Works-in-Progress Update and Getting Naked

Sci-fi novel Elevator People

First draft still in-progress. Still one to two chapters away from completion. I spend more time thinking about why I can’t finish the story than I do trying to finish the story. Which is a stupid way to spend my time. But there you have it. My theories as to what my problem is:

(a) I don’t want to kill off the character who’s probably gonna die in the last chapter.
(b) I’ve been spending too much time on social media, and it’s rotted my brain.
(c) The antagonist kicks the bucket too soon, and that’s made me lose momentum.
(d) Part of me thinks I should slog through and finish the first draft as-is, then go back and fix the problems.
(e) Part of me thinks I should fix everything I can fix and then finish the story.
(f) I keep wanting to play with sparkly new story ideas for my Legends of the Light-Walkers universe.
(g) I have ennui.
(h) ALL OF THE FREAKING ABOVE.

Dash it all.

Sci-fi short story “The Mercy and the Schadenfreude of the Soulless”

Yes. That is the actual title.

My beta readers have finished the story, and their response has been overwhelmingly, blush-elicitingly positive. Which, of course, makes me panic that these two people, whose opinions and clear views of life I generally trust, are, just in the case of my story, wholly blind to reality and deceived as to the merits of my story. Which makes me an angsty, ego-driven writer, I suppose, but then, what else is new?

Tonight’s blog post is, apparently, brought to you by Courtney’s Penchant for Commas. You’re welcome.

Anyway, edits on TMatSotS are going well, and I plan to have it done and turned in to Tony by the end of the week. BANGERANG.

Advice

Especially in the shower.

Especially in the shower.

#Amwriting Your First Draft: The Editwock Will Steal Your Soul

NOTE: I wrote a version of the following post for JuNoWriMo 2013. Becca Campbell, one of the founders of JuNoWriMo, was kind enough to ask me to write a Pep Talk for this year’s event. I was only too happy to oblige. What follows is a version of that Pep Talk, altered to suit the needs not only of WriMos, but of first-draft novel-writers everywhere. Enjoy!

Greetings, O Ye Warriors of the Mighty Pen!

Word documents. Word wars. Word mongering. Wordiness. WORD COUNTS!

If you’ve committed yourself to writing a novel (which is not unlike committing yourself, period), then you’ve committed to hammering out that first draft no matter what it takes. Some of you have done this before, some of you are doing this for the first time. But whether you’re an oldtimer or a newbie, you know that words are key to succeeding in this crazed endeavor we call noveling.

This could be an Editwock.

This could be an Editwock.

Well, duh. It’s kind of hard to write a novel without using words. I suppose you could try using music notes instead, but you’d probably end up with some kind of post-postmodern, Wagner-derivative opera suffering from an existential crisis, and I don’t think any of us want to hear that. And writing your novel using Morse code might be tedious. So, words it is.

But the thing about words is…they’re tricksy. They flit like pixies across your page or screen, all innocent-like with their serifs and curlicues…and then they just squat there. Brooding. Staring back at you from your work-in-progress and making you care about them. Making you want to change them. Daring you to change them.

If you change one, you’ll want to change others. You won’t be able to help it; editing when you’re not an editor is some kind of weird addiction. Once you start, you can’t stop. AND THE WORDS KNOW THIS, PEOPLE.

One minute, you’re writing merrily along, something about Our Heroine rescuing the doomed prophecy puppies and drinking the magic elixir in the nick of time. Next minute, you start editing, and before you know it, your Plot Point #3 has turned into Carrot Magnetic Demolition Force 7 and there’s really no turning back after that.

What I’m getting at here, y’all, is that while you’re first-draft-ing, you must avoid editing. The words will tempt you to edit. They will lift their lovely faces to the morning sun, open their lovely mouths, and give voice to lovely siren calls of editing bliss. Do not listen to them! “Beware the Editwock, my son! The affixes that bite, the compounds that catch!”

*ahem* Sorry. Slight Carrollian digression there. But you get the point. First drafts and editing don’t mix. If you let yourself edit, you’ll slow yourself down. Those chapters won’t write themselves, y’know. You gotta put in your butt-to-chair time, and if you take that time for editing instead of writing, you’re going to be hard-pressed to slog through the Middle-of-Story Blues or have the energy for the Finish Line Sprint.

Your best friend, dear writer, is the admonition emblazoned upon the JuNoWriMo homepage:

JUST WRITE.

Don’t worry about the “mistakes” (better known as “happy little accidents,” right?). Don’t worry about the typos, the synonyms, the passive voice, the dangling participles. After you’ve used the last of your strength to type “The End,” you can give in to the sweet seduction and edit all you like. But for now, resist. Don’t worry, and just write.

