Monday, December 23, 2013

prACTice (End of Year Wrap Up & New Year Assessments)

Right dab in the middle of the word "practice" is the word "act" or  prACTice. It's odd you know, writing is the only efforts I know of where you are supposed to be able to "just write." Yet, with my efforts to write full-time this past year, I have discovered: 1) not all workshops are equal in that some have more take-home usable value than others, and 2) while practice may not make perfect, the practice of writing is what makes a writer a writer. So in other words, there are writerly tools that one must learn AND to write, one must--wait for it--perform the act of writing.

2013 was not a wash for me writing-wise. Far from it, yet due to health issues, I did not accomplish anywhere near what I had hoped to complete. On the positive side, I did finish the first drafts of five (5), count 'em, books. I completed the skeleton of a five-book series. Of the five, I finished, which means thoroughly revised and edited, Book 1 of the series.

Finally, in December of 2013, a treatment for my health issue presented itself. I don't even want to think of how many doctor's later, BUT I am now truly on the road to wellness. The next few months will reveal the effectiveness of the medical procedure, but the odds are in my favor that this is the solution that I've been seeking.

At least I've trudged my way through the revision process 1 and 1/2 times, so revising and editing the rest of the series should be a more realistic endeavor. (Basically, at least two weeks after the medical procedure, I now have the energy and the focus to actually perform writing and editing tasks. So far so good!)

Where I had planned to be by the end of 2013...well, much farther along of course, but it's a cliched water-under-the-bridge scenario at this point. Considering the degree of illness and how unwell I was, I did the best I possibly could to keep plugging.

My December 2013 and January into 2014 are filled with these online workshops, after which upon completion, I will be where I need to be to be to reach my goals in 2014.

Where am I now? (To get somewhere, you have to know where you're coming from...)
  • First draft of entire series complete (Books 1 thru 5)
  • First book in final read-through
  • Second book half way through revisions
  • Workshops in progress for Pacing and Pitches
For January 2014:
  • Workshops scheduled for paperback and ebook formatting
  • Workshop scheduled for promotions
  • Revision of Book #2
First half 2014:
  • Publish entire Series #1
  • Set one-book-at-a-time goal
  • Start new series
  Second half of 2014:
  • Evaluate where stand with publishing
  • Set realistic monthly goals
  • Publish on regular basis
That's it, one month at a time, going forward.

For 2014, if I could give up-and-coming writers outright advice, I would suggest saving your $'s and taking ALL of the workshops offered by Dean Wesley Smith. From the very foundation of going from idea to story to formatting for paperback and ebook, the courses provide DIRECT instructor-to-student feedback. These courses are the most solid, sure, and expedient way to get where you need to be. Bluntly put, you get upfront feedback and a shortened learning curve, so more bang for your buck.

With better health, which includes more focused concentration and energy, on the horizon, I am looking forward to 2014 and to the publishing adventures it will bring.

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May you find your ACT in prACTice and your 2014 be blessed!

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Ever Learning with WMG Publishing

WMG Publishing Online Workshops offers video class instruction with direct instructor feedback, via email and a more generalized video, on submitted assignments. The learning opportunities in these courses are are interactive and the assignments geared for practical learning.

For the last couple of months and into the new year, I have been and am fine-tuning and practicing my writing skills in an active way via online workshops featured by WMG Publishing. The instructors of the courses include Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch.

The course I participated in last month was Strengths and Weaknesses, while this month's includes Pacing and Pitches and Blurbs. Next month's (January's) includes Character Voice / Setting, while the workshops on Promotion and book design (print and ebook) are also intriguing.

As I continue with the revision of Series #1, these are skills and writerly tools that I need to take my writing to the next level.

These more intensive, in-depth workshops than the courses I've taken previously. They take the writer to the next level of their abilities by adding to skill-sets, not just requiring homework submittals. Thus far, my interaction has been with Dean Wesley Smith, whose shoot-straight feedback both challenges and enourages.

Well worth the effort, time, and money in this always challenging, ever learning world of writing.

WMG Publishing Online Workshops, Highly Recommend!

Friday, December 6, 2013

What's in a name? (And it ain't Rose.)

That Shakespearean thing...a rose, is a rose, is a rose... Except when it comes to being recognizable and relatable to readers, if you're a Rose that writes young adult, you'd better be a Lily that writes romance.

According to Author Russell Blake's recent blog about pen names, readers expect writers to write what they expect writers to write. For instance a Young Adult author that writes romance, basically will alienate potential readers because of the other genre he or she writes.

Pen Names, Pseudonyms. Noms de Plume. For clarity for the readers, Mr. Blake is of the opinion that if an author writes in different genres, they should use a different pen name. For romance, for instance, an author could write under R.E.D. Rose, while for YA fiction Rosie Red, and maybe for mystery Rosaline Reddington. (Hmm, what fun pseudonyms!)

While I am building a brand around an awesome pen name, I also took into Mr. Blake's take on other reasons to use a pen name, such as privacy issues and safety concerns.

In  our lives, we all encounter someone who doesn't like us. (Gasp!) Someone we've rubbed the wrong way in a passing encounter... Or an ex-friend or ex-family member (yep, you can have those too). Or a fellow jealous author (really?), or even someone that is prone to resent other people's possible successes.

Just starting out as a published author, do I want to make myself a target of the aforementioned list?

Nah, I want my writing and my books to have a change to stand on their own merit, without being subjected to being a target of some sort of, er, person, on the list above.

So pen names or pseudonyms it is!

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What's next? (Another Learning Curve)

With Series #1, Book # 1 returned from the editor's final read-through, I am now faced with compiling the material that will make up the ebook and paperback book.

Even if I go the route of someone else formatting both the ebook and paperback, I still need to put together the materials that make up the books. (J.A. Konrath provides a potential list of Ebook Parts on his blog.) So, I suppose the first step will be to pull all these materials together.

As in anything, when I try to do something new, there's a learning curve. Some steeper than others, that's for sure. "Getting" writing a novel was one heck of an uphill climb for me, and since I tend to be slow on the uptake, I am of the opinion, that if I can "Get" how to write a novel, then ANYONE can.)

Next, I must research the cover blurbs and book descriptions of already published books in the same genre. I am also taking Author Dean Wesley Smith's Pitches & Blurbs workshop in December, so I have an awesome opportunity to learn. I am also watching Author India Drummond's formatting for CreateSpace video as well as her Tutorial for Ebook Formatting video. (Thank goodness for all those loooooonnnnngggg years of word processing experience.)

Luckily, I am familiar enough with graphics design that I am able to create covers. (The ones for this first series pops!) In the future, should I need a more seasoned professional designer, I will research possible resources as well.

Lots to learn, always. Yet that's what makes independent publishing such an adventure. An exciting and enthusiastic one at that!

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Show, Don't Tell (Really? Show Me!)

Writers hear Show, Don't Tell more than any other writerly advice, and in my humble opinion, learning to show and not tell is one of the most powerful tools in the writer's toolbox. Showing versus Telling means the difference in a book reading like a blah-blah documentary rather than gripping fiction.

Please note that my comments in brackets are my reader reactions.

"Was" Statements

In most cases, "was" statements tend to show.

Telling: He was delighted. [He was, was he? Ho-hum. Yawn.]

Showing: His pulse ramped, and his heart thumped a jig in his chest. Yeeesssss! [Now I can get excited for and with this guy.]

Author Intrusion

Eliminating author intrusion filtering (experience filtered by author) by not using words such as felt, thought, and the like (sensed, experienced, figured, considered, realized) goes a long way in allowing the reader to connect with the character.

Telling: She felt sad and lonely. [Thanks for telling me, but...]

