Finding Your Writing Routine.

With all the writing advice out there, how is one to know which advice is the best?

The truth is–there are no set rules to follow. Writing is not only a process of sharpening your skills, it’s about learning what kind of writer you are, what your process looks like, and what routine you need to be the most productive.

If you look back on the post How 12 Different Authors Write a First Draft, you’ll see how different the process is for everyone.

Technique aside, the one question I see asked a lot is: “How do I find the time to write?”

This is a tough one to answer because everyone’s needs are different. We hear often that writers should write every day. I used to believe this myself, but the more writing became a routine, the more I learned that writing every day doesn’t work for me.

By nature, I’m an all or nothing person. I have to force myself to be obsessive about projects, because if I step away for more than a few days, I’ve completely lost interest in working. I tend to write in bursts, and since I don’t have kids, I have a lot of freedom to set my schedule as it suites me. I’m sure this will change some day, but for now my writing routine is fairly simple. I treat writing like a full-time job. I wake up to an alarm, get dressed, and hopefully by 9am I’m sitting at my computer working. Once I get in the writing zone, I will usually work for 5-8 hour stretches of time, sometimes more, 7 days a week.

By the time I get through 8 hours of writing, I’m practically brain-dead and exhausted, so it’s not a pattern I can keep up for long periods. Once I reach a milestone–which is usually a finished draft–I take a break to recharge.

I usually read books the same way I write them–in bursts. So during my writing down-time I spend as much time as I can devouring as many books as I can squeeze in before I have to start working again.

When my novel is finally completed, edited and ready to go, I’ll take a month, even 2 months off to regroup. There might be days when the muse strikes and I’ll write out a quick chapter or start plotting, but I don’t force myself to write. It’s a nice break and it gives me time to develop ideas before I start putting them to paper.

Now, I know everyone doesn’t always have the flexibility to spend 8 hours a day writing. Back when I used to work a full-time job in advertising, I remember using the same pattern of burst writing, only I would do it at night. I would sit with a glass of wine (or four) in my apartment in Toronto and work from about 7-8pm to sometimes 2 in the morning. I love that I have more freedom with my time now, but I definitely miss those late nights of writing where all my best ideas were born (Mara, Corbin and Malcolm were created during those night writing sessions).

Finding the time to write, especially when you have a lot of other things demanding your attention, can be tricky. But you might find it easier to manage if you know what kind of writer you are. Are you a burst writer? Do you like to write one scene a day? Do you go back and read your work, editing as you go?

On twitter there’s a 5am Writers Club. They are the morning writers, and if you don’t have time at night, this is a great way to get an hour or two of writing in before work.

My writer/mom friends usually say the evening works best for them. They also say that the summer months are a toss up for writing. Most seem to wait until the kids are back in school before they really push themselves to get writing done.

The bottom line is, find out what KIND of writer you are, and then tailor a routine to meet your needs. If you’re okay with writing a chapter a week, GREAT! If you have to knock out half a book in a short stretch, FANTASTIC! But don’t give up. Don’t tell yourself that you don’t have the time. There is ALWAYS time to be found for writing, if you want it bad enough. Apparently humans spend up to two years of their lifetimes sitting on a toilet. Imagine two full years of time dedicated it writing *wink wink*.

I think for my next book, I’m going to try and adjust my routine a bit and give myself weekends off. That way I don’t find myself procrastinating on a Sunday because all I want to do is eat candy and have a netflix marathon. I’m learning that time off is important. 🙂

Tell me what your writing routine is. How do you find the time and what kind of writer are you?

 

 

 

What to expect from a developmental edit.

After months and months…and MONTHS of sweating over my drafts of THE EMBERS OF LIGHT, I finally got it to the point where it was ready for developmental editing. I think this is a step many indie-authors skip, thinking that beta-readers, critique partners and a proofreader or even better, a line-editor will suffice.

But let me tell you this. Unless you have a super-genius friend who KNOWS what they’re talking about, you NEED a developmental editor, otherwise known as a content editor.

I’ve had experience with two developmental editors or DEs, as I call them. The first DE I had for The Darkness of Light used a summary approach. I sent her the manuscript, she read it, and then sent me a three page detailed report, mostly written in point form, of areas I needed to fix, plot holes that needed filling, and certain word choices I needed to cut.

