deeper plot line than if I only worked on one storyline at a time. It is similar to watching a well-written TV series; they dive into the episodic plot, but they also weave in bigger story elements that carry through the series to add cohesion and build character depth as they move along.
  4. Introduce new characters in each book To add freshness, you need to keep the readers on their toes by adding fresh new blood to the story. In Shattering Time, I introduce two important new characters: Mike Walsh, Ronnie’s hot boss, and Steph’s little brother, Ian McKay. Both serve a purpose in future books and add an anchor point from this book to the next in the series. Mike offers Ronnie a better alternative than her current boyfriend, who Ronnie is finally seeing what her best friend Steph has been saying all along – that Jeffrey is not who she thinks he is. Ian adds comic relief to a very stressful plot and will bring an important skill set to book three.
  5. Change the scene for each book in the series Another way to add newness for the reader is to keep a distinct setting for each story. In the first book, Stealing Time, the story is split between her friend Stephanie McKay during Hurricane Charlie and Ronnie’s journey back in time to 1752 London. In the next book, Ronnie and Steph are together during Hurricane Frances until Ronnie is sent back in time to multiple locations. Still a split story but none of the same locations as the first book. In the third book, everything changes when Ronnie and Mike head to Puerto Rico on a business trip and encounter Hurricane Jeanne. The unifying elements through the entire series are the hurricane and the promise of time travel, but I’ve changed locations to add new challenges and situations to keep it fresh for the reader.

I’d love to know what you’d add to this list to write compelling fiction. I invite you to check out my Stealing Time Series, so you can experience the power of the storm and see how I used these five tips here.

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Bio: KJ Waters is the Amazon best-selling author of the short-story Blow and #1 best-seller Stealing Time. The second book in the series, Shattering Time, reached number six on the Amazon UK site and was number two as a hot new release seating neatly after Michael Crichton’s Dragon’s Teeth.

In addition to her writing, she is the CEO of Blondie’s Custom Book Covers and the co-host of the popular podcast Blondie and the Brit, and provides author consulting services covering branding, social media, and publishing.

She has a Master’s in Business and over eighteen years of experience in the marketing field. Before quitting her job to raise a family and work on writing she was the Director of Marketing and communications for a national behavioral healthcare company.

Where to find KJ Online:

  1. Books: Stealing Time, Shattering Time, and short story Blow
  2. Websites: Consultant site, Author Site, Blondie and the Brit podcast site, Book Cover Site
  3. Social media sites:
    Twitter: @KJWatersAuthor, @blondiebookcov @blondieandbrit @bbreaders
  4. Facebook: Author, Podcast, Book covers
  5. LinkedIn
  6. Instagram
  7. Pinterest
  8. Google Plus
  9. Goodreads
  10. Blog: Blondie in the Water