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Blood Price is “Done” (!!)

Hello, lovelies!

I have finished another draft of BLOOD PRICE, my feminist epic fantasy that I’ve spent prolly the past two years working on. Of course, it isn’t truly done. I’ve learned enough in my journey as a writer to know that a book is never done until it’s on bookshelves or published online for all the world to purchase. But it’s gone through enough work that…well, by the end of this week, it’ll be out in the world and fighting its damnedest in the query trenches.

*panicked screaming ensues, strident enough to make a banshee run in terror*

Please ignore that.

I’m actually…really proud of this novel. I think it might be my best novel to date (which, I mean, that’s the goal, right?). I’m really lucky that a few beta readers who have read multiple stories of mine also believe the same. It’s most definitely the scariest novel I’ve written, covering topics such as the taboo around periods, gender roles, female empowerment and fighting against a higher power, amongst other themes, like doubt, belonging and discovering yourself. It’s a novel I never imagined I’d write, but when the idea struck me to write a novel where it was unapologetically and blatantly centered on a woman’s period, I couldn’t let that idea go.

That’s still the very core of this novel.

But it’s become so, so much more.

I wanted to talk about the evolution of this novel a little bit. Mostly because I’ve worked so damn hard on it and it’s going to be…weird, not working in this world while I let this story fly and see how it fares. I’m also pretty big on transparency and I thought, if other writers are curious about how another writer’s process looks, well, why not share mine?

Draft 0

I first attempted to write this novel I believe in over the summer/fall of 2017, if my memory serves correctly. I wrote the first 50 pages before I stopped, unable to write anything more, continually becoming frustrated that this story felt like it was going nowhere and was nowhere near where I wanted it to be (despite my 20+ page outline). I scraped it and tried again from scratch after revamping my outline, getting to 50 pages again before I ran into more roadblocks, feeling like this story was impossible. I ended up trunking it so I could write something else.

frustrated denzel washington GIF

Draft 1

Despite the disastrous previous attempts, I still couldn’t get this story out of my head, half a year later. Natanni wasn’t going to let me go so easily. So, I tried again, rereading what I’d tried previously. To my immense surprise, I actually liked it this time around and thought it was a strong foundation. Reworking some of my outline with new ideas that had popped in while I was working on a different novel (now trunked and most likely never going to see the light of day), I tweaked the first 50 pages to fit my new vision and kept going. By June 2018, I had a workable draft and I was excited. This story was unlike anything I’d written and felt incredible to me. My confidence was soaring, after experiencing a 2017 where I couldn’t complete a draft of anything and was at one of my lowest points, as a writer.

Pages: 151 (single spaced)
Word Count: 79,000

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Draft 2

This was my rework draft before I sent it to betas. I had the core story down, now I needed to truly add some details and backstory to to the story, make it breathe. I tried to answer as many questions as I could that I’d come up with or put off figuring out during draft one for the sake of just completing the damn thing. By the end, I felt 1000% more confident in this novel. It felt…complete. I sent it to betas, really thrilled about where I was at, really hopeful they all liked it and thought it was as query ready as I did, but still terrified they would hate it.

Pages: 194 (single spaced)
Word Count: 102,000

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Draft 3

I shouldn’t have been terrified, because none of my betas truly hated this story. But I also needed their perspectives more than I could ever express, because the novel was nowhere near as query ready as I thought. It was still more bare bones of the story, at this point. My character motivations still weren’t clear, clan dynamics and religion needed to be more fleshed out, the ending was way too clever by half and completely impossible to understand unless you wrote it and by goodness, let’s raise the stakes and not shy away from tension, shall we? So, I took all of their feedback, took a week to process it, then make a ten page document filled with notes, questions and answers, before I went back and began another round of edits, continuing leveling up my story with every hour of work I put in.

Pages: 214 (single spaced)
Word Count: 110,000

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Draft 4

After a second beta round, where a few very brave betas took another crack at my novel, there were still a few areas where I could heighten clarity and give the world more depth–and way too many typos, good Lord, why are their always so many typos?! I went back through again to address the concerns I agreed with. This time, I cherry picked, going to places in the manuscript where I needed to add new scenes or rewrite current ones, instead of reading the entire draft through again, like I had previously with every new draft. I was floored with how much this story had grown, what I made my characters go through and, hopefully, the slight torture I’ll be putting readers through, one day. My betas also pushed me to write a scene I had been avoiding for the previous three drafts–a scene that left me shaking and crying, but was 100% the right call and I’m so thankful for supportive betas who also aren’t afraid to challenge me as a writer.

Pages: 217 (single spaced)
Word Count: 112,000

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Draft 5

Finally, I had reached the “last” draft. Here, I changed from my preferred single space, 11-point Droid Serif font to the industry standard double space, 12-point Times New Roman (blech) font, so I could see how it would look on submission, what beats hit at the five page, ten page and fifty page marks. I did line edits, trying to catch all those pesky typos and adding a few, last-minute consistency-check-type additions. I read all the way through, so it allowed me to see how the changes I made during both drafts three and four felt as you read it in order and friends? It felt good.

Pages: 400 (double spaced)
Word Count: 112,000

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As you can see, BLOOD PRICE has gone through a lot of revisions and it took a lot of work–not only from me, but from trusted betas and friends, to get this novel into a shape where I am confident to my core it’s ready for professional eyes and, hopefully, steal an agent’s heart like it has completely ensnared mine. I have high hopes this will be the novel that gets me into the traditional publishing market, but I also know that, if it doesn’t, I’ll self-publish it. I’ve already decided to self-publish my ARTEMIS SMITH quintet, once I finally get my butt in gear and rewrite book two and finally start writing books three and four. I’d still love to sign with an agent, but right now, I’m keeping my options open. The most important thing is to always write books I love.