Showing: Everything around her grayed. None of the vibrant colors of fall stirred her. How could she go on? Tears clung to her cheeks as if refusing to abandon her to the empty ache in her chest. If only her father still lived. [Having lost love ones, I can relate to this experience.]

Telling: I thought about my childhood. What glorious memories. [What childhood? What memories? I don't know, so how can they be glorious to me?]

Showing:  When I was aged five or six, in a cardboard box from an estate sale, six musty lady's hats hid beneath a tarnished washboard and a rusted cheese grater. Fake flowers, thick blocked lace, and felt, in faded reds and blues and greens, were smashed flat like fallen cakes. First, I straightened the rough lace and bent flowers, then reshaped the head part of the hats with rolls of my fists. Each hat took me to a different time, to a different place. I traveled, in my imaginings, and found a aspects of myself I had not before known. [Although this is backstory, I am intrigued to find out more about this person.]

Using Began and Started

When the words began and started are used, we are taken out of real-time in the story.

Telling: It began with a scream. [What scream? What about a scream?]

Showing: A high-pitched scream ripped her from sleep. [Ah, a scream! Who's? Why is someone screaming? I'll read on to find out.]

Telling: She started to scream. [A person either does or doesn't do something. If they perform an action, they may stop or be interrupted.]

Showing: A scream erupted from her throat. She clamped her mouth closed, and the yell bounced off the back of her lips. She swallowed it whole. [Why is she holding back a scream? Is there worse to come? I have to know!]

Visceral Reactions

Lack of using visceral reactions tends toward telling. (Breaking into a sweat, increased heart rate, ache in the tummy, or the physical, non-thought based responses to what is happening.)

Telling: An explosion boomed. Marco ducked and ran for cover. [An explosion might nudge my interest, but I'm not being pulled into the story.]

Showing: An explosion boomed. Marco's heart stopped for one long shocked beat, then ramped like a machine gun in his chest as he ducked and ran for cover. From where he lay in the brush, sweat coated his face and neck thick and clammy. His grip on the detonator eased and trembled. A shrill tone of nothingness stuffed his ears. Could they smell his fear? [Visceral responses or reactions include: Heart Rate, Sweating, Trembling, Tone in ear from concussion of explosion.]

Varied Senses

Telling: An explosion boomed. Marco ducked and ran for cover. [Same example as above for Visceral Reactions. An explosion might peak my interest, but I'm not being pulled into the story.]

Showing: Barroom. The ground shook. A bright white flash burst outward and knocked Marco's head back like a hard right slam to the jaw. A stab, icepick thin, jabbed his eardrums. Lungs locked. He pounded his chest, gulped a sour, scorched breath of air.  [Senses include: Hearing, Seeing, Pain, Breathing, Taste, Smell.]

Bonus Example (Combined Visceral and Senses)

A combined example of Visceral and Senses:

Barroom. The ground shook.

A bright white flash burst outward and knocked Marco's head back like a hard right slam to the jaw. A stab, icepick thin, jabbed his eardrums. Marco's heart stopped for one long shocked beat, then ramped like a machine gun in his chest.

Lungs locked.

He pounded his chest, gulped a sour, scorched breath of air. He ducked and ran for cover.

From where he lay in the brush, sweat coated his face and neck thick and clammy. Could they smell his fear? His grip on the detonator eased and trembled.

A shrill tone of nothingness stuffed his ears.

Objectivity
 
A writer being able to step back and really look at and assess their own writing is a must. No right fighting and defending what is. None of that "my writing is good" stuff. If your writing is, then why not SHOW, instead of TELL that it is. (See examples above.)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Author Meltdowns (What Not to Do!)

In 2009, an independent author confronted an established traditionally published veteran author in what has been termed a gunfight or a cat fight.

Then in March 2011, an independent author took on an online critic, spiraling her Amazon review from a 5.0 rating to 1.5, then to the writer removing the book from publication for review and further editing.

More recently, on a social media site, a third independent author has blasted her readers and posters telling them to get the bleep off her page (11/22/13 post).

While all or any of these writers might take the stance that they were putting forth their opinions, or they might have been misinterpreted, or their intent was not to attack or insult, the overall results have been the same for all three.

Each has done something I strive and am working to do, independently publish, and yet all three have successfully alienated readers.

In all cases, these very public meltdowns (at least considered to be so by most readers of their posts) did not help their careers as independent authors, further book sales, or encourage the reading of their books.

Since these instances all evolved from independent authors and as an independent author myself, I find these behaviors cringe worthy. It does not encourage confidence in readers of independent books nor add any positive reflection upon independent authors. Yes, these authors are human, they react in feeling, emotional ways. We all do. However, in my humble opinion, what is missing in each of these encounters is a solid level of professionalism and respect for potential readers.

"But it wasn't my intent" doesn't cut it. Perception is the major factor here, and those subjected to watching this sort of reaction play out, in their shock and, yes, even revulsion, don't consider or care about the writer's intent.

Appearances, online comments included, matter. Perception is paramount.

Intent, emotional backlash, vendettas, and hidden agendas do not have a place in the way an author presents their persona to the public.

Didn't they self published to sell books? Based on their actions and reactions, as a reader, would I buy these author's books?

One thing that I'm curious about, is that if self publishing elicits this behavior from them, why do they bother? Why not find another line of work and/or not do something that appears to make them so miserable, angry, or unprofessional, and show their negative selves in public, no less?

As a soon to be independently published author, I very much appreciate and value their efforts in paving the way and, sadly, their examples of what not to do.

Friday, November 15, 2013

In Search of My Writer's Way

Doctor's appointments and possible treatment options...an understanding of what has been going on with me health-wise and potential resolutions. FINALLY! After struggling with recurrent and goal-disrupting symptoms for over a year, to have a positive direction is such a relief and so very encouraging. As is, after taking a break due to appointments and travel, embracing writing again.

I am back to short stints, either 45 minutes to an hour at most, then taking brief breaks, at least 5 minutes, away from writing. First on my To Do List is to complete the back-to-front, by paragraph, read/edit of Book #1. Once completed, I'll make the edits in the electronic file and resend to the editor. That's it. I'm not looking beyond the current two tasks. Once those are complete, THEN I'll address where I stand on Book #2 and what's next.

For now, while working on the health resolution and during recovery, this back-to-basics approach, will get me closer to finishing the series, than will over-scheduling and setting unrealistic goals. So, back to basics, one day a a time, and hopefully, I will find my writing way.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Scrrreeeeccchhhh! (Putting on the Brakes and Taking a Break)

My energy and focus levels are depleted. I need rest and good health...so for the next few weeks, with more doctor's appointments ahead, I must slow down, re-evaluate, and consider a more reasonable path forward.

Those pesky health issues I had thought, hoped, and prayed were resolved are back. Sigh... On top of not being well, for the past few weeks, I have been spending an average of 12 hours per day revising, therefore, I am physically tired. Not to mention the time change, which due to limited daylight hours, sends me into hibernation mode.

I'm a planner, a list maker, and a goal setter. For my work, I have always pushed, most of the time too hard, to make extensive progress. Slowing down, is difficult for me. Not having a plan, deadline, goal, To Do list, etc., feels awkward and foreign to me.

To get well, for a short time, I need to limit my writing activities, perhaps to three or four hours per day, and extend my efforts toward that nesting instinct that seems to arise during the winter-time malaise. I need wellness, which means more medical appointments, and possible treatments or even a surgery.

So, I'm stomping on the brake pedal. Time for a break. Maybe it's time, for just a short while, to just BE. (Somehow, I have to hope that my writing process will be better for taking this break.)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Boo Who? (Scaring Up an Ideal Reader)

Who exactly is my ideal reader?

There's an ideal reader out there for every book. Depending on the genre, the most enthusiastic reader of a particular type of book is either male or female, of a certain age, etc. Those are demographics and statistics. Yet, to write the best book possible, writing for cookie-cutter numbers doesn't cut it.

