Ask Carolyn

Got any questions for me? I will attempt to answer any and all questions you may want to pose.



12 Responses to “Ask Carolyn”

  1. Jarvis says:

    What are some tips/techniques on writing a story with a basic outline and strong characters but without knowing where its going?

    • Great Question, Jarvis!

      What are some tips/techniques on writing a story with a basic outline and strong characters but without knowing where its going?

      First, I would say you need to be sure you are the type of writer who does best without a lot of structure and planning. If you’re starting out, the only way to find out is to try. If you’re more of a structured writer, then the tips that follow will drive you nuts and feel useless to you.

      For convenience, let’s just call this the Pantser (Seat of the Pants) approach.

      If you’re a pantser, maybe you don’t need an outline. That option should be on the table. I don’t do more than keep a list of scenes in the order they happen. I used to write up to a paragraph for each scene I wrote and 1-2 sentences for scenes I thought I might write. Most scene descriptions were way less than a paragraph. For the book I just turned in, I was kind of shocked to realize I NEVER wrote any scene outline. My template outline had never been touched.

      Your task is to find out what level of structure works for you. A basic outline (whatever that is)? Something more detailed? Or something less detailed?

      If you think about it, the outline is the opposite of pantsing a book. Outline=planning and how do you plan if you don’t know what’s going to happen? In the past, I’ve found that my list of scenes as they’re written with maybe a couple of scenes I haven’t written yet has let me see where the arc is wrong. But as I’ve gotten more experienced, I do less and less outlining at all, until gee, as mentioned, no outline/scene list at all for this last book. If I’d felt the structure was a problem, I might have written something out, just to see where I was going wrong.

      I keep a notebook and pen handy at all times and when I have downtime or need to brainstorm, I scribble it out in my notebook. What if? Chronologies, thoughts about the characters pasts, blocking out scenes, discussing themes and conflicts with myself. The notebooking is almost always written in present tense because i’m just describing things to myself. I make sure to notebook whenever I don’t even know what scene to write next because that will shake out ideas and conflicts.

      When I start writing, I pick a scene that interests me. The farther into the story it is, the better. My hero and heroine are just about always in the scene together. If it turns out that’s really chapter 10, fine. There’s no rule that says you have to start writing at chapter 1. I want my hero and heroine interacting right away because that’s how I know what will happen next. Keep in mind that at this point, you probably only know you have a heroine with X qualities and a hero with Y qualities and that event Z happens. If you have no idea what event Z is, then given your h/h qualities of X and Y (heh!) what event would be interesting for people like that? You’re a writer, pick the event that interests you the most and write it.

      If you’re a true pantser, then while you’re writing this, you will see things happen on the page that you did not expect. Go with it. If your heroine has a limp, let her keep the limp and work it. If the hero has a fear of lettuce, go with it. Someone will walk in and do something. The details that come out when you write are clues from your subconscious and you must pay attention to them. Oh! She has a sister! Oh, his father loved his brother more… Go with it.

      In every scene, let the characters drive the plot. If you have to go back because you’re in chapter 9 and you only now found out that hero secretly reads horrid novels, go back and layer that in.

      Always be looking to the pages you’ve written for clues about where to go next. And NEVER write a scene that doesn’t interest you. Chances are high that as you write scenes you will know what happens in the next scene because you built the pieces in the previous scenes.

      I will come back and flesh this out later.

  2. Emmie Hattoo says:

    What inspires you?

    • Alexander Skarsgard. I’m surprised you didn’t know thatl

      In a more serious vein, the answer is far less specific because it could be anything, though inspiration seems to come from sources that inspire strong emotion or where I think, oh, hey, that’s neat!

  3. Anna says:

    How many books are planned for the Immortal Assassin series? Will Kynan’s book be coming soon? Do you plans/ideas for another paranormal series? Thanks!

    • Thanks for the question, Anna.

      To round out my initial idea, there would be two, if not three more books. Kynan’s story is one of the books I hope to write. As of right now, I’m not under contract for any more, though, so I can’t say if or when other books will be out.

      I do have an idea for at least two or three other paranormal series.

  4. Anna says:

    I appreciate you taking the time to answer. I’ve got My Dangerous Pleasure pre-ordered and am anxious to read Iskander’s story. ;o)

  5. Timothea says:

    So glad that you are actually planning to do Kynan’s story! May I ask who the other(s) you may write are? Maybe Harsh?

  6. Eva says:

    Are you planning on telling Devon and Emily’s story? I enjoyed Lord Ruin very much! Very well written and left me wanting to know more of what happens with the characters. Thanks!

    • Eva:

      Thanks for your kind comment! I’m glad you enjoyed Lord Ruin. Yes, I do plan to write the stories of the other Sinclair sisters. At this point, it’s mostly a matter of freeing up my writing schedule.

  7. Timothea says:

    Yay! and YAY again!