Guest Post: Terri Giuliano Long

To Plot or Not to Plot

To plot or not to plot – that is the question.

When I wrote the first draft of my novel, In Leah’s Wake, for my graduate thesis, I had no idea where I was going. Like many writing teachers, my professors encouraged students to write organically – that is, without plotting. During the revision process, I looked for themes, and then expanded and developed the novel thematically. In Leah’s Wake is a character driven novel. Had I plotted the story, I would have written a different book.

My novel-in-progress, Nowhere to Run, is a psychological thriller. I’m approaching this book a little differently. I’ve mapped out a partial plot – markers to keep me on track – while writing organically. While I recognize the many benefits of plotting, sticking too firmly to plot feels limiting to me. Allowing myself some degree of freedom leaves room for new ideas and possibilities to emerge. It also makes writing a far messier process.

So which is better – writing organically or plotting?

The short answer: neither. We should write in whatever way makes us feel comfortable and our writing enjoyable. The long answer: depends on our goals. The goal of a literary writer is to develop and understand character. The goal of a genre writer is to entertain.

Literary fiction focuses on thoughts and feelings, how characters react or behave in the face of circumstances. For this reason, literary fiction tends to move at a more leisurely pace than its action-packed siblings. Genre fiction, on the other hand, focuses on action, what the characters do and say. A young lawyer, wooed by money and prestige, joins a high-powered Memphis tax firm. Soon, the young lawyer, under pressure from the FBI to inform on his criminal colleagues, finds himself on the run, chased by the Mafia that owns the firm. John Grisham, The Firm. Action, not character, drives this fast-paced novel.

We read The Firm to learn how the story turns out, what happens to the protagonist, Mitch. If The Firm were a literary novel and Mitch were on the run, the focus might be on the ways the experience changes him or weighs on his marriage. We’d still read to find out what happens, but character development would take precedence over the action.

This, of course, is an oversimplification. While there are extremes on both ends – thrillers with flat stock characters moving at break-neck speed, or quiet literary novels, with exquisite language, in which nothing happens – generally speaking, the best stories involve rounded characters and have enough action entertain and engage the reader.

Why Literary Writers Don’t Often Plot and Genre Writers Typically Do

Because of its focus, literary fiction lends itself to an organic writing style. As Heraclitus famously said, “Character is destiny.” Or “A man’s character is his fate.” For literary writers, this is a cardinal rule: the protagonist’s character determines his fate. In The Firm, Mitch is a brash young man. He’s brash because the plot requires this characteristic. Again, we don’t read the firm to discover how Mitch’s job affects him emotionally or bears on his marriage. We may learn this, and major characters certainly behave in ways true to their character – they must or they wouldn’t feel real – but their actions and responses serve the plot.


Literary writers write to discover. Often, they begin with a voice, an image, maybe a question, developing characters and story as they write. A literary writer may have a general sense of direction, or give herself markers, steps that force a confrontation and ultimately lead to a climax. She may jot down character notes – beliefs, motivations, personal history. But she’s unlikely to plot. To stick to a tight plot – A happens, causing B, leading to C – characters must behave in preordained ways. This defeats the purpose.


In genre fiction, particularly mysteries and thrillers, failing to plot may lead to missteps or digressions, and may even ruin the novel. Like all stories, mysteries and thrillers have rules. In mysteries, something happens and the protagonist is driven to figure out why or who did it. In thrillers, the protagonist fights for his or her life against some sort of evil. Writers can – and do – break rules. But remember: readers expect us to follow the rules. If we break rules, certain readers will be disappointed; we need to understand this and prepare to lose them.


Writing a taut, fast-paced novel or a story with complex plot twists requires skillful plotting, and skillful plotting requires careful planning. With a thriller, you have to keep the action coming; you can’t afford to get off track or meander. This is why most genre writers plot.


Stephen King, you may be thinking, pens organically written horror novels. True – because his stories, despite their horror genre, are character driven. He writes about things that go bump in the night, things that scare us. Most of his books, while suspenseful, are not action-packed. He creates suspense by inserting some dreadful thing – a curse (Thinner), a deadly disease (The Stand), a rabid dog (Cujo) – into his characters’ lives and then lets them deal.


Today, many books ride the line between literary and genre fiction. Authors like King may not write extensive plots, but they do begin with a clear problem or confrontation. In other words, they don’t start with an image or conversation and see where it goes. They pit their characters against some major life-altering problem, before setting them loose.




