Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Uncle Frank


May 24, 2009, I wrote an article on this blog saluting the veterans in my family. At that time, I didn't have much info on Brig General Frank Carroll, my husband's great-uncle. In fact, I couldn't even find a picture. But hubby recently found this site that had his picture and a ton of info him. Uncle Frank was instrumental in the creation of the Army Air Corp, signing the contract to buy the B-47. Orville Wright taught Uncle Frank how to fly. [Kathy's note: Uncle Frank's grandson, also named Frank Carroll, found this blog and commented below. We had lost track of that side of the family, so the reconnection is exciting. He corrected me on the previous statement. Cousin Frank said, "Grandpa was the last man to fly with Orville Wright and they were close friends but Wright did not teach him how to fly." So, I stand corrected. But it's still cool!]

Out of curiousity, I Googled his name again, and found two more sites: here and here. You have to scroll down just a little for the second one.

I am proud of our family's contribution to our nation's freedom. And since I can't personally take up arms, I will pray for our nation. May the blood spilled not be in vain. And may God bless her until His return.

Monday, November 2, 2009


Chances are, if you're reading this and you're a writer, you know what NaNoWriMo is. But if you're not a writer, let me enlighten you. (Those writers who don't have a clue can pretend to be readers. It's okay.)

National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, is a contest of sorts, where the prize is a 50K word manuscript, unedited, an probably totally not ready for an editor's eye. The point is to write those 50,000 words (that looks even worse with all those zeros, doesn't it?) all in the month of November. Scads of people participate, and it's fun. Really.

The point is to turn off your inner editor and just write. Why do writers have a problem with that? Let me get a guest psychiatrist to blog an article for me. Stay tuned.

This year, I'm going to attempt to write an entire Heartsong Presents novel in one month. The timing couldn't be better. It's due in two months. Playtime is over boys and girls. Kathy must superglue her butt to the office chair and create a work of genius...or at least a work that makes some sense.

Can I do it? Not unless I stop blogging!

See you next month!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Thanks Goes out to Writing Blog

Thanks go out to Dawn Kinzer and Annette Irby at Seriously Write for highlighting my other blog, Craft Cinema. If you're a writer, Seriously Write is a must read!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Cut Loose That Footloose Villain!

I've just posted an article on Craft Cinema on the movie Footloose and how to make our antagonist more believable. Put your dancin' shoes on and join the dance party!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

ACFW Conference 2009 - Booksigning

It's ACFW conference time again. And this year it will be in my home state! Denver, Colorado will host approximately 500 authors, editors, and agents.

One of the highlights of this conference is the multi-author book signing that's open to the public. So come on down, bring your books to sign, and have a blast with your favorite Christian fiction authors.

Denver Marriott Tech Center hotel
4900 S Syracuse Street

September 19th, 2009
4:00 - 5:30 p.m.

What authors?
Carolyne Aarsen
Diane Ashley
Ruth Axtell Morren
Karen Ball
Rick Barry
Christina Berry
Lauralee Bliss
Diana Brandmeyer
Sandra Bricker
Margaret Brownley
Candace Calvert
Robin Caroll
Jeanie Smith Cash
Colleen Coble
Brandilyn Collins
Mary Connealy
Shirley Connolly
Margaret Daley
Susan Page Davis
Mary Davis
Janet Dean
Megan DiMaria
Lena Nelson Dooley
Wanda Dyson
Leanna Ellis
Pamela Ewen
Miralee Ferrell
Linda Ford
Tina Ann Forkner
Darlene Franklin
Judy Gann
Jeff Gerke
Rhonda Gibson
Debby Giusti
Sandra Glahn
Elizabeth Goddard
Winnie Griggs
Rene Gutteridge
Cathy Marie Hake
Lisa Harris
Mary Hawkins
Roxanne Henke
Cynthia Hickey
Patti Hill
Denise Hunter
Annette Irby
Myra Johnson
Liz Johnson
Jenny Jones
Eileen Key
Laurie Kingery
Kathleen Kovach
Harry Kraus
Jeanne Marie Leach
Tosca Lee
Julie Lessman
Loree Lough
Elizabeth Ludwig
Richard Mabry
Debbie Macomber
Joyce Magnin
Gail Gaymer Martin
Judy/Jude Martin-Urban/Urbanski
Debby Mayne
Aaron McCarver
Vickie McDonough
Dana Mentink
Robin Miller writing as Robin Caroll
DiAnn Mills
Stephanie Morrill
Janelle Mowery
Jill Elizabeth Nelson
Kevin Parsons
Golden Keyes Parsons
Donita K. Paul
Tracie Peterson
Allie Pleiter
Cara Putman
Tara Randel
Deborah Raney
Sandra Robbins
Kim Sawyer
Marc Schooley
Michael Sheehan
Shelley Shepard Gray
Ann Shorey
Beth Shriver
Sandra Lee Smith
Virginia Smith
Betsy St. Amant
Therese Stenzel
Stuart Stockton
Alison Strobel
Michelle Sutton
Camy Tang
Donn Taylor
Janice (Hanna) Thompson
Missy Tippens
Pamela Tracy
Carrie Turansky
Deborah Vogts
Jenness Walker
Dan Walsh
Susan May Warren
Michael Webb
Kit Wilkinson
Lisa Wingate
Beth Wiseman
Kimberley Woodhouse
Lenora Worth
Cheryl Wyatt
Kathleen Y'Barbo

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Inkblot Has A Name!

