I’ve always enjoyed writing and telling stories but I’m not kidding about having the attention span of a five year old who just ate her weight in rock candy, so I’m not always super productive. Writing a book isn’t easy and I made lots of mistakes along the way. Luckily, there are lots of excellent resources on-line. The hardest part for me was getting organized because I’ve lived my entire life by the seat of my pants and was determined to write the same way but it was a real struggle.
There’s an infinite number of resources out there for writers but much of of it was useless to me. Lots of sites cover the very basics and some of the more advanced sources were over my head. With so many choices, it almost feels like the luck of the draw when clicking a link but I was fortunate to make my way to helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com where K.M. Weiland covers topics like planning, outlining and story structure in depth.
Weiland explains themes, character arcs and so much more in detailed fashion with examples. She’s written a number of helpful guides and workbooks to help authors plan and execute their writing, plus offers templates. One of the best thing on her site is the Story Structure Database, where the plots of popular movies are used to demonstrate story structure, plot points and character arcs. There are currently 47 pages of examples so there’s something for everyone.
I love the variety because so many examples I see don’t mean anything to me. I’m picky about movies and have read a gazillion books in my life so I don’t know or have already forgotten some of the most commonly used examples. This database has plenty of old favorites I know well, like Batman Begins and the Harry Potter movies. Weiland’s site was a great place to start, but contains so much information that it’s a bit overwhelming for a novice.
My next stop was reddit because I always learn something there. From the profound to the trivial and everything in between, reddit is the place to go to explore the unknown. The sub r/romanceauthors directed me to r/eroticauthors, where I hit paydirt. That’s where I first heard of Gwen Hayes, Morgan Hawke and Jami Gold and I was suddenly buried in excellent sources.
Gwen Haye’s infamous romance beat sheet was a revelation that changed everything for me. She shares a wealth of knowledge including a beat-sheet template with concise directions, a Scrivener template and the how-to book Romancing The Beat: Story Structure for Romance Novels. These tools helped with plot points but I was still struggling to grasp the bigger picture.
Jami Gold’s site is a goldmine (pun intended). Her customized beat sheets let you choose the structure that works best for your project. Just download the excel templates, enter your target word count and the spreadsheet determines the word count for each beat. There are other worksheets to help with story structure, scenes, character building and more, plus a Scrivener template and a blog loaded with instruction and advice. Jami even offers guidance on the business aspects of being a writer, including a business plan template. Many of the resources are free but she also offers workshops and editing services for a fee.
Morgan Hawke’s book, The Cheater’s Guide To Writing Erotic Romance, was invaluable to me. She breaks down every aspect of the process in an easy-to-understand format, spelling everything out in detail with examples. There were still a few concepts I couldn’t fully wrap my head around but they all clicked after reading Morgan’s book. She explains the importance of sequencing and shows how it’s done, gives a crash course in how to use body language instead of narrative and even covers how to write about sex, which was extremely helpful since I’d never written a love scene.
These resources helped me get organized and finally start my dream project. I’d never been more motivated or excited but I was still struggling with giving my characters a unique voice and adding depth to their personas, until I found Abbie Emmons. Abbie’s the author of 100 Days of Sunlight, which is a fantastic book, but she explains and teaches the finer points of writing better than any professor I ever had in college. Her website’s a wealth of knowledge and her videos are the holy grail of help for new authors. With the exception of being addicted to Smosh, I’m not one to watch videos. I prefer to read for best absorption of information, plus there’s always music playing so there’s no place in my life for the talkies but when Abbie talks, I listen.
I can’t imagine how long I would’ve struggled with character development without Abbie’s youtube channel but it’s an incredibly valuable resource. Her videos are short and to the point yet manage to cover everything you need to know. I don’t know how she does it, but she’s amazing. Every video made lightbulbs go off in my head, identifying the problems I had with my characters and telling me how to fix them. I can’t say enough good things about Abbie so check out her channel, site and podcast, you won’t be disappointed.
After taking in all this knowledge, I ended up creating my own versions of beat sheets and various other tools to plan and execute my ideas. Combining the knowledge and recommendations from these awesome sources, as well as a few others, like Reedsy, I created a template for The Cady Blackwell Mysteries designed around the original story and characters. My templates include theme worksheets, character profiles, story outlines, character arcs, timelines, variations on the traditional three act story structure and more.
They keep me organized in so many ways and it’s a great way to plan future books, especially for a series. These custom tools allow me to expound on past themes, build on subplots and introduce new characters without making a mess of everything. We all have to do some trial and error to determine what works best for us, but tools like these are a good starting point. New authors should experiment and customize tools to their needs.
Share your favorite tools and resources to help other writers get their ideas out of their heads and into the world.