Week 1 Goal Assessment

Blogland!

Last week was the first week in which I set pretty firm goals for myself since school ended. I’ve got the whiteboard up and am using it consistently. Last week’s goals included:

  • The Martian Book Review
  • The Audient Void edits
  • Since the Fire into draft #3
  • Two blog posts
  • Write chapter 7 of Jordinn’s Story

How did I do?

Well, I posted the book review for The Martian, as well as completed The Audient Void edits. So that’s great. I technically did finish the edits for Since the Fire last night, but they weren’t finished in the computer until about 20 minutes ago. So, that’s close. Also, I feel really good about the changes. I consider it done until I seek out further feedback. And then I even wrote over 1,000 words of Chapter 7 of Jordinn’s Story, plus some reorganizing and outlining.

I also was a bit naughty and compiled all the separate Cards chapters into one correctly formatted manuscript. It totals 239 pages, and 63,005 words. Not too shabby.

So overall, not a bad first week. I didn’t sit down and write that second post like I wanted to, and I didn’t quite make my writing goal, but after two years of very limited fiction writing, I’ll take 1k words. I’m dubbing week one back a success!

Why didn’t I complete these goals? Because I cleaned out the garage and unpacked a bunch of boxes instead. So, still a very productive week. I’m happy.

So, on to this week? What’s the plan?

  • Coraline Book Review
  • publish 2 blog posts
  • Finish chapter 7 and write chapter 8 of Jordinn’s Story
  • Start edits on The Portrait of Sterling Madison

Unofficial goals include finishing The Obelisk Gate and Elric of Melniboné. I only have an hour left on Elric, so that should get done tomorrow or Thursday at the latest. And less than 100 pages to go for The Obelisk Gate, so hopefully I can get a good chunk of it done tonight.

Anyway, there’s a brief update for you all. Keep an eye out for the Coraline book review, as it will be up before the weekend!

See you all soon,

 

BZ

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Fab Fables is HERE!

Hey guys!

I knew this was going to be a crazy week, but man! Worked a long day today, helping a co-worker who was too ill for her shift. Hence the late post. Today I had about an hour and a half of French homework, plus a chapter test to complete after said shift.

Then Trevor and I met with one of my co-workers to help her with a homework assignment. She’s in a Marriage Counseling class, and she had to interview a married couple. We were the couple and we had fun with it.

I did manage to finish The Star Scroll yesterday, so keep an eye out for a review sometime this week. I started reading Firefight today, and if you follow me on twitter or Goodreads, you know that I’m already in love. I’m going to burn through this book, that’s for sure.

Also, I will post my Writing Excuses, Week Three soon. I promise!

And of course, the real news! Caladria went live yesterday, opening the world to fans and releasing the inaugural issue of Fab Fables! Check it out here!

I just wanted to stop in and say hi! I’m still here, just reeling from the homework that snuck up on me over the weekend. You’ll hear from me again soon, Blogland.

BZ

Symptoms of the Learning Process

Mornings.

Generally, I’m not a fan. But, some are better than others. Those mornings I open my eyes, and they see. Blurry, because I don’t sleep in my corrective eyewear, but the images the magic of my eyeballs capture is filtered and understood by my brain. Those mornings my brain functions, and well. I’m filled with purpose, and ambition, and goals.

And on those mornings, I tend to achieve them.

And then there are the other mornings. Mornings like today. Where I open my eyes, and everything’s blurry, and it means nothing to me. I don’t see the ceiling of my bedroom. I don’t register the smell of the spring breeze.

I just know that I’m awake, and I am not amused.

These mornings are slow. They start sluggish, with me lying in bed for much longer than necessary, blinking away the remnants of interrupted dreams. I flick through techno-news, but don’t really understand, or form thoughts about the things I read.

Because my brain isn’t there yet.

I’ll get up. Dress. Brush my teeth. Drive to work. It’s the drive where I seem to come to. I think it’s the music. Today’s wake up song was Johnny Cash’s rendition of ‘Hurt’. A depressing song to start my day to, but sitting in the warmth of spring sunshine, it wasn’t so bad.

