Yes, I’m doing it again – participating in Camp NaNoWriMo for the third time. I said I’d go to camp to write a draft of a new book if I got enough planning done, and I did! So we’ll see if I can hit 50,000 words on this draft by July 31. Wish me luck!
While we’re all anxiously awaiting the start of the WordWacker Photo Challenge, I’m going to take stock of where I am now and what I have planned regarding my writing.
- My novel is out collecting beta reads. One has come in already, but I haven’t taken a look yet. Partly that’s because I want to wait until they’re all in. I think it makes sense to look at all of them together, to get a broader picture of how readers respond to the book. The other reason is …
- I’ve started sketching out my next book. That’s what you are supposed to do while one book is out on submission, right? Well, this feels a bit like submission — people are looking at it and responding to it, and i can’t really make any changes until that’s done.
Yes – the next book! It will be another contemporary fantasy, with a character in our world who initially has no idea magic is a thing. I’m just getting started so I haven’t figured out yet whether the bulk of the action will take place here, in our world but with magical elements (that’s what the current novel is), or whether she’ll be transported Elsewhere, to where the magic is dominant. Although the current book has definite series potential, this new one is not a sequel. I don’t know yet whether I’ll be able to sell the first one, and if not then I obviously won’t be able to sell a sequel. If this new one sells, though, I’ll have the first one in the drawer and ready to offer.
There are three things I’ve noticed as I go about this process.
- I’m really enjoying laying out a whole new story from scratch. It’s so different from the detailed focus of the editorial process. Everything is up for grabs.
- Though I do all my actual writing on a computer, I find planning works much better on paper, in longhand. The image above shows just some of the notebooks I’ve used in planning out various stories. When I write on computer I can’t stop myself from going back to fix spelling, sentences, and paragraphs. With pen and paper, I just keep writing, pouring out what I’m thinking in a stream of consciousness. (Yes, I know the resolution is low on this image; I would be embarrassed for anyone to read these scribbled notes.)
- I stumbled on a new blog that I’m finding really useful: Helping Writers Become Authors by K. M. Weiland. I found her series on story structure and on character arcs particularly useful. Everything in there is something I’ve heard before, but the way she lays it all out works well for me. Giver her blog a try; you may find something useful there as well.
I’ve given myself a challenge: I’m going to try to get the major plotting and planning done in another two weeks, and then write a first draft in Camp NaNoWriMo in July. That will be a tall order and I wouldn’t put a high percentage on it, but hey, it could happen! I’ll let you know how that’s going.
So that’s where I am with my writing. How are things with you? I’d love to hear from you.
I have to say there are a whole lot of things I won’t miss about 2017. But that’s mostly relating to current events, nationally and globally, not what I focus on in this blog. So as the year turns, I’m going to take a few minutes to look back on 2017 and look ahead to 2018. Before I do, though, I want to take a moment to say THANK YOU to all the wonderful people who read or follow my little blog, and especially those who take the time to post comments. You have no idea how much you lift my spirits every time.
In looking back to 2017 I collected a whole pile of blog statistics (*yawn*) but ditched them. Instead I’m just going to look at how I did with respect to the goals I set a year ago, and then set new goals for 2018. So here we go!
Looking Back: 2017 Goals
- Revise my work in progress (WIP): I’ve made very good progress on this front. The book has gone through a whole series of revisions, and is right now in its 6th version and is out to my local critique book for another round of feedback. I still have faith in this project and am pleased with what I’ve done so far, though of course it can always be better.
- Participate in the weekly WordPress Photo Challenge. I only missed six of the possible challenges this year, and all of my most popular posts were in this category. When I look at the top five, I see a theme of using small, close-up images to reflect on various larger themes:
- Keep up the Wednesday Words posts related to writing. I missed this one completely. I shifted Wednesday Words to Weekend Words when the Photo Challenge moved from Friday to Wednesday, then it just got dropped. I had a very busy spring with unusually intense work and personal demands, but I’m not finding that excuse very satisfying.
- Participate in the A-Z Blogging Challenge in April. Once again I posted haiku puzzles, this time focused on topics from fantasy and science fiction. It was a ton of fun, but not quite as successful as the 2016 challenge, and I think that’s because the F/SF focus meant it frustrated some folks. I’ve got a reflection here.
- Dance at my daughter’s wedding. I was the primary wedding planner, which is one of those demands that led to me dropping the Wednesday Words commitment, but it was TOTALLY worth it, even if I didn’t actually do much dancing. You can read more about it here.
Looking Ahead: 2018 Goals
- Move forward with my WIP: I plan to get connected to a new group of beta readers online, polish the book to a high gloss, and start querying. At the same time I’ll start working on my next book, so there will always be a WIP to move forward with.
- Continue participating in the WordPress photo challenge: This is an obvious one, since it’s the thing I did most in the last year and produced all of my most popular posts. I’m going to try to get them all!
- Participate again in the A-Z blogging challenge. This has been fun twice, and I will definitely do it again. I expect to return to the original plan of haiku puzzles for ordinary words, not the F/SF version. It seems to appeal to more people.
