Sunday, December 14, 2014

Constructive criticism: Reader Report # 2

So last week, I handed over my manuscript to my editor and asked her to tear it apart and tell me what I did wrong.  It's never easy receiving criticism, but this was about as painless as it comes.  My editor is so wonderful.  She has taken an experience that could potentially be so frightening and made it a breeze.  I cannot say it enough.  If you need editing and/or critique services, check out Taryn Albright.  You won't regret it.

This is my second Reader Report from Taryn.  The last report prompted some major changes and a lot of work.  What did she have to say this time?  Well, I'm on the right track.  There are a few things that still need work, but the good news is the major changes I made the last go round worked well.  Basically there are things here and there that need to be improved and I need to work on my use of commas and periods, and dialog tags. (Confession: I suck at grammar.)  So at least one more pass is needed, but I'll have it done by February.

I can't get into what's ahead, because I haven't fully formulated a plan.  When I know what my next steps are going to be, I'll write another blog...but for now I'm going to bed.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Purple banners!

I did it!  I edited/wrote over 50K words in 30 days.  I am mentally exhausted, but I couldn't be more thrilled.  I have two weeks until this draft is due at the editor, and it's done.  I can honestly say that I am happy with ever change I made.

Over the last couple weeks I've been really tempted to make some changes that, in the end didn't make a lot of sense.  Thank goodness for some awesome advice and some support from my friends and family.

After sitting on it for a few days I may decide to rework the ending...I am happy with it right now, but someone recently told me that your brain can only make so many good choices in a day, so maybe I won't like it after I sleep on it.

Heck...maybe Taryn will be able to take it early and the decision will be out of my hands all totally. it is...25 minutes until midnight on November 30th and this is my final word count.

Thank you all for your continued support.  I'll keep you updated on what happens next.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Signs you might be doing NaNoWriMo

So I've seen a lot of lists like this and most of them are pretty accurate, but there are a few good ones they seem to miss.

1.  You have actually fallen asleep at the keyboard.
2.  You attend tailgate parties long enough to grab food and say hello.
3.  The first question friends and family ask when they see you is "Have you gotten your chapter count for today?"
4.  The family has come to accept the "writing nest" you've set up in that one spot on the sofa.
5.  90% of your social media posts are #NaNoWriMo or asking for plot/name/word advice.

All of my friends and family have been extremely supportive over the last 15 days.  As NaNo reached the half way mark my word count passed 30k.

Today's word count

Tomorrow I'll be writing a brand new chapter 28...including that I've got 5 chapters left to edit and 3 new ones to write.  NaNoWriMo "winning" starts on the 20th.  Think I can write/edit 8 chapters in 5 days and finish early?  We'll see.

In other news, someone on the artisans boards made me this beautiful signature.  I definitely like this as a visual representation for my book.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

NaNoWriMo day 2

So day one I edited 2 chapters and added about 1800 new words. Day 2 I did 3 chapters and just over 600 new words. At this rate I'll finish before my deadline. 

Hopefully I can keep up this pace during the work week. 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


Just set up an edit of my second draft with Taryn. It MUST be in her hands December 12th. 

So you maybe asking 'how much do you have left?' Well, I have 17 chapters marked and ready for edits, 4 I need to cut and replace, and 3 or 4 new chapters plotted out. 

I know it sounds like a lot, but I can usually handle three chapters in an evening. 

So from now until Dec 12th, if you see me playing online, ask me what I've edited that day. If the answer is none, you have my permission to yell at me, show me pictures of zombies or read passages from twilight...whatever it takes to get me to sign off. 

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Diving into NaNoWriMo

So this year, I decided to involve myself in the NaNoWriMo community.  So much is said about the camaraderie in the forums, so I thought I'd give it a try.

So far I've gotten amazing complements on my synopsis, my title, and my ideas.  I've been able to help out others with names and critiques and as a happy little surprise one amazing artist drew a character sketch of Rose for me.

This sketch was done only from the brief description I gave of her in the first chapter. (Which is posted as an excerpt.)  I was really impressed by how close it was to my imagination of her.

I'm also being interviewed for a blog spotlighting NaNoWriMo writers.  I'll post the link to that when it's up. 