So, now, it’s just polishing my query letter, finally writing the dreaded synopsis and going back through my agent list to double check they are open to submissions and their submission guidelines. By this weekend, I’ll have BLOOD PRICE out there in the world.

*more screams*

*clears throat*

As for what’s next…I’m not sure yet. I want there to be a sequel to Natanni’s story, though I’m not sure if it needs to be a trilogy or a duology. And I still have the second book in Artemis’s story to edit. Or…well, I could always try and start a new adventure, too, something that feels like I haven’t done in so long, considering I’ve spent the past four years dedicated to these two series.

Let’s just see where the Muse takes me, shall we?

Cheers.post signature

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Writing Posts

The Muse’s Lover: Impostor Syndrome

Hello, lovelies!

I hope everyone is having a good day! I’m a little sleep deprived yay new puppy still adjusting and us being forced to restart her training after almost two months in thanks to forces out of our control and I’m feeling intense amounts of jealousy over the WorldCon that so many friends and industry professionals who I admire are currently attending in Dublin right now, so why not write another personal post this morning about impostor syndrome?

Because oh boy, am I feeling it this week.

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I finished another draft of BLOOD PRICE recently and then sent it off to a few readers to get a second opinion. While waiting for that feedback to roll in, I worked on my ARTEMIS series again because I don’t take breaks, apparently, revamping the overarching plot to something that makes a lot more sense and got me even more excited for this series again. Since I’ve already queried the first book, I think I’m going to go the self-published route for this quartet, but I also think I’m going to try and write all four books, first? Who knows, we’ll see.

Anyway, I went through and made some adjustments to the first book and honestly, I think it just needs one more line-edit pass and it’s good to go. I’ve worked on it a lot and I think it’s finally ready. The second book in the series is written, but it needs a major overhaul (since that’s still draft zero/draft one that I haven’t even touched since first writing it), especially with the overarching plot restructuring, which really effects this book’s plot, in particular. So, I was thinking about diving in and working on that manuscript.

But then, I got feedback about BLOOD PRICE.

Granted, it’s only one opinion, so far, but it’s an opinion I trust and they brought up some really good points. Even though some of the elements they brought up were still more developmental than I hoped, when I felt really strong that I could move onto line edits and finally send this manuscript out to query.

I have to admit, I got a little deflated, because I just want this book to be ready.

But, I let the feedback marinate for a bit, then went back and took some notes on how to incorporate it (all while being embarrassed on the number of typos that still managed to escape my notice, four drafts in) and I have a solid gameplan. Honestly, I don’t think it’ll be too difficult to incorporate it into my manuscript and I think I’m going to try something new and just jump to the sections I need to edit/improve and do that, before I do another read through to fix the typos and make sure it’s cohesive and coherent, before finally, I can query.

I sat down to work on it yesterday, deciding to let my Artemis project wait, because my passion, right now, is for BLOOD PRICE and I am so close; so, so, so close.

And I couldn’t work on it.

the lion king what GIF

Because my brain started thinking about querying again. It started thinking about rejection and how badly I want this story to make it…and yet how terrified I am that it won’t…but also, how terrified I am that it will? I began to doubt if I could pull this off, doubt this story, doubt myself as a writer, doubt if I had any talent, doubt if this story was good enough, if it was worth telling.

I kept aimlessly pursuing Twitter, wasting time, avoiding working on this manuscript even though I had some ample time to do just that; time that, here in two weeks, once the semester starts back up again and my job’s workload skyrockets once more, I won’t have again for a while. Guilt began to pile up that I was wasting this precious, rare time, my brain whisper shouting at me the entire time: How can you call yourself a serious writer when you’re avoiding writing? How can this story still scare you, even when you love it? You’re never going to make it if you don’t put in the work.

Eventually, I gave up and read a book for fun (and I loved it, the ending was brutal yet perfect and GAH) but even that made me feel guilty, because I’ll never have a chance to hold my novel in my hands if I don’t put in the work and fix what’s still broken.

martin freeman sherlock GIF

My mood plummeted. Depression seeped in all too easily, especially when I’m still struggling to adapt to this puppy and it’s been harder than I thought (and we’re having complications at our apartment which interrupted our training routine with her, so we’re basically being forced to start over from square one, which just sucks). Writing was supposed to be my escape from everything else and now I’m too busy feeling like a failure because I still haven’t nailed this story, four drafts later, and this story still scares me to tell, because it’s so politically-charged and covering a “taboo” topic of empowering women through their periods in a fantasy setting?

Ironically, yesterday I also had a coffee date planned with a new friend who’s a coworker I didn’t know also writes fantasy and we wanted to meet and just talk about writing as writers, since we discovered we have that connection. I almost cancelled, because I was in such bad spirits and felt like a fraud. How can you go and meet another write and talk about your process and your novels when you can’t even sit down to write when you have the time to do so?

But, I went.

And my mood lifted.

A lot.

Happy Usa Network GIF by Psych

We talked about writing: what we enjoyed about it, what we struggled with, how long we’ve been doing it, the paths of publication we plan to pursue (both wanting to become hybrid authors). We talked about cons and writing groups and advice we’ve read from our favorite authors and dreams of attending those cons and one day being invited to those cons. We talked craft and books on writing and blogs and social media platforms. We went over our allotted time by 15 minutes before we both realized we needed to rush back to work, where I had more meetings to go to, but I was in higher spirits. I finished out the work day in a positive mood and then met my Mom for dinner, before hanging out with my family for a bit. It turned out to be a really lovely day.

Even though I didn’t write a single thing.

