Category Archives: Writing Process

Author Goals vs Character Goals

This morning, I woke up realizing what problem was behind certain recurring issues in the books of a friend of mine. With her permission, I’m going to use her work to explain the difference between author goals and character goals, why they SHOULDN’T be the same, and how the conflict between them makes a better story.

Let’s start with a basic definition of character and author goals. Characters want “something” that will make their life better. The lover, the job, the house, the winning goal. Whatever it is, they think it will make them happy. Authors, on the other hand, want their characters to be unhappy. Temporarily! Because good stories are made of conflict against desires. It is the tug of war between what a character wants and what they get that leads us down story lane. Will they succeed or will life/villain/better team defeat them??

Now, on to the examples.

Example #1: Author “Jane” (name has been changed) has the goal of a big reveal at a dance. The reader knows earlier that character “Hero” is turning his life around and coming back to church, but the other characters don’t yet know that. Because Jane wants a dramatic scene at the dance, she decides that Hero must also wish to save the reveal until then. He feels nervous and secretive and unready to tell anyone about the changes in his life, but thinks unveiling the surprise at the big dance will be exciting. That’s great writing, right?

Well, no. There are a few problems. First, Hero is hiding things from people he’s close to, which is odd for his character. Second, Hero is hiding things from his desired “Heroine” which would knock down some of the barriers between them, AS HE HAS BEEN WISHING. Third, most people who are coming back to church are relieved and happy and want to share the good news with their family and friends. (There are exceptions, but those haven’t been set up in this story.) Fourth, if he doesn’t want to reveal it now, privately, why would he want to save it for a public event? So all this means that his idea of hiding everything until the dance feels very unrealistic.

Does that mean Jane’s hope for a dramatic reveal is sunk? Not at all! In fact, by acknowledging Hero’s desires, yet making his life detour according the author’s wishes, we can make an even more dramatic reveal. Let me illustrate how it COULD happen, with “old” and “new” examples from the story.

Old #1: The desire. Hero doesn’t want to tell his family, friends, or wannabe girlfriend because… they will tease him? They won’t be happy for him? He wants to shock them? This scenario, besides being poorly explained, makes him seem selfish and weak and makes his loved ones seem like jerks.

New #1: The frustration. Hero wants to tell everyone (notice the change in character goal and how it opposes that of the author). He decides to do so in person, as such good news deserves. Hero calls, gets a busy signal or answering machine, and doesn’t want to leave a message. He goes by in person, but people are gone or busy with the doctor (in the case of the friend in the hospital). Hero tries composing an email, but it just doesn’t feel personal enough. He will have to try later. This scenario has us rooting for Hero, who is trying to do the right thing and keeps hitting obstacles. When is the poor guy going to get a break? Now when Jane does the big reveal at the dance, we cheer that Hero finally gets to tell his family, and the author’s goal conflicting with the character’s goal has made a better story.

Old #2: The weekend. Hero attends a different church to avoid seeing his friends and family. Ouch! Again with the selfish and weak…

New #2: The unavoidable weekend. Hero is sent out-of-town for his job. Obviously, he won’t be attending church with his family, but it’s not his fault. Again, we get to root for Hero.

Example #2. In this case, Hero has been trying to find “Lady” who saved his life and then disappeared. Author goal: Keep the characters from realizing the other’s “secret identities” until the big reveal. Character goal: Find each other! Remember, the way we’re going to get the two goals to meet is not by aligning the character goals with the author’s or by letting them give up, but by yanking our poor characters off their chosen path and ramming them into obstacles until the only way left is the author’s way.

Old #3: The picture. Hero, who is a reporter, sees a picture on Heroine’s laptop that makes him realize she is probably Lady. When he says he wants to ask about “some picture,” (without mentioning Lady or the rescue), she tells him to go away, and he does. He’ll ask later. Wow, a reporter who gives up when his source isn’t cooperative? Since when? He gave up much too easily. Author goal has taken over at the expense of the story, and we no longer believe his goal is important.