For instance writing a romance for women between the ages of 20 and 40, middle to upper class, etc.

As an author, I write for an ideal reader; however in the real world, there exists THE ideal reader, someone or someones in the writer's life, that meets those demographics and statistics, but is perfectly real and realistically ideal.

As per advice by writing coach Cathy Yardley, I have focused on a live person as my ideal reader. I picked the one person that represents the type of reader I am targeting, and I write with that one person in mind.

As I write, I keep this person in mind. This reader is one that would call me on something if it's not working, such as too little conflict or the stakes not being deep enough for the POV character, and is full of enthusiasm during reading. Ideal Reader loves and enjoys story.

As far as Boo Who, my ideal reader is THE person I work diligently to scare, thrill, and intrigue; to illicit smiles, caring, and warmth toward and with my story people; and encourage to root for the characters and the story. In writing for THIS person, I am writing for many ideal readers, yet with the focus of this one person, my reader connection is real, palatable, and solid.

So, Boo and thank you, you know who! (Many more books to come!)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Turtle, Turtle, Turtle (Realistic Goals)

I've always heard the staying, "It takes as long as it takes," but dang. Best laid plans aside, I didn't finish my five-book YA Paranormal Thriller series in six months. Not even in a year. The year-and-a-half mark is fast approaching, and I'm still trekking along.

Pesky health issues that affected my energy levels and focus ssssslllllloooowwwed my pace to a turtle's stroll.

First off, no whining or complaints here. I've continued to draft, put in, revise, edit, and polish. Still... Okay, maybe a mini whinefest, in that I realize and know in every fiber of my being how much I am capable of accomplishing, if it weren't for those uber frustrating health issues. 

Recently, I came across this quote:

Never give up on a dream, just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway. -- Earl Nightingale.

No, I am not yet published. Nope, I have not made any money with my books, a little hard to do when they're not finished and/or published and all. So many story and series ideas, just waiting... Many, many more books to be written.

However, I have not fully written these. Book #1 goes on to the formatter in the next week or so. Book #2 is one-third of the way into the revision process.

And, true to form for this past year, that dratted dreaded health issue is back. More doctor's appointments coming up.

Yet, everyday, I drag myself to the computer and work on this series.

Why?

Because this series waited a long time to be written. After all, there's that writer part of me that must write, so it stands to reason I must finish these books. IF they were lackluster and sub-par, I would, surprisingly, have no problem setting them aside and moving on; however, they do have a bit of oomph to them, if I do say so myself.

Besides, it's not the story or the actual revision that's slowing me down, it's the level of fatigue, disrupted sleep, and focus challenges that block me from making the kind of progress I would like to make.

Ideally, I'd be cranking out a finished book a month. My logical mind, creativity, and process are up to it. I, however, physically am not. Therefore, out of kindness to myself, I am tacking each day, trying to accomplish as much as possible on one day at a time, without setting any further goals than that of the day before me.

Today I cull repetative words and phrases from as many chapters as feasible possible. Tomorrow I do the same. I keep plugging. And eventually...before I realize it, I'll have a finished book. Then another one. Then another. As I turtle along.

Earl Nightingale was correct. No matter how I spend my time, time passes anyway. As a writer, I can't imagine a better way to fill my days.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Blocked and Loving It!

No, I am not experiencing writer's block, thank goodness!

In order to work on revisions, I blocked my access to the internet; thus, I achieved more in two days this week than I have been accomplishing in an average week.

LeechBlock, part of Mozilla Foxfire, blocks websites and internet access. So, right now, except for Autocrit.com, I only visit the internet a short time in the morning, mid-day, and then in the evening.

Numerous bosses over the years have delivered a similar message. If you're going to accomplish your goals, you have to pay the price. To get something, you've got to give (or give up) something. The definition of insanity... But I digress.

To achieve my writing goals, there are some things I have to give up in order to make the time to write. There's no other way to make the time, take the time, and use the time to write.

Television time is limited, housework takes a back burner, leisure time...well, I did go see an awesome movie one day this week. For the last two weeks, I've taken at least one partial day as a non-writing day in order to rejuvenate, maintain my enthusiasm, and keep my writing fresh.

Writing can be, and most times is, a solitary and lonely task. While performing writing-related tasks, connecting with others on instant messaging and social networking sites grants me an emotional link that is sometimes missed while working on single-person projects.

I so enjoy visiting with folks on line. Thank you Facebook friends and family, for your encouragement, caring, and patience for my single-mindedness on finishing this book series. I may slip away into the writing world for a while, but I'll check in and visit, so please do stay in touch and share with me what is going on in your lives.

An awesome portrait artist shared  this technique. She unplugs from the internet and paints for hours. To enter that creative sphere, she plays instrumental music, gets into the zone, and enjoys the process.

Well, blocked and loving it... I may just get this series finished yet!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Cheers and Fears (Now what?)

Finally, I was able to open the edited file of Book #1. The editing suggestions were concise and minor. Truth be told, much less than I expected and dreaded. Once I started accepting and making the final edits, I realized I wasn't dreading the effort or the degree, but the actual completion of the book. Huh! What's up with that?

The whole point of writing a book is finishing it and publishing it, right? After all, I want to "write books and make a living doing the same." To write books means to actually FINISH the books (drafting, putting in, revising, editing, and publishing). Yet, now that Book #1 is nearly finished, fear and panic has set in.

Instead of, "The book is finished, whoot!," I am experiencing "No way can this book be finished!"

I think due to ingrained beliefs, "finished" in this instance translates into "not good enough." Not good enough is one of those handed-down messages that I have carried internally since early childhood. The understanding that I as a person was not good enough or that anything I did or tried to accomplish was never good enough or no matter the effort, time, and caring would ever be good enough, seeped in, stuck, and has fought against me my entire life.

Author Dean Wesley Smith's recent blog comment states, "Just keep going back and writing more words. Even if you think they suck, which I am 100% convinced every word I write does." So, I suppose this sort of belief is fairly common among writers. At least, I'm in good company. ;-)

As I have done many times before, despite self-doubts and facing a not-good-enough scenario, I keep on keeping on. Today, I will finish the edits, do a final read through, and return to the editor for one last review. THEN the book is ready for formatting for publication (Yikes and Yippee!).

One step at a time. One day at a time. You can actually write a book that way. Despite not feeling or thinking you or your writing is good enough. Because if this good-enough writer gal can do it, anyone can. Honest!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Matter of Time and Time Matters

After years of not punching in and out on a time clock, I'm back on the clock! Using Klok Personal Time Tracking software has made time tracking EASY and has tripled my writing productivity.

I have added other tasks to track, such as blogging, decluttering, etc. There's a timesheet view, to check progress, as well as a chart view that depicts time each day and time spent on each timed project.

One of my favorite features is a drag and drop of the current project starts the timer for working on the project. When you finish a session, click the red stop button and the timer stops, so it's that simple to keep up with time spent on individual project tasks.

In the week view, I can see how much time I've spent on various task each day, with a total of how much time during each day worked.

Utilizing this software provides a means of accountability that has worked wonders for my schedule and for my progress, and the amazing thing is, I am accomplishing more writing-wise and otherwise.

Klok is an awesome tracking tool, one which I would definitely recommend!

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Trick or Treat? (My Edits Are Back!)

The edited file of Book #1 sits in an email as an attachment. The email came in early morning. My first reaction was a gut-punch thrill (It's here. I'm finally to the real-live THE END phase. OMG!) then panic pounded in my chest like a jackhammer. An hour later, I still can't bring myself to open the file...

The Editor's note mentions minor grammatical edits and a few confusing sentences that need to be clarified.

But what's REALLY in that file? I wonder...

