Reflections on My First Two Book Events

This week, I attended my first two book-related events as an author: a book talk / signing at Jabberwocky Books and the Merrimack Valley Halloween Book Festival.

For someone with lots of social anxiety, planning, committing too, and/or attending events is no small feat, but somehow, I managed to set up a launch event and sign up for a book festival.

After convincing myself that one event or another wasn’t going to happen, they did. I did my talk and signing at Jabberwoky. I sold books at the festival.

I learned a few things.

43950609_10214216395229934_1937355220606517248_nFor first time authors, launch events are really for family and friends. Unless you have a fascinating non-fiction topic people want to learn about, if they don’t know who you are, they are probably not going to take time out of their Friday night to listen to you talk about your book. That’s my theory, anyway.

On the other hand, my family and friends showed. They were super excited to be there, to have me sign a copy of Power Surge, and to congratulate me. I was the only one that seemed disappointed that there weren’t any “strangers” in the audience.

It is a lot easier to stand at a podium and talk to strangers than it is to talk to people I know.

The book festival wasn’t any different than the craft fairs I attended back when I sold sea glass jewelry. A lot of people attended, but there were also a lot of vendors. People walked by the table, picked up books, said good things about them, and walked away, saying they needed to look more before buying.43880502_10214220942663617_5203961892581670912_o

90% of people who say they will or might come back do not.

I brought about fifty copies of Power Surge and sold three. I brought ten copies of Drabbledark and sold four. At craft fairs, I’d have at least fifty pieces of jewelry, and I’d sell somewhere between four and ten pieces.

I made some mistakes:

  1. As usual, I left something I needed at home.
  2. I arrived at the venue with just enough time to set up, but not enough time to take a breath between set up and people walking in.
  3. I had to make three trips to the car because I brought too much and it wasn’t packed up efficiently.

These three mistakes are ones I made early in my craft fair and flea market days.

It wasn’t all a disaster. I remebered to get plenty of one dollar bills, so I could make change. I brought snacks, and ALL the pens and sharpie I needed.

Next time, I won’t let anxiety and imposter syndrome stop me from preparing. I’ll pack efficiently, and get everything ready the night before. I’ll have a larger variety of items.

I’ll be ten times more confident.

 

What I’ve Learned About Pacing from Writing Five Novels.

Pacing is important with any work of fiction, whether it is a novel or short story.

If it’s too slow, readers might get bored and stop reading. If it’s too fast, they might get lost and stop reading. However, thinking too much about it when writing your first draft won’t really help. Work on the pacing when you start revising.

Finding the right pace for a story is part of the writing process. I go through several rewrites and revisions before I get it right.

Back when I was drafting my first two novels, I thought I had to more or less write out every second of the character’s life during the time frame of the novel. Thankfully, with both books, the whole plot took place over a few days. As it was, I ended up with a 130,000 word first draft of a young adult novel, and over 200,000 words for my adult novel.

When I had a friend read the YA novel, she got bored quickly while following the character through 30 or 40 pages of school. Stuff only happened on maybe five of those pages. She told me the descriptions of every hallway, desk, and teacher really weren’t relevant.

She was right. Irrelevant descriptions and conversations bogged the pacing down so much that she lost interested before anything happened.

It took over ten revisions to get the pacing (and other things) right.

First, I went through and cut out scenes that I wrote for me as I was getting to know the character. I cut descriptions of places that appeared once and never came back. I made sure all the description and imagery I kept added something to the overall mood and revealed something about the narrator even if it was very subtle.

However, the most important step was making sure each chapter had a hook at the beginning and end, as well as its own complete arc. I did one revision that just focused on this. As I read each chapter, I summarized it in a few sentences and explained what it contributed to the plot. This helped me see the picture and plan what I needed do to each chapter.

I ended up cutting entire chapters, removing characters from the story, and moving the climax so it happened sooner and just scrapping a whole sequence of unnecessary fights from the end of the book.

To test my work, I asked critique partners and beta readers to let me know when they got bored or bogged down.

Eventually, I got the novel down to about 71,000 words. Each chapter had an arc. There was enough description for the reader to picture the setting without slowing the action. That description set the mood and even helped readers get to know the character. All that meant that the readers stayed hooked. They didn’t get too bored or too lost.

