Saturday, February 25, 2023

This And That

I am not going to talk about pronouns! However, that is what "this" and "that" can be, depending on the context. They can also be adjectives, demonstrative pronouns, adverbs, or even definitive articles.

The latter is new to me. I always thought that the definitive article is "the", and an indefinite article is "a" or "an". One is never to old to learn...

I am using "this and that" in the context of a rag bagragbag or gallimaufry. Americans might more readily term it a grab bag.

Angela Hoy of Writers Weekly is always a source of great info. Her newsletter is free. Among the gems are some marketing tips from Kathleen Krueger for authors who are active on Facebook. 

An online news site with a name that is often pronounced as if it were spelled "epic" shared an article about a particular brand Takata air bags which have a 50% chance of blowing up in your face and a link to the excellent NHTSA site where you can type in your own VIN and find out instantly is your own vehicle is subject to a recall,

The Copyright Alliance has an event that may be of interest to anyone concerned (or thrilled) about AI.

The rapid advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies continues to alter and impact creators' lives everywhere—and the film and video community is no exception. As these technologies develop, consequential copyright and ethical issues surround the training and use of these AI systems, their impact on copyrighted works, and how creators and filmmakers use AI in their own creations. Presented by the DC Independent Film FestivalWashington Lawyers for the Arts (WALA), and the Copyright Alliance, join our panelists on Saturday, March 4, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. ET at Landmark E Street Theatre in Washington, DC, as they discuss copyright issues in AI and the implications for the film and video industry. For more information, to submit questions in advance, and to register, please click here.

"Here" being:

The Authors Guild has a membership boosting campaign. They are offering new members $20 off their first year's subscription.... if they take up a referral from a friend.

That is my custom link, and if anyone uses it, they will get $20 off, and I will receive a $20 credit when I renew. An Authors Guild membership costs $135 a year (as of my last renewal in October 2022).

Also, for authors who need Tax Tips and are not slammed for time on Monday February 27th (like MONDAY!) at 2;00pm Eastern, there is a webinar on Zoom.

One has to register, but there is a place to check on the registration form to say whether or not you are an Authors Guild member, so maybe non-members may register.

Finally for today's gallimaufry, there's something else about which to think concerning AI, and that is audiobooks. AI could doom voice talent.

The Trichordist discusses:

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

Friday, February 24, 2023

Karen S. Wiesner: I Want to Write a Series. Now What? Part 2

Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

I Want to Write a Series. Now What?

Part 2

Based on Writing the Standalone Series (formerly titled Writing the Fiction Series {The Guide to Novel and Novellas})

“The [series] tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours.” ~T. S. Eliot

This is the second of two posts dealing with writing a series.

In Part 1, we talked about developing a plan for your series. Let's continue.

Organizing Series Details

The best way to learn how not to write a series is with no organization whatsoever. Time and time again, you’ll miss countless opportunities to plant and develop seeds for C-S-P series potential as well as forcing yourself to backtrack to clear up issues that arise and can even lead to writing yourself into a corner. Establishing the basics can give you numerous insights for further-reaching developments.

While established authors may be capable of outlining every book in a series before writing even one, that may not be possible for everyone. Maybe the only way for you to figure out where you’re going with your series is to write the first book, then set it aside while you think about the next in the series and as many of the ones to follow as you can: Which characters will take the lead? What story will be told and conflicts arise? What seeds can you plant now in the first book to prepare readers for the next ones? Try filling out the C-S-P potential questionnaire as much as you can. The more you can get your mind brainstorming on these things, the more developed each story will be when it’s time to start working on it. Never underestimate the value of a story (and series!) sitting on the backburner of your mind.

How much pre-planning you ultimately do for your series is up to you, but I recommend attempting two things to see how far you can get.

Blurbing the Series and Story Arcs

Building on your C-S-P potential, the next step in figuring out where you’re going in the series is to write blurbs for the series and its individual stories. Play with them and don’t expect perfection the first time. You can work with them more as your series progresses.