You have a novel to finish. And the great news is, you can finish it and you will finish it. You’re sacrificing sleep to get there. You’re sacrificing time with friends and family. You’re sacrificing the calm that comes from not over-caffeinating 24/7.

And yes, you’re sacrificing the luxury of poring over your own every word and tweaking each word to perfection.

But all this sacrifice is worth it. In the end, you’ll have a first draft in your hands — and editing it will be glorious. So just write, hon. That’s your only job right now, and you can do it.

Now stop reading this and get back to it. : )

__________________________
Other JuNoWriMo Pep Talks by Nina Post (contemporary fiction), Hugh Howey (WOOL series), and Rayne Hall (dark fantasy fiction).

Your Novel Is Missing Something

Greetings, my lovely inklings! I hope your day is fantabulous thus far.

Since I’ve been posting on so much various and sundry of late, I thought it well to pen for you a few whats concerning writing today. This is also by way of an update on my own Writing Life, i.e. my work-in-progress, i.e. Rethana’s Trial (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #2).

Background Particulars

If you recall, I recently mentioned in passing that I’d submitted the final draft of Rethana’s Trial to my indie publisher. I did not, however, make note that while I considered the draft complete, I did have a few minor bits and pieces to clean up. I figured that I could just work ahead of Aaron and have all of my fantastical ducks in a row before he laid eyes on whatever section of story I’d just finished polishing.

Said polishing, by the way, was to consist of fact-checking Book 2 against Book 1; fixing some linguistic errors in Lirren Eamnaya, the language I invented for this series; and making sure that the redhead in Chapter 2 wasn’t a brunette in Chapter 17. Things like that.

I write my stories in Google Docs, so I’d left myself comments all over the place. And as I went through the document, checking and fixing and comment-resolving and congratulating myself on how well I was keeping ahead of Aaron, I came across the following:

Note to self

Do please click to embiggen and feast your eyes on the note I left myself on the right-hand side of the screen capture.

Yes. I had managed to “complete the final draft” and had left out an entire chapter in the process.

*le sigh*

I sent Aaron an email with the subject line “oh crap,” detailing the lack of finishedness. The good news is that in the Google Doc comment, I’d left myself an outline of the missing chapter. It’s a very rough outline, but at least I’m not racking my brains trying to remember what it was I intended said chapter to contain and accomplish.

The bad news is that I could go into labor at any moment, and if I don’t get that chapter written before this happens, I likely won’t get it written for at least another month. (I am trying to be optimistic.)

How to Add Necessary Wordage to Your Novel

So. Now the goal is to add 4,000-6,000 words to the story. How to accomplish said feat? I know I can’t be the only writer out there to be facing such a task, so I thought I’d delineate a few steps for all of you writerly people. This is by no means an exhaustive how-to; this is just how I’m approaching the problem. If it works for you, too, then I’ve done A Good Thing. : )

How to Add Necessary Wordage to Your Novel

1. Have an idea of what those words need to be.

As I mentioned above, I’ve already got a rough outline of what needs to go into this chapter. Now, by “outline” I do not mean a point-by-point bulleted list, although that might be helpful. I mean I have three or so run-on sentences that say “first this happens and then this and then someone says that and the MC responds and then they argue and blah.” Yes, the “blah” is a direct quote. When I wrote the comment, I needed to remind my future self of the thoughts that had inspired the idea that the story needed this chapter. The Run-On Blah serves as my “oh yeah, that.”

2. Know what the extra words need to accomplish.

In my case — and without providing spoilers — my entire extra chapter serves a dual purpose:
(a) It fleshes out a side character as one of the main antagonists of the story.
(b) It provides my main character with extra motivation for her decisions over the course of the next 2-3 chapters.

Unless you’re in the throes of NaNoWriMo and are trying to pad your word count, you’re never just adding words for the sheer heckuvit. This is not a thesis paper to which you’re adding fluff in order to get your letter grade. This is a novel, in which every word must be absolutely necessary. (Really, you should approach thesis papers the same way, but who does that?) In novel-writing, if a word doesn’t need to be there, you have to cut it. Conversely, you shouldn’t add a word unless you need it, either.

So, before you go adding a couple thou of wordage to your story, be sure of what function you want those words to perform. Fleshing out character? Adding motive? Clarifying action? Tying up subplot? Giving main character another delicious obstacle to overcome?
Decide. And then move on to the last step.