Saturday, October 18, 2014

New cover and a new plan.

Ok, so the cover was bothering me.  It was VERY Twilight.  If you like Twilight, more power to you, but my book is nothing like Twilight, so to have that connection made would be a mistake.  So, I did a little work and came up with this.

I really think this conveys Fantasy more than the last one, but still feels very pigeon holed to me.  I'd really love to be able to shoot a cover...and have control of every aspect right from the start.  NaNoWriMo's twitter account challenged everyone to make a post-it note sketch of our covers.  I came up with this. 

Warning: I'm a writer, not an artist.  We can't all be Christopher Paolini and do both. :) 

Anyway...It's not like the cover matters, because I'm not finished with the second draft yet.  Covers can come later.  First things first, editing.

So once again, I find myself a NaNo rebel but I'm finding my form of rebellion is common AND people have figured out a formula for it.  Since the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50K words, it can be hard for people editing to win've got most of your words written.  The formula that has been suggested for editors counts 1 hour of editing as 1k words...then adding the number of new words you've added (not subtracting any words you cut) and that is your daily total.

This means, if I can edit two hours a day, I can achieve my word goal this year. 

Well, that is all for now.

Oh, one more thing.  I messaged Taryn to seen when she'll have an opening for editing.  I'm hoping to be able to get this second draft to her ASAP. 

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

NaNoWriMo 2014

So my editing has definitely not gone as quickly as I wanted it to, so I've come up with a plan.  Last year NaNoWriMo was the kick in the butt I needed to get the first draft I figure it'll do the same for my second draft.

For those who don't know, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.  The idea is for thousands up people to sign up and help encourage each other to complete 50K words in 30 days.  Last year I didn't make it to 50, but I did manage 29K and it was the push I needed to finish.

So, my plan this year.  I am edited up to chapter eight.  Starting November 1st I will edit (or write) one chapter a day.  This will edit the remaining 25 chapters and 5 new ones to replace chapters I cut.

I need all of the encouragement I can get on this.  For the month of November if you see me online or out somewhere, ask me if I've finished my chapter for the day.  If I haven't, tell me to go do it, then ignore me.  I will finish this draft by December 1st.  If you help, who knows, you might get a signed first edition. :)

So, on to something fun.  It is said that NaNoWriMo writers are more likely to succeed if they have a cover for their book.  I tried the art forums, but its hard for them to make something if they don't have a feel for the story.  In the end I decided to try my hand at it.

This is what I've come up with.  It's just an idea.  It feels a little too twilight to me. What do you think? 

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Returning to my first love.

Sorry guys...another random post, but still writing related.

Anyone who has known me for any considerable amount of time knows that I started my writing journey with fanfiction.  Yes, there were poems and funny little stories as a child, but my first serious writing was done whilst playing in other people's worlds.

Specifically I started with Lord of the Rings.  I wrote stories for my younger sister Amanda, putting her into the story.  Then I moved to Harry Potter, CSI, Criminal Minds, True Blood, and The Hunger Games.

Strangely, one of my favorite fandoms is one that I have never dared to venture into.  That is the world of Alagaesia and the writings of Christopher Paolini. I suppose I thought the world and story was perfect the way it was (not that Tolkien, Rowling, or Collins worlds are flawed) and didn't need my additional characters or lost moments.

Since I have gotten serious about finishing my own novel and dove head first into my own world, I have not had time to read or write much fanfiction. But, recently an opportunity presented its self for me to combine my love for Paolini's Inheritance Series and my knowledge of fanfiction. I am now the Fanfiction Moderator for Shur'tugal, THE premier fan community for the Inheritance Series.

Worry not, dear readers, this will not take away from my duties as a writer or my commitment to my own work. I will not actually be writing the fiction, so much as helping to build the site and thing moderating the content on it. For now it is a fantastic opportunity and I am thrilled and flatter to have the chance.

Well, that's all for now...sorry for the randomness, but at least it was a post. :)

Monday, August 18, 2014

A blast from the past

I live in a small town, but it is amazing how long you can go without seeing someone.  A perfect example of this happened just last week.  I went to a local restaurant to pick up dinner for my family and ran into my high school librarian.