When creating a Series Blurb, you’re not focusing on individual stories but on the series as a whole to get the gist of what it’s about. If the Series Blurb is done well enough, it’ll accurately reflect what every book in the series is about in a concise, intriguing summary. Remember your Series Ties while you’re working, since they’ll help you figure out what your Series Arc should be. In no more than four sentences, define your Series Arc by using “leads to” logic (note that the components don’t have to be in order, nor is a resolution required since you may not want to defuse the intrigue or tension):

Introduction --> Change à Conflicts --> Choices --> Crisis --> Resolutions

Here’s an example from my Incognito Series:

The Network is the world’s most covert organization. Having unchallenged authority and skill to disable criminals, the Network takes over where regular law enforcement leaves off in the mission for absolute justice. (Introduction) The price: Men and women who have sacrificed their personal identities (Choices) to live in the shadows (Change) and uphold justice for all (Conflicts)—no matter the cost. (Crisis)

Next, try blurbing the individual stories you foresee in the series. It’s all right if you’ve only gotten as far as brainstorming on one or two books. Start with what you have and go further as more comes to you. This process should help your ideas multiply.

In order to begin, you need at least a working knowledge of which characters will take the lead in individual stories and what each Story Arc (conflict) will be. If it helps, try writing free-form summaries covering the who, what, where, when, and why of each story. Now let’s create a back cover blurb using this equation (if you have more than one main character, do this for each):

  Who                                       (name of character)

Wants                                    (goal to be achieved)

because                             (motivation for acting),

but faces                (conflict standing in the way).

By filling in the blanks, you’ll flesh out your Story Blurb. As before, you can mix up the order of the components. Let’s look at an example of the Story Blurb from Dark Approach, the twelfth in my Incognito Series: 

Network operatives and lovers Lucy Carlton and Vic Leventhal (name of character{s}) have spent years living in the shadows, the property of the covert organization they gave their loyalty to in the lofty pursuit of justice for all. (motivation for acting) Disillusioned, they’re now determined to live their lives on their own terms. When the Network’s arch enemy secretly approaches the two about defecting—freedom for information that will disable the Network (goal to be achieved)—the couple must choose between love and loyalty. In the process, they jeopardize the Network’s anonymity...and its very existence. (conflict standing in the way)

Blurbing in this way will expand your series and get you excited about writing it.

The appeal of the series is obvious: You don’t have to leave behind characters, place or premise in a single book. You can continue with a whole series of them! While each story should stand on its own, no series book should feel quite complete without the others since readers are invested mentally, emotionally, and even physically. The best news is, after reading the first book in a series, they’ll crave infinitely more as long as each offering is an absolutely killer read.

Five Build-Your-Series-Muscles Exercises

1) Identify the Ties in your favorite series books and how all the stories connect and build off each other. Series and Story Blurbs should indicate this information.

2) Note the differences in open-ended series and those that have a definitive conclusion. Which appeals to you?

3) Outline the Series Arcs (whether loosely or clearly defined) in notable series you’ve read—can you follow the introduction, progression and resolution from start to finish?

4) Study several series, noting how the authors planted and developed seeds for C-S-P potential over the course of the series.

5) Consider what sets your series apart from others and what twists you can inject in each book.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of Writing the Standalone Series: Volume 3 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Happy writing!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series.

Visit her here:

Thursday, February 23, 2023

AI Sermons?

To follow up the topic of "creative" artificial intelligence programs, here are some clergy-persons' thoughts about sermons composed by chatbots:

Sermons Written by ChatGPT

Not surprisingly, the consensus from representatives of several different faith traditions is that AI-composed sermons have no "soul." This is one genre in which the personal, human element remains essential. A rabbi in New York comments, “Maybe ChatGPT is really great at appearing intelligent, but the question is, can it be empathetic? And that, right now at least, it can’t.” A pastor in Minneapolis writes about the program's attempt to compose an essay on maintaining one's mental health during the stress of the holiday season, “Although the facts are correct, there is something profound missing. . . . AI can’t understand community and inclusivity and how important those things are in building a church.”

