Wednesday, December 31, 2008

So Long ’08! Welcome ’09!

Each New Years Eve, I usually look forward to the next year and plan what I’d like to do, make resolutions, etc, but I’ve never really taken a good hard look back at the year that passed. Several of the blogs I follow have taken this approach, so I decided I’d like to try it.

In 2008:
-I spent the first half of the year developing several dozen new friendships in Tacoma, reveling in the social light.
-I made a spontaneous decision to move to central Washington and followed through with it a mere six weeks later. This was huge for me because 1) spontaneity is not my strong suit (I’m a meticulous planner) and 2) I see it as the first big life choice I’ve made. Going to college and graduating college and moving back to Washington and getting a job were all things I felt I had to do. This move was the first thing I did just because I really wanted to. *pats self on back*
-I spent the second half of the year developing relationships with an aunt, uncle, and three cousins who I’ve known and loved my whole life, but never got to be close to.
-I started and finished the first two drafts of my first book. Although I don’t foresee publishing it, I am extremely grateful for the experience and look forward to developing my writing skills further. I’ve found writing to be both passion and hobby and I feel it enriches my life even if I never sell a book. Also I got 30K into my second novel’s rough draft.

Smaller events of 2008:
-driving a loop around the Olympic Peninsula and seeing the cool temperate rainforest there
-reviving my love of reading (which lessened somewhat in college sadly)
-(re)learning to snowboard and loving it
-getting my substitute teaching license and subbing grades preschool to twelve

Looking forward to 2009:
-I plan to finish my second book and hopefully write my third. By the end of 2009, I hope to have at least one manuscript that I feel is ready to start querying.
-I plan to get outside more. Snowboarding, hiking, biking, camping, whatever… part of the reason I moved out here was to be away from gray concrete and near nature, so I plan to make a more active lifestyle out here
-(hopefully) find a love interest. Hey, what’s a 23 year old girl to do, right?
-generally live life without much of a plan. I’m working on that whole spontaneity thing.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Crazy Days

Well, school finished up last week and I've decided I'm not going back. I would feel bad for "quitting" if I didn't already have a bachelor's, but I feel I've paid my time. So a big hip hip horray for freedom and free time!

In other news, I've joined Critique Circle. I must say I like it very much so already. It's proven to be very helpful. Due to this connection, I'm taking Page Me Petite down since it serves the same function as CC, except with fewer critiquers. :-)

Winter has officially settled in here in Eastern Washington. The snow has been coming down for the past two days and the roads are slick. My job has given us optional overtime hours (which it never does) and my cousin lent me Warcraft III, thus I've had little to do with writing outside of critiquing for others. I've decided to let myself play this holiday season, so writing in earnest will settle in once more come January. I will continue to update Page Me Choice each Monday, read others' blogs, play on CC, and probably edit a prologue based on what others have given me in feedback.

That is the short of all the updates in my life. Hope they didn't bore you too terribly.

Tata from Anette

Friday, December 5, 2008

Are You Pulling or Pushing Your Plot?

I’ve been noticing this contrast in many books I read and then compared my own work. As a writer, I’m more of a puller, whereas I like to read plots that are pushed.

Allow me to explain my thinking here.

Whether a story is propelled forward by characters or events, whether it’s a mystery, adventure, or love story, it is either being pulled or pushed. What I mean by this is that the reader is either being dragged through a series of events (pulled) without really understanding where its going or they are shoved through it (pushed) where you feel like you’re standing right next to the character as an active decision maker in the story.

The former situation tends to happen more with action oriented plots, where the character(s) have to respond to whatever is happening around them, while the latter usually occurs in character driven plots, where the character(s) make decisions that set events into motion. Mysteries can run either way, but I prefer the pushed ones, because then I feel that the character is being proactive and has some control over the situation. I would argue that no genre or category of stories is exclusively pulling or pushing, though they certainly tend to lean one way or the other,

I wouldn’t say that pushing is better than pulling, though I imagine some publishers and editors might. What about you? Do you have a preference as a reader? Do you find your writing falling steadily into one of these categories? Or – and it must be asked – is my rambling making no sense whatsoever? Haha.

In any case, it’s a thought that’s run through my weeble wobble head lately, along with methods of choosing which perspective each story ought to be told from (first, third, omniscient, limited…). But that’s a topic for another day…

For a quick update, I finished Ch 7 of Book B two nights ago, hacked and slashed a short story into prologue form (For Book C - OTS) last night, and outlined Book 2 (AUT) tonight. That’s what’s going on in my wonderful world of writing. I found the F2S round over at Miss Snark’s First Victim to be very helpful. If you haven’t been to Authoress’s blog, stumble on over there the next chance you get.

Okies, that’s enough for this girl. Time for bed.
(Don’t give me that strange look, I’m nocturnal!) :-)


Monday, December 1, 2008

Page Me Choice

Howdy everyone!

Just a couple quick updates to usher in the new month. Yes, it's December already. Scary huh?

Update 1: I've changed the goal wordcount of Book B to 80,000 since NaNo is over and a more realistic length is in order. On a sad note, that makes me much further from that goal. But I must reach it, because my cousin will kill me if I don't finish Book B. He loves it.

