Tuesday, December 29, 2015

2015 Year in Review

It’s the end of the year, which means it’s time to look back on my resolutions and goals for 2015. It’s always a little terrifying, to know that I’ve passed another year, and to see what I could have done better.

1.       Focus on publishing.

This was a little iffy. In January, I set up a query party, and we sent queries through participants, which was a lot of fun. I learned from each of them, and I learned about online critique groups along the way. I also sent out almost ten queries for the year, and received rejections from all of them. I know it may not seem like a success, but at the same time, it means that I actually sent out queries and tried, so for me, that is a significant step.

2.       Participate (and win!) both Camp NaNoWriMos and the regular NaNoWriMo.

April was an interesting month for me. I participated in the first NaNoWriMo by writing a daily character sketch to try and get ideas for NaNoWriMo. It was a frustrating experiment, but it did give me two characters that ended up being the sole inspiration for NaNoWriMo. During July, I did a full revision of The King’s Councilor. November was an incredibly productive month. I was able to write not one, but two different novels, the first two in the trilogy. I wrote 177,000 words in 30 days, so I would say I definitely met this goal!

3.       Read 52 books in the year 2015

I didn’t get to 52 books this year, but I did get close. I read 44 books this year. One of the most amazing things that I’ve ever learned was that reading teaches me almost as much about writing as writing itself. I’m starting to notice trends, things that I like, things that I don’t like, even what works and doesn’t. I’m finding writers that I enjoy reading, and even popular books that just don’t quite work for me. I hope to read just as many books next year as well.

Well that’s my year! How have your goals and aspirations been in 2015? 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Post NaNoWriMo

It’s December 7th, which means that NaNoWriMo has been over for a full week now.

It’s been a long week. It doesn’t help that I did push myself way too hard the last week of November, between picking up extra shifts at work, hosting 3 write-ins and getting together with family the other spare moments I had.

Not that I would have changed any of it…

But last week, I did take a full 3 days off and relaxed. I cleaned, did laundry, FINALLY put up the Christmas tree. I’m the kind of person that pesters her husband into putting up Christmas decorations starting the beginning of November. This year, I was so busy that I didn’t even think about it until December 3rd.

But I know that it’s not safe to spend too much time away from my writing. I’ve spent the past 30 days creating a habit. Habits are easier to break than make. Fortunately, I have awesome writing friends, and we’ve grown even closer this NaNoWriMo. My Co-ML and I have decided to get together twice a week to keep writing. Plus, I know how much better I work under pressure, so I’m creating my own goals and schedule for her to use to monitor me.

I’ll keep her going too.

So what’s my current goal? Since I finished Commissioned on November 15th, I felt like enough time had passed for me to start a revision. I did a quick read through on Friday and Saturday so that I could get an idea of what needed to be fixed.

Honestly, it’s a few minor things here and there (add setting, flesh out characters), but nothing like previous novels. I’m not having to delete sections or add entire plot twists. Obsessive planning and plotting have their benefits! I’m hoping to finish this revision by LTUE, my first official writer’s conference! I’m going with a few friends from my NaNoWriMo group, and I’m super excited.

Those are my goals for now! How about the rest of you? How are you doing post NaNoWriMo craze?

Monday, November 23, 2015

Letting the Story Take the Lead

In October, I made my plans for November. I was going to write book one of this series, and so when I was outlining, I did a vague outline for all three books, a fill in the blank outline for the first two, and a detailed outline for book one.

Then November actually came and I finished book one in fourteen days. I didn’t want to stop the momentum, so I moved onto book two with only a slightly less-than-vague outline to go by. This means that as I’m writing, I have to figure out ways to jump from this plot point to the next. As can be expected, the results have been all over the place.

In the past week, I’ve learned more about the belief system of the world, especially concerning death. Apparently, their limbo is called the Yuchbish, and there’s a dragon in there. It kind of blindsided me, but I decided to see where it went. I still have yet to decide if it’s going to stay, but there’s some good scenes in there.

I think the biggest issue that I have is that I’m never quite sure where to proceed next. Obviously it’s not hindering my word count. I’m currently 50,000 words into book two, and hoping to finish it by the end of the month. But I felt like there was an issue with the end of the book. Obviously, it’s the middle book, so the biggest thing to watch for is that the whole book doesn’t become that sagging middle. Yesterday, while driving to work, I had an epiphany. I wasn’t treating it like its own book. I wasn’t focused on having the action move forward, or to having a climax at the end.

Obviously, if it’s a story worth telling, even if it’s in the middle of the series, it needs to have a clear purpose, as well as a clear climax. Something to give the readers some kind of resolution before moving into the next issue and forward in the overarching plot.

Now that I’ve figured out the climax of the book, as well as the conflict, I’m confident that the story and I are now on the same page. Here’s to seven more days! Hope everyone else is doing well!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

NaNoWriMo Progress

We’re over halfway through November! I can’t believe it. It’s flown like a blur. A very exciting, fun, and energetic blur.

Last Saturday, I finished the first book in this series with 85,000 words. It was exciting, especially since I was at a write-in, with all of my writing friends. They were able to help me celebrate. Since November is still going full force, I started on book 2. Currently, I’m about 22,000 words into that, and I’m hoping to finish by the end of the month.

