A Year of Rockin’ It

rockOkay, okay, “rockin’ it” might be an exaggeration. You may recall from one year ago that I had a few vague writing resolutions that rapidly morphed into several specific writing resolutions. I wanted to finish a book during each of the three NaNo months, as well as the third Star Daughter book on the side. I also wanted to send out at least two queries and two short story submissions per month.

I am proud to say that I knocked out four ugly (as in mega-ultra-ugly) duckling drafts: Crown of Shadows [SD3]; The Sad, Sad Tale of Dead Timmy [which I adore- def my favorite of the year]; Love Notes [which I am sadly dropping, but it was fun while it lasted]; and Blood and Ebony [still deciding what I think about this one]. Boy do they all need work, haha. Still, I feel pretty good about four first drafts. I knew it was ambitious at the start, especially with the baby on board, but I managed to pop ‘em out. I am a little less proud to admit that I only sent out about half the queries I intended to and about a third of the short story submissions. But both were still improvements on previous years, though, so win!

This year, I’m approaching things a little differently. I find myself with an abundance of unsightly first drafts cluttering up my laptop. None of them are fit to be seen and that’s a problem. So next year, I intend to switch my focus over from drafting to editing. Rather than writing four new books this year, I’d like to polish up three to four and draft only one. (Hopefully, the year after that I can settle into a nice 2/2 ratio.)

The second Star Daughter book, Goddess Forsaken, can probably stand to just be picked at, as far as editing goes, which will eat up most of my early year, I imagine. Crown of Shadows, however, needs to be rebuilt completely and so April NaNo will be devoted to a full rewrite, with further clean up bleeding out into June. Likewise, July NaNo will go to bulldozing another draft, although I haven’t decided which one yet. (Likely Blood and Ebony, but we’ll see.) The next three months will be given to polishing either Dead Timmy or BCS (both of which definitely merit some polish), or maybe Blood and Ebony if I can still stand to look at it. November will be spent on a completely new book (and what a relief that’ll be!), possibly the next Star Daughter book, or maybe even another stand alone- I have a contemporary fantasy idea I’ve been toying with as well. December will just be general wrap-up for the projects.

I know all my ultra-classy beta readers were probably SUPER BORED without all my doofy stuff to read through this last year, so start warming up those red pens now.

As far as querying goes, I’m considering a different approach. I think I’ll let City of the Dead rest for a while and start querying either BCS or Dead Timmy once they get a little cleaned up, which means I probably won’t be querying steadily for the first half of the year. Also, instead of submitting two short stories every month, I think I’ll do either that OR write and edit a new short story each month. I think the drafting of shorts will help me stay sane with all this editing business going on. ‘Cause I loves me some drafting, and darling husband got me a shiny new license for Write or Die 2, which I am super stoked to take for a ride.

So! That’s what I’ve been up to / will be up to! How about you? Did you have any writing resolutions from last year? Any new ones you’d like to share?

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A Year in Review

Back in February 2013, and at the gentle urging of my much beloved NaNoWriMo, I purchased my very own copy of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published at just over ten dollars. With it came the right to a twenty minute session with the authors to discuss my pitch. I mark that moment as the first upping of my game.

Another such moment came when I signed up for Twitter, which I had been resisting for years, mostly for pride’s sake, and began connecting with a larger writing community. Almost immediately, I tumbled headlong into the loving arms of what would become my core cadre. These folks, most of whose names have appeared on this blog multiple times, began wheedling, cajoling, teasing, and threatening me into taking the next step. And I owe them endless thanks.

I finished a final draft (for reals this time) of my book, finally embracing the idea that eventually, a baby must grow up and go out in the world to seek its fortune. I set aside the red pen that had been semi-permanently affixed to my right hand and started writing the second book. Meanwhile, I secured and regaled a group of fantastic beta readers to tell me everything that was wrong with my book. Then I wrote a novella. And finished another novel. And another one.

But my focus didn’t stay fixed on just writing novels. I started a writing blog. (And here you are. Hello!) I filled it with all my wishes, tips, and crazy adventures in the literary world. Hopefully, readers were able to find something of value on here (and I’m always open to questions and suggestions). I wrote bunches of short stories and, full of terrified misgivings, even sold a few. I began entering writing competitions. I even went to a writing convention.

Then I queried agents. (Gasp.)

It’s been a pretty productive year, I think, as far as productivity goes for the struggling wanna-be author without a dollar to her name. I didn’t make much money or sell any books, but I covered a lot of ground in networking, writing, and learning about the publishing game. Maybe some day I’ll make enough money at this to buy a cheeseburger. And I’ll definitely consider that a win.

As far as the upcoming year goes, my writing plans are few and simple. I want to complete at least two more books. And I plan to keep querying agents until my book finds its one true love. That is all. But really, that involves a lot, probably everything I did this year and more. And I’m very excited to continue this amazing literary odyssey I’ve set out on. Who knows where I could end up?

So how about you? What are your plans for this new year in writing? Lemme know in the comments below! Happy New Year and welcome back!

PS- Back in December, I declared January Beta Appreciation Month. Go hug a beta reader. It’s good for you.

