Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Blueprint to a book


I took a chance last weekend and planted the garden during the two nice days we had in a series of rainy ones. Needless to say, the very next day we got 2+ inches of rain. Not sure yet how much I’ll have to replant, and of course I forgot to take pictures. That’s on the agenda for next week’s post. Besides, maybe some stuff will start coming up by then (provided the seeds didn’t get washed away. Sigh.)

So I thought I’d give you a look-see into my class. Because of the trouble I’ve been having with Book 2, I decided to take an online course to both hold me accountable (since it’s being taught by my writing teacher and I don’t want to disappoint her πŸ™‚ ) and lead me through the process.

I’ve been doing pretty well with my process–which has evolved somewhat–since I started drafting novels in earnest. I’m not counting the two I did before I seriously aimed at getting published. But Book 2 has been giving me fits for a long time. Part of it is because I wasn’t getting the story quite right, and part of it, I think, is because I would really like to work on something else (which I just figured out. Yeah, I know, it takes me a bit, but I think my Muse has been getting frustrated and just wants me to write something.)

The online class is called “Write Your Novel Fast and Sure”. Perfect! It walks you through the process of building and shaping a novel, from the famous (infamous?) core problem that the protagonist has to solve, to the “promise” you as a writer makes to your reader, to the plot points of the story.

It’s a blueprint, breaking the project down into manageable pieces. Honestly, I’ve never broken a story down like this at this stage (I’ve done it once the story is written in order to make sure it hits the important stuff). I usually “write” the story in my head, then put together a “story bible” with specifics like character bios, setting details, and a rough summary/timeline of events. Breaking this story down reveals some of the things I was getting hung up on, like having a big conflict between Sierra and Quinn. Stepping back, that won’t work because of the characters themselves, the type of people they are. They might get frustrated with each other, but a major conflict needs a major flashpoint between them, and there isn’t one of those in this story.

First, the core problem of the story, or as I’ve heard it said, the story “goal”. What does the main character have to do? That ties in with the “promise” to the reader, which goes back to what a reader expects from the genre. Since this is a mystery, the goal is to find out who killed the victim and why. The promise to the reader is that there will be at least one dead body, and someone will figure out what happened. Wrapped into this is stuff that is part of the “story bible” (and in case you are wondering, there is a nice post about story bibles over at Story Empire), like characters, setting, and timeframe.

Then on to your character’s journey through the story, making sure they hit the “plot points” along the way. There are about as many interpretations of plot points as there are writing craft books about plotting, but they all hit on the same ideas: the inciting incident, things start going wrong, the midpoint crisis when the character thinks about giving up, more things go wrong, the good guy and the bad guy have it out (aka the climax), and the wind-down (aka resolution).

I’m at the first five pages assignment, and struggling with the setup. Since this is only book 2, I have to anticipate readers who have not read book 1 (if this was book 10, I wouldn’t have to reintroduce everyone again). So, trying to introduce the main character, the primary costars, the victim and what he means to the main character, the timeframe, and the setting, all in the first five pages, is bogging me down. I have more characters to introduce in those first pages than I did with book 1, so that’s a challenge. Do I describe the costars? How much? Can I wait to give those details until later? How do I establish that the story takes place in 1993? Am I really starting at the right place?

Ugh. It’s a draft. If I keep reminding myself it’s a draft and I’ll be changing it later, it helps. A little.

This novel-writing stuff seems harder now than it used to be, since I learned more about story structure. I feel like I have to analyze everything to make sure it hits all the specs on the “template”.

Maybe it’s time for a little ditty about Jack and Diane–no, wait, I mean Alex(andra) and Kieran. Or Kenna and Shaw. Or Erinne and Sean. Or a scene or two for the elusive urban fantasy my Muse keeps tossing my way. Just to take a break from Sierra and Quinn.

It feels like summer is here. The gnats are out. Flowers are blooming. The grass needs to be cut. The kids are home for the summer; well, my daughter is home, my son is home for the weekend. To all those who have been in the path of Mother Nature’s not-so-nice weather, stay safe!

Enjoy your weekend!

Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for over a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, six chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

16 thoughts on “Blueprint to a book

  1. This sounds like a really interesting class! I teach online, so I have a special interest in the way that information/course material is presented online. It’s good to know that it’s going well.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It is, Margot. I finally finished my next assignment (rough draft, anyway). My writing teacher has a week-long class coming up in about a week, but that will give me more time to work on the next assignments. It’s self-paced, and I have a year to complete the course, but I don’t intend for it to take that long. Seems to be going well so far.