New #3: The investigator. In this scenario, our intrepid reporter wants to actually tell Heroine which picture he’s talking about and ask if she is Lady. Remember, we’re going to FORCE Hero into the author’s path, despite his desire to follow his own goal. So, some ways to do this would be to have Heroine cut him off mid-sentence and walk away or tell him to mind his own business (she’s mad at him), or to have someone else interrupt with something that can’t wait, or to have his boss suddenly call with an urgent message, or… You get the idea. Keep the goal, create an obstacle! Now Hero can say to himself, “Well, if I can’t find out that way, I’ll put my reporter skills to work on the problem.” Jane will string Hero along for a while longer with more obstacles, while the reader chews on his/her fingernails. By the time we get an answer to the dilemma, we’ll be excited for it.

What examples (good or bad) have you found (or written)?

Happy writing,

M. C. Lee

Writing Process, Book 3 & 4 (Part 1)

When I started writing book 3 around March 2018 (after plotting from January), I tried to be a little smarter than prior times. I made my usual beat sheet first (with an extra plotline for the romance), then cut it up (literally) to try a new step in my outlining process. I spread out all the beats and rearranged them several times to finalize chronology and chapter point-of-view. Once I had them the way I thought I wanted them, I typed them up again in my old chapter-tracking form.

I had finally noticed that one of the things that made me write more slowly was trying to figure out the “steps” of a chapter as I was writing. Sure, I’d know where I was going, but how do I get there? (The other thing that slows me, besides life getting in the way, is trying to make it perfect the first time, so starting with book 3, I gave myself permission to add [author notes] and fix it later.)

So I invented another new process step. This time, I thought I’d try outlining a little more detail for each chapter. After a little experimentation, I decided aiming for about 10% of the anticipated finished words for each chapter might be enough. I worked on this “tithe outline” at the same time I started writing chapters for book 3. That might not have been the best way to do it, honestly, since it slowed down both parts.

I got three chapters written between July and September, which was still pretty slow, and another two before the end of October. Not acceptable, even when I’m busy with the first two books. I finished the outline barely in time for NaNoWriMo.

(As for books 1 & 2, I was desperately trying to prepare book 1 for publication and get book 2 through my critique group. Lots of editing and rewriting. I was busy.)

In November 2018, I used my extended outline to zip through sixteen chapters and actually win NaNo, but the book still wasn’t finished. Fantasy tends to be longer than some genres, thank you, and I tend to complicate things. But the more I got used to my new outline, the easier it was to work with it, and the faster I got. I even had a few 3000-4500 word days. Yes, I know there are authors who can write 10-20K per day, but my brain doesn’t do that yet.

In December, I finished two-and-a-half chapters of book 3 and got the beats, POV/chronology, and four chapters of book 4 outlined. By the end of January 2019, I wrote another four chapters of book 3 and outlined 2/3 of book 4 before I discovered some major problems and had to start over. (But at least I found it in the outlining stage and not after I’d WRITTEN 2/3 of the book!) It took until May to figure out how to fix my outline, partly because of publishing and partly because I spent a month helping my parents. And it was pondering what kind of song I’d write for this book that gave me the clue. 😉

I finished the first draft of book 3 in February (excluding stuff to fix and things like chapter headings and Nia’s curses). Thirteen months for drafting is still pretty slow, but it’s half my time for book 2, so it’s still progress. Now that I have some experience at it, I’m hoping book 4 will go even faster.

Wish me luck!

M. C. Lee

Writing Process, Book 2 (Part 2)

With the help of my critique group, I improved the setting, description, and physical cues of my second book. But they still complained that the first third was too slow. (By the time we reached halfway, there were no brakes on the story and no complaints about pacing.) I tried this and that to increase the tension and the plot movement, and it improved, but people still complained.

After rewriting things several times, I wanted to tear out my hair. Yeah, being an author is sometimes not much fun at all. Then I had to go out-of-state to help my parents declutter–again. Since I knew I’d be too busy to actually write, I decided it was a good time to do a lot of brainstorming and figure out how to fix my pacing at last. One advantage is that my mom is very familiar with my stories and characters and is willing to talk to me about them.

