Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Weekly Update

Still haven't gotten back to my revision!

Picture at left shows what I did most of last week. I collected and printed all the information I've been saving off the internet since about the time I started working in earnest on The Perfect Wife. (Early last July.)

There wasn't time to read it, so I tucked it away in Pocket. I LOVE Pocket, way better than EverNote or OneNote. It's limited in what it can do, but it does exactly what I want it to do.

Though I was tucking this information into Pocket, that doesn't mean I wasn't still spending about an hour a day reading blog posts. These were just the ones I felt had enough complex information to warrant further study.

Actually, it's only the royal blue notebook on the bottom that is full of this type of information, printed on about 750 pieces of paper, double-sided. There were 299 articles I hadn't read. Most have to do with social media in one form or another.

The other notebooks include at least three e-books, as well as a notebook full of information I received when I bought Brandgasm on Sunday. Three of the notebooks are simply my own thoughts and plans, information that needs to be studied, processed, and eventually taken action on. It still needs a whole lot of strategic planning on my part.  

I'm just so glad that it's finally organized. I know what I've collected, and I can follow my thought trails, which had been littered all over my office for the past six months. (You know? Loose papers? Crap written on napkins? On envelopes? On anything I could get my hands on, when the thought struck? But none of it had anything whatsoever to do with my novel. That information went directly and immediately into Scrivener.)

I even took down all the sticky notes that had my username and password for about 30 internet sites that I use. Now they're all written in a file. Yay. No more sticky notes littering the area around my desk.  

As to Brandgasm, this is a $200 program which claims to teach you the things you need to know to design your website yourself. I'm a DIY gal, and there is no way in heaven that I could ever justify hiring someone to design my website for $6000, unless I were a bestselling author earning a six-digit income off my works. Since I'm decidedly not that, this course really appealed to me.

I plunked my money down and opened the first file while beginning the download process for the other files. It took about four hours to download everything.

The first sentence I read was that I needed to buy Photoshop for $699 and become familiar with using it before I could even begin the Brandgasm design-side lessons.

Ugh. I was so hoping to avoid that. Well, I do own an old version of Photoshop and I have used it in the past, but it's my least favorite software of any software I own. It is so dang complex. Why use it, when I own three or four other pieces of software that can do all the things I want to do? And, probably, even the same things Photoshop does?

But all the video demonstrations for Brandgasm are done in Photoshop, and so I gritted my teeth, got out my old Photoshop Classroom Book, and said, OKAY, darn. I'll need to refresh myself about using it before doing much of the design-side coursework.

I've printed all the information about the copy-writing side of the course, which fills a notebook, and am about half finished reading it.

Am I learning anything? Oh, yes. Yes indeed.

The design end of the program, which resides in Photoshop, will be significantly slower going for me.

So, having done these things in the past week, I feel well-equipped to begin tackling some new goals.

Among them, I need to get back to my revision!

But before that, I want to enter another RWA contest. The deadline is looming. I also need to attend my book club on Wednesday night, my ladies' club on Friday. AND, I need to teach my Creative Writing class at the local library on Saturday.

The picture at right is a visual reminder I made for myself about what my Social Media goals are for 2014. I couldn't get all of the information on one file folder, so, well, I made another.

It's kinda like making a vision board, except that it's limited to only social media goals. Plus, well, I think vision boards are dumb. Not for anyone else, but for me. I don't want anyone to see my goals when they walk into my office, not even my husband, who is the only person who would come into my office.

I'm just, frankly, an intensely private person. It's why I'm a writer, and lo, the irony of the age we live in, where writers need to be so "out there," which so goes against my grain. But it's why I created the file-folder vision boards, to keep reminding myself of the importance of being social on the internet. 

I will tuck them into my To-Do notebook, which includes a calendar and other things that I am working on, re: social media.

How was your week, reading, writing, or otherwise?

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Weekly Writing Update

There is no revised-word count to report this week. I didn't make the journey into Scrivener, nor into the lives of my characters. I did not work on coaxing them into changing. My own needs were more important last week.

I did work on coaxing myself into changing, in order to negotiate the next steps on my writing journey.

First, it required identifying ways in which I need to change. (What and Why)
Second, it required planning the changes. (Where and When)
Third, it will require daily action.

I'm still working on steps one and two. Once that's worked out, completing the action is just a matter of doing what I have set a time for in my daily schedule.

How was your week, reading, writing, or otherwise?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Use last year's writing Failures to Build this year's Successes

Recently, I ran across Keli Gwyn's blog, Romance Writers on the Journey, where she interviewed some 200 (give or take--I round numbers) aspiring romance writers between the years of 2008 and 2012. She ended the blog when she signed her own first book contract. Kudos to Keli for creating such a fine resource, and also for her recent good news--a second book contract, with Love Inspired Historical. I don't know Keli, but I felt a literal rush of happiness for her when I read this.

