Category Archives: About the Books

Writing Process Part 1

I have mentioned in prior posts that I’ve changed my writing process up a bit, for the better. Since this “new process” means nothing to you if I don’t tell you what I’m doing differently, I am opting to elaborate. I’ll do a few posts to show you what kind of shenanigans I’m up to now when I start a new book. Since I’m close to the final wrap ups for the first book of the new trilogy completely unrelated to Burnt Mountain, now is a good time to show you the madness.

For starters, a quickie cheat list of names as I move forward. I am including several links here that will take you away from my site should you choose to investigate them. This is probably a poor business model, but I don’t care. I’m happy to refer any other writers or aspiring writers to seek out the pros, because I don’t have anywhere near the volume of knowledge and experience these folks have. The next few posts are about my hybrid process that is a result of listening to the advice and experiences of these people and picking apart what worked for me.

Firstly, the person that turned me to these resources and many more, author, book coach, friend, and great cook, Joel D Canfield. His site is here.

SC = Shawn Coyne. Editor and the mind behind The Story Grid process which you can read ALL about here.

SP = Steven Pressfield. Screenwriter, author, and mentor to other writers in the trenches. His site is here. SC and SP work together.

AH = Art Holcomb. Screenwriter, author, and book coach. Gleaned some good tips from taking one of his courses. See his stuff here.

LB = Larry Brooks. Pulitzer winning journalist, author, and book coach. Avidly promotes using story structure as a writing process (process, not formula!) over pantsing here.  LB and AH work together.

I have emailed with SC a few times and was one of the moderators on his forum for his website when the forum was running. I have done an 8-week online course and spoke on the phone with AH. I have worked with LB on a couple of occasions for story concept/premise analyses. And, I have worked with Joel as a book coach and mentor, still pester him from time to time on email and in the comments section of his website, and had the great privilege of meeting him and his family in person a few years ago when on a road trip to Wisconsin.  I have not (yet) interacted with SP, but the common thread among these folks is still there: they’re all wicked nice.

OK, into the process I have adopted that is a mish-mash of things taught by the five men mentioned above. (I have done readings of books, posts, and seminars from female writers and other male writers, but I resonate best with the ones mentioned above which is why my focus is there).

As an editor, SC gets books after they’ve been written. He begins dissecting them from high level and drilling down to a microscopic level.

AH recommends starting the writing process by figuring out ALL of the details first before typing one word. Both he and SP break a story down into 3 parts, as all screenwriters do, Act I, Act II, Act III.

LB promotes knowing story structure first, knowing plot points and where they should fall in a story. He breaks stories down into percentages for locations in the story, but these still ultimately align with the 3-Act structure. Act I/Beginning Hook = the first 25%. Act II/Middle Build = 25-75%, and Act III/Ending Payoff = 75-100%. The details of first plot point, first pinch point (yes, they are different), point of no return which happens to be around 50%, second pinch point, etc. can be found on both his and Joel’s websites. Joel has a 12-sentences model that aligns with LB’s percentages.

For me, step 1 is scribbling down thoughts/ideas, literally scrawled notes in my phone, an email, a sticky note, a note card, whatever I have on hand. These sometimes get transferred to more legible versions and are typed up as things start to solidify. This is when I start to bash out the concept and premise. LB has written volumes on the differences between the two. They’re NOT the same.

Once I think I’m solidly onto something, I mimic the breakdown SC does of a story already written, except I begin building my new story FROM the high level. For me, it’s more like figuring out the basics of what I think I want to write. Sometimes I’ll also fill out Joel’s 12-sentences worksheets to make sure I have a solid grip on what is in my head.

Borrowed from SC’s website, this is his high-level view of Silence of the Lambs in what he calls a Foolscap Global Story Grid:








In the image above you can see how he starts breaking down the story. If you want the details around what each of the points for the Global Story parts mean, visit SC’s website. For me, I wanted to take that high level to get a general road map. Sort of like, if I want to make a cross-country drive across the US, let’s get a map of the entire US first.

For the new book, Forgotten Echoes, this is my high level view. Yes, I’ve blurred part of the image so there aren’t any spoilers.







Of course, I do mine in Excel. I’m a geek. What else did you expect? So I create the shell for this thing and print it out. I drag that piece of paper around with me for weeks and start scribbling on it in pencil. Once I have it sorted out, or think I do, I type it up so it’s nice and pretty, and I tape that sucker to the wall behind my laptop for quick reference.

In Part 2’s post, I’ll cover what I did next.

Writing Expansion






The last several weeks have been full of me trying out a few new things. I’m nothing if not curious. Amazon has a program called KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) where you can enroll your book(s) for extra intra-Amazon marketing. The catch is you can’t have the book listed anywhere else, such as Smashwords. Since I used both Smashwords and Amazon, I never enrolled in the program. I decided to switch things up and pulled The Monster Within off Smashwords and enrolled it in KDP for 3 months. The results – nada. So it appears that their internal marketing isn’t all that they hype it to be. But I learned some more things about how Amazon works as a result. Win.

Based on the recommendation of another Maine writer, I joined the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. I still have to set up my author page with them and do some other stuff to have my profile listed, but I haven’t had a chance to do any of that yet. They offer some internal and external marketing, but again, no time to sort that out yet. Still, the correspondence I’ve been getting from them thus far has been nice and professional. Pretty sure this one will turn out to be a win too.

