Dawn Montgomery

Archive for July, 2013|Monthly archive page

The End of Camp

In #amwriting, Challenges, Goals on July 31, 2013 at 5:11 am

 

PWCicon2We did it. We reached the end of Camp NaNoWriMo. I didn’t make my 50k goal, but I managed 34,266 words for the month of July. Not bad on top of edits and submission for a 94k novel. 😀

When I was in the military it seemed as though my every waking hour was spent preparing for, fighting through, or recovering from one exercise, real world disaster or wartime effort. While I don’t miss the tempo, I did pick up a few bits and pieces that might help you the way it does me.

There’s this thing called a “Hotwash”. Not as sexy as it sounds, I’m afraid. It’s a summary of an event which shows preparation, actions leading up to the event, event response, lessons learned and followup actions. I use the same theory for each book I write and every event I participate in. Don’t worry. It’s a much simpler format for our use. 😀


July 2013 Camp NaNoWriMo Hotwash



Prep for NaNo


  1. Figured out what I was going to work on
  2. Web prep and documents ready
  3. Cleared the plate of all other works in progress before the event began

During the Event


  1. Planning for the edits with Thunder and Roses didn’t prepare me properly for the sheer wordage of the novel. I lost five days on NaNo.
  2. I was able to finish and submit two books (working on the third today).
  3. Checked in almost daily with the Camp crew and my writing group
  4. Averaged about 1300-2000 words or so a day on the days I wasn’t working on edits or submissions. (YAY me! I usually average about 500 a day)
  5. Middle of summer burn out with the kids contributed to some tough hurdles
  6. Four days of post-military medical evaluations and traveling wore me down for almost an entire week.
  7. On the days I was writing, the words were like magic.
  8. On the days I wasn’t writing, I was still working on the book.
  9. When I hit the last week of NaNo, I was tired. Beyond tired.

Lessons Learned


Strengths

  1. Touching base with everyone made me write until the last day (today I’m exhausted)
  2. My word count went up
  3. Finding creative solutions when I wouldn’t be at my desk during NaNo

Weaknesses

  1. Poor planning on the part of summer vacation.
  2. Expecting to waltz through edits, submissions, and physically exhausting events.
  3. Went off track on my story so often I don’t recognize it anymore.

Future Planning


  1. On the months were I get to choose my own word count for NaNo, don’t expect 50k
  2. Give myself rest days after large mind and body drains like edits and evaluations
  3. Take the time to put myself back on track when I veer off in a story. It’ll save me headaches later and I might stay motivated enough to keep going.

#ROW80 update: Month’s Summary


ROW80LogocopyRemaining on the list

  1. Private Cowboy was written, edited, polished and submitted
  2. Thunder and Roses edits came back to me from the beta readers. I spent five days on those before writing up the synopsis and submitting the novel for publication.
  3. Spirit Lake is one click away from the dead wip file. I’m so frustrated with it, I don’t know what to do. I thought I had a break through, but was completely wrong. I think I’m going to set it aside for a week or two and see what else I can do with it.
  4. Voodoo Carnival is trudging slowly. I’m still happy with it and completely ready to keep moving forward.
  5. The Collector was one I expected to be done earlier in the week. I didn’t plan on my total exhaustion or the insanity of the middle of summer vacation circus my home has become.

Still wishing I would have set my word count goal at 30k. While I know I can change it on the CampNaNo site, I won’t. Stubborn, I know, but I figure doctoring it up to make me feel better will just give me a reason to do again. No bueno.


Goals for August


  1. Submit The Collector by August 1st
  2. Finish and Submit Voodoo Carnival by August 5th
  3. Work on the super secret pulp fiction project (goal is 20k by August 31st)
  4. Submit Feral Hunger by August 31st
  5. Work on chapter one for Harlequin’s So You Think You Can Write contest.
  6. Polish up (and update) a novella I wrote back in 2008. Submit it for publication as soon as it’s ready.

That’s FOUR submissions for August. Wowza. Granted, one will be done tomorrow, and two of them are already written, but still…


Expected non-writing moments for August


  1. My anniversary with SuperChef on August 1st!
  2. Back to school shopping, prep, and first week jitters
  3. Frantic need for children to live life on the edge until school begins again
  4. Potential visit from Gamma
  5. Birthdays for Lil B and Gamma

Expected bonuses for August


  1. When the kids go back to school I can write during the day
  2. Better concentration (fingers crossed) since I’ll already have book submissions in the queue

Well, that’s it how I did for Camp, what happened in July, and what I have planned for August. I hope you found it entertaining.

I’m part of a fantastic group called A Round of Words in 80 Days, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Would you like to be a part of our writing challenge? Check out the rules HERE.

Keep Writing!

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For Love of Structure by Melissa Blue

In Write Talk on July 30, 2013 at 7:04 am

GuestPostI have a treat for you all today. Melissa Blue is here to talk about scene structure. She breaks it down nice and sweet for us. Please give her some love by leaving some comments and stopping by her site. She has some pretty awesome newsletters for her readers and fellow writers. 

Back when I was crazy, I taught a class on structure. Not just any structure, but the broken way I learned it…that actually worked. Why did it work? Because all structure is similar at its core and everyone already knows how it works on an instinctual level. We’ve all read books. Some of us might watch TV and movies like there’s no tomorrow.

There’s a beginning, middle and end. In the beginning, (I now feel the need to quote the Bible) a character is introduced, you see their normal world and then that world is threatened somehow. The middle is a fight to get back a semblance of normal. The end shows how that world will never be that old normal again. That’s structure, baby.

So, in that class I taught the easiest, won’t-hurt-your-brain-to-understand kind of structure because that’s how I was able to wrap my head around it. One of the simplest forms to learn is scene structure. By no means is this a magic bullet, but if structure has ever made you want to faceplant here’s something simple grasp hold to.

(Some of this is from the class I taught. No need to re-invent the wheel. Some of this is stuff I’ve added with time.)

First things first, you should have an idea of what a scene is. It’s a part of a whole. It should be able to stand on its own, but make a whole lot more sense when you put it back into context. (The book.) In Sandra Scofield’s The Scene Book, she defines scene as, “ . . . those passages in narrative when we slow down and focus on an event in the story so that we are in the moment with characters in action.” She goes on to say, “It’s not a summary of what happened.”

