Where #Words Cross Paths: Pre-writing to #Change Your #Writing Habits, Guest Blog Post by Connie Dunn

Where #Words Cross Paths: Pre-writing to #Change Your #Writing Habits

by author and publishing consultant, Connie Dunn,
Guest Blogger and former guest on CHANGES conversations between authors
(Episode 3): https://sallyember.com/changes-videocasts-by-sally-ember-ed-d/


Here you are, sitting at the crossroads of Write and Don’t Write.

You keep saying that you have this novel or short story or true story or even some sort of non-fiction you want to write, yet something keeps you from putting an actual word or sentence down on paper. Whether you are “old school” and use pad and pen or “new age” and use a computer or a tablet, it’s all the same.

If two people cross paths, they meet. Your words must cross paths with other words to meet and create sentences. Sentences then lead to paragraphs. Paragraphs turn into chapters. Chapters turn into books. Voilà! A book is born!

Well, theoretically, this is what happens. The truth is that a little Pre-writing can go a long way.

The first step even before thinking about your story at all is to think about who your readers are going to be.

Once that is established, the non-fiction writer should write a good outline that resembles a Table of Contents, which may have a paragraph or so of writing that specifically outlines something in this section. Novelists, in particular, need to do quite a lot of Pre-writing.

Pre-writing is simple in concept:
1) Write the backstories of all of your characters and
2) Plot out all the plot points.

Pre-writing includes developing your characters and all your plot lines. Yes, I said plot lines.

In any good novel, you should have more than one plot going. There is your main plot but there are also interactive plots that help you get to know some of the other characters and what is going on with them. You also need to know how they interact with your main plot.

The easiest way to develop your characters is to interview them and write down everything about them. Ask the same questions of each character, making sure that you delve into their backgrounds to give you something unique about the character.

Here are some of the questions you might ask your characters:

  • What color is your hair?
  • What color are your eyes?
  • What gender are you? What sexual preference, if applicable?
  • Do you have any distinguishing facial features, such as scars, dimples, etc.?
  • How tall are you?
  • Do you have a distinguishing walk (such as a limp)?
  • What sort of clothing would you wear?
  • How do you act (in public? in private?)?
  • What do you do for a living/what type of school do you attend (grade, private/public, etc.)?
  • Are you honest or dishonest? How can we tell that?
  • Are you more of a hero or villain? Why?
  • How do you spend your time.
  • Do you have any hobbies? What are they?
  • When you are not at school/work, what do you spend most of your time doing?
  • What else can you tell me about yourself?

Some authors like to use index cards to keep track of characters and plot points. Some color-code them according to what plot they belong. Many now use writing software, such as Scrivener, to keep track of everything in a book or series. Some use spreadsheets.

Now, let’s talk about those plots! Plot points are the junctures in each story for which the plot/action is critical. However, some authors use each scene as a way of plotting. It makes sense to use the scenes as plot points, because that is what puts together your story. Of course, these are usually just the high points. There can be many more scenes that support the plot points‘ scenes.

In every story, there is a beginning, a middle and end. But there is actually much more going on in those three pieces of a story. In fact, it is a better to dissect or construct a story looking at it in this Five-Point Plot, which is still a very abbreviated plot formation.

Rather than dive into more complicated plot points, we’ll look at this abbreviated version before we begin looking at things like Scene Development.

Of course, we know that each PLOT is built upon SCENES and SCENES are dependent upon CHARACTERS, CONFLICT and ACTION.

Here is a general idea of what you need to put into your Plotting, using the Five-Point Plot plan:

I. The Hook/Problem: This is an introduction of a problem or conflict that is basic to the entire story. This is the conflict that slowly plays out and is resolved in some manner by the end of the play, screenplay, novel or story. This needs to be compelling and draw the audience into the story; otherwise, there would be no need to write the story.

II. The Complication: This is where the original conflict described in The Hook gets more complicated.

III. The Protagonist’s Goal: At this stage of the story, the goal of the Protagonist (main character) has been clearly defined and the Protagonist is clearly setting out to achieve it.


  • Turn of Events: Protagonist now has an obstacle to overcome.
  • Protagonist’s New Goal: Protagonist now establishes a new goal.
  • Major Reversal: Protagonist appears to have lost all goals.
  • Redefining of Protagonist’s Goal: Protagonist must redefine goal into what showdown is about.
  • IV. Climax: This point is the highest point in the story.

    V. Resolution: This is the very last scene where all the loose ends get tied up. Whatever needs to be resolved gets resolved at this point.

    Another Pre-Writing task that may be helpful is to think about the entire story, considering these or similar questions: What did you find the most compelling? What problem or conflict will you choose to be first? Pick one that can establish the tone of your book, while making sure you have clearly established a problem or conflict.

    For example, instead of starting a story with the birth of the Protagonist, start with two or more of your characters arguing. Make sure that your compelling opening is relative and essential to the story, of course.

    Once you’ve developed characters and plots, you have mapped out your entire book.

    One more essential part of Pre-Writing: look at your storyline and determine if you need to do research on any aspect. Even though it is a fictional story, you want to be accurate. If it is non-fiction, every aspect must be fact-checked.