This time of year, you never know what goblins might lurk around the next corner. Now, I know the Editor is an awesome editor, professional and forthright, but still.

What if there are pages and pages of markups? What if every page has so many markups they look like spiderwebs? What if I don't "get" now to fix the edits? What if I'm not up to the task? When I look at the webbed pages, will I spaz out? Go into full-blown panic attack mode. Not being able to breathe, unable to explain that I've been attacked by the goblins in an electronic file. If I open it, and even after the Editor's most awesome effort, the words don't pop?

Okay, apparently self-doubt is the goblin in question. From what I understand, Doubt is the most insidious of the gremlins out to undermine writerly joy.

Maybe I'll download the file first. Not open it. When I do, I'll peek, one eye shut, like out from under the covers when things go bump in the night. Or when there's a knock on the door (email in the box), and my hand hovers over the doorknob (finger over the mouse button). I sip air, then forget to breathe. My hand trembles. I turn the knob (click open).

I suck in mouthful of air. Panic grips my chest.

It's time...

Trick or Treat?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Hooded Eyelids and Other Character Flaws

Just like for each of us in real life, character flaws can define who a fictional character is, where they are coming from, and why they are behaving the way they behave.

In a former job, a coworker continually shared facial exercise techniques to decrease the hooded above-eye area. I, Miss Slow-on-the-Uptake, didn't realize, until I interrupted her one day so I could finish a project and she drilled me with the "look", that the hooded lids she targeted were mine. (I get the title Miss Slow-on-the-Uptake honestly.)

Looking back, I wonder why was the hoodedness of my eyelids such a priority to this person?

If her suggestions came from caring, perhaps she would have come in early to help relieve me of some of my tasks so that I wasn't so hoodedly exhausted. Or brought back lunch from her two- to three-hour lunch break. Maybe, when she left work at 4PM, she might have even offered to take some of my workload home with her so that exhaustion didn't weigh down my eyelids so much.

Now, if she were a consider-the-source type of person, her upper lids would have been toned to the max, right? All the facial excercises she encrouaged would have tightened and toned such things as jowls and chins, so she might have been sharing out of enthusiasm... Nah. No learning by example there.

The WAY she presented the techniques is telling. She demonstrated the techniques loudly, in an office environment, sometimes in front of several others. A put down? An inner-office joke? A my-upper-lids-are-more-toned-than-yours taunt?

After I left the job, an amazing thing happened. Those upper eyelid hoods receded more than a bit. And guess what, thanks to that former co-worker, I have personally demonstrated exercises to take care of the rest of potential drooping hoods.

Honestly, because of the way I was raised to treat people and respect people's personal issues, her showing me what was "wrong" with me did not even sink in initially. I would never, ever point out so-called deficiencies. For instance, openly demonstrating neck, chin, and lower cheek-lifting stretches. How cruel and wrong is that?

Yet, the me of today, more than likely, due to life experiences since then, might respond differently. Likely, I would say something, at least I would after the light bulb that I was being targeted when on (the old uptaker is still in the slow mode). Odd are I might speak up about the sharing the work load might just help with the hoods. OR I might quip that if I had time for a bathroom break, I might be able to make time to exercise my face.

Possibly after a 90-hour work week (yeah, I worked more than a few of those), I might be exhausted enough to tap into that edgy side of myself, you know that part of us that we all have the creeps out every now and then, and told her to go show someone who wasn't working and actually gave a crap.

Or I might ask if she practiced in a mirror. (A not in-her-face zing that more than likely would have zoomed over her head.)

Characters too, react differently depending on their belief systems, environments, and motivations. How one character might act at the beginning of the book, may differ from how they interact at the end. Depending on where they come from internally, Character A might very well tell someone off, while Character B might run away in tears.

In fiction, as in real life, not everyone is nice. Some people are helpful because they truly care, some have an agenda, some want put other characters in their place, while others want to cause harm.

Those character flaws that cause a character to point out hooded eyelids, for whatever reason, add depth to fictional characters. And as readers, the why of this exhibited flaw being revealed as the story unfolds adds richness, connection, and relatability (either with the particular character or with being treated in such a manner in real life.)

Please excuse me now, I'm off to exercise my face, with a focus on my upper eyelids.

(Wouldn't former co-worker be proud!)

Sunday, October 6, 2013

No Book is Perfect (Repeat After Me!)

NO book is perfect. No BOOK is perfect. No book IS perfect. No book is PERFECT. No matter which aspect you emphasize, no book is perfect. Not ever.

Whether traditionally or independently published, there's always a skipped word or typo or two.

Sometimes the flaws are deeper, such as a supposedly grown man hiding in a car trunk of a model that has a mini-trunk space that in no way could accommodate a full-sized person.

Or even more deeply flawed, as in he or she would NEVER do that. No way could that happen. Plausibility issues are biggies, but books are released more often than a reader would expect with such glitches.

As an author, catching those flaws and fixing them in the revision phase is a doable challenge. Catching typos and missed words, even with multiple reviewers, looms, yet no matter how efficient the effort, something or somethings will slip by.

Book #1 of Series #1 goes to my writing coach for review tomorrow. If she deems the manuscript ready, she will also edit. Or, I'll make another pass, then she will edit. Either way. It's been First Drafted, Revised, and Edited.

Will the book be perfect? Nope.

Will it ever be perfect? No. (No matter how hard an author tries, it ain't gonna happen.)

Yet, once reviewed, edited by the editor, and then returned to me for a final polish, the book will be stick-a-fork-in-it done!

Perfect, no. An imperfect enjoyable, challenging, satisfying journey, oh, yes.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Balance in a Topsy-Turvy Writing World

This past week, I  learned that I can edit and pace up to five (5) chapters per day. *IF* I don't take time to shower or cook and limit bathroom breaks. Never mind the shoulder muscle aches and the headache, or the throbbing wrists and blurred vision. Or that nothing else gets done. "Really, Kathy," I ask, "what kind of life is that?"

 "Nope," Kathy says. "That's no life at all."

In this busy, busy day-to-day world, I have been experimenting and learning about REALISTIC goal setting.

Sure, I can edit and pace five (5) chapters per day, but, really, if that pace causes physical effects, burn out, and exhaustion, is that any way to write?

I used to work. A LOT. Days, nights, weekends, holidays. During one holiday season, I worked 90 hours the week of Thanksgiving. I had no life. I was so exhausted that, although I tend to be positive and enthusiastic, I no longer enjoyed the life I was living. Er, not living my life, since all I did was work.


This past week was one doing and stepping back to observe as I have been doing. Now I know what I am capable of during a week, and I know what I am able to realistically produce in a day.

So, instead of barreling through, racing, and charging to the finish line, I need to spread out my goal to a more realistic time schedule.

So, instead of 5 chapters edited and paced per day, a more realistic goal would be three (3) chapters, with breaks every hour and a half or so, even if only a bathroom and stretch break. With this realistic schedule, I would have time to do other things, other than writing activities, and still accomplish grounded-in-reality writing goals.

Another thing I discovered, that even though you set unrealistic or over-reaching goals, not reaching them can be discouraging and affect short-term goals going forward.

For instance, edit/pace 5 chapters one day, but then be too exhausted to even finish two the next day. Or, set a goal of four, then due to the difficulty of the chapters or distractions, only do one or two...there's no way to play catch up if you over-schedule up front.

Realistically, by setting more reasonable, reachable goals, I will get more done in the long run, because I won't be overwhelmed, exhausted, or self-sabotaging by not being able to catch up.

So,  Schedule 5 days of reasonable tasks, then build in two days for roll-over work from the previous 5 days. Realistic. Doable. Feasible. Did I mention doable?