Update 2: I've spent a couple days tinkering around with children's books. Yes, I totally realize this is distracting me from my main goal - that being publishing YA fantasy novels - but it was interesting. My grandmother really wants to write kiddie stories and I think it would be fantasmic to make online "read alongs" for little kids, since they are supposed to read 20 minutes a day and many, if not most, parents don't have the time or inclination to do that with them. 'Tis a project to play with.

Update 3: I've created two new blogs, neither of which will be as active as my main one here (I think). The first, Page Me Petite, is a place where I will post flash fiction, short stories, and kiddie fiction I write. Since my main interest is novels, I feel comfortable sharing my shorter work with others under a Creative Commons license. The blog is by invitation only, though so if you want in, you'll have to ask. The second new blog, Page Me Choice, is my personal writing gym. I get to exercise my skills whilst entertaining whoever would like to read along. "Choice" is an open blog, in which I write little episodes and then ask the readers to make a decision, which I base the next post on. Sound fun? Read along...

Anyway, I know that probably sounds like I've loaded my plate too full, but I'll manage, I promise! I've decided to stop taking classes at the college seeing as I already have one degree and I'd really rather focus on writing. It's what bring joy and satisfaction into my life anyway and it would be nice to just live life to live life rather than planning to live life.

If you find you enjoy Page Me Choice, please do invite your friends to read too. The more decision makers there are, the more fun it can be!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Finding My Focus

This holiday weekend, I was given the opportunity to gain some perspective on both my life and my novel (AUC). Since this is a blog about writing, I'll not tire you with the details of my life. :-)

I spent a long time preparing to write AUC, which resulted in many characters with conflicts that weave together throughout the story. I like this, because it makes the reader feel like everyone is real and that the main character is not disproportionately interesting, but it does set me up to lose my focus. Add to the mix the fact that AUC was my first full novel and you have a recipe for author-blindness. :-)

Up until this weekend, I've stuttered and stumbled when people ask me what my book is about. It's long and multilayered. How could I sum it up quickly without going into a whole spiel? I wished for ages that I could come up with something clever to match taglines like "A girl falls in love with a vampire" or "A boy goes off to a boarding school that teaches magic" or "Four kids fall through a wardrobe into another world"

And this weekend, I've finally found my focus. It should seem obvious, that the main character's main conflict should be my focus, but with everything else going on, I seemed to lose myself. When my grandmother was talking with me about the various story ideas I have, I told her AUC was really about a girl who gains confidence and finds herself - a sort of coming of age story. The second those words left my lips, I felt the figurative light-bulb turn on. Oh! Right! Why was that so hard before?

So today I was perusing Lady Glamis's blogs and saw that she'd been tasked to write a summary sentence for her novel (15 words or less) and I decided to try writing one for mine. This is what I came up with:

"An unconfident teenage girl discovers her true potential while on an adventure of world changing proportions."

Does that appeal to you? I know it's vague, but what can you do in 15 words? I even cheated and used 16! Have any of you found it difficult to summarize your book for curious people? Ever written a snippet summary?

Anyway, I'm happy. Now when I go back through for Draft 3, I'll know how to focus the book so the reader isn't as disoriented as I was...

Thursday, November 27, 2008

It's Alive!

I feel like Dr. Frankenstein.

Before I begin querying for AUC, I am sending Draft 2 out to several test subjects – ahem, I mean, friends – who will hopefully give me some useful feedback. Once I’ve collected the test data – or criticism (constructive, of course) – then I’ll run AUC through the wringer to produce a Draft 3, which hopefully far exceeds Draft 2.

So in preparing Draft 2, I may have went a little overboard, but I wanted my test readers to feel like they were reading a complete novel. I wrote a back cover blurb and made a front cover. Then the blurb looked plain, so I had to design a back cover. Then I made a hook page (you know, the excerpt that sometimes appears before the title page). So I put all these, along with the ms into a three ring binder, with the “covers” in the clear pockets on front and back. As a result AUC looks like an actual book (sorta) and as I feel like a proud mom. The fact that I’ve written a full novel never really sunk in until I was loading the binder with almost 200 ms pages. I was thinking, “Wow, I really wrote all this. All those words… all those filled pages… I did that.” It seemed unreal and real in the same moment.

Now hopefully the quality matches the quantity and AUC can make it into real bindings. Since I went to the trouble to make a cover blurb and a hook page, I’ll share them here. I’m not completely happy with the blurb and I’m sure a professional could do a far better job, but it’s my attempt to sum up the book without giving too much away while still attracting interest (a daunting task). I’d love to hear what you think of each.

Back Cover Blurb:

__She Always Wanted To Help,
______But Never Felt She Could…
_____________…Until Now

Shy dreamer Paige Moss is forcibly yanked from her ordinary, yet danger-ridden life, into a part of her world that was supposed to exist only in myth and legend.

She encounters a colony of fabled creatures that’s tense with discord as it gears up for battle, with Paige’s older sister as its commander and her home nation as its contender.

Paige must sort through layers of intrigue and outright lies to discover who’s at the heart of the conflict, a task that’s complicated by the fact that her own beloved sister tops the suspect list.

When the lives of those she loves are threatened, can Paige muster enough courage to save them?

Hook (Excerpt) Page:

A few months ago, I laughed at my mum for being paranoid. Only after several of my classmates and neighbors became victims did I smarten up.

