I read somewhere that every book needs a different approach, that no two books come together exactly the same way. I've been fortunate that my basic process works to at least get the foundations of a book together, but I've been tweaking the process beyond that, trying to reduce the number of drafts and reduce the amount of time I work on a book. I know I'll need to be faster if I ever get that contract with a larger publishing house, so I'm working on it. But sometimes that effort bites me in the butt. Usually it's not a big deal, but with book 2 in The Shunned, I had to strip back two revisions. The only good news is that it's only the first 9 or 10 chapters.
The one part of the writing process I don't particularly enjoy is revisions. It's not so bad with shorts, but with novels, it can get ugly. I go through a phase where I hate the book, I hate looking at it, I hate dealing with it at all. It's not been bad enough to stall me on a book, until now. With Tirs (the sequel to Charms, it got so bad, I couldn't seem to do more than a page at a time. Now, as much as I dislike this part of the process, this is the worst it's ever been, and I had to sit back and try to figure out why. In the past, stalling meant there was something wrong with the process, but I knew my basic process was fine and my main plot works. But I also knew I had a lot of work in the middle of the book, including making current subplots stronger and possibly adding a plot. Usually all that stuff is done when I revise, and this time it wasn't. And in a way, that's where the process broke down. I needed to make sure that main plot worked, that there weren't leaps in logic to it, but once I had that decided, I jumped into revisions the book wasn't ready for.
So I decided to strip the book back to that alpha checked draft (where I know the main plot worked, but everything else is still missing). As soon as I did, I felt better about working on the book. Not that it will be easy: I have A LOT to rework and add to the draft. But this felt like the right move: get everything in place THEN get to revisions. I'll probably still hit a hate phase, but hopefully it won't be a can't even pick it up and try phase.
It's not the first time I've had to go backwards with a draft. I did it with Assassin's after 4 attempts to write straight through failed (and thus my process was born). I've done it with two other books that are currently on hold. And if I ever pick up Music again, I'll have to do it with that to figure out how to fix it. Each time I've gone backwards, I've come out with a better book. And the work done before I went back isn't wasted either. With Tirs, a lot of the problems with the alpha draft were still apparent in the revisions.
So, still keeping Tirs as my main project for now. My secondary project is still somewhat in limbo. I'm having trouble in my plotting phase getting from the middle to certain events towards the end. A few have suggested moving on to the next phase, but I think I've had enough books prove to em that I need those plot events in place (and the transitions in between) before I move past getting the plot down. Going backwards has helped with certain projects, but it's not something I want to deliberately aim for.
Personal Insights, Process & Craft, The Shunned
Projects & Goals
2012 wasn't the best for my writing. It was a busy busy year in a lot of other ways, but there was so much upheaval that just submitting was difficult, and I only had 2 short story sales. I can't control what people will like/buy, but hopefully 2013 will be a better year in the actual writing department. We're more settled, so now all I need to do, really, is get myself back into a routine that works. I've been struggling with this the past few months. My guess is that, like our finances need time to recover from the mess of the past few years, I just needed some recovery time. Getting back on track is a priority for 2013.
The one thing that has changed significantly over this past year is the projects I'm working on. So here's the current/updated list of active work or work being submitted (there are A LOT more ideas, they just aren't in any kind of development other than a paragraph in my ideas and inspirations notebook).
Tolkien-esque (or game-esque) Epic Fantasy. This one is making the rounds of small presses for the most part now. I've thought about trunking it once or twice, but I know epic is a hard sell, especially traditional/"game" epic, and I love the book too much to give up until all avenues are exhausted.
Urban Fantasy, book 1 of The Shunned, 3rd person. Still submitting to agents, with a few nibbles and a few positive rejections under its belt. Currently the full is out. Waiting for response before starting a new round of submissions.
Music of the Mists
YA Fantasy. Reached the end of the rough and realized there was a problem in the story arc/conflict. Have set it aside for now. Not sure if/when I'll pick it back up since it would require a complete rewrite from scratch after I figure out the problem and how to fix it. With so much else waiting for attention, I'm in no hurry to get back to it.
Crown of Tirs
Urban Fantasy, book 2 in The Shunned, 3rd person. Deep revisions. Once I get through the current round, I might set it aside for a bit to give Charms a chance to sell somewhere, especially since I have a couple of other projects that could use my attention.
Epic Fantasy, same world as Assassin's but much earlier in Alden's history, House Thalionrhoe book 1. The series follows the rise and fall of a single family/house. Been picking away at this but not doing any concentrated work on it. I'm nearing the end of the rough draft. It'll probably continue to be a back burner project for now.
Shades of Reyn
Urban Fantasy. Same world, opposite coastline and different main character as Charms and Tirs. This is still in development, but it may take the place of Tirs in terms of how much focus it gets once the current round of revisions are done. I really like some of the ideas I'm developing for it but need to work out a few holes in the story line. The basic plot/conflict are solid, just have a couple of places where getting from point A to point B aren't completely worked out yet. Currently working on the outline/narrative draft.
That's the major work in progress. Still have a novella and several shorts that I poke at occasionally, but I'm still not inclined to put a lot of work into them at this point.
Sales this past year:
"Into Stone" by Chamberton Publishing first for their Limelight: A Golden Light Anthology then for their Chimera Series of short stories (it was 1 of 2 published this way)
"Human" was just accepted by Grim Corps Magazine (no publication date yet).
"Human" in particular was a nice sale. It's always been a hard to place story. "Into Stone" has never had the same problem.