For the next 7 days:
  • Edit & Pace 3 Chapters Per day (5 days)
  • Roll-Over Editing/Pacing days (2 days)
  • Work on/Enjoy Non-Writing Activities (7 days)
Then, after that, review goals, and drill down Quarterly goals (October, November, and December), then break down the goals into monthly, weekly, daily tasks.

All writing, everyday--morning, evening, and night--makes Kathy a dull girl and much less productive; therefore, it's time to set my topsy-turvy writing world right side up.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Ugly Font (And Other Proofreading Tips)

Yikes, my computer screen is filled with an ugly font. Yet, this ugly font seems to make grammar or punctuation errors on the monitor jump out. Apparently, ugly fonts help proofreading because they make mistakes show up more clearly.

Perhaps because I'm not used to viewing that font, perhaps because the font emphasizes sentence structure rather than the flow of text, like standard fonts. I don't quite get the WHY, all I know is that ugly font approach works.

Book #1 is in the editing phase, and I'm altering sentence beginnings, grammar, and punctuation. To do this, it helps to focus on the structure of the sentences, thus the UGLY FONT.


Also, the ugly font is also sized to a large font size, so that the screen resembles a kindle page. So, I now have a large ugly font staring me in the face.

Another proofreading tip is to use a Text-to-Speech software to read the text back to you while you read along onscreen. So you have a better chance of finding mistakes if you both see and hear them. Dragon NaturallySpeaking has an accurate "Read That" feature. So, the combination of the Ugly Font and Listening while reading on the screen, does the trick.

Finally, proofreading by Point of View (POV) helps maintain that particular POV Character's voice. If you're writing in multiple POVs, then edit all the scenes and/or chapters for one character at a time. That way the style of the character's voice is maintained throughout that character's chapters.

Off to proof Book #1 in Ugly Font!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

You want me to give up what?

Should an author choose traditional publishing, the author has little or no control of or say-so about:
  • Title
  • Blub Description
  • Cover
  • Revision / Editing Choices
  • Book Pricing
  • Distribution Outlets
  • Number of Copies Released
  • Marketing (or lack thereof)
As strongly as I want to be published, I can't bring myself to give up so much control for so little money (at times, after the agent's 10 to 15% cut, as little as 11 cents per copy sold).

Note, top-selling author Barry Eisler got his rights back and has retitled and recreated covers for his books, to HIS satisfaction.

Recently, I viewed a cover for an author that appears happy to make 50 cents per e-book sold via an publisher, when he could have made $2.00 per each copy by self-publishing. The cover barely resembled the first book in the series and didn't fit quite with the genre he writes. (He made suggestions for he design, but for the most part, he got what he got, with little veto power on his part.)

What about marketing? Publicity?

For most authors, traditional publishers provide next to none, unless you are Patterson, King, or Roberts. The author does the leg work and the outreach, regardless. (See J.A. Konrath's journey of visiting numerous states and numerous bookstores, on his own dime.)

An average print run is 5,000 books. Books remain on bookstore shelves for a short duration, perhaps one to two months. If you are a dollar and cents person and all 5K of those books sold during those few weeks, at Harlequin 11 cent per book wages, you would make, ta-da, a whopping $550.00.

The same book, self-published in e-book form only, and priced at $2.99 would earn approximately $2.00 per book, which would equate to $10,000 per 5K units sold, more than likely spread over a longer span of time.

Bottom line, should I choose to self-publish, there will be outgoing investments of approximately $500 per book for editing, formatting, and cover design (should I not create them on my own covers). That investment would return by selling 250 copies of the book.

Instead of a flash-in-a-pan bookstore surge of a few weeks, the availability of the books will be ongoing, so odds are at some point, hopefully sooner than later, the costs would be recouped and thereafter, a profit would be made.

Either way, I don't give up my right to choose an appealing title, cover, blurb, pricing, giveaway time-frames, editing and revision options, distribution resources, etc.

As a business person (yes, self-publishing is a business), I will hire (not pay percentages of earnings) one-time professional service providers (editor, formatter, cover designer), then will retain the rights to my books.

So traditional publishing wants me to give up what? Nah. Don't think so.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Not All Aspects of Revision Are One and the Same

The many aspects of revision, such as Redeveloping, Restructuring, Rewriting, Putting In, Taking Out, Editing, Copy Editing, Proofing, and Polishing, are not one and the same. Starting at an overall story developmental level, moving to structuring, the aspects of revision drill down until the writing blends into a seamless story flow.

Redevelopment

Developmentally, a story must make sense. Is the plot plausible? Would a particular character really DO that? SAY that? Does how the character change from the beginning to the end of the story make sense? Too many POV characters? Too few?

Redevelopment takes into account the entire story, such as characterization, pacing, plot arc, etc. (Redevelopment can sometimes lead to a major overhaul of the story, resulting in a reworking of the entire manuscript.)

Restructuring

Restructuring a manuscript may involve adding or deleting chapters and scenes. Reordering existing scenes.

This process may also involve changing POV characters, increasing conflict, and emphasizing story plot points.

Rewriting

When a manuscript doesn't work, sometimes it's best to set it aside and start over. A rewrite is taking what didn't work into account and starting all over again.

A rewrite may also include culling pieces of the existing story to blend into the newer version.

Putting In

The process of Putting In involves reviewing the first draft and adding and fleshing out your story and words. Some authors write skeleton drafts and end up putting in quite a bit of material to fill in the story with more descriptions and additional details.

Taking Out

Other authors write expansive drafts, which include lots of description, backstory, and plot tangents, then once finished, go back through and take out the material not absolutely necessary to the story. This process involves a lot of trimming and streamlining.

Editing

During editing, verbs are ramped and strengthened, paragraphs are lengthened and shortened, scenes are tightened by fleshing out or streamlining paragraph, sentence, and word length. Repetitive words and phrases are eliminated and addressed. A thesaurus and dictionary come in to play. Reading aloud or listening to the manuscript read by a text to speech software comes in handy during this phase. This is the stage where the flow of the writing is addressed.

Copy Editing

Examples of copy editing include correcting punctuation and altering sentence structure to vary sentence beginnings. 

Proofing

Final proofing involves catching any skipped words or punctuation during the copy editing phase.

Polishing

Involves a final read through, back to front, of the manuscript, to catch any awkward phrasing or hitherto before unseen dropped words.

Kathy's Current Revision Status

Currently, Book #2 in in the Editing stage, while Book #1 is entering the Copy Edit phase.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Entering Revision Hell (Officially)

The door creaks as I push the weight forward. From the other side of the doorway, heat flames my face. For the next two weeks, I have entered Revision Hell. (I didn't quite understand why writers used this particular term term until I began revising my own work. Now, I can very much relate...)

At Savvy Authors, for the next two weeks, I will participate in a challenge called Revision Hell. Each day in the Savvy forum, I will log number of pages edited, number of pages revised, and number of hours of BICHOK (butt in chair hands on keyboard) at the end of the day. My hope is that this will spur me on and help me to build revision momentum.

I have been assigned to Team #2 of five (5) teams. (Go, Team!)

For the next two weeks, the timer is once again my friend. 1-hour stints, and keeping track of the time spent in my at a glance calendar.

I used to envy Author Dean Wesley Smith, with his never revise philosophy, UNTIL I realized that Dean actually does revise and edit. He calls his process putting in or taking out. He does this just after he's first drafted fresh material; therefore, he considers the putting in or taking out part of his first draft. His wife also copy edits and proofs for him. SO, my process wasn't flawed after all.

