The Writing Show Must Go On…

Sorry for missing my usual Wednesday morning post, but I was out sick from work this week and couldn’t stand staring at the computer typing my life away.

So now that the madness of NaNoWriMo has been over for a week (ten days for me), what do I focus on, writing-wise? How do I move forward from a great accomplishment instead of getting stuck right here and not seeing it through? I’ll tell you how–I keep on writing.

I’ve flirted a little bit with the marriage kit book (which is almost finished), reading through a large portion of it and researching some of the holes I still need to fill. I found all the material I had written for Some College, my memoir about the year I spent in between my junior and senior year of college, and I contacted a good high school friend for his help with an area of the book that involves some things from our high school days. Going back to my high school reunion really opened that door wide for me. I’ve even started writing out some “treatments” for “scenes” in the other story I outlined before NaNoWriMo, and began trying to develop an outline for my next book in the series that this year’s NaNoWriMo book starts.

What I’ve managed to do is to stay far away from my NaNoWriMo manuscript, Delivering Justice. I’ve given myself ten days away from it, and I am chomping at the bit to start revising it. I said I wouldn’t look at it again until the 10th, but I think it’s time to get back into it. I know a few of the issues that I’ll need to address from the beginning–passive voice, weak verbs, an adverb explosion–and I’m sure I’ll discover a plethora of other problems that I’ll need to tackle, but I’m ready to dive back into it.

I spent some time on the boards for Harlequin and discovered that Delivering Justice should  be targeted toward the Intrigue line and not the Romantic Suspense line, at least from what I’ve read and been told. I’m glad, not only because the word count is lower, meaning I don’t have to find a subplot or fluff my story out of recognition, but because it means I don’t have to tone down the suspense and play up the romance as much as I initially thought. My story doesn’t have to be contorted into something unrecognizable to fit the mold, and that makes me feel even more certain that this story is exactly what it should be.

I never heard anything back from my So You Think You Can Write entry, but I’ve reworked the beginning and I think I’ve written some really good material since the opening chapter. I’m not sure exactly where the story will fit, but I would love to finish it sometime next year.

I’ve thought of at least three other books in the series DJ starts, with two possibles. Once I have eyeballs back on the story, I’ll get an excerpt up for some critique.

How’s everyone else’s writing coming along? Anyone close to submitting/publishing? Anyone revising?

XOXO,

Erica

It.Is.Finished!

Yes, this.

Yes, this.

I’ve finally completed NaNoWriMo! For the first time in many failed attempts (some NaNo rebel style, some textbook), I completed 50k words, writing each day, on the same story. Mallory and Jake managed to take me on a great ride, one that I’m still taking. But I wanted to take a moment and breathe through this accomplishment, this milestone.

I never thought I could get 50K words on the page in 26 days, and it’s been surreal for me. There were a lot of things that contributed to my success, most of which I’ve mentioned here already, but it doesn’t hurt to reiterate.

1. I outlined. This is not only my first year outlining for NaNoWriMo, but my first real attempt at outlining ever. I’m addicted to get the premise and major plot points on paper now. It guides the writing and keeps me focused so that every morning, I have some inkling of what needs to happen in a scene today.

2. I had a reader. My reader/accountability buddy kept me on track in a big way. Knowing that I had to turn over those pages kept me writing, and trying to write well. I felt so accomplished when she laughed at the right lines and threatened to murder me if I didn’t hurry up and write the next scene when I left her hanging on the cliff. I could actually gauge if my hooks worked with a reader, which helped me decide how to proceed.

3. I followed a routine. I got up each morning and put my butt in my writing area (there isn’t actually a chair down here). It didn’t matter what time I went to sleep, how unsure I was of where I was going next–I sat my butt down and wrote. Sometimes, after I got the rusty water words down and ideas were flowing better, I backspaced over the drivel and saved my reader from having to slog through it. I didn’t let a crap storm of awfulness stop me from continuing, but having that reader made sure I got rid of the really crappy stuff.

