Outline Time

I’ve always considered outlines to be kind of artificial.

There was this glorious, wondrous idea in my head of what a real writer should be and how they should strive to preserve their vision in its purest form. It sounds like some kind of romantic period ideal when I write it out like that, but I felt that outlines boxed a writer into a set of events that might need to be changed to better fit the story.

They weren’t something bad writers did as much as they were cheating, at least in my mind.

Now without much development on the writing front I’ve started to watch a lot of videos and read a lot about other writer’s methods and Jenna Moreci said something in one of her videos that stuck with me: writer’s that outline should plan their story back to front. Start with the ending and you’ll know what leads to where. If you work on the characters in conjunction with the actual outline there’ll be less chance of you needed to make up stuff on the fly when you’re actually writing and less chance of writer’s block.

My ending is something that’s worried me. I’ve never been good at endings, though when I come up with something it fits so well. Problem is that I go back and edit all over the place to shape the story around it.

How much editing do I do? Well, my last completed novel ended up shedding three whole chapters when I went back and edited. I read three whole chapters and realized that the problem created and solved in the space of thirty double-spaced pages could be dropped with no consequence to the rest of the book.

That’s exactly the kind of thing that an outline would protect against.

The problem becomes how to even do an outline. I have bits of a story written, some of it out of order and all of it related. I need to outline the parts in between and see what still needs to stay. Outlines are something I never learned to do because even in school the teachers realized that I could keep my ideas straight and in order for five to twenty pages, but when we’re talking about two to three hundred pages things get a little harder.

So this is where we are: I have to learn how to construct an outline and plan a concrete ending. I have the idea of an ending, but I need something thematically fitting and something the events around my story build to. If I find that the events I have planned out or written out don’t fit that theme I have to cut them or repurpose them for a later project.

It’s time to get brutal with it and stop letting “I can’t” be an excuse. I would suggest that anyone who hasn’t checked her out, give Jenna Moreci a glance. Also, if you do outline any tips are welcome.


Lost in Translation

I might have lost my first reader because of what I’ve been writing.

If you don’t write there’s this thing that seems to be something that even the most carefree, fearless of writers goes through–somehow, someday you’re going to write something that is going to get you into trouble. Writing has caused an uproar before, for sure. There’s what happened with Dan Brown and the Da Vinci Code or the many people made about the portrayal of sex and just relationships in general in Fifty Shades of Grey.

Notice that both of those books sold very well.

That’s not an invitation to write the worst things that you can, but there’s obviously something to be said about the controversial selling or the shitstorm that brews around a thing actually helping to fuel its ascent.

We could only hope to be that lucky. In my case I passed a story along to a woman who I wouldn’t call a friend quite yet, but there was something budding there. She had asked to see something I was writing and as she actually reads a lot I thought that this could be a common ground for us.

I e-mailed the first chapter to her, because I almost never send out the complete manuscript, expecting to hear back in a couple of days. The idea was that she would read it and make some comment like “that was really cool, I’d read this” or “nah, not really my kind of thing”. In the past I’ve gotten either.

I’ll interject here that one of the things that I read in Stephen King’s On Writing that has always rang true with me was that the writer in us has this desire to find an ideal reader–usually a spouse or friend or family member whose feedback they write for. This person would be the audience you have in mind. Maybe not so much in the sense that they are the type of person that you’re writing for, but more that you write everything to filter through them. The writing process is lonely by necessity, even when you’re writing with a co-author. That first time that you hand someone the printed stacks of paper that are your novel or send out that little file attachment is a big step. Their impression of the thing is your first impression of what anyone else thinks.

And in a way I’m kind of searching for the person to be that. It takes more than just being the first to read a thing; they have to be honest enough and brutal enough to be willing to take a stab at something very personal that has, up until then, been your own little secret creation.

Sure, you learn to get hardened to criticism and to take it as a critic of what’s on the page and not you, but it’s still a part of you. It’s still a very vulnerable give and take relationship.

So when I didn’t hear back, I figured that it was because she didn’t like it and was scared of hurting my feelings. I actually like hearing someone didn’t like it, someone telling me that they loved it doesn’t usually tell me what needs to be fixed.

Something always needs to be fixed.

She and I talked over the next few days about photography and kind of joked around. We came to the point where she was going to meet up with me the other day and then the day of she backed out. And I did what I do when anyone does anything, even a small thing. I over analyzed it.  It really works in my favor some of the time. If there’s a problem that needs a high level of scrutiny I can do that.

The phrase she used was “no contact” and it seemed like a very specific sort of language to use with someone who you had very lighthearted contact with in the first place. Looking back over the conversations we’ve had since I got the iPhone (and looked for an excuse to text anyone I knew had one to see the little blue bubbles) there’s nothing alarming in my language with her. We had breakfast together once a while ago and haven’t seen each other sense, but I wondered what I’d said to get this response.

