Problems with Word Count Quotas

While writing my first two books, I didn’t pay too much attention to my word count until after I finished the first draft. My first draft of Song of the Forest came close to 200,000 words and my first draft of Power Surge was around 130,000. When I revised, I went through a cycle of cutting and adding. By the time I got to my final drafts, they were 83,000 and 78,000 words.

My third book, Like Birds Under the City Sky, was different. It was national novel writing month (NaNoWriMo), so I had set a goal of writing 50,000 words in one month. I successfully added 50,000 words to a document that started the month off as a 4,000 word short story. As I revised, I cut and added a few thousand words, but the changes were not as drastic as they had been for my first two books.

Initially, I didn’t see this as a problem. It was my third book, and in between it and my other books, I had written dozens of short stories and flash fictions. I polished the book up, and sent it out to agents and a couple publishers. I got about 20 rejections, but one publisher suggested I give the book a complete overhaul and resubmit. Afraid to make that drastic of a change based on one editors opinion, I sought out feedback from another beta reader and heard the same thing.

When time came to start Community Magic, a novel I had been dreaming for nearly a year, I thought Camp NaNoWriMo would be the perfect way to get it done, but instead of motivating me, the word count quote actually made anxious, and made me feel guilty about not writing. This would have been okay if the guilt motivated me, and/or it was the only problem.

The guilt made me write less. I also noticed other issues.

I was overwriting. I sent chapters out to a critique partner, and she kept pointing out all kinds of things that were not necessary and were just filling space – things I may not have written had I not been rushing to meet my quota of words for the day.

The word count was a distraction. Instead of living the story as I was writing it, my eyes kept drifting down the little numbers at the bottom of my document telling me how many words I had written. I was not as immersed in the world as I should’ve been, and as a result, the plot was rambling, the characters were a little flat, and the world contained inconsistencies. I decided that book wasn’t mean to be NaNoWriMo’ed and switched to a different work in progress – Earth Reclaimed – the story I just ran a rather unsuccessful Publishizer campaign for.

I’m waiting until I have a complete draft to start seeking feedback, but I can feel myself doing some of the same things – almost mindless typing to my word count gets closer to the one my campaign said it should be when the word count. At this point, I should be focused on building the word and getting to know my characters. If my word count falls short, I can expand the draft in revision. If it to high, then I can have a party cutting words while I edited.

Word count goals are great, but when they start to detract from the quality of the writing, then I know I need to revisit how and when I use them.

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A Review of Fortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke

Fortitude SmashedFortitude Smashed by Taylor Brooke

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclaimers: I got a free copy of this from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I don’t usually read romance.

I generally won’t pick up a book if I know it is just romance, but the speculative element of Fortitude Smashed, the Camilla Clock, got me curious. The opening was perfect — it had interesting characters, plenty of tension, and just enough world building to show this world was like the real with one slight difference — the clock that timed out when people met their soulmates.

The characters were complex and fluid. The prose were gorgeous. In fact, the description was so well done that it almost made me want to go to Laguna Beach, even though the southern parts of california are on my list places to avoid (its a pretty long list).

My favorite parts of the book were the ones with the most tension — when Aiden and Shannon’s past selves collided. However, I did feel like there weren’t enough of these, like it was too easy for Aiden to stop being a thief. Sometimes I got a little bored with all the kissing and biting, and would’ve rather seen a little more cop work and stealing (or trying not to steal).

The other area the writing shined was in the parts of the book showcasing friendships. They were real, raw, and emotional.

If you like romance, literary, and/or science fiction, then I recommend reading this. It’s lyrical and successfully crosses two genres. I’m glad I read it.

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Thoughts on the Last Day of my Pre-order Campaign

Today is the last day of my pre-order campaign on Publishizer. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing. It motivated me to pick a WIP, stick with it, and focus on that one project for most of the summer. DSC_0784.jpgIf I hadn’t adopted a puppy, I would’ve a finished draft, but I am a week or two behind schedule now thanks to a complicated adoption process and an infinite amount of cuteness.

