“Write Every Day” …Now I get it!

I had an epiphany this morning!

I’ve always hated the “write every day” advice that’s always stuffed down writers throats. WHAT IF WE CAN’T, HUH? What if we’re having a bad day, can’t think of anything new, or simply don’t feel like writing? Does that make us any less of a writer?

I always have a certain amount of guilt if a day…or two…or three goes by without getting anything written. And then that usually leads me to procrastinate even more. It’s a vicious cycle, really.

But what I realized this morning is that I SHOULD be writing every day, but ONLY when I am working on a specific project.

The problem is, if I take a step away for a few days, I end up losing touch with my characters, I forget where the story left off, and I lose momentum. I’m used to sitting down and doing 5+ hour stretches of writing, and THAT can be exhausting at times.

When I taught pre-GED reading at the Greenville Literacy Association, many of my students were adults who had difficulty reading a short story, let alone a novel. I would always tell them that learning to read is like playing an instrument, you HAVE to practice every day, even if it’s only for 15 minutes, if you want to improve.

I learned to play the guitar a few years back, so I know how important that 15 minutes of practice is, even when I really didn’t feel like doing it.

The same rule applies to writing. I need to stop forcing myself into these marathon writing sessions and, at the very least, commit to 30 minutes to an hour a day of writing. Even if it’s just cleaning up a certain chapter, I need to sit down and engage with my manuscript if I want to stay connected to it.

This is the new plan going forward. Even if I don’t feel like it, I will spend a minimum of 30 minutes each day writing. I might get only 100 words out, but that’s certainly 100 words more than I would have if I simply ignored my manuscript all together. I think THAT is what “write every day” means. I don’t have to knock out a chapter. Just a sentence will do.

 

 

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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

 

 

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.

How I Write a Second Draft

Whether you’re a veteran author or new to the writing game, getting to the end of that first draft is a major accomplishment. You’ve spent weeks, months, maybe even years toiling away in a caffeine fueled ocean of excitement, self-doubt, and determination to get a finished manuscript. But you did it! You have a completed, (possibly disorganized) first draft. Now is the time to break out the champagne and celebrate, because in the coming weeks, you’ll learn just how much more work lies ahead.

This is a follow up to the post: How Did You Write a Book?

How I Write a Second Draft

Before I Begin the Rewrites

“Put your work in a drawer and walk away.” You may have heard this tip before, but I’ve come to realize that setting your work aside for a while is VERY important. It’s always hard for me to do this, but I know that taking a step back from it, even for a couple of weeks, will give me some perspective on the story. Plus, it’s a good time to recharge my writing muscles. I read books, watch movies that inspire me and do some research if needed.

Revision Prep

The first read through – This is the part I dislike the most. It’s the part where I realize just how much work I still have to do. After I’ve had a little time away from my manuscript, the first read through can either surprise me or horrify me. I might love a chapter so much that if feels like I didn’t write it at all, and then others might make me cringe so bad that I wonder what the hell I was thinking. I’m sure this happens to a lot of authors, so I’m just gonna go ahead and assume I’m not alone here.

The mantra “Let it Go” – I prepare myself ahead of time to let things go. Nothing is written in stone at this stage and everything is subject to deletion. As a rule, I never write the last few chapters of a novel in a first draft for two reasons: 1. Even though I know how the story will end, I feel like ending it in the first draft is bad luck, and 2. I don’t want to have to cut and ending this early on. By not writing the ending, I am totally open to changing it if need be.

Revisions

Once my manuscript is all marked with red pen and looks like a crime scene, it’s time to start writing. At this point I know what I like and dislike about the story, and I have a good idea what needs to be cut, what needs more work and what needs to be added to round out the book.

Full rewrite – I’m not a fan of copy and paste and once I write a draft, I don’t continue working in the original document (*note – I write each chapter as a separate document). Instead I print off the pages and start a new folder called “2nd draft”. From this point I rearrange the printed chapters into a new order and begin the long process of typing. But this isn’t simply a copy job; this is an elaboration on the existing work. Sometimes I keep many paragraphs without adding much, other times I start from scratch, knowing exactly what’s going to happen in the scene. My favorite part of revisions is the completely new chapters I get to add. These are fun because I know the story well enough to create the chapter with subtle plot hints, more character development, and maybe even some new challenges for the characters. Ever wonder how an author makes so many things connect throughout a book? How they added so many hints? This happens in the rewrites.

For me, the second draft manuscript is still in the development stages. That’s important to remember. I am still “writing” the book, not editing. It is NOT finished yet.

Once I’ve rewritten the entire book to the point that most of it makes sense and most of the plot holes are closed up, I write the last chapters. At this stage I should feel confident enough to let someone else read it. But I also keep in mind that I may still need to cut and rewrite once fresh eyes have been on it. The purpose of a second draft (for me, anyway) is not to have a final product, but to make it readable to others.

 

Beta-readers and the Developmental Edit

This is the scary part. Other people are going to be reading your work. Some writers use beta-readers (other writers or friends who give feedback on your work) or they can also use a professional developmental editor (usually a published author, agent, or someone working in the publishing industry.)

For my sequel, Julie Hutchings will be doing my developmental edit. I will send the manuscript to her and wait. While this can be an anxious time for a writer, I try to use it as a break. I go back to reading or start writing something unrelated to my series. Once I get notes back from the developmental edit I will read through them, consider them carefully, make notes and then, after taking some time to think, I will rewrite for the last time, hopefully.