That’s the key: Something has to happen in a scene, in real time. Simple structure of a scene:

Protagonist wants A.

Antagonist wants B.

The protagonist/antagonist gets what they want or they realize something else stands in the way of getting A/B, or both.

That’s the mystery of a simple scene structure, but, of course, that’s not what makes it complicated. A scene is always a component of the whole book. You’re not writing in an echo chamber. Also, there can be a scene protagonist and a book’s protagonist. Often they are one in the same, but you can have a scene antagonist that is not the book’s antagonist. The best examples for this concept are stories that involve solving a mystery.

Jayne Ann Krentz’s Smoke in Mirrors is a romantic suspense about Leonora Hutton and Thomas Walker uncovering the truth about the mysterious deaths surrounding the Mirror House. These two characters share an antagonist (for the book), an unknown person. Yet in the first chapter Leonora is the scene’s protagonist and Thomas is the scene’s antagonist.

Simple Structure of this Scene:

Protag wants A: Leonora wants to pack up her half-sister’s house and finally put the memory of her sister to rest.

Antag wants B: Thomas wants Leonora to help him find the money her half-sister stole from an endowment fund.

In this particular instance, Thomas literally stands in Leonora’s way until she agrees to consider his proposition. He blocks the door, uses threats and speculates about her half-sister’s death. The last part brings up more questions (more wants) for Leonora. By the end of the scene you know the protagonist doesn’t get what she wants—to put her half-sister to rest.

You can write a novel in this episodic way. Someone wins or someone loses. (I wouldn’t recommend it though.) Or, you can make all the scenes cohesive for a novel with an overall goal (Plot. That I do recommend having.)

In Smoke In Mirrors, the first scene weaves it all in. Leonora and her half-sister have been friends since college. Her death bothers Leonora because of the manner—suicide. Thomas needs to find the money to protect his brother. Also, his brother’s wife died in the same mysterious and out of character way. Both Leonora and Thomas want to find out what happened. Both of them have separate needs and that’s the seamless thread in every scene.

I could go on about how it’s not so easy to find a scene protag and antag when they want the same thing, but I think this post is long enough. I’m open to any questions you might have.


Bio:

Melissa Blue’s writing career started on a typewriter one month after her son was born. This would have been an idyllic situation for a writer if it had been 1985, not 2004. Eventually she upgraded to a computer. She’s still typing away on the same computer, making imaginary people fall in love.

Where to find me online or places to sign up for my newsletter to get the latest news:
http://melthegreatest.blogspot.com
http://www.themelissablue.com

Melissa Blue Guest PostDoubleDare_FinalBlurb:

First impressions are lasting impressions…

Pastry baker Emmaline Sharp is one business connection away from turning her bakery into something more than the dessert shop on the corner. She believes she’s found Mr. Right in café owner Tobias Merchant. His Caff-aholic brand of freshly brewed coffee makes him the perfect partner. When she accepts a dare that thrusts her naked self into Tobias’ waiting arms, she jeopardizes her entire future. Emma will have to convince him to give her another chance, and somehow she’ll just have to ignore the unexpected passion he ignites within her.

Tobias needs the connection with Emma’s bakery, Sweet Tooth, in order to liberate himself from the financial and emotional obligations of his past. Unfortunately, Emma’s reckless behavior leaves him doubting she can be level-headed and business savvy. Every one of his instincts tells him to walk away, but she’s a temptation he can’t seem to deny. He’s inexplicably drawn to the lightness in her, especially when he knows just how dark the world can be. Against his better judgment, Tobias ignores his instincts and proceeds to form a partnership with Emma.

When their relationship shifts from business to personal, will Emma and Tobias be able to conquer their demons and find their sweet reward before the deal turns sour?

Buy Links:
Amazon
B&N
Smashwords
All Romance eBooks
Kobo

Free For Writers

In Software on July 28, 2013 at 9:19 am

Freeware caution: always scan free downloads of anything for viruses and other threats before downloading the programs into your hard drive. Also, please note, these are things I use or are recommended by friends. I receive no compensation for these links. They’re really just here for your enjoyment. 

As we near the end of July’s Camp NaNoWriMo, the tension is mounting and panic is setting in. I have, including today, four days to write 25k. Now I’ve done it before, and I’m in the middle of an awesome writing spurt that might get me 10k more before I know it.

If it were November, I’d have it in the bag. It would be post Thanksgiving with the kids desperately playing in their room as much as possible before they had to go back to school. SuperChef and I would be breathing a little easier because our favorite holiday is behind us (we always stress a fantastic dinner, and since food is kind of what he does, it’s always a bit high on the stress factor).

As it stands, however, we’re in the dead middle of summer vacation, and the kids aren’t content to keep themselves occupied during my writing day. So we’ll see. I won’t give up without a fight! If you haven’t validated yet, make sure you do that from the front page of the CampNaNoWriMo site. It’s located under the blue tent on the right hand side of the page. Just click on the “Validate your word count to win” hyperlink to get in there. Paste your content and submit. You’ll have a validated word count :D. Easy.

If you’re still in the heart of Camp, bookmark this page for later. Keep writing and don’t stop! This page will be here when you’re done.

As I was scoping the ‘net, I came across some fabulous free stuff/sites I’d like to share with you all.

Lynn Viehl

Lynn is one of my heroes for many reasons. Long before Amazon offered free reads, this woman shared her worlds with us through ebooks she created. She’s an advocate of teaching and the importance of learning your craft. She’s also been my hero during two very difficult times in my life. The first was when I was in an abusive relationship I didn’t know how to get out of and the second was when I had to completely relearn how to write due to injuries I sustained in the service.

Neither were high moments in my life, but both were when she stepped in to bring me up and remind me that strength is in the heart. She’s a great and wonderful woman. She ALSO has a fantastic free read available on her blog. It takes place in her Disenchanted & Co. world. If you like steampunk and mysteries, this is the one for you.

She has tons of valuable resources on her writing blog as well and is one of the humblest NYT Bestselling Authors I’ve ever had the privilege to know.