Still, I will have time to finish, let it rest for a week, read it out loud and some edits to get it ready for a round with critique partners and beta readers. And while I’m waiting for feedback, I’ll back to community magic, and hopefully have that done before November so I can NaNoWriMo the YA space opera I got 10K words into this spring.

Anyways, my progress and delays on the WIP are not what gave me mixed feelings. It’s the campaign itself and the concept of crowd funding a book.

When the support staff checked in to see how I was doing, I was honest and told them my efforts to generate interest were not working. They told me to Facebook message all my family and friends and ask them to pre-order.

I thought about doing this. My pre-oders had been a mix of friends and acquaintances. My mother was the only family member who pre-ordered.  Perhaps I could’ve gotten my cousins to pre-order if I had messaged, emailed, called or even asked in person, but to be honest, I felt GUILTY doing that. I didn’t want to pressure people into ordering.

Plus, the goals were set high – five hundred pre-orders to have my project queried to traditional publishers that were really small or indie presses. I’d have to get 100 to even reach hybrid publishers. Even though the people at publishizer said to push family to order, I really thought Twitter, and my 668 followers would be how I got higher numbers.

I was foolish to think I knew better than them. My pre-orders came through Facebook friends, friends of friends, and coworkers. I should’ve tried harder to get my family to buy it and share it to their friends, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do that.

In order for something like this to work, people need to shameless beg and bribe their friends and family to pre-order and share. They are the ones who are going back a project in progress. The rest of my network doesn’t know me, not really. Why would they give me money for a book that isn’t even done, one that won’t be released for a year or more?

Crowd funding, at least when it involves one newish author trying to get support to try self-publishing a novel, is about selling your project to the people closest to you and the people closest to them. That method doesn’t work really work for an introvert like me.

However, I do not regret the campaign. It taught me a lot about benefits of actually planning and plotting before I start writing.

If you were thinking about pre-ordering, today is the last day to do it until I have a publisher or have committed to self-publishing, and a scheduled release date. Here is the link: https://publishizer.com/earth-reclaimed/

If not, that is okay. Thank you for reading for my blog. I hope you keep reading as I share my thoughts on writing, teaching, food, animals and fiction.

Here is some cuteness so say thank you and hopefully brighten your day!

Flash Fiction:The Purrrfect Crime

Generally, when I write cat stories for Cracked Flash Fiction Competition, they don’t win. Sometimes, I write cat stories anyways.

The Purrrfect Crime

By Sara Codair

“I taught you to pick locks and this is how you use that skill?” Grandma gaped at me, gourd-shaped eyes enlarged by her glasses.

I shrugged.

“Our family has a reputation to uphold!”

My cheeks burned. I relinquished eye contact and stared at my sneakers. There was a hole in the tongue, and a piece of sole peeped out from under my toes.

“You have nothing to say for yourself?”

“She was cold and hungry.”

“A lot of people are cold and hungry,” spat Grandma.

“But she was so skinny, like her kittens were sucking the life right out of her!”

Grandma shook her head. “You could have at least taken something useful while you were in there. They have to keep all their donations somewhere.”

“But they need those.” The locked cashbox had been tempting. I’d even picked it up and gotten halfway to the door before a black tom ghosted out of the shadows and sliced my calf open with his claws. I stared into his yellow eyes forever before placing the metal box back on the ground. He nudged my hand once then purred over to the hungry mother and kittens I’d snuck into the shelter.

I left the cash box where it was, and placed a few coins and note on top of it, asking them to use my small donation to help the new mom and her kittens.

Grandma glared at the post on FriendlyFelineFriday. It read “You’ll Never Believe What Happened on this Break-in!”

“Your mom was the best jewel thief in the country,” muttered Grandma, “And you use the family trade to sneak cats into shelters.”

“Yup.”

Grandma continued to rant, and I endured it. Our reputation in the underworld could go to hell. I saved a family of cats.

IWSG Monthly Post: Writing Pet Peeves

 

Insecure Writers Support Group (IWSG) Monthly Post: Writing Pet Peeves

Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeWhat are your pet peeves when reading/writing/editing?

 Sound.

