Friday, November 16, 2012

Emotional Change: Insight into Editing Your Own Work

I spent this morning as I have the last several mornings: going through the outline of Eva and making sure each scene has an emotional change.

I first learned of this story principle from Robert McKee's Story (he calls it a Value Change, I believe). This guideline now seems so obvious, and I'm chagrined I didn't figured it out on my own.

A scene without emotional change is a scene that has a character in the same frame of mind or experiencing the same emotion at the beginning as it does at the end. Scenes without emotional changes are wasted scenes. Either nothing happened to move the plot forward, or nothing happened to the character (no character development).

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hello, World. Remember Me?

What my cat was doing a month ago.
I feel like I've been buried in work, but it hasn't been that long...

Hang on. It's been a month? Okay, I have been buried in work. It was a good time for it. My husband and I had a large setback in a business venture that took the wind out of my sales. On top of that, or because of that, my creativity well was tapped.

What my cat was doing today.
I've been working on my novels, but it's the kind of work that no one can see (not that anyone has seen my books yet, but you will, I promise!). I went through my problematic Book 2 in the Madison Fox series (Book 1 was Conventional Demon, which I submitted for publication the first of this month—still no word from the publisher saying they're in love with it). Book 2 has holes in the plot, and needs corrections to streamline it with changes I made in Book 1.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Jordan, Good; Queries, Bad

If editing is my favorite part of the writing process, writing queries is my least favorite. It's mindbogglingly difficult to simmer down 430 pages into two to three paragraphs of energized, informative, colorful text.

Case in point, I just spent two and a half hours writing queries for Eva. I created two solid queries, both which need refinement. Total word count: 556 words. It's a slow, deliberate process.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A Just Update

After 17.5 hours of edits on Conventional Demon, I think this book is as polished as it's going to get. Bring on the submissions, Harper Voyager. I'm ready.

I did a lot of subtle trimming this round. A sentence removed here, a paragraph there, a few words here and there. Nothing major. I don't think there's anything major left. I've been through this book more than a dozen times. More than 20 times. I've lost count. The fact that I'm calling this "Draft 6" reflects only the number of times I've done major rewrites.

Friday, September 21, 2012

It's Just Out of Control

After my last post, I wanted to see how often I used—ah, overused—the words just, simply, and definitely.

The results are telling:

Conventional Demon: Total Word Count 94,000
  • Simply: 22 times
  • Definitely: 40 times
  • Just: 244 times
Two hundred forty-four times! That's insane.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Friends Don't Let Friends Write Titles While on NyQuil

Eva Parker and the Elephant of Doom (Source)
After nine blissful months since my last bout with ill health, I succumbed this weekend to my husband's cold. While my body focused on important things like white blood cells and mucus and consuming gallons of liquid and handfuls of vitamin C, I was left in charge of all forms of passive entertainment. In a snot-induced stupor, I attempted to sit through Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon. Even sick, even drugged on Sudafed, I couldn't handle the bad character development, terrible plot shifts, and faulty camera angles that interrupted story flow. Fortunately, I was able to wash away the bad taste of Michael Bay's trash with reruns of How I Met Your Mother and The IT Crowd, and new episodes of some of my favorite shows, like White Collar, Warehouse 13, and Downton Abbey.

There is, however, a finite number of days and hours my muse will be hampered by sickness. On the second day, when I was too exhausted from sitting to remain upright, unable to regulate my body temperature long enough to fall asleep, and NyQuil was failing to meet all its promises, I grabbed a notebook and pen and wrote down all the titles for Eva I could think of.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Hello, World, Meet Eva

Psst! Edits are done!
Edits are done! Victory laps have yet to be made (my brain is still a little too mushy for wholehearted celebration). It's statistic time!

Because so much of writing a novel is invisible to all but the author (and the people who live with her), I really enjoy when I have quantitative stats.


I'm notorious for overwriting, which means each edit was as much about trimming as it was about refining the story.
  • Draft 1 = 124,615 words / 444 pages
  • Draft 2 = 120,887 words / 431 pages
  • Draft 3 = 119,771 words / 427 pages

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Massaging a Storyline

What replotting looks like inside my head.