This morning, I’m still scared to dive back in. I’m still a little bummed that I haven’t quite completed this story to the high level upon which I thought I’d achieved (though it has leveled up dramatically with every draft, so it by no means isn’t making progress). But I’m also bloody stubborn. I’ve also been working on this story for almost two years now and, though it scares me, I also recognize it’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever written and I believe the strongest story I’ve ever written. And it deserves this work. It deserves me to be challenged by smart, honest beta readers. It deserves my fear, my whole heart being invested, my nerves and my dedication.

As Victoria Schwab tweeted and I now live by:

Show up.

Put in the work.

Let go of the outcome.

So…let’s get to work.

Cheers.post signature

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All Praise The Beta Reader

…for without them, my books would be nothing and any reviews after their publication would just point to all errors these wonderful darlings spent so much time helping me realize needed to be addressed.
Hi, hello, how are you?
So, I’ve been slowly working through the glorious amounts of feedback from my roughly ten beta readers over my current project, BLOOD PRICE, for the past, eh, month or so? In reality, it’s only been these past two weeks I’ve taken the time to read through all of their write ups and all of their line edits, because I was starting to experience lowkey impostor syndrome with this story and was scared to work on it again because I just want it to be good and feared it would just be shit and I was shit and would fade into nothing as a writer into the void for all of time. I’ve just finished and now I have a document almost six pages long full of summaries of their reactions, notes, ideas of where I want to take the edits; not to mention a copy of the manuscript where I transcribed a lot of their comments, reactions and typos (189 comments, to be exact) for me to respond to directly as I edit during the next round.
Fam, this amount of feedback is just incredible and I am so grateful to each and every one of my betas. (I love you darlings. <3)
But let me let you in on a little secret. My first novel I wrote, back throughout late middle and early high school, I queried without any beta readers ever looking at it.
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In case you’re just getting started in the writing game or haven’t realized the value of a solid group of beta readers, let me highlight just a few of the wonderful things they did for me:
→ Helped highlight so many issues within the story that, before I sent it to them, I was riding the wave of, “This is the best book I’ve ever written, I can’t wait for it to get published tomorrow!” Which, the first part is totally valid, but the second? Yeah, this book still needs a ton of work and my betas helped me realize exactly where and what, and helped humble my hopes back down to realistic (but that’s another blog post for another time).
→ Found all my typos. Misspellings, missed commas, wrong tenses, missing words, duplicate words. I am so sorry.
→ Reflected on areas that were already strong and gave me inspiration and ideas on how to amp them up even further.
→ Like, seriously, the amount of comments that are in the typo category?! PLEASE FORGIVE ME.
→ Gave me a different perspective to look from and reminded me how much I was writing from my own experiences and perspectives, challenging me to write for a broader audience so I can be more inclusive and make my world more complex.
→ This is embarrassing. I promise I know how to write, I promise. *hides in the cave-of-shame-for-all-the-bloody-TYPOS.*
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For me, betas help enlighten the areas I’m blind to, because I’m way too close to the story. Areas where I thought information was clear, they shine on how muddy it actually is. Places where I am repetitive because I was still figuring out what my story was, they remind me to trust me readers instead of beating them over with information like a dead horse. They help me be more sensitive to perspectives and experiences I’ve not had so my works can be more inclusive.
If you’re searching for betas, I recommend you remember these tips:
→ It’s a trade, not a service. I may be wrong on this, but off the topic of my head, I’m 95% positive that I have read at least one project or manuscript from all my betas, usually before I asked them to beta from me. If I’m asking them to spend hours upon hours of their time (especially if I end up asking them to reread a manuscript after incorporating their feedback, which I’ve never done before, but have a feeling I might do with this book), helping me elevate my work, I need to be willing to do the same for them.

  • It’s for this reason that I definitely recommend trying to find betas who write something similar to you or at least enjoys reading similar genres. Though I think it’s awesome to get a different perspective, from a writer in a different genre, you don’t want to ask for all that time and then have them turn around and ask you to critique their novel which falls into a genre you never read and don’t enjoy. Your time is valuable, too.
  • Also, I have definitely passed on beta projects that didn’t seem like something I would enjoy or if I didn’t have the right amount of time at that moment, but that doesn’t mean I won’t check it and offer to read when I have more free time or when the next project comes along. Once you find good betas, it’s a partnership, not a one-time transaction (unless you make that clear to begin with).

→ Build trust. I honestly cannot remember how I connected with most of my current betas, only that they are my PEOPLE and I am so lucky to have such a core group who I trust explicitly with my writing. I didn’t get it right on my first try, either, and it’s taken some time to find betas that click, building those relationships and the trust that is honestly required, I think. Upon reflecting a little bit more, I think it’s hard to beta read for complete strangers or, recently finish a novel and then put out a call for betas. It totally works for some and I’m not knocking that method! For me, though, all of my betas are other writers or friends who I’ve built up relationships over the years, before we started trading novels or short stories. I’ll still have someone random or I don’t know as well beta read every once in a while (and I always offer to beta for them in return), but I’m very lucky I found my core group by just interacting with the writing community, mostly on Twitter.
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→ Variety is key. I also got really lucky that I have a very diverse group of beta readers, from a lot of different experiences and backgrounds. That wasn’t intentional at all, but if I was purposefully trying to build up a new beta reading group, I would recommend branching out and earnestly trying to get involved with a wide range of writers, so that your story can have a wide range of critiques, when the time comes.

  • This is important to me especially because I had a couple of instances in this novel that was called out as problematic or insensitive, neither which was my intention at all, because I didn’t even realize it might have that impact. But it’s that impact that matters the most and if I were only friends with people with the exact same background as me, those weaknesses in my book would have had the chance to continue on, instead of being corrected–as they should be–during edits.

