The Writing Cycle

The thing about writing, for me, is that I just love it so much. And yet… There are days when it is not easy. Difficult. Teeth-gnashingly, gut-wrenchingly hard. And I can’t imagine not doing it.

I know this makes no sense, so I made a chart to explain what I mean, using the creation of A Good Kind of Trouble as an example.

Stage 1

I was trying to fall asleep when a great idea for a title popped into my head. This was followed by the opening scene of a funny romantic mystery. Then the next scene, a chase scene. Yes! This could be a lot of fun. Then I got out of bed and started writing it down. This eventually became the first chapter of A Good Kind of Trouble, though at the time, it was titled Trust Me, I’m a Lawyer.

Great Escape Blog Tour post1 graphicStage 2

I was proudly a “pantser” when it came to writing. No plotting allowed! Let’s just see where this baby goes. I thought Ben and Lindsey’s story would be a short action-packed romantic mystery. Maybe a novella. That would be fun.

Stage 3

I was passing the 40,000-word mark and realized that I was nowhere near the end of the story. This “novella” was outgrowing its category. I was starting to become concerned, but the mystery Ben and Lindsey was unraveling was complex. The story kept surprising me with its twists. So it would be a short novel. No problem.

Stage 4

Or maybe it would be a long novel. The story had long since abandoned any idea that it could be contained in a novella. Ha! Yet more twists emerged, characters revealed unforeseen depth, and while I was still having fun uncovering all those details, I was starting to panic a little. I was at 80,000 words and I still couldn’t see the end. What if I couldn’t find a way to end this novel? Commence hyperventilating.

Stage 5

The End.

I have never been so happy to write two words in my life. At the time, they were my two favorite words among the 104,000 words that made up the book. This story had consumed me for a year and I was so happy to send it off for the first round of edits. I moved on to a new book in a different series. New characters, new dilemmas, a whole new world. Ben and Lindsey’s story, now called A Good Kind of Trouble, was behind me.

Stage 6

I was trying to fall asleep when I started thinking about Fiona Larkin, a minor character in A Good Kind of Trouble. She was interesting—a widowed single mother, and a lawyer. And what about that FBI agent, Matt Pritchard? Now that could be a minefield of conflict to navigate.

Or what about Ben’s new boss, the handsome and enigmatic Jude Fields? What kind of woman would it take to make him open up or settle down?

Oh, no. I was getting pulled back into the Twin Rivers universe.

But was that a bad thing? I mean, it was fun writing in that world. Maybe this should be a series.

And then I had a great idea for a title…

 

(Originally published at Bab’s Book Bistro)

2013 Resolution Update — How did I do?

Before I dive into drafting my 2014 Resolutions, I wanted to take a look back at 2013 and see how I did on my last year’s resolutions — or how soon I abandoned them.

To be fair to myself, I actually did quite well on my goals.

1.  Keep a monthly word-count calendar.
Done! This was not a difficult task because I love creating spreadsheets and tracking incremental progress toward a goal. Especially if there are charts involved. Man, I love charts. This year, I think I’m going to use a different type of spreadsheet. This makes my inner accountant ridiculously excited. I had a goal of writing 180,000 words in 2014 and I came fairly close to that with 156,000 words. I’ll do a separate entry dissecting what I wrote last year and what I learned from that.

2.  Finish and edit Trust Me, I’m a Lawyer
Done! It started as a novella. It ended about 120,000 words later. The the painful editing began. Seriously, this book convinced me to learn more about plotting, outlining, writing the ending first — all sorts of tactics that might have helped me rein in my out-of-control story.

3.  Finish draft of PDT
OK, this didn’t happen. I do have a full outline for it, and I’ve written about 10 chapters. I will get back to this standalone romantic suspense novel. But probably not right away. I do love the characters and the premise. Maybe I’ll add this to the 2014 to-do list.

4.  Finish You, Again
Again, this didn’t happen. Once I realized that I need to rewrite the first three chapters, I lost some steam on this. But I do know where I’m going and have a good idea how to get there. It may just take a heavy revision of the 76,000 words written.

5.  Submit something.
Done! And then, done again! I submitted a chapter to a contest, got great feedback and was invited to submit a partial manuscript. And then the rest of the manuscript. That went out on December 1, so this item can be crossed off my resolutions list.