What I love most about NaNoWriMo is the momentum. There’s a wonderful group of writers, who support me, and who are willing to talk me through any plot hole or writer’s block I have. Last night, we had another write-in, and in the middle of all the writing, there were plenty of conversations about plots, voice, and just about everything else that people needed help with.

NaNoWriMo is a fantastic starting point. It teaches writers how their process is. Do they outline first? Do they just write by the seat of their pants? How do they get through the dreaded middle section? Add to that, if they participate in the group activities, the forums, the write-ins, they’re sure to make at least a few friends who really understand what they’re going through.

Writing is easier when you’re not alone, and I’m so grateful for my writing group. I know I’ll be keeping in touch with them all year, not just in November.

How about the rest of you? How’s November going? 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Reading Through a Writer’s Eyes and Thoughts on Marissa Meyer's Winter

An interesting phenomenon when you spend a great deal of time editing and revising is that you start noticing mistakes. In everything. Especially in books of bestselling writers, because, let’s face it, everyone has a different opinion on art, and what one person likes isn’t necessarily what another person likes. I’ve heard other writers and editors complain about it. The inability to turn it off long enough to enjoy the story.

It’s true, to an extent. This year, I’ve really pushed to improve myself as a writer. I’ve advanced in ways I wouldn’t have imagined in January. I’ve critiqued and revised, even started a new series. I also made a goal to read 52 books this year.

This week, I read Winter, the final book in the Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer. If you haven’t picked up the books, I highly recommend them. I found them last year and blasted through Cinder and Scarlet. Then I had to wait for Cress to come out. I thought that was torture, but then I had to wait for Winter.

I’m a huge fan of Marissa Meyer. I love her writing style, her characters, and her story. I also love the fact that she’s a NaNoWriMo author. Both Cinder and Scarlet were written during NaNoWriMo. If that’s not motivation, I don’t know what is.

While I’m working on my current novel, I’ve also been thinking about revision. I’m not a stranger to revision, out of the five novels I’ve written, I’ve probably done an average of 3-5 revisions on each. But as I work on the Orange WIP, I realize that maybe I’m not doing it as effectively as I could. As I researched revision, I found Marissa Meyer’s blog, and she gave an incredibly helpful and detailed summary of how she revises.

One of the things that popped out to me was that in her first revision, she asks what she can do to make things worse for the character. How she can make it less easy.

Knowing that, I read Winter with new eyes. There were moments when I could almost see her going through, thinking, nope, this is too easy. Time to make them suffer.

And suffer they did.

But because I still had my ‘writing goggles’ on while reading, I was able to pick up on those small details that I might not have noticed otherwise. I loved the book, and I was depressed when it was over. But I have a feeling that I’ll be going back to those books over and over again, probably with my kids as well. And when I start revisions, I will be taking Ms. Meyer’s process in mind, making things as physically and mentally difficult as I possibly can for my characters. 

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

50,000 Words in 7 Days

Last week was a productive week. I was able to use a little extra free time to get an extra word count in. Add that to double up day, a day when NaNoWriMo headquarters challenge everyone to double their word count (and their donations), I was able to reach 50,000 words in just 7 days.

I’m kind of shocked that I did it. It wasn’t easy. There were some days I didn’t even want to write.
Here’s the secret: Do it anyway.

I’ve had a lot of people in our NaNoWriMo group who have said they had a hard time writing, that they have no mojo, no juice. They couldn’t get words written.

With one of the girls, I challenged her to a writing war. Ten minutes of writing to see who can get the most words in. We did it twice, and suddenly, the block she’d had was gone.

The best solution to writer’s block is writing. It sounds odd, but it’s the only solution I’ve seen that actually works.

How are the rest of you doing? Going strong?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Starting out on the Journey

One of the perks of being the ML in our region is that I get to write pep talks for those writing in our region. I love the chance to encourage writers. :) Here's the pep talk that we sent out last week!

It’s week one, which means that we’re still in the beginning of the long stretch. I know that some of you are doing awesome! In fact, our entire region is doing awesome! Compared to last year, we’ve really blown out of the water without our helmets on. I’m amazed by all of your progress.

Whether you feel like you’re moving forward, or whether you feel like you’re not doing as well as you could have – or should, remember, that’s not the point.

We’re on day 5. Day 5 of a lifetime. To be a writer, you don’t write 30 days in November. You write every day for a lifetime.

So why is NaNoWriMo important? Because these are our warm ups, the practice for the actual race. We’re going for a marathon here, not a sprint. Remember that. Everyone starts out at a different pace, and each of us are in different events. Don’t compare yourself to everyone else. We’re here as a team, not competitors. We’re here to cheer one another on. Any success can be counted as our success because we’re in this together.

That’s really the beauty of NaNoWriMo. You’re not alone. There’s going to be someone with more experience, and someone with less. That’s how it works. The best way to learn how to write is to learn and to teach, so don’t be afraid to get out there, know your team members and cheer them on!

