Dawn Montgomery

Archive for December, 2015|Monthly archive page

Year End Summary for 2015 and a New Release!

In Goals, Publishing News on December 31, 2015 at 12:31 pm

Keep Writing

Do you ever look back on your year and think you totally failed? I felt that way this year…I hadn’t been blogging, I went back to school, life interrupted, I couldn’t get on a set schedule, NaNoWriMo was a failure, and my serial didn’t release on time. Additionally, there were cover artist flake outs, editorial scheduling conflicts, and a lack of funding thanks to a publisher’s “deal with it and don’t complain, we’ll pay you when we’re ready” rant. So yeah, I was in a bad place. I’d failed you guys, failed my readers, failed my own expectations, and I had nothing to show for it.

Or did I?

I was hanging out in the Romance Divas forum because a great writer I admire was talking about her new goals for 2016. She went through 2015 and compared it to an average of the three years prior to that one. Other ladies and gents in the Divas forum had done the same. So I decided…why not? And here is what I found:

From 2007-2014 I averaged 3.5 book releases a year.

2015: 10 releases: 1 novel, 1 4-episode serial, 2 novellas in boxed sets (new to the set, and one of them was for a charity!), two short stories under a new penname (successful launch, I’ll be exploring her side a little more in 2016) and one heavily revised re-release of a holiday favorite.

My first novel released in 2012 and I’ve averaged about one a year so 2015 is on par.

Did my quality suffer during 2015? No. I actually wrote less words (by half) than the average of previous years, but almost every word went toward publishable content. Reviews are still solid on all my new works, and I haven’t been slaughtered by my readers yet, so I think I’m still doing okay.

Did my sales suffer during 2015? Yes. My promotional machine was running on empty so the word didn’t get out as much as I’d like. The foray into some new genres probably had something to do with it as well. Also, when I’m behind on my writing goals, I tend to disappear off social media and websites. It’s a defense mechanism. I’m already down on myself so I have this paranoid fear of thinking other people are down on me too. On the other hand, I had people waiting for the serial to finish so they could buy them all at once. That is totally cool! ❤

The first four months I started college (May through August) were zero for productivity as were two weeks in the middle and end of the semester because of intense projects that had to be turned in (not to mention exams!).

Things I learned from checking the facts:

  • It’s always worse in my own head.
  • I fell back in love with writing again this year and almost derailed it with my self-doubt
  • School was far better than I imagined for my creativity

HOUSE OF HORRORS, Episode 4 of the VOODOO CARNIVAL serial has finally released!

VoodooCarnival_Episode4_HouseofHorrorsSmall

Welcome to the thrilling conclusion of the Voodoo Carnival serial!

NOTE: HOUSE OF HORRORS is Part Four of a Four Part Serial entitled Voodoo Carnival, and is not a standalone story.

Jules and I are in trouble. Not everyone believes in the ability to bring people back from the dead.

My name is Erica Marks. For the past decade, I was just a statistic: a miracle survivor of a serial killer’s rampage, one of those sad blips of a story you read on your newsfeed over breakfast.

Until recently, the only ghosts I came in contact with were the ones in my nightmares. Now, I’m fighting an enemy that should be dead while facing living corpses and their earth-bound spirits. Not exactly my idea of a fun time.

Did I mention that the only way to put an end to this may lie in the House of Horrors, the very place I’d fought and survived all those years ago?

With my Cajun companion and a trick or two up our sleeves, we’ll have to face down the worst enemy yet. Will we survive the night to see what tomorrow may bring?




AmazonUS

AmazonAU

AmazonCA

AmazonDE

AmazonUK


 

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Voodoo Carnival Episode Four Almost Done

In #amwriting on December 18, 2015 at 12:22 pm

Voodoo Carnival Episode Four (House of Horrors) is almost complete with minor edits and formatting left. It looks like I’ll be five days later than I’d hoped (I wanted the 15th), but I’m just thankful I have the light at the end of the tunnel. House of Horrors has been the trickiest episode to date in the VOODOO CARNIVAL serial. Not because I’d written myself into a corner or because I wasn’t sure how it would end…those were figured out quickly. No, the hardest part about writing this book was that I allowed life to get in the way while I worked on it.

Granted, my mother’s heart surgery, the insanity of my unpleasant house guest, starting college in May (I have found a new passion: animation. It’s a lot of fun and a lot of hard work, but so worth it.), and…well…you know what?

