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Dealing with one of Life’s Lemons

The old saying goes: “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

Well, life has handed me a lemon, but I prefer a more modern approach. “When life hands you lemons, stick them in your shirt and make your boobs look bigger.”

Unfortunately (or fortunately I suppose), I already have big(-ish) boobs, and I’m pretty sure lemons wouldn’t make them look any better. So what’s a gal to do when life hands her a lemon as big as the one I’ve been handed? I could stick it in my pants and pretend I’m a guy for a day, but I don’t think that’d solve the problem either.

I ramble on about lemons because life has thrown a big curve ball at me which has seriously deterred me from my writing. The company I work for has lost a major contract so, of course, that means downsizing. Me being one of the most recently hired, means I’m also the one most recently fired. Or let go. Whatever they call it.

So for the past week or so I’ve been job searching. In my downtime I’ve let off steam by playing video games. Just something to take my mind off of things, ya know? Writing requires a certain amount of concentration that I just can’t handle at the moment. So until I get back into the employment groove, I’m taking a break.

I’m starting to hate saying “I’m taking a break” because I’ve already been working on Soul Weaver for almost a year. Now it’s going to be even longer. Good thing I don’t do this for a living eh?

 

So for anyone who follows my blog, I’ll have more updates on Soul Weaver soon. I am incredibly close to finishing it and I still have a goal to be completely edited and heading towards publication before the end of the year. So that’s not changing. But for now, I have other things to focus on. Things like supporting my family with some sort of income. Life and its’ lemons….sheesh….I tell ya….

 

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NaNoWriMo Day 18: Record Breaking Change of Plan

See that picture right there? Yeah, that one to the left, and there’s a larger one at the bottom. See them? That’s what getting caught up with NaNo after being almost two weeks behind looks like. That’s what forcing myself to pound out nearly 6,000 words looks like. That’s what writing my butt off looks like. (And I mean that quite literally. My butt was numb for quite a while yesterday.)

I know to some of you that may not seem like much, but to me it’s the most I’ve ever written in one day. My previous record was a little over 5,000 words during Camp NaNoWriMo.

 

I know the more I force myself to write every day, the easier writing will come, but I noticed something in common with both of those record breaking days:

I planned.

That’s right, this so-called ‘pantser’ actually sat down and took the time to plan out where the story was going. It was only after planning, that I was able to pound out 5 and 6k words. Almost like they were nothing.

 

I think it’s also getting easier because because I’m nearing the end of the book. Soul Weaver currently sits at 94,515 words with a total goal of around 115k. But that’s only for NaNoWriMo purposes. I won’t be disappointed if I only write another 5k before typing “THE END”, but I have a feeling that’s not going to happen. There’s so much I have yet to write. The climax is coming. The MC needs to grow. The bad guy needs to be defeated. People need to die. (In the book! In the book!) I know I have another good 10-15k to write.

 

The problem with being a pantser is that you never really know what to write until you write it. There are times you get stuck because you’re not sure where it’s going. Like introducing a new character. Or ten. That was the case a few days ago when my MC met a group of people that I knew would be instrumental in the end, but I had no idea how to write them. I had to take the time to sit down and name them; give them a back story; find out what their personalities were; and what their role would be, before I could continue.

Had I planned all of it out from the beginning I would have been able to write through that chapter without an issue. So after I wrote them into the story, I took the time to plan out where the rest of the book was going.

Chapter by chapter I wrote what needed to happen next. I gave myself some flex room in case a character decided to do something odd without asking first. (We’ve all had those moments right? We think our characters are going to do something, only to find out that they do something totally different.) In the end, I planned from the next chapter until the end of the book.

And you know what happened? I was able to punch out 3k, 4k, and almost 6k words in one day. Not only that, but I felt much more comfortable with my writing. By this time I know my MCs well enough that was easier to write their story in the direction I now know it’s going.

 

To say that I think I may have learned a lesson here would be an understatement. I have a sequel in mind after finishing Soul Weaver and it might be safe to say that it will involve a lot more planning beforehand. Maybe I’ll be able to be one of those people who finish NaNoWriMo in one day!

Wait a minute. Who am I kidding? Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Maybe I can just shoot for 75k in 30 days instead. Yeah, that sounds a little more reasonable.

 

So I leave you with this: If you’re still lagging behind, struggling to catch up, and maybe thinking you won’t be able to finish – try doing something different. Something you don’t usually do. If you’re a planner, try pantsing. If you’re a panster, try planning. If you’re a little bit of both, take a break and challenge yourself by writing a short back story for a side character.

