Tag Archives: write

Focusing on Editin–SQUIRREL!

So I’ve let my most recently finished draft sit, untouched, for 8 weeks. I know King said to let it sit for 3 months, but I feel it’s been enough time to kind of “forget” the MS and come back to it fresh. However, I’m having a lot of trouble with the next step.

King’s ideal theory is to sit and read the whole MS in one sitting and make no corrections, unless they are minute grammar ones. I am finding this impossible. Once I focus, I feel I do get a lot done. However, I cannot just sit and read this MS. Yesterday I spent a couple hours reading AND editing about 1/3 of the MS. In the moment, it feels good to make these corrections and additions, especially since this MS is on the short side, even for YA. Yet it is frustrating when I cannot let go of old habits and try a new technique.

I understand why King says to just read the darn thing and not touch it. I’ve never read the MS as a whole. I’ve worked at it as we all do, in writing or editing small chapters at a time.  While I am spending time with the whole project, it’s difficult for me to sit back and read it like an actual book and not a work in progress. I may be able to do this once it’s closer to a final draft, yet even then I know I will keep fussing and touching it up.

I know a part of this “issue” is habit. I’m used to having a limit time frame to write, (30-90 minutes during nap time when nannying) and I’m also used to reading and editing other people’s works in my critique group. The majority of my experience is fixing and writing in short spurts, and I my lack of attention span is painfully clear. Even on days, like today, when I am not at work I’m having trouble focusing on the project at hand.

All people are different and have methods of writing and editing that work. I’m not saying this method is horrible and awful and shouldn’t be done, I just think I need practice and help with improving my focus for times like these when I do have a whole day to focus on a MS. Procrastination is real, and the internet is NOT helpful. (I’m even writing this blog when I should be reading my MS.)

For those of you both old and new to writing, what are some techniques you use to battle against procrastination and improve your focus to the craft? I know many of us struggle with this, so advice and techniques that work are always welcome ideas to consider!

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Filed under Editing, ideas, on writing, questions, struggling, Uncategorized, writing

(Don’t?) Write What you Know

“Write what you know” is my least favorite sentence in regards to writing. I write books about kids learning how to ride dragons. Do I know how to ride dragons? Do you? (Does anyone really?) If I only write what I know, 90% of my books would not exist.

For me, even when writing realistic fiction, I like to stray away from my own life. While I have many interests, I’m not really an exciting person. I’m cautious, I hate frequent travel/road trips, and I do watch a fair amount of Netflix while taking pictures of cats. For me, what I write makes me a more interesting person. I take on new characters and personalities to explore the world (real and fantasy) from the comfort of my own dining table. While I’m sure I could find something in my life worth writing about, I prefer topics far from what I know.

I can see why some people like “write what you know.” It’s familiar and safe, and it can be a good place to start. However, if you only stick to what you know it can limit your creative potential. I am writing a YA novel with a higher level of grief and loss than I’ve ever experienced. It’s a risk since I’ve never been in the situation I threw my main character into, but I’d rather write this book than about my high school experience playing clarinet in the school musical while studying for AP exams. (Oooh, over achieving in high school…fascinating…)

Instead of “write what you know” think “write what inspires you.” I promise, if you’re interested in a subject, someone else is too. Your friends may be interested in other genres, but there are more people in the world who do have similar interests. I met a person who wanted to write a super commercial romance novel in order to sell it and make money. This person did not read much romance or really like the genre, they just wanted something to make it big. There are a ton of red flags here. If you don’t love the idea or genre, it’s not going to be good. While there are no guarantees of anyone being the next Stephen King, Nora Roberts, or JK Rowling, it’s still important to love your own writing! If you are inspired to write a flash fiction piece, short story, poem, novel, etc. then do it. The more excited and passionate you are about the project the better it will be.

I’m a classical musician so I’ve been to many recitals and concerts. I’ve heard many amazing talented performances that are super technical, but the lack of musicality makes it harder for me to enjoy the performance. Writing is the same way. If you’re writing something because you can, not because you’re passionate about it, it’s clear in the writing. If “writing what you know” inspires you, then go for it. If you’re inspired to write something but afraid to write something because you don’t “know” it, write it anyway. Stretch yourself and see what you’re capable of.

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Filed under artist, ideas, inspiration, on writing, Uncategorized, writing

Rough Draft? DONE!

Finished another first draft of a new MS! I’m really excited about this one. I think the overall idea is strong and I like my characters. Of course, there are chapters I wrote thinking “This sucks,” but hey, it’s a first draft.

It’s become a habit of mine to read Stephen King’s On Writing once every couple of years or so. I finished it again a couple weeks ago and there were many things I had forgotten. While I do not agree with EVERYTHING in that book, there are many core ideas that have stuck with me. Regardless of where you are in your writing journey (just started, seven MS in Word, successful and published) I suggest reading this book.

