Posted by M. E. On September 22, 2017
Many apologies for the long absence. Let’s get down to business!
When last we left our heroes, I was working on multiple projects at once and struggling to find a creative focus. I realize that some writers probably wouldn’t consider that a problem, and it does feel a little bit like complaining about having so many exciting ideas at once, but as someone who is still figuring out this whole writing thing, it was disconcerting. Maybe one day I’ll become a master creative multi-tasker, but today is not that day. I’m working writing in around my day job, an internship, and an online class, and if I try to tackle multiple projects at once, I’m afraid I’ll just end up accomplishing nothing at all. Wheels spinning, but stationary. No thanks.
BUT, I didn’t want to force it, right? Like we don’t look a gift muse in the mouth. That’s rude. So I sort of rode out the inspirational chaos and tried to get as much down on paper as I could about each project as they howled at me. I honestly thought Kiva was going to win the shouting match, but a shelved project snuck in at the last minute and won the day. Weird, huh? Caught me off guard, but I’m rolling with it.
So, V1 (which had been shelved after drowning in the query pool AND not making it into PitchWars) has been resurrected. Well, reincarnated is probably more accurate, because I’m engaging in a near-complete rewrite. And while I’m genuinely excited about the changes, I am struggling a little with feeling like I’m not moving forward as a writer if I keep returning to the same project instead of creating something entirely new. Except I’m applying what I’m learning (through MK England’s revision workshop, PitchWars feedback, agent feedback, and a few Maass books) and reinventing something I still very much believe in and feel passionate about. So…it’s not wasted time, right? Sigh.
I am continuing to work on some comic book stuff on the side, but it’s a series of collaborative projects, so I only pop my head in over there when there’s something I need to do…the rest of my creative focus is dedicated to V1 for right now. And I’m cautiously optimistic about it all! Which is…good for me, haha.
Because the rewrite requires almost alllll new words, I’ll be using the same style of ticker for it that I use while writing first drafts. Like this:
Current goal is to finish this version of V1 by December 1. Wish me luck! Or send tea. Tea would be much more helpful than luck, if I’m honest.
Posted by M. E. On August 30, 2017
Happy Wednesday, lovelies!
This week is flying by. Creatively speaking, I’m a bit all over the place. Reading all the things, writing odd bits on multiple projects, trying to be a good human with my students. Success level? As yet unknown.
1) Monday morning started off with a BANG as one of my back-burner projects (the SFF from goal #4 this week) completely railroaded V2 and demanded immediate attention. Which resulted in a very quick 1000 words THAT I ACTUALLY LIKE. Shocking, isn’t it? Shocking.
2) Because the SFF (we’ll call her K1) is being so loud, I’m giving her priority for the rest of the week. That means the 5k word goal for V2 will now be applied to K1, since that’s where the magic is right now. No idea why, but I’m trying to roll with it.
3) I’m beginning the K1 outline today, because while I have a big picture idea of where she’s going…I don’t yet know how I’m getting her there and I’m the furthest thing from a pantser you’ll ever meet.
4) SO EXCITE for the AA revision/rewrite. SO VERY EXCITE. However, I am holding off another day because I’m signed up for a revision webinar tonight and want to apply all that writerly wisdom from the get-go.
5) Still need to address #2 below…I’ll get there. But perhaps not until Thursday or Friday. Also, #5 is coming along nicely. Currently devouring Donald Maass’ Writing the Breakout Novel. I’ll likely do an entire post on the book later this week. Because learning.
Goals for this week – Updated
1) 5k words
in V2 (fantasy ms) in K1 (surprise SSF)
2) Return to PB1 script to revise/edit
3) Finish revision outline for AA and begin rewrite
4) Begin outline for SSF K1 outline is a GO!
5) READ ALL THE NEW WRITING BOOKS!!
I’m still working on an actual game plan for how to work on so many projects at once over the long term. I enjoy setting (and meeting!) time-based goals, but I’m usually only focused on a single piece of writing when I do that, so I’m a tad flummoxed. I’m not entirely certain how to judge what a reasonable timeframe for anything is. For now, week-by-week goals may have to suffice. Though “FINISH THEM ALLLLLL BY THE NEW YEAR” has a lovely ring to it.
Posted by M. E. On August 28, 2017
Happy Monday, lovelies!
