Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Happy holidays!

All I want for Christmas is...  a jump start on writing!  I haven't gotten anything further done since my last post, despite my goal to finish the novel by New Year's.  I'll be working on it this week, though, since I don't have to work my other job -- fingers crossed that the end will come quickly once I get back to work!  I'm sure I'm close.

I hope everyone's holiday is a happy one!

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Progress post-NaNoWriMo

Progress has been on the slow side since NaNoWriMo ended, but I haven't stopped writing.  My goal on days that I write is a thousand words.  Over the weekend I got there.  Monday night I only got about halfway.

But I also am developing a better idea for where the novel is going.  Some things that I planned in my outline are going to work, and other things are being changed.  I've changed the order of events in this end section several times, trying to find something that feels right and maintains the pacing I want.

I've updated the meter in the sidebar to reflect the current word count: 81,297.  That's up 2k from the end of NaNoWriMo, at which point I had 79,293 words.  Not spectacular, by any means, but none too shabby, either.

I'd like to finish the novel by the end of 2012.  I doubt there is more than 15k left, so if I write a thousand words every day, I ought to get there -- and then I can focus on rewriting and revising (starting with finishing the job on the first novel) in early 2013!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Where NaNoWriMo got me

NaNoWriMo is over, and I failed to post to my blog even once during the entire month.  I wish I could say that it was because I was so busy writing my novel that I didn't have time to write anything else... but that wouldn't be true.  I was busy, and I was writing my novel, but the two were unrelated.  As a result, I only got about halfway through my target word count for the month (25k instead of 50k).

I don't consider it a total failure, though.  I may not have a winner's certificate, and I didn't finish the novel yet (this being the novel of which I wrote the first half in August, during Camp NaNoWriMo), but I'm 25k closer.  I think I'll actually have an ending in another 10 or 15k.

But more importantly, I filled in some huge plot holes that were nagging at me, and completed some important research.  I also realized several things about the series, and that is that this book is not really Prometheus's Flame.  That is the second book, or rather a novella occurring after Pandora's Box and before this book.  I have an idea for a title for this one, but haven't finalized it yet, so for now it will have to remain a mystery.

My goal for December is to finish the current book (now Book 3, as I'm going to count the novella as its own book).  Once that's done, I'll let it sit and germinate while I perform the rewrites and the new-writes (scenes I need to add that got overlooked the first time around) on the first book.  As you may remember, I had done a round of simple revisions over the summer, but I'd left the hard stuff -- the scenes that needed to be totally rewritten, and the things I realized I'd completely left out -- for later.

Hopefully I will be able to maintain a steady enough pace without NaNoWriMo to keep me motivated (not that it succeeded so well at that this past session).  I have some writing friends I meet with regularly, including a few new ones that I made during NaNoWriMo this year, so hopefully I'll be able to maintain enough of a writing atmosphere to help with the motivation!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

NaNoWriMo begins tonight!

NaNoWriMo starts tonight!  I was originally planning on attending the kickoff party, but now I'm not sure if I will.  I've been fighting off a cold and feeling rather tired all week, and considering I have to get up early tomorrow morning, I'm not sure if staying out until 2pm tonight is really a good idea.  I do plan to start writing from home at the stroke of midnight, however; I'll put in 30 minutes or an hour, and get that head start on my word count before I go to bed.

Anyone else doing NaNoWriMo this year?

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Back from Chicago

Last week my husband and I went to Chicago.  We took the train there and back, which meant one night on the train each way, and three nights actually in Chicago.  Our primary reason for going was so that I could see the city, which I'd never seen before -- I figured if I'm going to be writing about it, I ought to at least see it!

While we were there, we rode the el, visited a couple of former speakeasies, took the architectural boat tour and rode the Ferris wheel at Navy Pier, and went to the Field Museum.  We also walked around the Loop and a few other areas, and I chose a neighborhood for Ruby's and Genevieve's apartment.

