Tag Archives: Publishing

Resolutions, Intentions, Challenges, and Reality

Mistakes photo

Are you on the New Year’s Resolution band wagon? Did you make resolutions and already break them? Yeah, I hear ya.

I set all of my goals for 2016 in December and was actually proud of them.  All of 2016 was mapped out. It’s funny how that calendar’s worth of work flies out the window of reality,

Life happens to all of us. Thank the heavens we still have one. Realizing that our desires and plans are just that, not life and death decisions, is part of coping with reality.

Circumstances change and we must adapt or perish.

Western MontanaMost people know that my vision was very limited to begin with. I had adapted to continually diminishing visual abilities. December changed all.

But my attitude and adaptive skills were rusty from complacency and habit. The past several weeks forced me to step back and regroup.

Progressive macular degeneration drives in the express lane. My central vision is rapidly disappearing. I must now unpack all of those voc rehab skills I tucked away in the closet labeled “Learned” and dust them off for renewed use.

My nemesis is the need to slow down and map out movements before the muscles leap into action. That hesitation is more necessary than ever.

But most of all, the mental processes needs to take center stage. So many factors influence every decision, every plan. Also the possibility of dependence on others takes on monster proportions for a normally strong, independent person.

Time is money concept with clock and coins

The mystery novel that should’ve been ready for final edit and a February release isn’t through  revision yet. The work takes tons more time and effort than ever before.

If work slows down that much, what about the three other manuscripts waiting in the wings for their revisions and editing? How long will it take to do those?

Fear of never getting my other stories ready for launch haunts me. And I have so much new work done last November to think about, too.

Enter common sense and calm reflection

abstract_2008012903-1113int.epsAfter much deep breathing and meditation, only one conclusion surfaced.

As is true of everyone, I can do only what I can do. If it takes three times as long to finish a book, that’s what it takes. Trying to push harder, work longer hours, etc. only creates strain, frustration, and burnout.

Tools are available to aid in this journey’s next stage. Practicing with those tools while working on each project can bring completion.

Perfectionism and self-expectations may rear its nasty head, but patience and constant reality checks can tame that beast. Patience doesn’t always dispel the frustration, but it can help make it bearable.

English Knight Fighting Dragon England Flag RetroThe new intentions are simple. I will attack  revision work on the mystery—two hours per day. Another novel will also get an obligatory two hours work. One hour will go toward getting a short story ready for submission to contests or magazines each week.

The rest of the day will be devoted to learning new tools and realigning my daily life. A blog post per week for each website will find its way into the mix. Everything else is gravy.

All of my former intentions—better known as “goals”—are out the window for now. Once I’ve made more progress with adjusting work and life to fit in the new visual challenge, I’ll know how to plan for the rest of the year.

So, tell me. Have new challenges cropped up to wreak havoc with your 2016 goals, resolutions, or intentions? If so, drop a comment below and share. It always helps to lessen a burden or concern.

 

 

3 Steps Fiction Writers Should Take

Work In Progress Sign Held By Construction Worker

Always take time to check these 3 steps before declaring a project ready for edit. They save so much time for the fiction writer.

  1. Whether you’re an outliner or not, create a list of all the major plot points which must be in place before the conclusion.
  2. Each time you finish a revision session, save the manuscript in at least two places.
  3. Always run your final copy through beta readers.

Let’s look at the logic behind each of these steps individually.

Plot Points

Outlines consist only of a story’s signposts; a series of events which must occur between the opening sentence and the last words of the story. It really is that simple. You don’t need details of how, where, why, etc. You need only those signposts in your outline. The list helps keep your story train on its timeline track.

director-chair-business-cartoons-vectors_GyG7my_OFor instance, the movie Ghostbusters was very simple from an outline perspective. Premise: scientists/researchers come together because of a flurry of apparition sightings in New York City.

Outline:

  • Researchers create special equipment for use at sightings if needed.
  • Scientists verify a sighting in a public library.
  • More sightings occur.
  • They hang out their shingle and go to work as independent contractors in ghostbusting
  • EPA steps in to control researchers’ activity
  • Situation with EPA devolves until the city’s government is involved
  • Researcher’s love interest is taken over by evil entity, along with another person
  • Researchers must discover identity of evil entity and devise way to dispel evil’s control
  • Researchers fight entity and entity’s minions in the Empire State Building, climaxing with the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and win.
  • Possessed humans are released and rescued
  • Boy and girl declare their love
  • Everyone prospers

An outline can get even simpler, but doesn’t have to. You only need an intro, an middle with action development and a climax/conclusion. The twelve outline points above don’t take up much space on paper, but getting from the first point to the last gets filled with tiny details that take up two hours of viewing time.