3. Engage butt-to-chair and write the darn thing.

I discovered my lack-of-a-chapter on Thursday. I didn’t get around to sitting down to the story again until Monday. Granted, in the meantime I had baby-related necessaries to accomplish and away-from-keyboard activities in which to engage. But still…I’m a big enough girl to admit to the possibility that I might have been procrastinating a little.

Do as I say, not as I do. In every step of novel-writing, plunking your butt in your chair and just doing the work will ultimately be the only thing that gets your story written. It’s the only thing that will get your story finished — and I mean really finished, not just ready for someone to start reading while you frantically work ahead of said beta reader and hope they don’t catch up to you before you’re done.

———

So, there ya have it. My three steps on how to add necessary words to your novel. Comments, questions, and even disagreements are welcome. What would you add to the list?

OPINIONS WANTED! Win free books!

Hile, inklings!

If you were paying attention last fall and winter (and I know that you were, because that’s just the attentive sort of darlings you are), you might recall that my novel for NaNoWriMo 2011 was a low sci-fi story workingly entitled Elevator People.

Should you require a reminder, do please click here for relevant blog posts.

Unfinished Business

By my calculations, when pregnancy-related woes brought my post-NaNo work on Elevator People to a screeching halt back in January, I had about 20,000 words left before finishing the story.

Since then, I’ve published two more novels:

Stains of Grace, the third book in my paranormal fantasy trilogy Demons of Saltmarch

and

Rethana’s Surrender, the first book in my epic fantasy series Legends of the Light-Walkers.

In spite of the work and focus that went into producing those two books, and in spite of the work and focus that has gone and is going into producing a baby, the somewhat-abandoned Elevator People has never been far from my thoughts.

Finishing the Business

I am under no illusions that I will have time or energy for writing during the first few months of my child’s life. I anticipate having the attention span of a hamster.

But.

It would be really cramazingly cool — it would flip my bangerang switch — it would really swing my verge if I could write the final 20,000 words of Elevator People‘s first draft before the end of 2012.

Seriously. All I’ve got left is the final approach to the climax, the climax itself, and the denouement.

That’s not a lot, y’all.

Delegating the Business

So.

Here’s where you and your opinions come in.

Ready?

As a title, Elevator People is not sufficient. Several fellow writers have told me it sparks nothing in them. Other fellow writers have said it makes them think I’m writing about elevator technicians. Or maybe office workers.

This will not do. After all, this story is sci-fi. And the title should invoke something to that effect.

Therefore.

I want your opinions, people. I want you to re-title my novel. And I shall reward you for doing so.

Why do I ask this of you? Well, mostly because I can’t think of anything myself. ; ) But also, if I know others are already invested in this project, then I am more likely to complete it. It’s like working out: I can rarely stick to an exercise regimen if I’m just working out at home by myself. But give me a yoga class or an aerobics class in which I can see others invested in the “project,” and I’ll step up my game.

Aerobics. Step up. Get it? GET IT???

I crack me up.

Anyway. I hereby formally request that you, my dear inklings, ponder title possibilities for my novel and share them with me in the comments below. Here are a few things about the book that you should consider whilst pondering:

Genre: low sci-fi with steampunk undertones
There’s not a huge amount of science in this story. It’s set in the main character’s present (but our future?). It’s set on multiple worlds, possibly in multiple dimensions. The main character is not tech-savvy but is familiar with Industrial-Revolution-style trappings.

Main character: Wentworth “Went” Banning, male, mid-20s, not from Earth, traveling the galaxy via elevator

MC’s goal: use elevator find his real father, whom he knows only as “Mr. Banjoman”

Elevator: runs on magic in the sense that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from “magic”; one myth about elevator says it was created from music

Supporting characters: 2 Earthling urchins, Jop and Skee; 1 tech-savvy non-Earthling woman, Risk

Main antagonist: galaxy-traveling sociopathic pedophile slave-owner

Other antagonists: 1 wanna-be female slave owner, 1 vampire

ROUGH STORY QUESTION: Will Went Banning find his real father while protecting Jop, Skee, and Risk from their enemies?

If you need more information than that as you ponder your titular ponderings, let me know. I’ll endeavor to answer without spoilers. ; )

Rewarding Business

Okay! Now for the really fun part:

You ponder a title.

You share it with me in the comments below by end-of-day, September 30, 2012. (No more than one title each, please.) Don’t forget to leave a valid email address.*

As my future hamster-like attention span allows, I will pick my favorite and one runner-up.

Whether or not my indie publisher chooses to adopt your title, I will reward you as follows:

If I pick your title as my favorite, I will give you a free e-copy and a free paperback copy of the novel once it comes out.

