#ROW80 check-ins, the seasons

Autumn—With a Dash of Chill

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

Late autumn is here in earnest this week, with some chilly temps and soggy days. It’s been a week for sipping tea and curling up under a blanket with a good book.

I’m finally getting around to responding to blog comments, and I apologize for the delay. Having two new part-time jobs has sent my schedule all topsy-turvy, and I’m still finding my groove and getting into a new routine.

It’s also been a year of introspection, as I really have delved deep into what I want out of this one wild, precious life. I want to be a storyteller more than anything, but I also want to travel, to have adventures, and to help people. So, I’m processing all of that as well as slowly progressing on my stories.

That brings me to the big progress for this week. Here’s where I’m at with my fourth-quarter goals.

  1. Finish a draft of Oak-BoundI’m officially finished with the first draft. I wrote the ending lines a few weeks ago, but there were a number of changes to make before I sent it off to my critique partner. And it’s sent!
  2. Revise Spellfire’s Kiss, once I receive feedback from my kind and helpful beta reader. On hold until December.
  3. Participate in one or two community events each month. Went to a local craft fair Friday afternoon.
  4. Meditate or do yoga twice a week. 
  5. Continue paring away the excess in our home and making the townhouse our own. I found some flooring online for the living/dining rooms, and we’re hoping to go look at it in person on Sunday.
  6. Bonus Goal: Baba Yaga novelette. Now that Oak-Bound is finished, I’m off to work on this story. I’d like to finish a draft before Nov. 20, when I meet with my CP, so I can work on the second draft of Oak-Bound while my novelette, tentatively titled Ancient Charm, rests for a while. Current: 2K/12K.

It’s hard to believe, but soon it will be Thanksgiving, with the winter holidays following fast on its heels. I’m enjoying the last stubborn traces of autumn leaves before winter sweeps them away, while embracing the coziness of the colder seasons.

What about you? What have you been up to lately, writing, reading, or otherwise? I’ve missed the online community, and I’m glad to be back with all of you!

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#ROW80 check-ins, animals

Goodbye, Roo.

roo-2015
Sweet Roo.

A lot has happened since my last check-in. On Sunday we said goodbye to our cat Roo, who’d been with us 15 years. We watched her grow from a feisty kitten who was always getting into one misadventure after another to a feisty old lady who kept the entire house in line. Goodbye, sweet Roo. We miss you.

On the writing/reading front I’ve been fairly productive. I read Amber Benson’s The Witches of Echo Park and loooved it. I immediately ordered the next two books in the series. It’s all about sisterhood and magic and was the perfect fit for this reader.

On the writing front, I penned a new short story, Intersection, and continued working on my novella Bewitched by the Dragon. This week I’ve written 1,457 words in Bewitched by the Dragon. I just got back a beta read on Intersection and hope to get that one revised soon.

I’ve reached a crossroads with my short stories. I had begun the process of submitting them to magazines, but then a Twitter chat (thanks, #StoryDam!) got me thinking that Patreon might be a better avenue for publishing my shorter fiction. Basically, patrons (in my case, readers), would pay a set amount per creation or per month. I’m genuinely thinking about giving it a go. Something to think about as I put the finishing touches on a few more of the shorter works I so love to write.

That’s it for this check-in. We’re trying to adjust to life without Roo, and I’m finding distraction in storytelling, both my own and others, immersing myself in worlds of magic and wonder.

What about you? Have you heard of Patreon or used it, either as a creator or a patron? Thoughts on this new model?

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#ROW80 check-ins, writing process

Changing Directions

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

This week turned out to be a wonderfully productive week. I wrote 4,429 words in a new story, Bewitched by the Dragon, and wrote a 4,678-word short story, Upon the Witching Hour, a retelling of Cinderella (but with a twist). I also wrote and posted my first Insecure Writers Support Group post, and am finding IWSG to be a supportive community.

I paused a couple chapters into Bewitched by the Dragon, though, because something felt off. I felt like I was going in the wrong direction, and sometimes a couple days of distance and careful thought shows me where I went wrong, and I actually end up further ahead than I would’ve if I’d just charged through. It’s a big lesson I’ve learned on this path.