I tried to simplify my goals for this next year a little. Since I need to make room for exercise and more house related duties, I'm trying to cut out a bunch of other things I'm doing to make space. Dropping out of LJ, for the most part, helps since there were several communities I updated as often as once a day (most were less than that) and my journal entries there, when I did them, could take up to 2 hours. Some time needs to come from being more focused again in the evenings. Once the dishes are done, it's my writing time, but I've had trouble just getting started lately, and that has got to stop. I've already begun the trimming of stuff, now I need to work on that focus thing.
Goals this upcoming year:
» lose 30 pounds
» take care of everyone's glasses
Reading & Writing
» read 40 books (see me on Good Reads
» finish Tirs
» Shades to v3
» move all my reviews to Good Reads
» update/clean up Alden more consistently (1/week at least)
There's a lot I can't control, but I'm thinking 2013 will be a good year overall. We're in a place where we're happy and healthy and have a chance to work on the financial mess made these past few years and have no plans to move. A lot less upheaval in a better place means a less stressful year. I hope.
*knocks on wood*
Annual Goals, Goals & Progress, Heroes of Ehlarayn, In Progress, Novels, Published, The Shunned, Y.A. Projects
Charms is finally off to beta readers (interestingly enough, exactly 2 years after A.C. went off to betas). Finally seems an odd word to use since Assassin's took over twenty years from start to finish, but Charms was a hard book for me in different ways. I wasn't as familiar with the setting or the story (unless I spent twenty years at it, there was no way to be as familiar with it), and it became a real test of my process. I'd been told every book is a little different, even if the basic process is the same, and I think in this case, the books were very different, so there had to be some changes to account for that. But one thing remained the same: I go through a hate phase during the revisions, and it's when I'm coming out of that phase that a book is about done.
I'm not 100% happy with Charms, but I do think a lot of that has to do with not being too sure of the genre. It's one I read, but not one I imagined writing until flaws in the Anita Blake series began to frustrate me enough to bring out that "I can do this" feeling. Even the YA I've begun working on falls in the epic fantasy genre. And while urban fantasy is still fantasy, it's definitely not my comfort zone, so me being less than 100% happy with it is to be expected.
My process with Charms was trimmed down some. I skipped a few drafts and discovered the important parts of the process for me are the foundations, the plotting form and outline, the first narrative draft, and the notes draft. I did do a separate building draft, but it felt more like a sketchy rough draft than an individual draft, and I suspect it won't be as necessary in a lot of my future novel work (though some novels may indeed require that extra step). The revisions were easier, but only because there was no separate revision to deal solely with language, so a lot less hair pulling. Still, there was a lot I had to work out that was genre related as well as specific to the story that made the revisions frustrating, just in a different way.
What I think was most interesting happened when I sent it off to betas. When I sent Assassin's out, I was at a loss for a week or two. With Charms, I was diving into the YA before I even sent it out. I'm sure the time difference in writing (two years versus twenty) made a huge difference—I wasn't nearly as attached to Charms as I was to Assassin's. Doesn't mean that I'm not wondering how it's going and checking email hoping to see an early response, but it was definitely easier to let go of and move on to the next project.
I still have one more step to go through with Charms: polishing and submitting. And there's already one difference I'm aware of between the books: epic isn't in a good place right now, while urban is (granted, paranormal has overtaken urban, but urban isn't down and out the way epic is). I sent A.C. out knowing the chances of it being picked up were slim even if agents felt it was well written and publishable. There's just not much of a market for it. Charms has a better chance, assuming I've written the story well. At this point, I'm no more nervous about it than I was with Assassin's, but then my finger isn't on the send button either.
For now, I'm working on a YA and developing the Charms sequel as a weekend project. I'm actually pretty happy that I made the transition from one novel to another so easily. I hate flailing around. I really do. So, I'm kinda hoping this is one difference that will stick with me, that it's not just a difference, but a way in which I've grown as a writer.
Milestones, Process & Craft, The Shunned
I was pleased when I went immediately from finishing my third round of Blood Charms revisions right into another book. In the past, I've often sat for days or even weeks doing nothing but shuffling my works in progress, staring at them, trying to choose, anxiously waiting to get back to the previous project (the "breather period" is really helpful, but it also drives me crazy). The choice of what to work on this time was made easy when the second of the two laptops in the house went down. Since my laptop time has become severely limited, it seemed wise to work on something that was ready for revisions (and thus more conducive to being worked on when not on the laptop) than to work on something new which would require more laptop time than I currently have. The only downside was that this means the YA I've been playing with and the second Randi Kayde book are both on hold until the computer situation can be resolved (which won't be until March or April at the earliest, I suspect). But at least I have something to work on. My writing habits are set in place, for the most part, and not being able to work on anything would drive me a little crazy before too long (though I suppose I also would have found a way to keep working on the two pieces I wanted, just in very short bursts because of the time constraints).
My initial concern with switching from Charms, which has a clean, straightforward language level, to Quest For Ehlarayn, which will be more poetic like its predecessor, Assassin's Choice, was navigating the language difference. Interesting enough, it's not been the difference in language that's been a problem, however. While I'll still have some work to do with it when it's near ready for polishing, I fell back into the "sound" of the Alden novels fairly easily for Quest. It was so easy that I was pretty impressed with myself, actually.
Of course, that's when I ran into trouble.
There's another area where the two books differ quite a bit: description. The Alden books have rich details with some descriptions running a bit on the long side. They're not Moby Dick length (sorry, just can't spend 2 or 3 pages on how white something is), but they're not short, sharp bits either. Honestly, the descriptions in Charms also aren't short, sharp bits, but they are significantly shorter than in the Alden novels. A.C. earned me the title of description queen in the workshop where I participate. So imagine my surprise when the one thing I've been having trouble with is the placement and writing of descriptions.
