2014 All Wrapped Up

2014It’s a good thing I keep a journal. In looking back on the year, it felt like I’d done nothing but write fiction. That was not altogether true. While 2014 was by far my most productive fiction-writing year yet, I didn’t really kick into gear until it was nearly half over.

When it came to personal and family drama, 2014 was blissfully uneventful. There were ups and downs but no major illnesses, deaths, or emergencies. There was one messy divorce that I got very peripherally involved in, but compared to the upheavals of the past decade, life went pretty smoothly. Even though we spent a crazy amount of time and money on truck and trailer repairs, those are minor problems in the grand scheme of things.

Early in the year, I realized that I needed to come up with a proper plot, so I spent a great deal of time figuring out the major events of my story and writing really detailed character profiles. I was doing this pretty part-time. My main focus back then was still on our online dating blog and book. During the spring, I had all kinds of crazy technical problems around that, and also felt like I needed to really step up marketing efforts around it. I just wasn’t feeling it, though. All I wanted to do was work on the novel.

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I have arrived at the dreaded middle . . .

It was bound to happen. I was having so much fun, was so filled with hubris, it was only natural that the gods of something would strike me down. Okay, I haven’t exactly been stricken completely. It’s more that things suddenly got a lot more difficult. I knew it was coming, but held out hope it wouldn’t, or that it wouldn’t be so bad. And you know, it really isn’t so bad. My pace has slowed, but not stopped.

I think it helps that this book was planned out a lot more carefully than the first one. Even though I’ve slowed down, I still know exactly where I’m going. I just have to keep herding my seven (!!!OMG) pov characters in that direction. I’m also encouraged because I’ve done it before. It took several tries for the first book, but I made it through a more daunting middle, with some bigger problems to face, at least structurally.

What didn’t help was getting all distracted by Prince Rupert, so my brain jumped forward twenty years and stayed there for far too long. It was somewhat productive in that I’ll now be sure to have the proper wee munchkins in place so they can grow up to be characters in the next series. I won’t kill them off accidentally- I hope.

Henry Jermyn By Sir Peter Lely Uploaded by Jack Wills It at en.wikipedia
Henry Jermyn By Sir Peter Lely Uploaded by Jack Wills It at en.wikipedia

This also led to me spending too much time on Pinterest, looking at cavalier fashions. What with all of the big hair, the lace, the frilly cuffs, and far too many accessories, you had no choice but to be a badass. My moratorium on wigs still holds, however.

We’ll be in Oregon for Christmas, and I’m hoping to still get a bit written every day, no matter what else is going on. Keeping up the momentum seems to be key. Hope all of you have a Merry Christmas, and I’ll see you on the other side!

New and Improved NaNoWriMo Plans!

Obviously, I couldn’t go more than a few days without making at least some slight changes to my plans. That just wouldn’t match my new flibberty-gibberty internet persona. The other morning, I was sitting in a loading dock in Chicago (well, the truck was in dock, and I was in the truck), just writing away, when I realized I really didn’t know how much book I have left to write. At some point, “a lot” just wasn’t a satisfying answer.

Fortunately, I’m all organized and stuff, so I pulled up Scrivener and counted the scenes I still had marked “to do.” Then I multiplied that by 1500 because that seems to be a rough average length for my scenes. Then I had a brief heart attack. According to this calculation, I still had 95,000 words left to write. OMGWTFHELPPPP!!

My usual writing space, complete with kitty paws
My usual writing space, complete with kitty paws

And here I’d been so worried that I’d run out of book to write in the middle of November. Ha! When I finally stopped hyperventilating, I calculated some more. (former banker here, sorry). At the time, there were 37 days left to the end of November, which meant I had to write a mere 2600 words a day to finish by then. That’s really not so bad. I’ve already been working on getting in the habit of writing 2000 words daily, and it’s been going pretty well so far. What’s a measly 600 words more?

So far, it hasn’t been too bad. On the day that I figured all of this out, I had several huge bursts of energy and ended up writing in the neighborhood of 5000 words before finally collapsing. I think it helped that the weather was simply gorgeous and I got a few chances to get out of the truck and skip through the leaves on the south side of Chicago. This is my favorite time of year. I think it energizes me. Everything is coming together right now. Characters are being cooperative, though Kendryk has been picking fights, which is so not like him, but hey, fights add to the word count, so why not? If he wants more conflict in his life, who am I to deprive him?

So anyway, all of this leads me, in typically roundabout fashion, to the realization that I can easily set a goal of 75K for NaNoWriMo, and maybe even reach it, while at the same time getting to the very end of this monstrous tome. Wouldn’t that be something? My only concern is Thanksgiving. In previous years, I’ve only succeeded because I managed to get to 50k right before the big turkey day, and then wrote a few thousand more afterwards. With such a big goal, I probably can’t slack off like that.

We’ll be in Oregon, at my brother’s and the whole clan is coming. This means nine nieces and nephews all at the same time, which is awesome. I’m so looking forward to it. I should still be able to write if I make myself do it by getting up a bit early (ha!), or staying up a bit later (more likely). I think we’ll stay in the truck, which might help, since I’ll have my usual space to write, rather than maneuvering around a spare room.  I can do this! I can!