4. I allowed myself to edit. I’m not the type of writer who can write all the way through without looking back, put the manuscript away, then gasp in horror at what I’ve written a few weeks later. I read my output each day just like my reader. If it’s just a matter of typos, misspellings, and grammatical errors, I fix them immediately. If a key transition is missing, I will either add it or note it for my revisions, depending on the size of it. I took advantage of Saturdays when I had more time to go back and add things in. I did what I knew I needed to do, just enough to keep the inner editor off my back. There are still too many weak verbs and tense things to fix, but making the surface changes helped me not to get bogged down in deep editing. My only rule? Don’t take away from the word count if possible.

5. I chose to write a story that I loved. I loved the idea for Delivering Justice from the moment I began working it over in my head. I loved the characters and the setup. I was excited at the opportunity to write something that was funny and suspenseful and a little cheesy. I wanted to write about cars exploding and criminals and undercover agents. I was looking forward to the challenge of remembering who was injured where. I was also open to the surprises–Luka and his showdown with Jake on the train to Orlando instead of tracking them down in Florida being my favorite–and throwing in more suspense of more kissing when I got stuck (which ALWAYS worked in this story–when in doubt, kiss it out…or blow it up 😀 ).

Bonus: I had fun. I’m usually so concerned about getting a draft right that I never get it finished. My characters are always so serious and brooding, so insecure and a hot mess train wreck. But Mallory and Jake, and their friends, aren’t. Mallory is a little neurotic and afflicted with verbal diarrhea, but she’s also an established businesswoman who will do anything to protect those she loves (including crawling into an air duct with nine millimeter handgun!), and Jake, while serious and by the book, is a former fat kid with a sweet tooth whose loyalty is unshakeable. I let the characters who wanted to be funny be funny. If a character had a thought totally incongruous to what was happening around them, I let them have it. If one went off having epiphanies about their relationship too soon, I kept it (I can move it later). If Mallory and Jake wanted to play kissy face with a hit man on their trail…you get the idea.

I started out the month with the notion that I wanted to laugh and gasp and nearly cry when I read this story, even if it was so awful it never saw the light of day again, and I ended up with a story I think is really special.

The next time I write, I’ll post an excerpt for you guys to read!

XOXO,

Erica

On (Not) Wimping Out

The past three days have been hard writing days for yours truly. I didn’t like what I wrote for Friday’s words, I wrote less than a thousand words at 10pm last night (meaning I wasted all of my morning writing hours–all four of them!), and this morning, I’m struggling again to get words on the page. With a manuscript that stands at a little more than 44,500 words, I am losing my momentum on it. The doubts are beginning to creep in: is the suspense element strong enough? Is the romance element strong enough? I haven’t gotten these characters on the same page in too many pages. When is she going to tell him she loves him? Is he going to tell her he loves her first? How are the conflicts going to be realistically resolved so they can be together (I resolved one conflict last night. Whew! Only one or two more to go)? How is this all going to end?

Other than these doubts, I’ve been dealing with minor characters trying to take over the story, awkward attempts at sensual scenes, and the ever looming realization that if I target Harlequin romantic suspense, I still have 20,000 words beyond NaNoWriMo to account for. Gah! No wonder I’m plastered to the ceiling! So. Much. Pressure!

Then I received a wonderful piece of advice from Sarah M. Anderson’s online workshop on revision (among a million other great pieces of advice in the forum). She reminded all of us that the holidays is not the time to send in a manuscript, as many editors are in and out of town, and requested manuscripts and establish author manuscripts tend to get priority. She told unpublished and unrequested authors to hold off until the new year, to use the next month to polish and revise. I had planned to do this initially, but I was fighting the impulsive side I had that wanted to hit send on this manuscript on December 5th and get the waiting started already. Hearing her words, in effect, gave me back a few weeks to get the story like I wanted.