Like language, how descriptions are used is a matter of voice, and one thing I've learned in writing shorts is to vary my voice to the needs of the story. The thing is, shorts are, well, short. They don't require focus for months at a time the way a novel does, so it's easy to adjust your voice accordingly when you pick up a new short. Now I'm finding that's not so easy when it comes to novels. I've been focused on Charms for pretty close to a year now. That's more than long enough for the style of that novel to feel more natural to me than the style of Assassin's, which became natural to me in the years I was focused on completing it. It also seems easier to go cleaner in language style than it is to go more poetic. I will redevelop that poetic voice and the description style I started with in Assassin's, but it will take some time and patience. The good news is that's what revisions are for: taking time to work out the various aspects of a book until they are "right".
I really shouldn't have been surprised that something ended up being harder than I expected. Writing is always a journey, and journeys always leave their mark. And I've only finished one book (Charms, while my second completed draft, still has a round or two of revisions to go before it's done and ready for submission), so not being used to swapping between two different styles of writing will present some challenges. A lot of authors have two or more different types of books on the shelves and have to swap between them, so it's a skill that can be learned. I just have to do what I've been doing: keep working on it and moving forward.
Changes & Challenges, Heroes of Ehlarayn, Novels, Obstacles & Overcoming, Personal Insights, Process & Craft, The Shunned
Nine months is a long time for a journal to go quiet, and a lot contributed to the problem for this one. There's a reason I prefer putting most my journals and whatever on my own sites, and it was the switching of the service that Journeys was originally on that started the mess. Journeys was on Vox. I liked Vox. Was great, but it was good enough for a free journal service. Then Six Apart purchased Vox and eventually moved it to Typepad. I tried it but hated it. Unfortunately, about the same time as all that, my host for Alden.nu disappeared. There were problems on the site and he wouldn't respond to emails at all. When I finally found a new host, moving the site and getting everything else functioning first took precedence. Journeys is a nice blog to have, far more focused than most my other journals, but it also tends to mirror stuff from the LJ. So when it came to getting the site back together, Journeys was last on the list.
But it's back now. I need to switch a url over LJ for the feed, but that's about it.
A lot has happened in the last nine months, including a few discoveries on how I work and how I need to work, which is what Journeys is all about: writing, growing as a writer, and learning as a writer.
Assassin's Choice is done and has been on the submission-go-round since July 2010. I truly believe A.C. is well written, but I know epic fantasy is a hard sell, so the rejections have been expected. I've queried approximately 50 agents, am waiting for responses from about half a dozen, the rest have been rejections, though a few have been the kind of rejections that encourage a writer—the personal responses with please submit again or the "nicely written but doesn't fit what we're looking for" kind of thing. It's been difficult finding agents that even take epic fantasy—most want paranormal or urban, and I keep looking to see if anyone new has been added tot eh list, but I suspect I'll have to make a decision about what to do next very soon: trunk it, send it so small presses, or attempt to self-publish. I'm leaning more strongly towards holding onto it until something else publishes or small presses. On the one hand, I believe int he book and want it out there, and a small press is no longer as stigmatized as it once was; on the other, I think it deserves an in the store shelf. I probably won't trunk it completely. New agents come up all the time, and epic fantasy could celebrate a rise in popularity, so it's just a matter of continued persistence.
In the mean time, I'm working on other projects. Quest is slated for revisions as soon as Charms is being submitted, which I hope will come this fall, but we'll see. For now, Quest and the rest of the Alden books will be background projects, things to work on when I have time, and books that may have a better chance of publication will take the foreground. As much as I love the Alden stuff, the genre is on the outs, so I need focus elsewhere for now. This means Phoenix 1 has been set aside as well. I seem to do best when working only on one Alden novel at a time.
Blood Charms is in its third revision and is generally going well. My hate phase with it was quite short, actually. I've worked up the synopsis and query—not so pleased with them—to start getting them in shape for submission time. The current revision is going fairly well/quickly. I know I have at least two more rounds to go though: one to work int he world building better and to bring out the MC's emotions and one after beta readers. As well as it's going, I'm very aware that I may not have it submission ready until the end of the year.
One of the things I discovered is that there are times when I REALLY need new words. Since nothing I'm currently working (or in my to work on queue) is new words, I picked up a YA project that I dropped sometime back when I was working on way too many books at one time. By doing so, I kind of inadvertently figured out what works for me when writing novels. I need three in progress at the same time: one that's the main focus Charms, one that's secondary and that can be put aside as needed Quest, and one that's new words Music. I don't necessarily work on all three at the same time, but I need all three available. That may change if one becomes published, but for now, it's what works for me—it keeps me working on viable projects while not dumping things I love entirely and gives me a place to work on new words when I need to.
I've been submitting my short work, but it's still not a priority for me. I haven't developed a new short since I finished "Pretty Things" in April 2010. I've considered some ideas, but they just haven't developed into anything. And, really, they're generally not worth the effort for me—they suck time and energy that can go into the novels and then sell at low paying markets. I'd really rather not make myself crazy with it.
That being said, I've sold "Into Stone" to Golden Visions (should still be online now), "Presence" to AnthologyBuilder, and "Gift of Writing" to Library of the Living Dead for an antho. I also had another acceptance, but in the end the editor released it when I questioned some of the editing despite a discussion over the process that would allow my input. I'm disappointed that the editor decided that his idea of editing was "what I say goes no matter what your concerns are". I've had that done before and pulled pieces over it or refused to sell a short over it. And, honestly, there were only two or three changes he made that I wouldn't accept as is—they changed the voice and focus in those places in ways I didn't like. The short will likely sell somewhere else. Another interesting note on that group of acceptances, it took "Gift" nine years to find a home. Persistence can pay off.