Revising for Results

Once your rough draft is done, the fun begins. Mistakes photoRevising allows the writer to catch and fill in all of those amorphous details that color the story with rainbows and leave the scent of fresh-baked bread behind. And that’s what many readers look for. Unless, of course, you’re dealing in horror.

Before beginning your revision, make a copy of that rough draft, with a new title, to work from. Then, each time you finish a revision session, be it an hour’s worth or a day’s, save that baby in at least two places. Try on your hard drive and a flash drive, or the cloud and a flash drive. Whichever method you use, do it. Don’t forget.

It only takes one glitch to leave you with nothing but sunshine and a rough draft. It happens all the time to writers everywhere. You don’t want to have to begin a revision from scratch from the rough draft again. The frustration and lost hours aren’t worth the risk.

Use Beta Readers

Book and knowledge conceptUnless your story is flash fiction, send your baby to a solid list of beta readers for review. Try to get a mix of “strictly” readers and a few actual writers. You get something special from each side of the house.

The beta reader can find all those flaws that the writer misses during revision and edit. You can guess the ones; continuity errors, name changes, characters’ unexplained dialect shifts, timeline anomalies, word misuse, the dreaded word-of-the-day, and more. (Word-of-the-day refers to those common words we end to use unconsciously far more often than necessary.)

Once you get those copies back with comments, corrections, and suggestions, you’re ready to tackle the final edit and spell check. You editing task will take less time and be more accurate after having so many sets of eyes on it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The writer who takes these three steps to do each of these steps eliminates greater timewasters and frustration in the long run. A brief but pointed outline is your train’s engineer and keeps you on your time table. The revision conductor makes sure you always have a second secured, current revision copy to safeguard your work. Beta readers act as brakemen to keep you accountable for the quality of your work. Your manuscript is better for the steps taken throughout the process.

At Home—Reading for the Writer

Book and knowledge concept

These last two weeks were interesting in a number of ways. I rediscovered reading for pleasure—something I’d put on the back burner for too long. Every writer needs to read. If I think about it, someone always wants to know what a writer reads.

When I wasn’t working on stories for submission and a chapbook that will be released this weekend, I read. And before you ask, the books that come home with me are by authors I enjoy or who’ve been recommended by those I trust. The subjects and plotlines are varied.

Home from the Sea Mercedes Lackey 51lQj4cRM8L._AA160_For example: all four books of The Bride Quartet by Nora Roberts, Hangman’s Root by Susan Wittig Albert, Home from the Sea by Mercedes Lackey, Grammar Girl Editing Checklist (a very short read but worthwhile,) the Hay House World Summit ebook, How to Overcome Procrastination by Paul Newton, Market and Promote Your Book Checklist & Worksheet by Katie Davis, and several other short instructional pieces.

A mix of subjects and genres never hurts a mind’s flexibility. Between reading sessions, a few movies kept my interest—ones I’d never watched before, like Truly, Madly, Deeply. I really liked that one and not just because Alan Rickman was the male lead. I liked the quirkiness of the plot and the thinking that went into it.

You might ask when writing found a space on such a reception-only mindset. Well, I’ve slowed social media down to a crawl to concentrate on writing and all that goes with it. My time is being used more effectively. I hope. Playtime is being built-in again as well. Long days mean working into the night—a practice not unfamiliar to me.

Dreamie Memior Cover (1)My new Short Tales chapbook—Memoirs from Dreamie’s Box is finalized and will be available no later than Sunday. My novella, Wisher’s World, Vol. 1,Composing an Apprentice, is now through the beta reader phase. Now begins the final edit before it goes to the formatter. Its release is slated for the autumn.

There are also three short stories (7500+ words each) in revision for submission to magazines, a slew of poetry in revision for either a collection for competition or a release on Kindle. So you see—it has not been an idyll.