The old “what did I do that upset you so much” conversation isn’t one I usually have to have. I know what I’ve said, I probably said it on purpose. I was careful this time; I’m usually extra careful because i can get carried away with jokes that are too much for people and topics that shouldn’t be discussed.

Then I realized the only place I hadn’t been careful was my writing. The first chapter of the novel I sent her has some choice words in it and some choice imagery. She actually questioned it when she first started reading the whole thing, but that was the last conversation where we mentioned it. At that point she seemed fine with there being a little adult content. It wasn’t there for no reason, that’s for sure.

I think she read the rest of it either days ago or very recently and had been thinking it over. Is this the kind of person that I want to be friends with? Someone who would write this must be sick or someone who would write this must have a real problem. Authors aren’t the people they write about in their stories, although part of us does go into the process. I’m no more Lissette than I am any other character written by someone who just had the idea. But she’s up here in my head, she came from there and I can pull that personality forth and put it on the page (haven’t been doing it as much lately).

The writing scaring her is all that makes sense to me with the scant information that I have. This isn’t really the first time this has happened, but it is the first time that someone has not wanted to be my friend anymore because of it and it’s sad because she seemed really sweet and I wish her the best.

Does this mean that I stop what I was doing before or change how I have been writing, no. I don’t have direct feedback to know what it was that caused her issue nor do I want to be the kind of person who censors their writing. I’d rather write things better and strive to take offensive subjects in a thought provoking way, rather than hiding from them or appealing to the lowest denominator.

If I’m published someday I hope she sees the book in a store or while scrolling through Amazon and decides to take it look; I hope she gets that what I’m trying to say is clear. I hope she keeps turning the pages and finally gets what I’m trying to say.

Busy Writing

Believe it or not, I still put in time writing a good amount of the week. I’ve even had some semblance of an idea of what this story is shaping up to be about. I know, it’s not the best example when you’ve got the whole thing coming down the pipes and you’re still not sure what it is you’re writing exactly. Needless to say, I’ve had a lot of free time lately. I’ve also noticed that the more free time that I have, the more time I spend not filling it with writing.

When I’m hard at work it seems that writing comes a lot easier because I am constantly busy and thinking about how I need to just get home and work on this writing. I used to find that keeping track of the writing that I was working on and the word count I amassed each day helped me tremendously. These days it doesn’t do so much. I’m jumping back and forth so much and changing issues here and there in the story that it doesn’t really end up being all that easy for me to tell what did change and how many words it too.

It doesn’t really matter. Worrying over word count is great and it feels good when you’re getting those words on the page, but I’ve spent far too long beating myself up over the lack of writing at times when I could have been trying to write or doing something else.

There’s something romanticized about the self loathing of it all, but I don’t think it’s the only way to do this. I think that’s why I am so against the ideas put forth by NANOWRIMO. It seems like something designed to help, but it really seems to encourage people who aren’t used to writing to force themselves to do something that’s not easy and that you have to train yourself to do. And then, even when you’ve done it, you’ve put yourself there on the page to be vulnerable.

Tease: A novel by Amanda Maciel

Hello World.

It’s been a while. I’m still here. Still alive. Still kicking. But I haven’t felt like writing here in a while.

downloadThis novel made me want to write something. Not exactly a review, but something short and that spoke about how it felt to read something like this. To give a short summary of what I read and how I came to read it, well it all started with me deciding that I needed to study up on the bitchy It-Girl stereotype that we see so often in fiction. We see those characters so often, but we rarely get to root for them and I wanted to read something where the female lead was that type.

So like all people with a question I asked Google and and in a lot of the results Tease came up as a huge book this year. The message that the book was trying to get across seemed like a no-brainer. Don’t be a bully. Bullying is bad. We’ve heard it all before.

Then I read the preview pages and I liked the writing so I picked it up. The book is the story of the side-kick of the Junior class’s queen bee. She’s sucked into a whirlwind cult of personality that is Brielle and that drives and influences her life in high school. And the story follows them through two related time periods. The events leading up to the suicide of a classmate that they bullied and the events following it and how it effects their lives from then on out.

It’s not really a soft, cuddly book and there’s nothing pretty about most of the characters. That’s what kind of makes it feel so genuine. Most of us who’ve attended the average American high school have known girls like Brielle and we’ve known the people who get wrapped up in their world. And we’ve known or been the victims. Hell, some of us have been the Brielles. That’s what makes it all kind of powerful. When you’re in high school and everything is new, but at the same time you’re expected to handle it in a more adult way everything feels more serious. There’s seemingly everything on stake and everything matters so much. The world is always falling apart, or so it seems. It’s easy as an adult to look at the problems kids face and shrug them off, because you know how hard it is being an adult.

