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.