I hope this helps anyone stuck on a 2nd draft. Just keep in mind that it’s not over yet, but you’re so close you can’t give up now! You have all the pieces to the puzzle; you just have to keep rearranging them until they create a beautiful picture.

Stay tuned for a 3rd draft post, which will include details on the copy-editing stage.

How 12 Different Authors Write a First Draft.

I have an AMAZING post for you today! Since there was such a huge response to my “How Did You Write a Book” post, I started to wonder how my experience differs from other writers. I was lucky enough to pick the brains of some incredible authors to find out how they write their first drafts. Writing a first draft is the first and MOST important step to becoming a published author and it can also the hardest.

The questions each author was asked:

  1. How long does it take you to write a first draft?
  2. What does your first draft writing process look like?
  3. What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

The authors answering these burning questions are: Lane Heymont, Becket, Kristen Strassel, Summer Wier, Brenda Drake, Greg Wilkey, Jamie Grey, Melody Winter, Kat Ellis, Julie Hutchings, Mark Mathews and Louise D. Gornall.

They come from different backgrounds, write in different genres, and as you will see, have their own unique way of approaching a first draft; no two ways are the same. So whether you’re just trying to finish your first novel, or you’re a seasoned author crying coffee-streaked tears over your latest manuscript, remember—it’s different for everyone.

Lane Heymont

@LaneHeymont

 Lane

Lane is a literary assistant at The Seymour agency. He is also the author of The Freedman and the Pharaoh’s Staff published by Sunbury Press.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

Writing a first draft, for me, is always a unique experience. Depending on the book and the amount of research needed to portray the world as realistic as possible a first draft could take me from two months to six months.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I didn’t outline my first book and overall found it to be a gigantic pain in the rear end. Not to mention it took longer to write than I’d like to admit. So, after that experience I outlined everything from character appearance to minute conversations. It worked well for me, and my second book was done in two months. Amazing, really. As for research, I don’t usually do any until I actually start writing. I find it easier to research something once I get to the point where I need to know, and then I dive into my dozens of books (already bought) to answer even the smallest question.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

It’s funny that I struggled to answer this question. I thought about it for a long time, and then finally decided. ADD. I swear I have it, because I write for a few hours, and then start thinking how the sunlight glistens off the street outside my office window. I sit there for twenty minutes, thinking about those pine trees out there and how funny my Maltese looks as he stares at the same tree. You can see even now I’m rambling on, thus my stumbling block. How do I overcome it? Coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. I recently discovered Starbucks’ blonde brew, which is hyper-loaded with caffeine. That sets me straight for hours. Also, if Starbucks would like me to promote them I would gladly do so. *smiles wickedly*

Becket

@iBecket

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Becket is the personal assistant to international bestselling author Anne Rice. Becket is also the indie-author of the popular YA series, The Blood Vivicanti, and his children’s book series, Key the Steampunk Vampire Girl.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

The length of time it takes to write the first draft of my novels depends on two goals: (1) a long-term word count goal, and (2) a short-term word count goal.

My long-term word count goal is the length that I would like the book to be by the end of the first draft. That word count always changes when the novel is finally finished. But by the end of my first draft, I make it my long-term goal to write a set amount of words.

My short-term word count goal is how many words I would like to write in a day. This can vary from day-to-day, sometimes I hit the mark on the head, sometimes I’m shy of it, and sometimes I write twice as much as I set out. But as long as I can come close to achieving my short-term word count goal, then I come even nearer to achieving my long-term word count goal.

I must stress that these two goals must be realistic so that they can be achievable. For instance, if I set out to write my own version of In Search of Lost Time in six months, while also writing 10,000 words a day, then I’ve set two highly unrealistic goals for myself. I must set a long term word count goal that I know I can achieve while at the same time also setting a short-term word count goal. Once these are set, then I start writing.

So to answer the question: If my long-term goal is 30,000 words, and my short-term goal is 1000 words a day, I would write the first draft in a month’s time. This happens often, and usually I’m finished writing a first draft of that length before 30 days.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

Before I set my two goals – long term and short term – I usually have an idea for a novel.  Once I know what I want to write – whether it is a short story, a novella, or a novel – then I set my two goals.

To set my long-term word count goal, I look at novels that I like, and that are similar to the idea I’m planning to write. For instance, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland is roughly 25,000 words; and the word count for James and the Giant Peach is similar. If I am planning to write a children’s story, I make the long-term goal of my first draft similar to the word count of those two stories.

To set my short-term goal, I base it on my daily ability to write a set amount of words. To do that, I must know myself, what I’m capable and incapable of in any situation, whether I’m feeling well or ill.

For a first time writer, it might be best to set a simple goal. Try writing 100 words a day; see where that takes you. If you can write more, do it. If you need to write fewer words, do that too, and without shame, because writing is an exercise; and the muscles for writing – typing, thinking, and trusting yourself – need to be built up too.

Once I set my two goals, I start writing the story every day according to my short-term goal so that my long-term goal can be achieved.

Lastly, I write my first draft organically. I know roughly where I want the story to go and I know who my characters are because I’ll take the time to write little histories of each. Then I let things happen on the page that entertain me because (and I’ll explain this further in my response to the next question) the first draft is for me; it is for no one else. I write the first draft, and let it flow from me naturally, letting the characters do and say things that I want them to do and say, things that entertain me, every word, sentence, every scene.