6.  Professional development
Still not networking with other authors, except online. I still haven’t joined RWA or attended a conference. I do have an awesome critique partner and nobody listens to more writing podcasts. (Nobody! I have a long commute.) But I would like to do more in real life, not just online. This will go on the 2014 list.

7.  Write something in first-person POV
Done! Sort of! My new project is in first-person POV and I’m loving it. It’s been really fun and so far, I have received some nice comments about my voice in this WIP. It’s a little more than half-finished.

8.  Outlines for next WIPs
I have many more outlines filed away now — including a couple standalone novels, two in the Trust Me series, and one and a half in a new series of novellas. I did the outline for my first-person WIP in a spreadsheet, so you know I loved that. I had intended to write the outlines for books two and three that follow Trust Me. I have a fairly sketchy one for Jude, but I still have no idea why there’s a dead body in the first chapter of Fiona’s book. But I do have books 4 and 5 outlined.

So overall, I’m pretty happy with how well I stuck with my 2013 goals. I think doing a monthly recap helps me keep on track, so I’ll keep doing that in 2014. Next up, what do I want to do in 2014? It’s time to make that commitment.

Resolution Update — October 2013

I didn’t expect to have much to report this month and well, that just about came true. I got the manuscript back from my second beta reader, so I dove back into edits on Trust Me, I’m a Lawyer. Because of that, I didn’t write much last month.

Still, I did write 5,968 words in October, most of that in the first week before I had Trust Me back. Most of that, 4,192 words, was on a lite-paranormal romance that I think will turn into a novella. This is out of my normal area of expertise, which would be suspense and humorous romance. It’s been fun to explore a new sub-genre and develop the supernatural world where the story is set. I also wrote 234 words on the sequel to Trust Me, and 1,542 words on a contemporary novella that I started a couple months ago. I’m not sure where the novella is going, but I’m more than half done with it, so I’ll keep working on it and see what develops.

I’m at 121,661 words for the year so far, which is 68% of my goal. To make my goal of 180,000 words in 2013, I’ll need to write about 58,000 words. That sounds… crazy. But no one ever accused writers of being sane.

So after I wrote nearly 6,000 words in the first seven days of October, I took the comments from my second beta reader (Thanks, Deb!) and started working her suggestions into the manuscript. As I was finishing the revisions using the comments from my second beta reader, I realized that I was not working on the same version that I had revised with the comments from the first beta. And now… ugh. I don’t even know. I guess I need to compare them side-by-side? Blergh.

And that’s why I’ll be spending the first part of November revising, delaying my entry into NaNoWriMo. Which is fine, really. I want to finish Trust Me and get the finished manuscript out to an interested party. (I just have to add that I can’t say that without smiling, particularly because of who the interested party is. SO HAPPY!) I haven’t yet chosen a WIP to focus on in November. I have two WIPs with completed outlines, but it would be nice to jump into the sequel to Trust Me, too. And then there’s that paranormal WIP that’s been tugging at my sleeve.

At least I’ll have a little more time to mull that over, while I start my revisions again.

Happy NaNoWriMo to those participating! Good luck!

And now, to the red pen!

 

The Muse beckons

I am so close to finishing the revisions on Trust Me, I’m a Lawyer. I am up to Chapter 22 and have about 120 pages left. Thank goodness for beta readers who can catch everything from typos to plot holes. Now I need to decide whether to combine two scenes into one, which I hope will tighten up the middle, and I need to rewrite the last chapter to wrap up some loose ends.

While my Inner Editor is trying to focus, my Muse is already starting to look ahead. Yes, I do hear both of their voices, like a pair of bickering sisters. In the last week, the Editor has been winning. I’ve been really productive, getting through large chunks of the book in each sitting. But the Muse, she tugs at my sleeve and points out all sorts of new shiny ideas.

Look at the calendar, she says. It’s almost November and you know what that means — National Novel Writing Month is almost here!

Yeah, Muse, I know. I’ve attempted NaNoWriMo many times in the past. But right now, I have a finished novel that needs to be revised, polished and sent off by November 11. That’s going to cut into my drafting time for NaNoWriMo.

Ah, but remember that excellent character I gave you? the Muse reminds me. The impetuous one? With good intentions, but a bad track record? She’s going to be so much fun to write. You don’t want to put that off.