Changing Things Up. Again.

He looks how I feel
He looks how I feel

I swear, I’m not normally this flaky. People who know me in real life consider me stern and serious. I only say this because I’m pretty sure that no one who knows me in real life reads this blog unless I’m forcing them to. Anyway, I keep changing my mind about how I’m doing what.

My original plan had been to work on editing the 80K or so words I’ve kept until November, at which time I would write the remaining 50-70K. It was a good plan in theory, but in reality, I hated it. I hated the whole piecemeal editing thing, and just felt anxious to write the rest of it. But what if I run out of words, OMG? Well, that’s never been a problem for me. Ever. I always write far more than I need to and then spend ages trying to cut back. Besides, I have at least three more books to write besides this one. The idea of running out of words anytime in the next decade is frankly, a joke.

So, this is the new plan. I’ve already started writing new scenes, and it feels wonderful. I even wrote one of the last ones in response to a prompt, but that’s totally okay, because it’s in my outline. When I’m not writing new words, I’ll be planning the next book. I don’t know if I’ll get it outlined to the end, but I’ll have enough prepared so that in the unlikely event I finish book one during NaNoWriMo, I’ll have more to write. It’s foolproof!

Now I have to do some quick research to make sure I have my ducks in a row for book two. I already have the main plot in my head, so I’d better write it down before it falls out. You know that uneasy feeling you get like something is kind of teetering on the verge of your brain? Well, that’s how I feel about the book two story. I have it all arranged and it makes perfect sense, but I fear I’ll wake up one morning and it will be Poof! gone. NaNo or no, it makes sense to get at least the bare bones of it written down.

Now that I’ve fixed my plot, the writing part is going very well, I’m excited about the story, and I’m even starting to get a feel for Gwynneth, the pov character who still eludes me. I think I just have to write a few more scenes for her, put her through a bit of hell, and I’ll be fine.

Since I’m barreling to the end, I’m starting to angst about the title. I don’t have one, and I don’t feel close to getting one. I’ve made endless lists of ideas and none of them are working for me. I keep hoping inspiration will strike, but nothing yet. I will be very happy when it does.

My novel soundtrack

musicI’m always inspired by music, though I usually prefer silence while writing. Over time, I’ve developed a “soundtrack” that represents various events or characters. At one point, I even had a soundtrack for each POV character, but that’s changed so much I had to drop it for the time being. The songs on this playlist represent about half of everything that’s inspired me, but only when it comes to popular music. I have a whole other list of classical/orchestral things that I use as well. One day I might even post it, if I can get it organized.

A few characters have theme songs. Kendryk for instance, gets The Killers’ “Carry Me Home,” and Arian (who sadly, no longer has a POV, at least for now) is Linkin Park’s “A Light that Never Comes.” Some characters share songs, while others are just general to the story. And that always changes, too.

Do you listen to music for inspiration and/or while writing? If so, what do you listen to?

I Like Big Books and I Cannot Lie

The last week or so has been interesting. I’ve been making pretty good progress on my book, but was finding myself in a draggy place about 2/3’s of the way through. I had so much action in the first half and then nothing for the 3rd quarter, until things got crazy again.

big booksMy first thought was that it’s simply too long. Not yet, because it’s not finished, but if I continue at the rate I’m going, I’m probably looking at at least 600 pages. Somehow, I thought that was a bad thing. So my next thought was, well, if the first half is so action-packed, why not just turn that into one book? Because I have a lot of material for the second book already, it would be easy to make my draggy 3rd quarter a short beginning before diving into the next bit of action.

So, I re-outlined the whole thing as if I were ending at the midpoint. It went pretty well. I actually had a coherent plot to the end, which made me feel nearly as proud as if I’d delivered a moderately attractive baby. But it felt wrong. When I daydreamed about my story and characters, I just wasn’t feeling the emotional punch. There was no tragedy. And for me, an epic fantasy  without tragedy is um, what’s the point? I tried to manufacture some tragic stuff but it felt manufactured and didn’t have the same impact as my original version.

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It’s Almost Time for the October Writing Challenge!

typewriter-1386501-mWhere did September go? Though it went by quickly, it was still a productive month, and much of that was thanks to the monthly writing challenge. It was my second month participating, and I got a lot done. I also noticed a lot of my fellow participants logging big word counts, finishing drafts, and finishing editing passes. It turns out, if you write or edit every day, you get books written! Who knew? And having a supportive group to be accountable to is incredibly motivating.

This is how it works. Announce your participation on Twitter using the #OctWritingChallenge hashtag. Write at least 500 words, or edit for at least an hour daily. Then, log what you did in the participant log, and tweet your accomplishment using the hashtag. That’s it! It’s also nice if you check in with the hashtag every day to provide favorites, retweets and encouragement to your fellow writers. You can get all the info you need at the Writing Challenge website.

