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

    The Anguish of Posting a 2-Star Review of a Colleague’s Book

    As an #Indie #Author, I am keenly sensitive to the ways we are each other’s main support. We have no publishing house, no “team” dedicated to our book unless we gather that team ourselves and pay them individually. Because of this, I have made it a point to join groups on Facebook, Google+ and elsewhere in the blogosphere of fellow indie authors, bloggers and reviewers in order to support one another and be part of a “team.”

    Some of these teams are better than others, and I have left a couple of them already (in less than a few months of membership) due to a lack of the very support I joined to acquire. However, some are excellent. #RaveReviewsBookClub is one of those. Its founder, president and fellow author, Nonnie Jules, and the team she has gathered to moderate and administrate the site and its activities (which are many!) are top-notch.


    President – @nonniejules

    V. President & Mentor Program Director – @bruceaborders

    Secretary & Blog Tour Host Co-Ordinator – @mlh42812

    Membership Director – @kathrynctreat

    PR/Marketing Director – @DanicaCornell

    Newsletter Co-Ordinator – @sharrislaughter

    Reviews Co-Ordinator – @voiceofindie

    “SPOTLIGHT” Author Consultant – @TeriGarringer

    I highly recommend joining this FREE group if you are an indie author wanting to get and provide reviews and other types of support: Nonnie’s own site (which leads to the RRBC site) is: http://ravereviewsbynonniejules.wordpress.com/

    I belong to several other great Facebook groups: Clean Indie Reads, Amazon Author Support, Female Writers, Science-Fiction Romance Brigade, Gutsy Indie Publishers, eNovel Authors at Work, and more. Many have their own blog or websites and activities beyond Facebook cross-postings and support.

    On Google+, I have recently joined several groups that I appreciate. Except for #BookMarketingTools, which provides biweekly Google On Air tools and info shows called “The Author Hangout,” hosted by Shawn Manahar (@ShawnManaher), I am not yet “known” or know many members since I’m not very active, yet.

    I am “in” many groups on Goodreads and LinkedIn, but mostly as a reader or sometimes visiting poster/”liker”. Not active, often, as an author, yet. Very much appreciate the tips, tools, ideas and support these offer, regardless of how often I visit, comment or post.

    All this is by way of saying: I am anguished to have to post a low rating and poor review of a fellow club member’s indie book. But, I just did. I had to. I do not do many reviews mostly because I am usually writing, marketing and job hunting or working as a consultant: in short, too busy. But,a requirement of joining some groups is to do reviews occasionally.

    So, I recently chose a book from the options provided that I thought I’d like and began to read. You can see the results, below.

    BTW: When I knew I wasn’t going to be able to give the book a positive review, I reached out to the club moderator, who was very helpful and supportive of my honesty and professional opinions. I also reached out directly to the author. I told her my dilemma and offered her some minimal feedback and also to provide more. She responded and thanked me, but declined.

    Since we couldn’t communicate privately, I put my feedback into this review. I sincerely hope my comments and questions inform the author so that, when she is ready to hire an editor and a proofreader for her next book, some new team members could be hired who are better than this book had.

    Review of C.E. Wolff‘s Common Denominator

    Disappointing: unrealistic and 2-D characters, horrible story arc, unbelievable plot points, poorly proofread /unevenly edited

    Common Denominator cover

    I rarely give bad reviews and hesitate to post this one. I wanted to like this book. I was pulled in, at first. Somewhat interesting story, main characters, situations. Despite some proofreading errors, I continued. Wanted to give a new author the benefit of the doubt.

    Then, the number of mistakes became ridiculous. Simple things, but signs of amateurish teamwork that are very frustrating and give indie pubs a bad name. Examples: confusions between “their” and “they’re,” “your” and “you’re,” other spelling and grammar mistakes and overall sentence structure. These all fell short of good publishing standards by a lot. Whatever this author paid the proofreader, it was too much. She should get a refund.

    Not wanting to give up because I had made a commitment to review this book, I continued. Parts of the story line and the two main characters showed some promise. However, every one of the secondary characters was a stereotype, without exception. They were 2-dimensionally and boringly depicted or came across as numbingly inconsistent. Each character was an insult to some group: women, men, British citizens, gays, mothers and criminals of all kinds. “Bimbo”? Really? Calling her own sister a “wench”? Harping on age differences between lovers, then going along with it: which is it?

    Why are the criminals all “sinister” with zero back stories? Why does the main antagonist have no obvious motivation? We learn more about her taste in clothes and plastic surgery than we ever do about what makes her do what she does.

    The main plot, a supposed thirty-year “love” story, is flat-out ridiculous.Maybe if these characters were in their mid-twenties, we could believe they didn’t yet acknowledge/know their true feelings for each other, having been childhood friends, blah blah blah. But, they’re hovering around and over 40, have stayed “best friends” all their lives, and work together every day. Meanwhile, they continually trash each others’ dates/lovers. Unless they have recurring amnesia or personality disorders, the concept is absurd.

    The female main character’s obsession with her appearance, physical attributes, clothing and underwear, even in the middle of public places, might have been funny if it weren’t so dysfunctional and unbelievable. What 39-year-old professional, educated woman, the VP of a large corporation, doesn’t know how to dress and conduct herself in public?

    And, what 42-year-old male behaves sexually as if he’s seventeen? i could just be out of touch, I suppose. A president of a successful corporation who has remained unmarried and not become a parent obviously has issues.

    This begs the question: what do these two see in each other? They’re each a mess. Are they supposed to be anti-heroes? Success.

    Whatever she paid the editor: also too much. There is a horrible amount of repetition: I swear, the main character and her sister have the exact same conversations, about two basic topics, more than three times. So do the two main characters. Why? Does this book’s editor not know how to tell an author to CUT and when to insert new material?

    The subplots are so thin as to be pulled directly from someone else’s novels and plopped into this one. Not even worth recounting. Cliche after cliche abounds without even one redeeming original moment. Could have phoned it all in.

    I stuck it out to the end, hoping she would redeem it, and then POOF: it just stops. No actual ending, no resolution worth discussing.

    Up until the non-ending, i was willing to give it three stars for effort and blame most of the problems on her “helpers,” but I just can’t. Two stars. Readers: not worth your time.

    I was not paid to review nor did I get the book for free.

    P.S. I posted the review on Goodreads and Amazon about two days prior to posting this entry on my blog. On the night of the second day the review appeared, I received this notice: “Fred liked your review of Common Denominator on Goodreads!” This book is also receiving a lot of 5-Star reviews. So it goes!