A Quick Breather

I am currently waist-deep in edits for my upcoming novel, Stolen, which is due out in January 2019. On top of that, we have the 4th of July Family Fest on Wednesday that we’re preparing for. It’s a local festival and the owners invited us to attend, so of course we said yes.

Needless to say, I feel like I’m busy constantly at the moment. It’s a good busy, but still busy. That said, I wanted to give some updates!

  • Stolen is going to have 2 other books in its series. Book 2 is tentatively titled Broken.
  • I’m doing Camp Nanowrimo this month (you know, whenever I have the time to write…) to get that word count going on Broken
  • I’m taking a trip this month that I’ll be considering my first one for book research. I’ll be studying a cruise ship layout, and yes, I’m planning it to be another YA Horror novel. 😈
  • I’m still working on my Leafeon cosplay for DragonCon. If you want to see updates, hop on over to my Instagram and check out my stories. I try to post short updates there.
  • Finally, you may notice some changes on this blog! I’ve finally taken the plunge for the first time in 8 years (omg have y’all been listening to my rambling rants that long??) and have upgraded my blog. I plan on getting a custom domain name and maybe even sell some original stories on here as well. I’m not entirely sure yet, but once I have the time, I’m going to iron out some details.

Anyway – that’s all I have for now! If you’re an American, please try to enjoy the 4th and keep your head high. I’m hoping to have a lot more fiction announcements down the road! Thank you for reading my work and supporting me – every kind review or appreciative note inspires me to keep going. 🙂

In the Mood for Halloween

It’s finally October, one of my favorite months of the year! We’ve been busy getting our Halloween decorations up today, which of course meant cleaning up the mess that remained after convention season came to a close last weekend. I also forgot that we got a big bag of miniature skulls to put around the house. So those are going everywhere.

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What I also like about October is how everyone expresses their love of horror! All month long, the Horror Writers’ Association will be showcasing the work of its members in Halloween Haunts. Horror authors will be talking about Halloween, posting snippets of upcoming books, or even hosting book giveaways. Last year I gave away a copy of Not Your Average Monster Volume 2. My post will be up on the 10th titled “The Angry Woman” about our eerie visit to New Orleans and the frightening haunting we experienced.

I also just sent off the final round of edits for The She-Wolf of Kanta! Fortunately the second round of edits weren’t nearly as difficult as the first, but I always enjoy putting together some nice background sounds that make me think of the piece. Usually it’s best without lyrics so that the words don’t interfere with my thoughts. A wonderful app that I like to use is called myNoise. I first got introduced to them as a way to help concentrate at work, but since then I use the app constantly. I bought the full pack to access all their songs, so I can get new sounds as they release them. The great part about it is that you can overlap up to 6 noises at once, all set to their own individual settings. Below are the sounds I mixed to get the feel I liked for She-Wolf of Kanta.

The Huu chant gives some nice low melodic sounds mixed with wordless vocals that give the mix an ethereal quality. The Autumn Walk literally has a person’s footsteps going through dried leaves which I really love since I associate Mercy with that scent and sound. I also really like the cawing crows occasionally with a few cheerful birds, like an idealized view of the woods that Mercy wishes she could visit. Finally the Twin Black Lodges has a nice mysterious/spooky sound that’s hard to describe, but was apparently inspired from Twin Peaks. If you have the app, give this mix a listen and let me know what you think!

 

Camp NaNo Plans

2014-CampNano-Participant-Facebook-Cover

With Camp NaNoWriMo starting up in April, I’ve got the urge to leap in and start writing. I’ve done that for several novels in the past, but that simply isn’t going to work this time. Right now I’m taking my fast-drafted novel of Madam Cloom’s Garden and giving the story a major steroid boost. The characters, the world-building, the sub-plots – I’m slowly weaving together a tale that is far more complex than what I had expected it to be when I wrote the first draft back in April of last year. The outline is introducing some really cool characters and others are getting far more fleshed out than I ever had them before. I’m loving it, but I have my doubts that I’ll be able to have it finished and ready to start writing come April 1st. Even if I am ready to start writing on it, I doubt I’ll want to churn out 50k in one month, so I’ll have to set a shorter goal. I don’t think I’ve ever done a NaNo with anything less than 50k though, so I’m not quite sure where to start.

Once I’m done with my outline, I’ll be doing a final read over of Ghosts of Pikes Peak to see if it needs any final tweaking before I start work on the query, synopsis, etc. Then that baby is getting shipped off to agents that I’ve compiled together on QueryTracker. I have no idea if it’ll get any traction, but I certainly had a blast writing it. Ideally I’ll have that in the reading queues of several agents by the time I start writing on Madam Cloom, though that might be a tad too ambitious considering it’s already mid-March.

Outlining has been a strange experience to me. I’ve been a “pantser” for quite some time now, and the idea of locking my world into an outline felt like carving it into stone. It felt too permanent, too immovable. This is the first time in years that I’ve sat down and worked out a detailed outline for an entire book, and the plot has therefore become more complex than I had anticipated. With Ghosts I had a handful of characters and followed them throughout the tale and I never felt that an outline was necessary, but that wouldn’t work with Madam Cloom. The world was too big, too vast, and the cast of characters too large for me to keep up with sans outline. The fast-draft was therefore very thin, and although the pulse of the novel was there, it was little more than skin and bones. If I remember right, I did write up an outline before I wrote that first draft, but it looked like chicken scratch next to the one I’m doing now. I’m don’t regret that early draft though, even though it’ll get trashed once I’ve pulled loose to good parts. I enjoyed the freedom I had writing it. The plot could go anywhere it wanted, though when I was done I wasn’t at all happy with the ending. That’s good though, at least then I knew what the story was not.