I realized that the problem was that the story itself is intended to be novella length, and for that to work the hero and heroine need to meet up in chapter one. As it was written, it took them several chapters to even meet—that’s several chapters where there’s no sexual tension, no romance developing. Plot-wise, that just doesn’t work.

Tonight the answer came to me. They need to meet up by the end of chapter one, and I figured out how to do that. There are still a ton of unanswered questions swirling around this story, involving character arcs and backstory and a host of other normal, first-draft issues. And I’m still torn between first and third person POV, as I mentioned in a previous post. But now that I’ve solved this first riddle, I can work on solving the others. Back to the page!

The next couple weeks I have two manuscript critiques to do, so those will be my main focus. I’d like to at least get the first three chapters of Bewitched by the Dragon rewritten, though. Later this month I can move forward with that. I still have to get to the next draft of Fates Entangled as well, but that probably won’t happen until June at the earliest.

What about you? Do you ever need to take a day or two away from a project for some brainstorming?

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#ROW80 check-ins, writing process

The Importance of Point of View

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Creative Commons Stock Photos | Dreamstime.com

As writers, we think a lot about point of view. Sometimes our genre dictates what POV we use, although even within a genre we can use our own creativity. Yasmine Galenorn writes paranormal romance that’s first person, unusual for the romance genre where third person is often used. YA often calls for first person, although third is also frequently employed.

I’m thinking about it this week for two reasons: one, I just started a new project, and two, I’m doing a read-through of a friend’s manuscript. Both have me thinking about genre expectations when it comes to POV. I started writing my story in first-person, present tense, rarely used in romance, and while I love writing in that POV and tense (I love the immediacy of it), I also realized when I added in the hero’s perspective that it got a little confusing. I might write the first chapter in both third and first and then seek out an opinion on which one works better. Ultimately, it’s about making sure readers don’t feel confused or jarred by point of view shifts, and jumping from POV to POV in a first-person story can be difficult.

We shall see what happens. Have you ever faced this dilemma? How did you decide?

A brief check-in:

This week I wrote 3,356 words in a new story (title pending). It’s paranormal romance—and there’s a dragon. Last week I finished the fifth draft of Spellfire’s Kiss and sent it off to beta readers, and I put the finishing touches on a short story and submitted it to a magazine. I’m also in the process of doing a read-through of a friend’s manuscript, so I’m trying to work my way through that story and give lots of feedback.

I’m currently reading Mugs and Monasteries by Cait O’Sullivan. It’s a short read, although a little confusing at times. I think it’s meant to be a little disorienting, but there were times where I felt like I’d missed something, only to realize that was just part of how the story was unfolding. Still, it’s a delightful journey into Ireland, and the characters drink lots of tea, so I can’t complain!

No major projects on the home front, just the usual tidying and baking and trying new recipes.

What have you been up to this week? I’d love to hear from you!

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#ROW80 check-ins, writing process

When well-intentioned writing advice goes bad…

butterfly-quote
I framed this quote, a reminder to follow and trust my own heart.

While studying creative writing in undergraduate and grad school, I participated in countless writing workshops. I’ve been a member of critique groups and read countless writing books. But there’s one thing I’ve only recently come to realize: Sometimes people’s writing advice is bad.

Well, let me clarify. It’s not necessarily bad advice. It’s just bad advice for you.

I’m not talking about craft. “Don’t head-hop” is a good rule to follow, and you break it at your own peril. Three-act structure seems to be ingrained in reader’s minds, and we often subconsciously know when it isn’t followed. A book that starts too slowly and leads readers to put it down, for example, might have a first act that’s too long. No, the basic rules of writing hold, and everything I learned in undergraduate and grad school taught me and reinforced those rules.

But then I emerged, M.F.A. in hand, into the wide world of writing, and all of a sudden, I didn’t have my professors to guide me. So I turned to writing books and that experience, by and large, has been a productive one, a continuation of my education as a writer.

But some of those books have poisoned the well for me, and there’s a simple reason. Sometimes people think that what works for one writer will work for another, and they present their process as an absolute, a formula anyone can follow that leads to success.

And I’ve attempted those methods, those processes, and failed, and slammed into the brick wall we call writer’s block.