It's been a busy time in other ways as well: health, home, husband's education/job search (he found one!), but I think I'll avoid overwhelming readers with all that. I'm sure I've missed something here. Nine months is a lot of time to cover. Here's hoping it doesn't happen again any time soon.
The move is done. Journeys is officially in its new home.
Heroes of Ehlarayn, In Progress, Journeys, Personal Insights, Publishing Process, Short Stories, The Shunned
Charms Rough, A.C. Out, & A Quandary
Queries for Assassin's have been sent off to all of my first round choices for agents. So far, 7 have returned with rejections. Only one of those disappointed me because I'm pretty much expecting A.C. to end up at a small press. Not because it's not good—I definitely think it is worthy of an agent and a traditional publisher. But it's epic fantasy, and honestly, that's not a genre high on anyone's acquisitions list. I love epic fantasy and hate that it's not being given more attention right now, but being aware of that reality helps keep me from being too upset about the rejections.
Once all my first round agents get back to me, I have another 25 or 26 on my second round list. I'll probably also start hunting around to see if I can add any others. After that, I have half a dozen publishers followed by a list of maybe a dozen or so small presses. Hopefully the book will find a home in all that. Not just any old home either, but a home that's "right". My job is to not give up on it.
In other news, just finished the Blood Charms rough draft. I need to revise the last 3 chapters and get them posted to the workshop, then I'll be re-outlining the novel to figure out what's missing and how and where to add or cut things. This is a different process for me—usually I'm content with my first outline and just building from there. But this is also a bit of a different genre for me, and I'm still figuring things out. The outline will also help keep my hands in the book without me actually working on revisions. I know I need to break for about a month, it's just hard to do—I want to dive in there and get those revisions going. What I need to do is let it rest and percolate a bit between the rough/first draft and my next round of revisions. Working on world building helps, but it can get...tedious. I'm hoping the outline will help keep me away from actual revisions for at least a few weeks. It should help me work on some notes to apply to the next round.
I already know one of my biggest problems is the "blended" setting I'm aiming for. It definitely fades towards the end of the novel. Hell, it fades towards the middle of the novel. So that's something I'm really going to have to think about and work on while I'm letting the actual draft rest.
In the meantime, the question now becomes, do I move Quest of Ehlarayn to a primary project or do I find something unrelated to either the Alden books (or maybe even another Alden book that's in a completely different series, like my 5 book Phoenix series) or the Kayde books? I have ideas for totally unrelated projects, but I'm not as excited about them as I should be, but neither Assassin's or Charms are sure things, so am equally not sure working on additional related books is a good idea. Probably shouldn't worry about it too much—Charms has a few rounds of revisions to go before it's no longer the main writing project. Something will sort itself out by the time I get there.
Heroes of Ehlarayn, Publishing Process, The Shunned
A.C. is off to agents. Out of 10 so far, 3 have sent rejections—2 form and 1 that was brief but seemed much more personal. I still have another 15 on the first round of agents to send off to and am planning sending out to about 5 a week until the whole first round list is taken care of. Then I'll wait until all those are back in before I start working on y second round choices.
In the meantime, I'm working on Blood Charms, my first attempt at something with an urban bent. I say an urban "bent" because I'm actually playing around with it to blend in another genre. This will hopefully do two things for me: one, make it easier for me to write since I find the strict urban setting/genre too restrictive for the kinds of stories I like to write, and two, give me something different and more interesting to present to agents when I'm done. I've been going through and revising my building draft, which is actually the draft before the rough in my usual process, but it's actually working nicely as a rough draft for this particular novel. At the same time, I'm still in a very flexible space with what I'm doing with it, which is nice.
I'm still working on the second book in the A.C. trilogy on the weekends, but it won't be a priority until/unless A.C. sells. As much as I love the world setting and my critters want to see the next book, I'm still trying to find that sweet spot for me in a publishing atmosphere that's not as wide open as it once was, especially where epic fantasy is concerned. A.C. is a beautiful book, and I think it would have a better chance at an agent if epic weren't a genre that now appears to be pretty much on the "outs" in general. A few things get published, but not a whole lot. And to keep writing in that series until I see how it does doesn't help me, especially since I have other ideas that might have a better chance.
This is something I'm quite fortunate in right now: I have LOTS of ideas, most with a foundation paragraph written somewhere so I won't forget it. And writers wanting to be published can't just rest on the finished novel; they have to move on while they shop the finished novel. Writing is a job. You don't stop doing it just because one book is done. You keep doing it. The process changes a little once you have a contract, from what I gather, but the one thing you always do is write.
I'm enjoying Charms, but still working on my vision of the world and getting to know the characters. It's much harder when you haven't been working on the novel for years, like I did with A.C. But the NPB process still worked, thank goodness. As long as I have an idea on my main characters and a plot, it seems to work by me. I still have some things to work out that might make changes to the book, but it's okay. There were major changes in A.C. even in mid to late revisions, so I'm not too worried about it. One thing I will be doing differently is outlining what I have when I'm done with this round so I can see what I need to add and where. I'm not much used tot he "mystery" aspect of urban fantasy, and I'm hoping the outline will help me figure out how to make it work.
Which actually supports something someone said on a journal entry awhile back: every novel is a different and ends up needing a different process. NPB may be my foundation, but I'm having to be flexible with it. The one thing I always need: to know how the novel ends. Otherwise I stall trying to get there. A basic road map for the middle helps too, but there's where I have to be ready to change things when I need to.