We went over each chapter, one at a time. For some of them, we figured out small things to increase the tension and pacing. Then we got to chapter six. Plot: inadequate. Chapter character goal: missing and unfulfilled. Dialogue: lots and lots of that… Pacing: very, very slow. We tried to fix the poor thing, but eventually decided it was just broken.

*We will pause for a moment of silence for a dead chapter.*

I hate broken chapters. I really do. This wasn’t my first one and probably won’t be my last. Still don’t like it.

We talked it over for two days and still got nowhere. Though Mom knows my stories and characters, she’s a novice with story structure and beats and other writerly jargon. Then one of my author friends kindly offered to call and chat about the problem. We brainstormed several bad solutions (okay, not bad, just not very workable for the rest of the story) and then finally hit on something I hope works.

Yes, I still have to rewrite the entire chapter. No, I’m still not happy about it. Yes, I’ll do it anyway. And again, and again, and again, until it’s finally good enough to share with the rest of you.

What are the lessons here?

  1. When you get stuck, ask for help.
  2. Don’t give up.
  3. You won’t succeed without lots of hard work.
  4. Don’t call a book finished until you’ve fixed everything you can possibly fix and polished it until it shines.

My brain died on my “vacation,” but as soon as I get it back in working order, chapter six is up for a complete remodel, and I have a page of other edits to incorporate. (That doesn’t sound as bad, but they aren’t simple “change this word” things. Nope, more rewriting all over the book.) Once I finish (*pause for hysterical laughter*), I hope to have it ready for beta readers. Or at least alpha ones. My publisher would still like me to get it out in a reasonable amount of time after the first one.

(Update: That chapter passed my critique group. Another chapter still has to go through the process. Sigh.)

Wish me luck, and good luck in your own writing,

M. C. Lee

LTUE 2019 Business Class Notes

Every year for several years now, I’ve gone to the Life, the Universe, and Everything sci-fi/fantasy conference in Utah. It’s sort of a writing conference, and sort of not. They also have art classes, and a game room, and presentations of academic papers, and meet-and-greets.

But I mostly go for the writing classes. And the business classes. And the worldbuilding classes. And the oh-that-sounds-super-cool classes. Two of my family members got to attend a weapons class with real weapons. They raved for weeks.

I wrote about my other classes here, and now I’m moving on to the business classes. If the class was a panel, I didn’t list the speakers and I didn’t keep track of who said what.

Finances
Rules to pass audits: Keep mouth shut. Answer questions clearly and succinctly. Don’t volunteer anything.
One-time sales tax must be paid right after. Regular sales must have license.

On the Road
Road stuff is no fun
Write what you love, and lots of it

Video trailer
Stock video sites for video clips
Kaden live free software or Adobe premiere
Sony Vegas good for beginners $50
DaVinci resolve free

Tools of the Trade
Scrivener is good for disorganized
Storyoriginapp.com, Prolifwords, and Mybookcave for reader magnets
Bundle rabbit
Kdp rocket

Working with Reviewers
Be polite & professional
Try to build a connection
Kirkus reviews are useless

What I Wish I Knew When I Started Indie, by M.A. Nichols
Don’t wait for book to be perfect
Income is the goal, not sales
Write more books!

Realistic Self-Publishing (all notes for rest of page), by Keary Taylor
Smashwords is a common source of piracy
Publish 2nd book before spending money on ads
She spends $60/day on ads
Be organized

Are you willing to:
Find & hire editors, proofreaders, cover artists, & formatters?
Manage your own marketing & PR?
Learn a lot of new skills?
Get creative with books AND entrepreneurship?
Treat this as business?