I must have dreamed that I posted an update this weekend, because I could’ve sworn I did. Oh, well. Here it is now, better late than never!
1) New PB idea arrived in the middle of the night, which led to a 3AM drafting and sketch session.
2) I later revised the cover art for the new PB and expanded the idea into more coherent notes. My 3AM ones were about as clear as you’d expect!
3) Much character development work on MC for new sci-fi/space project. Also some basic premise work (requires research). Very excite!
4) Began revision notes and outline for psychological thriller rewrite. This one will be a genre switch AND require the adding of about 30k words, so it’s a fairly sizable undertaking. Also much excite, though!
5) Industry research and reading list for YA sci-fi project. It will be my first attempt in the YA category, and while I’ve read a good bit of YA fantasy, I’m behind on the science fiction side. Hence the reading list. Feel free to send me your favorite YA sci-fi books!
Goals for this week
1) 5k words in V2 (fantasy ms)
2) Return to PB1 script to revise/edit
3) Finish revision outline for AA and begin rewrite
4) Begin outline for SSF
5) READ ALL THE NEW WRITING BOOKS!!
So yes, Dear Readers, I was surprisingly productive this weekend and have much more planned for this upcoming week. Multiple projects are knocking at my brain-door right now, and I’m terrified that the ideas will fade or run away or choose another writer or something else terrible if I don’t manage to at least get SOMETHING down on paper for them. I’m still working on a game plan for how to tackle it all and will update soon.
Posted by M. E. On August 22, 2017
MY CURRENT WIP
No excuses. Today was a teeny tiny word count day. 850ish words? Mehhhhhhhh. I’m trying to remind myself that I’m just getting back in the groove, flexing unused muscles, building stamina. Working with kids is an awesome, inspiring, demanding, draining job. Plus personal life stuff, blah blah blah. It’ll get better. The next scene is SUPER EXCITING and I’m eager to write it. If my brain weren’t mush in a bucket right now, I’d definitely push through to draft it and finish the chapter. Instead, I’m saving it for tomorrow and trusting I’ll still be excited then. It’s a fun scene. I’ll still be excited.
About voice. I’m still reading and studying and trying to internalize the mad skillz of some crazy good writers. I’m also watching Blindspot (because Ashley Johnson is bae, and who doesn’t loved scruffy bearded men with guns?) and Critical Role (because Matt Mercer is a character creation beast). Soooo, yeah. Did I mention my brain is mush in a bucket? More tomorrow.
Posted by M. E. On August 21, 2017
MY CURRENT WIP
Do you see that ^ right there? Yessssssss, I finally broke ground on my new project! I didn’t have a lot of time this evening after work (a friend had a mini crisis right in the middle of my writing block), which means that number isn’t as high as I’d like it to be, but it’s THERE. This happy dance in my heart will not be stopped, y’all.
In the past three years I’ve drafted and revised a novel, written and published three comic books, and contributed several dozen blog posts over at The Lady Nerds, but it’s been about a year and half since I started a new novel-length project. The joy is real up in here tonight.
For me, drafting is the hardest part of writing. For most of my writing friends, it’s their favorite. I wish I felt that way. Writing a first draft is a mental and emotional battle from beginning to end for me, and I am always so relieved when revision time rolls around. Revising, I can handle. Drafting feels like actively dying.
So, yeah. I spent some time actively dying tonight and I’m proud of that. Beginning is always the hardest step. Now I just have to keep going…tomorrow.
Posted by M. E. On August 16, 2017
Not a lot new to report today, I’m afraid.
I’m continuing to examine writing by authors I admire, both within and outside of my genre(s), just trying to rewire my inner editor. I’ve always been a reader first…it’s genuinely sad to realize how far away I’ve strayed from that first love. Slowly, slowly, I can feel my mind adjusting. It’s like I’ve been wandering lost in the woods for years and only now have found a path that might (MIGHT) lead out.
I’ve made more progress on the expanded outline today, but little other writing. Mostly reading, and absolutely no regrets about that, if I’m honest. I need to read more. I love it, I’ve missed it, and my own work has always grown out of that love. Writing on empty just doesn’t make sense.
