Back and Forth

2014Before I get moving on a new year of writing, I figured I should look back at what I did in 2013.

My goal was 1 million words. I made it to just over 400K. 230K of that was on my own projects, while the other 175K was for various freelance clients. December was pretty sparse due to holiday prep and a really heavy October & November where I wrote just over 130,000 words for 3 different freelance projects. Needless to say, I was pretty burned out so it was nice to spend a month baking, crafting and just enjoying some time off.

This year, my focus is going to be on finishing up some works-in-progress and polishing them up for publication. I’m going to aim for 500K this year, since I know much of my work will be rewriting and editing.

I have a number of novel series on the go right now, so I want to try to get those onto a schedule so I can edit & submit them and continue working on the next books in each series, alternating between them.

They run the gamut from

  • a paranormal investigator in Victorian England
  • A near-future sci-fi novella series
  • A suspense/thriller series
  • a collection of horror short stories

I’m always tweaking and adjusting my writing process, so I’ll keep doing that. Although I do also own Scrivener, I’m still using Liquid Story Binder to write. Although it needs some improvements and an update, I just like the flexibility of LSB. I also use SuperNotecard to outline, and some little tricks like the Pomodoro Technique (and the Focus Booster app) to keep on task.

My other goals include trying another year of Write1Sub1. I’ll be going for the monthly goal again this year (trying to write & submit 1 new short story per month). If you’re looking for a motivational community of writers, check out the website or their board over on Absolute Write. Although I only check in from time to time, everyone there is fantastic and you can even find beta readers if you need one.

So, another year with lofty goals. Even though I didn’t hit all my goals for 2013, I managed to hit some awesome milestones (including almost 500K of writing; my best month with 81K words; getting some new freelance work; experimenting with my writing voice). That’s something I can be proud of.

Other than the writing goals, I want to read more, spend less time on social media and just try some new techniques to up my writing game.

So, what are your goals for 2014, writerly or otherwise?

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Rookie Mistake

So far, October was my 2nd best writing month of the year after January. I managed to write 29 out of the 31 days, with my highest day coming in at 4413 words, and my highest week (this past week, actually) at 13,886 words.

I’m still pretty far from my Million Word goal, but I figure if I can write 5K every weekday from now until the end of the year, I’ll write just over 520K for the entire year.

Man, if I could do that, I’d be super stoked.

I also hate myself a little right now though. One of the projects I’m working on for NaNoWriMo is the novel I started in 2008.

Man, I outlined the shiz out of that one. That was first time using First Draft in 30 Days to outline and I did so with gusto. Character sketches, plot timelines, town maps – if there was a worksheet, I filled it out. If there wasn’t, I made one.

So I thought hey…after I re-read what I wrote, It should be pretty easy to pick up where I left off, right? RIGHT?!

Wrong.

All the notes are there, but I guess as I started writing it, I decide to shuffle things around, rename chapters, give them different numbers so now, what’s written doesn’t match up with the outline so I’m going to have to wade through a ton of shit to figure out what the hell needs to be done just to finish the first draft.

UGH.

Did I say that loud enough?

UUUUGGGGHHHH!!!!

Jennifer-Lawrence-ok-thumbs-up

I already knew going into it that it was probably going to be a pretty maddening experience. I mean, I wrote it 5 years ago. I can only hope my writing voice has gotten better since then. But I started reading it over the past few weeks and what’s there isn’t as bad as I thought it might be. So yay!

But it’s a freaking mess, dude. I have to fight the urge to print it out, shoot it, set it on fire then throw the ashes in Lake Ontario. Because like I said, the writing’s good. It’s just my own fault for never finishing it and getting distracted by the Bright Shiny New Ideas over and over again.

Rookie mistake. One I have to fix . By myself. Without going insane.

What say you, Jennifer Lawrence? Is that doable? Is it?!

…..sigh…..

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Rebel Yell

billyidolRight after I posted my plans for NaNoWriMo, I got another ghostwriting project, both a blessing and a curse.

A blessing, in that it’s more money and more freelancing experience. A curse in that my own writing has promptly been pushed to the backburner for the time being.

You know how I was all set to work on the 2nd Novella in a 3-part trilogy? And how I realized that I had already done more work on it than I originally thought (and that now, I only have to add about 10K to hit my word count goal)?

