Tuesday, December 31, 2013

What Does 2014 Feel Like?

I'm done making resolutions. I have been blogging and yapping about writing since July and it hasn't done me much good. I still don't have a completed novel, and what's worse, I don't even have a story that I want to write.
With that sad fact I'm not making big plans or goals for 2014. My New Year's Resolutions will not be to lose weight, exercise more, eat better, or write more. Instead I'm going to focus on feelings.
What do I want 2014 to FEEL like?
Yes, it would be wonderful if next year brought me the small victory of a finished novel (even a terrible one) but finishing a novel will not be the main goal.
What is the main goal?
In 2014 I want to feel the sun on my face and the wind in my hair. I want to feel like I could run up a hill without getting winded and run down without limping. 
I want the feeling of freedom and skill that I had when I rode a bike with no hands.
I want the proud exhaustion that comes from a hard days work. I want to feel my hands around a warm mug on a cold morning.  I want to feel my heart pounding as I hike up a mountain, and feel my breath catch in my chest as I take in a beautiful view.
Those are the feelings I'll be chasing in 2014.
How does a person chase a feeling? That is the key, isn't it. I think it is to live in the moment. When you're in the middle of your day, stop and ask yourself how you feel. What does it feel like to be you at that moment? If it doesn't feel fantastic, if you're stressed or disappointed in yourself, if you're making yourself crazy with your to do list, then STOP.  Run at full speed (if it feels right) and chase a new feeling, a new way of being you.
For me, maybe that means writing 2,000 words a day or maybe that means writing 2,000 words a week, but 2014 feels like success any way you slice it.
How about you? What does 2014 feel like for you? Leave a comment, or write it on a piece of notebook paper, but this year make a commitment to feeling fantastic.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Ten Thousand Words A Day


On Monday, December 16th, I was feeling feisty and I decided to write 10,000 words a day for a week. Well, feisty isn't really the right word, mostly I was feeling like a loser because I hadn't been writing nearly as much as I thought I should.
Monday morning I worked out, then ran some errands and did some Christmas shopping. I had lunch with a friend and then came home to clean. By the time my son got home, at three, I still hadn't done any writing. I helped him study for his midterms, made dinner. (Actually I probably hit the drive-thru.)
Now keep in mind I still thought I could pull this off. I had a coke at around 5:30pm, told the kids it was going to be a late night for me and asked them to set their alarms for the next day. You know, in case I wasn't able to get up in the morning on account of all my hard work:)
I put the kids to bed at 8:30 and finally sat down to write. My husband was out of town so it was very quiet in the house. I didn't really like it. I started a movie, just for some ambient noise.
It was actually a really good movie,  I decided to watch it until 9:00pm and then I would turn it off.
At nine I turned the movie off, made myself some (caffeinated) hot tea and sat down for a long night of writing. I felt like I was in college again, pulling an all nighter. Cool!
Wait. No! All nighter's were so NOT cool. I would be completely exhausted the next day, I wouldn't get anything done! I decided it would be much more practical to write 20,000 words on Tuesday than it would be to write so late at night! (Yes, I really did think this made perfect sense!)
I closed the computer, watched the rest of Catch and Release and ended the day with zero word count.
What's the moral of the story?
You've got to just DO it!
I did write on Tuesday, but not ten thousand words. I did write on Wednesday, and Thursday too. Friday I went car shopping from dawn to dusk and Saturday was the same, but my total word count for last week was 7,409 words.
WHAT? I know, right. Where did that even come from? It's far from 10,000 words a day, but it's still pretty good.
Here's what I learned.
When trying to write ten thousand words a day...
-You can't separate your work into chapters or scenes or anything, just write one huge, long story.
-Don't look back to see what color your character's eyes are, or what their names are. You can fix all of that later, just keep writing.
-Don't Google anything. You wanna know how tall the Eiffel Tower is? Who cares! Check it later, just keep writing.
-And last, but not least, if writing is the last thing on your "To Do" list, it will not get done. Put it up there at the top off you list. Or better yet, don't make a list at all, just DO it!

P.S
For the new year my resolution (of sorts) is to put my daily word count into a calendar (photo above). I'm going to try, scratch that, I AM going to take a picture of the book and keep my blog updated with my progress. Hopefully 2014 brings lots of words...and maybe at least a few of them can form an actual novel.
Happy Christmas to you all! May 2014 bring you peace, good health, and joy...and maybe a best selling novel:)

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Trick Thyself


I've been having a little trouble getting motivated to write these days. In fact, just the other day I was staring at my computer for almost a full ten minutes with nothing but white space looking back at me.

I work on Scrivener (If you haven't tried it, you should!) and I usually section out my work into individual scenes. I'll title them so that I can make sense of it all in the editing process. I'll use things like, "meet antagonist" or "Bobby finds the knife". Not overly creative, but it gets the job done.
But the other day I couldn't even come up with a scene idea, let alone a title.
I finally just typed in the first thing that came into my head. Nelson Mandela. It happened to be the day he died, and to be honest I didn't even realize it was on my mind. I hit return and started typing out a scene.

Now I don't know very much about Nelson Mandela. I hope you don't think I'm hopelessly ignorant, but the words I think of when I hear that name are; committed, prisoner, rebel, speaker, apartheid.
Now the section of my book I was working on had absolutely nothing to do with apartheid or Nelson Mandela, but the feelings that name evoked in me showed up in my writing.

I found my main character seemed a little more in control. Her motivations seemed just a little bit clearer and only because I had Nelson Mandela in mind when I was writing.
I've started to use this trick with every scene. I use titles like Charles Manson. Harrison Ford. Bill Clinton. Jennifer Lopez.  Actually, I haven't used J Lo yet, but I am curious what feelings that would bring out in my writing.

I do this indiscriminately. I don't think about what I'm writing and pick a character with similar values. No, just the opposite, I pick a random person, for example Paul Newman, and see what characteristics of his I can add to the character I'm writing about. How can I make my protagonist (or any other character) deeper by adding attributes of Paul Newman? It's a way of surprising yourself in your own writing. Also, whatever feelings you have about Paul Newman will show up in your work.

Let's face it, books are about feelings. We read because a book makes us feel a certain way; happy, sad, scared, frustrated, ect. So if you're having trouble getting enough feeling into your books, maybe try my little trick. It certainly can't hurt!