So, two and a half hours after opening my eyes, I’m sitting, freezing in the Starbucks lobby. Seriously. It’s 55 degrees outside, why in the dickens is the AC on? And everyone else is wearing shorts, trying to get as much UV as their pasty skin can handle.

Anyway, I’m up. I’m here. And it’s time to get to work.

In my last post I made some lofty goals. I planned to finish chapter 10 of ‘Cards’, as well as edit both chapters 3 and 4 of ‘Vessels’.

I’m here to say that I killed it!

Chapter 10 is done, and awesome, building characters and the world. And it was FUN. A new-ish character has asserted himself, and it turns out, he has a good sense of humor. And he’s good natured. He helps temper all the darkness in my other two leading men.

And, I edited both chapters, as planned. It’s been an awesome week.

Yesterday I took a day off from writing and editing, and focused on my ‘Alloy of Law’ experiment. I’m just over halfway through the book, and I’ve learned a lot. Mainly, I am way, way, way too critical on my writing. And it’s keeping my word counts low.

A typical Sanderson chapter

A typical Sanderson chapter

I could write a six page short story and not have a single adverb, ‘was’ nor ‘as’. And I could make it work. But, trying to do that with a 50,000 word novel is just brutal.

Sanderson averages four ‘-ly’ adverbs per page. Now, I haven’t actually done the math to say that, but, it’s the number I seem to write the most. I’ve been a circling fiend, and I figured out something.

There’s a difference between using passive voice and bad writing.

Passive voice isn’t inherently bad. Sometimes you have to say how it WAS. There is no other way to say it, unless you take all the voice out of your work, and create these clunky sentences that just don’t quite work.

But, if your entire story is in passive voice, then that’s bad writing. There is a balance to be struck. A line to be walked.

I’ve spent a lot of time trying to delete ‘bad writing’, that I didn’t see that the sentences I crafted instead, though technically stronger, weren’t actually helping the story.

I’d forgotten that I chose to leave the literary short fiction world behind. I’m reading and writing ‘popular fiction’, aka slumming it. And I love it!

Sure, my prose isn’t the most poetic. But, my writing is clear. You can read it and see the world, know the characters and be transported. That’s what I want.

I’m a little bummed that this realization has come after editing 4 chapters of my manuscript, because I fear I’ve done more harm than good, but I refuse to go back. All the chapters need to be in Draft 2 before I go back to chapter 1.

Ready for Retype!

Ready for Retype!

That’s the deal I made, to keep from getting caught in the editing loop. And, despite what I’ve learned from my critical approach to ‘Alloy’, I’m still going to circle and count these potentially offensive words. Because, while they aren’t synonymous with bad writing, they could be symptoms of it. I still need to be aware of their presence, and just how many I have. But, my perspective on how to use them, and how many can be in one chapter have changed dramatically.

I’m looking forward to editing future chapters.

Also, while I like ‘Vessels’, and think it’s good, I don’t think it’s good enough to publish. My mother will despair at the idea that Val and Ethan won’t someday be in print, but I see ‘Vessels’ for what it is.

It’s my first novel. It’s the start. Where I made all the rookie mistakes that I can’t quite see right now. It’s where I learned to write a piece of any sort of length. And where I learned and developed a writing process that works for me.

And that’s why I’m going to continue to edit it. I’m going to get it as close to ‘done’ as any other piece I’ve worked on, and treat it as if I want it published. Because, let’s be honest, you never know what you’re sitting on.

Ready for Retype!

This chapter took some work!

And because, if ‘Vessels’ taught me my writing process, it can teach me my editing process. It’s a learning experience.

And I won’t throw that away.

Anyway, my brain has finally caught up with my day, and it’s time to get some fiction in!

 

BZ

Writing and the Community

A table finally opened up! I’m  not sure why Tuesdays are so hopping at the Bux, but for a solid 20 minutes it was standing room only. Not a very good way to write fiction.

