On Research

Blogland,

Fun fact: researching angels is harder than you’d think.

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There are so many different versions of the same doctrine, books upon books upon books of religious texts that run counter to one another. One text might name four archangels, only to be deemed apocryphal by another sect that has their own angels!

As a non-religious person delving into the worlds of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam… woof. There is a lot to wade through here.

What I’m realizing is that I may have to blend some sources and make gut decisions, because these descriptions of the angels are just the foundation. They will grow into characters in their own right and become more than just names in a book. So, while I’ll continue to gather resources and learn as much as I can, I’m probably going to have to lean on my own creativity more than research when it comes to the angels themselves.

I’ve also started gathering images of landmarks from the Phoenix metro, along with maps, street names, and businesses. I grew up in the Valley of the Sun, but I haven’t lived there in over six years. It’s going to take some time for me to get into the setting and really bring it to life.

Things left to research include:

  • Catholic rituals, prayers, and saints
  • Churches in the Phoenix Metro
  • Demons and Devils
  • Spanish

My main character is bilingual, so I need to up my understanding of Spanish, and practice writing bilingual dialogue. Thanks to fanfiction, I have some experience with this, but I will have a lot more by the time this book is done. I also have an awesome online writing community that will no doubt help me with the Spanglish. Also, this is nanowrimo. If I’m uncertain about what Spanish to use, I’ll just put a note in red and figure it out during a revision when I’ll have more time to get it right.

I just got a couple more books from the library, and they both look promising. I should be on track to have a solid research foundation by the end of the month, and maybe even a thin outline! I’m not usually big on outlines, but I think having one will really help streamline things in November, especially since I’ll be working more than I originally anticipated.

So, despite some frustrations, research is actually going well. It’s getting the creative gears turning, and will help guide me when things get… iffy.

I plan on doing a Nano-eve post where I talk about my goals for the month and my strategies to achieve them. Granted, Nano-eve is Halloween, so we’ll see if I stick to that.

I’ll be back on Monday for the usual Goals Summary post. Until then, Bloggos!

 

BZ

OUT NOW – The Audient Void #6

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Issue number six of The Audient Void: A Journal of Weird Fiction and Dark Fantasy released just in time for Portland’s H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival this weekend! As usual we congregated at The Book Bin (Editor/Publisher Obadiah’s Indie Bookstore) to celebrate the release with readings from the contributors.

This issue is especially remarkable because graphic designer Dan Sauer did all the interior artwork this time, cranking out some really breathtaking pieces to accompany the poems and fiction. This issue’s cover art is by Allen Koszowski.

As usual, the poetry is stellar, featuring K.A. Opperman, Ashley Dioses, Adam Bolivar, and D.L. Myers. The fiction in this issue is nothing to sneeze at, with three outstanding stories from Michael Gray Baughan, Josh Reynolds, and Chris Kuriata.

If you’re at the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival & CthuluCon you can pick up a copy of this issue at the Hippocampus Press booth. If you’re unable to attend the fest, then keep an eye on the website shop. It’ll be updated soon!

And of course, this means The Audient Void will be open for submissions soon! Follow us on twitter and like our Facebook page to stay up to date!

 

 

BZ

 

 

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 34

Blogland,

This has been a weird week. My hours have been scaled back at the library, which adds a new layer of stress, but also allows me to really work on my writing. Silver linings, and all that. I’ve also been visiting the library just as a patron more, and it reminds me just how magical they are when you’re not on the working side of the desk. Add in a very long day of socializing for our best friend’s birthday (we went to a board game cafe and played all kinds of games for hours) and it was actually a nice week.

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This is a “Vision Card” from the board game Mysterium.

Last Week

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Finish The Fall of Ezra Clarke rough draft
  • Finish reading Foxglove Summer
  • Write/share one tumblr prompt
  • Record an episode of Santa Sarita

How’d I do?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Finish The Fall of Ezra Clarke rough draft
    furthest station
    • YES! There’s a bit of a story here, but yes!
  • Finish reading Foxglove Summer
    • Yep. Finished it Tuesday night as I expected. I also finished reading The Furthest Station.
  • Write/share one tumblr prompt
    • Yep! Practically wrote itself.
  • Record an episode of Santa Sarita
    • Nope. Didn’t get there.

Weekly Word Count: 8,079

Let me tell you all about this freaking short story. I got the idea for it back in January, but didn’t want to actively work on it until Exodus was “done”. And since it’s as done as I can make it right now, I figured this month was the perfect time to finish the rough draft of the tentatively named The Fall of Ezra Clarke.

I wrote 3700 words in a frenzy and then it flopped. All forward momentum crashed to a halt. But, I wasn’t upset. I figured this was really just the foundation, me exploring these characters, learning who they are, who they were, and who they might one day become. Not time wasted at all.

A couple days later I had a new beginning and another feverish 2500 words. And then the story ran out of gas and just… stopped. There was no where to go. Huh. All right, I thought. That’s disappointing, but let’s try something else.

So, while bouncing ideas off a friend in the writer’s discord I’m in (thanks neolith!), I restarted The Fall of Ezra Clarke five times. And though each initial paragraph felt good, the juice eventually gave out and left me perplexed.

The last time I had this much trouble with a short story was in the early days, when I wanted Lifelike to be an unreliable female narrator and I didn’t have the chops to make it happen.

That experience taught me that, when the story is balking, it usually means the perspective is wrong. I need to find the right person to tell the story. But, I’d already switched between the two main characters! It still didn’t work.

