Writing Tips by Author, Sandra Carey Cody

July 2, 2015

I am thrilled to welcome author Sandra Carey Cody to my blog this week with a fantastic post about plotting one's novel. Sandy is an amazing writer and a wonderful person. I hope you'll enjoy this post and then check out some of her work! 

Before we begin, here's a bit about your host:

Sandra Carey Cody was born and grew in Missouri, surrounded by a family who loved stories, whether from a book or told on the back porch on a Sunday afternoon. She attended Washington University in St. Louis, moved on to various cities in different parts of the country, and finally settled in Doylestown, a small town just north of Philadelphia. Wherever she's gone, books have been the bridge to her new community and new friends. 

She’s written six novels - five in the Jennie Connors mystery series and the standalone mystery, Love and Not Destroy. She is also the author of a number of short stories which are not mysteries - unless you consider (as she does) the day-to-day bump and jostle of ordinary life a mysterious thing. If you would like to know more about her work, you can visit her website: http://www.sandracareycody.com or her Amazon author page here

And now, here's Sandy!


For me, plot’s the … I was about to say the hardest part … but let’s be positive and call it the biggest challenge. What do I do when faced with a challenge? Break it down. Look at the basics. What is a plot? My trusty Webster’s defines it as:

“the plan of action of a play, novel, etc.”

Okay, now that we know what plot is, let’s break it down into manageable bits.

Come Up with a Plan:

It’s the planning that gives me trouble but, if I do a good job on the characters (a subject for another time), it’s a lot easier. I created these people. I know their secrets, what they’re afraid of, what they love and what they hate. So I should know how they will react in any situation, and those reactions are what move the story along. Sounds easy, right? All I have to do is give them something to react to, a problem to solve or a goal to achieve – and a reason to care about the problem or goal. Different characters have different goals - opposing goals. The antagonist (anti-hero) will do everything in his/her power to keep the protagonist (hero) from achieving his/her goal. This is the source of the tension that will drive the plot. When I know what problem the protagonist is facing, I’m ready to begin.

The Beginning - An Inciting Incident 

Something has to happen and it has to be strong enough to compel the protagonist to act. This is your inciting incident.  Place a major roadblock in your protagonist’s path, something that forces him/her to take action or make a choice. This is true not just for mysteries, which I write, but for all fiction. Think of your favorite half dozen stories in any genre. The first chapters may be wildly different, but they’re sure to have one thing in common: something happens or is foreshadowed as about to happen that will change life for the hero. He’s about to embark on a journey that will take him to places he never expected to go, to do things he never suspected he was capable of doing. In short, your protagonist is in trouble - facing a seemingly insurmountable problem. The plot is in motion. Things are starting to happen.

The Middle - Action, Overcoming Obstacles, Consequences, Cause and Effect

The middle is all about the hero’s response to the problem (the inciting action) placed before him in the beginning and the new problems resulting from that response. It’s about choices and the consequences of those choices. It’s about overcoming obstacles. By the middle of the book, the hero’s life is in chaos. Real life may be random, but in fiction, if the reader is to suspend disbelief, he needs to see the cause and effect behind the chaos. Events in the plot may (and at least sometimes should) surprise the reader, but once they occur, they should make sense. This doesn’t mean they are predictable. Your protagonist does something in response to the inciting action, expecting a certain result, but what happens is entirely different from what he intended. Things are worse instead of better. Someone (the antagonist) is doing his/her best to make sure the protagonist fails. So you need to write a series of scenes that show your character’s responses to the problems set in motion by the inciting incident and are linked by cause and effect.  Every time the hero responds to a problem, the anti-hero responds too, creating another problem for the hero to overcome. Forces of good and evil are at war. Your hero has new battles to fight, more obstacles to overcome. The battles become more intense, the stakes higher. Your protagonist has to become stronger, fight harder, to overcome them. These battles and the changes they create in the protagonist make up the middle.

The End - Resolution, Changes 

And, finally, after much travail and turmoil for both you and your hero, you come to the end. How is the problem resolved? How has the struggle changed your hero? Did he achieve his goal? Or come to accept that he could not and learn to live with it?  And, most important, have you been fair to the reader? Have you entertained him and made the time spent with your story worthwhile? That’s our goal as writers – always.


Check out some of Sandra's work on her Amazon page!


Writing Tips by Author, K.A. Libby

June 25, 2015

This week I welcome author, K.A. Libby for a guest post in my writing tips segment. Here's a bit about Ms. Libby:

“Beware the Sleeping Dog” is Karla Reidinger’s (k.a. libby) first novel. It hibernated as a tiny germ of an idea for years before she actually started writing the manuscript. Much like George Bernard Shaw's quote above she had an idea. She imagined its growing into a novel. She studied her favorite authors and learned how they developed the goals, obstacles and stakes for the...

