The Difference Between Heart and Soul

Writing is my calling. Sometimes the words pour directly from my heart onto the page.

Other times, it’s my soul that gets exposed.

Those creations are often the ones that remain secreted away in a spiral notebook or journal, too private for general consumption. A few of them make it into a document on the computer.

Most are locked away in the privacy of this writer’s treasure chest.

Some of them are more like blood stains than works of art. Although, some morbid artist might use blood stains to inspire a painting. Or prick a finger to add blood to the canvas she’s working on.

Here is an untitled poem from October 9, 2016. Hopefully it will give you an idea about how different forms of writing affect me.

A Novel
so many words
characters, arcs
a plot line, sub plot
all tied in a bow
with conflict and tension
more believable than life

A Story
burning from within
trails life on the page
fewer words with
a louder message
as much trouble
with less time

A Poem
bleeds emotions
metaphors, alliteration
pictures a moment
deep in heart or soul
whispers barren truth
in short bursts of verse

Yes, the process I use for each of these is as different as the outcome. The above poem is a first and final draft. Such a thing will never happen with a short story. A novel involves hours of preparation before the first words ever make it to the page.

Is it the length that causes the difference? The content? The method of delivery?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.
Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. Those reviews are the same as the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

I love my job but I hate this part

I love my job. Writing stories and articles and study books delights and excites me.

    But…

Don’t you hate when people say something good and then ruin it with a but?

I like your hair, but…it looks like you’re stuck in the 80s
Your dog is so pretty, but…he has no manners at all.

You know what I’m talking about. People do this all the time. WE do this several times during any conversation.
Because the truth of the matter is ugly hard to swallow unimaginable depressing.

Nothing in life is without its flaws and drawbacks.

(Sorry, honey. I know I tell you and everyone else that you’re perfect, but that’s just not the case. You’re perfect in my eyes only…and when you don’t leave the toilet seat up.)

I’m a full-time, professional author. To earn a paycheck, I substitute teach at the local middle and high schools.
I enjoy teaching. I believe it’s one of my secondary strengths (which is why I write Bible study books and teach women and teenagers at my church).

But writing is my soul food.

When I’m in the groove, churning words directly from my heart and mind onto paper (or a computer screen), it’s Heaven-on-Earth.
Why? Because I believe I was created to do this “writing thing.”

What I Love

I love when I get a new idea. It sparkles and gleams. Every cast of light reveals another dimension.

I enjoy sketching out the plot. I do this with a ton of “what if” questions. And I only hammer in the major plot points before I begin to write. I like to give my characters just enough rope to jerk them into an uncomfortable position.

I adore setting up the scenes in Scrivener, color coding them so I can keep track of things like narrator or timeline.

I don’t even fear the blank page.

I crank out the first scene. I don’t sweat it too much. It will get rewritten more than any other scene in the novel. I accept this and pound out the words.


I bite my lip as I write the last scene. Where do I think my characters will end up? How do I end this?
Believe me, I come up with some incredible last lines.

Then they get edited out of the final manuscript.

I write. There’s no fear of blank screens and blinking cursors.

If I’m not “feeling” a scene, I skip to where my characters are begging to go. I can fill in the blanks later. In fact, those blanks might be better scenes if I don’t force them when I’m not emotionally engaged in writing them.

The whole fast draft and first draft process makes me feel euphoric.

Not that I Hate This

Okay, actually, I pretty much despise everything that comes after writing the first draft of a novel.

As for shorter projects, I don’t mind making several editing passes and polishing the manuscript to a shine. I can do it in relatively the same amount of hours I invested in creating the original draft.

Novels? Not so much.

There’s no way to comb through 70,000 plus words in three weeks (the average time it takes me to write that at the rate of 1,000 words per hour).

And every manuscript needs multiple “passes” before it’s ready to be seen by someone I want to buy it.

I think I’ve written about my process before here and here, so I’m not going to bore you with those details again.

The problem is that the words start to all sound the same after my sixth pass through a manuscript. I can’t discern what works and what doesn’t.