Romance Writers on the Journey is filled with author and wanna-be-author interviews, as well as a wealth of information about writing itself. But what I want to talk about are the numbers. Of the 200 people she interviewed, most were "on the contest circuit," meaning that their writing had reached a level of competence that the writers felt they wouldn't be embarrassing themselves and wasting their time/money by competing in RWA contests. Many had been finalists in, or won, various RWA contests.

I have read every single interview, and of those 200 people, only about 20 have gone on to become traditionally published. That's only 10%. Of the remaining 180, I discovered that only 10% are even still blogging. Now, I don't know if they've given up on their dream, but they have given up on blogging.

The point I want to make is this one by Winston Churchill:
 Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm.
Given that, I decided to think about my writing successes and failures last year with regard to the facet of entering RWA contests. There are so many facets to the writing life, if I noted my successes and failures in all of them, this post would end up being very long. If you're interested in reading specifically what I learned, and can't read the small print, click on the image and it will become a readable size.

    So, have you taken a look at your writing failures last year, and figured out a way to leverage them to build your eventual success?

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Weekly Writing Update ... a day early

The weather here is glorious. We're planning to go skiing at Mt. Spokane tomorrow, hence an early update. We haven't skiied since 1999 (hmm, isn't there a Prince song about partying like it's 1999)? 

Will it be a party? Doubt it. 
A picnic? Doubt it. 

At least a little bit enjoyable? Hope so. 

The best news is that I still fit into the ski pants I wore sometime in the distant past. I found another pair in my closet as well, but they fit like they were made for an elephant. In fact, hubby's thinking of wearing them. Not that he's an elephant. Nothing of the sort. Unless those were the ski pants he'd lost a few years back, and has been looking for ever since ... Nah. They're mine. 

Was reading a blog post by Patience Bloom, a Harlequin editor, who blogs at Romance is my Day Job, and who just published a book by that title. I'll need to buy it soon. She was asking writers about their writing routines. 

Among other things, she asked, "Do you time yourself or just write until you can’t bear it anymore?"

I write until I just can't bear it anymore, and then hate myself for writing that long. I write until my brain is mush, and I can't distinguish between a good sentence and a bad one. Which is a good reason to have stopped hours before, right? It *might* eliminate having to go over and over my manuscript to eliminate all the brain-mush sentences. 

Or, such was the way I'd written and revised every manuscript before my current one

With this one, I still work on it until I can't bear it anymore, and hate myself. But I am working extremely hard to make sure there are no brain-mush sentences, especially in this stage: revision. 

When there's the temptation to start shifting scenes around for no compellingly good reason, as I often did before, I threaten to stab myself with a pen if I do it. When I'm tempted to fiddle with a perfectly fine sentence, ditto. 

So where was I last week? I had revised 23,000 words. This week, I'm smack dab in the middle: 35,000 words

I couldn't find any pictures of us skiing in 1999, but here's a picture of me on our driveway with our beloved, but now deceased, Moe. (Mobitty-doo-dog-day). Yeah, I'm a writer. My kids and animals have always had a couple dozen nicknames each. 

Other things I've been up to

Judging: I spent all morning judging three-25-page (each) entries for a  Texas RWA chapter's contest, Inspirational category. Can't talk about it and have no desire to, but I had fun doing it. 

Teaching: It looks like I'll be doing my Creative Writing class for the Community Colleges of Spokane's ACT 2 program, after all. Enrollment had been sluggish, but I saw this morning that enough people have signed up for it to be a go. So I'll spend some time next week preparing for it. Ack.

Scrapbooking: I've now completed three of four scrapbooks for the year 2013. Event layouts are easy. I'd been struggling a bit with what to do with front and back pages for each b00k, but got that figured out yesterday. I generally use those pages for events that matter enough to be recorded with words and images, but not enough for a full, two-page layout.

How was your week? 


Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Weekly Writing Update

We're a week into the new year, and I'm still seeing blog posts about resolutions and word for the year.

I hadn't chosen a word. You know, with a language filled with millions of words, it seemed a bit hard to choose one. But I'll do it now. My word is: FAITH.

I have FAITH that no matter what, 2014 will be awesome. 

What I need to do to keep the faith: Whenever I begin to feel resistance to whatever's happening in my life, and am in essence saying "this shouldn't be"--I'll take a deep breath and have FAITH that life is unfolding just as it should. 

You know? Sometimes there are enormous, visible roadblocks in our lives. But most of the time, it's those teeny-tiny irritations that keep us from perfect peace. It's those things that I want to be mindful of, and to not allow them to disrupt my calm, my faith and acceptance of what is.