I finished the second round of edits on Eva last night. I celebrated for a few minutes, then got to work on the scientist storyline problem. I needed to create some major proof to satisfy some very demanding scientific research companies, and the story as it stood didn't come close to making those companies happy.

But that was okay. I had a solution. It was typed out in outline form over a month ago after the first read, when I recognized the flaw in the story's logic. It was a great solution. In fact, it was so amazing that modern science hasn't even caught up with it. Which meant, sadly, it was no good for this novel. I'm not writing a futuristic sci-fi. My character has already performed a spectacular scientific feat. To have her make two amazing scientific leaps in one novel was one too many.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

What's This Nonfiction Idea Doing in Here?

How I visualize my queue of story ideas.
I had an idea last night for a nonfiction book.

Yep. Nonfiction. Technically, this idea has been pinging around my head for the last five or so years. It hasn't quietly gone away, nor has it worked its way into any fiction novels. It has persisted. And last night, it was done with being quiet and waiting its turn in the queue of story ideas.

As I tried to fall asleep, it paraded back and forth, shouting out ideas for layout designs, cover , interior art, and, most importantly, content.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Over Halfway Done

Photo courtesy of Calvin Merry
All has been quiet on the blog front for far too long. Unfortunately, with editing, there's not a lot of excitement. At least, not for anyone other than me. I get excited when a scene comes together or when I find something I wrote funny. The best is when I find a line that I love and I'm so pleased I wrote it.

Here's one:

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Editing Milestone and Google Takes a Power Trip

The original picture of Zenzo, the coughing cat
All was quiet on my blog for several days. Not by choice, and not that I post so regularly that anyone could tell. For once, the reason was not procrastination or laziness. Nope: Google was having a power trip.

It all started when I tried to email a video of my cat coughing to my vet. The video wouldn't go through. Not to the vet, not to my husband. So plan B. Upload the video to YouTube. Only, in order to upload, I had to make an account. Fine. I made one under my cat's name, with my cat's birthday, hit enter, and realized before the error screen had time to pop up that my cat was under 13 years old. Which meant she couldn't have her own channel.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Nine Books Read in July: Or, No, I'm Not Obsessed with Charts

I got to pet a baby goat recently. Made my day.
Lest you think I get "worried" about my reading quota in a general year or month, let me begin by saying that I don't really care about quantity. I care about quality. But I like to track things. I like to compare year-to-year results, and I like to have a quantitative view of what I've been doing. It's why I track my daily writing/editing amounts. It's why I have a spreadsheet to track my income from my jobs. And it's why, for the last four years, I've tracked the books I've read by month, author, and genre.

Which is why I know that in July, I read 9 books! That's on top of a very busy personal month and a very busy work month. How did this happen? Easily: Good books.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Writing Tips from a Personal Hero

Like a lot of people—like a lot of writers*—I'm a bit in awe of Joss Whedon. He makes complex writing look easy, fully flushed-out dichotomous characters appear natural, and weaves a fine balance of action, thrill, humor, and romance in ways that delight mass audiences. Much to my disappointment as an audience member, but my secret envy as a writer, he's ruthless with characters, and even favorite cast members aren't safe from death (so not Star Trek here, folks!).

Which is why, when I found his Top 10 Writing Tips, I felt disproportional glee when I read this:

Thursday, July 19, 2012

My Idea Files Are Brimming

I'm so excited by my next project! Wait, you say, aren't you still editing the novel you just finished writing. Yep. Still chopping 20 words from each page. Still debating over every single word. Still putting in the hours every day. But that just means that my creativity is free to explore ideas unconnected to this book without any censoring or plotting.

No critic. No agenda.

That's a vast, free place to exist in. 

