Where to Start… Editing (ugh)

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I feel this, deep in my feels, because editing is hard. It’s on par, for me, at starting a new book. I sometimes flounder around, not sure where to start, and it keeps on getting pushed back. It’s not the best, because we all have to edit our novels, as they do not come out as perfect stories. Not even the great authors can say they have a great story, draft one, so they have to edit too. Even though I think that, as a writing community, the majority of us hate it.

So, all of that out, where the heck to begin? And, I know, if I say at the beginning, everyone’s going to come after me. So I’m not going to. Where you begin is how I do – you put it in a drawer. Yep, you heard me. You start editing by not starting it immediately after writing. You’re too close. I keep on coming back to this advice whenever I speak about editing because it is the best advice out there. Now, you cannot do it forever. You have to have a date where you bring it out of the drawer. I recommend about two weeks to a month. Any longer and you’re just putting off what needs to be done.

When you are ready to start editing, where you begin is going to depend on what you want to edit. Do you want to go through line by line and make sure everything is perfect on a grammar level? You start at the beginning. If you made notes or remember where you had problem spots? You smooth those out first and then start at the top. Character edits? Go to where characters are introduced and make sure they’re introduced properly with a clear voice. Your start point is going to vary depending on what you’re editing and that’s a very good thing. Sometimes, with edits, like writing, you don’t need to start at the top. You can go to where you had a problem writing and start there.

How do you start editing? Leave a comment below and, until next time, take care.

Start at the Very Beginning

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One of the hardest things, for me at least and for many other writers, is beginning. You can plan all you like, you can make sure you have everything, but the start of a novel, the blank page, is one of the most daunting things a writer can face. I know I’ve talked about this before, about conquering the blank page, but I’m coming back to it because it’s January. It’s the start of new beginnings, so why not continue on with the theme. So, let’s talk about the beginning of our books.

There are ways to start a book, but you want to make sure that you hook your readers. I know I have a problem with this, so I usually just steamroll my way into my books and come back during editing to fix the hook. If I spend too much time, at the start of writing, trying to think of how to start the book, it will never start. I will never write that first sentence, which will go into a second one, and so on. I highly recommend just starting and coming back to edit in a hook. There’s no shame in it. Only you and the book will know that you do it, unless you’re like me and just announce it to the world. Go me.

However, if you’re not a fan of that, take a cliche and run with it. Take starting out with the weather or with a character introducing themselves or with a character introducing another character. One of the biggest strengthens of Prayer for Owen Meany is John Wheelwright describing Owen Meany for the reader and what he does for the main character. Is it a long first sentence? Oh yes. But what a way to set up your book and hook a reader in. So there are three different ways for a writer to set up a book. Now, will these methods also mean that you’re just jelly and you won’t have to edit it? No. You’re always going to have to edit. Make peace with it now.

If you’re really daring, don’t write the first chapter first. Write your ending. Write the middle. Write chapter 2 and then come back to chapter 1. Do whatever you can so you start your book, even if it is not at the very beginning, because it’s still a start. It’s still words you didn’t have the day before. And that, always, is a very good thing.

Until next time, take care.

The Start of a New Decade

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Yesterday, I showed off my planners to help me with my goals. Today, I’m going to talk about my big picture goal for 2020, which surprise nobody, and my three goals for Q1 to help me get to that big picture goal. Like I said yesterday, this is due very much in part to Sarra Cannon’s 3 Day Bootcamp and how she broke it down into figuring out what you want and how to get to it. As always, feel free to leave what your goals for 2020 are down in the comments or over on Twitter. I love hearing from everyone!

The big picture, overarching goal, is to get published. Of course, I’m a writer and unpublished author. I want to take out the un in 2020 and I’m going to put all I can into it. It’s either going to be due the traditional route – agent, publishing house, so on; indie; or self publishing. Of the three, the last one is the most scary but if it is what I need to do, then I’m going to do it. You can’t live life sitting on the sidelines and all of that motivational stuff. I have projects that I can push out there and polish up the query letter. I’m not worried about this overall goal but it has a ton of smaller working parts. Which is how we get into my goals for Q1.