With her notes I was able to restructure my novel and make changes to certain scenes and characters.

The most recent DE I used for EMBERS was from Julie Hutchings (find her, she’s amazing!) It cost double the price, but it was worth every penny! The notes were line-by-line within the manuscript and included a summary. For me, this works better because I can follow her thought process as she reads. I can see what the reader sees and understand what a reader might need to stay interested in the book. Luckily for me, Julie also can’t seem to bypass typos. So in addition to line notes, she also gave me some grammar and punctuation corrections throughout the manuscript.

When I opened the document she’d returned to me, the first thing I saw was a sea of purple comment bubbles on the right side of my screen. But as I read through them, I saw how insightful and positive her comments were. Any critique or suggested change made perfect sense to me, and I feel like she really GOT the story (do you know how hard that is to find in an editor?). I had a few discussions with her on some of the changes, just to clarify what she thought would work best, and after sifting through all the grammar corrections, I got to work on the content.

I’m lucky this time, in that most of the changes needed are minor enough that I don’t have to do huge re-writes. Most of the comments/critiques involved character voice and the development of dynamics between certain characters.

I am SUPER happy with this edit and am working on the changes right now…well, right now I’m writing a blog but…you get what I mean. 🙂

Now, a lot of critique partners will also use this method of note taking, but remember, a DE is a person being PAID to give you an opinion. They know you expect them to be 100% honest about every single thing. THIS is why DEs are so important in the writing/publishing process. Not all of us can rely on beta-reader feedback alone.

What you should look for in a DE.

It’s important to choose a DE that works with other authors within your genre/category. For example, you don’t want a DE who is a YA author or only works with YA authors, to edit your erotic novel. Some editors are versatile, but if you pick the wrong DE and your vision doesn’t match theirs, you’re going to end up with a bunch of notes you don’t agree with and can’t use.

Pick someone who you believe will be honest, and when they are honest, don’t take offense. Editors spend a lot time going through your manuscript, and while you might not always agree with their suggestions, you don’t have to take their comments as a personal attack. Let the editor know your expectations prior to hiring them. Julie warned me that she would be really tough if she needed to be, and that was perfect because that was exactly what I was looking for.

Ask how they deliver their notes. Is it a summary? In document comments? How thorough are they going to be? You’d better ask what you’re getting for your money before you start shelling it out.

What comes next?

For the next couple of weeks I will work on the changes Julie suggested, and then do a final read-through of the entire manuscript. The next step (which is one no author should ever, ever, EVER skip) is the copy-editing/line-editing stage. Even though Julie made corrections for me, I need to have one final defense against typos, errors, bad sentences, and bad grammar. A line-editor is someone who goes through your manuscript and fixes ALL the mistakes. I think I learned a lot through my last edit for DARKNESS, so we’ll see if I have less errors this time around. 🙂

 

Book Signing, Fan Art, and Sequel Update!

Wowza! It’s been a crazy couple of weeks for me.

This past Saturday I had my very first in-store book signing. I was very nervous leading up to the day, imagining all sorts of horrors that I’m sure most authors experience before a signing–what if no one shows up? What if no one buys my book?

Luckily for me, I didn’t have to face those fears, because the singing went great. I sold some books, made some new friends, and got some experience under my belt.

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Another cool thing that happened last week was that I received a sketch of my book cover from Savannah Bolger, a very talented young artist from Ireland. Earlier in the week I posted on FB that I wish I had an artistic fan to sketch my cover, and the Universe must have heard me, because here it is! I’m so grateful that Savannah took the time to make this for me. I love it!

 

20140705_222055 20140705_222129Now for the update.

Ever since late May, The Darkness of Light has been steadily selling every single day and currently sits at #42 on Kindle’s top 100 for Mythology, and #82 on Kobo for Historical Fantasy. This is more than I could have ever hoped for my book, and the fact that it’s been out for almost 6 months and STILL continues to gain readership is amazing.