Terri Giuliano Long grew up in the company of stories both of her own making and as written by others. Books offer her a zest for life’s highs and comfort in its lows better than anything else can. She’s all-too-happy to share this love with others as a novelist and as a writing instructor at Boston College. She blogs about writing and the writing life at Or connect with her on Facebook:  Or Twitter: @tglong 

Foxworth Excerpts

Death of Innocence Book One of the Foxworth Coven Series By Kayden McLeod
Genre: Erotic Paranormal Romance (Vampires, Deities, M/F)
Hate Rating: Three
Warning: Some violence, off-scene rape
Publisher: Solstice Publishing (Solstice at Night)
Price: $4.99

Even unconditional love cannot always banish an eternal nightmare
The Foxworth family has blazed a trail through human and vampire history alike, changing the ways of both races in Canada for all time. The Council has demanded a full report for the long and twisted tale of how the Surrey Coven had come to be the most powerful and feared; an assemblage that anyone would question before coming up against.

The Leader of the Surrey Coven, Canya recalls how her family came to be. A story filled with pain and heartache, until she meets Gregory Foxworth: a debonair CEO to the family shipping company. Gregory remembers taking her away from a life that shocks him, hoping to shelter and love her. But little does he know all he has done, was make her a target for a sadistically warped man. One who will have her and his own personal brand of vengeance. Sometimes, a grudge is forever.

Excerpt (Rated PG, with sexual references):

The sunlight shone over the light sprinkling of white snow. Her hair caught the surreal light, throwing blue highlights through the strands that now stretched past her waist. She’d always enjoyed the outdoors. It was one of the many things about her that had dragged my attention, and held it so securely. “I want you to realize just how important nature is to us. We draw our power from everything around us. We need blood to live, just as the land needs to be fertilized. But this is our world Canya—not the city. Look around you.” I held my arms out to encompass everything from the trees, to the ground, to the sky. I wiggled my fingers and the snowflakes on the ground rose into the air, dancing at my bidding. They swirled into a small tornado, moving over the flagstones to where she stood. Her laughter flowed over the picturesque landscape when she plunged her hands into the snow, coming up with a lump that she packed hard with her hands. A wicked light entered her eyes as she strolled forward. I’d been caught up in the swing of her hips, so sensually seductive. And then she threw her white orb at me with deadly accuracy. It pelted me on the forehead while I’d stared at her body like the haven it was meant to be. Dancing away from me she giggled. I gave chase when she caught up her skirts and took off into the middle of the yard. “I am going to get you for that,” I called to her, knowing I could catch her at any time, but giving her the illusion of safety. “I’m counting on it.” Dark thoughts were forgotten as I flicked both hands and the snow fell from the evergreen branches above her head. White flakes rained down around her, creating a solid sheet in every direction. I watched her turn left and right looking for me, amusement bright on her face. “This isn’t fair, Greg! How can I compete with this?” Canya called into the snow. She moved forward and never left the enclosure while it moved with her. I stayed just far enough away, always behind her that she never found me. “You shouldn’t throw those orbs at me then,” I whispered in her ear, moving with inhuman speed when she whirled, but I wasn’t there. Canya chuckled as she plopped down into the snow. I watched her curiously as she began to pack more snow. “Snow-balls Greg, they are called snow-balls. Get into this century.” I couldn’t contain my laughter at her snide comment. Her head snapped up in the direction where I’d been. A snow “ball” came flying, exactly where my head had been. “I am in this century, here with you.” I moved behind her, quiet as a mouse. She’d made a rather large pile of projectiles, completely oblivious. “Actually you are not here with me. It would seem, for all intents and purposes that you’re hiding from your fiancé. I think you are scared of getting pelted again.” Her teeth flashed in the sunlight, the wall of snow creating a safe cocoon for her. I grabbed her around the middle and she shrieked in my ear, tossing her over my shoulder with snow still grasped in her hands.

