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:
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:
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:

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...

Monday, July 22, 2013

Reality Sets In: It's a Book!

Over the last few weeks, I have been revising a book, chapter by chapter. Today, I pulled all the individual chapter files into one single file...and I have, ta-da and to my amazement, a BOOK.

Okay, I'm slow on the uptake at times, but knowing you're writing a book and having the entire manuscript of the book in your hands... Ooh boy, talk about bringing reality home. An honest to goodness (cohesive, well-plotted, developmentally sound) book!

In Times New Roman 14-Point (to ease overtired eyes) and at 400 pages, the manuscript sits three finger-widths deep and waiting. Gulp and wow, just wow...

First, I pretend I'm a reader, and read the pages for enjoyment, only noting those sections that might lag or need further revision.

Second, I read for character voice. Does the character's POV "sound" like the character in individual POV chapters and in dialog?

Thirdly, I polish, adding metaphors and similes and improving style.

Then comes a focus on pacing... Does a scene ending need to be tightened or sections of the chapter sentences shortened? Is the pacing of chapters varied and forward-moving? What adjustments (shorter paragraphs, shorter sentences, shorter words) need to be made to increase pacing to build to the book's climax?

After that, the entire manuscript gets analyzed via AutoCrit ( to catch overused words and phrases repeated throughout the book in its entirety.

Next, back to 12-point font size, the book is ready for a chapter break review and spell checking.

Lastly, I attach the BOOK to an email and send the attachment to a professional fiction editor, a few beta readers, and then move on to the next revision project.

Busy times ahead.

Also, if the attached photo is any indication, I anticipate a few roadblocks... Wait, maybe the little guy is there for support... Nah.

And look, do you see that stack of paper there next to Lightning Boy? That's a manuscript, an honest to goodness book. Yeah, baby, it's a book!

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Lonely Thing on Lonely Street

When I worked extensive overtime in my day job, I spent untold hours in front of the computer. Now that writing is my job, I realize that I only thought I experienced solitude during work.

The time spent alone to write, because there is absolutely no required interaction with others during the process, is most definitely a trip down a lonely street.

Because of this aloneness, I very much appreciate contact with friends and family via phone, text, and social media. I also am grateful for an awesome husband who does most of our cooking, the puppy that requires lots of petting and walking, and the three cats that sleep in kitty cubes near the writing table to keep me company.

While for some being part of a group is rejuvenating, for me, alone time is how I ground and regain my energy. But THIS much alone time...

Even for someone who enjoys quiet solitude, this amount of alone time does tend to foster a feeling of a lack of connection with others and, at times, a deep aching loneliness.

For now, I am tapping into that ache and using the discomfort to finish my current revision; yet, in doing that, the next four books in the series tend to loom before me.

Writing coaches Cathy Yardley and Kat Duncan both suggest setting up and fostering support systems. Awesome writerly friends check on me every few days and fantastic non-writer friends touch base every day or every other day. In taking breaks, I reach out as well. I so welcome the connecting and interacting!

Since, I want writing and revising to be something I look forward to with enthusiasm, I am experimenting with scheduling and potential techniques to increase productivity but also encourage balance.

I hope to blog about potential options soon. In the mean time, a singular task conducted in solitude, writing is a lonely thing on a lonely street.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Under Attack (I Was Warned)

SCREECH!!!! That was the sound of doubt bringing my writing and revision to a halt.

All during the writing of my series, from several writer-friends and associates, I was warned to be prepared for when doubt set in. Doubt? Nah, not me. I'm enthusiastic. I love the series, the story, and my characters. All five first drafts are written, and I believe in the books so easy sailing from here on out, right? Not so much.

Over three-quarters of the way through revising the first book...something insidious and ugly happened. The thing they tried to let me know was coming rose from the depths of the swamp. Monster-like, doubt crept onto my doorstop and seeped under the door.

Wrapped around my ankles and creeping upward, Doubt whispers, "The story isn't engaging."

"Your style, your voice, your WRITING is weak, weak, weak," the guttural voice taunts. "With five first drafts, you've not finalized one book in the series. You SHOULD HAVE written better first drafts. You COULD HAVE written faster. You keep spinning your wheels. What's the matter? Are you scared, little girly." (Shades of Mr. Gold from Once Upon a Time here.) Doubt smirks and laughs a low rumble as dry as the desert and taunts, "Not good enough."

According to my writing coach, during revision is an expected time for doubt to pay a visit. As many tried to tell me before, going through the doubt process IS part of the process. It's a phase, or at least, that's what I'm telling myself.

As if in a small town speed trap, I'm letting up on the gas and easing through.