It was a busy but fun three days, and while in Chicago I was very excited about incorporating some of my new experiences into my novels when I got back.  Right now I'm feeling a bit of post-vacation laziness, but I know I will find the motivation to start work on my novel tomorrow night at the NaNoWriMo kickoff party!

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

It's almost NaNoWriMo time again!

I haven't updated this blog in a while, but I've still been working on my novels.  I did a round of minor revisions to Pandora's Box in June and July, and marked the novel for where I want to add or do major rewrites of scenes.  And in August, I wrote the first half of Book 2, thanks to Camp NaNoWriMo.

(On my books page, I've added the cover for Book 2, but I think I will be changing the title, which is currently shown as Ruby Ransome and Prometheus's Flame.  As I write the novel, it's taking a slightly different course than I expected, and I think the plot elements that go along with the "Prometheus's Flame" bit will have to be shifted back to Book 3.  So for now, I am simply calling the novel Book 2.)

The plan for NaNoWriMo next month is to finish Book 2 -- I have just over 50k right now, and I feel like I'm halfway-ish, so hopefully I'll be able to put in another 50k during November.  But if not, I am planning on writing some of the scenes I am adding to the first book and using those as word count in November.

And in the meantime, I have a little additional research and planning to do!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Revising... and revising... and revising...

I got a little behind on revisions early in the week when I had to finish an article in time for a deadline instead.  (I am not freelancing as much as I used to, but I still am a little -- together with my busy summer schedule, it seems I may have less time for my novel than I'd planned.)  It was like that one day of doing nothing on my novel got me back out of the habit, and I've been struggling with it ever since.  I do work on it every day, but usually I only mark up a page or part of a page, either because I run out of time or I run out of patience.

Initially I didn't think revising was very hard, but I no longer feel that way.  On the surface the job doesn't seem difficult, but after revising even a page I often feel drained.  It's mentally taxing to cut up your own work like that, to read and analyze and be so focused on perfection (or as near to it as I can get).

I have a lot else to do this weekend, babysitting and working around the house; also, since the hard drive in my netbook died last week and had to be replaced, I have to work on setting up that computer all over again, and also setting up my old Averatec laptop to be used on a more regular basis.  In the midst of all this, though, I am going to try to knock out 30 pages or so of my novel manuscripts.  My normal goal for the month of June is 10 pages per day, so this will be a drop in the bucket compared to what I should be at this point (90 pages tonight as opposed to the 26 pages I'm actually at), but it will still go a long ways toward getting me back on track!

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Beginning revisions

Camp NaNo has done it: It has broken the research barrier.  I've been putting off revisions of Ruby Ransome and Pandora's Box for months, until that illusive day comes to pass that I've finished all my research.  But under pressure to show some progress on the June session of Camp NaNo, despite the fact that it's not actually word count progress, I've started revisions anyway.  After all, I've done enough research to have an idea of what I want to add, so as I go through the novel I can just put in place markers for what I still need to finish researching.  For the majority of the revisions, though, research just isn't necessary.

Although I'd intended to focus my first round of revisions on the story and the history, I've found that I can't stop myself from marking up the text.  Things just jump out of at me, and I can't ignore it when I don't like a word choice, or phrasing, or a passage of description or dialogue.  So I mark it up.

So far, most pages look like this:


Please forgive the poor picture quality, but I don't think there's a way to take a screen shot on my Nook, and that's where I'm doing my revisions.  I'm doing them the way Stephen King suggests in On Writing -- reading through the entire manuscript, marking it up, and then going back in the actual file and making the changes -- but instead of lugging around the actual manuscript, I'm doing it in a PDF annotator app on my Nook.

But as you can see, the page is filled with orange boxes and text annotations.  (I chose the color orange to make it stand out readily without having the disapproving tone that red mark-ups tend to imply.)  It will be interesting to see how revisions go in this fashion.  I've never been a big one for revising -- with my blog posts and articles, I tend to revise as I go along, and then go back through one last time for revisions once the piece is written -- so revising a novel is pretty new for me, and I'm kind of figuring things out as I go along.

