Friday, August 31, 2012

Eureka! (NOW, I've got it!)

Eureka!

Last night, in reviewing Book #1, I realized why Book #2 doesn't "feel" right.

The first 1/4 of Book #2 is actually a bang up, better ending for Book #1.

Although I hadn't planned it that way, I have my solution!

In a wink of understanding, Book #1 went from a 60,000-word to a 75,000-word first draft, and Book #2 is now at zero (0) word count.

Book #1 was a cohesive, good first draft. With this change, the Book #1 first draft is fast-paced and the ending has much more oomph.

In speaking with the developmental editor's assistant, I now have until the 10th to pull all my scenes together and send in Book #1.

If all goes well with that, I will discard the index cards for Book #2 and start over with the plotting of Book #2 during that time as well. (Likewise, if Book #1 staging doesn't go well, plotting for Book #2 will begin on the 10th, once the Book #1 draft has been turned into the editor.)

Love those eureka moments. Yes!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Dear Diary, the last few weeks....

Dear Diary, the last few weeks have been difficult.

Many things, such as an attention-starved puppy and unwelcome health issues have conspired to derail my writing. Bottom-line, I have gotten off schedule and have lost momentum.

Hubby is recovering from minor foot surgery. The puppy is whining for attention, even though he's just received lots of pets and lovin'. (The puppy, Hubby is sleeping and recovering.) So, here I sit in front of the computer, shushing the puppy, contemplating what's not quite right about my current work in progress (WIP).

To take my mind off my concern during Hubby's surgery, I contemplated the idea of a book based in a small town. A town perhaps like the town where I grew up, or the small city where my husband was born and raised. Lots of interesting possibilities there.

However, for the last few days, I've been struggling with filling out index cards for potential scenes on my current WIP, so my mind kept returning to that.

Book #1 was written in multiple view points. For Book #2, I am attempting to limit the number of character view points shared. Something, I'm not sure if it's limiting the view points or what, but the current WIP just doesn't quite "feel" right.

Starting Friday and through this weekend, I will wrap up the organizing of my scenes for Book #1 and will send it on for developmental editing.

On Monday, I will start visualizing and creating more index cards, including other points of views as well, and see if that doesn't help the pacing and the feel of the overall book.

If nothing else, Dear Diary, I am stubborn enough, er, persistent enough, to keep on keeping on.

Until next time.

Kathy

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

So You Want to Write a Book? Being an 80-Percenter

According to the statistics I've been able to research, 80% of people want to write a book, and of those that want to write a book, only 1% actually do.

I am an 80-percenter.

Yes, I have written a first draft; however, my book is not yet finished, and will more than likely go through three or more drafts.

I've finished a cohesive first draft, and that draft goes to a developmental editor the second week of September. Then, I will edit according to the editor's suggestions, then polish the writing for a second draft.

And even though, I have technical copy editing experience, the book will be copy-edited by a professional editor to provide a second set of eyes for the third draft.

Once the manuscript is ready for publication, THEN and only then, will I consider that I have actually written a book.

With health issues that involve difficulties in focus and concentration, the past few weeks have been a struggle, however I did finish Book #1 of Series #1, and have started Book #2 of Series #1.

My goal is to get back on track by making index cards my friends for the next couple of days, then will begin a writing routine of 1,000 words per day, and will build up from there. My additional goal is to turn in the first draft to the developmental editor this upcoming Saturday; therefore, I need to work on that in the evenings.

Working toward transitioning from an 80-percenter to a 1-percenter is just that -- work.

Will I get there?

I want to and hope to do so. I am committed, and I'm determined.

One day at a time.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Body Language Speaks LOUDLY

While interstate driving, a black sports car zoomed by my 72mph Honda. Hauling down the road, the small car must have been going at least 85mph.

As the car passed, I caught a glimpse of a college-aged potential female coed in the passenger seat.

Five miles ahead, a police SUV, blue lights flashing, was pulled over on the left shoulder. Just behind that ever so sporty sleek black sports car.

Oh, yeah, this gal, yelled, "Yes!" (Because we know speeders are deserving of getting pulled over, especially those who speed by fast enough to blow the aforementioned gal's Honda off the road.)

