Find Your Way Through

Maps are magic, aren’t they?

A visit to writer Kirsten’s blog, A Scenic Route reminded me to honor my maps.

Honestly, until I read her entry, Getting My Bearings, I’d forgotten about the maps I created for my novel.

So, I’ve plundered the huge pile of miscellaneous papers, notes, stickies, and stuff on my desk and salvaged the following items. The first map I found was the route my heroes take after crash landing on an alien world. They have to reach the capital city within two days, skirting death and destruction on the way.  From this bird’s-eye view I was able to move them forward, describing the surroundings, while not letting them wander into the bush. My battle maps are gone. The military advisor at my house (war veteran husband) suggested a sprawling conventional battlefield might be replaced by door-to-door urban warfare. He was right. Instead of a map, I used a numbered list. But, there are many ways to put maps and other 2D art to use in writing. The tiny escape craft pictured here ferries my characters across the galaxy. I needed a way inside the craft as two species got acquainted by total immersion. Picturing the shell of the ship helped immensely. And, when everyone is back on Earth, I wanted to avoid the fatal error of naming streets in famous cities incorrectly so here is my beautiful plastic covered map of DC.

I have to admit I envy any author who can function without these aides. What would it be like to know where your MC is all the time, how he arrived there, and where he will end up? What a fantastic skill that would be!

Even so, using a picture can create a novel, and a map can envision a world.

How do you envision your world without using words?

How to read science fiction or other genre fiction even if you don’t want to.

It’s happened-the moment you’ve been dreading.






Your wife, husband, son, cousin, or co-worker asked you to read a chapter of their science fiction, high fantasy, romance, or vampire novel. Now what do you do? You’re a decent person, and you don’t want to or can’t afford to hurt their feelings. But, genre fiction stories are weird.  You’ve never read any because you really don’t want to. Sure, you read fiction: murder mysteries, adventures, generic bestsellers. Normal stuff.

I understand. Well-meaning people come to me all the time with suggestions.  When they say, “You really should read this best seller, this YA novel, this non-fiction autobiography,” I always smile and nod. Inside I cringe. No WAY I’m ever going to read that book. I am a very discriminating reader, I tell myself. My time is limited, and I simply don’t want to invest the effort in something that sounds boring or ridiculous.

However, even I, a self-confessed reading snob, occasionally step out of my comfort zone. Some of the recommended books are still not my cup of tea, but some are fascinating and beautifully written, and I fall in love with a new author.  My friends are happy I took their advice, and I’ve stretched my limits. Everybody wins.

Here’s my advice on reading genre fiction.

Suspend your disbelief.

Science fiction has many faces. Hard science fiction follows natural laws. Relativity rules. Character driven space opera laughs at relativity.

Fantasy trumps all natural laws.

Vampires suck the life out of natural laws.

Romance novels usually have happy ending. Girl gets boy-if she wants him.

Go ahead. Read something different. You know you want to. OK, maybe not. But, you never know, you might be pleasantly surprised.

When was the last time you read outside of your comfort zone?




What defines an excellent chapter? What makes this particular chapter one of the best in my novel?

Chapter 23 just flowed out of me. I experienced some of the I can’t remember writing this phenomenon Holly describes in an email to HTRYN students. I didn’t struggle with my thoughts, with description, or with the death of a main character. I just saw it and wrote it.

The MC suffered her terrible loss with sorrow and dignity as a strong, sweet secondary character helped her to safety. I could see him so clearly; his outlines were bold, his bravery was understated, his strength and compassion tangible.  The chapter ended with a wonderful hook.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m writing science-fiction romance, a genre that can’t be taken too seriously. However, those characters at that particular time interacted seamlessly, with depth and clarity.

Of course, it didn’t hurt that I only made a few changes. (Most of my chapters look like a bloody crime scene, splattered with red ink.)  And, it doesn’t break my heart that I have only four chapters to go in lesson seventeen.  As a spare writer, I struggle to add dimension to my world and my people and, in this chapter, I nailed it. I just hope after revision most of the novel will be this deep and rich.

So, I ask you brother and sister writers. What makes your chapters memorable?

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