How do you do revisions?  Do you find this stage to be harder or easier than the actual writing stage?  I thought it would be harder for me, because I'm basically going back through my work and tearing it up, but I wrote it so long ago (and I'm more mature as a writer now, too, I think) that it doesn't feel as personal as it did when I was writing fiction in high school and college.  In fact, I think it's easier in a lot of ways, because it has already been written, it's already there; all I have to do is make it better!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The first session of Camp NaNoWriMo begins!

Camp NaNoWriMo started last night at midnight!  This is done a little differently than the usual NaNoWriMo in the fall -- it seems to be more relaxed, for one thing, and doesn't seem to have any of the official kick-off parties and meetings and write-ins.  Instead, you are assigned to a "cabin" with 3 to 5 other people, and you have a message board for communicating with one another.  You also have separate novel pages for both June and August -- since there is a session of Camp NaNo going on each of those two months.

All 3 of my other camp members started writing last night, and they are each at least a thousand words into their novels.  I'm doing things a little differently, as I mentioned in my blog post the other day -- I'll be revising November's novel this month, and writing its sequel in August.  I haven't actually started working on revisions yet, though I plan to this evening when I meet up with my local NaNo group -- most of us have known one another for years, thanks to NaNo, and although our meeting isn't official, we've all been meeting each week since November!

Wish me luck!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

The importance of backing up your work

I had a scary experience this week that is worth sharing.

If you write at all, be sure to back up frequently.  I used to, back when I used a computer that had a habit of crashing frequently, but I got complacent when I got my new computer.  So when the hard drive failed the other day with no warning, I hadn't backed up in three or four months.

I haven't worked on my novel since the last time I backed up, so I knew the first draft was safe, but there were some outlining and research notes and other various additions, such as images, that I would lose.  I actually would have lost more of my other work, my freelance writing that I do for clients, but of course if I had been avidly working on my novel more of it would have been at risk.

I lucked out: Although the hard drive was shot, the data was still recoverable.  I didn't end up actually losing anything, much to my relief.  But hopefully I've learned from my mistake, and will start backing up regularly again.

Hopefully you can learn from my mistake, too.  Especially if you haven't backed up in a while, back up now!

Monday, May 28, 2012

Camp NaNoWriMo

Camp NaNoWriMo 2012 badge
I made a discovery last week: NaNoWriMo runs in the summer, too!  It's called Camp NaNoWriMo, and it runs two months this summer, June and August -- as in, one novel each month (with a month in between for recovery, I suppose).

I've gotten a little sidetracked, which means I haven't finished my research and the first round of revisions on Ruby Ransome and Pandora's Box.  So in June I will not actually be writing a novel -- I'll be using June and July to complete a second draft of Pandora's Box.  I'm hoping to use it as a kick in the pants to get me going again, so that I will be ready to start the second novel -- the title of which I have not yet come up with -- on August 1.

I'll update my sidebar and replace all the old NaNo stuff from November 2011 with the Camp NaNoWriMo 2012 stuff -- my badge and a link to my stats.  Remember, unless I get creative and find a way to translate my revisions into a word count, I won't have any stats to speak of in June -- but definitely start checking (and I'll start blogging about it to remind you) in August!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

NaNoWriMo success story!

NaNoWriMo is long over, and I've stalled halfway through the research I need to complete before I do my first round of revisions.  For the most part it's simply because I've been too busy and the novel was one of the first things to get left by the wayside, but I'm trying to rein in my out-of-control schedule now so that I can once again devote some time to researching and revising my novel.

A recent post on a blog I follow provided some motivation.  Jessica Burkhart is the author of the Canterwood Crest series for horse-crazy tween girls, but she's also a wrimo (what NaNoWriMo participants are usually called around the site and forums).  Here you can read about how she wrote the first book of the series as a NaNo novel.

I understand what she means about a first draft being "ugly" after NaNoWriMo is over!  I feel like my novel has good bones -- I think I successfully captured the story and the general feel that was in my head -- but I also feel like I need to research certain details and develop certain aspects of the story a little more.