Monday, December 9, 2013

NaNo Wrap Up


 Guess what..I quit on my latest novel. I'm sure you're not surprised by this. To make a quick count, since I started this blog in July I have started and quit about four different novels. If you count just plotting books and not the actual writing, I think it's more like six.
This isn't really a surprise to me. As a stay at home mom wanting to make some money I have had any number of schemes that I've started and never finished.
I was going to be a jewelry maker. Then I worried about my necklaces breaking and children choking on the beads. Of course I had to quit. It would be irresponsible not to.
Then there was the card making business, but man printer ink is expensive. The photography business, I was really never any good. And then, there was the writing business. To be fair I was always writing, but only recently did I commit to really trying to get a book published.
I'm not ready to quit writing entirely, but I do (somehow) keep quitting on my novels.
If you read my last post, or maybe it was the one before, I was SO excited about my new novel. But then I had to take a break and get ready for a Disney vacation for Thanksgiving and by the time I got home I was over the story. All of the sudden, it just didn't seem like it was any good at all (sound familiar?).
So, the lesson from NaNo this time is: word count, nerd count, it's all about writing every day. Keep your head in the story even if you can only write 200 words a day.
But that leaves me with a question.
Will I only get published if I finish an entire story and then another entire story and another? OR will all of this writing and practicing naturally lead to a finished (and published) novel?
Am I just being a quitter by leaving so many books unfinished? Or is it like finding a husband? All those other failed books are just the natural course to finding "the one". The one novel that I was meant to write, and everything before it just wasn't meant to be?
Or is that just quitter talk?
Let me know what you think! 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

NaNoWriMo Update

When it came to writing a novel in a month I did everything right this time. I plotted the entire novel just before November 1st.  I super cleaned the house and warned the family of my tendency to day dream during this busy time. I stocked the freezer with easy meals and taught the kids how to cook them. (No judgement people!) I was ready.
My book was about roach people taking over a town. Yes, it turned out to be as stupid as it sounds, but by day eight I tucked myself into bed with almost 15,000 words already finished. Yay me!
On day nine I didn't feel like writing. Day ten was the same, and by day eleven something had to give. I knew it was breaking the rules, but I started writing something different.
The roach people were getting boring, just chasing each other around the laboratory, so I sat at my desk and typed the following words,
"It was a nasty business cleaning up after the dead."
Not a perfect sentence. I'm not in love with the "was" in there and it doesn't paint much of a picture. Even after this first sentence I ramble on quite a bit about cleaning up body parts. It started to get a little bit twisted, and I considered going back to see how those roach people were doing.
In the end I decided to stick with the "cleaning up after the dead" business just to see where it would take me. And guess what? I really like it.
I'm 12, 758 words into it and not bored at all, and I have NaNo to thank for it.
If I hadn't been writing and creating so well for so many days in a row, I would not have been in the zone (cliche). I would not have been able to come up with anything new. My mind would be stuck on roaches, roaches, roaches, and I would have kept on with that book even though I knew it wasn't turning out that well.
It was Maya Angelou who said, "You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have."
That statement is more true to me today than it was when I Tweeted it a few months ago:)
I have been writing regularly since Camp NaNoWriMo in July and the more I do it, the easier it gets.
So, not to beat a dead horse (cliche), but just keep on writing!
It does get easier if you stick with it.
Now, the big question. Will the books I'm writing get better? Only time will tell.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

What Are We Doing Wrong?


I'm NaNo crazy right now, but I'd like to take a break from my dismal word count to give you a sort of pep talk. At the end of the month of October I met up with some fellow NaNo-ers for a plotting session. It was a fantastic group of writers from all sorts of different backgrounds. (The writing exercise was great and I think I'll do it from now on. You can find it here, at WWW.YorkWriters.com.)
As we went around the table introducing ourselves everyone got to say how many times they've done NaNoWriMo in the past, and how many times they've won.
For myself, I had a go of it in about 2009 (maybe) and then did Camp NaNoWriMo in July, and of course I'm doing it again now.
What struck me about this group of people was that we were all writing. We were all NaNo-ing, we were all winning, but out of the group of us only one had actually published a book. (Btw the one person was my sister!)
What did that tell me? It told me that we were all doing something very wrong! I went home and was just sick with the feeling that we must just all be making some grave mistake. How could so many NaNo people still be floundering in the unpublished category?
Let's look at the statistics. According to Wikipedia, in 1999, for the first Nano, there were 21 participants, yes, 21.  In 2010 there were over 200,000 participants with a combined total of 2.8 billion words. These numbers don't even take into account those writers that aren't signed up for NaNo, but are still trying for the word count.
There are, of course, some success stories:) Erin Morgenstern and her beautiful book, "The Night Circus", Sara Gruen's "Water for Elephants", and there are over 100 traditionally published books that started out as NaNo books.
But if the vast majority of us are just pissing into the wind, so to speak, what are we doing wrong?
And the answer, which I realized late into the night (after three beers and no less than 100 gummy bears) is nothing at all. We're not doing anything wrong.
We're writing! And that's what a writer is supposed to do. Sure we may be guilty of not spending the right amount of time on it, we may still need to read that book on plotting, or join a critique group, but if we are signing up for NaNo and trying like Hell to hit that 50,000 word mark then we're doing exactly what we should be doing.
What's that saying?  Something about it taking one million words before you really find your voice as a writer. So that would be twenty completed NaNoWriMo's. I'd say with three under my belt I'm off to an okay start!
As long as we're writing, and learning, and trying, we are not doing anything wrong. We're doing just what we're supposed to do. We're writing.
Some will gain success faster than others, but unless we quit, we'll all get there eventually.
So keep on writing, keep on Nano-ing, and even if you're on your fourth, fifth or sixth NaNo, and still not published, don't give up.
And if you need even more proof that writer's write...A LOT. Check out Amanda Hocking's post, specifically the info on how many books she's written vs how many she's published.
Amanda Hocking.

