New Plan of Attack: Writing Work Days and Beyond!

I haven’t been posting about my writing work days of late. Namely because, in short, I haven’t been writing. I’m not going to list a litany of excuses: I know my mind, I know what’s valid and what isn’t, and I know that some of the time has been spent prepping for actual writing.

But I also have realized that writing one day a week isn’t going to cut it. I need some kind of momentum, even if I’m not writing every day. Today, I came up with a plan of attack:

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Writing Work Day #2

After a rather odd February, March has arrived, which means consecutive Writing Work Days will be had! For a refresher, here was the progress report from last official writing work day, and here’s the last progress report (Con Nooga doesn’t count since I wasn’t actively working on something).

So, a reminder, where am I in my official plan?

3) Use notes and questions to determine what changes need to be made to the current draft of Codename: Telepathic Soulmates. Ultimate goal: reduce word count from 132,000 to around 115,000 words, if possible. Consider:

  • Does it need a total rewrite?
  • Does it need a partial rewrite?
  • A very surgical rewrite?
  • Or just a super-hard final polish?

Deadline: tentatively, Sunday, April 5th. Deadline dependent on what kind of rewrite/polish the draft really needs.

I’d decided that in order to do this, and while waiting on feedback from my two readers, that I would go ahead and sit down and read Karen Wiesner’s First Draft in 30 Days book as a means to narrow my focus on Codename: Telepathic Soulmates, because before I start cranking out revisions, I want to make sure I know what I actually want for the novel. That way, if/when I get conflicting advice from my readers (which has happened long before now), I know what direction to lean towards.

So after some errands this morning, I settled down and did a few things differently:

1) I moved myself into my husband’s office. I thought it would be good to work in a place where I’m not used to messing around on the internet, or where I watch television, or read, or get sleepy. So that was was useful.

2) I usually listen to the Writing Excuses podcast during the week in my car, and this week was no different. However, this week some of the advice (episode 10.9: Where is My Story Coming From?) I wanted to hear again and take notes, so I think in the future, I’ll hold off listening to the podcast and start off my writing work days by listening to it. I know I’ve missed out on REALLY internalizing good advice because I’m not in a position to take notes when I listen, so this should be a positive change.

3) The BIG thing I wanted to do today was start character sketches. Now, mind you, I’ve already written this novel. The idea for character sketches is to make sure I understand at least my main three POV characters and make sure their character arcs through the book MAKE SENSE. Wiesner’s book starts with an introduction and then proceeds to glorify outlines. I’m not sold on that part yet, because I’m more of the Writing Excuses way of thinking, which is that outlining is a spectrum, and most writers do SOME form of outlining, but not necessarily the full-blown, rigid method we all think of when we hear the word “outlining.” But after all of that, the book settled down and talked about character sketches and things to fill in. Fortunately, I’d been informed that Scrivener’s 2.0 version offered these near-exact templates, so I started filling stuff in for my three POV characters. I’ll admit: some of this involved looking up pictures of models for my characters, and I have no shame in admitting it’s fun to look at the pretty.

But how useful was the act itself? Useful…. but not in a tangible way, not yet. In the past few weeks since my first official writing work day, my brain has settled down and I feel mostly confident that I need to do a very deliberate, very surgical rewrite. I need to make sure each scene is performing on all cylinders and doing the best it can for the overall story and themes. As a result of this, my brain’s been storming all over the place and I’ve been taking notes on things I can feather in, and I used those notes to help with the character sketches today. But sketching is different than actually breaking everything down chapter-by-chapter and making sure everything is operating at peak efficiency, you know?

So what does this mean for next week? I want to fill in what I can for the other secondary and tertiary characters in the novel to make sure I’m not missing something useful or obvious, so I think this character-sketching thing may take at least one more, if not two more weeks. Then it’s on to setting and plot, where I intend to break the book down chapter my chapter and really map it out and make sure it’s working the way I want. By then, I suspect I’ll have all of my feedback from my two readers and will have had ample time to pick their brains.

From there? Surgical rewriting, yo!

