Monday, April 30, 2012

Beat Sheet vs Bookmap

B is for Bookmap and Beat sheet
 Pantsers, skip down to Bookmap. ;)

A beat sheet looks like an outline. A bookmap looks like an outline too. The difference between the two is how and why you use them.

Beat sheet: I look at this as a roadmap for my manuscript. I create it before I sit down to write page one, and it can vary in degree of detail. There are two layers in this process for me. First I open up my blank template in word-

Template? Ah! The horror!

Wait a second. The template basically includes what happens, the big moments that all my threads work toward. What I do with the story to get to those places depends on what happens at the keyboard in my drafting stage. A beat sheet keeps me on track, keeps me focused on the point of the story so I don't go off in a tangent, unless I want to...

Step two: Take the outline to the storyboard in Scrivener. This is where scenes start to pop out for me. (I lie. The first scene is already in my head when I come up with a main character. That step is before any of this outlining. Sorry for the tangent.) I make little notes on the research I'm doing for the story - or big notes, depending on the subject. These notes are reminders. For example, the saffron crocus is a fall blooming flower:Make sure the scene is set in late August.

Next I sit down and work on expanding the beats, grouping them to create chapters with a clear arc. Then I draft.

Bookmap: This is new and exciting to me. I just learned how to do it in an SCBWI Master Class with Cheryl Klein, and I recommend finding a class near you. I can't tell you all the secrets, because what I learned is her intellectual property, but the core idea is a basic one:

Deconstruct your manuscript into scenes, and make sure each scene is working toward the goal.

Remember I mentioned tangents? Well, even with a beat sheet, there are a bunch of things that can go wrong on the way to a finished first draft. At least for me, anyway.

The bookmap helps me notice redundancy, points out weak scenes, and overall helps me distill the big picture again - the why it happens.

I think the bookmap is an important step because my characters have usually modified the "why" since I sat down to write the beat sheet. Looking at each scene again in detail also triggers my inner editor: This is clearly what the character needs to say/do vs where I left off in the draft.

Now. Back to work. Butt in Chair, Hands on Keyboard!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Lodos & Poyraz

Last week's Hurriyet Daily News headlines read:Storms Paralyze Life Across Turkey. Even CNN picked up the story with a video feed (below) highlighting the destruction.

So I was reminded of this post, which I wrote last June: Which Way The Wind Blows

I've heard of the Sirocco and even used the Mistral in one of my chapters. It got me to thinking about the winds of Istanbul. There are two major ones. Lodos (Notus) comes up from the south. In the winter, it cancels the ferry schedule it's so rough. Poyraz (Boreas) comes down from the northeast. Both are named after Greek wind gods.

Care for another one of my adventure stories?

This time, I'm a naive young woman on Büyükada. DH and I borrow a Zodiac (inflatable boat w/ an outboard motor) from a family friend and take it out fishing one day.

The owner says to us: Make sure you come back before the wind picks up in the afternoon.
DH: Absolutely!

So we head off on our merry way, enjoying our little outboard cruise around the island.

Me: checking out all the houses on the shore from a new perspective. Picnic lunch, etc. We anchor on the back side of the island in the forested park area. There's a pretty steep rock face on that side. (read: no safe place to hide) lalalalalala. No fish anywhere. It is the middle of the day. Well, we catch one rock fish. Ugly as sin.

Loose track of time and guess what....the wind changes. The sea just up and does the cha-cha underneath us, slapping me around in the boat like the fish I'm supposed to be catching.

Me: fear for my life. That rocky shore is getting awfully close. No houses in sight on this side of the island. It takes three times as long to get back. Almost run out of gas. Worst. Fishing. Trip. Ever.

That was not even Poyraz. Not even close.

Now in Mersin there are winds of a different sort. There you want the north/south dynamic. Winds from the south bring air through the house during the day. Winds from the mountains in the north bring cooler air down at night. If you're buying an apartment, direction is one of the the first things you check. If the house faces east/west? Too bad. How sad. Lowball offer.

On a hot summer evening, we joke about the heat: "Don't worry, in a little while the wind will come down from the mountains." We even have a special word for the sea when its waiting for a wind, reflecting the moon like a mirror - Yakamoz.

Which way does the wind blow for your hero?