And then that weird part of my brain that only functions in the wee hours or after LOTS of caffeine said, “tell it from the space ship’s perspective.”Evil Kermit 27082018121756

Say what?

“You heard me.”

And so I did. I thought it was a crazy idea, something fun to write and experiment with but would ultimately fizzle out just like everything else.

Then I wrote it through, beginning to end. 6000 words in two days. I had a wonderful whirlwind of a time, following this voice wherever it would take me. I renamed the story, since it wasn’t about Ezra’s fall from grace anymore, and it’s now called That Which Illuminates Heaven. I know that the story’s too big right now, that it has some pacing issues and areas that could be honed in on. Points I want to drive home.But, hey, it’s just a rough draft!

I haven’t looked at it since. I want distance from it, at least a couple week’s worth, and will probably start revising it in October, once we’re back from Germany. In the meantime I’m going read Science Fiction short stories featuring non-human characters, specifically androids, robots, and mechs, so that I can get a feel for what’s already out there, and where my story fits in with the traditions already established. Then I’ll be ready to edit it into something wonderful.

See all this hope? That’s called the post-rough draft high and I am riding it for all it’s worth.

So, What’s Next?

  • Publish two blog postsmore human than human.jpg
  • Write/share a tumblr prompt
  • Record/share 2 episodes of Santa Sarita
  • Read two stories from More Human Than Human
  • Write chapter 7 of Sanctuary

That doesn’t look like much, does it? I’m hoping to do a bit of reading this week and catch up on my fandom content that I’ve been neglecting for original projects. Also, since I’m barely working, I’m trying to get more housework done, since it’s something neither of us are particularly gifted with.

Also, my best friend is in town from Sioux City this weekend, so that’s going to take a chunk of my time. Best to keep things straightforward.

So, lots of reading, a bit of fanfic writing, and some recording of my older fics. A laid back week ahead, but still likely to get some quality work in. I like it!

Submissions continue. They’ll probably do so for a while, because I’ve already submitted to most of the open magazines, which means I’ll soon be lurking around, impatiently waiting for other markets to open their calls for submissions.

I remind myself that this is par for the course. This is the real test of writerdom, perseverance. And so I shall persist, nevertheless.

Talk soon, Bloggos, when I come back to talk about The Furthest Station.

 

BZ

Let’s Talk About S…

Submissions! Duh. What did you think I was gonna say?

Maybe you saw the tweet that went viral lately, about the woman who made it her goal to get 100 rejection letters by the end of the year.  She’s having trouble reaching her goal because she keeps getting acceptances instead! Which is awesome! Good for her.

This year I also set a goal: submit two short stories for publication.  I set the bar low on purpose; it’s been almost five years since I last published anything, and I wanted to keep the pressure to a minimum. Which was smart of me since I’ve been low-key stressed about it this whole time. I’m pretty high anxiety, if you haven’t noticed, and trying to hold myself accountable for something as beyond my control as short story publishing is a recipe for disaster.

nervous kermit

Before I get into the nitty gritty of how this whole process is going for me personally, let’s talk about how I even decided where the hell to submit in the first place. It can be a daunting process. You have a story, you’re proud of it. You worked hard, brought it life, fostered it into the best you possibly could, and now you want to share it. But how?

There are some questions you’re going to need to ask yourself:

  • What is my story’s genre?
  • What length category does my story fit? Micro? Flash? Short? Novelette? Novella? You get the picture.
  • What pay-rate am I willing to accept? Pro? Semi-pro? Token?
  • How long am I willing to wait to hear back from a magazine?
  • How many attempts will I make before I call it quits?
  • Am I willing to revise per editor feedback?

There’s probably more questions that will come up as you move on in the submission process, but these are some good ones to have a prepared answer for before you even begin. Once you have a good grip on the above there are some resources to help you wade through the incredible ocean of publication options.

First and foremost is The Submission Grinder. This website has it all! Authors create a free account to track their submissions, and the website compiles the results into numbers other authors can use to make educated decisions about their own submission process.

This is the data on a magazine I am currently submitted to:

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The black dot is my submission.

The site also keeps track of all your personal submission stats. Where you’ve submitted, how long it was out, the outcome, if you received your pay or not, etc. You can search for markets (publishing lingo for magazines/sites/publishers, etc.,) based on genre, word count, whether they’re currently open for submissions or not, and their pay-rate.

Really, the only negative for The Submission Grinder is that it is only as accurate as the information it is provided. Not all authors use the site, so you never know if you’re really seeing the whole picture. But, it’s still a fantastic resource and it’s been my lifeline this year.

The second resource I use most is Ralan.com. This is a genre specific resource, a catalog of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror publications that is updated constantly. It’s been active since 1996(!) and though it definitely still hangs on to its early internet roots, it has been a really great way to find markets I might not have discovered otherwise.  There’s also pages for writing tips, links, and all kinds of related media. Markets are organized by pay-rate, and then alphabetically.

I would suggest Submittable next, mainly because a ton of publishers use this software to accept and organize their submissions. Make an account (it’s free!), and then start trawling through the Discovery page. That’s where markets have opened their submissions, and you might find an opportunity you wouldn’t have otherwise.

Moksha is another submission management software/website that some publishers use. It’s very similar to Submittable, and chances are you’ll end up with account on both. Submittable is a little more author -friendly, whereas Moksha is publisher focused. You won’t make an account here until you try to submit to a publisher that uses it.

