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

Bouncing Back from Disaster

This summer, I’m running a challenge on WriYe that I’ve mentioned a few times here called Write Like a Pro, where we adopt a different professional author’s ideal writing routine for a week at a time. While discussing the way the challenge is progressing, K. A. Wyles spurred us to wonder what some of these authors did if they missed a day. Everyone has days where they wake up sick or sleep through their alarms or the world crashes down around them. Part of becoming a professional author (unfortunately) doesn’t make one immune to disaster and everyone has a bad day from time to time. So… what do the pros do to recover from that? Well, we don’t know (and probably never will) because people don’t talk about that — maybe because that would also mean talking about the negative / bad things — which led us to deciding that we needed to talk about how we recover from bad days.

This is a very appropriately timed post for me because not only did I realize my Day Job picked back up this week instead of next week like I thought, but I also got some bad / stressful news over the weekend, and then… I woke up sick on Sunday morning. Triple whammy all in one weekend! I decided not to let that hold me back or put a damper on my progress, however. These are the some of the ways I typically push myself through to get back on my feet again.

1. Take time off to just be upset: This isn’t to say you should throw yourself a pity party or write a vague post on Twitter / Facebook trying to get people to feel sorry for you or celebrate how badly you suck or anything like that. Simply take a step back and admit that things aren’t going your way. Just let yourself feel whatever the bad feeling is and experience it in whatever way it’s manifesting. If you’re sad, cry it out. If you’re sick, take a nap on the couch for a little while. If you’re angry, rant / yell about things to someone who won’t judge you (like your dog or your pillow). And then — if it’s a problem that can be fixed… Fix it. And you’ll be able to do so without your mind being clouded with the initial emotion.

2. Pamper Yourself: This one is pretty simple: just spend some time treating yourself well. Take a long walk or toss a bath bomb in the bath and take a steamy bubble bath. Put on a silly face mask and order some junk food. I know part of my personal routine for this is to completely disconnect also. I close my email and social media, turn off the chat services and put my cell phone on “Do Not Disturb” so I can really focus on me, rather than the buzz happening around me all the time. I also will take days like this to spend hours playing video games (or if you’re a movie / TV show watcher — binging a show on Netflix would also fit in well here).

3. Be Rational / Make Plans: I’m the kind of person that has had a bucket list since I was about 10-years-old; I’ve had a running 1,001 Things to do in 101 Days list since 2005 or so. Ask me at any point in time where I want to be in 3, 5, or 10 years and I’ll give you a full outline, down to a disgusting amount of detail (if you’ll let me). I constantly am revisiting these plans and revising them to best fit whatever changes happen in my life, of course, and I find a set back happening is usually the best time to do so. Obviously, if you’ve just caught a cold or whatever, don’t rethink your whole life, but if whatever’s setting you back is large / catastrophic, it’s a great time to sit down and figure out how to get back on track. For me, sitting down and just thinking about things in a logical manner helps me feel more in control and like things aren’t as bad as my brain was probably originally thinking it was. Sometimes this just means sitting down and going, “okay, I was supposed to do two hours of editing today and did none. There’s 4 days left in the week, so +30 minutes to each of those days.” Sometimes it means looking at the to-do lists for the weekend and going, “well, I guess I can binge watch that TV show next week instead.” Sometimes it means skipping gaming for the week or catching up on sports game highlight reels to better utilize your leisure time for work… Whatever it is that helps your brain click those pieces back in place logically is what helps maintain routines (which is, ideally, what this post is about).

4. Pick up and Keep Going: Be it in life or in writing, you have to keep moving forward. So yes, definitely take the time needed to rest and repair… But then just start working on your goals again. With writing especially, if you take too much time off, it’s so easy to just sit back and never touch it again. And then you have half-finished novels that no one will ever get to experience. So, take your day off and then the next morning, sit down and put pen to paper once again.

What did this look like for me personally? Taking a few days off of social media / the internet and enjoying a few hours of being lazy… And then setting some pretty intense goals for this week — 8 hours of Day Job, 5k fiction, 2 hours editing, and 2-3 hours in my publishing course daily. It’s going to be a busy week, but that’s what I’ve signed up for, since I enjoy my quality of life, my job, and being an independent adult! Plus, there’s something to be said for getting back to a routine after having one of these fail days. It feels fresh and new, but also strangely comfortable and like going home.

State of the Author: Week Ending 07/14/19

It’s been a long time since I’ve been this productive two weeks back-to-back! I’ve been excited to work on my revision and publication course especially, but even the writing part of the month is going well! It’s honestly confusing me — but I’m definitely not complaining!

Writing: This week’s #50in5 was much more successful than last week — I was done with it in just under 4 hours. The flow was better, my life cooperated more, and I was into a better plotted out segment of the novel that wasn’t as research-heavy as the week before. So, here’s another (very rough) excerpt from this week’s work:

SOTA2.PNG

Editing: I am almost 75% finished with the paper edits and then I’ll move into the computer edits. This will be equally as time consuming as the paper edits have been. Reason being? The paper edits do have the majority of the nitty-gritty work, but the computer edits will also contain the reorganizing and rewriting of all the scenes that I marked as needed rewritten (mostly for POV shifts). Realistically, I’m hoping to be fully finished with this draft by the end of August and then hopefully out with some betas after that!

The AW Beta Project is still going swimmingly. I actually got two beta requests! And the person running it told me that my entry was actually the first one requested! It absolutely blows my mind that was how that played out — I honestly expected to get zero requests out of the whole thing! — and I think that’s been a large part of what’s been keeping me motivated this month. There’s something incredibly inspiring knowing that there are people who might actually want to read the craziness in my brain.

#50in5 Words Written: 22,030
Chapters Edited: 26
Hours Spent Editing: 23.25
Scenes Rewritten Completely: 0 (yet — 8 are slated / marked for a rewrite)
Scenes Cut Out: 16
Beta Requests Sent: 1
Beta Requests Received: 2

Publishing: As expected, the Sarra Cannon Publish and Thrive course is absolutely amazing. I worried when I initially signed up / paid for it that I would end up having some buyer’s remorse once the payment process. Not because I didn’t think the course would be good / worth it, but because I’m not earning money right now and for someone without an income, it was a lot of money. And I’ve definitely had to get a little creative with bill paying now because I decided to take the course. However, I think it was the best thing I’ve done for myself all year. Even in the “introductory” module, I learned a lot, which is great. But even beyond that, I’ve really been building relationships with other people in the course.

Which probably sounds silly and like some sort of hoity-toity markety nonsense. But as a romance / realistic fiction writer with a majority of speculative writer friends, I’ve found a small collection of writers who write in my exact subgenre of romance. And that has been super awesome in and of itself. Plus, the Facebook group is incredibly supportive and social and it’s been a very much needed social engagement in the middle of my otherwise relatively lonely summer.

I am unfortunately on campus for work all week next week, so my summer is essentially over at this point, despite students still having just under a month before they’re back, so my goals this week should be lighter than normal, right? Well, yes, if I were a sane person. But I’m not. So, next week’s goals:

  • Write 5k daily (except Friday and Sunday)
  • Write 10k Friday and Sunday (for #50in5 and Mandi Lynn’s 10k Challenge)
  • Edit 2 hours daily
  • Complete Module 2 of Publish and Thrive

Hope everyone else is succeeding in meeting their goals as well!