Tag Archives: novel writing

Secrets Never Told

Ironically, amidst all the holiday hustle and bustle, December is a month of reflection for me. Perhaps it’s because I’ve learned to be in the moment better than I used to. And, I’ve learned to appreciate the small things the holidays bring: kindness from strangers, excitement in the air, and beautiful decorations everywhere. Most importantly, I love sharing time with friends and family. I admit, I hate for the season to end.

However, this month is also filled with anticipation. Not about what Santa might bring–I’m over that, although I do hope I get those new workout shoes I need. What I’m looking forward to is my third book in the Enid Blackwell series, Secrets Never Told. It will be published late February. This novel, like the first one, was inspired by a personal experience. I think you’ll like it.

Somewhere about halfway through writing the third book, I realized I had grown as an author. What was notably missing this time was the panic and self-talk I experienced with the first book–”Can I really write a whole book?” Or the self-doubt I experienced writing the second one–”Murder in Madden won a national award and my readers loved it. Do I have more than one book in me?”

The plot for Secrets Never Told is complex, because . . . well, families with secrets are complex. I admit there were a few restless nights where I woke up thinking about the plot, but no panic or doubts that I could pull it off. As I told my editor, thank goodness for Scrivener, the writing software that allows me to move scenes around easily.

Want to know what the third book is about? Here’s a clue: “Seven for a secret, never to be told.”  You’ll know the secret soon.

Unlock Your Writing Brain with a Mind Map

This is slight variation of a blog post I wrote for the SC Writer’s Association, Cola II chapter. It was originally published on the chapter’s website July 8, 2018. 

About twenty years ago, I received an offer to try out MindJet, a mind mapping software. I downloaded the free trial and was hooked within minutes. Decades and many upgrades later, it is still my go-to writing tool for outlining, story plotting, and many other uses. Since Mindjet is now over $300, I’d recommend Scapple ($14.99) or some other free or inexpensive mind mapping applications you can find online. Or, you can simply draw your mind maps the old-fashioned way with paper and pen.

Tony Buzon, the author and education consultant who popularized mind maps, explained them as “a universal key to unlock the potential of the brain.” Remember those word association games? If I say “vacation,” you may think of “beach,” and then your mind jumps to whatever memories you have of your favorite beach trip . . . and so on. Over time, Western civilization has imposed left-brain, linear thinking into our psyches so that we apply logic, organize, and list before we explore and create. (That’s why traditional, linear outlines can kill a good story.) Since our minds don’t naturally function in linear mode, mind maps unlock our brains, as Buzon said.

When you’re starting a book, a short story, or even a scene, your mind may be filled with ideas bouncing around, with your synapses firing away. To tame this “monkey mind” jumble of thoughts, there’s nothing more effective than mind mapping. It allows you to get those thoughts out of your head and onto paper quickly without worrying about sequence or organization. And, if you enjoy brainstorming with yourself, as I do, mind maps can be your best friend.

By the time I sit down to write a book, bits and pieces of it have been bouncing around in my head for months. At that point, I don’t know the whole story, but I can imagine some of the beats: plot events that change the course of the story. They might be in the middle, at the end, or near the beginning. It doesn’t matter at this point, so I start with “Book” in the middle of the map and draw nodes or branches from that central idea for each of the beats. If I can map at least ten key beats, I know I’ve got a potential book.

Once I’ve mapped these beats, I move them around, connecting them in various ways and exploring how they relate to each other. Sometimes, it looks like they’re not related at all, but if I keep mapping, the story emerges. Later, I might map out a specific chapter or scene. Or I might map out a character profile to understand her better. The possibilities are endless.

If you’d like to see some visual examples, I urge you to do an online search (e.g., mind map + writing) and then give mind mapping a try. It could transform the way you write.