I started David Mamet’s Master Class online and have been chipping away at that. It’s been really neat, and I’ve gotten some good nuggets out of the courses I’ve done thus far. I’ve also been re-reading The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne and always come away with something new I either didn’t pick up before or forgot. Yep, win.

I recently read All Systems Red, a scifi novella by Martha Wells. I devoured this book in 3 nights, and it only took me that long because I forced myself to put it down and go to bed. I have since ordered the print version so I can re-read it. This is the first book in The Murderbot Diaries, and I can’t wait for the others coming out later this year. If you like scifi and don’t mind a few f-bombs in your reading, I recommend this one. Great book that will keep on giving.

Bonus round: I went to Boston this weekend for the New England Book Festival to pick up my award for The Monster Within.

So with all these great things there remains a persistent negative looming around the corner. I am STILL working on the house after 8 or 9 months of remodeling and painting. It’s such a time sink it’s obnoxious. I get cranky when I don’t get my usual doses of writing time. The good news I guess is that because I’m so sick of working on the house, I’m super motivated to get the damn thing finished so I can sell it and get it out of my hair that much sooner. Fingers crossed.

Ceiling Finds Go To Historical Society









After weeks of ripping apart my ceiling and finding some interesting things in there (hospital bill from 1944, 7 day stay, total of just over $21, birth certificates, marriage record, pay stubs from a paper mill in Brewer, various toys, bottle of cough syrup 4% alcohol and for children, and a four-mouse mouse trap), I was able to find these things a new home with the Orrington Historical Society. I originally took them to a big antique store in Brewer to see if they were interested in any of the items, and they passed.

I didn’t want to throw them out, but I also didn’t want to keep them. I popped off an email to the OHS and they gladly accepted. The medicine bottle and the documents will be part of their exhibits. They were also interested in the WW II cancellation stamp on the envelope containing the birth certificates, hospital bill, and marriage record. They wanted to use that in their upcoming Veteran’s Day power point presentation.

Regardless of where they land, I’m happy they went somewhere to be part of a collection. Above is the fb shout out from the OHS for donating the items. Who knew that among all that mouse poop and dust in the ceiling some gems were in there? No wads of cash in the walls, unfortunately, but I am thrilled the salvageable finds went to a good place.

In book news, the 2nd edition of The Monster Within is available as eBook on Amazon. I have approved the print proof of the print version, and that should be loaded to Amazon soon. Once all that is done, I’m going to set up the book for Amazon’s KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) Program and see how that goes. I had to pull the ebook off Smashwords to enroll in KDP, but in theory, KDP will auto promote the book within Amazon. So I figured I’d give that a whirl and see what happens. The 2nd edition is also entered in the New England Book Fest for 2017, so I’ll find out next month how it did in that festival. Fingers crossed.

I Need a Hard Hat








After all the work I’ve done on my house (aka Money Pit) over the last 10 years, it has never occurred to me that I should get a hard hat. How I have missed out on this piece of important safety equipment, I’ll never know. (Thanks, Tom, for the recommendation! I will get one!).

Today’s plan was all house project work, nothing with writing since I was saving that for Sunday. Turned out I ended up doing a bit of book related stuff anyway. More on that in a sec.

I’ve posted before that I love learning new things. I’ll jot a few down for you that I learned today while demolishing one of the rooms in my house down to studs and plywood.

1. I have safety goggles, three pairs of safety glasses, several painters’ masks, a respirator, two sets of hearing protectors, and four pairs of work gloves. I use these things when I do house projects and/or use power equipment. I need to add a hard hat to the menagerie.  (I clearly need two sets of hearing protectors, one for each head ?! Maybe I need two hard hats.)

2. When removing nails from studs, do not put your finger between the pry bar and the wood. This hurts like a mother.

3. Do not lose control of the sucking end of the shop vac. It promptly attaches itself to your neck like a leech. I know this to be a fact.

4. Do not pull on drywall while standing on a ladder. When the drywall breaks free, the odds of you falling off the ladder increase exponentially. Now I know.

5. When pulling up pieces of flooring, do not lift them higher than your head. Pieces will fall off and peg you in the ear. If you have religion, you will certainly lose it after taking the corner of a board in the ear. Yes. Hard hat. I know!

6. When dumping debris from the giant garbage can into the dumpster sitting in your driveway, hold on to the garbage can. Thus far I only had to go dumpster diving once to retrieve my can.

7. I have a busted lip. I don’t even know what, when, or how that happened today. Probably another stealth attack from the shop vac. Sneaky bastard.

8. This is an 80 year old house. Eighty years of mouse poop is the stuff of nightmares.

Today was a good day. I clearly learned many things. I will announce it ahead of time the next time I do demolition so folks can pop popcorn and sit on my deck to watch the shenanigans. It’s a hoot!

Book stuff. The new cover for the first book, The Monster Within, to release it as a second edition is well underway. The editor sent me back his first round of comments on the rewrites that will make up the second edition. I need to get that room remodel a bit more under control before I can dive into his notes, but it’s on the to-do list (still hoping for lots of writing related stuff on Sunday!).

The new, new book, unrelated to the Burnt Mountain series is eyeball deep in the planning stages. I did some early writing on it several weeks ago just to feel things out, and those three chapters are getting scrapped so I can take things in a different, and better, direction. All good stuff.


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