People are very curious about the length of time I spend writing a story. How many words? How long does it take to write something like that? Do you write eight hours a day? Do you write on weekends? In fact, “how long does it take to write a romance novel” is one of the top search terms that bring people to this blog.

It still surprises me, because after years of writing, I can’t give an easy answer to this question, and I’m amazed that people think there’s some schedule-of-events that if followed will produce a work of art. It is art, people. It’s creation. (I’ve never attempted to write a novel other than a romance novel, so I don’t know…but I imagine these questions are universal across genres.)

I’m 5,000 words away from finishing my second rewrite of a manuscript. When I say rewrite, I mean changing 99.9 percent of the words. Basically, I keep the characters, keep a couple concepts and write a brand new story. With this manuscript, I’ve don’t it twice.

Now, I know not every writer does this. Some write the first draft, set it aside, reread, make a few changes, pass it off to beta readers, make changes again, and then the manuscript heads out on submission. If it’s rejected, the writer tosses it under the bed and never skipping a beat continues with whatever new project has caught her eye.

Yeah, that’s not me. I’m a hopeless optimist. I see value in everything. I want to take another crack at it, change this scene, delete that. And while I’m aware that this mentality slows my writing progress, I’m loath to try it any other way for fear of giving up too soon.
So when you ask me how long it takes to write a romance novel, do you want the sanitized answer or the truth? Sanitized: I can write a first draft in three months—easy. Truth: I’ve been working on this current manuscript off-and-on for over a year.

See? No easy answer.

Regardless of what you write, how long does it take you to write the first draft? How long does it take you to prepare a manuscript for submission?

Elley

Conflicted

September 24, 2012

Something wasn’t right. Her stomach did a small flip flop as he told her his shift had been changed. She had an unreasonable sense of foreboding. After all, what was the big deal? It was just a shift change…three weeks later he came home and told her he was no longer employed.

During that same time period her mother had a standard surgery. It should have been an easy recovery. She should have been back to business as usual within a couple of weeks, but six weeks later, her mother still couldn’t keep any food down, still wasn’t able to leave the house.

Of course, these things weren’t enough. Her youngest son moved out of the house, not a tragedy, but an emotional time for any mother. There were two funerals to attend. She got a new job, after years of being a stay-at-home mom. Let’s add a little credit card fraud, and that wasn’t all…you know how it is, when it rains it pours.

It’s easy to find the conflict in my real life. I read through the paragraphs above and think, hmmm too much, overkill, but that was how our year began, and I didn’t even put all of it in print, just the biggest things. Luckily, just like in any good romance, most of those things have slowly been resolved. Hunky Hubby is back to work—he got a great job. My mother has fully recovered. I’ve adjusted to youngest son’s move, and taken care of the credit card fraud.

With all of that conflict in my real life, you’d think fictional conflict would be easy, but when I finished the first draft of my novel, I knew the conflict just wasn’t strong enough, and it was much too easily resolved, but during rewrites, months of rewrites, I found places for conflict to naturally occur. Things happened, minor characters emerged, subplots were exposed, and I found the conflict.

Why, when I finally got my synopsis down to three pages, did the conflict disappear?
I was all ready to send off my submissions, to fill the requests I received at RWA2012, when a writer friend volunteered to read my synopsis for me. She sent me a message saying, “We should talk. I’m not sure about the conflict in your story. Maybe it shows up more in the manuscript than in the synopsis?”

So I reread the synopsis. I think I’ve hit all of the key points, but the conflict that is in the story seems to dissipate in the synopsis. The moments are there, but they lose their drama.

Help! How do you keep the conflict clear when condensing nearly ninety thousand words to about a thousand words?

I’m back at my desk, full manuscript spread out with Post-it® notes at all of the major points of conflict, yes I know there are more high tech ways to do this, but I have a new phone that’s smarter than me, and I can’t figure out how to make my Netflix work, so I’m going with the Post-it® notes on the manuscript.