I can’t deal with certain noises when I am trying to focus on written words, whether I am reading them, writing them, or editing them. I need to be fully immersed in the story, and when I hear people talking or music playing, I just can’t focus. It pulls me right out of the story. Reality slaps me in the face.

Some writers go to café’s to write. I can’t unless the place is empty and there are no people talking in it. I can maybe think of one time I wrote in a café.

Other’s put music on while they write. Now, if I am driving or running, music can help me think of a story, but as a soon as I actually sit down the write it, the music goes off.

The worst, though, is when I am fully immersed in a story and then someone walks in to the room and asks me a question. My brain just shuts down completely. I forget what I am writing, and have not clue what the person said. We both get frustrated. That person thinks I am ignoring them. I am mad that I lost my immersion in the story.

The conversation never turns out to be a pleasant one.

I have other pet peeves, but they have more to do with the stories themselves. I can’t stand it when dogs and cats die in books. I drive myself nuts when I catch my self switching tense five times one page. I hate it when I find myself aimlessly wandering I and stories world without any direction.

Still, even though these things annoy me, none are as bad as someone asking me if I fed the cat when I am in the middle of an epic battle, or worse, a love scene.

 

FAQ’s About my Publishizer Campaign

Family, friends, and online acquaintances have been asking some questions about my Publishizer campaign,  so I put together some questions and answers that might help you understand what I am trying to do.

If you get enough preorders, it gets…queried? What does that mean?

 Each time I hit a pre-order threshold (100, 250, 500, 1000), my book gets queried to publishers. The more queries I get, the better the publishers it is queried to. 100 gets my proposal sent to hybrid publishers, 250 gets it sent to small indie publisher, 500 gets it sent to small, traditional publishers, and if I get 1,000 pre-orders, it will get sent to “Big 5” publishers.

What happens to my money if I pre-order your book, but it doesn’t get picked up by a publisher?

 Thanks to the Internet, Amazon, and Createspace, I don’t technically need a publisher. If I don’t get an offer I want to accept, I can use Createspace to self publish. In fact, unless I get an really good offer, I probably will self-publish.

Why? Because self-publishing will give me full control over the project. I can use the funds raised to hire a designer who will make me a beautiful cover and an editor I am confortable working with. Self-publishing will allow me to make this really be the book I want it to be, not the book someone else wants it to be.

What if you don’t get an offer and decide not to self-publish?

That would only happen if my campaign went really bad. If I have less than 50 pre-orders, don’t get an offer I am willing to accept and decide not to self-publish, then you will get a full refund.

What, exactly, will my money be used for?

If I choose to self publish, your money will go towards the production costs, professional editing, design and marketing.

If I get picked up by a small publisher, they will be doing the editing, design, and some marketing, so I will use the money to supplement their marketing.

Editing can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars, and if you know me, you know how important it is for me to have someone edit my work before I self publish, or before I even let a potential publisher look at it. I may have the knowledge to edit, but I have reading problems that make it very difficult for me to catch my own errors.

What if I order a print copy and the publisher decides to publish it as an e-book only?

I will only sign with a publisher if they will make both print and e-books. If you pre-order a print book, you will get a print book.

What if the list price ends up being lower than the preorder price?

 Even on amazon and in a bookstore, prices fluctuate. I don’t know what the list price will be. It might be more than what you pay, but it could also be less.

By pre-ordering now, you are not just buying the book but also supporting my creative journey. You will also be among the first people to get the book.

When do I get charged? Is the print copy hardback or paperback?

You get charged right away. Whether it is hardback or a paperback will be determined by the kind of publisher I go with. 

Are you actually going to sign 5000 books if you get 5000 orders?

Yes, though I’m not expecting to get that many pre-orders for print books. I suspect most of my pre-orders will be e-books.

Who do I contact if any of the above doesn’t happen as advertised?

You can contact Publishizer and ask for a refund through this form: https://publishizer.com/about/contact/. You can schedule a phone call with them. You can direct message me on facebook or twitter.

But remember — writing is like breathing for me. I need to write, and I really want to share my stories with the world. If you pre-order, you will get your book. I might take a year, but you will get it.