If I pick your title as runner-up, I will give you a free e-copy of the novel once it comes out.

GO.

_______

*I promise to use your email address for contest-contacting purposes only.

New Fantasy Novel Out: Rethana’s Surrender

Nightmares and Dreamscapes

 

When I was 15 years old, I had a dream about a yellow telephone booth.

No, that’s not a Dr. Who reference. ; ) In the dream, I was standing inside the phone booth, holding the handset. (Yes, this was a rotary phone. Let me know if you don’t know what that is. *grin*) Outside, it was dusk, and fog was rolling in. I couldn’t see any farther than about twenty feet from the phone booth. And as I watched, dozens of yellow eyes with slitted black pupils appeared in the fog.

That dream gave birth to the universe in which I set my latest novel, Rethana’s Surrender (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #1).

What’s the Because?!

If you’ve already read Rethana’s story, you’re probably wondering how in the name of all that’s good and writerly I got from {fog + yellow eyes + relatively modern phone booth} to {epic fantasy universe + magic-wielding heroine + semi-political love triangle}. Well, my dear inklings, that story is a rather long one, and tell you it would take a series of novels in which I invite you to explore this whole universe I have built and am building….

Oh. Wait. I guess that invitation would be what Legends of the Light-Walkers (LLW) is all about. ; )

So, the books themselves are the long explanation. The short version is that the phone booth dream turned into a scene in my LLW novel Legend’s Heir (working title). Chronologically, that one takes place before Rethana’s story. But I finished Legend’s Heir (working title) more than ten years ago…and, perhaps needless to say, it needs quite a bit of work before it sees the light of day. Thus, you get Rethana’s story first. Y’all seem like you’re okay with that, though.

And What’s the Big Idea?

The big idea for Rethana’s story grew from a cold, snowy visit to a small town in eastern Germany back around Christmas of 2002. The husband and I were living in Chemnitz, Saxony, then. Some friends took us to the Weihnachtsmarkt (Christmas market) in a little town called Annaberg-Buchholz.

I could wax nostalgic on how much I miss the German Christmas markets, but that’s not why you dear people are here, and it would make me cry besides, so let’s just skip that part and move on.

Belltower of St. Annenkirche

On that cold, snowy evening so many years ago, our friends insisted that we visit St. Annenkirche (St. Anna’s Church; please note that I’ve linked to the German Wikipedia article because it has more pictures than the English version). Thus, we traipsed up the hill — there was much slipping, sliding, and sniggering — and entered the church building, where we proceeded to get an unexpected tour.

We ended up climbing the belltower.

If you’ve read Rethana’s story, you know where I’m going with this.

Near the top of the tower, we stepped from the wooden staircase onto a wide, circular platform spanning the width of the tower. About thirty feet above our heads was a wooden ceiling. Another staircase led up to it. The tour guide explained that we were looking at the underside of the apartment housing the bellringer and his family. And above that apartment hung the bells.

These people lived in the top of the belltower. They hauled household goods up to their apartment via lifts that had been operational for hundreds of years. They were in charge of the bells, the largest of which was named Anna.

Images flooded my mind. Characters, scenes, plots, dialogue. In my head, I saw a bellringer family in medieval dress, and I knew they were hiding from something. I saw soldiers and magic-users in the town below, and I knew they were hunting this family. I saw a mischievous young girl using her magic to tease her friends, who were sneaking up the tower staircase to play a prank on her.

All of this flashed through my head within the space of about 20 seconds. In the meantime, the tour guide was still talking. I had no idea what he was saying — but the next thing I knew, he was handing out earplugs. I stuffed them into my ears just in time.

Somebody rang Anna.

Anna of St. Annenkirche is a big girl. Even through earplugs, the noise was deafening. Without really thinking about what I was doing, I wandered over to the stone wall of the tower and laid my hand on it. The wall was vibrating with Anna’s song, and I could feel the reverberation all the way up into my shoulder. And I knew what my next story would be.

Writing Rethana’s Surrender

The mischievous bellringer girl became Rethana Chosardal. Anna became the sacriligiously-named Lirrenae. Annaberg turned into Saemnoth. I started writing the story for NaNoWriMo 2003.

It would take me more than 4 years to finish the first draft. By the time I was done, I had close to 230,000 words. I knew very good and well that no publisher would consider reading an unpublished author’s 200+k words, so I spent the second draft trimming. My mom read it. Another beta reader read it. Both made suggestions, and I trimmed some more. When I hit 210,000, I knew I couldn’t do anything more with the story, so I shelved it and moved on to the next project.