The sequel, The Embers of Light, is going to the developmental editor this week. I’m just adding some finishing touches to the end scenes, and will soon start revising based on the editor’s feedback. I’m terrified this book won’t live up to the first (I think all writer’s have that fear), but I’m hopeful that Malcolm’s story will fascinate readers as much as it has fascinated me.

That’s all for now!

 

Reader Questions Answered

A week ago I promised to answer reader questions on my blog. I’m a little late in getting it done, but now that I’m back to work, I’ve got some great questions from Facebook and Twitter to answer.

But first, here’s an update.

For the past month The Darkness of Light has been in the top 100 on the Amazon bestsellers list for Mythology, and for the very first time since its release it has broken into the Kobo top 100 for Historical Fantasy!!! I am still amazed that people want to read a book that I wrote and I am so grateful that four months after release new readers are finding my book. Thank you!

The Embers of Light is coming along. The release date is November 11th, and by the 30th of this month, the manuscript will be sent off for developmental editing. There is a definite sense of urgency to get this book out on time, and while I hate pressure, I love how it motivates me. The end is in sight!

Now for the questions…

How do you overcome writer’s block?

This is a hot topic. I’ve done about 30 interviews and have been asked this question about 28 times. Writer’s block is a terrifying prospect for writers and a source of fascination for non-writers, but let me tell you—it’s very real, and it sucks.

Back when you were in school, if you ever sat down to write an essay and spent hours staring at a flashing cursor, or typed paragraphs and then deleted them, then you know a little bit of what writer’s block feels like. It’s stagnancy, an inability to move forward, a complete block in your creativity.

In my experience with writer’s block, I’ve realized that when I can’t move forward, I need to take a step back. Instead of forcing myself to write (usually frustrating myself further), I pick up a book and read. The best way to find inspiration to write is in books. And once the pressure to write is lifted, I am more open to ideas that seem to come out of nowhere.

Another technique I use is pen to paper writing. I have a plotting notebook that is never far from reach. When I’m stuck on what to write, I start scribbling notes and ideas, plot points that may or may not work, and sometimes I even start writing the story by hand.

It’s always best to embrace writer’s block than fight it.

Why didn’t you use a pseudonym (pen name) for your book?

Back in the day when I used to write more …ehem…salacious material, I wrote under the pen name Dahlia Knight. I liked the freedom the pen name gave me. I could become someone else and write whatever I wanted without feeling limited by the fear of judgment.

When I wrote The Darkness of Light, I’d considered using a pen name or even just my initials, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this particular novel needed my real name on the front. I don’t fear the content, I don’t have a job that requires me to mask my author persona, and I don’t care anymore if anyone judges the novel or me. I am very proud of my novel and I am brave enough now to put my name on it. I am not saying that authors who use pen names are hiding. Everyone has their reasons. 🙂

What is the impact of digital vs. print on you as an author? Clearly there is a huge price difference between the two.

I sell way, way, WAY more ebook copies of The Darkness of Light than I do paperback. The ratio is about 10-1, I’d say. The ebook is only $2.99 whereas the paperback is $11.12-$13.75, so it’s not hard to see why this happens.

As far as the impact goes, there really isn’t any. I make the same royalty amount on both ebook and paperback versions. While there are copies of my book sitting on bookstore shelves, I don’t rely on those sales to make money. Instead, I spend all of my promotional efforts on selling ebooks. If the $2.99 price tag is enough to grab someone’s attention and they decide to buy the paperback instead, that’s great. But if they choose the ebook, that works just as well.

Do you think one day we will have no hardcopy books? Limited number of libraries?

This is a scary thought. Just a quick google search for this kind of question will bring up pages and pages of debates and theories on the fate of big publishing and the extinction of libraries.

I will always want and NEED printed books. They are my preferred method of reading.

The ebook surge has revolutionized the publishing industry. And while many bookstores are suffering (even Barnes&Noble seem to be in a bit of trouble), I don’t think hardcopy books will die out completely. Eventually, I think the big publishers will start to use the more economical “Print on Demand” platform that dominates the indie-author world. For example, if you order my book, that book is then printed specifically for you at one of the many print distributors around the world. There are no warehouses with boxes of my book collecting dust. The buyer pays for the product and the product is then produced. I think as the print on demand option becomes more popular, the quality of printing will improve, and hardcopy readers, like me, will continue on as usual.

