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Why Wait Until New Year’s?

I’m going to throw down some mid-year resolutions. And I’m going to put them on post-it notes and stick them all over my desk so I have to stare at them all the time.

In no particular order:

  • Finish my query letter
  • Send out ten query letters for each of June, July, August and September
  • Finish the first draft of The Unknowing
  • Re-read Writing 21st Century Fiction and post-it note the shit out of the tips I feel best apply to me
  • Write up an outline for the new book idea I have stewing

I think that’s a pretty solid start. I encourage everyone to join me in making a few resolutions as well!

Decisions, Decisions

I have about 24 hours to decide if I want to do NaNo. I do have a new project that I’m mostly ready to start, provided I can drum up the second half of the outline I’ve been putting off for weeks. It’s been awhile since I’ve worn my writing hat – when did I finish the first draft of The Unseeing, July? June? Since then I’ve been alternating between edit mode and query mode.

It’s hard to switch hats sometimes.

So, because I’m a write-out-loud-to-solve-my-dilemmas kind of girl, here’s my pros and cons list.


  • Will force me back into a regular writing habit. I tend to start and stop projects when I don’t have deadlines.
  • Something to focus on. November is a hard month for me, mentally and physically. I hate the change to winter.
  • I miss my characters. I want to finish their story.


  • I have to drag myself kicking and screaming through NaNo. I’m an edit-as-I-write person and that will never change. It can take me hours to make my daily quota.
  • Next week I leave for Montreal for four days, for a much-needed girls’ weekend. There is 0% chance any writing will get done, which puts me at a huge deficit early on.
  • November is also a month I want to focus on querying, since I imagine the slush piles grow tenfold in December with NaNo winners submitting their unedited first drafts everywhere. This could be my last chance to query until the new year. Or is there a polite way of saying “this is not a NaNo 2013 novel” in my query? I’m only half-joking. Is there?
  • I’m not sure I want to rush through this book so quickly! It’s the last of the series and writing half of it in a single month somehow feels like I’m cheating myself out of a slow, sweet goodbye.

Yep, when I write it out, it looks like the answer’s pretty clear. Even if the only con was that last point, it’s still enough for me to say no thanks to this year. Or is there such thing as NaNo-Lite? Maybe I’ll make it a goal to start writing November 1, and see how far I get without pushing myself. In the meantime, tomorrow’s task is to finish my outline, and set up the myriad spreadsheets I use when I write to track everything under the sun – word count, time spent writing, location and all the other vectors I love to analyze when I’m finished.

Good luck, NaNoWriMo participants! I’m over here, cheering you on from the sidelines.

I Have A Plan

So after working out all my dilemmas about what I should be doing right now, I’ve made a decision about my next writing steps. I didn’t meet the last set of goals I set for myself, unfortunately, but based on how things have been going for me these past two months, that actually turned out to be a good thing.

With respect to my current WIP, I’m going to write until I reach a point in the plot that’s a major transition, and then I’m going to stop for awhile. It’s a good place to pause because at that point the way I’m going to be writing will be changing significantly. The perspective is going to get complicated, and I think I’m going to have to be very, very good if I’m going to pull it off. Basically my main character will be experiencing something akin to locked-in syndrome (with a bit of a paranormal twist), written from her perspective. Oh, and she’ll be blind. Poor Callie. So I think it will be good for me to take a bit of a break and mull over how I’m going to accomplish that.

It will be hard to stop writing for awhile, since I’ve been making such good progress lately. I just got back from a ten-day trip to California with my kids, found time to write on seven of those ten days, and eked out 15,000 words. I should be sitting at around 40,000 total when I pause.

In the meantime I’m going to go back to my first book and do another round of edits, then (for real this time) start querying. I know what changes I want to make, and although I’m sad to make one in particular, I can see that it’s not really relevant to the story arc and just serves to slow things down. My goal is to have the edits completed and at least one query sent by the end of March. I think that’s completely doable, especially since I expect I’ll be finished with my WIP by the end of this week, maybe even tonight.