But that’s kind of the problem. In all that growing up and changing we forget how hard it was being a kid. We forget the sting of first loves and of friendships gone sour and of betrayal and we forget how much all of it mattered. And how it still has an effect on who we are.

This book does an excellent job reminding you.

It’s not always and easy read, but the characters are identifiable. The situationss are familiar but painted in an interest light and the topic is vey relevant to the current times. I read this book to learn more about writing my own characters and trying to find a way to identify with those high school girls that we hated or love to hate. But I think this book so be in classrooms and schools if it’s not already.

It might save lives.

San Antonio Bound

san-antonio-visitor-bureauThis has been something I’ve talked about for a bit now, but I wanted to get closer to the actual day before I put anything online in writing where all could see it. It looks like after seven years of being back in Houston, I’m moving back to San Antonio. There really isn’t that much to say. I’m anxious. Excited. Worried. I think most of all I’m ready for some sort of change in my life. The job last year was a nice, welcome change. But I need something more substantial. Houston’s wearing thin on me. I’ve met good friends here and my family is here, but nothing else seems to be going how it should.

Now if I could just work up the nerve to work on the novel that I basically finished that’s been sitting around in my hard drive.


anime-girl-and-dragon-skeleton-2560x1600-wide-wallpapers.net_I remember thinking that television and movies were enough for me to learn to write. I wanted to conduct my stories based on what these mediums had given me. There’s nothing inherently wrong with movies and TV. Hell, there is some great plotting and awesome characters running around on TV on almost a weekly basis. And movies too, but perhaps with less frequency.

There’s nothing wrong with adapting a few ideas here and there for books. A lot of plot points come from the other stories we’ve experienced throughout our lives. That mixes in with our imagination to create a story. The thing is that we can’t let other things be the sole way that we form stories.

Recently I’ve come across a lot of people writing who seem to have taken all of their cues from anime. Anime isn’t always terrible, but because it depends on different things for story telling than novel writing would it can lead to some bad behaviors being formed. Anime, comics, movies and television are visual mediums and there can be a lot gathered just by examining the frames of the picture as presented to you.

In writing the author is required to weave those details into the story and talking about the flashiness of someone’s clothes or moves can bog down the pacing and wear on the reader if they have to let the action stop for each fluttering coat and flourishing pose.

If you’re describing an outfit and how cool it is, it’s not going to be the same kind of thing and really it might just come off as dead page space.

We have to treat writing like what it is. And we’re not always at a disadvantage. We have something that those other mediums don’t have. The reader’s imagination. There’s no worrying over studio budgets or the need for permits of space. The ability to draw or play music to convey a point won’t drag us down. Use the strengths. Leave everything else behind.

Because the second you get sucked into those mentalities your writing suffers.

The Great American Novel

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA         I sometimes wonder if the time of the great American novelist might have passed. I wonder if the way that we made novels and that brilliant hint of what some might call Americana. The odd kind of life adventures that you would get out of your Cormac McCarthys and Ernest Hemmingways don’t really happen to most people anymore. There were generations of men drafted into war or working at sea for months at a time or living in a real cut off rural area that doesn’t exist in the same supply in the United States that it used to.

I’m not claiming that these changes are good or bad things. The novels and writings of people should reflect the time period that they live in. If people still told stories in the style of Beowulf and that was all we have could we really say that we had progressed as far as we have? Could we claim that we had pushed the bounds and looked for those niches in writing that became genres and became mainstream and became clichés.

Those that know me might find it odd that I seem a little nostalgic. That’s not the case at all. I have problems reading the old writings that people swear by. I put down The Fellowship of the Ring after a little over one hundred pages because it was boring me to tears. I have no appreciation for the high end literature of the mid nineteenth to twentieth century for the most part. While I love the mythology surrounding Lovecraft and do admire his descriptive prowess, I think that if anyone were to write like that in this day and age it would be shrugged off as being overly purple (and rightfully so).

There is should to be some study about what the modern novel is about, but I think it’s really hard to pin down what America is about. I am sort of reluctant to look these things up because I feel that it would be like knowing the moves to the tricks that the magician is doing. I don’t want what people have decided is supposed to be perceived as today’s American to leak into my own writing artificially. This whole thing is just food for thought, I guess.

Visiting Old Friends

funny_best_friends_in_fingerAva Reynolds is one of the first characters I ever cooked up. She was the wife of my (then main) character, Lewis Reynolds and she was meant to be part mother part investigator. Somewhere along the line I made her into this bitter, horrible person that ended up grating on all of the readers who happened to get to read about her.

She was partially based on a friend I had at the time. A lot of the basis faded away and a lot of it was just kind of based on a sugar coated version of what I thought that this person was. It was kind of my first venture into writing characters based so heavily on friends and part of my feeling toward that person later might be what caused Ava to transform from the character I originally meant her to be into what he became.