Click on the image to the left to go straight to the post that offers the ebook. While you’re there, check out her other resources. You might just find some amazing information (and definitely some fantastic writing resources and other free ebooks). 

Pulp Science Fiction Fun

Pulp-O-Mizer_MurphyandMalone_The Kyrite ConspiracyMy grandmother and I used to set up shop at fleamarkets back when I was a kiddo. She was an incredible craftsman, but I was a bored kid. 😀 Out of sheer frustration, she would send me off with some money and I’d always manage to find a cache of dime store novels and pulp magazines someone was selling from their attic or something. I loved them. 😀

When I found Zappencackler’s Pulp Sci Fi Title-o-Tron, I lost hours, I think. 😀 And then…THEN…I found the Pulp-O-Mizer, a pulp magazine cover generator! During a particularly tough night where I couldn’t concentrate, I sat down and made this for a dear friend who is embarking on some pulp fiction fun. Check it out.

Font Fun

As you’ve probably noticed, I enjoy making buttons and digital art. Fonts are something I can never have enough of. Urban Fonts has a ton to pick from. The download was super easy. You download the zip file. Open it. Click on the font and hit install at the top of the window. Super easy.

Character Crazies

I have trouble with my characters on occasion. Sometimes I just don’t know them very well, and, honestly, I don’t learn much from “interviewing” them or doing random Q&A. I like to have a visual and have everything one spot.

This is what I use. The ABCharacter: List 26 quirks/traits of your character using the letters of the alphabet. They can’t be synonyms. “For the tough letters (X and Z) you can use words that contain the letters versus starting with them.” Here’s my list from Erica Ames of Voodoo Carnival:

Erica Ames ATC

Aggressive, Brave, Clever, Driven, Emotional, Fun, Guarded, Hell-raiser, Independent, Jack-of-all-trades, Kind, Loyal, Moneyless, Nightowl, Optimistic, Pensive, Quirky, Resourceful, Shutterbug, Teasing, Uninspired, Vexing, Worrier, EXcitable, Youthful, QuiZzical

If you’re having trouble finding the right words, check out Descriptive Words dot org.

Why not make some Trading Cards? Print them out and put them right next to your computer or get yourself a set of trading card divider sheets for on the cheap and throw a couple of these in there. This ATC was made at Big Huge Labs using a character image. I entered the character’s name and the title of the book, and then just pasted the ABCharacter list in the description. You can make it what you want.

Erica Ames Color ProfileUsing Degraeve’s Color Palette, you can enter the URL of a picture which represents the character. A favorite hand bag, painting, photo, whatever you think represents them. It will then show you a complete color palette based on that picture.

For Erica, I found a set of paintings she’d love and want to buy when she finally gets her big break. Color has a way of breaking down a character for me. You can usually tell a lot about a person in the way they dress, the colors they wear, and the accessories they use. This is just one more tool in the character building arsenal.

Are you messing around and trying to find some random traits for your character? Or bummed about backstory and can’t figure it out? Seventh Sanctum has some hilarious generators to check out. I needed a character waitress for the cafe scene. She needed to be nosy and a little annoying, but I was totally blanking on the description. On a whim I went over to Seventh Sanctum and ran 10 randoms on the “General Person Generator“. It nailed it in the first try:

“This lady reminds you of a looming thundercloud. She has deep-set chocolate-colored eyes. Her thick, curly, silver hair is worn in a style that reminds you of a plume of smoke. She is short and has a wasp-waisted build. Her skin is dark. She has bushy eyebrows. Her wardrobe is classy and unusual, with a lot of violet and green.”

It was a great inspiration. I saw an older woman with a permanent frown and super teased hair. Her dark skin is the result of too many hours in a tanning bed and I changed the eyebrows to plucked until a tiny line remained.  I now see her bustling around and arching her almost nonexistent eyebrow at Erica when she orders “Coffee. Black. And keep it coming.” 😀

Random Fun Stuff

Superstickies is a fun little app that lets you create your own Stickies. Check it out:

Off to slay ghouls

Neat, right?

Well, that’s it for this round of interesting tidbits. Time for my Round of Words in 80 Days update.


#ROW80 update


ROW80LogocopyNew goals

  1. Spirit Lake: Spirit Lake didn’t make it far. I made zero progress on it.
  2. Voodoo Carnival: Voodoo made it 7k. I’m 3k shy of my 10k goal, but I’m still writing.
  3. The Collector: I’ve decided to do another Cleis Press submission. I have to admit they had me at “Sexy Librarian” in the anthology title. These short stories are so refreshing after Thunder and Roses. I love writing them. It’s due August 1st, but I’ll have it done well before then. “My goal is complete and submit by Sunday.” I’ve almost made this goal. The story is almost complete. Once it’s done, it’s in the bag. 😀
  4. I’ll update on Wednesday with my month summary as well as adjusting for new goals. Since August 1st is my anniversary, I won’t be online much (hence submitting the Cleis story early). 😀

All in all, I’m not super thrilled with my current word count, but I’m getting there. I would need to pull off another 25k by Wednesday to win CampNaNoWriMo. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but we are talking the middle of the summer and a house full of kids. Why did I ever think 50k would be a reachable goal during summer vacation? I could have gone with 30k and been perfectly fine.

If you’re interested in joining us on the Round of Words in 80 Days Challenge (your own goals for the quarter!), check it out HERE.

I’m part of a fantastic group, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Keep Writing!

Crossroads

In Goals on July 24, 2013 at 3:48 am

moving-day1

I’m a fan of adventures. From childhood to adulthood I’ve been through and seen a lot. A few things were learned by the school of hard knocks, others by dedication and drive. Friends, family, acquaintances, opposition, those I love and those I miss. Every experience is important and wonderful. I cherish them.

In every place, friendship, conflict, career move and event you reach a crossroads at some point. The fork in the road. Do you fix up the old house or sell it before the maintenance becomes too much to handle? Do you move to full-time writer and give up your day job (or take a part time job)? Do you go back to school or continue in your set career path? Do you try a new genre? Start writing in the first place? Write your first novel?

A crossroads.

So how do you know if you’ve got your head in the clouds or if you’re making the right decision?

I ask myself (and my characters when they reach this point in their lives) three simple questions.

