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?

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?

 

An update on some projects...

Alaskan Hope has been sent off to the editor. I'm sure she'll have a ton of suggestions for me, but at least I'm moving forward with it. Letting Go finally resembles a cohesive novel. I had a lot of trouble getting it to work the way I wanted it to, but I think I'm there with it. Again, much work needed, but the hardest part is done. My editor intends to start working on that the first week of January.

Now, I'm trying to decide where to go next. I have signed up for NaNoWriMo. I have a very rough idea to work with. But I'm excited about it.

That leaves me roughly a week to find something else to do with my time. I'm not sure what that's going to be. There's plenty of chores I've neglected which I could do, but... I think I'll look over my list of writing projects and see if any of them speak to me. I'm sure I have something in the trunk-o-writing-junk that can be salvaged.

A general update on... things

I see it's been nearly a month since I posted anything. Well, you probably didn't know, but I've been hiding out in the mountains of northern Idaho, near a historic silver mining town, gathering berries and story ideas, while avoiding the people who wish me dead. No, seriously, I'm still where I always am, doing what I always do. I've just being some prioritizing. In case you didn't know, I'm currently awaiting the arrival of my third child, who is due to arrive almost any day. My belly makes it hard to use the laptop (my lap seems to be missing). And it's uncomfortable to sit for any length of time at my desk to use the external keyboard.

I also have returned to work after six months of being laid off due to lack of work. While it's the same position I held before, with the same company, some things have changed in the six months, which leaves me struggling to do some things that used to be simple. It's good to learn new things though.

Other than that, there's not much worth discussing from my personal life.

If you're curious about the progress of my writing (and really, why else would you read my blog), I have been plugging away at my revisions on Alaskan Hope. I have also shared it with a couple of friends who are telling me all that's wrong with it. They think they're hurting my feelings, but I LOVE all the information and feed back they've given me so far. (Thanks Jennifer and Shelia! You ladies ROCK!)

And now, this is where I admit the truth. I'm so far behind my self-imposed deadlines, I don't have any idea when it'll be available. Right now, I'm forcing myself to focus on making it as wonderful as possible instead of being done as quickly as possible.

Please be patient. I honestly believe it will be worth the wait and will be much better than my previous books.

Ah-ha! A new idea...

As you know, I just finished a rough draft of a novel that I've been struggling with for nearly a year. Tonight, as I'm planning my revisions, a new idea popped into my head. I'm not willing to share many details, because I suspect I'll lose interest once I start sharing my idea. However, this idea is based on a tiny tidbit of information I learned about one of my relatives when I was doing some genealogical research. Which means, it'd be set in the past, not my normal comfort zone, but I'm eager to get started.

My plans for this story consist of: no plans, no outline, just writing as it comes to me. That is, when I have time to get started.

Now, if someone can just explain to me why I get all my ideas when I already have a huge pile of projects underway and a time crunch.

 

So tell me, is this an opening that would intrigue you?

"What do you mean, he hung himself? That's ridiculous. He wouldn't hang himself."

"That’s what the police claim."

"That's BS." I was so upset at the thought of people believing he'd killed himself that I didn't even really comprehend that my grandfather was dead. He was my only relative in this country. He'd come over from Bohemia with my mother and I, to ensure we weren't taken advantage of while we got on our feet in the United States. Mother had died a few months ago in an accident at the market.

Grandpa would never leave me on purpose. Not when I was just getting over the loss of my mother.

"He was found hanging from the tree in back of the apartment."

"That's ludicrous." I yawned, exhausted. I'd been to help a friend of my mother's for a couple days. She'd been burned at the laundry where she worked. Burns on her hands had made it impossible to care for her children. It was now early morning, the roosters were barely crowing, and I was walking home with the boy who lived next to my grandfather and I.

"But why would he kill himself?" I asked again.

"I don't know. The policeman told me to fetch you."

"Well, what if I don't feel like being fetched?"

"Look, Lucy. Whether or not you want to be fetched, I don't need the police looking at me too closely. So you're being fetched. Maybe they can explain all this to you."