If I am bored writing the first draft, then there’s no point in writing. If there are holes in the story and mistakes on the page, that’s all right – I let it happen. I let my first draft be as wild and sloppy as I like. It will get cleaned up, disciplined, and intelligible to others when I edit the story in subsequent drafts.

The whole point is to write, have fun, and meet my goals every day because I want to do what I love and love what I do.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

The main threat to every first draft is that menacing question: “What will people think of my novel, or this scene, or this character?” Asking such a question in the first draft is the undermining of the whole enterprise. The novel will never get written if I allow this question to pester me. Naturally it will arise. However, I put this question out of my head by telling myself the same mantra, it never fails: “This first draft is for you, and you alone, and no one else is going to read it.”

You see, the whole purpose of a first draft is not for someone else to see what I’m doing, but for me to see where I’m going, what I’m saying, and how I’m expressing my idea(s) in the novel.  So I must have and maintain the discipline not to show my first draft to anyone. It won’t make sense to them, especially if the first draft is unfinished.

The purpose of all subsequent drafts is to refine my story, discipline the characters, edit out things that do not help the narrative, and make it an easy and enjoyable read for my readers as well as myself.

Kristen Strassel

@KristenStrassel

Kristen 2

Kristen is the author of the steamy vampire romance novel Because The Night, its YA prequel, Seasons in the Sun, and the soon to be released Night Moves, published by Forward Literary.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

I try to get ‘er done in no more than 3 months. With the book I’m currently working on, I’m trying to trim that down to 2. It’s tough.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

For my more recent projects, I’ve had an idea in my head that won’t leave me alone. I write out a rough synopsis, and work on my characters. When the story is speaking to me, I just write whatever it tells me to. Then, I make a list of things that need to happen, or problems that need to be solved. I let the characters drive the story, so it doesn’t always go where I intended for it to. But that’s the fun of it!

For past books, I pulled heavily from life experience, so I didn’t have to do a ton of research. Now I’m branching out, and I tend to research mid draft. That way I can stay specific to what I need, or else I’ll be researching forever.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Sometimes I feel like I’ve written myself into a corner, so I’ll have to go back and zig where I had previously zagged to get out of it. Also, making the characters come alive in the first draft is a challenge. We’re just getting to know each other, so I don’t always have a good feel for them.

Summer Wier

@SummerWier

Me small

Three of Summer’s short stories are soon to appear in a Grimm’s Fairy Tale anthology by Reuts Publishing, and her YA sci-fi manuscript The Shadow of Light is currently making the query rounds.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

This was kind of a tricky question to answer since I don’t get uninterrupted writing time very often. I work from home and my clients are in different time zones, so some days I’m taking calls, sorting through emails, and putting out fires from the minute I wake up until I go to bed. There are also different times of year that allow me to write more than others (April and May are my most productive writing months because tax season is over and my children are still in school).  I utilize nights and weekends as much as possible, without totally ignoring my family, but have yet to nail down a tried and true schedule.  That being said, I can complete a first draft in about three months.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

Chaos. Pure chaos. Sometimes I’m a pantser, sometimes I’m a plotter. When I have an idea, I just start writing, and not necessarily at the beginning.  As I mentioned above, sometimes my day is filled with interruptions, but I keep mulling that idea over in my head. Expanding it. Developing it. As I’m doing other things, ideas come to me and I email them to myself.  When I sit down to write, it’s easier to move forward because I’ve already worked the scene out in my head.

With the MS I just finished, I started with one idea and then did a complete 180 after seeing a NASA YouTube video. Incorporating its elements into my MS required a lot of research because I wanted to be as accurate as possible so I could warp the idea in a very realistic way. Even after I worked the science into my story, I still researched frequently as I was writing descriptions for the world I created.

I don’t do much revising while I’m creating a first draft. I’m a picky writer. I’m a slow writer. I sit, think, and work on each sentence as I go. I’m a little OCD, so I can’t just throw word vomit on a page and move on. It drives me nuts.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Anyone that knows me even a little bit knows that WORD COUNTS will be the death of me. I can thank my business degree for teaching how to organize data and list facts. Clear. Concise. Short, sweet and to the point.  Sure, I know how to spruce things up a bit, paint a pretty picture with flowery words and heavenly scents, but I always end up on the low side of the count. I recently tried my hand at short stories, and even then, I really had to push myself to hit a 2,000 word goal. Now that’s not all bad.  It’s my style. It makes me, well me.  And thankfully, I have some amazing CPs and a rocking DE that work with me to beef up sparse areas. More than anything, I think I psych myself out about it. It’s this thing that hangs over me, traps me, inhibits me. Every page I write, every chapter I finish brings a huge sense of accomplishment.  Because holy crap, I made more words.  Going forward, I’m trying to ignore it. Write what I write, knowing that I can go back and add to it. Spruce my story up a bit. And come out with something pretty darn awesome.

