Monday, November 20, 2017

Infinite Hiatus

Hi all,

I don't really have it in me to repost the whole thing here, but I very likely won't be online anymore past Friday. If you want to know why, you can read my post here.

Love you all.

Misha

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

NaNo Need-to-Knows: Tips for Week 1

Hey everyone, if you want to read my IWSG Post, you can find it here. If you would like to find the rest of the NaNo Need-to-Knows Series, just click here. :-)

Today is November 1st, so I shared my three best tips for NaNo Week 1. The script I used will follow the video, if you prefer to read.



Since you’re hopefully rearing to get to writing, I’m going to keep things as short and sweet as possible.

So tip number one is write something. Anything. 

A lot of writers get stage fright in the beginning of a writing project, because blank pages have a psychological impact on our creativity. So make sure your first page stops being blank as soon as you can. Even if you write something stupid like “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy” or an entire scene about the character eating pancakes… whatever. Just write something down, because those first words will lead to more.

Tip number 2: Pace Yourself. 

Maybe you’re different to me, but I’ve always found that the first section of a book is the second easiest to write, following closely on the heels of the climax and resolution. So once you get past the first page jitters, the words will be flowing in something like a flood, and it’s easy to be tempted into writing thousands on thousands of words in a day.

But.

You need to avoid that temptation and cap that amount at slightly higher than your normal word count. If your NaNo word count target is already higher, cap it a the amount you need to write.

Why?

Because you’re not in this to sprint. NaNoWriMo is a marathon, and if you don’t pace yourself, you’re increasing the likelihood of burning out. I know writers who only draft in NaNo and take an entire way to recover because they burn themselves out. Don’t do that to yourself. It’s better to write 20k or 30k every month than 50k for NaNo and none in the rest of the year.

Tip number 3: Enjoy Yourself. 

With the high wordcount requirement and short time frame, it’s easy to get stuck on the challenge part and forget about the fact that writing is fun.

Don’t to that, because stress is so not good for your creativity. So yes, push yourself, but also remind yourself that no one will shoot your dog if you don’t win.

Best of luck! Are you excited to start or regretting your decision to join?

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Tired

It's the first Wednesday of November (which I still can't believe), which means it's time for me to join that famous bloghop for insecure writers everywhere, the Insecure Writer's Support Group.


So 1 November means it's time for NaNoWriMo, and not a year has passed since 2010 where I haven't taken part. Which means that yeah, I'm definitely doing that. 

(I'm also doing a blog and vlog series to help with NaNo, if you need an extra dose of help and encouragement. This week's vlog post will follow immediately after this one.) 

But in typical Misha style, it's 1 November and my month has already been screwed before it was even noon. 

So I don't know how I'm going to do NaNo this year. It's been hard enough to be creative this year so far, and now my life has dialed the intensity up to an 11. 

What about you? Doing NaNo? Feeling the pressure yet/already?

Friday, October 27, 2017

NaNo Need-to-Knows: How to Avoid Writer's Block When You're a Pantser

Hey everyone! Today's vlog post will be the last one I'll be posting on a Friday for a while, because each post for November will be about advice and/or encouragement for that specific week of NaNoWriMo.

If you're here for my monthly goal update post, click here.

If you would like to see links to all of the post in the NaNo Need-to-Knows Series, click here.

The script I used to record this vlog follows the video.



NaNoWriMo can be a dream and a nightmare for writers who fly by the seat of their pants as they write (henceforth referred to as pantsers, pantsing, etc.) On the plus side, NaNo seems almost designed for people who don’t want to plan, because we’re encouraged to just let go and write every step of the way.

On the negative side, if you paint yourself into a corner, it can be a disaster. In order to write 50,000 words in a month, you have to write an average of 1,667 words per single day. This might not seem too bad, but if you get stuck, the words needed to get back to par stack up really fast.

A lot of people try to prevent this by planning ahead and going into NaNoWriMo with something akin to a step-by-step guide to their book.

But we’re pantsers and that’s not what we do!

So what do we do?

We get stuck.

Often.

And this is frequently what we call writer’s block.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. We can “borrow” a few things from the plotters and adapt them to help us along.

The big thing I see as an advantage of plotting is that plotters know where they’re going with their book. Pantsers have this way of thinking that this is boring, but really, they’re just looking at it wrong.

See, just because we know where we’re headed doesn’t predetermine how we’re going to get there. And the getting there is really the fun part.

So it helps to go into NaNoWriMo with a few things settled in our mind. Knowing the main character(s), and their goal, conflict, and stakes is probably the best way to not get stuck.

However, if that smacks too much of plotting, you can get away with significantly less. How do I know? I’ve done (and won) NaNo by going into it knowing precisely one thing:

The climax of the story.

If I know what the big event or reveal will be at the end, I can use every scene before that point as a stepping stone to it. So if I get stuck in a scene, feeling like I don’t know where it’s going, I can then direct the scene towards progressing the in a way that brings me closer to the climactic point. And hopefully by then, I know enough about character, the goal, conflict and stakes to figure out how to make that progressive step forward. (But again, it does help to know all these before you start writing.)

Are you a plotter or a pantser? What do you have to know before starting? 

Update Day: Seriously How Is It Still So Cold?

Hey all! It's the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for another Update Day. For those of you who are wondering, JEN Garrett and I co-host this monthly bloghop, where we set some crazy or just crazy important goals, and then post regular updates on our progress. If you feel like you need some accountability, this is the hop for you. Just click here for more information and to join in.


How Did October Go? 

Honestly, I feel a bit frustrated this month. I got a lot done, but I spent most of the time feeling like I'm just not getting into a rhythm, which meant that the million small things I needed to do just kept multiplying while the things that are important to me fell by the wayside.

So these were my goals for this month: 

1) Start revising Book 3. 

Nope. Mainly what happened was that I got some major freelancing jobs this month that ate up a lot of my time. Also, my momentum got broken early in October, which meant I actually just... didn't have the mind frame needed to work on this. 

2) Finish the ebook cover for The Heir's Choice

This neither.

3) Finish the Eden's Son rewrite.

By the time IWSG had rolled around, I had called this book cursed because some more of its words had vanished yet again. That loss early in the month was what broke my speed, and I haven't touched it since. 

4) Market Spirits in the Water. 

I did some light marketing, but not what I had wanted to do.

5) Edit and submit a short story I had written in September.

This I managed before Eden's Son wiped the floor with me. 

6)  Write four more poems in October. 

Nope. 

Goals for November

1) Win NaNoWriMo. (My username is iceangel, if you want to buddy up.) 
2) Revise Book 3
3) Rewrite Eden's Son
4) Market Spirits in the Water. 
5) Write four more poems. 
6) Finish the baby shower gift I'm making for a friend before said baby shower happens at the end of November. 
7) Wrap up the two major freelance jobs I'm currently contracted to. 
8) Finish posting the NaNo Need-to-Knows series. 

That's it from me for this month. How did your October go? Looking forward to November? 

Thursday, October 26, 2017

NaNo Need-to-Knows: Conflict and Stakes

We're rapidly heading for the end of October and I have a lot of ground to cover, thanks to a really ill-timed internet outage. So today, I would like to talk about conflict and stakes together. (Sorry if that makes my post run long.)

If you would like to check out the rest of the NaNo Need-to-Knows series, please click here



So why are the conflict and stakes of the story so important to me that I would focus on them for my final NaNoWriMo  preparation post? 