That’s when my husband, a non-writer (an IT guy, if you must know), suggested that I take a break from writing books. “They’re causing you to stop writing. You already know how to write. You just need to do it.”

Yeah, he was probably right.

When I first started on my writing journey, I was (and still am) super-curious about other writers’ processes. One writer writes 500 words a day, religiously. Another feels 1,000 words is the sweet spot, and still another says 2,000 words is the minimum quota for professional writers. One writer proofreads but never revises. Another says she writes ten drafts. Still another writes the first draft, puts it in a drawer, and starts over.

And what I’ve learned is that my own process is a constantly evolving creature, changing as I grow as a writer and matching no one else’s. I know the rules of writing. I can urge and cajole a story into three-act structure. I can see when a character arc isn’t working or isn’t strong enough. I can see when a story starts to drag. And I can understand the feedback beta readers give me. “The opening is too slow.” “He doesn’t have much of a character arc.” “There’s too much backstory.” “Up the romance factor.” I know how to fix a story to fix the problems their keen eyes have noticed.

I know how to write. But when I read books about process and try to stuff my writing routine into someone else’s process, well, ugh. Things just grind to a halt.

So from now on, I will follow the process that works for me. Two of my stories, a novella and a novel, have won awards. I’ve published two novelettes and written a number of manuscripts. I can do this—because, well, I’ve done it before.

I just need to close the freaking door, shut everyone else out, and work with all the knowledge that’s in my own mind, the feedback from trusted beta readers and CPs, and listen to the stories whispering in my ear.

For me, that’s all I need at the moment. And in the future, I will be wary of trying to stuff my round-peg process into the square-hole I found on someone else’s blog, or in an author interview, or in a craft book. There are rules to the craft of writing. But ultimately, when it comes to process, we need to learn our own. Creativity comes to all of us in different shapes and forms. We need to follow our intuition and go our own way.

After all, if we want our stories to be fresh and unique, we must be ourselves, whomever we may be.

ROW80 Check-In:

  • Do something writing-related every day, seven days a week: journal, write a poem, take notes on a story, read a writing book, brainstorm, etc. Missed a couple days, but progress is being made. I started revising a novelette and expanding it to novella length. Previously titled White Wolf, Red Cloak, I’ve retitled it Fates Entangled, upped the paranormal/magical factor by adding in a touch of witchcraft, and am expanding it to about 20K from the original 15K. And I’m upping the heat factor as well.
  • Reconnect with my spiritual practice. Reading The Art of Bliss by Tess Whitehurst.
  • Start a regular yoga practice. Nope.
  • At least twice a week, explore another creative outlet, anything from scrapbooking to cooking to home decorating or Feng Shui. Decorated for Yule/Christmas. Baked chocolate-banana bread. Stocked up on some more scrapbooking supplies. Bought a frame so we can have a large print of one of our wedding portraits made and hang it in our bedroom.

A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life, is now on Facebook. Join us!

Ever-curious about fellow writers’ creative processes, I’d love to hear yours. Have you ever gotten advice on process that’s led you astray? What is your process like?

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#ROW80 check-ins, publishing, the writing biz

Big Decisions: Self-Publishing

I’ve been writing full-time for over two years now–and part-time for many more. For the first two years, I was focused on finishing drafts and creating worlds. And then, earlier this year, something clicked. I realized I needed to think about how to get those stories into the world, into the hands of readers.

So I started researching. When I wrote my first novella, Good Old-Fashioned Magic, many publishers were looking for novella-length works. But that number has shrunk over the years, and I was starting to have doubts that partnering with a publisher was the best path for my shorter works.

I also realized that my main motivations for wanting a traditional publishing path were because I wanted the validation of having a publisher. I wanted someone to say, “Yes, this work is ready to be published.” But that can’t be the main reason we go the traditional route. My husband pointed out that I was seeking validation, reassurance that my work was publish-worthy.

If we partner with a publisher, it should be because it’s the best path for us, not because we’re worried our work isn’t ready. I started examining my work, really thinking about how close it was to ready, and I realized how much I’ve grown as a writer these past few years. I found a sense of confidence that my work was ready to be in the hands of readers.

