You know how you try clothes on before deciding what to wear on a date? Do you iron those clothes before holding them in the mirror? I hope not, because that’ll be like undoing your pants to fart. Yet that’s how most writers tend to approach the first draft. They iron their clothes, spritz on […]How Drafting Longhand Can Enhance Your Writing
Author: MJ Pankey
Writing that First Draft
Greetings, Storytellers. Diana here with NaNoWriMo looming on the horizon. Whether you’re participating in the writing marathon or not, I thought I’d give you a bit of a pep talk about writing first drafts. Gather around, and I’ll try not to scare you! Just imagine… Your fingertips rest on the keyboard. Your creative vision has […]Writing that First Draft
WIP Challenge – November 2022
Write a scene where your character encounters water. Describe how the water interacts with the environment and how it affects your character. Does it worry them? Terrify them? Soothe them?
Monthly Writing Prompt | November 2022
A sound calls to you from the void, pulling at you, nagging. You reach for it. Maybe you can give it a nudge and convey that you want to be left alone. But your hands find nothing, and the sound keeps battering your ears.
- Who or what is making the sound?
- What does the sound mean?
- Where is the POV?
- Why does the POV want to be left alone?
- What happens next?
WIP Challenge – October 2022
Incorporate an extreme weather condition into your narrative. Show how this affects your character’s mood, attire, living space, and choices for the continuation of their journey.
Monthly Writing Prompt | October 2022
The person in front of you is red-faced, jaw-clenched, fists balled at their sides, they look ready to punch something, or someone, and mad enough to do it. You stare, fumbling for words that won’t form. How can this situation get any worse? More importantly, how could it possibly get better?
- Is the person mad at the POV or someone else?
- What relationship does this person have to the POV?
- What happened to make this person mad?
- How does the POV feel about the situation?
- What happens next?
WIP Challenge – September 2022
Looking for a fun writing challenge to add comedy to your narrative and more distinct character voices?
Write a scene where your character gets a superficial–but annoying–injury (stubbed toe, jammed finger, papercut, etc). Then make it a nuisance for following scenes.
Monthly Writing Prompt | September 2022
You wish you knew how this would turn out. As you hesitate, everything that could go wrong swirls together in your head. You feel dizzy, shaky; the stakes suddenly appear much larger than they were just a moment ago. But then, what if it all goes according to plan?
- What is the POV hesitant to do?
- What are some things that could go wrong?
- What are the stakes?
- What will happen if it all goes according to plan?
- What happens next?
Petey says hello!
Ultimate Writing Tool: The Writer’s Muse Focus Deck
Let me tell you a story…
My name is MJ and I’ve been in love with storytelling since I was a child.
I never had trouble coming up with a rough plot or concepts for my stories, but once I started the actual writing part, I would always come to a place in the story where I would realize I hadn’t worked out an important detail. So, I would backtrack and try to weave it in. More often than not, this caused a snowball of issues that would quickly become overwhelming, and I would end up starting over completely from scratch or abandoning the story altogether.
Does this sound familiar?
To help me figure out where I was going wrong, I started the Augusta Writer’s Critique Group on Meetup in August 2018 to collaborate with other writers, learn from them, share my experiences, and support a community that loves words and assembling them into sentences as much as I do. Now boasting over 550 members, the Augusta Writer’s Critique Group has given me the opportunity to work with many writers who have become successfully published authors.
And it’s also given me the chance to work alongside writers who get stuck just like me.
My experience as a critique host has helped me to pinpoint the key questions that successful writers answer during their planning stage and unsuccessful writers do not.
The Writer’s Muse Focus Deck was born!
I had 3 basic principles in mind when I was forming my vision for this project.
1) I wanted to make a product that was straightforward and simple to use for any genre of fiction.
I’ve acquired a lot of writing tools over the years, but a common problem in all of them was they were overcomplicated and hard to keep organized, not applicable to the genre I was writing, and most were too jargony. I found myself looking up more terms to understand those tools than doing actual research for my novel.
Another problem, and perhaps the most impactful, was that none of these tools took my unique writing style into account, and I found the rigidness of their application very stunting for my Muse, which only added to my frustration.
The Writer’s Muse Focus Deck is simple and easy to use.
There are 54 cards, comprised of eight categories shared across all genres of fiction:
- Main Character
- Side Characters
- Macro-Level Worldbuilding
- Micro-Level Worldbuilding
The cards are color-coded by category and numbered 1-54 so you can tailor them to YOUR unique writing style:
1) Go one by one from start to finish for a more structured approach
2) Select the exact color-coded category for a targeted approach
3) Or shuffle the deck for a spontaneous or randomized approach
Whether you’re writing a children’s picture book, a gruesome horror, a complex high fantasy world, or whichever section of the bookstore you imagine your novel displayed, the Writer’s Muse Focus Deck’s questions are applicable to all genres.
2) I wanted to make a product that would be useful for both experienced authors and new writers alike
The biggest obstacle for new writers is not having a clue what questions to ask to create cohesive narrative and compelling characters, or to introduce page-turning tension into the story to hook readers and keep them engaged until the very last word.
