Saturday, June 22, 2013

Pacing is a Booger

Challenge #1: Use the word "booger" in a blog title. (Won that dare!) and  Challenge #2: Revise/update pacing of scenes and overall book chapters to accomplish a thriller read. (In progress.)

Despite Challenge #1, the honest truth is that pacing a scene or chapter IS a booger. According to dictionary.com, in addition to the obvious, a booger is a noun 1. Informal. any person or thing: That shark was a mean-looking booger. A booger is also listed as something or someone frightening.

James V. Smith Jr.'s You Can Write a Novel, 2nd Edition, presents a method using the Readability Statistics feature included in most word processing software programs.

Once I actually get the gist of this pacing tool, I truly believe this process will be The Ultimate Pacing Tool as James V. Smith Jr. claims.

In the mean time... Argh. Grr. Ack.

But I'm sure the learning curve effort will be worth gaining the strength of the technique. In the long run, learning the process will be a positive, in the mean time, I struggle mightily to grasp something that is actually explained in simple terms.

After I finish revising several chapters today, I am going to reread You Can Write a Novel, finish revising Book #1, then move on to using the pacing technique in a final revise-through before sending the revised version to an editor.

Very much a challenge. But I am learning, and I will get there. I'm gonna conquer this pacing booger. Dare me! Come one make a dare...

Friday, June 21, 2013

Writing Dark Suspense

Suspense, Thrillers, Romance, Paranormal, and, yes, Horror Fiction are on my To-Do list of what type of books I want to write.

While there's still a few weeks of revision remaining of the five-book Young Adult Paranormal Thriller series, in the back of my mind, there's a dark suspense brewing.

Something haunting and twisted lurks just beneath the surface . . . whoa, am I watching too many scary movies and haunted this or that television shows and reading an overabundance novels of terror, or what?

Yet the story stays with me, evolving and expanding, in the deep recesses of my mind.

A long-time Stephen King and Dean Koontz fan, I completed a Savvy Authors workshop Make it Horror, presented by P. June Diehl. Good timing in that I will be able to digest the lessons before time to start the standalone fiction book, slated to be a novel of terror.

The syllabus to the Make it Horror workshop consisted of the following topics:
  • Starting with a Dark Idea
  • Writing from Our Fears
  • Horrible Characters & Creating Monsters
  • Horrible Events (Plot)
  • Eerie Landscapes and Nightmares (Setting)
  • Creating Dark Story Tone and Mood
  • Crafting the Impossible
  • Marketing Your Horror Story
The workshop was a satisfying savvy experience for me! (Hat tip to Savvy Authors and P. June Diehl.) 

Why write dark suspense?

The scary and the obscure call to me (Stephen King, Dean Koontz), they always have, which is why I suppose for the current series, I was drawn toward writing paranormal thriller.

The how and when and why of events draws me in (Stephen King's The Shining and Dean Koontz's Watchers). The inner workings of the human mind -- greed, skewed belief systems, phobias -- has always intrigued me. The thought of haunted houses and night graveyard visits send chills and thrills up and down my spine.

What frightens you in the night or what scares you most during the day? What potential happenings cause goose bumps or encourage you to double check the locks on your doors? What's your biggest most invasive worry? Is there a childhood memory that haunts you still?

Choose one or even a combination of one of the above and write a fictionalized story about those fears, concerns and worries. Keep upping the level of those fears and the strength of the source of those fears and intensifying the conflict between the two. That's dark suspense.

The story slithering through my head, perhaps a psychological thriller with horror elements, will soon rise to the surface. How will I manage to get the story out and how will it evolve? Okay, I gotta say it -- wait for it -- now, that's suspense!


Saturday, June 15, 2013

Follow the Revision Road

In pulling together the separate chapter files that comprise the first book in Series #1, the road to revision stretches out into the distance.

First of all, I have to admit, pulling the individual working chapter files together into one single file solidified that, yes, this IS a book. Being in the fictional world while writing a draft of a book tends to be very different than entering the fictional world via revision.

The bricks that make up Revision Road are many.

The items on my Revision Checklist for each scene/chapter include include:
  • Spell Check
  • MyWriters Tools
  • 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
    - Visceral Reactions
  • Senses Layering:
    - Sight
    - Hearing
    - Touch
    - Smell
    - Taste
    - Pain
    - Temperature
    - Time
    - Motion/Acceleration
    - Direction
    - Balance
  • Anchoring:
    - POV
    - When / Time passed
    - Where
    - Current Feeling
    - Voice
    - Dialogue / Tags
  • Scene Review:
    - Beginning Hook
    - Exposition
    - Backstory
    - Sensory Details
    - Emotions
    - GMCD Clear
    - Themes/Motifs
    - Ending Hook
    - Pacing
  • Foreshadowing:
    - Plant
    - Payoff
  • AutoCrit (Details):
    - Typos
    - Repetition
    - Continuity/Timeline
    - Clarity (Who’s who)
  • MyWriter Tools Round 2
  • Spell Check Round 2
  • Levels (1 thru 10):
    - Level of Caring
    - Level of Worry
    - Level of Conflict
    - Level of Tension
  • Character Growth Arc
  • Beginning Scene Pacing
  • Middle Scene Pacing
  • Ending Scene Pacing
  • Overall Scene Pacing
  • Dragon Speaks Reading
By reading each chapter, I enter a fictional world and make sure that each of the above items are layered into the story and/or applied to the revision process (such as using MyWriter Tools, AutoCrit, the Pacing Techniques from You Can Write a Novel by James V. Smith Jr., and Dragon Speaks Naturally).

There are some rewrites--amazingly, I've learned a few little somethings during the process of writing the series--then I weave in the above to ensure the scene and chapter best entertains the reader and the writing and characters best connect with the reader.