One thing about writing: as long as you're spreading your wings, it's never boring. :)
Heroes of Ehlarayn, Milestones, Personal Insights, Process & Craft, The Shunned
Almost There & Other Things
I should hear back today or tonight from my final reader for Assassin's Choice. She's checking to make sure I didn't trim too much, trim in the wrong places, missed places I could trim, and so on. At this point, the manuscript is just under 115k and lost almost 9k from its original final count. I expect the things my reader wants me to add back in will outweigh anything she says could be cut (I told her to think as if she had to pay for it per word and was on a limited budget, but also to give me reasons for her choices), but I'm hoping not by much. 115k falls in the 100-120k a first time fantasy novelist should aim for, but a number of small presses (which is where I think A.C. has a good chance of ending up if only because epic fantasy is not one of the must haves these days) want closer to 100k. 15k over their word count may be a deal breaker. I do think too much more would damage the story, but we'll see how it goes with my reader.
Once she gets it back in to me, I'll look over her suggestions and make changes, revise the synopsis according to some comments I've received, and polish up the query letter. Hopefully I'm looking at it going out to the first round of agents next week. We'll see since I'm waiting for my query to be looked at by someone who has worked with queries a lot in the past and has a query evaluation she does on her blog. Depending on when she gets to it, A.C. might not be out until the first of August. But we're almost there. In a week or two, I'll be querying agents.
As for other things, Blood Charms is moving along nicely. It's looking like it'll end up somewhere around 65-70k when done, which is better than I expected for the current draft. 10k or so won't be too hard to make up since I tend to run long in the words rather short, whereas I would be concerned if we were looking at 20-25k plus needed in additions. So far the critters seem to like what I'm doing. I know next round I really need to look at bringing in more of the setting the way I want and getting more into Randi's head. I think if I have one weakness (though I'm sure I have more) as a writer, it's that I seem to have a tough time really getting across what's going on inside my MC's head. It was a problem in A.C., and now it seems to be a bit of a problem for Charms.
Quest isn't getting nearly enough attention at the moment, but that will probably change once A.C. is completely off my plate. One thing I've discovered is that I can work on 2 novels at a time, but not much more than that. I have a novella languishing because I tried to work on 3 major projects at once, and I just can't do it. I've also discovered that those two projects work better if not in the same series because it's very hard for me to keep where the characters are in their growth straight. I'll also probably never outline and draft all three (or more) novels in a series at once ever again either. Just too many changes happen when I'm revising to make this a useful way to work for me. At any rate, Quest is almost 50k in the building draft and remains my weekend project unless A.C. sells. Then I kinda need to hoof it on Quest because the Alden novels do take quite a bit of time to get done. Probably not 20 years the way it was for A.C., but I can see 2 years being the minimum I'd need (if I'm lucky, I might be able to get it down to 18 months, but not holding my breath on that) and even that will take a little time to get down to.
So things progress and I'll be hitting a new stage (that of the Querying Author) in short order. I'm excited about that and am actually very ready to let A.C. go. I know a few of my writing buddies never thought THAT would happen, but I can say A.C. is done and just about ready to go. No more readers except, hopefully, agents after this. :)
Heroes of Ehlarayn, Process & Craft, The Shunned
Still Having A Hard Time Getting Here
Yea, I know, what a title. lol
Anyway, despite having a problem doing regular updates on what is supposed to be the "official" author blog, things are going pretty good with the writing.
I was going to start the final polish (based on beta reader comments) on Assassin's Choice this week, but that's been moved to next week. A new reader popped up and will have it back to me by Wednesday. I have 2 other readers I'm waiting to hear from. If I don't by Wednesday, I plow forward anyway. I did do some work on the first chapter and submit during Dragonmoon Press's open submission recently, but it was rejected as expected. I'm pretty sure even if they liked it, 124k was just a bit daunting...and it was their preferred word count plus another 25%. I had to give it a shot, though. I would really like to be a part of DMP. ;)
Book 2, Quest For Ehlarayn, is moving along a bit more slowly. Until book 1 sells, making the Alden books a primary project doesn't make much sense, but I do want to get them done. So for now, they're my alternate projects and I work on them on the weekends. Really, way too slow for them since they're intense in terms of the amount of work they need to begin with, but a better use of time unless/until one of them sells and brings them to the forefront work wise.
I may write because I love to write and I have all these stories in my head, but I also want to be published. For the latter, you need to work on new projects until something sells. Fortunately, I have plenty of new something to keep me busy. ;)
The other major project right now is Blood Charms, and it's going much better now that I've freed myself to step outside of standard urban fantasy boundaries. I actually got to about chapter 7 while trying to stay rigidly in the genre, but I was getting less and less comfortable with it, and the crits weren't too enthusiastic. Scratched that, started over, let myself move inside and outside the boundaries of genre as I need to, and it's not only going better for me, but the crits are more positive as well.
The sort stuff, eh. Have been buried pretty deep in the novels, for one. And right now, with other issues going on in the personal life, time has become a little more pressing. It's been a lot harder to do as much. Strangely, the weekly word counts are still going okay, even without the revision words from A.C. Third, still only one sale for the year, so not encouraged to put more time into stuff that's not getting me anywhere and is costing me more than I'm earning. Still dabbling, still submitting, just not as invested in them. Honestly, novels are my best length. I've mastered the short story, and now...just don't need to keep torturing myself with it.
Am trying to get to some work on the author site, but that too seems to be one of those things I have a hard time with these days. Really do need to make some updates, but I suspect another move might be in the offing soon. NOT looking forward to that at all. But if things settle out at home, I might make a preemptive strike and move before the trouble I see brewing occurs. Besides, I'd rather have the site somewhere where I feel it's safe instead of someplace where I'm worried about it all the time.