Gabriella Asha Kovach will be born in January.

Just thought I'd share her latest photo since I have the other three in my post below. We just found out she's a girl. This will be my fourth grandchild by birth, the sixth in amongst a couple of step grandchildren. We're all excited.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Book Covers & Sonograms

One of the best things about becoming an author is the day you open your email and find your publisher has sent the first glimpse of the artwork that will soon become your cover. These “glimpses” are called mockups.

One of the best things about becoming a grandmother is seeing the sonogram for the first time. A sonogram is the ultrasound picture that allows you the first glimpse of your grandbaby.

Last week I saw the sonogram of my fourth grandchild.

I also received the mockup of the cover for my fourth book.

Sonograms show a work in progress.

Mockups also show a work in progress.

When you see the first sonogram you either think, “What a cute little face.” or “What a cute little inkblot.”

When you see your first mockup, you either think, “This is perfect! The artist catches my vision of this story!” or “What were they thinking? Did they even read the five page form I sent of every minute detail?”

The baby in the sonogram finally makes an appearance. You either think: “What an absolutely beautiful red-faced raisin.” or “Kinda looks like your Uncle Fred,” if it’s a boy. “Kinda looks like your Uncle Fred,” if it’s a girl.

Mockups finally arrive on your doorstep attached to real books. You either think: “I’m proud to have my name stamped on the front of this cover.” or “Where’s the Wite-Out?”

Yes. I’ve had both reactions to my covers. The good thing about a book cover over a baby is that if you have an author-oriented publisher like mine, they allow you to suggest changes.

My three grandchildren and Inkblot? Absolutely gorgeous. Every one of them!

Kathleen E. Kovach is an award winning author, leader of the local critique group JOY Writers, and the Rocky Mountain Zone Director for American Christian Fiction Writers. Kathy lives in northeast Colorado with her husband of over three decades. She has two sons, three grandchildren (and an inkblot), and two grandpets - all of whom, at one point or another, have taken advantage of the revolving door on her empty nest. She is the creator of two blogs: and Please visit her website at

Monday, June 8, 2009

Fireproof Your First Five Pages

Just wanting to let you know that I'll be speaking tonight at the Denver HIS Writers chapter. We will cover hooks, backstory, show vs tell, setting, and characterization. Hope to see you there!
HIS Writers Monthly Meeting
"(ACFW Denver North)"
Start Time: Monday, June 8 at 7:00pm
Where: Borders - NW corner of I-25 & W 104th Ave
  • June 8Kathleen E. Kovach, Rocky Mountain Zone Director for ACFW and award-winning author with Barbour Publishing, was ranked in the top five of favorite new authors for Heartsong Presents and placed second in IRCC 2007. She presents spiritual truths with a giggle.
  • Topic: Fireproof your First Five Pages Have you submitted your manuscript only to have it come back in ashes? Are your contest scores rife with blazing comments? Learn five fireproof practices guaranteed to snuff out the negativity and put the sizzle where it belongs--in your excellent writing.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Why Do You Doubt?

The following article was originally written for The Inkwell, a blog sponsored by ACFW Colorado.

Our church has been going through a video series during our Sunday School class called, Faith Lessons--In the Dust of the Rabbi. In it evangelical historian Ray Vander Laan takes a group of people through the holy land and teaches history and practical application. It's a great series.

Recently, we watched the group climb a hill overlooking the Sea of Galilee. Ray tells the crowd that Jesus went here after the feeding of the five thousand. He had just told the disciples to get into a boat and go ahead of him to Bethsaida, which was across the lake. Ray asserts that they probably didn't want to go because of the squalls that took place in this part of the lake, dubbed "The Abyss." (This isn't in my Bible, but Ray, as a historian has other geographical resources.)

As they fatefully predicted, a huge squall came up and they strained against the oars. Ray tells the group that Jesus was no doubt sitting on the mountain and watching them the whole way. About the fourth hour, (probably around four o'clock in the morning,) Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. He nearly passes them by because he was intent on getting to Bethsaida, as he said he would. But did Jesus not see them out there struggling? Or was this a faith lesson for the disciples who didn't understand the miracle of the five loaves and two fish? (Mark 6:52)

They see him walking by on the water and fear it's a ghost. I mean, seriously. Who else would be walking on the water? No doubt, if I'd been in that boat, miles from the shore, I wouldn't have thought my rabbi would be chancing by. He tells them "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

Matthew 14:28 picks up the story. Peter calls out to him. "Lord, if it's you, tell me to come to you on the water." And Jesus says, "Come." Poor impetuous Peter. Wanting to be just like his Lord, he jumps out of the boat, but fearing the wind--promptly sinks. Jesus shakes his head and says, "Why do you doubt?" as he fishes him out and escorts him back to the boat.