"Maybe they can, but I doubt it." I, like most other immigrants, had a deep-rooted suspicion and fear of the police. In our home country, they were corrupt and easily bought for a few coins. Here, we suspected it was the same.

I grabbed Joseph's arm and stopped walking. "Wait. What do you mean, you don't want them to look at you? What have you done?"

Any interest at all?

Unemployment != Lots of Time to Write

I've always dreamed of having the chance just to hang out and plenty of time to write, with no other employment obligations. What writer doesn't think, "Wow. If I didn't have to do X, Y, and Z for 40 hours a week, I'd be so productive. My  writing would take off like crazy because I'd have 40 hours free every week just to focus on my imaginary worlds." In December, I was informed by my boss that I'd be laid off at the end of the year due to lack of work. I was excited, knowing that I'd collect some unemployment and have "free time" to write. I assumed I'd get a couple rough drafts completed, start revising, do an outline of a new idea, and even get in the habit of blogging regularly (on both my blogs).

After a couple months, I accepted that I was delusional and reassessed my goals. I would be happy if I was blogging regularly and finished the rough draft I've been focusing on lately. If I could move along with Alaskan Hope, that'd be a bonus.

However, in the past five months, I've got so little accomplished that it's embarrassing. I should have finished at least a draft on one (two would be better) stories that are all outlined. Instead, I've been spending my time sleeping and playing facebook games. I've also compiled an enormous list of things I'd like to buy. Funny how much I think I should purchase when I have no paycheck.

I could make a pile of excuses like:

  • My husband has been working lots of hours, so when he's home (and needs to sleep), I have a hard time saying, "Hey, watch your kids for a few hours so I can concentrate on writing."
  • I'm pregnant and tired.
  • It's hard to concentrate with two little kids running around.
  • I don't sleep well, so when I get a chance I want to nap.
  • I'm not inspired. And when I do get inspired, it's generally at some ungodly hour of the night and I know I have to get up with my kids in a few hours, so I make a note and go back to sleep. By the time I get a chance to work on the idea that inspired me, my interest has waned.

But the truth is, I'm not doing what I need to be doing in order to get my stuff finished. I have three novels completely outlined, rough drafts of two others that need some major work, and ideas up the proverbial wazoo. But nothing is getting done. I'm not sure if it's because I lack any sense of urgency to complete my current projects, I've lost interest in my projects, or I just plain enjoy being lazy and spending time playing with my kids.

While I'm not going to end up living in a cardboard box when my unemployment runs out, money is a nice commodity. I applied for a few jobs in my "chosen profession" this week. And I suspect if I get hired, magically, all I will be interested in is writing. But for now, I still want to sit on the couch with the dogs and kids while playing Words with Friends.

Does anyone else have issues being productive when there isn't a deadline looming? Do you work better under pressure? Have tips to force myself to work?

How do I turn an idea into a plot?

One of my readers asked me how I turn a single idea into a plot. Rather than just spout off some quick answer, I decided it’d make a good blog post, so here goes. To clarify, Merriam-Webster defines “plot” as the plan or main story. So, the question really is how do I come up with my story?

It partially depends what kind of idea I have in my mind.

Alaskan Healing

With Alaskan Healing, my initial idea was “What if a woman gets hired on a crab fishing boat in the Bering Sea?” From there, I brainstormed a bunch of possible things that could happen.

  • she could punch the boss
  • she could fall in love with a crewmember
  • she could save someone’s life
  • she could be injured
  • someone from her past could end up on the boat

Those are some of the ideas I had that made it into the story. I came up with 20-30 possibilities and started writing each “occurrence'”. So in that case, I just threw a bunch of possible “plot points” on a piece of paper and rearranged them until they made sense chronologically. Some I didn’t use, and of course there were areas that were missing something, so I had to figure out what happened between them.

It was easier to start Alaskan Healing because of the rough outline I had, but I didn’t stick to the outline for the entire process.

