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In November I had good intentions to get writing but they were derailed when my day job got a little crazy. I am now back on track and looking forward to a productive year. To assist me I’ve engaged a writing coach. What is a writing coach you ask?
To me it is someone who assists / mentors a writer by helping them move forward, provide an objective perspective on all things and guides them thru the process with encouragement along the way. They help with setting goals; deadlines; overcoming obstacles (I.e. bogged down in the process, reached a point where you don’t know where to go next, etc.); and whatever the writer may need to help them move forward and be the best writer they can.
My overall goal is to have my coach help me determine a workable schedule and set attainable goals while they guide me thru the process of developing a clear and compelling plot, help me determine a tone, style, and voice based on my intended audience. I want to finish with a coherent and captivating final piece of literature that I am proud to publish and share.
I envision the process will take me from my initial partial draft (which I’ve just sent – OMG – a slight panic attack after I hit send), various drafts (I expect a few) to the editorial process (editing, copyediting, and proofreading) and finally the end goal being a product that I can publish with a sense of accomplishment and pride.
As I finished writing this blog, I realized a few things:
1. The first person who will read what I have written is a successful multi-published author.
2. I wonder what I was thinking when I hit send.
3. I am optimistic and hopeful that my submission will not be completely marred with red ink.
4. At this moment in time, my dream of being a published author has transition into becoming a reality.
Wow. Now all I have to do is wait on the feedback – which is equal parts scary and exciting.
Next. . . Feedback – Where do I go from here?
Writing Challenges – Frame of Mind
In my day job, I spend a good portion of my day writing. It’s a challenge at times to switch hats from legalese and technical writing to non-fiction. Part of the challenge is that I am familiar with writing about what I know. Whether it be an opinion piece stepped in research, advice or a guide on how to perform some function. It’s tethered in the here and now and grounded in known facts.
When I switch to my night job of writing non-fiction the framework in which I write changes drastically. I sometimes struggle with those new parameters because they are so different. The purpose and form have changed and the expectation is vastly disparate.
There is so much to learn and assimilate. A lot of the terminology is new and there are acronyms being used that I don’t recognize. As well as familiarizing myself with style guides that I haven’t opened in a few decades. Then, I learned to my horror that two spaces is no longer the standard after a period. I missed the memo on that one, so much so that I have to search and replace to remove them.
When I sit down to write sometimes the story flows onto the page and then I struggle with the structure and form. Other times the structure flows, but the story lags behind. Regardless of the struggle, I just have to write and forget about whether it is right or wrong and get the story down on the page. The writing and form doesn’t have to be perfect, it just needs to be. So I write.
Help is Out There – Writing Resources
I am always looking for new resources to assist me. There are some great ones out there and several I have tapped into via Facebook. The Writer’s Circle is one of my favourites. They have interesting posts and great links to other material.
One recent post lead me to the The Write at Home blog which has a great Resource Library for grammar, idioms, punctuation etc. Another favourite of mine on Facebook is author Jami Gold. Jami has a great website http://jamigold.com/blog/. There is a wealth of information on her site covering everything from worksheets to publishing.
Another fantastic resource is K.M. Weiland’s website http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com. There is an awesome story structure database that contains different genres pulled from books and movies – something for everyone. If that isn’t enough, there are great downloads and a series of podcasts (300+) on various topics to tempt you.
All you have to do is a quick search on the internet and there is information at your fingertips. It’s not like the old days when you had to trek down to the local library and search the card catalogue looking for reference materials. Those days are long gone and now you can search those catalogues from the comfort of your own home to see if there is anything of interest. You can then reserve your book online and go pick it up or if you luck out, download it as an eBook.
The key is to find what speaks to you and ignore the rest. Also, don’t get lost in the net. There is so much information out there that you can spend more time researching and reading about writing than actually writing.
Procrastination vs. Choices
I’ve not been as fruitful as I would like to have been the last few months. All of my good intentions out the window. Life has a way of getting away from us and sometimes we let it happen.
A post on Facebook by a fellow writer the other day caught me out and stuck with me.
“there’s really no such thing as procrastination, just choices…it’s all down to choices I make. Sometimes every hour or every minute.”
