Back to Camp

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!

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Some Writing Updates

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.

2017 – Looking Back, Looking Ahead

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!

Book Baby’s 4th (Version) Birthday!

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.

Revision Report

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.

 

Professor’s Prerogative

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.

Me and the 1%

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?