Which means that while I'm excited to work on my next project, I don't really know what it'll be yet. However, I do have a plethora of options. In no particular order:

Monday, July 16, 2012

A Gift for Eva

Kyoko atop the
complete Eva manuscript
I have often fondly mocked Laurell K. Hamilton, despite being her devoted fan. I know from religiously reading her blog that she embraces a melodrama in her daily life that would be exhausting for me. To her credit, she seems equally as exuberant in love as she is in her darker beliefs. None of this I mock. I imagine her family loves her dearly for her intensity, and I know I benefit from it when reading her novels.

To be specific, I mock the fact that every Christmas, she blogs about purchasing gifts for her characters.

For. Her. Characters.

For the make-believe people that exist in her head. Yes, I understand her logic that the people are so real to her it feels like they exist, and since they are the manifestations that perpetuate her livelihood, it's great that they're so real to her. But to buy presents for them, or to get up to the register with an item in hand, only to realize the person doesn't truly exist, seemed just shy of insanity.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Eva Edits: Round 1 Done!

The first round edits of my 443-page screwball magical realism are done. I now have four sticky note's worth of issues to address, one major plot point to streamline across the novel, and a genuine, good story.

I also have a few new stats (because we all know how I adore stats).
  • Number of pages cut: 12
  • Number of words cut: 3,728 (only 2 percent of the novel)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The New Page 69 of Eva

Last week, I posted page 69 of Eva, following the idea that page 69 of a book can give you a micro-view of the greater themes and characters of the book (according to The Page 69 Test).

However, I've been hard at work editing this last week. Editing for me often means trimming, so after cutting two pages worth of text out of the first 68 pages, here's the new page 69, which I feel more accurately reflects the themes and characters of the book even if it doesn't include one of my favorite scenes.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

On Quotes

I've been amusing myself this morning by looking through quotes by writers on writing. It a pastime one degree away from being productive, while still mimicking the feeling. Plus, there's a lot of really great nuggets of wisdom in those authors' off-the-cuff (or perhaps well-thought-out) words.

Such as this quote:

“Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now.”
—Annie Dillard

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Page 69 of Eva

I recently learned about The Page 69 Test, a blog that, to the best of my understanding, believes that page 69 of a book can give you a micro-view of the greater themes and characters of the book.

I immediately wanted to see if this held true for Eva.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Great Minds...On Different Pages

As part of a challenge, my husband and I both wrote a paragraph to the theme "I love this bar." Cody wrote his in about five minutes in his head while we folded clothes and made the bed. (Wait, who's the wannabe author in this house?) I took forty-five minutes of dithering over tone and word choice, mentally building the follow-up scenes, learning who my character was, etc., before I was happy with my paragraph (and, yes, I edited it again just now).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Where Are All the Tall Buildings?

Photo from Hispanically Speaking News
I spent most of today's editing session pouring over one of the best LA resources a friend gave me. Early in the character-building process, I decided that Eva would live in the Culver City/Palms area of greater Los Angeles. I've been there, I like the neighborhoods, and it's close to several key locations in the novel that can't be moved (it's really hard to move the coast line of the Pacific Ocean inland without harming a lot of people). 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Sneak Peek: Eva's Take on Love

I pulled this three-page snippet from my novel, Eva. (Much better title to come.) Things you need to know for this to make sense: 
  • Sofie is Eva's aunt. 
  • Kyoko is a baby elephant. 
  • Eva and Sofie both see paranormal apparitional personality divinations, or, in layman's terms, random objects around people that reflect their emotional state. 
“He’s a handsome man, your Hudson,” Sofie said.
Source: lalootka's attic
            “He’s not my Hudson,” I said.
            I eyed the finger puppets on her hands and considered picking my book back up, but I was too curious about what she’d seen on Hudson, so I was going to have to put up with the meddling, too.
            “Just tell me what you saw. I know you want to.”

Monday, June 11, 2012

How I Write a Novel

I think I've finally found the novel-writing method that works for me. It's a hodgepodge of organization I learned from screenwriting, advice from other writers, and my own experience. If you'd like to give my approach a try or pick and choose the tasty bits, here it is in eleven "simple" steps:

Hudson, male lead
Story build. Grab a piece of paper or a blank Word file and write down everything you want in the story, in a bullet-point fashion. For me, the list included everything from "Eva sees personality divinations" and "Hudson is cynical" to "Eva has to face her fear of men" and "Ninjas!" There are no limitations here, no plotting that needs to be done, and no censoring yourself. Anything and everything that sounds like fun to write about, slap it down.