 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Don't Reinvent the Wheel

I spun my wheels for a long time trying to write something that no one had ever read before. The stories never quite worked out how I wanted them to, and then I realized I was on the wrong path anyway!! The thing is, readers are creatures of habit. This is good news for the writer because it means we can use those habits to our benefit.
How do we do this? Simple really.
First, we write within an established genre.
As artists I think we want to write whatever strikes our fancy, and we can, but we'll pay a price if it's "too unique". Writing is a business, after all, and if the publisher can't find a place to market your book it will be difficult to sell. So you can write that chick lit-zombie-space epic, and it might be wonderful. But if your publisher can't find a niche to sell it in, you're not going to make much money on it. Or, you'll be working so hard at the marketing that you won't find time to write that next book.
Next, we should tell our reader's what's going to happen in the novel.
No, really. You want to lead your readers into the story with a certain expectation. Our protagonist is either going to:
a. find the love of her life. Or
b. end the book alone, feeding kibble to a dead cat
You, as the writer, should let your reader's know that these two things could happen and then give them the ending that they want the most.
No, it shouldn't be obvious (your reader loves a tease), but in the end they want the boy to win his fair maiden, or good to win over evil.
(Obviously, the reverse would be true for a tragedy, but even in a tragedy the reader should know things might end badly, even expect it.)
Give the readers what they want, and maybe save the chick lit-zombie-space epic for after you hit the best seller list.
And finally, use the three act structure.
I know, I know, some of you would like to just wing it, and maybe you're a better writer than I am, but the three act structure is a map. It is a tried and true method of story telling. It's been used everywhere from plays, to movies, to books. It works, and it's easy to use. Some people feel like this structure can stifle creativity, but when you're just starting out it's the safest route to a complete story.
Writing is difficult enough. Don't make yourself crazy trying to invent a new story structure. Use the tricks and tools that have worked for other people in the past. Once you've got your readership you can go any which way you want, but in the beginning, use the "tricks of the trade".

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Lessons From a Quitter


If optimism is a disease, then reality is the cure.  And the reality is...my work in progress sucks rocks!
I don't like admitting this. I'd much rather blog about things I feel good about, but I guess you should hear the good AND the bad.
So here goes. I'm putting my current novel in a drawer in the study and I'm going to start focusing on my new novel...Hello NaNoWriMo.
 I may revisit Reaper Eternal sometime in the future, but for now I'm quitting on it. I promised myself I would NOT give up on this novel. I would work, fight, and force it into a good novel, but I just can't do it!
It feels down right wrong to give up on it, but on the plus side...I did learn a few things.
First, I learned that I need to work on my characters! The fact is, my book lacks an entertaining voice.
How. On. Earth. could I have missed this? I honestly don't have an answer for that one. I read it, not once, not twice, but three times. It wasn't until I posted the first chapter on Wattpad that I realized it was kind of a dud.
My main character has no charisma, and that's the kiss of death in fiction. (Especially for YA!)
My second lesson is that I need to plot out the story before hand.  I loved it when I read Stephen King's, On Writing, and he said not to plot, but the truth is, (and get ready, it's a shocker)  I am no Stephen King!! I need to plot out the story. The editing is just too terrible without a good plot in place at the start.
And third, and finally, I learned not to take things so seriously!  I've learned so much valuable information from book after book on writing, but I forgot that my main focus is simply to entertain the reader. Have fun. Make mistakes. Be ridiculous. I don't always have to make it "pretty".
So, with these lessons learned, Reaper Eternal is packed up in a drawer and I'm about to take a peek at Book In A Month to get ready for NaNo.
Wish me luck! I'm going to need it!
If you're interested in my other novel, feel free to check out the first two pages on Wattpad. You'll see what I mean about the lack of voice.
Oh well, if at first you don't succeed...

Friday, October 25, 2013

Write It Now or Regret It Later


For years my sister and I have had a common goal. We wanted to be writers. We both believed that if we really put our minds to it, if we really worked hard, we would succeed.
We would meet at the library or a coffee shop with our laptops and get to work, but then something strange would happen. The coffee shops were too loud. The library was too cold. We realized we needed to go shoe shopping or we were suddenly starving and had to go to lunch. With all of these "issues", we didn't get much work done.
While at lunch we would talk about how difficult it was to be a writer. Oh, it was so much work and there was really no guarantee that we would ever succeed. We had the kids to take care of, volunteering to do at the school, and blah, blah, blah.
It went on like this for a while. We'd write a little, complain A LOT, and then go have lunch together and complain some more. It was really a lot of fun!
Then, slowly, things began to change. My sister quit meeting me to "write" and started writing on her own! How RUDE!
I'll admit it. I was trash talking a bit, "It's not right for her to abandon me!" "Who does she think she is?", but while I was trash talking, she was writing.  And a few months later she finished her novel.
Now of course, I wish her all the success in the world, you can find her book, The Corpse Goddess, on Amazon here.
But I was J-E-A-L-O-U-S! Jealous! Why was I so jealous? Even I didn't really get it. She deserved it, she did the work. Plus, there were hundreds of people who had published novels before her. I wasn't jealous of them!
 Now you may think you don't care about my sister and her book. You don't care that the doctor next door to you is a doctor, or that the girl you knew from high school is a movie star, but the reason you don't care is because you don't want to be a writer, or a doctor, or a movie star.
But I'd be willing to bet there is something that you really want to be. Whether it's an artist, or an entrepreneur, or a size six in your skinny jeans.
Whatever it is it won't bother you so much if some stranger succeeds. But when a friend or a family member succeeds, someone you know is so similar to you. They don't have the time either, they don't have the guarantee of success either, and somehow they did it anyway.
When they make it work, and someday they will, you're going to be happy for them, but more than anything you'll be asking yourself, "Why didn't I do the work?"
That's what I was thinking when my sister got published! "Why haven't I been writing?"
I promise you, all your excuses, the entire "poor me" act is going to seem pretty pathetic!
You will feel guilty for not doing what you really, truly wanted to be doing. You will deeply regret wasting time. You will regret letting yourself give in to the excuses. I know I did.
So, lace up those running shoes, start that business, write that book because the very worst thing you can say at the end of the day, or the month. The worst thing you can say at the end of the year or at the end of your life is, "I regret not doing..."

