My Layered Writing Technique

We all have our own version of writing and editing. I tend to write and edit in layers, simply termed the layering technique. My work schedule forces me to limit my writing and editing time to nights and weekends and/or holidays. I have to be intentional with my time. For this reason, I trained myself to write in layers and lists.

I write a skeleton draft, layer up, then make lists of what else I need to do, change, and edit. In many ways, I will pants my skeleton and plot my flesh. Basically, I know WHAT I want to write and the premise of the story, but in order to build it up with depth and twists and details, I will need to better organize the structure.

christa-dodoo-485704-unsplash
Photo by Christa Dodoo on Unsplash

Here’s my step-by-step method:

Step 1: When I draft, I write a skeleton draft, just to get the entire story out of my head. Sometimes I know the beginning and the end, but not the middle. And at all times, I’m drafting with chunky holes. I try not to linger around these holes for too long because it will bog me down in my drafting. Instead, my drafts will have bolded reminders such as:

  • DIALOGUE – CHARACTERS TALK ABOUT SOMETHING SIGNIFICANT
  • SETTING – DESCRIBE WHATS AROUND
  • ACTION – SOMEONE DIES HERE
  • FAILURE – CHARACTER DOES SOMETHING TO MESS UP
  • HOOK – FIGURE OUT A BETTER CHAPTER HOOK
  • GROWTH – CHARACTER CHANGES SOMEHOW
  • SENSES – DESCRIBE ONE OR MORE OF 5 SENSES
  • MORE – NEED MORE HERE DUNNO WHAT

I try to be nice, but sometimes I scold myself in my own edits and comments. It’s okay, I usually forgive myself later when I get the writing the way I want it.

Step 2: I create a spreadsheet outline per chapter and organize major scenes on notecards. This is my version of plotting. I have combined the story structure with the character growth arc along with the chapter by chapter plot points. I am a big picture sort of person and need to see everything in one place. You can download a template of my spreadsheet and maybe you will find it helpful in your writing process. Manuscript Chapter Outline Template.

Here are some helpful resources for the character’s journey and the plot structure:

Hero’s Journey

Writers Helping Writers Printable Writing Tools

Step 3: Next, I will do another drafting pass to fill in the holes and expand the setting, the atmosphere, the characters, etc. My goal is to get rid of those bolded holes I listed in Step 1.

Step 4: Send to a Critique Partner and take a break. I spend this time away from the story. Maybe I jot down notes here and there, but mostly, I want another set of eyes in the early stages to help me with the direction of my story.

Step 5: Once I hear back from my CP, there’s more revisions, structuring, and eliminating crutch/filter words. Here’s a list of typical Crutch Words.

Step 6: I send out my story to a first round of beta readers and repeat Step 5, then repeat Step 6, before moving on to the querying stage.

Honestly, I never feel like my manuscript is done and I can always improve my story, edit more, and change things. You have to be open to change.

Good luck with your writing and editing endeavors!

Quick note: I write in Google Docs and have not tried Scrivener.

MOTHER WRITERS: 9 bookish things you can do with your kids

Readers become better writers. Your kids deserve this same opportunity. I try to read to my 4-year-old every night while my almost middle-schooler reads for at least 30 minutes every day. However, there is a plethora of bookish activities you can do with your kids.

  1. Read to your kids as often as possible.
  2. Take your kids to the library with you. Get them a library card. I even suggest asking a librarian to give you a ‘tour’ of the library and learning about all the tools available.
  3. Bring your kids with you to other author book signing events. Got a favorite author coming to town? Bring your kids with you for the experience and to witness your excitement too.
  4. Do writing research (road trips) with your kids. Need to visit a historical site or sip coffee at every coffee shop in the city? Take your notebook and ask your kid(s) to do the same. Have them take notes from their perspective. You never know if you can weave it in.
  5. Encourage your kids to write a story of their own. Read it to the family. Short stories are excellent practice when you’re in between novels or books. Give your kid a writing prompt and see where their imagination goes. Maybe even co-author a story.
  6. Ask you kids questions about the books they’re reading. You can ask ‘What’s that book about?’ but also consider deeper questions. You know, the kind that an agent, editor, or family member may ask you about your book. Then reverse it. Have your kids interview you!
  7. Encourage your kids to buy books as gifts for their friends and siblings. I shouldn’t have to say anything more.
  8. Reorganize your bookshelf by color. Everyone else is doing it!
  9. Donate books to the library or the free library box in the neighborhood.
One of our actual book shelves!

What are some other bookish activities you can do with your kids?

MOTHER WRITERS: Morning Larks vs. Night Owls

Finding the TIME to write is an under appreciated treasure for parents. A treasure that is typically unplanned and unscheduled. When we unbury ourselves from the mom life and have our own time, we hope and pray that words come to us.

So when is the best time to write? Morning or night? For most moms, it will be whenever we can squeeze it in. However, it really just depends on your body clock. Everyone is different.

Personally, I’ve discovered that I write better after the sun sets AND when the kids (and husband) are asleep. This leaves less risk for interruptions. I transform myself into a night owl in order to find this time to write and revise.