→ It’s a critique of craft, not of character. The first time I ever received beta feedback, I cried. People who I admired hated what I had written and thus, they hated me as a person for all eternity. I promise that is not at all how it works and they are seriously critiquing your writing, for that particular story. Even if they hate every aspect of the book, they don’t hate you as a person. Honestly, the betas who are willing to tell the hard truths, you need to keep closest to you. I’ve definitely been guilty of not being as honest as I should have been with my actual opinions in the past, so it’s something I’ve actively worked on. Because they are your friend and their writing is oftentimes their lifework, their greatest passion. You owe it to them and their trust they’ve put it in you to give your open and honest feedback–but always in a friendly and respectful manner.

  • Being receptive is key. I still cry at “negative feedback”, i.e., when someone straight up doesn’t enjoy it (what can I say, being a mess of feels is my constant state), but I’ve learned to absorb it and then take a few days to process it. Usually by ignoring it for a few days and letting the emotions due their thing–privately–before I go back through and read it with a fresh perspective. I try my best to look at it without any emotions attached and then make an informed decision.
  • Speaking of informed decisions, please, please, please remember that subjectivity is the basis of all feedback. Ever since I started working with beta readers, I’ve learned, through time, how to tell when it’s just a clash of opinions and instead trust my gut and ignore feedback. Usually, it’s when the majority of my beta readers feel one way and then I have an outlier opinion that contradicts that feeling; especially when I already find myself agreeing with the majority, then I know I can ignore that other feedback. And that’s okay. At the end of your day, it’s YOUR NOVEL. YOU get the final decision. One of my betas even gave me a great piece of advice, in her opinion of how betas work: “we tell you the what and the why, but you decide the HOW.” Meaning, that if your betas point out something you agree needs to change, you don’t need to listen to how they tell you how to change it, if they do. You make that call, you decide the how.

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→ You already know their answers. A lot of the times, I’ve found, I already know the elements betas are going to bring up, because they are elements of my work that I’m already aware that needs improving and I’m just ignoring (or might be subconsciously aware of but don’t want to admit). Don’t get me wrong: there is still a ton I completely miss that they bring up, but future me: can you please address what you know are issues without someone else having to call you on your shit, please and thank you!?
→ Always thank them for their work. This seems obvious, but seriously. No matter how many times they’ve been a beta for you, if you plan to have them beta again or whether you loved their comments or felt you completely clashed, always, always, always thank them professionally, promptly and politely.
This is already WAY longer than I had any intentions of it becoming–but what a great way to put off actually working on that backstory and fleshing out the book you’re supposed to be working on but keeping choking up in fear to work on, am I right!?–so I’m just going to wrap up and say: thanks to the betas I’m lucky enough to call my people. For those searching for betas, I hope you find a solid group. I think betas have the potential to help shape and mold careers. <3
Cheers.
 

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Two Steps Back, A Million Steps Forward

Oh boy, do I have work ahead of me.
Remember reading this post, where I described my revelation of recognizing when you send a manuscript out too early to be read, because it’s still at the “this-book-is-shit” stage? Yeah, so I read through all of that beta feedback referenced in that post this afternoon and that status still stands.
As it sits right now, as a draft, THE RESISTANCE is, indeed, shit.
When I wrote that post, I felt really disheartened about that fact (and also embarrassed that I sent out such an shoddy example of my work). Knowing that mindset, I purposefully didn’t read through any of the feedback in-depth, because I knew it would either a) tear me apart or b) I’d feel really defensive and want to argue every criticism they made, becoming irrational and doing my betas a disservice.
Reading it today, in a much better mindset, having already accepted that my story is in its earliest stage and what my betas are claiming is most likely the truth, I could actually see the merit of my betas insight without taking it as a personal attack. I also realized another important thing.
So.much.revision.ahead.
I have a two page document filled with notes of things that I need to focus on. Namely plot, character and exposition. My main character was so passive, it drove my readers crazy and made them not care about him or his struggles in the slightest. They had no idea about his motivations or his drives and got tired of him being dragged around and forced to do things by other characters, instead of initiating anything himself. And there was no character arc, no growth, so by the ending, readers were left unsatisfied–not to mention that this was a straight-up tragedy, with no happy ending in sight.
Speaking of the ending, the dissatisfaction with the ending was also tied into my second main flaw: the plot. While I had the basic idea and conflict, the execution and finer details were desperately lacking. And the questions that my beta readers brought up, I couldn’t answer (hint: that’s a warning flag if I’ve ever seen one). Not to mention the specifics of the science and the magic system within it were…not present. A lot of plot holes. A lot.
Finally, there was the writing itself, which reflected my uncertainty of the plot and my unfamiliarity with the main character because it was overrun with exposition, constantly barraging my readers with info dumps and explanations instead of showing them what I wanted them to know and putting them in-scene. Not to mention I had two betas out of four who thought switching from third person to first person might be the better option.
I have so much to fix, so much to understand and so much to heighten that I got overwhelmed and wrote this blog post instead of getting started. However, I think writing this helped me get a better sense of direction.
First, I need to understand the plot. I need to understand the world, the mechanics, the conflict, the rationale, the stakes. I need to understand every angle and figure out what I’m trying to say with this book. Because that ending that everyone hated? I want that to stay. I really want to write a book where the ending that I have fits. But in order to do that, I need to make it still feel complete and rewarding while also heartbreaking.
But once I understand the plot, I can figure out the character that’s stuck within it. Figure out their past, their history, their quirks, their attitudes, their beliefs, their situation and then I’ll understand what they’ll do when I throw them into an apocalypse where 5% of the population is all that remains of the human race.
Once I understand the plot and the character and how they interact, I’ll map out the story. The beats. How we get from start to finish.
And then I’ll write it, which will be an interesting process, because I’ll mostly be starting out with a new draft–especially since I’m considering not only changing the POV, but also the gender of the protagonist–but I’ll also be salvaging scenes from the old one.
Plot. Character. Beats. Words.
A lot of revision ahead and lessons learned from this story, friends. Let’s hope I stay up to the task, hm?
Cheers.

