Reflection: Write Like a Pro

After a long 10 weeks of a challenge, Write Like a Pro (WLaP) has come to an end. I’m not sure how successful it was as a site-wide challenge, but it was interesting enough within my personal writing group, so at least it was a semi-success? I know it was long and people were unsurprisingly unwilling to give up their opportunity to sleep in on their days off from their day-jobs, so that definitely hurt the challenge a little. But, there were a handful of people who tried to do the single day each week, so overall, I’m calling it a win. Will I run it again? Probably not. But it was a fun summer experiment that served the exact purpose that I wanted it to serve — figuring out when, where, and how I prefer to write and helping me to start to figure out what an “ideal day” would look for me as a full time writer.

It helped me confirm something I’ve always known: I am a morning person. Through and through. Which works well because apparently most non-substance-abusing writers are also morning people. Maybe it’s because they want to still appear to be humans, rather than vampires, maybe it’s because they’ve read and believe the studies that people are scientifically more productive once they’re accustomed to waking up earlier, maybe it’s because in order to get things done, they’ve decided to actually get up and treat writing like a serious, full time job. Regardless of the reason, the majority of the “known” writing schedules started before 7am. Which was not ideal for my summer vacation mindset, waking up to an alarm on the weeks that were earlier than 6am, but… For the challenge, it was worth it.

It also helped me learn that I do best with a short burst of writing and then a break for some sort of physical activity. Don’t be fooled, I’m no Murakami, running a 10k daily, but working out and getting some sort of physical activity in was surprisingly helpful for my creative process.

And lastly, something the final week taught me was… I do not have the brain power to be creative at work all day and then turn around and be creative at home. If I weren’t completely starting from scratch this year at work, I’m fairly confident that would be different. Unfortunately, this year, that wasn’t in the cards for me. Maybe I’ll try Kafka’s schedule again another time when I’m a little more equipped to split my mental capacity between multiple different endeavors (which, I actually am doing technically, teaching 3 brand new classes, but that’s beside the point).

Now, the real end goal from this is going to be coming up with an ideal writing week. So… I’m still working on coming up with my own, but that’s a thing for everyone to look forward to.

What’s your ideal writing schedule?

August Knows Best

We’ve all heard “Write What You Know.” What do you think? Truth or fallacy?
Is there an option for both? Because I’m going with both. #OwnVoices is a genre for a reason. And right now? When the world seems like it’s quickly going up in flames and headed off the side of a cliff simultaneously, while the only possible course to fix it is by understanding each other and showing compassion? Yeah, writing what you know is more important than ever. But, that in and of itself is a double-edged sword. What if you end up outing yourself / someone? What if feelings are hurt when the truth is put down on paper? Relationships can crumble under the pressure, the reality you know falling apart around you.
And, maybe an even harsher reality: what happens if all the agents you submit to reject you and no one wants to hear your side of the story after all?
Writing books is painful. Especially when you’re writing what you know. But that’s also part of what makes it so great.
Of course, that’s also assuming you have a story to tell. Maybe you’re just an average person with an average life doing average things. Should you create a novel / character based around your life if you’re just sitting around your house watching TV and going to your 9-5 job? Probably not. There’s enough of that in the real world that I can’t imagine a book really being able to find and fill a need in that niche. So, for those people, I encourage them to get a hobby, go out and see the world, and pull pieces from those experiences into the novel you’re wanting to write.
Do you have to live in a city to set a novel there? No, of course not. Does it help to build authenticity? Absolutely. Do you need to get a job as an accountant to write a novel with a protagonist who is one? No. That’s what research is for. With information being easier than ever to obtain online, you don’t have to go out and experience those things to be able to write about them effectively. It will always help, of course, but as long as you’re good at your job researching and finding editors / betas to help nitpick the small stuff?  There’s not a desperate need to do it.
Bonus:

Do you write what you know?
A little bit yes, a little bit no. With locations, I tend to write about places I’ve either lived or spent enough time visiting that I felt like a local in the time I was there. I want to know where the weird bumps in the sidewalk are from tree roots pushing them up or about the way a certain traffic light always knocks up against a branch if the wind blows hard enough. But I don’t have to live there to experience those things. A visit is enough for me. Sometimes, Google Maps / Streetview also works — or serves as a decent reminder if I’ve forgotten.
I listen to people’s conversations or watch them in the streets and make up background stories for them in my head. Both of those things get adopted into my novels. But that person up above who just sits in their apartment and goes to work? That’s me. I’m boring and okay with it. But my life as it is right now? Wouldn’t make the best novel (unless I wrote about my day job. That would be heartbreaking, honestly) for anyone other than me. So, sure. There are bits and pieces from my every day life mixed in, but I don’t rely on just the things I know. Research is great.