I’m going to finish NaNoWriMo, and have all the major scenes, plot points, and resolutions/endings in the manuscript. I will continue on until the close of business November 30th, even if I have hit 50,000. But after that, I’m setting it aside until Monday December 10th. I am just going to get the things I still need to get on paper on the page, then I’ll go back and extend scenes that need to be elaborated on, fix word choices, find grammatical areas, deep clean each chapter…whatever editing tricks and tools float my boat. Then I’ll add in my chapter headings and make sure it’s properly formatted. Finally, I’ll develop my query letter and synopsis. Beginning December 10th, not now. Right now, all I need to do is get the words on the page in a fun way that keeps me motivated for at least 5,000 more words.

I’ve always had a problem ending things, of letting them be done so I can move on to the next step. I’m not a finisher. The problem is usually that fear chokes me. I am determined not to let fear choke me so close to my goal. It doesn’t have to be perfect; I have an entire month to sit with it and perfect it. Right now, it just has to get done.

Send me prayers and encouragement for better writing days and to finish NaNoWriMo strong and still proud of what I’ve accomplished.

How are you holding up this month?

XOXO

Erica

#NaNoWriMo, Outlines, & How I Learned to Stop Fighting Plotting

We are almost halfway through National Novel Writing Month, and I am more than halfway through to the 50k word count goal. It’s amazing the difference a few weeks can make! This is my third attempt at NaNoWriMo, and the first time I’ve had 30k words done on a fiction project (I have just over 40k in the books on my Marriage Kit book). I  couldn’t be more excited with all of the progress that I’ve made on this story, and I feel that it’s a really strong one. I wanted to share some of what I’m finding so different about writing this time around, and why I feel this story may be “the One”–my first submitted full length romance!

First of all, I started thinking about NaNoWriMo early this year. I wrote down the incident that spawned the idea for the story on October 18th. From October 18th until October 31st, I teased the idea, creating a basic plot outline for the first time ever. I started with the main characters names, occupations, how they met, what changes, the external problems, the internal problems, and what changes again. I then moved into the climax and the happily ever after. I made a separate list based on this loose plotting that included all of the things that had to happen to keep the plot moving in the right direction, which has allowed for me to keep an element of surprise in the writing that keeps me returning to the page. I even checked the plot over for possible plot holes and had a list of explanations that dug me out of them. I made a list of who didn’t know what and when/if they would figure it out. I developed all of the supporting characters and tossed around a few first line ideas. Most importantly, I read several articles on where to start the story, how to set the scene, what Harlequin is and is not looking for, and advice from editors. I printed off a copy of the guidelines for the line I’m targeting, and read interviews with the editors of that line to get a better feel of what works with the line. In other words, I did my research.

Another thing that’s different about this year is that I have a reader. A coworker read my So You Think You Can Write entry and really enjoyed it. We got busted for talking too much just before the first, so instead of telling her about what I was working on, I decided to drop off what I had written to her on the first to see what she thought. She is a Norah Roberts superfan, so I knew she loved the genre and would be a good first reader, but more than that, dropping off the pages each day means I have to write the words and meet my word count each day. It’s the best accountability that I could have, and seeing her face light up each day I drop off the next batch of befuddling first draft pages makes me feel like a real writer with a devoted following.

I have never been able to quiet my inner editor, so I developed a compromise for NaNoWriMo that’s been working really well for me: I can fix typos, exchange words, and add words for clarity, but I can’t take words out until after NaNoWriMo is over. I look over a printed copy of what I’ve written each day  and correct anything that needs correcting. I fix any errors in my NaNo document before continuing on the next day. This way, my inner editor is satisfied I’ll have a clean copy when I’m done without me having to compromise the word count.

Another thing that has really helped me is getting up each morning at 5 am to write. I come to the same place to write as well. This consistency has helped me to keep the words flowing. I love the progress that I’ve made on this project, and I’m hopeful it will be my first completed not quite first draft of a fiction project.