Both of these things have conspired against my NaNo plans in a way. There is no way I can outline Novella 3 in the next couple of days. Sure, I could pants it – but that’s just not me. And I don’t want to rush headlong into it without being prepared. I don’t want to write it just for the sake of writing it.

I know a lot of people look at NaNo as a waste, that anyone who tries to write 50,000 words in such a short amount of time is either writing crap or just doing it on a whim. And I certainly don’t want to fall victim to that.

But I look at it the same way I look at the Million Word Challenge. The word count is a guide. What I’m really trying to achieve is daily writing – sticking to the habit of getting something down on the page everyday (the more the better, but just sitting down everyday is the goal).

So, I’ve had to rethink things a bit and shuffle projects. I won’t be able to work on Novella 3 yet. I still need to figure out the entire series arc and the best places to divide it up into the individual novellas.

But that doesn’t mean I’m giving up on NaNoWriMo.

I’ll still be trying to finish the novel I started back in 2007, but to hit the 50,000 word count goal, I’m going to be spreading it over a number of other projects, as well. 2 short stories I’ve been trying to suss out for a month or so now; and the ending of Novella 2.

Hopefully, doing it this way will keep me fresh and motivated instead of getting stuck in to monotony taht can come from working on a longer project.

I just hope it’s more successful than one of my other NaNo attempts, where my plan was to write a collection and I got maybe 3 stories in before everything crashed and burned. :)

So…Wish me luck. I’m a NaNo Rebel, baby!

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Up in the Air

So, I’ve been working on a 3-novella series for the past few months. The original story has been through a few different incarnations. It started as a short story, which I finished and beta’d and subbed but it was rejected from a handful of markets.

One of my beta readers suggest I explore the MC’s story more later – so I figured there was no better way to do that than a novel.

After MUCH planning to get the story straight, I finally had a plot for the novel – back story, motivation, sub plots – the whole nine yards. Then I started writing it…and the excitement I had for the MC’s story got lost in all the details.

Rather than continue working on it just for the sake of it, or worse…abandon the project, I decided to split the story into 3 novellas.

I split the scenes I had already written, depending on the POV character, and went back to fill in the holes of Novella 1. Novella 2 had a few scenes finished already, so I figured I could finish it for NaNoWriMo this year.

Then I checked and realized, I’ve actually already written about 21K toward the second novella. Since I’m aiming for about 35K, I’m closer to finishing it than I thought.

So now, I have to scramble. Figure out how Novella 3 is going to tie everything up. And decide if I really have the time to do it right now (but more on that later).

It’s been a real challenge – figuring out the individual story arcs, and also the series arcs. Which details to reveal and in which novella; How to make each story compelling on its own but to also connect seamlessly with the others. It isn’t just as easy as deciding to write a series, is it? There’s real legwork involved (and much gnashing of teeth).

In my last blog post, I talked about Ghostwriting. I just picked up another project, so I am working on 3 simultaneously, as well as trying to do writing for myself. I’m stubborn, I admit it, but I want to do it all.

So, I’ve got 3 days to try to figure out my plan of attack, while working on these 3 freelance projects.

NaNoWriMo starts on Thursday. Am I crazy or just a masochist?

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On Ghostwriting

So, in the past month or so, I decided to dip my toe in the waters of ghostwriting.

It’s been interesting so far. At first, I kind of resisted the idea. Not sure why. Maybe I thought I would “give away” all my good ideas to someone else without getting any credit. But so far, I’ve been okay with the projects I’ve taken on.

ghostwriterMaybe it’s because they aren’t squarely in my preferred genres when writing my own fiction. They are in the same neighborhood, but they’re far enough removed that I can still write with confidence that I’m putting out something good while still enjoying myself without feeling like I’m giving away too much of my own voice.

It’s strange, because you do have to remember that you are writing as someone else. But so far, the projects I’ve taken on have been outlined to some degree, so I haven’t felt that same pressure and back-and-forth I go through when plotting my own fiction.

I’m not the first writer to second-guess themselves (from story seed right through to the finished product), but for whatever reason, I haven’t had any trouble yet separating “me” from “them” – and less pressure means I can just get down to business without all that self-imposed loathing :)

Anyways, I can’t really talk about the projects I’ve done or the new ones I’m working on (hence the ghost part of it all), but I’m exploring new avenues and hopefully improving my skills in the process. Plus I’m getting paid to write so it’s kind of a win-win-win situation!

