An Hour A Day

If you know anything about me, you know that I work on one writing project after another. I alternate working on multiple projects at once. I get a lot done on these projects. But when it comes to editing, it’s a slow-going process. Sometimes it’s non-existant.

My plan was to have my mystery novel 100% edited by the end of this year and start querying it in January. I did really well working on it at the beginning of the year and then somewhere I got lost along the way. Or my novel got lost. I don’t really know.

Needless to say, I’m taking a break with that one. I hate to say it, but I really need to re-evaluate my plan to tackle that novel. There’s a lot more to figure out than just “editing” it as far as research and deeper plot holes go.

Writing mysteries are hard. I love it, it’s fun, but there’s so much information to remember and to figure out when writing each mystery. And since my novel is the first in a series, I feel the need to figure out the rest of the books before I can fully understand the first mystery. It’s a little hard to explain, you’ll just have to trust me on that one.

So maybe that novel will be ready by December 2017. Because I’ve decided that George and Lilah need a vacation. So I’m not going to look at my manuscript until January 2017. If inspiration happens to strike, then I will most definitely put that to good use, but for right now I’m going to take a step back and then look at it again as though I’m editing the first draft in January.

I know I said I was going to have my sister look at it, but I’m not even going to do that just yet. Maybe next summer.

So, the point of this whole post (now that we’re over 300 words into the article) is that Kris and I had one of our quarter-life-crisis-things when it comes to our writing.

I try to make deadlines for myself and sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In the end, I know the deadline is “fake” because it was set up by me and I have no one to answer to, except me.

But the reason I do so well with NaNoWriMo is because the deadline is “real.” I have to give my manuscript to someone by the end of the month. That someone being the NaNo validator, but still, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.

Plus, NaNo is kind of like a competition. And who doesn’t like a fun competition?

So Kris and I decided to commit to one novel each. We both have a novel that’s mostly written, but the first draft isn’t quite finished.

For me, it’s The Lost Girl. I wrote 58,000 words of the novel back in April for Camp NaNoWriMo, but the actual story wasn’t complete.

I know I wrote a post a while ago saying my plans were to finish the novel, edit it in the summer, and then post it on Wattpad in November or December. Well, this may come as a shock to you, but I haven’t touched that story since the end of April.

I was focused more on why George and I couldn’t get along and then when I finally threw in the towel for that one, I decided to work on short stories.

Anyway, Kris and I are going to hold each other accountable for our novels. She committed to her fantasy novel and I committed to The Lost Girl. We’re going to work on our manuscripts for at least one hour each day and finish our first drafts by October 1st. Including today, that gives us 32 days, 32 (or more) hours to finish these drafts.

Then, on October 1st, we’re going to write each other letters about our manuscripts, things that we think need work, what we need to edit or research, the works. Then we’ll swap manuscripts and the other will read and critique it. We’ll set a deadline for that and then we’ll go from there.

It’s still a deadline set up by me, but I have someone to answer to other than myself. My manuscript will be leaving my hands in a month even if it’s just going on the desk across from mine.

I think this will work.

How are your writing projects coming along? Let me know in the comments! 

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If I Was A Literary Agent…

On Twitter, there’s a special hashtag called #MSWL. It stands for “Manuscript Wishlist.”

It’s used by literary agents and the like every so often to let people know what they specifically want in the latest novels.

I was reading Gasp by Lisa McMann last week and something in the novel happened that brought tears to my eyes. For those of you who have never read the book, but it’s on your TBR list I won’t say too much.

I’ll just say that they weren’t happy or sad tears; they were worried tears.

I don’t know what made me think of it, but then I thought about the hashtag and I realized something.

If I was a literary agent my #MSWL would most likely be for a book to make me cry; whether it was happy or sad or anger or what have you.

I like a good cry. I want a book that gets me so emotionally invested that I cry.

That’s when I know the book has let me escape reality; even if it’s only for 300 pages.

If you want to know more about #MSWL, check out their website here.

Inspiration Station: Reading A Friend’s Manuscript

Reading a Friends Manuscript

 

How many of you have been asked by your close friend to read their manuscript and give them feedback on it? I’m sure many–if not all–of us have.

My sister Kris writes and we read each other’s stories all the time. Sometimes we read them when they’re finished, other times we read scenes at a time in case we need different opinions in the middle of writing.

