This scene I cut because it did nothing for the structure of the book but I still think it's cute, so I wanted to share.
It's Dakota convincing himself he needs to talk to the Chief of the Pickleville Police and what happens right before he's able to...
He sat in his truck contemplating whether or not he actually wanted to go through with this. He could just leave town when Ron caught up with him. Just do what he always did to survive. What if Andrew told everyone on the farm? Was that even ethical for him to tell, being that he’s a police officer? Dakota had no idea even how much to tell, if anything.
It wasn’t as if that guy was going to become Dakota’s therapist, although that wasn’t such a bad idea if he were staying. Maybe if he talked about some of his issues with more than just his brother, Jimmy, he’d have less issues.
He looked around the parking lot, taking in his surroundings. He noticed a lady across the street at the auto-mechanics. She was talking to a dark-haired older man that he was sure he’d met once but couldn’t remember the man’s name. The older man had his arms crossed in front of his chest and the lady seemed to be flirting, if the hand she had on the man’s bicep was any indication. The man had his body turned away and looked like he wanted to throw up all over her. Dakota really wanted to tell her that her efforts weren’t working but figured she’d learn that soon enough.
Okay, that made more sense, he thought as a man with shaggy blond hair came out and put an arm around the older man’s waist. The blonde’s name was Luis, Dakota remembered him from a cookout a few months back. That was right before Owen and Neil moved away. Dakota watched as Luis kissed the older man’s cheek. He seemed to linger, making Dakota wonder if he was whispering something in the other man’s ear.
Luis came around a lot to help with Leonard’s care before he passed on to. Dakota thought it was nice to have so many people want to take care of a person the last few moments of their life. He wondered who would care besides his family if Ron did eventually kill him like he always threatened.
Dakota shuttered and opened the glove compartment, pulling out the police reports and restraining order he always carried with him. He took a deep breath and then got out of the truck. He was glad the area was open and didn’t have any hiding places, like alleyways or even one-way streets. He could see everyone around him and that put him at ease.
He walked into the station and up to the counter. The lady behind the desk didn’t look at him for several minutes or even acknowledge his presence. Finally she said, “Can I help you?” without looking away from her computer. She sounded bored.
“I’d like to see the chief of police, please.”
“You’ll have to go to his house. He doesn’t come into the station most Saturday’s. Or wait until tomorrow.”
“No, I’d like to get this over with.”
She finally looked away from the computer screen long enough to get a paper and a pen. She wrote something down and handed it to him.
He looked down at an address and said, “Thank you.” He turned to go but then turned back, asking, “Do you always give strangers the chief’s address?”
“I know who you are. You work for Travis Heath. This is a very small town, Mr. Weaver. You’ll get used to it.” She never even looked up at him the entire time she was talking.
He shuttered, scared that she’d give just anyone his address. “Please don’t ever give out my location to anyone. It doesn’t matter what they tell you.”
“It could mean my life if you did, ma’am,” he told her, whispering it even though they were the only ones in the station at the moment.
She looked up at his face then, her eyes filled with concern for the first time since he’d been in there talking to her. “I won’t.”
He nodded and smiled. “I reckon you’ll keep that promise, ma’am.”
He turned and left the station, getting back to his truck which was parked on the curb. He opened the door and got in, immediately programming the address into the GPS on his phone. He started his truck and followed the directions his phone gave him. He probably could have walked the distance. It was only a few blocks over. He pulled into the driveway of a small blue house that was well kept on the outside.
I’m all about improving. That’s really what this post is about. A willingness to learn is important for growth. Those who don’t adopt that attitude stagnate. With that in mind, one of my goals for this year (2022) is to learn all I can about story structure and plotting.
There are seven areas of fiction: plot, character, structure, scenes, dialogue, voice, and theme. These are the areas I, as well as every fiction writer, focus on when I develop a story. All seven are a continuous learning process because practice doesn’t make perfect, it makes progress.
Why structure and plot? I have no idea. At the beginning of this year, I wanted to start somewhere so I randomly chose those areas.
So what’s the difference between structure and plot? Plot is the series of events that make up a story. Structure is the layout of the story. Or in more basic terms, Plot is what happens, and structure is how you tell what happens.
Why am I focusing on only plotting and structure this year?
Mostly because Rome wasn’t built in a day. What I mean is, learning takes time and focus. This year I’m learning about those two areas. Next year, I’ll set learning goals in one or two different areas. It’s not a sprint.