___Adrenaline pumped through my veins and I ran harder than I’ve ever run in my life. I could still hear their pounding footsteps behind me. Glancing back again, I saw that they were gaining on me once more.
___I ducked into another alleyway and pulled on the first door I came to.
___It opened easily.
___I threw myself inside and ran through the kitchen of the pub and out through the bar room. Dozens of dining faces stared at me as I shot past them and out the front door. I doubled back into the same alleyway I started in, hoping that all of my pursuers followed me into the pub.
___The alley was empty.
___I figured if I could make it to the end and turn down the street before the thieves came out of the pub, I might make it. Hope stirred, but I still felt woefully exposed.
___I was almost at the end when the thieves jumped out of the pub door to block my escape. My feet scuffed to a halt and reversed quickly to retreat. Their expressions were fearful. Wait. Fearful? Yes, eyes wide, mouths hanging open, and they too were backing away. I couldn’t understand why.
___Claws grasped my shoulders, sending a spasm of pain through me. My feet left the ground, swinging wildly as if I could still run away.

So there you have it. Based on one or both of these samples, would you pick up my book?

As a side note, I am sad to say I lost my NaNo challenge, what with job changes, exams, and a myriad of other excuses distracting me. I think if I were juggling a couple fewer things, I’d have gotten through it, but at least NaNo gave me a good jump into Book B. I’ll likely not get any writing done until December, so my NaNo total stands at 22,600 words.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Devaluing the Valuable

I have spent the last few weeks devaluing Book 1 (AUC) in light of how much better Book B seems to be going. So much so, in fact, that I’d whittled my experience and the resulting work down to nearly worthless.

It was only when I went back to proofread parts of AUC (because a friend requested to read it) that I remembered how much I like the story. There are flaws in it, certainly, but as I laughed at the idiosyncrasy of the characters or the ways the events wind, I realized my merriment might be shared by others.

Yet even without that, the learning process that came with AUC should not be devalued. No, never that. Because without a first book, there cannot be a second or third. Without a beginning, there can be no progression.

I’d gotten to the point where I thought that AUC was only worth the lessons and practice I garnered from it, viewing it as something that would never graze the fingertips of a potential agent, much less see print.

But I’ve renewed hope.

Although I am unsure as to which direction I need to take AUC in order to fix the problems I see in it (mostly because I’m not sure I have the right perspective to say for certain what the problems really are), I now see the value and potential in the story as I saw it while writing.

I don’t think myself a writing genius by any stretch of the imagination, but sometimes when I reread a scene, I’ll find it hard to believe I actually wrote it because it seems beyond my capabilities.

Have any of you found yourselves in similar predicaments – having written something, and then forgotten its worth, only to find it later as a lost treasure?

PS: If my diction or syntax seems unusual today, it’s because I’m writing this blog while watching Interview With a Vampire. :-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Direct vs Indirect Perspective

Okay, I’m back. The test is over and I can write freely again. I’m a solid 8K behind now, but moving forward again, which is always good. I also had a fantasmic night of writing last night, getting through a scene I was stuck on and accomplishing a whopping 3500 words overall. Not bad considering I like the fight scenes that I got to write. I’m currently at 22K and in the middle of Chapter 7.

My current challenge is trying to figure out how to explain a change that happens within the main character given that it’s a first person narrator. Like, he’s one way, then switches to another, then back to the original way (mostly).

Now obviously, since the story is in past tense (he walked, they stabbed, we laughed) the expectation is that the MC is telling the story to you after its all done happening. Given that, he’d have the perspective to say “I was off my rocker” or something to that effect, but I don’t feel that a direct explanation like that fits within my story smoothly.

It’s sort of a camera angle problem for me. Like in the commercials where the spokesperson is speaking to someone just over the shoulder of the cameraman rather than speaking directly into the camera. Switching between the two seems disruptive and a bit disorienting to me. Have any of you noticed that or am I just being finicky?

Off to sleep. Have a spifferific day!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Variable Daily Word Goals

I’ve been thinking about the reasons this book is going slower for me than the last.

There is a significant difference of words per day: Book B – 2,000 vs Book 1 – 3,500. That’s almost half!

Reason #1 – I had a much longer outline for Book 1. So I didn’t have to be AS creative when I sat down to write since it was basically there and I just had to fill in the details. For this one I have a very sketchy outline (like a sentence per chapter), so when I write I have to figure things out more as I go. That’s hard in perfect conditions, but when you’re tired… ouch.

Reason #2 – I find dialogue much easier to write than action. Maybe it’s because I’m a girl and we’re supposed to be more conversation oriented or maybe dialogue is just easier to write for everyone. If you have thoughts on this, let me know. There certainly must be a proper balance between the two, but I’m not sure which of my stories is nearer to that balance. My first book had more talk than action, while this one has a LOT of action. So it’s harder and slower.

So with that in mind my daily word goals are different. I aimed for a chapter a night with Book 1, but with Book B I shoot for 2K and make it if I’m lucky. Do any of you find a significant difference in your goals between your different stories? What are the factors that affect that difference?

Anyway, my brain is tired and I didn’t meet my word goal last night, so I’m off to sleep. *sigh*

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Almost Halfway There ... And Not

Well, it's the 12th of November, which means in three days, we should all be to 25,000 words right? Hehe...