Even as an experienced writer, I still need a focus; a one-stop shop to invoke my Muse and pour my inspiration out into a cohesive, complete, and clear path to novel writing success.
When it boils down to it, writers just want to write, to complete novels and get them out into the world for reader consumption. Spending weeks or months eeking out the details of a plot or characters, then finding out halfway through a draft that something important was overlooked and major rewrites are needed to resolve them is a nonstarter.
The Writer’s Muse Focus Deck is a smooth, fast, repeatable process that all writers can use to iron out the important details and get writing with confidence.
The deck’s eight color-coded categories address critical elements of storytelling shared across all genres of fiction. No matter how complex your story, this deck is specific enough to uncover the finer details, and high level enough to reuse multiple times in your planning stage to address more complexities if needed.
- Four separate planets? Run through the Macro-level worldbuilding questions for each one.
- Eight main characters? The Main Character cards will enable you to give each one their own unique voice.
- Six antagonists? The Antagonist cards will help you sort out all of their devious intentions.
3) I wanted to make a product that could be valuable for every stage of the writing process
As an experienced writer, I fully understand that a first draft is not a perfect specimen, no matter how meticulous your planning stage or process is. Once you start writing, it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the story and move your fingers faster than your brain can keep up. A few things are bound to need a bit more fleshing out after that first draft is done.
That’s why I also wanted a product that would help writers revise their first draft, and pinpoint exactly what needs more development to polish their efforts into something that’s ready to send to an editor, a beta reader, or an agent.
The Writer’s Muse Focus Deck lets you easily identify areas in your narrative that need more development so you can get to work on your next revision with a clear focus.
So where am I in the production process?
The Kickstarter has officially launched!!!!! And you can see it for yourself by clicking here: Kickstarter Campaign
Watch the video!
The questions are written, and the vendor who will be printing them selected.
The decks pictured in the photographs above are prototypes.
I’m still narrowing down the cardstock I want the cards printed on. I have experimented with two different cardstock options so far: smooth and linen.
The linen cardstock is by far the more durable and pleasant to touch than the smooth, but it’s slightly more expensive.
I’m waiting on a third prototype made of eco-herbage cardstock to arrive to determine if the durability is up to the standards required for novelists who will be using this product again and again.
Follow the Kickstarter to be updated when I receive the eco-herbage prototype and compare all the options.
Pledge your support for this product on Kickstarter and reserve your Writer’s Muse Focus Deck to experience how this game-changing card deck can help you focus your muse and get writing!!!
ARC Review | The Enigma Affair – by Charlie Lovett
Ex-military Patton Harcourt lives a quiet life as a librarian in small town North Carolina. When a sniper upsets her morning pastry making, she’s forced to team up with professional assassin Nemo to foil an elaborate neo-Nazi plot to discover Heinrich Himmler’s lost recipe for Alchemy. If Patton and Nemo do not get to it first, the Third Reich have all it needs to return to power and perpetuate their horror on the world once again.
I’m a bit of WWII History nerd, so this one piqued my interest immediately, especially when the title says Enigma and Bletchley Park was mentioned on the back cover. I went on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day tour with EF Tours in 2019 and visited many of the places these characters go in Enigma Affair. Bletchley Park was one of them and was absolutely incredible.
While on that tour, we also visited several Holocaust memorials and learned in depth history and details about some of atrocities that took place, which are also deeply threaded into this book. I was engrossed in Lovett’s characters and in tune to their purpose throughout the book.
Lovett did a phenomenal job with his research in regard to Bletchley Park and its contribution to the Allied victory, WWII artifacts and timelines, Nazis, the Holocaust, and neo-Nazis too. His blend of factual Nazi propaganda strategies and modern-day outreach methods enhanced by technological advances was brilliant and thorough. I can totally see people (literally and figuratively) with sinister motives preying on the good graces of everyday people to further their evil intentions without a second thought.
Charlie Lovett’s character voices were distinct, and their personalities intriguingly flawed, which I enjoyed. Each main character had something from their past that haunted them and directly influenced their interactions and beliefs about the world and wove nicely into the plot of the story. Even the villain was well developed, and her plans to return Nazism to global prominence were closer to possible than I was comfortable with, so the stakes were extremely high for me.
That said, I felt the beginning was a bit slow. When Patton and Nemo teamed up, I didn’t get a good sense of the anxiety of the situation that I feel two strangers being shot at would have, but after a few chapters this smoothed out really nicely.
There were also a couple things that I felt were edging on Deus ex Machina. It seemed like the one person in the world with the expertise they needed to solve a clue either showed up at the right time or they knew them personally. Despite feeling a bit convenient at times, I still enjoyed the story immensely.
The Enigma Affair is filled with suspense, betrayal, intrigue, and haunting facts from humanity’s darkest years that, if forgotten, have the potential to be repeated again. The Enigma Affair is not only a thrilling work of fiction, but it’s a reminder that the evils of yesteryear could easily creep into our future if we are not vigilant.
The Enigma Affair is being published by Blackstone Publishing on 6 September and is currently available for pre-order.