In Out and Back In Again

I keep wanting to update the blog with excellent news that Mom’s out of the hospital and recovering well – except every time I start to type that out she ends up back in. It’s a series of diminishing problems, we started with a heart attack so this is still progress, I just wish she was recovering more properly on her own now though even when she’s out she requires a near constant level of care so I’m always busily buzzing about.

Well here’s hoping this is the last of the big steps towards her recovery.

 

And We’re Back! Sorta…

So Mom’s been out of the hospital for about a week now. Surgery went ridiculously well and they even managed to not replace one of her valves but it took her about two weeks to finally be released home. In the meantime I was running back and forth from our home-base in back-end of beyond middle Georgia running errands and trying to make sure we had a life to come back to.

Somehow I managed to get an awesome tan, keep the cats alive and the garden.

Turns out, after the hospital is the hard part. While Mom’s pain is steadily increasing we find ourselves with less resources to meet them with. Still it’s so nice to be home! You don’t know what heaven is until it’s the middle of summer and you just want to roll out of bed and spend the day basking in the warmth without pants.

I’m ridiculously happy to be home again with Mom and that everyone is alive and relatively well. There’s still a long, long, long road ahead of us and I’m not seeing this as being great for my writing but I’ll do my best. Thanks to everyone for all the support, I send all the well wishes straight to Mom and even in the grip of terrible pain they make her smile for a moment – so keep ‘em coming!

That Other Thing I Do

When I’m not working on my latest novel I’m a full time, live in, caregiver for my mother who broke her back (literally) as a nurse for the state of Georgia five years ago. Most of the time it doesn’t interfere with my work so I’ve managed to get by without mentioning it.

Unfortunately last Wednesday I had to take my mother to the ER and we’ve been in the hospital since then. The situation is – not great. We’re expecting to have to remain at the hospital at least until sometime next week but even in the best case scenario I have no idea how long it will end up being before I am able to update the blog or anything else. Please bear with me and any good thoughts you can send in my mother’s direction, would be greatly appreciated.

Fly Commentors – FLY

I much like all Independent Artists, am really attached to the issue of net neutrality. Simply because I don’t have the budget to match companies like Netflix dollar for dollar so that I can access the same user base at equal speeds. So when I saw this video on youtube of course I had to share it (plus the unleashing of the trolls is just comedic gold).

If you haven’t already gone to the FCC’s site to comment, please consider doing so – and encouraging everyone you know to do so. It’s easy to do and as John Oliver mentions, you don’t exactly have to be Shakespeare to get your point across on the issue either.

 

Amazon, Hachette and Smashwords

So – I’m re-reconsidering Smashwords, for several reasons. First and foremost, though the meat grinder is still their prefered method of upload for new titles and though it still sucks mightly, there is now the option to upload checked epub files instead. I’ve yet to figure out how to create an epub that they’ll accept but I think this option really makes them a lot more worthwhile than previously especially since I’ve seen some wonky things happen with my Draft2Digital publications.

Recently files have gone online and offline at D2D with seemingly little rhyme or reason. I’ve cracked down on one cause, which is entirely my fault, while the others seem to have more to do with disputes between the various distributors themselves. My mistakes are bad enough but they come with the territory, I’ll learn from them, make fixes and move onto releasing a better product. My work seemingly caught up in dispute I’ve got nothing to do with? Not so much.

Which is where Hatchette comes in. Initially, I looked on Amazon’s feud with the one of the big six traditional publishers the way I look on anything that seems to spell trouble for traditional publishing – with miserly glee and much mwhahaha’ing. Of course, that was largely because the feud is partially shrouded in mystery (we don’t know what Hatchette’s particular demands are) and slightly because all the articles I’d read on the subject really looked at the situation from a traditional publishing standpoint.

Until I saw an article on Smashwords that clarified a few things I’d been thinking about recently as well as the Hatchette/Amazon feud in a way relevant to me as an independent author. So I’m rethinking Smashwords, again, though the final decision will likely hing on my abilities to use the new tools properly.