Simply put, they (along with compelling characters) are what keeps the reader interested in reading the story. If the goal is the story's entire point, the conflict is what makes the goal uncertain, and the stakes are what makes the reader care about the outcome. 

If one is 100% certain of a story's outcome, what's the point of reading? This is why we get bored so quickly if there's just not enough challenges (i.e. conflict) standing between a character and their goal. The easier it is to achieve the goal, the less interesting it becomes, because the book also becomes more predictable. 

But Misha, you might say, some books are predictable simply because they fall in a certain genre. Yes and no...

A book being a romance, for example, gives you about 99% of a chance that there will be a happy ending, but then the experience of reading is more about how that happy ending occurs despite everything that stands in the characters' way. If there's no conflict, the end just happens, and it's just not very satisfying to a reader. 

So what is conflict? People have this nasty tendency to believe that conflict=fighting and bickering, and you can tell who those people are by seeing whose characters seem to fight all the time about things that could have been solved if they spoke to each other like normal human beings. 

That's the thing. Conflict, in the sense used when creating a story, isn't about fighting. It's a counterweight to the story's goal. In other words, the antagonist and his minions is a source of conflict, but so is the main character's fear of water if they have to swim in order to achieve their goal. The former is called external conflict, in other words, a challenge that comes from outside the main character. Then there's also internal conflict, which comes from within the character, and usually takes the form of fear, anger, sadness, self-doubt, etc. 

Ideally, you want conflict to come from both sources, because then it's not just a rote color-by-numbers walk-through until the character meets the big bad for a boss fight. Letting at least some of the conflict come from a character's heart and soul gives it all meaning. Which makes the reader care. 

But neither the goal nor conflict matters if the reader doesn't have a reason to care about the outcome. This is where your characterization and the stakes come in. Obviously, if the reader cares about a character, they will care about whether the character achieves their goal. But if you want the reader to care the most they can care about the outcome, you also need to give the main character some high costs to failing in their goal. 

In other words, your story needs some stakes. 

Broadly speaking, there are two ways you can do this. First, you can make the character's failure affect a lot of people. This is usually in the form of "everyone dies if the character doesn't succeed." Which is good, but not quite the most effective way to join the stakes with your readers' care towards a character. 

No, for that, making the stakes personal is the best approach. It might sound silly, but something as relatively small as "If the character doesn't succeed, his best friend will die." often implies higher stakes (emotionally speaking) than "everyone dies." The main character doesn't know "everyone" and so the reader doesn't either. It's just a reason to care less. 

So mix up your external and internal conflicts, and try to make even the high stakes you have feel personal, and you'll be well on your way towards creating a kick-ass story. 

Do you plan your conflict and stakes ahead of starting to write, or do you make them up as you go along? 

Before you go, I just wanted to also let you know that Spirits in the Water is making its way around the bloggosphere, and we're giving away some awesome prizes. 


If you would like to see the blog tour stops, please click here.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

NaNo Need-to-Knows: How to Maximize Your Chances to Win

Hey everyone! FINALLY, I have the vlog post uploaded and my internet connection back, so I'm going to have two vlog posts this week for the NaNo Need-to-Knows series. I'll work the blog posts I had wanted to write in over this week and the next as well, because there's a ton of information I want to share before and during NaNoWriMo.

Anyhow, here's the video, with the script following below.



Ladies and gentlemen, we’re almost on the eve of NaNoWriMo and we have no idea about who of us will succeed and who will fail at making it to 50,000 words. But I’m specially posting this on a Monday so you’ll have a bit more than a week to follow advice if you’re so inclined. Because this week is the week you prepare.

But you’ve planned your story as far as you’re going to plan it. What more can you possibly need to do?

For right now, forget your story. This week, you need to prepare yourself for NaNoWriMo, emotionally and physically.

Here are my best suggestions and the things I’m doing right now to get ready.

1) Set your strategy.

To win NaNo, you have to write 50,000 words in a month, or an average of 1,667 per day. But if you look at your calendar, you might realize that you actually have fewer days than 30 available. So how are you going to make up for that?

Make the decision now so you don’t worry about it later.

2) Clear your schedule as far as possible. 

In a perfect world, you’d be able to make everything else in November go away, but alas, we’re in the real world with its millions of distractions and drains on your time. So what you want to do here is decrease those distractions as far as possible. If you have something due in the first week of November (like say next week’s vlog post), get it done now so you don’t have to worry about it.

If you need to set a date for something and it’s possible to do so, set that date in December.

Also, let go of your TV schedule. Make sure to record the things that are important to you, so you can watch it later, but don’t put yourself in the dilemma of “But XYZ is on…”

3) Tell your friends and family. 

This way, you can say, “Can’t, I’m writing my novel in a month, remember?” Which makes it easier to stand firm if someone wants you to go out. (Obviously, don’t turn into a hermit, but if you have a day’s writing quota and winning is important to you, going out might have to wait until you do have time available.)

4) Decide on your priorities and block out an available time slot dedicated to writing every day. And make sure nothing else gets booked in that time. 

It’ll be helpful if you knew how fast you write, but if you need to write 2,000 words a day and you take 2 hrs in order to do so, you need to make sure that you have an average of two non-negotiable writing hours a day. Note here: average. So if you really can only do an hour on week days, make sure you have a bigger chunk of time available on weekends.

Doing this ahead of time helps in two ways. First, having a dedicated writing time helps your brain switch over to creation mode faster than trying to steal time at random. Second, you can’t win NaNo if you don’t give yourself enough time. So scheduling writing time ahead can help you ensure that you theoretically gave yourself enough time to write your daily quota of words.

5) Sort Out Your Social Networking. 

If it’s important that you post regularly to wherever, schedule as much as possible ahead. If not, go on hiatus.

Yeah I can hear the horrified gasps already. But that hour that just whizzes by every day as you scroll down your Facebook feed? You could have spent it writing. You need to spend it writing.

So pull the plug for a month. (I promise you, it’s actually really nice.) Just let everyone know that it’s what you’re doing so they don’t distract you with worried calls and emails because you “vanished.”

Those are my big tips to gear up for NaNoWriMo. Do you think I missed anything? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Technical Difficulties

Hey everyone! This week's vlog post is supposed to be live already, but the gremlins have gone into my internet connection again, so I'm not able to upload. I'm hoping to do so over the weekend.

Sigh.

Misha

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

NaNo Need-to-Knows: The Inciting Incident

Continuing on my theme of plot-related need-to-knows for NaNoWriMo, I want to talk about the inciting incident today. What is it? And why is it so useful to know your story's inciting incident ahead of starting to write your NaNo Novel?



You know that line in book descriptions? "Everything changes when..."

The event that changes things for the character is the inciting incident. It's literally the event that "incites" the character to set the goal which carries the story.

And if the goal is your story's point, the inciting incident is then the catalyst that sparks off the story in earnest.

If you think about it from the reader's point of view, the story's goal doesn't exist until the inciting incident occurred. So the introduction has no direction; it's only an introduction. Direction only happens when the character says (directly or indirectly), "This is what I want to do." After that, the story is about whether or not that thing is achieved.

But it can't happen if there isn't some spark that makes the character set out on their journey in the first place.

