Category Archives: Book planning

Thoughts about works in progress and how they develop. Back stories that may be interesting to the readers and some of the character development.

Counting Down to Book Release

funeral-singer-smWow!  It’s nearly the end of July and I am still editing “Funeral Singer” to get it ready for publication.  I’ve had it out to my second round of beta readers and have gotten some great feedback on it.  I am hoping to see a little more in the next few days.   I am still making some changes as I go through and make spelling and punctuation corrections.

It definitely pays to have other eyes on the manuscript because I managed to miss quite a few things in the last two edits I did on the book.  It is so easy for your brain to just correct or ignore the mistakes you make in your own writing.  I took a class on proofreading once where the advice from the teacher was to read your work backward.  This takes away the familiarity with the project and you are more likely to catch the errors.  Other suggestions from writers are:   1) Change the font type and size so it doesn’t look the same.  2) Print the entire manuscript out and read through it with a highlighter, marking the errors.  3) Read it out loud a few times.  This also helps with hearing the dialog and if it sounds natural.  4) Use an automated reader program to have it read the book to you so you can listen for odd phrasing, omissions and other errors.  This one is really strange to listen to since there is no inflection in the reading.

In a few more days, I will be ordering my first Proof copy of the book so I can read through it to make sure I caught everything.  Once I feel comfortable that I’ve done everything I can do to get out a clean copy, it’ll be time to finalize it and release the book.  Right now, I am targeting mid-September for the release, but it won’t fly until it’s ready.

One of the things that took a little time was writing the book blurb.  These are the back pages of the book where you give a little synopsis of the story to give the potential reader an idea of what the story is about.  This is an art and a tricky skill to develop. You have to wonder how much is enough?  How much is too much?  Have I put in any spoilers?  Will this be enough to entice someone to read it?

I am excited to get my first novel out in the world and I hope that it is well-received by those who choose to read it.  No matter how you look at it, it will be an adventure.  Look for release information to come up next month.

Writing Status and Coercing the Dragon

Here I am at the start of February and I still have lots on my plate, so to speak. I am a little disappointed with myself that I haven’t worked on my WIP, my young adult novel, since the first week of January.  After the month before NaNo when I completed my fantasy novel and the month of NaNo where I wrote my paranormal thriller and started my YA, I had hoped to complete it in December, but got bogged down with the holidays and other projects.  Then I wrote a little in January and started on the first edit of Funeral Singer: A Song for Marielle.

Sending the Bird into the Beta World

The good news is that the first edit is completed and the book is now out with a few beta readers for the first feedback.  I admit, I am a little nervous about setting my little bird free in the big, bad world, but I hope that the beta readers are enjoying it and will be gentle with the comments.  But I also want them to be honest.  Only if the feedback is honest will the writer grow and learn from the process.  Yes, I hope people like the story and my writing, but I am not perfect and even the best attempt to catch all the problems in a story by the writer is not going to manage it.  I’ve already found things in just glimpsing through it after I sent it out that I need to change or didn’t get caught in the edit.

With the relief of the edit done and another project or two that had to be completed, I’d hoped to get back to the YA in January, but it didn’t happen.  I just put it on my schedule for February with the hope that I can regain my writing pace and complete the first draft this month.

Capturing an Old Novel and Editing for Others

As a side-project, I went back to trying to get the second novel I’d written way back when converted to digital form so that I can revise it and perhaps publish it this year.  This one is a suspense romance along the lines of Mary Stewart’s novels.  I typed a lot of it in, wished a few more times that my scanner had an OCR application on it and tried at least three times to use Dragon Naturally Speaking to read the book to the computer.  More about this in a minute.  I did finally finish getting that novel into digital form this past week, so that’s another in the queue to rewrite.  I have been productive over the past two months, so that’s the good part.

I’ve also taken on a beta read/editing for another writer and that is always an interesting project.  His story is good, but it needs a lot of work.  I’m catching many punctuation and spelling errors, but also quite a few other issues.  I try to beta and edit the way that I hope that my beta readers will with me.  When something puzzles me or causes me to stumble in the reading, I make a note of it.  When the phrasing is awkward or confusing, I suggest changes or point out why it bothers me.  I think all writers have their blind spots when writing.  I know I do and I sometimes cringe when I read it through a month or so after writing it.  But while editing for someone else, I think you also become more aware of your own faults in your writing.  You see something the writer has done and realize that you also do it or something similar to it.  So you learn from the process as well.

Taking on the Dragon

Back to Dragon.

I have to talk about this experience a little bit.  I am on my third version of the program and I have resisted buying any more updates, although there are at least three newer versions of it now.  When I bought my current copy, version 10.0, it was a vast improvement on how it handled the interpretation of my words, but still not perfect.  For those who don’t know, you need to “train” dragon to your own speech pattern, so you read pre-designed texts to it so that it can learn your pronunciations and speech rhythm.  In spite of that, Dragon often stumbles when I try to read my own writing into it.  I think I enunciate pretty clearly, but sometimes it seems like the program makes a wild guess at what you just said because the words it types are so far off.