I don't necessarily want the same sort of success Jessica Burkhart found -- I'm less interested in traditional publishing, and leaning more toward digital self-publishing -- but I still find her story encouraging!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Vampire fiction and vampire romance: Genre must-reads

If you're a fan of vampire fiction, be sure to check out this article in the Chicago Tribune:

The vampire's allure

The article initially focuses on Anne Rice and everything she has contributed to the genre -- she was writing about vampires long before Twilight made it the next "in" thing -- but then goes from an overview of other modern favorites to a discussion of landmark classics in the genre, such as Dracula and Carmilla.  The list includes Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles, as well as other more recent series, such as the Anita Blake series.

On this list, I've only actually read Dracula, The Passage, and most of Anne Rice's books, but several of the others -- including The Vampyre and Carmilla, both of which predate the 1920s, the setting for my vampire world -- are on my reading list.  I've also seen the movie versions for a couple of the others, I Am Legend and Let the Right One In (the foreign movie).

What about you?  Have you read any of the highlights of vampire fiction mentioned in the article?  Also, do you think she's left anything out?  Sparkly or not, I probably would have included Twilight on the list, since we do have to give it credit for putting vampire fiction on the map again!

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Two self-publishing success stories

Self-publishing success stories like Darcie Chan's and Lucy Kevin's make me want to take a similar route.

Darcie Chan is the author of The Mill River Recluse, a highly popular literary novel that she self-published as an ebook after it languished in a drawer for five years.  Before putting it away, she had tried to get it published traditionally, but even once she finally found an agent, it didn't sell.  When she heard about e-publishing, she decided to try it, and the book has since become a bestselling self-published title.

Lucy Kevin is a pen name for a ridiculously proliferate author (12 titles in 18 months? seriously?!) who also writes under the name Bella Andre.  Bella Andre's titles are steamy romances, whereas Lucy Kevin's are lighter, chick lit-styled romances (and one YA title, Gabrielle, that seems to be exclusive to Amazon at the moment, even though I bought it from Barnes & Noble last year — perhaps she enrolled it into Amazon's KDP Select program to make it eligible for their lending library?).  Lucy Kevin has a new title out now called The Wedding Gift, which appears to be exclusive to Barnes & Noble.

Neither of these success stories came to be without a lot of work, though.  The article about Darcie Chan talks about how much work she put into marketing her book, and Lucy Kevin frequently attributes her success to her high output.  (It bears repeating: 12 titles in 18 months!  That's a finished novel every month and a half.  I wonder if she has ever heard of NaNoWriMo?)  She also talks about establishing relationships with booksellers and readers (a.k.a. marketing).

An interesting paragraph from the Lucy Kevin guest post:

Here’s what I’ve learned from it all so far: I really like not having to depend on one author name to maintain--and build--sales. Having two brands means I can build sales with new books while offsetting risks. We all know that diversifying our financial portfolios is a good money strategy. I’ve found that diversifying my e-book portfolio has not only been a good financial strategy, but as importantly, it had been a really lovely creative strategy, too.

I've heard this from other, similarly productive authors, as well.  Obviously I have to get through research and revisions first so that I can start on the next book in my series, but if I decide to start putting out books in different genres, I might try different pen names and personas, as well.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Designing a successful ebook cover

Another helpful link thanks to Barnes & Noble's PubIt page on Facebook took me to this article: 3 Secrets to e-Book Cover Design Success.  Since I've been thinking about self-publishing, and since I've already done some work designing a cover, I was interested to see what the article had to say.

Basically, according to this article, your ebook cover has to be simple, small, and branded — simple and small because customers have to be able to see and read the covers in those little thumbnails that show up in search results on Amazon, BN.com, etc., and branded because catchy covers sell better than those that are boring or don't have a theme.

Looking at my covers, I definitely have a recognizable brand, since I'm using 1920s postcards for all of my covers.  Customers will be able to recognize one of my books in the series right off the bat, even though the cover illustration will be different.  Even better, the brand I'm establishing here won't be confused with anyone else's covers because, to my knowledge, no one else is using old postcard images for their covers.

