Working and Writing

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Hello my loves! Happy almost Halloween!

I’m sorry I’ve all but abandoned you over here. It’s difficult to remember everything I’m committed to and sometimes, something gets left by the wayside. Too bad it’s my blog. I’m failing at Twitter pretty hard too.

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But at least I’m still writing! I’m currently working on the outline for my NaNoWriMo project this year–the spin-off of the spin-off of my Ash and Ruin Trilogy. Was that confusing enough for you?

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You’ll remember I released Dandelions, that was the first spin-off. In that story the main character’s sister is Maggie. Maggie wanted her own story. So I’m writing that. That’s the spin-off of the spin-off. I have the first act written, and if you’d like to read the rough draft of that you can head on over to my Patreon page and, with just a small pledge of $3 a month, you can read it and all the other fiction I’ve shared there and will continue to share (click the pic to be taken to my page!):

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If you pledge more, there are rewards that come with those pledges! I hope you’ll check it out.

I’m hoping to use NaNoWriMo to finish the rough draft of this book so I can focus on something new and witchy, inspired by my recent exploratory trip to Ireland. If you’d like to read about that, you can see what I posted over on the Spellbound Scribes’ Blog. You should follow us there! We’re a group of fantasy writers who post weekly about writing, reading, and all things bookish.

So, while I may forget to blog from time to time, know that I’m still working to bring you fiction and stories and words.

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xoxox

Catching up

I’m trying to be better about this space because I’ll forget about it for months at a time and then it’s awkward when I come back, acting like we’re cool, like I haven’t abandoned you for so long and am trying to pick up like it’s only been a couple of days.

So, with that in mind, I’d like to remind you that you can follow me on quite a few platforms outside of this blog. I’m usually much better about being active an vocal there.

We’ve got my FB fan page. I’m good about keeping people up to date about writing and bookish things there. And, I promise, I don’t spam post so I won’t be clogging your feed.

2017-07-28 11.03.48We’ve got my twitter feed. I’m far more outspoken there. I don’t shy away about my rage screaming over politics. If you like to keep art and artist separate and you don’t swing toward the liberal side of things, consider this your warning about my twitter space. I like the freedom I have there and I won’t apologize for it or anything I say or share there.

Then we have Instagram. Oh, I do love Instagram. That’s a lot of puppy pictures and what crazy hair color I’ve got going and food pics and coffee (lots of coffee) and of course, bookish stuff.

patreon bannerAlso, I have a Patreon page (with a new post up today!), where you can help keep me from being a starving artist with your monthly pledges. You can pledge as little as a dollar just because or you can pledge $3 a month and have access to all the exclusive fiction content I’m sharing (right now I’m posting the installments of Maggie’s [from Dandelions] story that will eventually become a real book, but you can read as I write), at a $5 pledge you get a free ebook of your choice each month and the rewards grow from there. Also, every patron gets their name listed in the acknowledgements of each book that releases as long as they’re a patron. I’d love to see that list of names grow.

spellbound widget invertedAnd, of course, we have the Spellbound Scribes. Through accidents and luck, I somehow became the moderator of this awesome group blog where I, and some awesome fantasy authors, post once a week on various bookish and writerly things. It’s very informative and helpful, I think.

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Second to last, I have two manuscript critique slots open for August. I don’t have any time in September, so if you want to grab one of these two slots, now is the time. You can check my rates and philosophy on my Manuscript Critique page and contact me at shaunagranger82 @ gamil dot com. If you mention you saw this post, I’ll give you 10% off the total cost of the critique!

Finally, just to remind you, or tell you if you don’t know, the eighth Matilda Kavanagh Novel is set to release in September! Eeep! And you can preorder your ebook copy now at your favorite ebook retailer.

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Pre-order links:

Amazon Barnes and Noble | Smashwords Kobo iBooks

Revising, editing, and all the rough drafts.

As I sit down to work on yet another rough draft, I thought it might be interesting to read about how I revise and edit a new book. Because I also offer manuscript critique services, I see a lot of books before they’re ready from new writers. It’s always hard to know when a book is done and it’s time to let it go out into the world and flourish or die by its own merit, but you do need to spend a significant amount of time on it before that happens.

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First, I outline the story. When I was a new writer, I didn’t outline because I lost the urgency to tell the story, so if you’re not an outliner, don’t freak out; everyone is different and things change from book to book.