  1. Finish my current projects to work towards becoming a published author.
  2. Build up my social media and blog to reach and keep 20 / 40 / 60 new followers
  3. Have 3 solid hours of working time on 50 / 80 / 100% of my working days to build towards having a solid 100% on all my working days.

Now, these are broken down into two different categories and so on and so forth. The novels that I’ll be working on this quarter are Lady of Arrows and trying to tinker with Mystery of the Dark. The second one is because it keeps on being rejected for personal reasons and I want to dig deeper into why. Also, I might change up the format of Mystery of the Dark and self publish or indie publish. Or think long and hard if I want it out there before I am traditionally published. We’ll see. Either way, 2020 is the year I become a published author. I’m entering my fourth decade of being on this rock and, come hell or high water, it’s happening.

What are you goals for 2020? For the decade? Maybe just for this week? Leave a comment down below and, until next time, take care.

 

The Eve of the Start of the Rest of Our Lives

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First all, happy New Year Eve! It’s nearly the start of 2020 and.. well, I have plans, guys. I have so many plans that I’ve got 3 planners to help me out here. Okay, so one is more scrapbooking and pretty planning than anything else but that’s okay. It’s also how I’m stopping myself from going insane as it’s a Recollections and… well, it’s just not my planner. However, I wasn’t going to know that and I’m going to stop rambling now. Let’s get into how this is going to go.

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The first two planners I’m going to show you are my main planners. They are where all the things are going down. Also, not going to lie, but the first one is a binder for my HB90 work. HB90 is a 3 day bootcamp run by Sarra Cannon that made me feel like, for once, I am in charge of what I’m going to be doing. A lot of the time, I run around, thinking I’m getting things done, but I get to the end of the year and that’s not the case. Through that, I have 3 defined set goals in my writing, social media, and getting my life into order and we’ll see how it goes. I do highly recommend it when it comes around again in March for Q2.

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The second planner is my mini Happy Planner. The one pictured above is the monthly Stargazer, which is really nice. There are pages for the month, then goal planning for the month, followed by daily tasks (I’ll use this for a gratitude list), and then a couple of note pages. However, this wasn’t enough for me and I added in a week on 4 page inserts. I really want this to be my main work planner and on the go. I did get the pen case that comes from the Happy Planner – it’ll fit my planner AND my Kindle paperwhite, so this thing is big – so that should help me throw it into my backpack. I am transferring a lot from the HB90 planner into this one, plus a lot of life stuff – mom’s days off, Cookie’s vet appts, my own appts, etc. – and I’m thinking it’s going to be my main planner. We’ll see how it goes, but fingers crossed it works.

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As you can see, this is the pretty planner. I love the idea of using it as a scrapbook / memory planner. I’m thinking that no checklists will be going in there – those will be in the mini Stargazer – and just make it about what happened during the day. I like having time to just sit down and decompress with my planner with no strings attached. I’m wondering if anybody else does that – buys a planner but uses it for recording memories instead of planning ahead – and what your planner looks like.

Ok, so that’s the planner line up for the year. If you want more planner pics, as well as other photos of my life, feel free to follow me over on Instagram here. Join me tomorrow where I’ll blather on about my main big picture goal and my three Q1 goals of 2020. Until next time, take care.

What to Do if You’re Getting Back to Writing After Being Sick

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Hey everyone. For those wondering why this blog post is coming into existence today, it’s because I’m getting over a cold. The end of NaNoWriMo hit and so did a cold, so that was fun. However, it got me thinking, how do I bounce back into writing after giving myself time to be sick? Now, by giving myself time to be sick, it means there is horrible stuff happening – more on that in a sec – but I was okay with that. There was no way that I was up to doing anything other than making sure the house ran smoothly. Also, I like taking a small bit of time (more like a few days, not an entire week, but, ya know, cold) of a few days after the insanity of writing has stopped. All in all in was not a bad thing.