 

Sorry Sorry

I was deep in that dark place where all artists eventually go and sometimes return brandishing their freshly severed ear as a present. Climbing out of it involved burying myself in my work in a way that also didn’t make things worse, so it was kind of like trying to paint a self portrait with my eyes closed. When it was done, I was back to it with a vengeance, only the mild and occasional migraine to remember the slump by and a complete aversion to doing anything I should be doing that isn’t writing. I’ve neglected my Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Pinterist, Blog and other authors in my efforts to get through the white knuckle phase and while I think I’m starting to emerge victorious from the other end – please bear with me as I get all avenues of communication (aka blather) firing on all cylinders again.

Scrivener Series: Write The Damn Thing

Scrivener-LogoThis is the fourth installment in my Scrivener Series, which showcases how I use Scrivener to write help me write entire novel series. Be sure to check out the previous installments (Bible, Wallowing, Timelines & Outlines) or check out my writing process post for a preview of what I’m going to cover next.

Alright, now I’ve got my final outline – my map to the novel – and I’m ready to write the damn thing. When I first started writing novels I wanted to be a total pantser, absolutely certain that if I plotted anything out in advance I’d lose all the magic of the story and possibly end up boring myself silly in the process. Indeed there are methods of plotting that are exactly like that but my final outline isn’t.

My final outline is more like having a map on a hiking trip. It keeps me from getting hopelessly lost in the woods but doesn’t ruin the feeling of exploration or wonder at all.

Following the Map

It’s up to you and the way you structured your outline really. Mine is a simple list (I love list) of the characters in the scene, the location and a few key actions that happen there in. Sometimes I manage to pull a chapter title out of that mix as well. Mostly I look at the subsections on my outline, get a general heading of the direction I’m going and then work with my characters to write the scene, one word at a time.

Word Goals and Milestones

Everyone’s actual writing process is different but I find it useful to have an idea of how much ground I can cover in a day and trying to push myself a few extra as well. I average about 2000 words per day (about 8 pages) sometimes I under perform and only manage 1500 and sometimes I have a really great day and manage 5000. Chapters will fall where they need to but a lot of the time they seem to have about 10,000 words in them.

While I’m writing the actual novel I do everything in my power to avoid even the smallest gap in writing. I skip weekends, holidays and invites out with friends or family. There is no such thing as writers block but there is such a thing as having a hard time getting your novelist cap screwed back on and putting the words on the paper, so I avoid the things that make it harder.

Sometimes it’s unavoidable however. When that happens I try working on other aspects of the process like designing the book cover and gathering resources for it.

Still with that kind of word output the novel (mine seem to average around 75,000 words or so) can be written in a little over a month!

Except there’s almost always a hitch.

The Hitch

It just doesn’t work. The flow is off. This bit right here doesn’t have the impact I thought it would. It’s taking too long for this thing to get interesting. Too much blah blah not enough uh huh.

At some point in every novel, you’re going to realize something is wrong. Horribly, horribly wrong. So far I’ve been graced with not finding anything so wrong that it couldn’t be fixed with a rewrite but sometimes you look at your whole novel and despair, knowing it has to go right in the trash.

When that happens there’s nothing for it but to stop where you are (writing more only makes the problem worse) and re-evaluate your map and everything you’ve done up to that point, figure out where things went wrong and how to fix it.

This is where Scrivener’s ability to quickly move chapters and scenes around in their entirety is an absolute life saver! About 25,000 words into “Toxic Ash” I realized the opening scenes were all wrong, making the plot drag awkwardly and sublimating the most exciting parts till way too late in the story. I had to cut it out, rewrite it and put it in later, move that bit to the beginning, write a new opening scene and restructure all the scenes I’d written so far so that they made sense again – a task so large that if I was working directly in Word I might have half assed it or tossed the whole novel out in despair. It was bad even with Scrivener (seriously you should see my trash folder) but I was able to make  it through and the book proceeded far more smoothly from there (well there were a few more edits but not anymore complete rewrites so – yay!).