1. When I look to the future in this path, am I better off in my heart and head than where I am now?

  • This goes to quality of life. If you’re spending every waking moment worrying and wringing your hands over the next DIY nightmare in the old house, maybe a future with a newer home or even an apartment where you’re not responsible for maintenance is an option. On the other hand, if you love the projects and enjoy working around the house, maybe the DIY route is the one for you. Likewise with writing in a new genre. Do you have this one, only one, idea for a genre breaker? Or can you see yourself writing in that genre indefinitely? Does the current genre you write in fill you with dread (not the current book…that’s different 😉 )? If you flinch every time someone mentions your current genre…perhaps it is time.

2. Can I realistically do this financially and emotionally?

  • Unless you have at least a year’s worth of savings in the bank (to cover all your bills and then some) quitting your day job with insurance benefits to START writing the novel of your heart is not realistic. Publishing isn’t predictable. Neither are the paychecks, unfortunately. What took you two months to write, submit and release in 2012 may take you six months in 2013. Why? Who knows? In my case I ran into some serious self esteem issues in the second half of Thunder and Roses. Haunting Melody St. Claire needed expansion and rewrites before it would be accepted. I’m about 50/50 on quick submission and release. Let’s say you do release your book early in your new writing career. You don’t see payout (even when you self pub) for 30-90 days with most ebook companies. 1-2 years for most traditional publishing houses. Back to the home analogy. Can you afford to sell your home? If so, will you use an agent? Do you have costs to cover any repairs that need to be made before you sell?
  • Emotionally ready. Stepping out on this new adventure (whatever it may be) is scary and exciting. Can you do this? Are you ready for people to look at you and say…are you nuts??? WHY did you do this? They will. They’ll make assumptions about why or how it was done. How long it took you to do whatever you’ve chosen. People will wait to see if you succeed or fail and whatever happens, you know at least one of them will look toward you and nod while saying “I knew it would happen this way.  Wouldn’t listen to me…” Talking is pretty much all they’ll do though. 🙂 Let ’em do it. In the home…can you leave this house behind without regrets?

3. Can I handle the pressure?

  • How much do you have riding on this? Will people still look to you to fix their problems or still maintain their lifestyle with your new income? Do you have a backup plan? Are you ready for the change in your status?

This past year has been amazing. I’ve learned so much, tried new things, planned and plotted, struggled and cried, laughed and loved. And even when I was at my lowest. When the words wouldn’t come and the world seemed to conspire against me (it didn’t, but sometimes I wondered LOL)…my worst days of writing were still better than most of my best days doing anything else in my life (aside from the birth of my kiddo and the day I become Mrs. SuperChef). I loved my life before writing…if that tells you anything. 🙂

As with any changing season, the world shifts and turns, new life begins and the cycle of creativity starts again. I find myself once more at a crossroads. Ditter and I have some pretty amazing projects we’re working on (She has this fantastic Watcher series. You guys will love it!). We’ve high-fived and set out on our separate paths with a planned meetup when we can catch our breath. Voodoo Carnival is going strong and Feral Hunger is in the queue for me to submit last week of July or so. Depends on any continuity issues I find in the read through. She has Romanticon in October and her second annual Dittercon in January (I’ll see you guys there if you attend!).  We’re both jam-packed with writing goodness. All in all, awesome stuff. 😀

On a side note: My crossroads have always looked like mountain paths. Sometimes they lead me up a gentle rise and other times I’m climbing bare handed without a harness. I think Ditter’s crossroads are somewhere around a lake or the ocean. 😀 Yours may be a train station or a highway. Either way, it’s amazing to look back and say…wow…look at how far I’ve come.

It’s good to be back on track. You guys have been amazing, especially the Round of Words crew. Thank you all for stopping by and dropping encouragement. It’s been awesome.

So here we are. It’s Wednesday. We have one Wednesday left in CampNaNoWriMo. I might not make it, but I’m going to try. Here is my Round of Words in 80 Days writing update.


#ROW80 update


ROW80LogocopyNew goals

With the submission of Thunder and Roses, it’s time to put down new goals for the week. I have three:

(Submission of Thunder and Roses was a total win on last Sunday’s goal!)

  1. Spirit Lake: Spirit Lake will be worked on this weekend so I’m not sure how much I’ll have done by Sunday. What I will say is that I will have a chapter completed by next check in.
  2. Voodoo Carnival: Voodoo will be up to 10k by next check in.
  3. The Collector: I’ve decided to do another Cleis Press submission. I have to admit they had me at “Sexy Librarian” in the anthology title. These short stories are so refreshing after Thunder and Roses. I love writing them. It’s due August 1st, but I’ll have it done well before then. My goal is complete and submit by Sunday.

If I can complete all three projects by July 31st, I win my original Camp NaNoWriMo goal. Thank goodness they’re free-spirited in this one. The rules are so much more lax. 😀

If you’re interested in joining us on the Round of Words in 80 Days Challenge (your own goals for the quarter!), check it out HERE.

I’m part of a fantastic group, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Keep Writing!

Thunder and Roses is in the Bag

In Uncategorized on July 22, 2013 at 2:58 am

In the Bag

Thunder and Roses came in at 94.5k. The full manuscript and synopsis have been sent to our editor. Time to celebrate! WOOHOO! I’ve already updated my original 3rd Quarter’s Goal post with the strike through and date completed. It’s so nice to be back on track. Fingers crossed that she’ll love it.

In the rush to get T&R done and submitted, I missed a Halloween submission call I’d been aiming for. I’ve decided to continue writing it anyway. I’m enjoying the story. 😀

Here is the rough blurb for Thunder and Roses:

Tonya Rose knows it’s time for a decade long conspiracy to come to a head, but no one can know who she really is. Her feral nature and instinctive mistrust have kept her alive for the past five years of deep cover. When her only choice is to run or face death, she runs. What she doesn’t count on is Dakota Thunder, a Council bounty hunter who never misses a target. Tonya is running out of time, and the only man she can trust is the last man who should ever believe her.