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Insights With Editing

I don’t think there is any “correct” way to edit your novel. You just gotta find what works best for you in that given moment or that given manuscript and continue to strive to create the best story you can.
That said, I’ve discovered some interesting differences editing ARTEMIS for the second time than my previous editing go-arounds.
The first comes thanks to the input from other writers, i.e., I sought help from beta readers. Last November, I sent my manuscript out with a questionnaire, looking for any sort of guidance and outside input to help enlighten this blind creator to the flaws and areas of improvement within her creation. I’d sought out opinions from others before, but never was I so organized or specific. Not only did I give a little more guidance as to what I was looking for, feedback wise, instead of the simple, “Do you like it?” generalization, but I also got opinions from five people instead of just one other person. And not from family members, either. Five fellow writers, all in different stages of their careers.
Their feedback has been invaluable.
Not only was I able to create a six page document of ideas and suggestions based off their advice, but I also made a copy of my manuscript, went through it and inserted all of their line edits. Every time I finish editing a chapter, I compare it to the chapter that I marked up based on their feedback. And almost every single time, the typos that I missed when I first sent out this manuscript, I missed again editing it myself, e.g., using lead when I meant led happened almost every time I use the word.
It never fails to blow my mind how often I’ll have these little mistakes and how I continually miss them, which is just one example of how important a second pair of eyes is.
The feedback from my betas, not only with the line edits, but the larger scale issues they pointed out, as well, has proven invaluable, as aforementioned. I don’t think I’ll go through editing a book again without seeking out betas to get a second (or sixth) opinion, but probably after I’ve had a chance to edit the book at least once myself.
The other major difference I’ve noticed doing these revisions is how I really do have to obey my moods in order to do this properly. Considering I’ve been in such a writing rut recently, I’ve been really focused on trying to write/edit every day to get back into the groove of things. Or finish so many chapters a week.
Sometimes, that desire to write consistently has taken away from the quality of the work I produced. Instead of actually editing and looking at the areas I needed to improve on in each scene (some things as minor as typos, others as grand as deleting and reworking entire sections), I was just trying to fly through the pages. I got through a couple of chapters before I realized that I needed to slow down and actually be willing to do the work.
Even if that meant on the days that I wasn’t willing, I didn’t force it for the sake of consistency.
I do think there is a difference between just being lazy and actually recognizing when you’re not in a mood to put in the work writing. But there have been times in the past month where I’m reading through a chapter and I’ve made all these notes of the elements I need to change, yet I haven’t made any of those changes, yet I made a move to cross off editing that chapter on my To-Do list. Or every single word I read, I immediately think is shit. It took me a couple times, reading through chapters without actually editing them, before I finally forced myself to take a step back, go do something else and then return to that chapter when I’m in a better frame of mind.
And every single time, I’ve found my work to be better than what I thought it was when I was in a foul mood. And every single time, I’ve made the changes I knew I needed to be making, but was just too lazy to make the previous time I sat time to work on it.
So, yeah. I’m not writing every day. Sometimes, I only work for 15 minutes. Sometimes, it’s three hours. Sometimes, it takes me a week to get through a chapter. Other times, I can fly through three in one session. But I’ve found that by listening to my own emotions and actually taking the time to think about what I’m actually feeling and the source behind those emotions, actually really helps my writing. I’ve come to be able to recognize when I’m looking for an excuse to waste time on Pinterest–and instead sit my butt down in that chair and force myself to get the work done–or when outside influences are risking the quality of my work. I’ve also become more keen to recognizing when I’m really in the mood to write and giving myself permission to listen to that desire, even if that means I have to send an apologetic email for failing behind on X, Y or Z.
I only have about 35 pages left to edit before I’ve finished another draft of ARTEMIS. It could take me a day or it could take me a month to finish. But I’m choosing to stop caring how long it takes and instead, do everything I can to make sure I’m creating my best work and always putting in 100% when I sit down to write.
Not gonna lie: I’m pretty jazzed about the progress I’ve made and have a lot of hope for this story. And that’s a feeling I most certainly missed.
Cheers.

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Differing Opinions: Part Two