And remember, this is just the beginning. If you fall, that means you’re trying! If you pull a muscle, then take a break, stretch it out, and jump back in!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Week 1 Report

I love NaNoWriMo. Can I just say that over and over? NaNoWriMo is the best part of the year. I love the comradery, the groups, and the interactions between writers. It’s never as active as it is during November.

This year has been a little bit different. I spent all of October obsessively, yes, obsessively outlining and planning for this novel. I don’t think I’ve ever been as prepared as I have this year. I knew my characters, their backstories, their fears, and their goals… I even knew how they talked. I had a detailed map drawn, and thanks to a fantastic geography teacher, my map was drawn correctly.
My magic system was detailed, the rules created before writing a single word. The foods they eat, the way they travel.

I was ready.

I’ve planned before, but this has gone beyond anything I’ve ever done. My Story Bible is bursting with information.

The difference is visible. The first days of the month and I’m already 32,000 words into the novel. My average word count per day is over 6,000.

Once I did all the preparation, this thing has been flowing like I can’t believe. Not only that, I really want to keep writing. It takes a lot of effort to pry myself away from the computer so that I can do the laundry or cook dinner. At this rate, I might finish the entire first book (since my 32,000 is halfway through page 3 of an 11 page outline for the first book), and possibly get the outlines done for the other two books.

So that’s me! Fingers flying, and excited to keep going! How about the rest of you? How are you doing with NaNoWriMo?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Trying Something New

Every year, I try and find a new way to challenge myself as a writer. This year, I wanted to try to write in first person. All of the other books that I’ve written have been in third person, except for the very first draft of Servant of an Empire. The reason I changed to third person was because it felt like every sentence started with the word I. It reminds me of the scene in Princess Diaries where she talks about how many stinkin’ times she uses the word ‘I.’

I was really nervous, especially since all my attempts at practicing it weren’t going so well. But I’d also spent much more time trying to get into my characters’ heads, so that I can really understand how they think, so that I can imitate the way they talk.

So the first day of NaNoWriMo, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. In fact, I was expecting to crash and burn. If not, the best case scenario would be a wooden, I-riddled first draft.

I was pleasantly surprised. Not only was I able to figure out a way to avoid the dreaded ‘I’, but I was also able to make clear and distinct voices. Or rather, Yaru and Nara were able to let their voices flow.

Remember, these are just first drafts, but here’s the difference:

The man huffed, slashing the sword from side to side, almost burying the blade into the wooden crate. If this idiot puts even a nick in the surface, I’d made him eat the Vor through his nostrils. “Not worth it,” he said. His voice was gruff, like sandpaper against stone, and his thick lips sneered down at me.

The parade stops as the monks congregate around the holy links, seeking the word of Gal. I snort. They should know better than to think that Gal would spend any time in this place. With the dust layering every building, and the stench of livestock, if I were a creator, I’d steer clear from this place. I’d probably spend my days floating across the sea’s foam or in the air, tumbling like… I don’t know, some kind of tumbling thing. A bird maybe.

I love both of them, but what I particularly love is how distinct they feel. I know which one is Yaru and which one is Nara. Now I’m excited to see how the rest of it develops.

How about the rest of you? How are your novels coming along?

Monday, November 2, 2015

NaNoWriMo to a Non-Writer

My husband is fantastic. I know I’m bragging, but it’s really true. He has supported my writing in ways I really wouldn’t have expected. Out of the two of us, he’s more afraid of my work getting stolen online. He lets me attend all of the writing classes, seminars and meetings in the area, and even lets me take the car when I need.

He understands my passion, though he doesn’t always feel the same way.

Last night, we were talking about NaNoWriMo. He and a friend went to where my group was having a write-in, and his friend asked him why I was in there with my computer.

Here’s the story as he told it to me.

Husband: Let me explain to you. (Though, in his accent, it sounds more like asplain).

You know how the gringos are weirdos and always have a day for everything? October was breast cancer, a few days ago, they had cat day. 

Friend: No, I didn’t know that.

Husband: Well, they do. Those gringos have a party for everything. Now November has two things. One is for prostate, and that’s Movember. The other is NaNoWriMo, which is National Writing Month.

At this point, I interrupted him, to tell him that it’s National Novel writing month.

Husband: I don’t care. Anyway, Krista and other people try to write 50,000 words in all of November.

Friend: Wow, that’s a lot of words.

Husband: I know. I told you they were weirdos.

So there you have it. If that’s the way that a supportive non-writer looks at NaNoWriMo, then I’m assuming the non-supportive ones thinks we’re raving lunatics. (For those curious, he learned the word weirdo from me.)

How about the rest of you? Do your friends and family understand your crazy November antics?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Someone Has to Die

Outlining my story has been a blast this past month. It’s also been fascinating, since I’m letting my characters have a bigger say in their lives than I usually do. In fact, half of the time, I couldn’t finish the outline until I figured out who my characters truly are.

I was having a fairly major problem with my climax. I had two villains, and I wasn’t sure who the truly evil villain was. I knew one of them was responsible for the endemic, I wasn’t sure who. Then I worked on fleshing out my characters, figuring out what makes them tick, and their inner secrets. Once I did that, the climax started to come together.