Now, those horrible stuff is more that I need to move around what I was considering as deadlines. It’s also why I’ll have a stretch deadline and then an actual deadline. The stretch deadline is if everything falls into the right place at the right time and nothing unforeseen happens. The actual deadline is because, well, life. Never know what is going to happen or when it’s going to happen so… yeah. Just got to roll with the punches and think if I can really make a deadline or if they have to be pushed back. Or even broken up into different chunks. Again, it’s doable, but you have to be flexible. Otherwise, you’re just going to go “well, that passed and I didn’t reach it, so why do anything”. I’ve been there and it sucks, so, trust me, breaking it down or reminding yourself that you’re human (SO HARD) is a good thing.

Back to the subject on how to get back into it after being sick has different levels. There’s going to be some people who knock back some dayquil and power through (so done that). There’s going to be some people who don’t want to use medicine because it’s not that bad (hi, it’s me this time). There’s also going to be some people who, like always, don’t fall into either but i hope get some helpful advice out of this.

For the first people, as much as you think you want to power through 2,000 words / editing 5 chapters / plot out an entire novel… don’t. Not at all once. Break the 2,000 words down into 500 chunks. Go one chapter at a time. If you need to nap, nap. You will only get sicker if you decide to push your body while you’re getting over a cold. Also, remember to hydrate and eat if you feel that you can. Hydrate no matter what. However, if you break it down and can only do one chunk before napping, that’s okay. If you can get through all of your chunks, that’s great and I want your level of energy. The main point is not to stress yourself or your body out with doing too much too soon. It’s old sage doctor advice, but it so works.

Now, if you’re like me with the cold I’m just getting over, I’m also breaking things down into small chunks. However, mine are even smaller. Instead of 500 word blocks, I’m going with 250. Instead of a chapter a time, I’m doing two to three pages at a time. This is due to the fact that I still feel cruddy and wanting to not do anything. If I can poke my brain into doing 250 words? That’s awesome. That’s my level of what I can do right now. You might be able to do more. You might be able to do less. The thought process is the same – we’re not here to stress our our bodies or our minds. This is a way to ease back in and build up your strength so, in about a week, you can move up to 500 word chunks / chapter at a time. Or even doing the 2,000 words without breaking a sweat.

In either case, I do recommend listening to your body and making sure that you’re doing what you can to get well. I highly recommend lots of tea – helps with keeping hydrated too! – and to not stress yourself out. Things will get done, especially if you have two kinds of deadlines to help you out. What other tips and tricks do you have for getting back to it after being sick? Or even just coming out of not wanting to do anything? Share below and, until next time, take care.

NaNoWriMo 2019 In Review

Hey all, long time no talk. We all knew that was going to happen because I threw myself into NaNoWriMo. I had big dreams – two separate projects! – but it got rolled into both of them being under one account. This is no longer a rebel thing, as I believe they acknowledge that all words are words now, and I’m glad I did it. There were so many problems this month but I’m going to go first into mine and second into NaNo’s. I love the NaNoWriMo team and all but they had problems this year. But, first, me.

The first week of November went well. I did my first 10K day, hit targets, so on and so forth. Then it snowed. Not a light dusting but SNOW. I was not ready for it at all. It didn’t help that it also turned dangerous cold for anybody to be out walking in it for long periods of time. I was stuck in the house a good two months before that really happens. I basically wanted to do nothing but sleep and mope, so that’s what I did. I also had a computer problem that still needs to be worked on. I didn’t lose any files but my speakers are no longer working on my big laptop. Le sigh.

So, it was a combination of the weather being shitty, me wanting to sleep all the time, my own damn fault (there was tea involved with the computer), and getting behind on word count. So I combined my two projects, felt better, and started writing again. I hit 50,070 words on November 26th and this is where we go into part 2 of why November kinda sucked – the NaNoWriMo team.

This year was the 20th year of NaNoWriMo. I’m kind of shocked, but there it is. They decided to celebrate by completely changing the website and forums. It’s a really good idea when you hit 20 years of doing something that a ton of people love doing. However, they probably should have started doing a soft roll out in January or even whenever the first camp was, instead of during November. There were so many problems.