This story was forming in my head for two years or more, so I had a lot of my bullet points ready to go. I liked this method of keeping track of ideas so much, I already have four pages of bullet points for the next novel in a completely different series and a few bullets for the story after that. It's an easy way to keep track of new ideas for projects that are next in line, or five projects down the queue.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Fingers and Toes Counted: It's a Whole Book

Photo courtesy of Teri Chastain
Whew! I just finished a grueling workweek. (Yes, I know it's only four o'clock on a Thursday, but I already worked more hours this week than during a normal five-day workweek, and I'm done!)

Despite the demands of work, this week I also read Eva, the novel I just finished writing. It was long, and there were a few specific scenes that felt long in themselves. There were amusing typos (I wish I could remember what now), and some repetitious information.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Post-slump Stuffing of the Muse

After the celebrating, and once my husband was busy with work again and I was distraction-free, the slump caught up to me. I have been left alone with my emotions and thoughts, and they haven't all been pretty. There was some end-of-project depression, followed by a haze of white noise, then a persistent prodding from that nebulous core of creativity I call the muse.

The translation goes a little something like this:

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Eva Is Complete!

I finished writing a book today! Wait. This could be better...

I finished writing a book today!

Much better!

The first draft of Eva, my latest novel, is complete. It is a break from my usual straight fantasy novel. Eva is a screwball adventure spliced with magical realism. There's feng shui, genetic engineering, lots of handcuffs, paranormal apparitional personality divinations (I told you there was magic), an elephantini, ninjas, FBI, and a topping of romance.

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Needed Reminder of Why I Write

Would I continue to write if I knew I was never going to be published and never going to make any money from it?

This question has lurked in the undercurrents of my darker thoughts this last month. And like a good ostrich, I buried myself in other activities and never gave myself the breathing room to answer it.

Then, in the space of two days, three different friends asked me this same question. None of these friends know each other. None of these friends were prompted by me. Suddenly, this question was refusing to be ignored. The Universe was not going to let me gloss over this internal debate and carry on.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The Mouse Is Dead, Long Live the Mouse

I've had a long week. Long hours, lots of time right here in front of the computer, and only 2.5 hours of that have been writing time. The rest has been my paying job. I knew this week was going to be grueling, but knowing it's coming and living through it are two different experiences entirely.

I can feel that I pushed myself (and my eyes—they really need a break) this week, but my wireless mouse confirmed it a few hours ago when it gave up and refused to budge. No more, it protested. I'm done. (It could have been channeling the way my behind feels right about now, too.)

Monday, May 14, 2012

Shopping with a Conscience Leads Me Astray

I love the practice of voting with your dollar. It's exactly what you're doing every time you purchase anything: You're saying that you want this, not the millions of other things you could be spending your money on. You're letting the world (or the business) know this has value. 

The first time I heard the phrase "vote with your dollar," I felt like a piece of the puzzle snapped into place. In more ways than my political vote or the causes I support, I can impact society, throwing my weight behind the practices I want to see continued. Dollar by dollar, I can tell corporations and businesses, the government, and my friends and family exactly what I believe is important and what I won't tolerate or support.

My purchases have been elevated to a statement of my beliefs.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Status Update, Eva: Almost Done

It's been three and a half months since I started my current novel, creatively nicknamed Eva after the main character.

Yesterday, I said hello to page 400. Today, I waved good-bye to it and continued on.

I'm on page 22 of my 23-page outline. I have the final battle scene and the epilogue left. That's it! Of course, those two scenes could take another 50 to 60 pages. Less, if I can keep things tight and concise.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Magicians by Lev Grossman: Fantastical Boredom at its Finest

Have you ever read a story that had all the elements you like—good characterization, great writing, unique plots, interesting magic—and still didn't like the book? That was The Magicians by Lev Grossman for me.