Average costs:
Editor/proofreader: $300 for 70K book
Format: $175 e & print
Cover designer: $150+
=$600-1000 to launch book that has a chance

Series starter marketing:
Only book: launch $2.99-5.99 depending on genre/length (pref 2.99-4.99)
Once established, first-in-series:
Full price= more cost to marketing
$0.99= charging a little helps pay for marketing
Free= no risk for readers

Follow-ups in series:
Increase by $1 each book (2.99, 3.99, 4.99)
Same price for each in series
Same price until last book, then increase $1

Backmatter:
Immediately after The End, have lead-in to next book with LINKS
Also by with LINKS
Thanks for reading, ask for review
Author bio
Social links
Follow on Amazon
Newsletter signup
CHOOSE SOME, NOT ALL. Keep it clean & simple.

Don’t get caught up in swag or book signings. They’re fun, but not profitable.

2000 books published/day on Amazon
WILL have to pay for visibility
Readers WILL forget you
Market constantly changes
For full-time, can’t take this casually

Set up social media sites, Goodreads, BookBub, Amazon Author Page, website.
Study what other authors are doing

Places to advertise:
Facebook
Amazon Ads
Bookbub
Other paid sites (in order of effectiveness)
eReader News Today
FreeBooksy
BargainBooksy
Free Kindle Books
RobinReads
FussyLibrarian
BookBarbarian
BookAdrenaline
BookSends
ManyBooks

Schedule sales around book releases
Stack ads (same day or close together)
Cycle ads, including backlist
Plan at least 6 weeks ahead (sites fill up early)
Mailing list advertisers WILL list permafree books

Downfalls: Genre bouncing, not interacting/getting personal with fans, not collaborating with other authors

Whew! I feel overwhelmed now. How about you?

Happy writing,

M. C. Lee

Writing Conference Report: LTUE 2019

Every year for several years now, I’ve gone to the Life, the Universe, and Everything sci-fi/fantasy conference in Utah. It’s sort of a writing conference, and sort of not. They also have art classes, and a game room, and presentations of academic papers, and meet-and-greets.

But I mostly go for the writing classes. And the business classes. And the worldbuilding classes. And the oh-that-sounds-super-cool classes. Two of my family members got to attend a weapons class with real weapons. They raved for weeks.

First, a little practical advice.

Wear good shoes and comfortable clothes/hairstyle. Take food to eat, especially if you aren’t going to take an actual lunch break. Look for a freebies table. Talk to people–lots of people. If weight bothers you AT ALL, slim down your bag to lighter than you think you can carry all day. Ask experienced attendees which bathroom tends to have shorter lines, and use it immediately after class. Drink lots of water (if you lightened your bag, take a small bottle and refill it every hour). If you have business cards, bring them. If the class you want to take is full, try something else or find someone for a conversation.

I’m going to have to split my best take-away advice from the classes I attended this year. I’ll put the business notes in a different post. Here’s the worldbuilding and craft notes. If the class was a panel, I didn’t list the speakers or keep track of who said what.

Foraging, by Cedar Sanderson
Some plants are topically poisonous (absorb through skin).
Never test edibility by tasting.
Blue-colored berries are probably fine, red be cautious, white avoid.
Some things will slowly make you sick, so just because you ate it once and didn’t die doesn’t actually mean it’s safe.
Animals are a better source of emergency food than plants.
Predators are usually not yummy.
Some animals have poison glands. Even deer have scent glands that can spoil the meat if punctured (same for gut).
Fuzz/hair is usually toxic /nasty.
Just because an animal ate it doesn’t mean it’s safe for you.

Objective Correlative  (accent on the second syllable of Correlative), by Rosalyn Eves
Telling emotion is worst, showing is better. Putting the reader inside your characters to feel the same emotions themselves is better.
5 ways to do that:
Objects (readers must understand importance)
Metaphor
Situation (setting, events, etc)
Chain of events (action-reaction)
Movement or gesture
Build up moment until reader is immersed and feels like the character.
Don’t overuse; save for important moments when you can slow down.
(I left the class thinking, “THIS. I want to learn to do THIS.”)