This is where Ray posed a question that had us discussing at great length later. "What did he doubt?" Jesus? Why would that be? Jesus is still only toes deep in the water. The conclusion was that he doubted himself.

Okay. Let's look at the big picture here. Jesus gives the disciples a directive. "Go to Bethsaida and I will meet you there." They all hop in the boat, grumbling. They'd just seen the miracle of the loaves and fishes, and still didn't quite get it. (Our class decided this was a faith lesson for them.) Just as they feared, they hit a storm, and what do they do? Panic! In the meantime, Jesus is watching them from the hill. Once they're good and scared, he heads out onto the lake. Then, during one of their most dramatic lessons, they doubt.

You know where I'm going, don't you?

In 2002, I received a clear directive from God. "Write, and I will partner with you." At various intervals along the way, I have felt the squalls of life threaten to capsize my dream. Where is Jesus? I cry out.

He's on the hill watching me. Seeing how I will do. Probably shaking his head as I panic when the words don't come, and when they do they sound amatuerish. He says, "Oh, Kathy," when I want to quit because an editor has torn at my precious story, slashing and ripping at the carefully placed concepts like fierce winds to a sail. Finally, at the fourth hour, He gets up, and walks toward our previously agreed upon destination. I want to be like my Lord. I try, yet I fail, and He asks me "Why do you doubt?" He hasn't changed. I don't doubt Him. I know He will partner with me. I know His will for me is to produce written witnesses. I know He is still standing there, waiting for me to "get it."

Why do I doubt myself?

Sound familiar?

If you're in a storm, take heart. Jesus is watching to see how you'll do. To see if you've grown in your faith. Every trial is a strengthening exercise. And once you "get it," you will be able to walk with Him hand in hand. Safely. Without getting wet.

I have my toe in the water. Anyone joining me?

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Thank You For Serving!

This is a previously published article and has been edited.

Whenever we're out, if we see a man or woman in uniform, my husband always shakes their hand and says, "Thank you for serving."

I'd like to remember those in our family who have kept our borders safe by sacrificing their own safety.

Major General Frank Carroll. My husband called him Uncle Frank. A significant player in Air Force history, he was instrumental in the creation of the Army Air Corp, signing the contract to buy the B-47. Frank was the last man to fly with Orville Wright. They were close friends, as evidenced by a photo in his house of him standing with the aviation inventor and a scrap of canvas from one of the first planes he and his brother Wilbur flew.

My husband's grandfather, Stanley Carroll. Served on board ship in the Navy during WWI.

My father-in-law, Senior Master Sgt. Paul Kovach. Served through retirement in WWII in the 8th Air Force. We think he may have served with Jimmy Stewart. After Dad died, we found a picture of Jimmy getting a medal and there was Dad in the ranks. He never told Mom. That's the kind of guy he was. Everyone was equal in his sight.

My father, Bill Keal, served in the army in WWII. Daddy's unit helped to liberate a French town. His name, along with the other soldiers, is forever memorialized on a plaque in the town square.

My mother, Ruth Keal, (shown second from the left--the child belongs to one of the other women) served in the Women's Army Corp (WAC) in WWII. My mom joined to see the world and ended up spending her entire tour of duty in Kansas, mere miles from where her home was. Mom and Dad got married in uniform.

Arthur Wiles, who I call Uncle Bud, served in the Navy in WWII. His brother, my Uncle Mickey, aka Mike Wiles served in the army and in his words, "I was a dirt soldier. I walked from the southern tip (of Korea) to the Yalu river and somehow picked up a silver star along the way."

My uncle, Jim Cartlidge, served in WWII in the 101st Airborn Division.

My husband's Uncle Bud, aka Warren Carroll, served in the Army Air Corp and the Army in WWII. He was a bomber crew member, (we think a gunner,) but found it boring. He then switched to the army and volunteered to be on the scout tank crew. These tanks would find German tankers and act as decoys by drawing them out of hiding where our planes and ground crew could destroy them. I'm thinking that cured his boredom! My favorite story was when actress Betty Grable visited the troops and stood in his tank for a photo op. He was inside and could only see her "Million Dollar" legs, but she was wearing pants. What a disappointment!

Uncle Bud's son, Mark Carroll, served in Vietnam in the Marine Corp.

My brother-in-law, Air Force Master Sgt. Herbert Curtis Pruett, served several tours to Thailand away from his family.

My brother-in-law, Robert Clark of 101st Airborn Division, served in Vietnam and was hit by a sniper. He had on his helmet, but the bullet slipped under and grazed his head. He came home with a Purple Heart.

