Tag Archives: writer

Chip chop chip…

As we have previously discussed, life happens. Also, $hit happens, but we don’t cuss around here (we call those magic words), so forget I said that… So life has been happening, and my perfectly laid plans for August went up in smoke last week.

Here’s what was supposed to happen:

* I write 60k words for August Camp NaNo. I was really enjoying my YA dystopian low fantasy experiment, although it became obvious around 20,000 words that 60,000 words won’t finish it.

* Edit Undaunted Love (final final final edit) and start work on publication August 27.

* Help as needed for my husband’s book, scheduled to start publication work August 7.
Here’s what’s actually happened:

* I spent 21 hours over the weekend editing and formatting my husband’s book (yes, that was the weekend of August 18th, and yes, that was significantly past August 7.) Then I spent two hours on Monday, and an hour yesterday before 9am. But it’s done and on its way now, hallelujah!

* I haven’t written on my NaNo novel since Friday (yes, Friday the 17th), and am stuck just below 30,000 words until I can crank up again. Hence, I have lowered my goal for NaNo and will just get enough to “win”, and not worry about finishing. I can do the 20,000 words in 4-5 days, so I still have *some* time before I panic.

* I have edited 15 chapters, out of 60, in Undaunted Love. I have 4 days left. I have, at least, gotten all the other information together – blurb, acknowledgements, etc.

And here’s the biggest stink bomb thrown into my party – I found out Monday that I have a “monster” cataract in my left eye, that wasn’t there in an exam on July 19. So I spent 2 1/2 hours yesterday having my eye measured, ultrasounded, numbed, dilated (twice), and generally poked and prodded, not to mention the 4 hours I couldn’t focus afterwards, and will have surgery, but not until September 24. By which time I will be, literally, blind in my left eye. So I am going shopping for a pirate patch today, to reduce the strain on my right eye, but obviously, this is putting pressure on me to finish all the things I’m working on so that I don’t have to read so long on the computer. (That’s why I went back to the optometrist in the first place, to get computer-distance glasses.)

Oh, did I mention that September 24 is also the start date to work on publication of my sequel to Solomon’s Throne (called The Hoard of the Doges)? Yes, that means I have to completely edit that one, too, and write the blurb, acknowledgements, etc. But not in August. Thank God for small favors.

So to recap, between now and, say, Labor Day, I will be doing the final final final edit on Undaunted Love; writing at least 21,000 words on my NaNo novel; working on the publication of Undaunted Love; and doing the second, third and however many edits on The Hoard of the Doges. That’s all. No sweat.

Chip chop chip!!!!

So what are you up to with the end of your summer?!

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Taking requests – how to trick your brain when writing

I had a long conversation with a friend yesterday, and he suggested that I share some of my tricks for writing that maybe I haven’t shared before. So, by request – how to trick your brain.

First, these work when you establish a set deadline for yourself. If you don’t have one, you probably don’t need this, and probably have a better relationship with your brain and inner editor than I do. The deadline can be whatever you decide – for me it’s a month, but it could be 3 mos, 6 mos, 12 mos… whatever you decide. It’s your book, after all!

OK, so you have your goal. You’re going to write a novel/memoir/how-to/history book in X number of months. We’ll use 3 for our example.

First, that’s 90 days give or take. If you’re super OCD, please figure out the exact number of days, not forgetting leap year. Got it? OK, so that’s your writing days.

Now, subtract days you know you can’t write. Thanksgiving, especially if you’re the cook. Christmas. That week-long camping trip you’ve planned for a year. Your daughter’s wedding. Whatever. So if you started with 90 (I’m not OCD!), and you’ve got 3 definite “no way” days, you’ve got 87.

But are you going to write all 87? Nope, no way. Your brain will get tired, a day trip will come up, you or someone in your house will get sick, or you just want a fun day of freedom. How many? Only you know. It could be one a week, or two a month. Let’s say 3 a month for this example, so now we have 78 writing days.

Take a look at your genre now. Commercial fiction is typically 80-100,000 words, but some can be 125k or longer. How-to and a lot of nonfiction can be 50-60,000, as is Young Adult. Determine your word count. I write commercial fiction usually, and aim for 90,000. I usually end my first draft in the 88k range, but I still plan for 90k. So if we divide the number of words by the number of days, we see that we need to write a minimum of 1154 words a day on the days we’re writing. Jot that down.