The biggest surprise came when I worked on one of my secondary characters, the brother of my main character. I knew he was always there, he was supportive, got into my main character's schemes, but I didn’t know anything else about him.

Then I asked him his deepest secret.

Wow, was that an explosive question. Actually, with all of my characters. None of them wanted to tell me, but at the same time, once I found out their secret, I discovered more about then than I expected. This character had fallen in love with a girl and his father got rid of her because of it. Once I found out about the girl, I started exploring her storyline, and I discovered that she was in the story as well. She was a major part of the story, and I hadn’t even known who she was.

I fell in love with her almost immediately. She was cute, she was spunky, and she had a tragic backstory.

Just as soon as I decided I liked her, I discovered the next part of the plot. She dies. It was devastating. She didn’t deserve it. I searched for any other way to keep her from dying, but it kept circling back to the necessity of her death.

I’ve had a hard time killing off characters, and this is the first time that I knew it had to happen, to move the story forward.

How about the rest of you? Do you find it easy to kill of your characters?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Character Bios

I’ve been waiting for so long for November to start. To get myself through October, without starting any new projects, I’ve been working on prewriting. To say that I’ve done more for this book than any other would be an understatement. My Bible is filled. Background stories, setting, culture, maps, outlines, and yes, character bios.

When creating a character, I usually say that all I need to know is the most important event in their life so far and how it affected the character. I usually steered clear from the character questions and interviews because I never thought they were that relevant. I mean, I have characters living in a fantasy world trying to survive. Who cares what their favorite color is, right?

But since I have so much time, I figured I would actually try them out and see what happened. I went through multiple questions and picked the ones that I thought would apply the most to my characters, and yes, I left the question about favorite color in there. There were times that I really got stumped.

What kind of music does my character like to listen to? I have no idea.

What time do they go to bed or wake up? Does it matter?

Apparently, it does. I found out that one of my character loves to go stargazing, which means he stays up late to look at stars. I have another character who like silence, no noise, no music. Things I would not have known if I’d just focused on the most important aspect of their lives.

It doesn’t feel like I’ve gotten everything about the characters figured out, but there are small details that separates them from all of the other characters. It’s not a replacement, but I will definitely be using it in the future.

What do you do to build your characters? How do you get their backgrounds and personalities figured out?

Monday, October 26, 2015

NaNoWriMo Prep

I love autumn. It’s my favorite time of year, the anticipation for Halloween, and Thanksgiving, then Christmas. It’s the time that people start gathering indoors, drinking hot chocolate and snuggling up in blankets.

Recently, there’s one more thing to add to the anticipation, and that’s NaNoWriMo. It’s my favorite month of the year now, and preparation sometimes takes up an entire month as well.

Every year, I try and do something different. I try and push myself into doing something that I haven’t necessarily tried before. My first year, I wrote from the point of view of a male main character. Last year, I wrote a contemporary about a middle-aged woman dealing with her father’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s. Every year, I learn something new about myself as a writer, and about writing in general.

This year, I’m trying to write a series. Not just one book, but the beginning of a story, one that ends with a cliffhanger and everything. The preparation for this one has been brutal.

I’m a planner, and I have to know where I’m going. When I’m planning a series, it’s not just about this book, it’s about the entire story arch, so that when I start, I know what I need to add in the beginning to make the ending fit. When the ending’s three books away, that can be kind of daunting.

The only thing that gets me through this is outlining. My outlining process hasn’t changed too much over the past few years. It really depends on time, if I’m crunched, I might do a general outline, but when I really want to sit down and do it right, I go through a 3-4 step outlining process.

All of my outlining is handwritten. I feel much closer to my creative juices when I can use more than just my fingers on a keyboard. I start with notecards, writing down the basic plotlines that I hope to skip through. Once I finish those, I flip them over and add more detail to those specific plot points.

Step 1

Then I type it all up and add triple spacing, and print it out. That’s when I either do two or three more drafts. Since I’m crunching on time, I suspect I’ll only get one draft finished, but that’s okay. It’s the same basic idea. I take the outline that’s printed out, and I add even more plot points to it, more explanations as to why it’s important.

Step 2

Then I type it up.

Step 3

Since this is a trilogy, and since November is fast approaching, I’m actually doing all three processes at once. I’m trying to get all of my basic plotlines (the green draft) finished before November starts. Then I’m trying to get at least half of the back of the notecards (the yellow draft) finished so that I have the basic idea of at least where the next book is going.

And then I’m trying to do the fine detailed outline (pink draft) for this book.

How about the rest of you? What kind of preparation are you making for your NaNoWriMo novel?

Friday, October 23, 2015

Just Write!

This month, I’ve had the chance to talk to a lot more writers than I normally do. It’s amazing to see the different levels that writers are in. I’ve seemed to spend more time with brand new writers, ones on the very beginning of the journey.

What’s really surprised me, is that many of these writers find that the prewriting process, the idea, is much more important than the writing. One young man told me that he’s found that the writing part is most difficult. He told me that he’s written about five pages in the past six months or so. I had another writer tell me that she’s hoping to use NaNoWriMo to finish her novel, since she’s been working on it for about five years.

