A Brief History of Plot

Some of you have asked me about terminology I’ve used recently in my Tuesday #writingtips and #writetips. Or possibly you’ve wondered about my using an inverted check mark to represent plot, so today I’ll explain an excerpt from Novel Basics, my compact yet complete guide to writing a novel.

Note: my illustrations may appear a bit unfinished because one of the points I make in Novel Basics is that writers can jot down the basic  ideas they need to start a novel on twenty 3″ X 5″ index cards in about ninety minutes.

A Brief History of Plot

Way back in 4th Century BCE, the Greek philosopher Aristotle gave the first guidelines to plot structure when he said that a tragedy needs three parts: beginning, middle, and end, later called Act 1, Act 2, and Act 3. He also stated that the beginning isn’t necessarily preceded by any significant action, the middle grows out of the beginning, and the end grows out of middle. A successful plot might contain a surprise like some sort of shift in the action or finding out a secret from the past.

This very simple statement belies all the variations, refinements, arguments and applications to assorted kinds of storytelling that have developed since that time. Those variations included that of Horace, a Roman poet, who later said that a play needed five acts. Both Aristotle and Horace were talking about stories performed on a stage with live actions. Some differences and divergences of how plots were structured came about with the novel.

One of the earliest ways extended fiction was structured was the still popular picaresque plot, so named because Miguel de Cervantes used this type of plot in Don Quixote, first published in 1606, in which the hero and his sidekick, a rascal or picaro named Sancho Panza, go on one adventure after another.

The picaresque plot tends to have a bunch of episodes loosely strung together, that is, just one darned thing after another. You might recognize it from the very popular Fifty Shades of Grey. (Honestly, I haven’t read that novel. But a friend of mine read the first few chapters and reported that the book seemed episodic to her.)

Charles Dickens structured The Pickwick Papers, first published in installments in 1836, in similar fashion though he did frame the adventures with an overall story about Pickwick’s wedding proposal to a woman who sued him for breach of promise for not following through at the end of the novel.

I’ll omit some of the other variations of plot structure and skip to Syd Field’s Screenplay: The Foundations of Screenwriting, first published in 1979.

Field said that successful movies tend to have three parts: Act 1 that runs for about thirty minutes (about thirty script pages), Act 2 that runs sixty minutes (about sixty pages), and Act 3, that runs to no more than thirty minutes. Field also says that a successful movie has six essential scenes.

Not long after that, Robert J. Ray in The Weekend Novelist described the structure of a novel as similar to Field’s paradigm, but with more pages in each act because the novelist must put much more on the page than the screenwriter does. Suffice it to say that the plot of a novel needs several scenes, six or even as many as nine including scenes that cut up the large Act 2 into manageable parts.

Scriptwriters are often so precise about bringing in the essential scenes that you can time them. “Hey, hey, wait for it. Wait for it. Ah, here comes Plot Point 1, right on schedule at minute 29.” Novelists generally aren’t so precise about hitting the plot points, but still successful novels usually place these important scenes at fairly regular intervals.

Somerset Maugham, author of almost twenty novels, once famously said, “There are three rules for writing a novel. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.” That hasn’t kept other writers from writing books on the subject and coming up with more rules, up to ten in one instance. My own take on this is that the novel you write tells you what it needs and wants to be as you write it, including decisions on structure. For example, although the classical template might dictate otherwise, Suzanne Collins divided The Hunger Games into three parts, all about the same length: Part I–138 pages, Part II–106 pages, Part III–130 pages.

As for myself, a writer primarily of mystery fiction, I prefer a more logical plot than the picaresque novel has, not one darned thing after another, but a tightly connected chain of events: that is, one more thing happens because of what happened before and the whole situation getting more and more complicated until things come together in a big scene in which the whole situation gets resolved.

My favorite representation of plot is the inverted check mark with the three major acts and the six major scenes overlaid on it because this diagram shows how the action and the tension of a well plotted novel build to the highest point of intensity in the book that’s resolved before its end.

Instead of thinking of plot structure as a formula, think of it as a skeleton, the bare bones on which you need to build your novel.

 

Novel Basics is available in print for $8.99 (ISBN: 9781730833991). The digital version of Novel Basics costs only $0.99 from October 9 through October 15, 2019–just in time for you to use it to prepare for NaNoWriMo 2019–at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP and £0.99 at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07K2LXFRP

 

The Once and Future Book

A WiP Report

I’ve reached midpoint of my current Work in Progress. (I think. I hope.)  So I’m taking some time to reflect on the book I’ve worked on – or at least thought about –  since the 1980’s when my daughter and I participated in activities of the Society for Creative Anachronism, “an international living history group with the aim of studying and recreating mainly Medieval European cultures and their histories before the 17th century” (Wikipedia).