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Aspiring Writer's Challenge


Let's do it together, shall we? Do what? Why sign up for NaNoWriMo, of course! In case you don't know what it is, it's a book in a month baby! All you have to do is write 50,000 words in the month of November.
If you're lucky it will be in story form, but hey, 50,000 meandering words is better than no words at all!
I'm signed up! If you read my blog you know my manuscript is no where near done. You know I've been procrastinating while at the same time talking about how I'm going to finish it. (can you say blind optimism?)
Yes, I'm STILL planning on finishing it, but let's pile on the work shall we!? What's another 50,000 words?
You may also know that I have a very difficult time plotting my stories. That is the reason it's taking me so long to get my current manuscript into working order. I didn't plot to begin with and now I'm paying for it in the editing process.
But this time, I have a plan.
I recently purchased a book called Book in a Month.  Guess what it's about:)
For the aspiring writers out there I'm going to suggest that you do the following:
1. Buy Book in a Month.
2. Sign up for NaNoWriMo......here.
3. Think about the story you want to write.
And there is a fourth thing I want you to do, but not ALL of you. If you have the tendency to get super excited about new things, I mean really gung ho, and then ten days later you quit (I fall into this category), then DO NOT do step four.
If, on the other hand, you're one of those over achievers, then proceed to step four nerds!(You're not really nerds, but my ego can't take your super awesomeness!)
Step 4. Read the introduction to Book in a Month as soon as you get.
For you go getter's you'll read the intro and be able to maintain your excitement until November. I'm not even going to peek at the intro until a few days before Halloween. For those of you who have a hard time sticking to things, I suggest you wait until then too!
I'm sure, with the help of this book and NaNoWriMo in November we're going to produce some amazing works of fiction!
If you're already a great plotter then skip the book, but DO sign up for NaNo!!

Good luck! And let me know if you sign up!! If you do, I'll be right there with you, every step of the way.
P.S  I have never used Book in a Month and have no stake in it's success or failure, but I've perused the pages and it looks like a pretty thorough plan.
Like I've said before, I'll try anything when it comes to writing!

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Camping Trip

Me with Jack and my brother, Joe

I'm back from my camping trip and man, did I need the break. There's just something about nature that puts everything back in line again.
We stayed at Lost Maples in Vanderpool, Texas. It was a beautiful area and despite the rain we got in some good hiking time.
It's been a long time since I've been on a hiking trail, Houston isn't exactly mountainous, but it was amazing!
On my way up the hill I wasn't thinking about how long it was going to take. I wasn't wondering how fast I should be walking or if someone would beat me to the top. I was just enjoying the time.
Monkey Rock
I was completely focused on the task at hand and loving every minute of it. It was the sort of peace that can only come from living in the moment.
Even when I got to the top, and the view was amazing, I was disappointed that the trip up had ended. The joy, for me, came from the hard work. The water breaks taken in a shady spot, sharing trail mix with the people I was with, or just walking on my own in the quiet. The joy was in the crunching of the rocks beneath my tennis shoes, and the sounds of the leaves rustling in the wind.
The top was just the end. Or the beginning of the end anyway, we still had to hike all the way down!
Nature has a funny way of reminding me to slow down and enjoy the little things.
Maya and Brian
With that in mind I intend to slow down a little in my life and in my writing. You're probably laughing if you have any idea how many self imposed writing deadlines I have missed, but what I mean is to slow down and enjoy the moments.
I'm going to try not to feel like I should be writing when I'm sitting with my daughter and she's telling me the names of every single stuffed animal she owns, "This one is Pixie Gouda Charlotte Earthaven, and this one is.."
I'm going to try and remember that these times will pass all too quickly and they won't come back again. I'm going to remember that slowing down to really feel the life I'm living is more important than getting my kids to bed at exactly 8:30, or getting my book finished by October 31st.
I'm going to remember how much I enjoyed that hike, and I'm going to remember that even when I got to the glorious view at the top I still felt that pang of disappointment for it being over. I'm going to slow down and enjoy the climb.
Jack and Brian
Oh, my God! Miley Cyrus was right, "It's the Climb"!!
What about you? What are some things that remind you to slow down and enjoy the little things? I'd love to hear from you.



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

DIY Book Cover




After a little bit of research I've decided that, if I ever finish this book, I'm going to self publish it. Now if you've read my blog before (or you know anything about self publishing) you know that this means I'll need someone to design the cover of my book.
A good cover design can run you a couple hundred bucks (at least!). So, in the spirit of saving money (and because I'll use any excuse to take a writing break) I thought I'd look into making my own book cover.
First, I spray painted an old bracelet to look like the "reaper bands" I describe in my book.  Next I hired a lovely teenager from down the street to come over to model for me.
I even had my daughter hold up a fan in a few shots so we could get that wind blown look (This didn't really work. The fan we used couldn't blow the petals off a dandelion!).
Because I asked my model to wear a black cloak and slink around my yard looking "mean", I paid her twenty bucks. Because my daughter talked her ears off the entire time she was here, I forced her to take the money even when she refused.
Anyway, after about half an hour I thought we had plenty to work with so I loaded the pictures into Lightroom. I took a little bit of time and played around with a few sliders (exposure, contrast, whites, blacks, a few brushes) and VIOLA.
Now it wasn't a complete success. I tried to get the eyes to look orange (the protagonist in my book has orange eyes), but my Lightroom skills weren't quite up to snuff.
I still need to add the title, my name, the back cover, and the spine. Plus, a few of the pictures need a background change, and then there's the formatting. The formatting alone might cause me severe chest pains, but it's worth a try!
Worst case scenario is that I won't be able to get it done and I'll still have to hire a professional.
But for 20 bucks, an old bracelet, and a few hours tinkering around on the computer, I'm happy with the results.
Let me know what you think! And if you have an inkling that I'm getting in over my head, let me know that too!!


Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Write Like You Don't Know You Can Fail

Have you ever had someone you know, all of the sudden, decide to do something completely stupid? Recently someone I know decided that she was going to be a photographer. The kicker is, she was really terrible at photography. Her pictures were lousy and she didn't even know how to use Photoshop. Or even Lightroom. Her camera wasn't all that fancy or expensive, and I'm pretty sure she only had one lens! What?!

She simply announced on Facebook that she would charge $100 for a sitting fee and the disc of photos she took was yours to keep. Bam! She was completely inexperienced and she was advertising herself as a photographer. What a nut!
 I would have done things so much differently. I would have researched photography, practiced all day and night. I would have read everything I could get my hands on. I would have bought the best camera money could buy (and a couple of fancy lenses) and then learned to use Lightroom AND Photoshop. (All the best photographers know both!)
 I would probably take pictures for free for about a year or two and then, and only then, would I start charging people. Actually, I probably wouldn't EVER start charging people because I would never have felt like I was worthy enough to charge for my services.
 What happened to my friend the photographer you ask? The girl who did EVERYTHING WRONG?  I bet you can guess what happened! She succeeded.
She is currently a working photographer. Not just working, but successful. She's making money and her pictures are looking great!