I don’t know that I’ve ever had that issue. I hear the excuse of ‘no time’ a lot. To me, that seems like an excuse for those who doesn’t make writing a priority. My senior year of college, the last month, right before finals, and before I took one of the most important tests of my life, I wrote an entire novel. Three weeks, while studying for finals, and I wrote over 50,000 words. My Co-ML has 4 kids. Last year, she worked full time, took care of her kids, and finished her 50,000 words in almost 20 days.

It’s possible. Time is something that everyone struggles with. We all get the same amount. 24 hours in a day. What we do with it really shows what we find most important.

This month, I’ve realized how much I’ve let my own writing slip. It’s not been a priority, even though I say that I want to be a writer. I want to write.

I’ve been adjusting my schedule, making sure that I put the time into writing so that I can’t use an excuse when I realize I haven’t been as productive as I meant to be.

How do you find time to write? What kind of sacrifices have you had to make so that you can get writing in?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

What makes a Story?

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about story. Not just plot or characters, but story itself. Last week, I attended a Storyteller’s Symposium, where I attended classes about photography, about film, other forms that I haven’t worked in, or that I hadn’t even considered for storytelling. 

I also went to a concert by performer Lindsay Sterling, who is a YouTuber who writers her own music and creates videos for those songs. She even said that often, before even writing the music, she has an idea of the video she wants to create.

I’ve had the opportunity to experience story in a completely different way. Through music, through video, photos… and I’ve learned a lot.

Out of all of them, there were some of the stories that really touched me in a way that I didn’t expect. There were some that drew me in so that I could use my own experience, my own thoughts to build the story into something that I can relate to personally.

Story, no matter the medium, needs to draw the audience in. It needs to speak to the basic human needs and emotions, to make them feel something that they haven’t felt before or to remind them of something they’ve already experienced. Whether it’s five minutes or 500 pages, there’s always something that the artist needs to say.

What have you learned from other art mediums? What kind of art do you enjoy beyond prose?

Monday, October 19, 2015

Storyteller's Symposium

Last weekend, I was able to attend the first ever Storyteller’s Symposium in our little town. It was a fantastic event, and I was very impressed by the number of would be artists that appeared. What I really hadn’t expected was that the storytellers included all facets, including photography, writing, film, and everything in between.

 What I loved was that even though I’d heard most of the advice already, it didn’t mean that there wasn’t something new for me to learn. For the majority of the month, I’ve been working on prewriting and preparing for NaNoWriMo, which means that I’m going back to the beginning. It’s been a year since I’ve started a first draft, and I feel like I’m relearning and revising how I start out a novel.

Probably what makes this ‘novel’ so difficult is that it isn’t a novel. It’s shaping up to be a series, which means that there’s even more plot points, even more characters, and even more planning so that the story arch follows a clear trajectory from start to finish. I’d gotten about two thirds of the way through the rough outline when I got stuck. I needed a large and satisfying climax, but I still wasn’t sure who my actual antagonist was. Or if the two potentials were working together.

During the symposium, I was thinking about this issue, and there was one lesson that really stood out to me. One of the presenters talked about the Dramatic Structure, the need to have a clear protagonist and a clear antagonist, and to have the two confront one another during the climax. He also mentioned that if there are two protagonists, then they both need to be present during the conflict.

You’d think that would be obvious, but every single climax I’d run through hadn’t included one of my characters. She was just as important as the other, but somehow, I hadn’t thought to make sure she had a clear reason to be there as well.

Once I figured out that both protagonists needed to be present, the dynamics changed, and the plot opened up again.

How’s your prewriting going? Ready for November?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Don’t Even Try

This month, I’ve been gearing up for NaNoWriMo, and since I’m ML of my region, it means that I’m trying to get a hold of other writing groups and find those who would be interested in writing a novel in one month. The town I live in is almost half students. When they’re off track, it’s like a ghost town, which means that the largest potential candidates for NaNoWriMo are students.

My Co-ML and I have been attending the school’s different classes, seminars and clubs, looking for writers. I’ve also been listening and participating in each club and seminar, because I want to know what writing students are being taught in college.

I haven’t been super impressed.

The advice that astounded me the most came from a student leader in the Writer’s Critique group. She started out the meeting by teaching all of the writers about publishing. She premised by stating that she didn’t know very much about publishing, but since they asked, she got the information from her teachers. She taught them about how to find small press publishing, to find publishers who are willing to take unsolicited queries.

She taught them that it was the only way to get published. One of the girls asked what to do if she wants to be published by one of the big five. She had no idea. She told them that it would be impossible to be published by one of the big five without an agent and it’s harder to get an agent than to be published by a small press. She said that an agent wouldn’t even look at someone who hasn’t published.

I was stunned. Basically, writing students were being taught to not even try. It’s too hard, so take the easy way out. Everyone says that it’s better.

I’m so grateful that I’ve learned about querying, and about publishing from those who’ve actually experienced it. In different online communities, I’ve met those who have published without using small-publishers. Those who spent years of querying before actually succeeding. With an agent who landed them the big five. Those who decided to self-publish and have already sold an entire series on their own, no publishers needed. I’ve even read stories of those who have already published with small press, but don’t have enough sales and actually have hurt their chances in the future to publish with bigger press.

