Chipping Away–CoronaLife Day 880

We’re closing in on the August halfway point. Hard to believe!

I did not get much done in the writing world this week, as Board of Education work is ramping up again. I’ve been chipping away at various projects for that this week, and another landed in my inbox today.

My daughter has camp next week, which will mean about 2 hours of driving for me per day. But I hope to use the rest of the day to get into my next writing project.

I had put my YA scifi Veritas on hold as life overtook me. I am in the midst of a major rewrite, and did not have the time, quiet, or mind space to focus on its complexities. I am planning on returning to it next week, remind myself what I’m doing, and getting back into it.

It was between Veritas and the sequel to The Witch of Zal, which I do have a first draft of complete. But the characters in Veritas have been intruding into my thoughts frequently, so I’m taking that as a sign that Veritas is ready for me to return.

That’s my plan. We shall see how it works out!

How is your August going?

The Non-Writing Part of Writing—CoronaLife Day 432

This was one of those weeks where my other responsibilities fell on me hard, and I got very little done on any writing front. Although I hate weeks like that, they happen and I have to learn to roll with it.

People who are not writers think that if we are not getting words on the page, we are not writing. And while that may technically be true, that doesn’t mean we are not making some sort of writing progress.

As anyone who has followed this blog knows, I have been struggling with rewrites of my science fiction YA novel, Veritas. I’ve been chipping away at it, and feeling fairly happy with the new direction, but I have put it aside for now while I work on the non-fiction genealogy book. I am not in the right headspace to dive into fiction at the moment, so it is a good detour for me to take.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not thinking about it. I sometimes get ideas that I hurry to jot down in the notes for when I return. And I recently have been enjoying K.M. Weiland’s blog series on archetypes, which is making me think differently about not just Veritas, but the structure of possible follow-on books in a series.

So, my subconscious has been chewing on Veritas while I’ve been away. And I am also re-thinking the first chapter of another project, this one middle grade, The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone. I really love this book, but it has not found a traditional home. My co-author and I are contemplating self-publishing it, but I feel that the first chapter is our issue. We get conflicting feedback about it—some feel it is confusing, others are just fine with it. I think if we can get that right, we might yet find it a traditional home.

I also have another project that is not even on a back burner, more like on the warming pan. It is the sequel to my published book, The Witch of Zal. The first draft is written, but it needs a good deal of editing. And I am in the process of getting a new cover and illustrations for Book 1, before I move on with publishing Book 2.

As you can see, I have been doing a lot of non-writing writing. Sometimes you can move forward even when you aren’t putting words on the page.

How are you advancing your writing these days?

Wrapping Up October – CoronaLife Day 229

The last week of October is always hectic and stressful for me. Several family celebrations plus Halloween makes for an unhappy introvert. And this year all the political turmoil added to the pandemic strain piles on the anxiety.

So I haven’t been very productive this week. Just have been exhausted and scattered. Which isn’t to say that I have done nothing. I have been thinking about my Veritas re-write, and as snatches of scenes or paragraphs I want to insert come to me, I have written them down. It’s fits and starts, but it’s progress. I hope to get those words into the computer before the week is out.

Those of you who have followed this blog for a while will know that we have had a rather adventurous time trying to keep guppies alive in our small 5-gallon fish tank. We’ve been through 8 fish. The last one died right before the lockdown in March, and our tank has been empty since.

We’ve begun “cycling” our tank again to get the ammonia and nitrate levels to zero before adding fish. It’s a slow process and currently leaving me scratching my head, but we seem to be getting there in spite of ourselves. Once we get the water right, we’ll get new fish, and hopefully keep them alive for a decent amount of time. Of course, the way coronavirus cases are rising in our neck of the woods, we will probably be ready for new fish right when we get closed down again!

So I have written a paltry few hundred words on my novel, and have been watching bacteria grow. Exciting times. But the end of October is always like this for me. I know come November I will be able to take a deep breath and feel some weight come off my shoulders.

I am not crazy enough to do NaNoWriMo this year. I do not have the headspace or emotional bandwidth for it. But I do want to try and at least get into a rhythm, dedicate some time each day to writing. We shall see.

Are you doing NaNo? If so, good luck!

Have a happy and safe Halloween, everyone!

Get Out the Vote – CoronaLife Day 215

This week overall has not been a productive one for me, writing-wise. I chipped away at Veritas but still feel that I need to do more with the scenes I am working on before I can move forward.

We are five and a half weeks into the school year, and I am exhausted. Not because of the schooling—the teachers have been phenomenal and my daughter is old enough to be pretty independent about her work. I am perennially exhausted during the school year. My body clock and the real-world clock do not sync well at all. As a result, I stay up too late because that’s when I have my energy, and then only get about 6 hours of sleep on a good night. During the summer, I never napped during the day, because I could sleep as long as I needed, but these days when I have to get up with my daughter, I find I crash into a power nap once a day.

I did get one big thing done this week: I voted! Here in New Jersey, we are all vote by mail this year. We did it during the primaries, too, as we were still deep in the worst of our pandemic first wave. We got our ballots last week, and this week I filled mine in and dropped it off. The nearest drop off to my house just happens to be the actual county elections office, so I walked it right in and handed it over.