And that's pretty much it. Maybe that's why I don't write here with overall updates much. all they are is writing and more writing with the occasional personal or web thing thrown in. Hopefully soon I'll have other exciting updates to share. ;)
Heroes of Ehlarayn, In Progress, Pushing Boundaries, Short Stories, The Shunned, Web Stuff
There's Writing & Then There's Writing
So, keep meaning to update, but it just never seems to come together as often as I'd like. There's a lot of reason for this, the first being real life. It's been busy. Hubs was finally offered a job, and we've been working around new schedules as his winter quarter ended and the job started, and again now as both he and our oldest get back into college together (at the same school, even, which actually is helping us incredibly when it comes to the payments we need to make). My younger kids are about to have their spring break, which means a week or two more of upheaval before everyone is out of the house and we have something of a routine for the next few months.
With all the busyness, I sometimes have to make choices in my writing time, which is hard because I really would like to get EVERYTHING in. But everything is A LOT of stuff: two novels in progress, shorts in revisions, upkeep of a couple of different journals (each with their own focus, for the most part), upkeep of three websites (including the author site), plus the management of the writing group. And all of that has to be worked in around being the mother of an active family and having the husband working AND in school. That means a lot of the things he was managing, I have to take care of now, so time has become even tighter for me. And with the oldest in college now as well, I'll be called on to baby sit more frequently. And three year olds are entertaining to watch (most of the time) but aren't conducive to high word counts.
So there have been a number of times (and will be more of them in the future) where the choice has been writing in a journal or working on a novel or story, and the choice for a writer is obvious. Which is not to say that's always what's going on—I do have this starting problem where I have a hard time getting things going so I procrastinate by doing anything but any kind of writing. I'm working on that. I'm also working on becoming a faster writer, but that's going about as well as taking care of all the things I procrastinate with. Thankfully, none of those things are Facebook or WoW. lol
And then there are the days where I have to push to get anything done.
So the pushing and the choosing the fiction over the journals means that the Blood Charms building draft is done and off to an apha reader to make sure my plot is worked out, the timeline works, and most the major issues are working out the way they should...and whether or not the novel needs another body or two or anything needs a little filling out. The break also gives me a few days to decide whether I want to push for a rough draft or consider the building draft as the rough draft and start revising once I get it back from her. I suspect it'll end up in the middle: taking care of the messes she finds, adding where I need to answer, then going into revisions from there.
In the meantime, I'm working on Quest For Ehlarayn, book 2 of the Heroes trilogy that was begun with Assassin's Choice. Still waiting on those beta readers, but they have until some time in May, so that's fine even if I am a bit antsy. When I originally wrote the Heroes trilogy, I actually did the novel plotting for all three books so I have rough drafts for all three books. But since then, book 1 has changed so much, that I need to make A LOT of adjustments to accommodate those changes (not in plot, thankfully, but even with the plot the not butchered, there's enough that has to be worked through that it's going to really expand the drafts). Lesson learned: basic plotting out of a trilogy all at once works; writing a trilogy all the way through all at once, not so much. lol
As soon as I get Charms back, I'll be working on that, and the next time I pick up Quest will be after I've posted it to DII and take a bit of a break from it. Then I'll get Quest up to par and up at DII before I get back to Charms. That's the plan anyway. Only time will tell if it actually gets followed that way. ;)
Heroes of Ehlarayn, Life & Writing, Personal Insights, Process & Craft, The Shunned
And Then There's Life
It's been busy in a lot of ways, but not necessarily with the writing. I had a nasty tooth problem that took 2 months to resolve because of lack of funds (large tax returns are so nice), then I got sick. I managed some sporadic writing, but it's hard to think, much less write, when you're in pain. All I wanted to do, pretty much, was sleep. Everything I was doing at the time got derailed.
And now the husband is employed. This is a good thing. It's been nearly 6 months, and even with our older girls helping out, it's been scary on the financial front.
However, if things were in upheaval over the last few weeks over my health issues, it's really going to get crazy now. Hubs works nights now, which means I'm back on dinner detail. Haven't done that in awhile. His current term in school is out in a few weeks, then he has a whole new schedule for next term and our oldest will be going in with him for her classes...and needing rides on the days that he doesn't go in. Some time in May (with the floods and snow days, the question is now when in May), the kids are out of school. They go back in August and I'll probably have to give youngest rides to and from her school since it'll be parental choice rather than a problem school that lets her stay there and the van they have this semester will more than likely no longer be available because of budget cuts.
Writing is about to become a challenge. A very big challenge. Especially since there won't be much opportunity to adjust to each new schedule change before it changes again. Up early and driving on and off all day can really mess with my writing, but I'm going to have to figure out a way to work around it.
As for Charms, it's moving along quite nicely. I have some things I still need to sort out world building wise, and I had to make some cuts in the draft because of timeline issues. Otherwise, it's going well and I'm enjoying it. I just hit 33k last night and expect the building draft to clock in at about 50-60k and the rough to finish up at about 70-80k. I've not been working on much else, not even my shorts, but with everything that's been going on, the focus has been a good thing.
I've also had 2 shorts accepted as reprints. I turned one down because the changes the editor wanted would have made it a totally different story. The other, "Presence", should be in a summer issue of Golden Visions. I'll list more info when I have it. A third short is on the short list for another market and I should hear in May whether it makes it. I'm still not stressing the short stuff in terms of sending it out, but I am trying to submit something every month.