I’ll recommend a new resource to me: QueryTracker is a website that helps writers connect with agents. I haven’t used it much yet, mainly because I don’t have a novel ready to submit to an agent. There’s a free and a premium option, but since I’m not actively seeking an agent, I’m just using the free service. You can search for agents based on whether they’re open to queries, what they want to read, and where they are based out of.

A recent discovery of mine is a magazine called The Writer. I found it at my library, and I’ve really enjoyed it so far. They have a classifieds section as well as a segment towards the end of each issue that lists upcoming conferences, publication opportunities, agents, and workshops. It’s a rotating theme, so each issue offers something different. Maybe it’s not as comprehensive as some of the websites listed above, but I think it’s worth recommending.

So, I have all these resources… how’s the submitting going?

Well. I think. Although it doesn’t always feel that way. Rejections sting, especially when the story makes it into the final round of consideration. Generally my stories are performing well, but not well enough to get that acceptance letter yet.

yearly submission data

I’ve submitted thirteen times this year so far, two currently pending, four personal rejections and seven form rejections. The Cost of Rain has made it to the final round of consideration twice, and Lifelike has done so once.

The Cost of Rain submission data
This is why The Submission Grinder is the literal best.

As you can see, different magazines have very different turnaround times. I think that’s been the biggest challenge for me, personally, because the waiting is just killer. I’ve been submitting since March and The Cost of Rain has only been out eight times. Lifelike‘s been out for submission since April and it’s only been to five markets!

Lifelike submission data

It had a really great run right out of the gate and made it to the final round, but just got eked out of acceptance. That was hard. That hurt, because there was so much hope. The longer it was out the better I felt my chances were, and therein is my biggest challenge with submitting.

No matter how good the charts and numbers look the odds of rejection are just as high, if not higher, than those of being accepted. There are no guarantees, the statistics only mean so much. Publishing is not an objective endeavor. Your story can be great, but if you don’t find the editor that feels that same way, it won’t matter. Storytelling and reading are subjective by nature. Taste and preferences will always play a role in the selection process.

This is why you hear stories about authors submitting manuscripts dozens and dozens of times. This is why you keep submitting until you don’t have any other options left. What do you do after that? Well, I don’t know yet, but I’ll be sure to tell you once I find out.

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It’s a datapad! I got it in a themed LootCrate and I have no regrets.

Thanks to The Submission Grinder I have a list of markets that I can send each story to. I wrote them down, and once I send them the story I cross them off the list. That way, if I get the dreaded rejection, I can pick another one and send it right away. No lingering, no pained searching for the next thing. Just open my Mass Effect themed notepad, pick a market, use The Submission Grinder to be sure they’re accepting submissions, and off the story goes.

Lather. Rinse. Repeat.

My biggest takeaways from this process so far are:

  • Submitting takes a long time
    • Very, very few magazines allow for simultaneous submissions. You have to submit to one market at a time and wait for their response. This sucks. Just keeping it real. But it’s the way of things right now, so be prepared to know what markets are open when so you can plan your submissions accordingly.
  • Rejections hurt, but they do get easier
    • Form rejections suck. Mainly because it’s a form rejection. Your story wasn’t selected, and it didn’t stand out enough for the editor to offer any personal commentary. Laaaame.
    • Personal rejections are good. I mean, they also suck. Like, the big one. It hurts more, because they usually include the editor saying how much they “liked the story, but…” I don’t want to read “but”. I want to read, “We’re happy to inform you…” But, personal rejections are good because they almost always tell you why they decided not to take the story. There’s an explanation of what scene didn’t quite work, or why the ending fell flat, or whatever the case may be. There’s constructive criticism and it’s helped me make subtle changes to address weaknesses in my stories I couldn’t recognize on my own. So, yeah, personal rejections suck, but they’re also good.
    • If you prepare yourself, have your handy-dandy notebook with markets to send to, submitting gets easier. You’re armed with a list of opportunities, of potential. Oh, this magazine didn’t want my story? Well, here’s a list of 15 more that might want it! Hooray! So, enjoy your pity party ice cream/popsicle/alcoholic beverage of choice while you pick the next market, and then get on with your day.
  • Every author you’ve read has been here and done this
    • Okay. Maybe not literally every author, there’s always those weirdos that make it big out of nowhere, but the vast majority had to duke it out over and over again with their short story submissions. They had to earn those professional sales and wage wars with themselves to keep fighting on. Don’t believe me? Check out the #ShareYourRejections thread on twitter. You’ll bSam J Miller rejectionse surprised at the rejections some authors have received! 
      This is just you slogging through the story you’ll tell to a whole generation of newbie writers some day. So believe in yourself already.

Submitting this year has been a HUGE learning process. I’ve worked really hard not only on editing my fiction into a level of polish that I believe will earn a professional sale, but in organizing myself in such a way that feels… professional. Submitting is teaching me the skills I need to keep writing and publishing, the skills I’ll need to turn this passion into a career. Skills like time management, setting and meeting personal deadlines, discipline, fortitude, and strong organization, virtually (my files), physically (my desk/papers), and mentally (navigating this crazy publishing world).

I hope my tips and transparency in this process are helpful for you. I’m learning my lessons and want to share, because maybe they’ll help you when you’re feeling low at the hands of your rejections. And maybe this post will help you move on to the next opportunity.

Good luck, Bloggos!

 

BZ

Editing Check-In #4

Hey Blogland. It’s been awhile since I’ve talked about my progress on The Steel Armada, almost a month actually. There’s been a lot of development, and I’m really excited to tell you all about it!

