The Sitters - a review

The Sitters by Sylviane Stoltzman

When their small, secluded town is invaded, Junior and his aunt flee into the mountains. The Lewotians are after Junior, but nobody can figure out why. When Junior and his aunt are captured, they find out that Junior has the potential to rival the Lewotians’ greatest Sitters. Junior vows to learn everything the Lewotians know about being a Sitter for one reason… 

To take back his town.

The Sitters is a mid-grade debut novel by author Sylviane Stoltzman. The main character, Junior, is an eleven-year-old who lives with his family on the planet Scrathen. The book opens with Junior and his aunt Felicia shopping at a farmers' market when airships arrive from the planet Lewotia. Frightened, the two hide, but soon learn that the Lewotians are looking for Junior and Felicia specifically. No one knows why the Lewotians want the two of them, but it's clear the Lewotians aren't friendly.

The story is a bit slow to start, because of the necessary background that has to be laid, but the characters are likeable and pleasurable to read about. They act like real people. At times, it was hard for me to remember Junior was only eleven, but that's probably because I haven't been eleven for many, many years.

The world created by Ms. Stoltzman quickly drew me in, and I was eager to learn why the Lewotians wanted Junior. The book was hard for me to put down until I finished it.

There were some punctuation errors, and I had a hard time keeping the entire cast of characters straight, but it was well-worth the struggle. :)

I'm looking forward to Ms. Stoltzman's next book. The Sitters is available at Amazon for your Kindle or in paperback.

My rating: 4/5 stars

More Skin Issues

My Andre is miserable again. We've tried controlling his itching with baths, antihistamines, and even used steroids for him last summer. This year, he's in the worst shape I can ever remember (skin-wise). We've changed foods, hoping it would be a simple fix, but it hasn't lasted. 

Currently, he's eating Natural Balance Kangaroo and Potato LID food. But he's still itchy. He's so itchy, we put him back on the steroids (Prednisone). He also has a staph infection. We skipped the oral antibiotics and went straight to injections (Excenel) this time.

Before we started him on the steroids last Monday, I took him to the vet so they could draw blood for allergy testing. We had him tested when he was two years old, and nothing showed up. This morning, I've just spoken to our vet who received the results. 

This time, it shows he has allergies. The one that our vet has never seen before is yeast. Andre, the king of yeast infections, is allergic to yeast (amongst other things). 

The good news is that the test was relatively inexpensive, and we're starting desensitization (allergy shots) as soon as they're ready. With luck, in time, we'll be able to give Andre a shot every month and not have to deal with baths every other day, skin infections, antihistamines, and all the other stuff that makes Andre's life not so much fun.

Here are some pictures of Mr. McSnorty-Britches after a week of antibiotics and prednisone. He's looking much better, but you can still see where his hair is thin and missing on his legs. The bumps/pimple looking spots were scabs because he'd scratch and scratch and scratch. (Click to scroll through.)

Paperless Writing Cycle Challenge

I’ve been entertaining the idea of going paperless in my writing cycle for some time, but I love pens. Besides my love of pens, I have to admit that my favorite part of revising is all the colorful scribbles all over a printout of my work. 

However, I struggle with corralling all the paper of the printouts. Double-spacing a rough draft and printing it out takes roughly 200 pieces of paper. After I scribble all over it, I enter my changes on my computer and usually print it out again for more scribbles. On top of that, I print other things out during the revision process. Let’s just call it 500 sheets of paper per book that end up trashed. Besides the waste of the paper and ink, there’s also the cost of printing (toner or ink). That’s not a huge deal, but it still contributes.

What’s really difficult for me is keeping the papers organized and away from the kids. They love to “help” which usually equates to crayon scribbles all over my papers. Is it the end of the world? Of course not. Is it frustrating that I have to scrounge around the house for the pages they “revised” so I can do my own revisions? Of course. I thought it was a huge breakthrough when I started printing on three-hole punched paper so everything could go in a binder. (I admit, I’m often a bit slow on my “genius” ideas.)