Brenda Drake

@BrendaDrake

Brenda Drake Author Photo1

Brenda Drake is the well known creator of the twitter pitch wars and contests. She is also the YA author of Library Jumpers, coming 2014.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

I’m such a slow reader and writer. It takes me about six weeks to get a draft done. I’m not a messy draft writer. I kind of edit as I go along. I can’t jump around and do other things. Once I start a draft, I can’t stop until I get to the end. It’s too hard for me to stop, doing something else, then return to the draft. This goes with my personality in other things, as well. If I start to paint the house, I don’t rest until it’s finished.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I do a plot graph and work from it. While I’m drafting, I will stop to research things that need to be accurate for the story. I usually have character descriptions to work from for each character, except when new ones invite themselves into the story while I’m drafting, then I’ll sketch them quickly and move on. I do a lot of research of the setting for the book upfront, but everything else happens when I get to something I must research. Setting is important to me, it really gets me into the story, which I have to be careful to not write in too many details. I love to use fun and unique places, like beautiful libraries, for my settings.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

I think just making time to write. I do have more time than others, since I’m a stay-at-home mom with kids that are basically ghosts, but I have the contests and other things pulling me from my goals. So I have to say no to things I’d love to do, but I can do once I’m done. I tend to want to do all the things, so I have to stop myself and put the writing first.

Greg Wilkey

@GWilkey

GregW

Greg is the YA indie-author behind the very popular Mortimer Drake series.

How long does it take you to write your first draft?

The first draft takes me about 6 months if I stick to my schedule. If I get distracted or too busy, it can take longer.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I outline and map out certain scenes that I want to happen. I spend a lot of time doing research. I love the research. I can get lost in that step if I am not careful. I do not map out the entire book. I only decide on the beginning and the end. I do not revise until the whole draft is finished. Then I go back and flesh it out. I have learned over the years that I just have to get the story out of my head and onto the page. Once that’s finished, I can really work some magic.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

I want to stop and edit and revise as I go. I also have to stick to a schedule due to my lack of writing time. I really have to discipline myself to stay on my schedule or else the writing won’t happen.

Jamie Grey

@JamieGrey

Jamie4

Jamie is the indie-author behind Ultraviolet Catastrophe and her soon to be released NA novel The Star Thief.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

Most of my first drafts take 4-6 weeks. I’m a huge fan of fast drafting so I try to get a first draft down as quickly as possible. It may be a mess, but at least it’s something to start with!

What does your first draft writing process look like?

For a first draft, I’ll start out with a rough outline or beat sheet so I have a roadmap of what’s going to happen. If I can give my subconscious a starting point, it fills in the gaps for me most of the time as I write. Usually a first draft for me is just getting it down, so I leave all research until after it’s finished, unless it’s absolutely necessary. That means I leave a lot of notes behind that will say “insert cool sciencey-stuff here.” I also start out with a few basic character names, but as new characters come up, I don’t worry about stopping to find the perfect name and just leave myself a note for later. I love names and I could get lost for hours searching for the perfect one! As for revising, usually I don’t do any until the first draft is completely written. I’ll go back and read a few pages or a chapter from the day before to get me back on track, but I don’t let myself fix anything.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

My first draft stumbling blocks usually have to do with plot. If I find that I’m stuck or feeling like the words won’t come, I can usually trace it to a plot problem or hole, or that I’ve taken the story in the wrong direction. I those cases I’ll go back and brainstorm the plot a little more deeply, or play the what-if game with my CPs to see if can get unstuck. I also don’t get as deep as I’d like into my characters during the first draft, it’s kind of like a first date in that most of our interactions are kind of superficial, so I do a lot of work during revising to make sure I fully flesh them out.

Melody Winter

@MelodyWinter

MW summer coast

Melody has a short story soon to appear in the Grimm’s Fairy Tale Anthology by Reuts Publishing and her NA Romantic Fantasy, Sachael Dreams is making the query rounds.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

My first drafts take about 4 – 6 months. My writing time is limited to evenings when the kids have gone to bed, and Fridays. The weekend days are a no-no for me as my husband insists that I leave the laptop alone. Although, on many occasions I have scribbled down notes or ideas that come into my head. It’s a crazy place in my mind at the best of times, so like Dumbledore and his Pensieve, I get rid of the thoughts!

What does your first draft writing process look like?

When I first started writing ‘Sachael Dreams’ – my first full MS – I planned, plotted and researched for 3 months. ‘Sachael Dreams’ is the first in a series of 4, so I had to be quite thorough in my plans – writing a rough outline of each book. The books are quite intrinsically linked, so my research and how the plot unfolded had to be in place. I couldn’t have written this without any idea of where I was going.

None of this means that I’ve stuck rigidly to the original plans. I’m writing the third book at the moment, and since ‘Sachael Dreams’ isn’t published yet, I’m still able to go back and tweak areas that I feel need a bit less, or bit more, input to run smoothly with what I am writing now.

I have pictures, Wikipedia definitions printed out, links to websites, songs lists, character profiles and hand draw family trees, as well as a very subject specific category of new research books on anything to do with water or sea creatures!

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Because I’m a planner, I tend not to have too many stumbling blocks, But if I do hit a problem it’s usually with how to get something to happen so that I can write it through my characters POV. I write in 1st person and many times there are conversations that she needs to hear, but she’d not in the scene. I’m also a nightmare for using unnecessary words, ‘dead words’, as you will probably be able to see from this post. And, even though I plan what’s going to happen, my characters frequently take over and lead me astray. Pulling them back to where I want them to be can prove difficult. If I’m ever really stuck with things I iron, with my ipod earbuds in. Music never fails to inspire me.

Kat Ellis

@el_Kat

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Kat’s debut YA novel, Blackfin Sky will be released in 2014 by Firefly Press and Running Press Kids.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

I take around 3-4 months to write a dirty first draft, and that will be something hideous, full of plot holes and missing words and typos. The kind of draft I wouldn’t show to ANYBODY.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I am usually a serious plotter (I say ‘usually’ because there are times when I break my own rules).

