Concrete Detail

Write like a reader, read like a writer and edit like a beast!

Happy Valentine’s Day!  I am being courageous again.  I am putting my work out in the universe.  While Valentine’s Day is sometimes said to be a made-up holiday I like to think every day can be Valentine’s Day of sorts, filled with love, with hope and a truth.

I give you a poem.  I don’t consider myself a poet, but I do enjoy trying to create something beautiful with words.  Happy Valentine’s Day! To one very special person,  I wish you a very Happy Birthday!


Learning to Love

A poem by E. L. Hayes

I’m learning to love

It is not such an easy task

Years of searching for just the right thing

Moments of happiness, fleeting and few

It confuses me

I look to the world, it is void

It holds not a thing for me

The days are long and the nights longer still

I look to people, they are empty

Searching alongside me for a truth

We are looking for a moment fleeting and few

Together we are alone

I seek out the truth to fill the void

I look to the Savior and find I am whole

It is a love pure and true

It is a love for me, for you.


Okay, I have had several people ask me about the “wall”.  What are all those delicious colors and what is happening up there?  The wall as I mentioned is how I outline a book.  I am not a hardcore outliner and I am a bit of a pantser (all that means is I like to write by the seat of my pants).   As the pantser in me is released,  I need to be able to move my scenes around.  The outliner in me likes to have order, therefore, this seems to be a nice way to meet the needs of both sides of my writing style.

Once I have a story idea sort of fleshed out, I begin to develop the scenes I intend to write.    I think it would be fun to share how I make a scene card.  (I use sticky notes becasue I put my scenes up on the wall for quick reference but this entire process will work on index cards or in a notebook.)

Step One

Step One:

I give the scene a short title. It is important to keep it short and even catchy.  This helps a writer to refer back to what they are working on.  I like to give hints of what that scene may be disclosed in a story.  For example: if it is the “murder” scene I may make a reference to the weapon.  perhaps “Death in the leaves.”

Step Two:

Perhaps one of the most important parts of a scene card is this statement.  I don’t want to know what is happening yet.  I need to know why I am writing this scene.  Is it plot advancement? Character Development?  Setting?  Foreshadowing? Is there thematic importance? Is there a transformation in your character here?  What is the reason you need to have this scene in the story?  If you can’t come up with a solid reason, you may need to cut this scene.  I say this because it can cause you to lose a lot of time and energy writing scenes that are not serving a purpose in your story.  Istep-two.jpgf you are starting an outline after you have already written a part of the story, this may be a good way to determine if this scene is ready for the cutting room floor.  Readers will appreciate your honesty here.  Be honest, does this scene move your story along?  if not, cut it.

Step ThreeStep Three:

This is fun, but don’t get too carried away.  You will not write out a novel here.  This is simply a place to keep your mind on the action.  Action makes for good reading even when it’s not a climax scene you need to be mindful of the action in the scene.  Example of a not so action filled scene, my action statement may look like this:  The killer is stalking the detective.  Sitting outside the restaurant where she is trying to figure out who she is looking for.  

Step FourStep Four:

This is the one I need lots of flexibility on.  When you write a scene, you discover that you need to add or subtract a player from the scene if something juicer develops.  That is what when I add the players I use, you guessed it, more sticky notes.  Before I begin an outlining for the wall, I use the small sticky notes and a sharpie marker and write out the names of my characters.  (Protagonist will have the most)   I often choose a different color for each major and supporting characters, and use one color for lesser characters (such as someone that pops in for just a few minutes – it is not that they are lesser characters, but they hold less of a role in this story.  A good example may be a waitress that the protagonist knows and gives information, a co-worker or witness that is not involved in the story but is needed to advance the plot.)

Make characters

step-five.jpgStep Five:

The timeline is hard to keep track of sometimes when you are typing away.  I like to add a reference to the time/place each scene develops in the top right corner of my sticky note.  When I look at the wall, I can quickly access where that scene fit in when I move a scene, the timeline I simply pencil (important) through the timeline reference then write the new place it exists. I use a pencil because if I move something, I may move it back.  I also like to see where have I moved the scene because in editing it helps.  I may move that scene two or three times back and forth before I rest on where it creates the most tension, action and more importantly, where it makes sense in the story.