For all I love this book better than my first, it's coming along slower. I finished Ch 5 and am at 15,ooo words (when I should be around 20K by now) and I desperately want to get to 50K this month. Not so much to "win" NaNo, but because this story will probably not exceed 75K, so being to 50 would make me 2/3 done. Unfortunately, life tasks and sleep deprivation are hindrances to the writing process.

I'd like to get into some details about the current story and why I like it so much, but for now, it's off to class. Weeeee!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Black Hole

Blogger and NaNo are eating my time. I'm not really complaining because it's my choice to partake of these activities, but I spend way more time online than I used to. And online time is time not spent writing or studying or doing any of those nasty errand and shopping thingies. Seriously, I used to check my email, facebook, myspace, bank account, and blog and be off in thirty minutes flat. I'm staring the clock now wondering how an hour and ten minutes have passed. I need to say it: I'm out!

Oh, and Book B is up to 6530 words. Yay for eensy weensy progress :) It's still progress...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Ah, the Thrill of a Challenge...

Writing is so much fun! Have I ever mentioned that? Yes? I have? Oh, well, I thought it needed reiteration.

I've been snooping around NaNo and other blogs and I'm amazed at how many people cringe before a writing challenge.

Sure, I've had rough patches while writing Book 1 - times when I couldn't figure out how to accomplish a scene, or how to explain something. Times when my creativity flattened and I couldn't write period. Times when I doubted myself and the quality of my work. But those were not - let me repeat, NOT - the most prevalent times.

For 90% of my rough draft experience with AUC, I trilled at telling Paige's story. I loved the character interactions and how characters and events managed to surprise even me. I love the feeling that I was outdoing my expectations by writing better than I thought I could.

I write because I love writing. If you don't love it, then why force yourself to go through what many have described as an agonizing process? It just doesn't add up to me...

Anyway, my update for the day is that I've finished chapter 1 of Book B (5K words). Time to sleep.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Book 1 (AUC) Rough Draft is DONE!

As promised (at least to myself) the rough draft is finished. In keeping with my number freak-ish-ness, here are the ending stats.

Words per average ms page: 550 (12pt TNR single spaced)
Words per average book page: 300

1. AUC
Began: August 29th, 2008
Finished: November 4th, 2008
Average words per day: 2-5 thousand
Average chapter length: 3,950 words, 7 ms pages, 13 book pages

As of Draft 2:
Half length (thru ch 13): 96 ms pages, 177 book pages (~53,000 words)
Full length (thru ch 25): 178 ms pages, 330 book pages (~99,000 words)

And I'm thoroughly pleased... not with the draft, just that it is done...

The Road of Revisions is sure to be long and windy, but for now, I'm setting it aside to work on NaNoWriMo (and pass my classes and read wonderful books like Iron Kissed...)

My first book ever is DONE! I feel like Dr. Frankenstein, only it won't really "live" until it sees publication so that other people can enjoy the world that haunts my waking moments...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Determined to Finish

Between work, sleep, school, and not one, but two writing projects, my juggling skills should be improving right? Add to that the fact that I'm completely addicted to a good book (like now, Iron Kissed, by Patricia Briggs) and am completely incapable of focusing on other things when in the middle of one.

But I'm determined to finish Book 1 (AUC) tonight. All that's left is to wrap everything up and wind it down, and I fear that if I don't get too it soon, my own interest will wind down. I also feel guilty working on my NaNoWriMo project with this one still not done, so with any luck, I'll get to post around 7AM tomorrow morning that AUC is all done and I'm celebrating...

That would be wonderful, considering I have an exam on Thursday to study for. But then there's still Iron Kissed to get over. Ah, the life of a book-a-holic...


If I could... No, I would still rather be an addict :-) Wouldn't you?

Saturday, November 1, 2008

NaNoWriMo - the Book B project

Howdy to all of yous out there in cyberland,

Well it's morning on November 1st, which means the start gun went off almost seven hours ago... the race to a 50,000 word (or longer) novel(la) has begun. And like all long distance races, for most of us this is about finishing rather than coming in first.

I've begun my second book this morning, and for the purposes of this blog, I'll call it Book B. It is in the same world as Book 1, with a few of the same characters, but it's not really connected with Book 1, so I'm not wanting to call it Book 2. The MC of Book B is a secondary character in Book 1 and it's told for his POV. I'm a little over 2,000 words into it and so far I'm liking it better than Book 1. Not sure if that's a good thing or not...

Anyway, I'm still about 4K away from finishing Book 1, or a little over a chapter. That's all the updates for now... tata!

Edit: as a secondary, unrelated note, I just noticed that the full trailer for Twilight has been posted. So here it is:

Thursday, October 30, 2008

It's All Downhill From Here

I finished chapter 23 last night and it feels GREAT! The main conflict and fights scene are done, down on paper, and out of my worry closet. I’ve been looking forward to writing the resolution for a long time so I don’t imagine that will be hard. It is all downhill from here. Yeah!

The main fight scene will probably require a lot of revision, but I’m happy with it thusfar. As a rough, it’s not terrible. I’m thinking I have two chapters left to write and right now I’m at 92,500! That’s pretty darn close to where I should be at this point.