In high school I spent most of my spare time in the library, even working as a library aid, so it shouldn't have surprised me when, even after 11 years she still remembered me.

We talked for a moment and then she asked me about my book.  This was shocking because I don't even remember telling anyone in high school about it.  All the same, I filled her in on my progress and my plans.

She told me that she'd always believed I could do it and that she wanted me to promise her two things.  First, a signed copy when I become published. And Second, to come back to the school once I'm published to do a reading.

I don't know why this struck me so.  I mean I've had people tell me they want a signed copy before, so sure that I would publish one day.  It was the second request, I guess, to come back to my alma mater and read my work to students.  Its probably a common request, I'm sure a lot of writers have gone back to there high schools or colleges to show students just how far they could go.  I guess it was the idea that I was worth showing off that was so flattering.

I don't know...this post makes no sense I'm sure...and has nothing to do with writing or my publishing journey but it has stuck with me. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Chapter Slasher

Tonight I finished the first read through of my book with Taryn's notes.

I did things a little differently than I'd planned too.  So here is my method.  I printed my manuscript in hard copy and placed it in a three ring binder.

  I then went through and read it.  As I went I crossed out parts that needed to be cut, wrote notes about things that needed to be change, and marked areas where new scenes and chapters should be added.

All told I cut about 7 chapters and nearly a dozen paragraphs from chapters I kept.  It was hard.  It was REALLY REALLY hard.  My hands literally shook when I cut my first full page.  I was sick to my stomach when I had to cut an entire chapter.  The words, these lines, these pages are my work.  I poured my heart and soul into them.  Crossing them out was the hardest thing I've done as a writer so far.

My first cut chapter.
Then way, you may ask, did I cut them?  Because it had to be done.  The new direction the story has take is right and necessary.  I can honestly say that the story is unimaginably better because of these changes.  As much as change hurts (in writing as in life) sometimes it is for the best.

This does, however, cause a new issue.  With everything I cut my word count has suffered greatly, so what now?  Now, I take the notes and fix them.  I write the scenes I alluded to in my scribbles, I draft whole chapters of original storyline that wasn't present before.

When that is finished I estimate I'll have made up for the word count I cut and added a couple thousand more.

This is an early step, but a very very important one.  I'm excited to get started on my rewrites.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Nose to the grindstone.

Today began full on revision mode.  My wonderful editor, Taryn, recommended I do a slimmed down version of a shrunken manuscript.  In a normal shrunken manuscript you would resize your whole manuscript to fit on approximately 30 printed pages, then mark up the passages with a color coded key.  Each color representing a different aspect of your storyline.  This shows you where there arch of your story is going and the over all strength and weaknesses of the manuscript.
This is what a normal shrunken manuscript ends up looking like.

 The way Taryn recommend I do it, is to condense each scene into one sentence and put that on a post  it.  I printed out my manuscript.
Two typed pages per printed page. This thing is still huge.

I decided to keep the color coding idea.  So I am going through my manuscript and making the scenes in their colors. (Green = setting/world, Purple/pink = character development of main character,  Orange = building of love interest, and Blue = main protagonist activity.)  

Tonight I tackled the first chapter and ended up with this.

The symmetry was not intentional, but I think it is a good sign.
From now on my goal will be mapping out three chapters each night.  With 30+ chapters I should have it all done within two weeks.  Once that is done, I will examine my map and see what scenes need to be cut, where scenes need to be added, and where the storyline will (inevitably) change completely.

And I thought writing the book would be the hard part.  LOL

Next update will be about 2 weeks from now when you'll see this board COVERED in bright post it notes.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Much ado about nothing

So here we are, 12 days since I sent my MS to free-lance editor Taryn Albright.  For the last week I have been quietly worrying what I would receive back in my Reader Report.  After all this time of working I was so afraid that it had all been for nothing.  I was worried that she would come back and say "there is nothing worth keeping here, you need to start over or abandon this story all together."

That, however, did not happen.

What did happen, is that I received an email that told me she understood how scary this could be and that she wanted me to know that she enjoyed my MS and thought I was going places.  Then she told me to calm myself and settle in with some chocolate and/or wine before reading the report.

This is my report.  

Yes, that is a six page report.  Yes, I printed it and highlighted parts.  I laid out 12 points she made that need work.