Anyway, I’m starting revisions on the sequel of Letting Go this week. The first few days were spent reading over the rough draft (on my iPad Mini) and making notes of areas that need repair. I love this because I’m limited by what I’m willing to type on the iPad’s onscreen keyboard. I sent it from Ulysses to my iPad (via AirDrop) as a PDF, then I used PDF Expert to mark it up. I highlighted typos, created a couple of custom stamps (“Set the Scene”, “Who Says?”, “HUH?", "BORING!", etc), and blasted through the rough draft in one day. There were a few spots where I made notes in the app, just to make sure I remembered what confused me about an area, but I tried to stick to the stamps.

After that, I propped my iPad up next to my computer and made the structural changes (moving scenes around, deleting things that had to go, doing the research that I skipped in my rough draft, making sure names were consistent all the way through the story). Then, I was all excited that I could get started on what I consider the funnest part of revision. I hit “Print” and started picking through my box of pens to decide my first victim (I'm a serial pen killer when revising).
I got out my binder, straightened the paper that came from my five year old printer, and put it in the binder. But when I started flipping pages, there was a problem. 

A sneak peek of my rough draft for your entertainment.

A sneak peek of my rough draft for your entertainment.

I changed the toner cartridge. I cursed. I told myself I could work with what I have. I looked at my photo printer and shuddered at the thought of printing 177 pages on it. Not only is it slow, the ink had probably dried up since I seldom use it. I googled solutions. I cleaned the corona wire (while drinking a Rolling Rock-odd, huh?), and I cleaned the drum of my printer. Alas, none of it helped.

I googled some more and found the recommendation of “replace the drum of the printer.” I checked Amazon. $85 for the drum! A new, wireless laser printer with great ratings was only $90. 

 

Eighty-five dollars for a drum that may or may not fix my five-year-old printer. Or ninety dollars for a brand new printer that was smaller, faster, and would free up a huge chunk of my desk space.

I put the printer in my cart, along with a couple toner cartridges. 

But...

I didn’t complete my order. I decided that maybe this was just what I needed. Maybe this is the shove I need to switch over to a paperless writing cycle. Therefore, I now challenge myself to revising this book without printing another page (until I order my printed proof from CreateSpace, of course). 

So, here goes. I’m going to do this, and I’ll document my journey here, just in case you’re considering it as well. 

Have you considered a paperless writing cycle? What is your biggest concern/obstacle keeping you from taking the plunge?

Short Story Saturday... Continued

When Mary stepped around the tree, it wasn't her parents house that stood beneath the light. Instead of the cute little Cape Cod in the woods, a massive brick structure stood before her. "What the hell?" she muttered to herself. It looked like a prison, but there weren't any prisons around here that she knew of. Surely her parents, history buffs, would have mentioned if they were living next to an old prison.

As she stood there debating what to do, the light flickered and drew her gaze toward the left end of the wall facing her. She watched as a person exited and took two steps toward her.
 

Read More

Teaser Tuesday 7

Due to a request, today's teaser is from the rough draft I've been working on.

 
As we went up the stairs to my apartment, the landlord’s door opened up. He stepped into the hallway. I tried to hide my disgust at his stretched thin undershirt he wore with his shiny black pants. Black hair curled around the neck hole and the arm holes, and there was a reddish-orange stain on the belly. It looked like spaghetti sauce had ran down his fat stomach. He hitched up his pants, covering the hairy bottom of his stomach that had been revealed. 

“Rosie, do you have the rent?”

“Not today, Mr. Zim. I’m sorry.”

“I can’t let you stay here if you’re not going to pay.”

“I know. I’ll have it for you tomorrow.”

“How?”

I paused with my foot on the first step up to the second floor. “Does it matter how I get the money?
As long as I pay the rent it’s really none of your concern.”

“I’m just trying to let you know that I’m willing to make an arrangement with you?”

I turned, ignoring Detective Bauer who’d stiffened next to me. “What kind of arrangement?” Perhaps Mr. Zim wasn’t as awful as I’d thought. Maybe he felt sorry for me and would give me a break on the rent.

“Why don’t you come talk to me after your friend leaves? We’ll discuss it then?” Mr. Zim smiled at me and winked as he ran his hand over his belly and down the front of his pants. 