On the other hand, New Testament scholar Todd Brewer asked ChatGPT to write a Christmas sermon based on the Nativity story in Luke's gospel, "with quotes from Karl Barth, Martin Luther, Irenaeus of Lyons, and Barack Obama." He was taken aback when the resulting composition was “better than many Christmas sermons I’ve heard over the years.” However, judging from the listed criteria, the requested product sounds more like an article than a sermon. Brewer himself, again not surprisingly, said it lacked "human warmth." Given that reservation, can the AI really be said to "understand what makes the birth of Jesus really good news"? Not to mention the unlikelihood that artificial intelligence in its present stage of development can literally "understand" anything -- raising a whole other complex question, whether intelligence can exist without consciousness.

From reports on ChatGPT from people who've tried it, I get the impression that it can produce creditable essays on factual topics, if fed enough sufficiently specific data, although they tend to be "bland." In more creative endeavors, as might be expected, the program falls short. And it wouldn't be ethical to present the program's raw output as one's original work anyway.

Since I'm a slow writer and first-draft composing is my least favorite phase of the writing process, I've often wished that a word-processing program existed that would take my detailed outline—such as those I've constructed according to the plan in Karen Wiesner's excellent FIRST DRAFT IN THIRTY DAYS—and expand it into a fleshed-out draft of a novella or novel in my own style. I could take it from there with editing and revision. While it's possible to instruct ChapGPT to create a writing sample "in the style of" a particular author, I strongly doubt that procedure would work for fiction anytime soon. So for the time being I'll just have to continue tackling the laborious stage between outlining (which I enjoy) and revising (which I don't mind, up to a point) the hard way.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Sunday, February 19, 2023

What's In A .... Spiral?

This week, the SFWA is talking about Artificial Intelligence, therefore, I will not do so. Any reader of the alien romances blog who wishes to share online-published opinion pieces (about A I) with members of SFWA may submit links to the posts here:

And so to blog about what is or is not "derivative", with a nod to Shakespeare for the "What's in a..." part of my title. The question is not about the consequences of a name, but of a spiral binding.

Brian Murphy, legal blogger and partner at Frankfurt Kurnit Klein and Selz PC (aka fkks... and one has to wonder if they know what that acronym sounds like) pens a surprisingly interesting article about the legal ramifications --or not, apart from the cost of going to court-- of buying books, changing the binding, and selling the books according to Amazon's mandatory definitions of what "new" means.

Incidentally, Amazon's inflexibility with regards to truth may have cost the copyright owner and plaintiff an opportunity to prevail on a False Advertising complaint.

As Brian Murphy points out (and I am regurgitating in my own words) if you purchase a book, the First Sale Doctrine permits you to do a lot of things with that physical book, including re-selling it as long as you don't duplicate it, or transform it, or remove attribution and try to pass it off as your own original work. And more.

A few years ago, (2013) a First Sale case went all the way to the Supreme Court, when a Thai student bought legal copies of textbooks overseas, imported them to the USA where the price was higher, and resold the copies. Presumably, the books were made overseas and cost less because the costs of the materials and printing were cheaper.

Legal blogger Joe Mullin wrote a very good explanation of the decision for Ars Technica.

One might reflect that there are a lot of sharp people, and a lot of sharp practices in the modern world, and the laws have not kept up. 

Off topic, except for the conjunction of "sharpness" and "spiral binding", I'm watching the Netflix series "New Amsterdam", and in one episode the Psychiatry Chair has to explain to a parent why a notebook --intended as a gift-- was confiscated: it had spiral binding and was therefore potentially a tool for self-harm.

All the best,

Friday, February 17, 2023

Karen S. Wiesner: I Want to Write a Series. Now What? Part 1

 Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

I Want to Write a Series. Now What?

Part 1

Based on Writing the Standalone Series (formerly titled Writing the Fiction Series {The Guide to Novel and Novellas})

“The [series] tiger springs in the new year. Us he devours.” ~T. S. Eliot

This is the first of two posts dealing with writing a series.