This post is a tad bit late thanks to my body going on protest against functioning in the world, resulting in me laying in bed for three days straight, running on nothing chicken noodle soup and lemon-lime Gatorade. It was meant to go up the day after I wrote Part One, where I talked about how I didn’t like a short story I wrote yet others did and the difference in opinion intrigued me. For Part Two, I want to muse over beta reader feedback and why I think it is not only terribly important to seek out beta readers, but also to always have multiple. The main reason?
Because everyone has a different opinion.
Obvious, I know. But when you are viewing that obviousness in terms of your own work, it is actually quite fascinating. Over the past week, I’ve poured through feedback from five different beta readers over my novel, ARTEMIS SMITH AND THE VIRTUOUS MARRIAGE QUEST. It was fantastic because it showed me a lot of places where my novel could improve: from starting in the wrong place (which happens to me with every novel I write, frankly) to being way too repetitive in delivering information in the first half of the book to fine-tuning details to raising questions about how logical something is,; I have so much material to help raise this book another notch. And I’m actually quite excited about it, despite the workload ahead of me being a bit daunting. I was also very lucky in that there were some elements that were praised, as well: the unique voice, the creatures that are incorporated and, one sweet soul even claimed, I have a “knack for storytelling.”
*blushes*
Aside from all of this awesome feedback, the copious amount of notes I took, the editing game plan I finished up this evening and am really stoked to put into motion starting tomorrow, and the crazy amount of line edits I’ve already made (good lord, I didn’t realize how many misspellings I had!); aside from all of this, one of my favorite aspects was the patterns that emerged looking at all of the feedback. Sometimes, in the notes within the actual manuscript, the same typo would be caught by everyone while the next would only be caught by one person. Or everyone could comment on a specific paragraph, even if they were all saying something different. Or how a majority of the comments came in the first 50 pages, cluing me into where the majority of my focus for revision should be. These patterns are so telling.
Reading the questionnaire I asked them to fill out, this is where I realized the importance of multiple beta readers. All of them had varying opinions, but four of the five were generally on the same page, with minor differences and ranging suggestions. Then, my fifth reader was completely opposite. Every single time. And while, in the end, I decided that reader simply didn’t connect with the book the way I was hoping, so some of their suggestions I’m not going to follow–which is totally okay and totally happens, by the way–their feedback was also ridiculously helpful, because it showed me exactly how readers would respond if they didn’t connect with my book; some of the issues that would be raised; some of the elements that would turn them off. Sure, I may not be following their suggestions to fix this disconnect, but their feedback was still damn helpful and is still going to shape my book to be better than it was a draft ago.
Quite honestly, it did make me laugh, sitting in Panera and, question by question, never failing to reach that fifth questionnaire and get the exact opposite feel and opinion that was just expressed in the previous four. And I mean laugh in a good way. I was honestly fascinated by this response and, in a weird way, proud of myself. A few years ago, if I had read that questionnaire, I would have been devastated. I would have wondered how everything I tried to do missed the mark; wondered why someone I respect so much didn’t enjoy something I wrote and loved. Now, I am thankful for another viewpoint, for honest feedback and recognize my ability to discern between feedback that needs to be heeded and feedback that is simply a difference of opinion that is respected, even if not followed.
Which, friends who are currently trying to edit the beasts they’ve created, is exactly why you need feedback from multiple sources. Just because someone suggests a change or, hell, even praising something you did well, doesn’t mean you should heed them and believe those opinions to be fact automatically. Because at the end of the day, they are just opinions to be weighed and considered. Just like your opinions change on a dime–one day, you love every word you’ve written, the next, you wonder where the nearest dumpster is and how your manuscript wasn’t born in it. So obviously, you need to marinate on feedback and listen to your gut before you decide to pursue it.
I’m very lucky that my beta readers were so thoughtful, insightful and in-depth with their thoughts and opinions, so I had plenty to muse over and chew through. And now, thanks to their feedback–and their differing viewpoints–I have a course which to sail towards, with much more guidance in terms of which direction I should travel than if I were attempting this alone, like I usually do on the editing journey. I can’t express how thankful I am for them and what a joy it was to work with them all. Hopefully, I’ll get to do it again, one day.
Cheers.

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My Quirks Using Beta Reader Feedback

In November, I wrote a blog post sending out a call for beta readers for two of my novels: THE RESISTANCE, an adult science fiction that’s light on the sci and heavy on the gravestones; and ARTEMIS SMITH AND THE VIRTUOUS MARRIAGE QUEST, my favorite story that I’ve ever written about a staring artist who overusing tropes in his writing and has to conquer them by becoming characters in stories and living through the tropes that plague him. Ever since I wrote that blog post and ten brave, sweet, fantastic souls signed up to help me, I have been anxiously awaiting their feedback. According to my emails, five people have sent me responses so far.
And I haven’t look at a single comment.
Don’t get me wrong: I really want to look at this feedback, see what is working in my stories and see how I can improve. I really want to edit based off of this feedback and start really working on getting these stories to the query ready stage. Yet I also want to wait for all of the feedback to come in (respectively, for each book) before I do any of this.
Seems odd, I know, to wait for all of the feedback to be collected before diving in. Personally, I feel like it is a bit rude towards my beta readers, to ask them to critique my work and try to get it into me by a certain date, only to “ignore” them once they send stuff my way. And, there is the potential problem that, if I have any follow up questions, the time lapsed between a beta sending me their feedback and me actually reading that feedback becomes too long and they can’t remember enough of my story to answer my questions.
Yet despite all of that, this is how I need to use beta feedback.
You see, the quirk I discovered during a previous beta experience is that once I read that feedback, I push forward, guns blazing. I will have no self-control and go straight into editing mode. How could I not, when I have all these new ideas and decisions to make, based off new, outside feedback? This time around, I have multiple beta readers for each story. I did that purposefully, so I could get a wide range of opinions. I’m waiting to get all of them collectively so I can compare those opinions and be best prepared on how I want to edit. I don’t want to decide to make changes based on one opinion if the other four opinions actually suggest the opposite. Plus, with my inability to stop thinking about feedback once I get it and my insane desire to edit immediately after receiving it–even waiting just a few days to process like I need to is hard–it’s important for me, I realized, to wait until everything comes in before I actually look at it. But once all the feedback is in, I am so stoked to order a large bowl of potato soup at Panera, sit at a six person booth and cover the entire tabletop surface with printed critiques, notebook paper, sticky notes and my laptop, and spend hours there taking everything in and making a game plan for the stories so close to my heart.
The reason I wrote this post, mainly, is to apologize to my beta readers. I realize this is possibly a very rude way to receive your feedback and could be taken, by those of you who got me feedback so quickly, as that I’m ungrateful or not truly invested in the work you did for me. I want to be clear that isn’t the case. It’s exactly the opposite. Your time and dedication and thoughts on my work means more to me than I can ever express. And I owe all of you a beta read if you ever want my eyes on anything you’ve written. But, despite the risk of offending those who have been so kind to me, I have to do what is best for my stories. As quirky as it is, the best thing for me to do is to wait, even though I’m itching to dive in.
So thanks again, beta readers, for kicking ass and taking names, and helping this struggling writer out and getting her one step closer to achieving her dreams. I can’t wait for that Panera date and see how much work is ahead of me. 😉
Cheers.