In the years Jess and I were active in the SCA, we made many friends; enjoyed the group fantasy of wearing weird clothes, sometimes eating strange food at feasts, speaking an offbeat version of the English language; attending events like  Kris Kinder in December; and learning arcane skills such as transforming fleece into yarn with a drop spindle.

But when I decided to become a part time writer in addition to my full time job as professor of writing at a local community college, and my family responsibilities, my leisure time vanished.

Yet over the years, my mind has returned to the concept of setting a mystery novel at least partly if not completely inside the world of a Renaissance Festival and/or inside a group somewhat similar to the SCA. Some times I called the book Death in Shining Armor and sometimes Die by the Sword. Currently, I’m working on the fourth version, or maybe it’s the fifth, again called Death in Shining Armor.

I wrote the first version of Death of Shining Armor with a young female police officer as the protagonist in the early ’90’s. In 1993 I received a review of the book by a published author who  also  belonged to the SCA, so sarcastic and scathing I felt like I’d been beaten after I read it. As the daughter of a belittling mother, the ex-wife of a belittling husband, and a teacher of writing, I abhor that sort of feedback. I would never permit it in my own classroom. But since those voices in my head echoed that of the reviewer, I abandoned the project.

Later in the 90’s I returned to the book with a female private detective from a family of investigators. I actually got an agent to shop this version around to publishers, but she didn’t manage to sell it. So I moved on to a completely different project.

Still intrigued by the concept, I returned to the project some time in the ’00’s, but gave the book  a young female protagonist in peril who wasn’t an investigator at all. This version I called Die by the Sword. I abandoned this version and a tweak I tried of it in 2017. I think what bothered me most about that version was that I’d bashed some of the characters in it based on people I have known, something I said I abhorred, that is , critique the crap out of them without allowing them to do the same to me.

But apparently this is the book that won’t die. And so about six weeks ago I picked the suspense version up again. And it’s going better. I’m doing a better job of letting the supporting characters live their own lives. In contrast, I’m finding points of identification with the protagonist that help me sympathize with her more. Another thing that might help this version is I’ve set in 1988 instead of present day. (What fun!) Another thing that seems to be helping is the confidence in my own work I’ve gained from my experiences as an indie author since 2011. I’ll keep you posted on how my once and future book is going.

Meanwhile, to keep up with what I’m doing, friend me on Facebook where I’m juliet.kincaid and JulietKincaidauthor2016, follow me on Twitter where I’m JulietKincaid, and occasionally check out my Amazon Central Author’s page at www.amazon.com/Juliet-Kincaid/e/B00DB4HWRG for new publications.

My most recent published work is a boxed set of my first three Calendar Mystery books and a short story featuring a business girl and a dashing detective and set in Kansas City where living could downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. You can get your own copy at www.amazon.com/dp/B07QDKF413

P. S. When you read my work and if you enjoy it, please write a review and post it on Amazon and/or Goodreads. Just a few words, perhaps about what you like most about the book or story, would help. And I’d really appreciate it.

 

 

Transitions Take Time

A WiP Report

The closet in my bedroom in our little house isn’t big enough to accommodate my entire wardrobe, so this time of year I move my dark blue and gray sweat pants, my flannel shirts, my black and my brown fleece hoodies from the back of the house to the closet in the home office at the front of the house. I usually park my winter clothes on a chair while I haul out my spring and summer jackets, lightweight and colorful slacks and shirts (orange, peach, bright pink, yellow – oh joy!) and a skirt or two. I hang them on the door while I fill the front closet with items I won’t wear again for six months or so.

But the transition between winter and spring has been hard this year because of the late snowstorms and cold weather we’ve had around here. So some of my fleece pants and jackets have made the trip across the house two or three times.

My transition between writing projects has been prolonged and difficult as well.

Originally, I planned on continuing my cozy historical Calendar Mystery series set in Kansas City with an April book. I’ve had a very strong idea for this book for more than a year. But life-happens events gobbled up the time I needed to write that book and finish it this spring. And so I stopped working on it and set my sights on writing a book to bring out in fall that would start a new series.