So, about the story. It’s a romantic suspense story about what happens when an interior designer (Mallory Taylor) is given the wrong delivery by the hot delivery driver for Vito’s Ristorante (Jake Ballenger). Instead of getting her usual order of baked ziti with a side of meatballs, she’s delivered something a lot less edible and a whole lot more alarming. Jake had just made his last delivery on his last day at Vito’s, but he’s willing to return to the gorgeous interior designer’s office to get one last look at her curves before moving on. Instead of an eyeful, he ends up with a bullet in his shoulder. The two manage to escape with their lives, and set out to figure out what they’ve become caught up in. But when the bullets stop flying, will the love that’s developing between them be left standing?

I love Jake and Mallory. Mallory has no brain mouth filter, and Jake’s tough exterior hides a warm guy who’d lay down his life for the woman he loved. I have managed to incorporate both Mallory and Jake’s POVs into the story, as well as populating the with fun supporting characters and a few plot twists to keep things interesting. I’m hoping that I’ll be read to sub this story, tentatively titled Delivering Justice, by the beginning of next year, if not before. I will take a break from it for at least a week in December to plot the next couple of ideas I have for possible sequels. In other words, I’m really excited about this story, and I can’t wait to share a snippet with you guys…

Tomorrow. 😀

XOXO

Erica

A Time for Honesty

I’m not going to “win” Camp NaNoWriMo. I am not all broken up about it, either. The point, for me, was to jump start my writing again, to commit to spending more time writing each day. It was more an exercise of butt-in-chair than actually going for the word counts. I also wanted to commit to a first draft, of spending more time writing than I did dismantling what I’d written before. I wanted to develop a routine that allowed me to reread and alter for consistency, but still keep moving the WIP forward, not getting bogged down in trying to produce a perfect draft instead of a first draft.

I have been finding the act of a NaNoWriMo style of writing to be a bit too restrictive for me. I’m not sure if it’s a good thing or a bad thing to give in to the impulses that arise whenever I’ve taken up the challenge. I keep wanting to switch my focus to other stories. I have these elaborate ideas for them, but I try to force myself to only work on the current project (although I do write the concept or a line or two down so I can come back to it). All of my word count must go to this project. The more I try to do that, the less healthy I think that is for me. My creative process isn’t exactly linear, and trying to write a story in a linear fashion hasn’t worked for me since my days of writing FO (another problem I have with my approach to NaNoWriMo months).

Here’s what I know to be true about myself as a writer: sometimes I have to follow the red herrings and see where they’re going, if only to know if the red herring is taking me off course with this story, but leading me to another; working on other projects can clear my head enough that a solution to a blockage with another story can get through; I’m always going to be a quality over quantity writer; it’s no use trying not to self-edit along the way, if for nothing else but consistency’s sake; my goals work better for me when they are less about word count or time spent writing, and more about committing to writing a certain scene or introducing certain characters, and; it’s OK that the way I work may not jibe with what the writing advice people say in some ways, as long as I am writing things of which I can be proud.

For the next six days, I will continue to concentrate on the Camp NaNoWriMo WIP. I will work to get all of the written material typed up and validated, as well as work on progressing to a certain point in the work before the end of camp. I will also begin prepping my next project for the official NaNoWriMo in November. I think that if nothing else, NaNoWriMo is a good way for me to start thinking intensively about projects and to have an official start day and begin setting time aside to at least get as much of the concept on paper as I already have in my head. The next NaNoWriMo project will be the one of the other choices from my Need Help in a Hurry post. Between August and November, aside from prepping for November, I’m going to be focused on whatever project is calling to me. I’ll write on it every day until I’ve gotten as much as possible worked out  and can’t get any more words to come out, then switch to the next project that gets hot. I would love to say that I’m going to see one project to a completed first draft before moving on, but that may or may not happen.

Also, I want to get Candy Apples published…and soon. If any other short stories get finished, I’ll work on getting them published as well. I think it’s time to move forward with my writing career in a way that will eventually allow me to write fulltime. I think that once I can fully focus on my writing, my output will be a lot higher (yet still of a great quality) and I will be that much closer to my dream of publishing domination. I can’t wait to be able to share these characters and stories that I love with readers the world over and have them love and care about them as well. That’s really where my motivation lies.