I will say, I didn’t get started as early as I wanted today due to early morning errands. That being said, I started around 11:00-11:30, and I found the day moved surprisingly slowly. Not in a “I’m bored!” way, but in a way that just surprised me. I suspect my sense of time will change depending on what I’m doing in the process, and when I get to a phase where I’m actually writing, I suspect if I’m in the groove, I’ll lose all sense of time and will need an alarm to remind me to eat. I’d tell the cat to remind me, but I don’t think he’s very dependable in such matters, unless he’s the one wanting to eat.

Today’s musical accompaniment was the following:

1) Chasing Ice Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by J. Ralph because the music is so very lovely, haunting, a Philip Glass-esque to my ears. Also, the setting is very close to my heart.
2) [Soul] or [System] by Skytown Riot: I picked up this EP at Con Nooga, and I saw them perform a few years ago when they opened for Filter. I’m officially in love with this band.
3) This Is War by Thirty Seconds to Mars because of course.

Getting Into the Write Frame of Mind

Because last week wasn’t a set of four 10-hour days capped with a Writing Workday, it didn’t really occur to me until now that a progress report is due. I will say that anyone who’s wanting to follow 2015 progress can simply use the Progress Report tag to get the most recent report, or if you just want to hear whatever my rambling thoughts are on writing, especially if I change THE OFFICIAL PLAN, you can use the Writing tag to get the most up-to-date posts on that subject too.

So, for those of you keep track of my progress based on the Official Plan page, I completed items #1 and #2 on time. I’m now in #3:

Use notes and questions to determine what changes need to be made to the current draft of Codename: Telepathic Soulmates. Ultimate goal: reduce word count from 132,000 to around 115,000 words, if possible. Consider:

  • Does it need a total rewrite?
  • Does it need a partial rewrite?
  • A very surgical rewrite?
  • Or just a super-hard final polish?

Deadline: tentatively, Sunday, April 5th. Deadline dependent on what kind of rewrite/polish the draft really needs.

In looking at my goals from this point on, it’s occurred to me that I’ve gotten a little vague. How long am I taking to decide what this book needs? How long am I allowing for writing/rewrite? I can’t determine the latter until I determine the former, and the latter will then determine when I can start item #4.

So the question is this: how am I going to accomplish item #3?

If you’re reading this via email digest or on the main page, I’m putting a cut here, because I have a lot to talk about. If you’re interested, onward! Continue reading

Writing Work Day #1

So I promised weekly progress reports, so here we go: this week’s goal was to do the following:

Read Codename: Telepathic Soulmates. Take notes on world-building, write down any questions that aren’t answered, figure out what, if any, questions should be addressed in a sequel. Deadline: Sunday, February 15th.

Consider it read. Not only did I finish reading today, but I dug out my most recent crits from various people and reimmersed myself with the feedback I’ve received in the past so that I could hopefully focus in on what needs to be fixed before I start agent-shopping.

I have a confession to make: I have no clue.

Let me be real, for a moment: I can write a discovery draft. I can take that discovery draft, figure out what the REAL story is, and then do a kick-ass rewrite. I can do a hard polish when it comes to line-edits. But what comes in between? Figuring out how to surgically revise a piece so scenes are tighter, stronger, move along better, reinforce themes and character development and all that? I don’t know how to do that part yet. And it’s one of the reasons why I’ve put Codename: Telepathic Soulmates on the back burner for so long.

Because one minute, all I think I need is a super hard polish: tighten up the book sentence-by-sentence, and then send it out. Other times I think it just needs a partial revision. Other times, I get overwhelmed and I’m convinced I need a rewrite.

And I’m not kidding about the minute-by-minute stuff. After reading one person’s feedback, I’m like, “Oh yeah, it needs THIS.” And after reading another person’s feedback, I’m convinced, “Oh no, it needs THIS.”

It’s so overwhelming. And it doesn’t help when I get wildly different responses to what works and what doesn’t.