For this reason, it's a good idea to have the inciting incident occur as soon as possible. Some people say within the first third of your story, but I personally think that's too long, unless your story has a slower pace. Others say you must start in medias res, and that the inciting incident has to happen in the first chapter. Which I say is too fast for most genres outside of mysteries (where the incident in question is someone dying or something being stolen) or a thriller. Personal experience says that most of my stories work best with a proper character intro, and the inciting incident occurring somewhere in the first fifth of a book. But that's because I prefer to emphasize my character arcs. Putting the inciting incident at around 10k words in (assuming I have a 50k book) gives me time to show the readers who the characters are before the inciting incident changes things, which I feel gives those changes more of an impact.

That said, I tend to personally leave it up to the story I'm writing, for the inciting incident to happen when it's ready to happen.

So why the spiel about where to put it, then?

Because a surprising amount of writers feel like their story is dragging half-way into the book and they can't tell why.

Often, the reason is that they've written half a novel's worth of words, but nothing's happened yet. So it's basically a half a novel of waffling around with no direction and no visible point. Because nothing happened to make the character decide to do something. And as such, nothing is done.

If you know what the inciting incident is supposed to be, you'll also know if it hasn't happened yet, and so you can make sure it does happen and soon enough to keep your story from lagging.

Do you pre-plan your inciting incidents? Do you prefer inciting incidents to happen right at the beginning, or at a later point in the story? 

Monday, October 16, 2017

NaNo Need-to-Knows: Your Story's Goal

This post is part of my ongoing-series about prepping for and surviving NaNoWriMo. Click here to find the rest of the series as it goes live.



Last week, I was talking about characterization and using a character's motivation to set the main story goal. This week, I want to go into this goal and its close buddy, the inciting incident.

For me, this order of doing things, of exploring the character before deciding on the goal, makes sense because I'm more character-driven. If you're plot-driven, you're probably going to want to decide on the story goal first and then create characters that will make the story of achieving said goal interesting. Both approaches work fine, especially if you pay attention not to sacrifice your character strength for your plot, or your plot's strength to preserve character.

But the point here is that, if you want a decent shot at finishing NaNoWriMo, your story needs a goal, and it's going to be incredibly helpful to know what that goal will be before you start.

But What Is This Goal I Speak Of? 

Let me just get this off my chest quickly: I'm not talking about those highly nebulous goals writers have for their stories, like "I want to teach children that it's okay to dream big." or "I want to write about homeless people." Nor will I go into why I don't (and probably won't ever) agree that such an approach is a good idea for genre writing. (I'm looking at you, Mark Twain, who stuffed up a perfectly good Arthurian time-travel tale with your incessant preaching.) Really. Don't get me started on that. 

Instead, I'm talking about the goal that forms the heart of your story itself. That thing that a character sets out to do, and the reason why readers keep turning pages to find out whether that thing comes about. 

In other words, the goal is the reason why a story should be read. A good example of a goal from books is Frodo's goal of destroying the One Ring in The Lord of the Rings. 

Or it can be an unstated (at least in the story itself) goal of the characters falling in love in your standard romance. Or of a character needing to move on, such as in Under the Tuscan Sun. But it's worth noting that often these goals tend to come with another, stated goal, and often come secondary to that stated goal. In Under the Tuscan Sun, Frances moves into an old, nearly decrepit house in Tuscany, and somehow needs to overcome the language and culture barrier in order to fix it up.

So why is the goal so important to me, coming second to (or maybe even standing even with) only characterization? Because the story's goal is its entire point. And every other plot aspect to a story has the goal at its foundation. 

If you approach plot by structuring according to the three-act structure, or according to beats a la Blake Snyder's Save the Cat, the goal is still the lynch pin you're building it up around. For example, the dark night of the soul, that moment where all hope is lost and the character has to dig deeper than ever before in order to succeed... What does that hope center on? The hope that the main story goal will be achieved. And what must the character succeed at? Yep. The goal.

The inciting incident is the moment that acts as the catalyst of setting the goal and so kicks off the story after the character introduction. 

The conflict in the story is anything and everything that complicates or makes the goal impossible to achieve. 

The stakes of a story are the costs associated with failure to attain the goal

And back to the three-act structure: What's the climax of any story about? 90% of the time, it's going to be about the last big push to try and achieve that goal. The rest of the time, it's about a major decision about that goal, or a major failure to achieve the goal.

Even the themes and messages from your story will be rooted in either the goal itself, or in the discoveries that characters make as they go after the goal. 

In other words, the goal is everywhere and it's everything. And as soon as you have readers caring about the characters and their journey, the goal and the success or failure at achieving it forms the major question that drives the readers to keep reading. Will Frodo destroy the One Ring? Will Frances succeed in fixing the house and will she find happiness again? 

Depending on the genre, setting this goal to be impossible and dangerous enough can be a major driver of a story's tension. Take Katniss's goal of surviving in The Hunger Games. But this also plays in with the conflict and stakes, which I will still get into. 

At any rate, knowing your goal, even if you're a pantser like me, gives you something to write towards. A point that pulls your writing forward and prevents you from waffling around too much, trying to find a direction for your story. (Although in saying this, I will admit that most of my rough drafts are focused almost exclusively on finding the goal in the first place. Yes, I'm secretly that character-driven. And that much of a pantser.)

How Does One Set the Goal?

There are a myriad of ways in which to do this, so I'll list a few. 

1) Like I mentioned in my post on characters, you can let the goal come out of your character's motivation. Think of your character and the type of person they are. What kind of goal would they set in a given situation? 
2) Write without setting the goal and hope for the best, or write a rough draft specifically to discover the goal. (Although realize that this probably will require you rewriting the entire thing once you've found your direction.)
3) Decide first thing what you want the goal to be and build the concept, scenarios and characters around it. 
4) Look at your main character again. Decide what goal would create the most internal (and/or external) conflict for a character, push them to (or beyond) their limits, and/or provide the greatest measure of character growth. 
5) If you're going with a genre that has an inherent, unstated goal (like the happily-ever-after in romances), what goal would you like to set (and state) that will act as a nice backdrop to, and will help create conflicts for the unstated main goal? A good example of this can be found in the movie You've Got Mail. Two characters have been anonymously chatting online and they're obviously made for each other. Problem is that they actually know each other in real life and hate each other because one's goal is to put the other's family business...out of business. 

These are approaches I've taken to set goals in my stories, but I'm sure there are more ways that I haven't thought of.

How do you find your story's main goal? 

Friday, October 13, 2017

NaNo Need-to-Knows: Picking Your Story Idea

Hey everyone! Today's my first vlog post for my NaNo Need-to-Knows series (click here for the list of posts as the series progresses). Right now, the vlog part is dealing more with survival strategies than technique (whereas my blog posts are more technical) so I thought I'd start at the very beginning.

The script I used for this vlog post is under the video.



October is here, and that means it’s time to start ramping up for NaNoWriMo. In case you’re unfamiliar with the term, NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month is a writing marathon where writers try to write a 50,000-word novel in the month of November.

It’s something I believe writers should try at least once, but NaNo is hard. I’m not going to lie. This will be my eighth NaNo, and I still have days in November when I wonder why I do it to myself.

But I always end November with a sense of accomplishment because I always get more done than I do in other months, even if I don’t get to 50,000 words.

It can be a bit of an overwhelming experience, especially for newbies, so I decided to start a blog and vlog series about things you need to know about and for NaNo. Hopefully it will make the process just a bit easier for you. I will provide the links to my blogs below.