Suspense
Every chapter should have conflict. Some should still be rest chapters
Ticking time bomb + obstacles
Switch from high tension to low and back again to reset the tension
Reader knowing something character does not, creates tension
Don’t withhold information the pov character knows

The Beginner’s Guide to Self-Editing, by Kelsy Thompson
A great class, but since she offered her slides to attendees, I didn’t take notes. Also, it was a two-hour class and she moved fast enough through enough material that taking notes wasn’t very practical. If you get the chance to take the class, I recommend it. She covered development editing first (big-picture story items) and then moved down to line editing (actual language) and proofreading (typos).
I did like her encouragement to aim for professional but forget about unattainable perfection.

Beats & Microbeats, by Devri Walls
For intense speed, shorten sentences.
Slow beats use longer, more descriptive sentences.
Do not overdo or everything will be flat
If action or romance scenes are lacking, slow down!
Dialogue: speech tags and action slow scenes. Cut for faster scenes.

4-part Pacing, by J. Scott Savage
Plot is events, pacing is timing
Use foreshadowing for something ELSE and your true twist will slip through.
1st quarter draws interest.
2nd quarter delivers on promise.
3rd quarter is heart of story.
4th quarter is climax.
There is a turning point at every quarter.

Backstory
Give the minimum your reader has to know, in time for them to use it. Not Tolkien!
Walk through as the character would, and be subtle.
Skip As-you-know-Bob (conversations held only to explain things to the reader)

Showing vs Telling
Boil things to the most important showing details.
Naming an emotion is usually telling.
Which parts do the reader need to feel (show) VS just know (tell)?
First draft is worry-free zone. Go ahead & tell, & edit it later.
War That Saved My Life (book): look for showing.
First chapter of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Foreshadowing
If you disguise the foreshadowing as something else, it can hide your real purpose.
Mix truth and lie to confuse readers.
Using multiple techniques is trickier.
Let some red herrings be true to throw readers off balance.

Sagging Middle
If you aren’t having fun anymore, back up and make a different choice.
The middle is the main part of the story.
Use MICE quotient to determine what kind of obstacles you need.

Ways to Help an Author

There are many ways you can help an author you like, whether it’s one you know personally or just one who writes wonderful books. I’ve tried to sort my suggestions into categories, so you can find one that fits your situation. You don’t have to do all of them, of course. Just pick one or more that sound like fun.

You like the genre and have a little money to spend.

Buy the e-book! (It’s pretty common for an author to get as much or more royalties on a cheaper e-book than a more expensive print book.) Pre-order the next book. Buy a copy shortly after it’s published (early sales do more for ranking). Buy a copy from the author’s website directly or from their web link (direct sales give more royalties). If you like the book, choose something from the “enjoyment” category to do.

You like the genre and have more money to spend.

Buy the book! (If you love the feel of paper books, go for it. If you don’t care, the e-book is likely to pay the author just as well or better.) Buy copies to give to friends or family. Abandon a paperback in a public place with a note saying it needs a new home. Buy a signed copy. Buy a copy from the author’s website directly or from their web link, or in person (direct sales give more royalties). Ask a local bookseller (in person, even if you know the answer) if they carry the book and where it is, then buy it if they have it. If the author has bookmarks or swag for sale, buy something you like and use it in public. If you like the book, choose something from the “enjoyment” category to do.

You don’t have any money in your book budget, but you want to read the book.

Ask a librarian if they carry the book. Request it at the library, and then check it out when it arrives. See if the book is available as an ARC (Advanced Reader Copy), request it, AND review it. Watch for a free (or maybe 99c) sale on the e-book. If you like the book, choose something from the “enjoyment” category to do.

You want to share your enjoyment of the book.

Review the book! Positive (honest) reviews are one of the best ways to help an author, on Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, your own blog/website, or your preferred book review site. Take a selfie with the book and post it on social media. Share an excerpt in person or on social media. Turn the book face out at the bookstore. Discuss the book in public or on social media. Blog about it. Create a Wikipedia page for the author/book. Post a video review. Recommend the book to friends or a book club. Share bookmarks or other swag. Link to the author’s website/blog/sales page or bookmark it on a bookmark site. Like the book page where you bought the book. Like the author’s social media or website.