First and foremost: I finished the rough draft!

celebration

That’s a huge relief right there. I sent the final chapter to Madhu on August 1st, and could have sent the entire manuscript, but we both agreed that since she wasn’t ready send me hers, I should take the time to revise and edit the rough draft first.

Which was a good idea, because the ending was terrible. No, seriously. It was bad. It focused too much on a side character and didn’t wrap up the main character’s arc really at all. I knew it when I wrote it, but I was so relieved to be able to call it done that I just sent it off to her without fixing it first.

But, I’ve since spent a huge amount of time going through the manuscript and making the changes the story really needed. Namely, the ending, but there were some small lines that needed added or cut to make sure character motivations made sense to the reader.

Exodus Descent progress

So, that was $8.10 worth of printing at the library and 16+ hours of editing. I spent about 2 hours on each chapter, doing a minimum of three read throughs of each one. I’ll get into what that entailed in a minute.

I also came up with a new title for the project! Now, I haven’t really referred to it as The Steel Armada for months now, at least, not in my head. That title never fit the story I was telling, and it especially did not fit the story I have on paper now. So, I give to you, Exodus: Descent, my new novella.

Exodus Descent RD

After my laborious editing efforts last Thursday and Friday I promptly “shelved” the manuscript and did my best to put it out of my mind. I closed the Scrivener document, I didn’t look at the pages, I read for fun and played video games. Anything to keep my mind off of the project. I needed to manufacture distance without having much time to do so organically.

Normally, after completing a draft, I’ll put it aside for weeks or even months. But, I don’t have that luxury this time; I have a self-imposed deadline. I want to send the novella to Tim the Agent™ by August fifteenth. So, I had to distract myself.

I have to admit, it’s been very interesting to work with a deadline in mind. Having a firm date in mind has really increased my focus and drive for the completion of this project.

Then, today, I sat down and slowly worked my way through the manuscript again (this time on the computer) and made tedious changes to word choice, sentence structure, with an eye out for repetition or any vague lines. It was slow work that took up my entire evening, but I got the entire manuscript done. I’m calling it Draft 2.5. And that’s what I sent to Madhu tonight.

That’s the general update, but I also want to share a little about what this process has looked like over the last week. I’ve talked about my time rewriting the novella so far, including my internal struggle with the idea that the story is a novella in the first place. But what the heck did I do for 16 hours?

Well, I started by printing out the manuscript, including the cover page. Then, on the cover I wrote a legend for the meanings of the various ink colors I would use and a spot where I could count up the total tally of -ly, as, and was instances in the manuscript.

This is something I learned to do in college. Adverbs detract from your writing. Remember that Stephen King quote: The road to hell is paved with adverbs. As and was are both indicators of potentially weak or passive writing. Find them and you can hone in on where your writing is lacking and address the issue.

So, I read through the manuscript the first time just to read through it. If something is really jarring I’ll underline it so that I know to do something with it on a later read, but I don’t change anything otherwise.

On the second read through I go through and circle each and every instance of -ly, as, and was that I can. Obviously, out of 23k words, I miss some of them. And, I don’t fix all of them. That’s how you get boring, repetitive writing. But, it draws my attention to spots that I might want to change and helps me decide which sentences are a priority and which aren’t.

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That’s the second read through. On the third is when I finally whip out the red pen and put it to good use. And the green pen, for when I see something I really like or am proud of. Positive reenforcement is important, people! This is the stage that takes the longest time. I’m going through the entire manuscript, line by line, and making it the best I can this round. I’m cutting, rewriting, adding new material, anything it takes to iron out the wrinkles and get to the next stage of the manuscript.

And after that, I go back through and make those changes in the computer. Usually even more, smaller, tweaks happen in this stage simply because I’m seeing the words in a different setting. That’s why I do the bulk of my editing on printed pages in the first place, because getting a physical version of the manuscript changes how my brain perceives it and lets me see it in a more objective way.

work work work

And then I put it aside and do anything but think about the project. In this case, I read for fun and played Dragon Age: Inquisition for the bazillionth time. I let my mind wander away from the novella and relax.

Then, I came back to it today to make more small changes, this time on only in the computer. This is the honing phase, where I really implement elements of craft (what is this, college?) and make much more conscious decisions in my writing than I do in the initial writing process.

Once I got to the end I made sure both my Scrivener document and my .docx version were identical, and then sent it to Madhu for her feedback. Once I get it back, depending on how extensive the revisions need to be, I’ll probably print out another hard copy and start the whole process over again.

But, I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it. I’m hoping that there won’t be much new critique and that I can spend the last week just sharpening the writing before I query Tim the Agent™.

So, that’s the state of things right now. Once I consider it “done” I’ll post a Project Wrap Up and talk about the entire project from start (back in 2013) to finish. And then it’ll be goodbye to Val, at least for the time being, while I work on something new.

How exciting!

Talk at you all soon,

 

BZ

 

Editing Check-In #3

Hey Blogland,

I didn’t expect this post to take so long to get to. The last time I talked about this project was at the end of May; that’s how long it took me to write less than five thousand words on The Steel Armada. Yikes.

So, what’s the state of the book?

As of right now, The Steel Armada sits at 20,042 words. That includes the first two chapters, which will not be in the final cut of this story. Those chapters were really me finding my feet in this new world I’d built. So, I know right now that I’ll cut about 5,500 words when I get to editing.

