Lessons from My Reading

M. K. Theodoratus, Fantasy Writer, blogs about the books she reads--mostly fantasy and mystery authors whose books catch her eye and keep her interest. Nothing so formal as a book review, just chats about what she liked. Theodoratus also mutters about her own writing progress or ... lack of it.

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Time Management: Do You Dream of Squeezing More Words Out of Your Computer Time?

Time management. What a wonderful concept! Everyone would love to write a publishable novel in a month of sitting. Most people take longer. Some because they hop around from one web site to another. Others because they are just plain slooow. Actually thousands of reasons keep writers from pounding out as many words as they want each day. Probably as many reasons as there are writers.

But really. Do you dream of squeezing the most production out of your time on the computer? I don't. I accept I'm a snail writer ... It seems I spend hours staring at my computer screen with little production to show for it because I'm always going back to correct or add things to what I've written before. [Yeah, I know about getting the ending on your story and then revising. But it doesn't work for me. It's too much work trying to find all the pieces ... and I might not even find them all.]

Got so annoyed at my feeble writing results, I did a time analysis to answer just what I was doing. What were the culprits slowing down my word production?

The easy target is social media. At least I read a lot of other writers and authors complaining about procrastination interfering with their writing. For me, it's LinkedIn that's both one of the most useful and the most time-consuming networking site I visit. ... every day. I made the mistake of keeping the little green check in the "I want the comments emailed" box. It was taking me a half hour to delete them all and I just joined a few writer groups.

Most writers I know personally complain about wasting time of Twitter the most. Alan Kealey at  Indie Author News offers some solutions: Twitter Tips for Authors. He offers some valuable suggestions on getting the most out of your Twitter time. -- Kealey reinforced one thing I've been moving towards -- not doing the "buy my book bit" over and over again. You turn people off, he says.

[Of course, I'd love it if you did buy my books, but ... you don't want to hear another writer begging.] My decision is to promote my two Facebook fan pages, one for the Far Isle Half-Elven and the other's my author page. ... Of course, there are my two websites too. ... And my blog. By the time I retweet and follow on Twitter my social media time is up. ... Oh. I forgot I gotta blog too. -- Did someone say a writer's work is never done?

Then, there are the promo sites that you join and don't do anything with. Goodreads is probably the one I should spend more time on, but I really haven't figured it out. ... More important. I run out of social media time before I get there.  --  The sneaky writing elf behind my ear says: "You don't want to spend the time to figure it out."

So ... you're still here reading this long post? Well, check the time. Chances are you've already spent more time visiting social media sites than you have time for. Yeah. The best way to get the most word production from your time at the computer is write first and play later. It's called setting priorities.

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Just wanted to let you know I did get something done during my winter doldrums. The Pig Wars has been sent to an e-publisher to be rejected. -- No. I don't have an optimistic bone in my body. The same goes for all the agents I'm querying Bad Luck Emma to. [You can read an excerpt of Emma at my author blog.]
 

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Polishing Apples, or Is That Revision? Does Revising Your Manuscript Paralize You?


How do you write? Make a mad dash to the "end" and then revise? Or, do you revise as you write? I'll confess I revise as I write, especially at the beginning when I'm still figuring out my characters. One thing's for sure though. No matter how or when you revise, revision is the key to good writing.

Everyone has their own way of keeping track of how they revise. Every writer should know their weak points ... better than anyone else, including your editor. One fault-finding list I found helpful was a guest post at Pen & Muse by Dahlia Adler. Her check list will help you get the most out of your critiques. Maybe even help you clean up your manuscript so your critiques are more gentle.

Brownie points with Glitter go to the people over at Operation Awesome. They published a guest blog by Gennifer Albin on how she revises. Why the glitter? She mentioned a technique I had never heard before. Using  the text to speech function on Word. Now I have to get up the gumption to try it. -- [I'm scrunching up thinking about sitting at the stupid computer longer.]

I can't wait to get my other desk cleared off so I can start working through the above with an actual manuscript in front of me. Probably one of the shorts festering in my computer.

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Progress? Well, yeah ... sort of. Did get another chapter finished on Hag Stone Magic ... but then realized I had to go back and revise to make Mac more wary and aware of her surroundings. She's not a paralyzed scaredy-cat... Will probably wait until my critique group tears apart my draft though so I can go back and revise all the pieces all at once.

Then, The Pig Wars are still being fought. Not wrestling too much with the revisions though. Have decided to send the novella out to some e-publishers to reject before I self-publish. Then, Troublesome Neighbors will be free.

You can get Troublesome Neighbors for free now if you are willing to read a PDF file ... and hopefully give me a review on Amazon, B&N, and/or Goodreads. All you have to do is send a request to mkkaytheod[at]yahoo[dot]com.

Oh, I'm working hard on getting an author website up. The copy is about half done ... but I haven't quite decided on the template yet. Found one I liked ... but it's way too dark and can't be lightened.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Things a Writer Needs to Do for the New Year

It's the New Year ... at least in the Europoean calendar.  Time for all good writers to organize for a more productive year. Me? So far, I've organized my day into three parts -- AM: drafting new MG novel, Afternoon: goofing off, errands, and social media, and Evenings: revising The Pig Wars, the sequel to Troublesome Neighbors. -- This is all well and good ... but there are all the other loose marbles rolling around in your mind while you try to write.

The pattern above is a refinement on what I tried to do last year. After one week, it's sort of working. Do have a new chapter of Hag Stone Magic drafted ... as well as doing tons of research on comics and something else I can't remember at the moment.

Am using an on-line Thesaurus I like a lot. I put it up as soon as I connect to my manuscript and character files. Try the link and see what you think. I find it helpful in finding strong verbs at the beginning rather than when I do print edits... plus I think just looking at the possibilities helps me become aware of better alternative words than what usually pops into my mind.