Dakota Thunder is no stranger to betrayal. From his childhood hell to the death of his sister, he knows exactly what his kind are capable of. No one escapes his justice. What should have been a routine bounty pick up drops Dakota in the middle of a deadly blood feud involving shifter trafficking, extortion, and murder revolving around one wise-cracking beautiful woman of leopard royalty. She gets under his skin, digging her claws into his heart and reminding him of things he’d rather not remember.

He planned for everything except Tonya and the evidence that could bring down one of the most powerful organizations in their world. Nothing could have prepared them for their explosive attraction or the depths at which a madman would fall in order to destroy everything they love. With nowhere to turn, and the net growing tighter, they’ll have to trust in one another to survive.

 

Five Things Edits Edition

In Write Talk on July 21, 2013 at 5:03 am

Edits

Five reasons it takes so damn long to get edits done

You finish your story and it’s the best. book. ever. Much cheering. Confetti Cannon. It’s all over! YAY! Let’s slap it in an email off to an editor or upload for self publishing, etc.

Hold the phone, my friend.

You’ve completed what’s called the rough draft. There’s this whole other round of cleaning up and tweaking to do called edits.

In the awesomeness of Social Media, I’ve been contacted by writerly types from all experience levels and walks of life. The conversations are enlightening and, occasionally, frustrating. So I’ve listed the five things that cause the most amount of grumbling when I start talking about edits and why they’re important. Please keep in mind, as always, this stuff works for me. Take from it what you will and discard the rest.

1. Spellcheck is not a substitute for proofreading.

This is NOT a problem for everyone, but it has become the most argued discussion topic I’ve had in the past year or so.

Don’t believe me? Check out Owed to a Spell Chequer. I’ll highlight one of my favorite passages for you:

And now bee cause my spelling

is checked with such grate flare

Their are know faults with in my cite

Of nun eye am a wear

Spell check and grammar check programs are designed as tools to help assist your writing. They are not substitutions for understanding the use of the English Language.

2. Continuity checks are a PITA, but necessary.

I’m notorious for this, and trust me, it drives me nuts when I read it in someone else’s book. If Debbie B Herogal can blow the head off Werewolf badguy and superbrother with a sawed off shotgun on page one, I’m going to have trouble believing her issues with killing things later. Likewise, if the door to her house is blue, make sure it doesn’t turn red somewhere else down the road without a damn good reason (ie, let me paint this door since it’s marred and scratched after my altercation with the werebrothers).

How do you figure out if you have them? Read through the book. In a notebook (specific to editing this particular book or series makes it easier to keep the notes in one place) write down every interaction with an object you see the protagonists, antagonists, and supporting characters use. I can hear the screams of frustration now. It’s okay. Go ahead. I’ll wait. lol.

Feel better? Me neither, but it’s necessary. WHY? Well, if you’re submitting to an editor, you’ll have to fix them anyway. If you’re submitting for self publication, you won’t find out where, exactly, you went wrong until the first bad review rolls in. That’s what an editor/editing service is for! See the first reason. You’re going to have to fix them anyway. Might as well do it now.

3. Timeline. Curse you timeline. CURSE YOU!

Debbie B Herogal wakes up at the crack of dawn and yawns, big and bright. With a quick shower, a breakfast of supercharged coffee, and a change of clothes, she’s ready to tackle the day. This lady is bad. ass. With elegant precision she locks and loads her Kimber .45, sheaths it in her bag, and steps out the door to admire the vibrant slash of a West Texas sunset.

Wait. What?

Timeline continuity is just as important as the props your character uses in the story. Jot down notes. It can be as specific as 2130: Police arrive at the scene or as vague as Evening: fight to death with two Werewolves. Police arrive at sunset. You’re already reading the book anyway. Keep track. Headaches saved later.

4. Deliver the promise. 

While you’re writing down all these little things, you have to objectively observe your characters. Is this a romance? An action adventure? Urban Fantasy? Contemporary mainstream fiction? Military Thriller? Horror? The list goes on.

There are three things we ask of every main character in a book no matter which genre it’s in.

How did you get dragged from your ordinary life?

How did you handle the life altering event thrust upon you?

Did you learn something/change from that life altering event?

The things/events that occur in the story are the heart of your character’s changes. For the better, we hope. Your chosen genre has specific promises of character growth. The event usually revolves around the genre, itself.

Here are some generic promises based on four of my favorite genres:

In Romance, love (or lack thereof) has to be a catalyst for the character’s change.

Action Adventure, the object/goal being thwarted is the catalyst.

Urban Fantasy/Dark Fantasy, the fantasy element going wrong while intricately tied to the character forces their change.

Horror, the horrific event is reason for change.

But wait! I have a romantic suspense story. It has mystery and romance. 

True. It does. So you get to track both arcs for each of your characters. 😀 So you have to evaluate how the mystery/suspense affects the hero/heroine. Then evaluate how their relationship affects their willingness to love again. THEN you get to evaluate how the romance strengthens their resolve to face off against the villain in the mystery/suspense arc. Nice. Right?

You have to deliver what you promise. To the editor. And. To the reader. If you ask the character questions above and find your character is back at square one, having learned nothing, you may want to reevaluate the character arc.

5. Formatting. 

My. Goodness.

In the past six months I have nearly come to blows over this one multiple times. Publishers have formatting guidelines. This includes self publishing ventures like Amazon. Every publisher has their own set for a reason. Many supply a template for your use. Almost all of them have their requirements listed on the site. This includes Amazon, btw. Amazon even has a free ebook available for download which lists exactly how to format for publishing, create coverart, etc.

If you don’t know the difference between an em dash and an en dash, take a second to browse youtube or do a google/bing search for the word ’em dash’. Take the extra time to do proper formatting before emailing your manuscript off or uploading it to your self publishing location. Please. The eyes of all your readers (to include editors) will thank you.

In order to do a proper edit of your manuscript, you have to do a read through. Cover to cover. There’s no way around it. Should you start working on it immediately? Some do. I’ve found that I need one to two weeks between completion and a readthrough to prevent me from screaming like a banshee in my mind.

But, now you know. LOL. Time for the Round of Words in 80 Days Update.