There's a reason why I didn't use writing as an example, (it hits too close to home) but I easily could have. If you're a wanna be writer you can probably relate.
So what's the lesson in this? Now listen close, you might have heard this before.
Nobody's perfect!
There it is. We have to quiet the perfectionist in our minds.
We have to decide that we're good enough to put our work out there for the world to see. We are good enough to call ourselves writers.
We have to find the confidence, that same confidence that lead a mediocre (at best) photographer to start her own business. People do it all the time and it can be you.

 If failure is not an option for you then eventually you're going to have to finish that novel and put it out there for the world to see. Eventually you're going to have to call yourself a writer, or a photographer or whatever it is you've been dreaming of being. And if you work hard enough, and long enough, and pretend like you have no idea that you could fail at whatever it is you're working on, you'll have no choice, but to succeed!

"Of all the words of mice and men, the saddest are, "It might have been."-Kurt Vonnegut




Friday, September 27, 2013

Liebster Award

Hurray! I have been nominated for an award! I haven't won anything since I was nine and I guessed how many marbles were in a fish tank. It was something like 10,000 and because I guessed closest I got to keep all the marbles. My mother must have been so happy:)
Thanks to Argyle Doll and Andrea Reads and Reviews for nominating me!

Because two people nominated me I'm putting in a hard days work and answering all 20 questions. Try not to be too impressed.
1. What are you favorite alpha male characters?
Actually I dig the heroines mostly. I love any female protagonist who is not a whining pansy.  
2. What good books have you read lately?
It's not fiction, but I just finished Crazy Sexy Diet. I'm not vegan...yet. And I'm not eating raw, but I needed a good dose of nutritional information to help reign in my appetite for junk food. 
3. Digital or Print?
Print. All the way! 
4. What section of the book store are you magnetically drawn too? 
Books on how to write books.
5. What authors do you look up to?
Love Joe Hill. To have the guts to write when your father is already so famous for writing! Admirable.
6. Have you ever gotten so mad that you literally threw a book across the room?
You don't even want to know! 
7. Books that you dislike and why?
That's a tough one. If I read a bad book, I still love it because I think, "Surely I can do better than THAT!" 
8. If you could meet one character who would it be?
 I guess I would have to say Dracula in Bram Stoker's Dracula. He's so in love, but such a sicko. Curious combo.
9. Do you take shame in reading erotica in public? Especially if people know what you are reading?
Uh..yeah. I do not want to have to explain certain things to my nine year old daughter:)
10. What is it about reading that keeps you going back to purchasing more books?
Books make me feel like a smarty pants and I like that!


Next ten questions...

What is your favorite font?
Absolutely no idea:) 
What is the first book you remember reading?
      Dr. Seuss, Red Fish Blue Fish. At the same time my twin sister was reading 
      The Hobbit! 
      So irritating! 

What is the first book you fell in love with and never wanted to end?
James and the Giant Peach. Love me some Roald Dahl.

How much time do you spend on the computer a day for work?
Not enough. I'm supposed to write for four hours a day, but lunch calls after around two hours of work.

How much time do you spend on the computer a day for other reasons?
Not much. I usually try to get out of the house. There's no food at my house!

Do you have an animal companion? What type of animal and name?
I have four wonderful pups, yes four:) Texas, Georgia, Rocky, and Tobie.

What is the motto of your life?
Be nice to yourself and others. It's really that simple!!

What do you want for Christmas?
Beauty products! Anything from Sephora or Ulta will do. I may never use it, but I want it.

Do you like cheese? (Really, I just wanted to ask something silly).
I DO like cheese. My husband is vegan and the book I just read, Crazy Sexy Diet, says cheese is BAD!! But how can ya not love pizza!! With cheese!!

Name one person you admire.
My husband. He works so hard to take care of his family. I'm not sure what I'd do without him...probably eat more CHEESE:)

Did anybody read all that!? Anyway, if I nominated you then here are the rules:

·         Link back to the blogger that tagged you.
·         Nominate 10 other and answer the questions of the one who tagged you.
·         Ask 10 questions for the bloggers you nominate.
      ·         Let your nominees know of their award.
My questions..hmm.

1. If you had an extra $10,000, what charity would you want to give it to?
2. Cat person or dog person?
3. Regular soda or diet...or (gasp) water?
4. Best vacation destination?
5. All time favorite movie? Favorite book?
6. Do you eat enough vegetables?
7. Do you believe in love at first sight?
8. If you're house went up in flames and you could only take three things, what would you take?

9. What's your best feature?
10. What is the most peaceful spot on earth?


 
















Monday, September 23, 2013

Building a Mystery



If you read my last post you know I haven't been writing. I've been making excuse after excuse and I'm sure I'll fall back on that every now and again. In fact, at this very moment I feel like I'm going to throw up, but I'm not going to use it as an excuse today.
No, today I want to talk about writing. I want to tell you that I've figured out what my problem is...or was.
I knew there was something wrong with my book, but I couldn't figure out what it was.
I'm writing what I would call a paranormal fantasy for YA, but it turns out it's not that simple.
The problem, the reason I've been neglecting it for so many weeks, is that I didn't realize it was also a mystery.
We all know how a mystery works, right!? There has to be a red herring, clues dropped like breadcrumbs so that the reader can decide what's going to happen. Or better yet, not know what's going to happen, but then in the end have that "Aha! moment" where it all makes sense.
None of this is revolutionary, but that is the very reason I had to blog about it. By simply changing the definition of what I've been writing, it suddenly seems to make more sense.  Why is that?
I'll tell you why. Because we have to know where we're going to know how to get there.
It's because our sneaky, perhaps out of shape, brains like order. Chaos does not generally build a novel. Our mind wants a map, or at least an arrow pointing out the right direction.
And the best news, and if you read my blog you won't be surprised by this, is that I've actually read a book on how to write a mystery:)
Now that I have defined the fact that I need to "lay out the breadcrumbs" so to speak, it's going to be so much easier to move past this hurdle.
No, this is not the king of all writing advice. And yes, it may seem very obvious to you (give me a break here, I think I have the bird flu), but it was news to me. And it's helped me see my novel with fresh eyes.
So, if you're stuck in your current novel maybe try looking at things differently. Maybe what you're writing isn't chiklit after all. Or if the drama you're writing is actually turning out to be kind of funny. Don't make yourself crazy trying to fit it into it's original packaging, change things up. Look at it in a new light. It might make all the difference!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Nonproductive Writing Days