Okay, I admit it. At first, I tromped on the gas peddle and tried to barrel through by putting in long hours and trying to force my way through. Didn't work. That's how I actually got stuck -- I over extended and physically drained, couldn't push on any farther.

"Doubt," I say, "They told me you were going to pay a visit. Almost finished with the book's revision, I thought you'd decided not to drop by, but since you're here, why don't we take a little drive. A road trip, slow and easy, over the scenic route."

Doubt, still eager to attack, looks, er, doubtful.

"We'll take it page by page," I suggest. "Let's give it a once through, then send it to the writing coach. She can have a look through before we send the manuscript on for editing. We'll probably pass the book back and forth several times, before it goes on to be edited. How's that sound?"

Quiet, Doubt remains a puddle under my feet, ready to turn blob-like and attack at any moment. Perhaps like Talking to da Fear, doubt can be addressed with negotiation and reasoning.


Deep down, I know I can revise and finish the series. Yet, Doubt is doing its best and its worse. I am under attack.

How will I deal with this phase of the writing process? I hope to blog about my success in surviving a mega attack of doubt, or at least my continued battle, in a later blog.

Doubt, is the enemy. I was warned.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Snobs, Con Jobs, & Thingamabobs


"So what sort of books do you write?" I asked.

Literary fiction author said, "I write literary fiction."

"I see... Um, what is your book about?"

"A woman's life's journey." Literary fiction author's nose lifted ceilingward.

"Ah, so woman's fiction?"

"Not hardly. And what is it YOU write?"

"YA paranormal," I said, "with aspects of science fiction and fantasy."

Literary fiction author gazed at me with THE look that was meant to pity and to put a lowly genre writer such as me in my place.

(Bet I had more fun writing in my nose-upturning genre than literary fiction author did with literary fiction! Just saying.)


From a recent writing class, the instructor offered to edit a few chapters for a set fee. The turnaround was quick, and the editor asked for a couple of more chapters to edit as a bonus. ("I just love your writing style." "You're such a fast learner.")

For further edits the editor offered to edit for a set fee per hour. The edits took a bit longer, with the same chapters undergoing multiple edits.

Next go around, the editors fee went up 50%, and deeper editing per chapter was suggested.

I passed.


Hubby is my initial reader of edited chapters.

When I used the method from You Can Write a Novel by James V. Smith Jr. to adjust chapter pacing, he was impressed with the increased pace.

I was thrilled when he asked about the technique.

A few minutes into my Readability Statistics explanation, he said, "Whatever you're doing, it's working."

Off to revise using my thingamabob process.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Catching Fireflies

Ideas are like fireflies.

When I was a child, growing up in the South, we called them lightning bugs. In the spring, with more yellow glowing flickers appearing toward dusk the beginning of summer, fireflies captured our interest and our imaginations.

First the mason jar, then the canning lid and sealing ring. Second, a nail and hammer. With gentle taps on the nail head--a few slips and a lightly smashed finger or two later--and tiny holes dot the metal of the lid.

Breathless, insides zinging, the after sundown coolness takes away the sticky heat of the day. The cool of the night is forgotten in the excitement of catching the lightning bugs. We run, with many squeals and dodges, to gently cup the fireflies in our hands.
Cupped in my hand, how do they light and not burn? The flickers light the flesh of my hand, and I press my eye to the open circle of my thumb. The lightning bugs crawl over my inner fingers and palms, bringing their magic to the night.

Held inside the jar for a brief time, the fireflies blink and glow, making a childhood memory as magical as any that I recall.

In the book Manuscript Makeover, Revision Techniques No Fiction Writer Can Afford to Ignore by Elizabeth Lyon suggests we catch fireflies of ideas by carrying around a notepad, because ideas are "difficult to catch if you don't act quickly."

Like fireflies on a spring or summer night, ideas appear bright and shiny, but also can provide distraction from the current project. Currently, I am revising the first book in a five-book series, with four more to go.

Yet, the blinking glow of a firefly of an idea tempts me to run barefoot in the grass, hands cupped, reaching outward...

Task at hand: Book #1 Series #1 Revision.

BUT, I've got this idea about my next series you see, then about another one in another genre, plus there's this concept for a trilogy of standalone books, with a fourth book that brings the characters together, growing like a fungus in my head. AND what about the OTHER genre I want to give a try, there's a three trilogy series of books that I'd love to dive into and write.

Task at hand: Revise current series.

So, I step back, make notes about future book ideas, series, characters, etc., then I focus on revision. My reward when I finish the series? You guessed it! I get to pick one of the future ideas and move on to the next project.

For now, I twist open the jar lid and let the fireflies go.

Read, Revise, Edit, Read Aloud, Repeat.

Wait, what was that yellow glow I saw out of the corner of my eye?