Faceoff of the Heart

Faceoff of the Heart, was written in a different manner. I sat down on November 1st, 2006, and started writing. I was addicted to watching hockey that season, but determined to complete National Novel Writing Month. A novel about hockey was the obvious solution. I could watch games and write at the same time.

I didn’t plan anything ahead of time. I just started writing and kept writing (and watching hockey) through the month, and at the end of November, I had just over 50,000 words in a rough draft. I tucked it into my “trunk-o-writing-junk” and forgot about it.

I found it last fall and decided to revise and edit it. At that point, I made a rough outline of what I had, and decided what drivel needed to be removed. That left me a really short novella instead of a novel, but I had a good idea who the characters were and how they interacted, so it wasn’t terribly difficult to come up with some more scenes to add. And I had to decide on an ending, I didn’t bother doing that on the rough draft.

I like learning the story as I write it without planning.

Another Example

Often, I only have a scene in my mind when I start thinking of a story. If that’s the case,

I write that one scene, hoping to get a feel for the characters. Here’s a shortened version of the possible ways' I’d turn that into an entire novel, if the scene really stuck in my head.

A man steals a hot dog from a vendor, running off before paying. A woman witnesses it, and for some reason, pays the vendor, makes it seem normal and then follows the man. (I’d probably write around a thousand words for this scene, just because that’s what scenes average in my rough drafts.)

When I finish that scene, I’d ask myself, “What if she found him?” And I’d start the next scene that pops into my head.

She asked the man, “Why did you do that?”

“Do what?”

“Steal a hot dog?”

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“Because it’s wrong. The vendor needs the money, otherwise he’d just be giving them away.”

The man refused to meet her gaze. “He deserved it. Besides, it’s not for me.”

“Who’s it for?”

At this point, I’d have to stop and decide who the hot dog is for and whether the man is going to tell the woman anything, or walk away. Or? What else could he do?

“Here hold this,” he said and thrust the coney dog at her. The scent of saur kraut sickened her, but she held on to it.

“Hey! Come on. I got her,” the man yelled and suddenly the duo was surrounded by uniformed police officers, with shields and masks.

“What the hell?” she muttered and considered running, she hadn’t done anything wrong. But clearly, they’d realize she was innocent. It’d just take a few seconds to explain and she’d be back to work at her boring desk job, wishing for five o’clock and a martini.

So I’d figure out how this scene ended, and then ask myself, “Now what?”

Once I have an idea of where the story’s going, how the characters behave, I tend to sit down and write out a list of possible things that happens in the story.

The cops don’t believe the woman.

She ends up in jail

The vendor can’t be found to corroborate her story

The original thief shows up, wearing a disguise, and bails her out of jail

She doesn’t trust him but agrees to talk to him, there must be some crazy explanation for this.

He buys her a martini

He explains himself (not sure what his excuse is yet)

The next morning she goes to work and gets fired.

 

I consider that list of possible things in the story to be my outline. It changes as I write, but if I get stuck, I have something to fall back on.

 

My process for my current WIP is much like Faceoff of the Heart. I wrote a couple of rough drafts years ago and decided that I still liked the characters, but the two stories were similar in some ways so I combined them into one story. I’ve added a few scenes to transition, made lots of changes so they’re cohesive as one story, and now I have another idea to give the story more depth.

The plot hasn’t changed much, the main story is still “Girl wants a family of her own”, but there are more items in my outline now. I’m currently trying to fit the new “scenes/occurrences” in the correct spots in draft. Then I’ll be ready to start revising and editing.

Combining Two Rough Drafts into One Novel - Part 3

This is the last post regarding combining two rough drafts into one novel. The first one can be found here and the second, here. It's been a heck of a struggle, but I'm happy now with what I'm considering the rough draft of Letting Go (working title). Some difficulties I ran into were: characters (names, ages, descriptions, etc.) Thankfully (?) I'm not very descriptive in my rough drafts so it wasn't too hard to change those things. I did have some problems with getting the names right throughout. For example, using "Find and Replace" to change "Matt" into "Lance" resulted in several places that said, "What really Lanceers is..."

