Refining the Projects
I'm working on three active novels right now...sort of. While a lot of the early derailment this month has to do with illness, and another portion can be blamed on trying to recover the habits and routines that fell apart when editing took over my life, working on three books at once? Not working.
So here's the plan at this point....
1. Finish this round of revisions on Crown of Tirs, the second book in the Randi Kayde series, then set it aside for the moment. Since Charms is still making rounds, there's no rush to get it polished, and once this round of revisions are done, there's enough of a foundation to let it sit and come back to it later without wondering what I was doing with it. And for Tirs, some space might be a good idea.
Tirs has been a difficult book to write. When I wrote the rough draft, I had my subplots and all that figured out, but they never made it into the rough because I was concerned about the main plot making sense. I didn't do this deliberately, and honestly didn't really think about it until my alpha reader pointed out how straight forward it was. Since then, I've been working in the missing subplots and such, and now it looks like I may need to shuffle some of the scenes around—next round. I never want to write a book in this way again, and I need a break from this one before my brain implodes. But I need to finish working the missing stuff in before I can set it aside.
2. Continue to work on my alternate project, Quest For Ehlarayn, the second book in the Heroes of Ehlarayn trilogy. With Assassin's Choice slated for release in September, this one needs to remain an active project. Fortunately, the hardest part of the Alden novels is language, and I don't worry so much about that until the revision process is nearly done.
Once Tirs is done, Quest will become my primary project.
3. Chosen, the first book in the Uncrowned trilogy, is on the sidelines until Tirs is done, then will move up to being my alternate project. Which is not to say no work is being done on it at all, it's just not steady and will mostly focus on world building.
Waiting in the wings: Shades of Reyn, an urban in the same world as the Randi Kayde series but on the opposite coast, and Phoenix Rising, the first in an Alden series that occurs earlier than either Ehlarayn or Uncrowned.
I've been considering trying my hand at some new shorts again, but seeing that list...it's unlikely to happen. Even if I manage to get my routine settled, there's just not enough hours in the day. I'm getting better at setting things up and faster at writing the rough drafts, but I'm still a slow writer and a slower reviser. One day, that may no longer be true, but if there's one thing I'm learning, it's to be aware of and to pay attention to my limits, especially if I want to get things finished.
Persistence. Focus. Don't Overload. These three things keep me moving forward and help me get the projects done without losing my mind.
Flight of the Phoenix, Heroes of Ehlarayn, In Progress, Life & Writing, Novels, Personal Insights, The Shunned, Uncrowned
Finally, Blood Charms
I was at loose ends for most of last week. Assassin's was sent to beta readers, and I had nothing else on my to do list since I thought it would take longer. Turned out a break was in order because every time I tried to turn my mind to another project, I just couldn't seem to wrap my head around it. By Thursday, I gave up and just took a break from any writing I'd planned. I did my crits, read some, did some baking, but left the writing alone to give myself space.
Which seems to have helped. Tuesday, I finally dug into Blood Charms again. I'm at the building draft stage, which is the point where I go from telling about the story into actually writing story and stuffing in all the details I can to make the rough draft easier to sort out. What I've found at this stage is that I always have a problem getting started, I've opened Charms several times, written a few lines, deleted them, and closed out again. I'm not supposed to be trying for the perfect opening line yet, not supposed to be worrying about the technical stuff, but I do, and I have to get past the first paragraph or two before that seems to really kick in. With Charms, it doesn't help that I just spent 6 months almost totally focused on polishing another novel, and I've barely even look at Charms during that 6 months and so need to refresh myself a bit on the story and characters,
The good news is once I got past those opening paragraphs, I did fine. I found that love of the story again, began getting into the character again, and the words started rolling. Yesterday, I tried to pick it back up and had the same problems I had when opening compounded by the persistent interruptions by family. Again, I think some of the problem is having been away from the story so long. Once I get further in, I should be more comfortable and the story should flow smoother for me. The hope is to get Charms done this year. The language is cleaner, the story telling more straightforward. The only thing new for me in Charms is the genre, which is big enough in some ways, but isn't some of the high level, complicated stuff I was trying to work with in Assassin's.
More than likely, Quest For Ehlarayn will keep to the side until I'm at the point where I'm revising Charms. Then it can serve as that alternate "I need a break!" project that I seem to need when deep in revisions.
Flight of the Phoenix, Heroes of Ehlarayn, Process & Craft
Good Weeks Rock
I know all this up energy I've gotten since freeing myself to focus on my writing will eventually be interrupted bad a bad day or two, but right now? Totally enjoying this energized, motivated, "this is what I should be doing" feeling.