The site was slow. Forums were confusing. There was just a ton of dust but nobody died. We got over it. The site started going faster and things were hitting where they should. Until validation. The validation tool was not working for the new website. They thought they could get it up by the end of the month but it was no go. Which, you know, that’s life and all. However… I am surprised by how it effected my overall experience. I am used to, near the end of the month, uploading my document and being declared a Winner!

This year? Yeah, I put in my word count saying it but there’s nobody going “hey, found these extra words” or “you need x amount”. It did not feel official. It really didn’t. But, as I was talking this over with my longest ever friend (we met in 4th grade), she put forth the question “is this challenge even for you anymore?”.

It got me thinking. Maybe it isn’t. Maybe I’m putting this all on NaNo when, in reality, I know I can write 50,000 words or more in a month. I’ve done it for 11 straight years (that’s including the 2019 win). I am a writer. I introduce myself as an unpublished author. Maybe I am just too experienced for NaNoWriMo and, next year, I should push my goal to be writing a complete first draft in a month. That usually takes me a month and a half to two months.

We’ll see. There’s 11 months to get my own shit together and for them to do so too. Until next time, take care.

#Preptober – #NaNoWriMo Eve-Eve

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Alright everybody! It is T-2 days until NaNoWriMo! Is your house clean? Is your writing space ready? Do we have all of the plotting done or are you going to wing it, you adorable pantser you? Today, I’ve just got some last minute advice before we dive into the adventure together.

If you are a planner – how’s it going? Do you have your outline done? Are you committing to be flexible and let the story take you on a journey? By now, the answers to these questions might be yes. Or they might be that you’re hiding under the covers or couch and that’s okay too. Deep breaths here. Writing 50,000 words in a month is scary but you got this. You have a plan. I would advise to make peace with being flexible now instead of when you’re possibly falling behind. Make sure that your writing space is ready and that you have everything ready with your family and pets.

If you are a pantser – how’s it going? Do you have some characters and an idea? I bet that you are peaceful with being flexible so I’m going to ask you to make peace with that you might have to bring order to chaos. You might have to stop and think to plan out how your characters or plot will survive. Or even your world. Make peace with it out – maybe even sketch out the bare bones of a plan B, C, or M. Maybe a character dies in plan M (kudos if you know what that’s a kinda quote from). Just sit a bit with the feeling that you might have to plan out something. It’ll be okay.

And, if you are completely done, kudos! Have some Halloween candy early. Or double check that everything is in place that you need to have in place. Do you have your supplies? How about coffee / tea / beverage of choice? I would recommend checking out the NaNoWriMo forums, perhaps deciding on some word crawls, and then relaxing. Perhaps some reading or TV time. Or sleep. Sleep is good.

No matter how prepared or over prepared you are, Happy Halloween and Happy NaNoWriMo. Until next time, take care and happy writing.

#Preptober – Characters and Exploiting Their Backgrounds

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Ok, so you have your world and, if you did it first, you have an outline. You might also have names if you decided to get a bank of names ready. Today we’re going to talk about characters and building them up. Now, if you decide to Google, there are a bunch of character builders or sheets out there. There are some that are Dungeons and Dragons style where you put attributes and build a character that way. There are some where you fill out a questionnaire about your characters birth and a lot of other things. That you can search for.

In this post, I’m going to give you the nuts and bolts about how I build my main characters and then build the secondary characters around them. I’ll be using Mystery of the Dark examples and take you through some of the very early version of these characters. Let’s start with Kate, who used to be called Jenna, and how I made her the first time that I tried to write Mystery of the Dark. In the first go around, she was a Chicago cop and there were weird deaths happening all around her. Her boyfriend, Mark, was a werewolf but she didn’t know it. She attracted the attention of a vampire who had a hand in those deaths, Justinian, and it went down a much darker path than what I have now. I didn’t have that she was a half vampire at the time because I wanted her to be a normal human.