Looking on the bright side, I now realize that I overused the phrase "What really matters," in dialogue.

This was the first time in quite a while that I've actually used scissors and tape to cut sections of the manuscript up and move it around. I probably should have used Scrivener, but I was being stubborn and didn't want to fight with software. That's a mistake that wasted a lot of time for me. Today, after I made all the changes in Pages, I copied and pasted all the new text into Scrivener. I should have just left it in Scrivener and figured out how to make it do what I wanted.

Now that I have a rough draft of one story, I'm letting it sit for a few days before I start my normal revision process. While it sits, I have a notepad nearby so I can scribble any ideas that pop into my head. This way, I might have things sorted out in my head when I start to mark up the next revision. I know many areas are skimpy on details and I add things throughout my revision process.

Combining Two Rough Drafts into One Novel - Part 2

Last time I posted, I stated I was working on combining two similar stories into one novel. I've been trying to focus solely on the first revision for the past week. Of course, kids and life refused to let me focus as completely as I would have liked, but I've made some progress. As I mentioned previously, I have a big pile of paper on my desk and a short list of things I felt needed to be changed. The first 80 pages were pretty simple to revise, just a few little things to change, like character names, time frames, etc.

While I was working on that section and not making many changes, I couldn't decide whether it was because it was so awful, I had no hope of it ever being better, or if it really wasn't too bad. I knew all along that things would get much more complicated when I got to the "second story".

Well, I'm to the "second story" now, and it's a mess. I've been working and working on it. From page 81 to 111 has taken me most of the past week. And I know it's not going to get any easier in the near future. But, it will be so much better than I originally thought when it is complete.

Now, some thoughts on what I should have done differently. Instead of starting at page 1 and going through the manuscript chronologically, I think I should have made a list of things I needed to fix and then prioritized them (biggest issue to smallest issue). It would have made more sense then trying to remember everything I'm changing and trying to keep coherent. At least, it seems like it would be easier. Whether it really would have been easier is debatable. (I suspect, no matter what, revisions on this novel will be complicated while I patch things together.)

I'm having a hard time remembering that instead of playing with Frankenstein, I should just figure out what I want to convey in each scene and rewrite it if there are a lot of changes. It would probably be quicker and would definitely make future revisions simpler. However, I'm stubborn. And often make things harder than they need to be.

Combining Two Rough Drafts into One Novel

Hoo boy! I've decided to combine two rough drafts into one novel. I currently have about 300 pages from the manuscripts printed out and have to figure out how I'm going to make this into one cohesive novel. I've spent days online trying to find a guide how to do this. Apparently, no one else has ever had the brilliant idea of combining two rough drafts into one novel. So, here ya go. A guide of how I'm doing it. I'm sure I'll make mistakes, but maybe if I warn you of those mistakes you won't make the same when you find yourself in this position.

First off, I suppose you're curious why I decided to combine the two. I have a few different reasons.

  1. Both female characters are about the same age, have issues with their families, and aren't happy until they reconnect with someone from their past. 
  2. I couldn't decide which of them I wanted to work on more at this time.
  3. I was afraid that either of them would fall a little short of my expectations, but I believe combining them would be a well-rounded story (if I do this correctly).
  4. And last but not least, I'm afraid of writing the same story repeatedly. It seems that several of my rough drafts are similar enough (at least to me) that I'd essentially be telling the same story repeatedly, just changing the characters and the setting. What fun would that be for me to write? Or for you to read?

It's been a week since I decided I was going to combine these two stories and I haven't accomplished much.

Today, I declared myself on a "facebook break" for about a week. Hopefully, by the time that week is up, I'll have made substantial progress.

My process so far has been to figure out which characters the combined story will be about, using "Find and Replace" to change those to the correct name (but clearly, there will still be errors to fix during revisions).