Once the outline is done, I fast draft the book. This means I write daily, usually taking 1-2 days off a week so I don’t burn out, until it’s done. There are some days where I might just get 500 words or 1,000 words, but my goal is 2-4k words a day. But, again, every book is different. As long as I make some progress, I’m happy.

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Then, when that first draft is done, I back up my work in 2-3 different places. I like to email myself the document every day so I don’t ever lose any work. But when I finish, I email myself again the completed document. I also save it to a memory stick. This way, if something happens to my computer, my book is safely stored in two places that can’t also be damaged by whatever killed my computer. When I was writing my fourth book, Fire, my hard-drive crashed and I lost about 20k words because I wasn’t in the habit of emailing myself on the daily, just at the end of a draft. It was devastating. Never again!

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Then I walk away. I close the file on the computer and I don’t look at it again for at least a week, sometimes as much as six months. Again, it depends on the book (and deadlines). But I get away from it and do other things. I clean the house, I read other people’s books, I relax. I do things that have nothing to do with the book I was writing. I may even start writing (and finish) another book before I ever come back to it. There’s a few reasons for this but the main reason is so that I can come back to it with fresh eyes.

You just spent a couple of months to the better part of a year focused on this one story, it’s been loud in your head, the characters alive and and controlling. If you come back too soon, you’ll remember everything and you won’t see mistakes, you won’t find the plot holes, you won’t pick up on the weaknesses or the thin characters. You need to read your rough draft as though you weren’t the one who wrote it.

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I like to print out a copy of the MS to go over it the first time. This way I’m not working on it in the same medium that I wrote it. I am familiar with it on the computer screen, so my eyes and mind might trick me into reading it the way I wanted it to be, not the way it is. By printing it, it becomes a new book and I can take a bright red pen to it and make corrections and notes to transcribe back on the computer. That’s the second draft.

Now, depending on the book, this is the right time to give it to beta readers to go over. I like to have at least two readers, but three is ideal. You want readers who will give it back to you in 2-4 weeks. This gives you another break away from the book, but also ensures your readers focus on your book so they don’t forget what they read in the first half because they took so long to finish it.

Wait to make any changes to your MS until you hear back from all betas. This gives you the chance to see if critiques are just personal preference or if you really missed something because they all mentioned the same thing(s).

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Now I go over the book again, this time on the computer, comparing beta notes, seeing if I agree or not. If I agree with a change, I have to make sure I thread it through the whole book. That’s the third draft.

Now I put it on a tablet to read it as an ebook. You may need another break or you may be ready to just dive in. So, again, I’m reading it in a different medium and more like any reader who bought it would read it. I use the highlight and note function to keep track of issues and changes I want to make. Once I make those changes, I’ve got a fourth draft.

Only on the 3rd or 4th draft does my editor get the book. Because I self-publish, I pay my editor for her services, so why in the world would I send her a book before it’s ready? I wouldn’t, and neither should you. I often get MSs that are not ready and people are paying me a fee to go over the book and 90% of the time, most of my notes could have been caught by the author or by a beta reader to be addressed for free.

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Once I get my MS back from my editor and implement the line-edits and content-edits, I am up to the fifth draft. Guess what? It goes back for a proof-reader to comb to make sure we didn’t miss any tiny mistakes.

So, in the end, I’m publishing the 5th or 6th draft. I don’t always use beta readers because sometimes I’m up to the 5th, 6th, or 7th book in a series and I can’t expect friends to do that much work for me. But the first book in a series? A stand alone? A trilogy? Yes, I use beta readers for all of those.

You will get to the point where you start to hate your book because you’ve read it so many times, but that’s what it takes to polish it, to develop those characters, to make the plot compelling. This is the work that goes into a book. Getting that first draft is the easy part, making it a book is where the hard work really is.

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Writing is re-writing. This is the rule you should be living by.

I’ve Kept My Promise About Patreon

If you remember, I posted that I was giving Patreon another go and I promised I was going to be better about posting there and making it worth your while to become a patron of mine.

Well, I think I’ve done a fairly good job about it.

There are some exclusive fiction posts that only patrons can read and I’ve started adding some flash fiction for everyone. Yes, that means these posts are available to anyone to read, without pledging any money.

The flash fiction I’m working on right now is a novella set in the Ash and Ruin universe, which, believe me, was difficult to get into the mood for after the week we’ve had. But I’m pushing through! Fiction is where we find escape and help to deal with the real world around us. So I keep writing.