August Plans and Goals

August is a very busy month for me. To the point where several times during the month, I will forget to eat and accidentally skip up to a third of the meals I’m meant to be eating. With that said, my goals writing-wise are very minimized compared to last month’s progress.

August Goals:

  • Get through first 25% of edits (85 pages)
  • Keep working on putting paper edits of SoL into the computer
  • Finish watching / working through the Publish and Thrive courses (Modules 4 & 5)
  • Add 10 completed pages to the Lazy Tequila Afternoons story binder
  • Update the “books” section of my website.

That’s it. Very low pressure, not a lot to focus on because honestly? Getting through the month of August at the day job is more than enough to work on and survive at this point.

I’m hoping as time goes on to be able to slowly incorporate more writing / loftier editing goals into my daily routine, but not in August.

And, similar to the goal list, today’s post is short and simple. Hope that’s okay with everyone and I’ll see you next week!

Happy Birthday, Harry! A Harry Potter Fandom Tag

Seeing as this post is going up on Wednesday, July 31st — Harry Potter’s birthday — and Elizabeth Szubert tagged me to complete this tag. It also seemed fitting, having just had the most successful writing week in my 2019 using the HP Word Crawls and following JKR’s writing routine. Plus, so much of who I am as a writer can be credited to all of the fanfic I wrote in high school (a large chunk of which was Harry Potter!) and a lot of the reason why I love reading as much as I do is, I’m sure, because I started reading Harry Potter in 8th grade, so… It’s as much a part of my writing life / journey as any other aspect. And now, on with the tag!

1. What House are you in? Slytherin — ambitious, cunning, manipulative, and always looking out for my #1 (me. that would be me.)

2. What is your Patronus? I go between three animals for this, so I’m not completely sure. It’s either a SharPei, a cow, or a manatee (according to Pottermore it’s a fox, but… IDK I’m not feeling that. Plus, I just Googled a list of all the potential answers and NONE of those are even on the list. But, I retook the quiz and tied with a Newfoundland and an Adder. Both of which I accept much more than a fox.).

3. What is your wand? According to Pottermore: Hawthorn wood with a unicorn hair core, 10″ and unyielding flexibility. Which tells people that I’m complex and intriguing, good at curses, and going through a period of turmoil (which I guess means my life is always in turmoil, since you don’t really “grow out” of your wand…). The wand is also difficult to master and shows that I’m a beast at tackling my skills.

4. What would your boggart be? A spider. 100%.

5. What position would you play in Quiddich? Spectator. 😉

6. Would you be a pure-blood, half-blood, or muggle born? Pureblood. Duh.

7. What job would you want after leaving Hogwarts? I honestly don’t know. I feel like JKR didn’t really explore realistic wizarding career options. Like, it almost felt kinda classist — you’re either working for the Ministry (the government), are an Auror (the military), or are a teacher (which, also can be partially the government, especially if Umbridge is any indication). Anything else mentioned for adults was basically shopkeeps in Hogsmeade / Knockturn Alley / Diagon Alley or working with dragons. I guess, if you drew the most like my current job, I would be teaching at Hogwarts, but I feel like in the wizarding world, I’d go for a slightly more outlandish job first… And then settle into teaching later in life. Kinda like I did IRL.

8. Which of the Deathly Hallows would you choose? Invisibility Cloak, hands down. I don’t want to live forever and I’m happy with just a standard wand TYVM. To be invisible? Worth more than anything in the world.

9. Favorite book? Half-Blood Prince. I felt like it was the book that the writing was best executed and there were more plot arcs being completed than ignored, like the majority of the rest of the books. It also felt like it was deliberate instead of just tossed in to hopefully be interesting and creating a bunch of plot holes. I actually feel like HBP was one of those first ideas JKR had when dreaming up this series and that’s why it works so well.

10. Least favorite book? Chamber of Secrets. Several reasons, honestly. There were a lot of plot devices thrown in that weren’t fully explained / happened at way too convenient of a time to feel legitimate (flying car, the phoenix, its tears, the sword, the diary, Parseltongue…) and I just don’t like sloppy writing. This was also one of the books where I honestly felt like it was strange that they kept having school in that building and just kinda let the children handle the adults’ problems when they really shouldn’t… And then, the biggest issue? Spider. Giant spider. And lots of little ones.