“The disease of writing is dangerous and contagious.” (Abelard to Heloise)

Following a series can also become a relentless obsession and it’s the hallmark of why readers read series, why writers write them, and why publishers publish them. The mania is spreading. So how do you get started?

Whether you’ve been pondering starting your own or you’ve finished a first book and don’t want to let go, there are a lot of things to work out when writing a fiction series.

Developing a Plan for Your Series

If a series doesn’t have a “tie” that connects each book, it could hardly be called a series. Developing the Ties from one book to the next prevents readers from questioning the point of the series. These Ties can be any or even all of the following:

·         Recurring character or couple (think Aloysius Pendergast in Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child’s Pendergast Series or J.D. Robb’s Eve and Roarke from the In Death Series)

·         Central group of characters (such as George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire and the members of Kate Jacobs’ Friday Night Knitting Club)

·         A plot or premise (as in Robin Cook’s Jack Stapleton medical mysteries or Dan Brown’s treasure hunts in the Robert Langdon Series)

·         Setting (Forks, Washington in Twilight or Harry Potter’s Hogwarts)

As in the series examples mentioned above, what connects the books in a series should be evident in each entry. Ensuring this kind of continuity requires advance planning. Ideally, you want to start developing your series as early as you can. To get things going, let’s consider what separates series writing from novel writing.

1) Understanding Story Arcs Verses Series Arcs

Every work of fiction has a Story Arc or a continued storyline. The Story Arc is short-term since it’s introduced, developed and concluded within the individual book. In clear contrast to a stand-alone novel, a series almost always has a Series Arc as well. A Series Arc is a long-term plot thread that’s introduced in the first book, alluded to in some way in each middle book, but is only resolved in the final series book. The only exception to this rule is an open-ended series in which all the books are stand-alones and there’s no need for a Series Arc that resolves in the last book. Earlier we mentioned examples of open-ended series like the Stapleton and Langdon ones.

Series that will have a definitive end do need a Series Arc whether clearly or subtly defined. The Series Arc is generally separate from the individual Story Arcs though they must fit together seamlessly to provide logical progression throughout the series. As an example, in Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the Story Arc is the sorcerer’s stone plotline. The Series Arc, in the most simplified terms, is good overcoming evil. The Series Arc runs progressively and cohesively beneath the individual Story Arcs in each successive book.

Is it necessary for a series that’s not open-ended to have a Series Arc? Absolutely! In a series that will have definitive closure, you’ve presented a nagging situation in the first book that must be settled satisfactorily in the last. Without that, readers who have invested time, money, and passion will feel cheated. To write a series is to promise an acceptable resolution. If, in the course of Brandon Mull’s Fablehaven Series, Kendra and Seth didn’t defeat the evil threatening the Fablehaven preserve and stop the plague that could have led to a hoard of imprisoned demons escaping into the world, Mull would have left his fans crying foul because he broke the pledge of a satisfactory resolution implied in the first book.

Spell out your Series Arc for yourself as much as you can so you can work from that premise from start to finish.

2) Evaluating C-S-P Series Potential

Readers fall in love with characters, settings and plots. They want conflict but don’t want you to hurt their heroes. They want different but don’t want things to change. But a character, setting or plot that doesn’t change also doesn’t evolve, doesn’t remain life-like, and eventually becomes boring.

Series characters, settings and plots should have longevity and intriguing potential that continues to grow, never stagnate or wane, throughout the course of a series. While none of these should ever have a radical transplant from one book to the next, it’s crucial they’re affected by changes. Consider the three P’s that make characters (and just as certainly settings and plots!) three-dimensional:

1) Personality (always multi-faceted with strengths and weaknesses, and capable of growing, being molded, deeply delved, and stretched)

2) Problems (combining light and dark, good and evil, simple and complex—not necessarily in equal parts)

3) Purpose (evolving goals and motivations wide enough to introduce new and unpredictable themes into a series but narrow enough for focus in individual stories)