On another note, I am signed up to do the NaNoWriMo ( next month. It’s where writers across the world (read: a writer is anyone who puts words down on paper, or a computer screen, so you can do this too if you feel so inclined) spend the month of November writing a 50,000 word novel from scratch. Now, I know that sounds daunting, but I banged out the first 72,000 words of my current novel in the first month, so I know it’s do-able.

Now the real question in… What story should I tell?

(Join in if you think that sounds like fun! I’ll be your cheerleader and you can be mine.)

Edit: Hey I'm 92.5% done! Does that mean I get an A for effort? No? Darn!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Real and Tangible

Tonight I finished Chapter 22, am up to 86,800 words, and right up to the beginning of the climax. Excitement!

This is the first time that I’ve thought of my book and my world as believable for other people. It’s always seemed real to me, as in tangible, where what you see is only the tip of what’s all there, but I think I’ve finally gotten enough on paper to convey that realness. I feel like there is finally enough depth.

I hope it’s not bad that it didn’t fully happen until the 22nd chapter, but hey, maybe that’s normal. At least it happened before the end of the book, so that when a reader finishes it, the whole thing can feel real to them, like it does me. Okay, maybe it won’t be AS real to them as me because I still hold about a thousand cards in my paw. We’ll see how many I get to deal out over the course of a few books…

The next chapter is my big, glorious, action-packed battle / climax. And now that its here, I’m both excited to get the privilege to write it and terrified of screwing it up. I’ve never written a battle as large as this one, but then hey, I’ve never written a book before this one either, so that shouldn’t be a deterrent. It’s just the fact that so much has to happen in the scene for several characters, and they can’t all die, but it has to be tough, and believable, and scary. It is the culmination of everything my MC has learned up to this point and she somehow has to win. Yeah, daunting to me at least…

Perhaps I’m the one that has to win this battle instead of my MC. Hmm…

Friday, October 24, 2008

Can't Get Enough

One of the biggest reasons I love writing is that the characters and scenes I get to create intrigue me. The second biggest reason is that they frequently do things that I don't plan. I'll be writing along, following the story as it unfolds in my head and end up loving something I wrote even though I wrote it.

It's like I get to be the writer and the reader all in one!
Can't get any better than that.

I do follow an outline, but I think my outlines are general enough that I get to play. I could never be a panzer, nor do I think I'd like following a highly detailed outline. To give you an idea, the outline for Book 1 was three pages single spaced, size 10 TNR font. Starting out, it looked incredibly detailed, but when you get into the gritty of it, a 1,000 word outline gives you a lot of freedom in a 100,000 word story.

So last night I finished chapter 21 and loved where the ride took me. I'm fairly close to the biggest battle in the book and a wee bit nervous about writing it, but if the process is anything like it was for most of the rest of the book, then it should be a blast.

My concern is that after that conflict is over, I have quite a bit of resolution, with a surprise finish. I don't see a problem with it, but I wonder if agents/editors/publishers will.

Likewise, earlier in the novel I had eleven chapters of rising action, a chapter of climax, and then seven chapters of action (but not rising action) before we start the rise to the big finish. I did this, 1) because it fits my storyline, and 2) because in real life conflicts, its not always all constant building tension. It's a bit unorthodox (at least I think it is), so I'm hoping my chances of publishing it won't be hurt simply because I don't have 22 chapters of rising action followed by a climax followed by a resolution.

Anyone have an opinion to share on this? Is my rising / falling sequence likely to hurt me or do you find it refreshing to read a story that follows my pattern?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Falling Back In Love...

…with your own story. I’ve spent the last few weeks plagued with doubts about my story. It’s too unfocused, it has cardboard characters, it has weak development, its juvenile, etc… Of course it may be none of these, but that’s how my mind has been. The last worry is a little ironic considering I’m writing a YA novel. It’s supposed to be juvenile! Anyway, I went back through and read a bunch of scenes further back in the story and, to my great amazement, I found it to be interesting and intriguing. Almost like someone else had written my story for me and I got to see it through their words. I like it, I really do. It’s not probably my best potential, but it’s certainly not a bad start either.

I think most of my doubt came from making unfair comparisons with books I’m reading. I see this book and say “well I don’t do that” or “they do that so much better,” yet I never turn around and see what I do that isn’t in the books I’m comparing my work too. There’s only so much you can squeeze into a 100,000 word novel, so it’s really a matter of picking your priorities. I know that’s very generalized, but this would be a really long post if I went into it all.

I’m just hoping my entire writing career isn’t a neverending series of love it / hate it waves. Doubt is a big bad enemy to my writing mojo. I need to build my confidence out of bricks instead of sticks, I suppose.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Quick Update

Well it's been almost a week since my last post, so I'm throwing a quick one up here for an update.

After my nearly two weeks worth of no writing due to distractions I finally got back on the bandwagon. This week I finished a chapter and a half, only about 5,500 words. What's sad is that I used to write that much each night for the first two weeks when I started the book.

I'm taking this as a writing lesson. Don't take a big break or let yourself get distracted when you're in the middle of a project. Maybe it doesn't bother some writers but it really threw off my groove. But with the end of chapter twenty in sight and prolly six chapters to go after that, I really want to finish it.