Well, I may not want to, but I have to. I have these other characters that you gave me and I’d like to get their story published.

Yes, but how about this? *Hands me a fortune cookie.*

Mischevious

You’re good, Muse, very good.

I am, aren’t I?

Fine, one hour. Then I’m going back to revisions. Then you’ll leave me alone until I finish this project?

Oh, yes. I promise. I won’t bother you unless the next idea is really good and perfect for you…

Resolution Update — September 2013

I didn’t expect that September would be a very good month for writing. I had a two week vacation planned, which meant I would be away from my keyboard during that time. Plus, the first half of the month was busy at work because I was preparing to be away. Yet, I managed to exceed my goal for the month and was struck by inspiration while away so I have ideas for three more books. Yay!

First, the stats.Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 10.12.44 PM

My goal for September was 14,795 words. I wrote 20,847 words. That brought me up to 115,693 words for the year. My daily average was 695 words per day, but that’s a little misleading because I only wrote 14 days in September. So that’s actually *looks for calculator* an average of 1,489 words every day that I wrote. My best day writing was 3,600 words and my lowest daily word-count was 183. I’m now at 64 percent of my yearly goal of 180,000 words.

I focused on two projects last month — one was a first-person POV mystery/thriller (14,392 words) and the other was a novella idea (6,455 words) that struck suddenly and out of the blue and I’m not sure how to describe it. A lite paranormal romance? Sure, that works. I think it’s going to be a novella, but we’ll see.

I also received comments from a beta reader on Trust Me, I’m a Lawyer and should get the other beta reader’s comments in the next couple of weeks. Then I’m looking forward to reviewing their suggestions and reworking that manuscript in October.

Until I get to dive back into Ben and Lindsey’s story, I’m going to continue writing on the two unnamed projects as inspiration hits. My goal for October is to write 15,288 words and to write daily, even if it’s just a few words. I’d also like to make my plans for NaNoWriMo. I have two WIPs that are fully outlined, including the first-person project I wrote on this month, and I think I may use one of them for November. Or maybe I’ll take one of the ideas that hit me while on vacation and just run with it.

Plotter? Or Pantser?

That is the question for writers, isn’t it?

Now that I’ve finished a manuscript and made a couple editing passes, I can definitely say that I’ve learned a lot about my writing process. I didn’t have an outline for Trust Me, I’m a Lawyer. At times, I wasn’t sure how I was going to end it. That’s probably why it came in at 20,000 words over my estimated, or desired, length.

At one point, I remember writing a scene and thinking, “Whoa. They’re having an affair? I did not see that coming!” It was fun! It was exciting!

It was a pain in the ass to edit.

Once I had something written, it felt like it was carved in granite and it was very difficult to make huge changes. While I was writing, I would tell myself to just write. Fix it in editing. You can’t edit a blank page. That’s all true, but I didn’t anticipate how difficult it would be to take chapters out to fix big, structural issues with your book.

So maybe I’m not a seat-of-my-pants writer after all. Maybe I need an outline to follow. At least a road map. Or some guideposts. At least a compass.

I had an idea for another book and, as is my usual process, I wrote the first scene that came to me. But then I started asking questions about the ending. With Trust Me, I had a problem finishing it because I didn’t know where I was going. I was determined to at least have an ending in mind this time, so I’d know my destination.

I sketched out a rough outline of a few scenes I could see being between the chapter I’d written and the ending I had in mind. And then I filled in a few more scenes because I needed to know how my California-based heroine ended up in Macau. And then a few more scenes here and there to explain the jump to Belize. And then I sat back and realized I had an outline.

Huh. Maybe I’m a plotter after all.

After sending Trust Me off to my beta readers, I had some time to look at the new project again. I was a little concerned that since I’d told the story, in bullet-point list at least, I would lose the fire for it. I hadn’t. In fact, having a few sentences from my outline that set out what each chapter needed to accomplish was an excellent way to get started writing.

This week, I wrote 10,000 words on that project. Knowing where I was going really helped me. It was still fun to write and I learned surprising things about my characters and my story as I wrote the scenes.

Who knows if this is always going to be the way I work best. For this project, at least, I am firmly in the plotters’ camp.