Except....

Two male officer, perhaps both under thirty, stood beside the driver's side of the car.

Their body language spoke volumes.

My self-indulgent elation fizzled.

One officer had his elbow propped on the low-riding roof of the car, and was bent down peering into the car. The second had his hands in his pocket and was bent at the waist and leaning forward.

Those simple poses told the story.

Which is what my goal is in describing the body positions, movement, and action of my characters.

Five minutes later, the little sports car, filled with long whipping blonde and auburn hair whizzed past me, going just as fast, if not faster, than before.

So, do you think two coeds get ticketed for speeding?

Me? I doubt it -- because body language speaks ever so loudly.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

What Stands Between - Creating Conflict

Conflict occurs when a character faces what stands between the character and their goal.

I have stalled in my writing of Book #2 of Series #1.

The reason for my stall is two-fold: 1) I did not plot out far enough ahead, and 2) I did not list the potential sources of conflict.

Character HERE----ROADBLOCK----ROADBLOCK----ROADBLOCK----Goal HERE

To get unstalled, I need to make a list of potential roadblocks and/or potential bad things happening to keep the character from reaching her goal.

She just wants to be free. She wants to go home, but, then again, home isn't really home anymore. What stands in her way?

Kathy's To-Do List:
  1. Create list of potential Roadblocks/Conflicts.
  2. Arrange in order of severity so that the roadblocks/conflicts escalate from bad to worse.
  3. Get out those index cards and fine-point Sharpie marker.
  4. Write short descriptions of upcoming scenes.
  5. Sit butt in chair and write scenes.
So, what stands between your character reaching her goal?

Therein lies the conflict, and the magic of story-telling.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Hope Springs - A Lesson in Subtlety

A dear friend and I enjoyed a girl's afternoon (most needed, well deserved. and much appreciated). We went to see the movie Hope Springs, featuring Meryl Streep, Tommy Lee Jones, and Steve Carell.

In Hope Springs, according to Yahoo movie description, "Kay and Arnold are a devoted couple, but decades of marriage have left Kay wanting to spice things up and reconnect with her husband. When she hears of a renowned couple's specialist in the small town of Great Hope Springs, she attempts to persuade her skeptical husband, a steadfast man of routine, to get on a plane for a week of marriage therapy. Just convincing the stubborn Arnold to go on the retreat is hard enough -- the real challenge for both of them comes as they shed their bedroom hang-ups and try to re-ignite the spark that caused them to fall for each other in the first place."

The acting is a brilliant presentation of subtlety. All three actors are are able to deliver the most minor facial expression and speech tones, yet the expression and tone carries an amazingly strong emotional impact.

For instance, the therapist (Steve Carell's character) might raise his brows and give half-smile and a slight tilt of his head, and he might ask questions in an inquisitive encouraging voice. Kay might give a weak smile or catch just the inner edge of her lower lip between her teeth, and might answer in a sigh-filled voice or with hesitant speech. Arnold might give a sharp look to the side or say something in a slightly dry tone, and your sympathy for Kay or the therapist, or both, is immediately aroused.

That's what I am striving for in my writing.

No flowing, overly descriptive purple prose, but using the fewest words possible to show precisely what needs to be shown.

Hope Springs. Great study of subtlety. Awesome movie. A must see!

Monday, August 20, 2012

Strategizing - Backlisting

From what I've observed in researching the independent publishing e-book phenomenon over the past two years, is that the majority of authors rush to get their first book online, then have nothing else to offer, while they fret over the sale of the first book and struggle to write the second book in a frenzy to e-publish the second book as well.

In most cases, unless the author was an established author with a backlist of books already written, the author doesn't seem to get a surge of sales, and reader interest is lost before the second books goes up for sale.

From there on out, the author seems to struggle to regain traction, with most not achieving anywhere near the number of sales they would want to make.

Authors who gain traction, up front, have between three (3) to six (6) books available to readers. For the most part, these books are in the same genre, and have been professionally edited, with great covers and story descriptions.

It seems to me, in my humble opinion, the lack of other books (a backlist) lessens reader interest and thus decreases the number of sales.