Don’t forget if you want to skip the extra blather about my writing process and just go to the next book release, you can always sign up for email notification!

Scrivener Series: Timelines & Outlines

Scrivener-LogoThis is the third installment in my Scrivener Series, which showcases how I use Scrivener to write help me write entire novel series. Be sure to check out the previous installments (Bible, Wallowing) or check out my writing process post for a preview of what I’m going to cover next.

By now I’ve been writing up a storm in the universe of my novel. It’s still a very random storm but it’s starting to coalesce into something nice and terrifying, a molten doom planet of madness.

I’ve started writing actual scenes for the upcoming novel, maybe the one after that or the one after that, I’ve had tea with my antagonist, put my main character on a psychiatrist’s couch and the story is starting to sit on chest in the night, restricting my breath and stealing my nightmares.

It’s time to let all that awesome out in a focused direction.

Timelines

Every important character in my novels gets one, the antagonist, protagonist and recurring side characters with specific weighty roles to play. These can start at different points in the character’s history, Buddy Jenkins starts around about his birth but Helen Raymond’s outline starts when her mother first met Pan, while playing in the woods with Helen the first.

When the outline starts depends on the character and how important or convoluted their history actually is. I find putting it in the form of a timeline allows for the important points to be quickly roughed out so you know when they happened but keeps me from getting too hung up on ‘worthless’ backstory. Without pages upon pages from each character’s past already written out, I find it’s easier to drop the important information in little bites that are easier for the reader to digest and keep them interested, without getting the main story side tracked with long bits of exposition that can really distract from the original novel.

Still, some characters you really need to work their backstories out in depth. Almost everyone in the Eldritch Elysium series has one hell of a convoluted past, Mitei’s history could probably cover a city mile and Ananke’s is so twisty the Gordian Knot was probably less convoluted but – a person is the sum of everything that’s happened to them, filtered through the lenses of their personality, so all that information helps create more interesting characters and infinitely more interesting series.

Outlines

Slightly different from timelines though each character can get one of their own as well, depending on the needs of the series. The Four Horsemen series has alternating perspectives from all four lead characters and Leslie Roth, it helps – a lot – to have separate outlines for each character’s perspective within the novel.

Each outline focuses on what they’re doing but also on what they’re thinking and feeling within each scene, whether it’s happening on camera or off. I find that this helps me to make sure I allow the characters to be themselves and don’t skew their actions just because I want such and such to happen by page 245.

Once I’ve got timelines for any new characters that need one as well as outlines completed up to the end of the novel I start incorporating the outlines into a single whole – which is often easier said than done. Individual outlines follow individual timelines that don’t necessarily lend themselves quickly to a single whole. Some scenes or chapters will need serious restructuring to get everything where it needs to go.

So the very first rewrite will likely happen before you’ve written the first chapter. Yippie!

Don’t forget if you want to skip the extra blather about my writing process and just go to the next book release, you can always sign up for email notification!

Scrivener Series: Novel Project – Wallowing

Scrivener-Logo
This is the second installment in my Scrivener Series, which showcases how I use Scrivener to write help me write entire novel series. Be sure to check out the previous installment (Bible) or check out my writing process post for a preview of what I’m going to cover next.

Alright I’ve already mentioned that my writing process has changed, a lot, since I wrote my first novel (over the course of seven horrible years). I’ve outlined what my new process looks like and I’ve started out by showing you how to start a series bible using Scrivener. Now it’s time to look at how I use Scrivener to write each novel in the series.

First up I keep a separate Scrivener project for each series. One, project. Not a folder of projects. One single Scrivener project for the whole damn series. If you’ve experienced trying to find that one note you scribbled a scene on six months ago, or trying to find where you tucked that last bit of free writing that had some vital ideas about world building then you can understand that having a single project for all those notes and bits is a godsend.