Yesterday was productive. Slow, when I think about the time spent at the computer and the number of words produced, but it still felt good.

I ended my day at just over 2500 words, and chapter 7 is almost done. It’s gonna be a long one, and there was a lot of worldbuilding to be done, so I’m running a bit behind my ‘outline’.

Which I consider a good thing. It means the book is growing, leaving the constraints of outlining behind and becoming something real. Something alive. Plus, it means my word count will be more than anticipated, which is a good thing. For me.

So, first on the docket for today is finishing chapter 7. If the juice is flowing I’ll move on to chapter 8 and see where that takes me.

If chapter 7 fights me, as it did most of yesterday, then I’ll give my brain a break and turn to editing chapter 2 of ‘Vessels’. I have it sitting out, teasing me, and I’ve got to say, I’m eager to tear into it.

I wanted to take a moment to thank you all. I came to WordPress almost three years ago with no expectations. A retired Literary Agent spoke in one of my creative writing classes and suggested blogging as a way to keep yourself accountable and a way to get your name out in the ether.

Those who have been with me longest know that I struggled with the accountability aspect for a long time, and when I lapse between projects the blog suffers too. Sad, but true. Though I’d say I’ve made strides in this department since I started ‘Vessels’.

My writing has not only been more consistent, but it’s getting better. Practice doesn’t make perfect, but it sure as hell helps.

Now, as for getting my name out there… I really didn’t care three years ago. I had no fiction published, and no attachment to a last name I’d always resented. But, a lot has happened in these years. Four short stories have been published under that last name, and as I find myself hurling toward the date when it will no longer belong to me, I’m panicking.

I may have talked about this before, but I’m going to continue to publish under my maiden name. It’s a standout name, and I’m the ONLY Brittany Zelkovich in the United States… Possibly the world. Though I’ve never checked that one. It’s become precious to me, a representation of the brand I am trying to build.

But, the blog wasn’t an instant fame generator. Obviously. We all know that. I’d get a view here or there, and I would titter and bounce with excitement. I still do when I see the views reach toward higher double digits.

It’s exciting! To know that people I would never otherwise meet or know can read my daily thoughts, and comment on them. I now have conversations with writers all over the world. People who write totally different things than me, whose fiction I might not read if I didn’t follow their blog.

And thanks to Twitter, this community is really burgeoning. The writing community on Twitter is large, and while a lot of people are pushing their self-published books, and pushing them HARD, a lot of other people are having great conversations about the Writing Life. We can commiserate when we know the last hour spent will actually end up cut out of the finished work, and share the joy when one of us lands an Agent, or even better, an actual publishing deal.

The internet, and the social media I participate in, has made the world so much smaller. It has brought me into contact with so many people that I can’t help but be grateful. It’s truly amazing.

And so I want to thank you all. For reading. For responding. For sharing my blog or Retweeting something of mine. For all the Favorites and the Likes. And for all the support these past three years.

I came to WordPress with no expectations, and have found a virtual home. A community I am proud to be a part of. Where I can share thoughts, ideas, and my woes at being a writer, and have people there to remind me that it’s all worth doing.

Also, just a small, very small, celebration. The blog surpassed 1500 all-time views a few days back! And while this is horribly pathetic to most other bloggers, I think it’s amazing! I smile every time I see the numbers on my stats page.

So, with that smile, and the warm, fuzzy feelings from the internet, I’m off to finish chapter 7.

Have a great day Blogland!

 

BZ

Apparently, Rowling Should “Stop Writing”

Hello, Blogland!

Today I want to address an article that Anne Rice’s Facebook page brought to my attention. Read it here!

For those of you who don’t want to read it, no worries! I’ll sum it up here.

Basically, a ‘professional’ writer woke up on the bitter side of the publishing bed today. Or whatever day she wrote this. In the article she states that, if JK Rowling truly cares about writing, she would stop.

Say what?

So, apparently JK Rowling is monopolizing the adult fiction scene, and ruining other authors’ chances at higher sales and fame. But, instead of praising Rowling for her marketability and success at creating a brand name,  instead of wondering how to recreate this success in her writing and publishing, this writer takes the easy way out.