Depending on the kind of story I’m writing, I might research a lot or only a little bit before I begin mapping out the story on paper. Then I get down to business and write out the details of what happens, chapter by chapter, from the start of the novel right to the end. This will normally just be a sentence or two summarising each chapter. I use this outline as a guide, and add to it and change it as I’m writing. Sometimes the plot will take a different turn than the one I’d originally planned, and that’s fine – I just revise the outline so I still have a clear idea of where I’m going.

I start a new notebook for each new manuscript, and note down anything I might want to pick up on later – a funny line of dialogue, an outline for a particular scene, a note about a character’s tics – things like that. My notebook stays with me, and is added to, right the way through the drafting and editing and polishing, until my manuscript is all shiny and ready for my beta readers.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

For me, my biggest obstacle in the first draft phase is time. I’m not the kind of writer who can steal twenty minutes here or half an hour there to write; I need a good chunk of time to be able to sit down and really get my head into drafting-mode. I work full time, so it’s not always easy to do this, and I can end up going for days without writing anything. Then the draft is harder to get back into, and I sometimes start to feel really detached from it and a bit quitty. Luckily, my stubbornness usually outweighs my quittiness, and if all else fails I take a few days off work to really get stuck into it.

Julie Hutchings

@HutchingsJulie

Julie2

Julie is the author of the dazzling vampire thriller, Running Home and its coming sequel, Running Away published by Books of the Dead Press.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

I stick to a 1000 word a day diet, giving me about 3 months to complete a first draft without getting worn out on it.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

I’m such a pantser. I outline in bits and pieces as I go along, just to remind myself what I wanted to do next. But quite honestly, I start by sitting down and free writing. I have little idea what’s going to happen at the bottom of the page, let alone the end of the book. The one thing I really work my ass of at is figuring out what the last line of the book will be. Once I know the feeling I want it to end on, the words that I want to resonate with the reader, the final thing I want my character to say, I write fast and furious. I tend to write sparsely and go back to fill in later with expansions on plotlines, character development, and extended research if necessary. I do the bare bones of research to begin with so I don’t slow myself down or get too immersed in a lot of information that I didn’t need. That’s a classic move of mine and then I’m suddenly an expert on like, 18th century pottery and the soles of Dutch clogs or something. I strictly do not revise until my second and third drafts because I never know what’s happening next, and who knows? Maybe that thing I just said will work out.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

When I don’t outline formally, the only stumbling block I happen upon is what the hell do I do now? I’ve created this whole world and I have no idea what to do with it. Getting out of that takes a lot of forms, but the only one that always works is to write through it. I may end up with CRAP. But I can edit crap. I can’t edit what doesn’t exist.

Mark Matthews

@Matthews_Mark

Mark

Mark is the author of Stray, The Jade Rabbit, and his most recent horror novel, On the Lips of Children, published by Books of the Dead Press.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

My last novel took about 8 months, but it came and went in sprints and dashes followed by long pauses of inactivity. I do my best work when obsession takes over a bit and I binge write. During these moments, I dream of my characters and write first thing in the morning and last thing before I go to sleep at night. Nothing I have ever accomplished hasn’t been done without a bit of madness involved.

What does your first draft writing process look like?

Start with characters that are a little messed up on the inside and throw life circumstances at them to squeeze the insides out.  All of my books have been from true settings. I think each setting has its own energy and flavor that seeps from the cracks that I try to soak up and put on paper.

I would love to be able to plot but I can’t. Generally, I just have scenes and characters, and let them decide. This means tons of wasted time going on tangents and dead ends and thus more rewrites. I prefer ‘mapping’ which is more visual.

I like the idea of rambling through the first draft and typing like mad, not worrying about misspelled words or messed up sentences. I just get through the story and write as much for tone and plot as for sentence structure and worry about that later. At times I even close my eyes when I type and move my head about in a rhythm similar to Stevie Wonder at the keyboard. (You are the first person I told that to.)  (I am not joking here) (I wrote that Stevie Wonder style.)

As for research, I may Google something real fast in the heat of the moment during the first draft, but I also heard a bit of advice somewhere about doing research at the end, so I literally may type “–do research for this paragraph here–” on the manuscript and move on.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Trying to juggle writing with a life, my day job, my family, other demands. Besides that, there are the tangents I go on due to not plotting. Any final word count is probably only half of what has been written.  I figure anything you write that isn’t used is at least an exercise in writing, so even if it gets cut, it is like the fat that makes the meat juicier.  You also can’t fall in love with certain sentences and scenes in the first draft because they may need to be cut out later.

Impatience is also a big problem. I start submitting a piece in my head way before it’s done. I have to fight the urge to rush it. Especially since you need time and distance to edit. I can only reread for quality content if some time has passed. But it is very cool to forget the content of what you wrote, and then to reread it later with fresh eyes as if you were a reader seeing it for the first time.

Louise D. Gornall

@Rock_andor_Roll

Louise2

Louise is the author of the YA fantasy In Stone released by Entranced Publishing.

How long does it take you to write a first draft?

Sometimes it takes me a couple of months. Sometimes it takes me that just to write a chapter. The smallest things steal my focus. Uh, a squirrel…

What does your first draft writing process look like?

So right now I’m working on a development project with Mandy Hubbard. What that means is that Mandy has outlined and plotted a story and I’m helping her to fluff it out. I’ve never worked off an outline before and it’s kind of thrown me for a loop. Because I know what’s coming, I’m finding it really difficult to take a step back and put in all the little details I know the reader needs to stay on top of what’s going on.