Patricia Freese, my cousin, served in the Air Force in Greenland.

Our son, Sr. Airman Jonathon Kovach, joined the Air Force in 2001. He served overseas in Okinawa and Korea.

And finally, my husband, Master Sgt. James Kovach. Proudly served in the Air Force for twenty-three years. A humble guy, he put on his uniform and went to work every day. When he retired, he received a plaque that simply stated his philosophy: "Just doin' my job." He served in the post-Vietnam volunteer era through the Gulf War, working to keep our borders safe.

I'm proud of every service member in my family. They've fought, spilled blood, and sacrificed to be sure their children and children's children could live in a free country. They've fought to free the oppressed, eradicate evil, and actively demonstrate their love of this country.

I also salute the spouses of these military servicemembers. We all have made our own sacrifices, some staying behind to give our children stable homelives while their daddy was away. We were the ones who wrote the love letters and tried our hardest to provide safe environments for them to return to.

To all of these brave men and women, service members and spouses, I salute you.


Side note: For more information on General Frank Carroll and his role in the acquisition and development of the jet airplane for the new Army Air Force, please click here, here, here, and here.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Just Not That Into You

I'm in a new relationship. We've been together three months now, but it isn't going well. I'm becoming convinced, even though it's hard to admit, that my manuscript is just not that into me.

Ever have the same feeling? You know the signs.

1. It's distracted when with you. You sit down to spend time with it, and the words jump all over the page refusing to coagulate into a coherent sentence. Nothing you do pulls it together.

2. It's not calling you. You go through your day and realize, "Hey, I haven't thought about my manuscript in, like, forever." It has not made an effort to call you to sit down and write.

3. It doesn't want to commit fully. You're moving along, thinking you're on the right track, when everything falls apart in the middle. The whole manuscript unravels, and you realize it's not doing its part to bring the storyline to completion.

4. It has disappeared on you. It's gone. And with it every unique idea, every bit of plot, every colorful character. You don't know where it went. All you know is that you must start over. And you realize, maybe it wasn't the storyline for you, anyway.

Every relationship takes work. This couldn't be truer than for you and your new manuscript. When you first meet that special storyline, pray to be sure it's the right one for you. Then, if you feel peace about moving forward, follow these steps to avoid the "Just Not That Into You" relationship:

1. Love is patient. Relax. Take your time to develop a solid plot.

2. Love is kind. Kindness is love in action. Do something special for your manuscript. Spend the time it desires, nurturing it, letting it know how important it is to you.

3. It does not brag and is not arrogant. Nothing will kill a relationship with a manuscript faster than an egotistical author. Manuscripts have a way of bringing down the boastful. Plot lines drop. Characters become flat. Settings? What settings?

4. It is not self-seeking. Know that you and your manuscript are on the same team. If you feel you're struggling with it, guess who has just become a world-class wrestler? Strive instead to dance with it, arm in arm, and listen to its heartbeat in the rythym of the words.

5. It is not easily angered. Throwing your manuscript against the wall is not allowed. Instead, attend to its needs. Patiently work on each problem, and soon it will thank you by flowing smoothly once again.

6. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Believe in your manuscript. If you prayed, as suggested above, know that it will stick with you until completion.

7. Love never fails. If you love your manuscript, it will love you back.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Why do I write?

I know it's been too long since I posted an organizational tip. I apologize, but I've been working the paying job. I was hit with three deadlines, two practically on top of each of other, so all my energy went into them.

Excuse #2. I was at the ACFW Colorado retreat over the weekend. I've posted an article on the ACFW CO blog, but I'll also paste it here so you can have something to read while waiting for me post on organization.

Why Do I Write?
At beautiful Camp Eden nestled among the pines near Wondervu, Colorado, the fog settled around us, and the fire crackled in the huge fireplace as nearly two dozen authors settled in to hear Kim Woodhouse and her challenging question: "Why do you write?"

She asked this of us several times, nudging us to go deeper. At one point, she asked, "Who are you in Christ?" The point being, how can I be God's instrument if I don't identify with His Word?

At least, that's the direction I took that question.

We were told to find a quiet place and journal. I did and decided to look at the "I Am's" of Christ to find out who "I am" in Christ.

I Am the Messiah (John 4:26) - I am saved
I Am the Bread of Life (John 6:35) - I am nourished
I Am from above (John 8:23) - I am blessed from heaven
I Am the Eternal One (John 8:58) - I am God’s forever
I Am the Light of the World (John 9:5) - I am a witness in the darkness
I Am the Door (John 10:7) The Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6) - I am led
I Am the Son of God ( (John 10:36) - I am loved with a sacrificial gift
I Am the Resurrection and the Life (John 11:25) - I am redeemed
I Am the Lord and Master (John 13:13) - I am one with authority over evil
I Am the True Vine (John 15:1) - I am a fruit bearer
I Am Alpha & Omega ( Revelation 1:8) - I am complete

I came to the conclusion that knowing my identity in Christ equips me to write His message.

