Plotting vs. Pantsing (or Maybe Plotting *and* Pantsing?)

I have a confession to make.

I’ve been outlining of late.

Don’t tell the World Association of Pantsers. They’ll have me excommunicated. Or maybe they’ll throw a sheet over my head, toss me into the back of a van, and drive me to the set of Whose Line is it Anyway? and not let me leave until I successfully complete one of the hoedowns.

A little backstory… I’ve been trying to write Betrayed (Jill Andersen book 5) for almost two years now. I am now on the fifth (yes, you read that right) rewrite. I have not yet managed to complete a first draft. I’m not sure why; I feel like Betrayed has a strong story with a lot of action and intensity and some emotional beats I know are gonna really throw my readers for a loop.

But I keep getting stuck. So you know what they say about desperate times.

A few fellow writers recommended Libbie Hawker’s book Take Off Your Pants! Don’t let the title (or the cover rife with underwear) fool you; this is very much a how-to tailored toward showing pantsers a good, logical method of outlining.

As with almost every book about some aspect of writing, this is not gospel, and everyone’s mileage may vary. There are suggestions in this book I know I won’t be using, or if I do, I’ll use them in a different way from what Hawker suggested. But that’s the beauty of this craft we call writing: there’s no one right way to do it. Everyone has their own method, and what works for me won’t necessarily work for you.

Still, one thing I’ve learned is that it’s okay — hell, even important — to not be so set in your ways. Especially if your ways aren’t working for whatever reason. I can’t tell you why Betrayed has been such a struggle, especially since my previous method had already netted me five published novels and a collection of short stories. But it did, and I had to adapt.

I won’t lie, outlining feels a little weird. But I can already tell it’s also going to help.

Betrayed will get written. It will get published. And then I’ll finally be able to move on to all these other projects I want to work on. And now that I have an outlining format that works for me, I’ll probably become more productive, and at least return to the days when I was publishing two books a year. Those days were better.

So check out Hawker’s book if you’d like.

But more than anything, don’t be afraid to examine your process and make changes if you feel stagnant. This entire process is fluid, it evolves, and you have to know when to evolve with it.

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads, and you can also become a Patron.

About That Graphic Novel…

Some of you may remember that I said one of my 2019 goals was to produce a Bounty graphic novel. I thought I’d provide some insight into setting that goal and what I’m learning as I dabble into the world of creating comics.

Those of you who’ve been around a while know how much I love comics, and how that love is lifelong and originally sparked my creative streak. Even though I’m a published author, my love for superheroes and comic books is evident in my work. So doing a graphic novel just makes sense. Bounty started as a comic book character; writing and drawing a Bounty graphic novel returns her to her roots. It brings her home, so to speak. And it returns me to my roots. I started out wanting to create comics. So I’m creating a comic.

Now I realize how ambitious doing that this year is. Especially since I’m both writing and drawing it. Both steps are time-consuming on their own, but together? Especially since I’m learning a) how to draw again and b) how to tell a story in this medium. It’s not just drawing a bunch of pictures.

Were I at my peak as an artist, maybe this would be easier. But I like the challenge. I *need* the challenge. I haven’t grown bored with writing novels — far from it — but adding this challenge has actually given me a boost of creative energy. I’ve needed that.

I’m not abandoning novels. Far from it. This graphic novel is just me challenging myself, as a writer and artist. Pushing myself to set a goal and finish it, to encounter obstacles and overcome them. To prove to myself that I can take on a task and accomplish it.

Maybe this graphic novel doesn’t see the light of day until 2020. That would be okay — so long as I see this project through and finish it. As Chuck Wendig (and others) says, FINISH YOUR SHIT. I intend to do just that — but I’ll admit, this is hard.

I’m practically learning, as I go, an entirely new method of storytelling. How to tell a story with images as well as words. How the two work in concert with one another. There’s a method there, and there’s gonna be a ton of trial and error here. I’m okay with that.

(Come to think of it, this very process would make a great future Pixel Wretches podcast.)

I fully anticipate being occasionally frustrated to the point of wanting to stop. The point is getting myself to NOT stop, but to push forward and create in spite of that. Abandoning projects midway through is not how I’m gonna get better. Finishing my shit is.