So, how were my September numbers? My month turned out differently than I had planned. Midway, I decided I needed to cut my book in half and started investigating how to do that. I was staring down a minimum of 800 pages while I had a perfectly reasonable place to end it near the middle. Since the challenge gives you credit for outlining and editing, I could count all of that time, which was considerable. By the end of the day today, I should be over my 30,000 word goal and pretty well done with a second draft of the first book in my series. I won’t give myself credit for done-done, because I still have to fill in a chapter or two, but it’s pretty darn close.

I’ll spend the first half of October editing book one and filling in those gaps. Then, I’ll switch gears and start doing research and outlining for book two. I don’t like to stop before having the first book pretty polished, but I’d like to take advantage of NaNoWriMo to knock out a first draft for the next one. 50K words won’t complete it, but I should be able to cover at least one storyline. Yes, I know. Too many characters and subplots, as per usual. And after spending so much time editing recently, I’m looking forward to just writing again!

Blogging 101: Introduction

I haven’t yet decided if this will be a help or a hindrance. WordPress is offering this blogging course, and even though I’m not a novice, I do feel like I still have a lot to learn. With any luck, I’ll pick up some good tips and build a consistent blogging habit- something that has eluded me so far.

  • Why are you blogging publicly, rather than keeping a personal journal?

I do keep a personal journal, but it’s not on the internet. I started blogging several years ago to help support a book my husband and I wrote. It was mostly dating advice, and while I enjoyed it, it’s not really what I want to be doing long-term. This blog is mostly about my journey as I write a series of historical fantasy novels. I’m about halfway through the first one.

  • What topics do you think you’ll write about?

So far, I’ve been all over the place. I’ve done some writing about the writing process, highlighted some of the research I’ve done, reviewed books I’ve read, and profiled some of my main characters. Before all is said and done, I’d like to find a narrower focus. Maybe. I’m hoping this course might point me in the right direction.

  • Who would you love to connect with via your blog?

All kinds of people. I think I’m supposed to say that I’m looking for potential readers for my books, but I don’t like the idea of this being only a promotional place. I don’t like reading blogs like that, and I don’t like writing what I don’t want to read. So, while it would be lovely to connect with potential readers, I also love communicating with other writers of all sorts. I’d love to draw in more history and historical fantasy geeks so I can pick their brains and they can nitpick at mistakes I make in my writing. . I’ve found the WordPress writing community to be very supportive, and it’s great to connect with people who are in varying stages of the same journey I’m on. I love reading blogs on a variety of topics, so if this blog is simply a way to meet other bloggers, that makes me pretty happy, too.

  • If you blog successfully throughout the next year, what would you hope to have accomplished?

I will be in the habit of blogging multiple times a week, with a growing and varied readership. I’d like to find a clearer focus, or at least be more comfortable with the approach I’m currently taking. As a side effect, the blog will be part of my platform to help me promote at least one book that will be finished and published by then. I’d love to have a good-sized following that is interested and engaged.

September Writing Challenge!

I was off to a rough start at the beginning of August. I’d written over 90,000 words in July, but what I had was a disorganized mess. Plus, I felt kind of tired. AND hot weather makes me sluggish. So, I wasn’t terribly hopeful that I’d be a paragon of productivity in August. In the end though, I wrote over 26,000 new words, 6 completely or partially new chapters and edited three chapters. How did I pull this off?

typewriter-1386501-mAround the second week, I discovered the August Writing Challenge. It’s a monthly writing challenge started on Twitter in which participants try to write at least 500 words every single day. Or, if you’re in the editing phase, you get equivalent credit for editing for an hour. Though there’s a website, most of the action takes place on Twitter, last month under #AugWritingChallenge. Everyone checks in daily, cheers the others on, and a moderator complies daily lists of winners and weekly lists for perfect attendance. 

I didn’t have perfect attendance this time, but I did pretty well, and wrote on 23 days in August, and 11 in a row through yesterday, a trend I plan to continue. My goal for September is to average 1000 words a day, and edit five chapters (it takes me 5-10 hours to edit one chapter using my massive checklist and going wild with Scrivener’s highlighters).

So, if you could use a little motivation and some friendly cheerleaders, be sure to join us at #SeptWritingChallenge and check out the Facebook page as well. Hope to see you there!

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Writing and Geography

I’m having a bit of a challenge getting into the swing of things post-July, as you might have noticed. I have all of these WORDS! My first task was to deal with my pacing and pov issues and reorganize what I had written so far. Here’s what I did:

1. I made a timeline for my whole entire plot. It took a long time, but at least now I know what happens and when. I spent a lot of time calculating fake distances, as in “how far is it from fake Dresden to fake Vienna? Or from Salzburg to Frankfurt? Why can’t I go through Prague? And how long does it take to send a message between these places? Or travel on foot/horseback/wagon/as undernourished refugee?” Because it’s hard to get an army to march to your rescue when they are 60 days march away and your opponent is only ten. Granted, it’s a fake world, but I just can’t get over it. I need to know where stuff really is.

Screenshot 2014-08-03 04.27.02(2)

2. Based on the timeline, I wrote out the whole plot outline in narrative form. It was about 5000 words in the end, and I loved it. It all made sense. I could get to the end and it still made sense! And, free of so many different and restrictive povs, I can either not worry about it right now, or the problem solves itself, depending on what’s going on.

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