    So now that you’ve done all your Pre-Writing, you are ready to begin writing. Instead of standing at the crossroads of Write or Don’t Write, you are standing at Ready to Write.


    You have developed your entire book. Okay, so these are just bare bones that you’ve developed, but now comes the creative flow.

    It is much easier to get the juices of imagination going now that you’ve done a lot of Pre-Writing.

    Some Writing tips:
    —Avoid long descriptions; instead tuck smaller pieces into your paragraphs, especially ones in which the character is speaking.
    —Make sure that you paint pictures with your words and include all the senses. Let us know what your character is smelling, feeling, hearing, etc.

    So, the next time you are sitting at the crossroads of Write or Don’t Write, don’t just say, “I’ve got this great novel or short story or true story or even some sort of non-fiction I want to write.” Instead, begin your adventure with something that will help you put actual words and sentence down on paper.

    Connie Dunn‘s Information

    Connie Dunn
    Connie Dunn is an award-winning author, speaker, and educator.

    She specializes in developing a community of writers from which she helps fiction and non-fiction writers take their books from wherever they are to getting them published. To get more information on coaching and courses, go to http://publishwithconnie.com, where you can find Character Development Book/E-Book or course and Plot Development courses, as well Accountability Group Coaching Calls.

    Like Connie on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/publishwithconnie

    Follow Connie on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/wiseconnie

    Connie writes both fiction and non-fiction books as well as courses. Her goal is to help her students and coaching clients reach their next goals. As part of her initiative to help authors, she founded

    WC Review image
    Weeping Cherry International Review
    : http://weepingcherryinternationalreview.org

    10 Ways to Develop Characters:

    10 Ways to - cover-2jpg

    Character Development Course: http://publishwithconnie.com/courses-2/character-development-2/
    Plot Development Course: http://publishwithconnie.com/courses-2/plotting-your-plot/
    Accountability Group Coaching Call: http://publishwithconnie.com/coaching-services/once-a-week-accountability-call/

    Sally Ember, Ed.D., is the author of the sci-fi/romance/utopian ebooks in The Spanners Series. Volume I, This Changes Everything, is permafree. Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, is usually $3.99. Look for Volumes III and IV in 2015.
    All reviews, info, excerpts, links: http://www.sallyember.com/Spanners

    WRITING AND PROMOTING A SERIES: Series authors, Nicholas C. Rossis and Charles Yallowitz


    by series authors, Nicholas C. Rossis, Pearseus series, and

    Charles Yallowitz, Legends of Windemere series

    Guest bloggers and former guests on CHANGES conversations between authors
    (Episodes 7 and 9), http://www.sallyember.com



    This joint post was made possible by the invitation of Sally Ember, who has been gracious enough to allow us to speak on her blog. She has done this knowing that Mr. Rossis and Mr. Yallowitz have a history of crazy antics. Indeed, some of these antics occurred on Sally’s very own LIVE video show *CHANGES* conversations between authors, which you can find online. Thank you to Sally Ember and we hope everyone enjoys this post on writing a series.

    Check out Nicholas’s newest release, Pearseus: Vigil, by clicking on the above cover art and
    prepare for a March/April debut of Charles’s next book, Legends of Windemere: Sleeper of the Wildwood Fugue.

    Charles: First, I would like to say that I’m happy to be working with Nicholas again and on a post this time. Our back and forth on our blogs is a lot of fun and he has a very sharp, creative mind that keeps me on my toes. This carries over into his writing, which impressively spans several genres.

    Nicholas: Same goes for me. I’m very impressed by Charles, both as an author and as a person. Plus, it’s great to have someone who gets my weird sense of humor!

    What is the hardest part about promoting a series?
    Charles: It’s really easy at the beginning because you can play around with teasers and you only have one book out. Then you get the second and try to find ways to promote without revealing everything in the first book. Around the third book, if you go higher than a trilogy, you get caught between avoiding big revelations in the earlier books and spoilers for the next one. It’s a really hectic balancing act because you don’t want to say too much. Yet, you have to say enough to keep people interested and lead to them to the rest of the series.

    I’ve found that you have to make sacrifices in this, for example, revealing a minor spoiler to promote the next book while keeping the big stuff secret. A teaser helps, too, because it isn’t so much a spoiler, but a hint that something is going to happen or a foreshadowed event is coming to pass. Oddly enough, I found that Twitter is the less nerve-wracking social media site to promote a series on because the 140-character limit means you can’t say much and it’s hard to tiptoe around spoilers like that; you have to stick to catchy blurbs or small quotes from the book.

    CLICK FOR AMAZON SITE Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

    Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

    Nicholas: I agree with Charles that Twitter is a great promotional medium for a series, as my marketing relies on a short quote and a link.

    One of the best things about having a series is that you can have a different book on sale each month and it will help the others’ sales as well. However, unlike Charles, I have also made a book bundle available. This contains all the books published so far in Pearseus. Obviously, when this is on sale, no one buys the rest of the books. However, it does attract a lot of attention as it offers great value for money. So, it’s all a bit of a balancing act.