Sorry, but I couldn’t resist the pun. I leave you to return to those pesky words that fill stories. I’ll be back in a few days with an excerpt from Wisher’s World. By the way, that series will go a full eight to ten volumes before it’s finished. The terrific thing is that I’m still discovering secrets about my characters that I would never have suspected before this last rewrite. Secrets that will deepen and intensify the overall story. That’s exciting.

Sailing

Sailing

While I dive into chapters and formatting, why don’t you all take this weekend to play, enjoy, and relish your ability to participate in life. Have a great time. It will never come around again, you know.

 

 

 

Cooking Ingredients for the Mind

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The compelling, music of Kitaro fills my ears, while I sit in an unstable desk chair procured from a former tenant, of another apartment, years ago. My hand-me-down desk and a found, handmade shelf unit act as my work space. These are the ingredients of my office.

Why do I talk about these things? I suppose it’s because I don’t particularly care where something comes from, how little I paid for it, or how strange it looks, so long as it functions in the job I’ve assigned it.

I had an eight-foot counter top. I traded for the desk when we switched apartments. Uniform file boxes, filled with items not in use, stacked to a convenient height and covered with a tablecloth, functions very well as a table. If I’m going to stack them anyway, they might as well serve a purpose.

Right?

I think most of us think along these lines sooner or later. I simply prefer thinking like this all the time. Being a writer only encourages the practice.

stock-003-007How can I say that? Well, examine our daily work.

We create stories. In other words, we’re cooks, disguised as builders. We stake our reputations on our ability to utilize disparate ideas, words, etc. for the purpose of telling stories or relating information. That’s our job in a proverbial nutshell.

Except for verifying information used in said stories and articles, we don’t care where we get our ideas. The same idea could have been used before for something else, dozens of times. I’m not referring to plagiarism here. I’m talking about taking a bit of information or sparked idea gotten from reading a newspaper, magazine, or another book and putting together our own unique scenario using that information.

001-bonus-things-jAn example here is Matthew Bennett’s break-out bestseller for expectant mothers, “The Maternal Journal.” He certainly couldn’t use personal experience for his book, for obvious reasons. He could take information found elsewhere, add opinions and insights from obstetric specialists, as well as experienced mothers, and tie it all together into an easy-to-follow pregnancy guide. Of course, smart marketing helped sell the book, but the idea was built on a personal question and information gathered from elsewhere to answer it.

007-stock-photo-bAbove all else, writing begins with tiny particles of dreams; put together in a blender half-full of words; adding splashes of character-driven action; a nebulous theme that peeks out at the reader at unexpected points in the story; teasingly rambunctious characters who play with the reader’s mind; and pressing the pulse button until all ingredients are smooth and ready for the palate.

The end result depends on the cook, not on the origins of each ingredient. Like the workability of my office—with its quirky desk, computer, headphones, and workspace—the story has arrived on the reading table because of how I use the makings I can find and how I combine them for that purpose.

Writing is hard work in the murky, ever-shifting tides of the publishing industry. There are no clear-cut answers. Many of the deciding factors about who’s published and who’s not stems from an editor’s gut reaction upon reading the manuscript.

stack-of-books-on-white-background-vector-illustration_z1m6_xvdLike all writers, we each have our cookbooks and our kitchen equipment. A good toolbox helps, too. The age/ source of an ingredient or building material isn’t as important as the purpose for which it’s used. Good writing doesn’t depend on how good the computer is, or how fancy the office looks. The expert chef can make use of simple ingredients to make a fantastic dinner.

How do you cook your stories and serve them up? Care to share? Feel free to tell about how you find your ideas, combine your ingredients, or market your wares. I’m always interested in learning another’s techniques.

 

At Home with Haiga and Writer’s Updates

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Our contest is humming along nicely, with loads of marvelous verse coming in for the honored spot under the banner “Winner.” There are a few days left, though, so now’s the time to cement your chances with a haiku entry. Take a chance. Come in and dance with us and your words.

Having said that, here’s my haiga for today and maybe this week. It’s been awfully busy around here this month and the juggling isn’t getting any easier. I hope you enjoy this one.

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I love the western red cedar trees we have up here in Montana. When wet, like this fallen tree in Glacier Park, the colors leap out at you, begging you to touch and appreciate them.

I wish everyone had the chance to see them. But selfish me knows that if that happened, no one would get a chance to touch or see much of anything for the people milling around. Pity. Oh, well.