When Kris reads my stories, she always has something decent to say about it. When I read her stories, I tell her, “that was good. I want to read more.”

She stares at me blankly expecting more, but I never know what else to say. I’ve never been good at editing, even for my own stories. The very first time I started editing I only looked for typos and such. It was hard for me to look at my plot more deeply, to see how well the characters developed through the story, if everything made sense, etc. I thought it would all kind of work it out in a way all on its own. Well, it actually doesn’t work that way.

It wasn’t until I joined my writing group that I got a deeper understanding of what it really means to edit your novel… and how to help others edit theirs.

So what do you do? What do you say? Certainly not this:

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The picture explains what not to do: Snow White isn’t asking the right question (did you like it, yes or no?) and she’s already getting frustrated. Well, if she’s this fruatrated now then we know she’s not going to handle negative feedback very well which is essential to being a writer. Pinocchio knows this which is why he’s afraid to speak the truth and his nose is giving him away. If he didn’t like the story, what could he say?

Constructive Feedback:

When reading through a manuscript, whether it’s a close friend or someone else, you should always say something positive and something negative. The positive comments will help them see what readers like and what they do well in. The negative comments will help them improve certain areas.

Most of you may have heard of the feedback sandwich. It’d be good for Pinocchio to know that when critiquing, you should start off with a positive comment about the story, the bottom bun of the sandwich. Then go into some negatives; what needs improving, what didn’t seem to work with the story, etc. That’s the middle of the sandwich; hamburger, deli meat, what have you. Then top it off with another bun with more positives about it.

I find that to be the most effective way to do it. Ease in with good and ease out with good.

Writerly Questions:

Let’s look at Snow White’s point of view. It’s never good to get angry with people who are trying to help you. With that being said, she shouldn’t be looking for bland answers to vague questions such as, “did you like my story?” They can say yes or they can say no, but they won’t tell you why.

You need to be specific.

When handing out your manuscript to others, it should always be after you’ve already done an edit. That way you have a good sense of what might need tweaking.

Is your main character taking a different path than intended? Ask your reader if they like the main character. Is he/she enjoyable to read about? Is he/she likable? Do you think the story works with that specific character in charge?

If there’s a plot hole in the story, see if they can find it. Ask them opinions on how to fix it. Is it a big hole or a small one? Can it be overlooked as a loophole? (Because let’s be honest; we all fudge it sometimes.)

In order to get the most out of your beta-readers, you need to tell them how to help you. Ask specific questions and when they read the story, they’ll hopefully have an answer for you.

Critiquing:

Back to Pinocchio. What can you do or say when reading a friend’s manuscript? If the writer didn’t ask specific questions, what kind of aspects of the story can you touch upon?

–Does the opening of the story hook you?
–Is the plot clear and believable?
–Do you share the main character’s emotions and care about what happens to him/her?
–Can you “hear” the dialogue in the story?
–What is the strongest point in the story? What is the weakest?

There are so many aspects of a story that you can look deeper into. One can talk a lot about the main character of a story–both good points and bad about him/her. That could be an entire critique itself.

So, remember: don’t be like Snow White and Pinocchio. When reading and critiquing, remember to be kind and honest. When receiving the critique, have a cool head and remember that ultimately the last decision is yours to make; it’s your story.

Writing Prompt:

Not exactly a writing prompt, but close enough… Take a deeper look at your current work in progress and think of some questions about the story that you feel might need tweaking. Try answering them yourself or tuck them away safely for your future beta-reader.

Related Articles:

5 Keys to Giving Constructive Writing Critiques
Checklist for Critiquing a Novel
How to Critique a Manuscript

May Goals

May 2015 Goals

April has come and gone and boy, did it go by fast. Spring is officially here (let’s hope the weather stays nice) and school is officially over for me which means that I’m going to have more time on my hands. More reading, more writing, more blogging.

That being said, I decided to set monthly goals for myself to get myself into a better routine. I’ll still be spending six hours of my day at work, but that’s all scheduled so it’s easy to set goals.