So here’s what I’m reading and taking notes on:
What I’m revisiting:
How to Make a Living as a Writer by James Scott Bell—The title is somewhat misleading because Bell doesn’t just talk about marketing. He gives a broad view of the writing process. I revisit this book when I think I need to, especially when I’m about to focus on one area of fiction. It’s sort of like a 100-level college course.
Romancing the Beat by Gwen Hayes
Writing from the Middle by James Scott Bell
Super Structure by James Scott Bell
Here’s what will be new information for me:
Save the Cat! Writes a Novel by Jessica Brody—I’m hoping this gives a more narrowed view of the writing process so I can brush up on it again.
Structuring You Novel by K.M. Weiland
Writing & Selling You Mystery Novel by Hallie Ephron—What I’m looking for in this book is less about the selling part. I may go back and revisit this section of the book later on. I’m much more interested in the overall structure of a mystery novel.
Writing the Cozy Mystery by Nancy J. Cohen—I’m looking for the same experience from this book as I am from the Ephron’s book.
Mastering Suspense Structure & Plot by Jane K. Cleland
Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell
I’m also signed up for an online course and a few webinars. There are a lot of opportunities to learn from other writers who are willing to talk about what they know. I have a few things lined up for this spring but am always looking for other learning opportunities.
Also, I have a list of genre fiction books that I’m slowly working through. Most are Mysteries. I’m especially into Cozy Mysteries at the moment. I just finished The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman. Why Mysteries? The mystery genre is the one of the better places to go to learn from other authors. The absolute best way to learn the craft is by reading.
So, I might have a small book cover buying problem. I see one I like, and I buy it without contemplating my purchase. There are three main problems here. One is my pocketbook. Book covers cost money, and I don’t have a lot of that. I’m not destitute or anything. If I’m looking at them, then that means something, right? Still, I don’t have a lot to spare. Also, it means my impulse control is wanky. The third problem and the one I’m exploring here is that buying covers I don't need is bad for business, in more than one way.
The monetary issue goes with out saying. Still, it's worth mentioning because I’ve had financial problems in the past and couldn’t always afford to spend what I should on projects. This is a whole other set of mistakes that I can get into in another article. I’ve since rectified them and won’t repeat them.
Mainly what I have done is to fix this problem is plan ahead enough to give each project the budget it needs. If I don’t have the budget for all the projects I’d like to complete, then I don’t release them right away. Sometimes I have to wait. Simple math really. But I still feel as though, by buying stuff I don't need, I'm not honoring what I've learned from the struggles of the past.
This leads me to the next issue. It wreaks havoc on my marketing and production budget and makes reconciling my accounts difficult. I have to justify every expense. But If I’m spending money on projects I don’t have time to write than it's money I’m basically throwing away. Not to mention, I have to pull that money from somewhere. I bet you guess where it comes from. My marketing and production budget. If I don't have that money, then it delays when I can release it and throws off my whole schedule.
This brings me to the next, and probably the biggest, problem. Here's the scenario: there is a cover that sparks an idea. I buy the cover and because my creativity always goes in the direction of creating a series. I add more story and thus, more covers. All the ideas I have in my head are just sitting up there screaming at me to write them. But there's only so much time in the day.
It’s a rookie mistake in a lot of ways because I’m seven years deep into the authoring thing. I know how long a project is going to take me. I know what I’m capable of. Yet I add more onto the list which is unnecessary stress. It makes it difficult to focus and accomplish my yearly goals, largely because I keep changing them.
In the past, I’ve started one project after another, getting partly through and then not finishing because I get overwhelmed. I’ve made great strides in trying to rectify this, but buying covers makes me feel as though I haven’t gone far enough.
Again, there is an opportunity to improve and I’m treating it as such. Here’s what I’m doing differently:
1. I set goals and I follow through in accomplishing them.
This is the third year that I’ve actually set goals. I know what projects I’m working on for the year and I've accomplish every goal I've set. Why does this help? It helps me keep my focus on what's important to me.
I write the goals down on note cards and pin them to my wall so I can see them every day. The first year I started this I kept it to two goals. This year I have ten and I've already accomplished one of them.
2. I leave space open in my schedule for my muse to do its thing. I leave three months where I have nothing planned. Why three months? Well, I usually work in three month blocks of time. I'm not sure why. It's just what works for me. I know what I can accomplish for the year and have the projects pretty well set by the beginning of the year. I pick the project that feels right at the time. If that's a book in a series I haven't released yet and hadn't planned on then I can work on because I have room. I might sit on the book for a while without releasing it right away if it makes sense for me to do so.
3. I have a mission and vision statement. These usually change from year to year. They are invaluable because they give me a direction to follow while writing my goals and scheduling my time.