11. Favorite film? None of them? They’re all terrible. No, seriously, they are. But, if I have to pick the least terrible of them? Deathly Hallows, pt. 2. I’d prefer ton consider both parts as one movie, but I feel like people would see that as cheating, so we’ll go with part 2. It was the only one that seemed to handle things in even a remotely complex way and the changes made were more or less logical.

12. Least favorite film? Prisoner of Azkaban. I am not anti-change when books are adapted to movies. However, I am anti completely ignoring a book even existed and just using a vague likeness to both plot and character and making money off the popularity of an intellectual property… Yeah. PoA is a terrible movie. Down to the very last frame (which honestly, might be the WORST part).

13. Favorite character? Ugh, this is maybe the hardest question in this tag. My default answer to this is Snape because I love a tortured soul, no matter how problematic. But I also adore both Sirius and Regulus Black. And Grindelwald (not the pushover in the movies — the real one that we read about in the books)… So yeah. One of those.

14. Least favorite/most hated character? Harry. I know, I know — hot takes. But, I swear the boy is celebrated as this prodigy of a wizard and he takes credit for all of it… When really he did nothing. His MOM defeated Voldemort. Hermione comes up with most of their plans. Ron carries out most of the aforementioned plans, comes up with the resources to complete them, or pushes Harry into things, at the very least. He stumbles upon things by complete accident — including relationships with basically everyone — and is just this completely unlikable brat… But yet everyone is absolutely head-over-heals in love with / impressed by him. Except Snape. And he doesn’t even dislike him for the right reasons! Harry is basically the textbook definition of a Gary Stu and not a damn person seams to mind, other than me.

15. Favorite teacher at Hogwarts? Tie between Slughorn and Snape. What can I say? I like Potions teachers and Slytherin heads of houses.

16. Least favorite teacher at Hogwarts? I know everyone’s expecting this answer to be Umbridge, but I don’t count her as a teacher. She was an appointed government official inside of a school. So, my real least favorite teacher? Lockhart. There is very little in the world that makes me angrier than people using teaching for fame and glory. Or going into the profession to swindle people out of money. Trust me. I could rant for hours about TeacherGram / TeacherTubers…

17. Do you have any unpopular opinions about the series? You mean other than the fact that I hate the titular character? Or the fact that I think JKR is actually really terrible at executing her ideas / writing her novels? Don’t get me wrong — she is absolutely brilliant and her world building was amazing (at least until she decided to be “woke” and change things up because she “totally meant it that way from the start LULZ”)… Her ideas are good, but they needed to be ironed out a little bit more before being shared with the world. But, about the series itself? Other than absolutely hating Harry, I’m pretty sure most of my opinions fall pretty in-line with most people’s?

You tell me — anything in this tag get you fired up? Let’s debate Harry Potter in the comments, if so! Or, if you’d like to participate in this tag yourself, consider yourself tagged. 😉

State of the Author: Week Ending 07/28

I’m sad to say this is probably going to be the last weekly SotA post we see for quite some time. Not because I’m quitting or anything, just simply because my writing pace is going to be drastically decreased now that summer vacation is officially over. Somehow, I don’t think anyone wants to read about me coming home, taking a nap, staring at a wall and considering doing some writing… Before deciding to just go to sleep at 7pm.

Yeah. Teaching is kind of a hobby-eater (especially in the months of August and May).

But, I did manage to “go out with a bang” so to speak with this last week in that I more than doubled my monthly word count in 8 days.

Writing: This week of Write Like a Pro asked us to follow J. K. Rowling’s writing routine, which wasn’t too bad. But, there are these NaNo Crawls based on all 7 Harry Potter books that I’ve been wanting to do for ages and never could convince myself to sit down and do. So, knowing that I don’t often back down from a challenge, I added them to this week’s WLaP. And let me tell you… They are intense. This link will take you to Year One. Which is one of the “easier” of the seven crawls. Yeah. I’m a little tired of writing right now and am definitely taking this week fully off. Which means it’s the end of the month, so, some stats for those curious:

july stats

That is, of course, assuming I do fully take these last few days off (which, I probably will). The chart on the left is the breakdown of where my time and words went this month. Pretty self explanatory, I think. The chart on the right shows the breakdown of how many words I wrote during each year of the Harry Potter crawl — the year 7 one took me two days, and year 4 took me an extra two hours, but all the others I did within the JKR WLaP time, so that’s exciting.