Using the program has been challenging and oft times frustrating for me.  I have given up more than a few times and returned to typing because I can type faster than the program can analyze, interpret, force me to correct and repeat the words.  I have tried several different mics with it, hoping that it will work better with one of them.

I just recently learned that it does better when I open the Dragon Pad (the word processing program within the program) than if I try to have it type directly into Word.  I then copy and paste from Dragon Pad to Word after a couple of pages of text have been entered.  After about one chapter, it begins to get sluggish, so I delete everything in the Dragon Pad, close it and reopen it and it performs better.  I find it doesn’t recognize words that end in n’t very well and I have to pronounce them with “ent” in order to get them entered correctly, so “couldn’t’ becomes “could-ent” in order for Dragon to understand.  I think voice recognition software has a ways to go to reach Star Trek capability.  I admit, I was amused when the computer had difficulty recognizing Chekov’s instructions in the first reboot movie.

So, that’s been my experience with the Dragon program.  Have any of you used it?  What was your experience?  Tell me about it.

Winner! And Moving On…

Winner!

It’s official.  I can now say that I am a NaNoWriMo winner and that feels awesome!   Being able to write over 65,000 words in less than a month is an eye-opening experience for a writer who’s done it for the first time.  What it tells me, as a writer, is that I can get those words out there so that the first draft is complete and editing can begin.

The next phase of NaNo is to edit the words in December with an eye to publishing in the spring.  There’s still a lot of work to be done though.  Just writing the first draft isn’t enough to have a novel ready to go.  It needs to be rewritten in places, polished, some more research done, but I feel pretty confident about the book I’ve just completed.

 New Project

The Alcazar at Grenada, Spain. Isn’t this a beautiful backdrop for a romantically suspenseful novel?

At any rate, I am moving on and stepping away a little from both the October and NaNo novels to begin work on another two novels.  The first is one I outlined years ago after a trip to Spain and I wanted to incorporate the beautiful Spanish setting as well as the trips to Morocco and Portugal into the story.  It’s a suspense romance novel along the lines of the type that Mary Stewart wrote.  I loved her books. If I am going to write romance, then I want it to be in the paranormal suspense romance or just plain suspense romance genres.  So far, I don’t have a title, working or otherwise, for this novel so it is the Spanish story for now.

The second one is the one I first started to write about March of this year and didn’t get very far before the sci-fi fantasy one took over.  So that story, which is the one that is moving forward right now, is a young adult urban fantasy called “Dew Dropping Hour” and is set in Ireland.  Parts of the British Isles have always had a magical feel for me and the mythology of the islands have such enchantment that this is another planned series of books that really excites me.  I believe, at this time, that the series will be three books, but it could go to four.  It just depends on how it actually plays out while I’m writing it.  The overall series is called “The Isles of Magic”.

 Titles

For some reason, I have a really hard time coming up with titles for my books.  I had a working title for the novel I am currently typing in from the hard copy that I had of it, but I don’t like it.  It doesn’t really serve the book well, so I am hoping to get an inspiration somewhere along the line as I’m writing it.

Sometimes I find the title in song lyrics or poetry and sometimes they just pop up when I’m writing.  For instance, the title of the YA, “Dew Dropping Hour” is from a poem by William Butler Yeats. But if something doesn’t present itself, it becomes a real struggle to find something that ties in, but doesn’t sound milquetoast.

Do you encounter a problem with coming up with good, enticing titles for your books or stories?  Let me know.

Log Lines and Half-Way Through NaNo

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Cover for my 2014 NaNo novel. Cover Design: SelfPubBookCovers.com/ Claimyourself

 

“A freaky ability causes a young singer to question her sanity, her faith and her willingness to embrace a new dimension to her talent.”

My potential log line for “Funeral Singer: A Song for Marielle”

 Log Lines and Elevator Pitches

 Log lines are something that have carried over from screenwriting to novel writing.  It’s the one or two line tease that attempts to summarize what the heart of the story is and tempt the reader or movie-goer to learn more.

In writing, it’s called the elevator pitch.  You have a few seconds on an elevator to tell a potential publisher, agent or reader something about your story that might entice them before they get off the elevator.  So you hope that you can say something that will pique their interest and persuade them to want to know more about your story.

They aren’t that easy to write but they do force you, as a writer, to think about the essence of your story.  What is it you are really exploring in the book and what is the conflict or potential growth for your main character?

So, I ask, would that log line intrigue you enough to want to know more?

 Mid-Way on NaNo And Almost A Win

 Here we are at mid-November and I have experienced the pure rush of NaNaWriMo and almost won.  I say almost because all that remains now is to validate my word count, which I can’t do until November 20 when the official web site makes the counter available.  Unofficially, I reached my goal on November 10 and I completed the first draft of my novel on November 14 at 57,003 words.

