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

    Dilemmas while #meditating on being human

    During each of the current days I am #meditating during this mini-#Buddhist, at-home #retreat, I #contemplate what it means to be human. I examine the emotional, physical, interpersonal, mental experiences I am familiar with myself and then I attempt to empathize or at least sympathize with others’ experiences as deeply as possible: the pains and pleasures, sorrows and joys, defeats and successes, fears and hopes, worries and excitements. What motivates every being is clear: each of us wants to be happy.

    However, as I know for myself and observe in others, we often are extremely inept, even self-sabotaging in our attempts to achieve happiness. Furthermore, this happiness is only ever temporary. Impermanence is a fact of existence.

    Spending so much time and focusing so such keen attention on humanness intensifies my recognition of these failed attempts on my own part and for others. Also, I become more acutely conscious of my failures to acquire even a bit more comfort.

    At the pool, I have my “favorite” swimming lanes. These are the ones I prefer because of their proximity to the inflow jets, which act like those in a hot tub. The pressure from this inflow eases the tightness in my back when I hang in front of it. Or, these are the ones I like because they’re closer to the ropes and have more room around the “lane” (this pool, for unknown reasons, does not rope off lanes, only sections). Or, I like this or that lane because, when I do the backstroke, the line on the ceiling’s architecture exactly matches the line I am supposed to follow that represents my lane (which is faintly painted on the pool’s floor), so I have a fighting chance to stay in my own lane (appreciated by all).

    Seems so silly, so trivial, so selfish and absurd when I lay it out like this. Yet, as I enter the pool building every morning, I feel a tightness in my chest and my breathing increases, signaling anxiety. Worried questions hum beneath the surface of my thinking: “Will I get a ‘good’ lane?” “Will I get a lane at all?” “Will the people in adjacent lanes bump into me?” Luckily, swimmers can pre-select our lanes as soon as we arrive, before we get into our suits. My anxiety is relieved as soon as my lane is chosen.

    I am told the policy is to choose the lane I want and show my choice by placing an item on the floor above it, signaling that this lane is taken. Then, I go change and return to my “saved” lane and get in to swim.

    This system works well enough, usually. When I get into the pool area, I choose a “good” lane, which is empty. I put a kickboard down and go to change. But, yesterday I approached my saved lane and saw that someone else was swimming in it. I waited until she was at the wall and I tapped her: “Excuse me,” I said, “You’re in the lane I saved.”

    “Oh, no,” she replies. “There was no one here when I got here.”

    I pointed to the blue kickboard on the floor in front of the lane and say, “This is my kickboard. I put it here a minute ago and went to change.”

    She looks at the kickboard and up at me and says, “You’re supposed to put something else on the kickboard. How do I know that it’s really saved and not just abandoned by the previous swimmer?”

    I look at her, dumbfounded, feeling my anger and irritation rising. This stupid, selfish woman is ruining my swim and my swimming time is elapsing as I stand here and discuss her mistake with her. I am also laughing at myself, inside, and pitying her. But, I am mostly fuming. “I don’t have anything else to put there. Just me.”

    “You could have have put your goggles down,” she says.

    “Look,” I say. “You made a mistake. Please just find another lane.”

    “You could find another lane,” she points out.

    “I could,” I say, “but this is the lane I saved and you didn’t. So, please move.” Now, I feel as if we’re in grade school arguing over who got here first. I feel ridiculous, but this is the lane I like, remember? I really prefer it.

    “Oh, fine,” she says, irritably. She moves to an adjacent lane and swims off in a huff (I didn’t know that was possible, but she did it).

    I get in the pool, hang in front of the jet which is now “mine” and feel horrible. Terrible. Anxious, embarrassed, selfish, tight, ridiculous. What kind of a Buddhist am I? A shitty one, obviously. Completely self-absorbed. Small-minded. A failure. Am I happy now, in my favorite lane? Of course not. I feel bad.

    I want to apologize. I want to give it back to her. Even that seems silly. I just swim, meditating on humanness and foibles, mine especially, as I swim.

    Eventually, I get into the rhythm of it and calm down. I look over and notice she’s gone already. She probably only swims 20 minutes to my 45 and I could have just waited.

    Feeling even more ridiculous and small, I continue my swim. I attempt to offer myself compassion, tenderness, amusement. My attempts are mostly failures.

    Few choose the Tibetan #Buddhist or other culture’s #Vajrayana path, even though it makes it possible for practitioners to attain long-lasting, many lifetimes’ happiness in one lifetime. Why? Because we practitioners become unflinching observers of our own minds and behaviors. We commit to, we must continue facing ourselves every day, all day (and all night), in every situation, not just while “formally” meditating. It’s frightening, or at least humbling, to notice day after day what I have not achieved after meditating on this path since 1996. Sheesh.

    I have a long way to go in my practice. Good to know. I plan to keep going. And, keep swimming.

    #Meditation: it’s not for wimps.