- Post more on writing: I don’t think I can commit to a weekly post on writing, but I hope I can post more than the seven I did all last year.
So that’s it – my mark for the turn of the year. I hope your year turns well!
I hit a milestone today. My baby book reached its 4th full revision, and I decided it’s mature enough to hit paper! I printed the whole thing out and had it spiral bound. Now I’m going to sit with a pen in hand and read it, start to finish, making notations but not actually editing anything until I get to the end.
This is the next step in my general revision strategy. One thing cognitive science teaches us is that we don’t ever actually perceive the world. Everything is filtered through our expectations and the mental context we bring to the situation, and this makes things like proofreading or reading critically very hard. I know what I intended to say throughout my story, and that’s going to color my view of what’s there. One way to help fight that is to slow myself down. Switching from screen and keyboard to paper and pen does this, along with changing the fonts and spacing, and reading it in a different room from where my computer is. Once I work my way through the paper version I’ll make the edits electronically, and then Book Baby will reach its 5th version.
The other way to defeat the mental context, of course, is to be a different person. After I’ve gone through it on paper and fixed all the things I mark along the way, I’ll hand it all over to my critique group for their comments, and that will move Book Baby to version 6. After that I’ll broaden the audience, looking for critique partners online who don’t know me. Version 7, version 8 —– One day I’ll reach a version that’s as good as I and a village of partners can make it. Then it’ll be off to the query process.
But for now, I have to confess to a sincerely giddy feeling, holding my baby book in my hands for the first time. I can’t even imagine what I’ll feel like if it becomes an actual book people can buy, one that’s published and on shelves. I’ll probably have to be sedated.
Once again, Camp NaNoWriMo provided the structure for me to complete a writing task. Two years after I wrote the first draft of my novel through Camp, this year I spent those 31 days on a complete, top-to-bottom revision, turning Draft 2 into Draft 3. This isn’t the finished draft by any means, but it’s closer. In addition to the day-by-day pressure to finish that I got from Camp NaNo, I also relied on the 31-Day Revision Workshop posted in Janice Hardy’s Fiction University blog. Both forms of structure were important to keeping me going.
I learned some interesting things about my book and myself as a writer in this process:
- There was so much excess that I needed to prune away! I probably took out a hundred examples of “that” and another hundred of “just.” I cut out dozens and dozens of unnecessary dialogue tags and bits of stage direction (he nodded, she shrugged…). I converted a ton of “he was X-ing” to “he X-ed.” I insisted my characters stop saying the same thing over again in slightly different words. I rooted out extra adjectives draped all over the place. There was so much that had to go, the book was about 1000 words shorter when I finished than when I began.
- Yes, I tend to overwrite. But this doesn’t scare me any more, because I know it and I can find and eliminate it in revision.
- I still like my book. There have been days when I didn’t, and nights when I can’t imagine what made me think I could be a writer, but when I come back to it I find there’s still something there that speaks to me. Kay’s story is important, at least here inside my head, and I’m going to keep pressing to tell it the best way I can.
So what’s next?
- Running the whole thing through a computer system to get word frequency counts, so I can find and eliminate some more of the things I say too often
- Revisiting the chapter breaks, since I have a nagging feeling that some chapters should be combined and others broken up
- Putting it away for at least a couple of weeks, probably a month before looking at it again!
In the meantime, I’m pleased to be able to hang the Camp NaNoWriMo WINNER badge on the site. One small step forward in this very, very long process.
I’m exercising a professor’s prerogative and not giving you any meaningful Wednesday Words this week, because classes just started on Monday and I’m CRAZY with the start of the semester! I’ll be back next week, I promise (I already know what I’ll write, but just haven’t had time to do it justice.) So I beg for patience, and thank you for your attention.
Oh, and the update on the 10-minutes-a day promise: That I DID do this week. Not much more than 10 minutes in any given day, and I’ve only re-written about 1/3 of a chapter this week, but it’s something. I feel like I’m moving ahead, at least a little.
This is not a political or economic post – it’s this week’s Wednesday Words. I’m reblogging something I read today on the 10 Minute Novelist that really resonated with me, about how you can dream big in just 10 minutes a day. I did some math and found that 10 minutes is 1% of a nominal 16-hour waking day. Can’t I manage to devote just 1% of my time to this writing thing I claim to be committed to? You would think so, wouldn’t you?
I’m not one to make new year’s resolutions. Why commit to an important change just because we managed to get through another solstice? But this is something that I really should be able to do, even in the midst of a very busy life. Just 10 minutes a day. That’s not much; but it will be enough.
So here’s my pledge to myself: I’ll schedule at least 10 minutes of my day, every day, to working on my novel, starting today. I pledge to do this for at least three months, after which I’ll review what happened to see whether I want to renew the promise. I’ll post my success or failure to live up to this plan each week as a footnote on the Wednesday Words message. You’ll be my witnesses, which is important because knowing I have witnesses may help me stick with my promise.
Here’s to becoming part of the 1%. What do you think – want to join me there?