4. I’m prioritizing and finishing what I started.
Doing this makes marketing easier but more importantly, I'm getting the books to my readers in a timely manner. I'll have Pickleville finished and re-released by the end of this year. And I will finish writing Saint Lakes and Wingspan by the end of 2023.
It's not all bad:
The one good thing about shiny object syndrome is I have the book covers ready to go. They inspire new ideas and keep things fresh creatively speaking.
I’ve learned some things in the last few years and I’ve applied the knowledge each time. I still have a lot of growing to do, as a person and an author. It's good news because learning is a lifelong process. If I still have room for improvement, it means I’m still kicking.
Owen turned to glare at the person who spoke, intending to give them a piece of his mind. His eyes widened when he saw who it was. Mr. Bulging Biceps stood about a foot away from him. He smiled and offered Owen something.
“You can give her this. She loves them.” It looked as if he held a peppermint candy. It was a round disk-shaped thing with red and white stripes.
Owen hesitated. If he touched Mr. Bulging Biceps, he’d somehow fall into his trap. Someone that sexy had to have set a few, waiting for someone like Owen to fall into. Didn’t he?
Instead of taking the treat, Owen turned to face the man and then moved back farther into the barn. “I saw you carrying a bag of feed.”
I saw you carrying a… God, could he be more ridiculous. In his mind, he rolled his eyes at himself.
“After the diner, we had to get horse feed.” The explanation was unnecessary and a little odd. Or maybe it was his matter-of-fact tone. Something about it seemed off. And then the guy said, “Leonard said you’re staying with us. We can share my room.”
“What?” Whoa. Owen frowned.
“We can share.”
“What?” Owen had no idea what to say to that. They weren’t sharing a room because they had no other choice. Given the size of the house, Owen found that hard to believe, which led down a path that was sexy and made him hard when he pictured the smoke-show of a man on top of him. Of course, in his imagination he had working legs, which proved he was not ready for whatever Mr. Bulging Biceps had in mind.
“Why do you keep asking me that?” The question floored Owen.
“Are you serious right now? I don’t even know your name.”
“My name is Neil.”
Mr. Bulging Biceps had a name. That was good. That was fantastic. It made him a little more human and less like a demi-god.
Well, for all of three seconds. And then Neil took Owen’s hand in his and placed the candy in the center of his palm and Bam! He was in the demi-god category again.
Owen swallowed, intending to tell Neil exactly what he thought about his blunt offer to share a bed, but what he said was, “Did you fall from Olympus?”
This scene isn't edited so read with that in mind. It was cut from the book for several reasons, the main one beginning it didn't fit the story structure well enough.
Neil smiled as Carter and Owen argued about who won the race. Carter had won and Neil could tell by the evil smile on Owen’s face that he knew Carter did but was just teasing the kid.
“I almost won.”
“It wasn’t even close.”
“It was so close.”
“Whatever, you just don’t want to admit it.”
Carter rolled his eyes. “That would be you.”
Neil walked over to where Travis stood next to the grill. They were having a cookout. Neil and Owen had worked together to make potato salad when Jaron invited them.
“Owen and I are moving away soon.”
Travis had been taking a drink of his beer but he nearly choked on it at Neil’s words. “Umm, you know we love you, right? You’re family, just like Leonard was.”
“I know. I love you guys too. But Owen has this job and I need to go with him. I’m gonna be okay, Travis. You don’t have to worry about me.”
“I’ll miss you.”
“I know. That’s why I’m telling you now, instead of the day we leave.”
Travis chuckled, not that Neil really understood what was so funny but he was used to it.
“Owen, we’re getting a farm with horses, right?” Neil yelled across the yard, just to make sure that was still their plan.
“Sure, honey. If we can find a place like that.” Owen yelled back.
“Wait. You guys are doing what now?” Jaron asked, coming over to where they stood. Travis latched onto Jaron and held him close as he whispered in Jaron’s ear. Jaron’s eyes widened as he looked at Neil.
“We’re moving to Muskogee as soon as I find a place,” Owen said, wheeling himself over to where Neil stood. Owen crooked a finger at him and Neil bent down and gave Owen the kiss that he obviously wanted. “I love you,” Owen whispered against Neil’s lips.
“I know that. I love you too.”
“Thanks for trusting me, honey.”
“Is this like the horse thing? I have to trust you now?”
Owen chuckled, but didn’t answer
“No.” Travis answered for Owen. “Owen was over the top dramatic with the horseback riding thing. You’re not.”