Please, if you are eligible to vote, do so. We have always held America up as an example of a thriving democracy, but the reality for years has been that we have more people who don’t vote than who do in most elections. Even in Presidential election years, we are often hard pressed to get more than 50% of the voters to the polls. Voter apathy is the single largest danger to our democracy. Don’t like the choices you have? Vote for the one closest to your beliefs, then spend the next election cycle finding and supporting someone you like better. If we want a country whose representatives more accurately reflect who we really are, we all need to get out there and vote.

As John Lewis said in his final words: “Democracy is not a state. It is an act.”

So act.

Rebuilding the Story – CoronaLife Day 208

With me, my daughter, and my husband all fighting for bandwidth on a DSL line all day, we were running into problems. So we finally broke down and got cable internet. Hopefully the increased bandwidth will erase the problems we’ve been having. We are also keeping the DSL as backup in case our cable goes down, which it seems to do with regularity in our neighborhood. I think I may just stay on the DSL and let them have the cable—the DSL is sufficient for what I need.

I’ve been chipping away at Veritas again this week. I am into the part of the story where serious rebuilding will happen, as the new seeds I planted in the opening bear fruit. So while the general direction of the plot won’t change, how we get there most definitely will. I am trying, among other things, to make my protagonist more active, driving the story more than being pulled along by events. It’s difficult because she is literally trapped in her mind for a significant portion of this section, so having her more active is a bit head-scratching. But I have some ideas to play with.

I know very well that even with all the work I am doing on this editing pass, I will need to do at least one more. Whenever you go in and work on a nearly-complete manuscript and copy, paste, delete, insert, there are going to be continuity issues. So I need to do that, and I need to make sure that all the new stuff hangs together with all the old stuff and that it all makes sense. So still a long way to go, but I am confident I will get there in the end.

Also, I got my ballot in the mail this week, so I am doing a shout-out to everyone to make sure you vote, whether by mail or in person, depending on your state’s procedures. Your vote is your constitutional right and the foundation of our country, so make it count. If you don’t know how or where to vote in your area, call your County Clerk or Board of Elections office, and they will tell you where to go. Make a plan to vote and let your voice be heard!

Family & Frustration – CoronaLife Day 159

We got tested for coronavirus at the end of July and it took 2 weeks to get the results. We got tested because we were trying to get my daughter together with her best friend for a long weekend, so both families were going to get tested. That didn’t work out, but we decided not to waste our tests, so we went to visit my parents for only the 2nd time since February.

We had a nice visit outside, distanced, with masks when we had to use the rest room, but this time we visited longer because it didn’t rain on us. My mother is recovering from back surgery, so it was good to see how she was healing. Our visit made the day feel almost normal, like pre-COVID times.

The writing front was not so fulfilling. I reported last week that I was making progress with Veritas by using Lisa Cron’s Story Genius. For a brief time I thought I finally had figured out my character’s “third rail” – what she wants vs. a misbelief that holds her back. But now I am not so sure I managed it, and the frustration has returned. I am hoping for some inspiration, or for something to “click” but sometimes I think maybe this just isn’t a story I am capable of telling.

I wonder how much of my struggle is the pandemic pressure. We have all been home pretty much 24/7 since mid-March, and my introverted self is feeling oppressed by it all. That and the constant anxiety suppresses creativity, at least for me. But with no end in sight, I will have to figure out how to work through it, because NOT writing is galling to me.

Hopefully next week I will have more forward movement to report on Veritas. I’m not giving up!

Moving Forward – CoronaLife Day 152

So last week was a bad week. I felt so completely stuck in so many areas of my life, I was quite down about it. This week has been better because I had a plan and I actually followed it!

I have been avoiding returning to my YA sci-fi Veritas. I did a major rework of it last year, and managed to make it worse instead of better. So back to the drawing board, but I have been struggling with the lack of energy and motivation that comes with anxiety and prolonged stress.

I have sporadically reworked the opening chapters since January, ending up with about 14,500 words done. But then I ground to a halt, because I wasn’t quite sure where to go next. So I returned to the notes given to me by my trusty developmental editor Kathryn Craft, looking for clues as to how to move forward.

Kathryn did not let me down! She suggested I use Lisa Cron’s Story Genius book and Jennie Nash’s Inside Outline to zero in on motivation and connecting all the emotional/psychological beats that would make the story compelling. I was already familiar with Story Genius, having read it and used it for another story, and knew I would find it useful for this one. After I looked at the Inside Outline, I knew I couldn’t use it at this point. I am not an outliner, and just looking at it made the enthusiasm drain right out of me. But it will definitely be a tool I will use after I complete the new draft I am working on.

I didn’t want to set myself up for failure. So I decided to set a goal of doing one step in an exercise from Story Genius a day. If I wanted to do more, fine. But one was the goal. And I have been doing that. Walking through Story Genius, I am getting a handle on the inner conflict that drives my protagonist and the misbelief that must be resolved by the end of the story. I am getting more excited as I see thing more clearly. I finally feel like I am making progress.