What about you? What kind of advice would you give the girl who wanted to publish with one of the big five? What kind of experiences have you had with publishing?

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Plot, Character and Setting

Over the past few weeks, I’ve been gearing up for NaNoWriMo. Every year, I try and do something a little bit different, something to push me to try something new.

Last year, I wrote my first modern day novel with no fantasy, just actual family relations and dealing with the disease of Alzheimer’s. It was a learning experience I wouldn’t trade for anything. To see what I learned from that novel, check out the link here.

This year, when I started thinking about NaNoWriMo, back in April, I didn’t quite have a story in mind. I used Camp NaNoWriMo to create characters, hoping that at some point, one of them would jump out to me and ask me to write their story. Fortunately, even though it was a frustrating month (possibly because I don’t like spending a lot of time with strangers), I did have two characters whose stories started to meld together.

Last month, I started plotting out the story. It was exciting, the more I plotted, the more I learned about the story. It’s the closest I’ve come to pantsing. I’m not actually writing, but I’m letting the story flow out. The more I wrote, the more I learned about the world, about the situations the characters were in, about the setting. Unfortunately, I kept hitting walls. Moments when I didn’t know where the story was going.

This week, I put aside plotting and character development. I started working on the setting. Getting to know the world my characters were living in. I had to determine how different organizations work, both of my characters are deeply involved in their own systems, and apparently, the plot wouldn’t move forward unless I understood the setting.

Writing out the rules to the magic system

As I continued to build the setting, I suddenly understood my characters so much better. Once I understand their world, I was able to understand their thoughts, their reactions, and their motives. It’s amazing how plot, character, and setting are all so intertwined.

What preparations are you making for NaNoWriMo?

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Best Advice to a Newbie Writer

Over the weekend, I was able to go visit family. My little sister is about to go on a mission for our church, and it’ll be a year and a half before we see her again. While we were there, my mom threw a huge open house, and I got to meet a whole bunch of my sister’s friends.

One of those said friends found me (with my sister’s help) and told me that he wants to be a writer. There’s nothing that gets me more excited than when I meet another person eager to start the writing journey. As we talked, I learned that as much as he wants to write, he hasn’t really done very much. He told me that he wants to write, but it’s a lot of work, and in the past few months, he’s written about ten pages.

In that kind of situation, I’m never quite sure what to say. I don’t know him very well, and I don’t know what motivates him. He’s got the desire, but without the effort, there’s not much that I can do. The best thing I could do was to direct him to the NaNoWriMo website and help him sign up.

NaNoWriMo is one of the best resources for starting because there’s a built in goal. Each day, you get the chance to gauge how well you did, know whether or not to increase the number of words you write. Plus, there’s a built in writing group, people who encourage you to actually do it. You’re not alone, and you’ve got someone to take the journey with you.

I can’t tell you how excited I am for NaNoWriMo. This year, we’re really pushing toward getting as many new writers as we can. We’re going to paper the town in the next few weeks, which will be awesome!

Who else is excited for NaNoWriMo?

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Plot or Background?

My little NaNoWriMo group has been expanding lately. We’ve had a lot of new writers coming out of the woodwork, which isn’t too surprising, considering that we’re getting close to November.

I love the personal interactions we have. My Co-ML created a Facebook group a few years back, and we enjoy sharing writing tips, questions, and encouragement. Sometimes the advice is good, and sometimes, I need to bite my tongue to keep from getting into an argument.

Obviously, everyone has their own opinion on writing, and what makes a great book.

We had a person recently ask advice on how to expand her novel. She said that she has found that her story is usually too short for NaNoWriMo, and she doesn’t get to the 50,000 words before her story stops.

I told her to add some extra plot points. The characters have to get from A to B, but that doesn’t mean they get there in a straight line. There’s always something that could go wrong. More trials, misunderstandings, even added conflicts. I know that as a reader, I don’t mind how the author gets there, as long as the story is good and I’m taken along for the ride.

Unfortunately, someone else had a different idea. Her suggestion was that instead of building up the plot, to add a lot of detail about characters and their background.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with building your characters and background. It’s important, especially if you want your character to relate to them. But to have extra background stories so that your story’s word count goes up?

The thought makes me cringe. I’ve read books like that. Usually, I don’t finish them.

How about the rest of you? How do you make sure that your story has the length it needs?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Too Much Exposition

Since I’ve been trying to read more books than I usually do, I have the tendency to not really research very much before starting.

So this week, I started reading a book from an author whose books I’ve read and loved before. I started reading, and then kept reading, hoping that at some point, the story would make sense. I actually dreaded reading, because I felt like I saw the words on the page, but it really meant nothing to me. I wanted to care about the characters, but they did nothing. There was no growth. I got halfway through the book and still, nothing happened.

I was talking to one of my coworkers about this book, and he’d actually read the entire series. What he said actually floored me.

It gets better. Just wait until you get to the second book, that’s when the story really starts.
Really? An entire book just to introduce the characters and the setting? Apparently, that’s what the story was. No plot, no real advancement. Just… exposition in story format.