The process of starting with too much happening to slowly, then cutting back and changing things worked well. That novel is under contract with NineStar Press and scheduled to come out in October.

However, it was slow, tedious process, and I’m an impatient person. Now, I seem to have the opposite problem.

My last two novels started as drafts I banged out in four to six weeks for NaNoWriMo and Camp NaNoWriMo. They short and rushed, skipping over descriptions and the types of scenes I thought I’d just end up cutting.

Having to go back, add more details, and slow things down was the same amount of work, if not more work, than having to cut thousands of words from the manuscript, and during the process, I was not nearly as invested in the characters and world as I had been with my earlier works.

Currently, I’m submitting pieces novel-in-progress number five to a critique group. Even though I go through each chapter and fill in the gaps I see before sending it, I’m still getting feedback from readers saying it moves so fast they struggle to follow transitions, can’t fully picture things, and don’t know the characters enough to really care much about what happens to them.

In early drafts of books four and five, the overall plot and arcs are much clearer than they were in books one and two, but that doesn’t matter if the readers don’t care about the characters and get lost in the transitions between scenes.

Thinking I learned enough from my first books to know what scenes will get before I write them was a bad idea. All it accomplished was producing a book that moved so fast readers couldn’t get into instead of one with fully fleshed characters moving at a snails pace.

After drafting and revising five novels, I’ve learned that pacing isn’t something that I should think about while writing my first draft. It’s something that happens in revision when I have a concrete grasp on the characters, plot, setting, tone, and story. The pacing develops as I examine each chapter under a microscope and then look at how it fits in the big picture. Seeking feedback from critique partners and beta readers, and then listening to them when they say where they got lost or bored hones the work’s pace.

In order to have a well paced novel, writers need to be patient. They need to trust their process and not rush it.

 

 

Five Friendly Places that Pay for Fiction

Finding a place to publish a short story can be intimidating. Submitting a story  I’ve poured my soul into out to a literary magazine is scary enough without worrying about what happens to it once it lands in someone’s slush.

And there are so many places that publish fiction. I have to think about things like what kind of stories the market publishes, how much it pays, what their response time is and whether or not they take simultaneous submissions.

There are many markets I send short stories to over and over again only to be repeatedly rejected, but I’ve had great experiences publishing with the following five markets. I’ve had at least one story accepted by each, and sent a second after publication. They are listed alphabetically.

  1. B Cubed Press not only published the most profitable anthology I’ve ever had a short story in, but it is run by an enthusiastic editor who cares about his authors as much as he cares about the quality of their stories.
    • Responsive: All submissions get a receipt confirmation so the writer knows the story isn’t languishing in email limbo. All submissions get a response once a decision is made. Editors periodically post updates on the BCubed Press Facebook Group. Most questions are answered promptly.
    • Strong Community: There is a Facebook group populated with an engaged community of writers who support each other and share ideas.
    • Short  Story Pay: $.02 a word advance + royalties and an e-book
    • Read B Cubed”s latest anthology “More Alternative Truths”
  2. Broadswords and Blasters
    • Responsiveness: Confirms receipt of stories, responds to all when a decision is made, and is known to give personal responses when time allows.
    • Active on Twitter: Broadswords and Blasters engages with authors and readers on twitter. When open for submissions, they use twitter to be transparent about their selection process. However the two things that impress me most are how supportive they are of their authors, and how quickly they are growing
    • Short Story Pay: $15 per story + an electronic copy of the issue
    • Read an issue here
  3. Fantasia Divinity
    • Responsiveness: Generally, emails get an auto response that confirms the submission was received and provides information about response times. Once a decision is made, all stories get a response.
    • Active on Facebook: Fantasia Divinity has a very active Facebook page where they share status updates about where they are in the process of getting a book or issue ready, cover art, and releases. If they get behind on their responses, they generally will post about it so waiting authors know what is going on.
    • Short Story Pay varies per project. Original stories accepted to the magazine receive ½ of a cent per word. Stand-alone pieces are royalties only. Anthology pay varies between the magazine rate and printed contributor copies.
    • Read an issue here
  4. Nine Star Press
    • Responsiveness: An auto response confirms receipt of stories, and once they receive a response email once a decisions is made. Most of the rejections they sent me have been personalized.
    • Strong Community: The NineStar Press authors Facebook group is a fantastic place to meet other writers, find critique partners, get advice about marketing stories and discuss your craft. They are one of the most supportive and generally awesome writing community’s I’ve had the chance to be part of.
    • Pay: Royalties + e-books.Note: While NineStar does publish short story anthologies, novelettes, and novellas, they are primarily a boutique novel publisher.
    • Read my favorite NineStar Press Novel
  5. Owl Hollow Press
    • Responsiveness: All submissions get a response once a decision is made. Every rejection I received from them was personalized.
    • Very Social: Owl Hollow Press is active on a number of social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They are the only publisher I’ve worked with who has ever mailed authors free swag to use as promotional material. The bookmarks were very popular at work.
    • Short Story Pay: $50 per story + 1 print copy. OHP does publish novels, but  I think the pay (royalty rate and/or advance) may very from contract to contract.
    • Read their latest anthology here