I do this for every scene I intend to write.  Some of the scenes get moved to the bottom of the sheet as things develop in a holding pattern.  Some end up in the trash and others are created along the way,  the important part is there is some order though fluid and ever-changing as the story is written.  It is a tiny road map to keep me headed in the right direction while still allowing for rabbit trails.



Bookman’s Bathroom in Flagstaff, AZ

Inspiration, I know that there are all kinds things that can inspire a writer.  Recently, I was in one of my favorite stores Bookman’s in Flagstaff, AZ for a “stretch break” before heading back down the hill.  It was more like an excuse to go in and see if they had anything fun I could add to my writing collection.  I walked into the bathroom and found this beautifully framed inspiration on the wall.

I had a desire to grab a pen and paper and just write about this woman resting perhaps in a beautiful glen.  I love the peek of blue in the top left that looks like a portal from another world.

Where do writers find inspiration?  The answer is everywhere.  I have heard a word in a restaurant, a doctor’s office, read a new article, seen a meme on social media, my life and all the crazies that inhabit it, a cute picture on Pinterest all these things are sources for inspiration. One of my favorite places to get inspiration is to play board games with people.  People say some funny stuff when they are playing board games.

The truth is if we don’t limit ourselves, we can find inspiration everywhere.  Some of these things are meant to sit in our souls and marinate, some will explode and fizzle, but for the story-teller, there are some moments of inspiration that churn and bubble until the story is born.

Keep notebooks everywhere.  Anytime you hear or think, “Oh that would be a cool story.” or “That would make an interesting twist wouldn’t it?” write it down.  If you hear someone say something that makes you laugh out loud, those are good for scribbling down.  If you see a picture or an image that makes you feel anything print it out and stick it in that notebook.  When you need inspiration, just browse your notebooks.  Let them take you into the story that is waiting to be written.


I am sharing a peek into my writing wall.  I use this wall to help me plot out my story.  Notice the massive use of Post-Its.  I like sticky notes because they are not locked in.  I can move stuff around toss a scene, change the players, update or add things I need to keep track of as the story emerges from my fingertips.  I never thought of myself as a “plotter”.  I like to have a kind of idea where I am going and then writing whatever happens.  I have read several books on plotting.  One of my favorites is K.M Weiland’s Outlining your Novel.

I previously confessed my love for organizing, so it makes sense that I would read the book as well as use the companion workbook.  I have, and while there are so many things I love in the process, I found most of it works, but I still like that pantser side of me.   I like to go off script, it is part of what I love about writing.  As a by the book kind of person in the real world, writing allows me to be a little less by the book.  I can go where I want to go, do what I want to do, and the only people I could possibly hurt is the characters I have created.  When I read Outlining Your Novel the first time I was searching for a system, method whatever you want to call it do guide me into finishing a book.   Part of the biggest problem with pantsing is you can spend a lot of time writing a lot of stuff that ends up on the cutting-room floor.  Realizing that I needed something to stop me from the aimless waste of precious writing time, I decided I needed to combine my love for color coding, organization and stay true to my pantsing writing style the birth of the writing wall. I also love that everytime I walk into my writing space the reality of my book is right there.  It says “butt in chair, and write!”  I can see, that scene needs to be written, I can see how close I am to the end as well as keeps me organized to see where my characters are and what they have done.  It keeps my timeline in order as well.

Did I mention I like systems?  Oh if not, see this post about focused planning for writers. I have notebooks filled with exercises and notes from several books and webinars that help me become a better writer  using another’s system.

Here is the problem, and something I have learned from another great writer and teacher, (Gabirela Pereira (more on this fantastic person to come.)) that I need to honor my process.  While each book I have digested and worked through there is nothing they can do to improve my book if I use them to avoid writing it. If I am always seeking a system and not writing then I am not honoring MY process.  At some point, a writer must stop planning and start writing.