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Anyway.

I hope you’ll check it out, check out the reward levels I have set up for patrons. If you become just a $1 a month patron, you will be included in the acknowledgements of my upcoming book, the seventh Matilda Kavanagh Novel! If you sign up for a higher amount, you’ll get some awesome, tangible rewards!

Check it out here.

YSO: The Best Writing Advice I’ve Ever Been Given

In college I took Creative Writing: Poetry. It was a junior level class, but I took it as a freshman, because obviously I was a fantastic writer who knew everything and would ace upper level classes.

Our first assignment was to write a poem. Any poem. Any form. Any subject. No direction or limitations whatsoever.

So I wrote my poem. It was amazing and poetic. The best poetry that ever poeted.

When the prof returned my poem it had a huge “YSO” written across it in red ink. No grade, no comments. Just YSO. Lots of poems in the classroom had this strange notation on them.

The professor, an old Irish poet, grinned back at us and asked how many people had YSO written on their paper. Most of the hands went up.

“Years ago,” he said, “I assigned this same assignment to another class, just like this one. And one of my students couldn’t think of anything to write about. Eventually, he went to his window in the middle of the night to try to think of something, anything to write. And then he saw it. A full moon, bright in the night sky, and he was inspired. So, he set down to write his poem about the full moon, bright in the night sky.”

We all waited as he paused, taking in our faces.

“And the first line of the poem read: ‘Yon sailing orb!'”

And we all burst out laughing.

Dr. Ledbetter looked at us and said, “Sometimes the moon is just the damn moon.”

So when we ever wrote something so over the top, so difficult to understand, so ridiculous that it made him laugh or shake his head (when that WASN’T the reaction you wanted), he would write YSO on our work.

Because sometimes the moon is just the damn moon.

 

Stages of (me) being a writer and knowing all the things.

Stages of (me) being a writer and knowing all the things.

Finally finish your first book: I know how to write a book!

Finish books 2 and 3: Yep. I got this! I know the process and all the secrets! How I write a book is how you write a book! Ask me and I’ll tell you because I know how to do it.

Reach 2/3 mark on book 4: Oh crap. My process isn’t working. I have to change how I do this. There was a secret I didn’t know before now.

Complete a series: Okay. Now I know all the secrets. Not only can I write a book, but I can finish a story. I know all.

Start writing 17th novel: I know nothing.

I know, seems strange, that on my 17th novel I’ve come to a point where I admit that I don’t know how to write a book. I mean, obviously I’ve done it a few times now, but things are just never the same.

Most of my books have taken me between 60 and 90 days to write the first draft. There are some of those books between 1 and 16 that I wrote in under 30 days.  But those are the ones where I am on fire and everything is clicking and I’m cranking out 4-6k words a day.

Words a day. Now that’s a phrase that freaks people out. We often hear the phrase “Real writers write every day.” I get this phrase, I really do. I applied it to my process for the bulk of my career, but I don’t take it quite as literally as many others do. For me, writing every day means 5-6 days a week that I’m drafting the first draft. That does not mean writing 8 hours a day. It means writing until I’ve reached a goal or I’ve come to a natural stopping point for the day. Sometimes that’s just 1 hour. Sometimes it’s 5. Depends on the book, the scene, and the day. And I do allow for 1 or 2 days off, like any “regular” job, you wouldn’t be there 7 days a week.

But this book, the 17th, has been so different for me.

I feel like Sisyphus and that rock is getting harder and harder to push uphill.

When I was first starting out, writing books 1-3 and the first 2/3rds of book 4, I never outlined. Then I hit a wall and had no idea where to go. So I loosely outlined the end of the fourth book and learned that I could, and maybe even should, outline a story before writing it. As a young writer, I couldn’t outline because I lost the urgency to tell the story, feeling like I’d already done it. So it took time and practice, but now I need an outline to help me get from A to Z.

So every day that I plan to write, I review my outline and get my daily goal, be it 1k words, 2k or 5k. Some days are hard and I may only get 500 words, but I get something.

But this book. This book. I want to write this book. I like my characters and their heartbreaking story. It’s a new world with new faces and a new story. I want to get to the end of it. But I started writing this book at the beginning of January and I’m only halfway through. I don’t even have a complete outline because it has been such a difficult story to figure out.