Oddly, there’s been a sense of let-down the first couple of days after the novel was completed.  I feel I should still be writing and I know there are places where additional scenes are needed, secondary characters need to be brought in more and more tension built in the book.  In short, I have the basic story down, but the part that makes it an entertaining read still needs to be fleshed out, so I know there’s a lot to be done in the first edit.  I’ve never written a book this way until the last novel I did just before NaNo and this one.

The one I did in October was one-third of the way written, from when I started in April, and had been in my mind for over three years, so I had a really strong sense of that novel.  Going into NaNo with a new novel that I had outlined at the end of October and had only loosely conceived in the past year meant that I hadn’t had as much time to think about the characters or the plot.

One of the reasons I tend to write much slower normally is that I am still thinking a lot about the characters, who they are and how they react and that can be time consuming.  So, the first draft has forced some of the characters to come out without as much definition as I think they need.  Or I am just being critical of a project that I haven’t really had time to step away from before critiquing what I’ve done.

 Please keep following my blog to see how this all plays out and what I think later on after I’ve had time away from this project and go back in for the first edit.  Also, please feel free to comment, either here on my blog or on my Facebook page.

10 Writing Tips I’ve Discovered

50K-words

One week from today is November 1, the start of the NaNoWriMo event, so it is exciting and still a little scary. As I posted to Facebook, I just completed over 50,000 words on my current work-in-progress, “O’Ceagan’s Legacy”  in 23 days and I am only two chapters away now from completing it. I am targeting the end of this weekend to try to wrap up the first draft. So I feel pretty good about that. Apart from wanting to get the book completed before I start on the new book on November 1, I wanted to see if I could write at the pace it would take for NaNo. Now I have proven to myself that I can do it. But here’s 10 other things I learned while doing this:

One  

Set aside the time to write in the morning or early afternoon and stick to it. Plan on additional writing in the late afternoon or evening. I even try to write for a short while after I turn off the TV set at night. After a couple of weeks, you’re beginning to get conditioned to this. It is sort of like training for a marathon, but not as physically tiring. You make up for it in mental exhaustion.

Two

Having a plan is really important for me. How do the pantsers do it? I like having an outline and knowing where my story is going and how it is going to get there. Not that I don’t have detours along the route and sometimes we go to an entirely different place than I planned, but that’s all right.

Three

Scrivener has been an amazing tool with the notes and scene planning and I wonder how I managed without it before. Oh, yes, I had those stacks of index cards with scribbled notes that I kept shuffling around. That worked well… not! So easy to adjust the scenes and move them around with this program.

Four

Take breaks while writing. Get up and move around, shake out the tension in your shoulders and put the book out of your mind for a little while. I like to play a video game for about 30 minutes to distract me and let my subconscious work.

Five

Don’t stop to edit. I’ve heard this from many people and it is something I have to work on. I still see the red squiggles under misspelled words and go back to correct them. So you noticed that you used the same word in the second sentence that you used in the first. Let it go. You’ll correct it in the next draft.

Six

Yes, this section really sucks and it feels flat, but once again, the story is the important thing now. The art of the words comes with subsequent drafts.

Seven

Holy cow! Is that a plot hole or what? Well, yes, your spaceship just flew through it, but make a note and you’ll fix it on the rewrite. This kind of includes things like this is more technical that I actually know, but research on those troublesome items can also come with the second draft.

Eight

Never mind that your main character thinks she suckered you in. You want to hear from your characters, as many as possible, because the mind works in a very strange way and those character viewpoints help you make the whole darn thing work. If you can hear and see them, then your story is coming alive and writing goes much more smoothly.

Nine

Stumped with something in the story and nothing is coming to mind to put on the paper? It’s not really writer’s block, not when you know what has to happen. I have two options to get around this.

• One is to write a different scene, either the next one or one in a different part of the story. Often other scenes are clearer in my mind, so skipping to one is a quick way to get the brain going again.  It sometimes helps to work out the details for the scene I’m having trouble with.

• This other technique has worked for me for many years. Pick up a pen and paper and write it out in longhand.  Because I did technical writing as well as article writing for many years, I tend to engage the logical side of the brain more when I’m on the computer. But I started writing stories as a child and I wrote them out on paper before I typed them with a typewriter. When you have to keep typing the whole book over for edits, you do tend to edit when typing. So, it seems that picking up the pen signals the creative side of my brain that we can relax and let the ideas flow.

Ten 

Take time to pet the cats and don’t get too upset with them when they decide that you’ve typed enough and the keyboard is in the way of their grooming on your lap. This is really important, especially to the cats. They help you to relax and sometimes that helps bring the story out. Besides if you ignore them, they will simply lie on your keyboard and put all kinds of unwanted cat words into the book… or worse.

These techniques may not work for everyone, but if the last 24 days have been an example for me, then they may be keys to my success next month. I am certainly hoping that’s the case.

Got some other tips for NaNoWriMo? Let me know in the comments. I need all the help I can get!