OK, so now you’re ready to write. You need a list. I use a stickie note app on my desktop, which I leave open during my writing months, but you could use a spreadsheet or a notebook. Here’s what mine looked like for Undaunted Love:

writing goalsI write either the date or the day number (just 1, 2, 5, 47, whatever). Each day, before I start writing, I write my GOAL number. This number is the daily word goal (in our example that would be 1154) added to the day before. Not to the GOAL from the day before, from the actual.

Here’s where my friend thought a lot of people would be too hard on themselves. You can see that I had 2 days with deficits from my goal. Notice that I did NOT add the next day’s word goal to the GOAL from the day before, but from the actual. Why? Well, look at the other days. My goal was 3000 a day in this instance. June 6 was pretty close, at 3115, but look at the other days. 4418. 3530. 3789. 5820. Every other day exceeded my goal (it’s pretty hard to write exactly 3000, or 1154, words and stop). Sometimes by a lot. I don’t subtract those overages from my goal the next day, so neither do I add deficits. You’re talking about an AVERAGE of where you are vs where you want to be.

What does that mean in our example? Well, let’s say you’re on day 33 of your 3 months. On day 33, if you’re on track, you should have a minimum of 38,082 words. Are you there? Are you over? If you set a realistic goal, you’re probably over, or pretty darn close (even 100 extra words a day gives you a 3300 word surplus in 33 days). THAT’S what you need to look at, not each day in a microcosm. And that’s why you don’t worry about your goal from the previous day, you just look at actual numbers. Because it really does all average out.

Finally, in your first draft, DON’T DELETE! First of all, those are valuable words you’ve written down! If you don’t like something, just make the font white. That’ll save your words, but you don’t have to look at them. You can remove them later, when you’re editing. This is a FIRST DRAFT. It’s called a “first” draft for a reason. Otherwise, it would be your FINAL draft. Be kind to yourself – editing is where it gets ugly, but this isn’t editing. This is writing.

I’m not saying this is the only way to write. Some people just write day in, day out, and finish when they finish. I can’t do that — if I don’t have a deadline (self-imposed or not) I just won’t get it done. Life will get in the way. One other thing I do is tell people I’m writing. For me, that means I put on FB that I will be writing, then I put on FB that I’ve started writing, then I put my daily word counts and my totals on FB while I’m writing. And celebrate on FB when I’m done. There are 3 or 4 people who follow along, cheer me on, and celebrate, and that’s enough to put some pressure on me to do it.

Hope this helps! Keep on writing!


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Nike has the answer to would-be writers’ question

I am new to the world of published writers, with my first book, Solomon’s Throne, just appearing in print and ebook in mid-July, so this isn’t an article about marketing – I’m new, I’m an introvert, I’m not in advertising, don’t ask me!

However, what I have done is complete three novels, a screenplay, a non-fiction book and start another novel in 14 months. Respectively, so you know they’re really novels, the word counts are:

  • Solomon’s Throne – 89,000
  • The Hoard of the Doges (before final edit) – 88,000
  • Undaunted Love – 89,000
  • Freedom – 53,000
  • Laid Waste (screenplay) – 130 pages

That’s a lot of words! And a lot of people have started asking me, “How did you do it?” I have a friend who’s been trying to write a memoir for some time, and she asks me just about every month. I have another friend, who has much younger children than I, who says I’m a “word machine”. It seems to be a mystery along the same lines as the Loch Ness Monster and “where’s the beef?”

I would love to write a 50,000 word book with all the secrets. I really would. And since I am a firm believer in self-publishing it, I’d like to get a great cover and sell it as the end-all be-all of writing secrets. But honestly, there’s only one. So that would be a short book. Nike says it most succinctly: Just do it.

Here’s a visual of the same thing –

Seriously. This is it. Kind of disappointing that there’s no magic bullet, no foolproof plan, that the secret is *gag* discipline. Sucks, doesn’t it?

I’ve talked before about my personal process, which wouldn’t work for everyone. I am not the 1000 words a day (or 2000 words a day, like Stephen King), every day, without fail, kind of writer. One of the guys in my writing group took four years on a book. Honestly – and this is the God’s honest truth – if I had to make writing a book take four years, I would never, ever finish it.

