Saturday, February 18, 2017

What to do when you have too many ideas

I've stepped away from my series for a bit, and I'm writing some stand-alone books. My current work-in-progress is a YA novel, but right now I have too many ideas. Some writers might say that's a good thing, but when I have ideas for six books I want to write, the process gets muddled. When I come up with a great plot event, should I use it in my current book, or save it for a future book? If I'm struggling with the current work, should I slog through or switch to writing something else?

I try to stay on the same book, but it isn't easy. The project I'm working on now? I've been writing it, off and on, for the last few years. I try to outline, but I don't view writing as re-discovering a story that was already there, like a paleontologist chipping away at stone and finding fossils. I write drafts upon drafts as I edit, plan, and shape. In other words, I write like someone taming a wild horse.

When I get an idea for a future book, I write it down in that novel's file, but then I have to return to the main project, or it will never get done. If I'm not sure whether to use an idea now or save it for later, I use it now. There will always be more ideas.

And the ideas I get when I first start a book are always the fun ideas, the exciting premise. But actually writing an entire book--the nitty-gritty of character development, fixing plot holes, and rewriting and editing--is hard work and takes more than just creativity.

Right now I'm taming horses (that is, making sure the plot makes sense) and keeping a running file of stray ideas that haven't been assigned yet. Hopefully I'll be able to make it through this book, and write many more.

Photo by Unsplash.

Friday, January 13, 2017

On the Shelf: Book Riot's 2017 Challenge

A friend of mine pointed me to Book Riot's 2017 Read Harder Challenge. I considered myself pretty good at selecting diverse books, but lately most of my reading has consisted of nonfiction, and I need to shake things up a bit.

I'm currently reading Neurotribes by Steve Silberman, about the history of autism, and on just about every page I feel an almost static shock of recognition. As for novels, I'm reading through Chimimanda Ngozi Adichie's excellent Half of a Yellow Sun.

But reading through the list made me realize I do box myself in. Read a book about sports? I had never thought of it, but after scanning through the list, I realized there are some interesting books about running I'd like to read. I've never been too fond of travel memoirs, but I stumbled across an interesting one while looking for recipes. Since Book Riot recommended I read a travel memoir, I added The Sweet Life in Paris by David Leboviz to my to-read list.

There is a library close to my job, so I'll attempt to check a few items off the list. I don't think I'll be able to get to all 24 suggestions this year, but the challenge opened up some ideas about great books I could be missing out on.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Looking for guest posts

Hi all, I've featured some guest bloggers in the past (see examples on the sidebar) and want to open it up again. I want to highlight indie writers, but any writer is welcome to apply to have a post about their writing experience, a new book, etc. Please e-mail me at with a brief summary of your post for consideration.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Saturnine release

Saturnine is out today on Amazon and Barnes & Noble! It's ebook only for now.

If anyone needs a copy to review, e-mail me at laurabradford08 (at) (specify if you want pdf, epub, etc.). I am also available for interviews & guest posts.

It's been a long road, and I want to thank everyone who helped along the way. Your encouragement made all the difference.

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Thursday, October 27, 2016

October check-in

The leaves are falling, the ... snow ... is falling? Weather in New England is always unpredictable. It's nice that you can experience four distinct seasons here - sometimes all within the same day.

I decided I really wanted to go back to school, so it's bittersweet that I am doing that instead of NaNoWriMo this November. While I absolutely loved NaNo last year, I absolutely do not have the time this year. I will still try to cheer participants on through Twitter, and I'll set my own, much smaller writing goal.

My (wonderful) betas have read Saturnine, and I'm making final changes before I decide when this book will be ready to be flung out into the world. I'm not quite comfortable revealing the back-cover copy and excerpts and all that before I have a firm release date. However, the cover is already out there and is currently my Twitter icon. I was going to have a skilled photographer take an author photo of me by a nice tree with autumn foliage, but see the first line about snow.

I'm also trying to decide which book I will write next. I have three interesting choices, and I'm writing notes on each of them as I think of them. A top contender is the YA paranormal romance I've been hinting at in my Twitter for about the last year, and I think that will appeal to a wider (though different) audience.

In any case, the next time I update, I hope it's to announce a release date. As always, post any comments here or @lauraebradford.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Some progress!

You may have noticed that I cut back on blogging and tweeting a bit in recent months. That's because I was working hard to finish a draft of Saturnine that I could show beta readers. I had a draft years ago, but that version was not ready to publish and needed a lot of changes.

So last November, I participated in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and I completely re-wrote the book. By the month's end, I had 50,000 words, but it was still a rough draft.

Since last autumn, I've been writing and rewriting, and last weekend I finally opened the door to let a few readers critique it. One full write-up of the novel is on my desk, and I'm starting to plow through the editing stage. At this point I have no idea what any release date will be, but I will keep everyone posted. So that means I'll try to be on social media a little more.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Four Ways to Create Suspense

You don't need to be writing a thriller to need a way to keep readers engrossed in the story. These techniques can help you plot your novel, and move your characters (and readers) to The End.

1. A gun on the mantle

Just about every writer has heard of Chekhov's gun: the idea that, if you introduce a gun in Act 1, it must go off in Act 3. Writers are often taught this so they don't leave any loose threads at the end of the story, and so that actions have time to build up so the resolution does not seem implausible or coincidental.

But foreshadowing is great technique to build suspense. You don't need to include a literal weapon to create tension: just a hint at a serious conflict that will affect your main character. For example, in A Doll's House, the "gun on the mantle" is a secret a character is keeping from her husband - one with psychologically explosive repercussions. The audience knows from discussions that the secret going to come out, and they keep following along with the main character until the truth is discovered. When it does, the character must act - and how she responds to the crisis defines the play.

2. Ticking clock

There's an old cliche of a character trying to deactivate an explosive device set to go off in 60 seconds. However, a ticking clock in fiction could be anything: a deadline for ransom, a deal that needs to close to save a business or career, or a character who must declare his love before his ex-girlfriend's plane takes off (or before she marries someone else, etc.).

When it comes to characters' personal ticking clocks, I often think of The Little Mermaid: the main character has until "the sun sets on the third day" to make her crush fall in love with her, or she becomes the sea witch's prisoner. Those stakes make most thrillers look tame. But to create suspense, main character just need to resolve a goal within a short period of time, and not take a backpacking trip through Europe while thinking over their life - while readers' interest wanes.

This can also combine with #1 - "I need to act BEFORE such-and-such happens." And you can also...

3. Make it personal

This can be anything as serious as a kidnapped family member, to a character's personal convictions being challenged. The hero may be righting a wrong, or a villain may have her own reasons for seeking revenge. If the audience understands the character's motivation, they'll follow along. If not, they'll wonder why the character is giving so much for so little in return.

4. Kill your darlings

This is put to great effect in Game of Thrones. With multiple characters, each with enemies and a potential to win or lose, it keeps audiences on the edge of their seats wondering who will be next.

Another famous example is Psycho, in which the main character is killed off early in the movie. Audiences were shocked by the move. It doesn't have to be that drastic, but killing off a character early sends the message to readers that anything can happen.

Realistically, if you have a main character narrating the story, readers know that he or she will likely survive to the end. But maybe another beloved major character is put in danger, and their future called into question. If readers care enough, they'll keep turning pages to find out what happens.

Twitter: @lauraebradford