She is right. It comes down to choices. Looking back over the last few months, I’m not happy with the choices I’ve made. I let myself get into a slump and didn’t drag myself out of it until now. Regardless of what was going on around me, I got in a rut and now it’s time to get out of it.
Life only passes you by if you let it and I did. I got lazy over the summer thinking I’ll do it tomorrow but ‘something’ always came up – choices and I didn’t make the best ones.
Well it’s time to get my groove back. Part of that is to get myself a writing coach. It is time to get someone to mentor me and motivate me in my writing. I’m so use to ‘deadlines’ in my day job that I let the lack in my writing get the best of me.
I’m at a point in my writing where I need helpful feedback. Am I on the right track? Where am I weak? What needs improvement? What’s good? What’s bad? What can I do better?
All questions swirling around in my head. I need guidance. It’s scary reaching out to someone – asking for help. Letting them analyze what I have written. I know it needs improvement and a lot of work to become a finished product that is as flawless as it can be. It’s still hard to take that next step even knowing it needs work. I guess I had to find someone that I think I can trust with my work. Someone who I believe will have my best interests at heart while being honest but no cruel.
I feel like the child who passes a scribbled picture to their parent with bated anticipation of their comments. As the parent looks down at the picture, thinking to himself or herself it looks like…then looking to their child and commenting on what they do see – the beautiful colors hoping for a clue to bring the scribbles together. “See mommy I made your dress blue. Do you like it?” With that clue the scribbles form into something more.
That’s where I am at. Presenting my scribbles with anticipation hoping that they show what I want and that they form the story I was hoping to convey and not just scribbles on a page.
Spring Cleaning – Setting Goals
I’m doing some spring cleaning on the writing front. I’ve looked at where I am at and where I am going and am revisiting my goals for the year. Spring to me is about renewal and that is where I am at.
If you’ve been on my blog before, the first difference is I’ve changed my header. I’m a visual person and although I liked my previous header I wasn’t in love with it and it didn’t reflect where I am at right now. I like the new look. It’s clean-looking, the colors are subtle but it’s still distinctive.
On the actual writing side of the business, I am two-thirds of the way through my first book draft. There have a lot of revisions as I’ve made some changes and corrected some missteps. For me, writing is an iterative process. The more I learn, the more I try to apply.
Translation: The first book will take the longest but it will pay-off on the second and third.
Once I get the first draft to an editor, I suspect the hardest part will occur. Rewrites, fixing plot and story arc. Accepting the critique of my work and applying it. That has been my biggest roadblock. I know once I finish the draft it has to be sent out, so I have been a creative procrastinator the last few months.
Part of my spring cleaning exercise is to mentally get over the fear, just do it and move on. So in setting my new goals, I am going to set some timelines for myself. One of those goals is to be more proactive on my blog and put up a post once a week. It may only be a paragraph or two but I am committing to writing something once a week, even if it’s just to say its been an interesting week.
So my first two goals are:
1. Finish the book one.
2. Post once a week.
See you next week.
Foray into Self-publishing
I have dipped my toes into the water and I like it.
At heart, I am doer who likes to learn things hands-on. So I decided to start small with a collection of poetry I had composed thirty years ago in my teens that I stumbled across during a fall cleaning. It was a pleasant surprise to find my compositions were well done – remember I was teen when I wrote them. After pondering for a bit, I figured why not. Nothing ventured nothing gained.
It gave me the opportunity to learn the basics of Scrivener. From setting up my template to formatting and then exporting to epub format. The next step was registering for the dreaded ISBN. It wasn’t as difficult as I had thought and the staff at Library and Archives Canada were very helpful. Then I had to compose a unique but relevant title and finally, design a book cover (see below) to compliment the collection.
After a few missteps, I had created an epub file that worked. In the end, this was the easy part. The hard part was actually publishing what I had created – putting it out in the public domain.
The next step was where to publish it. There are many options depending on what you want. For the newbies, me being one of them it can be a bit overwhelming. As well, you receive a lot of advice and feedback from others that can compound the conundrum. A good friend and fellow writer mentioned Draft2Digital, which I had not heard of. I checked out D2D’s website and was intrigued. Creating an account gave me an opportunity to look around some more.