I’ve started chapter 7, as of yet untitled, but I’ve got at least another 2k words to write for it.  Then there will be at least one more chapter, maybe two. So, that should put the final word count somewhere around 26k. Then subtract the two starting chapters… and it’s definitely a novella.

Now, here are my thoughts on this:

I’m focusing on one character’s specific storyline. There are more stories to be told, and who knows? They could all come together and form a novel, but as of right now there is no larger, over-arcing plot that connects them. But, I have the world and I have the people and the more I get to know both, the more stories will come. But, for right now? I’m just focusing on Val and her experiences in this relatively small arc.

There are some nebulous ideas swirling in my brain that take place in Exodus (the world I’ve built). I have a slew of characters (Val, Ethan, Mac, Reema, Marcus, Dorver, Mickey, Dean, Richard Elder, Mei, Cleric Richings, Moira… I think that’s everyone so far) and they all have the potential to have stories of their own. I think I will end up spending a lot of time in Exodus over the next few years, really getting to know them all.

This is the part where I feel the need to hammer out a plan, mainly because that’s my nature. I really like lists and plans. I want to have an executable course of action for any and every possible scenario. Type A personality, right here. But, writing doesn’t always fit the plan, and I don’t want to hedge myself in too much with my own desperate need to set expectations.

The (tentative) Plan

  • Finish Val’s Story
    • Madhu and I set a deadline of August 1st, to have our manuscripts complete and sent to one another for feedback. Once we’ve edited and incorporated each other’s thoughts, we’ll send them to Tim the Agent™.procrastinator
  • Figure out Exodus
    • This is a vague bullet point that really umbrellas a lot of stuff. This will be creating the organization for the project as a whole, outlining future story ideas, fleshing out characters and the world, etc. This also includes deciding if there is a novel in there somewhere, or just collections of novellas and short stories.
  • Prioritize
    • Once the above is done, it’s time to figure out what comes next. Do I continue in Exodus? Do I move on to my second novel, another giant rewrite project? Do I finish From the Quorum? Do I start something new? That’s a lot of question marks, which makes me nervous, but ultimately I’m excited. The Steel Armada has dogged my steps for five years; I’m ready to move on.

And that’s where I’m at right now. I’ve got just over two weeks to get these last few chapters done and get to the end of this story. I’d like to get it done sooner so I can do a few edits before I send it to Madhu, so… two weeks. Which means I really need to get writing.

The next time you hear from me about this project will be after I write “The End” on it. I’ll come back to do a sort of Project Wrap Up post, hopefully by the end of the month.

Until then, Bloggos,

 

BZ

 

Editing Check-In #2

Bloggos!

As promised, now that I’ve crossed the 10k word mark in my new draft of The Steel Armada, I’m back to discuss my progress.

The biggest takeaway for me so far is that rewriting is much, much harder than I expected. Not for the lack of words or ideas, because there’s no shortage of that. But, there’s so much sudden freedom and so many options for how I want to tell this story that I sometimes find myself uncertain how best to proceed.

This last week in particular I made a point to really hash out what it is I want to accomplish with this story. What story do I want to tell? Is my main character the best character to accomplish that? And so on and so forth.

The Good

The new manuscript is just shy of 15k words and it’s been a very illuminating process. I have completely re-imagined the world, and I like it much better. It makes more sense to me and to the characters, and feels so much more alive than my previous attempt. I’ve added a ton of technology, establishing my main character’s interests and what her every day life looks like.

There’s much more life on the page. The world exists beyond my main character, there’s movement in the background. There’s technology, food, religion, an economy. There’s so much more happening and it’s really just the beginning. I’m still exploring this world I’m creating, and though I’m sure not every detail will make it to the page (as they shouldn’t), it can’t hurt for me to know them.

Characters are much better developed. This is probably because I already knew them to some extent from the last draft, but they all feel much more real to me even in so few pages. I also like them all more in their current roles and settings. I’ve also created new characters. Some of them are critical to the story as it is now, and some of them aren’t, so there’s some work to be done in that area, but that’s okay. It makes sense that there would be characters in the world that might not make it into the final version of the book. As the world grows, so will the number of characters that come to life.

Which leads me to:

The Problematic

I have to figure out what the heck is going on in this book. By changing the world I effectively killed my original plot. That was a scary moment, let me tell you. Nothing like writing a book and literally have NO IDEA where its’s going.

But, I trusted the characters to take me where I needed to go. I wrote my way through until I came upon a story. It’s not as grandiose as the original plot, not so grand and ambitious. But, much closer to the types of stories I tell in my short fiction.

Which led me down an even scarier rabbit hole: Am I still writing a novel?

To be perfectly honest, I don’t know. I’m leaning toward a novella, at the moment, but have decided to ultimately take Madhu’s advice and put the concern on the back burner for now. Her words were, “Write the story, worry about the length when it’s done.” That’s some damn good advice, so I’m going with it. For now, I’m writing Val’s story, whatever that turns out to be.

(I just happen to think it’s going to be a novella)

Another big concern is that I’m going to have a lot of excess words. This is such an exploratory process, with rampant world building and characters popping into my mind like freaking daisies. Not all of it will make it to the final version, which means there will be a lot of editing in my future, all over again.

mushu daisies

But, that’s all right. Ultimately, I want this story to be the best possible version of itself. That was my goal for this year, Finish The Steel Armada. So, I just need to buckle down and figure out what that means. And to do that I just have to keep writing. The story will come, the editing will happen and eventually I can put Val’s story behind me and move on to whatever comes next.

