Editing, Process, Random, Uncategorized

Work In Process: Dragonfly

DFL - WIP

It’s Friday!  But where’s Friday Fare?  Well, I planned to publish this on Tuesday and then thought … oh I’ll do that on Wednesday.  Well, Wednesday came and went, so instead of Friday Fare, you get to hear about my latest madness.  xo!

Now that Afterlife (AL) is hanging out and getting itself ready for the next round of edits (October 1st, baby!), my attention is turning to another project that I’ve worked on intermittently over the past few years.  The working title on this one is Dragonfly and it’s a romantic suspense novel that’s set near a lake in Minnesota.  (Because, well, we have 10,000 of them … might as well set a story near one.)

At the beginning of this month, I envisioned a pretty ambitious goal.  The story already has about 53,000 words.  I took a few days at the beginning of the month to re-familiarize myself with these old friends and was pleased that my characters are at least upright and not totally inconsistent shells of fictional behavior.  I finished an outline for the story over Labor Day weekend and now I’m trying to make hay on my goal:  An additional 50K by October 1st.  Or basically, the creation of another SFD. 

Fifty thousand words over the course of a month roughly translates to about 1,600 words per day.  To make up for the week (or so) that I missed due to the holiday, I’m aiming for 3,000 words per day. (Cue maniacal laughter.)

Three thousand words is hard, but it’s doable.  And honestly – I’m not quite there yet.  I’ve been averaging 1,500 a day and got derailed over the weekend, but as I’m tweaking my process and scheduling longer afternoons / evenings where I can write, I think that 3,000 is in reach.

BUT … what I’ve struggled with is establishing a regular writing routine in my life.  (Hell, I’m still struggling.)  Getting into this habit and chasing daily word count goals has felt fabulous in terms of measuring concrete progress on my novel.  So, even if I’m only getting halfway to my goal – that’s still words on paper.  Those are still chapters that I can eventually edit.

Beyond writing this post for some accountability, I also have a weekly phone call with one of my fellow writer buddies on Fridays.  My friend Jeff is trying to get into a writing routine with his work-in-progress.  So we talk on Friday – we discuss what went well, what didn’t, and what we can do to change direction in the upcoming week and get closer to our individual goals.  It’s a little woo-woo, but it works.

I’m hopeful that the practice I establish for Dragonfly seeps over to my writing life in general – through the upcoming Afterlife edits and beyond.  I’ll keep my progress posted in upcoming Friday Fares!

P.S. – Since it’s not Friday without a little bit of rambling from me, please check out this YouTube concert from Sylvan Esso.  It’s the latest thing I’ve been listening to lately and although it’s totally out of my usual milieu, I. Love. It.

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Editing, Fiction, Process

Adventures in Editing: Clunk.

_AdventuresinEditingAfter several years of toiling, I finished a SFD draft of After Life (AL) in July 2015.  I let it set on the back burner until March 2016 and am editing in earnest.  Adventures in Editing is an occasional feature that chronicles the travails of trying to bring a bunch of muddle into a more cohesive draft.  Thanks for reading!

I think the following picture tells a pretty decent story:

clunkAs my mentor mentioned in my earlier “Adventures” post, reading your draft out loud is an effective way to catch any parts of your story that are … well, clunky.  As I read through my draft of AL to see how the story flowed together, I marked the sentences / sections that were clunky upon reading them out loud.

Still don’t believe me?  Check out what the experts say in the hyperlinks.

Editing, Fiction, Process

Adventures in Editing: In One Sitting

_AdventuresinEditingA little back story, after several years of toiling, I finished a SFD draft of After Life (AL) in July 2015.  I let it set on the back burner until March 2016 and have started the process of editing in earnest.  Adventures in Editing is an occasional feature that chronicles the travails of trying to bring a bunch of muddle into a more cohesive draft.  Thanks for reading!

I do believe in the adage that to write is to be a constant student of the craft.  I see this as I discover new writers or glean some nugget of information in the writing blogs that I peruse.  However, while all things can be good in moderation, I have found that too much information causes creative paralysis.  I rediscovered this as I started thinking about how I was going to approach the editing process on AL.  My current draft is hovering around a chunky 113k mark.  I feel OK about the beginning, I’m a little meh about the ending – it’s there, but it needs some loving, and the middle?  Uff da – don’t get me started on the middle.  There’s good stuff there, but there’s flab.  Oh sweet Lord, there’s flab.

But as I’ve purchased my red pens and have mentally been gearing up for the editing process, I found myself paralyzed.  First and foremost – do I have the tools to accomplish my goal?  This goes beyond red pens and Post-It notes.  Do I have the knowledge to bring draft one to a better second draft?  That question tends to paralyze me.  It’s not only do I have the knowledge, it’s also a question of efficiency.  Gestating a book and getting it ready to send it off into the world takes time, but do I approach the editing process correctly?  Are there things that I should be considering as I read my draft that I don’t know about?  Should I take a(nother) class where I learn more about the editing process?