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I'm Not Serious About This, Am I?

Last year, I wrote a post in February where I talked about my writing goals for the upcoming year. If you fancy a trip down memory lane, hit up here. Before I write any more of this post, I’m going to go read that one and see how I stacked up.
*reads the post with a mixture of head nods and wincing*
Basically, I had three major goals and a couple of minor goals that I wanted to complete. Oddly enough, I accomplished (and surpassed) all of the major goals while not even attempting any of the minor ones. While I did edit the third book in Darryn’s trilogy, it didn’t make it to the querying stage, but instead, has a date with Major Revision and Madam Editing that I keep postponing because, quite frankly, the workload scares me a bit. I wanted to finish a draft of THE RESISTANCE, my science fiction novel adapted from a screenplay, which I did and it’s now in the hands of beta readers. The first book in Artemis’s saga was slotted to be halfway written by Christmas. I finished the first draft of that sucker three months ago. Not only that, but it’s also already in the hands of betas and I am itching for their feedback, so I can start editing away and getting this story query ready (because out of everything, Artemis’s story is the one I’m most excited about). Considering I met all my major goals three months earlier than my deadline, I then started working on a new story, which I’m about 60 pages into (and have hit roadblock after roadblock trying to continue).
Looking back at my goals and seeing how many of them I actually achieved, even amidst the ones I didn’t even touch (but still want to…eventually), is such a needed realization right now. Because I’m attempting to balance life again as I take on more commitments and writing has been shoved aside. Not to mention that I’ve felt horrible that sometimes, I don’t want to work on the story I have been writing, even though I am so excited about its premise. Or I get so stuck that I’m unsure whether or not I should be writing this story to begin with. You know, the typical doubting-my-stories-or-that-I’m-even-a-writer train.
Yet look what I accomplished. Despite being in a drought right now, look at what I’m able to do. Just because the words aren’t flowing and time isn’t agreeing with me now doesn’t mean that it is always going to be this way–exactly the lie my anxiety feeds me every day I don’t write. But that simply isn’t the case. This time of year, with the holidays, is always hectic and crazy. Adding on another job and being forced to work exhausting hours for the next month is obviously going to impact my writing output.
But that doesn’t mean that the future is going to hold the same truth.
So, next year, here is a list of writing goals I’d like to accomplish, on top of all of the other goals that I also plan to tackle.
(And yes, I am dead serious about these goals.)
Edit Like it’s my Mantra: 

  • I have a trilogy than needs revamping and potentially revisioning. I have two other books (one standalone with series potential and another the start to a massive nine book series) out with betas, whose feedback has been and will continue to trickle in with the new year. If I can ever finish a draft of BLOOD PRICE, that’ll also need some intense editing (I already have an entire Word doc with notes of what I  want to edit). That’s six books, friends, that need some special attention, love and care. Out of those, Artemis’s story will be the first one I’m working on. Then Grayson’s. Then Darryn’s. And then Natanni’s. I have a new method of editing, I think, too, that I’m going to try (look out for a blog post detailing that in the coming weeks).

I could spend the entire year next year and dedicate it to editing and have plenty to fill up the time I dedicate to my stories. And while I enjoy editing sometimes, there is still the blessed fact that even when I’m in horrible writing slumps, my brain refuses to stop creating stories it wants me to struggle to tell. So while editing past books, I hope a couple hopes to write new ones.
Listening to the Voices Inside my Head:

  • One is a standalone that is very, very rough at the moment, but it deals with ideas surrounding appearance, status, wealth, rank and forced routine in a steampunk, futuristic society. I have the vaguest inklings of what this story is about, but they are inklings that have stayed with me for a long time and I can’t wait to take an afternoon and map out exactly where this story goes. Because I can see flashes of that world inside my head. And I want to know more about it.
  • Obviously, I’m itching to continue Artemis’s journey with book two. I have no idea which genre we’ll be slipping into or where the story will go from there, but I’m really freaking excited about wherever we end up.
  • This other idea, which is actually the first of a trilogy, is coming from very left field, being a New Adult contemporary piece called THIS IS WHERE I LOSE YOU. I have this one pretty well mapped out in my head and while it is completely different from what I usually write (contemporary instead of fantasy, first person instead of third, NA instead of A, romance instead of adventure), this is the one that is speaking to me most at the moment. So I have to write it. I have to tell Savannah’s story.
  • I also have a series of standalones that I want to write under a pen name. While I’m not sure if I will start on it this year or not, it is something that is sitting in the back of my mind. And that’s all I say about that. *evil laughter*

Here’s a very rough, very vague timeline of when I’d ideally like to accomplish all of these things.
TIMELINE:

  • By March: Have ARTEMIS SMITH AND THE VIRTUOUS MARRIAGE QUEST edited and prepped to query.
  • By April: First draft of THIS IS WHERE I LOSE YOU written.
  • By June: Have THE RESISTANCE edited and prepped to query.
  • By July: QUERY!
  • By August: Have BLOOD PRICE edited and sent to betas.
  • By September: Have first draft of book two (Artemis) written.
  • By November: Have first draft of really rough idea (futuristic steampunk) written.
  • By December: Form a game plan surrounding Darryn’s edits and make it through at least one round with all three books. Find betas after new direction edits.
  • By December: Have first book by pen name written.