I cannot say enough about how amazing my experience with Taryn has been.  She was so incredibly kind and understanding.  All of the notes she gave me brilliant and relevant.  A lot of it was stuff I had struggled with writing in the first place.  Not only did she point those areas out for me to work on, she gave me suggestions on how to do it.

A lot of her comments were extremely positive.  I am actually amazed at how much she seemed to like my world, my characters and my writing in general.  Even notes that were not positive (notes about areas that could be changed or improved) were delivered in such a constructive way that my feelings weren't remotely hurt.

I am excited to start my revisions.  I know that everything she pointed out is need and will improve my story greatly.  My work is nowhere near finished, but then, neither is my relationship with the wonderful Taryn.  After sending my her notes, she told me that I can email her anytime to bounce new ideas off or clarify something.  I am certain now that she will be the first person to read my revised draft, and I would recommend her services to anyone.

I am more confidant than ever that I WILL see my book in print someday and it will be, in large part, thanks to Taryn.

(I linked Taryn's site at the top of the blog, but here it is again.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Emails, and freak outs, and swords! Oh my!

So I was supposed to send my manuscript to the editor April 11th.  Today I received a surprise email, she had finished a project and could take my MS early.

Yep, I totally freaked out.  You can ask my co-workers.  "Is my face red?  I feel like my face is red.  Oh god, I'm not supposed to be this scared am I?  That can't be normal.  Oh god."

I was so excited, so scared, so nervous, all at once.  It is amazing that one person can feel some many emotions together.  I don't know anything to compare it to.

So, I came home, gave it a once over, made sure the format was correct to Taryn's specifications, and then I did the scariest thing I've done in my writing career.  I sent my MS, my 10 year journey, my 4 month old baby, to an almost complete stranger.

Taryn said she should be done by this weekend, but life happens so it may be longer.  Until then I am supposed to stay occupied.  Shouldn't be hard as I have a stack of new books to read, a wedding to get ready for, and a new sword to play with.

That being said, for the rest of this week, or until I hear from Taryn, please try and keep me occupied.  

PS.  I was totally serious when I said I had a sword.  I bought this today.  

Why did I buy a sword, you ask?  The simplest answer is because I've always wanted one.  I was able to justify the purchase to my self by saying that for writing book two I need to understand what it feels like to hold and use a sword.  It's research...not dorky.  Okay, still dorky, but also research. :) 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

And now for something completely different

Ok, so this is not related to my publishing journey, but this is pretty awesome all the same.

A few months ago Charlaine Harris began taking questions to be answered in the paperback edition of the final Sookie Stackhouse novel, Dead Ever After.  I figured what the heck, I've got questions, I'll submit them.  To my surprise I receive an email that 3 of my questions have been selected and will be published.

Today I purchased that book and got to see this.


Okay, so it is in someone else's book, but come on!  You have to admit that is freaking cool.  How many people get to say that?

It looks pretty good on the page, if I do say so myself.  Hopefully the next time I see it, it will be on the title page of my own novel debut novel. :) 

Monday, March 17, 2014

The first step into the great unknown

So writing the book was a huge step, but the next step has to happen if anything is to come of it.  In my case, the first step is both exciting and frightening.  That step is letting someone who is neither friend, nor family (thought sort of a friend and I see her becoming more so) read and give input on my baby.

For over 10 years this story has lived inside me.  It is part of me.  It is a huge chunk of my life to this point.  To allow someone who knows so little about me to see it, examine it, and critique makes me feel extremely vulnerable.  At the same time this is an opportunity for some truth.  Up to now I have had no way of knowing if the opinions I'm getting are truth or lip service.  Do they like my work, or do they just love my so much they think they do? goes.  April 11th Stone of Virtue: Book One in the Fairies of Erdavol will be in the hands of Freelance Editor Taryn Albright and her famous green pen.  She will be giving me a reader report, which should give me an idea of any major issues with the story and make sure I am on the right track. 

As frightening as this step is to me, I know it is necessary and I must confess that I am extremely excited.  Taryn is a very talented woman and she knows her stuff.  I know that with her, I am in good hands.