How do I know my writing needs revision and editing?
  • As an avid reader all my life, I can distinguish between well written and not-so-well written material.
  • I am capable of reading my own writing with a critical eye. (Yes, being a technical editor in a previous life will do that to you. For good, bad, or worse.)
  • My writing improves when revised and edited. (I am intuitive and savvy enough to distinguish the difference.)
 What do I hope to accomplish in my two (2) weeks of Revision Hell?
  • Gain momentum for the rest of the series revision,
  • Get as much revised in the next two weeks as possible,
  • Dive in to Book #1 editing (the polish of punctuation, syntax, etc.), and
  • Reinforce concentration/focus aspects by doing stints throughout the day.
Here's a rundown of the revision items and processes that I address on my Revision Checklist. (The list seems like a lot of stuff, but once you dive in, it's really not, because the flow of items makes sense and can be done one after the other.)
  • Address Comments
  • Spell Check
  • Print Out
  • Read Hard Copy
  • Assign Dialog
  • Make Basic Markups
  • Edit Electronic File
  • External Environment Layering:
    - Weather
    - Outside bldg. details
    - Outside sounds
  • Layering Outward / Physical Details:
    - Hair/eye color
    - Height/weight
    - Style of clothing
    - Facial expressions
    - Body language
  • Senses Layering:
    - Sight
    - Hearing
    - Touch
    - Smell
    - Taste
    - Pain
    - Temperature
    - Time
    - Motion/Acceleration
    - Direction
    - Balance
  • Anchoring:
    - POV
    - Emotion in Scene
    - When / Time passed
    - Where
    - Current Feeling
    - Voice
    - Dialogue / Tags
  • Scene Review:
    - Beginning Hook
    - Exposition
    - Backstory
    - Sensory Details
    - Emotions
    - GMCD Clear
    - Themes/Motifs
    - Ending Hook
    - Visceral Reactions
  • Foreshadowing:
    - Plant
    - Payoff
  • AutoCrit Analysis:
    - Overused Words
    - Repeated Phrases
  • MyWriter Tools Round 2
  • Spell Check Round 2
  • Pacing / Copy Edit Pass
    - MyWriters Beginning
    - Beginning Scene Pacing
    - Dragon Beginning
    - MyWriters Middle
    - Middle Scene Pacing
    - Dragon Middle
    - MyWriters End
    - Ending Scene Pacing
    - Dragon End
  • Final AutoCrit Analysis
  • Overall Scene Pacing
  • Continuity/Timeline
  • Clarity (Who’s who)
  • Update GMCD Chart
  • Add to Running Outline
  • Levels (1 thru 10):
    - Level of Caring
    - Level of Worry
    - Level of Conflict
    - Level of Tension
    - Character Growth Arc
If nothing else, perhaps I will help my team with time logged for butt in chair hands on keyboard! (However, I intend and am hopeful that I will contribute more to the team and to my own progress.)

Behind me, the door slams. Nothing left to do but step forward into the flames...

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Walking the Talk

Years ago, when I worked so much and so often in day jobs, I talked about writing. A lot! Yet, the one thing I failed to do was actually WRITE.

To anyone who listened, I shared with anyone that would listen what I wanted to write, how much I wanted to write (in desire and quantity), the writing path I wanted to follow, etc.

I also shared details of the stories that I wanted to write. Such fun sharing, but after a while, I noticed in the telling that the stories lost their power and I my enthusiasm.

If I were allowed a do-over, as if that were possible, I would go back and take back my life from employers who required extreme overtime, expected more and more, and appreciated nothing. I would work regular hours in less demanding positions, for more than likely less pay, and focus on my life outside of work and write.

But since a do-over isn't possible, I no longer talk about writing. I write.

Every day, although I suffer from concentration focus issues due to an incredibly frustrating on-going health issue, I make every attempt to sit my butt in my chair and write.

At present, my revision process may be slow, but I am, bit by bit, making progress. Health issues have made it difficult for me to increase my pace at present; hopefully, soon, I will be able to speed up the process, but until then, I am doing my best to move forward. 

Now that I write, there's not a lot of talking about writing or sharing my stories prematurely so that I lose enthusiasm for the writing of the story.

My current talk about writing consists of mentions of what's next, goals, and plans. As far as what's right before me, in spite of concentration challenges, I continue to walk the talk.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Ready for Tomorrow

Although, today has been a productive satisfying day, writing-wise and otherwise, I have decided to forgo daily progress reports... The time spent logging how I spent my writing time takes away from the actual progress.

Perhaps, I'll try weekly reporting...

Today, I made it to the keyboard by 7:00 a.m. Played catchup with emails and blog visits from yesterday.

At 9:00 a.m., I reviewed mentor/coach's comments for Chapter 10 again. (One thing I am noticing is that the comments for the first draft are incisive and minimal. First things first, I address the comments, then start working down the list of items on the Revision Checklist.)

With short breaks through the day, the steps on the Revision Checklist for tomorrow include AutoCrit Analysis, Pacing, and Dragon NaturallySpeaking Reading the chapter aloud.

Tomorrow should be another productive day, with finishing Chapter 10 and diving into Chapter 11 (formerly the last scene of Chapter 9).

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Today is the Day: Tuesday - September 3, 2013

With longer appointments than expected, today was a bust revision-wise.

However, Dean Wesley Smith has completed 50,000+ words of a novel in 12 days.

Inspiring and exciting!

So much so, I signed up for Dean's 3-week Your Strengths and Weaknesses: A Personal Workshop beginning October 7th.

My upcoming doctor's appointments are October 7th and 8th, so I have much to look forward to...hopefully leading to less fatigue, better focus, and and improved writing skills.

BTW, Dean's advice is when you have an off-day of writing, tackle your goals the next day, don't play catchup, and keep moving forward.

Therefore, Chapter 10 will welcome me to the computer in the morning.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Today is the Day: Monday - September 2, 2013


In attempt to help with my focus and concentration, which is skewed due to dratted health issues, I am blogging each day as to my writing/revision progress.

Writing-wise, a slow day yesterday, yet I discovered I need more accountability of my time away from the computer and am experimenting with shorter stints.

TimesUpKidz software is assisting in keeping me from working hours and hours without breaks by spacing computer sessions enforced breaks of at least 10 minutes throughout the day.

Up until midnight last night, I made it to the computer at 8:00 a.m. I started this blog post first thing and will add to the post throughout the day.

One thing I did late in the day yesterday was sign up for Savvy Author's Revision Hell, which begins on September 9th and runs through September 22th and is described as: We'll split you into hellacious teams and motivate you through two grueling weeks of revisions. Finish your draft and report to Hell on time. (I am not sure what I've gotten myself into, but desperate times of focus and concentration calls for desperate measures.)

During the first session, I blogged, reread the chapter, and opened up the necessary files, such as the Revision Checklist. For the first break, I made breakfast and ate, then by 9:30 a.m. dove back into revising Chapter 9.

Half way through the session, Hubby let me know the hummingbirds were truly swarming around the feeders on our front porch.

Spurred on by the hummingbird's activity, I returned to the keyboard and started working on the revisions listed on the Revision Checklist.

By 1:00 p.m., I abandoned the 1-hour time limit per session. Today, at the 1-hour mark, I felt as if I was just getting started.

I then listened to a meditation about Write the Feeling by Mark David Gerson. Next, I focused on the character's feeling at the beginning of the chapter. Once I connected with the character's emotion, the rest of the process listed on the Revision Checklist began to flow.

NOTE: Go back and connect more deeply with characters emotions in Chapters 1 thru 8.

2:30 p.m., enjoyed BBQ Ribs in a late lunch with Hubby, then dove back into revisions.

From 3:30 to 5:00, I expanded Chapter 9 with my putting-in tendencies (sparse first draft, then I fill in and layer emotion, setting, etc.) to become two chapters. The second part will fit into the story a little later as possibly Chapter 11.

Took a quick 15 minute break.

5:00 p.m. - After running Chapter 9 through the AutoCrit analysis and adjusting pacing of the chapter, I listened as Dragon NaturallySpeaks read the chapter, then added the chapter to the working file. Revision of Chapter 9 complete at 7:00 p.m.