“Dramatic means he makes a big deal out of stuff right?” Neil asked. When Travis nodded Neil said, “He’s always dramatic then.”
“Hey. So not true.” Owen’s mouth hung open at Neil’s words.
“See.” Neil said to Travis. “You guys are coming to watch Greg and me tonight?” Neil said, deciding to change the subject. He really didn’t like the way that Owen had narrowed his eyes. He looked mad.
“Yep. We sure are.”
“I’m coming this time too, Neil,” Carter said and practically danced with happiness when Jackson came into the yard. Carter and Jackson did this weird handshake thing they always did. At least Carter stopped saying that he was going to marry Jackson. Maybe Carter had a crush on someone else. Neil could tell Carter’s friend Seth really liked Carter for more than just best friends, but he didn’t think Carter was paying attention.
“Dakota, are you coming too?” Neil said. Dakota nodded but didn’t take his eyes off of Jackson. When Jackson looked his way Dakota turned his gaze over to where Greg sat with Brian on his lap.
Owen poked Neil in the stomach right above his groin area. Neil jumped back in surprise, fully expecting Owen to poke him lower next time. He looked at Owen, who narrowed his eyes as he looked up at Neil. “I’m not dramatic.”
“You are right now,” Neil said because he bet Owen knew the way he was already. Owen was really smart.
“I am not!”
“You should know stuff like this about yourself,” Neil said. Owen turned and started wheeling himself away. Just the thought of Neil possibly hurting Owen’s feelings had Neil chasing after him. “I’m sorry, Owen,” Neil said as he came closer, bending down to give Owen a kiss. Neil was right behind Owen when Owen turned around and launched himself at Neil. Neil had no choice but to catch Owen or he would get hurt. Neil figured Owen trusted him enough to know he would catch him.
Neil fell backwards on his ass, Owen was on top of him. Owen smiled down at him wickedly and started to tickle his sides, except Neil had never been very ticklish anywhere but on his feet.
“You’re not ticklish,” Owen said with disappointment after a few minutes.
“Well, that sucks. My plan backfired. I should have known, you’re all muscle.” It was cute the way Owen’s bottom lip poked out in a pout.
Neil smiled at him and licked that lip that was stuck out. He kissed Owen then, intending for it to be a quick little peck. Neil knew everyone was watching them and he didn’t want to give poor little Carter a show, but Owen deepened the kiss. Neil felt Owen’s hard cock against his stomach, which made Neil fully hard. He wanted to fuck Owen right there in the grass and he didn’t care if anyone watched.
Owen moaned and ended the kiss by giving Neil little kisses, one right after another. “Finish this later?”
“Oh yeah. I want in you,” Neil said stealing another kiss.
“Well, now that we know which one of you guys tops,” Travis said flipping burgers at the grill. “Can you kindly stop doing it on my lawn in front of my son?”
Jackson had his hands over Carters eyes and Jaron over his ears, so he probably didn’t see or hear anything.
“I’m in middle school and I go to a public school. I know about sex dad,” Carter said. Jaron looked like he wanted to throw up at Carter’s words.
Neil sat up, taking Owen with him. He put Owen back in his chair before standing up. Neil decided right then and there that Owen needed to eat more. Owen seemed to have gotten thinner since Leonard got sick and passed away. He wasn’t sure why he hadn’t noticed it before now but now that he had, Neil was determined to take care of Owen better.
This is a deleted Scene from Still Wishing (Pickleville 6)
I know I’m a little late posting this. It always seems to take me a while to build goals and schedule my year properly. Part of the reason is that I’m a little unrealistic with my goals. I also over schedule as well. I’ve been at his writing gig since 2014, getting my first publishing contract in 2015. I had teenage kids so some of my day was interrupted by happenings. If you’re a parent, you know what I mean. Kids need attention and sometimes it’s impromptu attention. I couldn’t always sit and write. And that sometimes meant I couldn’t reach the goals I set for myself.
In 2019, my life changed. Both of my children left the nest. One went to the west and the other to the east coast. So I went back to teaching for a while. I needed a break anyway. Writer’s burnout and block are genuine problems and I had it. But I took the life change and ran with it. When the world stopped in 2020, I felt better about the empty nest, and I felt like a creator again. But I didn’t want to push myself either. So I eased back into writing and gained a routine. By the time 2021 rolled around, I was ready to approach writing with a business mindset, something I hadn’t done up that point. So I committed to learning every aspect of my craft, including the business side of things. And I’ve improved ever sense.
One such improvement is setting realistic goals for myself.