Another thing you can do is to find someone to challenge you. A little bit of writing truth or dare if you will. My friend Aaron Steinmetz and I did that during Camp WriMo this year and I’ll be darned if one of his challenges didn’t wind up becoming an important part of my novel.

If you’ve never played, it goes like this:

You: I dare you to write about a three legged dog.

Friend: Okay, I dare you to have one of your characters use the word ‘fart’.

It’s as simple as that. You both write the other person’s challenge and before you know it, you’ve just added another couple (or hundred…or thousand) words to your novel. Rinse and repeat. Keep in mind: if you don’t like it, you can always edit it out later.

 

If you’re still struggling, don’t fret. NaNoWriMo is meant to get writers into the habit of writing every day. Even if it’s just a few words. So if you don’t wind up with 50k words by November 30th, but you continue to hammer away at your writing every day then you, my friend, have already won.

 

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NaNoWriMo Day 9: There’s Still Hope

It’s day 9 of NaNoWriMo and I’ve only written 7,807 words. Yes, I’ve fallen behind. I fell behind after day 4, but I wasn’t worried because I thought I had time to catch up. But the day I had set aside, wound up being an incredibly dramatic day for my family.

Without going into detail, I will say that my eldest son has had some very rough times lately. Two days ago he decided it was too much to handle and attempted something terrifyingly drastic. It wasn’t something I would have ever thought he would do and thankfully, he failed. Let me tell you, as a parent, I would not wish this on anyone. Not even my worst enemy.

The feelings of helplessness, guilt, fear, and not knowing what to do next was overwhelming as I drove to meet him and his father. No parent should ever have to feel this way. And no child should ever feel that the things that happen in their life are that bad.

When I met up with my son, he immediately ran over to me and hugged me tight. I held him for what seemed like forever as we both cried on each other’s shoulders. He apologized and swore he would never do anything like that again. While he seemed to understand the consequences of his actions and is more than willing to attend the counseling he will now need, he and I also know that things won’t be the same for a long time. If ever.

I’m grateful that I was able to take him home with me that night. Along with his little brother and sister, we all had a fantastic weekend together. Afterwards, he told me that he was glad he spent this time with me. He said it was relaxing. That he was able to forget about the stress of everything for a while. That made me smile and warmed my heart.

I’ll admit that even though I was on my guard in case he slipped, I had a great time as well. One of the coolest things we did was stay up into the wee hours of the morning talking about a book that he wants to write. He’s well aware of my endeavor to finish Soul Weaver and would frequently ask me how it’s coming along. He’s even read the first few chapters, but told me that he won’t read the rest until I’m finished and that I have to finish it. But this is the first time I’ve ever heard him talk about being interested in writing, let alone any sort of novel.

We spoke for a long time about what it would be, and the more we talked, the more the plot was painted in our minds. He wants to write a historical fiction. A steam-punk Civil War along the same lines as the Leviathan Series by Scott Westerfield. We got online and did some research. We plotted out time lines. We looked up the technology that was used. We came up with names for the main characters and a little bit of their back story. We even came up with a name for it. Ideas were pouring forth as we wrote down everything we could think of.

In the end we wound up with nearly three pages of notes and something that we could bond over (outside of video games). I can only hope that after this weekend this project can be this is something that he can look forward to. Something that he can escape reality for and pour his creativity into. And though it will be his own project, I hope that this can be something that he and I can share and work on together. Maybe, just maybe, it will give him something to focus on when he thinks things are getting too much to handle again. As long as it’s only a side project and doesn’t add to his stress, I will support him one million percent in his endeavor.

Now I have the perfect motivation to keep pushing forward with Soul Weaver. Now when he asks how it’s coming along, I can tell him that I’m still dutifully slugging away. Now, I can ask him how his is coming along as well. Now we can motivate each other.

 

It’s day 9 of NaNoWriMo and I’m behind. But I will get caught up. Because I want to show my son that it can be done. And son, if you’re reading this, maybe this time next year you’ll be a part of this event with me. Slugging away at our novels and helping each other to the finish line. A mother can only hope, right?

 

Hope

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Down in the Writing Dumps…

Click for larger image.

I saw this image on Pinterest and I just had to save it. I think every writer goes through this.

Right now I’m most certainly feeling the images on the right. There are times when I don’t feel like writing. Just opening up Scrivener – no, just looking at the icon on my desktop – makes me cringe.