Reading:

With five Saturdays in May, that means five book reviews. These books may change depending on my mood, but as of right now here’s what I’m thinking of reading:

1. TTFN by Lauren Myracle
2. L8R, G8R by Lauren Myracle
3. The Sight by Erin Hunter
4. Dark River by Erin Hunter
5. Outcast by Erin Hunter

The Lauren Myracle books are books two and three of the Internet Girls series. I already read and reviewed book one, TTYL.

The three Erin Hunter novels are the first three novels of six in the third Warriors series. I haven’t read that series in a while so I decided to get back into them.

As stated, those books may change. Books may also be added depending on how quickly I can get through those five novels.

With that being said, my Reading List was updated with April’s books.

Writing:

For my writing group I need to edit parts two and three of the first George Florence novel. I need to look at part two and the critiques I get on that and then look at part three to send in by the 15. Then I have a meet with the group on the 30 so I also need to critique their pieces by then.

I have to type up the next draft of George Florence 2 and take a closer look at that and the first novel. That way my next edits can possibly be the last.

I plan to write one Short Story Sunday a day giving me 31 short stories by the end of the month.

I’m going to start querying my children’s book. I’ve been slowly gathering information on different agents over the past few weeks, so I think it’s time to get rolling on that.

I also may or may not try to find some contests and magazines to submit to depending on if I have time to write submissions or if I already have something to submit.

Kris and I are also going to start working on a big project–not a book, but it’s writing related. There will be more on that much later, though.

So, there’s a lot of editing and querying to do this month and only a little bit of writing. I have too many manuscripts written, but not edited. I may or may not leave the writing to NaNo months for the time being. We’ll see.

Blogging:

Nothing has changed on the blog. I’m just going to continue posting every day hoping each post is better than the last.

Overall, May is going to be a super busy month. Between reading, writing, blogging, and work, I have my plate full. At least I don’t have to worry about school anymore… I can’t wait for my diploma to arrive in the mail!

George And Me

In yesterday’s post, I discussed how every author puts a little bit of themselves (or something from their life) into their novels. For me, there are numerous things I throw into my novels that are inspired by true things in life. I won’t spill all my secrets, so for now I’ll just explain my good friend George Florence.

20150115_170826George, my protagonist, is a 30-year-old laid-off detective trying to make a place for himself in the world while doing what he loves: helping people and fighting crime.

Being a police officer was something I wanted to do when I was very young. Even when I knew I wanted to be a teacher and writer, I still had a spot in my mind that wanted to be a cop. I wanted to be a teacher since I was six-years-old because of my first grade teacher. I wanted to be a writer since I was ten-years-old because of Kris. Where did this cop thing come from? I have no idea.

When I was little I was always fascinated with that sort of thing. I remember I had a spy kit with handcuffs, a decoder, a notepad, and–the best part–rear-view sunglasses. I was always trying to solve “mysteries” around the house. One time, Kris and I eavesdropped on my mom’s phone call because we were looking for “evidence” in our case, “Mom’s Cooking: Real or Take-Out?” I can’t remember how old we were, but I wish I did.

However despite my fascination, I never pursued it for a plethora of reasons. I’m tiny and have no upper body strength, I can’t stand loud noises, I’m squeamish, and I’m not good under pressure. I just don’t think it wouldn’t have worked out. Of course you never know until you try, but I think when I discovered teaching/writing, my heart changed its mind.

I have written a few novels. Most of them are fantasy-ish with the main characters having super powers. A couple of them are cliche high school drama stories. Each one of those manuscripts (five of them total) are still on the first draft. I congratulate myself for completing a novel, but editing them is just not something I have the motivation to do.

20150115_170900Then I created George. He was a silly character started in a yellow notebook a few years ago at Barnes and Noble when I didn’t know what else to write.

I say he was a “silly” character because that’s entirely what he was. He was originally a detective who did well at his job, but had no common sense whatsoever. He was comical. I didn’t expect to go anywhere with it, but I liked the story. I wrote 32 notebook pages before I stopped and moved onto something else.

Who knew that years later George would rise to the surface and be who he is today?

Unlike my other novels, I completed a first draft easily and then had the urge to edit it right away. I want to continue his story. I want to write more books about him. I want to publish them all. Needless to say, I think I have found my genre for writing.

Funny how it turned out to be a secret passion of mine.

It’s also funny because George was inspired by Phoenix Wright, a character from the Ace Attorney video game series. I played those games and wanted to write my own mysteries and decided to revive George as my main man.