#ROW80 update


ROW80Logocopy1 Focus this week:

Thunder and Roses edits and submission. I received T&R back from my beta reader with some hefty notes on continuity. I broke the 190k novel down into four (mostly) equal parts. Each quarter of the book took 1-2 days. I’m now down to the final day of edits. So draining. Once I’m done with my final run of 48 pages, I’ll take the book, strip it of formatting and paste it to my publisher’s template. The novel, you see, had been changed, adapted, and edited in four different word processing programs. Mine. My writing partner. Both beta readers.  Since this has been an issue in the past, I have to take this little extra step (little. TRY MONSTROUS). To prevent italics from being lost, I put a $ in front of all italics and an * after. That way, when I’ve pasted the plain text to the new document, I can do a search for “$” and set italics again.

If you’re interested in joining us on the Round of Words in 80 Days Challenge (your own goals for the quarter!), check it out HERE.

I’m part of a fantastic group, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Keep Writing!

Courage

In #amwriting, Challenges, Goals, Write Talk on July 17, 2013 at 2:11 am

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It’s 2am (or 7am or 5pm) and the clock is ticking. You know hope you have a good hour before you’re interrupted. You sit down to write, fingers at the keyboard, and the screen stares back at you. Blinking cursor mocking you. The last sentence you wrote glaring, daring you to add to it.

This hard-won time is counting down with or without your consent while your fingers itch to play candy crush. It’s not like the scene’s going well anyway…

“No. I’m a writer,” you say. “I write.” So let’s get on with it. Right? You type out a sentence. One word. A paragraph.

You’re suddenly struck by the realization that your favorite show is available for streaming RIGHT NOW.

No. You have to write. It’s the job you want. You love to tell stories with words. The voice in the back of your head mocks that statement, but you don’t care. You set up a timer to make you focus. This will work.

Another paragraph. Another page. It’s probably the worst thing you’ve ever written, your mind says. So what? It’s done. You can’t edit a blank page, after all. Right? You squash the inner whispers for a minute and keep pressing forward.

Your time is up before you know it. An interruption happens, a timer goes off, your lunch break ends and it’s time to get back to the daily grind, etc. For whatever reason, you have to put aside your writing and move on to other life things until the next time you sit down to write.

It takes courage to do what we do. For most of us, the fight is as much inside our heads as it is from the outside. The voice telling us we’re going to fail may be based on someone you know (an ex-husband who told you writing was a stupid waste of time, perhaps? Hmm. Maybe that’s just me.). The fact remains we do it. Every day. Every time we sit down we try to still our minds and translate our ideas to paper. Some days the words flow like a waterfall, raging and fantastic. You can’t stop it no matter what you do. Other days its like wrangling an octopus into a mason jar.

Take heart. Most of your days won’t be filled with dreck. The more you write, the more the words will flow. You’ll begin to accept the bad writing days as par for the course and not let it cripple you because there will be other, greater, more amazing writing days. The moment when things come together and your characters start to make sense. A spark where you realize the problem with your scene was the POV it was written in. When you changed it (in desperation because nothing else was working) to the other character, it flowed like it was always meant to be that way. The day you spent in panic because the words wouldn’t come will lead into the day where your fingers aren’t moving as fast as your brain. 😀

Don’t give up. Later in life you won’t remember *exactly* why you quit, only that you did so. Trust me.

Being courageous isn’t about being fearless. It’s about doing what needs to be done in spite of the fear.

Let me say that again.

Courage is about being afraid to fail and doing it anyway.

So write. Don’t stop. Polish up your work and submit it to a publisher. Write some more. If/when you get rejected (I was rejected several times by my dream publisher before they took me on) learn what you can and keep trying. We’re two weeks into this quarter’s Round of Words challenge, but we’re halfway through Camp NaNoWriMo. Many are panicked, stressed, worried, upset, and disappointed. Take heart. If you don’t succeed in winning your CampNaNoWriMo challenge, the book is still going strong. Keep writing and don’t stop. Maybe it takes you until November to finish. So what if it takes a few months (year, five years) longer than you’d planned…the time was still there for you to do it.

It’s now time for my A Round of Words in 80 Days update:


#ROW80 update


ROW80LogocopyThree projects this week:

  1. Spirit Lake: I haven’t worked on this one so far this week. I finished Private Cowboy, so I’m so much happier. Voodoo Carnival is my focus since it’s due for submission by the 21st.
  2. Voodoo Carnival: Thanks to this amazing (Did I mention AMAZING) post on how to index cards your scenes, Voodoo Carnival is well on its way to being done without my random veering off into nowherelandia I’m famous for in my first draft.
  3. Private Cowboy: Done and submitted. I received a notice from the editor of the anthology that Private Cowboy was received. The results won’t release until December, but it’s off my list. 😀
  4. My original goals post has been updated with my success. The first item has been been checked off my list. Too awesome!

If you’re interested in joining us on the Round of Words in 80 Days Challenge (your own goals for the quarter!), check it out HERE.

I’m part of a fantastic group, and if you’d like to see how everyone else is doing, check out the list HERE.

Keep Writing!

Back on Track

In Challenges on July 10, 2013 at 3:22 pm

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I’ve been consumed with the final prep (read through, synopsis, etc.) of Thunder and Roses. When it’s off to the editor, I can move back into my current wips full throttle. Today is the first day I’m back on track with my CampNaNoWriMo story Spirit Lake and my Halloween story Voodoo Carnival. Both books are like movies in my head. The creep factor is especially high (in one an Alaskan woman is haunted by restless spirits who’ve been murdered and in the other bizarre murders are taking place around an abandoned carnival in East Texas).

I found myself frustrated with atmosphere. How do you create a visceral reaction to setting? What words will invoke the mood of foreboding without being cheesy? I have no problem writing highly charged action scenes, intensely sensual love scenes, or really making the reader’s skin crawl when they get inside the head of a very bad guy. So why, then, was I having trouble with these two books?

A dear friend gave my NaNo group a link to Mediabistro’s 90 Writing Tools in a Single Post. In my despair, I combed through them, frustrated with my inability to figure out what was wrong with each book. In my mind they were separate problems. Two books. Two problems. Right?

Nope.

