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
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.
 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.
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 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="">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).
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.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Ten Things I've Learned From NaNoWriMo

1.  50,000 words does not a novel make.
2.  If you feel like you're neglecting your kids, take them to GattiTown and give them $40.00. They will forgive you.
3.  GattiTown is not a good place to sit and write a novel.
4.  GattiTown should not give away giant blow up bats as prizes.
5.  If you are rereading your manuscript and you see any version of the words,"You are mildly intoxicated, possibly completely inebriated at this point, HA HA HA." Get ready for some serious deleting.
6.  Writing everyday is the easy part. Working it all into an exciting plot is the hard part.
7.  If taken before sitting down to write, a giant bowl of butter noodles plus one beer acts as a pharmaceutical grade anesthetic.
8. Your first draft will kind of suck no matter how fast or slow you write the thing.
9. Your dogs WILL eat your manuscript. Or at least as much of it as they can get away with.
10. Writing consistently for 31 days will give you a momentum that you won't want to stop.