With regard to libraries, as the methods of reading change, libraries are starting to adapt, loaning out ebook copies in addition to hardcopy books. I’m not sure about the fate of brick and mortar libraries, but I hope they stick around.

 

Thank you to those who asked questions. I’ll be sure to do posts like this more often. If you have a specific question you’d like to ask, find me on my facebook page http://www.facebook.com/thediachronicles, and I’ll add your question to the next blog.

 

 

 

 

 

Cover Reveal for Valentina Cano’s THE ROSE MASTER!

Hello friends. I’ve got a cover reveal for you today that has me really excited. For my non-writer friends, you may wonder why we do these things? Well, first, it’s a VERY exciting day when an author finally gets to showcase their cover, and usually other writers help spread the word–we’re a very supportive bunch, us writers. Second, it gives the book more exposure. I am not a “book blogger” per se, but I do like to feature books that I think are amazing and books I’m excited to read.

This particular novel was pitched to me as Jane Eyre meets Beauty and the Beast, and if you know me at all, you’ll know that I’ve read Jane Eyre probably 1000 times, and watched every single film adaptation known to man. And Beauty and the Beast…come on, that’s just a given, right?

So needless to say, I am VERY excited for this book and I think the cover is simply gorgeous.

The Rose Master Cover Reveal

The day Anne Tinning turns seventeen, birds fall from the sky. But that’s hardly the most upsetting news. She’s being dismissed from the home she’s served at since she was a child, and shipped off to become the newly hired parlor maid for a place she’s never heard of. And when she sees the run-down, isolated house, she instantly knows why:
There’s something wrong with Rosewood Manor.
Staffed with only three other servants, all gripped by icy silence and inexplicable bruises, and inhabited by a young master who is as cold as the place itself, the house is shrouded in neglect and thick with fear. Her questions are met with hushed whispers, and she soon finds herself alone in the empty halls, left to tidy and clean rooms no one visits.
As the feeling of being watched grows, she begins to realize there is something else in the house with them–some creature that stalks the frozen halls and claws at her door. A creature that seems intent on harming her.
When a fire leaves Anne trapped in the manor with its Master, she finally demands to know why. But as she forces the truth about what haunts the grounds from Lord Grey, she learns secrets she isn’t prepared for. The creature is very real, and she’s the only one who can help him stop it. 
Now, Anne must either risk her life for the young man she’s grown to admire, or abandon her post while she still can.

Add to Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21566652-the-rose-master?ac=1

Valentina Cano pic

Valentina Cano is a student of classical singing who spends whatever free time she has either reading or writing. She also watches over a veritable army of pets, including her five, very spoiled, snakes. Her works have appeared in numerous publications and her poetry has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize and Best of the Web. She lives in Miami, Florida.
Valentina on Twitter: @valca85

 

 

 

COVER REVEAL FOR THE EMBERS OF LIGHT!

We have a release day! On November 11th, 2014, The Embers of Light, the 2nd installment in The Dia Chronicles will be available.

Make sure to add it to Goodreads – (The Embers of Light)

Check back for ARC giveaways in the coming months.

Now, without further ado, I give you the gorgeous cover designed by the amazing dark artist, Nathalia Suellen.

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The descendants of the ancient gods think they’ve found peace, but the time has come when new magic and ancient powers will collide…

Stripped of his Dia powers and left to rot, Malcolm is a prisoner of Valenia—a sentence he finds worse than death. His thoughts of revenge are the only thing keeping him sane, but when he finally manages to escape, Malcolm discovers that living as a mortal is more dangerous than he ever imagined. After stealing from the wrong man, Malcolm becomes a captive once more, only this time his punishment is one that he won’t soon forget. His only hope of survival is Seren, an enigmatic young girl with golden eyes and a malevolence to match his own.

When he’s led to Mara and Corbin, the two responsible for his fall from grace, their new faction of Dia is in chaos, infiltrated by an ancient power thought to have been banished forever. This only fuels Malcolm’s ruthless ambitions, but he soon realizes that he too is under attack, a pawn in a centuries old game of power and greed. As new battle lines are drawn, Malcolm finds himself in uncharted waters, forced to choose between helping those he’s vowed to destroy or give in to his lingering desire to settle the score.