Then, there's all that other nitty-gritty a writer needs to know why building their craft skills. Perhaps the most heart-wrenching for many is accepting rejection. I feel for those who are paralyzed by the fact someone else might think they aren't any good. Anyway, was lucky enough to fall over a couple blogs on the subject.

Kevin Hanrahan blogged about his soaring enthusiam  after a writer's conference ... and the let down when the agents ended up rejecting him: What Do You Do When Rejected by Literary Agents? Most writers suffer from agent rejection. Yeah, you need a plan for what you do when you slapped up the side of the head.

Over at Chiseled in Rock,  Janet Fogg discusses how she handles rejection angst and how you might feel better using her ten coping skills. Fogg sets a great example on grieving for ten minutes and then carrying on. It's a sensible, but gentle pep talk worth the time to click.

Then, there's me. I expected to get rejected and wonder what's taking the agents so long in sending me the dreaded "it's not quite for me" letter. I consider agents salespeople. Knowledgeable salespeople, but salespeople, not the less. They earn their keep by selling so they have to meet the market's needs. In publishing, this is further constricted by their contacts in the publishing houses. 

When I look at that daunting hurtle in the concentrated publishing world, I just know I'm not going to fit in. I've never fit in. I can't see why I should suddenly fit in at this stage of my life. But I'll continue writing because it amuses me. Every once in awhile, I get the impulse to share ... which is why I self-publish.

You say I'm all wet. I don't understand the fear of rejection you feel. Writing buddy Margo Berendson has a blog on overcoming stumbling blocks ... of all kinds. Best of all, she all for dumping useless resolutions. Go on. Take a look.

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Got a whole two chapters done on Hag Stone Magic. For a snail writer [no 1,000 word days for me], that means I'm meeting my target: a chapter a week. Since I'm writing middle grade at the moment, that means about 1500 words plus light revision.

The Pig Wars continues to be revised ........s l o w l y. Seems I'm tired after dinner ... even if I sleep through the news. [So, the gerrymandered GOP is unresonable. What's new?]  --  Hey, I'm going to need a couple beta readers soon.  But, I'm not quite going to pat myself on the back yet.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Does Your Story Arc Bore Your Readers?

How many times have you read a book whose middle crawls into a bog? Or worse, disintegrates in the middle? I just happened to stop reading a structurally sound romance that bogged down in the middle with predictable action. The book landed on my trade pile, half unread. 

Oh, the author had craft skills aplenty as well as several books published by major publishers. She even built three major conflicts built into her plot line so the book wasn't a straight romance -- boy meets girl -- girl loses boy -- both decide they can't live without each other. Problem? The solutions and characters she introduced to carry the action forward were cliches I read hundreds of times. I gave up when the MC family appeared on the scene. -- My life is too short to read the same deal again.

So ... if it's easy to lose your momentum in the middle of one book ... 
what are your chances with a trilogy? 

Part of my vacation break involved cleaning and organizing two shelves of my keeper accumulation. Two boxes of books went.

What did I keep? Favorite series by favorite authors got kept. Odd books that I shelved mostly got traded as did lessor work by authors. Kept my A. L. Merritts, though even if the writing and attitudes are as old fashioned as Edgar Rice Burroughs. -- Decided to trade the Great White Nobleman turned ape when I found a couple books leftover from previous cleanings. The Barsoom novels are long gone.

Then, I discovered Nora Roberts' The Sign of Seven Trilogy misshelved in the "Ls".  Now I consider Roberts a romance writer. So, I was I surprised I'd even kept the series about three blood-brothers fighting an ancient evil plaguing a small southern town. Each book in the trilogy centers on the romance of each friend and the woman who enter his life to help efeat the evil manifestation. 

While there's backstory and flashbacks aplenty -- on how three friends release the evil when they become blood brothers, the history of the conflict through time, and previous visitations of the evil on the town -- the past doesn't slow the present-day story down. A remarkable achievement in itself. The books deserve study for this point alone.

The trilogy doesn't suffer from middle-of-the-book sag either. The second romance is as intriguing as the first ... and the third. How? When there's an obvious "happily-ever-after" lurking at the end of the trilogy? Well, it comes from the pairs being very different from each other in their wants and needs ... and skills. These are all three dimensional characters who know what they want and have quirks enough to send them in different directions than you might expect. And will get what they want ... if the evil doesn't get them first. 

Both the evil entity trying to destroy the heroes and the clash of personalities among the would-be lovers give the books plenty of conflict, but Roberts adds conflicts with secondary characters as well. 

I'm not going to mathematically check it, but I think I detected a neat little three-part formula Roberts uses. She sets up the conflict/attack -- gives us the the attack or fight -- then, lets her characters relax and absorb what they learned. Sometimes, this is three chapters ... sometimes only one.

Rating: Must give the triology --  Blood Brothers, The Hollow, and The Pagan Stone -- five stars. Hey, I'm keeping them to read again.

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Surprised myself. I putzed through the holidays adding bits and pieces to Hag Stone Magic. The surprise? I had a title I liked. ... At the moment the draft's tedious writing because I'm naming characters and building back story. Yeah, I'm a seat of pantzer.

Celebrating Authors has posted an excerpt of Troublesome Neighbors on their blog. Why not click over there an take a look ... and visit some of the other authors too. Below is my Tweet about it ... in case you'd be kind enough to re-tweet and maybe mention on Facebook.


Who saves who? Renna or her pet pig? #read #free sample Troublesome 
Neighbors - @CelebratingAuthors: bit.ly/YODtCJ #fantasy


Last but not least:
Have a wonderful year, guys.