Granted, it’s not actual writing yet. But I think once I get all this straight in my head, the manuscript words will come more easily. And even though I haven’t added words to my manuscript with these exercises, I have written 1,500 words of exercises. Which is something.

So I am finally moving forward with my writing, and it feels good.

What have you done lately to get yourself moving forward?

Celebrating Your Milestones

Writing a novel is a slog. It’s a marathon. It takes a great deal of perseverance and guts. It can feel like putting together a jigsaw puzzle without looking at the picture.

Because it’s such an arduous process, it’s a smart move to celebrate different milestones along the way. What you celebrate and how you celebrate, will be unique to you, and that’s fine, because it’s about motivating you to get to The End.

So, I finished Veritas a while ago. And I sent it around to agents. And got one who was interested, but wanted some edits done. After some soul searching, a lot of ice cream, and a chat with my friend Kathryn Craft, I saw a way forward with the edits that I could get behind.

My first step was reworking the main character’s POV. I chipped away at it and finally finished. But I still had 2 POVs to go, and I seemed unable to find the time I needed to dive into them.

The stars aligned this month. My daughter went to sleepaway camp and I was able to take off from my usual blogging duties thanks to fellow Author Chronicler J. Thomas Ross. So I threw myself into my work.

And I did it! All three POVs are finished. The breakdown went like this:
Jinx: original 30,200 words, new 38,700
Ace: original 39,900, new 30,400
Kit: original 9,700, new 4,100

It also dropped the total words from original 79,900 to now 73,300. That seems a touch short for YA scifi, but it’s very probable I will be adding things in as I go through the next few passes, so hopefully I will be closer to the golden 80,000 number by the time I am finished

As I mentioned above, I’m not finished with the rewrite. I need to go through it at least two more times for continuity and tone and see if I need to add in anything else to make the new version smooth.

While there is still more to do, I feel like the heavy lifting is done. So I am celebrating!

What are you celebrating today?

New Year, New Goals

Everyone posts New Year’s resolutions. I don’t so much do resolutions as goals. And I would like to try and make them realistic goals, so I don’t frustrate myself. The uber-healthy diet and sculpted beach-body? Not gonna happen. I’m going to try something more amenable to my couch-potato self.

I have talked about being in the midst of a great burnout. No creativity at all. 2018 was horrific, writing-wise. I totaled 89,672 words—and 73,218 of them were blog or other non-fiction writing words. Compare that to 2017, when my total words were 405,116, with 326,542 of those being fiction, and you can see how badly I fell off the workhorse.

So what am I aiming for this year? I have no specific word count in mind, but I do have two goals I want to reach:

  1. Finish revising Veritas.
  2. Re-release The Witch of Zal with new cover and illustrations.

Both are doable. I intend to do them.

Over this holiday, I have been trying to sleep more, to get out of the spiral of exhaustion and anxiety that I’ve been in for months. I think it is helping. I have an interest in getting back to revising Veritas, which I have been avoiding for quite some time. There’s a new angle I want to lay into the existing framework that intrigues me–and scares me, as I am not certain I can pull it off. But I want to try, which is  huge step forward.

So that’s my master plan for 2019. Not Earth-shattering, for sure. But within my reach. The burnout took a long time to set in fully, it make take some time to climb my way out of it. But I pledge to be kind to myself, to try and focus on taking better care of myself, and hopefully get back on that writing workhorse again.

What goals have you set for yourself this year?

Veritas Synopsis

I have finished sending out my 50 queries for The Curse of the Pharaoh’s Stone. Now, I am starting on the list for Veritas. First, however, I need to assemble the materials usually required for submission. I have a query letter and a polished manuscript, but I need the final piece–the synopsis.

The synopsis can be a chore. Squeezing 80,000 words down to one page is never easy. Doing it without losing the voice, emotion, and energy of the novel often seems impossible. For many authors, writing the synopsis is a hair-pulling endeavor.

The book I am writing a synopsis forI liked the synopsis I did for Pharaoh’s Stone, so I decided to use the same process to create the Veritas synopsis. Since this novel has three POV characters, there is pretty much no chance of fitting the entire story on one page unless I pick a single character’s story to tell. Luckily, even though all the characters arc, Jinx’s story is the central line. So hers is the story the synopsis will tell.

First, I write a sentence or two about each chapter. Then I work on making each of those as emotional and active as possible. Doing this helps avoid the “and then”, “and then”, “and then” feel of many synopses. After that, I weave those summaries together into a seamless description of the story.

If I am lucky, this polished version will be about 3 double-spaced pages, the length of a typical “long” synopsis. If not, I tweak it until it fits. Next, I single-space what I have, because a 1-page synopsis needs to be single-spaced. This version will be about 1.5 pages long, but pulling out only half a page is not terribly daunting.

A final read-through, plus another set of eyes to find mistakes, and the synopsis will be ready. Then the querying can begin!

What is your synopsis-writing process like?

WP-Backgrounds Lite by InoPlugs Web Design and Juwelier Schönmann 1010 Wien