And it shows.
This week, between new words and revisions, was a 13k week. I can't even begin to remember the last time I had a 10k week, much less a 13. Even days I have to run around and do domestic things like grocery shopping and picking up medications have been productive writing days. The Phoenix building draft is now over 51k, I just finished a new version of A.C.'s chapter 33 (two chapters combined, lots of cuts made, and not so much revisions as rewrites—it'll need another go before I do my v5 polish), and just finished the outline for a new project, Blood Charms. I've also been tinkering with a short, "Pretty Things" and submitted 2 others.
I think the personal changes are helping too. I wake up tired, do my workout (3 times a week), and have the energy to get to writing even if I woke up tired.
Next week, I'm bumping up my count goal to 1k/day and 6k/week. This is for new words, and I'll be sitting there for a bit until I'm sure the habit has reformed. Shouldn't take too long. I've already learned to do the new words first or my time gets eaten up by other things. I just have to remember not to forget Phoenix in the process of working on the new project.
And speaking of domestic duties...must run out and get milk and eggs. Writer or not, being a mom never ends. ;)
Flight of the Phoenix, Heroes of Ehlarayn, Rewards, Short Stories, The Shunned
Forward Progress At Last
There's just something about deciding that you WILL do something. No hedging, no "if I can", but a definite "I WILL do this."
2009 started with a little bit of a stumble—I was still struggling with chapter 30 of A.C., but I've since kicked myself in gear. Today, chapter 30 will be done and posted (along with the 4 previous chapters) to the workshop and sent to my two readers (in a 10 chapter section).
Which also brings up the fact that it's sometimes silly what finally gets us motivated. In this case, I thought about writing a new short...and ended up finishing off chapter 30.4 revisions in 2 days. I guess writing a new short is a threat to me? Whatever works, right? The only problem with this is that I do indeed need to write a new short. A Christmas one for a private advent calendar, so I'm going to have to get over it being a threat soon. I write and revise too slow to wait until we're too much further into the year to get started.
So far this month, I've written or revised a total of 11k. In new words, I'm holding steady at 3900/week for the moment. It was a bit of a stretch, so getting back into the habit of making that particular goal each week is more of a priority than trying to push more words just yet. These words have been split between world building for both A.C. (which is now pretty much done) and Phoenix 1 and working on the Phoenix 1 building draft. The other projects haven't been touched much yet, and that's fine. I probably need to get A.C. off my plate first.
There are two things I'm really trying to put into play as I recover from the mess that was last year: 1. knowing my limits and being patient with myself because of them, and 2. easing back into things and being patient with the process.
Knowing your limits is as important as understanding your process, I think. This doesn't mean you don't try to increase your limits, just that you realize that you have them and may need to build upon them. Otherwise frustration sets in and you give up. this was a real problem for me last year because my limits had decreased because of my health issues. I needed to allow myself to heal before I pushed, but was just too used to pushing to convince myself to do that. This year, I am measuring success a little differently. Yes, I want to reach my goals, but I want to enjoy what I'm doing (for the most part since I'll probably always hate revisions) and reach those goals a bit more consistently. To do that, I have to realize where my limits are, find the point where it's a challenge, then take the time I need to actually consistently reach that goal before I try pushing some more. Last year, when I made my goals at all, it was more of a "Oh, I made my goal this week! time to add more for next week." Habit building just doesn't work that way for me.
Baby steps can be frustrating, but right now, that's what I need to take. So, I've got a long way to go before I'm where I want to be, and I might have put too much in the goals to be able to reach them all. The good news is that I still have a lot of year left. And if I don't reach them all, I'll at least have a better idea of where my challenge point is and either cut back a project or two or keep the same number for next year.
And, really, THAT progress, that understanding of what I need to do to be happier in what I do and be less frustrated with myself and my writing, is a better achievement than the word count so far.
Now, about that exercise problem.... ;)
Annual Goals, Flight of the Phoenix, Goals & Progress, Heroes of Ehlarayn, Personal Insights
My progress on A.C. and Phoenix has been slower than I would like it to be. Granted, a lot of that was the physical problems that literally slowed me down and forced me to bed. Without a laptop, doing any kind of writing was particularly hard. With my iron levels as low as they were, it isn't any surprise that all I wanted to do was sleep. So, I'm not kicking myself at being so far behind on either book, but I am disappointed in general. I was hoping to be finalizing v6 of A.C. by now and getting it off the beta readers. Instead, I'm still floundering my way through v4/5. And I had hoped to be working on v3 revisions of Phoenix by now, but I don't even have a rough draft done. Like I said, it couldn't be helped—being sick for 8 months took a lot of wind out of my sails, so to speak.