With the recent loss of most of my old writing notes and me being forced to write a lot of those things over I actually ended up re-thinking how I had treated the character and what I could do to make it better. Inspiration hit me this morning and I went back and did something with this character that I hadn’t done in a long time. I wrote her in first person. To be honest, my first attempt at first person ever was with Ava and it was a whole novel.

Back then I didn’t know well enough to realize that I was writing utter shit, but the work was my first try at something I felt really uncomfortable with. Coming back to Ava and first person again in this new…piece (I’m not sure what it’s meant to be) is kind of nice because I know her so much better and I’ve done some refining and improvement on my work.

Can’t wait to see how this turns out.

How Complex Are We Really?

uniqueI’ve always been kind of unnerved by someone figuring me out in a short time. It’s nothing to do with remaining mysterious to seem interesting or impressive. There’s just something kind of saddening to me about the idea that I’m not as complicated as I would like to think.

This is a bit of a dumb thing to say when you consider how many people there are on the planet and how many of them are similar to other people. There’s only so many ways that you could be. Sure there are an infinite number of ways to mix different traits, personality types and preferences, but how unique does that really make you.

A few weeks ago something that I thought I had been keeping secret was blatantly called out by another friend while we were riding home rowdy and drunk in a car driven by a friend. I denied it in the moment, but I was shocked too. How much of ourselves do we put out there without even knowing it and what can we really do to control it?

Writing these newest characters has been a hard fight for me. In comparison to my old cast I’ve spent so little time with them.  At times I don’t know how much should be visible about them. What should they be thinking when they do this? What would a person like her or him think in this situation?

In building characters I want them to be surprising and genuine, but not at the expense of them being believable. I will go to my grave saying that this is where First Person differs so hard from even Third Person limited. You’re demonstrating that the character isn’t just how they see themselves or how they’re seen by others, you’re showing both things. When you describe a characters feelings the audience should be able to figure out how they feel about themselves and how others might feel about them, even if the character doesn’t know it.

That’s a hard skill to master when it comes to writing.

First Person Firsts

perspectiveI’ve written what I would consider successful first-person perspective stuff for the first time in years. The shift has to do with the Thought Verbs post that I put out just a few days ago. Something in that way of thinking about writing spoke to me in a way no other advice has in a very long time. Even authors that we’re not particularly huge fans of can have decent advice. And this was something I would suggest to anyone who sets out to write a piece of fiction.

Writing it in present tense has also helped some. The immediacy of the actions happening carries more force in the story and it leads less credence to this idea that the narrator is withholding evidence when they don’t tell you how something turns out in the end. See, I’ve always had a problem with the idea of past tense in a first person novel when some event is not explained as it happens, but as the person finds out. It’s important that we’re not spoiled for the sake of the book working. But if someone were retelling a story in real life they would probably slip hints in to let you know it’s all okay.

That was the main disconnect for me. Which says a lot about what I want from my writing. I don’t mind first person, but it should make sense in the context of the world or in the context of the person’s mind itself. That’s all I ask.  It’s rare that we see realistically written first person novels (Realistic in that if someone were to do a real-life first hand account it would turn out like that novel).

Just to give an idea of what I’m working with here I will post an example of my trying to write before I changed styles and after I changed. Here goes.


The telltale smell isn’t there yet, despite the hundreds of bodies crumpled along the grassy hill. There are too many bodies for someone to cover them with those white privacy sheets or whatever. I don’t have a chance of effectively navigating my way toward the investigators, so I wander along the edge of the hillside between me and Lake Travis.

Annemarie’s footsteps shuffle along behind me and I can tell by her silence she’s staring at the same thing that I am. We’re both too young to remember Jonestown, but from the pictures that the news had on the comparison is well deserved. The 9/11 attacks took place while I was in junior high. That’s my frame of reference. I turn my back on the massacre; I don’t know how long I’ve been here, but staring out past the police tape seems a better choice than looking at them.


I’d rather endure this than walk out and have him catch me. My pride couldn’t bear it. This is, like, my go to drug. I’m a super-special-awesome stalker. I will stalk the shit out of you. I’m a girl. We tend to nurture our stalking skills in high school. Usually, that’s also when we nurture our charm or our looks. So, when we “accidentally run into you” in the hallway for the third time we’ve missed a button or figured out how to tell a funny joke in the interim. And you do that little laugh and lean in close and notice the smell of the perfume (that we had to practically thrash around in a tub of). And then the stalking becomes dating.

Men don’t always figure out how to nurture their looks or their charm. So, sometimes, in men stalking becomes kidnapping which becomes twenty-five to life.

Most people would agree the second one is just a better go. I’m much happier with it and I plan out doing a lot more of what I have been.