Some nights are better than others. (side note: find yourself other writer night owls to join you in a writing sprint to boost yourself). Someone gave me a piece of advice: nap when your kids nap. I’ll say it again. Nap when your kids nap. Yeah, I know you want to get caught up on household chores, but day napping fueled my energy for writing late at night.

Night owls and morning larks have different brain structures. In a study, researchers at the University of Barcelona, Spain, compared “morning people,” those early birds who like to get up at dawn, and “evening people,” night owls who prefer to stay up late and sleep in. They found that people’s genes play a role in determining their circadian rhythm — the inner clock that regulates sleep and other physiological processes. They also found that it relates something called “social jet lag,” a term used to describe the lack of synchronization which can occur between a person’s biological clock and the society around them. Basically, we develop a behavior pattern to adapt to our social schedules.

With my career background in media and journalism, I never had a regular schedule and my body clock adapted. All those late nights working at the radio station or the newspaper meeting deadlines contributed to my current state of writing. Now with kids, I do get exhausted earlier, so there are times, I need to just go to bed and start fresh the next day.

Don’t wear yourself out. As I mentioned in other posts, take care of yourself.

 

 

 

 

 

MOTHER WRITERS: Uh, what writing space?

As a writer, your creative space is sacred. You may have a space in your home dedicated to display your awesome books and a desk surrounded with all your treasured inspirations. Maybe you have a certain chair or spot on the couch that hugs you back during your writing process. I’ve swooned over incredible posts on social media of such dreamy spaces.

Unfortunately, in my house, there is no sacred space for writing. Let me repeat that and add another word. There is NO sacred or secured space for writing.

Sure, I have an office with a desk and a bookshelf. However, my books magically move on their own with the assistance of little hands. The collection of my treasured inspirations must reside on a high shelf or simply locked away. Other bums sit on my cozy couch. If you’re a mom like me, your writing space migrates based on the state of your home environment.

I have two kids, ages 4 and 11, who challenge me to be a writer EVERY DAY.

Nothing is permanent in my house. We don’t adhere to a daily schedule or bedtime routine because our schedules change. It may be work related or it may be my daughter’s cheer schedule. While we do like to plan the best way possible, we also leave room for interruptions, changes, and flexibility.

I’ve been writing since before my children were born. Things slowed during the younger ages each time. While our family is fluid, there are some tactics to carving out the time to write. I listed a few that may be helpful for others.

Communication: If you’re struggling, no one will know unless you say something. If you have a partner, talk with them about your need and desire to write. Provide them with guidelines and direction to support you. Give them ideas to occupy the kids. Talk with your kids and let them know what you are doing. This is a great lesson on respect. Ask friends and family members to lend a hand.

Portability: Your writing tool must be portable. Whether its a laptop, a phone, a tablet, or a journal, you need to be able to move at a moment’s notice as a mom. Don’t forget to hit save! Side note: I added my inspiration as stickers to my laptop. I’ve seen some moms utilize a tray table too. Whatever works.

Quiet: My house can be busy and noisy. There are times, I just want to scream, ‘Shut up!’ (And maybe I have.) This is the tricky part. Once you establish the first two parts in communication and portability, this quiet time should be scheduled or at least planned in advance. If you come home to the unexpected, but usual chaos, don’t plan to write at that time.

Stealth: Some days I have a burning desire to write and no matter the situation, I’ll find a way to make it work. Sneak in writing ANY TIME you can. For example, I’ve hidden in the bathroom with the doors locked or sat on the front porch. I’ve even ‘run an errand’ and parked at a store, then sat in my car to write. You have to get CREATIVE! If you’re a working mom, write during your lunch break, even if its for 30 minutes. There’s nothing like shoving food into your mouth while allowing crumbs to fall onto your keyboard.

Writing Goals: Set aside some major and minor goals for yourself. If you’re stomach hurts just thinking about daily writing goals, don’t do it. Make your writing goals based on what you know you can accomplish: weekly or monthly. Remember, goals are for YOU and no one else. Stop comparing yourself to others. Deadlines may help. For example, I hope to write another book by my next birthday.

Self-Care: Give yourself a break. You deserve it. Even if you do find the perfect time and space, there are moments when you lost your motivation to write. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Use that moment to refresh yourself. Read a new book. Get a pedicure. Make a cup of hot tea. Take a bath. Go for a walk. Play with your kids.

Being a good mom who’s also a good writer means taking care of yourself too.

 

Would you like to be a guest contributor this blog? Send me an email! jacy@jacysellers.com

 

 

 

Seasonal Book Giveaway: Winter Edition 2018

Happy New Year and welcome to the first Seasonal Book Giveaway (SBG)! This contest will run from January 1-31, 2018. Three (3) winners will be announced via Twitter and Instagram on Feb. 1, 2018. Winners will contacted via DM.

Enter my Rafflecopter below for a chance to win one (1) book of choice from the winter selection posted here.

ENTER HERE—>Winter 2018 SBG Rafflecopter

 

For details on my giveaway, please visit the Seasonal Book Giveaway post.