I've also imported the two stories into Scrivener and split it all into scenes, marking scenes that have conflict and scenes that are currently boring. (There are a lot of those.) I'm using Darcy Pattison's Novel Metamorphosis as a revision guide, loosely. I'm not doing every exercise in the book (so far). I'm also trying to do some things I learned from Holly Lisle's One Pass Revision system. I always end up with multiple revisions, but I do try to keep an eye out for errors like typos starting at the first pass.

Essentially what I have now is 282 pages of really, really, really rough draft. I printed it all out last night and finally forced myself to start scribbling on the manuscript tonight. So far I'm to page 27. The sad part is that I thought it was pretty good when I decided to do this.

Now, when I have a pen in my hand, I'm not so impressed. Which wouldn't normally bother me, but right now, I'm not even feeling much inspiration or clear direction how to fix that which doesn't impress me. However, I will plow through this and I know as I get further into the story, and get the BIG issues worked out the story will become clearer to me.

And the clearer the story is, the more fun it will be to revise. Or so I hope. I don't even have a working title yet, so there isn't any webpage and no blurb about the story.

I'll post more about my experience combining two rough drafts into one novel as I get further into the revision process.

 

Revising a novel

I struggle with revisions. Every time I start revising a novel, I spend time looking for a magic method, a checklist of things to do, and I keep looking until I think I've found the perfect plan. Then I print out my manuscript and start marking stuff up with my pen and the plan goes out the window. I have a hard time keeping things in my head. All the things I planned to fix remain on a sheet of paper next to me and I say, "I'll fix those in the next revision."

I've tried Holly Lisle's One Pass Revision method, and I get bogged down and overwhelmed before I get to the third chapter. I've done Darcy Pattison's Novel Metamorphosis workbook for two different novels. One is still in the Trunk-o-writing junk, awaiting its chance to see the light of day again. The second one is Faceoff of the Heart.

Working my way through the Novel Metamorphosis workbook was helpful to realize what areas I needed to work on, but I still have a huge list (okay, not really huge, but still a full page) of things I want to fix. When I look at the list, my eyes gloss over and I start to freak out that I have these things to check for and fix all the way through the 200 pages of manuscript.

The list sits on top of the manuscript in its expandable folder. I look at it every time I pull the new pages out to be revised. And I sigh, because I haven't really been paying attention to those things. Ugh. 100 pages in and I didn't fix any of the things I'd specifically written on my "Plan of Action."

So tonight, when I pulled out the list I didn't just set it aside. I sat down and read it, and thought about each item on the list.

Plotting. Make sure each scene ends a little worse than the previous scene. Yeah, I've actually been doing that. That makes me feel better.

Characters. Better description. Well, hmm. I've never been good at describing the physical appearance of things (not even real items), but I've been adding more about the characters as I get to know them, so they're becoming more real. Knowing someone rocks back and forth on their feet when they're nervous, or their hands hurt because of early onset arthritis HAS to be nearly as good as knowing they have blue eyes and light blonde hair. Right? I mean, we don't choose our friends based on their eye color in real life. 

Sensory details. Include more details in each scene. Oh. I'm doing that without really thinking of it. Maybe I'm not doing as horribly as I'd thought.

Settings. More description again. fail

Okay. I guess fixing 75% of what I'd aimed to fix isn't awful. I can always go back through and add a bit more description of the settings as I type in all these changes I've made. Right?

What's your method for revising a novel?

I'm a top ten producer for Book In a Week

I finished September's Book in a week Challenge about a week ago, but haven't had a chance to share my results because I've been so busy. Since I'm sure you're all dying to know how I did, here ya go. I managed to finish 70.5 pages in one week. I'm pretty impressed with myself. Granted, the seventy pages aren't all that great. It's very, very, rough draft material, but it's more material than I had at the end of August.

For the first five days, I focused on Alaskan Hope. I estimate that I completed 55-60 pages for that rough draft. I assume that makes anyone waiting for a sequel to Alaskan Healing happy.