Story Prompt Saturday - broken down car

I'm trying something new. I'm going to write around 500 words based on a story prompt each week. This week's prompt was "broken down car."

“Unfreakingbelievable,” Mary muttered as her car died on a gravel road. “Of course my car dies on a deserted road, in the middle of the night.” She sat in the car for a few minutes, trying to decide what to do. She’d left her parents’ new house ten minutes ago. She checked her cell phone—no signal. Of course.

“Screw it. I’m not spending the night here.” She got out of the car and slammed the door. It might take a while, but she’d walk back to her parents’ house. She’d grown up in the middle of nowhere. A walk after dark wasn’t a big deal. 

The northern lights flickered and spun in the sky over Lake Superior. She spun around at the sound of something in the woods. “Just a squirrel. Nothing to worry about.” She locked her car and set off. When she came to the right corner in the road, she paused. Her parents’ house was probably only a quarter mile if she followed the trail straight ahead. But if she followed the gravel road, it’d be another two miles. 

She stepped off the gravel road and followed the trail into the woods. 

A stick broke in the woods to her left, and she paused mid-stride. “Lots of squirrels.” Off the road, on the narrow trail, it was too dark to see more than ten feet in front of her face. Leaves rustled near her. “Just a breeze,” she muttered, but she knew it wasn’t. There was no breeze here. It was hot and humid. Her clothes stuck to her.

Every noise evoked images in her mind. It wasn't a deer walking through the woods; it was a psycho with an ax. The creaking wasn't treetops shifting in a breeze, it was someone stalking her.

Instead of the refreshing smell of nature, death and decay permeated her nostrils.
She wished she was still in her car. Or already back to her parents’ house.

“Stop it. You’re just going to scare yourself. You have more to worry about on a highway then you do walking through the woods.” She glanced over her shoulder, knowing she wouldn’t see anything. It was too dark. She looked at her phone. No signal, and the battery was at six percent.

“Just keep walking. You’re almost there.” She stumbled over a branch and cursed, struggling to catch her balance. 

She picked up her pace again. She knew it was stupid to jog in the woods, in the dark, but she wanted this stupid adventure to be over. She should have waited in her car until morning. 

Suddenly, she saw a light off to her left. “There’s their house. I made it,” she whispered to herself and turned toward the light. She couldn’t follow the trail anymore. But it was just a couple hundred yards. 

I'd love to hear what you think. Or if you have a story prompt you want me to use for next week, leave it in the comments! :)

Teaser Tuesday 6

This is another excerpt from Mitch's story (the novel I'm currently revising). Sorry it's late. I had a hard time getting started today.

She cranked the key again, listening to the click-click of the starter not engaging. “Piece of crap,” she muttered.
 
Suddenly, the windshield spider-webbed inches from her face. She jerked back, cracking her head against the rear window. Her heart pounded, and she fought back a scream as the end of a tire iron came through the windshield.

Her father’s face contorted. She couldn’t tell if it was a snarl or a smile, but she could tell he wasn’t about to let her sit safely in her truck until it started.

“Fuck,” she muttered. The iron hit the window again, and she clambered over the gear shift to the passenger door.

As he reared back to cave the rest of the windshield in, Mitch shoved the passenger door open and leapt out. 

She ran. She’d never admitted it to anyone, but her father was why she ran every day. Just in case she ever needed to get away.

She ran harder than she ever had before, hoping to make it down the driveway, out to the road where hopefully someone would stop. 

Instead, she made it three steps from her truck before something crashed into her back, knocking her down.

 

Teaser Tuesday 5

I'm taking a break from the rough draft I've been teasing you with, so today's teaser will be from the book I'm currently revising. For clarity, "Mitch" is a nickname for Michelle. This is from the beginning of the book.

“Why should I be interested in talking to you?” Pushing her hair out of her face, she though for a second about asking his name. But she didn’t. She didn’t need or desire to be friends with anyone else in this school. Or even this town.

“Because you don’t know me.” He dropped the history book at his feet and cursed as he shuffled things around in his locker.