Revision first, editing next.

What a journey this has been and continues to be.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Diving In - Writing and Staying Afloat

One year ago today, I created and made my first post on this Kathy Writes Books blog. The post, Diving In - First Learn to Swim, depicted my beginning of a journey to write full-time and to make a living doing the same.

My very first blog post featured Jude Hardin's guest post on J.A. Konrath's blog about pushing the button and going into writing full time. Jude's part two blog post, Pushing the Button Part 2, includes his sharing of his experience with traditional publishing and independent publishing during the past year and forward.

As of June 13, 2013, I have accomplished the first part of the goal. Five books drafted, with revisions to be completed in the next couple of months.THEN comes the second part. Independent Publishing. That entails book cover design, e-book formatting, internal paper book design, professional editing, offering the books for sale, etc., etc., etc. 

Where are your books? Why did you wait until all of them were finished to revise? Why not finish one, publish, then move on to the next?

In studying those that have succeeded big in the Independent Publishing arena, the thing most of them have in common is a back list, which means they have written multiple books and have many books available to the reader.

I also discovered that newly published authors, without back lists tend to struggle with finding and maintaining readership. (Jude Hardin's Part 2 post tends to lead possible credence to this observation.)

SO, I decided to try a different tact and create a back list first. This five book series will serve as my completed books, with a goal in place to publish a new book approximately every two months.

Will this tactic make a difference in garnering sales and in building a readership? We shall see. (I'll shoot an e-mail to Jude Hardin and J.A. Konrath if it does.) The books for Series #1 be released within a very few weeks of one another, with additional standalone and standalone series books to follow in consistent succession.

While this first year of writing full-time involved some health issues that derailed my time-frames for goals, I still will mange to complete a five-book series in just a little over a year!

Let's celebrate. Where's the chocolate?

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The End and Then Some

What does it feel like to type THE END?

The first draft of the final book in Series #1 is complete. Five books drafted, with revisions starting later today. In a few days, my one-year of writing full-time becomes a milestone. At the fourteenth-month mark, I will have completed, revised, and final drafted a five-book series. Ideas for the next few books have been simmering, and diving into writing the next series is only a few weeks away.

Those are the facts, yet when asked how does reaching this milestone and finishing the series feel, I didn't have the insight or the words to describe those feelings, so I turned to the Kathy Writes Books blog to tap into the experience and those emotions.

First of all, I am breathless with relief. Not a boy-I'm-glad-that's-over-with relief, but it's as if I've been holding my breath in anticipation when I hadn't realized I wasn't breathing full lungfuls of air for a very long time. This series has been years in the making, and finally found its way to the page.

The this-is-complete relief is tinged with sadness.

I finished a five-book series, whoo-hoo, right? Yet there's sort of a feeling of loss as if I am preparing to let the series go and say goodbye to the characters that will have been with me for over a year. Happy, sad, bittersweet.

There's also a sense of accomplishment, mixed with apprehension about the next phase of my writing-books-and-making-a-living goal. Sending the book to an editor, making final editing changes, self-publishing. Yikes, talk about fish-out-of-water sensations.

Also, I am experiencing a sense of excitement. This is the Yeah, Baby! moment. A kind of satisfaction of pursuing a dream and living it. The thrill of reaching my goal tingles right down to my toes.

Of course, there's also the enthusiasm of diving into the next project and the next, while basking in the surety that I finished the previous book and/or series and did my best before moving on.

THAT's how it feels to type THE END.

Series #1 revisions, here I come!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Tracking Time & Keeping Time

When a writer figures out she's spending more time on the internet than writing, she's got an issue. A big one.

In my former job, I tracked my time to keep up with billable hours and kept a tally of hours of what I worked on when.

Using the same method, in 30 minute increments, instead of 15, I used a daily calender to track the actual time I'm spending writing and in doing other things.

Since I've starting tracking my time, my writing productivity has increased. I had no idea how much time I spent doing what. I was amazed when I tracked a few days to discover how much time I allowed to slip away.

I added the windows clock gadget to my desktop so that I can easily reference the time. The calendar that I use shows 1 day per page, with 24 one-hour time blocks. I drew a line down the middle of the page so that I can track the first half and second half of the hour.

For the first day, as embarassing as it is to share, my time in a 12-hour period included:
  • Phone = 2 hours
  • Cover Design = 1-1/2 hours
  • Internet = 1-1/2 hours
  • First Drafting & Writing Related = 4 hours
  • Breaks, Puppy play time, Meals = 3 hours
After I winced and flinched and cringed from this time-suck revelation, I disected the time spent.

Right off, I see limiting internet and designing covers for future books equated to 3 hours, added with phone time with several friends (after all writing is an isolated activity), the total now goes to 5 hours.

In looking at the time actually spent doing what and evaluating how to better manage my time, what if I space phone time with friends over several days. What if I talk with Person A today, Person B tomorrow, Person C, the next day, etc., limiting phone time to 1 hour per day.

Okay, I just gained another hour of writing time.

How about the 1-1/2 hours on the internet? How about limiting that to 1/2 hour during the work day, then unlimited after the 12 hour mark. Self says that's acceptable, so okay. Another hour salvaged.

In regard to cover design for future books, seeing possible covers helps me to get a better handle on the stories, but do I need to spend 1-1/2 hours ever day to do that, with the next story scheduled for several weeks in the future. Although I enjoy designing covers, the answer is: Not really.

So, in reviewing time spent, I reclaimed 3-1/2 hours of writing time. In the next few days, I will be experimenting with tracking my time and applying these changes in my behavior and actions.

Yep, I'm going to keep tracking time, because I plan to keep my time for the thing I want to do most. Write.