The last two days, I focused on the yet-unnamed-hockey novel. While 15 pages isn't a lot, it's, again, fifteen more pages than I had for it in August.

How did I write 70.5 pages in 7 days? I made myself do it. There were a few days that I wrote absolutely nothing, but I made up for it on the other days. I set the goal for myself and told everyone that it was my goal. I'm stubborn. I didn't want to tell anyone I failed. So, in the end, I spent a LOT of time over the weekend, doing nothing but writing.

Once I got the kids to sleep, I stayed up waaaay too late, writing as much as I could so I'd achieve my goal. And I did. With 20.5 extra pages.

If you think 70.5 pages in a week is a lot, I have to tell you, I was the 10th top producer for the month. That means nine people wrote more than I did. Some of them were in the 200+ page range. I don't want to sound like I'm bitter, but I speculate those people don't have two small children running around, plus a dead website during the week.

I doubt I'll ever be the top producer for Book in a Week, but I'm definitely going to try to stay in the top ten each time I participate. It's a good way to push myself to achieve bigger and better things.

Scrivener Revisited

Okay. I admit it. I was wrong. I'm not 100% sold yet, but I'm still playing with Scrivener and I've found some features I really like that are not available on OneNote. Word count. I love knowing how many words I have in a document. In OneNote, I had to use an Add-on to get word counts, and it still only counted the words on each page, there was no way to count how many words in the "draft" section of my notebook. Scrivener does word counts.

scrivener_text_statsText statistics (click on the picture to see it larger). Scrivener has the ability to tell me how many times I've used each word in a document. As a few people who have read my drafts know, I tend to have a LOT of bobble-heads who like to pat each other and shrug. In Scrivener, I can see that I used "shrug" 78 time in the first chapter and "nod" was used 24 times in the second paragraph.

Targets. It's nice to set a target word count for each scene and see a bar graph change colors as I get closer to reaching my goal.

Corkboard. And everyone's favorite feature of Scrivener, the corkboard, is awesome for rearranging scenes! I assigned a different color label for each of my plot lines and can visually see when all the "red plot lines" are bunched together instead of spread through the entire story. The same could be done with perspectives to see if Character A has more scenes told from their perspective than Character B in any part of the story.

Cross-platform compatibility. I can open my Scrivener projects on either of my computers and make changes. Some features are only available on the Mac version right now, but it's nice to know I can use either of my computers, as long as I keep the files up-to-date on Dropbox (or a similar online storage site). I'm currently using the trial version on both my iMac and my Windows 7 laptop.

If you have the same type of desktop and laptop, you can use the same license for both. If you have different operating systems on your desktop and laptop, you'll have to decide whether it's worthwhile to you to purchase a license for each. Scrivener does provide directions for syncing with SimpleNote on an ipad.

These are just the features that I used over the weekend and really loved. I saw some other stuff in the menus that I think I'll like, but will wait to comment on those until after I've used the feature.

Don't take my word for it, download your own trial version and see what you think. It's available for both Windows and Mac now! Just don't give up if the tutorial confuses you, like I almost did.

And if you decide to buy, S.M. Worth has a coupon code on his blog for 20% off. He also has lots of other great stuff!

Time to write

Once I have my idea and an outline, I start writing. I've used different software for my rough drafts, but I essentially do it the same way no matter what software I use. Often, I don't write my novels chronologically. I just pick something from my outline that I feel like writing and I write. When I run out of ideas for that scene, I pick another one and I write it. Sometimes when I'm writing, I think of another scene or occurrence that I want to include. I continue in this way until all of my listed scenes are written.

Then I let the story sit for a bit and go back to read through my list of scenes. When I did this with Alaskan Hope, I realized I just have one plot line. It's boring; you don't learn anything about any of the supporting characters and there's only one problem the main characters are trying to solve. It's repetitive. No one wants to read 200 pages about a pair of characters trying to overcome one problem.

I moped. For twenty-four hours, I beat myself up about how awful this idea was and how no one would be interested in reading it. I had to do something to make the story entertaining. I found myself back at the pre-writing stage, brainstorming ideas that I could use to add depth and interest to my story (aka "how to make my characters suffer").