There are a certain set of things I know I must do: I know I need to sit down and consider the use of profanity in my world (sue me, when this was written, I was deeply proud of using profanity whenever, wherever I could). I also know the beginning must, somehow, be tightened. All of my readers admit to being overwhelmed with (albeit necessary) info at the start, which made it harder to keep reading, but once everything came together, they couldn’t put the book down. Sure, some people liked certain scenes more than others, and I have to be aware of who the critique was coming from (a target audience member or someone who’d only read the book just because I was the one who wrote it), but everyone had their own great points to make.

It’s a lot to take in. And I’m trying to look at this book not as the start of a series, which it IS, but rather as a stand-alone. Reason being is that I do know how the business works: if Codename: Telepathic Soulmates doesn’t do well when published, that’s it. I’ll be moving on to a new, unrelated project. So then the question becomes: how to I get this book into the kind of shape that leaves readers wanting more, but in a positive way, not in a maddening way?

The world-building is the book’s greatest strength, but with that strength comes a learning curve, and how to help readers master that without giving them a info-dumpy tutorial is the challenge. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been tempted to split this book in two, even though as it stands, it won’t split easily (if it could, I would already be published — I was offered a contract a few years ago, but it ended up not working out due to word count and we TRIED to figure out a way to split it easily) and would require some serious examination in order to tell not just one strong story, but two. But then I run into the stand-alone issue: if the first doesn’t sell, the second doesn’t have much of a shot, and as it stands, some of the strongest material happens in the final act of the current draft.

So it’s decision time. I need to be able to separate legitimate concerns from what Chuck Wendig calls pre-rejection (which is what I feel I’ve been doing for years now). I need to be careful not to let big, re-write ideas take over. I need to really think hard about the draft as is, not the way I’d write it if I were starting from scratch. The hard part is this: I’m not the same person now that I was when I wrote and revised this back in my Seton Hill days.

It’s a scary thing. But here’s hoping by the end of the weekend (which will be Monday for me, since that’s a federal holiday), I’ll have made a decision.

In other news, I suspect getting up early enough to have a full  writing work day is going to be a challenge, if this morning was any indication. I was pretty zonked when my husband woke me up, and I probably wouldn’t have woken up early if I hadn’t asked him to wake me. Then, after working all day (which, for today, was reading and taking notes), I ended up taking a quick 15 minute nap because I was so sleepy. Afterwards, I drowned a 5-hour Energy.

But I do declare the first, official Writing Work Day to be a success. The next one won’t happen until Friday, March 6th, so technically, I should give myself until then to figure out exactly what kind of polish/revision I’m looking at.

For now, I’m going to enjoy Valentine’s Day Eve with my husband, which means curling up to watch either a movie or marathoning some television shows. Isn’t love grand?

How Sick We Are

So I’ve been fighting a cold since Tuesday, hence the radio silence. Last week was a busy week with late nights, and it wasn’t even my first week of four 10s. That starts this week.

Hopefully, the cold is on the way out. And I promised progress reports (which I hope to do on Fridays in the future) when I talked about my official plan, so here’s how week one went.

The goal:

Read Codename: LB Prequel. Take notes on world-building, write down questions to get answered in Codename: Telepathic Soulmates. Deadline: Sunday, February 8th.

Consider it done. For a while, the cold was fighting me, but I got caught up.

This week’s goal:

Read Codename: Telepathic Soulmates. Take notes on world-building, write down any questions that aren’t answered, figure out what, if any, questions should be addressed in a sequel. Deadline: Sunday, February 15th

I’m actually well on my way of finishing this. Maybe that’s a good thing that I’ve got a head start (I’m on page 317 of 518), because I’ll start the 10 hours days tomorrow, and I’ll likely be pretty zonked by time I get home. So I’m glad that I’ll have Friday free to really focus on the reading.

I don’t have any commentary yet, other than places I’d previously thought I wanted to change for REASONS, I’m second-guessing now. Once I finish reading and start studying the notes, and get off the cold meds, I may have a clearer direction, but for now, I’m still pondering.