Mitch bit back a smile. “If I did know you, would I be interested in talking to you?”

“I suppose it’s possible,” he muttered then crouched down to rifle through the papers in the bottom of the locker. 

For some reason, she found him amusing. “But is it likely?”

He grabbed an orange folder and threw it on the floor with the book. Then he stood and used his foot to shove the pile of papers back so he could close the locker. “Sure. Everyone likes me,” he said as he turned toward her.

“I’m sure it’s because you’re so modest. Right?”

“Yeah, it’s either that or I’m so damn good-looking people just want to be near me.” He grinned, and Mitch found herself grinning back.

“Or your organizational skills?”

He smirked at her. “That could be it, but I doubt it.”

 

Monday Mayhem

I didn't have a blog post planned for today, so I'm just going to fly by the seat of my pants this week. How about a little free-writing this morning? Normally, when I free-write it comes out like a journal or diary entry. That's not going to help me come up with any ideas. 

Not that I need any more ideas right now. I have a whole pile of stuff that I've started and set aside. I need to figure out what to do with those projects. Right now, I'm revising a novel that I wrote a long time ago. I want to say it's been at least ten years ago. 

Some things I've noticed as I've been revising that piece are:

  • it's not as bad as I thought,
  • the parts that have been heavily revised are the worst of it,
  • and don't ever throw away your rough draft. 

Some of the revised parts were so bad that it made my head hurt to even consider revising them. Since the latest version had veered so far off course from my original idea, I cut some scenes and replaced them with the original scenes from the rough draft. 

I literally, cut them out of the notebook I originally drafted it in and glued the pieces to printer paper so I could put it all in place. I'm surprised at how little I really had to change the rough draft portions. 

Which brings me to my next thought. I think I over-revise. At least I sure did on this piece. If I recall correctly, I did 7 revisions before I put it away, frustrated with it. I did something similar with Alaskan Recovery. I wrote the draft, then I revised and got another idea for Cari's character.

For those of you who haven't read Alaskan Recovery yet, I don't want to include any spoilers, but I will say that I wrote 100-150 pages of story that was essentially backstory. I spent years trying to figure out the best way to combine the two "stories". In the end, I cut the 100-150 pages of backstory and ended up back to the original story. 

I need to remember this with my upcoming projects. I don't want to spend ages revising and tweaking stuff that isn't necessary. I'm not saying that I can't add details and nuances in revisions, but I do need to ask myself whether or not I'm adding to the original story, or just obsessing with my characters and making my life more difficult than it needs to be.

So... now you can see how my mind works when I just let it go. I worry a lot about what I'm doing. Whether it's right, wrong, or just a waste of time. I think with my fingers as I type. And sometimes, I just need to see stuff on the screen to solidify it in my brain. 

There really wasn't much point to this blog post, other than I said I'd post every Monday. So here I am, posting. ;)

Teaser Tuesday 4

Without further ado...

Vaclav looked across the room and fixed his gaze on me. I fought the urge to fidget or look away. Instead I stared at him. 

“Who’s he?” Vaclav asked.

“Just a kid who needs some money. He’s been running errands for me,” Enzo replied.

“Why’s he here?”

“I thought you might have something for him to do.”

Vaclav turned his attention to Enzo. “What kind of job is he suited for?”

“Not sure. He says he’ll do anything for a price.”

“Anything, huh, kid?”

I nodded. “Pretty much.”

“There’s a cop. He needs to die.”

Facebook is the devil...

who steals my time. 
 

Okay, fine. It's my own fault. I'm the one who plays all those games. But I already told you that I have no focus.

As I mentioned earlier, I've been struggling to get back on track since my little writing retreat. Well, today, I bit the bullet and blocked all the Facebook games I've been playing. All except one. And just in case you were wondering how to do it, I took some screenshots for you. 

Enough, Lana! Stop wasting my time and tell me how to do it, already!

When you're logged into Facebook, go to the top right corner and click on the little triangle.

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 9.10.55 PM.png

Then click on "Settings".

On the left side of your page, click on "Blocking".