I just wanted to be honest about all of that. This is who I am as a writer and what I want to accomplish the next few months. What are you guys working on? What do you plan to accomplish the rest of this year? What type of writer are you? I can’t wait to hear your responses! 🙂

I’m Just a Bachelor(ette), Looking for a Partner…

I was just reading a blog post that wanted to trackback to my blog when a thought hit me like a bolt from the blue: I don’t have a writing partner.

OK, so it didn’t hit me like a bolt from the blue. I’ve been aware of my lack of a writing buddy for a very long time now. I’ve made some progress on this deficiency. Through blogging (both here and on my other blogs), I’ve met many wonderful writers and friends. The thing is, though, I don’t have anyone to critique my writing, to give me some outside perspective on it.

I’ve asked for your thoughts here (on the little snippets on my Untitled page), and I even joined a NaNoWriYear challenge with Cordelia over on Cordelia Calls It Quits, but I’m no closer to finding my writing soulmate. I haven’t found the fellow writer who I can trust not to steal my work, to tell me honestly what they think of my writing, to support me when I think I’m going crazy and to encourage me when I feel like being published is never going to happen. I haven’t found anyone who likes the genres that I write in and is willing to share as well as critique.  I haven’t found my writing accountability partner.

For now, the best writing buddy I have is this blog. Having to write down my progress is really helping me to keep working on my Camp NaNoWriMo novel, even if I don’t meet the daily word count goals (which reminds me, I actually have to type up what I have so I can get my count validated). In case you were wondering, I am still chugging along on the challenge, still working hard to finally get this story down. Other stories keep trying to intrude, but I’m remaining focused. When I realize I needed to say something earlier for continuity, or find a spot on want to expand on later, I write it down in the margins near where it would go and I keep going. I’m not allowing myself to be deterred. I don’t know if I’ll have 50,000 words at the end of the month, but I’ll have far more than the dismal 10,000 I managed in November.

Anyway, if you want to get to know me better as a potential writing buddy, have some advice about finding a good writing buddy, or you just want to commiserate with me on our lack of writing buddies, feel free to comment or email me at 2blu2btru4u@gmail.com.

Roses by Other Names

Romy and Michele's High School Reunion

My story isn't this campy...nor does it has as good of a tagline...sigh... Image via Wikipedia

You can never underestimate the power of a good name. Maybe a rose would smell the same, but would as many people shell out fifty bucks for a bouquet of Pukes or Drivels (assuming all words held the same meaning save rose)? A name should in some way describe what something is at its core, whether the connection is obvious right away or reveals itself over time–like Oranges or Killer Bees.

Seeing as names are so important, it’s no wonder I am wrestling with naming this NaNoWriMo Novel. When I ponder pitching my book to an agent in a query letter, the current title is one of the things that bothers me (never mind I’m not even finished with the first draft, let alone ready to query; this is just how my brain works). After quite a few attempts at tweaking it, it still doesn’t fit.

Usually, I’m pretty happy with the titles that I come up with for my works. They usually say something about what I’m trying to convey with the piece, or focuses on something central to the plot or main character. In this instance, I know what I want the title to focus in on, but I have no idea how to convey this without being…cheesy.

I know that Chick Lit can stand a little cheese, but my writing is one of the few things I don’t want cheese on! Even though a lot of the story is fun and sweet, there’s a real message I am trying to subtly get across. I want this book to be one you wouldn’t mind passing along to a friend. A cheesy title isn’t going to cut it.

The feel I’m going for is something class reunion/class related. Feel free to ramble about how you were when you were in school, or how your high school reunion went, or who you dreaded seeing. Maybe by hearing how it went for other people, something will be sparked in my brain that will eventually lead me to the right title for my masterpiece.

Writing About Writing in 2010 Rewind!

Stephen King's House in Bangor, Maine

Image via Wikipedia

Before I started this truly awesome blog, I wrote (albeit sparingly), about writing on my other blog.

