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March 6, 2013

Coral Russell: I'm a Scrawler

I'm a scrawler. I scrawl my way through a story because life is boring. Most of the things that happen to you are boring and thank goodness! Trust me you wouldn't want to live the life according to that Chinese curse - May you live in interesting times.

It isn't just one thing that sets off a story. At least for me it's a culmination of things. First, someone wanted me to contribute a short story to an anthology. I decided I wanted to write something with a detective in it but I didn't want a straight up detective story. Nothing more came to me so I had to turn that gig down. I also knew nothing about being a detective so I bought a book recommended for writers on how you can put enough spin on the details to make readers think you know something about detectives and police work. The book complained about television shows and how far off they are from the real thing so I tried to incorporate that in the story that eventually surfaced.

Second, something happened. I had a friend pass away and I realized that I knew something that no one else knew (that is if she hadn't told anyone else), and I would be taking a secret to the
grave with me. That was a big if and the secret was boring, ho-hum stuff. But what if it wasn't? What if it was a big secret that could have lasting consequences for a family and what if the person decided she didn't want to take the secret to the grave but seek revenge instead. See what I did there? Pretty nifty, huh!

Third, I do ongoing research. This story was a bit easier because the situation was on the news so there were a lot of stories floating around the newspapers and even in film through documentaries but also fictionalized movies based on gang violence and the drug cartels. It feels serendipitous when I'm stuck in a part of the story line and take a break and surf the Internet only to find the exact information I need to continue. I always trust when I have to walk away from the story knowing something will lead me back.

Fourth, I worked heavily on outlining my story this time. The others were shorter so I could pants it but this time I knew the story would be longer and I had several story lines to deal with so a plan would be a great idea. Developing a working outline is hard but worth the effort. Mine took the form of outlining in sentence form the major scenes and then bit by bit expanding on those until the story emerged. Now that doesn't mean there weren't significant changes! One minor male character became a major female character. That forced a rewrite in several parts but in the end it was the best thing for the story.

About the Author:

Coral Russell runs the blog Alchemy of Scrawl where she reviews Indie books/authors. "By the end of 2013, I will have read close to 300 Indie titles. I can vouch that the quality and diversity of Indie authors is worth investing in." On the blog you can find links to her on Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, and Google+ and email.

The Indie Exchange is a group of authors, readers, and book bloggers who post reviews, articles, and giveaways. Listen in Fridays to our radio show at

Ms. Russell won the 2003 McCaleb Peace Initiative which produced the non-fiction articles Peace on the Peninsula. All profit from the sale of that eBook goes to rebuilding Joplin, MO.

Titles available: Amador Lockdown, Playing with Fire (Devil of a Ghost Tour and Key to a Haunting), Peace on the Peninsula, The DIY Guide to Social Media Marketing and eBook Publishing, and Twelve Worlds (profit goes to Reading is Fundamental).
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  1. Thanks Donna for letting me do your Writer Wednesday. I love the quick writers poll - are you a pantser or a plotter?

  2. I'm always impressed when writers can remember where their ideas came from. I rarely can.

    Having a flexible, working outline seems like a great way to go!

    1. At least it has a starting point by the end things may have changed. Don't know if that will evolve as I keep writing or if it's just what to expect. :)

  3. I enjoyed this post. I finished a novel recently and this has given me a little push to start thinking about something new. Thank you!



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