“Scared of a little witch like you?” I laughed as she tossed the snow over my head backward. I playfully slapped her enticingly vulnerable bum, while being slung so helplessly. “This is a very interesting predicament you have put me in.” “Whatever predicament do you refer to?” Her mind became blank, carefully not thinking of anything. Her tiny hand slid down my back, sending shivers through me the cold could never compete with. My own moved down her body and over her backside, so lightly she shuddered. My breath caught in my throat. It was the first time we had touched in such a manner. Now I feared if I didn’t stop, I would drop her to the ground and indulge in every fantasy that had kept me up at night. It wasn’t that I hadn’t had sex before, but it had been a very long time. Once Canya had moved in, I’d not taken a single lover: vampire or otherwise. More often than not, blood and sex intermingled so tightly that one often led to the other, no matter which came first. Sex was commonplace for us—as easy as breathing and we partook in it just as often. My body grew hot and tight enough, I thought it would drive me insane. I wanted to run my tongue over every inch of her luscious skin. To lose myself in her mouth, move down her body with delicate slowness, until her cries pushed me over the edge. “You are a cruel woman.” I set her on her feet. The look in her eyes made me growl with frustration. My body protested, needing to touch her again in any way she saw fit. Canya looked like a mythical siren or a nymph, purely tempting. I had no problem with succumbing to this particular temptation, except perhaps her feelings on the matter. It was too soon. I knew this, though that did not make it any easier to bear. “Revenge is always sweet. Since you’re mine now, I think it is acceptable.” She pranced past me. I flicked a hand in the direction of the whirling snow, and it fell harmlessly to the ground.

Natural Urges Book Two of the Foxworth Coven Series By Kayden McLeod Genre: Erotic Paranormal Romance (Vampires, Shifters, Deities)
Word Count: 76,561
Hate Rating: Three
Warning: Some violence off-scene rape

Summary: Love conquers all…and evil seeks to destroy it. Arcadia Foxworth has no idea what destiny has in store for him. He thought his life as an elite Council Hunter of Rogues was his perfect career choice. But little does he know his fate truly lies in one little powder keg, Korbin Callows. She’s beautiful, graceful—and a stripper. After having woken up, remembering nothing about her old life, Korbin had to pull herself together and make tough decisions to survive a harsh world. And now people she doesn’t even know are out to kill her. She finds herself relying on Arcadia to maneuver the new dangers presented to her, as she starts to recall who she really is. A powerful being that could make every vampire in British Columbia fall to their knees, including Arcadia.

Excerpt: PG 13

I stopped the truck and pulled to the side of the road on a partially built subdivision. The wooden skeletons of the houses rose like sentinels against the cobalt tinted onyx horizon studded with fiery crystal chips glowing an unearthly white edged in cerulean. “What’s here?” Korbin asked when she reached for the doorknob. It felt good to see she still trusted me. Even after what had just happened to her. It went leagues toward healing my self-annoyance. “We will walk the rest of the way, if you don’t mind. You may want to change into your running shoes though.” “Okay.” She got out, and went to the back, where her bags were and pulled out a pair of well-worn white and blue sneakers. She exchanged her footwear, and turned. Her face was excited to see what I had in store for her as I took her hand, leading her between the houses to the field behind them. “Oh, Cad, look up at that sky. It’s so gorgeous!” I followed her gaze to the full moon that set the landscape with enough light to see the outline of the tall spruce and pines that lined the opposite side of the field in front of us. The light also reflected off of the tranquil pond to our left, just behind a ring of trunks. The gentle breeze brought the scent of freshness and wildflowers to us in caresses. I wrapped my arm around Korbin’s shoulders as we walked, missing this area, where Jana had taken Ceanna and I as children. I didn’t often relax outside of my territory—but I wanted to take Korbin somewhere special. I remembered when Canya and Gregory had moved us to Surrey, from New Westminster when the other Covens had come to British Columbia, narrowing out territory from an entire province, to the Fraser Valley. “I love it here,” Korbin said. We crossed under the canopy of pine needles above, to stand on the edge of the small body of water. The moment we did, the green and white Christmas lights strung from tree to tree blinked on, illuminating the area. One by one, hunter green tapered candles burst with tiny flames, their bottoms buried in the sandy dirt along the shore. My sisters’ special addition. The breeze picked up enough that a cottonwood tree nearby released tiny white particles into the air, to float around us like soft snow. Olive coloured cattails swayed back and forth, in a dance only nature could produce. White rose petals alongside purple and magenta wildflowers scattered over the grass around a plush dark russet blanket, the colour of rich soil filled with minerals. I took Korbin’s hand and led her to the blanket so we could sit down. “Thank you, Arcadia. I can’t believe you did all of this.” “Actually, it was Ceanna and Josealynn,” I replied. Korbin grinned. “Figures. It has a woman’s touch.” “They are very good at what they do.” Korbin sighed. “It must be so nice to have a family who cares for and loves you so much.” The sad tone made me wince. “They are your family now too, you know. All of us have every intention of keeping you safe and happy.”