Some Stats

  • added 9,798 words since last Check-In
  • decided on story themes and general plot
  • outlined three chapters ahead
  • considerable world-building and character development
  • lots of fun new tech
  • came up with some quality alternate title ideas

I need to write another 2k words by Thursday night to make my writing goals for the month, which will put me over the 15,500 word mark. Which means I’ll be back in a few weeks with my third check in, once I cross the 20k word threshold!

Hopefully another 7k words will offer some clarity in direction and let me set my sights on the ending of this story.

Until then Blogland,

 

BZ

Editing Check-In #1

Bloggos,

If you’ve hung around this site for any length of time, then you’ve probably noticed that I am in the middle of revising and rewriting my first novel. Now, I’ve never done this before. I’ve edited lots of short fiction, and other folks’ writing, but never something as time consuming and soul-shredding as my own novel.

I want to chronicle this adventure. I need to. This is a very reflective and solitary process, and I think best in writing. So, I need to write down my thoughts, ideas, and concerns. But, I also want to catalog my successes and my missteps.

The natural conclusion is to blog about it! I hope you don’t mind.

Some History

The original first draft of Vessels was completed in 2013. It was 47,000 words, too short even for the YA category, especially since it’s a fantasy novel. It was accidentally YA, but that didn’t bother me. I was willing to work with it. After letting it sit for months, I read it through and was pleasantly surprised.

It had issues; what first draft doesn’t? But, I liked it. I liked enough that I thought it had hope. That it was worth working on. I printed the manuscript out and promptly put it on a shelf to sit while I wrote my second novel.

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Such a momentous occasion, the printing of my first manuscript.

Years later I finally took Vessels down from the shelf, reread it, and began the chore of editing it the best way I knew how. Which is to say, incorrectly. I approached it as I had all my previous editing tasks: close reading, circling problem areas with weak writing, and tightening it up. Line editing. Not content.

I did my best, noted where content wasn’t working, but didn’t really know how to address it. I did my edits, gave it a new name (The Steel Armada) and sent off Draft 2 to willing Beta readers.

I really must thank them for their encouragement and patience as they waded through that mess of a manuscript.

They all had similar feedback, which was good. “Val’s motivations are unclear”, “the world isn’t real enough”, “I like the characters”, “dialogue is good”, etc. Fantastic feedback, detailed and concrete. My Betas were saints.

I accepted their criticism, acknowledged it as truth, and promptly put the project away again. This time to start school and slowly work on a third novel (still “in progress”, by the way).

And then last year I decided that I really wanted to work on my second novel’s revisions. But I refused to do that without finishing  The Steel Armada first. I thought it deserved at least that much, and that I could use the practice before turning my attention to a project I thought had more potential.

I also met Madhu last year, and we began our weekly exchange of pages for critique. Each week I diligently sent her my pages, read hers, and then filed away her feedback on mine for later consideration.  I avoided the project, pretty much for the whole year. It daunted me, intimidated me completely, and with the year I had I simply  didn’t have the energy to overcome that.

2018 – The Year of “Focus”

All of that changed at the beginning of this year. You might have noticed that I’m really big on goals. I like setting them, I like talking about them, and I really like reaching them. So, I had some tough conversations with myself and made the call. 2018 would be the year I finish The Steel Armada.

So, I reread the manuscript again. I still liked it, though I found even more issues that would need my attention. I slogged through chapters, taking Madhu’s feedback into consideration, and had some knock down, drag out fights with the writer I was five years ago.

Turns out I really hate revising. Like, really hate it. I have to reward myself for each chapter completed, give myself some sort of incentive to sit down and torture myself with a manuscript I was so far away from that I didn’t really know how to begin fixing it.

I was resigned to working on it, determined to do endless battle with my former self via the time capsule of my manuscript.

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Hard not to be inspired by that view.

And then I went to the OWC Writers Conference and had fresh life breathed into Val’s story. I came back more excited about the project than I had been since I wrote the first draft. I sat down to the task with new insight, new ideas, and so much enthusiasm.

And as I hacked my way through paragraphs I realized that what really held the story back was how small scale my original setting was. It was too small. No one could flourish there, my ideas were good beginnings but hadn’t grown into what they really could be. And the best way to fix that was to completely re-imagine the world.

Which means completely rewriting the book.

I was in denial. For about a day. I told myself that was ridiculous, just do the revisions and get on with my life. But I knew, that damn quiet and persistent voice in my head knew, that if I put in the work and made The Steel Armada the best book it could be then it wouldn’t have to be relinquished to the role of “learning experience”.

If I sit my ass in the chair and sweat over the keyboard for the rest of the year, The Steel Armada will be a novel I’m proud of. A novel I can stand behind. A novel worth publishing.

So, here I am, eleven chapters into my revisions admitting to myself that a complete rewrite is honestly the best course of action. And maybe I’ll find the right title for it somewhere in there while I’m at it.

And that brings you up to date on how editing is going in 2018.

A Look at the Stats

Pre-Rewrite:

  • Added 8,590 words to Draft 3 since 1/1/18
  • Cut one character and expanded another
  • Extensive world building including expansion of religion and socioeconomic systems
  • Improved character development, fleshed out backstories and motivations

Since Rewrite:

  • Added 3,861 words since 5/1/18
  • Extensive world building, including economy, religion, technology; more to come
  • Added another character, impact remains to be seen
  • Main character voice is a bajillion times stronger, all characters feel stronger, more fleshed out and distinct than previous incarnations

Of course, the downfall of a complete rewrite is that I have no idea what will cross over from the previous draft and what will crop up in the new one. There are already some serious question marks plot-wise that will need some deep thinking to resolve, but that’s true of all new drafts for me.