If you choose to submit anything to any of these markets, please do your own research too. I did my best to provide accurate information, but these markets can update their rates and policies at any time. Plus, I’m human, which means I make mistakes. The publishing world is scary; these are just a few of many places I’ve had positive experiences publishing short stories with.

Read their guidelines carefully, and make sure they publish the type of story you are sending them. If you are unsure if a market is right, reading some of their published material is a good way to learn more about their tastes. Whether you read their previously published works or not, just please please make sure you follow their submission guidelines. I can’t count the number of I’ve times I seen editors stress how important this is.

B Cubed Press, Broadswords and Blasters, Fantasia Divinity, Owl Hollow Press, and NineStar Press are not the only markets I repeatedly submit to, but something about my experience with each was memorable enough for me to send them more work after they published the first accepted piece. Some of those submissions were accepted, but others weren’t. Of course, I won’t let the rejections stop me from sending these editors more stories in the future. They can’t get rid of me that easily. 😉

 

Twitter Pitch Parties Are About More Than Just The Likes

When seeking an agent or publisher for a novel, I participate in every twitter pitch party I get the chance to. So far, no one “like” or “heart” has landed me an agent or a book deal, but I still participate. They help me figure out what agents like the kind of stories I write, and it also helps me network with like-minded writers.

Events like #DVpit, #pitmad, #pitdark, #kidpit, #IWSGPit, #pit2pub, and a few others that I may be forgetting offer writers a chance to connect with the right agents and editors. However, you don’t necessarily need your pitch to get liked for that to happen.

This year, I used #DVpit as a deadline to finish editing my latest novel. I got my manuscript and query in good shape, but didn’t have as much time as I would’ve liked to perfect my pitches. I tweeted them anyway, and tried not to refresh twitter every three seconds.

I didn’t get a single agent like, but that night, I still sent out my first volley of 11 queries, and within two weeks, two of them turned into partial requests.

The agents may not have liked my tweet, but I saw the kinds of tweets they did like. I searched the feed using hashtags that were in my pitches.

For example, I searched #DVpit #YA #F #LGBT. I made a list of agents requesting those projects. Then I did the same search without the #LGBT and added those agents to my list. If reviewed their guidelines, and if I wasn’t familiar with them from my first three attempts to get an agent, I looked them up on Absolute Write.

I ended up with a long list of agents, and picked ten who didn’t require a full synopsis (because I hated and still hate my synopsis). After getting two requests and about 5 rejections from that first batch, I sent out another. Some of them were agents from my #DVpit list, some were agents I’d queried in the past, and others came from a #MSWL search.

In total, I’ve gotten 3 requests (1 full, 2 partials) and 11 rejections. I’m still waiting for a response on 10 more queries.

Those odds are not bad considering I didn’t get any likes.

With my other three manuscripts, I received lots of likes for pitches, some that evolved into requests, but none of them turned into an offer. However, one of these did indirectly lead me to NineStar Press, the publisher who I signed with for Power Surge.

NineStar didn’t like any of my pitches for Power Surge, but they did like a pitch for a different book. I queried them, and ultimately got an R & R. I still haven’t revised that manuscript, but I did send NineStar a dark fantasy novelette called Half-Breads, which they published as part of their Halloween story, an urban Snow White retelling they accepted for Once Upon a Rainbow 2, and Power Surge, the novel that is nearest and dearest to my heart, and rejected by over 100 agents.