I don’t think I’m ADD, but I am a project person. I can focus intensely for a short amount of time and do a really good job at whatever I’m doing. But then I’m done. I am terrible at on-going things like laundry and cleaning and exercise and taking supplements. After a few days, it’s not that I intentionally give up, I just…forget. Literally. I’ll go on with life and a few months later will have a head-slap moment where I remember what I was doing and never finished. (Perhaps this is some sort of long-range ADD?!)

So for me, writing an entire first draft in a month (a la NaNoWriMo) is perfect. Writing an entire first draft in a year is a death sentence for my story. What do I do when I’m not writing? Well, I think. I stare off into space a lot (OK, not really, but I do a lot of thinking on stories when I’m driving or walking). I read weird books like “World History for Dummies” and obscure reference books and write down the random facts that interest me. I edit (yuck). I don’t think about it at all, sometimes.

But when I’m writing, I write. Not necessarily every day out of 30, but most, until I’m done with that first draft. And there is no other secret, no matter if you’re a project person like me, or a disciplined, daily writer like the guy in my writers group. Neither of us would finish if we didn’t do the one thing that would seem self explanatory for a writer. WRITE.

So just do it! (Thanks, Nike!) If you want to be a writer, it involves that one little thing that changes you from a daydreamer to an author. Writing. There’s literally no substitute.




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Update – Now on Amazon! and other happenings

SOLOMON’S THRONE is now on Amazon.com in the paperback version. The Kindle edition should be up later this week. Thanks to those who have already purchased copies – it was a fun first day!

In other news…

I am at 75,000 words on the sequel to Solomon’s Throne, called The Hoard of the Doges, and will be finished by the weekend. I have a few beta readers lined up, and the first draft is coming out pretty clean, so I should be on track for a mid-September release. Stay tuned!

Editing will start next week on Undaunted Love. After much soul searching, I’ve decided to send it to the agent who suggested I write a book in the genre, and see how that goes. If she doesn’t want to rep it, I won’t query it, I’ll go the indie route. It was a difficult decision, as I am 100% sold on the author-friendly aspects of indie publishing, but I’m feeling good about my decision.

I have changed my idea for the August Camp NaNo. I was going to do a screenplay of a mystery that’s been kicking around in my brain for awhile, but after a boat ride with my daughter a couple of weeks ago, and a fun incident that happened on Carrot Island, I am going to be doing a YA mild-fantasy dystopian thriller. For now, we’re calling it “Where the Ducks Went” although this is NOT the title! You’ll have to read it to find out where…

After August, I’ll be taking September off from any original writing. I’ll let the beta readers loose on WTDW, and either take a break completely, or do a rewrite/edit of the nonfiction book I wrote in May of 2011. We’ll see how tired I am! Since I’ll be doing NaNo in November, it may be good just to take a break, work on marketing Solomon’s Throne and getting The Hoard of the Doges from prepublished to published. Then I can use October to plan the NaNo novel, which will most likely be another Christian historical romance. (NO, for those of you who’ve already asked, it won’t be a sequel to Undaunted Love – one couple can only be put through so much!!)

Oh, and I’m also helping my husband on his final production efforts of his upcoming nonfiction book called You Might Be a Liberal… He starts working with Streetlight Graphics the week of August 7, and is in the final editing and organizing stage.

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It’s a snowball!

Objects at rest stay at rest. Objects in motion stay in motion. This seems to be what’s happening with my writing/publishing activities at the moment. For a long time in my life I was “at rest.” Not in a bad way – it was a necessary season. I was raising and homeschooling kids, my husband and I were growing and running a business, and those things took all my time and creativity. And that was OK… That was the season.

Back in 2008, I took a workshop on creativity, and that’s what primed the pump. I’d like to say that it was a “BAM” moment, but it wasn’t. I slowly rediscovered painting, and found out that watercolor painting wouldn’t kill me (what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and all that…). Then in March of 2011 I bought Chris Baty’s book “No Plot, No Problem.” (Some of you know Chris as the founder and mastermind of NaNoWriMo, obviously an out-of-the-box thinker!)