Even that took several weeks because I dithered among three possible ideas, all of which involved books that I’ve already at least drafted: a science fiction novel set in a dystopian, matriarchal society that I wrote in 1986, a vast historical novel set in the Ancient World that I completed in 1989, and a series of academic mysteries that I’ve been fooling around with for years and years in one form or another. Characters from all three projects have called to me lately, the big historical especially, so much so that I hauled out the old notebooks and boxes of manuscripts for that project and put them on the shelf where my calendar mysteries lived for so long.

If I gave the heroine tiny feet like Cinderella and put dragons in the series, I’d make it into historical fantasy, and it might sell quite well as such. I could call the first book in the series The Spoils of War and market it as the next Game of Thrones, yet somewhat softer to suit my largely female readership.

But when I read Madeleine Miller’s marvelous novel The Song of Achilles, I began to doubt my ability to come up with enough detail to make one novel, let alone a series, come alive and sing. I also had problems even figuring out where in the future world I’d put the characters and action of the dystopian novel.

Then suddenly at last it became spring. And looking out my kitchen window as I washed dishes one evening, I admired my crab apple tree in bright bloom through the pergola. And I thought, if I write the contemporary mystery series, I could set it in my neighborhood. That way, I’ll find details everywhere.

And so, I’ve began brainstorming a new version of Fall into Murder, a contemporary cozy mystery that I drafted during my first participation in National Novel Writing Month in 2014. I’ll keep you posted on how it’s going.

Please note that I’ve put together a boxed set of the first three novels of my cozy historical Calendar Mystery series that tells the story of business girl Minty Wilcox and dashing detective Daniel Price from newly met to newly wed and beyond in Kansas City, a place that could downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. It’s now available to pre-order for only $3.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07QDKF413

 

Calendar Mysteries Book 4 only $0.99

Even though Old Time Stories is Book 4 of my Calendar Mystery series, you can read it as a standalone since it fills in the gaps before, between, and after the novels in the series.

Here’s an FYI from July 4, 2017, about “The Barn Door,” the first short story in this collection of fiction and nonfiction. It placed third for the top free short reads, just after something by some guy named James Patterson!

Here’s a review of “The 9th Street Gang,” another short story in Old Time Stories: “If you wish for something pleasant to get your mind off the lately awful news, delve yourself into the story of three little hoodlums that steal this story from the endearing main characters and enjoy the tidbits of Kansas City history.”

The collection ends with a never-before published short called “The Shackleton Ghost.” Old Time Stories costs only 99 cents in the US at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07F4JL8D5 and a penny less than a pound at  http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B07FJL8D5 today, 04/03/19 through Sunday 04/07/19. (This book is also available in print from Amazon.)

Cozy Historical Mystery on Sale

MISCHIEF IN MARCH

Book 3 in the Calendar Mystery Series

By Juliet Kincaid

 

 

Excerpt from Minty Wilcox’s Journal

11: 55 p.m. on Friday, March 23, 1900

It’s shortly before midnight on the very last day of my life as a single miss. Or so I hope and pray.

Right now, I’m sitting on the floor way up at the top of the house in the storeroom where Mama and I hid my wedding gown. We even put it under lock and key.

When we got it up here, we draped it on Mama’s dress form surrounded by old sheets so the train wouldn’t get dusty from the floor. My wedding gown is beautiful and white, its bodice encrusted with pearls and its skirt covered with lace. And it gleams like a ghost in the light of the lantern I’ve set on the floor next to me as I write what will be my last installment in my investigation into all things Daniel Price before our wedding day.

But what if something happens to my wedding dress or the flowers in my bouquet or the fine new suit Daniel is supposed to wear or the wedding ring he’s supposed to give me?

What if the wedding doesn’t go off as planned?

Or the wedding goes off, but what if we don’t set off on our honeymoon on time or even at all?

Oh, that man I’m supposed to marry tomorrow. He can be so aggravating. He still hasn’t told me where we’re going on our honeymoon. That doesn’t seem fair after I’ve warned him time and time again that he’s to keep no more secrets from me. It makes me wonder what else he hasn’t told me about himself that a girl needs to know before she gets hitched to a fellow.

Not knowing where we’re going for our honeymoon just adds to my jitters about the whole thing.

What if we don’t get to the church on time . . . or at all?

So many possible slips between the lip and the cup, rum punch cup if Papa and my brothers have their way.

I tell you one thing I know for certain and for sure. If the least little bit goes wrong with Mama’s plans for the wedding, she’ll have a conniption fit that might even lead her to blaspheme right there in church in front of God and everybody.