Posted by M. E. On August 15, 2017
Today is all about developing a strong writing voice. I’ve been thinking about this topic for over a week now, struggling to get my head around what I actually think about it. You see, I was an avid reader long before I ever tried my hand at writing. And when I did begin to create my own characters and stories, they initially grew out of characters and stories I already loved. It was a natural progression for me. But then college happened. Then graduate school. In both cases, I studied literature rather than fiction writing, a decision I stand behind. I wanted to learn by studying the masters at work…and I definitely didn’t feel ready to present my own creative writing for any kind of scrutiny at the time.
But it’s only now, years later and with two novels under my belt, that I realize I may have some unlearning to do as a result of my studies. Reading and analyzing literature has proven to be as advantageous to me as a writer as I’d hoped it would. Absolutely. However, I failed to account for all the papers I would be writing for all those years. Technical, analytical, precise papers. In fact, one of my most beloved undergraduate professors was well known for her writing mantra: “clear, concrete, concise.” And so, my writing became more and more clear, concrete, and concise. I succeeded at meeting those standards for writing papers in the academic setting, and those skills I developed in undergrad served me well in my MA program, too.
Yet what I’ve found is that I struggle to shake off that academic writing mentality when I sit down to draft fiction, or even to edit. I now realize that I have been (to this point, largely subconsciously) applying a set of standards to fiction that just don’t fit. For example, when writing a thesis-driven paper for an academic course, any type of “aside” should be avoided. Stick to the point. Back it up with evidence. Say exactly what you mean. Be clear. Be concrete. Be concise. But when writing fiction, those “asides” can bring the magic. Extra details that might seem superfluous in one scene may well prove absolutely essential given the greater context of the story. The type of messy busy-ness we see in the real world around us has no place in an academic paper, but can give a work of fiction the breath of lifelikeness.
Does this all sound terribly obvious to you, Dear Reader? I’m not surprised. I feel a little bit embarrassed to have taken this long to recognize this error in my work. So my current goal is to not so much unlearn those academic skills (because goodness knows they do come in handy), but to develop a writing mentality specifically for my creative work. Because right now my fiction writing is technically sound, but that’s not good enough. I want the magic. The fiction dream. The lost in a literary oasis of escapism. Or, you know, just something other people enjoy reading.
P.S. Worked on more expanded outline sections. Did much reading of first chapters by authors I admire. No draft words to report today, but soon! XOXO
Posted by M. E. On August 14, 2017
Many apologies for my extended absence here. Life, uh, happened? At any rate, I am glad to be back in the proverbial saddle and am itching to get the rest of my writing projects back on track. Hence this daily(ish) writing log. I know I may miss a day here and there, but for the most part my goal is to check in here on a daily basis. Even if it’s just to say “oh bloody hell I haven’t written a word” – which will definitely happen on occasion.
So, format. I plan to be flexible, focusing mainly on progress with whichever project I’m working on at the time, as well as discussing any writing-related topics that I’m learning about or what have you.
For today, the log is quite brief. I am currently finishing up the expanded outline (more on what that means for me later) of Vanguard Book 2, henceforth known as V2, in preparation for the DRAFTING PHASE. Right now, I have most of the first six chapters completed, with around 9-10 left to work out. I won’t wait until I’ve finished the entire expanded outline (the basic outline is complete already) before beginning to draft, however, so hopefully I will have some draft word counts available as early as tomorrow! Which is much excite.
Anyway, thank you all for your continued interest and support.
Posted by M. E. On February 23, 2016
Like, what even is a synopsis, you guys?
This month, I’m focusing on final preparations for the transition from writing the thing to (hopefully!) publishing the thing. If you missed my first post on getting published, you can find it here. Last week, I discussed the ever-important query letter. This week, it’s time to tackle the novel synopsis, yet another key piece to the agent acquisition process.
What is a synopsis, you ask? A synopsis is a general overview of what happens in your book, from beginning to end. Let’s break it down further. The many and varied principles of a successful synopsis are as follows:
- Aim for 2 pages, double-spaced. Agents have different synopsis length requirements (usually a range, like 1-3 pages), so writing a strong 2 pager should allow you to use the same synopsis for the greatest number of query packets.
- Begin at the beginning, end at the ending. Follow the order of events in your book.
- INCLUDE THE ENDING OF YOUR BOOK. DON’T BE A TEASE.
- Use first person, active voice.
- Use ALL CAPS for character names the first time you mention them
- Don’t mention a billion characters by name. Stick to like, 4 or 5. Max.