I hope these answers help.

If you haven’t yet, please check out Earth Reclaimed!

Earth Reclaimed.

In a future where magic has replaced technology, 17-year-old Serena McIntyre must represent her people’s interest at a conference that is forming a new North East American constitution.

17-year-old Serena McIntyre grew up in a future where Mother Earth had purged most technology from the planet and crippled civilization. The surviving humans are reorganizing. Some want to live a simple life in harmony with earth while others, like the New Neo Nazis have darker plans for a new society.

When a conference is called to choose leaders and laws for the Newly Unified New England States (NUNES), Serena must travel inland to represent her people and their way of life: equality, earth magic, and harmony with Mother Earth. The opposing factions will do anything to stop her. TheNew Neo Nazis want to purge the region of impurities and make themselves kings. A secretive faction of scientists want to “take back the earth” with new technology.

Can Serena convince the people of NUNES to live in harmony with Mother Earth? If she fails, Earth will purge humans from her surface.

Why Earth Reclaimed?

Earth Reclaimed.I’ve written a few posts about why I choose Publishizer as a platform to launch Earth Reclaimed, but I’ve written very little about why I am writing Earth Reclaimed.

So why am I writing Earth Reclaimed?

I love nature, especially the ocean, lakes, rivers, and estuaries. I’ve always had a sense that the earth is more than just a big ball of rock floating in space, but sleeping organism.

Nearly all my writing is speculative, answering some kind of “what if?” question. In this case, it was “What if Earth woke up and wasn’t happy with what human’s had done? What is she reclaimed herself and the being She shelters? What would the lake I live on look like if this happened? What would become of New England? What would become of the whole planet?”

Speculating about those questions gave me a world. I populated it with non-binary characters who like myself, do not conform to binary gender identities and with people who would have a problem non-binary folks. My main characters have a connection to the Earth and respect her, but other characters are bitter and angry. They want revenge against Earth for killing so many people in her attempt to take control.

I have questions to explore, characters I can relate to, and conflict – three ingredients I need to make a novel. This one is closer to my heart than some of my other projects because the world was inspired by some of my favorite places. It even features the Boston Whaler that has been in my family for three generations. It’s a story that screams “Sara!”

So far, I am loving the freedom that the secondary world gives to invent new towns and make my own maps instead of being limited by existing geography.

Even though I’ve planned out specific plot points, I’ve had plenty of discoveries as I wrote. There are giant jellyfish that visit harbor’s just before dawn, salt marshes that are sentient and can manifest their spirit in almost human form, some forests won’t allow humans to pass on foot, and the bay really cares about the people who fish in his shores.

The plot is building, I’m getting to know the characters, and having a blast with the description.

The draft is coming along quickly, and should be done in two weeks when my Publishizer Campaign closes.

I wish I could say my campaign was going as well as the novel. I’ve only gotten five pre-orders, and have less than two weeks left. My goal is 500, but not meeting that goal won’t stop me from publishing this book.

The more pre-orders I get, the more likely I am to attract a good publisher. If I don’t get an offer from a publisher I like, I will self-publish, and use the funds I raised to hire a professional editor and designer to make it look good and pay for advertising so the project can reach as many readers as possible.

My ultimate goal as a writer is to succeed through traditional publishing, but that doesn’t mean I can’t travel other paths in the process. Self-publishing will give me a lot more creative control with this project, and frankly, that is not bad thing.

Either way, I need more pre-orders to make it happen!

 

Micro Fiction: What Comes Out of the Ground

Here is another bit of micro fiction inspired by Cracked Flash’s weekly prompt. This one was a runner up.

What Comes Out of the Ground

By Sara Codair

“My flesh is clothed with worms and a crust of dirt,” I said, shuddering on the doorstep. The open door loomed over me, black and peeling, like the mouth of an ancient monster waiting to swallow me whole.

“Stop being dramatic,” muttered my mother. “Just make sure you wipe your feet before you go inside. I don’t want my floor ‘clothed’ in that shit.”