So, to answer, “Why do I write?” - To glorify the I Am, Christ, Who makes it possible for me to be who I am in Him -- and to teach others to do the same.

Thank you, Kim, for your excellent teaching, your gentle spirit, and your glittery feathered two-edged sword. ;)

Friday, April 3, 2009

Organize Yourself as a Writer - Part 4


I promised we'd look at some simple forms, and we will, but first I'd like to explain my "Dear Diary" method.

Figure 1

Above is the page that I set up to link to Word files. I put the name of the character in a cell, then I link to a document where I've let my character talk about themselves. Some writers interview their characters. But I found that if I just let them ramble, they probably spill more info than if they were in a formal interview. If you're a fiction writer, I'm sure your nodding, understanding what I mean. If you're a non-fiction writer, you may be dialing the looney bin to come pick me up. If you're a reader/non-writer, then yes, writers are a very strange species.

Okay, now for some forms to help organize your story.

Scripture Thread
I write for Barbour Publishing's Hearsong Presents line. They require you to weave a scripture verse in your story. This verse is printed on the back of every book. Even if you aren't required to have a verse in mind, I challenge you to do it anyway. It will bring your story into an inspirational focus instead of letting it meander through several different lessons. You may already have a verse in mind, but never thought of writing it down. This sheet in my workbook keeps the verse handy for me to refer back to, and I can develop it through the subplot here, as well.

Figure 2

Character Chart
There are two different writers who use character charts. Those that fill them out before they write the story, and those that fill them out as they write the story. I'm in the latter category. I tried to fill out a chart once, and found that everything changed when I wrote the story. But, if you in a third category where you never write down anything about your character, you need to send your content editor a big box of chocolates. I need to be sure my character's eyes stay green, his scar stays on the correct cheek, he doesn't switch from VW bug to a Lamborgini in one scene. As I write, when I get to something I know I'll need to remember, I open the Character Chart sheet and fill it in. If something changes, as it so often does, it's very easy to delete and type in something different.

This is a two column set-up. In column A, I list all of the things I'll need to know about my character, (and some things I don't need to know for every story, so those simply don't get filled in.) In column B is where I actually do the entering. I've taken this chart from several authors and made it my own. If someone sees that this looks way too similar to yours, please let me know and I'll either give you credit or take it off this blog.

Figure 3

Since you can't see the whole list, I'll put it here for you to enter into your own sheet:



Color/Style of hair
Eye color;
Scars/Body markings, etc.


Sense of humor & type
Basic nature
Philosophy of life
Music/Reading preferred
Style of dress
Favorite colors
Strongest character trait
Weakest character trait
*Character type (I'll explain this one below)


Educational background
Current occupation
Work experience


Description of home
Special belongings


Present problem
How it will get worse
Deepest fear
How the character will change (often referred to as “character arc”)


Siblings and/or children
Best Friend
Significant Other
Enemies (and why)


Annoying traits
Sees self as…
Seen by other as…

*For Character Type go to: * (click on "Heroes", "Heroines", and "Villains" at end of article.

General Setting
If you'd like to keep track of your setting, this is also a great chart. I know I stole this from someone, but failed to put their name on it. If it's yours, please let me know.

Figure 4

Here are the categories for General Setting:

Name of Setting:
Characters Living in Region/Time Period:
Year or Time Period:
City and State:
Miscellaneous Notes:

Character Name:
General settings for this character:
Character's home surroundings:
City or Town:
Home interior:
Character's workplace:
City or Town of Business:
Business Name:
Type of Business:
Individual Workspace:
Miscellaneous Notes:

Please note that you don't have to fill out every form or plot sheet that I'm including here. I don't do it all, but they are in my workbook if I need them.

Alphabet Chart
This is one of the best forms I use. Have you ever written or read a story where all the character's names sound alike? Kathy. Debbie. Cindy. Or have all the same first initial? Jim, Jon, Joey. (Those are my hubby and two sons, by the way. In real life you can name like this them on purpose.)

Figure 5

As you can see by the chart, I list the alphabet in two columns. This way, I can see more of it on one screen. The next two columns over are labeled "NAME" and "WHO IS IT?" This last column helps to refresh my memory, which, if any of you know me, needs to be rebooted on occasion.

At the bottom of this chart, if you could scroll down, you'd see the same set up for "LAST NAMES."

That's it for the forms I use that I'm including in this tutorial. There is one other sheet that is very huge and not for the faint of heart. It's called "POST-IT NOTES" and, yep, that's exactly what it sounds like. We'll tackle this bad boy next week. I'll see if I can get it all in one post. If not, we'll have to do it in parts. Now that I've frightened you, let me say this: One part of this sheet is doable for the novice. If you can't handle any other part of it, please tune in for at least that part.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Organize Yourself As A Writer - Part 3


Now we're ready to rumble. Today I'll show you three sheets that I use to help me plot my novel.