- Stick to the main plot. Subplots are awesome, but there’s not room for them in a synopsis. Plus, your main plot needs to be able to stand tall and proud on its own, right?
- Try to find a balance between super dry play-by-play and flowery narrative. Keep it clean, clear, and easy to read.
Method to the Madness
I don’t think there’s a single perfect way to approach the first draft of a synopsis. I did a good bit of research and what I found suggests that different methods work for different people. Here’s what I found works for me:
Use the existing structure of your novel as a guide. If you followed your outline well in drafting or didn’t deviate far from it in revision (that’s a huge NOPE from me on both counts, I’m afraid), then you can use that! Lucky you! If not, then look for other structural elements. I personally always have the three-act structure in the back of my head while I’m writing, so that’s what I used.
Pare down the events to the bare bones. While going over my novel’s scenes list in Scrivener (God BLESS Scrivener for basically outlining for me at this point), I looked for the major pieces for each act of my book. What are the big deal scenes in part one? What does my MC face, how does she react, what are the repercussions?
Keep it lean. Quick, single sentence answers to those questions meant my first draft stayed pretty tight. I repeated this step for each act. It definitely got easier as I went along. I mostly ignored my delightful side characters and focused on my MC and an antagonist or two. It hurt, but it also clarified my own novel for me. Kinda cool, honestly. More on that in a minute.
Check for omissions. The main risk in isolating the main plot line is that leaving out something crucial is, like, super easy to do. So once I’d worked out a solid first draft, I went back through and followed the thread from beginning to end. If my MC’s actions didn’t make sense in the vacuum of the synopsis, I looked for ways to add information to clarify her position. The synopsis should be simplified, but not NEKKID.
Revise…again and more
Okay, so here’s the big unexpected outcome of writing the synopsis: I learned so much about what my novel is ACTUALLY DOING. Not just what I intended for it to do, but what is actually there. I realize that might sound nonsensical, but after several drafts and hundreds of pages, well…feeling disconnected just kind of happened. But writing the synopsis–and the query letter, too–really brought things back into focus. And once I felt like the synopsis was sturdy and stable, I was able to use it as a guide to make sure the novel itself stays firmly on track during this final sweep. I didn’t expect it, but it’s been a pretty cool bonus.
SO! Write the synopsis. Write the query letter. Revise. Revise. Revise. It’s almost agent time!
Posted by M. E. On February 16, 2016
Your query letter is the key. The key to the door. The key to the door of the office of the literary agent who knows the phone numbers of editors at publishing houses who might maybe consider publishing your work.
Reading back over that, I realize it sounds a bit like breaking and entering. Don’t do that. Use e-mail. It’s an e-mail key. It’s…you get the idea. It’s important. Write it.
M.E.’s Super Scientific Method for Query Letter Writing
Read everything in the QueryShark archives. Twice. Okay, three times.
Consider bribing someone else to write it for you. Actually bribe someone else to write it for you.
Write a first draft of your query letter. Hate it. Write another one. Hate it more. Revise the first one until you hate it more than the second. Rinse and repeat.
Read everything in the QueryShark archives. Consider submitting one of the query drafts you hate. Chicken out.
Have a trusted friend (preferably a fellow writer who knows the agony of query letters) read your query letter and offer suggestions. But only if they’ve read the entire archives of QueryShark at least 12 times. Otherwise they know nothing and will destroy your precious work. Just kidding. Sort of.
Write one more draft of your query letter. Ignore it for two weeks. Read it again and only cut the things you still hate.
Scour the internet for copies of the query letters of your favorite authors. Regret it instantly because you’ll never write something so beautiful and perfect and magically magnificent as their query letters.
Wallow in despair. I recommend flailing. Loudly. Ignore friends who suggest flailing is a silent activity. They’re wrong.
Crawl back to your computer and reread your query letter post-flail. Decide it’s not the worst thing you’ve ever read, which is something.
Suck it up. Revise it until it works for you. Trust that you’ve learned what you need to know in order to succeed (have I mentioned QueryShark?). Realize that agents know you aren’t a query-writing robot, but a flawed human being with mad word skills. Believe in your concept, your story, you work. Let the query sing for you. Everything is gonna be okay. Take a deep breath. Ask for a hug if you need one. You got this.
Okay, Dear Readers, share your query agony in the comments below. Feel free to flail.