Without the introduction of something new for series characters, settings and plots, you’ll give your readers nothing to hope for beyond the first book. The best way to plant seeds for series exploration is to evaluate your C-S-P (Character-Setting-Plot) potential. Basically what this means is you establish “Plants” in the first and middle series books that can be used at any time during the life of the series to expand all three of these components. Naturally, the sooner you set these up, the more believable they’ll be when it’s time to fully develop them. As an example, in the Robert Langdon Series, the main character frequently mentions the Mickey Mouse watch he wears—not something most grown men would be caught dead in. In his case, it was a gift from his parents on his ninth birthday, something rife with sentimental value, and, considering that much of this series revolves around 24-hour deadlines, the significance of this object is heightened. If the first time the symbolic accessory was mentioned was when Langdon was thrust in a tank of breathable oxygenated liquid in The Lost Symbol, Book 3, the reader would have been figuratively drowned as a consequence. Obviously the appropriate place to explain the watch would be in a time of passive reflection (in the first book in the series), not during life-and-death action three books in. Luckily, this item was planted early enough that its appearance over the course of the series didn’t feel contrived or convenient to the plots.

Most authors include numerous “Plants” in the first book in a series without realizing it. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t deliberately insert them, too. When considering your C-S-P series potential, do free-form summaries for all of the questions below. Don’t worry if you can’t come up with much right away; simply use this as a jumping-off point as the series progresses. Go on the assumption that these seeds may be planted (and left mostly unexplored) in the early books for development in later titles:

·         How can you outfit all series characters with heroic traits and habits as well as flaws and vices that can lead to natural growth as well as interesting plots?

·         What occupations, hobbies, interests, and idiosyncrasies can you give characters that can be gradually developed?

·         What relationships and potential enemies/villains can you add to expand the series potential?

·         What lessons, backstory or experiences can be hinted at for later revelation and development and may lead to suspenseful plots or emotional crises?

·         What life conditions, challenges, trials, grudges, grief, betrayals, threats, heartaches or obsessions (romance, marriage, divorce, parents/children, illness, medical ailment or death) can characters face that may lead to compelling situations throughout the series?

·         What locations can you set the series and individual books in to expand characters and plots?

·         What world, regional or local events, holidays, important dates or disasters (natural or man-made) can provide a catalyst?

·         What quest—fortuitous, cursed or anywhere in-between—can be undertaken?

·         What item or object can you place that can become the basis for plot, setting or character development?

Keep one rule firmly in mind when you’re planting the series seeds that will give you both longevity and flexibility for the road ahead: Always leave plenty of Plants unexplored! The last thing you want to do is lock yourself in too early. In the early books in the Pendergast Series, it was revealed that the FBI agent’s wife had been killed years earlier. Superficial details about this death were alluded to but kept sparse and flexible enough that, when the authors moved into their Helen Trilogy quite a few books later, they could easily mold this event any way they needed to and maintain believability. Had they locked down specific details early on, the trilogy might never have seen the light of day.

Hints and allusions are ideal—even required, as we’ve seen—when you’re introducing C-S-P series potential in one book and then developing in another. In real life, no one walks around with a list to show others of the people they know, the places they’ve been, or the things they’ve done. These are introduced a little at a time. In the same way, from one book to the next, you explore the facets of C-S-P slowly, developing them beyond the static state they started in as you go along instead of all at once. If you give too much detail too soon, you may find it hard to change or adapt when the time comes to use a Plant.

Additionally, keep in mind that, if no one wants to see more of these characters, settings, and the series premise that sparks plot over the long haul, the series is pointless. Always spin established facts on their axis so the reader will have a new, emotional and unexpected journey in each additional story within the series. Every offering must be at least as exciting as the one before. These are the ingredients that bring readers back for more.

In Part 2, we'll talk about organizing series details.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of Writing the Standalone Series

Volume 3 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Happy writing!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series.