I have always been a binge-writer more than a consistent-writer, so doing an insane amount of words like that is “normal” for me, but I don’t recommend cramming that many lengthy crawls into that short a period of time. Since I was only writing for 6-8 hours most days, my hands / wrists weren’t really affected much (maybe because of the compression gloves I wear whenever I’m writing for more than 4 hours in a day), but I am incredibly tired of my FMC in the Bluebell Fields books. She’s a little on the annoying side normally, but when I’ve spent that much time in the universe / with her? Completely. Done.

The nice thing about that? I can technically be done with her because her novels are now both written! Of course, she’s still a prominent side character in SoL, and I’m still working on edits, but… Well, whatever. Fact is, I finished a freaking novel this month. Yay me. 😀

Editing: I’ve started putting the paper edits of Sky of Light into the computer — which is where those words came from in that novel. I have 21 scenes that need to be rewritten within the novel from the paper edits and 5 of them are basically full chapters. I’ve done one of the small scenes (barely a paragraph) and also tackled 3 of the chapters. I also spent a fair bit of time working through some of my edits from the beta project. That is going to take priority for the time being, despite wanting to distance myself from April a little. But, there’s also other people waiting / helping with that and I want to respect their time.

Upcoming: From here forward, you’ll be seeing less activity on the blog. Instead of two posts a week, I’m going to be dropping down to just my Wednesday post, except at the beginning of the month, when I update with my monthly goals and at the end when I post my wrap-up post. So, really, I’m going from 8 posts a month to 6. Which is really not that different, I guess.

Regardless, Wednesday will be a tag post this week! Look forward to that. 😉

The Beta Project — An Overview

As I’ve mentioned in the majority of my State of the Author posts this month, I participated in the Absolute Write Beta Project this year. This is an annual event organized by a member of the AW site wherein people submit basic information, a hook, and the first 750 words of their novel to be critiqued by other members of the forum. Once you’ve done your 3 required, wonderfully match-made crits, you are able to request stories to do a full beta on.

I participated because it’s always nice to have more eyes on your novels — especially the one I put in because I’m so deep into my LTA universe, I don’t know what makes sense to outsiders anymore — and for me, it was important that I found someone who typically reads within my genre to take a look at it. While I adore my regular readers / writer friends and greatly value their advice, they’re all writing / reading primarily speculative fiction of some degree. Sure, they can tell me if the basic story makes sense and they can help with line edits / grammar errors, but to tell me if I hit the pacing and fulfilled the needs of a romance novel? They’re as lost as I am. But, having someone look through who’s familiar? It gives them the opportunity to point out a ton of brand new issues to be fixed that I’d never thought about before.

Which, while it sounds like a bad thing, really isn’t. Anything to make the novel stronger, right? Right.

Now, I’m sure that sounds like everything about the Project was perfect and wonderful, which the majority really was, but… There were some not-so-great parts as well.

The Pros:

  • I was blessed with getting two beta requests out of the project and both have already completely finished their beta’ing.
  • I tried some advice from Sarra Cannon and had both betas working in the same document, so the three of us could chat in the comments and make sure things were going the way they should / clear up any misconceptions (and then figure out how to also do the same within the novel), and share opinions. It was the closest thing to a true fiction workshop experience that I have experienced outside of my creative writing courses back in college and I loved it. I will honestly probably continue interacting with my betas like this for the rest of my writing life. Without this Project, I probably never would have tried it.
  • I know where / how to tighten my hook or add detail when I go to expand it into a query.
  • My novel is better already than it was when I started.

The Cons:

