The Plot Diagram or Book Map is a graphic tool can be used to visualize key features of a chapter or an entire story. It helps identify areas that need additional work so that the entire piece is cohesive.
Below are several humorous videos explaining how to use a Plot Pyramid. At the bottom of the post is a FREE PDF download of Freytag’s Pyramid.
Note: Color code the diagrams by character so that in addition to seeing the rising and falling action of each chapter, you will also see the balance of your character points of view throughout your book.
Parts of the Pyramid
Inciting Incident – something occurs to start the conflict.
Rising Action – building tension.
Climax – the peak of the scene/story.
Falling Action – events that happen after the climax.
‘New’ ideas are built on top of what already exists.
Artists, authors, designers, and engineers may look like they are alone when they are working, but every creative knows that the things they produce are aggregates— with their own personal flair mixed in.
Like the famous Sagrada Familia it has taken five generations of builders to bring Antoni Gaudi’s grand vision to light.
In the internet age, creatives turn to the worldwide web for inspiration— be it for photography, soundtracks or clip art.
Too many people believe that everything online is free. It’s not.
If you use media without proper licensing or permission, you could face a copyright infringement lawsuit, or get flagged on YouTube for improper use.
As a creative, it is important to understand how copyright works, what is protected, and when something is available for free use.
Copyright laws, in general, protect a creation from being copied for the life of the artist, plus 70 years. After that, the piece enters the Public Domain. (SBTEA)
Public Domain works are 100% free for private and commercial use and do not require attribution.
Lawrence Lessig’s lectures and books help artists safely navigate the muddy waters of fair use. He is largely responsible for establishing an ever-growing community of photographers, artists, illustrators, videographers and musicians who support creativity by contributing current work to the Public Domain.
Writing a News Release (aka Press Release) is easy when you know the formula. It is a standard format that makes the job of the journalist efficient.
Authors can use News Releases to announce new titles, events, or highlight aspects of their work in progress.
The ‘trick’ to having your News Release picked up by media is filling in the blanks with interesting and mistake-free content. (The chances of your News Release being published are greater with local publications. If you’ve set your sites on national or world news coverage, a professional publicist is well worth his / her fee.)
Each element of the News Release, and where it belongs, is highlighted with purple arrows below. (Sample text is from a News Release for CyberPatriot team recruiting.)
At the bottom of this post, is a FREE PDF download of the 6 Elements of a News Release and links to additional Author Media Kit articles.
CyberPatriot is a National Youth Education Program. It was created by the Air Force Association to “inspire students toward careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.”
CyberPatriot sponsors include Northrop Grumman Foundation, AT&T, Cisco, Microsoft, Norton, and Facebook. If teams advance high enough, they qualify for all expenses paid trips to Baltimore, MD for the National Finals Competition and for scholarships.
Recruiting for new teams begins in April. If you are interested in becoming a CyberPatriot Volunteer Mentor for your group or school, visit the CyberPatriot website for outreach materials.
The program also offers elementary school education and summer camps as well as the NYCDC program.
“If you want to be serious about writing, treat it like a business,” says Jordan Fisher Smith, a conference keynote speaker.
Joyce Wycoff, a event board member, says that when a writer attends a conference, “You are showing up for your writing.”
A writing conference is a place to;
hone your craft
make connections, and
establish an action list
“Agents and publishers often say that writers’ who attend conferences are more serious about their craft and are more likely to succeed,” Wycoff comments.
This year’s conference was on the same day as the Women’s March.
Politics was not discussed, but keynote speakers recognized the passion that the marchers expressed.
“A writer is not outside of what is going on,” said Molly Fisk. “People recognize themselves in our writing.”
“Being a writer opens a door,” she continues. “It is permission to think.”
“Art happens when people get together to share their struggles,” Jordan Fisher Smith, commented. “You write because you are called to it.”
Following my current interests, I attended Marketing and Publishing and Guided Critique break-out sessions.
Catharine Bramkamp, a writing coach and social media expert discussed a variety of platforms, member demographics, and analytics. “Know where to spend your time on social media. Be aware of the results that you want to achieve. Keep yourself from getting sucked in, but do enough to have a presence online.”
Bob Jenkins, is a professional storyteller with a PhD in criticism. “Criticism is theanalysis of art; what works and why it works, as well as what doesn’t work and how to fix it,” he explains.
Jenkins delighted his listeners, and the brave souls who pre-submitted writing samples, with dramatic readings of their work. His suggested improvements were striking and gratefully received.