So that’s it for a writing update. Today’s blog post title is brought to you from Evanescence’s “Sick” from their self-titled album. You can here the song here.

Writing Wednesday: Doing Research

We’ll keep it short and sweet.

Submission process: I’m still debating between the two suggested markets that I mentioned last week. The deadline is frustrating, even though the story is ready. I just have to pick the market I think the story is best suited for, right? But both have response times I’m not in love with, and while I’m definitely not in this to make money, the pay is rather meh. So I started hunting around on (thanks to Nancy at Picking Up the Pen for reminding me of this wonderful resource! I’d forgotten all about it!) and bookmarking markets I think would be potentially good: some are closed for submissions, which is fine, because I can read and do more research, but it makes me wonder: is it worth submitting to one of these two markets that I’m not sure about versus waiting for a submission window to a market that might actually fit? Heaven forbid that I don’t hear back from a previous submission and miss the window for a better-fitting market! I wish this story wasn’t so hard to place….

Writing: I didn’t fail quite so badly. I brainstormed my UF free-write with a novel idea I’d had a few years ago to see how things lined up and came up with some interesting ideas, but I’m still chewing on it. And after watching The Conjuring, I was struck with an idea that may work for a short story, so I spent Monday night chasing that particular rabbit and made notes for it on Tuesday. It’s promising, but I’m taking my time.

And that’s it this week!

Writing Wednesday: The Final Answer

No writing. Let’s just get that out of the way. I’ve been very, let’s just say…. emotional.

But I did hear back from the magazine I submitted my short story to. The answer is no, short and sweet. And the trouble is, I’m running out of markets: I pulled up my Excel spreadsheet and reviewed all of the places I’ve submitted this piece, all of which I thought would make great homes, but all of which I’ve been rejected from.* So I rallied on Facebook and asked for suggestions. Thanks to that, I discovered two potential markets: both have submission periods that end on July 31st. One doesn’t pay save for a contributor copy of the mag but is very prestigious, and the other pays, but I’m not sure if it’s a professional market or not. Oh, and both take ninety days to get back to me. So I need to do some sampling, make sure I have my arms wrapped around both markets, and pick one (all while trying to get my Hugo votes in by, you guessed it, the 31st).

This time next week, I should know where I’m sending my short story next. I also need to get back on the saddle, writing-wise, even if I’m not pursuing the free-write UF I’ve been tinkering with. We’ll see.

* = Yeah, I’m ending sentences with propositions. Deal with it, yo.

Writing Wednesday: The Waiting Game

I’ve got nothing exciting to report this week. So far, no news from the magazine I sent my short story to, but according to their guidelines, they usually get back to authors in two weeks, so I’ve got a bit of time left to go.

Writing-wise, I had one late-night of free-writing in the UF world I’m playing with, but nothing since. The week has been busy, and it’s also been draining on a lot of fronts. Those two variables do not make for good motivation, so I’ve been slumping just a little. I did try writing Monday night, but when I sat down to churn out some words, even just a page’s worth, my brain kind of glazed over and I decided it was best not to push anything too hard for fear of breaking something.

So that’s it for now. Next week, I hope to provide far more encouraging writing stats and maybe even a short story response! Only time will tell, so we’ll see.

Writing Wednesday: Getting Back in the Saddle

I had such high hopes for this year, but you know what they say about best laid plans and all of that. For those of you who’ve been following this blog for a while, or if you know me really well, you know 2014 has been a tough year for me personally. Things are looking up, and I may get into that at a later time, but for now, I want to focus on something tangible. Like creating another alliterative weekly post. 🙂

So the idea behind “Writing Wednesdays” is to basically give a progress report for what I accomplished writing-wise during the week. Not too formal, not too structured, but something to keep me accountable and give you all a chance to hear about what I’m working on.