There was one concept in particular that kept me procrastinating on the start of my current round of edits.  Somewhere along my journey, I read you should read your draft from stem to stern in one sitting at the beginning of the editing process.

I don’t disagree with this concept and I think that the intent behind this is so that thoughts and perceptions remain fresh in the author’s mind and that any mental progress isn’t interrupted by having to read your draft in several different sittings.

And I really, really tried to do this with my latest draft of AL.  I did.  So how long did it take me?  Four days.  So do I think that my novel is now doomed because I wasn’t able to follow the advice of the experts?  Nah.  I think in my dream world, I’d have endless amounts of time to chase my dreams of fiction and publication.  But in my real world, the world that fills me with ideas and introduces me to potential characters and … well, pays the bills … it took me four days to read my draft and rediscover my old friend Kate and her father Simon.  I realized that there were a couple extraneous characters that could be jettisoned.  I saw plot threads that were started and then fizzled out.  I got what I needed.  And now I’m crafting my action plan to go forward.

So the moral of the story?  I’m learning to cut through the noise and I’m finding what works for me on this creative journey.

I’ll leave you with the following thought. I came across this status update in November on Facebook from Louise Penny.  I liked this … this encapsulates my hopes as I hop from a shitty first draft to my second draft and beyond: “Started the second draft of the next book yesterday. The first few chapters are, of course, the ones that need the most editing. When I started this book, I knew the outline of the plot, and some of the themes, but as the book went on things evolved. These first chapters drag their knuckles on the ground. Need to have them stand upright. And in the next draft will make them lean and strong and swift. And, if I do a fourth draft, will see if I can teach it to make cappuccino.”

Editing, Fiction, Process

April Fools Day … Joke’s On Me

So – I have good news and I have sh*tty news. Because I’m pragmatic and my crappy news colors the rest of this narrative, I’ll start with that.

It’s April 1st. My latest round of edits for After Life (AL) is not done. I’m 3/5ths through the book and I’ve had some really great insights as I’ve been going through my story in preparation for my beta readers, but that’s not done and I haven’t hit the really scary parts of my book yet – the parts that were added later and still need some work.

I’m not happy with this news, but I’m also pretty honest with myself and the progress that I’ve made. I have a major work project that’s sucking the life out of me. I am a mom and while I think my kids fart rainbows, it’s really hard to get anything personal done during their waking hours. (Let’s not even talk about the stuff I’m happy to ignore – looking at you, laundry pile.) I have a triptych of priorities that I established after my kids were born: 1) Family/Friends Who Double as Family, 2) Fiction, and 3) Work. There are days that #3 edges over #2, but since #3 provides my paycheck, I’m not going to get too pissed off about it.

What am I going to do about this? Here’s the good news: My problem child of a work project will go away on April 13th (its due date). I’m going to take a couple days of PTO that week and ask the babysitter to stay late on a couple of days so I can power through the rest of my draft. The new deadline is April 15th.

Life is good. I am on the right track with my book. I wish sometimes it was a speedier track, but it is what it is. I also have some good things that have been happening with meeting some other AWESOME writers and my Twin Cities Sisters in Crime group, I’ll share those tidbits on Friday!

Editing, Fiction, Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Process, Random

Friday Fare: Links from the around the ‘Net

FridayFare On Fridays, I post a round up of the various posts and articles that have been of interest to me during the week:

Kristi Belcamino, a fellow Minnesota author, gave a shout out to this website for creating graphics.  I’m looking forward to trying this out and integrating into my social media efforts.

Fidgeting = productivity?  The Wall Street Journal had this article regarding how “creative playtime” may spark new ideas.  The note that I made to myself after reading this was that while I didn’t necessarily agree with this idea (I don’t think that I can play with a Slinky and still type at the same time –  not that coordinated), I have found that music is important for sparking creativity.  If I feel like I’m in a slump, changing a playlist can make my mind skip in a productive direction.

And because I’ve re-discovered that my other creative outlet is cooking and because my sons and I are all getting over colds, I riffed on this chicken noodle soup recipe this week.  It was pretty damn good.

***

Listening to: As I’m writing this, I’m listening to a playlist of Alison Krauss from YouTube, starting with her duet with Robert Plant (“Killing the Blues”), wanting to listen to this song on constant repeat, and then getting some gratification that I’m not the only one who appreciates Gordon Lightfoot.

Reading:  Truthfully?  I’m reading some Highlander/time-traveling smut right now, so I’m not going to be proud about announcing my reading choice right now.  I’m working on a Dean Koontz novel, still need to finish “Skellig” (heading to Chicago and spending an unexpected extra night has thrown a lot of my life off).  Stay tuned … on Tuesday, I’m going to share a shot of my TBR (to be read) pile.