This makes me smile, but really I shouldn’t.

So much could go wrong. So much has gone wrong already leading up to our wedding day, so many unexpected events, so much mischief, some of it amusing and good-spirited and some of it malicious . . .

And then there’s the murder and Daniel in jail for committing it.

<> <> <>

As their wedding day rapidly approaches, Minty Wilcox still has many questions about her fiancé Daniel Price.

Did he really kill a man?

What else is he hiding about his past?

Why has he never told her he’s rich?

And for goodness’ sake, where are they going on their honeymoon?

<> <> <>

Amazon Review of Mischief in March

The Groom is Going to Jail? So much to like about this book. First, Minty Wilcox, a decidedly modern miss, determined to find a place for herself in a business world dominated by men, but who fears her fiancé is keeping secrets from her, including where he plans to take her for the honeymoon. And the fiancé, Daniel Price, chief investigator of the Kansas City branch of the detective agency founded by his grandfather, who faces the likelihood that he will be forcibly walked into jail when he had been planning to walk his bride down the aisle. Certainly not the least are the incredible historical details of Kansas City in the early 1900s, rich with descriptions of well-known buildings and shops and places like Emery, Bird, Thayer to grab a quick bite. Since the letter carrier delivered Mischief in March to my mailbox, I haven’t been able to put it down.

Another Amazon Review of Mischief in March

Beware of Relatives . . . Minty Wilcox is in love and is anticipating her wedding while still learning new things about her husband-to-be. Meanwhile, sisters, brothers, cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents – tons of folks start arriving for the up-coming nuptials. Mystery and mayhem ensue. Minty investigates, and family members help while Mother becomes tense over all the wedding plans. Another fun Calendar Mystery.

 

Mischief in March is on sale for only $0.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B06XR1STRN and only £0.99 at http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B06XR1STRN from March 13, 2019, through March 19, 2019.

St. Valentine’s Day 1900

A Kansas City newspaper suggested an avian theme for Valentine’s Day parties in February 1900 like the one described below.

Minty stepped back from the dining room table that she’d just finished setting with Mama’s best china in the rose pattern . . .

A pair of turtledoves made of stuffed cotton and feathers hung from the two chandeliers. In the middle of the table sat an elaborate nest made of interwoven twigs and filled with hard-boiled eggs. More eggs would follow for the dinner since after all Valentine’s was the birds’ mating day . . .

In front of each plate stood a place card Peach and Eddie had made in sets of two: pairs of doves and canaries to sit on the side of the table closer to Minty, larks and blue jays on the other, and cardinals split between the head and the foot of the table.

Minty patted her pocket that held the folded red paper heart Peach gave her when she got home from work in the afternoon. On it Eddie had written a verse about blue jays, not Minty’s favorite birds, too noisy, but she had to admit their plumage was lovely . . .

To find out whom Minty’s brother and sister paired her with, buy FATAL FEBRUARY, Book 2 of the Calendar Mystery series, for only $0.99 today through 02/19/19 at www.amazon.com/dp/B017081JHM

Legacy

Hello, Everyone!

Gosh, it’s been a long time since I talked to some of you, so this will serve as a catch-up about my activities as an indie author in 2018. It was very busy for me, partly because I made an ambitious resolution at the start of the year to bring out something new, free or discounted every month. And I did it! Here are highlights of the new stuff.

 

In April, I finished and published a brand new calendar mystery short story called “The 9th Street Gang.” It features Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price pursuing a pesky young gang in Kansas City in February 1900 just after they became engaged in Mischief in March. Click on the cover  to buy it for only $0.99.

 

In May, I published another short, “Detectives’ Honeymoon” that picks up exactly where Mischief in March leaves off. It resolves that little cliffhanger at the end of the novel and follows what turns out to be an unusual honeymoon. Click on the cover to buy it for only $0.99.

In July, I published Old Time Stories, a collection of fiction and nonfiction. It includes six calendar mystery short stories like the two mentioned earlier plus the previously unpublished story called “The Shackleton Ghost.” It also includes nonfiction pieces about the people and places that inspired my fiction. Click on the cover to buy the eBook for $3.99. (The print version is available for $10.)

And for those of you Minty and Daniel fans who wondered what happened to the April calendar mystery novel, I drafted it in November as a NaNoWriMo2018 project. I hope to publish it in April 2019.