Had they not liked my #DVpit tweet for the other book, I might not have known they existed. And that would’ve been said, because some of the best book’s I’ve read this year were ARC’s I reviewed for them. Through NineStar, I’ve also connected with an amazing community of writers who have helped me boosted my confidence, hone my craft, and even feel more comfortable with my gender identity. Words can’t express how grateful I am to have found them.

In general, I’ve also built my twitter network though pitch contests. If someone’s pitch sounds really cool, I follow them. Sometimes, nothing comes of it. Other times, they and I engage with each other’s tweets, encouraging each other, offering advice, and boosting posts. Some even become beta readers or cp’s.

Getting agent likes are a big part of pitch contests, but they are not the whole story. If you have an eligible manuscript, pitch it on twitter, follow the feed, and think of it as a way to engage with a community. Think of these contests as opportunities to learn and network, and look at the potential for agent requests as a bonus. Celebrate when you get them, but don’t be discouraged if you don’t.

P.S. If you write dark fiction check out #pitdark, which is happening tomorrow. #PitMad is June 7th, so put that one on your calendar and polish your pitches.

 

Fantasy a No Go with This Years Students

Back in January, you may have seen my post about using novels instead of textbooks for my ENG101 and RWR090 classes. Two of the novels worked out okay, but one was a disaster.

Feed by M. T. Anderson

This semester’s 101 students weren’t as enthusiastic about Feed as last semesters, but after a rocky start, they did get into the book. The romance plot hooked them. They engaged with the book when characters made bad choices. Most importantly, it made them think. They saw clear connections between the book, the articles we read, and the TED talks we watched.

When it came time to write essays, they dug into topics like consumerism, dependence on technology, and social media. They succeeded at finding ways to narrow those things down, and while some struggled to balance all the different sources, most of them did assert and support an interesting thesis.

For now, I’ll continue to use Feed.

Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

As much as I love this book, using it in class was a nightmare. I had thought that my students would like it because they could “see themselves” on the page and use things like the snippets of Spanish dialogue and description of familiar food to connect to the book. This backfired. I was being stupid, letting my white, middle class privilege influence my thoughts.

Yes, some students did like the descriptions of Caribbean food and connected to the relationships the characters had to their family members. Some of them had even lived in the neighborhood the story was set in. It helped a little, but mostly, they were indifferent to it or bored.

The supernatural elements were what tipped them over the edge. The idea of characters controlling and summoning spirits disturbed them. Some couldn’t understand the magic system but more found it to be too real. At least one or two students believed in spirits. One said their pastor told them not to read it, because that kind of thing “opened doors” for bad spirits to come in. Another said a friends aunt claimed to be able to control spirits and use magic to bring people good or bad luck.

The combination of being bored with the setting, disturbed by the magic, and annoyed by the main character meant they complained about the book non-stop. It didn’t help that I was out with a concussion for a good part of that unit.

When it came time to write, they trudged through a character analysis, wrote reviews for extra credit, and celebrated when it was over.

Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

This is a book I will again for RWR090. My students did seem to enjoy it and learn a lot from it. They could relate to the experience to some of the experiences the main character had balancing American culture with her parent’s culture and loved learning about Indian and Muslim culture.

Their essays were thoughtful explorations of concepts that came up in the book, and with no small amount of hard work, they found articles about those concepts and connected them to the book.

I admit I didn’t do nearly as much with it as I should’ve. I feel like I barely scratched the surface of it, and there is tons of untapped potential to explore in a new semester with a new group of students. I think I was a little drained or burn out from the rougher portions of the semester. However, with time to reflect on and examine what I did and didn’t do, I can make much better use of it next time.

Comments?

I’m interested to hear if any one else has used novels in a first year writing course – one that isn’t specifically geared towards literature. What did you use? How did it go? Will you do it again? Why or why not?

 

Writer Beware: Your Work Is Valuable; Don’t Get Scammed

Most of us start writing because we enjoy it or because we have something we are desperate to share. While some writers hoard their work, afraid to let the public see it, many want or even need their work to be read. Those of us who want to publish aren’t always content to just throw our work on our website or someone else’s. We want to see our stories officially published in some kind of book, journal, or magazine. However, we need to be smart about it and not fall victim to scammers and predators who are out to take advantage of us.