Fiction update:  My work life is ramping up again and it’s causing me a little bit of anxiety.  I have five proposals due before April 13th.  How do I balance this with my own internal deadline (pages in the hands of beta readers by April 1st?).  What I did was print out a fresh copy of my manuscript and I’m taking another run at reading and making edits as I go.  Mentally, I liken this process to my winter driving adventures during my 16th year of life, when I would have to back my Pontiac Sunbird into the field approach across the road from my parents’ farm and take the driveway at a run if I hoped to get up to the top of the drive.  I usually had about a 50% success rate.  Let’s hope that I’m more adept at driving / editing some 20 years later.

Accolades, Editing, Fiction, Process, Random

Is this microphone still on?

I’m sorry for my absence. I recently read a statistic that said that nearly x(*)-percent of blogs were abandoned within the first year of their founding and honestly – as someone who has written and contributed to a number of blogs over the past several years, I was not surprised to see that number. Blogging is a commitment. And while I’m going to grant myself some grace in regards to my blogging practice (Demanding full-time job! Two toddlers! Good fiction is going on from my fingertips!), this space is important to me.

So … haaaaaiiiiiii. Happy New Year! How are you all? What’s good that’s going on in your worlds? What is inspiring you?

My family has gotten through the first part of winter without succumbing to flu or other crud (*knock on wood / strikes head*). We had a great time with our family members over the holidays, ate too much food, drove many miles, and just had a good time seeing people we don’t get to see as often as we like to. (My parents are about 2 hours from where my family and I live; my husband’s parents are 3 hours away.)

And things are going gangbusters on the writing front:

Version three edits of Afterlife (AL) were finished before the Christmas Eve deadline that I set for myself. AL is currently resting on my brain’s back burner and will be picked up again in a week or so to start the next round of edits.

AL also received an award! Right before the New Year, I received an email from Mystery Writers of America Midwest Chapter (MWA Midwest) that the critique of AL that I submitted was one of the entries selected for the Hugh Holton Award!

_Hugh Holton
Being called a “promising writer” will never get old.

From MWA Midwest: “Hugh Holton was a Chicago mystery writer and member of MWA Midwest. He wrote eight books about Chicago Police Detective Larry Cole, all of which drew on his experiences as a Chicago cop. When he died in 2001 the mentor program was launched to remember his contribution to the writing community.”

To say that I’m honored and thrilled is an absolute understatement. (I just made my news Facebook official and I’m getting a little verklempt as the “likes” are rolling in from my friends and family, as well as the awesomely random comments I’m getting from folks. Getting. Teary.)

What’s next?

So while v3 is marinating in its own weird thought process, I’ve decided to treat myself to a little bit of a diversion. No, I’m not binge watching old episodes of Quantum Leap. (That was at the tail end of November. And yes, that did get in the way of the deadlines I had set for myself. Darn you Scott Bakula!) I’m going through and outlining a story idea that I had a few years back and have a few chapters written on.

Although AL is a marriage, I’m having a wonderful little fling with this story that I call “Summoned.” Again, I want to give AL a month’s worth of rest, so I’m doing a little bit of research on Summoned, working on an outline (I’ll talk about my crazy writing process in a future post. I always thought I was a pantser – and I am! – but man, there’s something seductive about writing an outline too.). I am aiming to be done with the outline by the time I pick AL up again.

So … life is good. Life keeps rolling on. And I keep setting deadlines. I wouldn’t want it any other way.

(*) Of course, now I can’t find that random statistic regarding how many blogs are abandoned in their first year. But if you Google “abandoned blogs,” various articles state that 95% of blogs are abandoned.

Editing, Fiction, Friday Fare, Internet Articles, Process, Random

Friday Fare: Links from the around the ‘Net

FridayFareHere is my random group of random Internet musings and links that I’ve discovered
recently and want to curate for the rest of the world:

Ha!  I knew there was a reason beyond the fact that I’m the mother of two toddlers that I wear the same thing everyday.  I’m trying to achieve simplicity!

I’m a huge Stephen King fan.  The recent articles in Rolling Stone magazine are lush with details and research. (As a bonus, the first sidebar linked to this story about King’s sons Owen King and Joe Hill.  I’ve read Joe Hill and have enjoyed his work, need to read Owen King’s debut novel.)

I only caught the tail end of the whole “Alex from Target” … phenomenon … thing?  New York Times takes a look at the flip side of achieving viral fame.  I said this in a Facebook comment – I will never understand death threats.  You hate a guy because he’s on the Interwebs.  So you make a death threat?  Seems a little irrational.