A non-writing project looms this evening, with an early morning appointment tomorrow. Today's method was much more productive.

So, tomorrow, not limited time on the computer, making a conscious effort to take spaced out breaks, and I revise Chapter 10.

Not bad for my second day of Today is the Day routine.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Today is the Day: Sunday - September 1, 2013

Inspired by Author Dean Wesley Smith, who's at it again with a year-long Public Writing challenge, I intend to maintain a daily writing progress journal. Right now, due to continual health issues, keeping a daily tally of my writing and revision, may be just what I need to provide self-accountability and encouragement.

So, today is the day I write AND write about writing.

Behind schedule on Book #2, Series #1, this morning I made it to the keyboard at 7:30 a.m.

For the first 1-1/2 hour session of the day, I read through Chapter 8, and fleshed out some of the movements and dialog.

I took a short break for breakfast and to gather books for donation for our local library.

During the next 1-1/2 hour revision stint, I listened to Dragon NaturallySpeaks software read the beginning, middle, and end of the chapter, and adjusted the pacing of the sections for each section, in line with the overall pacing of the book.

During the next break, I surfed the net, read a few articles, listened to the radio while eating an early lunch.

12:30 p.m., back at the keyboard, I started this blog post and made a few notes of what non-writing tasks I want to accomplish today.

Then, I pulled up the next chapter, addressed my mentor/coach's comments from her earlier first draft review, printed the chapter out, and read the chapter.

Next, item-by-item, I started working through my revision checklist. (I've learned that if I work my way through the checklist the revision of each scene/chapter is well-rounded.)

I received a welcome phone call from a dear friend and took an early break to visit on the phone with her.

The next break, I decluttered my office, boxed up paperwork scattered from looking for hard-copy documents last week, and took a video of the hummingbird swarm on our front porch.


For the next revision session, I continued to work my way through the revision checklist. Items on the list include weather descriptions, visual cues (hair/eye color, height/weight, etc.), senses layering, anchoring the characters in the scene, review of scene aspects, visceral reactions, foreshadowing, AutoCrit analysis, pacing, and copy editing.

Next, I took a break to reflect on what addition work the scene needed and took a short afternoon nap. 15 minutes or so this time of day (between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. seems to rejuvenate me for a more productive afternoon and evening writing sessions. This from a reformed non-napper.)

I made it only part way through the checklist when Hubby invited me out to dinner. A great Mexican meal and a quick shopping trip.

Home and weary, so in a quick overview of today, I see that I did only three (3) 1-1/2 hour revision sessions in which I completed the last part of Chapter 8 and made it 1/4 of the way through the revision checklist for Chapter 9.

Adjustments I need to make tomorrow include shortening the sessions to 1-hour stints, blocking the internet until the chapter is finished, and setting a timer for tasks away from the computer.

In keeping track and making this blog post a method of accountability, I've learned why I have not been completing revisions for two (2) chapters per day. I am also aware that I am definitely battling concentration and focus issues, which is affecting my productivity big-time.

Time to replan and regroup.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Lessons from The Profit Applied to Writing

The Profit, staring Marcus Lemonis, is a reality show appearing on CNBC. Marcus tackles failing businesses, invests, and assists the owners, if the deal works out, in rebuilding and relaunching their businesses.

The Facebook description of The Profit series states: Self-made multi-millionaire Marcus Lemonis is the only business turnaround expert on television investing millions of his own money to save small businesses.  

In the venue of the reality television show, Marcus shares, sometimes with a twist of are-you-kidding-me drama, about business success using the three P's: People, Process, and Product.

PEOPLE, PROCESS, and PRODUCT (as it pertains to writing)

People

The initial drafting and revision of a book involves me, myself, and I. Then there's my mentor/coach, Kat Duncan, who provides guidance, accountability, and has graciously offered to edit the series. And last, but not least, those folks that have and are providing Beta Reader feedback. Yet, primarily, the People aspect is simple because overall the majority of the workload and production falls on my shoulders.

But then again, maybe not so simple.

If I am experiencing health issues and am unwell, I cannot write, revise, or work on writing related processes adequately or at times if at all. Due to not being well, I am far more behind in my projected revision schedule for the series than I could have predicted.

I have sought medical care, which has determined what my condition is not, yet I continue to experience fatigue, lack of focus, and other not-fun symptoms. Bottom, line if I can't function properly and am unable to produce, there is no Process or Product.

Process

I lightning drafted all five (5) books in the series. Lightning drafting requires quite a bit of "putting in" of additional text and serious time-consuming revision effort.

Creating a GMCD chart for the first draft and then making a check off list for the revisions provides a road map and guidance.

The process involves sitting with self in front of the computer terminal and eliminating distractions.

Product

My books are my product. With the contribution of the first two categories, People and Process, a book is written.

Yet, I do not have a completed Product yet.

The mock covers pop.

An editor is lined up.

Before I have a Product, just not a concept, People and Process must perform and come together to create the completed book series.

PEOPLE, PROCESS, and PRODUCT Game Plan

Addressing People Issues

My ability to function, as a writer, and to focus, concentrate, and write MUST be addressed. I continue to conduct research of possible solutions and have yet more doctors appointments scheduled.


I have my older computer set up across the room to play my exercise videos (Oxycise, for instance), with a goal of exercising first thing, before I sit down at the computer.

Also, I am adding a few mineral and vitamin supplements that hopefully will assist in getting my health back on track.

Addressing Process Issues

Better eliminating or avoiding distractions is a MUST.

Lack of focus, hopefully addressed by addressing People issues, has increased my levels of distraction, therefore I have discovered a software that blocks all internet access except for the sites I specify (AutoCrit, for example) and another software that limits computer time in spaced out increments so that I take a break every hour to hour and a half.

My current revision plan is flawed and the process IS NOT working; therefore, I need to step back and reassess. Ask around, do more research as to what might work better.

How might I better tackle the revisions in a more successful, efficient way?

First item on list, is to research and to reach out to writerly resources for advice.

Addressing Product Issues

Product Issues will be on the table by and after People and Process issues have been addressed.

Tabled and marked: To Be Done!

THE PROFIT

highly recommend checking out this reality TV show!

Thanks to you, Marcus Lemonis, this writer gal just may be on her way!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Keeping On (Even When Your Butt's Dragging)

My rear end is bumping over plowed rows of ground filled with tractor tire ruts and dirt clods.

Persistent. Determined. Dogged. Single-Minded. Resolute. How about adding Stubborn to the mix? Maybe Pig-Headed. Or perhaps a Never-Give-Up attitude?

Writing a book involves, at a minimum: Plotting, Character Sketching, First Drafting, Revising, Rewriting, Taking Out, Putting In, Editing, Designing Covers, and Creating Book Descriptions.

Going through the process of all of the above, topped off by health issues that affect concentration, focus, and energy levels, and--I don't mind admitting it folks--my butt sure is dragging.

Truth be told, I am far behind on my potential schedule for finishing the five-book series and writing other series and books.

Don't get me wrong, I sought and am still seeking medical care. Every day, I aim toward wellness; however, the issue has taken much longer to resolve than I could have imagined.

All of adult my life, what I lacked in formal training or current knowledge, I made for in enthusiasm. I learned whatever I needed to learn quickly, and pitched in as soon as possible into most tasks.

Yet, as I grow more physically weary, even my positive "onward" tendencies wane.

For the next several days, I need to rest more, yet even if it's a short time a day, I will move forward on the revisions. Baby steps, for just a bit, until my energy level increases. Not any where near the pace I desire or need to maintain, yet I will continue to move forward.

My parents taught us to keep on keeping on. No matter what. Quitting was never an option. If you committed to something, you followed through.