Right now, my blog posts are dealing more with some story tips, while the vlogs are dealing with survival tips. And since this is Week 1 of the series, I thought I’d start with advice on deciding what you want to work on.

So you’ve decided you’re going to do NaNo, but you don’t know what you want to work on. What do you do?

My first tip is: Write what you wish you could read more of.

If you have been waiting for a book to come out about a pirate mermaid in space and it’s just not coming out, that could be your sign to write it yourself.

Bonus points because of the fact that you’re already passionate about your idea.

Which brings me to my next tip:

Pick the story idea you’re most passionate about.

If you have more than one idea that you want to get to, make sure you pick the one that makes your heart beat faster when you think about.

Writing is already a challenge. Racing time to write about 1,700 words a day makes it even harder. Accomplishing this mammoth task with a story that feels like a punishment to work on because you’re just not that into it is going to make NaNo almost impossible.

So don’t do it to yourself. Pick the idea you love.

But what to do if you’re equally passionate about both?

Pick the most complete story idea.

Once NaNo starts, you don’t want to stop to rework a story idea because it turned out not to be strong enough to carry a 50,000-word story.

So pick the idea with the biggest goals, the strongest inherent conflicts and the highest stakes. If your ideas lack those, it’s a good idea to figure them out for all of your possible options, and then compare.

I’ll providing tips on my blogs to help you with this.

But then, what if both stories are strong?

What if you’re equally passionate about two stories, and both of them come with everything you’d need to ever make them both awesome?

Just Pick One.

Yep, you heard me. If you’re wavering between two ideas, you’re really wasting time you could be spending on preparation or worse, on NaNo itself.

So if you trust your ideas, pick which one you’re going to write and promise to get to the other once this one is done. Be decisive and commit to one of your awesome ideas.

Or Pick Both.

Now we’re venturing into Rebel territory, but if you feel like you can handle it and you don’t want to leave one of your stories by the wayside, write both concurrently. I have a whole new series worth of advice for people who want to do this, but there’s just no time right now.

It’s not for everyone, though, so tread lightly. But just keep it in mind as an option, because if you have your heart set on NaNo’ing and you just can’t decide, it’s better to add 50,000 words across two books than it is to not write because you’re still wavering.

Before you go, do let me know if you’re going to do NaNo and leave your NaNo name so we can buddy up. Is this your first time or are you a veteran? Do you have any questions? What's your best advice for picking a story idea.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

NaNo Need-to-Knows: Your Characters

As part of my NaNo Need-to-Knows series, I'm sharing advice on the things you need in order to get through NaNoWriMo. (Click here for a list of links for the ongoing series.)



For the rest of October, the blog part of this series will deal with some writing technique things you need to know in order to create a strong NaNoWriMo Novel.

Since I'm more of a character-driven writer, I'm starting with characterization, but you can sort out the plot-related aspects first, if that's what you want. (I'll be starting with those on Monday.)

But what does one have to figure out with regards to characterization? And why is it important?

Who Is Your Main Character?

Do they have a name? What do they do? What do they want? What are their hopes, dreams and aspirations? What are they willing to do in order to achieve those? What are their worst fears? What are they willing to do to avoid those?

Yes, the way a character looks can be important for description purposes, but when it comes to creating a strong story, you need to go deeper than the superficial. 

Why? 

Because knowing your character means you know what your character will do in a given situation, which in turn can help you drive the plot forward as you write. 

Is your character prone to keeping grudges? Then having something happen to make them want to avenge themselves will be a great way to set a strong story goal. AND your character will want to go after that goal. 

Want means there are now personal stakes to achieving the goal, which is one of the best ways to maintain tension in a story. 

So make sure you get to know your character before you start, or that you create enough opportunities in your writing during NaNoWriMo to explore your characterization. 

Some ways to do this exploration before NaNoWriMo: 
  • Spend time to create detailed notes as you build your character. I've heard the snowflake method is particularly good for this. (As with most plotting-related activities.) 
  • Or you can take my approach of assuming a character to be a real person that you need to get to know. This approach might be out there, but I find that, if I treat characters like real people, they tend to feel more real in my writing too. Often, I simply do this by letting them live and make their own decisions in a story as I write, but if I want to prepare ahead, I do interviews with my characters. Yes, I literally act like I'm drinking coffee with a character. I'll ask them all kinds of stuff, having some real, deep conversations with them, and then I'll note down their answers. Not only does doing this help you understand a character, but it also helps you nail down the rhythms and cadences of their voice. (Which does come in handy later.) 

What Motivates Your Characters? 

In simple terms, character motivation is the reason behind the reason behind the reason behind the reason why a character does something. Think of it like peeling an onion. There's the skin at the surface, but under that is another layer, and another, and another. The deeper you go, the closer to the heart you get. 

And if you can get to the heart of any situation with a character, you can use that to strengthen the impact of what's going on. You'll also instantly know when a scene doesn't make sense, if it goes against the character's motivation. 

For example. You have a character (let's call her Sally), who gives a bitchy response to a snarky comment from another character (Dan).

Sally could theoretically have hundreds of choices about how she's going to respond to Dan's sass, and she goes for being nasty. Why? Why didn't she walk away instead? Or play sweet? 

Because she sees every sassy comment as an attack on her person and feels the need to retaliate. Why? 

Because she feels like the whole world is out to get her and she needs to fight to survive. Why? 

Because she's seen the hard side of the world and has been in survival mode her entire life. 

Why?
....

And this can go on forever, really. The deeper you go, the more information you have to mine. Just three why's in and we have a very tantalizing clue about Sally's backstory that can help fill her out as a character. And the deeper you go, the more info you'll have. So keep asking why.

Another benefit to knowing your characters' motivations is that you can create some incredibly compelling conflict just by having two characters' motivations and the resulting desires they have oppose each other. 

Characters wanting things are nice. But I frequently want to eat a chocolate. What do they need? What is the thing they would do anything to get because that need comes from the depths of their souls? Those are the truly important things, and if Sally needs something to happen, and Dan equally needs that same thing not to occur, you have instant fireworks. So take the time to learn your characters' motivations, and then figure out if you can put them in opposition to each other. 

It just livens up every scene containing those characters, because now every moment between them matters. 

Thanks for reading! How do you approach characterization? Any further characterization advice? 

Next week, I'll be talking about story goals and inciting incidents, and why they're important. And on my vlog on Friday, I'll be sharing tips on how to choose between story ideas for NaNo. If you're a Patreon patron for as little as $1 a month, you'll be able to watch my vlog post on Thursday instead. 

Monday, October 9, 2017

NaNo Need-to-Knows: An Introduction

It was a bit of a shock a few days ago when I received a reminder from NaNoWriMo to announce my NaNo novel for this year. Silly, I know. You'd think I have a firmer hold on the progress of time, but there you go.

If you're new to writing and stumbled onto my blog, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, where the goal is to write a "novel" or part of a novel of 50,000 words in the month of November.

It's a huge amount of fun, if you can handle the pressure, and the nice thing about it is that you're part of a larger NaNo community during this time. In fact, I met one of my best friends because of a NaNo event in my area. So yeah, it's a great way to get involved. Just click on the link up top for more information.

Anyway, since NaNoWriMo can be a bit overwhelming, especially for first-timers, I thought I'd spend the rest of October and November to give a bit of advice from my eight years of NaNo experience.