Also, when I'm working on it I find I like the story and I think it's good, but during the two week break I found my doubts growing larger and larger. Not good.

Off to work again... woohoo!

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Guilty of Distractions

Yep, I’ll admit it. I have spent the last week being completely unproductive when it comes to Book 1. Starting chapter 19 has been hard because the chapter encompasses two and a half weeks worth of time. Obviously not a lot happens in that time or it wouldn’t all fit in one chapter, but trying to tell how two and a half weeks passes without breaking the cardinal “show, don’t tell” rule is HARD. I wrote about 500 words of summary about a week ago and then closed the doc out in frustration.

Since then, I’ve made up about four excuses for why I havn’t opened it back up.
-I reviewed an old story idea and started chapter one (only about 500 words)
-I reviewed an old short story and completely revised it, readying it for potential publication
-I came up with about 6 new story ideas, and majorly filled out one of them. (hmm, majorly isn’t a word according to Word. Imagine that…)
-I had a biology test to study for (the only legitimate reason I’ve had to delay work on Book 1)

Thus I’ve been keeping myself busy, but I’ve been putting off the real project… shame on me! It’s not that I’ve gotten bored with it or anything, it’s that I got lazy and unmotivated :)

So today I finally got back on the figurative horse. Not sure how much I’ll get done, considering I have that test tomorrow, but something is better than nothing right? I revised part of chapter 11, and am getting back into 19… yea, go me…

Yeehaw! Giddy-up, horse! (Anyone know how to spell git-e-up? Is giddy up right?)

Edit: I’d forgotten how fun writing this story is! And easy. Once I made myself sit down, it just flowed. Up to 73,000 words now and off to bed (5AM)

Friday, October 3, 2008

Why Writers Can't Be Their Own Editors

It's simple, really...

After a certain point in editing, we writers cannot fix everything, because our noses are pressed up the to metaphorical painting we've created. We need someone objective to smooth out those last few edges and tell us where we sucked. :) And you know what? We love it! Because learning what's not perfect in your masterpeice gives you back the paintbrush to go fix it.

On that note, I have gotten about as far as I can on editing my own short story. It looks great to me, but I KNOW someone with a keen eye will find about a hundred flaws I can't see.

So, basically, what I'm saying is... Help?!

Anyone who'd like to help edit a 7,000 word short story, let me know please.

...and I'm back off to Book 1...

Pretty and Pretty Hard

Another night spent editing the old short story… And guess what? I actually like it now. Hooray!

I cut it down below 7,000 words (I’m thinking 6,000 just isn’t feasible for this one) and chopping those 3,000 words out is much like cleaning a dirty window so you can see the view. The sight was always beautiful, but you had to get rid of the gunk to really see it. That’s how I feel about this story.

It’s endearing to me. A story about familial love that doesn’t come from who you’re born to, but rather who loves you your whole life. It’s a great feeling when one of your favorite stories is one you actually got to tell.

So, anyway, I’m down to the fine tuning of it and I’m realizing from all the work that’s gone into this edit that editing a 100,000 word book is going to be long and exhausting. The only positive note is I don’t think my rough of the book is as rough as the short story was. It was a ROUGH rough! Wordy is probably the best description for how it used to look. .

But with that problem cleared up, I’m optimistic about it’s odds for publication. You just can’t hate this story unless you don’t have a heart :) My grandmother wanted me to continue the story and turn it into a book, which I just couldn’t foresee, given the ending it has, but I realized tonight that five or six years down the road in the MCs life, a real adventure would likely happen.

And it’s all set up in the short story…

I love it!

Edit: Here’s me and my number game again…

Scenes Words
Swim / Bus ............ 765
Home 1................. 948
Professor .............. 981
Crazy Bell 1 ......... 1,037
The Pier ............... 534
Cousins .............. 1,254
Crazy Bell 2 ........... 504
Home 2 ................ 913
Totals: 8 scenes / 6936 words

I can hardly believe that I got eight scenes to fit in under seven thousand words.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hooray for Progress!

No, I didn’t get any further in Book 1, sorry if the title was misleading, but I did discover something great!

I spent today pouring through old files, things I’d written previously, and I decided to revise a short story from my creative writing class in hopes of getting it into a magazine and establishing some credibility.

Now, I love the story itself. It’s about a girl who discovers her true heritage, and let me tell ya, it’s not even human. But reading through it, I kinda went . . . Did I write that? Yikes! The style is horrible, the pacing ghastly, the sentence structure bland, the dialogue very amateur. I even had some spots where I disobeyed the cardinal rule of writing (show don’t tell). How newb can I get?

Anyway, it will take quite a bit of work to both revise the story and bring it down to under 6,000 words (it’s almost 10,000 now). But rereading it gave me hope, because it is tangible proof that my writing abilities have improved.

Now, I wonder if, in a few years, I’ll look at Book 1 and think the same thing…

Edit: Well, I switched the perspective from third to first and got the word count down to just over 7,500. Still a lot of work to go though… It’s coming along…

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Things Change

I noticed awhile ago and I’m going to point out now something inevitable in the writing process… or at least in my writing process.

Things Change

I went into this first book with fourteen pages of notes. World building, character info, plotting… It was all there. But as I actually wrote, I found that my plan wasn’t always what necessarily happened.