Publishing isn’t easy. It’s slow and painful. To be successful, writers need to be able to stand up against an onslaught of rejection and push through it until a piece gets accepted, and then start the process all over again. It’s easy to feel defeated, like your writing is bad and doesn’t hold much value.

No matter how many rejections you get, your writing is valuable. Rejections don’t mean you’re a bad writer. Every writer has room for improvement, but no one should judge their writing based on rejections. Feedback from beta readers, critique groups, and workshops can help you identify your strengths and the skills you need to work on. Reading craft books and published stories are also tools for identifying weak areas and improving them.

Still, not getting published and not getting paid is frustrating, especially when the markets with the highest rates and largest reach are the hardest to get into. I can consistently get $5 or $10 for a piece of flash fiction, and have had a few pieces sell for over $100, but I have yet to break into award winning markets, pro-paying markets, let alone gotten to the point in my career where editors are soliciting stories from me.

Solicited submissions are some kind of a dream for me. How cool would it be for an editor to be familiar enough with my writing to ask me to write a story for their publication?

Technically, this has happened twice. The first time was from a woman in my twitter network who starting up her own online magazine, Speculative 66. Like the name implies, it features speculative stories that are only 66 words long. It did pay, but the stories were free, and writing the story was a fun challenge.

The second was from a scammer dressed up publisher. Earlier this week, I got an email from an editor at Z Publishing. This person claimed to have looked at my website, and thought I would be a good fit for the Massachusetts edition of an emerging writers collection. I was excited for about five seconds, but then I realized I had never heard of this publisher, and my scam alarms blared.

I googled them, read a blog about them, and a post on Absolute Write. After that, I went to their website to verify what I read about them.

Here’s the scoop. The put a high volume of anthologies, and according to the blog I read about them, they accept almost everything. This I didn’t verify myself.

Their anthologies come out in both print and electronically, and are sold both on their website and on amazon. Their contract says there is no payment and no royalties. However, if authors join their affiliate program, they can make some money.

Here is how it works: Authors are given a link to the publisher’s website. If an author sells books through the link, they get 25% of the sale and the other authors get nothing. 100% of the money sales made on amazon or through the website that aren’t connected to an author link goes to the publisher.

I n theory, if an author had a big network of family and friends who were going to buy the book, they could make money off of it while the other authors get nothing. The publisher has the chance to make money off of the amazon sales while sharing nothing with the author. If an author has a big of a network to profit from this model, they could make at least double by self-publishing a collection of their own work.

The website makes it sound like some new, revolutionary publishing model, but really, it is a scam that preys off of desperate and naïve authors.

If you are going to give your writing away, send it to a place that doesn’t charge people to read it. And if you want to make money, then submit to more ethical, paying markets whether they are anthologies or magazines. Keep writing and keep sending them stuff until you finally get in.

If you wind up with a dozen stories that have been rejected by the big paying markets? No big deal. You can self publish it and keep a lot more than 25%.

Do be careful where you submit to. Find market’s whose goals align with yours. If I’m going to publish in an anthology with out an advance, I know I’m taking a risk. However, if the publisher has competent editors, a good cover artist, a marketing plan, and a fair contract, I’ll consider it, though it isn’t my first choice.

If you want an example of a small anthology publisher who did things right, check out B Cubed Press’ Alternative Truths.

Remember, your writing is valuable.  Don’t rejections tell you otherwise. Don’t let scammers profit from your work while you get nothing.

How an editor made my day.

This year, I had high hopes for #DVpit. I’d just finished polishing a new manuscript. My query was in good shape. I’d struggled with my pitches, but thought I finally had them down. I scheduled them, went to work, and tried to not to sneak peeks at twitter between each student I tutored.

My try was feeble and I checked the internet every chance I got. What did I find?

No agent <3’s from #DVpit.

Short story rejections, including one I had been a little too optimistic about.

It wasn’t even lunch time, and I was miserable.

At some point in in the midst of it all, I opened up a 100-word-story I’d  been working on for a while. I made a few changes based on some feedback and sent it off to an anthology — one that was going to consist entirely of dark drabbles.