    How difficult is it to maintain continuity in a series and what tricks do you use to accomplish this?
    Charles: I once switched one of my main character’s eye colors and a minor recurring character lost his hair. So some of the details can be messed up if one isn’t careful. Perhaps the biggest challenge to story continuity is that you can forget some foreshadowing or you do something that alters a previously established rule. Middle books can also have events that change the finale because what you plan in your head might not always be what comes out on paper. It really is a game of memory and concentration or like putting together a 5,000-piece puzzle with no picture to guide you.

    There are two tricks that I use. One is that I keep notes on a lot of things that I believe I will forget. For example, I had some minor characters who step into the spotlight in a later book and I never gave them much description in their first appearances. There was just enough that they stood out and I had to make sure I had those identifiers written down. The other trick is never to be afraid to look back at your earlier books to confirm information. If you have even an inkling that you’re off on a fact, then jump back to the book where you know the information has already been written. This helps with plot lines, character descriptions, world-building and anything else that carries over from book to book.

    Nicholas: LOL—I love the idea of “a 5,000-piece puzzle with no picture to guide you.” Indeed, it can feel that way at times.

    I have a .doc file that includes all sorts of minor details, from names to subplots. Also, when I write, I always have my older books open as well. That way, I’m instantly able to jump back and forth and check things out. For example, a lot of the action takes place in a place called the “Chamber of Justice.” Every now and again, I’ll catch myself typing “Chambers of Justice” (plural) instead, so I have to remember it’s actually singular. I have no idea why some days it feels self-evident it’s singular and others that it’s plural, but that’s just how it is.

    Pearseus Bundle on Amazon

    Pearseus Bundle on Amazon

    Do you have any suggestions for readers who wish to get into reading a long series?
    Charles: I’m a fan of starting from the beginning, but I know many who start at the most recent book. If you do this, then I highly suggest that you read the earlier books at some point for more context and to see events that don’t get mentioned again. Also, one must be patient with a series because the story is stretched out and every book will have an opening. Also, not everything gets cleared up at the end of the earlier books. That understanding helps a reader accept that questions will remain. The only other tip I have is that you have to trust that the author knows what he or she is doing. I see a lot of readers try to demand that certain events happen in a story, but those desires might not fall in line with what the author has planned.

    Nicholas: This is a typical “patience is a virtue” situation. Writing a series is a serious responsibility. Reading a series is an investment of both time and money, so we have to make sure that each and every book not only meets the readers’ expectations, but exceeds them. We owe them as much. That is why I’m grateful to all my readers, but those who have invested in Pearseus hold a special place in my heart.

    There are several things we can do to make it easier on the reader, of course. For example, all my Pearseus books have a map with the cities and places that have been revealed so far, plus any new ones. Also, I have a character list at the beginning (and in “X-ray,” if reading on a Kindle), with a two-sentence description of who that person is. Another good idea is to offer a quick reminder each time a minor character first appears. For example, you can say something along the lines of:

    “Parad walked into the room. He spotted Angel, his daughter, and smiled.”
    This helps people who may have forgotten who Angel is.

    Yet another trick I use is to give names to as few people as possible. For example, a minor character may be safely referred to by their property or occupation. Readers don’t need to know the name of every healer that tends a hero’s wounds or every blacksmith that sharpens his weapons.

    Finally, the best thing to do is to make sure each book can stand on its own. That means no cliffhangers and no obscure references—at least not without a reminder.

    Sadly, this is not always possible. Mad Water, the third book in the series, ends on a cliffhanger because the subplots raised there are not resolved for another 400 pages. So I could either have an 800-page-long book or two 400-page ones, the first of which ends on a cliffhanger.

    Obviously, I chose the latter, which brings me back to readers’ patience. 🙂

    CLICK FOR AMAZON SITE Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

    Cover Art by Jason Pedersen

    Charles Yallowitz‘s Information

    Blog: www.legendsofwindemere.com
    Twitter: https://twitter.com/cyallowitz
    Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Charles-E-Yallowitz/e/B00AX1MSQA/
    Website: www.charleseyallowitz.com
    Jason Pedersen, Legends of Windemere‘s Cover Artist: http://www.jasonpedersen.com/

    Nicholas Rossis‘ Information

    Nicholas Rossis
    Blog:http://nicholasrossis.me/ .
    Amazon Author Page: http://www.amazon.com/Nicholas-C.-Rossis/e/B00FXXIBZA/
    Goodreads: Pearseus: Schism can be read for free on Goodreads.
    Twitter: www.twitter.com/Nicholas_Rossis
    Google+: https://plus.google.com/+NicholasRossis
    Facebook: www.facebook.com/NicholasCRossis

    Sally Ember, Ed.D., is the author of the sci-fi/romance/utopian ebooks in The Spanners Series. Volume I, This Changes Everything, is permafree. Volume II, This Changes My Family and My Life Forever, is usually $3.99. Look for Volumes III and IV in 2015.
    All reviews, info, excerpts, links: http://www.sallyember.com/Spanners