There is no disputing that Grossman can write. The man has never met an adjective he didn't like, and yet, that doesn't detract from the storytelling. His world was filled with vivid imagery, flushed with detail. I "read" this novel as an audio book over the course of five months, and the story remained crisp in my mind every time I tuned back in for another ten or twenty minutes of listening.

Yet, it was this same attention to detail that sucked the enjoyment from much of the story for me. With excruciating detail, Grossman explains the extreme boredom, disinterest, and unhappiness of Quentin, the main character. And right along with Quentin, I was bored, disinterested, and unhappy.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

FlashForward Lets Me Down Again

A couple of years ago, FlashForward the TV show caught my fancy. It really was all about the people collapsing in unison. What's not to love about a whole population passing out in synchronization? Then ABC did the tried-and-true death dance with the show, airing it randomly and with huge gaps between new episodes. I lost track of it, found it on Hulu, and then lost patience completely. The idea of it, however, remained in my thoughts. I wanted to know the end of the story.

A few months ago, I remembered that it was originally a book by Robert J. Sawyer. A few days later, I had it in my hands.

It was a good book. Compelling, interesting, intriguing. The only problem was, it wasn't the book I wanted. It didn't explore the direction I wanted it to. Sawyer went the route of a few individual's response to seeing a piece of their future, and the ending was about something completely different.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again

I made the enormous, much-debated decision to self-publish. I announced it, planned for it, drafted one of the best marketing plans I've ever seen.

Then I reread the story, Conventional Demon, for the umpteenth time. Only this time, it had been about three years since its last viewing.

It wasn't good.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Interview with Marc Johnson

A little over a year ago, Marc Johnson published his debut novel Catalyst: The Passage of Hellsfire. Today Marc is here to share some of his experiences with the marketing side of self-publishing.

What were the top five things you did to market you first novel?

Marc Johnson:
1. Contacted over 500 book bloggers
2. Been on podcasts
3. Paid for advertising
4. Interviews
5. Guest blogging

Monday, April 2, 2012

Two Months of Writing and Counting

I love my stats. I love tracking progress in quantifiable ways. When writing a novel, I have two measurements: time and words.

My inspiration for Eva.
My daily quota is simple: 1,667 words minimum. I got this number when I wrote my first NaNo WriMo novel. One thousand six hundred sixty-seven words is how much you have to write every day of November to make the 50,000-word end-of-the-month goal. For me, it's a doable amount. Half the time. The other half of the days, I'm really pushing myself to reach my goal.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Editing with Experience

In preparation of self-publishing Conventional Demon, I’m doing a final edit before sending it along to my copyeditor.

The last round of edits I did were a year and a half ago. Since then, I’ve written a novel (placeholder title: Faye), a novella, and I’m halfway through a second novel (placeholder title: Eva). I also edited the novella and am working on edits of Faye. I’ve read Stephen King’s On Writing, parts of Robert McGee’s Story, and numerous online articles on the craft of writing and editing. I’ve reread The Writer’s Journey by Christopher Vogler. I’ve critiqued stories for friends and strangers. I’ve studied critiques of other people’s work.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Self-Publishing: 8 Reasons Why the Answer Is Yes

Making the decision to self-publish required a shift in my perception. I had to reevaluate my goals, my belief structure, and even the source of my pride. Then it required serious deliberation on my part. Just because self-publishing is easy, available, and I have a completed novel didn’t mean I was ready to publish. Did I have the fire, the creative energy, and the wherewithal to be successful?

When in doubt, make a list. (It’s practically a family motto, something that should be on my family crest. Making lists also helps me get organized, and that never fails to soothe me.)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Self-publishing: Chapter One

Self-published novels are crap. They are the books that people couldn't sell to publishing houses, the rejects of editors and agents, and quite possibly, of friends and family and colleagues. They are self-indulgent, sub-par works that before this decade would have been smothered in a dark, musty drawer...which is exactly where they belong.