After deciding what "problems" my characters would have to solve, I then made lists of the steps in each of those problems. I've interspersed those "plot points" into my original outline and will be writing those scenes. So while I said the rough draft was done, it's currently only about half done.

Starting Monday, I'm participating in September's Book-in-a-week challenge. My goal is 50 pages of rough draft. That will be about a third of the remaining scenes I need to write for Alaskan Hope.

Idea creation

I've used different methods of coming up with ideas over the years. When I used to write every day, and had lots of story ideas, most of my ideas came from my dreams. I'd wake up and wonder, "What happened to that guy/girl/dog who chased me through the corn field/pushed me down the stairs/joined me in the shower?" So I'd write what I remembered of the dream then just write whatever came to me. I was just writing the story so I could learn what happened. I enjoyed this method as it was fun for me to learn the story as I went along. However, it wasn't very organized. Sometimes I'd end up with an entire notebook full of words, but it didn't have a plot or any real point. However, I learned more about my characters and if I really wanted to, I could consider those stories prewriting now and pick the kernels from the chaff and outline it into novels. I started Alaskan Healing for a class I was taking online with the wonderful Loree Lough in 2006. It was the night before the class started and I was supposed to have an idea to work with. I'd procrastinated and procrastinated some more, thinking, "Damn. I hope an idea shows up otherwise this class is going to be a waste of money."

Grumbling about my muse's refusal to cooperate, I sat my butt on the couch to watch tv with my husband, he flipped the channel to Deadliest Catch and I said to myself, "I wonder why there aren't any women on any of the boats."

Aha! I had my idea. Thank you, Ms. Muse.

I wrote the rough draft of the hockey novel I am currently revising (no title so far) during National Novel Writing Month in 2006. I followed part of the Snowflake Novel Writing Method, but the initial idea came from watching too much hockey. (Blasphemy! There is no such thing as too much hockey!)

In August (2012), when I finally started working on Alaskan Hope (the next Alaskan Healing novel), I wasn't sure what I wanted to write. I had a good idea who my characters were going to be, but not what they were going to do. I used Freemind mind mapping software to get a bunch of ideas on paper/screen and sorted through those ideas to find the main "what happens to them" of the story.

 

There have been other various ideas between the hockey novel and Alaskan Hope, but I don't know that they'll ever amount to anything, so I didn't mention them in this post.

My writing method

  For anyone wondering how I write, the answer is simple: haphazardly.

For years, I've just sat down with my pen and paper and started scribbling, not really caring whether it amounted to anything presentable. I wrote to entertain myself.

I'd say I was quite prolific. I wrote an entire story in one weekend, multiple times. But, they would take a LOT of work to ever become presentable. I tried outlining things, but never enjoyed it. I wrote so I could learn what happened to my characters. The story unfolded as I wrote.

With the constraints I have on my time (full time job, two children under the age of 3, two dogs, three cats, various hobbies, husband, etc) I can't just muddle around until the story reveals itself and I feel inspired to write. I need some sort of plan to get me to the point where my fans have something to read and quit hounding me for a few minutes. (Just teasing. I love to be hounded. It makes me feel like my stories are enjoyed.)

Here's a quick look at the method I've developed so far. (Yes, I know it's not the order recommended by most "how to write a novel" books.

  1. Idea
  2. Outlining
  3. Rough draft
  4. Character sketches
  5. Setting info
  6. Add details to rough draft
  7. Revise until I'm happy
  8. Proof
  9. First reader
  10. Edit
  11. Proof
  12. Shove that baby bird out of the nest and pray it flies (to the bestseller list)

I'll expand on each step in the future, explaining how it worked for Alaskan Healing, and other novels I'm currently working on.

How does your method differ from mine? I'm always looking for new ideas to adapt to my process.

 

 

Can an author write in multiple genres?