By now, I was living in Oklahoma again and had recently re-met Aaron Pogue, a college acquaintance and fellow writer. We fell to talking of fantasy (because really, why wouldn’t we?), and he asked to read my fantasy novel. I let him.

Aaron had feedback. Part of that feedback was that I should split the book in half so as to achieve a manageable word count. The moment he said it, I knew where: right after the fight scene in Terllach Caverns. Right after Rethana almost admits to Allasin that–

Well, I don’t want to spoil it for you if you haven’t read it. ; )

Aaron said, “That’s a doozy of a cliffhanger. Your readers will hate you for it. Or they might love you.”

Aaron might or might not have actually used the word “doozy.” Either way, I decided to take the risk. And, once he got his indie publishing company, Consortium Books, up and running, he decided to take the risk of publishing it.

So far, so good.

Rethana’s Surrender (Legends of the Light-Walkers, #1), is now available for purchase at Amazon and Barnes & Noble!

If you’ve read the novel, you can post your review at those two links as well as at Goodreads.

#Amediting: 1st Drafts in Riding Gear, People

Dear inklings, there are some things in a writer’s life that should never see the light of day.

One of these things is Herself at the end of a frazzled, caffeine-overladen, hair-pulling-out writing session. Fortunately, I haven’t had a writing session of that nature since the end of NaNoWriMo, so we’re none of us in danger of apocalypse induced via zombified writer.

 
However, another writerly thing that should never see the light of day (READ: should never be shared with a mass of readers and potential readers and potential potential readers) is a draft manuscript.

A particularly good example of what can happen when a draft manuscript is accidentally released into the wild is here. If you want the short version without clicking through: It’s the case of Stephenie Meyer’s Midnight Sun vs. the Internet. I’m not sure who won, but I kept an eye on those events as they unfolded, and they weren’t pretty.

Anyway.

Draft manuscripts should go to beta, gamma, and delta readers only. The adoring public needs protection from the horrors, especially from the horrors of FIRTS draft manuscripts.

If you’re an unsuspecting fan/reader, and you get your hands on a first draft MS and start reading, the first draft MS will sprout long, gaunt, claw-tipped fingers, reach out from the page/screen while you stare transfixed like a fluffy baby chick before the hypnotic gaze of the rock python, and rip your little fan/reader eyeballs right out of their little fan/reader sockets.

And then it will eat your firstborn.

I care about you, my lovelies. I don’t ever want that to happen to you.

But.

I’m editing my way through what I’ve got so far of my low sci-fi Elevator People (working title), and I just found this gem, and I absolutely must share it with you. If you are weak of stomach or faint of heart, please don’t test your fortitude on this. I take no responsibility for any hypnotized gazing or eyeball out-gouging. Continue reading at your own risk.

Here goes.

Are you ready?

BE SURE.

Cover your face and glance through your fingers if you think you can’t handle it but just can’t resist taking that dangerous, forbidden peek.

My draft manuscript boasts this:

There’s nothing special I can add to the resistance, but it was a into and out in riding gear all the way.
The moment he thought he’d identified the seriousness of the situation, there’s no doubt Lady Fair intended to sell Risk at a price that would let the Lady expand her business and bits of the fact of her absence whatever.
The admission rankled.

The admission that I wrote this rankles.

Partial explanation: I was scribbling so fast for NaNoWriMo, I didn’t bother using the backspace key to delete unnecessary wordage. Things ran together, mushed into each other, and decided to couple in a most bizarre and disturbing fashion. I should probably shoulder the responsibility for this hideous match-making, but I ain’t gonna. ; )

Also, whatever…in riding gear all the way, people. IN RIDING GEAR.

*sigh*

I now take my leave of you, most desirous that your little fan/reader eyeballs are still tucked securely into their little fan/reader sockets.

*mwah!*

How My Bachelor’s in Writing Didn’t Prepare Me for Writerhood

“Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty.”

~Henry Ford

In December 1999, I graduated from college with a bachelor’s degree in English/Writing and thought I knew everything I needed to know about writing books.

Why, yes — I am waiting for your laughter to subside.

Okay, okay, calm yourselves, please. What do you think this is, a late-night comedy club?

Sheesh.

😉

Idealist Writer Changes World — Details at 11

So. Here I am, 22 years old with all of three-and-a-half years of higher education under my belt. I’m off to former East Germany as soon as possible. I shall change the world one relationship at a time and write books while I do it. I am Tawanda, Queen of the Amazons. Hear me roar.