With Ghosts I’ve had to take multiple editing passes through it because of several reasons:

  • I didn’t know how to edit properly on early drafts. That sounds awful silly when I say that, but it’s true. I didn’t restructure the story or get inside the head of my characters the way I should have. It was only on iteration two or three that I realized my folly and began correcting it.
  • My writing style has greatly improved since I did the first draft back in 2011. I don’t want to say I’ve found my voice because that’s something that seems to change for a writer over time, but the imagery is more crisp, the dialogue makes more sense, and the plot doesn’t feel horseshoed in.
  • Finally I’ve learned how to properly construct a story. It certainly wasn’t a single book I read which helped me figure this out, or a single blog post for that matter, but kind of a mix of everything I’ve been consumed. It’s like I put all that knowledge into a blender and let it spin. Now I feel like I have a better grasp of not only writing, but also of storytelling, which is in my opinion is one of the most important parts of being a writer.

I no longer give a hefty sigh at the idea of outlining the way I used to. I’ll be curious to see if it takes as many editing passes with this novel like it took with Ghosts. I don’t think it will, but I might be too optimistic. It also might just be the style of the book as well. Ghosts is what I would consider an Adventure novel first and foremost (though you could cross that with Horror or Supernatural easily enough), and Madam Cloom is a Fantasy novel, possibly a YA Fantasy novel, but still Fantasy. Perhaps that explains my dependency on an outline to keep everything straight. Madam Cloom requires extensive world building whereas Ghosts was a reskinned version of our world.

Anyway I’m closing the lid on the writer’s toolbox I’ve been building for now and diving back into that outline. If I do end up signing up for Camp NaNo this April, you can bet I’ll be posting updates here like I do for just about every NaNo I participate in.

 

Reflecting on Editing

I don’t usually reflect on my writing process much. I’m a big believer that if you put too much thought into something, especially creative work, then you can over-think it. Lately though I’ve thought more about my writing style and how it’s changed over the years. I guess if you plan to improve any skill, it’s important to keep track of your progress and see how it’s evolved. Maybe it’s just because it’s the end of the year, maybe it’s because I nearly have a manuscript finished, or maybe I just get more retrospective around the holidays. Either way, I thought I’d take a moment to reflect on how my writing style has improved over the last year or so.

Since I started really taking my writing seriously a few years back, I’m realizing that I never quite knew how to edit properly. I knew what I had used on research papers, when putting together short stories, and writing posts online; but novels are a very different animal. You have to keep a high-level perspective while you’re going through so you can maintain themes and personalities over a longer span. On the first few passes, I realize now that I was too close to it still (despite how many months I waited) to properly edit Pikes Peak.

This time around I’m adding much more. I’m rewording scenes, fixing awkward sentences, adding in character development, and describing the environment in far more detail than I had previously. For some reason on my first few passes through I didn’t realize how bare-bones the piece was. I was simply too focused on grammar and spelling; I was too distracted by the small parts to notice how much work I really had left to do. For the first time this piece is feeling really complete, and I’m really enjoying this edit more than the others.

So what changed? I don’t know if I have a satisfactory answer. I’ve been reading books differently, I know that much. Instead of just getting caught up in the world, I take the time to notice the sentence structure, the choice of perspective, and the way a scene is described. That was kind of the first step. Then I started finding a bunch of useful posts online about professional writers’ editing tactics (check out a few of my recent posts for some examples, like Revision Roadmap and Subplottin’). Around the beginning of this year I also bit the bullet and posted a few sections to the critique group on Scribophile. It showed me some major flaws in my writing method that I hadn’t even considered before, some bad habits I picked up over the years, and really just some fresh perspective on it. They weren’t problems I couldn’t fix overnight, but slowly I’ve used that feedback to help my writing style. I’m more conscious of repetition, word choice, pronouns (always my bane), and carefully crafting action scenes.

I look back on my work from last year or even two years ago and I’m noticing a huge difference. I pick out grammar problems pretty quick and I can also give you a piece’s strengths and weaknesses. You have to actively try to improve your writing and that takes time, but I guess that’s the case for any discipline. I feel like I’m getting closer to my writing goals though and that is a wonderful feeling.

The next step? Learning to cut out the weaknesses in any piece (despite how much I love it the way it is) and pump up its strengths. I suppose that’s where the ‘kill your darlings’ advice comes in, and although I wouldn’t consider them my darlings exactly, I’m still guilty of spoiling them. I’ll make excuses for why I don’t cut a subplot out or why I don’t rework a particular plot I like despite it making a story more convoluted. Writing isn’t just about putting words down on paper, it’s also about what you don’t put down. It’s a lesson I’m still grappling with.

Revision Roadmap

Because just putting your idea on paper isn’t enough. Rewriting is a necessity for any book.

http://madwomanintheforest.com/wfmad-day-18-revision-roadmap/

Some things I especially like in her post:

  • Keeping track of times/dates. It’s easy to lose track of this when you’re writing, but makes an enormous difference to any reader.
  • Mark locations. If half your book happens in a single room, then you might want to revise it.
  • Control the emotional reigns of your story. If there is never a break for the reader, the book might be tiring. Jot down notes and plan your crescendos accordingly.