So the first thing I've done to help myself out is to readjust my goals for the two books for this year. I'd like to just get the v4/5 version done for A.C. And a rough draft for Phoenix would be nice, though I suspect that might be pushing it a bit. I may have to be content with just getting the building draft done plus a whole lot of world building.
Which brings up a point quite briefly: just because you're writing in the same world doesn't mean no more world building. In this case I need a whole bunch of different locations developed and I'm in a different time period than A.C. So, yea, a lot more world building on my end. The good news is that most of the basics are pretty set: magic, the gods, and so on, giving me a ready foundation for what I need to do for the other book.
Anyway, the second thing I'm doing to help get me going is to sign up for some challenges through my writing group. Now, admittedly, I do this every time they hold a challenge, but I decided to join into this one a bit differently than in the past: I've focused my challenge choices so they apply to these two novels, especially A.C. Now I do have a critique challenge in there, but the other two are novel revisions and world building specifically. Neither has a high goal at the moment, but I will push them higher if I can. I won't know if I can until I'm close to completing the ones I have: revise 7 chapters in 8 weeks and do 24k in world building. I had to resist adding other goals that could derail me by giving me too much to do—I need to keep my focus on the two novels at hand and what I need to finish for them.
The one down side is that I've cut my weekly word count goal for Phoenix itself, the reason being that I need the world building before I can go too much further into developing the book itself. That's part of what the building draft is all about: pulling together the information you need for descriptions and whatnot and putting all of it in the where it's needed. When you get to the rough draft stage later, it's just a matter of working the details in that you need where you need them and spreading them out a bit.
Trust me, it works, for me anyway.
My weekly and daily goals are now adjusted a little to make the challenge goals the priority. I'm actually not too worried about the world building stuff. Between the two books, if I can't come up with 24k, then I'm just being lazy. REALLY lazy. But the revisions do worry me. I'm in the last 11 chapters, yes, but I'm also in the chapters that are going to require the most change. Some are going to see drastic cuts. Others are just plain going to have to be rewritten. I suspect in the end I'll have 8 or 9 chapters instead of 11, but the chapter a week thing just may not happen with the amount of work that needs to be done to get there. But I guess that's kind of what challenges are all about: you reach for something you're not quite sure you can make and hope you actually do get there. If they were all easy, it wouldn't be a challenge, right?
Flight of the Phoenix, Heroes of Ehlarayn, Life & Writing, Process & Craft
Digging Into Phoenix
I've been doing so much editing work lately, even when I get the chance to work on my own stuff, that I'm feeling the lack of writing in a bad way. So today we work on Phoenix 1. I'm not quite ready for the building draft, which is the next stage of its development, but I can skip around so what I'm missing is no big deal. Right now I'm pulling all my world building notes out of the notes draft and creating my world building list. Once I have that done, it's on to actual writing—scenes, dialogue, action, pov, all of it. This is the stage just before the rough draft, and there's still story development going on, but this is when the excitement really begins. No more (or very little) exposition, narrative, and summary. The rough draft will expand upon this draft, intertwine the descriptions, and so on, but this is where it all starts.
Flight of the Phoenix, Process & Craft
Phoenix About Ready
Phoenix Rising has been sent off to a writing buddy for a plot check. The notes draft isn't quite done—it needs some actual notes—but the story itself is. Politics play a big part in this novel and I needed someone who likes that kind of thing to make sure they work. Last thing I want is to get to the point where I'm posting it for crits with my writers workshop and find out that the politics really don't work so the whole thing has to be stripped back to a point where I can fix them—probably back to the outline. I would have sent it off at the narrative draft stage, but there isn't really enough in that stage to see this kind of thing. It can help with general plotting, help makes sure the subplots are fairly woven in, stuff like that, but it's not so great at something like this because there's just not enough of it to see how well it works.
While my buddy checks it, I'll be adding notes and starting some character profiles and the like. I'll also be continuing with A.C. revisions. The current chapter has gone slower than the previous few, but it also was written out of order and about...7? years ago—and hasn't been touched since being written. It was originally going to be, get this, chapter 10. I should finish it by the end of this upcoming week.
Regardless, it's been a wonderfully productive weekend so far. Tomorrow (erm, later today), I'll work on notes for the notes draft and probably chapter 4 of NPB. I need 13k/week to make my word count goal for the year. With a little pushing, I think I can actually make it this week. We'll see about next week.