For my senior project, I’d completed a Monster Epic Fantasy Novel (aka MEFaN), which I’ve previously mentioned here. My profs approved it. Their praise wasn’t exactly glowing, but it was shiny, at least. I thought my novel was ready to shop to publishers.

Um. No.

If you click through, you’ll see that the MEFaN in question was a first draft. I’d heard my creative writing prof mention such hideous things as re-write and edit and multiple drafts

— but I was 22 and brilliant. What need I with multiple drafts?

*sigh*

Ow, My Aching Ego

I learned. I learned that I was good for a 22-year-old straight outta college. I learned that I was not as good as what editing, rewriting, and plain ol’ life experience could make me. I learned that my profs’ shiny-almost-glowing praise was for how far I’d come by then.

But good grades, I finally realized, were not the final measurement of my skills. I realized that my writing degree was my starting point. My writing degree prepared me to begin.

And I’ve spent the last 14 years doing the work.

But here’s what my degree did not prepare me for.

Money, Money, Money

As part of my general education in college, I was required to take an economics class. I ended up in a course called Free Enterprise System.

Sadly, this had nothing to do with liberated starships.

Sadly, I learned exactly two things in this course:

  1. Eli Whitney invented the cotton gin. Booya.
  2. When one member of the project team doesn’t do his job, the economics prof doesn’t care that the rest of the team does theirs. Everybody gets penalized a letter grade because of the one lazy slob.
  3. Yay teamwork! I love teamwork!

Also sadly, I was not required to take any courses in personal finance (i.e. how-to-budget, etc.) or in finances for writers.

So, years later, when the husband and I got into serious trouble over self-employment taxes, my reaction was as follows:


 

 

 

 

 

 

Doing Homework

Let me be clear: I blame no one for this but myself.

I shoulda done my homework. After all, there is such a thing as thinking for oneself.

In the meantime, I’ve figured things out a little. I now understand things about withholding. I now understand that calculating my taxes myself is a rather dumb thing for me to do (especially when my info conflicts with that of the IRS). I now know to keep track of expenses like the ones listed in this article.

The business-sensible thing for me to do with this post would be to provide you with a list of such resources as that one. But I’m not writing this to be business-sensible.

I’m writing this to emphasize that even after getting our educations — whether that’s at the collegiate level or simply through life experience and trial-and-error — we writers still have to do our homework.

Yeah, we gotta research stuff for our writing. We read novels, articles, and papers. We drive to remote locations to get the feel and flavor of a place or to take pictures for cover art. We interview people. We visit museums. We sit in coffee shops, pondering and muttering to ourselves.

But we also have to research for our business.

It might be the most important thing I’ve learned about writing since graduation:

Writing is a business.

And the writer is CEO, VP, treasurer, secretary, and go-fer.

And this is every writer. Not just the self-published ones.

Writers, we must learn to think of ourselves this way.

If somebody had taught me this in college and forced me to sit down and learn the non-creative, non-artsy, non-inspiring, soul-sucking side of writing, it could’ve saved me a lot of trouble. And a lot of heartache.

So, do your homework, writers. Nobody’s gonna make you learn this stuff. You’ve gotta take responsibility (do as I say, not as I do) and do your research.

And for the love of all that’s good, true, and writerly in this world, keep track of your gas mileage.

__________________________

What financial education did you get along the way?

What’s been your experience with self-employment?

What’s been your experience thinking of yourself as a business — or not thinking of yourself that way?

If you’re more into the business side than the creative writing side, what one thing do you think writers need to be aware of?

Insert Maniacal Indie Author Here

In this video, I talk about:

  • getting my first royalties check
  • doing something very stupid
  • writerly emo-panic
  • Consortium Books, my indie publisher
  • and itchy noses.

There is maniacal cackling, as well as much rejoicing.

Sometimes, the two are even related.

At the end of my video, I invite you to share thoughts in the comments section below. Let me repeat that invitation: Come talk to me in the comments! If you think I’m ridiculous, please at least tell me. After all, if no one tells me, I can’t know that I’m ridiculous; thus I am doomed to remain forever ignorant of my laughable plight.

Thank you in advance. ; ) Also, if this got you curious to read my novel, Colors of Deception, then do please click that link and buy the book. $12.99 paperback, $2.99 for Kindle.

Let’s talk!

5 What-To-Dos When Your Novel Is Too Long

1st draft of high fantasy novel. 200,000 words = NO

 We novelists slam headfirst into this particular wall all the time: Finish first draft, sit back with sigh of contentment. Languidly reach for mouse or mousepad, click “wordcount” in the dropdown menu of whatever word processor suits our fancy.

Sit back once more. This time with the horrid sensation of paralyzing shock.