Within an hour, I got a response. I read, “I have enjoyed your work to date,” and froze.

Did an editor just recognize my name? I did a little “happy dance” at my desk, which really is just me smiling and bouncing in my seat. My fellow tutor was with a student, so she didn’t notice.

I relished in that thought for a few seconds before reading on to find that not only had I previously published in the same venue as this editor, but he had read my work in another magazine.

I paused again, afraid that despite actually knowing my name, he was still going to reject my story.

Thankfully, he didn’t. He suggested some edits, which I promptly made. The story was accepted, and will be included in Drabbledark along with some of my favorite short story authors.

#DVpit may have been a bust, but knowing that someone who I’ve never met in person new me by my stories was an amazing feeling. Even if it had turned into a rejection, I wouldn’t have cared. As a newish writer, being recognized is a huge victory.

As a writer, take every little victory you get, no matter how small. When you are being battered down by rejections, let that victory be the tiny candle that light up your darkness. As a reader, engage with writers, especially the ones who are just starting out. Tell them when you like their stories. Let them know that you know they exist.

A single sentence can make or break someone’s day.

 

Replacing Textbooks With novels in First Year Writing

For the past five years, I’ve taught first year writing at community college and state universities. I assigned textbooks and/or trade books based on what other teachers used or what seemed like the kind of book college students should read. It didn’t work out so well. Now, I’m using books I get excited about.

The first books I recall assigning were writing textbooks like Curious Researcher or Axelrod & Cooper’s Concise Guide to Writing. While these contain good information about writing and some useful exercises, they didn’t engage students. Half the students didn’t even bother reading, and the ones who did complained the book wasn’t worth the $50 or $60 they paid for it. 

As I got more experienced, I realized that most of the material in the textbooks could be conveyed through discussions about writing and having students reflect on their own writing and/or other people’s writing.

I stopped making students buy expensive textbooks and started assigning one or two trade books. Additionally, students would read assortment of articles they could access for free online or through the library’s databases. This works well for a lot of teachers.

While I did manage to find a handful or articles and essays that engaged my students, I couldn’t seem to find a book they liked.

The Mind at Work by Mike Rose held their attention for one chapter. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba was a neat concept, but they got bored with the amount of detail in the story. They liked some of the “facts” in Modified by Caitlin Shetterly, but were easily confused and claimed she kept getting “off topic” and wound up hating the book. They claimed Dwellings by Linda Hogan only needed to be a few pages because it repeated the same message over and over again.

The first book I assigned that more than one student seemed to enjoy was Feed by M. T. Anderson—a novel.

It took a while, but I finally figured out what my problem was: I really don’t enjoy reading book length non-fiction. I know it is sometimes necessary, and that a lot can be learned from it, but it always feels like work.

I don’t get excited about it, and that is a huge problem.

Students have very sharp bullshit detectors, so they know when I’m faking it. If I’m not excited about the book, why should they get excited about it?

Feed was the first novel I asked students to read. It also happened to be dystopian, YA, and science fiction – a combination of genres I love.

Because I was so excited about it when I introduced it, they gave it chance. Because they gave it chance, many of them got pulled into the story and enjoyed it. A few loved it. One student told me it made him want to start reading novels again.

Sure there were a few who didn’t like it, but since books are so subjective, that is to be expected. Enough liked it. And enough wrote thoughtful, sourced based papers because of it.

I’ve learned my lesson. Unless the department requires it, I won’t teach a book I am not passionate about. And novel’s can get students thinking just as much as non-fiction, and the questions those novel’s raise can prompt students to do research for essays.

So this semester, I am using novels all around. Comp 1 is reading Feed again and writing a sourced based paper about the issues the novel raises. My reading class is going to read Love, Hate and Other Filters as well as Shadowshaper.

I’m still working out the details of the assignments, but I am confident these books will go over better if I can express my confidence and excitement when introducing them to the students.

I’ll post something later in the semester about how it worked out.

Beta Readers & Remembering my Characters are NOT me.

Good beta readers and critique partners are essential for writers, not just because they make individual manuscripts stronger, but also because they can make writers aware of problematic patterns.

My beta readers often comment that my characters don’t react or show emotion to big things – like finding out demons exits, losing a loved one, seeing someone get shot, or having some slightly mundane but life changing news delivered.