Building a Backlist

After reviewing what seems to be working for most rising independent authors, there are always exceptions of course, instead of publishing my first book, writing the next, publishing the next, etc., my goal is to create the backlist first.

Over the next few months, I will write the first drafts of a series. While editing one book, I will write the next. When I have completed the series (developmental edits, copy edits, professional covers, story descriptions), then the books will be ready for publication.

My focus for now, is to build a backlist of the best books I can possibly write in one particular genre. To me, that seems the most forthright way to gain and satisfy a potential reader base.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Progress Status - Weekly Check-In 8-19-12

Even with celebrating hubby's and my anniversary this week and the travel involved (fun, fun, fun!), I was able to get back on track once we returned home. This week, I wrote 11,688 words on Book #2 of Series #1.

Thus far, I've written a total of 15,588 words and have completed 26% of Book #2's first draft.

Book #2, Series #1



This upcoming week, my goals are to:
  • Average first-drafting 2,000 Words per day.
  • Plot additional scenes/chapters for Book #2.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Pulling Back and Holding Back

Book #2 of my thriller series, just as Book #1 did, has intense scenes that involve the mistreatment of those who cannot protect themselves.

I created these characters, they are my story people, even aspects of myself. I care about them and about what happens to them.

With my keyboard on a lap desk, I sat rocking back and forth in short jerky motions and wringing my hands.

"What's wrong?" Hubby asked.

"Bad things are happening."

"That's the kind of conflict you writer's work toward, isn't it?"

"Bad things are happening," I said in a rush. "I'm pulling back from the scene. They are in trouble, they are hurting, and I'm holding back."

First off, how could I write what's happening to them? Secondly, as a writer, how could I not? Worse yet, how could I hold back when such an important event was occurring in their story?

Writing fiction is about characters facing all sorts of external and internal conflicts. Conflict and the character dealing with that conflict is what moves fiction forward.

I owed my story people my best effort and enough respect to see their story journey is written as poignantly and intensely as possible. To do less would mean making them less of the characters they are to become.

With rapid mini-taps, I held my hands over the keyboard, touching, but not pressing the keys.

I closed my eyes. What would the character be feeling? Thinking? Physically experiencing?

Instead of pulling back and holding back, I determined to go deeper, to make things worse, so that what's going on will be the worst possible thing for that character to experience at that moment in the story.

While I keyed in on what my character was experiencing, I took note of what I felt as well. I worried for her well-being. I hurt for what she must go through. I was scared that I could not do the scene justice and that I wouldn't be able to embrace the conflict and let the story, the character, and my future readers down.

Feeling nervousness and fear, I breathed deeply and neither closed off those feelings or pushed them away. With tears gathering in my eyes, the keyboard keys blurry, I wrote.

After I finished the scene, I sat, shoulders slumped and head hanging.

"Still having trouble?" Hubby asked.

"No. My character is suffering."

Hubby patted my arm. "That means you did your job."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Experiencing "THE END"

A few days ago, I typed, THE END at the end of a writing session. I finished writing the first book in a series.

I just completed a manuscript that's not a jumbled toss of words into a computer file. The plot makes sense. The story is cohesive, and the concept of the series and each of the books in the series is strong.

Someone asked, "How did you feel when you typed THE END?"

I was excited and thrilled and uncertain and nervous, all rolled up into one unsteady breath, followed by a sigh of tremendous relief and a feeling of accomplishment. All of a sudden, I wished my mother and father were still living so that I could call and share this milestone.

For a few minutes, I sat without moving, feeling both giddy and breathless, knowing that this is a process I want to experience again and again and again.

So, what DID I do?

I texted a few folks the picture shared in this post, and since Hubby was attending a seminar, I did what any writer gal would do. To celebrate, I ate a chocolate croissant and began plotting the second book in the series.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Novel in 30 Day Results and Weekly Status 8-12-12

Today, August 12, 2012, marks the 30th day of my personal Novel in 30 Days Challenge. After getting derailed due to health and travel issues, I accomplished only 60% of the 60,000 words in a month goal.