 

(Note: the digital version of January Jinx, in which my heroine Minty Wilcox confronts all sorts of problems trying to get a suitable job for a woman in old Kansas City, will cost you only $0.99 in the U. S. at www.amazon.com/dp/B00HSSSBE4 or in the UK for £0.99 at www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00HSSSBE4 from December 27, 2018 to January 3, 2019. It’s also available in print.

 

The project I completed and published in 2018 that I’m proudest of isn’t fiction at all. It’s Novel Basics, an Illustrated Guide to Writing a Novel, and very close to my heart as a longtime novel reader, writer, and teacher. Here’s a brief description of that book:

Let Dr. Juliet Kincaid talk you through her unique method of brainstorming a novel with twenty cards in the first part of Novel Basics. Then follow through with her expert guidance on time management, as well as drafting and revising a novel. Altogether, Novel Basics provides a compact yet complete practical guide to writing a novel, whether it’s your first or your fifteenth.

In this book, I describe the novel as a tool of infinite possibilities, a sort of Swiss Army knife with a million blades. And I view the book as my legacy for future novelists no matter who you are or where or when you write your novels.

Novel Basics is now available as an eBook at www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP for $3.99 and in print (9781730833991) for $8.99.

Best, Juliet (aka Dr. J)

The Churl in the Parking Lot

The Churl in the Parking Lot

It’s December 1, 2018, shortly before 11, and I’m driving through a light rain on my way to my Sisters in Crime meeting. I’m very excited about it, too, because our speaker today is Julie Mulhern, author of the Country Club Murders and Poppy Fields series, both of which I adore.

I pull into the lower parking lot outside the library. Seeing no places in the closest rank, I drive on past the filled places,, turn right at the end of the row, turn right again and right once more into a narrow slot between a black sedan and another vehicle. I turn off the windshield wipers and then the car, get out, and lock the door.

It’s then I first hear the voice. I look around. There’s nobody in sight in the rainy parking lot. I hear the voice again. I look around again and still don’t see anyone. I hear the voice a third time and this time I make out what the voice is saying and it’s very close. “Ma’am, you hit my car,” a man says.

I stoop down and see a shadowy figure behind the wheel of the black sedan. He’s holding a cell phone to his ear. “Ma’am, you hit my car,” he says again.

I straighten up and look down at the door of the sedan. I see a white blip, but it rubs off. I rub off another white blip before I lean down and look into the car. “I don’t see any damage.” About then I realize that if this guy really gave a crap, he would have gotten out of the car and looked.

“Ma’am, you hit my car,” he growls once more, sitting tight while this old lady still stands out in the rain. Maybe that’s the purpose of the exercise or just to jack me around or to show what a hard a$$ he is to whoever he’s talking to on the phone.

Regardless, I say, “I’ll be more careful next time,” and hustle down the hill and into the library.

The first person I see when I enter the meeting room is Julie. I hold out my hand and then realize it’s wet. I try to dry it off on my raincoat, also wet. “I’m sorry,” I say. “My hand is wet.”

“That’s all right,” Julie says. So we shake hands and then we hug. And soon our meeting begins.

Julie has packed her presentation on marketing books with a ton of information and–the churl in the parking lot temporarily forgotten–I take a ton of notes.

Oh, now as I near the end of this blog, the writing professor who still lives in my head after many years of retirement says, “So what’s the point of this? You’ve got to have a point when you’re writing expository nonfiction prose.”

Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, let’s see. Why are you taking your time to write about that guy anyway?

A few answers . . .
1) It was fun for me to find the humor in the encounter with the churl in the parking lot. It’s a lemonade-from-lemons sort of situation.
2) And I firmly believe in the healing powers of laughter.
3) In life we meet lots of different kinds of people. Some of them are jerks who take every opportunity they get to make other people feel uncomfortable.
4) But we also meet charmers like Julie Mulhern. Her generosity in sharing her time and expertise with us balanced that negative experience out.

P. S. Check out Julie Mulhern’s mysteries. You’ll be glad you did.

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WiP Report: Two Thirds of the Way There

Somehow it doesn’t seem quite right that apparently I caught a cold when I went to the medical center a couple of weeks ago to have an MRI on my sore shoulder. (I tore some muscles in it, probably when I got too enthusiastic at an exercise class two or three months ago. The pain of that in combination with a hungry cat getting me out of bed way too early led to weeks and weeks of sleep deprivation, clearly a drag on this old body.)