Since Camp NaNoWriMo ended I have written all of 16,000 words. 16,000 words in the past 37 days. How is it that I can pound out 50,000 words in less than 30 days, but the following 37 days I can’t even break 20k? Even though I took a week off after Camp, that’s still 30 days, and all I’ve been able to write is 1/4th of what I was able to write in April.

Why is that? Why is it lately that every time I sit down to write it feels like a chore and not something that I enjoy? Why is it that as I’m typing the words, my mind wants to drift off until I eventually find myself browsing Facebook or Twitter? Or finding something that needs done in the house?

I think I know why. This image describes it exactly. Sometimes I feel like my scenes are hideous. I feel like my story is awful. I feel like I’m a despicable writer. And lately, all I feel like doing is sobbing because I’ve been telling myself that my writing will never amount to anything more than “meh”.

It’s a combination of a lack of self confidence, too high of expectations, and a lack of stick-too-itiveness. In April I had a goal of just simply writing. In April I had a goal of not caring if I get published. In April I just wanted to say I wrote a book. In April I wasn’t comparing myself to other writers, I just wanted to tell my story. In April I just wanted something that I could leave to my children when I’ve left this world; something that I could be proud of.

For some reason, my goal has morphed into much more. I want to be published. By TOR no less. I want to be found in bookstores. I want to be told my story is excellent. My characters believable. My scenes intriguing. I want people to tell me that my writing is a million times better than anything I wrote ten years ago and ask me why didn’t I stick to it back then because I could have written this a long time ago.

I want to be told this, because it’s not what I think of myself. I think, “What else have you written, Amanda? A couple pieces of flash fiction almost ten years ago – romance fiction at that – and you think you can just step into the world of fantasy writing? You think you can call yourself even remotely ready for any sort of publishing just because you’ve managed to write 50,000 words? Crappy words I might add. Words that suck and are going to need editing a dozen times. Call it quits now. You don’t even have a chance at publishing traditionally anyway. Those publishers are going to chew you up and spit you out. You have no online presence. You have no style. You have no talent. You haven’t even developed your own writing voice yet. Do you really think anyone is going to be even remotely interested?”

To which I reply to myself, “But I’m interested. Every time I go back and read previous chapters I become engrossed in it. I want to keep reading as if I’m reading someone else’s work. Doesn’t that count for something?” That’s when I start getting impatient. I want to start editing what I have so far. I get excited and I think maybe, just maybe, I might be able to do this.

That’s when my self doubt comes back and gives me the same argument as before. Instead, what I need to do is get back into the mindset I had in April. Write for the joy of it. To say I’ve finished a novel and be proud. Then take a step back and breathe. After some time away, I can come back and go through the first edit. Only then should I start thinking about possible publishing. And as much as the thought feels like a needle stabbing me in the heart, I need to forget about TOR. Sure I can submit an inquiry, but I shouldn’t expect or even hope for any sort of positive response. This is my first novel after all.

I know that may sound pessimistic, but I’ve always been one to think “Hope for the best, but expect the worst.” If I get lucky, I get lucky. It’s not like I don’t know the amount of work involved before I will even be close to that point. I’ve done my research. The problem is, I’ve done so much research that I think I’ve overloaded my brain.

What I need to do now is re-wire it. Go back to the excitement of April. The can-do-it attitude and the thought of “I don’t care if this is published. I just want to finally say I’ve done it.”

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Help! Photoshop Has Sucked Me In!

Since winning Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve taken a week long break from writing. I must admit, on one hand it feels good not having the pressure of needing to write every day to make sure I keep up with my word count. On the other hand, I miss it. My story still hasn’t left my mind. So starting on Monday I’ll get back to writing every day.

You can tell that I’ve still been distracted with my book this week. I’ve spent countless hours in Photoshop putting together my book cover as well as a map of the land of Teralinda. I’ll be including the map in the first few pages of the book. I’ve also debated putting in a few drawings of the items mentioned in the book. Namely my main character’s necklace as well as her dagger. Both are pretty essential to the book, so it’s nice to have a visual reference for them.

Here is what I have for my book cover so far. I used the template provided by LuLu.com. They have a wonderful reward for those who win NaNoWriMo: A FREE first edition printed hard cover of the novel you wrote for WriMo. I hope to at least have the entire first draft finished before the deadline of August 31st so I can take advantage of this offer. Although it won’t be fully edited, just seeing it in print will be truly overwhelming. Heck, just printing everything I have so far from my own printer is overwhelming.