I brushed the flecks of brown off my clothing, pulled a wriggling worm out my hair, and rubbed the soles of my sneakers on the emoji door mat. I stepped inside, staring at immaculate white tile and paint, so clean it glowed. The floor creaked behind me. The door slammed shut.

“Please shower before you touch anything.” She shuffled past me, putting more weight on her cane than I remembered during my last visit.

Taking baby steps, I made my way to the powder room where I washed my hands, stripped out of my  muddy clothing, put it in a trash bag, and got in the shower. I covered myself in a lather of soap and let the water rush over my skin until it looked like it belonged to a living human, not a zombie.

I got dressed, brought my soiled clothing to my car, and found my mother sitting on her front porch.

“Thank you for helping out,” she said. “We got good harvest. Those potatoes should last until the spring.”

Don’t Judge this By Its 1st Chapter: A Review of How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days

How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin' DaysHow I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days by Megan O’Russell

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you enjoyed Chronicles of Nick by Sherrilyn Kenyon, you will probably enjoy How I Magically Messed Up My Life in Four Freakin’ Days as they both feature a snarky, sort of whiny, self-aware narrator who wants to be like Deadpool but isn’t quite as cool.

At the beginning, I was not a fan of this book, or Bryant, its narrator/main character. My first impression was that he was a racist dick because made a comment about “old black ladies” watching out for him. That opening chapter really made me think the book drew unnecessary attention to race, and made me want to punch Bryant in the face.

But Bryant grew on me. He made me laugh. I loved the idea of the magic cell phone, and the world was well built. That first chapter was really the only one that had a racist vibe. There were some lines that were a bit too corny, even for this character, but in the end, the plot and the world drew me in. Bryant did grow and change throughout book, and he learned something in the end, which more than I can say for the characters in Valerian.

Speaking of the end, it wrapped up the main storyline, but left plenty room for a sequel, which I would probably read. However, I never read the second book in the Chronicles of Nick, so maybe I will be content to leave Bryant with one book. Books, like all arts, are subjective, and Bryant’s voice just wasn’t one I connected with. That doesn’t mean it was bad — just not my cup of tea.

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P.S. I received a free copy of this through NetGalley.

Book Review: The Dying Game

The Dying GameThe Dying Game by Asa Åvdic

My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

This one is going to be hard to review without spoilers, but I’ll do the best I can.

I received an ARC of The Dying Game through the First to Read program. I initially chose it because I thought it might eventually be a good comp for one of my novels. It was thriller set in the near future and it had a female protagonist trying to get over something bad. That part of the concept seemed neat. The whole set up with people disappearing from a secluded house filled with secret passages was cliche.

Overall, the book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. I get part of the thriller genre is to keep people guessing, but some of the details the author choose to leave out were downright distracting. For example, I never quite figured out the main character actually did at her job. I was constantly thinking about this instead of the story, and as a result, found myself constantly getting pulled out of the story. While the author skimped on details that seemed important, there were large swaths of back story that was just told, and more info dumps than I could count.

I kept thinking that all this was going to be relevant when I got to the end. Some of it was — but the end would have been far more surprising had the backstory been woven through in a more subtle way. Because of the info dumps and long, told, segments of flashbacks, the end was pretty much exactly what I was expecting, though, I admit, there were a few times in the middle where I thought I was wrong, and found myself hoping in vain for a more optimistic ending.

I also felt most of the characters were unnessarily sexist and binary. After reading two books with intersex and genderfluid leads, this felt like a slap in the face. I can see a female writer making the men seem a bit misogynistic to make a point, but there could have been at least one female character who wasn’t a stereotype of one kind or another…

Despite the many flaws of the The Dying Game, I did keep reading until the end, even though I considered giving up a couple times. The prose were pretty — there was good literary scenary that made it a little less painful. I also wanted to know if I was right about where the plot was going, and really hate to leave a novel unfinished (House of Leaves is still siting on my book case, mocking me. It doesn’t need a friend.) So I kept reading, and got to the ending I really wished I had been wrong about.

I my head, this book is 2.5 stars, but Goodreads and Amazon don’t give that option, so I’m rounding up when I review on those sites.

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