-A main character became very secondary, nearly unimportant
-Main characters didn’t end up with the exact same personality I had planned for them.
-Several characters I hadn’t even dreamed up were suddenly there, with vibrant personalities, begging for big parts.
-Not a single chapter flowed the way I had it plotted. They didn’t generally deviate too far, but they were always different.
-Several chapters I hadn’t planned on came into existence. Like you get to chapter X and realize that this big thing needs to happen in order to get to Z. Insert Y.

It’s like the book has a mind of its own and I’m just a tool in the process of bringing it to life.

On the whole though, I think the changes were great. The characters and scenes came out better than I’d imagined them. They seemed to just flow, like they were meant to be a certain way and if I tried to force them to go my way they’d come out like twisted scrap metal instead of a shiny new car.

I’ve learned from this experiences that plotting ahead is a good idea because that’s the only thing that’s kept me from getting lost, but that I have to be flexible, because the stories and characters will change, whether I want them to or not.

Fantasmic, this world of writing, isn’t it?

Number Freak

Okay, I’ll admit it… I love numbers. Not like, LOVE.
So naturally the thing to do with a writing project is figure out the statistics for it… right? Okay, so most people wouldn’t do that, but what can I say? I’m strange.

Anyway, I spent last night finishing Ch 18, rereading chapters 14-18 (finding pleasantly that I still like them), and figuring out all the numbers for the project. It’s fun. Perhaps if I write ten books I can do an analysis of my writing. Categories: over time (aka: experience), by book length, by content depth, etc.

Yeah, I know I’m a freak.

But here are the stats nonetheless. Enjoy! (unless its not your thing, in which case, skip over this post entirely *wink*)

Note: everything in white is solid, color is variable.

Words per average ms page: 550
Words per average book page: 300

Book 1
(yes it has a name, but I won’t dare post it here until editors approve)
Began: August 29th, 2008
Finished: _________, 2008
Average words per day: 2-5 thousand
Average chapter length: 4,000 words, 7 ms pages, 13 book pages

Half length (thru ch 13): 96 ms pages, 177 book pages (~53,000 words)
Full length (thru ch 26): 180 ms pages, 330 book pages (~100,000 words) expected

End of chapter 19 expected at 75,000 words, 136 ms pages (3/4 the way through)
Currently at end of chapter 18 (71,500 words, 130 ms pages, 240 book pages)

Edit: Well, I looked up the manuscript style preferred by editors and agents and its different from what I was doing. I type in 12 pt Times New Roman single spaced, which gives about 550 words per page. They like 12 pt Courier double spaced, which only gives 210 words per page, so bear in mind that my ms numbers above reflect MY ms type, not THEIR type (which I’ll have to use when I actually submit stuff, but is largely irrelevant now)

Monday, September 29, 2008

Slash and Burn

I know you’re probably supposed to wait until you’ve finished the whole rough draft before you start revising, but that darn first chapter was bugging me so much. It was all I could think about. I know, sad right?

So I revised.
So sue me. ;) (That’s a joke! I’m broke, so you wouldn’t get anything anyway)

I ended up cutting about half of the first chapter out entirely. And it was painful. But it’s soooo much better now. Probably not top quality (give me like six more revisions – I’m a perfectionist), but it’s definitely better. Just above the “that sucked” line. Woot! What an accomplishment. lol

I’m thinking that all but the very best authors probably have trouble with the first chapter. It’s like this. You know a thousand things that the reader needs to know, but you have to space those things out over the whole book and even then they only get about five hundred. It’s hard. And then you have to prioritize which twenty or so are too important to leave out in this chapter or that one.

To clarify, I already knew not to dump a backstory into the first (ten) chapter(s), so I didn’t do that. But I gave details about typical day to day life, just so the reader has some jumping off point. Unfortunately, nothing exciting happens in day to day life, so much of the chapter was pointless and bland.

Hence the slashing.

Fortunately, now that I’ve seen what a drastic change it can make, I think a big edit like that will be easier from now on. Although I suspect it will probably happen to every first chapter I ever write.

Fact: Getting a project (school essay, fantasy book, anything really) started is always the hardest part. Chapter two through about eight were super easy and by chapter nine the story was getting complex enough that it started slowing down. But by far, chapter one was the hardest to write. Hardest to edit. Hardest, period.

I wish chapter ones just never existed. :)
That’s my happy thought for the day.


Sunday, September 28, 2008

Weak Points

Ugh! It’s hard to know what to do when your biggest weak point is your first chapter. You know, the part you send off for review when agents ask for it. I’m staring at it, going ‘well this is all important stuff that I can’t really cut’ so what’s a girl to do.

Starting with chapter two it all starts to flow and be peachy (chapter two is my mom’s personal favorite so far), but that’s not what I would get to show an agent. Not to mention readers. Chapter one is supposed to dazzle, to motivate a reader to keep reading, but what do you do when your chapter one is the worst spot in the whole story?

I’d throw it out if I could, but the protagonist refers back to it so many times throughout the rest of the story that it’s impossible… Ah well, I guess it’ll just have to be rewrite rewrite rewrite. Hi ho, hi ho, it’s off to work I go…

I Really Love This Stuff

I’ll admit readily that I didn’t expect the writing process to be fun or easy. Just thinking back to all those papers in college, and even the two semesters of creative writing, I cringe. I liked the short stories I wrote in there well enough, but pushing out a mere thousand words a week was challenging.