When I bought that book I’d never heard of NaNoWriMo, and since the book was written in the early years of it, had no idea how big an event it was from reading the book. But after I read it, the method appealed to me – 50,000 words in 30 days with no inner editor hanging around. My husband was working on ghost writing a book for someone at the time (political non-fiction) so we decided to do a NaNo-esque non-fiction challenge in May of 2011, reporting our word counts to each other and making fun rewards and incentives. We both “won” that challenge, and that was my first completed book.

By then I’d discovered NaNoWriMo online, and decided to sign up for November. (See why NaNo works for project-oriented people like me here.) I thought I was crazy, I thought I’d end up with 50,000 words of crap, but I thought, “what the hell?” I mean, how bad could it be? I could always burn it, I didn’t have to show it to anyone, and even the word validator at the end of November wouldn’t judge me, it would just count. And here is where the snowball started.

I’d never thought of myself (well, not since childhood) as a particularly creative person. I’d tried to think of novel ideas before, and always hit a wall. So in October, I had two thoughts, both adventure treasure hunt type things: a YA set in Beaufort, NC, using the legend of Blackbeard, etc; and an around-the-world adult thing. The latter definitely excited me more, but I was clueless about basically the whole thing – who, why, what, where, how. Pretty much I had no idea whatsoever.

And HERE is where I found my own process. And it’s not what I’d been taught (it’s not even what I had taught kids in creative writing classes!) although I’m sure the traditional way of coming up with plots or characters first works for a lot of people. Some cool story or plot idea that sparks a little flame, and then you fill in the blanks. Here’s what I knew from past experience – that absolutely doesn’t work for me. I peter out in less than 3000 words, with nowhere to go.

But as I was reading through World History for Dummies (true story), what DID appeal to me, what DID get that spark going, was places. Cool places I’d never heard of. I made a list and started to research the history of those places. That led me to make a list of interesting locations. Then I determined what would link those locations together (the Portuguese Spice Route, as it turned out). Then I tried to figure out why a person in the 1680s would travel this route, and came up with a Jesuit. Then I tried to figure out what kind of modern day people (non-governmental) would have the funds and the information and the desire to search for a treasure along that route (an international art leasing company). THEN I started sketching out people, and came up with the identity of the treasure (the throne of King Solomon, which did, indeed disappear). For most people, this is totally backwards, but for me, it made everything hum in my brain.

So, long story short, I wrote 88,651 in my first NaNo in November, 2011. When I finished my editing, I had about 93k words. It was a huge hit with the beta readers. And it will come out as my first indie book around August 1, 2012. (How exciting is that?!)

The snowball picked up steam, and I wrote 67k words of a sequel to Solomon’s Throne in Feb/March, putting it aside to write a dystopian drama screenplay for ScriptFrenzy in April (written in 16 days, it’s also gotten great reviews). I was in Uganda most of May, came home, did some quick research on the Civil War, and wrote a Christian historical romance for June Camp NaNo, ending with 88, 370 words. This one has gotten the best reviews yet, and I will be starting to edit that around the 23rd of this month.

I’m finishing the WIP I stopped for ScriptFrenzy, called The Hoard of the Doges, and should be done in 5-7 days. It is slated for publication around September 1, 2012. I will be editing that one while I am writing my August Camp NaNo book, a YA fantasy dystopian drama. I’ve gotten that one mostly plotted out over the last few days between the 3 hr drive to the beach and some walking along the waves. After that, I’ll probably take a writing break (OK, I say that… but maybe not!) until November and the “real” NaNoWriMo, at which time I will do either a mystery I’ve had on the back burner awhile, or another Christian historical romance.

See what I mean about the snowball? I do realize that I write really fast, and I write really clean first drafts, which helps get them out to beta readers, get feedback, and then a word-by-word edit done in about 2 months start to finish. (Who am I to complain?? That means I can easily write 4-5 books a year!) And there’s no sign that my brain (or fingers) are slowing down. If anything, I’m having more ideas the more I do.

All of this is to say that, at whatever speed your snowball travels, the snowball effect of success can work for you. The secret to writing?

WRITE. Seriously. You aren’t a writer until you write. Thinking about it doesn’t count.