Anyhew, this brings me to my weekly writing update: My revision is going well. Prior to starting it, I re-read the information presented in an online course I took, almost three years ago now, Holly Lisle's How to Revise your Novel. I summarized the information to the nib and ended up with my own revision cheat sheet that is serving me very well.

I'll share it with you, should you be interested in seeing it, in another post, probably tomorrow.

My method: First, I print up each scene individually. It was an incredible help to have each one separated out in Scrivener before I tackled this, so that each scene has its own discrete pages. Almost all of my scenes are 750-1750 words. I ask questions (from the crib sheet) of each one as written, and am always able to improve it. As it should be; I'm working with mostly first-draft material.

It doesn't mean, necessarily, that I'm adding many more words. That happens, but more often, I'm bringing the words that are there into better focus--summarizing some info, expanding other info. Then I print the revised scene and read it again. If it still needs tweaking, rinse, wash and repeat.

Generally after a third or fourth pass, even the most unfocused scene is now on target. Then I put it in a notebook. Once I've made it through the draft, I'll go through it once more.  

In two weeks, I have revised 23,000 words of a manuscript that needs to come in at 70-75,000 words. My word count was just fine when I started, and so if I'm adding many new words to a scene, I'm also ripping out other words, either within that scene, or in other places.

There was always a chapter (right before the middle) that I never fleshed out in the first place, thinking that if I needed to cut words, that would be the place. It's still looking as though I may need to eliminate that incident. When I get to it, I will again skip over it, complete the rest of the revision, and see where I stand, word-wise. One other incident (shortly before the black moment), might need to be clipped out as well. I won't know until the revision is complete and I've checked my pacing. But Holly Lisle showed me a method for cutting words if necessary (although that's not on the cheat sheet).


Other things I've been up to

After Christmas, oddly enough, instead of breathing a sigh of relief that the holiday craziness was over, I was actually a bit down for a few days. Thoughts swirled through my head that "I never get out. I never do anything." But the new year is shaping up. I've my women's club and my book club. I'm going to start attending RWA again, and although that's a three-hour round trip drive each month, it should be fun to reconnect with old friends. I haven't seen most of them since 2001, when I left the office as president, and the group itself, to begin working full time as a children's librarian.

There's also a SCBWI workshop on Social Media in a couple of weeks. There's the little class I'll be leading on creative writing. Right after that, there's our trip to Sacramento, and we plan to drive. There's a Northwest Christian Writer conference coming up in Spokane, in March.

Contests: I'm judging some inspirational entries from North Texas RWA's Great Expectations contest, and I also plan to enter The Perfect Wife into ACFW's Genesis contest.

Reading: For my book club, I finished The Book Thief, by Marcus Zusak. I didn't like, at first, that it was narrated by Death. Death seemed too cheeky to me, and too in love with originality of expression. (The book was too literary for my tastes.) But Death was an extremely unique character, and eventually, Death lost its coldness. In places, it even had tender, human emotions. In the end, I liked this extraordinary book about the struggles of some of the people who lived in a poor neighborhood in Germany during World War II.

Now is the time to begin reading copious numbers of Love Inspired Historical novels, which is the series I am targeting with my manuscript. Yay, there is finally time to put this on my plate. 

Scrapbooking: My days have fallen into a very nice routine. As soon as I've had breakfast and done morning chores, I head to the basement, where I work at my treadmill desk, revising my manuscript, for up to three hours. When I'm done revising two scenes, I'm done for the day. After lunch, I head back down to the basement and work on my scrapbooking. And that is such a joy, such a reward.

Writing fiction is meaningful to me, of course, but scrapbooking allows me to tell more visual stories, and about my own life.

I've downloaded about 125 dies for the Silhouette Portrait die-cutting machine. I can download about 72 dies each month. (My subscription is for 50, but because the price on everything's been reduced, that gives me credit for about 62). I've also, during many evenings, selected about another 462 to download over the next six months, and then I'm done.

Instead of writing yesterday, I spent a good part of the day printing up my 48-page wishlist and checking to make sure I have every scrapbooking category covered. Where there are duplicates, such as the words "Happy Birthday," I've made a decision as to how many different Happy Birthdays I want to own. (Probably no more than three or four.)

I like downloading titles, words and phrases (instead of making them myself) because the designer connected the letters and words in creative ways. If I had made the same phrase myself, I would've had to figure out how to connect the letters. Not an impossible task, but since I have a subscription to download 62 dies each month, why bother?

Instead of having to painstakingly paste each individual letter of a word to my layout (which happens when the letters aren't connected), I can do the whole word or phrase in one fell swoop.

Considering that I have about a gazillion scrapbooking pages left to do, and each two-page layout takes about two hours, it helps!

That's about all for me. How was your first week of 2014, reading, writing or otherwise?
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