As you can see, there is no time to dedicate to simply editing. Look at all the stories vying for my attention (honestly, these voices are downright exhausting, at times)! And comparing these goals to the goals I had last year, I’m definitely upping the ante and setting high expectations for myself. But it is also giving me hope, even though I should be responding with complete and utter disbelief that any of this is possible; or perhaps groaning at how much work is ahead of me. Yet instead, I feel hope. A person who isn’t serious about their craft wouldn’t have goals like this. A person who couldn’t be a storyteller wouldn’t be bombarded with so many ideas and stories. A person who wasn’t a writer at heart wouldn’t get excited looking at all the worlds she’ll get to visit in the year ahead.
Yeah, I’m experiencing a drought right now. Yeah, I’m experiencing doubt. But that’s just temporary. There are stories to be told. And I’m the person to tell them. I see you, 2017. And I’m coming for you, pen wielded, fingers stained and fresh Word Docs begging to be filled.
Cheers.

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Editing: The Never-Ending Story

I have always claimed that editing is the hardest part of the writing process. I think that will always be the case, though I’m sure as I move along in my career, other things will pop up and prove to me that editing isn’t the worse thing. But for the moment, it is what I avoid at all costs, particularly with my first manuscript, which has been edited numerous times.
And I’m almost done editing it again.
I’m doing a book swap with a friend that I am really excited about, as her feedback is going to be invaluable. Plus, it is the first time that I get to read her work, so double the excitement (also double the nerves, as it is the first time she is going to read my work fully and it is so difficult not to get nervous when someone you respect and admire reads a part of your soul). Yet it’s been a while since I’d work on Darryn’s story, so I knew I needed to do a round of edits before I sent it to her. Plus, I was getting awesome feedback from betas about changes I could make, so that also supported the need to edit, even though the last time I went through this with this book, I exclaimed, “This is it. This is the best I can make this story.”
Did I mention I’m editing it again?
Edits are due by August 5th. June slowly faded away and instead of editing like I planned to, I started writing a new story. All my excitement was poured into it and I spent the next two/three weeks making rough outlines and watching as the bare threads of that story came to life. Editing was the last thing on my mind, even though I had a deadline. July 4th weekend comes and goes. Still no editing. I email my friend and get a confirmed date, knowing that it must get to her by August 5th, to fit into her schedule. Another week passes and still, no editing is getting accomplished. And August continues to loom closer and closer.
Eventually, a few days past(this is the end of last week) where I don’t write anything new in my current work-in-progress. Though I knew what happened next, I seemed to be a bit stuck. The excitement of starting a new story faded slightly as the feeling that writing is work crept up on me, so I’m started trying to avoid writing until it feels less like work and more like my life’s passion and enjoyment. Somehow, during this weird process, I find myself opening up the first book in Darryn’s trilogy on Word and finally, with less than two weeks left in July, start editing the beast. Again.
And for the first time in a long while, editing doesn’t feel like work. It feels like the re-immersion into a familiar place, a familiar story, a familiar love. I incorporated a new starting place, chopping out a whopping seven chapters and reworking the beginning so all the important information that was removed is still there, but now, there is much more action and a lot less setting things up. And, I cut out a ridiculous 30K in the process, putting my book at the top edge of the desirable word count range, instead of teetering over it by 25K.
YES.
As I slowly work through the story, cutting bits here and there, making some parts tighter and generally falling in love with the story again, it’s hard not to be awed by the entire editing process as a whole; and hard not to be scared by it. When I wrote Darryn’s first draft, back in 2011-2012, I thought it was amazing. I was so overwhelmed with the fact that I had written an entire book that I didn’t really look at the quality of what I done, but instead was mesmerised by the fact that I had done it. Looking at it now, a dozen edited drafts later, I am so thankful only two other souls read that first draft, because it was absolutely horrid. But also, absolutely necessary to get the draft where it is now; a place that, regardless of how people respond to it if it is ever read widely, that I am proud of. And a place that can still be improved.
That’s the crazy–and also scary–thing about editing. It’s a never-ending process. Honestly, you could constantly edit, constantly change things according to your mood and your growth and your tastes and changing influences over time, and you’d never be done. Every published book now could have something in it changed. It’s just a matter of reaching to a point where you are proud of what you have accomplished and you are okay calling what you are showing off as your finished product–even if it could still be edited numerous more times.
The last draft I wrote, I was so proud of. When I read over it, I thought, “Man, this book is really taking shape. Some of this stuff is gold.” Now, this time around, a lot of the stuff I thought was gold? Yeah, I changed it. I cut it. Though it was still gold compared to what I had first written, I had come up with ways to make it even better. And I think–I hope–that I am really close to the stage where all the editing has paid off and this first book is ready to go onto the next stage of its life, in the hands of agents and editors and publishing houses; that I reach the point of comfort in being okay calling a draft my finished product. I know there is probably another round of edits to go through; perhaps multiple. The second and third books definitely need more editing, as they haven’t been edited nearly as much as the first book. Yet they also didn’t have some of the problems the first book had after the first draft was written, as not only the story had improved, but so had the person telling it.
Currently, I have forty pages left to edit and I’m no longer worried about meeting my deadline. Now, squeezing in a quick edit of books two and three whilst the story and the changes are fresh in my head before that deadline…now that’s going to be a bit more of a push.
But I’m excited.
I’m excited that when writing something new becomes difficult, I can turn to editing something completed (but never truly finished) to continue to keep my creative muscles working. I’m excited to see myself progressing and improving as a writer. I’m excited to have the chance to continue working on stories that are close to my heart; to have the chance to fix them ten, twenty, thirty times, to ensure they get told one day, instead of only having one shot and breaking under such pressure. I’m excited for the work, even if I drag my feet, sometimes. And I’m most excited to share this story with you, one day. Hopefully soon. But until then, I’ll continue to work my ass off to give you the best that I can give at that current moment, so I continue to learn and tell greater stories as time goes on.
Cheers.