Exciting times! I’m glad to have an outline I can follow for the month. Good things should come of this. 🙂

Keeping Track of New Ideas

As a writer I find myself constantly thinking up little snippets of stories that sometimes turn into ideas for books or series. Normally I just let them free-float in my mind, coming in and out of the forefront of my thoughts. However I’m sadly unable to keep track of all the threads, especially when I’m deeply involved in writing about another set of characters and the world they inhabit, so today I took half an hour to write some of them down in a document. Nothing fancy, just notes on the genre, age range (I have everything from middle-grade fantasy to literary fiction) and whether it’s a standalone book or a series. Then a few bullet points on the basic plot. Easy to add to as new things come to mind, easy to look at sometime in the future and start building an outline around.

I don’t have any intention of starting on these stories for quite some time. After I’m done the trilogy I’m currently working on, I have another story, which may or may not turn out to be a series, that I plan on tackling. Maybe these ideas I jotted down today will never see the light of day, or maybe I’ll toil over them for months, only to shelve them as learning experiences, but at least they won’t disappear down the drain after swirling around in the sieve that is my brain.

Relationship Outlines: The Download

Last month I wrote this post containing some questions to build a relationship outline between two characters. I’ve now inputted all that information into a spreadsheet that you can download to make it easier to fill out yourself!

View and download the Fiction Writing: Relationship Outline spreadsheet here. (link will take you to a public Google spreadsheet you can copy into Google Drive or download into Excel or Open Office) You can even add your characters’ names and have them self-populate into the questions!

I hope people will use it and find it helpful. Please share it with your writer friends! 🙂

The Up-and-Coming

Well, the arbitrary date we’ve assigned to indicate the beginning of another pass around the sun has come. I’m all for any opportunity to think about goals and aspirations for the future, as well as doing some planning. It’s like outlining, but for your life.

That was deep, hey? Anways.

I’m finished the third draft of The Unravelling. Other than the possibility of a few more minor tweaks, I feel like what I have now is what I’m comfortable querying on. I have a critique scheduled for my first 15 pages early next week, and based on how that goes, I may do a bit more work on the first two chapters, then start figuring out who I’d like to send it off to. I started researching literary agents this week and plan to spend a good amount of time in the next few days working on a framework for my query letters.

  • Goal: Send out my first query letter by the end of January. Try to send one a week after that.
  • Goal: Be organized about this shit. Keep track of everything in a spreadsheet (I do loves me a good spreadsheet).

I’m on the fence about using a professional editing service. Before, I felt like it was something I definitely wanted to do, but now I’m wavering. I might send out a few rounds of queries first, and if there are no bites, then go with a paid edit.

  • Goal: Curb my chai latte habit (slightly) so I can save for an editor if needed.
  • Goal: In the meantime, find a few people who don’t know me at all to read the thing.

I’m also looking ahead to starting in on The Unseeing in earnest sometime soon. I think my outline is pretty much complete, and things are starting to build themselves up in my head around the few scenes I’ve already jotted down. I’m not at the bursting point yet where I won’t have any choice but to start writing, but I feel like it’s soon. I miss sitting down here on my writing couch in my writing room and just letting my thoughts carry me away every night. It’s been so long!

  • Goal: Start my first draft no later than March.
  • Goal: Finish my first draft no later than the end of 2013 but hopefully sooner.

Can’t forget the most important one:

  • Goal: Be awesome.

Character Studies

These have been on my list of things to do for awhile, like ever since I started thinking about writing. Funny that I’m only getting around to it now, after I’ve done three full edits of my novel, but better late than never… my plan is to complete them all and then do another pass-through for each character, keeping their traits and philosophies and motivations in mind. It’s funny, how all sorts of little details are coming forward while I’m writing these profiles. They were always things that were in the back of my head, vaguely affecting how my characters approached the world, but seeing them written down has set off a few lightbulbs in my mind. These new edits won’t be the major overhaul like what I’m doing now with the first four chapters, but I think all my characters will benefit from the new depth I’m discovering about them.

I’m using this as a kind of template for my profiles, and building off of those categories since each of them has very specific issues. I’m also going to do some very detailed relationship profiles for Callie-Dane and Callie-Matthieu. Right now I feel like while their relationships are very complex in my mind, they don’t always come across that way on the page. Having something to reference should help with that. Finally, I’m going to do one for the beginning of each book – the ones I’m writing now are like a snapshot of each character as the story begins. I’ll do new ones before I start writing each of the next two in earnest, as many things will have changed with respect to these people as their stories progress.