As far as we’re concerned, the story is finished. It is complete as is. Major alterations would destroy the beautiful statue we’ve worked so long to carve out of that rough-edged block of marble called Idea.

But the wordcount generator tells us the awful truth: Our manuscript is 10,000…30,000…50,000 (…100,000? *ahem*) words too long. In today’s economy and with the ever tightening belts in the publishing industry, there no way anybody’s gonna publish this behemoth until we trim the fat.

“But,” we wail, “the story is what it is! How are we supposed to trim anything when there’s nothing to trim?”

Nobody said it would be easy. Writing the story wasn’t easy; trimming it won’t be, either. But here are a few suggestions that will at least get the process started.

5 Ways To Trim Your Novel’s Wordcount

1. Change your thinking
Here are the sad, unavoidable facts of reality, my dears: First drafts are drafts. They are not the be-all, end-all of noveling. Finishing a first draft is a great accomplishment, for certain — but the work doesn’t stop there.

That lovely statue I mentioned before? It’s got rough edges that you’ve overlooked (on purpose). It’s got odd lumps in peculiar places. Its face isn’t nearly as well-defined as it could be. When you type “The End,” the story might feel finished, and it might feel perfect. I hate to break it to you, but it is neither.

When we writers finish a first draft, our story needs us to work on it some more. The sooner we wrap our minds around this fact, the sooner we can start getting that wordcount down to something manageable.

2. Get beta readers.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: You gotta get you beta readers. We writers are chronically unable to view our work objectively — especially when it comes to trimming it down! Forest-For-the-Trees Syndrome strikes again.

You can’t see the forest of Necessary Trimming, because you’ve got your writerly nose shoved up against the bark of the nearest tree. And that, sadly, is where the writerly nose generally stays from start to finish. We need somebody outside to look at our story and identify excess branches and superfluous shrubbery.

Writing can be lonely work, but we can’t do it alone. That’s a paradox I’ll save for another post…but maybe you get the picture anyway.

3. Edit for simplicity.
I grew up in Germany and went to German schools. Do you know anything about the German language? Without turning this into a grammar lesson, I’ll tell you this: One of the peculiarities of German is that the verb often comes at the end of the sentence. The result of this can be (and often is) long, convoluted sentences nested within more long, convoluted sentences. By the time you get to the action verb, you’ve forgotten who was doing the action and why — so you have to go back and re-read the whole paragraph.

And that’s the main language I was taught to write it. Did I develop some tenacious sentence-nesting habits? You bet yer patootie I did.

I had to break that habit. I had to simplify. I had to break up long sentences into two or three sentences. I had to replace flowery phrasing with straightforward description. I had to choose simple action verbs over the ones that sounded high-falutin’.

Simplify. I promise, your story will thank you — and your readers will too.

4. Get rid of adverbs.
Okay, brief grammar lesson this time. And yes, I am keeping this very simple, and my explanation here is not complete. But I don’t want to put people to sleep, so the purists are gonna have to deal with the incompleteness of my instruction.

Adjectives describe nouns. Blue, hot, solid, wet, and shiny are adjectives.

Adverbs describe verbs. In point #2, I used the phrase “view objectively.” Here, “objectively” describes the how of “view.” Other examples of adverbs are: lustily, happily, worriedly, and sideways.

“I got a new bike for my birthday!” she said happily.

Okay, so she said it “happily.” What does that look like on her? Don’t tell me she said it happily; instead, tell me that her eyes are wide, her smile is huge, and her teeth glisten in the sunlight like tiny bottlecaps.

Yes! Make it a hideous description, if that’s what it takes. I’ll read anything, just get rid of that clunky, boring, milquetoast adverb!

“But wait,” you say. “Wouldn’t adding description actually increase my wordcount?”

Well, yeah. Probably. But adverbs weaken your sentences, and overusing them will make your novel unreadable. I’m picking on adverbs because they’re a bad habit and because this is my list and I can.

5. When all else fails, re-write.
This one’s kind of self-explanatory. If you’ve trimmed and trimmed and trimmed, and the novel is still too long, it might be time for a complete re-write.

Yeah, I know. I hate even thinking those words, much less typing them and putting them where people can see. But sometimes, it’s the only choice we have. Maybe the story took off in the wrong direction in Chapter 2. Maybe there’s a side character who needs to be cut. Maybe there’s a side character who’s supposed to be the main character. Maybe the climax should’ve happened five chapters before it did.

Whatever it is, a re-write might fix it — and fix it well enough that your wordcount “magically” decreases (ahhhh, adverbs) by whatever percentage you require.
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So, there are my five ideas for trimming the fat!