  • I had one beta who was flawless and did exactly what I specified in my “what I look for in a beta” section (which was posted with the initial post, prior to them sending requests)… And one who focused much more on the tiny, nit-picky line edits. While I am not entirely sad at this, because eventually I will need these done, I mentioned up front that large chunks of this novel were going to be trashed and completely rewritten. So, if they spent all this time perfecting my language and having me decide between my use of “so” and “yet” / “his” and “the,” it’s just going to be a waste of their time, and mine.
  • I also had one beta who was borderline rude / cruel at times, but then others was singing my praises. Sometimes, she claimed to “absolutely abhor” my novel, and other times saying she “rather enjoyed the whole thing.” Which is rather confusing, if I’m being entirely honest. I’m not upset that maybe she didn’t love my novel or even the places where she said she would have stopped reading — those are things I need and want to know! However, I do take issue with the way some of the comments were phrased as more of a personal “you have no idea what you’re doing” sort of attack / accusation than constructive criticism. I have pretty thick skin (thank you, creative writing class that brought me SO MUCH STRESS but was obviously worth it. Also thank you overly critical job where people tell me how bad I am every time I turn around.), but even so, some of her comments struck a nerve with me. There was even a point that my other beta told her that she needed to dial it back a notch and stop being so outright rude. So… wasn’t just a me thing.
  • Not everyone got a beta. And I know there’s no real way to prevent this, but it really just rubbed me the wrong way to see so many of the participants posting in the thread that they’d love to get beta requests, but they weren’t in a place to give any of their own. I’m sorry, but someone is literally reading and editing your novel for you for free, and you can’t find the time to request just one novel to return the favor for? There were several people requesting just basic comments / read-throughs on novels that were either not finished or 60k and under. Some weren’t even finished with their novels yet and wouldn’t be asking for feedback for some amount of time. I don’t know. I think the right thing to do in that situation would be to find one that you enjoyed and think you’d like to read through for someone, offer up the request, and explain that you’ve got things going on that are going to make the beta take some time. If they’re okay with that, cool. If not, they can say no from there. But to expect to get something for nothing (especially the people being salty / complaining that they didn’t receive any requests of their own…)? Just rubs me the wrong way.
  • I didn’t get to beta anything. I sent one request early in the event — it was one of my three required crits — and heard nothing back. Because I had a pending request, I didn’t offer to do any others until the last day, just in case they got back to me. I knew I wouldn’t have time to devote to doing more than one beta well (or two, depending on their requests for their betas), and I didn’t want to send out two more requests, only to have the original request respond and accept after all. Of course, I sent out two requests total and heard back from zero of them, so… That’s also a thing.

I know that looks like there were more cons than pros, but that’s definitely not the case (I think it’s just me being an over-explainer, per usual). Overall, I think the AW Beta Project is a fantastic idea and I’m already looking forward to participating again next year!

State of the Author: Week Ending 07/21

Oh my heavens, what a week. I have officially gone “back to school” this week, in that I don’t have students, but there were meetings and planning happening (both on campus and off), my brain had to be turned back on, and also… Real pants were a thing that had to be worn. Which, honestly, is my least favorite part of working. I think this is the first year I’m not super excited to be going back to work after summer break. There’s a variety of reasons for that, I imagine, but one of them is definitely because I’ve really been enjoying the two months of getting to pretend to be an actual, legitimate, full time writer. And truthfully? I’m just not ready to give that up yet.

However, without work, I would have to instead give up my apartment and like… Groceries. Which I am definitely not willing to give up.

Knowing that my life is about to get significantly busier, I found myself wondering if there was a way to possibly make my writing life and my teaching life play nicely together and decided that this week, while I had work — but not students — would be a good time to try an experiment. So, I decided that I would work my full 8 hour day, as required, and then at some point during the day, make the time to write 5k words, edit for a minimum of 2 hours, and still complete my module for my class this week.

And… Well. It was a week.

Writing: For fear of sounding like I’m bragging, 5k words a day for me isn’t really a challenge. Now, it’s not as quick as it used to be when I was consistently writing 4-4.5k per hour, but even still, 5k words is approximately 2 hours of “normal” work for me at this point — 3 hours if I’m having a day where writing just isn’t coming as nicely as it usually does. But something I forgot was how much writing 5k a day boosts your total word count! I went from a decent amount to HOLY COW amounts over the week. And that was pretty awesome. Some of the words are definitely a little on the rambling side, but nothing too extreme. I’m usually wordy in my zero drafts anyway and then I end up cutting about 15-20k on my first read through before I even do any “real” editing, so being a little rambling at this stage isn’t a surprise to me at all.

I successfully completed Mandi Lynn’s #10kWritingChallenge today with about 12k words. So, woo!

SOTA3

Editing: The paper edits are finished! I spent a few hours last night writing out my revision outline and am working on replotting / reorganizing the order of events in the middle of the novel to build relationships more organically… And I’m also really focusing in on not dropping my subplots 14-16 chapters into the (currently) 32 chapter novel. There’s a lot of rewriting that needs to be done to fix old POV shifts that were never cleaned up in previous drafts. So, that’s fun.

The AW Beta Project is officially over. We’ll be talking about that in much more detail on Wednesday.

Words Written: 68,587
Chapters Edited: 32
Hours Spent Editing: 47
Scenes Rewritten Completely: 1 / 21
Scenes Cut Out: 18

Publishing: Still trucking along with this! Module two was long, but awesome. It was a lot of information about metadata and publishing on different vendors. I’m still working through some of the more specific details and things. But still going well!

Next week’s goals:

  • Finish all 7 days of the Harry Potter Crawl for WLaP
  • Edit 2 hours daily
  • Complete Module 3 of Publish and Thrive