She thinks Rowling should stop publishing.

“By all means keep writing for kids, or for your personal pleasure – I would never deny anyone that – but when it comes to the adult market you’ve had your turn.”

I think this is preposterous. She is literally asking the competition to stand aside. Because that ever works.

Would you ask Stephen King to “stop publishing” because he’s published so much already? Or Brandon Sanderson? Or James Patterson? What right do you have to ask someone to stop doing anything? Let alone an author who’s sales make you look like a joke.

There are a couple things that do need to be taken under consideration, however.

This ‘writer’ is based in the UK. So, while I barely knew JK Rowling was writing adult fiction, I’m sure the marketing across the pond was pretty extensive.

Also, what does the writer of this article read? Does she only read adult general fiction? Or just crime novels? If that’s the case, then yes, the shelves would seem inundated with Rowling’s new works. But that’s because of her limited view of the shelves.

I know that I had no problem finding new books, or authors, over in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy section. In fact, outside of the “What’s New” shelves cloistered in the bookshop’s center aisle, I was hard pressed to find The Casual Vacancy’. I didn’t even know about ‘Cuckoo’s Calling’ until this article was brought to my attention.

But, again, I’m on the opposite side of a nation an entire ocean away from the world she’s living in.

But, I still have to ask, what bookstores is she frequenting? Because, if it’s just the big name franchises, then yes, Rowling’s novels will be pushed. Hard. But, if you’re frequenting your local, small shop, you’ll see a small stand suggesting just released novels. Maybe Rowling’s will be there. Maybe not. It all depends on how much it costs the bookseller.

So, dear professional writer, maybe it’s not Ms. Rowling’s fault that you find her book at every turn. Maybe, just maybe, you should try broadening your reading horizons, as well as giving indie booksellers a chance.

Also, if you ever want to be HALF as successful as good old J.K., you should be taking notes, not whining about how unfair the market is.

What do you guys think? Should popular, successful authors bow out to those of us still struggling?

I don’t think so. I think that would stifle a lot of writers. Firstly, it wouldn’t be so hard to get noticed, because there wouldn’t be giants engulfing us in their epic sales’ shadows. That would take some of the joy out of getting published. At least for me.

Also, it would terrify me. You wouldn’t want to get too good at your craft, because you’d get too popular and have to give it up in order to make way for the newbies.

It’s just not realistic. It’s not how life works, in any way. So, I hope Ms. Rowling doesn’t let this writer’s article on HuffPost have any sway on her writing.

It would be a shame.

 

BZ

The Novel Repeatable Routine

So, now that ‘Vessels’ has been sitting, and fermenting, people keep asking when I’m going to “get it published”. Because it’s that easy. Let me just knock on Tor’s door, or even Delacorte’s, and say, “Hey, you really should pay me for this.”

But, it is something that I need to start thinking about. How do I want to go about publishing this story?

Well, the first thing to really decide on, is if I think it’s worth it. If, upon reading it for the first time as a whole piece I think it’s got enough potential to spend the months editing and adding scenes, then that’s where I’ll start.

In order to begin that process, I need to buy a printer. I’ve got my eye on a simple little machine. No frills. It just prints, and apparently pretty well for its size and price. It’s only $30, so even if it broke after printing the novel once, it wouldn’t be that big a deal.

I also need to get a binder, and probably a pretty big one, that can hold the novel in its entirety, as well as all the edits and added scenes that are sure to come along.

Then I’ll print it out. All of it. And I’ll read it all. Preferably in one sitting, if I can. I’ll read it just to enjoy it. Read it like any other story. I won’t take notes, I won’t edit, and I’ll try to keep the mental cringing to a minimum. And from there I’ll know if it’s worth pursuing. But, I really already think it is.

So, if it’s got the potential, I’ll read it again, looking for any gaps and glaring plot holes and clunky scenes. Then, it will be time to edit. I’ll go chapter by chapter, tearing it to pieces. Addressing plot holes, poor grammar, spelling, weird sentence structures, and generally cleaning it up.