Visit her here:

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Artificial Blood

Here's an article about an artificial blood substitute being developed by a research physician from the University of Maryland School of Medicine:

Artificial Blood One Step Closer

It's not meant to replace regular blood transfusions, but as a supply in emergencies for purposes such as to "stabilize a patient’s blood pressure or facilitate blood clotting." The goal is "to develop a bio-synthetic whole-blood product that can be freeze-dried for easy portability, storage, and reconstitution." Instant blood, just add water! The main ingredient will be "ErythroMer, the artificial blood product made by KaloCyte, a company co-founded by Dr. Doctor in 2016 with bioengineer and synthetic chemist Dipanjan Pan, PhD, MSc, professor in nanomedicine at Penn State University, and Philip Spinella, MD, a military transfusion medicine expert at the University of Pittsburgh." The two other main components are "synthetic platelets and freeze-dried plasma."

Here's a Wikipedia entry about various kinds of blood substitutes:

Blood Substitute

The most difficult function to duplicate, as well as the most important, is the transportation of oxygen. Several different varieties of manufactured hemoglobin have been tried. Another potential alternative might be growing red blood cells from stem cells in vitro.

As a fan, scholar, and writer of vampire fiction, naturally I wonder whether the University of Maryland's artificial blood product could nourish vampires. Could it serve the function of True Blood in the Sookie Stackhouse series, allowing vampires to "come out of the coffin" as accepted members of society? Whole blood includes many components besides those found in present-day blood substitutes. Which of those ingredients are necessary for vampires to thrive? If the growth of stem-cell-generated hemoglobin could be perfected, that would seem the best product for both medical uses and vampire nutrition.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt

Friday, February 10, 2023

Karen S. Wiesner: The Ins and Outs of Outlining, Part 3

 Writer's Craft Article by Karen S. Wiesner

The Ins and Outs of Outlining, Part 3

Based on FIRST DRAFT OUTLINE (formerly titled FIRST DRAFT IN 30 DAYS)

This is the final of three posts dealing with outlining.

In the final segment of my outlining series, I offer tips for creating a useful outline that translates into cohesive story building and career momentum.

Tip 1) Creating Story Folders

To get started, always create story folders for every single germ of an idea you have and do this throughout your career. Each time you have something to add, jot down a note and insert it in the folder, thereby building up and developing the story over time and getting it ready to be outlined. In this way, you allow each story to “percolate” on the backburner of your mind over a long period of time, which is absolutely ideal since the more you have to work with, the easier every story will be to work out. Brainstorming for a long time—preferably years—is a proactive way of advancing your story writing and ensuring the future of your career success. Additionally, creating and utilizing story folders throughout your career also allows you to stay focused on current WIPs and not have your brain “divided” by working on more than one project at a time.

When it's time to outline a project, take out you story folder, which should contain a good number of the pieces you've created and will now be puzzled out, developed and adjusted, expanded or cropped until the story is complete, whole and solid. Essentially, you jump in and, in this process that requires endless, productive brainstorming, you work chronologically from the beginning of the book to the end, outlining every single scene.

Tip 2) Brainstorming Continuously

Something I don't think I can ever overemphasize is the vital importance of brainstorming in every stage of your writing to keep your productivity at a pinnacle. Brainstorming is what turns an average story into an extraordinary one. It’s the magical element every writer marvels about in the process of completing a book.

A popular novelist said that for her next book, she was going to hold it inside her until it was like a piece of fruit on a branch bowing almost to the ground it was so ripe. Isn’t that an incredible picture of how a story can grow in our minds until it absolutely has to be written? That’s exactly as it should be (though you can do the same for an idea that’s not ready—it’ll just be a lot harder). Ideally, don’t start your story until you have a lot to work with. The productive writer starts with a solid story that’s ready to drop into her hands like ripe fruit. When I’m working on a project, I try to brainstorming day and night, whatever I do, wherever I am, whenever I possibly can.

Something every author covets is the ability to sit down to a blank screen or page and begin to work immediately. The secret to doing that is brainstorming! When you brainstorm constantly and productively during both the outlining and writing processes, you’ll always be fully prepared to begin working without agonizing over the starting sentences or paragraph. Brainstorming keeps your writing so fresh, you don’t have to worry about getting stuck at any point. It's the secret to avoiding writer's block forever.