This week’s Wednesday Words is a look back at the past year on the blog, and a peek at the crystal ball to try and anticipate what might be going on here in 2017. First, the look back.
I focused quite a lot on the weekly photo challenge from WordPress this past year. I participated all but six of them (I’ve got the last one of the year all planned, but haven’t posted it yet). These photo challenges have accounted for all of my top five most visited posts of the year:
- Temporary Beauty, about finding the joy in the tiny, evanescent details of each season and each time.
- Look Up, about how often we miss the unexpected just because we keep our heads down and don’t look up.
- Looking for Letters in All the Strange Places, about the delightful challenge of searching for letter forms in the ordinary things around me.
- Happy Outline Guy, about seeing a prosaic warning cone in a new way and getting a laugh from it.
- Banister Detail, about the elegant curve at the bottom of the stair at the George Eastman Museum, which captured its grace in a single detail.
Looking back at this list of top posts I see a theme. They are all about opening our eyes to see things in a different direction, or close up, or in a new way. It’s not surprising that a challenge focused on photography would inspire thoughts and images about seeing things in a new way, but it also reflects my way of looking at things through the camera. For instance, I didn’t take any large panoramic photos at the George Eastman Museum, showing the spread of house and grounds, but focused on intimate details like that curve of the banister. It’s just the way I see things when taking photos.
Looking beyond the individual posts, I find that by far my busiest month in 2016 was April, and that was all down to another challenge: the A to Z Blogging Challenge. It was my first time participating in that challenge, and it was overwhelming but a whole lot of fun. I chose the theme of haiku puzzles: each day I had a haiku that referred to a word that started with the letter of the day. Visitors were invited to try to guess the word, and people got every single one. The most viewed letter was B (you’ll have to visit the post to see the haiku, the guesses, and the right answer). The most comments were made to the letter D, which tells me my audience has a scientific bent that makes me really happy.
So, overall, how did I do? It’s useful to look at what I predicted for 2016 a year ago, to see what I got right and what I didn’t.
- I said I’d have my book revised and polished by now. I don’t. Not even close. I’m part way through the first revision pass, with the help of my critique partners, but it hasn’t been going as smoothly as I hoped. Not because there’s a problem with the writing, but a problem with time. I know, if I made it more of a priority I would be able to find the time, but it just hasn’t worked out that way. I have excuses, of course. Two big ones are that my daughter got engaged early in 2016 so I’ve been digging into wedding planning, and that I took over as chair of my academic department at Monroe Community College in June, a big job that takes a lot of attention. So, yeah. But still!
- I said I’d do more reblogging and more essays on the blog, and I haven’t really lived up to that. I only reblogged twice in 2016, and both of them were related to gender issues in writing (see them here and here). I still want to do more of this. There are so many terrific blogs out there, I’d love to spread the word! On the other hand, I’ve added a new thing that I didn’t anticipate: Wednesday Words. I put this in because I was worried about losing the blog’s focus on writing. It also pretty much doubled the number of posts I make on a regular basis, which is good for the blog.
- I said I’d get and give more regular feedback, and this one I’ve lived up to. I found a terrific critique group that meets twice a month to share work and get feedback. These people are good at finding the balance between encouragement and honest criticism. They are quick to point out where I missed the mark, while celebrating the places where I got it right, or mostly right. Or kinda right. (I take my celebrations where I can get them.)
So what are my goals for 2017? I’m going to double down on the first two, that I didn’t get done this time, and then add a couple more.
- I will push through the first round of revision for my work in progress and maybe get into a second round of polishing. I have to acknowledge that I can’t move ahead as fast as I’d like, but I’m not stopping!
- I’ll keep doing the photo challenge most every week, missing just a few here and there. The thinking that’s involved in selecting or creating a photo that fits each week’s theme is most of the challenge, and I love doing it. I also enjoy seeing the different directions other people go with the theme each week. There is so much creativity out there!
- I will keep the Wednesday Words feature on the blog, but branch it out to talking about more than my own writing. It could be a place for some reblogs that have to do with writing, or reviews of books, or general essays on books and writing. Something word-related, every Wednesday.
- I will definitely do the A to Z Challenge again this year. I have debated what to do as a theme, thinking over all kinds of ideas, but I’ve decided to stick with what was so successful this year and do haiku puzzles again. They were fun to do and garnered a lot of interest, so why not? Maybe I’ll be bored with them after next time and do something different in 2018, but for now, I’m sticking with it.
- Oh – and I’ll dance at my daughter’s wedding. That’s a great thing to look forward to!
So that’s it – a look back at 2016, and a look ahead to 2017.
How about you? What has 2016 meant to you? What will you preserve into the next year, and what will you toss out and replace? What goals have you set, and how will you go about reaching them?
Happy New Year!
This blog is supposed to be about my author’s journey, right? That’s why it’s called WordWacker; I’m slogging through a jungle of words, looking for the right ones and slashing away at the wrong ones. I haven’t posted anything about the book in weeks, though, so it’s about time for an update. Continue reading