My goal will be a chapter per week. And I’ll go in order. So, I’ll read and edit chapter 1 until I think it’s ready for the retype. I’ll retype it, and then print the fresh version. Then I’ll move on to the next chapter. Lather, rinse, repeat. Until the whole novel is on its Second Draft.

Then I’ll read it again. This time really looking for consistency. Making sure that characters are fully developed, that scenes flow, that the pacing is good. And once it’s officially on the Third Draft, I’ll let the people close to me read it. Trevor, my best friend, people in my writing group. I’ll let my mom re-read it, because she reads all the original drafts of my work, as an ego booster for me.

Then I’ll edit further based on feedback from the readers. Once that’s done… I think it’ll be time to start looking for an agent. But of course, that all depends on how I think the editing goes.

But, how long do I wait. How long do I submit to agents and editors, before I decide to say, “screw it” and publish myself?

I’ll admit that Self-Publishing has never been very appealing to me. It’s a lot of legwork. A lot of doing everything yourself, or paying a lot of money up front. But, if it sells, you stand to make a lot more money.

But, the paycheck has never been what writing was about. I mean, it’d be damn nice to get some compensation for the hours spent, the lifetime spent in front of a keyboard. The years spent researching my craft. The thousands of dollars spent learning and making connections.

Yeah, that’d be real nice.

But, Self-Publishing, from where I’m sitting now, feels a little like cheating. It feels like deciding that big name publishers don’t know what they’re talking about, and that I know better than them. Which just isn’t true. I know nothing about this publishing game, at least not now. The only thing I do know is that I want to give traditional publishing a shot.

I want to work hard at it, and do my best to see my book actually printed. I know the money is far less likely to let me write full time, but, I’ve never written full time. I’ve always made time to write, and will continue to do so.

Although being able to only write would be AMAZING!

So, I’m going to try to get published traditionally, so that I can have a team of professionals that can do my book justice, and help me create a name for myself.

But, if it doesn’t pan out, I’m going to keep writing. Finish ‘Cards’, start something new after that, and then come back to it and edit it. And just build that rhythm. Always be working on two novels at once. It’s the Novel Repeatable Routine! My Starbucks nerds know what I’m talking about!

And, keep in mind, Brandon Sanderson was writing his 13th, THIRTEENTH, novel when his 6th one was picked up by Tor. Brandon Sanderson, the Epic Fantasy writing god!

So, it’s going to take time to get this show on the road. No point getting down about it now, when I’ve only just left the gate. There’s a lot of track left, and I’ve got all the time in the world to write my way onto the bookshelves.

So, a long post to answer what people thought was a simple question. When will I get it published? I can’t possibly tell you. Hopefully sooner than later, but I’m prepared if it happens to be later. I have a game plan ready for implementation.

And that feels pretty damn good.

As for the progress on ‘Cards’. Yesterday I wrapped up chapter 3 at 3,099 words, bringing the manuscript to 9,040 words! That’s really exciting for me. This story is already a chapter larger than its outline, and its getting close to being two chapters. And, if I’m writing almost 10,000 words every three chapters, that means it’ll be about 60,000 words by the end!

I know, it’s still on the small end of the novel, but it’s still much larger than ‘Vessels’, and it’s evidence that I’m getting better at writing long form. This is all about practice, and I’m showing improvement already!

So, that’s enough blather for now. I need to get chapter 4 started!

Thanks for the listen, Blogland!

 

BZ

Week 10 Summary, Pt. 2

Before I get into full swing on Pt. 2, I have a couple things to talk about.

1. Sorry for this post being a day late. I started a new blog yesterday, The Disney Honeymoon Challenge, and all my spare time found itself wound up in designing and posting over there.

2. I wanted to talk a little about audience. This blog, for instance, has a pretty limited audience. It’s intended for writers. Whether they write blogs, fiction, or nonfiction doesn’t much matter, but the blog focuses on writing topics, so that’s who it’s geared for. I imagined that, on WordPress, writers would be quite a broad audience. But, the new blog has already seen more views in a day than this one has ever seen in one day. And here’s my thoughts why.