When it comes to first drafts, there are a few things King suggests that I’ve heard other places and that I, through experience, have found to be true. Here’s a basic breakdown of how I handle first-drafts:

  1. Don’t. Edit.
    1. If you’re about to go back and check for spelling from the day before, stop. Just, stop. The most important thing right now is the story and your ideas. Get them out on paper before they fly away! It happens, they will run away if you don’t pay enough attention, like a toddler or an off-leash dog. Get those ideas on paper. You can spell check, edit, rearrange, etc. once the draft is done.
  2. Be Selfish
    1. Don’t share your book with anyone until after you have finished 2 drafts. It doesn’t need to be Publisher-Ready, but when a book is raw and unfinished, so are your ideas. As writers, no matter what we tell ourselves, we do want people to read our stuff and like it. Don’t let someone else’s ideas get in your head before your book is done! There is plenty of time for critique once the drafts are finished and all YOUR ideas are fleshed out.
  3. Murder Your Darlings
    1. (King’s words, can you tell?) Once the rough draft is done, let it sit for several weeks and don’t look at it. I know it hurts, but let it simmer. Come back when you’ve forgotten some of it. It makes it easier to trim the fat.
    2. The delete key is both satisfying and painful, but it’s incredibly important. Less than 1% of any writers’ first drafts are ready to be published. They need to be cut, re-formed, cut, smashed, molded, and written again. It’s a long process, and it’s an important one. Even if you really like that one chapter no one else does, if it really holds no value to the story, that delete key is your new bestie.

In my opinion, no matter how many drafts a book goes through, it is never done. Would I change some things in my published work The Healing Pool. Yes. Yes. YES. I don’t think I will ever feel finished with any of my books. There will always be something you will want to tinker with and change, but when those changes become smaller and smaller, it is time to get that work out into the world.

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Filed under Editing, ideas, on writing, rough draft, Uncategorized, writing

Sticker Advertisements Work!

It doesn’t take much to peek someone’s curiosity. While spending money on advertising is important, for those of us on a slim budget it can become difficult to advertise and market when the payoff is not as big as we’d like. However, I found a good conversation starter: stickers!

Yes, stickers. And buttons, or anything you can slap on a purse/bag/coat that people will see. Mine says “Ask Me About My Novel”, and you know what? People do ask! Whether I’m waiting in line at the grocery store, going for a walk, or hanging around a coffee shop, it’s not unlikely someone will bring it up and ask me about my novel! Below is my sticker, I ordered a few on Vista Print and found the quality to be very good. A little ratty from being on a purse, but it’s not going anywhere!20170413_124700

You never know when you’ll find someone interested in talking about writing or someone who wants to buy a copy. Today, an amazing thing happened. I was in a play place with the kid I nanny and a mom asked me about my writing. Turns out, she and her business partner are opening a children’s book store in Evanston! They both have young children so their picture book collection is great, but they want to expand to a wider range of ages and genres. I write MG fantasy, so she was very excited to talk about her business and how she wants to get local authors to come to her store. I gave her a book and a business card (ALWAYS carry business cards and books when possible) and she said she’d read it and get back to me. I see her at this play place frequently, so I know I’ll run into her again at some point.

It just goes to show you never know what could happen. Little advertisements start a conversation, and even if you don’t sell a book that second, you never know. There are readers out there looking for books like yours! Let them know your book is out there.

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Filed under advertising, ideas, marketing, writing

Too Many Ideas

I have a stupid problem: I have too many ideas for books.

Before you cuss me out or throw things, think about it this way: I have ideas, but that doesn’t mean I have a book. Sometimes I start writing all excited, then I get to page 11 and I’m like “well, that was fun, what happens next??? Oh right, I don’t know.”

I’m having a hard time focusing on one project. I have my trilogy, but I’m also inspired to work on another MS. However, I also really want to get published so I should edit that first book in the trilogy. Oh, but what about this cool idea. I should write that first. (And so on.) It’s strangely frustrating. It’s nice having options since I can’t write without being inspired, however I want to work on editing my trilogy versus starting another book.

Again, it’s a stupid problem.

Part of the issue I think is that I’ve spent so much time editing the first book in the trilogy I’m getting sick of it. I’ve queried but I’m taking a break to get some feedback on the opening and work on the synopsis. I think it’s improved, but i don’t want to burn out all of the agents I want to query before it’s where it should be. I have the query, it’s solid, but I don’t want to keep sending it out if the material still needs a little extra something.

