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Planning Your Story

Story planning tips and advice. Sample topics: using beat sheets, developing arcs, techniques for those who write by the seat of their pants, deciding on story ideas, etc.

Ask Jami: Why Isn’t There One Right Way to Write?

Pen on a notebook with text: Why Isn't There a Right Way to Write?

When we’re young, the world feels like it’s made up of wrong answers and right answers. Not surprisingly, writing is one of those areas of our life where “one right way” doesn’t apply, and there are several reasons why there’s no definitive “right” way to write a book.

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December 15, 2015

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Developing Our Story: From Beat Sheet to Scene List

Rebar steel ready for construction with text: Building a Scene List for Our Story

My regular readers know that I’m a pantser, but I’m naturally a planner/plotter in the rest of my life. So when a reader asked me how to build a scene list from a beat sheet, I didn’t shudder and scream in horror. Instead for my plotter-loving friends and readers, I figured I’d put together a real answer.

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October 8, 2015

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Need Help Understanding Story Structure?

View up the center of high-tension electrical tower with text: Need Help Understanding Story Structure?

Some authors are able to write coherent stories while drafting. Others put together words willy-nilly and end up with a story that doesn’t hold together. And still others plot but are just writing their chaos down in advance. For all, a strong sense of story structure would help them during planning, drafting, and/or revisions.

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September 1, 2015

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Tangents and Subplots: When Do They Work?

Shopping cart in the woods with text: Is This Scene Out of Place?

My Elements of a Scene Checklist helps us identify whether a scene is truly necessary and contributing to our story by making sure it fulfills a story purpose. The same judgment criteria can apply to subplots as well. Let’s take a look at how can we make sure our tangents and subplots are adding to the story and not acting as a distraction.

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August 25, 2015

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Romance Writers: New Scrivener Template!

Black and white image of couple walking in Paris with text: Isn't It Romantic...with Scrivener

One of my most popular posts is for my Romance Beat Sheet, but one of my readers asked if I could create a Scrivener template to go along with the Romance Beat Sheet. Yes! If you’re a romance author and use Scrivener for drafting your stories, today’s post is for you.

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June 11, 2015

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Story Climax: Forcing Characters to Move Forward

One arrow pointed in an opposite direction with text: How to Make Our Characters Move Forward

Whatever happens in the Climax is often the reason we decided to write the story back when it was just a twinkle in our muse’s eye. But just before the beat of the Climax, our character experienced the Black Moment/Crisis, where they gave up. How do we get them to recommit to the story goals?

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April 30, 2015

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Ask Jami: Can We Use Beat Sheets with Multiple POVs?

Shelves of plaster heads with text: Using One Beat Sheet for Multiple Characters

Stories with multiple major characters—with their own point-of-view (POV) scenes—can make story structure complicated. Do we have to make beat sheets for each character? As a romance author, I write with multiple POVs all the time, so let’s see if we can figure out how to make beat sheets work in those situations.

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April 7, 2015

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Using Examples to Learn Beat Sheets

Chalkboard with text: Learning Beat Sheets by Example

One technique for drafting or editing our stories into shape is using beat sheets, but it can be tricky to understand how to use them. Here’s a round-up beat sheet and story structure resources that might help us understand beat sheets.

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March 17, 2015

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Should Our Protagonist Be in the First Scene?

A face hidden by a hoodie with text: When Should Readers Meet the Protagonist?

Most stories open with the protagonist on page one, but every once in a while, our story seems to work best if we start with another character. If we understand why the protagonist usually works best as the point-of-view character for the first page, we might be able to remake those exceptions into stronger openings.

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February 17, 2015

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