The Third Act

It was back on the 21st of April when I posted to celebrate completing the first draft of the first act in my WIP. Two months later (I’m actually sitting at 81k right now) I have passed the 75k mark and am absolutely immersed in the third act of my first draft.

Getting ‘through the guts’ of my draft in two months is something I’m very proud of, particularly after it only ‘occurring’ to me to give writing a go back in March. You see, I’m just not all that good at seeing things through. I have a *lot* of unfinished projects lying around at home, things I will get to ‘one day’. But I am enjoying where writing is taking me and having found a routine that works for my life. I look forward to it as time that I take for myself each day (even if this means I’m forgoing sleep-ins for the foreseeable future).

I did get stuck, somewhere in the early 30k, trying to figure out just when I was going to get this done. I think I can probably credit one blog post in particular for the kick in the ass I needed, from a successful author who made no excuses and carved time to get words done.

After reading this, I found time, regular time, every day. I’m out of bed most mornings at 6 am and find that with a fresh mind I can get a lot done in 45 (or so) minutes before work. I now have a word count goal of 1k per day and think that with more practice I could probably shoot for 1.5k.

With the end in sight and most of my plot points tied up in my mind, the words are flying fast and I feel like this will overshoot the 100k goal. I’m sure that will run its own course and give me plenty of room to be ruthless with word cutting in the second round.

As self-indulgent as all of this sounds, I encourage any person who is writing to see where other people find success, whether that means by hitting their micro goals or by achieving their dreams. It has helped me along the way and writers will find goodwill amongst each other if they choose to participate in those conversations.



Four Books on Writing and Publishing in KU

So I went and got a KU membership a few weeks back. Part of this is because my partner had dropped off on reading and isn’t the most tech savvy person, so this option was practical. But I have to admit the idea of consuming as many books as I can on a monthly basis at a flat rate certainly appeals to me. In the past, I have stuck with iBooks and hadn’t considered downloading the Kindle app, I was happy with that. What was difficult was using iBooks from the one iTunes account on multiple devices, so the change has been good.

Having had little education on the subject of writing and hearing so much talk online about the world of self-publishing I scoured the KU library on the subjects. It occurred to me that at the rate I was reading these books I should be recording what I took away from each of them. Having Goodreads record what I have read makes for a good start but I am liable to ask ‘Where did I read about the thing with…?’

So here are four books available in KU and what messages I took away from them.

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

I picked up a lot from this book, knowing next to nothing about the world of self-publishing. I must admit, I did fly through this book as it was very engaging and succinct. Aside from getting familiar with terms like ‘back matter’ in books I also got good information on;

– Newsletters and how Craig puts them to good use

– Reader magnet giveaways at places like Bookfunnel which not only brings people to your books but trades their email so you can add them to your list.

– The reasons why you should have different lists for newsletters, particularly around superfan readers and early review crews.

– Lot’s of insight into marketing Craig uses for his own books and references to other books more specific to those aspects.

– Directions on where to find the 20booksto50k Facebook group where he is an admin. I am now a member and the group is filled with people providing advice, support and inspiration.

Writing and Releasing Rapidly, by Elana Johnson

This one was fantastic. Elana explains blow by blow how she went about rapid releasing several different series with different timeframes. I got through this one quickly as well, and whilst the subject was pretty specific I learned;

– Not all book releases are created equal. Which books she favours in a series when it comes to doing a marketing push, and those she quietly uploads to find it’s readers on it’s own.

– Tracking what you did differently on all book releases to find what works in finding your audience and what outside factors are impacting on your sales.

– Pricing and what she has discovered pricing her books at full price as opposed to the 99c range.

20k a Day: How to Launch More Books and Make More Money by Writing Faster, Better and Smarter, by Jonathan Green

This book was… tedious in a lot of ways. This guy decided it would be a good idea to dictate this book while out on his tropical island somewhere (no joke) which really resulted in him saying the same things, over and over. I must admit, I can see why he is successful, the magic bullet to how to churn out 20k a day seemed just a few pages ahead the entire way through. I got through it, albeit with some eye rolling, and have done a few things as a result of his book;

– Tracking your numbers. I do have a word count goal which I had been aspiring to each day, but Jonathan encourages you to keep records of this. I have put together a small spreadsheet with basic things, but he encourages people to note things like time of day writing, length of session, mood, location etc to really nail down into where and when you write best.

– Buy a Kindle. Seriously. I read from my iPad but the man does make sense here. A lot of the people reading Ebooks on Amazon are purchasing direct on their Kindle. This means you have to know what it looks like once formatted, and you need a cover which stands out even if it’s in greyscale. He also encourages proofing on the Kindle and using the highlight function to note errors.