On Mondays, I'll do a series of blog posts (although the first post in this series will be on Wednesday to fit everything in, and I might use more Wednesdays if I need to). On Fridays, I'll be updating on my YouTube Channel. But don't worry, I'll be posting the video and my script on my blogs as well.

If you are joining and you want to buddy up with me, click here.

Okay, so before I start, I just want to clarify something about my approach. I'm a full-blown character-driven pantser, so I don't do much in the way of planning before I start a rough draft. That said, these posts will be useful to plot-driven plotters (which would be my polar opposites) as well. All you have to do is take my plot-related posts as reminders to include later if you're a pantser, and as some things to keep in mind if you plan if you're a plotter. And depending on whether you're a plot-driven or character-driven writer, you can scramble the order of my suggestions to fit you. All writing methods are valid, as long as your method helps you create a strong foundation to your story.

And the first few posts I'll be writing will be about the things you need to build that foundation. Then as we go into NaNo itself, I'll be changing to focus more on NaNo survival. (Because hey, no one said NaNo is easy.)

For ease of use, I'll be using this post as a table of contents for you to refer to.

Table of Contents: 



Who's going to join NaNoWriMo? What are you doing to prepare?

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Dun dun DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNN!

Hey everyone. On the first Wednesday of the month, it's time to post updates to the Insecure Writer's Support Group. The point of this bloghop is to share your writing insecurities, but also to encourage others. There's also a monthly question you can answer if you're not feeling all that insecure. For more information, just click the link.


So right in time for Halloween, I think my current WiP is cursed.

Why? Well. It was the first concept I ever started writing when I first decided to be serious about writing books. In other words, I've been working on it for sixteen years.

The first time I started it I saved it to a floppy disk that malfunctioned. (Yes, it's that old.)

The second time, I saved it to my computer. And then one day, my grandmother (the writer) had a computer malfunction and needed another computer to save her work. So while I was at school (yes, it's that old), my mom ripped the insides out of my computer and installed my grandmother's. And also, because she thought I was only playing minesweeper (that. old.) on my computer, she just trashed the insides.

The third time I tried this book, I finished the rough draft. This time, because I made the point of saving it to Dropbox. It had been written on Ywriter (which is relevant, bear with me.) and I got into the rewrites. I wrote all of the rewrites. And when I finished it and did my final backup, something went wrong, and the entirety of my rewrite disappeared as if I had never written it.

Fourth time I wrote it on Scrivener and finished the rewrite. Yay! Then I discovered I had to rewrite it again. Awe.

And now, on the fifth try, after sixteen years, Scrivener lost me everything I had written on the weekend. Which doesn't sound that bad, but oooooooohhhhh is it bad. Because I had shifted the focus this time, and this chapter had been the moment where the momentum picked up. And Scrivener has successfully gutted it.

And yes, it's them. I save the file to my computer, and then save a copy to my dropbox. So the original file on my hard drive should be stable. And if you're wondering why I don't just get the back-up file Scrivener backed up for me... Did you know that Scrivener's default is to back up only five versions? And did you know that back-up happens every time it autosaves? Yuuuuuuup. In the time it took me to figure out that no, it didn't back up to my dropbox either, Scrivener had overwritten the back-ups from the day.

So yeah.

Cursed.

Have you ever worked on a cursed project? Did you ever manage to finish it?

Friday, September 29, 2017

Update Day: Spring-Is-Supposed-to-Be-in-the-Air-So-Where-Is-It? Edition

Today is the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for another update to the Got Goals? Bloghop. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the bloghop. A few of us writers have set some crazy, huge or hugely important goals and are working toward achieving them. To keep us accountable and motivated, we post monthly updates on our progress.

You're welcome to join in too. Just go here for more information.


How did I do?

I went into September with multiple challenges facing me. For one thing, the book I've been wanting to work on (the Western Romance) ended up needing to be rewritten again. Usually, that's not a problem, but I really battled to get into writing it again.

Eventually, I just decided to give myself a break and work on something different, which ended up taking the form of poems and a short story. 

A few days of that and it was as if the cobwebs finally cleared away. So I did finally figure out what I wanted to do with the romance and started on it. 

Along with that, I've managed to do some freelance work and work on my startup. 

So all in all, not too shabby, although I do wish I had written more. 

What do I want to achieve in October?

I actually have a whole slew of things I want to do this coming month, so let's have some fun with seeing how far I get.

1) It's time for me to start revising Book 3 in The War of Six Crowns. I've given myself enough time off from it, so I should be able to see the glaring faults that I might have been blind to before. 
2) Speaking of The War of Six Crowns, I want to finish the covers so that I can get that one step closer to updating the first two books. (And eventually, my website.)
3) I want to keep working on Eden's Son, the Western Romance, because I want to see about publishing it this year or early next year. (Maybe, if Book 3 doesn't take up too much time.) 
4) I want to help with marketing this year's Untethered Realms anthology, Spirits in the Water. 

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A haunted journey on a riverboat, water sprites borne of pennies, preternatural creatures, ancient serpents, and The Lady of the Lake lurk in dark waters. Raging storms and magical rainbow fountains. Water is spectacularly beautiful but also treacherous.

Angela Brown gives us Extraordinary. Puberty hits Angelique like a gut punch and brings about a change, forcing an unexpected revelation about her past. All seems well until a vicious storm tears through her Texas community, and Angelique learns there are worse things than a little change.

Jeff Chapman offers The Water Wight. When a drowned girl changes her mind about suicide, Merliss and her associates face a fearsome, preternatural creature.

River Fairchild presents You Can't Go Home Again. A young woman, filled with regret about the past, goes on a journey and discovers more than she bargained for.

Gwen Gardner gives us Shake, Rattle and Row. Harlow Grayson has the chance to rid herself of a pesky ghost but she must first brave a haunted riverboat and recover a family heirloom. What she finds might be more than she can handle.

M. Gerrick gives us The One Who Would Wield the Sword. Nikka is supposed to be nothing more than dragon bait so a real dragon hunter can do his job, but the Lady in the Lake has other plans for her.

Meradeth Houston presents The Flood. Sometimes a flooded kitchen isn't the unluckiest thing to happen to you.

Simon Kewin offers us The Waters, Dividing the Land. Hyrn the horned god of the woodlands is learning the meaning of fear. Death magic blights the land, threatening everyone and everything. To save what he can from spreading corruption he turns to the ancient river serpents, but they’ve grown old and distant, and may not hear his call at all.

M. Pax presents The Wallows. Evernee Weems wants to escape this world in the worst way. Her daughter needs everything, the rent is being raised, Evernee’s job barely pays minimum wage, and she has little hope for better. Inside a puddle is a different reality. She jumps in, happy to trade her problems for a life in which worries don’t exist. Or do they?

Christine Rains gives us Frozen. A necromancer is on the frozen moon of Saturn where the dead do scream.

Cherie Reich presents The Folding Point. Aimee's fight against those who banned paper magics has begun.

Catherine Stine offers Maizy of Bellagio. April still searches for her mother who vanished nineteen years ago from the fountain at Hotel Bellagio in Vegas. Can Maizy, a water sprite who works the fountain’s pink colors begin to help the three generations of eccentric women tortured by this tragedy?

From USA Today, Amazon bestselling, and popular science fiction and fantasy authors comes Spirits in the Water, a supernatural anthology of eleven thrilling tales. Spirits in the Water is the fourth, long-awaited Elements story collection from the dynamic and inventive Untethered Realms group. Coming October 2017.