So here are my 10 goals for 2022:
The first one is personal.
1. Take a work free anniversary trip with my wonderful husband.
It’s our 25th wedding anniversary in June. We want to do something special and romantic. So we’re planning a trip. I’m currently researching romantic destinations. Any advice where we should go is not only welcome but appreciated.
The following rest are writer, marketer, or business related. Sometimes they encompass all of those categories.
2. First, I want to be a better business owner.
Here’s what I mean by that: While I’m doing a lot of things right where running a business is concerned, there are a few things I would like to improve upon. Up to this point, I haven’t taken proper care of the accounting side of things. And as of writing this post, I’m a sole proprietorship. I would like to change to an LLC.
Changing my attitude from, “I’m just a genre fiction writer” to “I’m a businessperson who’s in the business of creating genre fiction”. It’s all about mindset.
3. Learn as much as I can about marketing, story structure, and plotting.
The marketing part of that sentence always feels like a thing, but it helps to focus on it when I add it to my list. I think I learn one or two new things every year without trying. Social media groups are great for this. I belong to one in particular in which its authors helping each other. Every once in a while there’s a little nugget I put on my marketing table.
There are 7 areas of fiction: plot, character, structure, scenes, dialogue, voice, and theme. For the first half of the year, I’m learning story structure. And in the last half, I’m learning plot. I can go into how I’m going about that in a different post.
4. I want to learn the best approaches to foreign translation and audiobook publishing and put that into practice by the end of this year, at least publishing one book in each.
5. I want to write twenty-four articles/blog posts. I’ve gotten out of the practice and want to get back into it again. I love connection with readers and other writers. Blogging feels like a good place to cultivate those connection. It breaks down to two a month, and that feels doable for me.
6. I want to try dictation. I tried once before, years ago, but found it strange so gave up, probably too early. This time around I’m going to stick with it long enough to figure out if I like it or not.
7. I want to enter at least one contest this year. There are several that are specific to the LGBTQIA writing community, for which I am a part. I not only write characters who are LGBTQIA, I’m bisexual as well. I’ll pick one or more of them and submit. I’ve already figured out when to submit to a couple of them. I just need to plan the projects accordingly.
The next three goals are writing specific.
8. I want to write 400,000 words this year.
Last year I wrote 278,885. Yeah, I know how many words I write. I keep track using a spreadsheet and I also keep a writing journal. Doing so helps me set goals for myself, hence this post. Having the data also keeps things realistic for me, which I need. As I said before, I’ve not always been kind to myself. I over-schedule. Have the data helps me not to do that.
Breaking down the math helps me see that 400,000 is an achievable goal for me. It’s 121,115 words more. 400k is just under 34k words a month. I try to write at least six days a week, taking one day off. That’s 8500 words a week, which breaks down to just over 1400 words a day. Very doable for me, considering, when I’m in the zone, I quadruplet that daily goal.
9. Finish rewriting my Pickleville series. (I’ll add more on this after I post the next goal).
10. Write four books in the Saint Lakes/Wingspan series, making it possible to finish that series by 2023.Okay, so why are these goals?
First off, a problem I have is shiny object syndrome. What does this mean? I get an idea. A lot of them come from book covers or playing the what if game (more about this game in the next paragraph). The book covers especially are a problem and not only for my pocketbook. (I’ll write more about this in another post).
Here’s the what if question. This can be someone I see in the grocery store or cafe. Anyone at all. And I do it without trying. What if that person is a drug runner? And what if they get into some sort of trouble with their boss. Now their boss is after them, but they don’t know it. They’re just shopping for fruit loops at the market like any normal day, but the boss’s henchmen come down aisle 4 looking for them and now they’re on the run.
So you can see how much of a rabbit hole I can go down just shopping in the cereal aisle. I’ve learned to carry notecards. It helps to make a little note for myself and then when I get home, I write it in my story ideas journal and make a file on my computer. Doing so solves some of the problem, but not all of it.
In the past, I’ve had more series started than I did time. I was so overwhelmed that I burned myself out and had to stop writing for a while. It’s not good for my business or my sanity. Not to mention I made it difficult for myself to market the books, too.
So I’m setting realistic goals. There’s still some ambition there. I’m always going to want to set a higher standard each time. It keeps me fresh. I’m also setting a schedule that works well for me.
Oh, and I’m already over 42k into my yearly writing goal as of the time of this post.
April Kelley is an author of LGBT Romance. Her works include The Journey of Jimini Renn, which was a Rainbow Awards finalist, Whispers of Home, the Saint Lakes series, and over thirty more.