Hello August. Let’s do this.

Do you have a To-Do list for August? I do. In my head. Where it’s going to collect dust if I don’t write it down…so here it is in super rough draft form…

  1. Release Print version of ‘Dying to Know’
  2. Mail out print copies of ‘Dying to Know’ to winners
  3. Proof through the Find Me series. Again.
  4. Reformat FM ebooks. Again.
  5. Begin writing FM 4: research, research, research
  6. Hire narrators for remaining audio titles
  7. Continue writing FM 4: drama, drama, drama
  8. Begin research for next project
  9. Say goodbye to summer: school starts in 3 weeks
  10. Purge house in preparation for new school year
  11. Become a full time teacher again: homeschooling never stops
  12. Continue writing FM 4: tears, tears, tears
  13. Consider shopping for publishing agent
  14. Find an awesome local bookstore to sell my books
  15. Research upcoming local author/writing/publishing events

It’s a long list – for me – and some of these things are definitely out of my comfort zone, but hey, progress. Here’s to a productive August for us all!

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It’s Officially Out of My Hands – Why Waiting for the Editor is Painful

Are you ready for a new Station book?? Well, there’s one coming! The fourth, Dying to Know, is officially out of my hands and flying through the interwebs into my editor’s inbox as I type this. I love her, she’s amazing, but waiting for feedback is stressful – and yes – kind of painful, because now I have nothing to do but wait.

But, equal parts exciting too, because the first round of beta readers also got their copies today, so perhaps this is why my normally dry palms are feeling clammy and I want to shove insane amounts of chocolate in my mouth while checking my email every five seconds.

Will they like it?

Will they hate it?

Will they love it?

I don’t know. O.O Wish me luck. I’ll probably be going a little insane this coming week.

Dying to Know

Wednesday Writing Tip – Speed It Up

I’m not the fastest of writers, but I’m not as slow as I used to be. And I don’t mean the speed of my typing (which for a book, averages about 1.5 – 2 thousand words per uninterrupted hour) I’m talking about the entire process, here.

After high school I started so many ‘projects’ that it’s almost embarrassing to go back and look at all the unfinished WIP’s hanging out in my file cabinet which are now birthing millions of little dust bunnies. But as I work on the eleventh book to be published, I now understand why it is I didn’t finish those stories when I was younger.

I got hung up on the little things.

Seriously. I freaked myself out about the process: the spelling, the grammar, the type of comma I should use, the plot, the outline, the spacing and paragraph settings on the computer or the paper I was writing on, the pen I picked, etc… Basically, the entire project seemed like one red flag after another the more I thought about it. My mess of scattered thoughts and worries destroyed the projects – every time.

All the little things strangled the starving artist inside me. I became a creativity killer.

Fast-forward almost two decades (relax, I’m not that old) to my first ‘completed’ full-length project that I started in 2011 and published just over six months later, I HOPE YOU FIND ME. I didn’t worry about any of the things I mentioned above because I just started typing, in fact, the only thing I changed in the Word document initially was the line spacing (I made it 1.5 because at the time, single spacing made me feel ‘cramped’ and double spacing made me feel like there was no end whatsoever). Now, IHYFM isn’t the best written book, I know this. I mean, it was my first. But I learned so much from that book about how I’d write the rest after it. The process itself is of course different for everyone, but when starting something new, especially a book, the more you try and figure it out before hand, the harder you make it on yourself.