I want to be motivated to edit this trilogy since I have a history of abandoning projects. I’m so far down the road I know I won’t abandon it, however it’s been a while since I’ve looked at it. Every time I try to edit I keep skimming and getting nothing done. I’m waiting to hear from one more person on the book, hopefully then I’ll have enough feedback to put in the final touches and start sending it out again.

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Filed under agent search, Editing, ideas, Uncategorized, writing

Contract Offer…Yay?

Today I received my very first contract from a publisher! Woo Hoo!!!

Stop. Read. Think. Re-read. Research.

I am new to contracts, so even though I may not be clear on every detail of the contract, I know to take a step back, understand what I can, and research the rest. The contract came from Black Rose Writing (BRW), and unfortunately their reputation does not make me optimistic. Most of the articles I found online are at least 5-8 years old, so the publisher has changed since then. However, it’s unsettling to read the unsavory reviews of a publisher who sent a contract.

They are not asking for money upfront, insisting I buy X number of books (as they once did), but I’m still hesitant. I’ve reached out to an author published through them to get an author’s experience of the publisher today. I’ve also reached out to SCBWI, my friend who writes and reviews contracts, and other authors in my critique groups for advice. It’s tempting to say “I did it” and sign away, although if BRW is a vanity publisher it’s about as exciting as getting a participation trophy at a sports event.

ABOVE WRITTEN FEB 14

Today I have heard back from several trusted people about BRW. Most people I have talked to are also skeptical and want to know more. This uneasy response has confirmed that I will not be choosing BRW as my  publisher.

The joy of getting a contract has worn off and disappointment has settled in, but I am glad for it. It’s important to do the research and tap into resources. I talked to a librarian today and she knew of another indie publisher in IL that is small but produces quality work. I will check them out. As a new author, using a small publishing house is a great way to get published and start the process of getting known. BRW, however, boarders the line of vanity press and requires the author to do most of the marketing. At least that is the vibe I get from the contract and website.

For those of you new to publishing who are afraid of getting targeted by vanity publishers, here are some things to look out for:

  1. A reputable publisher WILL NOT ask you to pay money upfront. If someone offers you a contract and requires you to pay a fee, buy a certain number of books, or pay for marketing services: run.
  2. Weird typos. Publishers like words and order and professionalism. Having a stupid typo in a contract is a scary sign. BRW had two: 31 of February, and Witnesseth.
  3. If you contact the press and they can’t say anything specific about why they chose you, it probably means they didn’t read the MS. You want someone who loves your work, not your wallet.
  4. Vanity and Subsidy press is the same thing. Both will prey on authors and try to get money from them. A publisher is supposed to support YOU, not the other way around.
  5. More info about staying safe and informed below.

RESOURCES

  1. http://www.sfwa.org/other-resources/for-authors/writer-beware/vanity/
  2. http://theworldsgreatestbook.com/self-publishing-vanity-publishing/

If you have experience with author contracts, what to look for, and how to stay informed, please comment below. I too have a lot to learn, and sharing helpful information unites us as a writing community.

 

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Filed under agent search, contract, query, questions, Set Backs, subsidy press, vanity press, writing

New Book!

So remember my last post about getting the “itch” to write again? Well….I may have finished another book already!

It’s short, only about 25,500 words, but I think it’s for 5th-6th graders so the length may be just right. I’m sure there’s more to add to it for detail and so I’ll be looking for a critique partner after the holiday. It has a whole plot line and everything! It started with a small idea, and then I just kept wanting to work on it. The monster was creepy, the heroine geeky, and, naturally, the dragon was awesome! It was so much fun to put together and I’m excited to see where it goes.

I’m really excited about this new book and the break it gave me from my series. While I still love my series and the main character, looking at it over and over with little positive feedback from agents was getting me discouraged. Taking a break and actually writing helped clear my head. I can come back to the series a little fresher and maybe see some things to improve or at least get up the courage to start writing again.

Another inspiration I found was from an SCBWI article the other day about the author Kate DiCamillo. She wrote Because of Winn Dixie and Tale of Despereaux among others. Her first book about the dog Winn Dixie won a Newbery Honor Award, but she collected 470 rejection letters before it published! If that doesn’t get a writer inspired to keep going I don’t know what will.

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Filed under inspiration, query, Rejection, Self-Publishing, writing

Inspiration

Since the last post I’ve received about 5 more rejection letters. One person asked for the first 20 pages, but she read a bit and said it didn’t have the “spark” she was looking for. One person had a lovely rejection letter that at the end said:

Also remember that sometimes, writers endure long terms of rejection before they find the winning combination for themselves. They refused to give up, as I hope you will continue to do.”