First of all, it’s Disney. Disney is a huge, extremely recognizable name. It also is generally loved. Millions of people are obsessed by all things Disney. Myself included.  So, there’s that. But it’s also about relationships, love, and marriage, and how these things are reflected in Disney films. Suddenly I have a blog that is relatable to just about everyone. And it shows.

Already I’ve had several people ask me if the new blog’s initial success makes me feel bad about this blog. The answer is, ‘no’. They are two totally different animals. And the writing blog is more for my own well-being and understanding of my craft.

The Disney blog is for fun!

But, having two blogs is definitely time consuming. Already I’m wondering if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, but I’m not one for giving up. I’ll find a way to balance two blogs, writing, editing, wedding planning, and 40 hour work weeks…

…I think.

Now, back to Lecture #10!

We left off talking about Agents. What they do, and what to look out for when you go about acquiring one. But now, let’s talk about the Arguments Against Agents.

The Eternal Rewrite.
—-> How much time do you want to give to this Agent? If you’re editing before they’ll agree to represent your work, you’re not getting paid. So set limits. How many rewrites are you willing to do for this Agent? Do you agree with what they’re saying about your manuscript?
—-> Send to other Agents while you revise for this one. Don’t limit yourself.

Incentive to Go Bigger.
—-> They might not fight to get that extra money.
—-> You need to know the business, demand rejection letters, know where and to whom they’re sending your work.
—-> Be proactive, work with your Agent

Remember, an Agent is there to give you advice, NOT manage your career.

Getting a good Agent is about the same as getting published. But, keep in mind that Sci-Fi/Fantasy Houses tend to do their own quirky stuff, an Agent may not even be necessary.

Brandon then realized that we probably don’t have much understanding of the Book Market, so he broke it down for us.

Nonfiction > Fiction
Children’s > Adult
Romance > Everything Else
Thrillers > Everything Else

And Sci-Fi/Fantasy is WAAAAAAY down here. But, Sci-Fi/Fantasy tends to be very open to new authors.

You need to be an expert on Publishing Houses and Genres. The more you know, the better your chances.

And then there’s a little tidbit: 40% of people who buy a book online have looked at a physical copy in a bookstore.

So, Brandon lists Sci-Fi/Fantasy Publishers:

TOR
DAW
Ace/Roc
Del Rey/Bantam/Spectra
Harper
Orbit
Pyr
Baen
Simon & Scheuster

Look up Editors, look at the books they’re producing—-> Buy them, read them, learn what they’re looking for. Also, pay attention to Book Labels. Who are your favorite books published by? Read the acknowledgments.

Knowing specific editors at TOR is very important, they are basically autonomous, and publish things they like.

So, how do you get to know editors and agents?

Go to conventions!
—-> see them at panels
—-> ask them detailed questions about what they’re working on

Big cons that you need to start attending are:

WorldCon
World Fantasy Convention
The Nebula Weekend

See if an Editor you like writes a blog, if they do read it, leave comments!

Also, there are submission guidelines for a reason. Read them, understand them, and adhere to them. Don’t get your manuscript tossed without being read because you didn’t use the right font.

Someone in the class asked if they should register a copyright before sending their manuscript out. Brandon laughed. Basically, your work is NOT going to get stolen in New York. Publishers want your skill, not your ideas.

Remember, ideas are cheap.

So, don’t register a copyright, it immediately labels you as a noob.

And then Brandon said something that made me happy. He said we should be doing it all. We should be writing short stories and getting them published, while submitting our longer works to Publishers as well as Agents. Do it all!

I then wrote, ‘Google this shit. This is hard, but you have to do it.’ Obviously, Brandon didn’t drop the S-word in his lecture, but occasionally, I leave motivating messages to myself.

Anyway, I’ve ignored ‘The Portrait’ for a few days, and I need to get back to it.

Have a great day, Blogland!

 

BZ