Happy Independence Day

Happy Independence Day to everyone!

I’ve spent this weekend reading the last book in Laura Kaye’s Hard Ink series, baking, and fighting with the intro for the Better Latte Than Never sequel. Its tentative title for this week is A Shot in the Dark. Amy and her guy are giving me some trouble and I’m also struggling to maintain focus this weekend. I was hoping to be 5,000 words in by the end of today, but I’m only at 1700. I should get back to writing.

Responses to Wrapped in Verdigris started to come in this weekend too and the overall impression is positive, although there are some gaps I need to fill in and some critical points to clarify. The silver lining in this is that it will give me a way to add extra content which will push this out of novella and into short novel length. That opens up whom I can submit this book & hopefully its series to. Wish me luck with the next round of rewriting (which I’ll start after July 15)!

Editing Phase 1 Completed

I have finished my editing pass of my current paranormal romance novella and it is now out to beta readers. This is the longest piece I have gotten to this phase so far. At about 42,000 words, Wrapped in Verdigris falls solidly inside novella length. It’s a little too short for some publisher’s paranormal romance submission calls. I’m not sure if I’ll want to add more content and push this over 50k. I’m hoping that the comments from my beta readers will help me decide the next step for this story. I’m also hoping that they love the story as much as I did while writing it. This one was a lot of fun.

In the meantime, I’ve turned back to some shorter pieces that have been teasing my imagination. One story is likely to be a paranormal romance short story around 10 – 15k words. The other is the sequel to Better Latte Than Never. I’m trying to get Amy her happy ending. Although this story may end up longer than Hailey’s. The hero and plot of Latte 2 are giving me some trouble.

I’m continuing to strive for writing or editing daily, and I’m making it to the computer daily most of the time. The trick for me is to do it first thing in the morning before anything else. Otherwise, I never make it around to fitting it into my daily routine. Chores, TV, and reading tend to pull me away unless it’s NaNoWriMo. My writers group has been particularly helpful, as has the Writing Challenge group. The Writing Challenge group promotes writing at least 500 words (or editing for 2 hrs) daily, and will cheer you on over on Twitter (and a few will on FB too). So if you’re looking for some camaraderie, check it out! Unfortunately, I haven’t been tracking my daily progress very closely. I keep meaning to get started.

Once I have Wrapped in Verdigris submitted to publishers, I’m going to need to pick my next big project. I’m going to need to decide between completing Book 2 in the Wrapped series, or shifting to a new series. The options right now for the other series are a contemporary romance series based on characters in the food and alcohol industry, or a paranormal romance series based on a family that owns and runs a curse art museum.

Want to place a vote for which book I start work on next or want help with establishing your writing routine? Find me on Facebook or Twitter.

Facing the Slog of Editing

I’ve fallen off the daily writing activity bandwagon this past week or two, which means that not much of anything is getting finished. I think it can be attributed to a few things. One, I finished my first draft of Wrapped in Verdigris last week. Two, there are big changes going on in the day job department. Three, I need to figure out what my editing process is and how to tease myself into loving it. And four, I stopped logging items in my little Moleskin planner. (Oh and five, my allergies haven’t given me a break until today. Maryland pollen is brutal.)

DailyPlanner

I learned about the power of daily writing first from The Artist’s Way, by Julia Cameron. Morning Pages are how I got back into writing after a 5 year break after college and the real world squashed my hope that someday I could be a published author. I bought numerous 6x9” spiral Mead notebooks and wrote 3+ pages longhand nearly every day, stream of consciousness stuff or reflective or actual snippets and bits of stories that I was working on.

Then I took a course with Margie Lawson who teaches about the power of setting goals that are actually reachable. You can put more things on your list too, but leave those for doing after you’ve completed that first list. It’s the carrot at the end of your stick.