And that's pretty much what's been going on since January. I swear, one of these days I'll manage to update on a more regular basis here. Of course, with all the changes coming up, it may not be until next year, but I'm trying! ;)
Life Stuff, Published, The Shunned
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
New Focus: Writing
I've made a major change in my life recently: I left my editing position to focus on my writing for the next few years. My son requires me to be home for at least the next 4, and the editing position was eating up all my time, so resigning and spending the time I'm required to be home on my writing instead made sense, especially since the money being earned really wasn't enough to do anything with and won't be enough to do anything with for a long time. I spent the latter half of the week before last clearing out of the company and sending them all my files. Last week was my first week as "only" a writer (and a mother).
It has gone very well, actually. I was having a great deal of trouble finding to revise A.C. when working for the press, and in the last week and a half I've sorted out chapter 32. Hopefully I'll work through the remaining 5 chapters more quickly now, get the fixes I need to make for the next round sorted out, v6 done up, and it out to beta readers by summer. The plan is to get it on the query-go-round before winter. I've already been threatened within an inch of my life if I don't even try. *g* I do have a few agents I want to query and one small press I think I would love to get into despite it being a small press. Have to admit, a lot of it comes from the name of the press, but they've treated another author I know very well.
In addition to that, I've started a new novel project. I'm pretty much doing it for fun—it's in a genre that I love to read but am unfamiliar writing, so it will be interesting how it goes. So far, the ideas I'm working with and the outline are being pretty well received by my writing group. I love this particular phase of writing, when the ideas are fresh and exciting and all you want to do is work on that one thing. But B.C. isn't my first priority and shouldn't be my first priority. It's just nice to have a non-Alden novel in the works.
So, the change has gone well so far. I'm actually getting through my writing goals rather than having the same goals over and over for weeks at a time. I've also managed to make some time for personal improvement, like exercise. And I'm enjoying being able to work on my writing without the nagging sense that others are waiting on something from me like edits or some other response. I know at some point there will be less energy and excitement, but I'm hoping to have my routine pretty much down enough by then that it will carry me through.
Okay, been avoiding my short story long enough, time to get to it.
Heroes of Ehlarayn, Life & Writing, The Shunned, Work & Writing
And Moving On
The building draft for Under A Blood Moon was finished last week. It came in at 55,112 words. However, it didn't survive the scrutiny of most of my alpha readers. There are some huge plot problems that I need to think about before I work on it, or any of the series, any more, so the novel (and the series, if there will be one) has been set aside for the time being.
I'm already starting to consider another project to work on in its place. So far, it looks like either Mirror Master or Mist & Shadow book 1. Mirror has the least amount of work done (like, next to none), but has been on my mind the most frequently of late. Mist & Shadow has been an on again, off again project that I think is cool, but I just haven't been as interested in it as it deserves if I'm going to work on it. Another one in the consideration pile is "Huntress" (title not really settled), which is one of the newer of my project ideas, but it isn't nearly as formed as I think it needs to be for me to work on it. I'm obviously still doing some thinking about what to pick up. I don't mind the few days off, but I know I also need to pick something else up fairly soon.
In the meantime, I'm still working on A.C. (which is still a ways from completion, but is also the only book I have in revisions at the moment).
Really, now that I've proven I can draft a book, I really need to finish one.
Heroes of Ehlarayn, Novels, Obstacles & Overcoming, Process & Craft, The Shunned, Y.A. Projects
Blood Moon Building Draft
Under A Blood Moon broke 50k today -- the building draft is now 50,429. I've been keeping pretty steady with doing 1500 words a day on it. I'd do more, but I have other projects that need my attention.
When this draft is done, it's going out to Alpha readers for a plot check. I am now involved in a real life critique group and they have the first 10k for our next meeting, and I have another friend (who used to be in the same online group with me) ready to take the whole manuscript when it's done. And I think I'm really close to being done with this draft: the last of the girls is dead. leaving Randi as the final victim, and she's under police protection. All that's left is to have her run in with the killer and the clean up.
I have realized that I will need to add at least 1 or 2 suspects to the book. As it stands now, there are 2, and while I'm sure the behavior of one of them will have readers thinking he's the killer, it's still too easy to figure it all out. So, once I get the full mss off to my other Alpha reader, I'm going to print the sucker out and make notes to help add those 2 new suspects. I already have an idea for one of them, though he'll get cleared by the third killing. but that's part of the point, right?
The other thing I need to do while it's out to my Alpha readers is to try to get some world building done. This book has been unusual in that I don't "see" it in my head as I'm writing, so I have almost nothing to go on as I'm working. It's very weird. and I've not been inclined to do the necessary world building, so some people don't even have descriptions yet because I haven't taken the time to think about it. I'll get there, I think Assassin's just burned me out on that part of the process. I know I need to do it though, and the time that the Alphas are taking care of business is a good time to do that, especially since it will take the non-virtual friends at least 2 1/2 months to get through it. This is good though -- it will force me to take a little space from it for a bit, something we all need to do.
R.K. Building Draft Time
Friday I finished the notes draft for Under A Blood Moon. I took the weekend away from it, other than to pull out my world building notes and set up the building draft. I started my first profile late Monday night, then my allergies hit yesterday, and I pretty much had to write the day off. Today I'll get in 3 more brief profiles for the first section (1 location, 2 character), then actually dive into the writing. I've cut my word count goal back to 750 from 1000 new words per day to account for the profiling.
I'm being a little more judicious in my world building than I was with Assassin's Choice. I actually think the fact that I don't see the world and everything as clearly as I see Alden is going to work in my favor with this book. The Alden world building got scary, to say the least, if only because I could see so much. My profiles for the people, places, and things of Alden have been deep and detailed. I think that, as much as anything else, helped derail my working on the novels. This is not to say that what I've done for Alden is bad, I think it's good, it's just overwhelming and it took over my working on the novels. Because I have less to go on with R.K., I should actually get more done on the novels themselves. And, because the language I'm using to write them is simpler and cleaner, they should be much easier to write and complete.