Istanbul Winds Battle Over the City

The Wind Gods
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, April 23, 2012

World Book Night

Who is helping to give out half a million free books all across America on one day?  
I am.
WHO: From Kodiak, Alaska, to Key West, Florida, in 6,000 towns and cities across America, 25,000 volunteers will give away half a million free books on one day: April 23, 2012.
WHAT: World Book Night U.S. is an ambitious campaign to personally give out thousands of free, specially printed books across America. Volunteer book lovers like myself will help promote reading by going into our communities and handing out free copies of a book we love to new or light readers, reaching them especially in underserved places – and even some fun spots. Volunteers will be picking up the books at a local bookstore or library in order to go out and share them in locations as diverse as VA hospitals, nursing homes, ballparks, mass transit, diners, and more.
I am very proud to be a part of the first World Book Night in the U.S., following the impressive launch of this campaign in the UK and Ireland last year.
My 20 copies of ENDER'S GAME by Orson Scott Card are going to some deserving teens in North and South Carolina.
For more information about World Book Night, please go to

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

A Rajasthani Treat

Indian Sweets for @WNBA_Charlotte
Last week I ran into the Indian market, looking for authentic treats. I used to frequent markets like it when I lived in Abu Dhabi, so the aisles full of spices, rices, and chapati flat breads were tempting.

The kids were off from school, so I dragged them along with me. They had a different experience. As they wandered, they noticed people noticing them. 

Later, at the Women's National Book Association's international event, author Monika Schroeder made the comment: "Tourists come to look at India, but really India is looking at you", and my boys understood what she meant.

The rest of her presentation opened all of our eyes.

Monika explained the extensive field research she used for Saraswati's Way, and gave examples of how she "Fit reality into the story."
  • An article by the Telegraph about "British patios fueling child labor" turned into Akash's obstacle.
  • A tour of the New Delhi train station with a social worker, and a glimpse of the street children's hiding place turned into the Akash's temporary home.
I could go on and tell you more about the book, but you should read it yourself, and don't miss the chance to hear Monika speak, if you get one.

Praise for Saraswati's Way:

“This rare combination of math and culture is a boon for discussions and makes this stand out.”
2010 SCBWI Crystal Kite Award for Asia/India/Middle East
CCBC Choice (Univ. of WI)
NCSS Notable Social Studies Tradebook
for Young People
A Bank Street College -
Best Children’s Book of the Year
Selected for North Carolina's Battle of the Books

Monday, April 16, 2012

Two Editors and a Comma

North Carolina writers, here's a great opportunity to hone your query and pitch, and get a professional critique on your first words:

For Release: April 9, 2012

Contact Carin Siegfried: 704-608-6559,

Two Editors and A Comma Announce:
Getting Your Foot in the Door:

New York Editors Tell All on How to Get a Publishing Deal.
An Insiders’ Guide to Submitting Your Book Workshop

Two former editors from St. Martin’s Press and Random House have teamed up to tell writers what it takes to get noticed by agents and editors alike. They’ve seen thousands of book proposals, edited hundreds, and given many authors the offer of a publishing contract.

"I struggled with my query letter, had several different versions composed and in one evening Carin shaped it into a solid, fluid query letter that captured all the essence of my manuscript as well as all the elements an agent looks for. I couldn't imagine having a more professional editor than Ms. Siegfried and am grateful for all her suggestions, especially the query letter as that is what catches the interest of an agent." – Sasha Hibbs, author of
Black Amaranth (on submission)

"If you have a chance to work with Betsy Thorpe, all I can say is ‘don’t pass it up!’… Betsy provided structure, industry knowledge and personal coaching to a process that is unpredictable, overwhelming and downright crazy." – Charla Muller, author of 365 Nights (Berkeley Books)

With their experience, find out:

 How to compose an effective elevator pitch

 How to write a query letter that will not be overlooked

 How to write your author bio and come up with a marketing plan

 How to research and land a literary agent

 What to expect if you get an offer from a publishing house

Editors Carin Siegfried and Betsy Thorpe will also provide an individual critique of your first 500 words and let you know how to best pitch your book.

Meet fellow writers and bond over this exciting process. Enrollment limited to 15. Price $250,
1:00-5:00 PM, Saturday May 12th, snacks and beverages provided.


Two Editors and a Comma Workshops

7308 Quail Meadow Lane, Charlotte, NC 28210,

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Paring It Down

While I make the rounds on the A-Z blogs, this is another repost of something I wrote last year.