I have to be honest. I have been a little unproductive lately. School started in late August and I had big plans to finish this novel, asap.
I didn't get much done that first week of school because I just needed a break. Or at least that's what I told myself.
Then the second week rolled around and what do you know? Another unproductive week.  I didn't need a break anymore, but damn, there seemed to be a lot to do around the house. It turned out my kids didn't have comforters for their beds. How could I function one more day without them? I couldn't!
Picking out your child's comforter is a very important job and it cut deeply into my writing time.
I don't even remember week three, but I seem to recall something about trying to get into better shape.
But this week, week four, I would definitely get it in gear.
This morning I ran all my errands, cleaned the house, and painted my nails. This was not procrastinating people, I really needed to paint my nails. I bought a new Essie color almost a week ago and hadn't even used it yet!!
Anyway, after all that it was much too late to head to the library.  So I made myself comfortable on the couch with my laptop on my..well..my lap.
After a few minutes I realized the keyboard was really too low to be comfortable for an afternoon of writing. I got up and pulled a pillow off my bed and put it underneath the laptop to raise it up a little.
Much better! Then it got a little cold in the house so I got a blanket and put that over my legs.
Then, of course, I got down to business. The task for the day was to read the bulk of act two. There is something wrong with act two, but I'm not sure what it is. I started reading my manuscript looking for the problem and I may have found it. It may just be a tad boring.
How do I know this? Because I fell dead asleep while reading it. I woke up almost two hours later, laptop askew, dogs fighting for space on the pillow.
I was fully tucked in, up to my shoulders, and I had barely done thirty minutes of work.
The kids were going to be home in twenty minutes and it was time to start switching gears from writing (aka napping) to making dinner and greeting the kids after their long day of school.
Incidentally, I did not even cook dinner, but picked up fast food. What a loser!!
Why am I telling you this? Because despite my lack of productivity the last few weeks I still consider myself a writer. I still know that I'll finish this book, albeit not as quickly as I thought I would. And I also know that I could be writing a lot more often.
The bottom line is, if you haven't looked at your manuscript in a week, a month, or even a year it doesn't mean you're not a writer. If you have a book in you that you're trying to make the time to write, you're a writer. And good for you! Writing a book is not an easy thing. If it was, I wouldn't be looking for excuses not to do it.
Don't beat yourself up if you're not writing as much as you think you should. We all have days when we just need to paint our nails and take a nap.
Tomorrow will be a better, more productive day. If it's not...I QUIT!!
KIDDING!
Happy writing.
El

Monday, September 9, 2013

Three Act Structure



Oh the three act structure. Boy did I resist learning this in the beginning. I thought the three act structure was some sort of cheat to writing a novel. It's not a cheat people, it's the map! And now that I know it I can't live without it!
Knowing the elements of the three act structure (and using them) can really help you build a better plot. What is the three act structure? It's simply a way to divide a novel into sections. Act one is the set up, act two the confrontation, and act three is the resolution.
You don't need to follow the structure exactly, but just knowing what goes into each section is an easy way to help build a better plot.

Act One
Act one makes up the first quarter of your book and is usually the easiest to write.
It should include:

1. An introduction to the character and her world BEFORE the real story begins. How will the reader know how shocked, excited, confused, afraid..to be if she doesn't see the protagonist's normal first?

2. Show the characters "knot". This is essentially the pain that your protagonist is feeling that forces her to live apart from her true destiny. It can be a secret she's keeping, pain from the past, or even just a personality trait. Maybe by the end of your book the main character will be a super star and her "knot" at the beginning of the story is simply that she's shy.

3. Establish the tone of the book. Let the reader know what kind of story they're about to read.
For example: For a love story the writing would be flowery and romantic. For a thriller the mood would be darker, the sentences might be shorter. Make sure you get the reader "in the mood" for the story they're about to read. In other words-set the tone!

4. Let the reader know why they should care. Otherwise known as the "save the cat" scene. What redeeming or heroic quality does your main character have that you can show your readers right up front. Even if your main character is deeply flawed, show her redeeming qualities or make the reader feel empathy for her.

5. The inciting incident.This is the change that occurs in the main character's life that starts the story in motion. For example: A mysterious new girl moves into town. Your main character grows a tail. Whatever it is, it should get your reader's attention.

6. The call to action (or plot point one). This is often confused with the inciting incident, but the difference is that the call to action is where your character makes a choice and cannot go back.
For example: In The Hunger Games it is where Katniss volunteers for the games in place of her sister. Not to be confused with the inciting incident which is the drawing of Primrose Everdeen's name.


Act Two
Act two makes up the second and third quarter of the book. In the midsection of your novel you must:

1. Have a series of battles or confrontations. There are usually three and even if the protagonist wins a few of these battles, things should be getting steadily worse for your main character.

2. Deepen characters and their relationships with one another. The middle of your book is where subplots can really get going.

3. Midpoint. Some big news or a major reversal. This is where the protagonist truly takes control and begins to actively attack the antagonist. Before this point she is simply reacting to the situation or learning about her new world, but after the midpoint she's really ready for a fight.

4. Moment of despair. This is the low point for our protagonist. Even though we all thought she was going to win, it now looks like she's going to lose. Not only that, but we have really dragged her through the mud at this point. She is almost broken.

5. Moment of truth (or plot point two). This is the last piece of new information that the reader is going to get. With this new information the reader can now see what the ending is going to look like and the protagonist is about to take some big action steps towards the final battle. This is usually the thing that the protagonist wanted to do the least and after making this choice there is no going back.


Act Three
This is the last quarter of the book and will include:

1. The climactic battle.Your protagonist must take an active role in this battle. Don't let the antagonist be a weakling. You're main character really has to kick ass in the climax of the book.

2. Unravel your protagonists "knot" or tie three more. This means that you should have resolved the character's knot, or inner turmoil. For example: If she was painfully shy in the beginning, you should have helped your protagonist work through her issues throughout act two. In the end she is who she was always meant to be. OR if she decides to live apart from her destiny, (In other words stays painfully shy and can't take that starring role) you need to show the reader how truly horrible her life is going to be now. One would be a happy ending, the other a tragedy.

