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I promised I’d talk about the writing process every now and then, and this week I have an interesting story to share.

There are many many ways to get from “It was a dark and stormy night…” to “The End”, and one of the key components of maintaining sanity is to realize that what works great for one writer sucks as a method for another. There is no one true path in writing.

And the longer I do this for, the more I also see there are no absolutes. There are some tried and true methods that I’ve heard authors swear by that totally and completely do not fit with my personality and writing style, and I would have bet it all that I would never ever touch that method with a ten foot pole. This past week? I used one, and it’s saved my mind.

I’m in the middle of revising and adding to Rocky Mountain Haven, the second in the Six Pack Ranch series. It’s a good book to start with–it won the 2011 EPIC Erotic Western award, so I’m not just boasting. ;) But I have the chance to make it even better and make the whole series a little richer by adding in another dimension with extended family action. etc.

Where do I begin to add to a book that people praised the pacing? There are no easy gaps to fill.

I read through it and took notes, getting a little distracted along the way by the hot smexing (heheh). I broke the book into parts in my head…before the picnic, before Thanksgiving, before the big reveal… I counted how many scenes were done in the hero/heroine’s POV. Still nothing. I know a couple scenes I want to add, but they have to make sense and flow, not just get tacked on willynilly.

And that’s when it happened. I broke out the index cards.

To a committed plotser like myself, this is like willingly taking hemlock. I don’t organize my stories, I don’t fill in charts with character qualities. Heck, I usually have to go back through the story after it’s written to find out what colour eye the characters have. But I was desperate, and impulse told me to try this, so I did. And damn if my instincts weren’t right again.

I went through the book and every scene got a card. For fun–because even work has got to be fun–I used yellow for Beth’s POV, blue for Daniel’s, red for the hotter scenes. Then I grabbed some tape and any scenes that HAD to go back to back? Taped them together. Stuck them on the foot board and suddenly…I could at least see where additions to the story wouldn’t be interrupting the flow.

In fact, looking at what finished the end of one chain, and what started the next chain let me see what kind of scene I could add in between that would actually enhance the flow. There was some crazy happy dancing the moment I spotted that. And then, I started adding cards. The loose cards taped the headboard are ideas for new scenes. In the end there are at least eight scenes I taped up there and as I’ve been writing this week I can feel the story gelling together beautifully.

Will I ever use index cards after this? Not sure. I’m not about to start story boarding and taping up cards the walls from day one, but I will never say never again. Because when something works, it’s like experiencing a little bit of magic. I don’t want to miss those a ha moments. They’re so much fun!

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10 years ago

Hi Vivian. I really like this post. I, a die hard pantser, bought index cards yesterday. Yes, it’s true. I need to add a couple of scenes to a 100K+ novel, and I’m not sure where they best fit, so I’m going to be trying index cards for the first time. You’ve given me hope that I won’t go mad with this little project.

Keep up the hawt writing! (And congrats on the EPIC…just a little late.) :)

Jen B.
Jen B.
10 years ago

I love finding out about the process. Thanks for sharing.

Violet Hilton
10 years ago

Love those “a ha!” moments :) And sometimes I forget the power of simple things like index cards, even though I have plenty lying around. Glad you found something that worked! Sounds like this would be a tough project, but that you’re having fun with it. :D

Vivian Arend
Vivian Arend
9 years ago
Reply to  Violet Hilton

The cards made a huge difference. The projectis in with my editor now, so we’ll see what she thinks!

And I try to always have fun. ;)

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