Still, I’ve noticed that working on Apart in April, my NaNoWriMo2018 project, has an analgesic effect on me, so I forget about my aches, pains, and congested nose when I work on it. The writing is going well, and yesterday, I reached the two-thirds mark of the endeavor with 36,293 words, about 3,000 words ahead of schedule.

This NaNoWriMo project seems to be going better than my three previous ones. I’ve had the idea for it for quite a while. I even did some brainstorming and research for it in the spring of 2017. Also, this is the fifth book in the series, so I already have many characters and settings that I can use. I don’t need to create them from scratch.

The latter factor can be both good and bad. This project is going faster than the others, true, but sometimes knowing so much about the people and places of the book leads me astray.

For instance, this past week I got all excited about putting in a scene in which 1) my protagonist, Minty Wilcox Price, has tea with 2) her mother, 3) the woman Minty’s uncle recently married, and 4) Minty’s husband’s aunt. The four women meet in a tearoom recently set up in the house next door to the house where Minty grew up by 5) a woman who appears in Mischief in March and they’re served by 6) the nosy series antagonist who works there.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah,“ the part of my brain I call my imp* says, “You can have Woman 6 say snarky things and Women 2 through 4 can suggest that Minty wear a disguise, so after tea Minty and Women 2 through 4 will troop over to the pawnshop you created in ‘The 9th Street Gang’ and . . .”

“Wait!” says the other side of my brain that I call my ump.* “How are you going to use women 2 through 6 later in this new book?”

“Well, I don’t know,” my imp says, pouting a little. “Maybe I won’t. Oh, you’re no fun!”

My ump shrugs. “I don’t care,” she says.

And then by that sort of miracle that often happens when I’m writing, my imp says, “I guess since most of the book takes place in St. Joseph, not Kansas City, I really only need Woman 3 because she moved to St. Joe. Oh and I know, she can help Minty with her disguise and . . .”

After that lots of things about the book that have appeared very disorganized so far fell into place and this morning I’m anxious to get back to it. Best, Juliet

*I describe the imp and the ump in Novel Basics, an Illustrated Guide to Writing a Novel, now available as a Kindle eBook at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP

Juliet’s Calendar Mystery series tells the story of business girl Minty Wilcox and detective Daniel Price in old Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. You’ll find the four previous books and several short stories all listed on Juliet’s Amazon Author Central Page: https://www.amazon.com/Juliet-Kincaid/e/B00DB4HWRG

 

 

NaNoWriMo2018: Day 7

I begin Day 7 of NaNoWriMo2018 with 11,211 words written so far and a big surprise for myself. (That’s something I love about drafting a novel. Really it’s a voyage of discovery into the untold reaches of my mind.)

Specifically, once I got started, I found out that Apart in April, Book 5 in my cozy historical mystery series, doesn’t follow the advice I give in Novel Basics, An Illustrated Guide to Writing a Novel.

What advice? you ask. Why, to Keep It Simple, Student. (Yeah, I know the second S usually stands for stupid. But I happen to believe the world could do with a bit more civility. Don’t you?)

Now back to the subject at hand . . . In the first section, Novel Basics presents my unusual method of brainstorming a novel with twenty 3” by 5” index cards. (It’s fun. It’s fast. Bet you’ll like it.) I call Card # 1 “the heart card” because it asks the essential question that every story must answer to succeed: “Who wants what?”

Well, I see that I need to back up a little bit and describe my Calendar Mystery series before I travel on. So far the series includes the novels January Jinx, Fatal February, and my personal favorite Mischief in March, plus six short stories, five published as Kindle Short Reads and all six in the collection Old Time Stories. (The collection also includes nonfiction about the people and places that have inspired my fiction.) And altogether the series tells the story of Minty Wilcox and Daniel Price from newly met to newlywed and beyond in Kansas City, a place that could get downright deadly a hundred years or so ago. (Yeah, I’ve been working on the description for a while.)

Now back to the cards . . . To my surprise, early in working on Apart in April, I discovered that it has a double heart. That is, it has two answers to the question, “Who wants what?” Daniel wants to find his runaway wife Minty. And Minty wants to solve a case on her own without her husband’s help. What fun! Now I’m off to work on it some more.

Novel Basics, a compact yet complete guide to writing a novel from brainstorming through rewriting, is now available as an eBook for $4.99 at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07K2LXFRP

You can also find the books and stories in my cozy historical mystery series at https://www.amazon.com/Juliet-Kincaid/e/B00DB4HWRG/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1