3. Denouement. This is where you tie up all the loose ends. Every character and subplot needs to be put to bed so the reader feels satisfied that you've answered all the questions you posed in your book.
This is also where you show the protagonist's new normal. How is it different than it was at the beginning of the story?

4. Resonance. Try to make sure your readers are thinking about your book long after they have read the words "the end".

There you have it, a quick description of the three act structure. If it's not making sense to you here, there are a ton of great books out there to help you.  "Plot & Structure" by James Scot Bell is a great one, but I hope this is at least a little helpful with your writing.
Good luck and happy writing.
EL


Sunday, September 1, 2013

A Writing Tip That's Simple, Useful, and Kind of Fun

While I was at the library the other day I took a break from writing and started reading a magazine. Hold on now! It wasn't Glamour or Allure or anything like that. Although I really could use the fashion advice.
But no. It was Writer's Digest.
I've never actually picked up a copy of this magazine before, but I probably should have. It's got all sorts of interesting and helpful articles.

One article in particular really spoke to me. It was by Kip Langello entitled "One in a Million".
The point of this article was that, as writers, we can't please everyone. We can't successfully write for every reader. This is probably not new advice, but the suggestion he gives is an original one.
He recommends that you write for just one reader. Not just any reader, but one specific reader. A completely fictional one. A person you simply make up.

I write YA so my fictional reader is sixteen. Her name is Cecelia Kalvass. She has light blue eyes and long, straight brown hair that she keeps neatly combed. She's pretty, but she doesn't know it.
Too cliche? Who cares, she's not gonna be IN the book. She's just the audience.
Cece, as she'd like to be called (but nobody calls her that), is an only child. Her parents are both professors at a local college and have high expectations for their daughter. Her room is neat. Her grades are A's. And she secretly wants to be popular. I know, I know...cliche!
Anyway, she wants a boyfriend, a gentleman to sweep her off her teenage feet, but she isn't interested in any of the boys at school. She reads in her spare time, which she has a lot of. Right now she's reading the first draft of a pretty terrible novel, but I'm going to make sure she falls in love with it.

Langello's advice is to write your book with this one reader in mind. What will she (or he) love? What will make her laugh? Cry? What will inspire her? Write everything to please this one imaginary reader.

It sounds too easy, but before I made up Cece I was having trouble with one of my main characters. I needed to make a change, but I wasn't sure what. After reading Langello's article I now know what I need to do to make my novel better for Cece.

Will it work? Will it make my novel better? I guess I won't know until I'm finished. But listen to this. Langello wrote nine books. All of them rejected. Then he wrote book number ten for his fictional reader, "Peggy", and it was published with a hefty advance.
We could argue that it was the work he put into nine books that got number ten published, but Langello seems certain it was because he wrote with his fictional reader in mind.

"Entertain and enlighten and move that one reader. The single-mindedness that results from this technique is what makes the difference."Langello says.

I'll try anything once. And when it comes to writing I'll probably try it until it works:)
Tell me about your fictional reader. Cliches acceptable!

Good luck! And happy writing!





Wednesday, August 28, 2013

My Writing Schedule




School started on Monday (August 26th). My son, Jack, went to 6th grade. My daughter, Maya, went to 4th grade, and I went to work. On my novel that is.

I used Scrivener to separate my novel into scenes and printed out each individual scene to put into its own folder.  Yes, that is a LOT of folders. (94 to be exact)
Why print it out? Why not just work on it in Scrivener? Two reasons. First, I just prefer editing with a paper and pen. But second, and more importantly, is the fact that it's a lot easier for me (mentally) to handle a few folders at a time. I only take five or six folders (or scenes) to the library for each work session. Once I finish those scenes, I'm done for the day. Also, leaving the majority of the manuscript at home makes the work seem like a less daunting task.

My work schedule varies a little depending on my kids schedules, but it will be roughly as follows:

Monday: 9:00-1:00
Tuesday:10:00-2:00
Wednesday: 9:00-1:00
Thursday: Off (Unless I'm not meeting my goals)
Friday: Every other Friday work 9:00-1:00


I always try to leave the house when I write. I head to the library if it's open, and my second choice is a quiet coffee shop.
If I'm home, I feel like I should be cleaning. Or cooking. Or the dogs jingle their little bell at the back door and drive me absolutely crazy. If I have to, I can write at home, but I get more work done by leaving the house (and the chores) behind me.
What's your writing schedule? Are you a night owl? Do you work at your office instead of doing your real job (gasp!)? Do you write on your lunch break or while the baby is napping?
I am very lucky that my sweet husband allows me to stay at home. I take care of the house, my husband, and my kids and try to live out my dream of being a writer. I may have a little more time than those of you with a full time job AND a family to take care of, but if it is a priority you will find your own writing schedule.

"It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop."-Confucious


Saturday, August 24, 2013

Sticktoitiveness: Finish That Novel




My two kiddos at the beach.
For our summer vacation this year we drove down to Florida to hang out at the beach. During the ten hour drive my son played video games or texted friends, my daughter read her books, and my husband read his kindle.
I drove the car and just let myself get lost in my imagination. (Not so lost that I wasn't paying attention to the road of course!)
Well, what do you know? After all that time to day dream I came up with a great book idea.
I walked the white beaches picking up sea shells and thinking about my plot. I worked out some of the details, had an idea for a great beginning, and couldn't wait to get home and start putting it all down onto paper.
It wasn't until I got home and sat down at my Mac, ready to write this new book, that I realized the problem.
Me. On the hunt for shells.
I am forever starting new projects. Better projects. And although I am still convinced that this new book idea will sell better than the book I've already started, the truth is, I have no idea what will sell and what won't. None of us do.
Did anybody really think that the Snuggie would become so popular? It's a blanket that you trap yourself into. And the Chia Pet? My kids love those things.
Jack
 As far as books go I would not have endorsed a zombie remake of any of the classic novels, but they seem to be selling pretty well.  Could you have guessed that the Fifty Shades of Grey series would sell like 70 million copies? Although I confess I haven't even read the first one...yet.
None of us can predict what will be a hit, but I know that my half finished YA novel will definitely NOT sell unless I finish it.
Maya
So, I will continue working on editing the rough draft of the novel I started in July. I'll labor through the steps I outlined in Editing Your First Draft and then (and only then) will I start on my new book idea.