That is all I have for now.  I will update soon.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

"Ab ovo" versus "In medias res"

"From the beginning" versus "In the midst of things"

I have heard two very different schools of thought on where to start a story.  It is such a contested subject that there are words for both methods.

Ab ovo: From the beginning.  Followers of this method argue that a reader cannot car about a story if they do not first care about the character.  In this method the story starts with the main characters day to day life and gives you an opportunity to get to know them and care about them.  This does not necessarily mean you see the them from birth, you just see their normal life before the inciting incident (the event that happens to the protagonist to change their life from the norm and sparks the action of the story).

For example: We see Dorothy in Kansas before she goes to OZ.  We see Katniss in District 12 before the reaping.  We see Harry with the Dursleys before the owls start to show up.  There are many who start their stories in the most logical of places, the beginning.

In medias res: In the midst of things.  This school believes that the story should start as far into the action as possible with out confusing the reader.  The idea is to let the action grab the reader and hold on.  Your feelings for the characters come as you get to know them.  Backstory is delivered through flashbacks, frame narrative and various other plot devices.

Examples:  When we first meet the Pevensie children they are escaping the air raid in London.  Mr. Bennet has already lost his fortune when we find the Bennet sisters vying for wealthy suitors.  Shakespeare himself started many of his plays in the midst of action.  We do not know why Capulet and Montague despise each other, but the war is so violent that we want to find out.

So now I am facing a dilemma and I would like opinions.  My story as it stands begins with the inciting incident.  We meet our heroine just as her life changes forever, but I find myself wondering if we need to see what her life was before.  Do we need to see just how horrible it was to understand how she is able to leave it behind so easily?

So here is my question: Backstory or action, where do you start?

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Every failure is a step to success.

Well, today is the 12th and no email.  That means that I was one of the 29 eliminated from the YA category.  I'm not going to lie, it hurts a lot more than I thought it would, but it isn't the end of the world.  It certainly isn't the end of my writing.  In fact, it's just the beginning.

So, where do I go from here?  Truth is I don't really know.  I am hoping to hear from the judges who had my entry.  I want to see if they can give me some insight into why they didn't pick me and what I need to do to improve things.  I know I need to add a few thousand words to the manuscript.  I need to find a freelance editor, though I have someone in minds if she'll have me as a client.  After I have this thing perfectly polished and tweaked I'll try querying some agents one on one.  If that doesn't work I guess I'll self publish.

Thank you all for your support and positive thoughts, please know that this is not over, not by a long shot.

A nice little fact to keep me going here is a list of famous authors shoe were rejected repeatedly.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

I'll begin at the beginning.

I have been writing, in one way or another for most of my life.  From little poems and stories when I was small, to longer fan fictions for my kid sister in my teen years.  For the last ten years I have been working on an original series.  I made it about 17 chapters in only to have it be destroyed (this was before online backups and external hard drives).  Then, discovering that the plot line needed a lot of work anyway, I dove into intense research, plotting and outlining.  By January I had outlined a trilogy. Earlier this year I sat down and put pin to paper (well, fingers to keyboard) with the goal of finishing book one before the years end.

As fall approached I had nearly 20K words, but it was nowhere near what I needed.  Hoping for helpful push, I signed up for my very first NaNoWriMo.  In 30 days I wrote 29k words.  Again, it wasn't what I'd hoped for but it was amazing.

In the end, I didn't finish by New Years Eve, but on January 24th I finished my first novel.  It was an experience I can't accurately describe.  I cried.  I felt like throwing up.  I called everyone I could think of.  It was relief, joy, fear, excitement, and so many other emotions all wrapped into one.

On January 29th I submitted that novel to Cupid's Literary Connection's Blind Speed Dating contest.

I will find out on February 12th if I have made it through round one.

To end this post, I have some "thank you"s:
To my sister Leslie - for being my biggest cheerleader.
To my best friend Sandy - for grounding me and making me work.
To Brad, Meg, Leigh Ann and sooooo many other friends - for helping me with things when I was stuck.
To Taryn Albright - for helping me with my query and always saying encouraging things.

That is all for now.  I will update on the 12th when I find out whether or not I've moved to the next round.  If so, I'll explain the next step in the contest.  If not, I'll lay out my plans beyond that.  :)