1. Snowflake (or other plotting tool you like)
2. Skeleton
3. GMC & Spiritual

My very next tab, after "Schedule" is "Snowflake" (Figure 1.) This form of plotting was actually designed by author and physicist Randy Ingermanson. It's a fun, scientific method of plotting your novel. I know, "fun" and "scientific" should never be used in the same sentence. However, Randy has developed this system, and he's a pretty fun guy, despite being a physicist turned writer. You can find this method at I worked out a spreadsheet for my own use that helps me understand the steps. Alas, I can't show it here without Randy's permission. I haven't asked for it yet, but as soon as I do and he okay's it, I'll share it with you.

What I've done is linked to the Snowflake because it has several pages of its own. So, whatever plotting method you use, you can link to it from this one sheet so you have easy access to it. You'll find that this is the method for my madness in many of the sheets in my workbook. A simple link to a Word doc or spreadsheet is sometimes all that's on there. But it's handy and I don't have to wade through my vast files to find "Snowflake."

Below is the what the sheet looks like:

Figure 1

All those words on there are only instructions and a small note to you. Otherwise, it would just have the word "Snowflake" that I have linked to the real file.

To hyperlink:
  • Right click on "SNOWFLAKE" above
  • Choose "Hyperlink" in dropdown list
  • Choose "Existing File or Web Page" in choices on left side
  • Find saved Snowflake sheet for this title

This is also a very useful tool. I've pulled from several authors to create this visual. (Figure 2.) The point is that your story needs bones, some kind of structure to hold it's muscle, blood, and flesh upright. I plot out the skeleton before I begin writing the story. Sometimes, it changes as I learn about my characters, but it keeps me from writing in tangents. It keeps me focused.

I've included three screenshots for the Skeleton.

  • Act I (Figure 2)
  • Act II (Figure 3)
  • Act III (Figure 4)

I write in acts because I'm a baby boomer who grew up on television and movies. I instinctively understand the three act structure, and I'll bet you do too. Following are the elements needed in each act to create a full skeleton.

Act I

  • Identify the external need. Outward goal (i.e. Dorothy needs to save her dog but doesn't trust the people at home to do so, and she runs away.)
  • Identify the internal need. Inner goal (i.e. Dorothy needs to be grateful for the home she has.)
  • Inciting incident. Generally throws the character into Act II, often the point of no return, (i.e. Tornado -- although it could be a struggle within instead of a tangible thing. )

Figure 2

Act II

  • Complications. These are the "ribs" of the skeleton. Think of the right side of the spine as the conflict and the left side of the spine as the result of the conflict. If this happens, then this must happen. Each conflict is another rib. (I.e. 1- Dorothy's house lands in place far from home / must find wizard. 2- Dorothy is captured by witch / must kill witch and get broom. 3- Dorothy brings broom to Wizard but is rejected / Toto reveals man behind curtain.)
  • Bleakest moment. The worst thing that can happen. (I.e. Dorothy misses her ride.)
  • Help from inside or outside. This could either be a person, a situation, or a revelation. (I.e. Glenda the good witch comes to her aid.)
  • Lesson/Decision. Always reflects external need. (i.e. "There's no place like home.")

Figure 3


  • Resolution, can be a small scene, but might not be a happy ending. (I.e. Dorothy is home and vows never to run away again.)

Figure 4

GMC & Spiritual
This sheet (figure 5) gives me a quick reference to keep me on track. You can print this out and keep it near your computer.

It basically helps you flesh out the Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. The premise for this is an excellent book by Debra Dixon, GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict. I added the "spiritual" element since I write inspirational fiction.

Identify characters:
  • Goal (What do they want?)
  • Motivation (Why do they want it?)
  • Conflict (What gets in their way?)

Do this for the external, the internal, and the spiritual aspects of your character.

Figure 5

That covers the plotting parts of the worksheet. Next week we'll look at simple charts to help keep things straight.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Organize Yourself As A Writer - Part 2

Last week we covered the first spreadsheet workbook you will need to take yourself seriously as writer. Just like the wrestler, you are now poised and ready to take on the opponent. That opponent could be the lack of preparation.

The All-In-One-Plotting Workbook is the largest with nineteen pages. What I'm going to show you over the next few weeks is what works for me, but you are, of course, welcome to change things, delete things, add things, etc. This is your working notebook. Make it work for you.

Figure 1

I like to have a direct link to the Writing Log (what we covered last week.) This way, I don't have to search through my folders to find it. To direct link:

  • Type the words "Clock in!"