So I’m pushing myself, challenging myself to return to my creative roots. To remind myself where my love for telling stories started, and to show up at a con one day with both my novels *and* a Bounty graphic novel on my table.

Maybe that’s 2019. Maybe it’s not.

I used to dream about being the next Jim Lee. Now I just wanna be the best J.D. Cunegan I can be. That means novels. And comics. And who knows what else is down the road for me. But if I don’t push myself, if I don’t test myself, how will I know what I’m capable of?

Four years ago, I pushed myself, and the result was my first novel. Bounty proved to me that I can complete a creative project and see it through and put it out there for the world to see.

Now I have five novels, a novella, a collection of short stories, and an an anthology credit to my name. And there are plenty more such stories coming in the next few years. That’s not nothing, and I keep having to remind myself of that, even when sales are… yeah.

But, and I think other creatives can relate, I want more. More stories to tell. More ways to tell them. More ways to push myself and flex my creative muscles. Make them grow. Make them better. Make *me* better. This graphic novel will do just that.

In a perfect world, Hampton Comicon in October would be the debut for the Bounty graphic novel. But if I have to push that back, so be it. This is a lengthy, involved process, and I’m going to make sure it’s worth every moment of it.

And I want you on the journey with me.

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads, and you can also become a Patron.

Listen to Me on the Pixel Wretches Podcast

32372874_10155518469998581_5987555298229878784_nI recently appeared on an episode of the new Pixel Wretches podcast with host (and fellow Hampton Roads-based indie author Otto Linke). It was a great time; we spent just over an hour talking about my creative journey, some of my influences, my writing process, and my love for superheroes and comic books. I hope it’s as insightful and entertaining to listen to as it was fun to record.

Click here to listen! Pixel Wretches is also available on iTunes and Overcast.

I will definitely be on Pixel Wretches again. In the meantime, check out Linke’s work as well. He writes some sci-fi and some fantasy, and I’m currently reading one of his sci-fi books in Dyson’s Angel.

About Pixel Wretches
An interview series focusing on digital creatives, Pixel Wretches is the show you’ve been looking for to learn all the gritty details of laboring in the digital space mines. Artists, writers, musicians, and more sit down with Otto for a  conversation about what drives them to create and the tools they use to create their products.

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads, and you can also become a Patron.

 

Mark Your Calendars: LEGENDS OF THE GEM is Coming!

Legends of the Gem is almost here. Two weeks.Legends of the Gem Final (2)

Tuesday, Jan. 15, to be exact.

That’s right — Legends of the Gem, a collection of short stories expanding on the Gem of Notna and the universe established in the novel Notna, is just two weeks from being released.

Even better? Pre-orders are now live for the ebook!

Millions of years ago, the Gem of Notna was created. A race renowned for its peace birthed the ultimate weapon—and it paid the ultimate price.

Eons have passed. The gem found its way to Earth, leaving a path of bloodshed and destruction in its wake. From ancient Greece to the Vatican through the Civil War to more recent events that saw the gem tucked away in a little-known tomb in the Amazon, there is no shortage of legends related to the Gem of Notna.

Building on the mythology established in NotnaLegends of the Gem takes readers on a journey through time, both in and out of this world. After all, the Gem of Notna has plenty of stories to tell… if you live long enough to hear them.

Here are the stories you’ll find in this volume:

  • Legend, the First: Lagos, Narazniya’s brightest scholar and mystical mind, is tasked with creating the Gem of Notna, but nothing goes as planned.
  • Legend, the Second: Ares, Head Elder of Narazniya, faces the reality of what he wrought, what his obsession did to the people he rules.
  • Legend, the Third: Divine warriors Michael and Damien fight off an Underworld invasion, only to discover an ulterior motive. Michael’s new obsession leads to his downfall.
  • Legend, the Fourth: A young girl named Vita finds herself in the middle of ancient Greek politics, whether she wants to be or not.
  • Legend, the Fifth: A young man named Pious III, who once would’ve been Pope, is on the run from the Vatican. His journal chronicles his descent into madness.
  • Legend, the Sixth: Union soldier Ferdinand Jackson is fighting in Gettysburg, but the Confederacy is the least of his worries.
  • Legend, the Seventh: Cian Kotzias pens his thesis on the Gem of Notna during his studies at Aristotle of Thessaloniki.
  • Legend, the Eighth: A secret task force discovers the Gem of Notna’s power, and a mysterious entity decides the crystal is better off out of humanity’s grasp.