Now, here are some of my updates for this month.

I just finished the last chapter of my novella “A Grain of Truth.” Saturday it will begin its final revision and then edit. It goes out to Tor Books directly after the Fourth of July. Another short story is ready for final edit, which will go out about the same time to Orbit Books and its short fiction division online. The third short story will go into revision at that time.

My latest article for Wordsmith Studio will go live soon, but in the meantime you can see it here. The Studio had been having a few issues, which delayed its delivery. It should be in its proper home in a day or so, though.

I’ve begun major prelim work on my fantasy series “Wisher’s World.” It will be a series of stand-alone books centered on a specific fantasy world. The heavy writing will begin in July. This is a series I’ve been building for a while now and have just slated for the actual writing.

I’ll get back to work on “Dreamie’s Box” after the first of July, as well. I’m hoping to get it finished by September so that it can get through the revision and editing phase by the end of October and go out to a publisher.

Those are my major pieces of work. There are the odd small pieces—FF chapbooks, poetry chapbooks, and other bits. There are always those lying around.

There you have it. If I can get my website redesigned (okay, so I have a lot on my plate right now,) I’ll decide whether to do a newsletter or not. Of course, my newsletter would be entirely different than any I’ve seen. I’ve wanted to do it for a few years now and might just talk myself into it this year.

I have only one other thing to say—have a great time with your life. Don’t take so long to decide who you are and what you want to do. Grab your life and wrestle it into submission for the best use of your passion. Be the boss. Take charge.

Okay, lecture over. Go out there and play. See you soon.

At Home with a Book Review of “Cheers, Chocolate, and Other Disasters”

Writers have an awesome job. We get to write stories for a living and tell tales out of school. We’re forced to read masses of books as if the store would run out if we didn’t get there first. We must study constantly to know what’s trending and what’s passé, who’s publishing what and who’s not publishing at all anymore.

These are perks and punishments, according to who’s relating what. But one of the most wonderful perks we get is the opportunity to write book reviews. Every book has a plus and a minus sign. Every story could go on forever, revealing layer after layer of an ever-changing onion held between our hands.

Mikki HeadshotMikki Sadil is a writer who delivers such a layered story. Her Middle Grade book, “Cheers, Chocolate, and Other Disasters” captures the attention early and never lets the reader go.

Alyson Joanne (AJ) Devlin is the kind of main character you want to spank one minute and cheer on the next. She’s spunky but sensitive, and her world has toppled into a morass of circumstances that threaten to put too great a strain on her young shoulders.

Sadil’s portrayal is made more powerful by the intensity with which she draws her characters. Even minor characters are given a roundedness not seen in many books for young readers. The reader can’t help but wonder if some of these personalities are plucked from flesh and blood examples.

It’s not often that an adult can get sucked into the world of middle school students and their personal dramas. It’s also not common when at the end of such a book the adult reader is looking for more of the story. This reader went looking for more. I wanted to know how she faired with her new boyfriend, what happened to her nemesis Celine Carroll, and her new friends and cheerleading partners.

I wanted it all. Not that the book ended in the wrong place or with threads left untied. Au contraire, all threads were tied into bows, but I wanted more. I wasn’t done with the story yet.

This amazingly fast read rarely paused for deep breaths. Mikki Sadil has a major winner on her hands with this one. I can honestly give it a Brava!

Now, the big question. Will there be a sequel? Will AJ make reappearance with new adventures? I don’t have answers.

As a reader, I’m gratified to know that Sadil’s first book, “Freedom’s Thief,” won’t stand alone as an excellent example of this writer’s talent.

If you haven’t read “Freedom’s Thief” yet, pick up a copy. The same thoroughness of detail, both material and emotional, brings the Civil War and and its issues, like slavery, to the forefront and breathes life into it for young readers on a level they can understand.

And on that note, I’ll close this review. I had a grand time reading “Cheers, Chocolate, and Other Disasters,” and I can hardly wait to see if there is a sequel. 

At Home This Holiday’s Goals

Cave at Mycenae

Every December is a challenge around here. NaNoWriMo has just finished. Poem challenges are over until the next round in a few months. Work load either wanes or intensifies, according to how many deadlines have been set for the year’s end push. And anticipation of a few days of festivities and good cheer ensues.