So here are my tips for writing faster

  • What do you do before you start writing? If you’re the outlining type, keep it simple and to the point, and save the creative time for the actual writing. If you aren’t using an outline, still take a moment to jot down a few words about the characters, beginning, middle, end and a few climatic moments you’ve already thought of so you have some direction to go. Eventually, the characters take on a life of their own anyway.
  • If you are typing in a Word document (or equivalent) take one minute to adjust your paragraph settings and styles. Seriously, only one minute. Anything more than that might drag you over to the OCD side. Like I mentioned before, I prefer to write with  1 or 1.5 spacing, the first line indented or hanging at about .3, no extra spaces before or after paragraphs. All other formatting options can (and probably should) wait till the end.
  • Simplify. While writing a first draft, the font you use is NOT important as long as you can read it without distraction. Setting up all your headers ahead of time isn’t important (unless you want your chapter headings to all look the same right out of the gate). Times New Roman or something similar (I’m using Liberation Serif size 12 for my current WIP) are perfectly suitable fonts. Boring? Yep, but if you’re actually writing and not worrying about these things, the font becomes a teeny-tiny issue. Seriously – don’t overthink. Keep it simple in the beginning.
  • Use page breaks between your chapters. After you hit the last enter/return of your current chapter, insert a ‘page break’ so you are automatically moved to the next page. It’s a lot easier than hitting the enter/return button 100 times to move to the next page. That gets old REALLY fast while editing through the first draft. Plus, extra spaces are something you’ll have to remove anyway if you create an ebook.
  • Ignore the ‘page’ numbers of your document and pay attention only to the word count. Mine is displayed at the bottom of every document (currently using LibreOffice) but in some programs you might have to seek out your word count from the Tools section (or equivalent). The page numbers don’t matter for a few reasons: If you are writing double spaced, single space or something in between, the page number of your document will not be an accurate indicator of the length. Font type, paragraph styles and size of your text impact the length of your document. Telling yourself you want to write one more page might be deceiving if down the road you change any of the above things. Telling yourself you want to write 500 words (or 5,000) is the most reliable way to look at it. You can change everything about your document’s looks with a few clicks, but the word count will still be the same.
  • Don’t let grammar or spelling bog you down while you write. There’s a reason why editing your first draft takes time. But if you stress about the little things, then edit later. I see writing and editing as two totally different jobs, which take up different sides of your brain. You’ve got the analytical side for editing and the creative side for writing. Trying to cram both processes together for your first book might make your brain explode. Okay, maybe that’s dramatic, but seriously, you’ll write faster if you concentrate on writing first. If you come across a word, phrase or paragraph you aren’t ‘sure’ of, then highlight it and move on. If you stop the creative flow to constantly edit as you write, you’ll slow yourself down. Think of a snail towing a tractor trailer. Don’t let that be you. Spelling and grammar skills are expected from a writer, but it’s totally okay to have Thesaurus.com up in the background while you write (or a nifty diagram like THIS from Pinterest – check out my Writing Love board for more awesome writing tips). Use whatever tools will make you a better writer, so that editing is not as painful. For me, because there are gaps in my writing sessions (I have kids, my entire life is one big interruption) I’ll go back and read either the previous chapter, or the last few paragraphs I wrote before I start the next to refresh my thoughts, but that’s it. I never stop writing in the middle of a chapter unless it can’t be helped. That’s a personal style, but it sure makes it easier for my brain to flip the right switch when I sit back down at the computer.
  • Just write. If you’ve been a writer for a little while, you’ve read this and heard this elsewhere probably 100 times before today, but it’s so totally true. Just write – every day and every hour that’s available. If you have a story to tell, then for the love of chocolate, tell it. You can edit the manuscript and play with the fonts and format the paragraph styles and create your cover page after you’ve finished the story. That’s called editing and formatting and they are entirely different monsters, which leads me to the next suggestion…
  • Outsource what you can’t or don’t want to do. If you are self-publishing your book, chances are you need help with editing, formatting, cover design, etc…so outsource for it. There are a ton of writer groups online (Facebook, Twitter, Google+) where it’s easy to seek out the people that can do what you can’t or don’t have time for. Check references always, to make sure your investment in these people will produce a polished final project. And, before you release your work to the general public, have a few trusted people beta read for you (beta readers read the unpublished work first). They’ll be able to spot errors you might have missed, and any plot issues that might need clarifying. Beta readers rock.

So, there you have it, folks. If you follow those tips above, or even just tweak a few, chances are pretty high you’ll speed up the writing process and maybe even avoid a few bouts of writer’s block.

Writing can bleed a person dry, but you know what, it’s totally worth it in the end.

Happy Writing, y’all!


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Wednesday Writing Tip – Oops

Today’s WWT is more for myself than every other writer out there. It’s sort of like a ‘Yeah, I screwed up, and I won’t be doing THAT again’, warning. But first, some back story…

I am not one to outline a project down to each final detail. However, I do think a basic outline is more than just helpful, but necessary, even stripped to the bones. I’ve talked about that before, no need to repeat. I’ve also said that I started using Scrivener. I really do enjoy it, but here is where I messed up: I started using this writing software program on the third book of the Find Me series, after losing my previous computer which had my Word program on it. So not only did I have to learn everything about Scrivener in a rush (and yeah, I still haven’t learned about half of what it can do) but I also started using it in the middle of a series. That’s two no-no’s in my opinion.

double-facepalmThe more I use Scrivener, the more I realize it has the potential to be fabulous, but not in the middle of a series when I don’t already have the characters mapped out, the notes, the descriptions, the previous books to easily refer back to… oops.

I’m not going to lie. Editing this book (FM3) has been more than a challenge. Because of the ease in moving chapters and sections around in Scrivener, I did just that, and copy and pasted so many sections that I got myself confused later on about certain scenes. I lost sections. I rewrote sections. It…it was a mess to read over the first time, and thankfully my editor caught things that I missed (big things, people, big things). She is wonderful, and if she didn’t live in Ireland I’d be sitting on her lap giving her hugs and kisses right now.

Anyway. Back to my mistakes. #1 – I started using a new writing software program in the middle of a series. #2 – I broke my Golden Rule and spent more time going back to edit (moving stuff about, editing previous chapters, etc…) that I forgot to do the one thing I find works best for me – which is ‘just write’. Because of this, it seems like it took more than the 6mths to get this book done, and rather felt like a decade. A really, really long decade. Gah. If I’m frustrated about how long this release has taken, no doubt the readers are. I apologize profusely.

So there you have it – a bit of a cautionary tale – do what works for you and stray only on the newer projects that you can afford to stray on. If what you are currently doing IS working for your series, it might not be a good time to start changing things up in the middle. Or you might find yourself swallowing a lot more chocolate and wine while working on your WIP, like me. Don’t be like me. Seriously. My thighs don’t need any more chocolate.

Happy Hump Day, Everyone!

FINDING HOPE

The third book of the Find Me series is in editing. Now you know what’s been keeping me away from the blog…

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COMING SOON – I promise. *wink…happy dance…wink*