How do you keep the conflict strong in a synopsis? I’d love some tips, some good examples, any advice that you might have. And, hopefully next Monday, I’ll write about how I got the conflict out of my real life and into the synopsis! A little help please?

Tari

What To Say

September 21, 2012

I’ve been struggling with this whole blogging thing lately. Here and at my author blog. I’ve been struggling with what to post on Twitter and what to not. What I should share, what I should keep in the space of “real life”. What I should keep in the space of my head only.

I’m not sure what brings on these moments of introspection. Change or the opposite? Procrastination or productivity? Too much coffee or not enough?

The thing is, I’m in a place where I don’t know exactly what to say. What people want to hear. What I want to have them hear.

I keep a list of authors I think do social media very well, and I keep a list of actions on social media that drive me up a wall. I thought this might help. In an analytical way it kind of does, but at the base of it all, it really doesn’t. Because I’m not going to mimic what author A does or do the opposite of what author B does, because that makes me someone who’s only being someone else or the opposite of someone else. It’s not…me.

So, as I’m weighing this and that, I’m curious… what are the types of things you want to read in blogs? On Twitter? Can you think of someone who does social media really well? Or even better, what are your social media pet peeves?

Nicole

Write not Wrong

September 19, 2012

I read a bit of advice that got me thinking today. In a blog post full of writing advice as part of Harlequin’s yearly writing workshop/contest, So You Think You Can Write, Author Ann Lethbridge writes: One of the things I love about writing fiction is that I can never be wrong. Yes, there is always room for improvement of craft, but the final decisions are mine.

I’d forgotten that. I’ve been hung up on the right way to write a story, second guessing every word, every plot point. Is it okay to do this? Is it okay to do that? All that questioning slows my writing down and sucks the joy from the process.

Today, when I ask myself if it’s okay to do this or that, the answer is going to be a resounding absolutely. That doesn’t mean it won’t change later, that I won’t find a different way to advance the plot or convey a message. Rather, like my illustrious CP recently pointed out: There are a million ways to tell a story, and one or the other isn’t necessarily better or worse (maybe more saleable, but not better or worse).

I’m thankful for writers who share their advice. Those words of wisdom often pull me from the edge of writer’s block and rescue me from the land of “oh my God, you’re doing it wrong!”

My new mantra:

There’s no right in write. 🙂

Elley

Are You Living the Dream?

September 17, 2012

Lately, it seems like my life has been changing in an instant. Something simple that should be meaningless and forgotten by the time I’m on to the next task becomes a life changing event, not to be forgotten anytime soon. A shift change at my husband’s job, an argument with a son over doing the dishes, an e-mail from an old friend, a letter in the mail, just when I think I’ve got my life headed down a certain path, I get up in the morning and find myself facing a new direction.

Some of it is good, some of it challenging…some of it well, let’s just say I believe in denial, and some of it will probably end up in a book someday…if I ever get on to the next book.

So in my dream life, I get up in the morning, kiss Hunky Hubby goodbye as he leaves for work, have yogurt and fruit for breakfast on my rooftop, while watching the sun rise. I head off to  walk on the beach for an hour, then on to my office…okay, I won’t make it a total fantasy…then on to the library to write, lunch at the beach, more writing, home to start dinner and wait for Hunky Hubby.

In my real life, I get up in the morning, kiss Hunky Hubby goodbye (the only real constant in my life), get ready to head to the beach, but a phone call interrupts. (At least I know it’s not the bank about the thirty-day home ‘refi’ that should have ended in June, well, really should have ended in May, but finally ended on July twenty-fifth 5p.m., a day that was life changing in so many ways, and made me late to the RWA Conference, which had started that day in Anaheim.) So the phone rings, and it’s usually a crisis, someone is having surgery, or something broke and it’s going to cost big bucks, or the phone call is fine, but I’m trying to multi task, and while I’m doing laundry, the washer overflows all over the laundry room floor.