I could list a thousand things that came up between January and December, but it doesn’t change the fact that I need to get my head on straight for 2016. The point of this tale is this: A lot happened, I got distracted, got exhausted, and I recovered just in time to make a strong finish in December. I’ll focus on that. 🙂

Episode 4 is almost complete. Just edits and formatting. Until those edits are done, however, the final word count won’t be updated.

I’ve been taking some productivity courses to help get my mind focused. Writing, after all, is the business I want to be in.

I want to be a full-time writer, a successful one, while penning stories that readers want to read. In order to do that, I have to treat this like a business. My hours need to have accountability.

I’m tracking pomodoros daily using a DIY planner I set up.  I also have a ledger whose sole purpose is to track my hours.

The first few days of tracking are the worst. It’s hard to be honest with yourself when you’re devoting entirely too much time to games (especially when you’re supposed to actually be promoting your book or chatting with people on your social networking sites).

Less than 7k remaining on Episode Four if it doesn’t run over. I’ll add its word count as I edit the chapters and put them in the final document.

Voodoo Carnival Ep 1-4

 

Contracted Short Stories

 

Publisher Deadline (Outlined)

 

Winter Guardian Edits

December Focus

In #amwriting on December 13, 2015 at 9:18 am

Works in ProgressI’m in the middle of my typical end-of-year writing frenzy. School is now out (thank goodness) and my head isn’t in the right place at the moment. So today I’m taking time to focus and plan the rest of my month. I have three books set to release.

The first is the final episode in Voodoo Carnival. The second is the complete VC boxed set. The third is an expanded (unabridged) version of Winter Guardian. I also have a book that’s due to my publisher around Christmas, and several contracted short stories to finish by the 21st. That’s a lot of work between now and the end of the month.

But it’s cool. I’m not panicking. Yet. LOL!

Today I’m breaking free of my office for a scenery change while I work. No, I’m not going to ye olde coffee shop. I’m actually heading to the last place I ever want to be…the mall food court. But I’m going while everyone is still sleeping and only the walkers are out in full force (the mall doesn’t open for another three hours).

I’ve been awake since 5 am and my productivity has been blech. (Technical term meaning less than stellar or downright pitiful).

Voodoo Carnival Ep 1-4

 

Contracted Short Stories

 

Publisher Deadline

 

Winter Guardian Edits

So there we are. Hyperfocus engaged! Wish me luck! What are you doing to end your 2015? Are you in a panicked rush like I am?

Leveling Up: A Writer’s Journey

In #amwriting, Challenges, Goals on December 10, 2015 at 10:21 am

levelUpChallengeWelcome to Leveling Up: A Writer’s Journey. I’m a gamer. My first and greatest love will always be Role-Playing Games (on paper, through consoles, computers, tablets, reading, etc.). I am a quest killer, a grinder from way back. I will play a game until there are no new storylines, weapons, or new crafting recipes left. I will level my hero/heroine until the last boss is a breeze, and I will do it with a smile on my face, a joy in my heart, and never once regret the time I’ve spent in those alternate worlds. While it may be occasionally tedious, I never really feel bored. There’s always something else to do. Another character to level, another story to experience.

That got me to thinking as I was toiling away at my new MMORPG addiction, Aion (the characters have wings and can fly!), why don’t I apply that same level of dedication to my writing? I really enjoy the stories I create and the worlds I dive into, but I get hung up on the tedious aspects of it. It still needs to be done, much like the seemingly never ending farming I recently completed for my crafting levels. I still need butt in chair time (or notebook and pen time…or standing and writing time, etc.). That’s when I realized my gaming paralleled my writing. I love them both, but I’ve treated them differently for too long. I’ve decided 2016 is going to be a grinder year.

I have to build a solid habit again so that I can tackle the big bosses (novels) with ease. So how do I do that?

In efficient RPG grinding you have three main components: Quality, Focus, and Planning.


QUALITY

Let’s tackle QUALITY first. Quality represents several things in an RPG: Gear (equipment and weapons), magic, crafting, and items. There’s no point in running around a level 40 encampment with level 3 weapons and armor unless you’re insane or going after an obscure bloody savage achievement. You’re going to spend a lot of time dying, getting slowed down, or worse…stuck in a rut and hating the game.

So why do we do that with our writing? Take the time to write quality work. Yes, speed (timeliness) is important, especially when you are under a tight deadline, but what good does it do you to be fast when you end up having to revise your book multiple times?