In this first article of the Creating an Electronic Media Kit for Authors series, we’ll talk about the purpose of a media kit and provide a list of questions that you can use to get started making a Question and Answer sheet for your kit.
A media kit — aka. press room, media or promotion packet— is a collection of items that make it easy for someone from the media to do their job. In this case, that job is to write about you and your book. It’s like chefs on TV or YouTube teaching how to make a recipe. By the time they are filming, they’ve already got every item on the ingredient list premeasured and ready-to-to.
Press kits are everything that a media person needs (in resume quality) right at their fingertips. Who might want access to your press kit? Book reviewers, bloggers, literary agents, publishing houses, newspaper or magazine journalists, podcasters, talk show and radio producers or YouTubers… anyone who is a content creator.
Press kits are also dynamic; they change and grow with you and your career. Start with one piece and add to your kit as your awards, accomplishments, and media coverage grows.
Below is a list of 100 unusual questions, categorized, for you to pick and choose from to create a Question and Answer Sheet for your media kit. The purpose of the question and answer sheet is to provide enough information so that a reporter could write a complete piece about you, using direct quotes.
At the end of the post, you’ll find a downloadable PDF of the 100 questions, links to websites with more questions, and a link to my Author Question & Answer Sheet for an example of a completed press kit item.
Around the house – bare feet, flip flops, clogs, fuzzy socks or slippers?
Do you make your bed in the morning or leave it in a rumple?
Do you kill bugs or leave them alone?
Are you a morning person or a night person?
Describe a time when you felt like you were being watched.
What is in the backseat or trunk of your car right now?
If you could eliminate one task from your daily schedule, what would it be?
Name something you dislike doing so much that you’ll pay someone else to do it.
What internet site do you visit the most?
What is your favorite social media site and why?
What is your ideal pet and why?
You’re about to be dropped in a remote spot for a three-week survival test. Where would you go? What three tools would you take?
You are a member of the tourist board for your town where. Name five things to do that would appeal to visitors.
Do you play a musical instrument?
If I looked in your refrigerator right now, what would I find?
What is the craziest thing you’ve done in your life?
Describe a strange habit.
When was the last time you were in a situation that was difficult to get out of? What did you do?
Name some of the things that have the strongest distraction pulls.
What do you do for exercise?
What do you eat for breakfast most of the time?
You’ve won a second home anywhere in the world. Where is it?
Name something you’d like to get rid of but keep putting off.
Tastes / Preferences
What is your favorite love story?
Describe a special or meaningful object that you have in your house.
If you could visit the past or future, which one would you choose? Why?
You can go out to dinner at any restaurant, which one do you choose?
Do you have a coffee shop that you frequent? Why do you go there?
What are your three favorite animals?
What is your favorite spectator sport?
What is your favorite sport to play?
Which holiday is most relaxing and fun?
Pen, pencil or…?
TV, Movies or Binge watching?
It’s a special celebration date. Would you rather go to dinner and a movie out or stay home?
What is your favorite drink?
Name and describe a living person that you most admire.
You’ve just won an office make-over. What color do you choose for your workspace?
Where was a place you’ve visited on vacation that you’d go back to tomorrow?
What type of coffee do you order most often?
Do you have a favorite brand of tea?
If you had to choose an animal to represent you as an avatar, mascot or spirit totem, which animal would it be?
What makes you run screaming?
If someone gave you a boat, what would you name it?
Describe a personality trait of someone in your family.
If your life was a movie, would it be a drama, comedy, action/adventure, or science fiction?
Are you a summer, fall, winter, or spring person?
You are about to get a tattoo. Where will it go and what will be the design?
Name something that makes you uncomfortable or anxious.
You’re about to live through a natural disaster or other traumatic experience. What kind of disaster or experience is it?
Think about punctuation marks. Which one would you pick to describe your personality and why?
One being the highest and ten being the lowest, rate your happiness level right now.
If you were a salad dressing, what kind would you be?
What is the most important part of a sandwich?
If you were a car, what make and model would you be?
You are a teacher for a day. What is your subject and who are your students?
Tell the story about one of your scars.
Sing in the rain, dance in the streets, hum in the shower or…?
Describe your handwriting.
You are the guest of honor at a large event. When you arrive, the room is already full. How do they react when you come in?
Describe your first crush.
What qualities do you most admire in your friends?
If you were an animal in a zoo, which animal would you be?
Name something that makes you cry.
What types of situations make you angry?
What strikes your funny bone?
Wishes / Thoughts / Dreams
What is the best thing you’ve accomplished in life so far?