I do best when I’m tracking to a deadline and have a daily or near-daily goal (5 days a week). Recently, my list has grown longer than I should allow it to be, which means it’s time to step back and reflect and record some data. Have I mentioned here yet how much I love spreadsheets? I love tracking daily word counts. But when it comes to editing, I have so very little data and it’s not nearly as easy to measure progress. I could record how much time I spend on editing each day, but that doesn’t speak to how close I am to being finished. I need a way to measure my progress and a deadline or I will just continue to ignore that this needs to be done.

So I’m going to apply some project management techniques to this. Break it down into smaller pieces, and make my best estimate of how long this will take. I will probably split this up into phases:

  • novel level edits (reviewing the goal/motivation/conflict for the protagonists),
  • scene level edits (making sure each scene does something essential), and
  • line edits (grammar, cutting out weak words, etc.).

Saying that I’m going to give myself a week each for these is giving me heart palpitations, but that is just a starting timeframe. I’ll work with that goal in mind for this week and then reassess on the weekend. I will also continue considering how to track progress within each of these three phases, but that may not be something I can do until I have been through this process once.

Becoming a Plotter

I’ve been writing for fun since I was twelve. I can’t even begin to count the number of stories I have started over the past twenty years. I rarely finished things because I “pantsed” these stories, starting with a small element of inspiration and going until it wouldn’t go anymore, which usually happened before I’d reach the end.

I had a problem with finishing stories. I would write myself into a corner or grow bored with the plot because I didn’t have enough conflict or goals.

I started reading writing reference books on plot and improving fiction and I took a few classes from my local RWA chapter and SavvyAuthors.com. No longer am I afraid that plotting will remove the magical inspiration of my muse. I find myself adapting and tweaking these plot lines a lot, but now I’m getting to The End a lot more often. All thanks to these books.

Don’t fear plotting. It can be your friend too!

Here are some of my favorite resources for learning how to plot or improve a story’s plot. I feel like they make the process approachable and not like some scary thing that only MFA’s can learn.

My Favorite Books on Plotting or Novel Writing:

The Writer’s Compass, by Nancy Ellen Dodd
This is great for understanding the overall story arc and for an approach that is perhaps more visual in its approach than some of these other books. I would say this book was my plotting foundation book.
Writing Love, by Alexandra Sokoloff
Sokoloff recommends reviewing movies with similar elements to the story you’re trying to tell, because you can get through movies in a short sitting and it’s easier to capture the essence of the plot. I could go all research paper on you and quote parts of this text, but it’s still a fabulous review of plotting.
This book is fabulous. Without clear goal, motivation and conflict, I find it’s impossible to plot out a story’s action or turning points.
This book is fabulous, although I wouldn’t recommend reading and applying it to a work-in-progress. Write your first draft, then return to this, or read it before starting your first draft. He has some great ways to tighten up your conflicts and really tug on your readers’ heartstrings. For example, making  your protagonist’s external and internal goals mutually exclusive. Boy does that make protagonists hurt!
I primarily use the workbook, but the book is an important read too: Writing the Breakout Novel.
This book is a fast read and marvelously simple in offering an approach to get you from idea to completed draft. This book really opened up my eyes on how the book writing workflow should go.

Other Resources:

Michael Hauge’s structure is very helpful. I think Alexandra Sokoloff might reference it in Writing Love.
Stephanie Draven’s Plotting with Scrivener class is fabulous, and pulls in a bunch of elements from different sources. (I learned about Sokoloff and Hauge from her.) If you have a chance to take this class, I highly recommend it. She’s publishing a book based on these lessons later this summer. Pre-order your copy here: http://amzn.to/1ezar9P! (http://www.stephaniedray.com/)
Writer Unboxed site (http://writerunboxed.com/) provides daily articles about writing and the industry. You can set it up to email you daily with their posts. Donald Maass is one of the contributors to this site.

 

Want to discuss any of this? Strike up a conversation with me on Twitter or Facebook.

The Joy of Novellas

What I’m writing…

For the past two months, I’ve been working on writing more short romances. The first one is a modern romance with magical elements. It quickly grew beyond my early estimate of about 20,000 words which would have been twice as long as Better Latte Than Never. Now it’s hanging somewhere above 30k, and I have a second piece around the same length that will pair up with the first for a novella length series. I’m so excited about this series and I can’t wait to share it!