Go ahead and reserve your copy today for just $1.99 — in Kindle, Nook, Kobo, and Apple iBooks! Paperback edition will be available on release day.

And if you haven’t already, snag a copy of Notna as well.

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads, and you can also become a Patron.

The Best Books I Read in 2018

In many ways, 2018 was a struggle.

That includes my reading. I went into 2018 hoping to read 40 books. I’ve managed 28 — and frankly, I’m lucky to have even gotten that far. But I did come across some gems this year, and in this, the third year of me compiling this list, we have a first: a non-fiction entry.

NOTE: These are not the best books that came out in 2018, just the best ones I read this year.

5. Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

Reaper at the GatesI can’t compare Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes series to the rest of the YA dystopia set of genres, but I know her novels are intense, emotional, and a blast to read. Reaper at the Gates, the third entry in the series, is no different, and I daresay it’s the best of the series to this point.

This book juggles three points of view — Elias and Laia and Helena — and what could become a jumbled mess instead takes readers on a journey between three disparate and occasionally overlapping perspectives, which only adds to the readability. A great book leaves you wanting more once the last page is turned, and Reaper at the Gates delivers in that regard.

Reaper at the Gates is available in hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

4. Death Rites by E.A. Copen

Death RitesWhat do you get when you take Harry Dresden and drop him in a mythology-rich city like New Orleans? Something a lot like Death Rites, the first book in E.A. Copen’s Lazarus Codex series. While I will go to my grave defending Judah Black (Copen’s other mystical whodunnit series), she’s found a winner in Laz.

Copen shows a deft touch not only when it comes to worldbuilding and creating memorable side characters, she’s a master at making Laz a sarcastic little son of a bitch who’s also the sort of lovable loser you can’t help but root for. In a genre that’s almost overflowing, Copen has found a way to stand out, and I put the Lazarus Codex on the same level as R.R. Virdi’s Grave Report books.

Death Rites is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook.

3. Divided by Madeline Dyer

DividedWhile I enjoyed Fragmented, the second book in Madeline Dyer’s dystopia Untamed series, it lacked something that made me fall in love with the first book. But with book three, Divided, Dyer has fully returned to form, and what unfolds is a gripping, intense, at-times uncomfortable read.

Yet you’ll keep turning the pages. You’ll have to know what happens next. Even knowing there’s another book to go before everything wraps up, the journey is such a thrilling ride that you can’t help but want more. The first book, Untamed, laid out the stakes for Seven, but Divided is the first time I could actually feel them. Divided was so good that I want to read Destroyed *now.*

Divided is available in paperback and ebook.

2. Racing to the Finish by Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Ryan McGee

Racing to the FinishFor the first time, a non-fiction book makes this list, and for good reason. Retired NASCAR star Dale Earnhardt Jr. paired with ESPN’s Ryan McGee to offer a first-hand account of Earnhardt’s final few years behind the wheel, his battle with concussions, and why that battle ultimately led to his decision to step out of the car.

The intimate first-hand account is hard to read at times, and the revelations contained should put any racing fan’s mind at ease as to why Earnhardt retired. Also, this book was written to help others dealing with head injuries and their aftereffects — and if just one person reads this book and seeks the help they need, then this book is an unmitigated success.

Racing to the Finish is available in hardcover, ebook, and audiobook.

1. Celestial by S.E. Anderson

CelestialJust when I think I can’t love S.E. Anderson’s Starstruck series any more, she puts out a new release. Celestial, book four in the series, is every bit as lighthearted and funny as its predecessors — but for the first time, the stakes feel as heavy as they should. The stark reality of just how out of her element Sally really is slaps you in the face, and you can’t help but keep going.

Anderson strikes a delicate balance in this book, showing how dire everything is without Celestial falling into the same taking-itself-too-seriously trap that so many others in the sci-fi genre do. There are still laughs, but there are also thrills, chills, and a few tears. And with how Celestial ends, the next installment can’t come soon enough.

Celestial is available in paperback and ebook.