You want to help/encourage the author personally.

Tell the author you like the book! Comment on the author’s blog or social media. Send the author a review quote. Nominate the book for an award. Interview the author on your blog. Host the author for an event. Contact the author with speaking opportunities. Send the author some fan art.

You don’t read the genre, but know the author and still want to help.

Choose something from the “enjoyment” category that doesn’t require having read the book. Give the author a hug. Pray for the author. Recommend the book to a friend who DOES like the genre. (This is not a situation where buying the book helps, at least not in the first several months. Thanks to “Also Bought” recommendations, early book-buyers should be from the marketing categories that normally buy similar books.)

I hope you found something here that will suit you. 🙂 Remember, writing can be a discouraging job. If you like an author, a bit of extra encouragement might keep the books coming. 😉

Happy reading,

M.C. Lee

The Best Time to Write a Novel: Circadian Rhythms for Writers

While I attempted to not quote, this information is taken from The Power of When, by Michael Breus. I recommend you read the book for more details.

In the morning, sunlight hits your eyes and activates your circadian rhythm for the day. Your temperature, blood pressure, thinking, hormones, energy, creativity, and more, fluctuate according to this inner clock. This means there actually IS a best time for you to eat, sleep, write, and learn.

I’m sure you’ve heard of the early bird and the night owl. In reality, there are four chronological types. I’ll call them the Earlys (15-20% of the population), the Mids (50%), the Lates (15-20%), and the Chaotics (10%). Up until the invention of electrical lights, the Earlys and Lates served to guard society at either end of the day, while the Mids worked during the day. The lightly-sleeping Chaotics would wake at small noises and warn of danger. There is a range within each category, so you could be an early-ish Mid, for example.

Some of you probably know your chronotype already. Some of you might wish you were different and want to know if you can change. Well, sort of, but no. Let me explain. Babies tend to be Lates, toddlers are usually Earlys, children are typically Earlys or Mids, and teens are frequently Lates. Adults tend to be Mids before turning Early or Chaotic as Seniors. But between roughly the ages of 21 and 65, you can’t change your type. You CAN, however, learn how to do the best you can with what you are.

Before getting into the schedule, let’s cover a few interesting things about each type.

Earlys don’t typically have trouble sleeping or waking. Their main improvement goal is to stretch their energy further into the day so they can enjoy the rest of the world for a little longer.

Main challenges: a bumpy adjustment and frustration at slow results.

Mids need at least 8 hours of sleep a night. They have an advantage, because most of the social world is set up for them already. They also have the longest ideal writing/editing time.

Main goals: get adequate sleep and exercise during the week, shift eating rhythms, increase energy in afternoons and evenings.

Main challenges: feeling trapped by a schedule, sleeping in/napping on the weekends, late-night snacking.

Lates frequently diagnose themselves as lazy or insomniacs, when in reality they simply have a different sleeping schedule. They have the second-longest ideal writing/editing time.

Main goals: improve efficiency during work hours, shift eating rhythms, increase sleep, stabilize mood swings.

Main challenges: rebelliousness (but biochronology is law of nature, not arbitrary rules), impatience, and impulsivity.

The smallest group, the Chaotics, are biologically backwards from the other three groups. For most people, cortisol goes up in the morning and temperature falls at night. The Chaotics are exactly the opposite, which explains many of their sleep problems. They also have brains that don’t turn off while sleeping, so they frequently don’t feel rested when they wake.

Main goals from a new schedule: increase energy in the morning, decrease evening anxiety for better sleep.

Main challenges: unrealistic expectations for 8 hours of sleep (a good 6 hours is realistic), and inconsistency.

I tried to predict some of your questions, like:

What if my optimal schedule isn’t practical in real life? Do the best you can. See if you can get any part of your schedule to align.

What if I don’t want to be tied to a schedule? Then don’t, but if you give it a try, you might find the improvements worth the changes.