Last Monday I wrote about olives (because I just couldn't think of anything exciting) and you loved me anyway. Thanks!

Anyhow, Jacqueline Howett shared her experience with olives: On our vactions from England to Greece to visit my Yaya who lived in a olive grove, we got stuck with the chore of slitting each olive with a knife for selling to market.

That comment got me nostalgic for the days I spent with the other women of my husband's Turkish family, coring, chopping, and preparing all sorts of veggies for the dishes we created. We sat around the table in the kitchen or out on the balcony, drank lots of tea, and read many fortunes. Don't get me wrong, I love climbing ruins and all that...but this one rite of passage into the lives of my in-laws was priceless.

Not only did I learn to make some yummy things, I also got an earful of stories. (And sagas, but we'll pass on those for today.) Little tips, like rubbing the tomato with the flat side of the knife before peeling to release the skin. (I blanche mine now. Tomatoes here aren't the same.) Or, my favorite: Put your thumb at the base of the blade, so the knife doesn't come out the other side of the (baseball-sized) eggplant. And the one I won't ever forget - Just because the chile seeds aren't burning you right now, doesn't mean they won't. (Spent several hours dipping my digits in ice water for not listening to that!)

Some days, ana anne (grandmother) would open out the dough for manti (imagine tortellini). Believe me, stuffing one million teeny strips of dough with meat is more fun when you have help.Then there were the dilemmas: aunt x says to use paprika, mother-in-law says cumin is better. I don't like cumin. Use paprika. Pay dearly. Yes, I laugh about it today, but it wasn't so funny then.

Just like with fishing, carefully paring the tops off okra the size of my thumbnail, without breaking into the seeds, taught me something. If you want to absorb another culture, it's important to slow down and smell the spices.
Enhanced by Zemanta

Monday, April 9, 2012

Ghost Words

via kristinjustice @ Flickr
It's good to take stock once in a while. Take for example, this repost. It reminds me that, while I have grown as a writer, some things are always true. I always wish I'd waited on sending something out, and ghost words haunt me until they are restored - sometimes three drafts later.

The Moving Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy Piety nor Wit
Shall lure it back to cancel half a Line,
Nor all thy Tears wash out a Word of it.

I read a terrible, can't-believe-people-read-this-stuff genre novel (which shall remain nameless) last week. It was full of sterotypes and poor descriptions. But as with every book, I found a great passage. The scene tied into the above verse, and it hit me two ways.


Been wishing I could recall some of my words lately, but no luck. Those three queries I sent last week? Wasted. Two Rs and the other says 4-6 weeks before I'll hear some more silence. Got a twisted feeling in my gut. You know, the one that makes you want to hurl. Maybe the MS wasn't right for them, but then again, my query stinks.

I suppose it's because I spent the last year working on my MS, and not enough time working on the query. Guess I'm trigger happy now. But thanks to my writer friends (Matt and Leigh), I realized my mistake before I was too deep in words of no return. We all learn, but I've also got plenty of doubts about the MS lingering upstairs with the rest of my demons. No amount of tears will bring the queries move I on. My new task is simple: SIMPLIFY. (Update: my new query method works.)


In this day of digital cuts and deletions, words can be cancelled from the record, wiped from the hard drive, etc. (Especially when you want to preserve them, it seems!) But Omar Khayyam speaks the truth too. I see it with my own scenes. I write them, edit them, and somehow when a beta reads them...some of those original words manage to reveal themselves. My "ghost words" come back as little blue edits or red comment bubbles, safely restored to me in the margins. Aaaaand we're back to the Multiverse idea.... Two roads...ahh...that's another poet! (Good post on shortcuts there, btw.)


A Ghost Word is a word suggestive of a non-existent opposite. Wikipedia example: Aftermath = Beforemath

Wikipedia also says: A ghost word is a word that has been published in a dictionary, or has been adopted as genuine, as the result of misinterpretation or a typographical error.

The most famous example in English (and many other languages) is "scapegoat" which is a mistranslation of the word Azazel (In Hebrew: עזאזל) originated by William Tyndale in his 1530 Bible, and appropriated in the King James Version of the Bible (Leviticus chapter 16) in 1611. Confounded by the word, Tyndale had interpreted Azazel as ez ozel - literally, "the goat that departs"; hence "(e)scape goat." According to the Talmud, Yoma 67b, Azazel is a contraction of az (harsh) and eil (strong) and refers to the most rugged of mountains. This identification is supported by Rashi, the great Medieval grammarian, who interpreted Azazel to be the name of a specific mountain or cliff over which the goat was driven[1]. According to R.H. Charles, it was called so for its reputation as the holding place of the fallen angel of the same name[2]. Modern scholars generally reject Tyndale's interpretation and favor one related to a fallen angel/evil demon interpretation. Today in modern Hebrew Azazel is used derogatorily, as in lekh la-Azazel ("go to Azazel"), as in "go to hell".