I’m really growing to love the shorter formats. This includes books in novella and novelette lengths. It is easier to plot and write, and it happens fast enough that I don’t get bogged down by too many plot bunnies. It allows me to get through more books both with writing and reading. And that means more happily-ever-afters for everyone!

What I’m reading…

Right now, I’m reading the ARC of One Week in Hawaii, by these lovely ladies and really enjoying myself. That comes out May 19, but you can get One Week in Wyoming in the meantime if you don’t want to wait.

Roane Publishing also has more anthologies like Accidental Valentine. Check them out if you are looking for more to read in shorter sittings.

Up Next

What’s next–or rather, what I’ve been working on since November–is a new paranormal romance series with four books. The series will follow the Thorne family that owns and operates a large art museum in Baltimore, MD. Each descendant of the museum’s founder, Benedict Thorne, is cursed. If they don’t find true love by their thirtieth birthday, they are doomed to die a horrible, lonely death.

I wrote a NaNoWriMo draft of Book 1 in November 2014, but have been trying to tighten up and increase the stakes of the plot. I started rewriting the draft again in Late January.

I’m particularly excited today because I’ve finally lit on what I think is the perfect opening scene for the first book and the scene’s starting to come together (ie. the hero and heroine are actually cooperating now). I’m hoping to wrap up and edit Book 1 by the end of the year so I can query some editors about it.

Lattes All Around!! and the sad artificial xmas tree

I’m ecstatic to announce that my short story, Better Latte Than Never, is going to be published in the Accidental Valentine anthology released by Roane Publishing in Q1 2015!

All the slaving over words and letting all the numerous characters woo me and tantalize me with their stories is paying off. Watch here for updates and news, and also over on Roane’s blog.

In other news, I’m sitting here procrastinating from holiday decorating. I tried to get a new artificial tree after last year, when my 9 year old artificial tree refused to “fluff” out. The needles seem crushed beyond repair. Of course, my indecision ran a full course until I was too late to buy from the discount sites. I finally ordered one a week ago, but it went out of stock and now won’t be in until later this week or even after Christmas. So we’re back to using the sad, crinkled Charlie Brown tree. I think I’m going to need some festive alcohol to get me motivated here, or maybe I’ll just kick back and write a short story about some couple that falls in love during some foul-up during the holiday season.

My favorite part of Christmas decorations has always been white lights entwined around evergreen branches with Mannheim Steamroller cranked in the background. What’s your favorite part of decorating?

The NaNo Hangover

The opinions on the usefulness of NaNoWriMo definitely abound. And after my 5th year of storming through the words and trying to reach 50,000 words or more for a novel, I can definitely understand the arguments from both sides and I can say it’s not for everyone.

I continue to need NaNoWriMo as a focus or promise of 30 days once a year when I am able to focus and repeatedly get an abundance of words onto the page, whether they be fabulous epiphanies or horrible dreck. It is a tool that I am currently able to use as I work to complete my first novella or novel length manuscript that is fit for publishing.

Of course, in light of this, it means that after pouring all of my creativity and more into November, I’m left a bit dry here in December and a bit aimless. Some authors recommend setting aside the new draft so you can come back to it a bit fresh, but I find that stepping away too long from a project lets it dry up and become unworkable. So I plan to apply the brilliance of Donald Maass, as directed in his Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook as soon as I’m able to shake this creativity funk and stop sleeping through my morning writing time.

Did you do NaNoWriMo this year? How is your writing faring these darkening winter days?

4th NaNoWriMo Win!

I completed NaNoWriMo for the fourth time today. Yet another year with a slop of words and another year of learning more about myself and writing.

I’m looking forward to improving and rewriting this year’s book over the next few months and hope that this is one that will actually make it to an editor’s desk some day. It is probably the first book I’ve finished for NaNo that has the hope for seeing someone’s eyes other than my own.

To those still writing feverishly this year, you can do it! And to anyone who took the plunge this year, I raise my glass!