I'm probably going to have to "layer" my work on this building draft more than I've had to on the Alden novels so far as well. First, there are several things I'm still trying to figure out. For example, I've not been too sure about the pov. Traditional pov for "detective" novels has been first person, but I've been writing and thinking in third pretty much sine the get-go. I've debated it a little, and i think I've pretty much settled with third. It's what I'm most comfortable using for this novel, even though I'm actually good at first person (so I'm told). There's a few issues in the world building itself to work out, including how far away I can walk away from current reality and still have Atlanta work as the setting. So with this novel in particular, I'm going to have to write what I know for sure for now and add what I figure out or discover later. This will probably slow down the building draft a little since a few visits to the city are definitely in order.
Which actually seems to fit the whole opening theme of this draft. So far it's been delayed by real life stuff (including a nasty allergy attack yesterday) with more coming up. The kids are home early from school for the rest of the week, which gives me less time to work since I need to help my son manage himself. The end of the month supposedly sees me off to Hawaii to see my first grandbaby born. She doesn't have a computer right now and I don't have a laptop, so I'll actually be taking a vacation from everything usual for me, including my writing.
And that will be as interesting as writing the novel. ;)
Forward Progress Is Good
I'm almost done with the notes draft phase of Under A Blood Moon. While I'm very excited about this, I'm also concerned. I don't see it yet. Maybe I don't have to see it, but I'm very used to seeing it because I can see almost every one of my Alden novels. There are a few that I'm not as in tune with, but that's okay, I figure they will come because they are Alden novels and Alden is my baby.
I'm trying to not let this panic me. R.K. isn't as old as Alden -- only a few years compared to over 20. The storyline and genre for the R.K. novels are totally new for me. I've read Anita Blake. I've read Phyllis A. Whitney. Heck, I've been reading Jim Butcher. Reading mystery is nothing like writing it, and I'm pretty sure I've dropped the ball somewhere along the way. I'm still writing it because it's FUN, and one should have fun with what they love to do even if they hope to eventually make money out of it. Perhaps especially if they mean to make money out of it. Funness is good!
But, right now, I'm just pleased with the progress and the things being revealed as I go along. So many people seem to think my way of writing is a straight jacket and doesn't allow for any surprises, and that's not true. This fella that just may end up being her boyfriend? NOT my idea. Well, not planned, anyway. The protective detectives were supposed to be merely that, but this fella isn't turning out that way.
In the meantime, the notes draft is at 32k right now. I'm just getting to the ending -- where the killer is revealed in his attempt to kill her. Then there's the fight, the clean up bit, and the tying of loose ends. So, I imagine this will hit somewhere near 45k? Maybe less. We'll see. Who knows what other surprises are going to come up for me as we near the end.
The holidays were okay for us. The food didn't quite come out as good as usual, but it was okay. I told hub that I really need to start writing down what I do when I make my game hens so I have an idea of what works. Maybe then I wouldn't have these off years.
Actually, I probably would anyway.
We miss the oldest -- ticket prices were to high for her to come out this year. And the kids' father could have had better timing (we told him none of this arriving on Christmas day again -- it throws everyone off). But, overall, it was a pretty good holiday. Of course, we have other plans over the next few days that will take up time, but the truly busy part of everything is over and done with.
Which gives me about a week to get some writing in before the whole work thing comes up again. Actually, maybe even longer since I'm only in my long term classroom for 3 days and I don't plan to take another long term any time soon. (Unless, of course, I get that ft/p position I've been trying for for 2 1/2 years now.)
Today I started with some Randi Kayde. Managed just over 1300 words. It was a bit on the slow going side, but it did feel good. Because I've been out of the habit for awhile, I also had to keep reminding myself to just write and worry about all the details later.
1300 words is pretty good after so long. I'll take it.
Life Stuff, The Shunned
Learning the Curve
There's a lot of talk about how writers need to be readers and need to write every day and so on. Very little is said about how writers need to also be learners. We never really fully know our craft -- there's always something new to explore and learn, whether it's a new genre or new guidelines about what works or new background information that we need for a story or novel. Writers should always be pushing their boundaries or they become stale.
I'm learning a "new" genre. Under A Blood Moon is urban fantasy, not so hard, mixed with mystery, I guess. Think Dresden Files meets Anita Blake, only with a paranormal main character. Now, I read these books, and Phyllis A. Whitney. Reading mysteries doesn't prepare you for writing them as much as one would think. While I'm still using my NPB method, I've had to add a step or two and modify a few things. And there are so many questions -- what forensics do I need to know? How do I keep the real perpetrator from being obvious? Then there's the doubt -- can I really do this?
I'm plowing through and trying to keep it fun while I do -- Assassin's was such a struggle despite being a learning novel, that I need fun in addition to not mind bending. But every step of the way comes with new questions. I just did a timeline and not only found an error (I doubt a detective agency would be open on a Sunday -- most places aren't) that I'm going to have to figure out how to fix (I just need some Sunday padding), but am now wondering if the time from start to finish is too short. Granted, I'm not done yet, but there's also not been much "down" time so it's only been 11 days so far.
I did end up cutting a murder from the total. So, today I get to make the adjustments, then I get to turn those adjustments into the narrative draft format. I was worried it would be too much work and I'd have to go back to the outline, but it'll be fine.
Best of all, despite the second guessing and all the doubt and the questions, I'm enjoying the story and delving into the genre. And that's a very good sign.
Obstacles & Overcoming, Pushing Boundaries, The Shunned
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