Available for pre-order at: 

5) I want to edit and submit a short story I wrote this month. 
6) I want to write at least four more poems in October. 

What about you? How did you do in September? What would you like to achieve in October?

Monday, September 18, 2017

Silence

Last week, I didn't update anything. Mostly, it was because I had a mad week, including one day where I was sitting on a film set, pretending to watch tennis for about twelve hours.

But except for that, knowing that I would be doing that all day meant I had to squeeze everything else into the rest of my week. (And you guys know I'm snowed under in the best of circumstances.)

Honestly, though, I've been quiet last week for another reason: 911.

Monday came and I didn't know what to say. I remembered the day our lives all changed, but I couldn't find anything to say about it. It would have been good to say that it's brought us closer together, but recent events have all but proven that it has not.

So what do I say?

How sad it was? That's ridiculous, given the cost of life, both on the day and as a result of the aftermath. It's not a sad day. It was and still is a tragedy.

Do I talk about how the world has gotten up from this blow and became a better place because we refused to give in to fear, hatred and bigotry?

Do I say I'll remember? That I'll never forget? Again... pointless because that goes without saying. But what does "Never Forget" even mean? Last year, I thought of it as a call to remember the dead, the loss of innocence. Last week, it felt like recalling an old grudge.

So really. I'm at a loss. And I've been at a loss for days.

Friday, September 8, 2017

My Five Writing Rules

Hey everyone!

This video is a continuation of my vlog on making sense of writing advice. In the previous vlog, I had pointed out that not all rules suit all people, so this time I shared the rules I apply the most to my own writing.


Here's the script, for those of you who don't like the video thing...

My Five Writing Rules

I decided it’s time to get back to those writing rules. Previously, I talked about how no writing rule is ever hard and fast for every writer, but I thought it might be interesting to share my personal rules because those very much dictate the reading experience of my writing.
Man. I actually have a lot of them. But let’s start with 5.

1) In rough drafts, there are no rules.

For me, rough drafts are where my mind can really take wing and fly, so I try to write without worrying about anything. I write for me. What I find interesting. What I want to enjoy. And if that means breaking a million so-called writing rules, that’s fine. I rein it all back in later.

2) Always Rewrite.

Since I just let my words bleed onto the page, the end result is… Okay bad. It’s bad. Really. Really. Bad.

But I expected that and it’s okay. I really don’t believe in perfect first drafts. Because in between the million things that don’t work in the rough draft, there are the hundred things that do, and I wouldn’t have found them if I kept stressing about the quality of my output.

So I take those things I like and I build the story again from scratch, using those things as my foundation. And the result of that draft is miles better.

3) Wait for it…

My writing process is filled with stops and starts. I’ll do an intensive writing period where I’m rough drafting a book. As soon as it’s done, though, I set it aside for at least a month. Then I spend time furiously rewriting the same story. And another rest period. Then I revise. And wait. And edit. And wait… And so on.

Because when it comes to perfecting my work, I need distance from it. Distance means time away.

4) Edit and edit some more.

When it comes to getting the book ready for publishing, I’m a bit of an editing fiend. If drafting is for myself, editing is for my readers. So I’ll go over the manuscript again and again, doing my absolute best to make sure the readers have at least a little taste of my experience as I wrote it.

This is also the place where a story goes from meh to amazing, so I go over it again and again until I find nothing more to change. And then I bring outside help in to see if they can’t find anything I missed.

5) At some point, I have to stop.

This is probably the hardest rule for me to follow. I’m a perfectionist when it comes to my work, so I could find better ways to do things and say things and better places for commas almost indefinitely, if I let this perfectionistic streak run amok.

So there’s a point where I know I’m satisfied enough and where any further tweaking is superfluous. That’s where I stop.

It’s hard, though. And that’s where I miss having a publisher who can come in and pull the manuscript from my grabby hands.

That’s it for today! What is your biggest writing rule?

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

IWSG: I'm Back and Boy Am I Feeling the Insecurity

Hey all!

Heads-up to everyone wanting to support Hurricane Harvey victims: There's a charity auction going on right now here

If you're planning to self-publish, you can bid on my ebook and paperback formatting offer.


I've been away from the Insecure Writers' Support Group for a while, but yesterday I decided to get right back onto that bandwagon.

For those of you who aren't familiar with IWSG, it's the brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, where us writers can go to share our fears and insecurities once a month, on the first Wednesday. In addition, there is also an optional extra question for those of us who just don't feel that insecure at the time.

 

I have a huuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuge insecurity this month, but I stupidly made that my vlog post for last Friday. 

Lucky me, I also have another, smaller, niggling insecurity that I've been trying to ignore. And that big insecurity has just made that feeling much worse. 

In short, I feel like nothing's getting done. 

Which is a stupid feeling for me to have, as I literally have a list every day, where I'm checking off task after task that I've finished. 

But. 

There was once a time when I was capable of rough drafting, rewriting and editing a manuscript in six to eight months. 

That's a lovely pace to maintain. And I did it while having a day-job. 

But since then, all of my projects just seem to be stuck in mud. Book 3 in The War of Six Crowns has been two years (!!!) in the making and it's still not done. And now I'm having problems with another project that will be setting me back for some more months on that. (This is my big insecurity.) 

That's not the worst, though. 

The worst is that I've made the decision to become a full-time writer a year ago. Did that help me speed up? 

Nope. Because now that I have more time for writerly things, I somehow also have less time to actually write, because to be a writer who isn't also a starving writer, I have to do other writing-related jobs for money. This part is surprisingly successful. 

But actually writing? 

Uhm....

Uhm....

Uhm.....

I haven't been able to write in more than a month, now. Mainly because of the crippling insecurity around that other book. But also because I conveniently have a million other things to do, which makes it so easy to procrastinate. 

Sigh. 

Anyone else feel like they're stuck in mud with their writing? I'd ask how you get over that feeling, but I already know the only thing to do is actually stop moaning and start actually working on something again. 

Friday, September 1, 2017

I Hate My Internal Editor Because It's Right

Hey everyone! Before I get to today's vlog post, I just wanted to let you know that I signed up for a charity auction for the victims of Hurricane Harvey. I'm offering to format a book for paperback and ebook, so if that's something you need, you might end you getting my services for a steal. You can click here for more information.

Okay! Time for today's vlog. As always, I left the script at the bottom for those of you who just can't get into the vlog thing. Enjoy!



If I was to think of one word to summarize how I am right now, it would be:

FRUSTRATED.

Why?

Because I have this brain that tells me things like “Hah. You really want to just edit and publish this shit?”

Sarcastic voice and all.

Which I tend to ignore because often, that voice is dead wrong. However, out of two books I’ve wanted to pick up for revision, this voice chimed in twice. And it was right… twice.

Not that this is really a bad thing. I’m taking a long-term view of self-publishing. Yes, I could be publishing once every three months right now, but would I be happy with the quality of my books? Eh…no.

Which isn’t to bash people who are able to do that.

I just can’t.

It’s hard enough to let go of a book as it is. Let’s not rush the process.

But the thing is, my method has always worked as follows: Rough draft by hand, rewrite to computer (with a plan), revise, edit a million times, proofread a few times more, and then I’m ready for formatting.

Except now it’s not working that way. Because now, when my inner editor takes a look at my rewritten draft, it’s seeing glaring weaknesses that would be better solved with yet another rewrite than with revisions.