And now that NaNotQuiteANovel is over, I need a new goal for myself. By the New Year I’d like to have the 1-4 rewrite finished, plus all of the above. Fitting that in around all the holiday events and activities in my calendar (I’m feeling SO overscheduled right now, December is always a nightmare for this introvert) will be difficult but I think it’s manageable, as long as I can stay/start being motivated.

Good? Good.

NaNotQuiteANovel Weeks 1 and 2

I’m a little behind in my goals these first two weeks, although my outline for The Unseeing is coming together like a house on fire. It just keeps growing and growing and there are hardly any entries that go “and then a bunch of stuff happens.”

Now that I’m home from Mexico and have the healthy glow of a person who collected a year’s worth of vitamin D in a week’s time, I hope to get caught up. In the meantime, here’s my progress so far:

Nov 1 – nothing
Nov 2 – five points on my outline
Nov 3 – research agents a tiny bit
Nov 4 – nothing
Nov 5 – six points on my outline
Nov 6 – Seven points on my outline
Nov 7 – discussed plot points and character motivation at length with one of my first readers
Nov 8 – added new music to my ‘inspiration for writing’ playlist and gained a few ideas from it
Nov 9 – saved my outline from document corruption, narrowly avoiding losing all my work thus far (okay this doesn’t count as a task but HOLY CRAP I was scared for half an hour)
Nov 10 – Nada
Nov 11 – So much more nada
Nov 12 – Sweet tweet. Started to feel like this was a stupid idea, I’m so far behind.

Total tasks: 6 (and counting)

Today I hope to accomplish TWO things, so I can make up for one of those missed days. I’m totally allowed to do that, as long as I have 30 tasks completed by the end of the month. This week I might even start writing…


I already have a novel. I don’t want to write my next one in a month because I don’t think it will turn out as well as I want it to. So I’m giving myself a different sort of goal for November, albeit related to novels and writing.

By the end of the month, I want to have 30 writing-related actions completed. They may not all be writing. It could be working on an outline, writing a query letter, researching agents, editing my current work, and I’m even going to include imaginative story-building in there although it’s a bit of a cheat because most of my waking hours are consumed by my imagination anyway. But on days where I’m on a plane for 7 hours, that might be all I can accomplish. And I’m hoping that some days I can do two or three different tasks so I can take a break here and there.

Once a week or so I’ll post what I’ve done, for accountability’s sake, and hopefully by the end of the month I’ll have a nice list of accomplishments, ’cause I’m sure doing squat right now. Time to get back on the horse, and there’s nothing better for that than a NaNo challenge. And good luck to everyone that’s participating this month!

Slash and Burn?

More like bunker bomb. I’m annihilating my book, one chapter at a time.

And it feels FANTASTIC.

I took chapter 1, chopped it all up, threw a bunch of the pieces (1,600 of them!) away and rewrote pretty much all of it, including a much stronger intro that I think really grabs the reader’s attention. And in fixing chapter 1, I stopped hating chapter 2 so much. One was where all the problems were.

Furthermore, I’m no longer worried about my word count issues. I’ve found 2,000 words to edit out in the first two chapters alone, and have lots of notes for cuts in later parts, both major and minor.

I think I’ve nailed down my system for editing, which I’ll share with you. I’m sure it’s by no means original, so I take no credit for it.

  • Edit 1: For story. Plot holes, cutting the big and small bits that don’t fit, fixing loose ends, continuity.
  • Edit 2: For mood and tone. Adding what’s needed to better achieve the feelings I want to set for readers.
  • Edit 3: Dialogue. Making sure it flows and sounds conversational, getting rid of any stray adverbs, improving pacing.
  • Edit 4: Scenes vs. narrative. Ensure a good balance between the two.
  • Edit 5: Paper edit. Just me and my red pen.
  • Edit 6: The one where I hand it over to people I trust to be even more brutal than me.
  • Edit 7: Taking all that marvelous feedback and implementing it.

And after all that I’ll probably still hand it over to a professional.

I have spreadsheets and summaries and documents galore. I’m so organized I’m ultra-organized. What can I say? I’m an editor at heart, always have been.

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