As I was going through things the other day (notebooks, CDs, printed drafts from 5 computers ago, etc) I found some stories I wrote that I still like. Most of them are in the rough draft stage, but I'm not sure anyone would want to read them. I'm curious what you guys think when you start reading a book by an author you like (because hopefully you all like me) and it's not like the previous book(s) you've read by that author.

Do you feel let down because they changed things on you? Or is it okay? Should an author stick to one genre or can they have books in slightly different genres? Can I go from Alaskan Healing to characters who time travel? Or believe in reincarnation? Or what if they practice magick (and it really works)?

Am I going to annoy people if I write books with different elements (that some people don't believe in)? Or should I use a pen name for them? Because, yes, they will be written. However, I only have so many ideas for pen names, and I'm not sure that all of my ideas fit into any one category.

 

**To clarify, my story ideas will only be published as novels. Short stories scare the crap out of me. I ramble too much to have short stories. Even if I refer to it as a "story", I mean really really rough draft of a novel that needs to be expanded into a novel.

Microsoft OneNote

I've never been a fan of Microsoft or their products. However, I have a new laptop with Windows 7 on it because my MacBook Pro died and I couldn't justify spending a couple grand on a new MBP when I have a nice iMac (I'm quite loyal to Apple products.) Anyway, I'm quite happy with my $500 Lenovo ThinkPad, but I needed a few things to ensure I can get things done. Among those things was Microsoft Office. Whether I like it or not, there are times where it's needed (spreadsheets for my "day job", opening other people's documents, etc).

In the Windows version of Office 2010 is a piece of software I've never even heard of before, OneNote. Holy mother of God! I AM IN LOVE!

I don't even think it can be described, but it's like a 3-ring binder with all kinds of capabilities. So far, I haven't even tested them all, but egads am I hooked. So far tonight, I've created a list of scenes, which all link to separate pages where the rough draft can be typed. I have a list of characters which links to separate character profiles, and a list of settings that link to separate setting worksheets.Everything is stored in one place. If I want to see how many words I have in each scene, I just look at the master list of scenes. If I want to see what color eyes Joe Blow has, I just click on the tab that says "Character Profile - Joe Blow" which I created. I don't have to change what I keep track of to fit other people's worksheets. I just create it how I want it done.

I also found a map of the area I'm writing about, copied the graphic to another page in my OneNote program, and I can go in and mark up the map. Now I'll remember that Joe lives next door to Jane Doe, which happens to be 3 blocks north and 2 blocks west of the bar where they met.

Really. I cannot believe that I'm so in love with this software. I've tested various software specifically designed for writing novels and I've always been disappointed, or overwhelmed to the point where I give up.

I was going to buy an iPad for reading ebooks and revising electronically instead of printing tons of revisions, but because of this program, I'm leaning toward buying a Windows slate. And when my iMac dies, I'll replace it with a Windows desktop system.

Of course, as soon as I replace all my Apple electronics, Microsoft will make OneNote available on the Mac operating system.

Progress

I just spent about 7 hours in the truck with two kids and my husband. My husband drove and I entertained the kids for the first half of the trip. It wasn't very pleasant with the cranky monsters, but I did some pre-writing and made progress getting reacquainted with my characters. Yes, I admit it. This book (working title: Alaskan Healing Sequel), Alaskan Hope, has some of the same characters as Alaskan Healing. I'm not sure I'd call it a sequel, since it doesn't have the same main characters. Don't worry though, it's based in Alaska, and the main characters in this book were in Alaskan Healing.

On the return trip the kids slept, my husband drove, and I got most of an outline worked out, plus some ideas for future books. (I guess it's a good thing my hubby hates to be a passenger and does most of the driving when we go anywhere together.

Crazy as it is, I even bounced some ideas off my husband and he gave me an idea. When I first heard his idea I said (to myself), "Nah, that wouldn't work at all." But then I started thinking about it and it WILL work.

It'll work great plus give an unexpected twist to the story.

Now I'm thinking I need to plan a long road trip for every weekend. And maybe I should talk to my husband more.