      Have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m very interested in your class, Julie. I’m on Book 2 of my trilogy which has been relatively easy to write because it was originally part of a massive Book 1. I just cut the book in two. Book 3 will be a different matter and I will have to start it around Fall. If you benefit from this class, I may take it also!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The class is great! There are two tracks, one for beginners, and one for pros, which is more involved. The class walks through the basics, and the assignments are set up to help a writer make sure the story has a solid base before spending a lot of time writing and then having to rip things out and redo them. I knew it would help me with Book 2.

      I’ll try to keep everyone posted. Right now I’ve got my draft of the next assignment–the first five pages–finished. I feel if I’m comfortable with those, the rest won’t seem as intimidating. πŸ˜€

      Have a great week, Jacqui!


  3. Zoey is looking as stunning as ever. Sorry about the possibility of your seeds washing away. Maybe a neighbor will get surprise vegetables growing in their yard. Or you’ll get a surprise garden halfway across yours–if they don’t get mowed down. That happens in our yard sometimes–a new plant is growing, and we have to stop to think, “Wait, is that a weed or something good?” Like the tomato plant somehow growing in the rose garden. We don’t know how it got there, but it wound up doing very very well and is even coming back this year! We’ve also found several palm trees growing, giant bird of paradise flowers, and a loquat tree! We cultivated and then sold the bird of paradise plants! We’ll do the same with the palms when they get bigger. I think we ditched the baby loquat because one of those is enough. (Or maybe we transplanted it but it didn’t survive. I forget.)
    Anyhow, that was a long aside. Sorry for your story struggles. Seems like writing the other thing you want to write so it will stop interfering in your mind would help clear your head for book 2. Not sure your Muse would agree, but that’s my take.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I checked the garden (and weeded) yesterday. A couple things are coming up, and the tomato and pepper plants look good. I’m worried I’ll have to replant the potatoes–our soil has a bunch of clay in spots, so the potatoes have a tendency to rot before they grow. Sigh. I’ve found baby trees in the garden before; some of them are now growing in a different area of the yard. Now, if I could just relocate the weeds…

      I finally got my next assignment done–well, I’ll have to revise it, but it’s the first five pages. I know I’ll probably be making changes to it later, but I feel like I’ve made a little progress anyway.

      How are your chickens? Hubs and my son put our 6 chicks (now past the “ugly” stage) outside. They are such chickens! Won’t even go outside; they just hang out inside the coop. My husband moved their water and food outside, so they are forced to go out. I saw one yesterday tiptoe out to the feeder, grab a few bites, then dash back into the coop. Yes, chickens!

      Have a great week!

      Liked by 1 person

      • How funny about your chicken chickens! Have you ever had a group of birds that skittish?
        Well done with the first five pages. Of course you’ll end up changing 70% of it, but getting it down first is the hardest part. It will totally all come together eventually. Not to worry!

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Sounds like a great class to take, Julie:) I’m heading home to see if my garden survived all the thunder storms last week. Most of my stuff was in the green house. Can’t wait to see where your story goes next, and I’m glad no major conflict!

    Liked by 1 person

    • LOL! I’m sure Sierra and Quinn will be glad to avoid major conflicts as well πŸ˜€ I checked the garden last night, and saw a few things growing. The onion sets survived, but the potatoes haven’t surfaced yet. I hope I won’t need to replant those, but in the past they have rotted before they come up after we’ve gotten a lot of rain, so if I don’t see any sprouts by the end of the week, I’ll have to replant. Ugh. Hope your garden survived!

      Enjoy your week, Denise!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Sounds like a great class, Julie. And you’re so busy! I’m not doing a garden this year. I admire your efforts.

    And thanks for the Story Empire story bible post mention.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re not doing a garden this year? I’ll be sure to post pictures for you πŸ˜€

      As for the story bible, I keep thinking about your post and one of Mae’s latest about her story bible every time I look at how the class is progressing. Gathering the materials before starting the assembly πŸ˜€

      Have a great week, Staci!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I can so relate to all those questions and complexes you have with the next book in your series. Congrats on sticking with your courses. It sounds like the courses are making huge difference for you, Hugs to Zoey and happy writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mae! After so long without getting any traction, it feels good to be “forced” to get words on the page. It’s the kick in the shorts I needed, I think (and it doesn’t hurt that my writing teacher is doing the class πŸ˜€ )

      Have a great week!


  7. Julie, what a great name for the class and no wonder you read about it further and signed up! The advice sounds ideal and helpful … and isn’t it with all things in life, the more the you know the less you feel you know! As a newbie writer everything seems initially amazing and only later do we see how hard it really is to create a series of books! Good luck with the writing and gardening! πŸ˜€

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely, Annika, you are so right. The more I learn, the more I feel I don’t know. It’s a vicious cycle, and yes, creating a series … yeesh. I do have a different series drafted, but of course that needs more work. So, I just close my eyes, plug my nose, and jump in πŸ˜€

      Liked by 1 person

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