As this year draws to a close, I wanted to make sure my (three) loyal readers had a chance to read the best of the writing posts pre-Copywrite1985. So here are links to the best:

I’m more than certain this year will be full of more exciting blogging about writing, books, and all things literary!

NaNoWriMo Novel: Trash or Treasure?

Hands collaborating in co-writing or co-editin...

You may feel like the writer and editor in you are two different people. Image via Wikipedia

If you’re like me, you decided to put away your NaNoWriMo novel as soon as December 1st dawned. I needed a little distance from my frantic efforts to come up with a specific amount of words. Whenever I finish working on anything, I like to put it away for a while so that I can come to the proofreading/editing with fresh eyes and a little distance.

Through the magic of time, your novel may begin to look very different to you. If you actually have the goal of turning your novel into something an editor and publisher could love, you find yourself in the difficult position of proofreading your novel for a different focus and purpose than it was written. The beauty of NaNoWriMo is that the emphasis is on writing–as much as you can, as often as you can, whether it’s something you can use or not. Now, you find yourself more interested in the story–what advances the plot, what develops the characters, what’s weighing the piece down. You may find you have a lot of superfluous material in some areas while not having enough material in others.

So what do you do with your novel now? How do you know when you have the makings of a good story and when to shove your efforts into the trash before they start to smell? How do you go about editing and proofreading your first draft?

I found a piece of my NaNoWriMo novel far away from where I’d stashed the rest of my manuscript. Reading that one wide rule sheet of paper, front and back, I fell immediately back into the story. There’s something there, something I want to put out into the world for discussion and for people to relate to. It may be a lot of work to finish the piece and edit all of the NaNoWriMo out of it, but the story connects to something in me that says it’s worth pursuing.

Have you looked at any of your NaNoWriMo writing yet? Is your novel trash or treasure? What’s new on the writing horizon for you?

NaNoWriMo Postmortem

A Ford Escort automobile that has been involve...

Image via Wikipedia

I wonder if failing is like lying. Can you fail by omission? Does it matter if you’re closer to success than failure? What constitutes failure? Is it up for debate?

NaNoWriMo ended yesterday. All of us participants are now wearily coming out of the basement to access the damage this tornado has wrought in our lives. Perhaps yours didn’t end up too bad; you got a good first draft of a novel and kept your sanity. If you made it to 50,000 words, according to NaNoWriMo, you succeeded. I know a few of you who discovered your novels weren’t done at 50,000 words, so maybe you view it a little differently.

I didn’t make it to 50,000 words. I wasn’t even close. So, in that sense, I failed. I knew, in the back of my mind, that with all of the things I had pressed into last month that I would fail. So the goal for me was to learn and let the experience teach me about myself as a writer.

Here’s what I learned:

  • There’s no such thing as a “dead story” when the idea and characters work. I thought because I hadn’t been able to write on a story in a while, or hit a wall that it meant the story wouldn’t work or I wasn’t a good enough writer to write the story. But using an old idea and characters for NaNoWriMo taught me that sometimes I just need to let a story simmer until the ideas are fully cooked.
  • There’s no such thing as a “writing mood.” I don’t have to be in the mood to write. I don’t need a writing desk and the perfect lighting. I can write anywhere at any time. Even when I feel like I have nothing to say, if I sit down and read where I left off, I can usually fall write back into the story. I have no excuse not to write now.
  • I can’t let my deadlines choke me. I’d always heard that if you aren’t published by the time you’re 25, you haven’t got it. I don’t know why I believed that. So many people in literary history have proven that wrong. But, I was so obsessed with getting published this year, while I’m still 25, that I was choking my creativity. I didn’t want to write down anything I couldn’t publish immediately. NaNoWriMo forced me to write everything. Even if I wasn’t sure or didn’t think it worked. Even though I didn’t make the deadline, I am OK with that. I wrote some great things; I wrote some silly things. I didn’t let the deadline bother me. I can still finish my NaNoWriMo story. I will still finish it. In my own time.

How was your NaNoWriMo experience this year? Were you successful? What did you learn about yourself as a writer? What will you do with your novel now?