Every book has something worth remembering! What new ideas did you pick up from your last read? :)

Enhanced by Zemanta

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Cercis Siliquastrum aka Erguvan, or in other words...Redbud Tree

Cercis Siliquastrum in Istanbul
Many blogger friends of mine are taking a break this month while friends go through the A-Z blog challenge, so I decided this month would be a good time to repost some April-inspired posts of my own. I may throw in some new ones though, to keep you on your toes. :)

The other day, Anonymous stopped by and left a comment on my post about Boğaziçi University. (For newcomers, BU is the setting for my novel.) Anonymous pined for the lovely campus of his/her alma mater and reminded me of how beautiful the erguvan trees are in the spring. Of course, I'm a sucker for flowering anything, and Istanbul in bloom is just breathtaking. How could I not mention it in my writing someplace? (It was in chapter two of  my original draft for Burnt Amber, btw.)
So what is an erguvan tree? Cercis siliquastrum, aka the redbud tree. The Bosphorus strait is dotted with redbuds for a few weeks in late April/early May. Some areas, Bebek included, have pockets of the trees like the one in the picture. It's no wonder that Roxelana's favorite color was erguvan mauve. There was nothing the Ottomans didn't have in that color.
Here in the Carolinas, we have its cousin, native cercis canadensis, blanketing our hillsides. Dainty blooms, ornamental seed pods and pretty heart shaped leaves make an attractive tree, so redbuds are popular in gardens of the southeast and all the way up into southern New England. When my grandmother passed away I planted a dwarf weeping variety called "Covey" at my old house in New Haven. I also have several of the burgundy leaved "Forest Pansy" variety in my new backyard. Currently, I'm coveting a new variety borne of "Forest Pansy" and "Covey", "Ruby Falls", which both weeps AND has beautiful burgundy foliage. I just need to find that sweet spot for it.

Fun note:

Green twigs have been used in southern Appalachia to season venison for years, so the tree is also known as spicewood up in the mountains. Native Americans ate the buds raw or boiled and roasted the seeds. I haven't tried any of these recipes, but some buds might look pretty on top of a salad...

Monday, April 2, 2012

UNICEF Tap Project - Repost

Half full, I say.
I've blogged about water in the past - sources of it, lack, or quality of it, etc. My antics as a maladjusted American bride abroad make for amusing, and hopefully enlightening posts. Since March is World Water Month, that means I get to blog about water again, with more serious information that serendipitously ties into my platform.
  • Istanbul Water Consensus Pact (IWC): Istanbul is a sprawling metropolis with complex water issues, as evidenced by the many cisterns and aquaducts crisscrossing the city. The World Water Forum's 5th annual conference concurred with a location there, and an important document in the name of the city was born. In a nutshell, leaders of cities from around the globe decide to meet or exceed certain goals in providing clean, safe water to their citizens. The IWC has 1070 signatories to date. (Note: I <3 Istanbul.)
  • UNICEF Tap Project: Created in honor of World Water Month, and supported by the Women's National Book Association. (Note: Contact me for more info about the WNBA, and check out my previous posts. I'm the Charlotte Membership Chair.)

What Is the UNICEF Tap Project?

In 2007, the UNICEF Tap Project was born in New York City based on a simple concept: restaurants would ask their patrons to donate $1 or more for the tap water they usually enjoy for free, and all funds raised would support UNICEF’s efforts to bring clean and accessible water to millions of children around the world. (source:

Cinna- I mean Lenny Kravitz is endorsing this.  He was offering his song "Faith of a Child" for free with a UNICEF Tap Project donation until 3/23, which was very generous of him. (Note: Timely YA super blockbuster mega-amazing movie/book tie-in :D)

Important Blog Management Note: I am switching my "Turkish" posting Mondays with my "Writer's Life" Wednesdays, beginning this week. Also, I've removed word verification on comments.


Related Posts with Thumbnails