Resolution Update — August 2013

I was a busy, busy writer in August. Just not, uh, writing all that much. I did keep a word count because there were some bursts of inspiration for new works and scenes for existing WIPs. But if I were counting the words I edited out of Trust Me, I’m a Lawyer, it would have been a negative total for the month.*

OK, so there was some production of words. Only 3,120 words, but some of them were big. I wrote 396 words on a project that I think will become a novella. It’s the project I did an outline for last month and after coming back to it after a couple weeks away, I still like it and think it’s going to work. Then I had another out-of-the-clear blue idea hit me while driving to pick up the Chinese take-out last week. I ended up writing the scene on the back of a piece of junk mail in the restaurant lobby before the idea faded. That turned into a 2,724- word, uh, outline? No, that’s not it. A couple scene descriptions, some background on characters, a little bit of plot. Let’s just call it word soup. I think it may eventually turn into something interesting, but it needs to cook a while longer.

In addition to the writing, I gave Trust Me a thorough edit, then printed a copy and mailed it to my critique partner, who is acting as beta reader. I also polished the first 50-pages of Trust Me and sent it in to a publisher who expressed interest.

I’m eager to work on the next project, but I’m still unsure what that’s going to be. In part because I know I’m not nearly done with Trust Me yet. After my critique partner gives me her thoughts and suggestions, I’ll be reworking the manuscript again. And who knows? Maybe an agent or editor will have ideas for revisions, too.

So while I wait for feedback on that project, what should I work on? The sequel to Trust Me? The stand-alone romantic suspense/crime novel that is completely outlined? The other stand-alone romantic suspense/crime novel that’s about 75-percent finished? The new novella project? So many choices… Such a short attention span.

*And yes, technically, August isn’t quite over yet. But I have a family event to travel to and doubt I’ll get any more words written. Inspiration from my wacky relatives? Yes, plenty. But writing? Probably not.

Gone Fishin’

Gone Fishing 024It’s been a while since I’ve been here and I really can’t blame it all on the Temporary Bunny and other house guests. I’ve been writing some, but editing a lot more. I have thoughts about plotting vs. pantsing now that I’m editing a work that I wrote without a plan. I’ll write more on that later.

But I didn’t want to completely neglect this site, so here’s a photo from the attic archives. I’ll be back in a week or so after I get a partial ready to submit. And meet up with a friend for dinner on the river, attend an 80th birthday party, and go to a baseball game. In other words, enjoying the summer.

Have a wonderful week. Ciao!

Resolution Update — July 2013

This was a really good month for me. Probably the best writing month ever. Not only did I surpass my monthly word-count goal, but I also accomplished one of my 2013 goals – I finished a manuscript. I have a finished manuscript of Trust Me, I’m A Lawyer.

2.  Finish and edit TMIAL
This is the project formerly known as the novella. My intermediate deadline for this resolution is Feb. 14 — because Valentine’s Day seems like a good a day as any to finish writing a romantic story.

It’s certainly not Valentine’s Day, but it’s done. Finishing a manuscript was also one of my unfinished 2012 goals. And 2011, if I had been tracking my goals back then.

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 3.18.56 PMI wrote a book.

Sometimes I have to just write that out and let it sink in for a few minutes because I am so damn pleased with myself.

OK, back to the resolutions. I have gone through Trust Me with my purple pen and am making those changes in the electronic version now. It will go out to my critique partner next week for her review and I’ll focus on writing a synopsis and blurb.

Screen Shot 2013-08-02 at 3.18.39 PMI finished Trust Me on July 15 and then spent the last two weeks editing. But I did manage to write 17,152 words this month, which was more than my goal of 15,288 words. I’m now at 51 percent of my yearly goal, with 91,726 words written this year.

Most of my work this month was on Trust Me, with 9,192 words on that project. I wrote some notes on a sequel which amounted to another 576 words. And I had an idea that hit me in the middle of the night (again) and jotted down some scenes and a sketchy sort of outline for a new project, for another 7,384 words.

I’ll probably write more at length about the editing process later, but in short, it’s been challenging and I think I may have converted from a pantser to an outliner because making large changes to structure is much harder than I anticipated. I will again recommend Scrivener for making it easier to move scenes and chapters around, though.

So, to recap:  1) I wrote a book, and 2) there’s more work to do, but I wrote a book.