Up until six months ago, this was my belief.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

My Brief Affair with the Idea of Being a Director

Riding on my husband's new enthusiasm for a film career, I started flirting with the idea of getting into the film industry, too. I read What I Really Want to do On Set in Hollywood, and I found myself leaning toward two very different career options other than director. Then I found Camille E Landau and Tiare White's novel, What They Don't Teach You at Film School, and I thought maybe I hadn't given the idea of directing a chance.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Twenty-two Days Later

...I'm still writing. Twenty-two of twenty-eight days is pretty darn good. I look at that and see one extra day off than I should have taken and one day where I wrote less than my minimum word count, but I also see some kick-ass dedication. I'm 147 pages into my novel, on page 7 of my outline. That's one kidnapping, one elephant-napping, one sex scene, and one heaping of coffeecake eaten by the main character (sadly not by me). Tomorrow's scene will be just as frustrating for the main character as the last, if not more so. I can't wait to torture her some more.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

It's Time for a Seated Happy Dance

Writing has begun! Writing has begun! 

After over a month of plotting and outlining, I've started writing Eva's story! I'm so excited!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Secondary Careers

My husband has recently launched his career in the film industry, reminding me of the days (wow, now ten years ago!) when I took a screenwriting class at college and thought the silver screen was my ticket to success.

My dismal ability to write compelling dialog combined with my love of prose soon turned me back to novels, and I've been happily writing stories (and learning a lot) since.

However, in light of my husband's changing career path, I wanted to learn a bit about what he was getting into. Thus, I borrowed What I Really Want to do on Set in Hollywood from him and started reading.

The idea was to gain insight into the positions that appeal to my husband, but instead I found myself imagining myself in each role. While he was fond of the technical positions, as well as director and producer, I found myself leaning toward two very distinct and different jobs.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Why I Must Be an Egyptian Ticking Clock

I have spent three weeks trying to fall in love with Jane Lindskold's The Buried Pyramid. It has everything I want in a novel: a spunky heroine, an interesting hero, adventure, exotic local, and a different time period. Throw in a little Egyptian magic, some pyramids, some treasures and curses and superstitions, and it should be everything I enjoy.

Should be. And yet, in three weeks, I made it less than fifty pages into the book. Every time I sat down with it, I was ready to like it, ready to fall into the story and get lost. Only to find my mind wandering and the story drifting from my thoughts.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Writing Stats of 2011

Last year was a strange year for me in writing. The story that was supposed to be finished in 2010 bled over seven months into 2011. Afterward, I wrote a novella, a first for me. Then I started the world-building of the novel I'm currently working on. But somewhere along the way, I'd burnt out a little. My momentum staggered, and it shows in my numbers.

I believe in weekends when I'm not writing—when I'm doing all those other parts of a book, like research, character development, world development, editing, and querying. If I didn't, I'd be beyond burnt out to blackened, charred ash by now. When I write, I like to do it in the vein of NaNo WriMo: 1,667 words a day, nonstop, until the novel is done (weekends and holidays included). When the book takes one month (or even three), this is doable. When it takes eight, not so much. So just to orient myself, that means that I should be working on writing-related things 261 days of the year.

This year, I measured in at 192 days spent working on writing-related tasks, and 116 days on actual writing.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan

In a quest to refresh myself to the Wheel of Time series before reading the last three novels in the series, I checked out the audio version of the only book in The Wheel of Time series my library had (book two, The Great Hunt). After it was finished, I assumed I would skip ahead to book ten or eleven and read on from there.

And I did. I got over 100 pages into book ten, Crossroads of Twilight, then realized that I was disappointed by how much I missed. Rather than power through or read the summaries (short or long), I went back to my bookshelf and pulled out The Dragon Reborn for the first time since 1991.

I have carted this book along with the entire series published to date (in both hardback and paperback, because I'm obsessed that way) from my parents' house and through three subsequent moves, each time wrapping them with love, and unpackaging and shelving them with care. The books made a huge impression on my teenage self—as a writer and a reader—and it was as much that memory I was honoring as the books themselves. Every Christmas for eight years, I got a brand-new Jordan to add to my collection...and then I would hole myself away for my winter break, reading late into the night, losing myself in the novels.