I stopped reading because I felt cheated. Whenever I start reading a story, I expect the author to meet certain expectations, and plot is definitely one of them. I’m a little more stubborn than most, I don’t toss them aside after a chapter or two. I keep hoping for it to get better.

Often, it does. This was one of the few times it didn’t.

Have any of you come across this? Were you start a book, and no matter how much you read, there’s still nothing that actually advances the story?

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

2 Month Countdown!

Today is September 1st, which means 2 months until NaNoWriMo!

I am beyond excited. I love the comradery, the way that writers seem to pop out of the woodworks to participate. It’s so much fun to interact with writers of different stages and ages, get to see the whole spectrum from start to finish.

This year, in April, I participated in Camp NaNoWriMo. I decided to try to write character bios, one a day, and see what happens. Even though it was a frustrating exercise, I found that I started to have characters with stories that intertwined.

Two of those characters were Gastian and Torina. As I continued to think about their story, it kept growing. The extent of this story started to overwhelm me. There were so many different plot points I wanted to hit, so many quests, and characters that needed to be introduced. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there is a good chance that this won’t be just one book. This might be the first time I write a trilogy/series.

I’ve had this idea for several months now. I would add small pieces here and there, but the enormity of it overwhelmed me, and I was too afraid to try and plot it.

Finally, this week, after talking with my NaNoWriMo group, I decided to just get it done. As much as I love Scrivener, and the computer, I found that I couldn’t plan it out the way I wanted to. So back to pen and paper I went!

I labeled each of the main characters, and where they lived. Then I wrote out each of the ‘quests’ that they would need to complete. Brick wall again. I couldn’t figure out how to get them from one spot to the next. That’s when I drew a map.

It’s amazing how much can be accomplished with a map. Once I had it drawn, everything fell into place. I was able to draw out the plot points on the map, and all I had to do was figure out how they moved from one place to the next.

And when I got stuck, I worked on character development. I found that I was missing a very key character. I absolutely can’t wait to sink my teeth into him! He’s fantastic, and diabolical all at once. I also discovered some things about my main characters that hadn’t shown up in the 500 word character bio.

So far, I’ve only plotted about a third of the story, but the more I plot, the more excited I get. I’m having a hard time sleeping because these characters have taken over my brain.

How about the rest of you? Gearing up for NaNoWriMo? What are you plans for November?

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Writer's Block

I had an interesting conversation with someone a few weeks ago about writer’s block. It’s something we’ve all heard of, that moment when the writer loses all of their juice, has nothing else to say, no more words pouring onto the paper (or keyboard.)

He suggested that it’s all in our head. It’s a way of procrastinating the inevitable. As writers, we’re looking at the present, but we also focus quite a bit on the future. After I finish my first draft, then I have to edit. After I edit, then I have to query. Once I query… well, I haven’t gotten there yet.

Maybe he’s right. I haven’t had any serious forms of writer’s block. I have found that if I make sure that there’s always a next project, then I don’t feel so stuck on this one. Currently, I’m working on a major rewrite for two novels, I’m working on the prewriting on one for November, and I’m working on critiques for another. If I get tired of editing, I write. If I get tired of writing, I prewrite. If I get tired of all of those, I write blog posts. J

Bouncing around keeps things interesting. I think I also know when to let a project go. It hasn’t happened recently, but I do have two partially finished novels on my shelf. I’m not sure that I’ll ever return to them, but they got me to where I needed to go.

Writer’s block is probably a trick of the mind. I love writing. I do it for myself, I enjoy the characters, and I enjoy the stories. The only time I really run into it is when I work on queries. Now those I can drag my feet in for weeks.

So maybe it’s true. Writer’s block is a form of avoiding what we don’t want to do, whether it’s writing, editing, writing queries, even social media. We each have our strengths. It takes pushing through the weaknesses that gets us even farther.

What do you think? What causes writer’s block?

Friday, August 21, 2015

Writer's Retreat

I just had the best week ever!

Our small writing group has decided to try something completely new, a writer’s retreat. We escaped from real life, and was amazing. When I first told my husband that I would be going on a writing retreat for two days, he told me that I would get bored. Writing, writing and more writing? Wouldn’t I need a break at some point?


And that’s why it’s so nice to have such a fantastic group. When I get tired, there’s someone to talk to. We can talk about life, or we can talk about writing. We can bounce ideas off one another, and we can cheer each other one. It’s not that we’re writing nonstop for 8+ hours a day. But we’re keeping at it, which is better than I can say some days.

Actually, I’ve finished more editing in two days than I’d done in over two weeks, so I say that it’s definitely a benefit.

Oh, and did I mention the best part?

No internet.

No distractions.

The left shows how much I got done over the past two weeks, and the right shows how much I did in two days.

Crazy right?

Have any of you been on a writing retreat? Run away from real life so that you could focus on the imaginary worlds in your head?

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Old Project/New Project

For the past few weeks, I’ve been very unfocused. Not in a bad way, but I haven’t been able to concentrate on one project long enough to really do anything effective.

This last week, I decided to read through the Orphans of Jadox, just for fun. It’s been quite a whole since I’ve really focused on it, almost 2 years, to be exact. Since then I’ve rewritten King’s Councilor three times, and written the Stone Mason and Jen’s story (still unnamed).