What do you do when your novel’s too long?

Care to challenge me on the adverb thing? Let’s talk!

How To Write A Novel

Since I doubt the demons will ever deign to craft such a mundane, human thing as a newspaper, it’s up to me to report the news of goings-on in the world of Saltmarch. Saltmarch, in case you missed it, is a fictional realm inhabited by the demons of my paranormal trilogy. And, in case you missed that as well, the trilogy consists of:

Saltmarch, Where The Demons Live

Colors of Deception

Shadows After Midnight

Stains of Grace

Colors has a publication date of April 2011. (Oh, final edits, how I both desire and dread thee!) Shadows has no publication date yet, but it’s in the third draft stage.

As of this past Monday night, I’ve finished Draft 2 of Stains.

The First Draft

Now, allow me to clarify: When I write the first draft of a novel, I pound out the manuscript as coherently and quickly as I can. I started pre-writing for Stains of Grace on October 1, 2010; started writing on November 1, 2010; and typed “The End” on February 10, 2011. That’s the fastest I’ve ever finished a first draft in my life. The final word count was 80,421.

“The End” happened in the wee hours of the morning. After I’d slept (8 hours = a MUST!) and eaten (breakfast = a MUST!), I waded right into editing. Usually, I’ll let a first draft sit for a month before I go back to it; but this time, with the pub date of Colors approaching, I don’t have the luxury of taking my time.

Besides, my two foremost Saltmarch beta readers (Mama and Celia) have been admirable in not pressuring me for a complete manuscript — yet they’ve made it quite clear I am to deliver said manuscript into their eager hands, posthaste!

The Second Draft

And so, not ten hours after completing Draft 1, I started editing with the goal of completing Draft 2.

When editing toward Draft 2, I use the following approach:

1. I delete strikethroughs. As I pen a first draft, I try not to backspace. It breaks the flow of my thoughts, and sometimes it can break the flow of story. If I’m backspacing, I’m editing — and that’s a no-no for my first drafts. Strikethroughs mark words, phrases, and paragraphs I won’t need later.

2. I do light editing: fixing typos as I see them, changing a word here and there if it catches my eye. Sometimes, as I write Draft 1, I’ll write notes to myself in brackets. As I light edit, I judge whether or not the stuff in brackets is a quick fix or not. If it is, I’ll do it now. If it’s not, I’ll save those bracket notes for a later draft.

3. I just read the thing. I don’t allow myself the leisure of reading the story as I write the first draft, so now is my chance to read and see if this mass of words really is a story or not. If I get caught up in it and forget to edit, I know what I’ve got here is rough but usable material.

In the case of Stains, light editing took six days. The final word count of Draft 2 is 78,254.

Now, I hand Draft 2 off to my beta readers, and the agonizing yet exhilarating wait for feedback begins! Oy vey. 😉

The Third Draft

While I wait for my betas to chew through my story, swallow it, and spit out the parts they don’t like, I’ll tinker with the story a little bit. This means more light editing, a few fixes here and there, maybe adding a paragraph or three.

Or I might just leave the story alone and let it ferment some more. Taste-testing too much too early sometimes keeps me from appreciating the full flavor of what my beta readers have to tell me later. But for this part, I just trust my instincts.

When I get feedback from the betas, that’s when the real work on Draft 3 begins. Depending on what they tell me, I’ll do little stuff like correct typos, add dialogue attribution, and shorten sentences — and I’ll do big stuff like rewrite characters, move paragraphs from one chapter into another, and add scenes or entire chapters.

Once I’m satisfied with what I’ve done, I’ve got me a hot little number called Draft 3.

The Fourth Draft…and Fifth

Or Sixth — And So On.

After Draft 3, the rest of the drafts are basically wash, rinse, repeat — editing, handing off to readers, getting feedback, editing — until I feel like it’s clean enough. No book is ever squeaky clean. Especially from the writer’s perspective, there’s always going to be something that needs fixing.

But for me, it’s kind of like oil painting: If I go back to it too often, I’m eventually gonna mess it up. I must needs reach a point at which I wouldn’t be embarrassed to share the story with the public.

It might take me four drafts to get to this point; it might take me six. Colors is currently in Draft 4.5 stage. My epic fantasy novel, Triad, has gone through eight drafts and might require one more before it’s ready for the world.

Tell me, fellow writers:

Does my process look anything like yours?

How do you feel about handing your baby off to its first beta readers?

What’s your favorite tip/trick for the early draft stages?

I’m curious. Let’s talk. 🙂