Of course… now that I write this post I realize that George wasn’t originally based off of Phoenix Wright. He was based off of me.

Typing A New Draft

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If you have ever edited a manuscript before, then I’m sure you said, “that’s totally me!” the moment you saw the above picture.

Kris and I go to Barnes & Noble every Saturday morning. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been hand editing Detective Florence 2 and I have to admit that I have made that face quite a lot. I mean a lot.

I finished editing it, so now I have to type up the edits only to print that out and start all over again. As you type a new draft it’s almost like doing another edit. Not only are you reading the words in your head looking for mistakes, but you’re reading the words, writing them, and looking at them on page and on screen. When I say “look” at them, I mean you’re looking at the words at what they really are. You’re not looking for words that are misspelled or misplaced.

You know how people always say, “you’ll find it when you’re not looking for it?” I think editing kind of works that way.

As I type up my new draft, I start to realize… my edits need edits.

Hello 2015!

 

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2015 is officially here! It’s time to look ahead confidently and make this year really count.

Did I complete my resolutions for 2014?

Eh… yes and no. One resolution was to read more. I made a Goodreads challenge to read 20 books in 2014 and I read 24 books. I think I could have read more, but 24 was an overachievement.

Another resolution was to write more. I kept up pretty well with my Short Story Sundays on here (I think). I won two out of three NaNo challenged in 2014, and I also got pretty far in writing/editing my Detective Florence series.

What are my resolutions for 2015?

My resolutions are more or less the same as last year… I want to read more than last year. For the 2015 Goodreads Reading Challenge, I’m going to pledge to read 52 books. That’s one book a week. We’ll see how well I can keep up with that.

For writing, I’m going to focus more on my Detective Florence series. By the end of 2015 I want to have the first novel ready for publication so I can start querying.

On a side note, I want to start eating healthier. I give myself until the end of the first week, but it’ll be good to try.

What’s up for the blog in 2015?

I’m going to start posting regularly. There will still be plenty of “personal” posts on here. However, I’m going to have a few posts already written to make sure I can keep up with the blog. Also, the topics will be more about reading and writing in general as well as my own writing.

–Sunday: Short Story Sunday will continue. Each Sunday I will post a short story or poem or some other type of my own writing.
–Wednesday: I will post advice and tips about writing. I will also links to outside articles and blog posts about the same subject.
–Friday: Something short and simple, I’ll post a writing quote or picture. I think it’ll be a great source of inspiration/motivation.
–Saturday: I’ll post what book I read that past week and let you all know what I think about it.
–Every “first” of the month: I’ll post either a character spotlight on the characters in my novels or a WIP summary of my current novel. I’m hoping that will be interesting for all.
–Every “sixth” of the month: I will post six six-word stories. This challenge is brought to you by Adam Ickes. I found his challenge a long time ago and decided it would be something to try for 2015.

Depending on what days the dates fall, some posts will be modified as such. For example, if the sixth falls on a Friday I’ll either post the six six-word stories or the quote or maybe both.

There you have it. My new and improved blog for a brand new year. I hope you all enjoy the ride.

I wish everyone a happy and healthy 2015!

Happy August!

Camp NaNoWriMo has officially ended as of…well, many hours ago. I have to admit that I have never been so happy in my life that a session of NaNo has ended.

Losing 44,619 words of my manuscript five days before Camp ended was probably the worst experience in my life. Dramatic, but true. I was determined to win Camp so I pledged to myself that I was going to write 45k words in four days. 45k because Kris was able to get the first 5k words back for me and I say four days because there was no way I was going to be able to write anything as soon as I lost my entire novel. I needed a brand new day to start fresh.

Monday July 28, I wrote 15,029 words. Tuesday July 29, I wrote 10,019 words. Wednesday July 30, I wrote 5,016 words. Yesterday, July 31, I nearly died, but I wrote the last 15,036 words bringing my novel to a total of 50,112 words. Of course, Kris told me to validate my novel twice because I technically wrote 90k in one month. I just didn’t have all the physical words to prove it. So, I did and my NaNo stats look really weird because I had 44,619 for July 30 and then on July 31 the bar shoots way up and says I have 94,731.