While I didn't accomplish the specific 30 day goal, I did accomplish the following:
  • Finished writing the first draft of book in a series (started in June)
  • Began plotting the second book in the series
  • Wrote two plus scenes in the second book
  • Placed the novella I was writing on hold
  • Started fleshing out another story idea
  • Chose and downloaded artwork for series covers
  • Chose and downloaded artwork for cover for additional story idea
My current goals are:
  • Finish plotting of 2nd series book
  • Write an average of 2,000 words per day
  • Go through finished draft of 1st book in series and arrange scenes and clean-up
  • Send finished draft for high-level edit first week of September
1st Book in 1st Series:

2nd Book in 1st Series:
The 1st series has developed into a multi-book series instead of a trilogy, and I'm excited about all the aspects of the series (the plot, the characters, the story, the concept, etc.). This will be my first opportunity to receive a high-level edit, which includes feedback about plotting, characterization, pacing, structure, etc., so I'm thrilled about the possibility.

After my second month of writing full-time, I am pleased with my progress. I am on target with my overall goals of building a backlist of books, and I am thoroughly enjoying the journey. I've found and am living my life's dream -- this gal couldn't ask for more.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

When Writing Hurts - That's So Not My Type

The Novella I've been writing is in a genre in which I've never before written.

While I enjoyed plotting and have been enjoying some aspects of writing the book, there are some aspects that when I sit down to write, I am reminded of how I feel right before going to the dentist when you know there are needles and a drill involved.

I've heard it all. Romance sells. Erotica sells. Horror sells. Thrillers sell. Suspense sells. Etc., etc., etc.

So with much enthusiasm, I tried my hand in a genre for the first time.

The experience has not been pleasant. I don't think it's that I can't write in that genre. I'm pretty sure I could fake my way through and make myself finish the Novella. But I wonder if I feel as I'm forcing myself to write, wouldn't it stand to reason that the reader would perceive that my heart is not in it and my enthusiasm was lagging?

Light bulb moment!

That particular genre -- right now and as of yet -- is not the best genre for me to write. I gave this genre a good try. Maybe this genre will be one that I return to at a later time.

I would suggest that, as writers, we write what we're excited about, what angers us, what's in our hearts, what we have a passion for and are enthusiastic about.

As far as what sells, if we write what we truly want to and are meant to write, the sales will follow, don't you think?

Monday, August 6, 2012

But HOW Do You Write a Book? Step 7

In a previous Kathy Writes Books post, Index Cards Are My Friends, I shared the method I use to track the scenes of my book.

This index card method is Step 7 of But HOW Do You Write a Book?

Basically, for each potential scene, I write a few words, in fine-point Sharpy marker so that the cards are readable from a distance. (Ink or gel pens, even bold tips, do not provide large enough lines/lettering.)

The cards might include scene descriptions or a few words, such as:

At cabin, family still missing.

Water floods cave.

Back home.

Cross in garden.

Grave empty.

Things to consider might be using a certain color for your main plot points and another color for your love scenes. OR if your writing in multiple point of views (POVs), using a different card color for each individual POV.

Next, I tape them on the cork board, white board, door, or wall to see how the story works out.

Seeing my story laid out, even if it's in ever-changing rainbow lines of index cards, helps me to visualize or imagine what happens, what's next, and where the story goes from there.

Step 7 of But HOW Do You Write a Novel? is listing scenes on index cards and displaying them for easy viewing. 

Progress Status - Weekly Check-In 8-6-12

The past week, due to travel and the emotional toll of going through our deceased mother's and father's remaining property, was a slow week writing-wise; however, I did manage some forward progress.

My current First Draft Progress, as it stands as of 8-6-12, is as follows:


Project A: Novella: ON HOLD
 
Project B, Novel:

For the Novel in 30 Days, I'm postponing posting totals for the 60,000 Words in 30 Days total until August 12th.

Of note, Project B is almost complete, therefore, Project A, may go on hold. I'm not sure that the genre for Project A is right for me because I am struggling with getting into the groove of writing in that particular genre. OR it may be a genre that I put on hold and attempt to delve into later on.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

But HOW Do You Write a Book? Step 6

In line with baking a cake, the next part of But HOW Do You Write a Book?, includes following the recipe (steps) included in Cathy Yardley's Rock Your Plot, which sells for $2.99 for an electronic download on Amazon.com. (Please note that you don't need a Kindle device to read, because there are free reading aps from Amazon that allow you to read books on your smart phone, tablet, and/or computer.)