“I know,” Korbin said. “Tell me about them, your sisters and parents. I want to know more about them. They have been so good to me, and I can’t even tell you how much that means.” “My parents have led a hard life, keeping our Coven together in the direst of circumstances. They aren’t my real parents, though. The people who bore me died some time ago in a war with an old Coven member, Antonio, who sought to destroy our people. He killed more than half of our ruling family. He was a truly evil man.” “What happened to this Antonio?” “Eventually he had been caught by the Council, and given the most severe punishment any vampire could receive—humanification. Afterward, he was taken to Europe for questioning. We’ve heard nothing else about him, but he left his legacy behind. My real Father and Gregory’s brother, Corbin had been mated to my Mother, Jana. Antonio wanted Jana enough to kidnap her and take her to Greece. While they lived there, they bore two sons, Ambrosios and Doros, my brothers.” “That must’ve been hard for you. Were they taken to Europe too?” I shook my head. “They were placed into a Coven who could take care of them, though they took off on their own not too many years after, to travel the world. My brothers visit from time to time, though they won’t stay long. Neither feel comfortable here; they don’t feel like part of the family because of the sins of their parent. But Ambrosios does come more often. He seems rather taken with my sister, Josealynn, who I suppose is my cousin, though Corbin.” “It is strange that your Father has the same name as me,” Korbin replied. “I thought much the same thing a few times. It could be coincidence or this destiny we share.” “Does it bother you?” “It did at first, but not anymore. If anything, it reminds me of the good times I had with my Father when I was a little boy.” Korbin frowned. She took a moment before speaking. “I remember being told once, when vampires died, they became ghosts with a choice of leaving this world for the next life, or they stayed here in this realm. Did you get a chance to say goodbye?” I looked over the water, feeling my chest grow tight. “They never moved on. Corbin and Jana are still here, but Ceanna and I don’t see them much. Corbin once told me that Ceanna and I were grown up, and we didn’t need our parents anymore. We had to stand on our own two feet, and allow them to live their lives.” I said the words slow, quietly as the anguish of missing them set in. “That is crap!” Korbin burst. “How could they be so selfish?” I winced. Frequently, throughout my life, people had commented on the same thing. But as usual, I couldn’t sully my memories of my Father enough to call him selfish. Not after all he had lost. “We have Gregory, Canya and Josealynn. Ceanna and I have no need of people who don’t want anything to do with us.” And that was a frank as I’d ever been. Korbin threw her arms around me in a tight hug. “I am so sorry, Arcadia, but I can never agree with that. No matter how old you are, or how many replace those who bore you, people still need their mom and dad. If they can’t see how much this still hurts you, they are blind and willingly ignorant. You are a good man, one who fights for what he believes in, and loyal to a fault. They should be proud of you and be at your side, not off gallivanting on their own whims.”

The emotion in her voice made my throat burn. My arms wrapped around her, and we just stayed like that for countless moments. Even with the sensitive topics of discussion, just touching this woman gave me a sense of peace I hadn’t possessed since I turned seven years old. A century was a long time to feel as I had. Korbin centered me, and even more profoundly, she calmed my Curse. She allowed the darkness to flee long enough, so I could catch glimpses of the light; for that alone, I would be eternally grateful. “I think it would be so easy to fall in love with you,” I whispered.

About the Author:

Kayden McLeod lives in beautiful British Columbia, and is the author of the M/F Paranormal Romance and erotica series, The Coven Series, which consists of three Covens; The Foxworths, The Cornwalls and The Jerichos. She also dabbles in a multitude of other genres that are in the works, like BDSM, Ménage, M/M and Horror. As well, Kayden is a freelance Graphic and Cover artist, a Cover Artist for XOXO Publishing, and an owner of Otherworlds Publicity and Siren Book Reviews.

Connect with Kayden online:
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Bewitching Stop: Author Guest Post with Nina Croft

Today, I am pleased to welcome Nina Croft and she was kind enough to write a post based on my request so I hope you will enjoy it and please leave any questions you might have for Nina in the comments.

