Thursday, January 28, 2016

And Then I Saw Her Face… Now I’m A Believer…

In the past, I’ve never really cared for character interviews. I couldn’t understand how knowing my character’s favorite food would help me know the deeper part of them. I focused more on what was the most influential moment(s) in their life and how did they react to that situation.

It was a good starting place, but I’ve since learned that it’s not everything.

For Commissioned, I decided to give character interviews a chance. At least try them out. When I got to questions like: What’s their favorite music, I still rolled my eyes. Does it matter? They’re living in a fantasy world with Asian influence. But since I’d decided to try it, I made up music they liked. 

Turns out, one of my characters played the flute… and that ended up becoming a major plot point in the story. I just hadn’t realized it yet.

It was helpful, but I didn’t realize how helpful until this week. After finishing revisions on Commissioned, I’ve been going through book 2, trying to figure out what went wrong. It took a few days, but I realized I was missing a vital character. So I did the same thing as before. I found a picture on Pinterest to give me inspiration and started the character interview.

Halfway through, I got to the question: What are her religious beliefs?

Character interview with Tsetseg Manda

The answer blew me away. I knew I was missing a major part of the climax to the third book, and she’s it. She’s the fodder that builds the emotional conflict for one of my characters. I just hadn’t realized it yet. And if I hadn’t done the character interview, I’m not sure I would have ever known.

So yes, I’m definitely converted! Character interviews make the character more than one dimensional, and even when the questions seem pointless or superficial, the answers may not be.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Next Phase

Whew! It’s been a whirlwind over the past few months. Just to recap, last April, I started to get the inklings for this new book (which eventually turns into a series). Over the next few months, I let it sit in my mind. I let it simmer until it was ready for it to come to life. Last August, September and October, I took the necessary time to outline and plan this novel. Unlike most of the others I’ve written, I took my time.

Last November, I wrote the first book in the series in just 14 days. Then I used the rest of the month to write book 2. Having spent so many months letting the story simmer and preparing the background, this story jumped out onto the page.

After finishing the second book, I decided to use the next three months to do my second revision on book 1. My plan was to finish before going to LTUE in February. But I think I had the high from writing that much in one month, and I finished my revisions last week.

330 pages revised in 6 weeks

Now it’s out to 4 different betas, and now it’s time to figure out what to do in my time before LTUE.

So now, I’ve got my options wide open. Any ideas or advice?

Thursday, January 14, 2016

My Favorite Books from 2015

Last year, I made the goal to read 52 books in the year 2015. I didn’t reach the goal, but I did read some amazing books over the year. What really amazed me was how much I learned about writing by reading. There are so many authors that have so many different styles. It’s the best kind of research I can think of.

Out of all of the books I read, here’s a list of my favorite for the year. (In no particular order)

Winter – Marissa Meyer

                I’m a huge fan of Marissa Meyer. She’s an absolutely amazing author, and I loved the conclusion to her series. To finally see all of her characters together, working as one was absolutely breathtaking.

Kiss of Deception – Mary E Pearson

                I actually read this book twice. What I liked about this book was that I wasn’t quite sure who the characters were. I knew there was a prince and there was a thief, but I wasn’t sure which one was Rafa, and which one was Kaden. I read it completely wrong, and then had to go back and read it again once I found out. I loved never quite knowing the whole truth.

Defy – Sara Larson

                This one was on accident. I’m not even sure how I found it, but I’m glad I did! Alexa is an amazing main character with a lot of depth, and a lot of determination. Plus, I found Damian more than dreamy.

Red Queen – Victoria Aveyard

                I actually shouted when this story ended. The last twist was so unexpected I could barely catch my breath… and now I’m anxiously waiting for the next book to come out.

Fairest – Marissa Meyer

                I know this is the second of Marissa Meyer’s books on this list, but WOW! What a book. It doesn’t follow the main characters, it focuses on the evil queen, and her descent into madness. Quite literally. It was both fascinating and terrifying to see exactly what caused Levana to go absolutely crazy.