Alright, I get off the phone, clean up the mess, finally get out of the house, skip the walk on the beach because I’m already behind on my word count for the day, get to the library to work, and of course, some crazy person decides they have to talk to me about how the government has planted a chip in his brain, and I need to be careful what I say because they are listening…and cough all over my computer. Thank you very much, I finally get rid of the crazy person, get a few pages written, go home to start dinner, Hunky Hubby is late because, well, he does commercial/industrial heating and air conditioning, and it’s 103 degrees in the valleys and I won’t complain because I’m just thankful that he’s working.

I do some chores, Hunky Hubby finally gets home in time to watch our favorite sitcoms, eats his dinner, and in minutes he’s snoring on the sofa. We head up to bed, I check my e-mail once again—never do this at bedtime—and there’s a message from an old friend offering me an opportunity that I hadn’t even considered…well, I had considered long ago, but not longer, and I can’t turn it down because it’s much too good an opportunity, but it will change everything…again, and will definitely slow down my writing. I’ll tell you more about it if it becomes official.

So you all know I write in run-on sentences, and if you ever meet me (or already know me) you’ll find I write the way I speak. But what I really want to know is, what is your dream life? How close is your dream life to your real life? Please tell me, and distract me from the twists and turns of my own.

Tari

Making Writing Goals

September 14, 2012

I’m going to piggy back on Elley’s post a little bit because it touches on something I’m pretty passionate about: setting goals. Elley talked about how I made her a game plan. Yup, I did. Because I love a good plan. I’m a former teacher, so I know going into something without a plan is rarely a good idea.

I have been writing since I was able to write, but I didn’t actually finish a novel until I was twenty years old. I didn’t sign a contract to publish a novel until I was twenty-nine. Why the lag? In those nine years I wrote over ten complete novels. I was definitely learning my craft, trying new things, getting feedback. So, what changed in those nine years aside from just becoming a better writer with every book?

Goals.

When I was twenty my goal was to some day be published. That’s it. And, for most of us, that’s probably our overreaching goal. We want to be published. But, to be published, there are a lot of steps to get there.

The first year I set myself actual writing goals I, for the first time, received rejections with comments. (The goals were finish a book, submit a book). The next year I set myself writing goals, I was offered a contract. (The goals were write three books, submit those books). And so on and so forth. Goals led me to success because they held me accountable. Sure, my first book wasn’t like a best seller or anything, but I’ve published a book! I’ve met that lifelong goal.

There are two parts to a goal. The goal itself and how you’re going to get there. So, a goal should look like this.

What do I want? To be published. How do I get there?   -Write   -Submit   -Repeat

Each year I challenge myself to write more, to submit more. Each year, my goals shift and change. Contract offers and rejections change my goals. Contest opportunities might shift my goals. Goals are liquid. They are not strict, rigid rules constraining your creativity.

Just like when I was a teacher walking into the classroom each day. Some activities took longer than I thought, some shorter. Sometimes the kids just didn’t get it and I had to start over. That plan is a blueprint, but it isn’t carved in stone. Sometimes you improvise, but you have a plan. Even if the plan changes.

Set goals. Do what you have to do to get there. Reevaluate. And always, always, keep working toward that goal.

Nicole

Writing Like an Athlete

September 12, 2012

The athletes in my life have good days and bad days. Lately, they’ve been dealing with injuries and losing streaks. It’s enough to make the strongest competitors question why they compete in the first place. Of course, they do it because they love it—even while they hate it. And they know that if they just keep working, if they push through the bad days, good days will follow.

Those good days come faster and more frequently when an athlete has a training regimen in place. If we’re talking baseball, that regimen can include field work, strength training, stretching and reps (God Bless, the batting cage). The more the athlete repeats a motion, the easier the motion becomes.

Writing works this way too.