But do they shrink down well enough?  I'm not sure.  Here, I'll let you be the judge of that:


I think this size should be close to the thumbnails shown on Amazon and BN.com.  What do you think?  I know the "And Pandora's Box" is harder to read than the rest, but I feel like that part isn't as important.  "Ruby Ransome" is the part I want to stand out, and with a long title, I don't think it's realistic to want it all to be easy to read.

Thoughts?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Writing that second draft

I'm currently working on some more research for both the first book and the soon-to-be-started second book in my Ruby Ransome vampire series, but as I finish up with the research I will begin working on the second draft of the first book.  (I want to do the research first because there are a few holes I want to fix in the first draft.)

Revising is a pretty big deal for me, since this will be the first time in my entire life that I've done a second draft of a novel.  I've written novels before, but I've always simply put them away when I was finished writing the first draft.  I never revised them, never wrote a second draft (let alone a third or fourth) trying to make them better.

I plan to do many rounds of revisions on these books as I finish them, plus hire a professional editor, since my goal is to self-publish.  Having never done revisions, though, I'm a little anxious about how it's going to go.  I know that I'm going to start by reading through the entire novel and making notes about what I want to change, but I don't know what to expect from there.  I know I'll have to do some rewriting in order to bring the second draft up to where I want it, but I don't know how much it'll take, or how much additional research I will find that I need to do.

Thanks to Nook's PubIt page, I found this article with tips on writing your second draft, but it's only marginally helpful because it reads more like an inspiration piece than an actual how-to.  I also may have found an app (of course!) for my Nook that will help me with this stage, but more on that in a future post.

Perhaps in a couple of months I'll have some tips of my own for those who are starting their second drafts!

Prohibition

 It took me a little while to get back on track with my novel — our dog Emma has been sick with pneumonia for the past month, and all of the vet visits and medications and coupage, on top of everything else in my life, has hamstrung my efforts a little bit.

But I'm finally getting started on my research again.  Last week I started researching potential guns for Ruby to carry, and I think I've found one, but more on that in another post.  This post is about Prohibition — or, more accurately, Ken Burns's Prohibition.

My mom had watched all three episodes of the show back when I was working on the first draft of the novel, and recommended it to me then.  I was lucky enough to find them in their entirety on YouTube (otherwise I would have had to get the DVDs from Netflix, since it's not available streaming anywhere else, and I didn't want to buy it from iTunes because I wouldn't have been able to watch it on my Nook Tablet).

I've watched the first two episodes, and so far I'm impressed.  They provide fantastic information about the era — including some things that I should be able to use in my novels — and being able to see footage from the 1920s, including the entrances and interiors of the speakeasies, is invaluable as it will enable me to create a more realistic-seeming setting for my characters.

If you are interested in the 1920s, I highly recommend watching these, especially episodes 2 and 3 (since the first episode is more about the years leading up to the passage of the 18th Amendment — it's great as background, but not really about the 1920s themselves).

Enjoy!





Friday, January 6, 2012

New Years resolutions: Revise that novel!

It's been a while since I've posted, primarily because I have been taking a break from my novel altogether — I didn't even do the research I'd planned to do in December.  It worked out well, though, as I was quite busy in December.  Plus, I was able to get caught up a bit on my reading, which was very nice.

With the start of the new year, though, it's time to get back to business.  This week was a bit disorganized as I got back to my normal schedule, but next week I plan to get started on the research and planning for the second novel — and maybe a few things to add to the first novel as I revise, too.  Revisions have been pushed back a few weeks.  I'll consider February 1st my targeted start date.

I'll also be posting to this blog more frequently.  My plan is to include two types of posts: writerly posts, with information on word counts, the writing process, etc., and posts on the actual subject matter, i.e., vampires and the 1920s.

But for now, let's take a moment to admire 2012, stretched out before us: a blank slate, full of possibility!

Happy New Year!