Flight of the Phoenix, Heroes of Ehlarayn
A Few Quiet Weeks
Between personal stress at home, work, weather, and a few other things, not much work has been done on my own writing recently (note previous entry). However, I have finally reached the current halfway mark in Assassin's Choice in terms of chapter numbers. I may be past that in actual word count because there's a huge chunk towards the end of the book that may get cut. Phoenix Rising also got a nice, healthy word count addition this week--I now have a Friday buddy that I meet with to work on "alternate" projects. Hopefully meeting with her every week will help keep me on track with it.
In publication news, two of my short stories are now available on AnthologyBuilder.com: "In the Blood" and "Intended". One of them even received positive comments from the site editor. I need to update the site to reflect that, I suppose. ;)
There's little else to post about really. I'm ruminating a new Meta and considering writing a new article on critiquing (yea, like we all need another one--but this one comes from something I realized about the crits I receive and how I react to them). I'm still working on a short, and, yes, it's very odd for me to plod my way through a first draft of a short like this. I just finished a S. L. Veihl book and have one other novel and an omnibus lined up for me to read. For work, one manuscript has been returned to the author for round 2 edits, and the second manuscript is about done with round 1.
I did start trying out a new hard copy method for tracking my submissions. It's going to take a bit to get all the old stuff in the columnar book...and I may end up having to do it all over again because I'm not so sure I like it. I like the idea of a book and the information I'm trying to keep (in general), but the book is a bit...big. I'm thinking of making my own template then having it copied and bound at Staples. We'll see.
And...that's about it. Told you it's been quiet.
Flight of the Phoenix, Heroes of Ehlarayn, Life & Writing, Short Stories
As has been most this past year, it's been a busy few months, but some major changes are going to allow me to change my focus in the future. It's all good, but requires me to come up with a routine for my day that works. I'm very excited about it all though. :)
The best news right now is that I'm no longer subbing. A lot of reasons went into it, including a boss change for my husband, which also means a schedule change. The new boss expects people to be in to work at 7 A.M. and they generally don't leave until 3 or 3:30 p.m. Our son's bus picks him up at 9 and drops him off at 4, and my husband's new schedule prevents him from being home for the boy at either time. At the same time, the latest I can be in a classroom as a sub is about 8:30. My husband's job makes more money, so I resigned my subbing position. And happily so. The one thing subbing showed me is that I'm not nearly as suited to being a teacher as I once was. If I had started when I was younger, it might be different now; but a lot has changed about me since my days in college, and my patience with snarky kids appears to be one of the changes.
This does not mean I'm not working, though. I've resigned my editor position with one small press to accept the Senior Editing position for Lilley Press, a new, Canadian, small press. I read slush (guidelines, guys, guidelines! Yeesh!), hire editors, assign accepted manuscripts to editors, and do some editing myself. Our first publications should come out in ebook format early in 2008. First hard copies, depending on how well the ebooks do, should come out in 2009. That's the hope anyway. I'm very excited about it, but the slush alone is going to keep me very busy.
I'm about 8 chapters behind in my A.C. revisions, but they are getting done and reactions from people who have seen the new v5 have been good. A new Alden novel, Phoenix Rising, is in the notes draft stage. I need to work on world building for both as well. As usual, my shorts are getting the least attention, but I'm okay with that. Some of my newer stuff is on the dark end of things--rather pessimistic in their view of humanity. It's an interesting change in my writing, but one i hope isn't permanent. ;)
As for other projects, Alden.nu is still a mess, but on my list to tackle early in the year. Most of my other web related work is on target. The house things I've been trying to tackle will take time since they need some financial investment and we don't have enough for that right now. I am working on healthier living--a journey you can read in my new journal, It's About Time. I'm mostly working on the routine and adding exercise into my day. I'm not really working on food changes, but I am watching my food and will eventually make changes that are healthier. Become unhealthy is easy; turning it around is a step-by-step thing that takes time.
The plan is to write in Journeys at least once a week now. My old writing journal is unlikely to become active again since to pull it together means re-posting 100s of entries. I'll probably leave what's done as it is, but I can't easily create new entries for it. It was probably about time, though. My LJ has become home to most of my word count and other writer related posts, and Journeys is home to writing and whatever is left. Sometimes, you just have to accept the changes and move on.