Honorable Mention: Console Wars by Blake J. Harris, Words for Pictures by Brian Michael Bendis, Elevation by Stephen King, Traveler by S.E. Anderson, Miracles Not Included by C.A. King, Fortunate Son by E.A. Copen, Leading the Way by Steve Letarte and Nate Ryan

LEGENDS OF THE GEM Update!

Legends of the Gem Final (2)Millions of years ago, the Gem of Notna was created. A race renowned for its peace birthed the ultimate weapon—and it paid the ultimate price.

Eons have passed. The gem found its way to Earth, leaving a path of bloodshed and destruction in its wake. From ancient Greece to the Vatican through the Civil War to more recent events that saw the gem tucked away in a little-known tomb in the Amazon, there is no shortage of legends related to the Gem of Notna.

Building on the mythology established in Notna, Legends of the Gem takes readers on a journey through time, both in and out of this world. After all, the Gem of Notna has plenty of stories to tell…if you live long enough to hear them.

Legends of the Gem will hit digital shelves in late January/early February!

Now’s the perfect time to catch up before Legends of the Gem‘s release. Pick up your copy of Notna now!

 

About J.D. Cunegan
J.D. Cunegan is known for his unique writing style, a mixture of murder mystery and superhero epic that introduces the reader to his comic book-inspired storytelling and fast-paced prose. A 2006 graduate of Old Dominion University, Cunegan has an extensive background in journalism, a lengthy career in media relations, and a lifelong love for writing. Cunegan lives in Hampton, Virginia, and next to books, his big passion in life in auto racing. When not hunched in front of a keyboard or with his nose stuck in a book, Cunegan can probably be found at a race track or watching a race on TV.

Follow J.D. on FacebookTwitter, and Goodreads, and you can also become a Patron.

DESTROYED Blog Tour: Excerpt

I’m excited to a be part of the blog tour for Madeline Dyer’s latest release, Destroyed! I’ve already read the first two books in the series — the excellent Untamed and Fragmented — and I’m currently reading the third book, Divided.

The finale of her YA dystopian fantasy Untamed series went live on Nov. 20, and I’m pleased to share an excerpt.

Enjoy!

 

“They’ve ruined it,” Corin whispers. “Why?”ebook (1)

“Because that’s what the Enhanced do.” My voice is soft. Or maybe it was the destruction that did it. The destruction I caused.

I take a deep breath and look at what’s left of Nbutai.

“What do we do?” Corin asks. His face is flushed with heat and sweat, but the coming air will be icy—I just know it will. Corin takes a step closer. “Sev?”

Something cracks high above me, and I freeze, look up: soot and debris, and a large rock. It falls a hundred yards away. Dust plumes up, reaches us, and we all turn, our backs to it.

My dog howls again.

“We have to stay here,” Taras yells, his voice coarse as he and Jana join us. “There’s going to be another storm, but that hut over there looks okay. There must be some game around here too. We need to find food, rest a bit—properly, before we travel to the Tareskl Peninsula and find my people.”

“Your people?” Corin says.

“Of course. They have been left unprotected, with no Seer.” He glances at Jana. “Your people too? Are you their only Seer? How many are in your group?”

Every muscle in Jana’s forehead visibly tightens, and her eyes narrow. “Talking of people we will never see again is pointless.”

“But we will see them again,” Taras says. “They are your family, we will look for them.”

“I have no family. Not anymore.”

“Why?” Esther asks. “You don’t know they’re dead.”

Jana kicks at the ground. “Some of them deserve to be.”

I inhale sharply and glance at the others. They all look at me, then each other.

A strange silence radiates from Jana as she folds her arms, and then the five of us are moving, and it’s like we’re all pretending Jana didn’t say that. Because why would she? What could they have done?

 

Pick up your copy of Destroyed (and the other three books in the series) here:

Amazon  |  iBooks  |  Kobo  |  Nook  |  Google Play 

 

About Madeline Dyer
30591626_2044993659121645_3880142398021435392_n (1)Madeline Dyer lives on a farm in the southwest of England, where she hangs out with her Shetland ponies and writes young adult books—sometimes, at the same time. She holds a BA Honors degree in English from the University of Exeter, and several presses have published her fiction. Madeline has a strong love for anything dystopian, ghostly, or paranormal, and she can frequently be found exploring wild places. At least one notebook is known to follow her wherever she goes.

Copy of Copy of July 11, 2017 (1)

a Rafflecopter giveaway