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 8.57.45 PM.png

Scroll down until you see "Block apps" on the left side of your page. Then start typing the name of the app/game that wastes too much of your time. A list will show up and you can select the one(s) you're blocking. 

Screen Shot 2015-03-21 at 8.57.56 PM.png

Now that you've blocked all your games on Facebook, you'll have lots of time to devote to writing, revising, proofreading, or whatever it is that you've been avoiding. :)

Teaser Tuesday 3

Here you go...

As I stretched out in the bed, I knew that if he survived, he’d be determined to exact revenge. I wouldn’t be able to leave this building unless I was in disguise for the rest of his life. 

I could leave town, but I knew that he would spend the remainder of his life hunting me. 
And his screams would haunt me for the rest of mine.

So by now, you probably noticed that the teasers I've been posting aren't much like what I normally write. Some of my readers won't like this story, or this subject matter. And that's okay. I don't write to please anyone other than myself. :)

You've also noticed that I'm writing this book in first person, as if the main character is actually telling the story. This is also not normal for me. 

I am having fun. And if the fun continues, I may write more stories like this one. :)

I lack... Focus.

I admit it. I've been having a hard time concentrating on my writing for the past few days. Last week, I had a mini writing retreat from Monday afternoon through Thursday morning. I accomplished a lot in those three days, but I've been struggling to get back into the swing of things now that I'm home. 

So, it's time to pull out some of my secret weapons. (Okay, they're not that secret, but they work for me.)

Read More

Teaser Tuesday 2

And... it's Tuesday! Time for Teaser Tuesday!

His footsteps faded as he walked away. I kept one hand on the pistol and felt the walls with my other hand. The hallway was barely wider than the span of my arms. The walls were covered with some sort of textured paper and I smoothed my hand over it then traced the raised design with my fingertip. Damask pattern. In a secret speak easy?

It seemed out of place, but then again, this entire experience seemed out of place in my life. Just eight months ago, Mother, Grandfather, and I lived a life of opulence in Bohemia. Now, I was alone, scampering down a dark hallway with a stranger in America.

I felt like a rat, hiding from a big, hungry cat—my father, the man who’d killed—or had ordered the death of—Grandfather.

Formatting for Createspace with Nisus Writer Pro

I recently purchased Nisus Writer Pro ($79), and I used it to format my latest book for Createspace tonight. I set my stopwatch and I’m happy to report that it took me 1:28:48.07 to format the entire book. There was a phone call from my grandma in there too, so let’s just say it took me an hour and twenty-one minutes. 

Want a step-by-step walkthrough of how I converted my final document from my proofreader to a PDF ready to upload to Createspace?

Okay. Before you start, you need to know the answers to the following questions.

What trim size is your book going to be? My books are 5 x 8”.

What margins are acceptable? You can find this at Createspace. You can actually download a MS Word template set up for the trim size you’re using. However, I find that it’s not as nice as my method. For example there aren’t facing pages, so you’d have to tweak that setting anyway, if you want facing pages (see below). You’d also have to copy and paste everything from your clean copy into the template. I’ve done this. Multiple times. P.I.T.A. So much easier (IMO) to take your clean copy, save as “final_version”, and worry only about formatting. Because honestly, my copy and paste skills are lacking. I always manage to not paste one paragraph, or I skip the last 4 characters of a chapter. 

Do you want facing pages? (Facing pages means that the inside margins are slightly larger than the outside margins.)

If you do want facing pages, what are the margins going to be? I used .75” and .5”.

You also have to have the clean copy of your manuscript. 

screenshot for steps 3-6

 

Okay! Let's get started formatting for Createspace already! 

(The red numbers on the image correspond to the steps listed below. Click the image to enlarge!)

  1. Open the document in Nisus Writer Pro.
  2. Change “Page Setup” to 5 x 8”. (Oh no! How do I do that?)
  3. Start on Odd Page
  4. Check the box for “facing pages”
  5. Set margins. Top: .75, Bottom: .5”, Inside: .75”, Outside: .5"
  6. Check “Different First Page” and “Odd & Even Pages” in the Header/Footer section.

All right! Now back to the manuscript!