Right now, I’m free-writing. I started on 6/30 with a toying in a secondary fantasy setting, but while I’ve been chewing on the setting for a while, I’m not sure where I really want to go with that world, so short of writing a page-and-a-half scene, I’ve got nothing. So on 7/3 and 7/7, I started free-writing in an urban fantasy setting I’ve been brainstorming for a while. I like the opening, but the second scene I’m feeling my way through, and I’m having to consider what I’m really driving at in the story and what I want the payoff to be. But it’ll be fun to think about. I’ve been thinking about the magic system for a while, so it’s going to be fun to play around with.

I also decided to take my short story that got rejected from F&SF and start putting it back out in the market. I’m too superstitious to say the name of the story or where I sent it, but should it get accepted or rejected, I’ll reveal the market and likely ask for suggestions for other markets, should the response be a big fat no. This is submission #18 for the story.

And that’s all I wrote!

The Write Stuff: 2/23/14

Originally, I was going to post when I accomplished something BIG in terms of my writing. Well, there’s not always going to be something BIG every month, and since I want to at least do monthly writing updates, I need to post whether I’ve got something big or not.

When last we left off, I’d sent off Magic Elves [codename] to my beta reader and was waiting on feedback. I’d also sent off my short story to the C.C. Finlay edited edition of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, and I getting ready to work on a short story for the Women Destroy Science Fiction! edition of Lightspeed.

So let’s start there:

1) Got my feedback on Magic Elves and did a brainstorming session with my beta reader about revising. Got some great stuff, and I’m trying to work this into a synopsis/brainstorming guide for revisions. This is something I’m working on for my upcoming workshop, and it’s due March 5th. I started out writing a long, detailed synopsis, and that was just sucking any sort of energy or joy I might’ve had for it, so it’s time to go back to the drawing board. I keep thinking I have enough time, but I don’t: like I said, it’s due March 5th. Between that and taxes, there’s plenty to keep me busy.

2) My short story for F&SF was rejected, and that’s okay. Sure, I was bummed out, but honestly, that’s the best rejection I’ve ever gotten, particularly for that story. It’s a strange piece that straddles the line between fantasy and literary fiction, and I’ve submitted it to both markets. The irony, or funny thing, or whatever, is that both markets always say it isn’t for them and to try the OTHER market. It’s a piece I still love, and I suspect that if I can’t find a home for it, I may end up self-publishing it on my site. That’s a long way off into the future, but it’s something I’m keeping in my back pocket.

Also fascinating was Finlay’s blog post talking about what the submission process was like and what he learned from it. Very interesting: if you’re a writer, you should read this, whether not or you submitted to the Finlay issue of F&SF.

3) I ended up deciding not to submit to Lightspeed magazine. There were lots of reasons: A) the story I ended up deciding on had the serious potential to spiral into a novel, and I knew if I didn’t write it and let it be what it wanted, if I tried to force it into a certain word count, it’d be a crappy story. B) I also didn’t have enough time to get it written, get it out to critiquers, give them enough time to read and respond, and get it back in time to make proper revisions and get it back out. C) The issue was highly competitive. Very few slots were given to previously unpublished stories, and I knew that established authors had a far better chance at those slots than I would, someone who’s not been published, which led me to D) my submission wouldn’t just be considered for the Women Destroy Science Fiction! Issue, but also any issues thereafter. Which meant, really, there was no hurry. I wanted to focus on getting Magic Elves ready to start before I turn to a project that might or might not be a novel. Also, it’ll give me time to E) really get to know Lightspeed as a market. I submitted to the Kickstarter, and for my efforts I’ve got a yearlong subscription to the mag. This will give me plenty of fiction to chew on and figure out whether or not it’s really the right market for my work. And that’s a good thing.

So now that we’ve caught up there, what have I been doing? Well, if you saw yesterday’s post, you know my focus has been shot. I’ve spent part of my time reading Karl Iglesias’ Writing for Emotional Impact. This was homework from my beta reader, so I did that before attempting any work on my synopsis for the revised book. And, as I mentioned before, I’ve made a few stabs, but in truth, I’ve not accomplished much since January 13th. It is what it is: I’m not going to beat myself up over it. I’ve got lots to do between now and the end of March, some of it writing-related, some of it not, and the way I figure, I’m just going to go with the flow.