SET GOALS. Achievable ones, not impossible ones. Don’t say you’ll write 3,000 words a day if the most you’ve ever written was 1,000. That’s not doable, and you’ll get discouraged and quit. For me, the monthly goal is always to finish the book or screenplay in that month. For commercial fiction novels, that’s in the 80-100,000 word range. For romance, the same. For the YA in August, that can be more in the 50-60,000 word range. A screenplay is about 120 pages (Laid Waste is 130, at the very edge of acceptable in film making land), which is only about 10-15,000 words. So those are my goals, and how I set them.

KEEP TRACK. In business, the saying is “you’re only good at what you track.” The same is true of writing. I have a Stickie Note app on my desktop, and each project has a note. Each day I write the date, then my goal (I just add X amount of words to yesterday’s goal, so for a 90,000 word book, I add 3,000). After I’m done writing, I write my actual word count based on Scrivener’s total (or, for a screenplay, the number of pages), then I put the day’s total, positive or negative. I don’t make up any deficits the next day, I just add the goal again. Most days I write over the goal, whether just 100 words or a couple of thousand. So there’s no need to make up a deficit or a day off. It all averages out (more than averages, actually – I’ve always finished early).

TAKE TIME OFF. I know a lot of WriMos don’t take any days off in the month. Personally, I find I need at least one day off every about 6-7 days. Sometimes there’s something scheduled prior to starting – for instance, as the mom in my household, I don’t even pretend I’m going to write on Thanksgiving day. Sometimes stuff comes up or I just don’t feel like it. As long as I’m meeting my goals on a consistent basis (or exceeding, without many deficits), I don’t worry about it. I take the day, completely guilt free. Writing so much so fast, and staying creative, is tiring. Your brain needs time to regroup. I always come back refreshed and ready to write.

KISS YOUR INNER EDITOR GOODBYE. On the first draft, anyway. Don’t read anything you’ve written until you’re done. Period. Don’t go back and add a scene. If you realize you really need one to handle a plot point, put it in where you are, and make a note of where it goes. I literally only read the last paragraph or two I wrote to see where I left off before starting again. The payoff is, when I go back and read it for the quick-fix first edit, it’s like reading something written by someone else!

USE BETA READERS. It is invaluable to have a group of people who will read your work and comment. Because I write really clean first drafts (no idea why, it just happens that way), I do what I call a “quick-fix” edit, fixing typos, missing words, changed names, or other obvious mistakes. That’s it. I then ask a dozen or so people (or put it out on FB) if they can read it by a certain date, and do so only looking for the following things:

*Does the plot hang together?

*Are the characters believable?

*Is the dialogue natural?

That’s it. No grammar. No spelling. No typos. Nothing but that. The reason? I don’t want to spend a lot of time on a word-by-word edit (which catches the grammar, spelling and typos) until I know I don’t have to delete or severely edit/change anything. Because if I do, I don’t want to have spent a couple of hours editing, only to delete the whole section. I don’t have that much extra time!

Please note that some people simply can’t bear to do this. No matter how many times you ask them not to, they will point out every grammatical error (even when it’s purposeful within dialogue), typo, and spelling error in the whole manuscript. I have two suggestions – thank them sincerely for reading your work, then put the manuscript with all the red pen marks away in a big envelope and forget it; and don’t ask them again. This is, actually, not super helpful at the beta reader stage, and can get you bogged down in minute details when you should be focusing on the big picture. Later (if you want, or if grammar isn’t your strong suit) you can get it out. Later.

EDIT FOR POLISH. I can do this myself. I am a homeschool mom, was a class shy of being a double major with English, and have read literally thousands of books in my life. I am objective. I can edit my own stuff. My husband can’t. He doesn’t notice missing commas, or when words would work better transposed, and he disables spellcheck because he doesn’t like all those lines all over his document. When he writes articles, if there’s time before it has to be submitted, I edit for him. For his upcoming book, he’s hiring a professional editor. And that’s ok. He’s not good at it and doesn’t want to waste the time. So whatever works for you is fine – but please, don’t skip this step, whether you are self-publishing or querying for an agent/publisher. This is the word-by-word edit, and takes time, but it will make a HUGE difference in your finished work.

And that’s it! The snowball’s flying down the hill now! Shampoo, rinse, repeat. Just do it! But mostly – have some serious fun.


Filed under NaNoWriMo, Publishing, Script Frenzy, Self publishing, Writing