Tip 3) Outlining and Writing in Tandem

When I first started outlining, I would inevitably hit a road block working chronologically. Each time it happened, I'd skip around and work on scenes that I knew would come in at some later point in the book, and so the middle and end of the book began to gain structure. As I worked, all my scenes and ideas were expanding in my mind and on the page, taking on layers of richness, complexity and depth. {Note: Very early in my outlining, I used a process I call “outlining and writing in tandem” which was outlining as far as I could go scene by scene in the book. When I hit a roadblock I couldn't seem to get past jumping around in the outline, I would start writing the book at Chapter One, scene 1. Sometimes writing that scene showed me what should happen next in my outline. In that case, I returned to outlining the book as far as I could go from there again. If I hit another roadblock, I’d write the next scene in the book. I always returned to the outlining, if I could, as soon as I wrote a scene because the process of writing exploded and grew the idea in my mind, giving me ideas for how to progress the story from the point I was in outlining it.

My goal, of course, was to finish outlining the book long before I finished writing it. See First Draft Outline for more specifics on the “tandem” writing process. This is something I no longer need to do. I outline a book from start to finish each time. The longer we write, the more books we finish, the easier it should become. We grow more adept in our writing the longer we do it.

Keep working like this, going back and forth, always trying to return to chronological order scene drafting when you can, pushing the storyline forward toward completion, until your outline contains every single scene in the book. Once the outline is complete, take a short break to give yourself a little distance, then read the outline over, filling in any holes. Basically, you're revising the outline in the same way you would a first draft. When you're satisfied that everything is there as it should be, you'll see one irrefutable conclusion: This is unmistakably the first draft of your book because it is your book…condensed. An outline like this is so complete that it contains every single one of your plot threads, unfurled with the correct pacing and the necessary tension, culmination and resolution from beginning to end.

Tip 4) Setting the Stage for Strong Characterization, Plots, and Conflicts in the Outline

Your outline is the place to work out your story settings, plot conflicts, in-depth characterization before starting the actual book. This allows you to focus on scenes that work cohesively together and advance all of these. Additionally, tension, foreshadowing, dialogue, introspection, action, descriptions, etc. can best be done within the outline (without it having to be your best work--just give yourself directions for all of these within the scene you need them in your outline), building strength while adding texture and complexity.

If you know where your story is going before you ever write a word of the first draft (in other words, you've already plotted every single scene of the story from start to finish so you know what's supposed to happen in each one), your story has a firm foundation that supports the framework of your story. You've worked out the kinks in the story in the outline and ensured that the writing and revising will go smoothly and easily. Best of all, what you end up should be utterly solid, requiring only minor editing and polishing to make it publishable. You will almost never have to face a sagging middle, deflated tension, a poorly constructed plot thread or weak characterization again because all those serious problems had been fixed in the outline stage.

Tip 5) Revising Less

You may find this hard to believe, but I discovered yet another cool side effect of using this method. I can now write a full-length novel (based on my first-draft outline) in a month or less, usually, by committing myself to writing two scenes a day. (Obviously shorter works would take even less time than that.) If you write only one, though, you’re still progressing and probably at a faster rate than you would not using the method. Also, because the story is so solid in the outline, revision amounts to removing clutter to make the story understandable, to prevent tripping hazards caused by clumsy prose, and to infuse a story with vivid, interesting narration that says succinctly what it is you want it to say, concurrently bringing the whole story to vibrant life. After my critique partner has gone over the book, a final polish (reading the book off the computer—where I’ll catch more typos) completes the work and gives me confidence that it’s ready to go to my editor.

Most of my editorial revisions are minor common sense suggestions to refine word usage and smooth out the flow of sentences. I can’t remember the last time an editor pointed out a structural issue. I’ve been very fortunate to enjoy both excellent reviews and multiple awards, and a warm reception from readers. Additionally, I’m able to complete more books each year because I use the most effective method for completing each and every projects.