The big reason why Kate and the rest are completely different is that the world, my plot, and my characters did not work into a cohesive novel. There is a possibility that you will have that, no matter how much you plan, and you need to make sure you’ve got a backup for it. For that, you’re going to want to make your character flexible. Keeping them at the extremes of good and evil, while fun, makes it a lot harder to write (at least for me). You might rock it at the extremes (teach me your secrets!) and want to keep it that way. But keep your character flexible. What does that mean? It means that you might have to go and research the job that you have given your character. In that job, what have they learned? Can they use that job to get out of the situations you’re going to place them in? Or do they need more training?

Also, you’re going to want to play up the limitations of their background as well. If your character is from a well to do family, they probably will not know how to change a tire for themselves. Or other simple situations that someone with your own background would know. That will help with words and creating your plot along with tension. Be mindful about the background so you’re not writing a Mary Sue knowitall who can get out of everything. Even Hermione couldn’t do everything and she’s about the closest character who could have done the Mary Sue Hulk Out. If you are running into problems writing, then you might also need to tweak your characters background in real time. Can that rich girl change a tire? Yep. Why? Who taught her and for what reason? Could be as simple as her dad wanted to make sure she didn’t have to rely on just money to solve all her problems. Could have been a past boyfriend taught her. So think of strengths and weaknesses but make sure they balance with your plot.

The last part of characters I’m going to talk about deals with the supporting characters. This can be anything from the other main character – for me, that’s Justinian – to the best friend to the mentor and so on. You want to make sure they are keeping to their roles with supporting the main but not making them so powerful that they overshadow. A really good example of a mentor character who was on the same level of the main but didn’t overshadow is Morpheus from the Matrix trilogy. Same with female main character in Trinity. They were awesome and I wanted to know more but I also wanted to follow Neo’s story too. That is around the balance that you want when you are creating your characters and writing the story. As always, if you feel that they’re overshadowing the main, go back and tweak or even sit a bit and wonder if you’re writing the right story.

Now, about that last point. That last point is scary, especially if you get to the middle of the month. However, with NaNoWriMo, never throw out your words. Restart but don’t throw out the words because you might want them. You might want that same dialogue but flipping it to the new main character. You might want to just make subtle differences here and there. So the point is to be flexible, don’t throw out your words, and make sure your characters fit your story.

As always, feel free to leave thoughts and your own tips and tricks down below. Until next time, take care.

#Preptober – Setting and World Building

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I don’t see how I could not use this gif, to be honest, but that’s not why we’re here. Well, it’s a bit why we’re here. We’re talking setting and world building! You’ve either got a place in mind to set your novel or a world where you think would be best to have your heroes grow. In doing so, we’re going to need to get some juices going about how to figure out the finer details of what you’re doing. Well, we’re doing because I’m doing this along with you all. We’re going to start with real world settings and then move into places where you can find some good world building questions. That is not to say that you cannot build a fictional city for your romance or use the real world for your fantasy. The possibilities are endless, but we won’t get there until we get started with some of the sites out there to help you with world building.

One of the big dive deep into world building sites out there is 30 Days of WorldBuilding. Every day you go through an exercise of questions related to a part of making your world. The first day is Climate and Variety so you can figure out what you want. Now, if you want to put aside time and blitz through them in a week, you can do that. Or even a couple of weeks. But this is one of the sites where you’re like “I have this idea but no clue to make a world”. I used it during my first NaNoWriMo win in 2008 for Power, even though I have no clue where those notes are, but I remember a ton of the exercises. It is very first fantasy or sci-fi novel friendly.

Now, let’s say that you need a small bit of world building help but you don’t need the deep dive. For you (and me, to be honest), there’s just one important question. Are we on Earth or not? Answer that and you can figure out more about the world. Say you’re on Earth… well, you can just jump to the next paragraph where I talk more about setting. However, if you’re not on Earth, you need to figure out what is most important to you. Is that physical features because your characters are on a journey and you need to show landmarks? Then you’re going to need to map out where those landmarks are and why they’re important along with if those are in different countries. Who are living in those different countries? And so on. You probably do not need to go deep in to the 30 Days of WorldBuilding, but you could take the little questions and give yourself room to grow.