Despite the validity of these comments, I often get very defensive about them. It’s not that my characters don’t feel or show emotion; they just don’t do it right away.

There is a reason I write them like that.

I almost never have instant reactions to things unless that reaction is rage or something completely irrational.

I may have immediately dissolved into screaming and swearing that one time there were cars on a hiking (I may have had a staring contest with the car)but when my grandmother died, and when I got offer a contract for my book, I just kind of stared and went through the motions before I truly reacted.

When big things happen, I don’t react to them right away. I go blank and stare until my brain figures out how it wants to react, considers how people expect me to react and finds a compromise between the two. Therefore, in my first drafts, my characters seldom react the way readers expect.

I need to stop mentally fighting readers about this.

My characters are not me.

Maybe if I am writing a character that has the same not completely diagnosed flavor of mental illness that I have, the readers would have to deal with it. However, if I am writing a neurotypical character and/or one that is mentally healthy, then they need to react like one of those people would.

Without beta readers, it would be almost impossible for me to see this. Even with them, it has taken me far to long to figure it out. Even being aware of it, I’m sure it will still happen in all my first drafts, but I am going to work harder to catch it early revisions so that my readers can focus on other things.

 

IWSG November: I will win NaNoWriMo!

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeNovember 1 question – Win or not, do you usually finish your NaNo project? Have any of them gone on to be published?

Because I was so into national novel writing month, I completely forgot to blog on the first of the month with the Insecure Writers Support Group Question. Half way through the month and about 27,000 words into a newish novel, I am slowing down.

I wouldn’t say I’ve hit a wall so much as a swamp or a mucky stretch of road. This has happened before. I get my characters past their inciting incident and on their adventure. They are getting somewhere. They are growing, and then I slow down. What was going to write next? What obstacles can I throw in their way? How will those obstacles affect them?

When I should just be writing and letting the characters talk to me, I start overthinking my first draft. As if that isn’t bad enough, I start peeking at works that are supposed to be resting, more polished works that are just a couple rounds of revision away from being sent out to agents, and I start thinking about how rough the writing in my WIP is. It slows me down. I know its bad, and in theory, I know how to get past it, but it never happens right away.

Thankfully, I’ve done NaNoWriMo (and the camp version) a few times before. I’ve completed four novels. When I finish my WIP, I’ll have five under my belt. I’m starting to get a good sense of my process. One way or another, I will finish the book.

In 2015, I didn’t sign up on the site, but I wrote the bulk of a novel in November. I didn’t call it NaNoWriMo officially because I started in Oct and finished in Dec, but since that first draft was nearly 200,000 words long, I am pretty sure I wrote at least 50,00 words in November. Several revisions later, Song of the Forest is 83,000 words and being queried. If you’ve paid attention to any of my twitter pitches, the ones about telepaths, trees and serial killers are for this book.

In 2016, I took a short story that a bunch of editors and cp’s had been telling should be a novel and turned it into a 54,000 word novel. In the end, I was really happy with the way it came out. I got some feedback, didn’t listen as closely as I should, revised a couple times, got more feedback, did some editing and started querying. After a lot of rejections, I got some honest feedback from an editor about the structure of the story, which prompted rewrite I have not yet finished since I was too excited about other projects. My plan is to revisit it in January when I am on break.

In 2017, I attempted two Camp NaNoWriMos. April’s got me some progress on a WIP, but I didn’t finish it. I tried again in July but ended up switching projects halfway through. I hit the 50,000 word mark, but it wasn’t all for one book. By the end of August, I had finished the book I switched to, but not the one I started. I haven’t returned that incomplete WIP, but will sooner or later.

Right now, I’m working on getting out of the muck for the WIP I’m working on. I will win this month, but I know this YA space adventure is going to need more than 50,000 words. I could get to an ending my 50,000 words then go back and beef up the middle later, or I could keep writing beyond the end of the month until I reach an end of the book. I’m open to either, but I know that if I over think it and don’t just do it, I won’t do either.

One thing I have learned from writing multiple novels is to trust the process. No matter how bad the first draft comes out, revision can make it better. To get through the first draft, I need to just write and let the characters have a will of their own. The rest, the careful plotting, focusing on how the characters change, and careful editing comes in later drafts.