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Soul Weaver book cover version 1.0

 

Major thanks to calthyechild from Deviant Art for creating a great way to make your own maps. Including permission to use commercially or non-commercially. I had been searching for weeks for software to create a map like this. I nearly shelled out $100 until I found this little gem. I cannot thank this person enough for offering such a simple way to create a customizable map like this. I may tweak it a bit more, but I really like what I have so far. I’ll be using it again for the sequel (title to be determined) as well.

Soul Weaver map of Teralinda version 1.0

Soul Weaver map of Teralinda version 1.0

 

So even though I haven’t been writing this week, I have been working on the novel itself. I’m actually looking forward to Monday when I start writing again. I think I easily have another 10-20k more words to write. Knowing me, it will be even longer than that. I’ll likely double what I have so far, which is quite a bit. That’s one huge stack of paper waiting to be edited!

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Soul Weaver after Camp NaNoWriMo

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Camp NaNoWriMo – WINNER!

See that title? Yup, you guessed it. I have won Camp NaNoWriMo!

It was kind of odd at first, because Scrivener told me I had 50,112 words. I compiled it all into one Word document to validate on the website and Word told me I was 55 words short of 50k. So I hemmed and hawed and tried to convince myself that I didn’t need to do that, and then got kicked in the bum and told to write 55 more words. So I did.

In the end, Scrivener told me I had 50,203 and Word told me I had 50,011 words. Either way – I broke 50k!

This is all strictly for my novel. Once I broke 50k, I added in all the word sprints and blog entries. All the chapter summaries and blurb rewrites. Basically all writing for the entire month of April short of Twitter and Facebook posts. Once I added that in, it came up to 63,916. Granted, I probably could have counted that all from the get-go, but I wanted to be true to my novel and write 50k for Soul Weaver alone.

 

So how do I feel now that I’ve won?

CampWriMoWinnerCertificate2014I’m slightly disappointed that I can’t say “I finished my novel,” but I’m happy about where my novel has taken me. When I first started WiMo I thought I didn’t have enough story planned out to get 50k words and I would end up finishing my novel prematurely and forced to write short stories to make up the rest of the goal. However, that is far from what happened.

I’m likely around the halfway point of the book. While I wish I could say that I finished a novel during Camp NaNoWriMo, that would be an utter lie. I could probably write another 50k words before I’d even be close to finished. Which is good right? That would make my word count for the completed novel around 100k words. Unfortunately, it means that I’m not ready to take a good long break from it right now (which after this month, I feel like I need one.)

 

What have I learned?

CampWinner2014I will admit that the last week was the toughest to push through. I honestly hadn’t thought I’d make it as far as I did and I didn’t plan certain parts very well. So when I finally got to that point, it was slow going because I had to make it up as I went along. I had to let the characters take it out of my hands and write the story for me, which proved to be very very very slow going. However, it’s worked out pretty well so far. I got to taste the true world of “pantsing” [writing by the seat of your pants – not having plotted it out beforehand]. While I had considered myself a pantser before, I did have the ‘cheat sheet’ (aka I plotted it out a bit.) I wrote with a generalized idea of the whole story and where it would go, how it would end ect. Now I’m finally back on track with my cheat sheet and could probably hammer away another 5-10k on the next few scenes before I’d be forced to pants again.

For my next novel (which will be a sequel to Soul Weaver. Title to be announced later -aka I have to come up with it), I think I may try to plot more and see where that takes me. I may have learned the hard way that pantsing isn’t as easy as it looks.

I’ve also learned that I allow my characters to write themselves. Keeping in mind that this is a first draft, I think I like that. I feel like I’m able to allow themselves to be natural, not forced. If I feel like I’m forcing a character to do something, I try to throw something in the way that I know would naturally make them go in the direction I need them to go that way they don’t seem forced.

However, I’ve also learned that sometimes I really need a character cheat sheet, so I don’t accidentally write them doing something they wouldn’t naturally do. Hubby caught me a few times making some of my characters a little too agreeable for the sake of pushing through the scene. Usually that would happen when I was too stuck in the mindset of one character and not jumping to the mindset of the others.

 

Now what?

2014-Winner-Square-ButtonNow that I’m officially done with Camp NaNoWriMo I think I’m going to take a couple days off. Or at least if I do write, I won’t push myself with a huge word count. I think I’ll try to plot out the rest of the novel as best as I can before I try to push myself like that again. Come November, I will definitely have a well thought out plot to follow.