What do you do if your life doesn’t allow you to write at the ideal time? First try to pick a closely related time (by function). Can you use your brainstorming or creative thinking time to write? Can you use your professional time to edit?

If not, is there a just-before or just-after your ideal time that would work with your brain and your schedule?

If neither of those will work, then you’re going to have to use the time you have available, even if it isn’t ideal. But don’t use your editing time to write, or vice versa! They are opposite functions, and your brain will protest.

What do you do if the important people in your life *cough your family* have different schedules from you? Can you compromise on a middling time, between the ideal for either of you? Can you compromise on what activities you do together or how you do them? For instance, a Late could sit & talk for an Early dinner, but actually eat later. Can you compromise on whose schedule rules for different activities? Maybe you could give a little on sleep time in exchange for some writing time, or vice versa.

And, of course, “But when is the right time to write?”

Favorite Writing Books

Writing (Craft) Books:

The Emotional Craft of Fiction: How to Write with Emotional Power, Develop Achingly Real Characters, Move Your Readers, and Create Riveting Moral Stakes, by Donald Maass

Story Pitch: The How To Guide For Using A Pitch To Create Your Story, by Scott King

You Must Write: Success Through Heinlein’s Rules, by Kevin McLaughlin (some craft, some business)

Shadows Beneath: The Writing Excuses Anthology, by Brandon Sanderson et al

GMC: Goal, Motivation and Conflict: The Building Blocks of Good Fiction, by Debra Dixon

all the Emotional Thesaurus books, by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

Writing Fiction for Dummies, by Randy Ingermanson

Behind the Book: Making The Death of Dulgath, by Michael J. Sullivan

Story Engineering: Character Development, Story Concept, Scene Construction, by Larry Brooks

Steering the Craft: Exercises and Discussions on Story Writing for the Lone Navigator or the Mutinous Crew, by Ursula K. LeGuin

No More Rejections: 50 Secrets to Writing a Manuscript That Sells, by Alice Orr

The Guide to Writing Fantasy and Science Fiction: 6 Steps to Writing and Publishing Your Bestseller!, by Phillip Athans

How to Write Killer Fiction, by Carolyn Wheat

Aliens and Alien Societies, by Stanley Schmidt

Outlining Your Novel: Map Your Way to Success, by K.M. Weiland

The Plot Thickens: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life, by Noah Lukeman

Building Better Plots, by Robert Kernen

The Complete Handbook Of Novel Writing: Everything You Need To Know About Creating & Selling Your Work, by Writers Digest Books

How to Write Science Fiction & Fantasy, by Orson Scott Card

Wrede on Writing, by Patricia C. Wrede

The Fantasy Fiction Formula, by Deborah Chester

Characters and Viewpoint, by Orson Scott Card

Breathe Life into Your Life Story: How to Write a Story People Will Want to Read, by Dawn Parrett Thurston

Plotting Your Novel Workbook: A Companion Book to Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, by Janice Hardy

Writing (Business) Books:

Successful Self-Publishing: How to self-publish and market your book in ebook and print, by Joanna Penn

Let’s Get Digital: How To Self-Publish, And Why You Should (Let’s Get Digital, #1), by David Gaughran

APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur. How to Publish a Book, by Guy Kawasaki

Become a Successful Indie Author: Work Toward Your Writing Dream, by Craig Martelle

The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Getting Published, by Sheree Bykofsky

Public Speaking for Authors, Creatives and Other Introverts, by Joanna Penn

Author 2.0 Blueprint, by Joanna Penn

Pulp Speed for Professional Writers: Business for Breakfast, Volume 9, by Blaze Ward

The Secrets of Success, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch (it’s a single chapter/booklet, but a lot to ponder)

Smashwords Book Marketing Guide, by Mark Coker

HOW I SOLD 80,000 BOOKS: Book Marketing for Authors, by Alinka Rutkowsky

Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook, by Helen Sedwick

Writing Process, Book 2 (Part 1)

I learned so much from writing my first book, that when I decided to write a second one, I figured I’d be smarter. For instance, I’d plan the beats first, and figure out POV assignments ahead of time, and make a REAL outline instead of a few lines for each chapter.