A couple weeks ago in an email exchange with Nicole, I whined about needing a game plan but not knowing how to create one. She teasingly offered to make one for me. Ha! I accepted her not-actually-an-offer, and after answering a few more questions for her, I was staring at a game plan. My training regimen. It included things like writing specific word counts each day, completing entire manuscripts on deadlines and submitting. It was exactly what I needed.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not always easy to follow, because I’m not always motivated to do the things that are on that list. But I’m tired of falling short of my ultimate goal, which is publication. To borrow from the sports world again—I’m tired of losing.

These days, the athletes in my house aren’t the only ones who are training. The writer’s training too. 🙂

Do you have a “game plan”? Do you write down your goals? Do you take it a step further and write down the daily actions necessary to achieve those goals? I’d love to know if it works for you.

Elley

Saturday the Eighth was the second Saturday, and you know where I was…at the OCC RWA meeting of course.

The drive there was a little exciting. Oh, there weren’t any torrential downpours, no car trouble (thankfully…although my air conditioning is out, and in the heat that IS car trouble…and you all know that I’m married to a commercial/industrial air conditioning technician who could fix this and won’t let anyone else touch his stuff…but of course it’s eighty degrees out and the a/c isn’t working). No, the excitement was that I drove myself. I did, I really did.

For those of you who know me, you know I don’t like to drive, especially on freeways, and it takes something pretty special to get me to do it. I had a couple of really bad accidents when I was young…one I rolled my car with all three of my little boys in it, and I’ve never completely recovered from that. (Luckily everyone was properly strapped in, and no one was injured, but the car of course was totaled.)

So, Hunky Hubby was willing to give up his Saturday, as usual, to drive to my meeting, but I knew he had some things that needed to get done, and I insisted I could do it myself…and I did. But I started out by getting on the 405 freeway instead of the 91. I’m driving east in the morning sun, and don’t even realize…because I can’t read the signs the sun is shining too brightly behind them…that I’m on the wrong freeway until it isn’t worth getting off…I miss the exit for the 110 Freeway, which would have fixed the error with very little trauma, see the 605 Freeway, but I’m not sure it will do what I need it to do…I take the 405 all the way to the 57 Freeway before heading North to my meeting…making a 39-mile trip into a 55-mile trip. I arrive at the PRO breakfast, a little late, slightly nervous, but very excited because I drove myself, screwed up but managed to get there without actually getting lost, and with no major trauma, but I do have crazy hair, from driving with the windows down because I have no a/c…Hunky Hubby, where are you? (Oh, but thanks for fixing the washer and building those shelves in my laundry room while I was at the meeting Saturday.) Of course my friends wondered where my usual chauffeur was. I proudly told them I drove myself, took the long, not so scenic route, and please don’t tell Hunky Hubby, or he’ll be afraid to let me go alone again!

Debut author…and one of the ladies I consider a friend and mentor…Laura Drake hosted the Ask An Author before the meeting. She shared some of her favorite writing blogs and websites with us, talked about when in our process we should set up our own websites, how much we all hate writing synopsis…we all do, well I do anyway.

Among the morning business meeting topics was the Romancing the Pages Anthology, just released by OCC RWA. I bought my copy…hope some of you will check it out!

The morning speaker was NYT Bestselling Author Sherry Thomas. Her presentation was on subtext, and somehow she managed to make a very murky topic very clear, and entertain us at the same time. I have a better understanding of the importance of subtext and how to use it in my writing. Thank you Sherry!

Afternoon speaker Neil Shusterman is an award winning YA author, successful screenwriter and television writer. He talked about writing for teens and young adults, and his journey as a writer. He also read excerpts from his books, and is a fabulous storyteller.

Following our regular meeting there was a special Query Writing Workshop with Sherry Thomas. I wasn’t sure I needed this workshop. I feel good about writing query letters. I wrote plenty of them when I freelanced for magazines years ago, but I decided to attend anyway.

I was not disappointed. Sherry has a gift for creating magic in just a few paragraphs. She shared queries that had been submitted to her, and with clever twists here and there, she gave them energy, made them stand out, shared her magic.