Let’s keep in mind that these last four days I was constantly screaming in my head:

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It was true. It was fairly “easy” to rewrite the novel because I wrote notes of all the scenes in order as I wrote them the first time around. Of course, before I lost the novel I realized the story was taking a different direction and I was getting lost. I took this rewrite as an opportunity to get my novel back on track and I spent a lot of my time moving the scenes around (I wrote them on sticky notes inside a notebook) trying to make some sense of it all.

It worked. To be honest, I think this version of the novel turned out better than the first. There was just one problem… I had finished the novel before I hit 50k.

I have many ideas for my Detective Florence series and I always pictured the entire series to be in a set of trilogies. Of course, now I’m wondering if the books need to be in sets of twos or many they don’t need sequels to each other at all. However, the first novel is fairly big with about 92k words and about 291 pages, but I’ve only edited the first draft, so it will most likely be less. Now the second novel is about 50k with less than 200 pages.

I think I’m going to write the third book pretending it’s going to stay a trilogy and see where that plot takes me. In other words, editing these novels is going to be just grand! (<—Please note the sarcasm.)

So, now I have another novel written, my third NaNoWriMo certificate, and a very sore wrist. I love writing and wish I could do it all day every day. The binge writing was fun and interesting to say the least, but… I am never going to do that again.

However, if you want to look on the bright side, at least I realized I can hit a deadline if I really set my mind to it.

But… Let’s be real now. Why did I want to win Camp so bad? Well, to complete another manuscript, of course. Yes, but also because Kris and I told ourselves that if we BOTH won (and we did — go us!) we could buy Mario Kart 8. Now I’m just waiting for her to get out of work so we can play it together.

Congrats to everyone who got through yet another month of NaNo! 🙂

So Far So Good

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Here’s a quick blurb/update on my progress after losing my entire manuscript:

I wrote 10,019 words today on my new draft of my Camp NaNoWriMo novel Detective Florence (Book 2). It’s only a little after 2 PM in the afternoon and I have to say that I am proud to have written that much in such a short amount of time.

I am now 30,060 words into the novel.

I have 20k words left and two more days.

I wish I always had this energy to write so much in so many days. Honestly, if school didn’t end this past weekend and if I had homework this week…I think I would have been screwed.

Lost And (Hopefully) Found

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Does anyone remember when my flash drive died about a year and a half or so ago? I lost just about everything. All my manuscripts and ideas. There were a few novels I didn’t lose because they were all ready printed out, but I lost about 85% of my writing. Yeah, that was not a fun time…and I’m sure you’re wondering why I’m bringing that up again.

So…Camp NaNoWriMo ends in about three days. I have been writing my novel Detective Florence (Book 2). I wrote a little over 3k words yesterday bringing my to about 44k. After that, I decided to write my Short Story Sunday because it was getting late in the day and it needed to be done.

Well, I have been working so much on Detective Florence that I have been in the habit of clicking on that document when I hit the “save” button. So when I was working on my Short Story Sunday and I hit save…

Yes, I saved over my entire 150-page-44k-words-so-close-to-being-completed-for-Camp-NaNo-and-the-entire-story-line manuscript. The worst part of it is that I did not do this once, but three times. Yes, three. When my flash drive died, I had no back-ups so I got Dropbox and fairly recently got Google Drive. Every time I work on something–writing, homework, anything–I save it to all three. Therefore, when I did my Short Story Sunday, I saved it to…all three.

However, I have overcome the initial shock and sadness of this tragedy. I have been taking notes and writing the scenes as I write them on sticky notes so I have all the ideas. Plus, the story wasn’t going where I originally wanted it to go. So today I moved around some sticky notes, got rid of a few, and added new ones. The story (hopefully) will make much better sense.

Kris was good enough to get back the very first draft from when I saved it the first time, so she got me back the first 5,012 words of my story. This means I have about 45k left to write in order to validate for NaNo. With five days left (including yesterday and today), I decided I’m going to rewrite the entire novel. That’s about 10,000 words a day.

Since I all ready had the 5k I just needed to write 5k yesterday and then 10k for the rest of the month. Except I was too discouraged yesterday so I decided to start fresh today.

It took me from 8 in the morning until a little after 7 tonight, but I wrote 15,029 words. My novel is now back up to 20,041 words. I can only hope I can keep up this pace for the next three days (seriously, pray for me!).