Right now I’m revising and drafting which I don’t normally do, but I feel safe in the knowledge that, thanks to the outline, my plot is never going to change so dramatically that my revisions will be a waste of time. That said, I’m a firm believer in nothing shapes your book like putting it away for two weeks, coming back to it and revising the crap out of it.

What’s research? I’m kidding. I’m not great at research if there’s call for it I’ll research places, but that’s about it. I like to wing it or make it up. My “research” nearly always ends up with me just looking at the pictures.

What are your first draft stumbling blocks and how do you overcome them?

Transition scenes. I hate them when drafting. They seem so boring and monotonous. I just want to get to the action bits. I don’t really do anything to overcome this, I just kind of push on. I know I can make transitions more fun after a couple of revisions so I just keep going. Also, character names, they kill me. Again though, just pick one and push on until it becomes natural.

I want to thank all the authors who participated in this post. Follow them on twitter to find links to their books, websites, and to get more writing tips and advice.

Follow me @TamzWrite

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How Did You Write A Book?

I get asked this question A LOT, so I figured it was time to write a post about it.

A Bit of Background

Well, first let me say that I’m not new to writing. I would say I’ve been a writer my entire life. I’ve always written short stories and attempted to write novels. When I was 25 I started writing under the pen name, Dahlia Knight. I had a website and wrote short erotic serials. I even had a few published on a Canadian sex therapy ezine :P. I also became a freelance writer and wrote various business reviews, web content, and ad copy for a few years.

Around the same time in 2008 I started to develop these characters that just wouldn’t leave me alone. They were Mara, Malcolm, and Corbin (the main characters in The Darkness of Light). I didn’t know their story at the time, but I knew who they were and I knew what I wanted them to be. I had no frikken clue how to write a book back then. Twitter and FB were just new and writers forums were sometimes a little sketchy, so getting information was hard. I’d write a chapter and feel like it was a complete uphill battle. I’d wonder how the hell I was going to create an entire novel when I couldn’t even make the chapters flow.

I ordered dozens of books on writing and read them over and over and over. Then, in 2010, while I was still toiling away at my manuscript, my mom passed away and I instantly lost my ability to write. I still can’t say why, exactly. A month after she passed I took down Dahlia’s website and completely abandoned my manuscript for 3 years.

The Reawakening.

For the 3 years I was in writer purgatory, I was back in school studying English Lit and History. I convinced myself that I didn’t want to be a writer and that maybe I’d get my PhD one day and become a professor.

That was the plan.

But then in early 2013 I was struck by a bolt of creativity. I woke up one morning and had such a strong urge to write that I didn’t even make a coffee, I just sat down at my computer and typed out a 7,000 word first chapter (*Note: a 7,000 word chapter is WAY too long). The funny thing is that while I was writing, I felt like I was in a trance and when I finally stopped and took a breath, I realized I’d just written the beginnings of a historical novel. I guess all those years of studying history paid off and I knew then that I’d not only gotten my creativity back, but I’d also found my niche.

How Did I Write a Book?

This is where the hard work comes in. It had been years since I’d written creatively and I’d forgotten a lot of what I’d learned from the many writing books sitting dusty on my shelves. So instead of reading about writing, this time I decided to just write and not care about what was right and wrong.

  1. I got a notebook and started plotting Mara, Malcolm, and Corbin’s story. I scribbled nonsense all through that notebook. I’d plan whole chapters and then scratch them out, I’d write several endings  that never came to be. I plotted and scribbled and plotted until I had enough to keep writing chapters.
  2. Then I researched. Being that I was writing a historical novel, I wanted to have some cold, hard facts to insert as I wrote. I knew I could go back later and perfect it, but for my own peace of mind, I needed SOME information to keep going. I think researching was definitely my favorite part.
  3. Then I wrote. With new ideas fresh in my mind, I started writing. Sometimes I followed the plan, sometimes I didn’t. It wasn’t always easy getting those chapters down, but every day I knew I was getting a few steps closer to a finished manuscript. Instead of thinking of the book as a whole, I thought of the chapters as scenes or mini stories. Every chapter needed a beginning, a middle or a conflict, and an end. Thinking that way helped A LOT!
  4. I took research breaks in between writing. I have a bad short term memory and would have to go back and re-research some of the information. This wasn’t really a bad thing, though, because a lot of the time I came across new info that inspired me.
  5. I wrote until my eyes were raw. Some days I almost went blind, really. But I was so obsessed with finishing the first draft, I couldn’t stop. It was really important for me to remember NOT TO REVISE during the writing process. If I changed things, I was NOT allowed to go back and fix earlier chapters. Sometimes I’d only put a few hundred words in a chapter. I knew what the scene was, but at the time I couldn’t get it out. So I’d write the plan and move on to the next chapter.

8 Weeks Later, I Had a Finished First Draft.

That’s right. It only took 8 weeks to write the very first draft of The Darkness of Light. But let me tell you, it was a complete MESS; virtually unreadable, but I was SO damn excited that I wasn’t about to just give up there.

I Took To Twitter and Googled My Ass Off!

Now, don’t forget that I’d basically forgotten all the ins and outs of publishing that I’d learned before, so I had to refresh. I started googling things like:

  • How many words should a novel be?
  • How long should a chapter be?
  • How to get published.
  • How to find an agent.
  • New author success stories.