Cathy has successfully used the basic system in Rock Your Plot for seventeen novels, and the system is working for me; therefore, this is the next step that I use and would recommend.

Rock Your Plot provides an easy to understand and easy to follow process that actually works. The book can be read and the system can be implemented in a short period of time. The process addresses: Story Idea Testing; Goal, Motivation, Conflict; Character Sketches; Plot Points; Pinch Points; Trouble Shooting; Scene Construction Basics; and Creating an Outline.

Step Six of But HOW Do You Write a Book? includes several simple steps that are part of the system shared in Rock Your Plot.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

But HOW Do You Write a Book? Step 5

So far, just like following a recipe to bake a cake, the steps that I follow and have shared to write a book are as follows:
  1. Deciding what type (genre) and kind (length) of book.
  2. Focusing on what the story is you will be sharing.
  3. Deciding whose story it is.
  4. Choosing a title for your story/book.
There are two parts for Step 5, which is writing a 25-word-or-less description or a logline for your book.

25-Words-or-Less Description or One-Sentence Logline

I've been told time and time again by numerous writers and writing instructors, that if you can't describe your book in 25-words or less, you can't expect readers to get a quick, realistic grasp of what the book is about, which is what is needed for them to have interest in buying the book in the first place.

To get the information needed to writing your description, consider:
  • Who is your story about?
  • What does he/she want?
  • What stands in the way of him/her getting what he/she wants? 
First off, how would you describe who your story is about?

What's his job or position or condition? (Do not use his or her name.) What one-word would describe them as well? Examples might include: reclusive teacher, shy volunteer fireman, naive politician, and precocious child.

For the book/movie Jaws, one of the main character's was a sheriff of a resort town. Resort town sheriff, perhaps? He feared and hated the water, so perhaps: Water-hating sheriff?

What does he/she want?

Jaw's water-hating, resort town sheriff wants to keep his family, the inhabitants, and tourists safe. 

What stands in his/her way of getting what he/she wants?

The mayor and chamber of commerce do not want to close the beach, also the shark definitely stands in the way of the sheriff keeping things safe. 

Potential Descriptions

(Note: The description is written in present tense, with the use of strong action verbs, such as fights, battles, struggles, etc.)

A water-hating sheriff faces off against a reluctant mayor and battles a monster shark to keep inhabitants and tourists of a small resort town safe.

Or since the sheriff wasn't the only one on the boat, perhaps:

A water-hating sheriff, a young marine biologist, and grizzly fisherman battle a monster shark to keep a small resort town safe.

Now, using the above as examples, write your own description/logline for your book.

That's Step 5 of But HOW Do You Write a Book.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Writing a Novel in 30 Days - Shhhh!

When I first started my personal Writing a Novel in 30 Days challenge, posting daily progress served as an accountability tool and bolstered me onward.

However, now that I've gotten behind due to travel and health issues, posting daily has become a negative instead of a positive. Simply put, when it comes to daily postings being encouraging, I'm choking instead. Big time.

So, until Monday, August 12, 2012, Day 30 of the 60,000 words in a month challenge, I won't be posting daily progress updates for the 30 Day challenge.

I'm still writing for the challenge, with the absolute intention of meeting the 30-day goal, so please keep your fingers crossed for me. For now, I'm going back to writing. Shhhh!

Writing a Novel in 30 Days - Day 18

Day 18, due to long-distance driving, was a non-writing day.

As my health improves, my goal is to integrate writing into days like Day 18 as well.

So far, I'm behind schedule, however, with 12 days remaining, it's still feasible for me to catch up and meet the goal of writing 60,000 words in 30 days.

Today, had I stayed on schedule, I would be at the 36,000 word plus mark; however, I have thus far written 31,347 words and the goal is 52% complete

Taking on this challenge while having travel commitments and health issues might not have been the smartest or most advantageous move on my part; however, it has provided inspiration and accountability, so, for Day 19, I write.