I would like to be able to finish my first draft in the next 2 months. I think that will be my goal. By the end of June I should be done with the first draft. Maybe I’ll use the July WriMo to edit. Who knows?

 

Will I do a NaNoWriMo again?

Absolutely. I may not do another until November (I know they’ve had June and July WriMo’s before, but I won’t commit to anything at the moment,) but I quite enjoyed writing during Camp NaNoWriMo. I would recommend it to any writer out there. Even ‘aspiring’ writers. If you really put your mind to it, and are serious about writing, give yourself a goal and stick to it. WriMo helps. It really does. And the community is phenomenal. Follow WriMo on Twitter, or join the Facebook group. It’s wonderful to be a part of, and a huge motivator while you’re writing.

Even if you don’t think you have anything to write about. It doesn’t have to be a novel. Write from prompts and keep a blog or a personal journal. If you don’t think you can write 50k, then don’t. You can make your goal any number of words. Go for 5k. You’d be surprised how easily you can do that. Heck, just rambling in this blog post has brought me over 1,100 words.

And if you find yourself stuck, reach out to the writing community. You’d be surprised at how supportive they are. I know I was.

 

In the end, I came, I saw, I had fun, and I plan on buying the t-shirt from the WriMo store.

For those of you who have already won – CONGRATULATIONS!

For those of you still working to reach your goal – YOU CAN DO IT! You’ve still got a few days left! Write your heart out!

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NaNoWriMo Day 23 – 41k+

Last night I busted 40k for Camp WriMo. For some reason I don’t seem to be as proud of that as I was of 25k. I now know I won’t be satisfied until I hit 50k. I’m in the homestretch now, though. I’ve done my best to keep above the daily goal. My first weekend have been the only two days so far that I was unable to do so, but only by a few words, so I’ll cut myself some slack.

As I write this novel, I know I’m going to end up with much more than 58,233 words (which is my current goal for WriMo purposes.) While I’m not sure if I’ll get to the 100k mark, I do think I can easily get between 60-80k with what I have left to write.

I’ve also decided to re-work my chapters once again. I’m pushing 40 right now and I think I’ve just hit the halfway point (and slightly beyond.) I could probably get away with halving the current chapter count and still having close to 30+ chapters when it’s all said and done.

I must say, it’s been hard keeping my inner editor at bay while pushing this out for WriMo. While it gets easier with each passing day, any time I need to look back at previous chapters, my inner editor likes to pop out and say hi. Most of the time I beat him back with sweets or hot tea, but I have to make sure I’m not too abusive to him otherwise he may not be so happy to help when I need him. 🙂

 

I must add that this past weekend brought some pretty cool news. I managed to get in touch with an old writing friend of mine who I have not talked to in nearly 10 years. I admit that due to our playing catch up, my writing suffered for it. Not that I’m complaining at all. I was still able to keep above the daily goal, so I think it’s only fair that I allowed myself some “me” time right?

What’s really motivating to me, is seeing that my old writing buddy – Aaron Steinmetz – has managed to go much further with his writing, than I ever dreamed I could with my own. He has 4 novels published already. One of which is a collection of short stories that he wrote around the time I came into his life. It’s been fun reading through them again, and once WriMo is over, I’ll be taking a look at his other novels. I know if they’re anything like what he used to write, I will love them. So be on the lookout for a review on them. In the meantime, if you’re interested, here’s a link to his Amazon. I invite you to take a gander at his works and support a dear good friend and fellow indie publisher by purchasing one of his books. I’ve been told that one of them has been dedicated to yours truly. 😉

 

So with 9 days left before WriMo is over, I have less than 9k words left to go. I have no doubt that I will be able to knock those out within the next couple days and consider myself an early winner. My inner editor has been, for the most part, pretty tame. As an added bonus, now I have another person on my cheering squad to motivate me to finish this thing (even bigger bonus that he’s already been in my shoes so I’ll probably use that to my advantage – Sorry Aaron!) I’m looking forward to doing NaNoWriMo with him in November. He’s managed to win the past 4 years of November WriMos, so I have someone to look up to!

 

My next blog will likely be once WriMo is over. With any luck, the title will be “NaNoWriMo: Winner!” or the like.

Good luck to the rest of you out there also doing Camp WriMo. Push yourself and reach the goal you’ve set for yourself! Dedicate the time to do it, and just put one word after the other. Even if it’s crap. You can always edit it later. You can’t edit a blank page.

snoopy writing

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