Debts will be paid, lives will be lost, and no Dia will ever be the same.

I want to thank my 11th grade guidance counselor for telling me I couldn’t…

This post was originally my guest post over on The Dragon Blog. Now that the giveaway is over, I thought I’d share it with my readers and followers.

 

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When I was in grade 11 (because that’s how we say it in Canada), the guidance counselors had every student in my year take a career profile test. I remember it being a long drawn out test that took most of my spare period to complete. I answered all the multiple choice questions, some of which seemed completely pointless, in order to find out what my destiny would be.

When I was finished, the computer spat out five career options that fit my profile. They were: Historian, Librarian, College Professor, Archives Technician, and Writer.

I just about jumped out of my seat when I read the amazing career options I had before me. How exciting! While a little Ask Jeeves search (this was the early 2000’s, people) explained what an archives technician was, I quickly became excited about that as well.

When I sat down in front of the guidance/career counselor, who shall remain nameless (mainly because I don’t remember her name), I expected her to pull out college booklets and go over course listings with me.

Instead, she looked at my test results and frowned. Then she proceeded to tell me that there aren’t many jobs in those fields, competition for those jobs is tough, and I’d be wasting my time if I tailored my education around those career goals.

I was completely deflated and tried to argue that, if I wanted something bad enough, wasn’t anything possible?

She didn’t agree with me. However; she did TRY to stick to my career profile by suggesting I study journalism. But that area of writing never interested me. I wanted to write fiction, I wanted to study history, I wanted to live with books, I wanted to organize information, and I wanted to teach people about the things I knew!

So what ended up happening after high school? I didn’t go to college. Why would I want to go into debt to study a subject I had no interest in?

It seems like a sad story, a misguided teen gone wrong. But guess what, Guidance Counselor Lady? Without even trying, without even realizing I was doing it, I became all of those things.

I AM a Historian – 7 years out of high school I finally realized that your advice was ridiculous, and I went back to school… to University, actually. I studied English literature and History, with an emphasis on early Western Civilizations. In case you weren’t aware, Guidance Counselor, my novel is set in 6th century Britain. I have spent years studying ancient cultures including Egyptian, Greek, Roman, and British civilizations. While I may not have a PhD in history (and I very well might some day), I’d say I’m more of a historian than you ever thought I’d be.

I AM a Librarian – You should see my book collection. I have shelves filled with books in every room. They aren’t organized by the Dewey Decimal System, but ask me to find any particular one, and I know exactly where it is. I’ll even lend you one if you ask nicely.

I AM a college professor…sort of. I teach pre-GED Reading and English to adult students who fell through the cracks (perhaps because of people like you). I help these students learn about Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, and I help them prepare to take a test that will get them into college, get job promotions, and help them realize that they can do ANYTHING they want in life.

I AM an Archives Technician. While I don’t work in a museum or any type of records management position, I spend a lot of my day finding resources for others, and I even created the entire South Carolina resource directory for the South Carolina Immigrant Victim Network. It took me two years to find all the services an immigrant victim might need, and I can assure you, the people at SCIVN are VERY glad I was so good at the job.

And last, but certainly not least…

I AM a Writer—a published one at that—with great reviews, a pretty decent sales record, and several months on the Amazon bestsellers list. Also, did you happen to see the full page spread on me in our hometown newspaper?

I sure hope you did. And I hope you remember telling me I couldn’t do any of these things. As it turns out, guidance counselors don’t control destiny. Who would have thought?

Writers Need Writer Friends.

I don’t know where I’d be right now without my writer friends. This time last year I’m not sure I had many, if any at all, and it wasn’t until I made friends who were writers, that I realized the value in having a strong support system while navigating the world of publishing.

I’ve never been good at making friends. I prefer to stay away from crowds, the idea of busy conferences terrifies me, and the intimacy of writers meet-up groups terrifies me even more.

I found my network online through twitter, facebook, and blogging. I’m not sure how it happened, really. I didn’t seek out contacts or other authors to talk to. It kind of just happened naturally, which is how genuine connections are made.