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Let’s Talk About eReaders!

So, a few years ago, I won a Sony Reader at Toronto’s The Word on the Street.

I love my little eReader! I keep it on my nightstand so I can get in at least a few pages every night. I’ve even used it to proofread stories, both by myself and my writing buddies.

But I kind of wish it did a little more.

The highlighting/note options are decent – but a little limited. I don’t want to use it to write or anything, but sometimes, I just want to get away from the laptop and want something a little more portable to make notes and edit with.

With the Sony Pocket, I can highlight within the RTF file and then attach a note to that highlight (i.e., for my purposes…Edit).

But downloading those notes (i.e. if I want to export the file to Word or something) feels a little clunky. I can also handwrite notes, but to be honest, I haven’t tested that yet to see if it is any better.

So, to all the writers out there. sonyreader

I know I could think about getting a tablet if I want something more robust, but having both a tablet and laptop doesn’t really make sense for me. And I will probably be replacing my laptop in the next year or so.

I also wouldn’t mind having something larger to read on (I have the Pocket, which is 5.71 inches tall by 4.11 inches wide).

The Kobo Vox looks pretty sweet, and the price is right. The Kindle Fire HD is snazzy too, but not really in my budget.

So, what say you? Is it doable or am I just being difficult? I’ve been told I can be difficult :)

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That Certain Something

2013-Participant-Vertical-BannerSo, normally around this time of year, I would post about my plans for NaNoWriMo. This year, I guess you could say I’m taking part, but only in a roundabout way.

I’m already part of the Million Word Challenge (writing 1,000,000 words in 2013), so if I were to keep to that daily goal, my word count for November should be 82,200. That’s dependent on me writing 2740 every day of the month with no breaks.

So far, I’m just under 1/3 of the way to my million word goal for the year – which isn’t bad, to be honest, but definitely not on the mark.

It’s just normal that some days are better than others; some are writing days (and even then, my output can vary greatly depending on the project or stage of writing I’m in), some are editing or planning days (when I usually cut more words than I add). It all varies. I think I would have burned out by now if I didn’t have those lower word count days or a break in between.

So, although I’m not “officially” writing a new novel during November, I do have plans.

  1. I want to finish the book I started for NaNo 2007! Yes, the first book I ever started. There are a number of scenes that still need to be written at the end, and since this is Book 1 in a series, I kind of need to do just that – finish it!
  2. The bulk of the writing will probably be done on a novella, which is the sequel to the one I just finished writing (and which I am starting the edits on this week). I have most of it mapped out already

I don’t know about anyone else but that seems to be one of my flaws – finishing.

Not that I abandon the project intentionally, but that I seem to have trouble wrapping up the story in a way that I think will leave the reader satisfied. Maybe I’m waiting until I edit the work, to see how the story changes from the first draft to a cleaner, more cohesive version (since my first drafts are really just about getting the basics down, and using the edit to improve, enhance and polish the story).

Either way, that’s something I want to work on. Whether it’s about better planning or just accepting that as part of my process, I don’t know yet.

But before I buckle down on those 2 projects, I have a novella to edit, and 2 short stories I want to write this month. The concepts are there. The stories are just missing something. Maybe a little brainstorming this week will help me figure out what that ‘something’ is.

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Something New

I’ve got a bunch of different works-in-progress on the go right now, so here’s a little update of how my summer has been, writing-wise.

NOVELLA
I’ve written just over 20,000 words of the novella and it has fallen flat.

I’m bored by the characters, something feels off about the plot, and the person who all the “stuff” is happening to isn’t even a main character, so it’s like talking about her without her even being there.

So…..yeah. It needs to be reworked. The good news is it probably doesn’t need to be ripped apart. I think I can salvage some of the main plot points, and by shifting the focus to the main character and adding in someone who will be more of a foil than a tag-along might make it work better.

NOVEL
The current novel-in-progress sits at about 35,000 Words, so just under halfway. Since I’m in the middle of things, that initial sense of excitement over a new project & new world have given way to the grind of sitting down and getting the work done.

I just have to keep pushing through, keeping my eye on the end, and knowing that I can fix things in the edit. Sometimes, it’s difficult to remember that, especially on days when the words don’t come or they suck.