The previous three times this inner editor chimed up, I could say, “Hey chill out. Yes, it’s not perfect. But a scene here and there would be all this needs to be perfect.”

The last two times, though, my inner editor helpfully pointed out that somewhere between a half and three quarters of my plot wasn’t written.

And that’s a rewrite-scope problem. How do I know? Because the first time it happened, it took me almost a years’ worth of rewrites and FOUR TIMES the amount of words to tell the story in the right way.

But at least there I had the excuse of wanting to split a book in two.

This time, no such luck. This time, I just let major plot points occur way before intro and build-up was done. And so it feels like at least the first third of a story is missing.
Can I fix it by inserting those scenes? Not this time. Because stuff that’s missing now will impact reactions later.

So it’s another rewrite for me. On a book that’s been rewritten four times already, over sixteen years.

Kill me now.

Have you ever prepared to edit, only to realize the underlying draft isn’t worth editing? Did you ignore that feeling or did you rewrite? How did it work out for you? 

Monday, August 28, 2017

Why Writers Need Critique Partners


On September 4th, 2016, I had decided to use my knowledge gained from about sixteen years of writing in order to stabilize my income. I started freelancing as an editor and critique partner on Fiverr and Upwork.

For the most part, I love this job, because it basically pays me to read. A lot. 

But there's a flip-side: I sometimes have to deal with a lot of writing by people learning the craft. Don't get me wrong. I love helping people. But the truth is that often, an editorial letter and comments written into the margins of a manuscript just aren't enough to explain exactly what I mean. 

The biggest reason for this is the huge disconnect in experience between me and my client. At the moment, probably close to two thirds of my clients for content edits are first-time writers. They paid for me to tell them how to improve their stories. 

But when it comes to things that I take for granted, they never even thought about it. Within this blogging community, we've formed a sort of short-hand. When someone's offering to exchange critiques with me, I know it's okay for us to use that short-hand, because we do share a common background when it comes to how and where we find our knowledge.

So in a lot of ways, the bloggosphere forms a sort of hive-mind. Although the transmission of information isn't perfect, I usually know, when I picked another blogger's work up to critique, more or less what the level is that I'm batting for. So when I say, "Your opening isn't really hooking me," I'm pretty dang sure the writer I'm critiquing either knows what I mean, or knows where to find the information they need to correct this issue. 

My belief that this is so is further reinforced by the general level of writing I've critiqued over the last seven years. You can see when someone has a concept of what's going on. 

I believe there are certain fundamentals to the plot and development of fiction (regardless of genre). And most of the time, people in my network get the majority of those fundamentals right. In this way, then, content editing is more about catching where the writer slipped than anything else. I think it's because we are a network that shares what we learned and often I would critique someone, who critiques someone else, who critiques someone else, etc. Because a large amount of us are connected in multiple degrees (I have 20 people or more in my network who are also in your network), it means that the information I share gets refined and then applied to my work again when one of you reads for me. And just so, if I learn something new because of something one of my critique partners (CPs) picked up, I can take that information, refine it, and apply it to that CP's work, and also the work of all my other CPs. 

And so, overall, the quality of our output increases. 

But when I'm freelancing, all those assumptions go out the window. I can't say "This opening isn't a good hook," because the writer has no idea what a hook is. 

And often, none of the fundamentals are there. 

Without any of the fundamentals in place, it's almost impossible to improve the writing without rewriting the whole thing first. And no matter how nicely I try to put it, that's an incredibly demoralizing thing for a new writer to find out.

I'm talking about things like character arcs. I'm talking about motivation. I'm talking about internal logic. I'm talking about obedience to the set-up. I'm talking about having the set-up be in the writing, in a way that's palpable to the reader. I'm talking about not having certain plot points in the writing because it's "done" in the genre, but have that be at the cost of believability. I'm talking about the ways to create tension and to keep the pacing at a reasonable clip. 

These things rarely come naturally to writers. They're learned by trial and error. And honestly, I don't think learning all that by paying an editor is the best way to do that. 

So my suggestion: Don't give up on writing. On the contrary, write more. Practice. But improve on your craft by learning from other writers. Get critique partners and learn both from the critiques you get and the ones you give. Read up to understand why your CPs are suggesting certain things. Learn.

That way, your developmental editor is there to help you perfect what you wrote and revised, instead of finding gaping holes that will make you want to write off your skill as a writer entirely. 

Also, it's easier for a content editor to write a thousand-word outline of why this one thing needs work. Not so much when all of your fundamentals are missing. It's simply too much knowledge for someone to impart in one go, and it's also too much for you, with your small amount of experience, to understand.

All of us had to start somewhere. But those of us who are here after ten years or more crawled before we ran. 

And if you're a new writer paying for an editor without having critique partners look at your writing first, you basically tried to skip to riding a unicycle. 

Do you have critique partners? If so, how did you find them? Any tips for finding and being an awesome critique partner?

Friday, August 25, 2017

Update Day: The End of Year 1

Today is the last Friday of the month, which means it's time for another update on the Got Goals Bloghop. For those of you unfamiliar with Update Day, a bunch of us set some crazy or just plain important goals and update each other on our progress once a month. If you would like more information or to just see who else is taking part, please click here.

PLEASE NOTE IF YOU ARE ALREADY A PARTICIPANT: The site hosting the linky sign-up is down, so please follow the link above to be taken to a blog post where you can leave your update link.


On 4 September, 2016, I had decided to reset my goals and approach writing as a full-time job, where I use my writing knowledge in various ways in order to make a sustainable income.

When I started out, a lot of people thought I was nuts. Heck. Some days, especially in November, I felt I was nuts.

But here I am.

I made it.

So I thought I'd share my thoughts on my progress.

I've been earning minimum wage pretty much consistently this year.

This is both a good and a bad thing. On the good side, the money I earned was enough to keep me and my family going during hard times. 

On the bad, I would have liked to earn more by now. 

The probable reason why I didn't? When I had started out, I had planned to use the money I make to market my books to sell more of them, which would have generated extra income aside from the freelancing I now do. 

But that money basically went into surviving for a large chunk of the year, and otherwise to keep my freelance side of the business afloat. So about 90% of my income is from freelancing, where I would have liked a more even split between my sources of income. And given that those other sources of income would have been passive, meaning I didn't need to do much myself to earn the money, I fell short of where I wanted to be.

That said, the fact that I've been generating pretty much an even income every month means that I should be able to use my freelance work as a spine as I spend next year preparing to publish more books again. 

I finally finished Book 3. 

Ah yes. Book 3. 

Number 1 reason why I didn't publish anything this year: My life went to hell in a handbasket starting around February. 

Number 2 reason: Book 3 itself. The War of Six Crowns is my major focus, writing-wise, so I've basically put all my available time into getting it publishing-ready. The problem is I completely underestimated the sheer size of this project. 

A lot of times this year, Book 3 felt like a bottomless, endless pit and, it wasn't only a case of not being able to finish it on schedule, but also the fact that I literally couldn't work on anything else all year. 

I finished rewriting Book 3 in August, about nine months after I had planned to publish it. Now I'm taking the approach of it's going to take as long as it's going to take, because after putting in this amount of work, I'm really not excited to rush it to market without being happy with the quality. 

Getting something done is like opening a nesting doll. 