And because no Friday Fare is complete without some offering to foods that I hope to cook someday (see my note about being the mother of two toddlers above), here’s something that could make a great addition to any Thanksgiving table.

***

Listening to: I’ve been binge watching/listening to YouTube playlists.  Alan Jackson singing at George Jones’ funeral?  Old 1990s country music videos (think Reba McEntire with BIG HAIR, Vince Gill with a pseudo-mullet, and Mama Judd herself in what looks like a cross between pleather and latex.)  Why 1990s country music?  Well, this happened:

Garth Brooks. Minneapolis. Fourth Row Seats.

After seeing Garth Brooks and attending one of the best concerts of my life, I’m feeling pretty nostalgic for the music I used to hear on the radio – on the school bus, while busing dishes at my great-aunt’s diner, in my dad’s barn …

Reading:  Just finished the final book in Nora Roberts’ “Dark Witch / Cousins O’Dwyer” trilogy.  I read it in a day, so it must have been good.

Fiction update:  I’ve hit something of a wall.  After reading this blog post from Chuck Wendig, I’m taking these words to heart:  “And that, I think, is one of the things that separates the Aspiring Not-Really-Writers from the Really Real Writers — the latter group writes even when it’s hard, even when the motivation is a dry well, even when the inspiration seems like a dead or dying thing. They hook the car battery jumper cables up to the coyote’s car-struck carcass and rev the engine and make the damn thing dance yet again. Seems dead, but isn’t. Every day then is an act of revivifying your own abilities and motivations. The act of writing becomes clarifying to the act of writing. To restate the principle for the third time: momentum begets momentum.”  I work to be a Really Real Writer, even when that means I have a little voice parroting in my head: “This is shit.  These words … shit.  You are shit.  Still shitty.”  One foot in front of the other.  One word at a time.

I’ve had some incredible moments during revisions – I’m not currently experiencing that.  But I can do this.  And if I show up every day, I’ll make progress.  Progress can be revised.  Progress is the goal.  Completion is the goal.

Editing, Fiction, Process, Random

Perserverance

Dear Yoda,

It was great seeing you this past weekend. And thank you for the kind words that you wrote in your book to me.  I can’t tell you adequately what it meant to read that.

I’m struggling today. Part of it is exhaustion from the kiddos.  They are great, but between parenting and work and trying to make the needle move on the novel edits, it doesn’t leave time for much else.  And then there is the editing process itself … one foot in front of the other, all while trying to ignore the inner voice that tells me that each word that I place on the page is shit.  And while some people think that writing can be taught, they forget that I really have no mental capacity to retain the words in the writing books that I’ve read.  In the meantime, I want to read some more Craig Johnson.  When I read the first Longmire book, I felt electrified.  His voice was so unique and genuine.  How do I capture that and find my own genuine voice?  But more accurately – when the hell am I going to find time to read? 

Sorry that this has turned into a regular ol’ bitch session.  I had wanted to get some pages to you by the end of the year.  And I think that I’m almost there.  But as I keep revising, I can see a couple of spots that just need a little more love before I let this baby out into the world.  How do I deepen the relationship between my heroine and her father?  How do I transition naturally into a romantic relationship between her and Travis?  How do I amp up the tension, but keep the B-story progressing?  How do I know that this book is not shit?

I’m not going to stop.  This is what I do in my “free” time. I try to move that needle and inch closer to my dream of being a published fiction writer.  But god, sometimes it’s hard. 

Hope that the bird hunting went well and that your hunting buddies didn’t give you too much grief that you had to postpone your trip to attend your book signing.  It’s going to sound stupid when I say this, since you are old enough to be my dad – but I am so very proud of you. 

-sk

^^ An unsent letter to my mentor.  Today’s a tough day, but if writing was easy – everyone would do it.  I am getting so close, but the edits are taking longer than I anticipated and there are just a few problem spots that need time, love, and undivided attention.

I will get there.  I will persevere.  But damn, there are days that I think my spirit animal is an effing tortoise!

*~*~*~*~

OK – now that my rant is over.  Here’s what’s good:

  • My author platform is limping/wogging (walk/jog – get it?) along.  I’m aiming for a January 1, 2015, launch.  Kind of scary, but I embrace it.
  • I entered the first 20 pages of AL to a writing competition that is hosted by a state chapter of the MWA.  To be honest, I do not anticipate to win, but I basically invested $25 into a brief critique of the opening chapter of AL.  And you know what I realized through that process?  I do need to tighten up some of the exposition a little bit.  That re-read in getting those pages ready for submission provided a great moment of clarity.

That’s what’s good in the writing world.  When it comes to everything else, life is pretty damn good.  My BFF gets married this weekend.  It’s fall in Minnesota and the tree out in front of our house is a beautiful tangerine shade.  My husband and kiddos are healthy.  And there’s a lot of love in my world.