Deadlines or Promo?

Lisa asked me to write about the challenge of writing under a deadline while promoting a current book, which strangely, happens to be a really relevant subject for me right now.

The current book I’m promoting is my first full length novel, which comes out this month with Entangled Publishing. DEADLY PURSUIT is the second book in my Blood Hunter series—a combination of science fiction and paranormal romance—sort of Star Wars with fangs and fur. It’s set in a future where man has fled to the stars and there discovered the secret of immortality.

But I’m also busy writing. Anyone within the writing world knows that November is NanoWrimo month, or National Novel Writing Month—when a whole load of crazy writers attempt to produce a novel in a month. This year, my Nano project is book 3 of the Blood Hunter series. It’s contracted to Entangled, and while I don’t have a due date, my editor has requested it ‘as soon as possible’.

So this month, I’m aiming to write between eighty and ninety thousand words—that’s about three thousand a day, every day. I actually love NanoWrimo—it suits my writing style, which is basically: I do a lot of planning up front, then I write the first draft as fast as I can, doing virtually no editing on the way. Then I edit and polish.

So back to the promo bit. One of the things that attracted me to Entangled is they take the promotion side of things very seriously and provide a lot of help to their authors. Each Author is assigned a publicist to work with. Mine is great and around release time, she’ll send me a scary list of blogs and interviews I need to do.

A few facts about me:

  • I’m totally unorganized
  • And I have a tendency to leave everything to the absolute last minute
  • I love writing stories, but I find blogging and promo—anything involving writing about myself—very hard.
  • I’m sort of introverted; in fact, I’m a bit of a hermit, and I live on an almond farm in the remote mountains of southern Spain
  • I love working to deadlines—I’m lazy and easily sidetracked—so it’s good to know I have to do something by a certain date

So given the obvious limitations of my character how do I cope?

Well, I have a spreadsheet. Whenever I get a guest blog or an interview or anything to do with marketing, I put it on the spreadsheet, and every morning, I look at the spreadsheet first thing and decide if there’s anything I really need to send in that day (have I mentioned a tendency to leave everything to the last minute?). If there is, I write it (I keep meaning to write some stock blogs so I’m prepared, but it never seems to work that way—have I mentioned ‘unorganized’?). It also reminds me of any blogs being posted that day, so I can go along, say hi, reply to any comments.

So that’s the marketing side sorted. Once that’s out of the way, I’m allowed to write, and I just keep going until I hit my word count (or something else such as last minute edits interferes). I manage to hit my count about ninety percent of the time—so not too bad.

So how do you cope when promo and writing coincide? Or really anything else that might interfere with you hitting your deadlines? Let me know for a chance to win an ecopy of Deadly Pursuit.


Deadly Pursuit


Breaking assassin Jonathon Decker out of a maximum security prison on Trakis One seemed like a good idea at the time. Now, pursued across space by the two most powerful factions in the universe, the crew of El Cazador are having second thoughts. They’d like to give him back. Unfortunately, that no longer seems an option.

Jon is used to working alone. Now, he’s stuck on the space cruiser El Cazador until he can work out just what he’s supposed to know that puts him on everybody’s most-wanted-dead list. He s not happy that the crew includes a runaway priestess with designs on his virtue such as it is. Jon likes women, but he gave up the role of protector a long time ago, and Alexia, High Priestess of the Church of Everlasting Life, is an accident waiting to happen.

After twenty-four excruciatingly boring years of doing her duty, Alex is finally having some fun. She never meant to run away it was a rash impulse and she means to go back eventually. But first, she’s going to squeeze enough excitement out of the situation to last her a lifetime. And what could be more exciting than a stunningly gorgeous werewolf?

Meanwhile, the Church are chasing their missing priestess, and the Collective are pursuing their escaped assassin. Being hunted has never been more deadly…or more fun.


About the Author:


Nina Croft grew up in the north ofEngland. After training as an accountant, she spent four years working as a volunteer inZambiawhich left her with a love of the sun and a dislike of 9-5 work. She then spent a number of years mixing travel (whenever possible) with work (whenever necessary) but has now settled down to a life of writing and picking almonds on a remote farm in the mountains of southernSpain.

Nina’s writing mixes romance with elements of the paranormal and science fiction.