I’m done. I hate this stupid thing. Can I throw it away now?

Some writers talk about coming to love their stories the more they work on it. I get there after the publisher’s editor takes a fine tooth comb to it, pointing out all the weak points and helping me strengthen them.

But while I’m working on the pre-published manuscript? I come to despise it.

Sometimes, when I pick it up months later (on a break from my most recent revision nightmare), I decide it’s not such a bad story. That character is pretty witty. That fight scene gives me palpitations.

But when I’m in the middle of trying to polish it, hoping to convince a publisher to take a risk on me?

I get to the point where I can’t stand the sight of it.

Why would anyone want this if you hate it so much?

Who cares? I just want to get it out of my sight.

What things do you love about your job? What makes you groan with dread?

If this post appealed to you, you might like Hero Delivery. It’s a bulletin with deals and specials from Sharon Hughson. It can be on the way to your inbox in a few clicks.

Check out Finding Focus and my other books. You’re sure to find something worth reading.
Already read one or more? Please leave an honest review on your favorite site. That’s like the author discovering a gold nugget in the bottom of her washing machine.

The Three Stages of Editing – And why you shouldn’t try them all at once

When it rains, it pours. Manuscripts in need of editing, that is. Each in a different stage of editing: developmental, line and copy edits, oh my. It’s a three-layer parfait.

Of doom.

The work in progress novel must be ready for submission by the beginning of May. And it’s rough. It’s missing crucial elements. It needs developmental edits galore.

About the time I’m reaching the three-quarter point on that project, I get a manuscript I haven’t looked at since December back from an editor. I haven’t given it a thought since then. Back when I made the developmental changes to it.

Now, the second editor is making a few line edit suggestions that require actual rewriting. Mostly additions, to flesh out a few things added in during the developmental stage.

You know, things that will deepen the story, make the characters more believable and ultimately engage the reader.

And every author wants to ensnare the reader and make them forget they’re even reading. Lasso them into the story realm and hold them hostage until they reach the last page.

“I’ll finish the novel edits first,” I decide. “Then I’ll delve into this other story.”

Meanwhile, the short story I wrote in December and polished in January was sold in February. It’s slated for a June release.

So, of course, I got the first round of edits from the editor. Because I had nothing else on my plate.

Why did I think it was a good idea to have so many projects going at one time?

Oh right, because writers write. And when writers sell their writing, it means they must revisit that story world over and over.

Which is something I enjoy because my story gets better and more enchanting with each round of edits.

The publisher who purchased said short story has never made developmental editing suggestions. I’d like to think it’s because my stories are well-written, but I have a feeling it has more to do with budget and short publishing timelines.

The edits for the story were line edits. A few commas, questionable word choice, repetitions pointed out. All of it a quick fix.

So that should be a simple turnaround, right?

Uh, have you met me?

I will read through the entire story again and tighten every sentence I can. In fact, I deleted two sentences in the second scene, deciding they made my male protagonist look too eager.

So, I have a 14,000-word manuscript to line and copy edit. The second-round edits are mostly line edits, too, but involve some additions. That’s a 20,000-word manuscript.

And the ugly developmental edits on the revised first draft of the novel are getting into the heart and heat of the story. When everything blows up. When my characters enter the crucible and come out the other side as different people.

How do I prioritize this?

My gut says to finish the novel because it needs to get input from alpha readers and my editor. Then it may very well require extensive rewrites before it’s ready to enter the polishing phase.

After all, it’s not even on its way to a publisher yet. It needs to be honed to a shining jewel before I submit it, in hopes the publisher will love it. Will make an offer on it.

And then it will come back again. For developmental edits and then line edits and finally for minor copy tweaks.

Lucky me, though, I can enjoy all three stages of editing today. Right this very moment. With three separate projects.

Cover Reveal for THERE ONCE WERE STARS

 Here it is! Another cover reveal and sample chapter for your enjoyment. Because I want your To Be Read pile of books to teeter and totter like mine does. What are friends for?