I learned a lot from Writers Digest and various other writing websites. Then I took to twitter and started following other writers, agents, and publishers. THIS was probably the single best resource I could have ever found. I soon discovered that the twitter writing community is SO helpful. They tweet tips, articles, info, answer questions and are generally some of the nicest people in the world! Off the top of my head, the ones who have helped and inspired me the most are:

  • Ciar Cullen
  • Leigh Anne Kopans
  • Julie Hutchings
  • Kristen Strassel
  • Jamie Grey
  • Kat Ellis
  • Jessie Devine
  • Summer Wier
  • Caitlin Greer
  • Rayne Hall
  • Nat Russo

I suggest you follow these people if you want to learn a thing or two about writing.

Then I followed agents and assistant agents. My favorite agent tweets usually come from:

  • Eric Ruben
  • Juliet Mushens
  • Pam van Hylckama
  • Terrie Wolf
  • Lane Heymont

I suggest you follow them as well.  They offer a wealth of information when it comes to querying, agenting and publishing.

I Got Back to Writing.

After I nestled into the writing community, I got back to writing and plotting. I went through my manuscript and marked it up, jotted down notes and more ideas and then I wrote the entire thing again. This was a lot of work, but it was also a lot of fun. I actually had a story to work with and the more I revised, the better it got.

When I’d finally smoothed it out enough so that it was actually readable, I started letting friends read it. I got feedback, made changes, and rewrote some more until it was actually a finished novel! It made sense, it had a beginning, middle, and end and every time I read it, I loved it!!!

Now, this is only part one of the writing process. I’ll write another post soon on my experience with querying agents, editing, and publishing. None of that is important now, because you can’t do any of that without first having a polished, finished manuscript!

So just write the damn thing!!! Who cares if it’s any good. First drafts WILL suck. They won’t make sense, they won’t flow. You HAVE to create the puzzle pieces in order to put them together. Just write and don’t stop until you have at least 150-200+ pages of SOMETHING! Worry about rules and all the rest later.

If you’ve already written a book, does your process differ from mine? Share your writing story.

GOOD LUCK!

1597401_10153715021560077_1070423782_oThe Darkness of Light ~ Available NOW through Amazon, B&N, Kobo, Sony, and Select Retailers.

Follow me @TamzWrite

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You wrote a book! And someone isn’t excited for you.

Ignore the glum post title for a moment, please.

Tomorrow is the official release day of The Darkness of Light!!! While it’s been available through most distributors for almost a month, the blog tour begins tomorrow. I’ve never done a blog tour before, so I have no idea what to expect from it, but I hope it casts enough light on my book.

Okay, now to the blog topic.

I’m sure every author can relate to this issue. There’s always that one, or maybe two people in your life who could give two shits about the fact that you wrote a book. Others are excited for you, your friends gush about how much they love it, and then that one, seemingly underwhelmed person, mentally roll their eyes when the book is brought up. They become quiet, they add nothing to the conversation, they certainly haven’t read it, they don’t share or even like your updates on FB, and they don’t care to know what you blog about (which is why I feel fine writing this post).

I’m not so sure if I’m hurt by this or just utterly confused. Okay, I’m definitely hurt, but I’m definitely confused, too. How can a person who’s so close to me not mirror my excitement when everyone else does? How can this person seem indifferent to anything and everything that has to do with my book? I don’t think it’s a jealously issue. There’s nothing to be jealous of. I didn’t strike it rich with my debut novel and I worked really, REALLY hard to write it. So it’s not like it just happened TO me, yah know? Maybe it’s an annoyance issue. Maybe this person is irritated by the fact that I have something to be happy about.

Either way, I try not to let it get to me, but it does. It casts a dark shadow of uncertainty on me. It takes away from my own excitement. I feel it. And despite their assertions that they’re happy for me, the truth is in their action and reaction.

Maybe I’m being selfish, expecting people to react a certain way. Maybe I’m being ridiculous, letting someone else effect my emotions. Maybe…

Has anyone else experienced this or am I the only one?

 

websizeTHE DARKNESS OF LIGHT ~ Available now through Amazon, B&N, Kobo, and select retailers.

@TamzWrite

http://www.facebook.com/thediachronicles

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18628472-the-darkness-of-light

 

Writers write because they love writing. Writers publish for the money.

We always hear the saying: “Don’t write for the money. Write because you love it.”

While that’s a nice little saying, most of the time it’s not very practical. If writers could pay their bills and fill their bellies with the scraps of torn up love letters, we would, trust me.

Since the very secret (wink wink) soft launch of my book last week, I’ve been thinking a lot about the “money thing” and what it means to me. I promise you that I didn’t write The Darkness of Light for money. I wrote it because it was in me and it needed to come out. Writers write because they love writing. Writers  publish for the money. So I guess you could say that’s why I published my book, after all, it certainly isn’t listed as a free book. But do I really care about the money?

This week has been a bit crazy for me. Without any real promo and no blog tour, I’ve actually sold quite a few books! More than I expected when I announced it was available. I even ranked well on Amazon for most of last week. It was probably the most exciting point in my writing career so far. I loved knowing that people were reading my book. I loved getting messages saying how much they like it and pictures of people reading it. I’m so grateful to everyone who took the time to contact me and let me know they had The Darkness of Light in their dirty little hands.

Because I had such a great week with sales, that also means that I’ve earned royalties. But here’s the thing…I don’t even care about the royalties! A check in the bank is great, and I certainly can’t feed myself with scraps of paper, but the royalty doesn’t bring the happiness. The readers do! That’s what I care about. I care that I’ve written something that someone wants to read.