  1. Using the find command (Command-F), find all double spaces (space space) and replace them with a single space (space). Continue doing this until no more are found.
  2. Using the find command (Command-F), find all double returns (return return) and replace them with a single return (return). Continue doing this until no more are found.
  3. Find all the page breaks and change them to “Section Break Odd”. This means that all new chapters will start on the right hand side of the book. You don’t have to do this. It’s a personal preference, and I like the way it looks.
  4. Select all (Command-A).
  5. Set font, size, linespacing, indents, justification, and redefine style to match selection. I set this style as "My Body Text".
  6. Using the find command (Command-F), search for “Chapter”. When those are all found, change the style to “Heading". Highlight “Chapter One”, assign the characteristics you want (font, size, justification, etc.), redefine style to match selection. Select all with style (it’s a command) and then go to “Edit>Convert>Capitalize”. This changed the all caps that my chapter headings had to Upper and Lower Case.
  7. Use Find (Command-F) to find all the scene breaks. I always use * * * for my scene breaks. Then assign them to a style. I use “body centered” and make sure that there isn’t any indent assigned to that style.
  8. That’s the major part for the manuscript, but now you have to add in the front matter and back matter. I copy and paste this info from my previous books, but make sure that I use the same fonts as the rest of the book.

At the front, I include:

  • one blank page (front and back are blank),
  • the title page on the right side, copyright (don't forget your ISBN numbers from Createspace), cover designer, and editor info on the back of the title page, and
  • the dedication page (blank on the back)

Then I start with Chapter One which is numbered "Page 1”.

Blank left hand pages at the end of chapters don’t have a number on them, but they are included in the count.

First pages of chapters have page numbers at the bottom, otherwise page numbers are at the top on the outside edges. Play with your header and footer settings until you achieve the look you want.

 At the end, I include:

  • One page (right hand side) that includes request for a review, a list of my other books, a recommendation to sign up for my mailing list to be notified of new releases and a short “About the Author” paragraph.

When you're happy with the appearance, save it as a PDF and pat yourself on the back. You did it.

How do you format your book for Createspace? What software do you use? What part of my directions confused you? Would you like step-by-step directions how to do this with a different application? Let me know in the comments!

Teaser Tuesday

A new feature of my blog is Teaser Tuesday. Every Tuesday, I'll post a couple lines from that day's writing. I'd love to know what you think of it. Do you want to read more? Tell me what you think might be happening right now. 

It was out of my nature to ask anyone for help, but especially a police officer. And it’s not like I intended to ask him to help me fix a leaky faucet. I was asking him to teach me to shoot a gun. A gun that I was completely willing to use to end my father’s life.

 

Setting up A Custom Page Size on a Mac

How do I adjust the page size on a mac?

It's always hard to do switch operating systems on computers. Menu items aren't where you'd expect them, and it can be a struggle to do what used to be the simplest thing. 

1) Go to File>Page Setup (I used Pages 5.5.2 for this example, but this is in the same place for nearly all of the apps that I've used).

2) Then choose "Manage Custom Sizes".

3) Enter the paper size and margins you want. This image shows my set up for my 5 x 8" books.

4) Click "OK".

 

5) Click "OK" again.

The next time you want to set the page to the same size (5 x 8" in my example), all you have to do is go back to "Page Set Up", and select the "5x8" option. Your custom page sizes are available in all the apps.

Let me know if this worked for you, or if you need further help. What do you struggle with on your Mac? I'd love to help. 

Where do you find the time?

How many of you struggle to find time to write? To find time to do what you think you need to do throughout the day to achieve your writing goals? I bet every single person reading this wishes there were more hours in the day. Even if you're not into writing, you probably still have incomplete items on your daily "To Do List" at the end of the day. 

People often ask me, "Where do you find the time to get your stuff done?"

I find time just like anyone else who knows how to prioritize. Yes, I have kids, a husband, pets, a job, a house to clean, errands to run, and dinner to cook. There's lots of minutes in there where I don't need to do anything. Waiting for the water to boil to cook rice? I can get a few thoughts down, maybe even a few paragraphs if the kids are entertained with something.

