The Sum Total of …

I’d planned to spend the entire day devoted to writing. After numerous interruptions, most of them more stressful than I’d care to relate, and a lovely evening chat with my smarter half, I finally got down to “business” around 8:30 PM. But the Washington Wizards and Miami Heat were each playing (and winning) and there…

The November Project

I’m torn. Some of you may have heard of NaNoWriMo, the National Novel Writing Month. It runs for 30 days in November of each year. Well, I’ve done it a few times, and it’s no big deal at this point. In fact, it’s a little asinine in that the objective is to write a 50,000-word…

When the Characters Whisper

What does one do when the characters no longer want to obey? Are we their gods, or merely their scribes, sketching their stories as they see fit? I have been master of my universes, but these three stragglers no longer follow my script. I have attempted to keep to my mystery, hoping for happy endings….

Overthinking and Underthinking in Plotting

I often see writers debate about which is preferable, “plotting” or “pantsing.” Plotting refers to diligently lay out your story’s plot before writing in earnest, using outlining or some similar method. True plotters may create outlines so detailed that they are actually incorporated into the work during the writing phase. Evan Marshall, author of The…

One More Weird Idea

I’ve had people ask me from whence come my stories. … Okay, my dad asked me that once. Still, he was quite insistent: “Where on Earth do you get the ideas you need to write an entire book?” That’s actually a good question. I previously wrote about the Event Wheel, which is a device that…

The Next Book, Day 1

They whisper to me, you know. Like auditory hallucinations, I can hear their breathing, inside my ear, their breathy words, their admonitions. Although they speak mostly gibberish, as if I were dreaming, it is their emotional content I recognize. She wants out, does Jeanne Dark. I begin to see the colors of her graphemes, and…

Seeing the Future via Event Wheels

I was watching a poorly done movie about a viral outbreak today – I don’t even remember the title, though it ended twenty minutes ago – and as my mind wandered, I started thinking about strategic planning. Wait, that’s not as weird as you think. When I finished graduate school, I went to work for…

Getting Dark

My next book, which I will start plotting this month, stars a female Security Analyst – a female Sherlock Holmes type – who is gifted with Synesthesia. Her partner is a burly, ex-Army Ranger with what he calls a “Crazy Magnet.” Together, they stumble across a plot that threatens to unravel the uneasy thread of…

Outlining Short (or longer) Works

  Getting  organized can really blow. Typically, I don’t outline short stories. That isn’t because I don’t think I need them. Frankly, I think any story can benefit from a bit of outlining. Rather, I use short stories as stretching exercises; since I am by nature organized, I use shorter pieces to expand my extemporaneous…

Good Starts Make Good Finishes

Starting – that is the hard part, is it not? We must begin – in writing, at work, in life. Each of us has our own way of doing things, and few of us who are even moderately successful need coaching on how to begin on those good days. You know the ones – the…

A Very Small Matter of Outlining

Now, I already know what you’re saying, Alica McKenna-Johnson. “I already told you, I’m a total pantser.” Yeah, yeah. Oh great, now the rest of you are nodding. (sigh) So there you are, happily kicking the story along by the seat of its … pants. You don’t want to stop and outline, because the words…

Plots or Pants?

I have seen a great deal of online discussion regarding whether or not one should plot. I have largely been on the sidelines of the debate, as to me, this is another “is the glass half-empty or half-full?” argument. (Neither, your glass is the wrong size for your content.) There are two schools in this…