SHORT STORIES
The last few stories I’ve written have been different than my usual fare. Different voices, a new approach. One came to me in 2 days and I love it. The other, I struggled with off and on for a month and now it sits unfinished until I can figure out how to make it work. Either way, it was nice to shake things up a bit.

I have a few other ideas that I am itching to work on, along with getting back to editing the novel(s) and thinking about NaNoWriMo.

NANO
I have a story seed (i.e. an idea that I haven’t yet done any major brainstorming on to see if it will actually work).

My short stories tend to be horror. My current novels-in-progress are more suspense/thriller. This idea is more adventure. Kind of excited to (again) try something new.

SCHEDULING
My goal while doing the Million Word Challenge was to have at least 2 projects going at the same time – one (or more) writing, the other editing. So far, I haven’t been very good at that.

That story that came to me in 2 days was kind of a fluke. I’m one of those writers who needs their idea to sit and brew a while before I can get it to where I want it to be.

Unfortunately, editing has taken a backseat as a result. I know that skipping NaNo would probably help in that regard, but I just can’t say no to that seat-of-your-pants writing challenge. Especially with so many other people taking part at the same time – it helps keep me on task. Maybe I need to give NaNoEdMo another try next year. Or just find other like-minds who are editing at the same time.

So that’s where things stand. It all seems a bit chaotic – and it is – but it’s all good.

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Deadline: Imminent

So, I’m supposed to be starting a new book on June 1. Like so many NaNoWriMos past, I am not ready!

I was actually doing well in the planning process. After some dizzying brainstorming, too many what ifs, and a few instances of running my plot head-long into a brick wall, I managed to untangle the mess and come up with a storyline that I had confidence in.

Until the ending.

It fell flat. Keep in mind, this was only in the planning stages. Imagine if I had already written 50,000 or 60,000 words already.

So here I sit with only 4 days left to fix the plot holes and what am I doing? Writing a short story :) But who am I to stifle inspiration when it hits?

This little story idea I had 10 days ago really took off (with a little help from my brainstorming buddy CK1), and I know better than to ignore creativity. With the deadline also on June 1, I’ve had to try and juggle both writing & outlining without much success, but at least I am nearing the end of editing the short and hope to do a few marathon plotting sessions over the next few days so I have something to actually write about come Saturday.

Having said that…this short story? Man, it was fun to write. And like any good (masochistic, easily-distracted, daydreaming) writer, I can’t help but wonder if expanding on the idea would make a good novel…

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Multifaceted

multifaceted20,000 or so words into the serial fiction I was writing – and I hate it.

Alright, so maybe hate is a strong word. It’s not like I want to set fire to it or anything (maybe if it was a hard copy and not a file on my computer).

I still like my main character, but everyone else bores me. The sister? A wimp! The stepfather? Bo-ring! There isn’t even a sassy sidekick! What was I thinking?!

Time to brainstorm!

Do I need more interesting characters? Do I change POV characters? Or change her role so the stakes are more personal to her? Who is the real antagonist? Where is the conflict?

Very important questions I thought I had planned out already but they just don’t seem to be working. These may sound like painful changes to make but nothing is worse than being bored by what you are writing and feeling like you are failing the cool idea you had. So, it looks like I’ve got some retooling ahead of me.

On another note, I’ve been outlining the short-story-turned-novella-or-possibly-novel and things are going fairly well. Not to say that there haven’t been bumps in the road. There are always those moments when I am in the middle of plotting what I thought was a great idea but then I get lost, or tangled in plot threads and feel like it is the worst idea I’ve ever had. Luckily those feelings are (mostly) fleeting.

I have the basic story milestones in place, but the middle and ending feel a bit sparse still. Either way, I’ve moved on to plotting out the scenes now, filling out the beats of each one. Hopefully working through each one will help me figure out how to beef up the lagging parts. After I get most of that lined up, I’ll get into slightly more detailed notes for the scenes (character motivation, wants/needs, gains/losses etc.). Full-fledged, card-carrying Plotter in the house!

Having said that, I may start writing the first Chapter before I finish outlining. I’m feeling the itch…

I also hope to knock out a new horror short or two and plan to get back to editing one of my other novels next month. It’ll be kind of interesting to see how things pan out. This book is near-future sci-fi-esque. The other is a paranormal mystery set in Victorian England. Yes, my writing life is multifaceted.

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