This first book of mine is a completely different experience. I’ve found that I love telling the story and usually have to force myself to stop writing at the end of the night. I think that the writing style is far from my potential, but I do like the story.

I feel that this is a necessary step – like there were some things I just needed to get out before I could really write. Perhaps after some heavy revision it will be sellable, but even if it never gets into bindings, I will still appreciate the experience.

To give you some background, this book was originally planned out as four, but I decided to squeeze them all together and do some serious outline updating. With the added twists, I can easily see two or three sequels to it, but – as my favorite agent blogger says – if the first book doesn’t sell, why bother with the sequels?

My problem is that I’ve created this world, Ralyn, and the events in Book 1 change that world in such a way that it opens up many new possibilities. (Much like Tally’s experience in the Uglies series opens the world up for Extras). So if Book 1 doesn’t sell, what on Earth – excuse me, Ralyn – will I do with my world? ‘Tis a dilemma I must deal with if the time comes…

Tips from an Agent

Well, I’m about two thirds the way finished with my first book, so I decided to get some information on how to go about the publishing world.

There seems to be three ways:
-Self publishing (*shudder*)
-Contacting mid to low level pub houses on your own (and deal with the headache that comes with the industry)
-Get an agent

Now, the smartest thing to me would be to get an agent. For one thing, if an agent likes your work enough to take you on, you know you’re on the write – I mean, right – track. Plus they know what they’re doing a heck of a lot more than I do. The one bit of advice I’ve run across numerous times is avoid any agent who charges upfront fees. Sounds smart to me. As far as I can tell, agents make their money by selling books, not reading unpublished authors’ works.

So stumbling around the internet world, I found an agent’s blog that I found both entertaining and full of good information. ( Here are the big highlights I found in terms of advice to “newbies.”

-No info dump (first chapter, second, or otherwise)
-No repetitious recaps (character relaying to other characters what just happened)
-Don’t be dialogue heavy. Balance your dialogue and action
-Show don’t tell (yeah we’ve heard that a million times, but she specifies to be careful to not overload with dialogue about offstage action)
-No pointless dialogue
-No summarizing what the reader should have gotten out of a scene or conversation

So sure, that’s a lot of “no”s and “don’t”s, but I think it’s sound advice. Those are sometimes hard pitfalls to avoid as a writer, but as a reader, I recognize that I don’t want to read that kind of gunk.

Looking over my own work, I’ve found myself guilty of several of those crimes. Some things to work out during the editing process, for sure.



I doubt I’d be nearly as excited about this project if it weren’t for what I think of as my personal cheerleaders.

I have a grandmother who’s encouraged me to write for years and I swear she has more faith in my ability than I do most of the time. It’s good to have her at my back. Then I have a cousin – who’s just as much a fantasy freak as I am – reading along. As I finish each chapter, he’s asking to read it. That, in and of itself, is encouraging, because it tells me that my story is interesting to someone other than just me. It also tells me that I havn't completely botched the job. Now, seeing as I’m in the rough draft phase, I realize that there are some major revisions to come, but all the same, it’s encouraging.

Now the only thing I need is a fellow writer, who understands the writing process, to share the experience with. No matter how hard you try, you just can’t tell someone how it is to be a writer and have them empathize if they themselves don’t write. Believe me, I’ve tried.

So long for now.

Hurdles and Getting Started

So I’ve written off and on for years now, notebooks of ideas piling up, but I never once considered myself to be a writer.

I’ve been wanting to tackle a book project for over a year now, ideas accumulating, characters forming, but it wasn’t until about a month ago that everything sort of fell into place. One epiphany and one established author’s advice worked together to tear down the mental blocks I had set up against writing.

Firstly, I realized that nothing I say can be wrong… in my story – in my world – I am authoritative. If I want maroon skies or gargoyles that eat, I can do that… there’s no reason to fear rebuke. (Well, I didn’t make any maroon skies, but the point is still valid).
Things don’t have to be scientifically sound in a fantasy world, so I could let go of the need to make everything make sense – the need to explain everything. Furthermore, I stopped comparing my writing with that of published writers. Sure, some basic principles apply to all of us (show, don’t tell, etc), but I don’t have to emulate them to be successful. I have my own writing style, as they each have theirs.

Secondly, I really liked Stephenie Meyer’s advice that you should write for yourself. She said in an interview (and I’m paraphrasing) that if you liked the story you were writing, then you were a writer and that it didn’t matter whether or not it ever gets published and others liked it. Well with this philosophy in mind, I found myself freed from the pressure of pleasing the crowd. Now I’m writing a story that I like and when it’s done we’ll see if others agree with me.

So now I feel I’ve jumped a few hurdles and taken a sledgehammer to those mind blocks. I have to tell you, it feels great. I began writing on August 29th and I’ve found myself writing 2000-5000 words a night, landing me halfway through chapter seventeen a mere month later. So far I am very pleased with the progress, though I’m already sensing my writing skills improving, which makes this book project seem like the first stepping stone on a long road of story-weaving.

I, for one, am anxious to get to step two.