Thanks to Scrivener I can jot down any number of scenes, notes, free writing, whatev’s, all in one document and then easily find, fix and resort the pile for later use. I can keep all my notes from novel one – with all my overly early ideas for novel four – in the same working document so that when novel four finally gets here, I’ve got all those great ideas ready to review. When I’m finally ready to compile a single novel I can export as a single .doc or .docx file and then go through it with a fine tooth comb fixing formatting (the one thing that Scrivener does not seem to get right at the moment, is format retention) before I send it off for final edits and read-throughs.

Why am I harping on Scrivener’s ability to keep all your notes and novels in a single project? Because of the first stage when I write a new novel: the wallowing.

Since I write series in two, very, different universes I find the switch over thought process to be a bit easier to achieve by taking a few days (the goal is a maximum of thirty days but sometimes it takes three times as many) to wallow in the world of the novel.

What do I mean by wallowing? I luxuriate in the world. I smell the flowers, poke the things in the dark, ask questions of all the lead characters and villains and I write short stories based on whatever part of that world is catching my fancy till it’s every bit as present as the reality I live in.

A funny thing starts to happen as I immerse myself more and more deeply in the world of the story, the novel starts to take shape and soon I’m writing more scenes for the upcoming novel than I am random shorts or character assessments. It becomes more and more pressing that I start putting all of those bits into the right order, connecting the dots, figuring out why exactly this character is going to do this or that, what in their past makes them such an ass here.

That’s when I start writing the timelines for various characters and the outlines for the new novel. Which I’ll cover in the next post.

Keep in mind this all happens in ONE Scrivener project! Usually I mark a folder as “preparations for book 1-2-3″ and just stick all this stuff in there at first. I can always separate scenes and notes into different folders later but in the beginning the important part is to write and keep writing while focusing on the right universe.

Now if you’re a reader and just want to skip all the technical jargon, feel free to sign up for an email alert and I’ll just let you know when my next release is coming out.

Scrivener: Series “Bible”

Scrivener-LogoI love Scrivener, it makes writing novels (and writing novel series) so much easier! One of the things I noticed while constantly changing my writing process, however, is that there’s not that much information out there on how to effectively use Scrivener for writing a novel series. So I’m going to try and outline some ways that I use Scrivener to do just that.

First up: The Series Bible.

A series bible is a compilation of relevant information about a series that can be referenced by an author and their editor during the editing/revision process. A good bible should include:

  • Character Outlines
    • bio’s
    • important traits (physical/mental)
    • nicknames
    • key moments for their development in various novels
    • Compilation of character outlines/timelines (if you have them)
  • Locations
    • Where exactly it is
    • Furnishing
    • Style
    • Anything that’s been altered by the story over time (ex: broke that expensive Ming vase/set fire in that room and haven’t managed to clean up the damage yet/changed the color from green to blue)
  • Vocabulary
    • Special words or word usages
    • Grammatical notes specific to the novel
  • Creatures (where applicable)
  • Details Details Details
  • Style Guide
    • Any special notes for grammar usage in the novels to flag for an editor to ignore
    • aka “It’s not a mistake it’s a feature
  • Full copy of previous novels for quick reference if necessary
  • Quotes
    • Characteristic sayings
    • Quotable bits of dialogue to be used in promotion
    • Potential tie ins for later novels

I created a bible for each of my series using Scrivener. Th bible is an entirely separate document to the document that contains the actual novel writing, this helps to keep things clear and easy for reference. You’ll notice there are no notes or references for future novels in the bible, I keep all of those in the doc I’m actually writing in.

In Scrivener I create a folder for each of the main points and subfolders inside of those as needed. For example, Characters-> Rin Tyler -> Outlines etc.

A good bible is a wonderful reference guide! The first few novels I wrote, I didn’t have Scrivener – or any kind of bible. When I went on to write the second book in the series, I had to reread the first book in the series before I could edit my new novel properly and make sure there weren’t any giant plot holes! Though it was fun to reread the work I’d written so many years earlier, it was a huge time sink that’s best avoided whenever possible.

I recommend starting your series bible as soon as possible and keeping it updated as you go.