Who knows, by then I might have an entirely different fantastic idea.
All we can do, as writers, is keep our heads down and keep working until the work is done.
This leads me to the word of the day: Sticktoitiveness. 

The definition of Sticktoitiveness on Dictionary.com is "dogged perseverance; resolute tenacity".
The example sentence is (swear to God) "The only way she has published so many books is through stick-to-it-ive-ness."

Yes, this post was a shameless excuse to post vacation pictures.





Wednesday, August 21, 2013

How Many Words Should I Write a Day?




How many words should you write a day? Well, I'll give you the easy answer first. You should write at least 1,000 words a day.
Where did I get that number? I just picked a number that sounded kind of big and typed it out. And the truth is, that's pretty much what everyone does. There is no hard and fast rule as to how many words you should write a day. Frustrating. Isn't it!?
So how many words should you really write a day? As many as is humanly possible.
I have a personal goal of 2,000 words a day, but I don't always succeed. Some days life gets in the way and I don't write a single word.
I try to sit down every day and write as many words (or as many scenes) as I can.
Hemingway's writing desk in Key West
But wait. Are you one of those people who needs a quiet room to write? Or you can't write a word until the house is clean? Or you need a large chunk of time to write?
Well, too bad! I'm pretty sure Stephen King wrote in a closet! A freaking closet!! And in my imagination there was a screaming baby or two on the other side of the door. Damn you Joe Hill:)
If the only time you write is when circumstances are ideal you will never finish your book. Take whatever time you can get. Steal it from your husband, and yes, even your kids if you have to, but make writing a priority.
The King
And what if you really don't have the time to sit down and write? Then think about the book. Plot it out in your head. Introduce yourself to the characters. Figure out the ending.
I want you to go to bed thinking about this book and wake up in the middle of the night with it on your mind.
It should take up so much space in your head that you can't NOT write the thing.
Don't waste your time day dreaming about how much money you'll make or what people will think when you get published. Don't Google the amount of a book advance and don't pretend you're doing an interview with Oprah Winfrey about how you got your amazing book idea.
Just think about your plot and how you can put it into a novel. Bring your computer along with you and carve out the time to actually write. Sign up for NaNo or give yourself a deadline for the first draft and then eat, drink, sleep, and write your novel into existence.
And if that is too much to handle then just write 1,000 words a day, but remember, 1,000 words a day is for sissies. Stephen King is not a sissy. If you want to get published I'm pretty sure you shouldn't be either.



Friday, August 9, 2013

Claiming My Blog


I'm not even sure why I'm doing this, but I'm claiming my blog for bloglovin.

Five points for anyone who can tell me WHY I'm doing this, because I don't really get it.
And if this is something that people were doing like ten years ago and I'm just an idiot for doing in now...keep it to yourselves:)


 <a href="http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/10105049/?claim=evwpdnsjzqh">Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Editing Your First Draft

I used to hate editing. I'd write out the novel and it would be so bad that I was sure there was no saving it. The changes that needed to be made were so great, and sometimes I wasn't even sure exactly what those changes needed to be.
But now I've worked it all into a five step process that can save almost any first draft.
Before you start I want to warn you that this isn't for the faint of heart. It's probably going to be more work than you want to do...don't say I didn't warn you!

Step One
I've heard that writing a first draft is like building a house of cards, but my first draft always looks more like a game of 52 card pick up. It's a complete mess. So the first step in this process is a very long one.
Clean up the mess. Make the plot coherent, make the timeline precise, keep those character's names and physical descriptions the same throughout the novel, tell the story, tell all of it. Work on it until everything is perfect. It should be the best that mere mortals can do.
Yes, that's just step one. Now proceed to step two.

Step Two
Buy or rent Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook by Donald Maass. But here's the hard part, you actually have to do the exercises and use them to make your book better.
I'll fess up here and tell you that I have not done ALL of the exercises in this book. I know, I'm so ashamed. When he wants me to "find six more inner turning points" I usually do about half that. So I'll forgive you if you don't do it all, but the more work you put into the exercises the better your book's going to be.
Once this is done you may proceed to step three.


Step Three
If you've read my blog before you've heard me mention Margie Lawson's EDIT's system. Check out her website and buy the notes (or take the class). www.margielawson.com
She's going to ask you to highlight your entire novel in a plethora of fun colors. Yes, your entire novel. This class really helps you take the pulse of your writing, so to speak. It can illuminate the weak points in your book, things that you can't see anymore because you've looked at it about a million times. Highlight that book of yours and then fix the problems that you've uncovered.
Once this is done you may proceed to step four.

Step Four
This is probably the step you're most familiar with (besides step one of course). You're going to give your book out to a few readers who will help you edit. Now don't give your YA book to your great Aunt Ida who doesn't know what Facebook is. Give it to readers who are actually reading your genre. And give it to them with specific instructions. Sure, let them help you out with grammar and description, but ask them specific questions too.  Are they bored at any time during the book? And if they are, where? Why? Do they actually WANT to read your book after reading the first chapter? Do they care what happens to your protagonist? Ask them what they like about the book and what they want to see more of.
Don't you dare just let them tell you it was great and move on! I mean it! There is always room for improvement!
Once this is done you may proceed to step five...almost done.

Step Five
I'm going to have to admit to you here that I'm not a very good writer. (This may already be obvious from my blog posts.) I slam my fingers onto the keys just to get the ideas on paper, just to write out the story. There's no time in my mind for pretty words. You may be different. If your words are already beautiful you might be able to skip this step, but I recommend that you don't.
If you haven't already read Writing Tools 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark then do that now and use what you learn. Otherwise, just go through your book with an eye out for making the words better.  Make sure you have chosen every word in that book for a specific reason.
Next, make sure that your book has at least five beautiful, magical, wonderful sentences. I mean the kind that you've read in a book before that you had to stop and reread. The ones that you savor, the ones that make you feel something that lasts. Now this step is not as easy as it sounds. These Shakespearesque sentences don't just fall from the sky. You'll need to ruminate on them for a while, but once you've added them... You're done!

Now that wasn't so hard, was it? Don't worry, you won't always have to do this much work, but try it on your current manuscript.  Your novel will be better for it.
I'll keep you posted as I go through these steps myself. Yes. I really do all this work! I'm only 50,162 words into my disaster of a first draft, but when I get to the editing you're going to hear about it.
Good luck and happy writing.
EL