So the lesson, my friends, is that writers live off the joy of being a writer, and survive off the money that (hopefully) comes with it.

Questions writers get asked that drive them to drink

I’m sure any writer reading this might already know what I’m talking about. It’s those well intentioned questions non-writers ask us that turn our insides into puddles of flaming hot lava. I know those who ask me these kinds of questions mean well. And before I continue, let me say just how much I appreciate the support. I really do. But for the love of GOD! Please stop asking me these questions!

Question #1 – How is the book coming?

I’m never quite sure how to answer this one. I usually say, “Good,” and my stomach does a flip-flop. When writing a novel, it’s almost impossible to judge progress in the first draft phase. More than half of it could end up in the trash by the 2nd draft. So if I say, “Great!” Then I am setting myself up for disappointment.

The God’s honest truth is, I have no damn clue how the book is going. I’m not building a shed. It won’t be finished by the end of the week, or the end of next week, or the week after that. I have no idea when it will be done or how many drafts it will take. I JUST DON’T KNOW! I know I write every day! I know my keyboard is soaked in tears! I know I feel like half the stuff I’ve written is crap and maybe I’ve accidentally inserted a line from Dr. Phil while I was watching it AND WRITING –‘Just ’cause you put kittens in the oven, don’t make ’em biscuits.’

Asking me how the book is coming feels akin to someone standing outside the bathroom door and going “So how’s it coming?”

It’s shit! It’s coming like shit at the moment.

So the simple answer to this questions is: I DON’T KNOW HOW THE BOOK IS COMING. BUT THANK YOU FOR ASKING. When I have something exciting to report, trust me, the whole entire fucking world will know about it.

Question #2 – Can I read it yet?

The short answer to this is: NO! Asking me to read it before it’s ready is like asking to watch a surgery in progress. Writers get really excited when they feel like their draft is readable. We WANT people to read our stuff. We love that people care enough to want to read our stuff. But there are many, many stages to writing. This is a long, uphill battle. It takes a long, long time. So you can rest assured that when we get to the top of that hill, holding a readable manuscript in our hands, we are NOT going to refuse to let others read it. We WANT you to read it….WHEN IT’S READY! Trust me, we’ll let you know!

**I also warn new writers to be careful who you send your manuscript to. I know for a fact that mine was sent out to others without my authorization! Never underestimate the excitement of those you trust.

Questions #3- You HAVE to send me a copy!

Ummm. No. No I don’t. I have a lot less compassion for those who ask this question. Saying I HAVE to give you a copy is like me walking over to Joe the Roofer’s house and saying, “You HAVE to do my roof…for free.” No…no he doesn’t. If you wouldn’t tell your roofer friend he has to work for free, why are you telling me that I have to?

I think if people realized how much work went into writing a novel, they wouldn’t say this…I hope. Selling books is how I get PAID for the WORK I’ve done in WRITING this novel. Some authors don’t even get free copies of their books, others get a discounted rate. So are they supposed to pay for you to have a copy? No. No. No.

The simple answer is: NO. I won’t be sending every person on my Facebook friends list a copy of my book. I might have giveaways, I might send some copies to certain friends and family, but no, John Smith, who sat behind me in 9th grade English, I cannot send you a copy.

Question #4 – How many books have you sold?

I find this question a little uncomfortable. It feels the same as being asked how much my salary is or how much I earn an hour. It’s not hard to figure out that, on average, authors make somewhere between $1 to $3 per book (not including any kind of royalty advance). So if I say I’ve sold 100 books or 100,000, you’ll either think I’m broke as hell or rich (depending on how you define rich). Unless the author is a New York Times Bestselling author, who’s sold millions of copies, asking this question is a bad idea and will almost certainly make the author cringe inside.

A more appropriate question might be, “How well is your book selling?” This gives the author a wide range of answers to choose from. They can say how many books they’ve sold, they can tell you whether they’ve made any kind of best seller list, or they can simply say “Good” or “Not great.”

So before you go asking a writer for the details of their tax return, maybe consider how you’d feel if you were asked how much you make in a year?

I’m sure there are many more questions writers get asked that makes their skin crawl. These are the 4 that have affected me. As I said earlier, I am grateful for the support and people that believe in me. But I’m telling you with the utmost certainty that if you ask me any of these four questions one more time, my eye might begin to twitch.

Release day countdown

As the countdown to release day approaches (3 months), I find myself incredibly excited and incredibly terrified all at the same time.

My cover reveal, and the final edits have made this dream start to feel more like a reality. I can say this is probably the most exciting time in the process of writing. You’ve worked exceptionally hard, put your blood, sweat, and tears into something and now it’s a finished product on its way to publication.

This is also the most exciting part because you’ve hiked up the mountain of writing, and now you’re standing on a cliff. You don’t know if you’ll fly or fall when you jump, but the hope of flying is enough to make you smile every hour of the day. The fear of falling creeps in there from time to time as well, but you never know…you might just fly.

It’s scary to think that many people you know, and many people you don’t, will be reading something you’ve written. They could love it or hate it and there’s no way to know which it’s going to be. That is TERRIFYING.

But the good news is, the dream is bigger than the doubt.

These next three months will probably feel like they drag on AND fly by. I still have a lot to do in preparation for release day, but I’m ready to jump, I just hope my wings are strong enough.

Here’s the cover again…Just cause it’s AWESOME!

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