I follow 772 people (mostly writers) on twitter, and of those follows I would say maybe 6-10 of them have become great friends. Many of them I talk to daily, sometimes several times a day. We discuss our challenges with writing and publishing, share ideas, lift each other up when one is feeling down, and support each others work.

It’s an amazing thing to have someone to reach out to when you’re doubting yourself. And it feels nice to have someone reach out to you for help in return.

If you’re out there swimming in social media, trying to make a writing career for yourself, make sure to take a break from book promo once in a while and just talk to people. You never know who you might meet, or how that person may impact your writing life.

I imagine it would be a pretty lonely journey without a shoulder to lean on once in a while.

 

** Don’t forget about The Darkness of Light signed paperback giveaway**

Tweet me “Enter” @TamzWrite to enter (announcing this Friday) & sign up on Goodreads for a chance to win one of two more copies! https://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/90108-the-darkness-of-light

 

 

It’s The Darkness of Light Giveaway Time!

Yesterday I decided to do an Easter giveaway. I announced 1 ebook and one signed paperback of The Darkness of Light is up for grabs. This morning, instead of announcing 1 ebook winner, I decided to pick 3.

On Friday April 25th I will announce the signed paperback winner (for now this prize is US only), and I will also give away another ebook (within any country).

To enter, just tweet me @TamzWrite and say “I entered to win an (ebook/signed paperback) of The Darkness of Light by Tammy Farrell”

And/Or you can write the same thing on my facebook page www.facebook.com/thediachronicles. Tweeting me and writing a facebook post will get you 2 entries.

Good luck!

Sequel Writing Struggles

It’s starting to become clear to me just how complicated sequel writing can be. In my last sequel update, I said I was done with the first draft of The Embers of Light and was preparing to send it out for developmental edits. That was true. But the more I sat on the first draft, the more I realized that something was missing from the plot, and the ending wasn’t what I needed in order to round out the series as a whole.

When I initially wrote The Darkness of Light, I hadn’t planned on writing a series. I had a story to tell—Mara’s story—and I knew exactly how it would end. But here’s the problem. That last scene that I had pictured in my mind never happened.

Sure, Mara’s story was told, and the main conflict of the novel was resolved (which I think is VERY important when writing a series), but there was more I needed to write in order to get her to that final scene I’d envisioned. As I wrote The Darkness of Light, I began to realize that it wasn’t just Mara’s story I was telling, but Malcolm’s and Corbin’s as well. Like a traditional fantasy novel, I could have written a 1000+-page book with a part 1,2&3. But that’s a big commitment for readers, it might have alienated non-fantasy readers, and I wanted to give special attention to each individual story.

While I wrote the first novel with an ultimate ending in mind, I wasn’t always sure about how I’d get there. The rest came to me after the first novel was written, and so in the revision process, I was able to plant seeds of information that would continue through the series.

The Embers of Light follows the same format as the first novel (told from 3 POVs), but the main arc of the story is about Malcolm. I knew what I wanted to do with him, but tying it in with the first novel, while still planting seeds for the third is a lot harder than I’d imagined. The problem now is that readers know these characters, so I not only have to make sure Malcolm’s story furthers the plot, but that Mara and Corbin’s does as well. They’re all interconnected, and they always have been, which means I can’t forego one character’s development for another. Everyone needs my attention now.

The third book in the series will have a stronger focus on Corbin. Again, I already know where he’s going and how he’ll get there, but I have to let the reader get to know him better if they’re going to want to read an entire book about him. So while I take Malcolm on his journey, I have to make sure Corbin doesn’t get overlooked. His story will be the one that gets to me to that final scene I’d imagined so long ago.

I am STILL working on revisions for The Embers of Light. But the good news is now the third book is plotted out enough to help me understand what NEEDS to happen to get me there. I had to write 34 chapters of a first draft sequel before I figured this out, and now I’m going back over every chapter, word by word, and page by page, rewriting scenes, adding new ones and creating the stepping-stones to carry the story forward.

It’s a lot harder than simply sitting down and typing out a story. Now I’m creating a saga that won’t be finished until I get to that last scene, the one I see so clearly in my mind. At least now I can see the road ahead, but the struggle is walking it to the end.