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The Facebook image that started it all.

I’m a Pantster, that wild breed of writer that has no idea where they’re going until they get there. Okay, I do some minimal outlining, and by minimal I mean, “Val goes to X place and talks to X person. They argue.”

So, now I’m basically drafting with the vague skeleton of the book that came before.  It’s utterly foreign to me, but really nice so far. I have a general idea of how the book will play out, while frolicking in a whole new setting.

And I am having a great time, as evidenced by my word count since Tuesday. Almost 4k words? That’s pretty intense. And it feels great! Now to keep this momentum going.

What are the Goals?

Hmm. As of this sitting, the only hard and fast goal is a minimum of 500 words a day. I am ahead of that schedule right now, but I’m still sitting down to work on the new draft each day. I’m going to add a bit right after I post this and see where that takes me.

I wanted to edit ten chapters before I posted my first “Check-In”, which I did. But, I’m not sure I should wait that long before my next update. Maybe each 10k words? That way I’ll check in every few weeks. The posts would be considerably shorter too, since there shouldn’t be quite so much to talk about. Let’s go with that.

I’ll have another Editing Check-In when I cross the ten thousand word mark. I don’t think I’ll be back again this week, but I will post again on Monday as usual, and I have the Cold Days review still in the works. Don’t worry, I haven’t forgot!

Until then, Blogland,

 

BZ

The Recap – April 2018

Bloggos! Where has this year gone? It can’t be May already, can it? That means we’re almost halfway through the year! Nope, nope, nope. This is not okay.

What were April’s Goals?

  • Edit 4 chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Continue submitting short stories
  • Build a backlog of 5 chapters of Sanctuary
  • Keep reading

How’d it go?

  • Edit 4 chapters of The Steel Armada
    • Close! 3.5/4. This project has been a lot harder than I anticipated. I have thoughts I’ll share later this week in my editing-centric post.
  • Continue submitting short stories
    • Done! Both Lifelike and The Cost of Rain are out for submission right now.
  • Build a backlog of 5 chapters of Sanctuary
    • Nope. Didn’t even finish chapter 3. This is both good and bad. Bad, because I need to get this project done and off my plate. Good, because that means my focus was on original content and not fanfic.
  • Keep reading
    • Sure did! I finished twelve titles in April! Ten graphic novels, one audiobook, and three novellas.

Total April Word Count: 10,431

April was mostly me blinking bleary eyes at my ancient MacBook screen and cursing my life. The revisions on The Steel Armada have been… trying at best. I proved my stubbornness to myself, my determination to see a project through. I’m proud of the work I’ve accomplished so far, but it’s time to admit that this book needs more than I’m giving it. More on that later this week.

I’ve submitted two short stories this month, and both are still pending. That’s a good thing. The longer the stories are out, the better my chances. I’ve received two rejections so far this year, one form and one personal. I used the feedback in the personal rejection to tweak The Cost of Rain and look forward to seeing how it does this round. Submitting is nerve-wracking work, but it gets less so the more I do it.

Sanctuary has become something I work on when I have time to spare, which is exactly how it should be. I add a few lines at a time, a paragraph here and there. It’s a fun little escape and a good place to get the writing day started. I still like it, and definitely am committed to finishing it, but it is not my top priority.

Binti-Trilogy-nnedi-okorafor-e1511508509714

I read a lot of graphic novels in April, as well as the Binti novellas. Lots of quick and small stories to get me through the month and pad my reading challenge.

Honorable Mentions?

I posted thirteen blog posts this month. Three book reviews, five goals summaries,  one monthly recap, and four miscellaneous posts. The blog is seeing the most traffic ever, with April getting the most views in a single month in the seven year history of To Write These Words Down…

That feels good. So thank you all for visiting this site and reading along on my adventures in writing!

April was also a month of adventure! Madhu and I attended the OWC Writers Conference, which you can read all about. I learned that she’s a “Walk ‘n’ Talker”, as we went for a walk on the beach and shouted over the wind to discuss our stories. I took risks and networked. I met people, which is like one of my biggest social anxieties so, yeah. I did that.

the audient void no 5The Audient Void published its fifth issue, and opened submissions for issue #6. You can purchase a copy or submit now!

I’m proud of April’s word count. It’s not as stellar as March or even January, but it’s the reflection of solid, difficult work. That makes me happy.

So, Now What?

  • Write 500 words/day for The Steel Armada
  • Write 2 chapters for Sanctuary
  • Continue short story submissions
  • Keep reading

Madhu and I took a walk in a local park this morning to discuss our plans and goals for our manuscripts in the coming months. It was nice. I don’t get outdoors often enough, which was made apparent by my shortness of breath as we climbed a modest hill. And now that the weather is clearing up (maybe), I hope to take more walks.

So, what I’ve been hedging around and still won’t get into too much detail about here, is that I am going to do a complete rewrite of The Steel Armada. It’s what’s best for the book, no matter how much it scares me. The fact that I’m so daunted by the prospect of rewriting is another good reason to do it.

Basically, this was the very first manuscript I ever finished which is amazing in an of itself. But, the story can be so much better, can become so much more, if I take the bones of what I have and build something entirely new out of them.

At least, that’s what I think. That’s what I feel. What I know is that I cannot continue to work on the book the way it is now. There is no light at the end of its tunnel. And I do not want to put all this effort into something that is ultimately a dead end.

