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.

video

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.