  • Right click in that cell

  • Choose "Hyperlink"

  • Choose "Existing file or web page"

  • Find where you saved the Writing Log
The All-In-One-Plotting Workbook is the very first book I open. The second is the Writing Log where I log my starting time. These two book stay open as I write.
Set up your columns like this:

  • Week - Plan ahead what you want to accomplish for the week. You can fill this out weekly or continue to the end of the manuscript. Just understand that if you didn't get something accomplished, you'll have to adjust. In my example, I didn't complete 10/25. So I inserted a row and continued on.

  • X - Check when you have completed your daily goal

  • Date - Type in the dates in advance rather than daily. This will help you stay on track as you can see each day the goal you've set for yourself. Go as far in advance as you feel comfortable, but I encourage you to write down an entire week's goals at least.

  • How'm I Doin' - Um...How you doin'. The check (X) can be so impersonal. This column allows me to whine, make excuses, or celebrate my victories. You may want to leave this off, but try it for a few weeks and see if this mini-diary helps your self-esteem.
Okay, your wrestler is ready. He's trained, he's prepared, and now he's in position to take on. . .the PLOT.
Spreadsheet 201
  • Insert column or row: There are several ways to do this. First highlight the column or row by clicking on a letter in the alphabet row at the top or a number in the number row along the side. This highlights without having to drag your mouse. Then either right click in the highlighted area and hit insert, or click on the "Insert" tool at the top of the page.
  • Delete column or row: Exactly the same way, only click "delete." Sorry if that sounds simplistic, but you'd be surprised how many times I've hit the wrong one.
  • Correct error: Undo. (Oh, how often do we need to be reminded of that one?)

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Organize Yourself as a Writer - Part I

Recently, I presented a workshop titled, "Left Vs. Right Smackdown" - Organizing your writing with your left brain so your right brain can be more productive. Too often, that poor right brain struggles to keep all of the details straight, thus hindering its productivity. For the next few weeks, I'm going to take the nuggets from that workshop and teach you how to create spreadsheets, or at the very least give you ideas on how to organize into three-ring-binders if you haven't quite gotten the hang of the 21st Century.

For the spreadsheet terms I'll be using, please refer to "Spreadsheet 101" at the end of this article.

In "Organize Yourself as a Writer" I'll cover three aspects:

  1. Before you begin - CLOCK IN!
  2. All-In-One-Plotting (Don't let this scare you if you write seat-of-the-pants. It's only to help you keep all of your thoughts in one place)
  3. Manuscript Tracker
(Figure 1)

We'll start with the Writing Log. Before I do any writing, I clock in. This includes researching the internet, doing my taxes, calling people for interviews, etc. I've created a spreadsheet that helps me do it without thinking too hard. Gotta save those brain cells for the real writing, right? If you have a fancy tracker that you've downloaded from the internet, that's okay. But this is for those who have a spreadsheet program on their computer and are wondering how they can utilize it as a writer. Note: You can also take anything I say throughout this workshop and apply it to a 3-ring binder notebook. The point here is not to confuse you with techie talk, but to help you become more organized.

Below is the big picture. This is the full Writing Log that I use, although in my working copy I let it stretch to Row 150 or more. As you can see, I like colors. I'm a visual person, so seeing it laid out this way works for me. You may want to keep it all black and white, or use your own colors. Do whatever makes sense to you.

Figure 1

To set up the grids:

  • Highlight Row 6 to Row 22, Column A to Column I
  • Click on Borders in your spreadsheet program and click All Borders (the diagram with four squares.)
  • Drag Column G (see "Spreadsheet 101" below) to be able to accomodate a longer line of text. It will all make sense once you fill in the Log.
Once you have your spreadsheet looking similar to mine as far as grids, add the current date and time under the title of your sheet, WRITING LOG. Then you can refer to this whenever clocking in.

To make this show real time (Figure 2):
  • Click in cell below title (Row 2, Column A)
  • Go to the formula box and next to the small "fx" type =NOW()
To make it show military time (which you will need when we get to actually clocking in):
  • Right click the cell
  • Choose Format cells in the drop down box
  • Make sure Number tab is showing
  • Choose Date
  • Choose 3/14/01 13:30

To set up the DATE column to show the year (i.e. 01/07/09) (Figure 2):

  • Right click
  • Choose Format Cells in the drop down box
  • Make sure Number tab is showing
  • Choose Date
  • Choose 03/14/01

Figure 2

Now to set up the "clock in. " (Figure 3)
  • Go to Row 7, Column B
  • Right click
  • Choose Format Cells in the drop down box
  • Make sure Number tab is showing
  • Click Time
  • Click 1:30 PM
  • Repeat steps above for Row 7, Column C

To set up total (Figure 3):
  • Click in Row 7, Column D
  • Go to formula bar above next to small "fx"
  • type =C7-B7
  • Now, to ensure the whole column sets up right, click in Row 7, Column D
  • Hover mouse curser in lower right corner until a solid plus sign (+) shows up.
  • Click and drag down the column to row 150. Now, every row will tally in the column.
To keep track of my weekly goals, I make a thick bottom border (a line) at the end of the week, highlight the totals in Column D, and look at the sum that shows up in the bottom right hand corner under the sheet itself. I don't know what that bar is called.