If that’s the way you write, no worries! I used to be that way too. I used to love the revision layering process. One pass for character arcs, one for romance arcs, one for setting and mood, another for grammar, etc. Unfortunately a solid crack to the head five years ago realigned the way my brain works.

Revision is a part of your brain that deals with logic and creative processes (not at the same time, mind you, that’s impossible). The logical part of my brain is the side that rewired itself in my head (and not very well) so the less amount of time I spend in logic and analysis, the better. Otherwise…migraines and seizure-like symptoms. Wish I was joking. You should see me on days when I have to balance the budget.

Now, don’t go being weird and feel sorry for me. Just listen. This bump to the head opened up a world of creativity (and silenced that bitch of an inner editor…or in my case…emotionally abusive self-hater) greater than I had ever imagined possible. I’ll take the explosion of color, pure joy in the art of storytelling, and intensity as full compensation for the logic side having its short circuits now and then. 😀

That linear speed-demon hare I once was has been replaced by a steady and unyielding tortoise. This is something I’ve fought for five years. And now, at the end of 2015, I’m laying the old me to rest. It’s okay that I’m not the same person I once was. I plan and layer from the beginning. My stories come out tighter in the first draft so I spend less time fighting the mini-boss battles against the editing and revision monsters. I still revise, of course. That’s a boss battle you can’t skip and expect to be respected (think incentive/purchased level boosts to newbie players in your favorite game…can’t really respect that, can you?).

So how do I tackle quality? I give myself permission to go slower, to focus on the story as I write it and take the time to get it close to right the first time. This is the part of the grind that will help stave off burn out. I’ll spend less time forcing myself to race against an imagined clock or stifling the joy I find in storytelling.

And you want to know something weird? Forcing myself to write a novella of 25k quickly resulted in a draft being done faster (by three days), but it took me, on average, longer than four days to recover.

Do the math. Rushing through the levels won’t give my book or me enough experience to make the Revision and Editing boss battles easy to breeze through. And that, ladies and gents, is the goal of quality. 😀


FOCUS

FOCUS is the next beastie we’re going to tackle. It has two parts: grinding time and quests.

Grinding time: If you don’t take the time to level properly, the mini-boss (editing/revision) and big boss (novels and ongoing series) levels are going to be tough. If I’m building up my tailoring in an RPG, I will focus on gathering the materials needed, grinding the necessary amount of time it takes to get it done. So too, will I grind my writing. In 2015, the Pomodoro technique of writing for 25 minutes and breaking for 5 was extremely effective.

I will continue that, ensuring that I put in the necessary grind time for my books. Sometimes writing isn’t fun. Sometimes it’s like a neverending quest in bore-ville. That’s okay. It can’t always be unicorns and rainbows or there would never be a true sense of accomplishment at overcoming obstacles. You need those bragging rights, you know. Something that comes too easily is too easily taken for granted. Trust me. I know. Piecing myself back together these past five years has been a difficult process.

Quests: In an RPG, you can go all over the map into different continents, quest-lines, arenas, and boss levels. If your game is kind enough to supply you with a quest log (a place for your quests to sit in queue, where you can read them at any given moment), then you’ll soon realize that you have a limit to the number of quests in your log. If you’re all over the place, you have to shuffle quest-lines, reorganize your packs (why did I take fifteen gathering quests at once? Who has that much room in their packs???), and remember where you left off while hoping you keep the storyline straight.

If you’re playing a more traditional RPG like Final Fantasy, Star Ocean, or Legend of Zelda, you don’t have the luxury of quest logs (with the exception of the Bomber’s Notebook in Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask).  Are you really going to remember a quest line from the desert oasis after you spend fifteen days grinding through the ice reaches of Fromoon? At the same time, it’s hard to keep a storyline straight if I’m jumping from one story arc to another. That logical part of my brain, remember, has issues already. Switching gears mid-writing session isn’t going to help.

AND DEFINITELY no more writing first person POV stories at the same time I’m writing third person. I made that mistake in 2015 by writing VOODOO CARNIVAL (First Person Point of View) at the same time I wrote WINTER GUARDIAN (Third Person POV). The amount of time I spent accidentally slipping into third or first when I wasn’t supposed to really dragged my pacing down and made the revision monster a nightmare to tackle.

I will set up my writing time appropriately. Weekdays for my primary book. Weekends for my freewrite book. I’ve spoken about this in the past I think. I have to have a book going at all times that explores something I want to try, some new genre or series experiment. A fun project that I reward myself with on the weekends. Stay focused, receive rewards.