Wow, what a great experience it was. The site is fresh, clean looking and has user-friendly instructions. The whole process was quite easy. I owe my friend a bottle of wine for that genius. D2D even gave me the option of downloading a mobi file. This worked out great, as I was able to upload it to Amazon.
My first experience in self-publishing went well. It makes me much more confident that when I go to publish my first novella I will have worked out most the kinks.
To close, a great big thanks to all the wonderful ladies in my local association who constantly share their expertise and experience with the group at large. Those tidbits and tips helped a lot.
Amazon.ca / Amazon.com / Kobo / Barnes & Noble / iBooks / Scribd / Tolino
Plotter, Pantser or Snowflake
It has been an interesting journey so far. I tried to be a plotter and outline everything. I really did. I would get so far and then feel myself being drained and losing interest. Then I tried to just let it all go and be a pantser but then I drifted and was all over the place. I was getting frustrated trying to find my groove. Where did I fit?
Then I came across this great book “How to Write a Novel Using the Snowflake Method” by Randy Ingermanson. Wow! I finally found a process that spoke to me. I really enjoyed this book. I loved how he explained the process by telling it in a story. Goldilocks, the bears, a wolf and a pig. It sounds hokey but for me it worked and kept me engaged. I could see the process in my mind as the book progressed.
I found it a nice balance between plotting and being a pantser. The interesting part for me is that he used a snowflake fractal as an example of how the process works. The best non-mathematical explanation I have come up with for explaining a fractal is simply “repeating a simple process over and over in an ongoing loop”. You can find out more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal
This intrigued me as I stumbled across fractals several years ago in a display of yearly calendars. I bought the calendar because I really loved the pictures and have been fascinated by fractals ever since. The pictures below are all different representations of fractals. I just find them really interesting to look at.
My interpretation of the method in the book is similar to the repeating process. Building on what you already have and expanding it as you move forward. It’s what is working for me – at least for now. As the pictures depict, the process can create some incredible visuals, I hope for the same results in my writing.
Fall is in the air
The hours of daylight are getting shorter and the wind is getting brisker. Even with the sun shining brightly the wind whips through you. It is time to hunker down and start hitting the keys.
It’s been a busy end to summer. School is back in, extracurricular activities for the kids are starting and scheduling is becoming an art form. It’s going to be a very busy year.
And now, finding the time to write and to relax is a nocturnal activity in itself. I’ve revisited the story I’ve been fretting away at these last months. It’s not going into the scrap heap but it’s going to get a major renovation.
I learned a lot this summer. Attending the RWA conference was a boon. Between sessions I attend and audio recordings I’ve listened to since, I’ve realized that there is much more to do.
One of the more informative sessions I attended was on world building. I took a lot away from this session. Listening to the panel discuss where they’ve been and what they would do the next time was extremely helpful. It was encouraging to learn the missteps they’ve made even with all their experience – there is hope for me. Whether it was discussing a bold new world based on fantasy or one based in a contemporary setting, there were still many things to consider.
For those built on fantasy, the rules you create for your world are the rules that restrained the progression of your story. They dictate what can and cannot happen and if you’re doing a series they will come back to haunt you.
For contemporary settings they can limit the number and way in which the characters interact and your ability to introduce new ones in a series. For example, an island only has so much room and limits ways for people to be drawn to that particular place.
The fantasy world whether it be earth-bound or in the stars, I took away, was easier if it was outlined. The panel talked about having a reference guide to their world where they logged the rules for ease of reference. That it was much easier to keep running notes as the story developed then having to go back at the end and pull the information out. They related that often the first few chapters were redone, to allow for more flexibility when a series was being contemplated. They were also quick to point out that fans remember everything, so you better get it right.
Which brings me back to my story. As I said I’m not scrapping it, I still hunger to write it, but I now know that I have to put a bit more effort into fleshing out my world and tagging those things that will limit where the story can go from its end if I want a series.
So back to the drawing board, to fill in those nooks and crannies. Make some decisions on where else I might want to go before my travel itinerary is unchangeable and my course is set.
It’s time to build my world. May you find your HEA between the pages.