Figure 3

And finally, instructions on the Project and Action columns. (Figure 4)

  • In the Project column, I list whatever I'm working on. I have code for my titles, (i.e. MP for Merely Players, GGS for God Gave the Song.) I also list if I've been on the computer all day doing research, (RES,) or taxes (TAX.) If I ever want to see how much I've worked on a particular project, I can use the sort data feature to alphabetize that column.
  • In the Action column, I list exactly what I've done. (I.e. Chap 7, plotted book, called alpaca ranch.)

Figure 4

If you're ever audited by the IRS, your Writing Log will become your best friend. It shows that you are actually working at becoming a writer.

I've tried to lay out the instructions as clearly as possible. If something isn't quite right, you may comment to this post so others can benefit. However, if it's a technical issue, I'm not qualified for that. Also, if you use something other than Excel, I can't help there either.

I do hope I've at least sparked some ideas, helped to move you in the right direction, so to speak. Next week, I'll continue the workshop with the All-In-One-Plotting Workbook. This will take several weeks so I don't overwhelm you. There will be plotting techniques as well as organizational techniques in this worksheet. The good news is that there are no more formulas until we get to the Manuscript Tracker.

Below are terms if you're new to using a spreadsheet. Once you learn the language, it really isn't that hard. Some of you are rolling your eyes. Stick with me, gang. I promise to open a whole new world for you.


I use Excel, but the following instructions should work for any spreadsheet program. If it doesn't, please use your help feature instead of calling me. Please. I beg of you.

  • WHAT'S A CELL? Any little box that makes up the grid.

  • WHAT'S A COLUMN? Just like columns on a house, these are vertical (up and down.)

  • WHAT'S A ROW? Just like the wheat rows in a farmer's field, these are horizontal (back and forth.)

  • WHAT'S A SHEET? The part you see, the page you're working on at the time.

  • WHAT'S A TAB? Located at the bottom of the sheet is a series of tabs that open up more sheets, typically three to start. You can add and delete tabs to your heart's desire by right clicking and choosing the option.

  • WHAT'S A FORMULA? A more advanced function of spreadsheet usage. If you can learn to do simple sums, a whole new world will open up. Use the "help" feature to learn how to do math in columns and/or rows.

  • CREATING A HYPERLINK: Right click on the cell or picture you want to link from. Choose "Hyperlink" in drop down list. Check "Existing File or Web Page". Click little arrow to browse your files and choose the one you wish to link to.

  • FORMATTING CELLS TO WRAP THE TEXT: Right click on the cell, choose "Format cells", click "Alignment" tab, and check box that says "Wrap text."

  • HOW DO I MERGE CELLS? You can merge two or more cells together (to create one big box) by right clicking in the highlighted cells, choosing "Format cells", clicking the "Alignment" tab, and checking "Merge cells".

  • USING RETURN (ENTER) IN A CELL: To type a new line in the same cell, hold down ALT while hitting enter key.

  • MOVING DATA FROM ONE CELL TO ANOTHER: Click on the cell, then move the curser until you see a small figure of four arrows pointing in four different directions. Click and drag to another cell. Caution: This will move all your formatting, too, including color highlighting and borders. If you want to just move the text, double click in the cell, highlight the text and cut and paste as usual.

  • ADJUSTING SIZE OF COLUMNS AND ROWS: Click on the line in the border either on top for columns or on the left side for rows. Drag to the size you want.

  • MOVING SHEETS: Click and drag the tab. It's that simple.

  • DELETING, RENAMING, COLORING TABS: Right click and choose your option.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Manuscript update

Update: I just sent in my manuscript for the first in the contemporary Oregon series for Heartsong Presents. Tentatively titled God Gave the Song, it's about two people with abandonment issues who learn to forgive through the help of a melodious alpaca. I visited a couple of alpaca ranches and went to an alpaca show in Oregon. It almost makes me want one! But, no. My son's American Bulldog is big enough right now.

I don't know when this book will be available, but I'll keep you posted here.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Be A Follower!

I've added a Follower widget to my right side bar. If you're a blogger, adding yourself as a follower will ensure updates to your reading list under your dashboard. Note, however, that this won't prompt email posts. If you'd like email updates, please subscribe through FeedBlitz, also in the right sidebar.

Thanks, Jill Hups, for being my first follower! Love ya, girl!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Speaking Topic: First Five Pages

I will be speaking Monday, Jan 5, at Barnes & Noble at Park Meadows, 8374 S. Willow Street, Lone Tree CO at 7:00 PM. My topic is:

Five Fireproof Practices for your First Five Pages
Have you submitted your manuscript only to have it come back in ashes? Are your contest scores rife with blazing comments? I will discuss five fireproof practices guaranteed to snuff out the negativity and put the sizzle where it belongs--in your excellent writing.

Hope to see you there!