They had a link to an article about how Stephen King writes imagery. Now, say what you will about his writing (I love a great deal of his stuff so no bashing, please), but the man can spook the hell out of you with a few well placed paragraphs. The summary was kind of meh, but linked to his original article at Wordplayer. I jumped over there and the article blew my mind. He mentioned things I already knew how to do. Visualize a scene down to the smallest details and use it when you’re writing a scene, chapter, book, etc. I used to actively do this when I did DMing back or preparing for a theatre performance back in the day. It’s a tool I already used in my fight scenes. Smack the forehead moment. I took ten minutes and visualized the carnival. My heroine sees it for the first time behind the lens of  camera so I focused on that. Her limits in peripheral vision, how things look, the way it feels, sounds. I opened my eyes and wrote the scene, evoking the feelings of neglect and eeriness I was going for.

Maybe this will help you too. Who knows?


#ROW80 update


Three projects this week:

  1. Spirit Lake: I am so behind on this one, but I’m happy with where it’s going. After T&R, Voodoo Carnival, and the Cleis Press Submission (Private Cowboy), I’ll be back on track with this book (my CampNaNoWriMo goal for the month 🙂 )
  2. Voodoo Carnival: I’ve got it squared away now. Tonight I’ll go the distance and get this baby really going.
  3. Private Cowboy: Tomorrow this hot little number is my primary focus. I should have it done and ready for submission by Friday. It’s a very short story. 😀

Lists and Things

In Software on July 10, 2013 at 10:13 am

No excusesMy paper calendar is an explosion of ink, random notes, passwords, odd details (like the facebook header is 851×315 px). It would be okay, I suppose, if it made sense, but the fact is I can’t tell which “Thunder and Roses is done” refers to when I typed the last word or when I sent it to my writing partner for her to do her final touches on the ms. Or when I found out I’d missed filling in part of a chapter. The reason for this is simple…I had too much other stuff written in the box. My memory is faulty about random things. Since I’m not sure when I’ll lose a bit, I write down everything. And I do mean everything. As a chronically disorganized person, this was a hard thing to train into my brain.

Kait Nolan sent out a post earlier in the week about software something called Todoist. It’s a free app for just about every OS, browser, and mobile device out there. What does it do? It lets you create the “To Do” list you’d always dreamed of. In about five minutes I had my week’s list laid out, some with due dates, others without. Recurring dates handled. You set up a project and enter tasks beneath it (moving the task to the right or left as needed if it becomes a sub task in the project). If you don’t like the order, you simply drag it where you want.

I have two active writing projects: “Thunder and Roses” and “Voodoo Carnival”. Both have open tasks. T&R’s say synopsis, blurb, formatting, and submission while Voodoo has the scenes I have to complete today. I’ll add what needs to be done tomorrow before I turn in this evening. More on that in a second.

I even have the project “New Release”. Under it I have four tasks: Coverart, Release Day, Digital/Promotional Items, and Excerpts. Under Coverart, I have a list of places to put it, the size of the cover image needed to each of my sites, etc. Release Day gives a list of places I go, what I do on that day, and some other misc things I tend to forget (like ensuring Goodreads shows the information, the links to all digital locations where available,e tc). Digital/Promotion Items contain the task list of things I do (once I receive the coverart) which includes making banners for facebook, my main site, ad banners if needed, promotional ads I use, etc. Next to each digital design item, I’ve listed the dimensions. Did you know, for instance, that the facebook cover is 851×315 px? Or that the profile picture is min 180×180? This way I don’t have to check out the back of my calendar for my hastily scribbled notes. When I have a new book, I can print out the project with all its tasks and check off the boxes as I go. It comes in handy. Trust me. lol.

What other ways have I used it?

Last night I was almost done with a scene when I had to get some rest (I’d been up almost 24 hours). It was the old toothpicks and eyelids kind of night. So, instead of opening my calendar or using a scratch piece of paper I won’t remember look at the next day, I put in Todoist, “Finish the Carnival Entrance scene”. This morning I got up, injected some caffeine and there it was on my list of things to do today. I knew exactly where I left off without having to search for the random place I may have written it.

People apparently use it for making grocery lists. You should be aware, however, that you can only have 150 active tasks open at one time. Since my New Release and Admin Day projects are ongoing, I would run out of room if I tried to use it for my grocery list. I suppose I could make a list of home staples, but it just doesn’t work for me there. Some used todoist to list their cleaning routine. Lawyers mentioned using it to keep track of lists on cases, tagging their clients last names instead of creating a new list for each person as a way to get around the 150 active tasks thing. One lady went on and on about how nice it is to have her workout list in one place. She tagged it by day of the week and main muscle group worked (abs, legs, etc). Check out the forums, man. There’s some amazing uses for this little listing dream.

Pros:

  • It was easy to navigate.
  • In thirty minutes I had my entire week laid out so I didn’t have to stress.
  • Every day I receive an email with a list of what needs to be done as well as a graph telling me how well I completed the projects.
  • Everything is easy to move and manipulate. Date entry is fantastic. Type in “ev day” and the list knows to set up a recurring task to send to you daily (tons of options there and the question box beside the date tells you exactly how to put down the dates you want).
  • It’s usable with Evernote, which I love.
  • No archive limit. Once a task is completed, it goes in the archives and doesn’t count toward your totals/lists needed.
  • My list is available as a browser icon (right next to my amazon icon). It shows the number of currently active items on my list (8 today LOL). When I click on the box, it shows me what’s left and gives me the option of checking it off as it’s done. I won’t forget where my list is anymore.

Cons:

  • The 150 active item limit will probably be an issue at some point. I’ll figure it out when/if I reach that stage.
  • My only issue with the date system is that you cannot create an end date for a task. For instance…I can set up a daily task under the project CampNaNoWriMo. Camp lasts from July 1-31st. I can’t end the task automatically on the 31st. So on that day, I’ll have to change the recurring date option.

Overall Todoist is a shining beacon for me. I don’t have to spend thirty minutes in the morning trying to remember exactly what needs to be done, where I left off the night before, what digital design things do I need to do when I get coverart for a new book, etc. All of my lists are combined in one little program which synchronizes everywhere.