Right now, I'm sitting next to the washing machine while it drains so I clean the filter. Rather than play Angry Birds on my phone, I'm typing. If I don't feel like writing when I'm doing something else, I do chores so I have uninterrupted time later. I can clean the bathroom while the kids play in the bathtub. Can you empty the dishwasher while your toast cooks? If not, maybe you should have darker toast tomorrow. ;)

While the kids are building forts in their bedroom, I can fold their laundry and put it away. Besides, the more little chores I finish throughout the day, the less stressed I am by the huge pileup of stuff that needs to be done before I can go to bed with a clear conscience. 

I'm not saying that you'll ever accomplish everything on your list. I know I won't. But, you can do little things throughout the day that will free up more time for your writing. Or whatever it is that you really want to spend more time doing. Who am I to judge if you're just trying to find more time to watch The Bachelor?

Is editing worth the price?

I keep asking myself if editing is worth the price. Other people have asked me, "Is editing worth the price?" Of course, your mileage will vary as will the cost. But, looking at this screen shot, I'm going to have to say, "Yeah. Pretty sure it was worth it." Letting Go changes

This is a view from Microsoft Word's "compare documents" feature. All the red indicates changes between the first document I sent my editing team and the final document that I published. I removed the "formatting changes" from this view.

As you can see, there's not a whole lot remaining from version one.

So, is editing worth the price? For me, it is.

How to outline a novel.

I've struggled with how to outline a novel for years. Today, I'm here to tell you what I've decided is the best method for me.

Screw the novel outline!

I'm not like everyone else. I've never felt like I fit in. I'm okay with that for the most part, until it comes to my writing process.

I've been struggling and struggling to find the "right way" to write and revise. All I've found is that I'm not getting anywhere. I get hung up trying to make sure I'm doing everything the way all the "how to write a novel" books say to do it.

    • Step 1: know the ending of your story
    • Step 2: know your characters inside out
    • Step 3: figure out what page everything needs to happen (beat sheets anyone?)
    • Step 4: have a complex outline
    • Step 5: follow your roadmap and write the novel
    • Step 6: revise
    • Step 7: submit/publish

Here's what I've found out. If I outline, I don't care to write the story. If I do force myself to write the story from the outline, I end up with X number of words. And I feel so proud of myself for writing an outlined story.

However, here's my issue. And it's a big one.

I get it back from my editor with comments like, "Your characters feel like they're doing stuff because they have to in order to advance the plot, not because they're acting as they should."

Well duh! Of course it feels that way, because I plotted it all out and told them to behave. The outline makes sense and will get us to the ending just fine.

Yeah, that's no good. What's the point of outlining and forcing myself to write the story if my characters feel fake and unlikeable?

What's the point of sitting around, figuring out exactly how this story is going to play out in an outline and not having any interest in it? Why am I trying to outline?

Ooh. That's a good question. Why am I trying to outline my novels?

Because I think it'll be easier to revise them. Why do I care about the ease of revising them? I like revising. I just want it to be faster. Why do I want my process to be faster? Because Authors A, B, and C are producing 6 novels a year and they're making more money than I am.

Here's the kicker. Here's what I have to accept. I'm not Author A, B, or C. I'm me.

I've always loved writing because while I'm writing a rough draft, I get to find out what happens to the characters. I get to know my characters. I get to find out how the story goes. And when I'm done with the rough draft, I get to go back and scribble all over my manuscript, improving it.

And by the time my book makes it to the reader, it's not the same book it was when I started writing it. I'm okay with that. I'm not okay with not enjoying the process.

So right now, I'm telling you guys this. I'm aiming for three novels a year.

But I'm also telling you that I can't tell you what those three novels will be. And I can't tell you if they're going to be a part of a series. I can't even tell you if they'll be romance or not.

They'll be whatever shows up on my paper when I write by hand. Because yes, I'm going back to writing my drafts by hand, because that's what I like to do. It's not fast, and it's not the way I should do it if I want to be productive. But it's my way.

My way worked well enough for the rough drafts of Letting Go, Alaskan Healing, and Faceoff of the Heart. Don't fix it if it ain't broken. Right?