That was nice. It was a cookie-cutter rejection letter, but this agent understands the struggle and was sincere about it. Many people do give up and I can see why. It’s hard getting rejections on a project I’ve worked so hard on with a character I love. My skin isn’t as thick as I want it to be. The rejections are getting a little easier, but it’s also hard to think someone will ask for a partial and then really like it. That’s the dream, but it’s hard to imagine when my MS isn’t sparkly enough for the agents who’ve seen it.

I’ve spent several weeks meekly picking at my MSs. I have the first 2 books written in my series–I’m trying to publish the first one–and I have no idea what to do with the third book. I’m not the kind of writer who can force myself to write. I need inspiration, something to fix, or some kind of itch to add and see what happens. That itch hasn’t existed since I started querying. I’ve been editing which is good. It gives me something tangible to improve without needing to think of a new idea out of nothing. I like editing. It’s easier to work on something that’s already there and improve it than think of the whole book in the first place sometimes.

Last night, however, I got the itch. An idea crept from somewhere in my brain and I had an idea. It’s a new book, not part of the trilogy, but still related to dragons (of course). Lucky for me, the baby I nanny for napped plenty today so I wrote over 3,000 words! It’s the most I’ve written in one day in a long long time. I’m still figuring out the details of the book, but it’s nice to get into a new character and some new plot twists. It’s like buying a new dress after you’ve worn your others a few times.

I’m excited to get started on this new book, but I do worry about straying too far from my series. In the past I’ve dropped projects and then taken years getting back to them, if I get back at all. I’m hoping this new book is like a cleanse to get the writing flowing. I can keep querying agents but also avoid staring at my finished MS and driving myself crazy! I’m hoping a new idea will get me excited about writing again. So far today it’s been just what I needed.

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Filed under fantasy writing, inspiration, writing

No.

My list of 75 agents is growing smaller and smaller. I didn’t realize how many agencies have a policy where “A no from one of us is a no from all of us.” I have to trust they actually shared my query with their co-workers, otherwise I may have missed a chance. Two agencies have said no, and I was hoping to query about 8 people I now can’t because of this policy.

My heart is racing. I turned on some fun music to pump myself up today, and I finished 4 queries. My query letter is good and my MS has been edited about 4 times so I hope it’s ok. I don’t want to exhaust my options. Again. I know it’s all part of the process, but it’s still disheartening.

Two weeks ago when I had a MS request was the most excited I’ve been in a long time. The no from that was hard, but not as hard as it could have been since I prepared for it. Yet, with each query sent I feel rejection is inevitable. It’s hard to get out of this funk. Self-publishing is not an option for this book so I have to hope an agent likes it.

If I go through all my agents, then what? This question has been plaguing me since the first rejection. I’ve been through this before, but my skin is not as tough as I thought it was. Do I start a new project? Do I push harder for this one? Do I, I dunno, troll Facebook for answers? I want to be optimistic but having a back up plan would help me a lot. Anyone have some good advice? Anyone been through this funk before? Wisdom welcome!!!

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Filed under agent search, query, questions, writing

Change of Scenery

It’s been waaaaay too long since I’ve returned to my blog. Thank you for coming back and reading! I’m hoping to be back more often.

I’ve been focusing on writing Charley’s Dragons so much I’ve grinded to a halt. The book is “done” in terms of story, but it’s still very short to qualify for a YA novel. I’ve been going through it adding bit by bit, but I’ve learned that I’m great at cutting and not as great adding! I took a break from writing for a couple weeks (being sick also encouraged my novel-neglect) and I decided it was time to write something else to help get my creative juices flowing.

I went back to a middle grade novel I started a year ago and re-acquainted myself with the story and my badass main character. It’s another fantasy (surprise surprise) yet the main character is my favorite part of this manuscript. She’s determined, strong, and speaks her mind–even when it gets her in trouble. Honestly, I’m using her as a vehicle to vent my frustrations with women’s rights, but she’s fun and exciting.

When I returned to my MG novel (Book One of a trilogy I think) I had the first part and the last part written with a huge gap to fill. Even though I had trouble adding to Charley’s Dragons, I’ve been writing profusely with Book One. The gap is filling nicely and I’m getting into my other characters and having fun world-building.

Yesterday I decided to check the word count for Book One and it’s at 34,000 words, right in the sweet spot for MG fiction. I still have to fill in the gap, but my MS is at novel length! I’m very excited to be so close to finishing another book. Of course it will need to go through extensive editing, but editing is fun. (Sometimes writing is harder than the editing!)

I’m getting back into a writing-groove and I hope that stays true for my blog as well! Even though I want to finish Charley’s Dragons, I know that the best thing a writer can do for her novel is to put it in a drawer for several weeks. Once I’m at a good stopping point for Book One I’ll return to Charley’s Dragons with fresh eyes and a better idea of what the MS needs.

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Filed under word count, writing