Does Prince Charming or the Fairy Godmother exist?
You’re about to get a superpower. What is it and why do you want it?
Name three things that you think will be obsolete in ten years.
If you could be invisible for a day, what would you do?
You’ve just been bitten by a vampire / werewolf / zombie / charmed snake. What do you do next?
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
You remain perfectly healthy and have unlimited financial resources but you only have the next six months to live, what do you do?
You just won twenty million in a state lottery, what is the first thing you do?
What adventures are on your bucket list?
Which talent would you most like to have?
You’ve just been elected President, what is the first problem you plan to solve?
List something you’d like to accomplish before you die.
How old were you when you first started writing?
If you had to describe an author platform in three sentences to a six-year-old, how would describe it?
What year did you complete your first book?
If you could do a book over again, what would you do differently with the story arc, plot, characters, scenes, production or marketing?
What was your favorite scene or character to write?
Have you re-edited and re-released any titles?
Is there a time frame or subject area that you’d like to work with?
Have you traveled to research writing projects? Where to?
After you’ve spent a long time cranking out pages, do you feel energized or exhausted?
In what situations, do you grow tired of reading?
Describe some of your author friends. How do they help improve your writing skills?
After you published a book or two, how has your writing process changed?
What was the best financial investment you made as an author?
What is your definition of being a successful author?
Describe your research process.
What time periods of life do you find yourself writing about the most? (childhood, teen, adult, elder)
What books, articles, or authors influenced you the most or made you think differently?
Do you hide any secrets in your writing that only a few people know about?
What are the most difficult types of scenes to write?
If you could live as one of your characters for a day, which one would it be?
With online search tools and DNA testing, tracing family tree genealogy is easier than ever. What’s a writer to do when a famous or (infamous) skeleton is found lurking in the closet? Write about it, of course!
Canadian author Debbie McClure is known and loved for her paranormal romance books. Louise Rasmussen (Countess Danner from Denmark) has been part of Debbie’s oral family history for as long as she remembers. This year, she published The King’s Consort: The Louise Rasmussen Story.
I asked Debbie if she’d share her process for bringing biographical fiction to life.
“Historical fiction is meant to engage, entertain,
and perhaps even educate the reader
regarding people of history who
intrigue and inspire us.”
~ Debbie McClure
When did you first become interested in Louise Rasmussen?
I was a teenager when my mother told me a remarkable (true) love story about a woman who we might be related to.
Louise Rasmussen, was born in Denmark in 1815. She was the illegitimate daughter of a seamstress. Louise rose to become a ballerina, then married King Frederik VII.
Her story captured and held my
interest for forty years.
How did you know that you were ready to write this book? What were the first steps?
When I was a new writer, that seemed like a huge, insurmountable task, so I wrote two other books first to gain some much needed experience and shore up some confidence. Paranormal romances were fun to write, and during that process I learned how to research the past and weave myriad details into a cohesive story.
By the time I announced my decision to write Louise’s story, my mother was well into her seventies. I asked her whether or not she believed her aunt’s claim that we may be related to Countess Danner. She admitted she really wasn’t sure, but thought it may be true, since her aunt had no reason to say such a thing if it wasn’t.
There had also been talk of some sort of written evidence of that relation in a family bible or genealogical tree. Unfortunately, much of the details about distant family relations had been lost by then. I then asked my mother to write out the names, dates of birth and deaths, to the best of her knowledge, of her father, grandfather, etc.
In going through old photos, my mother came across an old newspaper article about my great-grandfather in Denmark. That article provided some extremely useful information on who he was, his birth and death, and also information on his parents, so this was a wonderful find.
I also contacted a cousin in Denmark who is extremely interested in genealogy and history, and asked her to help. Using the internet and on-line documentation, we were able to trace our lineage back a couple of generations, but that was as far as we got.
I will admit that by that time, the idea of writing Louise’s story became more important than tracing my family’s heritage, so I let that one simmer for a while, knowing I would pick it up later.
Would you take us through your research process?
To begin writing the story, I researched everything I could find on Louise, King Frederik, and her ex-lover/lifetime friend, Carl Berling, and the people they shared their lives with.
I maintained an outline and profile on my computer for each and every person I included in the story, including details about hair and eye color. I also created a separate time-line for events, both historical and political, or events relating to each character’s personal history.
As I often explain to new writers who attend my workshops, outlines are great references when writing anything from fiction to non-fiction. It allows the writer to dip in and add or delete details as needed, or to check in to ensure the story is following the designated time lines and story arc.