I take a week off from writing at a time. Some weeks I only write 2 or 3 days.  And I’m not even getting huge word goals when I do write.

This book is taking so much out of me.

But just like with my 4th book, I’ve learned to adapt to it. I have other projects going on at the same time that need attention, so I’m not just sitting around. But I’m telling myself not to feel guilty. I am working on it. I am always thinking about it. I even had a plot knot unravel itself the other day that will help  me expand the outline when I come to the end of it.

So what’s the point? The point is, none of us hold all the secrets. Processes will work for you until they don’t. You just gotta be able to roll with that and figure out how to carve a new key to unlock the next secret.  Even if you’ve written off the idea of something, like outlining vs. pantsing or writing every day vs. taking days off, try it if you’re stuck. It might be the thing that gets you unstuck.

Back from the holidays

I am typing! This is amazing. I know, if you follow me, the idea that I’m typing shouldn’t be a big surprise or cause for celebration, but today it is.

On New Years Day I took a tumble.

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Okay, it wasn’t a tumble. It was an OMFGIAMFALLINGHOLYCRAP fall. It was a fall that I was lucky to stand up from. It was a fall that I was lucky not to have a broken arm or cracked skull from. But it wasn’t a fall that left me unscathed.

My hubs works from home just like me, and he had an intake interview with a couple of potential new clients who wanted to meet on New Years Day. When you work for yourself, holidays are not the same as they are for many other people, kinda like working retail. So of course we said, “yes! Come on over!” And we started cleaning the house and grounds, putting the holiday back in the boxes and making the place presentable for new people.

One of the things that had to be done was retying one of our sun sails over our outdoor space. We’d taken it down when there were 60mph wind gusts the other week. So I climbed up on our pick-nick table to reach for the rope and tie the thing off. Now, the key to surviving anything like this is to watch where you’re stepping.

I did not.

I ran out of table.

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Unfortunately, I already had hold of the rope in my right hand when my foot stepped onto the nothingness. When you stumble you instinctively grip whatever you’re holding. Sadly, I hadn’t started to anchor the rope, so it was a just loose and happy to let me fall and slide my hand down the braided fibers.

I fell off the table, my leg going between the table and bench, to bounce off and land flat on my back on the cement pavers our table is centered on. It was fast and slow all at once. I don’t remember hitting the bench (though the massive bruises and swelling prove I did), but I remember having a moment to think, “You’re going to land on your back in a second,” when I hit the bench. I managed to pull my arms in and tuck my chin before I hit the ground. If I’d flung out my hands to break my fall I’d’ve broken something. If I hadn’t tucked my chin, I’d’ve cracked my head on the cement.

My husband rushed to me as I lay there telling him I was okay, just needed a second. The funny thing was, I had no idea there was something wrong with my hand. I lay there, giving my mind a moment to think about my body and listen for cues that something was wrong, but nothing screamed back with pain.

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So I sat up and laughed for a second.

Then I saw my hand. My right hand. My dominate hand.

I said, “Hey, look at my thumb. It looks weird.” I said that because it didn’t hurt. Yet. The rope had burned my palm and ripped off some skin, making it look like a puncture wound. But my thumb. Oh holy gods, my thumb. Between the knuckle and my palm I’d ripped off so much skin that I could see the vein that runs through your thumb just below the last layer of skin. If I’d taken that layer, I’d’ve been in the ER.

Because I looked at my palm and thumb, the shock wore off and the pain set in. My hand was on fire. It truly was a full burn from the rope. My hand shook and I finally cried, panicked and freaked out over what my hand looked like. And I started babbling about not being able to write today or finishing the beautiful scarf I was knitting for myself. These are the crazy, panicked things you say when you hurt yourself.

So, here I am, Monday morning, able to type and it is awesome. I promised myself, whether my outline was done or not, I was starting the New Project today, so the idea that I wouldn’t be able to added to my panic and tears. But it’s cloudy and rain is on the way and I can move my fingers and I can hit the space bar with my thumb without causing searing pain. Who knows, I might be knitting by the end of the week.

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So happy new year my loves! I survived and will have new words!

P.S.

I have one slot left for January for a new Critique project. If you’d like to steal that spot, please email me at shaunagranger82@gmail.com – you can always sign up for a Feb or March slot, but hurry, I only take a couple each month. Check out my critique page to learn more about what I do.