So, I’m starting fresh. A lot of material can stay, all of the characters I’ve built will remain, but the world and how they live in it has to change. And for the first time, I’m really excited about those changes.

Again, I’ll really hash out these details in my Editing Check-in post later this week, but I couldn’t really talk about May goals without sharing this decision.

Writing Sanctuary is going to be my treat to myself. If I’m meeting my The Steel Armada goals, then I can work on fanfic where there is much less pressure. Plus, it’s just fun to write. It’s self-indulgent and judgment free. I need a project that doesn’t feel like life and death.

Short story submissions are on track and I will be sure to update the blog as soon as I hear anything. I’ve got a good list of potential markets to submit to after this round, and I plan to write a post about this process later in the month. I also have some new short stories I’m slowly drafting, though I have no plans to work on them at all this month. I want to get Sanctuary and The Steel Armada done before I really focus on any new content.

Reading is still a priority, but I have a nice cushion in my reading challenge, so I’m going to revert back to a more leisurely reading pace and focus more on writing in May than I have this year so far. Expect book reviews to slow down this month.blackfish city

Right now I’m reading Blackfish City by Sam J. Miller, which is super interesting so far. It’s definitely the right book to read while I dig into this rewrite as it has a very similar vibe as what I’d like to have in The Steel Armada.

So, that’s May. It’s daunting. There’s a lot of work to get done, starting today. I have to write 500 words of a new version of a book I wrote in 2013. It sounds scary, but 500 words?

I can do that. Like, super-di-duper quick. 500 words is nothing. Which was my point in making it the goal. What’s 500 words? Pffft.

And if those 500 words go well, suddenly it’s 1000. Or 1500. It grows into something bigger than anticipated, leaving me feeling accomplished and energized to get more work done.

So let’s get to it already!

 

BZ

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 16

Blogland,

It’s that time again! Let’s talk about goals!

Last Week

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit chapters 10, 11, and 12 of The Steel Armada
  • Revise The Seasons per feedback
  • Finish reading Binti: The Night Masquerade
  • Review Madhu’s pages

How’d I do?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit chapters 10, 11, and 12 of The Steel Armada
    • No. But, there was some good work done in this area. Turned out that, due to considerable rewrites, I had to do some major restructuring. Scenes moved around and caused a bunch of trouble. So chapter 9 had to get completely reworked (again) and I got a good chunk of 10 done. So… 1.5/3. I’ll take it.
  • Revise The Seasons per feedback
    • Done. I got a lovely personal rejection from PseudoPod earlier this month that had some quality suggestions for making The Seasons more effective. Per that feedback I added 100 words and discovered a new title for the piece: The Cost of Rain.
  • Finish reading Binti: The Night Masquerade
    • Yarp. I’ll have the review up sometime this week.
  • Review Madhu’s pages
    • Yep! Always do!

Weekly Word Count: 1,930

I also did a proof read and final tweak of Lifelike. I felt pretty good about how it turned out. This piece is one I’ve worked on for almost 7 years now (of and on) and it’s taken many, many forms. I believe this is the strongest it has ever been, and the strongest I can make it at this time. So, I sent it out for submission Saturday night.

Monday morning Fireside Fiction opened their submission window, so The Cost of Rain went out to them. I’m feeling quite writerly today with two short stories out for consideration. Got my Big Girl Writer Pants on. Woo!

april whiteboard

One of my goals for 2018 was to submit two separate short stories for submission. It’s not even May and I can cross this one off the list!

What’s Next?

  • Publish 2 blog posts
  • Edit 3 chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Write 500 words of Sanctuary
  • Research more short story markets
  • Review Madhu’s pages

I’ve got two book reviews to write and another announcement to share this week, so there will be no shortage of activity on the blog. I’ve been itching to get back to Santa Sarita these last couple weeks, so it’ll be quite nice to spend a little time with Reyes and Sara again as I work on chapter 3 of Sanctuary.

With two stories out for submission right now, I need to line up the next few magazines I can submit to if both are rejected this round. I’m only submitting to markets that pay the minimum professional rate ($0.06/word), but if I exhaust those options without success, I’ll start considering semi-pro markets. I will not submit to non-paying markets. I have my token publications, the feathers in my proverbial cap. I’m done with that.A Reminder of Horace Greeley's Past Record

Madhu is going to send her next round of pages to me this evening, so I have that to look forward to. She’s almost done with her rough draft which is awesome! She hasn’t been working on this project for very long at all but she’s been very diligent and hard-working, pumping out those pages.

Which leaves me with the glaring truth. I really, really need to hold myself more accountable with my editing goals. I need to get through this draft. I keep telling myself that this is the hardest one, this is the draft where all the big changes happen. Characters meld, disappear, and maybe even play bigger roles than anticipated. Worlds develop much further than I ever thought they would. Magic becomes less fantastical and more intrinsic to the story and world.

The fourth draft will iron out the wrinkles from this much more disruptive draft. And the fifth draft will make it the best book it can be.

That’s what I keep telling myself. I’m not sure if I believe it. And I’m not sure that it really matters if I do. The work has to get done, regardless. And I am stubborn enough to keep trudging through this process until I am satisfied with the end result.

So that’s the game plan for this week. Fairly relaxed, other than the editing. Hopefully that means I can get a lot of work done. Chapter 10 is an almost complete rewrite, but 11 and 12 aren’t. Maybe I can finally get through them.

I’ll be back a bunch this week with various posts, so keep an eye out!

 

BZ