Tip 6) Goal-setting

Once you have that solid outline, you’ll know every single day what you’ll be writing, which has a two-fold perk: You can plan how long it'll take to write the book down to the day (if you have 40 scenes and write 2 a day, it'll take you 20 days to finish the book, right?) and you never have to sit down to a blank page, floundering because you have no idea how to fill it. You know where the story is going and exactly what needs to happen in each scene.

The more efficient you are in the process of writing each book, the more momentum you build in your career because you can offer more high-quality books in less time. The days of an author leisurely writing one book a year to offer to his or her fans are long past. Authors have to offer countless releases every year to compete, especially if they're writing as eires. So writers have to learn how to produce more high-quality books in less time to have anything like a success career these days. The methods contained in my 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection can help you do that without exhausting yourself and ensuring that every single book is the best you can possibly make it.

Karen S. Wiesner is the author of First Draft Outline and Cohesive Story Building

Volumes 1 and 2 of the 3D Fiction Fundamentals Collection

Happy writing!

Karen Wiesner is an award-winning, multi-genre author of over 150 titles and 16 series. Visit her here:

Thursday, February 09, 2023

Creative AI?

There's been a lot of news in the media lately about AI programs that generate text or images. One of the e-mail lists I subscribe to recently had a long thread about AI text products and especially art. Some people argued about whether a program that gets "ideas" (to speak anthropomorphically) from many different online images and combines multiple elements from them to produce a new image unlike any of the sources is infringing artists' copyrights. I tend to agree with the position that such a product is in no sense a "copy" of any particular original.

Here's the Wikipedia article on ChatGPT (Chat Generative Pre-trained Transformer):


The core function of that program is "to mimic a human conversationalist." However, it does many other language-related tasks, such as "to write and debug computer programs" and "to compose music, teleplays, fairy tales, and student essays" and even "answer test questions," as well as other functions such as playing games and emulating "an entire chat room." It could also streamline rote tasks such as filling out forms. It has limitations, though, which are acknowledged by its designers. Like any AI, it's constrained by its input, and it may sometimes generate nonsense. When asked for an opinion or judgment, the program replies that, being an AI, it doesn't have feelings or opinions.

This week the Baltimore SUN ran an editorial about the potential uses and abuses of the program. It includes a conversation with ChatGPT, asking about various issues of interest to Maryland residents. For instance, the AI offers a list of "creative" uses for Old Bay seasoning. It produces grammatically correct, coherent prose but tends to answer in generalizations that would be hard to disagree with. One drawback is that it doesn't provide attribution or credit for its sources. As the editorial cautions, "That makes fact-checking difficult, and puts ChatGPT (and its users) at risk of both plagiarizing the work of others and spreading misinformation."

A Chat with ChatGPT

Joshua Wilson, an associate professor of education at the University of Delaware, discusses the advantages and limitations of ChatGPT:

Writing Without Thinking?

It can churn out an essay on a designated topic, drawing on material it garners from the internet. A writer could treat this output as a a pre-first-draft that the human creator could then revise and elaborate. It's an "optimal synthesizer" but lacks "nuance and perspective." To forbid resorting to ChatGPT would be futile, he thinks; instead, we need to figure out the proper ways to use it. He sees it as a valid device to save time and effort, provided we regard its product as a "starting point and not a final destination."

David Brooks, a NEW YORK TIMES columnist, offers cautionary observations on art and prose generated by AI programs:

Major in Being Human

He distinguishes between tasks a computer program can competently perform and those that require "a humanistic core," such as "passion, pain, longings. . . imagination, bursts of insight, anxiety and joy." He advises the next generation to educate themselves for "skills that machines will not replicate," e.g., creativity, empathy, a "distinct personal voice," etc.

Some school systems have already banned ChatGPT in the classroom as a form of cheating. Moreover, AI programs exist with the function of detecting probable AI-generated prose. From what I've read about text-generating and art-producing programs, it seems to me that in principle they're tools like spellcheck and electronic calculators, even though much more complex. Surely they can be used for either fruitful or flawed purposes, depending on human input.

Margaret L. Carter

Carter's Crypt