I use folders in Word on my computer, but hard copies in real file folders works equally as well. The truth is, whatever works for the writer is just fine. I typically do mine in point form, for ease of reading, adding or deleting points, but again, whatever works. I know some writers who use story boards and photos, but I’m not as familiar with this, so can’t really comment. Whenever I come across a picture or profile I’m interested in, I save it to my computer for easy reference later. Keep in mind that later can be months or years later, depending on the scope of the project.
These are my vision cues, and I reference them often when trying to describe a person, place, or scene in a novel.
My research confirmed that the history books paint Louise much as my mother described. This lady wasn’t well liked. She was considered a crass, avaricious gold-digger. She was ostracized by the aristocracy, laughed at, and publicly ridiculed.
Undeterred, I dug deeper, convinced there was more to this woman than history reported.
Early in Louise’s life, she had a very public affair with the well-known heir to one of Denmark’s most prestigious newspapers, Berlingskes Politiske og Avertissements Tidende (Berlingske Tidende 1936-Present). She gave birth to Berling’s illegitimate child, but was forced to give her infant son up for adoption or risk social and economic disaster. Her heart must have broken, but I believe she did so hoping to give him a better chance at life than she thought she could provide as a young ballet dancer.
After King Frederik VII died, Louise, now the titled Countess Danner, turned part of the home they loved and shared at Jaegerspris Castle, just outside Copenhagen, into a museum to honor him. She also opened part of it to the “poor servant women and children of Denmark.”
Now this was a woman who could have done anything she wanted with the money and home she received at the king’s passing. She didn’t have to give anything back to anyone, but she did. In fact, she dedicated the rest of her life to getting “Danner House” (Dannerhuset), as it is commonly called, up and running.
Something didn’t add up. Did gold-diggers really give back to others so unselfishly?
Research begins to tell its own story. The writer is simply along for the ride. Clues are followed and hypotheses are formed.
So, I continued to dig, and to form my own vision of who Louise was, based on the fact that by all accounts, King Frederik VII absolutely adored her. He was a remarkable man in his own right, and fought for the rights of the people of Denmark, abolished absolute monarchy, and apparently valued and sought Louise’s opinion on many political matters.
After fact gathering and history time-line making, how did you fill in the emotional blanks?
With historical fiction, we can never know exactly who said what to whom, or when. We can’t possibly know what people thought, or how certain events affected them on a personal level, but we can put ourselves into the shoes of those who lived many years ago and imagine.
Historical fiction, or creative non-fiction, if you prefer, does just that. It weaves a fictional story around facts, people, and places that actually existed. It isn’t meant to be a history text book, or even be clinically factual.
“Louise was an incredible woman who learned to follow her own instincts. She gained my admiration and remains an inspiration to woman today who refuse to give up, who rise to the challenges they face in their lives, and who choose to do what’s right over what’s easy,” says Debbie.
Are you planning to return to your family genealogy research?
Now that I’m past the first flush of excitement of publication, I’ve begun working with my mother and family in Denmark again to delve into the truth of our heritage as it pertains to Louise Rasmussen, Countess Danner.
I also recently learned that Louise and Frederik may well have had a female child of their own. Being a girl, this child posed a serious threat to the security of Denmark at the time, and was ostensibly exiled at birth.
If this is in fact the truth, again, how devastating for both Louise and King Frederik.
Historical research can be like hunting for four leaf clovers.
It takes patience, tenacity, thoroughness, and organization. When answers are found and discoveries are made, additional leads can point down endless roads. An outline will help an author decide when enough research is enough.
Then there’s noting left to do but get down the business of writing…breathing life into the story that you’re about to tell.
Danner Legacy Continues
Travelers to Denmark can still walk in the footsteps left by Countess Danner and her King.
Use Voice to Text and Speech to Text programs to increase your writing efficiency and accuracy.
Step 1. Set Your Smartphone up to take Dictation.
Talk to your smartphone anywhere and have it type for you.
*Note: You must have a Google account set-up before beginning this tutorial.
Step 2. Move your Google Docs Text into your Word Processing Document.
Step 3. Edit your Document by Listening to It.
Listening and reading involve different parts of the brain. By converting your writing (or manuscript) into an audio form, you’ll catch different mistakes than you would if you edited it by reading alone.
*For manuscript editing and book processing, I recommend multiple editorial rounds that focus on different aspects. In this instance, I would do the reading edit first then follow it with a listening edit.
In the video below, I show how to set up the Narrator app. in Windows 10, so that it will read your manuscript to you.