Winner’s Curse – Marie Rutoski

                Kestrel is another amazing, strong and complex. I loved her brain, she sees things from such a unique point of view, and she’s willing to make sacrifices for what she finds important.

Those are my favorite books from last year. What books should I read this year? I’d love some recommendations.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Looking Back to See Ahead

Sometimes, there’s a question in a writer’s mind every once in a while.

Am I getting any better? Is all of this practice and writing getting me anywhere?

Or maybe it’s just me. There’s always those moments of self-doubt. All of this time and effort might seem like a waste if I’m not improving.

Starting in December, I started working on revisions on Commissioned, one of the novels I wrote in November. I started to notice a pattern, and it was enough to give me some encouragement.

Here’s an example of a page I worked on during my fourth revision of Servant of an Empire.

Basically, I rewrote the entire thing. I crossed out each word, each sentence and wrote a new one.

Here’s a page I worked on during this revision of Commissioned. Looks pretty much the same, right?

But here’s the exciting thing. This is the anomaly. Rewriting an entire scene is no longer the norm for me. I’m on my first revision, and here’s a typical page for me.

I’m using more of my original words, and I have less to fix. Even the basic plotline doesn’t require a whole lot of fixing either.

So for me, this is enough encouragement for me to keep going. Practice is paying off, and I believe I’m improving!

How about the rest of you? How do you know when you’re improving?

Friday, January 8, 2016

Brain on Overdrive

A few months ago, I decided to make writing a priority. Well, even more than a priority than it already was. I’m trying to cut out even more time during my day to write, and I think I’ve been successful so far.

I go to the engineering lab with my husband as often as I can, because there’s nothing to do there but write. Our NaNoWriMo group has decided to meet once a month to write, and my co-ML and I meet twice a week. There’s plenty of opportunities.

Since making that decision, I wrote 177,000 words in November, which included 2 books, and a partial of a character sketch, and I’ve almost completed 2/3 of a revision for the first novel.
There’s only one downside, if you can call it that.

I’m having a hard time turning my brain off. There’s always something I have to mull over, something that I need to work on. Yesterday, I was stuck on a scene that I knew needed to be rewritten. I decided to try cleaning, and voila, the answer came to me. Good thing there was a write in for the SCBWI group! 

Last night, as I was sleeping, my brain came up with the bare bones of a query. Query letters are hard for me, because I don’t know how to get all of the ideas into so few words. But my brain figured it out… at 4am. I had to jump out of bed to write it down before I lost it.
I know it doesn’t sound like a bad thing, and maybe it’s not. My brain is solving problems, and I’m getting more writing done than I have in my life.

What do the rest of you do when this happens? How do you tell your brain to relax for a few hours?

Monday, January 4, 2016

2016 Goals

A new year means new goals. For the past two years, I’ve written down general goals, but this year, I’m trying something new. My Co-ML for our region and I have decided to push ourselves to write more over the year, and we’re going to be each other’s ‘whip-masters.’ I’ll keep her on track, and she’ll keep me on track.

In the month of December, we started getting together twice a week for at least two hours to write. Usually, at least one of those days, I’m able to stretch it out into four or five hours. With that in mind, I’ve put together a calendar of goals. What I want to be doing each month, what I want to accomplish each month. That way, it’s not a general idea of ‘revise this novel at some point.’

I’m working on revisions for Commissioned, the first book in my new series, and my goal is to finish by February 11th. So far, I’m halfway through, so I think there’s a high chance I’ll be able to finish by that point.

From there, I have more goals, which I’ve shared with my whip-master, and I’m more than positive she’ll keep me on track.

So I’m not going to share them all here, but I do have other goals I’ve set. Last year, I wasn’t able to meet the 52 books read, but this year, I’m hoping for 45 books. So far I’ve read two, so I’m at least I haven’t fallen behind yet!

What kind of plans do you have for 2016? Do you have someone to keep track of you and your goals?