Which is why I’m leaning toward self-publishing. I come from a family of entrepreneurs, and being an indie author is essentially being an author-entrepreneur. I would have full control over the publishing process, from partnering with a graphic designer to create a cover to choosing an editor to help polish my work.

And I started to get excited. I have a couple stories that are close to ready to being out in the world. And now that I’m pretty sure I’ve found my path, those stories could soon be in the hands of readers.

It is an exciting time to be a writer. Never before have we had so many choices in our path. Even six months ago, I wasn’t sure I was ready to share my work with the world. But I can feel how much I’ve grown as a writer. And my stories are clamoring to be out in the world.

Are you an indie author? If so, what do you wish you’d known before you published? What words of wisdom do you have for those of us considering this path?

ROW80 check-in…

Writing: Wrote the beginnings of and a synopsis for “The Faerie Key,” a short story. Edited the blurb for “The Beltane Kiss” (also known as “Into the Faerie Forest.”) The two are a duet of short stories, one for each of the McAllister sisters, two farm-dwelling sisters whose run-ins with the Fair Folk lead to romance and adventure.

Reading: Read “Mystic Brew,” a short story by Caren Rich. If you’re looking for a quick read for a stormy night, this book is perfect. It’s short, but it’s packed full of detail and suspense. Also read Successful SelfPublishing by Joanna Penn. I’m starting to feel more and more confident that indie publishing is the best path for most, if not all, of my stories, and Penn’s book provides plenty of useful tips. I’m currently reading A Stroke of Magic by Tracy Madison. It’s a delicious paranormal romance, filled with gypsy magic and well-drawn characters. I’m looking forward to reading more in the series.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. It’s also a blog hop!

#ROW80 check-ins, animals

Back after a blogging break

Long time, no blog. I apologize for the blogging hiatus. The month of January and the beginning of February were, well, crazy.

To summarize: First, the semester started, and I poured myself into class prep. I’m still putting a lot of energy into teaching this class, and I don’t see that changing this semester. So I expect slow progress on the writing front, and don’t be surprised if my blog posts are much more sporadic.

And then my elderly beagle got sick. Like, really sick. The end kind of sick. We took her to the vet for what they thought was a kidney infection, for which she needed in-patient care. But tests revealed that she had cancer throughout her body: tumors in both adrenal glands, one in her spleen, two more in her liver. The prognosis wasn’t good. We took her home, wanting her to spend as much of her last days with her family. She barely moved, wouldn’t eat, could barely walk. So we knew it was time to say goodbye. It was a sad time, but at the end, I knew she’d found peace, had the overwhelming sensation that wherever she was, she was happy. And so though it breaks my heart not to have her with us, I can rest easy knowing that we gave her a good life, that she was with her family during her last moments, and that she’s found peace and rest in the Summerland.

Angel Jan 2016
RIP, Angel. 1999-2016.

Moving away from sad things, I attended my first writing retreat last week, where I made a ton of progress. I finished a third draft of A Prince in Patience Point, which has officially reached novel-length. Really short novel length, but technically, it’s a novel now, which is what I wanted for that story. I also did a read-through and some line edits on Good Old-Fashioned Magic, which is now in the hands of my critique partners. And I started (again) the fourth draft of my novel Made of Shadows. That one needs a lot of work. I’m hoping to have a completed fourth draft by the end of April.

On the reading front, I read The Midnight Queen by Sylvia Izzo Hunter. It’s a great historical fantasy novel, and I’d recommend it. I also read a gothic romance by Lauren Smith: The Shadows of Stormclyffe Hall. I’d recommend that one for fans of steamy romance with some ghosts and a dash of mystery thrown in. I’m currently reading A Certain Kind of Magic by Jessica Starre. And I’m really enjoying that one, too.

Long story short, I apologize for abandoning the blog and hope to check in at least once a week throughout the semester. Hopefully now that things are settling down, I actually have time to write and blog.

Click here to check in with other A Round of Words in 80 Days participants.

What about you? What have I missed during my blogging silence? What’s your news?