As I read through it I had a giant realization. The Orphans of Jadox is written in 2 different points of view: Larzo and Aydra. Yet, as I read, I realized that there was no distinction between voice. I’ve been reading a lot of reviews on different books, and that always seems to be the biggest complaint. If there are two different people, then they should talk differently, think differently.

So two days ago, I separated their points of view. I printed them out separately so that as I can focus on one point of view before moving to the other.  Larzo is a shapeshifter, a cat. He needs to focus on tactile senses: smell, sight, sound. Each small detail is heightened by his senses. Aydra, on the other hand, as I later found out in in The Stone Mason, has mild empathy, which her son inherits. So she focuses on emotions, reactions, feelings of those around her.

Right now, I’m working on Larzo’s point of view. It’s odd, focusing so much on details, the smells, the sounds, but I’m loving it. I don’t think I’ve ever felt like I’m completely within someone else’s head. It’s quite fun, and now, when I go on my writer’s retreat next week, I have something definite and concrete to work on.

It’s also been quite a while since I’ve printed out my project, and working in a different medium has definitely got my creative juices flowing.

How about the rest of you? What are you working on right now?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Why I Write

Wow! I have not been on for way too long! Life keeps getting in the way of writing, which often feels backwards to me. Shouldn’t writing get in the way of life? At least, in an ideal world…

I was talking to my sister the other day about stress. I know we all have ways to deal with it. But I know that whenever I’m particularly stressed, when I can’t focus or even concentrate on the smallest thing, it’s because I don’t write.

Writing is the most cathartic practice I’ve ever participated in. I’ve missed it, and I usually know when I’m most stressed because I’m willing to give up sleep and food to try and balance my life with writing.

Today, I’ve been thinking a lot about how writing really makes up a large part of who I am, and it balances me as a person. There’s so many reasons why I love to write, and why it’s so important to me.

Here’s the top reason why I love to write:

1.       I’m a definite introvert. There are days when I’m maxed out on how many people I spend time with, especially as a nurse. I’m in and out of rooms, talking with patients, with families, coworkers – it’s exhausting. After a long day like that, it’s a relief to go home, pull out my computer and surround myself with nonexistent people. It’s a bit of a contradiction, but I know I can turn off my imaginary people. That’s not always possible with real people.

2.       No matter what I’m going through, I always know my characters are going through worse. Work has been rough. I’m not going to deny it. But as bad as it’s been, it’s never as bad as what my characters are going through. I’m currently bouncing between Servant as an Empire and King’s Councilor. In servant of an Empire, I’ve kept Kanya locked up in a freezing cold cellar with rats. In King’s Councilor, Cassie’s being tortured by telekinetic fireballs. Makes me appreciate my life a little bit more.

3.       It gets my brain going. Does this make any sense? When I’m stressed, I can’t stop obsessing about specific things, about what happens if… or I need to do… But when I’m writing, I turn all of that off. I’m concentrating on a different aspect of life, and often, after I finish writing, all of those obsessions have calmed down to a low roar.

4.       I love creating. I’ve always been someone who wants to make new things. Whether it be trying a new recipe, using a new crocheting pattern or attempting to draw (cough, cough), there’s always something that makes me incredibly happy when I can look at something, and say that I made it. These stories are the same way. These are my characters. They are my own creation, and I’m definitely proud of my accomplishments, even when I’m the only one who gets to enjoy them.

5.       I love the escape. Writing and reading serve the same purpose. It’s an escape from real life. With writing, I know the world so well that I can really immerse myself in it. I can jump into Xyheam or into Oren, escape the world I live in and explore another.

What about the rest of you? Why do you write?

Friday, July 3, 2015

The End Hook

This past week, I’ve been trying to catch up on my reading. When I say trying, it’s because I’m still terribly behind, but I did read 3 books since last Saturday.

I’ve heard the phrase that if you want to hook the reader you have to have a good first chapter, but if you want them to read the next book, you have to give them a satisfying ending. Not necessarily an ending that ties everything up in a little bow, but that makes them feel like you’ve met your promise from the beginning of the book. If you don’t do that, then there’s no guarantee that the reader will want to read the next one.

I never really understood that until this week.

Now, there’s obviously been books that when I finished went ‘meh’ and didn’t bother to read the next books, just because I didn’t feel that invested. The characters were fine, the plot was okay, but if I’m going to read something else from that author, I want more than fine. Otherwise, I want something new that will have a chance of wowing me.

This week, I started a book that I’d seen at the bookstore. It had great promise, and I loved the main characters. The story was crisp, and easy to follow. I read the entire book in about four hours because I had to know what happened.

But then the ending came.

This book was the first of a trilogy. When I got to the last 3-4 chapters, I started to get frustrated. Suddenly the story had morphed, it was no longer an action story, but it was entirely focused on a love triangle that really didn’t exist. Or should have been resolved by that point.

It ended on a cliffhanger, a really big one. And I debated between reading the next one. The ending was what swayed the decision toward no. I didn’t care anymore. I was frustrated with the author and with the characters, and I made the conscious choice not to continue the series.

Has this happened to you before? What makes you decide not to continue a series/trilogy?