Ok, now that we’ve talked about world building, what about those of us who aren’t going to create our own world? What about us who are staying here on Earth, either with SFF or just writing a different novel? This is where you get to have some fun. You get to play tourist and go on all those tourist sites. Make it like you’re going to go on a trip to that city and find all the ins and outs of it. Or, if you’re like me and close by to a city you want to use. Take a day trip and get lost in it while taking notes. Or check out a travel book at the library. But you’re going to want to make sure that it is a good fit for your characters. Taking Mystery of the Dark as an example, I centered the Agency in St Louis because I know the city. I put Justinian and Sophia in Chicago because that’s where their characters fit best, especially since Sophia used the mob in the past / present for things. So, while looking at cities, make sure they fit your characters personalities and their backgrounds.

Now, here’s something for all of you who are going “none of this fits me” because you want Earth but to create your own city. Well, to be honest, this is going to be a bit easy for you too. You’re going to want to model your fictional city off of somewhere that you visited or researched a bit. See what they have. Are they such a small town or city there’s no library? Or perhaps there’s only one school but three buildings for grade, middle, and high school. You can pick and choose what works best for you and your plot. Now, does this mean that you should know your plot? Yep. You should, at the very least, have a plot idea. If you don’t, please head back to #Preptember – Idea Formation to find one.

Ok, if you have gotten to the end and realized that you aren’t sure what you want to do because you write character driven plots? First of all, same, and second of all, come back to this post after you have your characters done. Perhaps you don’t know what you need because you want to make sure that you have your characters’ needs done first. If that is your process, then that’s awesome. Please come back next week when I’ll have some information on character building and we’ll go from there.

And, until next time, take care.

#Preptober – It Begins With Naming

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Hello and welcome back! We’ve got about three weeks to NaNoWriMo and we need to tackle what sometimes can be a big problem – naming. Now, I said naming, not titles, as titles are a scary problem thing and I mostly outsource that. And by outsource I go pester my writing group but that is going off on a tangent. We’re not here for tangents. We’re here for naming things and how to make it a bit easier on yourself.

The first and possibly the most trickiest / problematic way is to name places and characters off of people you know. Now, I have done this – there’s a character in Mystery of the Dark named after my aunt – but I have her permission to do so. That is one of the ways you can use this trick and have people be okay with it. You ask / tell the person that you’re going to use their name but then you have to follow it up. In my case, the character named after my aunt is a kickass IT / one of Kate’s mentors because I’m not making my aunt a bad guy. Now, if you’re doing it where you want to name the villain after your ex, then go for it. Just, you know, don’t tell them unless you run into them and you want to be weird. I always go for weird.

The second and somewhat easier way is to use the amazing website of Behind the Name. For this, you can go and look through all sorts of different languages and get the meaning behind names. It also has a random name function where you can go and say that you want a male name with a last name or even two to three names. Also, you can sound smart when you defend why you named your character what you did. No, I’m not joking. I swear that J.K. Rowling explaining why she named characters a certain way gave a deeper look into the Harry Potter characters. You could do the same for yours but, not going to lie, that I named Kate due to wanting the nickname alone and didn’t want Kathleen.

Ok, third way before we get more weird than we already are – name generators! There are some far and wide, but my favorite are over on Seventh Sanctum. That link will take you to the main site and then you can find either the naming or character section. It is a highly helpful website, especially if you need throwaway names and not getting bogged down in character names that have to mean a certain thing and act a certain way. Now, that doesn’t mean that you could go back and see what the names mean if you decide to go with normal names. However, if you need something quick and fantasy, you cannot go wrong.

Alright – so that’s it with naming. Next week, we’ll have setting / world building, followed by characters, and then plotting. We’ll wrap it up with a NaNo Eve-Eve where we make sure that everything is ready for the big day. I would recommend that you get the Halloween candy stash in now for the midnight bash. Until next time, take care!