But I won’t be able to do that without planning.


PLANNING

PLANNING in an RPG is a unique prospect. It takes a bit of research, some focus, and a willingness to stick to it until the job is done. For me, PLANNING is the difference between three months on a novel and three years on a novel. That’s a lot of false starts, a lot of unnecessary grinding in low-level areas as I try to get my story on track. Planning consists of two stages: scheduling and plotting <insert panster groaning here> I promise I don’t mean an outline from hell with every plot point written out and a novel notebook that’s a binder thick (though you could totally do that if that’s your thing. It’s not mine. I tried.). I mean…well…read on to see what I mean.

Scheduling: Time is a factor in any job. Deadlines are a definitive part of a writer’s life, but outside a publisher-driven deadline, what else is there? Personal deadlines. How do you determine those?

I need to recognize the amount of time it takes for me to develop my book, characters, and plot. Accept the amount of time it takes me to write a page, scene, chapter, and complete story. Factor in the amount of down time I’ll need before I begin editing and how long it will take me to complete them once I start. That’s a lot to take in, right? Why do all that, and how does it compare to Leveling Up in an RPG?

In most RPGs you have leveling regions (also known as zones). These zones contain bad guys, quests, gear, ingredients for crafting, and items that coincide with the same level (hopefully) as your adventurer. If I’m level forty, for instance, in a level forty-two to fifty zone, I’m not going to jump ahead to the mini boss battle of revision without ensuring I’m properly geared and leveled. To be honest, the game itself won’t let you do that. You have to follow the storyline to get there. Usually.

To get to revision, I have to schedule grinding time. I have to follow storylines, delve into the crafting part of the adventure, and use my previous focus to keep myself on track. I can do multiple things in one zone, so I should do that all at once to avoid having to back track later (and waste time, further bogging down the adventure).

At the same time, I don’t want to spend an unnecessary amount of time playing in a low-level zone where my gear, power, and story are too high for grinding to be useful. I compare this to rewriting the first chapter over. And over. And over. Don’t rewrite the first chapter until you’ve reached the end, or in my case, Chapter Five. I have no idea why, but that’s my magic “rewrite the beginning” chapter number.

Plotting: I don’t mean plotting as a detailed outline five pages long per chapter. I mean plotting a course, a roadmap and a way forward in the darkness of your book. Plotting in RPGs is interesting. There are some who direct you along a path, even in an open-ended world, preventing you from gaining access to realms outside your current levels while others are completely open-ended, and you’ll find out the moment you’re ripped apart by a pack of wolven that you may have stumbled into the wrong area.

Plotting and writing. Plotting gets such a bad wrap. I can hear the screams of denial now, but I want you to remember something very important. You don’t walk out of your house in sneakers with just the clothes on your back, spare change in your pockets, and a half-charged phone with the expectation of hiking to Alaska or backpacking across Europe or even running a marathon without training.

You don’t have to have every detail of your trip planned out, but you do need a way to focus (there’s that word again!) your energy. How do you do that?

Jot down a few notes before you start your daily writing session. A roadmap with a general idea of how you’re going to get there. Why is this so important? Writing yourself into a corner is a dark and dreadful place most writers hate falling into. They want, more than anything, to have a smoothly flowing manuscript that listens to your muse and falls into line while pleasantly surprising you along the way.

With a moment of clarity, just before you begin writing, you may be able to avoid most total scene rewrites. As you set out to drive for the day (or the writing session, or scene), jot down a few ideas about how to get what you want out of it. It could be something as vague as “Erica’s panic gets the best of her” or as detailed as you wish.

So for 2016’s level up challenge, here are my vows:

  1. I vow to give myself permission to go slower, to focus on the story as I write it and take the time to get it close to right the first time.
  2. I vow to set up my writing time appropriately. Weekdays for my primary book. Weekends for my freewrite book using pomodoros to track my writing time. No more writing first person and third person POV stories at the same time, however.
  3. I vow to set a daily roadmap on my writing path by thinking about the scenes I’ll be writing, building enthusiasm, while enjoying the fulfillment of the journey using those roadmap goals in one session.
  4. I vow to save rewrites until the story ends. No more Chapter Five triggers to rewrite Chapters One through Four.

My goal: Reach Level 1 by the end of January. Level 1 will mean a completed novella, a completed short story, and a partially completed novel. If I can make level 1, there’s hope for me yet. Let’s see if I can make it happen 😀

Keep Writing!

Dawn Montgomery

 

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