– I have yet to try this, but the idea does interest me. He talks about transcribing from a novel into a notebook to improve your writing. He insists that this uses another part of your brain and that your writing will improve as a result.

The Everything Guide to Writing Your Own Novel: All the tools you need to write and sell your first novel, by Hallie Ephron

This book was pretty basic, nuts and bolts of the writing process. Some of it was a little slow for me but I did cement some knowledge that I already had and picked up some new things along the way. It’s difficult to really pull out what I learned from this as it was a lot of small ‘ah ha’ moments, but what I liked about this book was;

– It had a general description by genre of what books set out to do and how they get there, along with how readers can be let down in a genre. An example was around a reader getting annoyed when information is withheld from them when the narrative is in the first person.

– There was a comprehensive list of the major publishers and their imprint presses with a list of what they generally publish.

– There was a general respect throughout the book that everyone will come at writing in a different way and that people needed to find a process which worked for them.

I’m sure there were many more messages in those books, but this is what I have taken away personally. The first two books I would highly recommend, but there was definitely value in all of them.

Occupational Hazards The Day Job Brings To Writing

I am a social worker. It has been a part of who I am and what I do for eight years and I enjoy the work. People in the industry often joke about how mad we must be, surrounded by people in crisis day in and day out. The reality is that over time we get de-sensitised to what some would consider quite shocking. This could be seen as a vice, a hardening of our hearts, but the best workers are those who show empathy and not sympathy.

We are encouraged to find a creative outlet for our self-care, somewhere to recharge our batteries, as it were. People who are well balanced enjoy a variety of outlets which prevents them from being all-consumed by the trauma our clients face, known as vicarious trauma.

I have tried a lot of different things, but I am notorious for falling off the bandwagon and not sticking with it. Having a toddler in the house means that some pursuits are unrealistic. Who has the time to paint a landscape when my day can be measured in ten-minute chunks, either dealing with the aftermath or the setting up of grand adventures? In amongst the mundane routine, that is.

Doing some reflection on the themes and conflicts in my current work in progress, I was surprised to find such dark themes in amongst what was supposed to be a humour driven urban fantasy. I have detailed them down in what almost resembles an assessment of risk.

– Family violence

– Mental health, indicators of PTSD

– Dysfunctional relationships

– Sexual assault

– Physical assault

– Substance use

– Abandonment

It looks stark, sinister. I hope it doesn’t read that way. People dealing in the world of fantasy are used to dealing with heavy stuff, but I feel ill-equipped to know where the line in the sand is. But this is all supposed to be an outlet, right?

What day job occupational hazards do you bring to your writing? I would love to hear from you.

A Picture Tells A Thousand Words

Enjoying special moments with your children helps us to grow as adults and marvel at how our journey took us to where we are today. I really love spending time with my three-year-old daughter at the table painting together. Not because of the end result, I could line my walls with her creations at this point, but because of the imagination that sparks in front of a clean sheet of paper.

I hadn’t really put a lot of thought into it, I have never been handy with a paintbrush or pencils and have no shame admitting it! It did take me by surprise when I saw a story being told as the brush swept over the page, leaving a mostly blobby mess in its wake.

This is a picture of a forest. We had mixed an array of different shades of green, not intentionally, she had demanded to pour the paint herself, blue and yellow were brimming over the palate. There are trees, footprints, a monkey and a wolf. Shades of blue became water for the wolf to drink and when I asked her what they ate she told me in a menacing whisper, ‘everyone’. She later returned to the wolf and asked me what they ate, and the dobs of red she left beside him were meat.

Looking at the picture, I can’t pretend any of this is obvious. That isn’t the point. On a more practical note, leaving her to paint by herself would be risking a paint apocalypse. But had I left her to her own devices I wouldn’t have been part of the story unfolding in front of me.

There is fear in our modern climate that with so much digital input into our children’s lives, we risk stunting their imagination. I’m not the perfect parent, as we speak my daughter is watching Peppa Pig. But I have no fears that she will end up with any less creativity for it. She is a storyteller, it’s there on the page.

Do You Know What Your MC Needs?

I recently completed a passage in my WIP which opened up an opportunity for my MC, Jane, to escape her troubles. I had mapped this scene out, somewhat, and decided that at a bar she winds up talking to some stranger. This guy was going to be a great listener who would help Jane to unload, to vent.

Well, as words flew from my fingers on the keyboard it turns out I couldn’t have been more wrong. It appeared that Jane actually wanted to distract herself from her troubles by learning all about his life. Which, in hindsight, is typically what Jane would do.

It never ceases to amaze me that creativity can be so subconscious, elusive to our perceptive thinking. Whilst writers have carriage over words on the page it sometimes appears, almost by magic, that characters come to life before them and go their own way.

I’m including the excerpt in this post today, despite its first draft state, and can only beg forgiveness for any ironing out it requires.