Well, some of that worked out, but now I look back and laugh at my innocent confidence. For the sake of the timeline you probably don’t care about, I started book two in September of 2015, and finished the first draft in November 2017. There were a lot of “not working on it” months in the middle, though. That’s one of the two things I remind myself when I feel like complaining that I should have gotten faster, not slower. (The other is that I was now consciously trying to incorporate a lot of writing techniques and elements that I hadn’t even thought about while drafting book one.)

I did plan the beats, all laid out in the handy chart I invented for edits of the first book. I thought I was doing so well. Then I got book two half-written (in random chunks) and had to redo half the organization. What had been the midpoint moved to the first quarter, and a whole new event landed in the middle. Granted, it was more exciting that way. You’re welcome. (Thanks, Kyle!)

I assigned every chapter a point of view, also on my handy-dandy chart. That changed a bit as I changed the beats, but I mostly got it right. That was a relief, since rewriting POV in book one was one of my many headaches, and I didn’t want to go through that again.

As for a REAL outline… now that I’m working on book three, I can see how pitiful my outline really was. But, hey, it was better than the one for book one! I’m learning. I hope. I keep thinking I’ve got it right and then discovering how inadequate I am. (That’s normal for humans, right?) We’ll see what my plotting looks like when I hit book four.

Anyway, I finished the first draft, with the new organization, for NaNoWriMo in November 2017. I knew it wasn’t actually “finished,” but I’d filled in the blank chapters and done everything I knew how to do by myself.

After some editing in December and January, I started submitting chapters to my new critique group. As we went along, it quickly became apparent that some of the missing bits were description, setting, and physical cues. Apparently, those aren’t naturally strong points for me. (Don’t worry, I edit them until they’re good.)

That seems like a good place to stop for now. Thanks for reading!

If you’re a writer, what’s your favorite part of the process? Readers, what do you wish your favorite author would do better, and what does he/she already do fabulously?

Writing Process, Book 1 (Part 4)

After the writing conference and my failed experiment with an editor, I typed up all my notes. In the process, I remembered a comment from one of the panelists that, somewhat derisively, suggested hiring an editing STUDENT if the author simply couldn’t hire a real editor for $30/hr+. It sounded like a good idea to me. I contacted an editing teacher at a local college and asked if he had any students who might be interested in a job with (lower) pay plus portfolio experience. I got an answer within a couple of weeks, and soon had an editor hired. (If anybody wants to hear about my experience negotiating the contract, let me know. No, it wasn’t scary or awful.)

She took a few weeks to read my book, then sent me some comments, some related to the ending and some not. Her first suggestion for the ending was also unworkable, but she seemed to have some misunderstandings, too. I took several deep breaths and wrote back, explaining what I had intended. Then I waited anxiously to see if I was stuck in another dead end.

Fortunately, her next email was a lot better. She was able to point out where I had gone wrong with what I intended and suggest how I could fix it.

In brief, I’d put stuff off-screen that should have been on, spent too little time on certain important things, and neglected a confrontation with the antagonist that would signal “climax” to the reader.

So I rewrote the ending *cough* times, and sent the most-changed chapter to a few old beta readers. They said it was SO MUCH better, but had a few minor suggestions that led to still more tweaks.

About then, I read a book that said many of the same things I had just learned. I probably still wouldn’t have found my exact solution anytime soon, so I don’t regret hiring my editor. The book did help me with some of the smaller tweaks as I rewrote, including upping the emotional impact. In case you want to read that writing book, I sorted through my list of 100 “read” writing books for you. You’re welcome.

Now I’m sending my book out to beta readers for hopefully the last time, to see if the ending holds up under new eyes…

In the meantime, I’m sending book 2 through my critique group and starting book 3.

My next “writing process” post will probably start covering book 2, unless something shocking comes out of my last beta reads on book 1.

Crossing my fingers…

Update: Apparently I still have a few issues. Deep breath. I can do this. I can, I can, I can.