Thick Skins

I have been blessed by having friends with very differing tastes in books. Some of them love romance novels and some don’t. I’ve had friends with both outlooks beta-read my works, and all their feedback has been helpful on my path.

The ones who read romance have a wealth of knowledge about the genre. The ones who don’t give me useful insight into writing style and world building–and honestly have helped to toughen my skin. Their feedback has taught me to divorce myself from what others think of the work and what I think of it, to be okay with not everyone liking what I write (I hope hope hope that shielding stands up to my first public reviews!).

As writers, we’re putting ourselves out there. Our works are going to be judged, discussed, liked and disliked. Even negative reviews can hold insight into how to improve my writing–and help me understand which readers are the best match for my works. At the least, any review shows that someone read the work and felt strongly enough about it to take the time to post a review!

I am very well acquainted with how often things change when involved in creative pursuits. After Wandering Soul is published, I’m going to re-read this blog post. And probably laugh. A lot.

I’ll let you know how it goes!

It’s Alive… ALIVE!!! (on Amazon)

I just found out that Wandering Soul is already available for pre-order on Amazon.com! I am ridiculously excited by this and have been scrambling to get my author page set up while telling everyone I know (and some people I don’t) about it!!!

The timing couldn’t have been better—I had already taken the day off and was planning to use at least part of it to set up my writing studio, but that can wait till after I’m done running around and squeeing.

It’ll be a while!

Adaptation

I love Oxford commas. I really do. On the printed page, they help my brain process the words I’m reading. In official correspondence, they help to make my meaning absolutely clear.

In an ebook? They can really slow things down.

That doesn’t mean I can just skip the commas and hope for the best. It means there’s an extra level of challenge. My writing needs to adapt from the academic grammar I learned in school to fit the new media used to communicate stories today. I have to be sure that my meaning remains clear while crafting stories that will read well both on the printed page and the digital.

Maybe someday writers will be blogging about adapting their stories to the new holo-novel formatting (how cool would that be?). In the end, it’s all about providing a satisfying and fun experience for the reader. I’ll do my best!

The Best Laid Plans

It’s always fun to go back through my blog posts and see how I thought I had things all figured out. “This is how I’m going to edit from now on!” “I’m going to finish this project next, no matter what!

The truth is life is in constant flux. And if you’re pursuing a creative career, you can expect even more changes than average. That’s one of the reasons it’s so important to be able to adapt.

If you’re too attached to a particular storyline or plot element, it can hold you back from seeing another path that could make your story even better. If you’re too committed to finishing a particular book, you might miss an opportunity for a story that’s already finished.

Our stories, our writing careers, our lives, will always hold uncertainty and change. Accepting that–and being okay with altering our plans–is a useful skill on the path to happiness.

First Drafts

I just finished the first draft of another full-length novel. Toward the end, I could see that I wasn’t going to make my projected word count. It wasn’t that any particular chapter was too short. Most of the chapters came in right about where I would expect—a good sign that the book is balanced and the pacing is where I want it. They’re all just a little light (it’s about 5k short at 72,000).

Toward the end of the piece, I read an article. A particularly ill-timed article about first drafts. It extolled the virtues of cutting down a first draft to make the piece stronger. I went back to the page nervous, watching the words not add up to my initial goal of 77 or even 80k—where I expect the finished novel to land.

It psyched me out. As I wrote, it lingered in the back of my mind, distracting me, pulling me out of the story. Not good for the process. Pushing the book aside to deal with it, I thought over how I write from nascent idea through finished product and compared it to the process the author of the article described. I recognized a vital difference.

The author is a pantser—someone who comes up with the story at the page as they’re writing. I am an outliner.  Not just an outliner, an OUTLINER. I pore over my stories for weeks before I sit down to write, making calendars of events, tracking where characters were leading up to the first moment of the story, thinking out all their back-story, doing the freaking math, for crying out loud, to make sure my pacing stays right. on. target.

Do my characters or plots still surprise me? All the time! Both while outlining and at the page. But with all this background work, those ecstatic moments of realization don’t derail the story—they enrich it.

When I sit down to write, I expand on my outline, getting down dialogue, key setting elements, actions, and the big overarching thoughts and emotions driving everyone in each scene. I don’t go into detail. I don’t spend words on description. That comes in the first edit. The result? My first drafts come in light. The first edit pads them, and then the second edit cuts them down.

I lost valuable time thinking that I was doing things wrong because I was comparing myself to someone else. I think that’s a trap writers often fall into. How do we best get these ideas out of us and into the world? We look for ideas from fellow writers, and that’s good. I’ve learned so much from others. But in the end, it’s how I synthesize all that knowledge and put it into creative practice that makes me the unique writer that I am.

What about you writers out there? Are you pantsers or outliners? Do you live for those moments of epiphany that strike your story ideas like lightning? I’d love to hear about it in the comments.