I noticed the guy sitting next to me, considering me with amusement. He appeared to be in his fifties, silvered hair and a face that looked as though it had seen it’s fair share of weather. “Happy Friday, huh?”

“Indeed.” I raised my glass in salute and downed the rest of my glass. Holding out my hand I flashed a smile “Jane.”

“Barry.” He took my hand lightly and nodded.

Barry was an accountant at a large firm in the CBD. His wife had left him a few years ago and was living up in sunny Queensland with one of his oldest friends. Barry was considering his options in the wake of the divorce settlement and wanted to leave his job to pursue his lifelong ambition of running his own fishing charter. He had to keep his nose to the grind for a few more years though, and looked forward to the impending birth of his first grandchild.

I kept the drinks flowing and was engrossed in the details of this strangers life. He politely inquired about my own world, and I steered the conversation back to his hopes, dreams and ambitions. He obliged, somewhat shyly, and time flew by with the crowd around us ever changing.

Does this happen to you? Is this the hallmark of a pantster or can this curious phenomenon take the most careful of plotters by surprise? I would love to hear from you.

Indulgent reading for writers?

A tip I see time and time again for people who are writing is;

‘Read as much as you can.’

Good advice, I think. I have read from a very early age, but purely for pleasure. When considering novels through a writers lens, are we sacrificing the actual enjoyment of a good book? Good writing, to me, is something you shouldn’t ‘notice’ when engrossed in the story being told. I find that taking time to concentrate on what an authors style looks like, how sentences are structured and the way dialogue flows takes away from the experience entirely!

On the flip side though, bad writing tends to stand out, for all the wrong reasons. That perhaps, is the most educational reading of all. I recently purchased an ebook from Amazon, currently rating at #605 in the paid Kindle store. With my handy dandy calculator, this tells me that the author is selling around 150 copies per day. I mean, it’s not even in the .99c range, I paid $4.00, but it is in the Kindle Unlimited library. If you are interested in the calculator, it can be found here;

I don’t particularly want to name this novel because that really isn’t the point. My issue is that I only made it three pages in and couldn’t bring myself to turn another. It has some good reviews which tells me that people who persevered with the writing liked the story, but I just couldn’t do it. Endless sentences, typos, grammar fails, this thing had it all! Let me be clear, I don’t want to come across as preachy about this. We all make mistakes and I’m sure this author could take her earnings off to an editor to clean it all up. I have simply found that learning about writing doesn’t need to come from the pages of a well-written book.

This was my first stab at strategic reading to glean more about my WIP and where it sits in terms of genre. I do read in the genre I am writing, but suddenly find myself drawn to read other things with a sense of indulgence. Maybe feeling like you have to read something, in particular, makes it feel less like pleasure and more like homework?

If you are a writer, do you have ‘indulgent’ reads? Do you have reading that you feel obliged to do? OR, do you strike a balance between the two? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Is feedback *really* all that scary?

So I put the call out on the Twitterverse today. I’m looking for someone to read over the first two chapters of my WIP. I’m at chapter 9 so far, but couldn’t resist the urge to have some kind of outside input.

This is my first attempt at a novel. I didn’t even finish high school! I have read… a lot… in my years, but not sure that counts as experience. In my mind, this SOS is less about getting validation, and more about quality feedback. I am hoping that what I get back can improve what I’m doing. Going back and editing the same mistakes endlessly sounds about as appealing as a sharp stick in the eye. I would rather know what rookie mistakes I am making NOW.

It did lead me to go back and edit the first two chapters. There is so much advice on how to go about it online, a lot of which I took up. I went through a process of;

– Running the free keyboard Grammarly extension over it. All those lazy typos…..

– Going through each paragraph using the speech function on iOS. I can’t begin to describe how helpful this was. I made a lot of changes in punctuation which I don’t think I would have picked up by eye. If you don’t know how to set this up, you can find out here.

– Pasting the text over to the Hemingway editor online, which is also free. This editor helped to pick up long sentences, overuse of adverbs (guilty!), and use of passive voice. I picked up a lot from this and found it helpful to look at the text highlighted one sentence at a time.

I’m sure there is a lot I’m missing. But for sending my raw first chapters out for scrutiny, it has made me feel comfortable. I have asked for someone ruthless, and I mean it.

I was at a management forum for my day job not long ago. Our organisation had a feedback session from our last staff survey. We were encouraged to embrace what our deficits were and focus on how to better improve. I couldn’t agree more. Some people in the back were surly and muttering about their team complaining. But I would like to think most of us were truly looking at any opportunity to grow and learn. Sometimes the biggest lesson is that we are never going to be everyone’s cup of tea.

What kind of editing process do you use? How do you feel about feedback?