Thus, although at a slower pace, I keep on. Onward!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Listen to Me Now! (Using Dragon NaturallySpeaking Software)

Hearing my story read back to me has been a phenomenal help to my story crafting! The suggestion that I read my writing out loud has always caused me a great deal of discomfort; therefore, having the software Dragon NaturallySpeaking read the paragraphs to me works quite well.

Why is it the one thing you dread, resist, fear, dislike and avoid, is THE one thing that you need to do the most to succeed in your goal?
After hearing my voice on a tape recorder years ago, I have avoided reading aloud.

Hearing myself made me cringe and flush hot with shame and embarrassment. The tinny high-pitched nasal-sounding me that talked into the microphone ran for the hills and hasn't been seen since.

No matter how hard I try. I can't seem to overcome that fear. If I try to read aloud, my revising stalls out completely. Instead, I am using Dragon SpeaksNaturally software. The Read That (Test to speech) feature reads back paragraphs at a time.

Earlier on, I listen and make edits to flesh out the first draft, then later toward the end of the revision stage, the voice reading back to me helps me to vary sentence structure and adjust the sound of the word flow.

As the voice reads, I follow along in the text and make edits as needed. If I need to stop the voice, I press the Esc key, make more extensive edits, then select the text and either click on Audio, then Read That or say, "Select next four paragraphs" then "Read That" into the headset.

Hearing the flow of the words in the story had taken my writing to a new level. I highly recommend the Reading Aloud advice, but if that's not possible, Dragon SpeaksNaturally is the next best thing!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dear Writer... (An example of what not to do)

I recently dropped by a writer's blog (I followed the author from a post that I found odd...curiosity pulled me in). On this writer's blog, she blogged about how readers SHOULD read her short stories, SHOULD read her novels, SHOULD leave reviews, etc., etc., etc.

Really, you're telling readers what they should and shouldn't do? Look, fellow author, I realize you have "worked your a-- off" (your words, not mine), but...

Wait! I'll give you the benefit of the doubt. I'll checked your offerings on Amazon. I'll download a sample or two of your writing. Then, we'll see.

Dear Writer, perhaps YOU should consider:
  • Creating or commissioning book covers that don't look similar, faded, and are displayed in a cartoon-type format.
  • Revealing the genre of your work. Are the books graphic novels? Horror? Thrillers? Romance?
  • Showing not telling in your writing. (Savvy Authors offers several classes on showing versus telling. Also, Show or Tell? A Powerful Lesson on a Crucial Writing Skill [Kindle Edition] sells for $0.99 on Amazon.)
  • Intriguing and enticing the reader with your book descriptions.
  • Using your blog to share the positives of your books, instead of sharing a whine-fest.
  • Changing hobbies or careers. (If you are that unhappy, do us readers a favor and MOVE ON. Life's too short for you to be that whiny and miserable.)

As writers, perhaps before we even consider telling our readers what they should do, first and foremost, shouldn't we do what we need to do as authors?

Dear Writer, perhaps YOU should!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Lightning Drafting Downside

I tried lightning drafting and finished the first drafts of five (5) books. However, I am now left with EXTENSIVE revision and editing. So, for those soon-to-be writers or writers looking for a quick first draft, my suggestion is DO NOT lightning draft.

During a lightning draft, for instance, an author rushes to get their story on the page. You might type: INSERT fight scene here or include dialog with just a name of the speaker only so that you keep on typing.

These shortcuts require going back through the skeltonized material and fleshing out and at times even rewriting scenes.

Had I slowed down the first drafts, the process might have taken twice as long; however, with this route, it's taking a great deal longer than the process would have had I slowed down the first draft and ended up with a close-to-final version in the first place.

Instead of taking perhaps one and a half to two times as long, this technique has resulted in taking three to four times as long.

From one writer to another, I highly recommend NOT lightning drafting. It's doing double duty and creates additional prolonged revisions.

Once this current series is complete, my goal will be to complete stronger first drafts not lightning ones.

Back to revision. Onward!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hitting Send

With my first-round of revisions finished, I attached the book to an email to send to my writing coach and mentor for a final review before editing. I sat with the cursor pointer hovering over SEND.

Ten minutes later, pointer still hovering, hubby dropped by and said, "You've already done the hard part. Sending it is the easy part." (Gotta love that man!)

That loveable man was right, so I pressed SEND.

Book #1, Series #1, sent.

Second later, the questions started:
  • Does it include too much telling versus showing?
  • Is there enough emotional connection with readers?
  • Are the character growth arcs strong enough?
  • Might I use more similes and metaphors?
  • Was the POV deep enough?
And on and on until I realized there are four more books to revise. (Kathy heaves a massive sigh.)

I look forward to the coach/mentor's comments and then will go on from there. First, I need to step back from the book, let someone else review and share their insight, then I'll perform another review.

One thing I am learning is that my writing process proceeds in stages and layers.

In the future, once this series is complete, my goal will be to write stronger first drafts so that less revision is required.

Also, I realize that you can take classes to help you grasp craft, but its the act of actually writing from which a writer learns.

And, boy, am I learning...

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Author Dean Wesley Smith's Crazy Idea

Author Dean Wesley Smith is writing in public. Of all things! Can you believe it?

Starting August 1st, Dean Wesley Smith sets out on a year-long journey to share his daily writing experiences. He intends to share: "A real year in the life of a professional fiction writer. (I'll try to keep it a lot more interesting than that sounds.)"

This challenge is his personal challenge for the next year. During his shared ghost writing experience, I read his posts and every comment to each of his posts. What an awesome learning opportunity!

He intends to post daily word count, activities for the day, excerpts at times, etc.

Just when I realized -- or possibly bought into another myth -- that writing is a very private personal thing, he offers to share his daily writing journey with the world, and he plans to share what he's written at times, without editing.

From reading the blog posts comments, it's obvious others are as excited as I am to have the opportunity to be included on Smith's one-year writing saga journey.

Hop on over to Dean Wesley Smith's Personal Challenges: The New Challenge and check out the details.

BTW, I'm in! I'm going to be dropping by daily and going along for the ride.
A real year in the life of a professional fiction writer. (I’ll try to keep it a lot more interesting than that sounds.) - See more at: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/#sthash.QEdqdYbG.dpuf
A real year in the life of a professional fiction writer. (I’ll try to keep it a lot more interesting than that sounds.) - See more at: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/#sthash.QEdqdYbG.dpuf
A real year in the life of a professional fiction writer. (I’ll try to keep it a lot more interesting than that sounds.) - See more at: http://www.deanwesleysmith.com/#sthash.QEdqdYbG.dpuf

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Step Away and Get More Done!

In spending less time at the computer, I'm getting much more done writing- and revision-wise on the computer. That sounds odd, I know.

You see, I've been experimenting with taking breaks away from the computer, and amazingly, my revising is progressing at a faster pace. Rather than sit at the computer for 12 hours or more a day with few breaks, I write in 1 1/2-hour time blocks.

During that 1 1/2 hours, that's all I do. Revise. It's a drill-down focus on the chapter in front of me. Revise, move on the next chapter. Revise. It's an intense hyper focus on writing for that hour and a half.

After years of extended hours in front of the computer job-wise, I find it difficult to actually take breaks and walk away from the keyboard; therefore, I am utilizing TimesUpKidz software to enforce 30-minute breaks every 1 1/2 hours.

During break time, I nap, read, bake, clean, declutter, exercise, play with the puppy, go in search of hubby hugs, etc.

The book Be Excellent at Anything: The Four Keys To Transforming the Way We Work and [Kindle Edition] explains the process in more detail. 

Bottom line, I am getting more done and am much less stressed and far less fatigued. In stepping away, I am accomplishing and enjoying more.

As hard as I pushed during my day jobs, I so wish I'd learned this technique way back when, but I'm on to it now, so if you'll excuse me, I'm stepping away...