This year’s push through the holidays

This year, December seems even more frantic for me than usual. Health scares for sister, my personal writing challenges and goals, and now shaky future plans have all taken a toll on the household.

Whether I like it or not, goals tend to shift without notice during life-event eruptions. Daily activity becomes a matter of adapting or suffering the consequences.

I know there are those who are reading this who understand exactly what I’m talking about. Questions fill the mind.  Will I get any of my projects finished this month? How many submission deadlines will I miss, and do I really care that I miss them? How long will it take for things to get back to normal? Will sister be able to recover, even after surgery?

All personal goal considerations aside, the biggest concern is sister’s health and how soon we can get her on her energetic and productive feet, with a brighter future ahead. That takes precedence over anything else.

Adjusting necessary attitudes

calendars-6888067The world won’t crumble if my projects are delayed. Many of them have been delayed for too long already. The sky won’t fall if new projects aren’t developed right now. After all, there is enough instructional material and new software on my hard drive to keep me occupied in study for months.

Substitutions for planned goals

A major culprit in my working dilemma is turning off the ‘Push’ button inside my head long enough to be satisfied with accomplishing small pieces of work each day. A blog post that’s well thought out or pertinent. Reading others’ work and commenting on it for an hour. Reading a book on the Kindle, fifteen minutes at a time, while waiting in an office or for dinner to finish cooking. Crocheting a pair of mittens with fold-back finger covers for sister, while chatting with her about what’s going on in our lives.

This past few weeks has shown me that small advances can be as satisfying as huge leaps, with the proper attitude applied. Even though a yearning to finish my novella before the end of the month digs a hole in my resolve to back off and cruise for the month, I must admit that the resolve is necessary.

hammock-on-stormy-beachSometimes we just have to slow life down. We need to take time to appreciate where we are, what we can do at present, and how much we can do in the moment.

The silver lining to our situation of medical necessity is that while watching as sister comes to grips with her changing lifestyle requirements, I’m also forced to follow my own medical instructions that I’ve ignored for too long. To make her life easier, my own must synchronize with hers. Stress and a hectic schedule must get reduced.

I doubt the impact of my workload reduction will be felt outside of this household. I’ll do as much as possible on days with plenty of available time and wing it on those days when chaos reigns. My new goal is to simplify my life, my possessions, and my intentions. Other creative outlets can occupy short snatches of time each day. More poetry seems probable.

Simplifying my days and workload will help reduce my own stress levels and keep attitudes more positive. This plus represents a silver lining I can work toward with joy.

In the meantime, sister and I both anticipate a quiet, though laughter-filled, holiday with new friends. My hope is that everyone out there can enjoy such a blessed celebration of the season, regardless of what spiritual form it takes. Stay safe and warm, all.

I’ll be back in a few days with something  related to writing. Please leave your comments anytime. I like hearing from you and learning how your writing experience is going.

Launch Date for Kindle Book

Design by BJJones Photography

Design by BJJones Photography

Now that things are settling down at home and our guest will be leaving tomorrow afternoon, I’m designating Sunday, September 29, as my official launch day for How-To Slay a Writer’s Dragon: Or, Poor Richard’s Twisted Sister.

To get you prepared for the event, a small excerpt from one of the challenge exercises in the book was placed in a post under the Works-In-Progress page. It will give you a small taste of what is offered in the first of the Writer’s Dragon books.

Barring desperate emergencies, I’ll finally be able to get this small volume up and published on schedule. I had trouble getting that done. Something comes along each time to prevent it. I count on making it this round.

Do I have other things on the docket coming up? You bet! I have a short story that I’m rewriting for expansion to get submitted to Tor Books within the next month. I also have a sample collection of Flash Fiction stories to submit to Kindle Singles within the next several weeks. At the same time, I have another Dragon book to work on, as well as regular work on my women’s novel Dreamie’s Box.

* * *

On a different note, I encourage everyone to check around the different pages here. Each week I’ll be adding another work or two that are “In Progress.” I’ll also be adding explanations to other pages or excerpts of work from one piece of fiction or bits from articles I’m working on. Those are open for readers to comment on, as well.

To keep up with new posts around here, follow me on Twitter at: @Claudsy1 and Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/ClaudetteJYoung?ref=hl

Hope to see you here often. See you later,