I got in my car, rolled down the windows…and got on the right freeway heading home. The traffic was heavy but moving quickly, my least favorite kind of traffic, and of course, I was going west…as was the sun, but I made it home safely.

I pulled into the garage, and Hunky Hubby had the washer working, shelves up in my laundry room, and three loads of laundry washed…in baskets, waiting for me to fold, ironing required. He took one look at me…wild hair, hands clenched at ten and two, and asked how my drive was. Of course, I spilled it all. I was sure he’d say something like, “I should have taken you. I’ll never let you drive alone again.” But no. He said. “Well, why didn’t you take the 605? It would have saved you a lot of miles…or at least the 22.”

So next time, I’m going to pack up his computer, and get him up to take me to my meeting. I’ll tell him he needs the time to study for a certification test he wants to take, and I’ll sit in the passenger seat gripping the hand rest and pushing my right foot through the floor board pretending I can hit the brake…but not driving.

Anyway, how was your weekend? Did you do anything writerish? Did you have a great adventure? Please share it here!

Tari

September Dose of Inspiration

September 7, 2012

(August’s Dose)

Though I’m no longer a teacher or a student and don’t yet have school-age children, there is still something about September that feels like a beginning. Summer activities stop, the chance that it might cool off is close (at least, here in Mo). Things just slow down, which means it’s time to put that writing nose to the grindstone.

So, here’s some inspiration to get back to it. Find your swing of things.

First up, from agent Janet Reid’s blog:

“You have taken a tiny smidgen of info (140 characters no less!) and interpreted in the one way that will make you feel bad.

Knock that shit off.

The world is a hard enough place for writers without being the instrument of your own torment.”

Even though she’s answering a particular person’s specific question, any time you follow an agent or editor you have submitted to, hang these words somewhere you can see them a lot.

Second, and there are a lot of different ways to say this one. “Feed the good. Starve the bad.” This is hard to do. Really hard. Especially for a reformed pessimist like me, but as I was growing up into an adult, I learned that dwelling on the bad didn’t make it any less so. However, focusing on the good, giving it power and strength, often made me happier even in bad situations.

Third, a quote from Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird, “You need to trust yourself, especially on a first draft, where amid the anxiety and self-doubt, there should be a real sense of your imagination and your memories walking and woolgathering, tramping the hills, romping all over the place. Trust them. Don’t look at your feet to see if you’re doing it right. Just dance… Stop the chattering of the rational mind.”

Last, from my second favorite writing book, Eudora Welty’s memoir, One Writer’s Beginnings. “A sheltered life can be a daring life as well. For all serious daring starts from within.”

Dare to write. Dare to set and accomplish goals. Dare to believe in yourself.

Feel free to share some inspirations of your own in the comments section!

Nicole

Little Free Library

September 5, 2012

I stumbled onto something the other day that I wanted to share. As readers and writers, we have a vested interest in the sharing of books. Sharing books ultimately sells more books and more books sold means more books published. Win win!

Unfortunately, sharing books has become embroiled in the ebook revolution. Libraries are facing declining numbers of users and declining funds. Ebook lending is struggling to create universally accepted and beneficial parameters, leading readers to buy digital and not pass along the books they love. Boo!

What can we do to keep the sharing alive? This.

Little Free Library

 

This is a “little free library.” It sprouts without pomp or circumstance from the grass between two front lawns in a neighborhood not far from my house. It’s hard to tell whose handy work it is. There are no identifying markings. The only directive is what you see…Leave a Book. Take a Book.

Good God, it makes me cry.

Imagine my emotional response when I did a little research and discovered this is part of a movement. Little libraries like this are popping up all over America. Couldn’t your neighborhood use one?

To find out more, visit Little Free Library online.

Did you know about this or stumble onto a little free library in your neck of the woods? I’d love to know. Share your comments below.

Happy Reading! Happy Sharing!

Elley