Changes & Challenges, Flight of the Phoenix, Heroes of Ehlarayn
What A Month
It's been quite a month, with computer meltdowns and other issues cropping up, plus working on an editing project, so time hasn't been what I had hoped. Fortunately, I managed to save all my writing in the computer mess, though I did lose quite a few other things. Not as much as I feared, but something important always manages to get lost or mucked up. In this case, I can't find the codes I need for a bit of software (non-writing related) and can't seem to get a response from the company at all. I even tried to repurchase. I'll wait until tomorrow to attempt to contact the company one more time. If that doesn't work, I'll need to hunt up some replacement software that still works on Win 98 and contact the place that I purchased the software through to see if I can get my money back. Most my other stuff is saved, but, for some unknown reason, my comp won't access the CDs. I suspect my CD burner is toast.
A.C. is up to ch5 in revisions. I showed the earlier chapters to an editor friend of mine and she gave me the thumbs up. So, the revisions are on track even if they're a bit on the slow side. They should speed up a little once I get past ch10, which is the last chapter with anything to salvage from my previous attempt at v4 and v5 revisions. My only concern is making sure the chapters after ch10 have the same tone and polish. There will be a 6th revision to make some very specific changes and to check for technical errors, then it will go out to beta readers. Once it's off to them, I'll look at Quest for Ehlarayn and rework it from either the outline or the narrative draft up.
Phoenix Rising is in the outline stage. I've sorted out 2 of the plot lines, beginning to end. The people in my writing group who are actually paying attention like the story so far. I've also reposted Stolen Priest to the group. The only thing really getting ignored is my short stories. I have a few new pieces that I need to work on, and a couple of older ones I really should revise, but I seem to go through these phases where I'm so focused on the novel work that anything else is just too much of an interference.
It really is rather surprising how much I have managed to finish all things considered. I had to reformat, our phone line was torched by lightning, I've been down at least one or two days a week with migraines, storms have kept me off-line for several days, the husband was in an accident -- he's fine but the car is not. And that's just the major stuff. Hopefully things will settle down now. I have more editing projects coming up, and I'm slowly working out a schedule that allows me time for my own writing. In a month, it will be easier since the kids will be in school (though the daughter and granddaughter will be here). Not sure when the weather will stop kicking me off-line as well, but hopefully that won't be too much after the kids are out of the house.
Flight of the Phoenix, Heroes of Ehlarayn, In Progress, Life Stuff, Novels
Working & Writing
A.C. is still in revisions, but it's all posted with my crit group and I'm pulling chapters and getting it done. I'm trying to keep a fairly steady pace, not always easy even when I'm really focused on it -- which I have been. During May, I ended up subbing for most of the month, and that really derailed me (work always does). Then my second daughter moved back in, bringing chaos with her -- less than when she lived here before, but it was still quite a disruption. And now the kids are out and I'm trying to find something other than teaching as a job. A steady pace now days is when I manage to work on revisions 2 days in a row.
I've started Phoenix Rising, the first in a series of 5 related books with different main characters. In fact, they're also at different times in Kree (the nation in which they take place) history. So they kind of stand alone, but they do chronicle the rise and fall of one major house in Kree. The Thalionrhoes become a part of the first council when the last Life Guardian of Alden dies. They resist the pressure from the human members to change the consistency of the council. Later, they create an underground railroad of sorts, this one helping the lyanthry, declared traitors by the council, flee to Serayn. Finally, the council turns on them completely and attacks their manor, razing the land, killing any surviving members they can find.
That's the whole series. Yes, I've had it in my head for some time (like most my Alden novels). Phoenix 1 is the rise of the family to power. The main character is chosen by the last Life Guardian herself to become a council member. And it is she who is by the Guardian's side when she prophecies and dies. This is the main story, and now i have to build the rest -- the conflict from those who would rather the Guardian choose 3 people to take the places the Guardians once held, the conflict with the MC's own house and the spirit guardian that watches over them. Unlike A.C., I don't have this one all thought out yet, so it's going to take me some time to pull just the plotting form together.
I'm considering looking at books 2 and 3 in the Heroes trilogy again too. Neither were long enough rough drafts, so I need to go back a step or two with them and see what I need to do to build them up. I'm thinking I may have to start back at the outline or plotting form and see if I need to develop anything more than I did, then rebuild.
Even if these 3 books never get published, they are certainly teaching me a lot! I'm hoping A.C. will be ready for whole book readers by the end of the year, and ready for me to query agents by next summer, maybe earlier. I keep letting myself get hung up on things that I don't really need to be hung up on. I really have to stop doing that.
Flight of the Phoenix, Heroes of Ehlarayn, In Progress, Obstacles & Overcoming
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