Back in the Saddle

For many of us, November is a special time when we throw even more of ourselves into writing than usual. The dishes stack up, the diet gets downright scary, the worried phone calls from well-meaning loved ones fill the voice mail, and our word counts soar. But it can’t last forever. Eventually, we have to come crawling out of the primordial ooze of the writing cave and fix a sandwich, kiss our mothers, and unclog the toilet. It’s a bittersweet time.

And in my case, a lazy time. I normally write around 2-2.5k words a day. During November, I write 3-4k a day, ofttimes more. During the first week of December, I typically write nothing at all. I convince my children anew that they know me, I shovel all the pizza boxes into the trash, but I don’t usually write a whole lot. But there comes a point when I have to get up, dust myself off, and get back in the saddle. Then I sit at my laptop and think, “So. I have this ugly little first draft. Now what do I do with it?”

I’ve experimented with different approaches over the years and have found many facets of myself lurking within the writing chunk of my brain. Here are the most common:

Become an Editing Fiend This was me this year. I finished writing The Book, the Crown, and the Sword and immediately went back to the start and began editing. Didn’t even pause for a fresh cup of tea. (That was the plan and the reason I finished a week early. I knew December was going to be MADNESS this year.) This is nice because everything is fresh in your head and it’s easier to remember exactly how you chose to spell that name or what color so-and-so’s eyes were. I have a tendency to take this route. It usually takes me a month or two to write a novel, but then I dive right back in for editing, with takes up to twice as long as the first writing did. (BCS was strange in that it took three weeks to write, and just shy of two weeks to edit. I hope this doesn’t indicate innate suckiness.)

Sound the Charge Sometimes, I’ve been so enamored with a character or a world that I ran headlong right into the next book. Kind of a “Darn the typos, full speed ahead” mentality. This often happened in my younger years while writing a series (or what would evolve into a series) and was kind of nice for flow and continuity. But overall, I found that a lot more problems were slipping through the cracks this way and that I would write stuff into the future strictly to justify it in the past, instead of just deleting it out of the past like it needed to be. Fluff abounded, in every form from a few words of purple prose to entire storylines that simply and definitely did not need to be there. This approach was much easier for the flow of getting words on the page, but I often ended up with WAY more work this way once I finally forced myself into editing.

Let It Ruminuate Put down that red pen. Yes, you. Put it down. Many people recommend this approach and I usually agree. It can be hard to see the flaws of something we look at every day. (Just ask my husband. He puts up with all kinds of garbage from me.) Sometimes we have to let our noveling brain rest and write a little poetry or a brace of short stories instead, or at least get outside of the story that has been our world for so long. I work almost exclusively on the Star Daughter series (City of the Dead, Goddess Forsaken, and more to come!) throughout the year, but every November, I force myself outside of that series. Sometimes it’s hard, and sometimes it’s a relief, but it’s always good for me. Having a break can give you a chance to recharge the batteries.

Lock the Door And sadly, I have had projects in the past that I’ve finished, stacked neatly, and never touched again. For one reason or another, I decided that those projects were not worth pursuing. Maybe they were just too clunky to make heads or tails of, maybe they were ugly beyond what I thought I could remedy, or maybe I just didn’t love them as much as I need to to take the next step. And I think that’s okay. Being a writer has few rewards. Often, the process itself is the only prize we’ll ever see. If the process isn’t rewarding anymore, switch over to one that is. If we force ourselves to keep on a project because we think we have to for some reason (It’s so marketable; it’s never been done before; I’ve invested so much already; etc), we run the risk of losing the one thing that makes our writing really, truly worthwhile: the love of it.

Does that mean those projects will never see the light of day again? Not necessarily. Does that mean they weren’t worth the effort I put into them? Not at all. Writers see the world in a special way. We want to touch and taste and read everything, to soak up as much experience as we can, and then make art with it. Many would claim that our medium is words. I would argue that it is experiences. Most people see something mundane, or even unique, and think, “Huh. Oh, well.” Writers see it and breathe, “There’s a story here.” We take those experiences and we craft new ones with them, ones that are surreal or solid, funny or sad, fact or fiction, but always in some way real. And if you look at it that way, no project, and no experience, is ever wasted time.

Now, I do not claim that these approaches are the only things to be done with a newborn manuscript. Just as each writer is different and each person is different, we deal with each manuscript differently. Do what you want. Pick one of the above or make up your own. But however you choose to proceed in this, the final month of 2013, do it with your head high. Your method isn’t nearly so important as your doing. So quit reading blog posts and get back to work. (Unless, of course, you feel the burning need to comment first. I can forgive this final diversion.)

Short Story: Trigger

I just broke 70k on the NaNoWriMo novel and it’s winding down fast. I should finish it in the next few days for my fastest NaNo victory ever! Whoo!

In keeping with November tradition, I give you a thoughtless post. Enjoy a short story, the first piece of writing I ever got paid for.

Trigger

“Anything to trigger,” she whispered to herself, crouching deeper in the shadows as the guard drew nearer. “Anything.” She waited until he paced his predictable steps right in front of her, not even realizing she was there, and then sprang out, tackling him at the knees.

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