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Writing Tips Part 2, Author Augustus Cileone: Using Your Experience in Fiction

June 18, 2015

I'm thrilled to welcome back author, Augustus Cileone to my blog today for his second post in my writing tips series.

In case you forgot, here's a little bit about my guest: 

Augustus Cileone won the Dark Oak Mystery Contest sponsored by Oak Tree Press, for the novel, A Lesson in Murder, about homicides associated with a Philadelphia Quaker school. His second novel, Feast or Famine, a satire, deals with a traumatized man dealing with his Catholic Italian American upbringing in the 1960's and 19...

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Writing Tips from Author, Augustus Cileone

June 11, 2015

I'm thrilled to welcome author, Augustus Cileone to my blog today for my writing tips series. Gus is a member of my local SINC chapter (Sisters in Crime). I can tell you that he is smart, interesting and accomplished. I'm excited to share his writing tips. Gus will be here today talking about building characters and next Thursday, he will return to discuss using your own experiences in fiction writing.

Here's a little bit about my guest: 

Augustus Cileone won the Dark Oak Mystery Contest sponso...

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Respecting Your Process

June 9, 2015

My Daughter's drawing of a "Plantster" - which is what I am: a cross between a Plotter and a Pantster

Get it? Plotter + Panster = Plantser? Pants with a Plant growing out of them. Tee hee

Last year, I posted about this awesome blog post I had discovered by author, Rachel Aaron wherein she proposed a new way to increase word count. You can read the post that I wrote here. (The bit about Aaron is all the way at the bottom, so scroll down.) What I had gotten out of her post was that if you spend a...

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Authors United Against Child Slavery

May 20, 2015

Psst . . . Please check this out. Remember that Finding Claire Fletcher t-shirt fundraiser I did last year? It was for this very same organization: Operation Underground Railroad. Now these two super awesome authors, Laura Johnston and Donna K. Weaver are going all out to mobilize the writing community in order to raise money for O.U.R. Please check it out. By the way, earlier this year, the Elizabeth Smart Foundation merged with O.U.R. Elizabeth Smart has long supported O.U.R. and I hope you...

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A New Cover and Exciting News

May 19, 2015

Okay, so I was very, very late in posting this so I apologize. But as you've probably already seen somewhere on the web, the new ABERRATION cover is out!  Here it is:

Regina Wamba of Mae I. Design came up with it. I think it is absolutely breathtaking! I'm very excited.

So to celebrate this amazing new cover, my publisher, Sapphire Star Publishing decided to run a 99 cent promotion on the ebook from May 14-18. The exciting new is that during this sale, my little old book cracked Amazon's Top 10...

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Writing Tips from Katie Mettner

May 11, 2015

I am starting a new guest post feature on my blog. It is going to center around writing tips and writing advice. It will likely be irregular, but that's okay. I'll try to label each of the posts under Writing Tips so that once I've got a good store of them, you can just click on that and access them all.

For my very first Writing Tips post, I've invited the lovely Katie Mettner. Right now, she is promoting her novel, Liberty Belle on Kindle Scout. So you'll hear a little about that and then Ka...

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So Many Things . . . An Update!

April 28, 2015

Well, I am happy to say that one of the reasons I haven't been blogging or particularly active on social media, or quick at answering emails or tweets or private messages or . . . you get the picture, is that I've been working hard on my next book. Right now, it's titled COLD-BLOODED. It is the next book in what I hope will become the Jocelyn Rush series. (No, I do not have a release date yet as I still have to polish it and submit it to a publisher). I finished the first draft FINALLY (see p...

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Cover Reveal: A Change of Mind and Other Stories by Nick Wilford

March 25, 2015

Title: A Change of Mind and Other Stories

Author: Nick Wilford

Genre: Contemporary speculative fiction

Cover Design: Rebekah Romani ( https://www.facebook.com/rebekah.romani)

Release Date: May 25th 2015


A Change of Mind and Other Stories consists of a novella, four short stories and one flash fiction piece. This collection puts the extremes of human behaviour under the microscope with the help of lashings of dark humour, and includes four pieces previously published in Writer’s Muse magazine.



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About Me

Lisa Regan I am a crime/suspense writer, author of Finding Claire Fletcher and Aberration available now from Sapphire Star Publishing. I released my third novel, Hold Still in March 2014 which has been picked up by Thomas & Mercer. This Blog is also available at www.lisalregan.blogspot.com for Blogger Folks!



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