If you want to add pictures and other file types (.pdf for instance), you’ll have to go pro. The list for Pro Membership ($29 a year) is pretty awesome. Receive email and text alerts within an allotted time of an appointment. You can track your productivity, create and use project templates, have the ability to use an email as a task list so you don’t lose it, back up and search your archives, etc. It can even synchronize with google calendar and outlook. You can also add notes to your tasks (to include an order in which to do it, greater detail, names of those helping, etc.). For right now free is good, but it’ll be worth it for the upgrade eventually.

The Guide to Getting it Done

In #amwriting, Challenges on July 7, 2013 at 12:01 am

Before I get started on my writing update, I want you to go forth and read this article where Joss Whedon gives advice on how to become (and remain) prolific. Go ahead. I’ll wait. *sips a glass of iced tea*

Pretty powerful stuff isn’t it? It’s actually printed out and sitting within reach of me at all times. A few things hit home. I’ll highlight those, if you’ll indulge me.

Rock a Little David Allen: the importance of choosing an element to finish, rather than a generalization.

Looking back on some of my daily goals, I realized the days I floundered were the ones where I’d vaguely stated… “I’ll work on Thunder and Roses today,” instead of “I’ll finish the fight scene between Dakota and [redacted].” On the days where I said a specific element of my novel, the day flowed better. I finished that scene and then some until I reached the end of my part in the book.

Reward Yourself Early and Often: 

How hard are we on ourselves? Do we look back on our day and say…hey…I did great, let me reward myself. Nope. More often than not my fellow writing friends and I look back on what we’ve done and compare to others around us. I didn’t do as well as Prolific or write as smoothly as Sungoddess (names changed to protect the innocent). Somehow I always feel inferior, but the truth is…I write the way I write. You’d think I’d realize my limitations and strengths after a decade in the writing game. Reward yourself. Often. Though not with cake (at least for me). That might cause health problems later.

Fill the Tanks: 

Creativity is not a bottomless well. It has to be filled in order to build something new. I want to point out this particular quote “Constantly watch things and things you don’t [normally watch]. Step outside your viewing zone, your reading zone. It’s all fodder but if you only take from one thing then it’ll show.” Ideas come from all over. Read voraciously. Watch everything (reality TV is a hard one for me to watch, but some of them are great…in moderation.).

Enlist Your Friends: 

Now here is where I’m solid. I manage a writing group of less than 25 individuals from all genres and writing levels. They are the most supportive group I’ve ever been a part of, and it shows in how we’ve helped one another through the tough times. Sounding boards. Devil’s Advocate. Speedwriting. Recommended reads, shows, movies, and software. Just. awesome.

On a side note…his feelings of social awkwardness really resonated. I always get uncomfortable and freaked out when I know I’m going to an event. It takes me weeks of build-up to work up the courage to attend (this usually comes down to the wire with I’ll go or not go. LOL). Once I’m there, I’m a nervous wreck. Then, when it’s over, it takes me days or weeks to get back to normal. I’m not talking about conventions, all. Get togethers include dinner out with friends, just so you know. No idea when it became that way, but there you have it. Moving on…LOL

Everyone Needs Some Tough Love: 

He really hit home with this one. There comes a point where you just have to say…I’m going to do it and stop talking about it. Put up or shut up time. LOL. There are a thousand reasons why you shouldn’t write…ignore them and find the courage to do so. Daily battle for me on this one, but sound advice.

Something else a friend said recently added to this part. She had read somewhere (and I can’t for the life of me remember where) a piece of sound advice in the Tough Love department. Don’t tell someone (your family member, friend, child, husband) you’re going to write. It’s kind of like asking permission and gives them a chance to tell you no (offering up something to do instead of writing amounts to the same thing as saying NO). Just write. They won’t notice the difference but you’ll be happy at the end of the day. I’m paraphrasing but the message was clear. Just. Write. Get it done and stop giving others a chance to block your efforts.

I hope you gathered some more tools in your writing arsenal after reading Mr. Whedon’s article. If not, discard it. My world won’t implode and neither will yours if you don’t follow the advice. Good luck on your journey, either way.

Now on to the writing update:

A Round of Words in 80 Days Challenge

The last few days have been nuts in the Montgomery household. We have a new foster pup who is turning everything into a new adventure (the kids are ecstatic and so am I…it’s the 3am dogs playing around and making a ruckus that’s leaving me exhausted). Once things settled down, we’ll be right as rain again. The 2nd of July was my oldest daughter’s birthday. Followed by the celebration of our nation’s birth. The new family member arrived. And the 6th was my husband’s (SuperChef‘s website) birthday. What a crazy five days. On top of NaNo. 😀

ROW80LogocopySo while I haven’t been able to sit down for longer than five minutes at a time (this blog post took about 12 tries to get through LOL), I’ve been working. Once my writing partner was finished with her read-through, changes and polish, I sent Thunder and Roses to my kindle. By changing the way I read it, my brain doesn’t try to make fixes immediately. I actually read (and enjoy) it. Ditter Kellen was totally right about how much of a difference it makes.

When I haven’t been doing my final read-through, I’ve been writing the synopsis for T&R’s submission. Not my favorite thing to do, but definitely necessary.

Cynnara Tregarth and I have been combing through a lot of our works in progress, creating writing schedules, and getting organized (both virtual organization AND office space cleanup LOL). Since she also just finished a MASSIVE NOVEL, we both needed the break to refocus. Several of us have been competing in word wars (also known as speedwriting) in a chatzy group I created. We all post our current word count (however we want, scene, book, chapter, etc). I start the writing session. Everyone works solid (hopefully) for the next 20 minutes. Then we post our word counts again. It keeps you focused on getting the words on paper, and trust me, sometimes it’s the only way I get it done.

I knew July 1st-6th would be impossible for writing and concentration. Thunder and Roses had a drop-dead date of 30 June for that reason. Luckily I have a good head start on Spirit Lake (Camp NaNoWriMo challenge). So I’m not too far behind. 😀

Today’s goals are simple:

  • Finish T&R‘s synopsis
  • Write short story for Cleis Press submission

More than enough for me. 😀

So there you have it…work has been chaotic, I’ve still managed to get stuff organized, my synopsis is almost done, and I did a final read through of the co-written novel. Final word count on that baby is 94k.

Keep Writing!

xoxo

Dawn

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