Sharing my wall is like sharing deep inside my mind.  This wall is where I decided to bring together the things that work from all those books and finalize the direction of my book.  It is freeing!  When I  decided to pull the things from all those methods, systems and whatever else and FINALLY got all the sticky notes up on the board I realized honoring my process, is about learning to use what works for me, and to just write.  Hear this if nothing else.  The only way you will ever write a book is to actually sit in the chair and write it.  Pantser, Planner or (what I think is best) a combo of both you can only read so many books on how to before you DIY!


A fellow author, I follow  Hannah Heath,  just posted there is an online conference going on this very weekend!

I have bumped today’s post to Friday to share this awesome opportunity.


General Admission – $5 (yes that is $5)

General Admission + Live Event – $10 (yes, that is $10)

Extended Admission – $15 (yes, you can retain access to the conference for a month after the event for just $15)


I will be there for the extended admission because I need the extra time to absorb all the goodness that will be offered. Here is Hannah telling you about it!


Yesterday I had a few fun things on the actual FBI site and today I want to share even more from this site.  You can find it here. As you are looking for information or even ideas, you will find the FBI’s website a wealth of knowledge.  When I  dug deep into this site, I found a fun page on the History of the FBI.  This page is both helpful for research on the development of the FBI but it also has a link to Famous Cases & Criminals.  This is a great page for research.  If you are writing a historical fiction that has crime element, you will love this.

One reason the Famous Cases and Criminals is of great interest goes deeper than a crime novel.  One way to ensure your protagonist is given a strong antagonist is to study the motives and backgrounds of people that are willing to take a step into the dark side.  As a writer, I have a responsibility to bring forth the best bad guy I can.  This is true for crime novels and love stories.  Taking time to dig through (also known as research) the notorious, a writer can discover the characteristics, mentality, and mannerisms that make an antagonist.  Study motives it will only strengthen your writing!

Did you ever want to know how the FBI processes evidence? The FBI offers pages and pages of the ins and outs of the methods and resources available for writing your next novel.  You can also learn about what it takes to get through the FBI training.  Check out the Services page to get started on your research.

The FBI site is so full of resources for writers (especially for the mystery or thriller genres).  I encourage anyone that wants to write to dig through the stories, outline what these criminals (antagonist) behaviors can do to lend authenticity to your writing.  Every writer knows that researching is key, take advantage of the FBI website and dig in and get some great story ideas!


highWhen you write, it requires one have a working knowledge of a lot of stuff. It’s almost like you have to hold multiple jobs.   For instance.  My current work is a Christian crime novel.  I like crime stories what can I say.  It’s not the crime but the solving of the crime that interests me.  I am always looking for places to do my research to ensure my characters both antagonist and protagonist are accurate.  I guess you can say I am a writer that needs to have an understanding of what it means to be in law enforcement. I need to have an authentic voice.

In an online class,  the teacher mentioned that one place he went was to the FBI crime database! I was itching to check it out not just for my writing but because I was curious what would be on the site.  What I found was a goldmine!

The home page has “most wanted” images which I have used some aspects to create mental images of my antagonist. I usually try to mix in the physical descriptions because I don’t want to write true crime.  It is always helpful to have an image of a character to better write the descriptions.

Another thing writers need to keep on top of is current events.  If you like to write crime, this is a true goldmine as the homepage also has links to the “News and Features”.  These posts are actual events current and relevant to what is happening in our world.  Things I had never heard of “Sextortion”  I mean come on, how can you not want to write a story about that!!  Yeah, I thought so!

There are cases of the week:  Some of these are cold cases that as a writer you can tap into the facts to spur on a new story.

My most used tab is the “What we Investigate”.  This is a research goldmine!  There are multiple sections to explore.  In fact, the Super Bowl is coming up and on this page, you will find the behind the scenes security that took place for the 2018 Super Bowl.   Talk about an up-to-date place to get information for writers.

These are just a few of the things on this site that are helpful. Tomorrow I am going to share more on this site especially some things that are a bit less obvious. Be sure to stop back in tomorrow!