Maybe it's because of the way I look at things, but sometimes it feels like everything is connected to everything else. And sometimes, it can be hard to see what needs to be done first. Do I finish writing a book or do I update my website? Do I update my covers and interior or do I set up the newsletter so I can include the newsletter sign-up? Do I spend the morning freelancing so I can get this job out of the way, or do I spend it writing so I can actually make progress on my own work? 

And so on. 

And if I do manage to finish one thing, I take another look and see a thousand more. This often makes it feel like I'm not really making a lot of progress, but as I sit here, looking back, I'm awed. 

And I know that I laid some groundwork for an astounding Year 2. 

How are you doing? Do you have any major goals you're working on?

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Visiting Juneta

Hey lovely people! I just wanted to let you know that I'm visiting Juneta's blog today to talk about my writing journey thus far. Hope to see you there!

Monday, August 14, 2017

How Writers Can Stretch Time, in Four Steps

Unless the wheels have spectacularly come off my life in some way, people have a tendency to be amazed by how much I get done in a month. And every now and then, someone will ask me how I manage it.

After all, we writers have the same amount of hours in the day. So how do I stretch mine to get so much done?

Step 1: Set Goals and Break Them Into Smaller Chunks

How does that help a writer stretch time? you might ask. Well. One of my big secrets to getting stuff done is knowing what I want to do.

So I set myself some huge goals, and then I break them into progressively smaller chunks.

For example:

Goal 1: Make a living wage from writing books. 
  1. Write books. 
    1. Write this one book. 
      1. Write 1,000 words every day.
      2. Write 50,000 words.
    2. Write the next book. 
      1. Write 1,000 words every day. 
      2. Write 50,000 words.
  2. Edit books. 
    1. Revisions
    2. Edits
    3. Proofread
  3. Publish books
    1. Format books.
    2. Upload them to retailers. 
And so on. Now I not only have this big goal, but I also see the steps to get to that goal. (The ones that are in my control, anyway.)

I often break even the steps into smaller steps, until I have hundreds of little things I need to do.

Which might sound terrifying, but what sounds easier:

Make a living from writing? Or write 1,000 words today?

So what I'm doing is to break all of my goals into smaller, bite-sized chunks. And then I move onto Step 2.

Step 2: Set Your Priorities. 

Once I know what I want and how I'm planning to get there, I can sit down and decide what's the most important to me. 

But here's the important thing: I decide what's important to me right now. 

This bit is a trick to my success, because a lot of those big goals I set are pretty much equal when it comes to how important they are in my life. 

I don't have kids, but if I had, I wouldn't be able to say writing is more important than my children. But I wouldn't ever be able to call writing unimportant either. 

So the thing is, if you're sitting down to get going, there will be things on that specific day that's more important. If you know you want to focus on that, then focus on that. But also know when you've neglected some other aspect, so you can temporarily bump that thing up your priority list in order to even everything out. 

Step 3: Create a To-Do List.

Once I know all the things that are really important, I can quickly write down the 10 things that are weighing on me the most. (I like 10 for being a nice, even number, but pick whatever works for you.) 

Next thing I do is to number the order in which I'd like to do those 10 things. 

Why? 

Because if I decide upfront what I want to do after I've finished the task at hand, I don't have to waste time later trying to decide what I should be doing. 

How do I pick the order? 

This depends. Some days, it's in order of the shortest deadline to the longest. Other days, it's Writing first and everything else next. Today I'm not feeling a bit lethargic, so I'm making up for it by starting with something easy, then something hard, then easy, then hard etc. 

Step 4: Start Doing

Yeah I know. Obvious, right? But sometimes, people underestimate how important it is to just get going. There's a reason why, when it comes to the setting of my to-do list, I keep things simple. I don't try to schedule anything because I know it takes longer for me to schedule and re-schedule as my day shifts. Time that I could actually be using to tick stuff off my to-do list. 

So once I have my 10 things and I know in which order I'd like to do things. I start. If something happens to prevent me from completing one task, I move onto the next. (Writing this blog is task number 4. Number 3 is postponed because I'm waiting for information.) I might get back to it later. I might postpone to tomorrow. 

And no, there's nothing wrong with postponing as long as it's not going to break a deadline. Because unless you set the bar really low, there's no way you're going to finish all the tasks you set for yourself. 

So move the stuff you didn't get to. Just as long as you get it done. 

And My Big Secret? 

I don't multitask. 

Whaaaaaaaaaaaat? 

Yeah, I know. People usually act like multitasking is the way to go. Especially if you have as many and as varied goals as I do. 

But here's the thing. No one actually multitasks. 

You're just rapidly switching your focus from one thing to the next thing. 

As I'm sitting here, I'm writing this post without looking at my twitter. When I'm doing my social networking stuff, I don't do it while watching T.V. When I am doing something to relax, I try to do so without bringing "work" along. Unless you count crafting as work. But that's a whole other story. 

Point is: If I'm at task number 1, I focus on that task until it's done, or until I take a break. 

And then I focus on the next thing. 

And the next thing. 

And the next. 

Why? 

Because when I'm focusing, I'm making fewer mistakes. And I actually speed up. Because I don't even have the smallest moment of thinking "what did I want to do here again?" 

And so, things get done one little step at a time. And then at the end of the month, I take stock and actually realize how much I have achieved. 

What about you? Are you a multitasker? Do you have a system for getting everything done? What tips do you have? 


Monday, August 7, 2017

5 Things to Remember When Giving Writing Advice


This morning, I watched a vlog post by one of my favorite writing vloggers on YouTube. And to be honest, the post left me fuming.

The post was about ten types of writers that are "the worst," as in people who suck.

And I did agree with nine out of the ten points, because they dealt with things like genre elitists, mansplainers etc.

But one was basically a take-down of character-driven pantsers like me. And that ticked me off, because she basically lumped a perfectly valid approach to writing right in there with writers who want to write but never actually do and people who write comments on writing without understanding what writing is about.

Because apparently, having a character who doesn't want to do something you wanted them to do isn't a justifiable reason to be stuck.

Which, as someone who actually has been writing while giving my characters free rein for years and actually has about 25 finished rough drafts as a result, I find to be a ridiculous assertion for a plotter to make.

But to give you plotter dudes an idea, this little inclusion in her "the worst" list is like me calling you chickenshit for insisting on a comfort blanket that is your plot outline before starting out. Because pantsing is true creativity, y'all.

*Eye roll*

And insulting people for using a method just because you don't use it, or just because you never thought to use it, is not cool.

Still, it did get me thinking about the things we do when giving and receiving advice and since I'm kinda in a mini-blog series about so-called "writing rules," I thought I'd write them down as tips of my own.

1) Even if you have a big following (and especially then), it's probably a bad idea to thoughtlessly mock roughly half of your following if you're not qualified by personal experience to comment on their method. 

Hell, this is a stupid idea in general.

2) Before you spout off on something, maybe consider if someone approaching writing in a certain way you disagree with actually helps that person write. 

Because if you're going to discourage a natural pantser from pantsing, you're not helping that person at all.

3) Keep in mind that people of various experience levels are consuming your advice. Tailor your information accordingly. 

4) Consider whether the limitations of your medium of choice allows you to do any statements you make justice. 

If you have under ten minutes in your vlog and you can't take the time to justify your opinion with more than a few trite, bullshit witticisms about why half your following is wrong, maybe this vlog post isn't the place to include this particular opinion.

5) If you're out to make yourself look smarter and better by insulting those different from you, you're doing it wrong

What about you? Have you ever seen or heard someone share writing advice that made your blood boil?