#ROW80 check-ins, Uncategorized

Sunday Summary

I’ll keep this ROW80 check-in brief. Classes start this week, so I spent some of the last week doing some prep work, and I know my word counts will probably decrease in the coming weeks as the semester begins.

My plan for the next few months is lots of revision. I have a short novel, a novella, and a short story to revise. Hopefully by the middle of the year I can start querying.

This week’s ROW80 check-in:

Writing: Wrote 4,616 words in A Prince in Patience Point. That story has officially become a novel. It will end up being a short novel after I finish this draft, but at least it’s now in novel-length territory. (I originally wrote it as a novelette, and then expanded it to novella length before realizing it needed to be even longer.)

Reading: Finished Thoroughly Kissed by Kristine Grayson. I have to admit the middle was really slow and there were times when it seemed to drag, but it picked up toward the end. I’m about halfway through The Fairy’s Wish by Maggie Shayne, a really sweet retelling of The Little Mermaid—only instead of a mermaid, the main character is a fairy. Started reading Story Engineering by Larry Brooks.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

#ROW80 check-ins, paranormal romance

Am I writing in a “dead” genre?

Recently I got some exciting news: one of my novellas took first place in a contest. I was excited, but the final round judge’s comments weren’t especially heartening: a cute story, she said, but a tough sell in today’s market.

So I started doing some research. Apparently there is a huge glut of paranormal romance stories out there. Apparently as early as 2013, editors and agents were calling this a “dead” genre. In other words, paranormal romance is on a down cycle. There’s too much supply and not enough demand.

As I read more and more articles proclaiming the genre I write in to be “dead,” my heart sank. Two years ago to the day, I quit my magazine job to write fiction full time. What if I’d made a mistake, dedicated my waking hours to stories no one wanted?

So where does that leave me? I plan to start querying next year; what if no editor is interested in my paranormal romance stories?

I only know this: There are no guarantees. All I can do is write the best stories possible, regardless of genre, and hope that they find readers who love those kinds of stories. I do know that romance readers are voracious, that paranormal romance fans are passionate about the stories they read.

I know that each and every day, I am writing the stories of my heart. I love romance; I love magic; and I love fantasy. So I keep writing. And I hope that readers love my characters and their fantastical tales even half as much as I do.

Lastly, this week’s ROW80 check-in:

Writing: Wrote 3,606 words in The Broken Mirror, a YA retelling of Snow White.

Reading: Read Your Money or Your Life by Vicki Robin, et al. Reading this book was literally transformative. I plan on following the nine steps and seeing where I end up. I also started reading The Huntress of Thornbeck Forest by Melanie Dickerson.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

So what do you think? Am I writing in a “dead” genre? Do you write or read paranormal romance? What do you think of the idea that the genre is dead? Is there hope for those of us who feel called to write it?

#ROW80 check-ins, the writer's journey

Midweek ROW80 check-in

Right now I’m in a place where I’m looking forward, and I’m trying to stay grounded in the present moment. I like being a planner, but sometimes we need to focus on what is rather than what might be. That means getting a few of my many WIPs ready for publication, whether that’s self-published or traditionally, and really focusing on building my author platform—something I still struggle with as an introvert.

But focusing on today. That means doing yoga or meditating today, not saying I’ll do it tomorrow. That means getting words on the page today, not thinking about the next manuscript. Overall, I’m trying to balance living in the moment with planning for the future. Like my stories, it’s a work in progress.

ROW80 check-in:

Writing: Wrote 2,144 words in The Broken Mirror, a retelling of Snow White. I’m debating whether I should plot/outline this one or if I should just pants it. Currently, pantsing it. We’ll see if that works.

Reading: Started reading Once Upon A Time: Red’s Untold Tale by Wendy Toliver. I’m only a couple chapters in, but I’m loving it. That might be because Little Red Riding Hood is one of my favorite fairy tales, or because the book is sort of a prequel to Red’s story on the show Once Upon A Time. So far it’s shaping up to be a sweet and fun young-adult novel.

A Round of Words in 80 Days is the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click here to cheer on fellow participants.

How are your goals, writing or otherwise, coming along? Are you a pantser or a plotter? Are you participating in NaNoWriMo? If so, are you off to a strong start or still feeling out your story?

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