Today Melanie McFarlane and Month9Books are revealing the cover and first chapter for THERE ONCE WERE STARS, which releases April 26, 2016! Check out the gorgeous cover and enter to be one of the first readers to receive a eGalley!!

A quick note from the author:

I have anticipated this moment for months—the moment I would be able to share my cover with all of you! When I first laid eyes on the cover for THERE ONCE WERE STARS I was immediately drawn to the stars and how they are escaping their glass prison. In my novel, the main character, Natalia Greyes, is also locked in a glass prison: her home, Dome 1618. During Nat’s childhood the stars became more visible in the sky, after being blocked by darkness for decades after the Cleansing Wars. Like the stars, Nat is a symbol of change as she transforms from a naïve youth into a strong teen, who searches for her place in her tiny world of Dome 1618, and dreams of escaping to the outside one day. But my favorite detail of all is the grass and how cool and inviting it is in contrast to the hard sheen of the glass jar. It can be seen as a symbol of how mankind can never capture or truly duplicate the beauty of nature, or the wonder of life itself.
 
Don’t forget to check out my trailer on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuTOuBPX11k
On to the reveal! 
 
 
Title: THERE ONCE WERE STARS
Author: Melanie McFarlane
Pub. Date: April 26, 2016
Publisher: Month9Books
Format: Paperback & eBook
Find it:  Goodreads

 Blurb:

Peace. Love. Order. Dome. That’s the motto that the Order has given the residents of Dome 1618 to live by. Natalia Greyes is a resident of Dome 1618, a covered city protected from the deadly
radiation that has poisoned the world outside for four generations. Nat never questioned the Order, until one day she sees a stranger on the outside of the dome. Now Nat wants answers. Is there life outside the dome and if so, what has the Order been hiding from everyone?

Exclusive Excerpt:

Chapter One

I stretch my arms across my bed, running my fingers along the same sheets I’ve had since I was a child. The stiffness was beaten out of them long ago, but they still carry the memory of my mother carefully stitching the first tear back together when I was seven. The tiny x’s remind me of her long fingers, moving the needle back and forth with the same care as when she worked with samples in her laboratory.

I trace the row stitches, squeezing my eyes shut as I make a wish; it is my eighteenth birthday, after all. But when I open them, the same scene shows from my bedroom window that always does—the grid of our dome. Nothing changes. It doesn’t matter how many birthday wishes are made; I always wake up trapped inside the dome. The grid of thick glass and steel arcs far above our apartment, stretching to where the great Axis, a tower of government offices, meets the peak of our home—Dome 1618.

I crawl out of bed and let my gaze trail down the Axis to the rooftops of the other apartment buildings, row upon row of housing for blue-collar workers. Closer to the Axis are townhouses of the business owners, hidden from the rest of us, but that’s not where I long to be. My eyes drift to the base of the dome, far away from my window where the Outer Forest lies, my only saving grace. It’s forbidden to hike among the trees, but sometimes rules need to be broken.

“Natalia!” Grandmother’s piercing voice comes from the other side of my bedroom door. “Get up. You’re wasting the day away.”

The clock on my dresser reads eight o’clock in the morning. Seriously? It’s been nine years since I moved in with my grandparents, and saying Grandmother and I have differing opinions barely touches the surface. Her rules are sometimes worse than those of the Order, who police the dome. With any luck, I’ll be assigned my own apartment soon and can finally restart my life, again.

I run my brush through my long brown hair, although by the time I go outside it will look unruly once again. It’s my curse; I have thick hair like my mother, with waves that look more like oddly-placed kinks, unlike the smooth-flowing locks worn by some of the other girls at my school. But I won’t have to go back to the Learning Institute again. Today I’m an adult.

My jeans are on the floor where I left them last night, and I manage to find a clean T-shirt in my drawer. Both have the same tiny stitches as my sheets, covering up the wear and tear over the years, but I sewed these back together myself. Grandmother is firm on the fact that if I don’t take care of what I have, I don’t get a replacement. There’s no point in arguing when her opinions are as deep as the wrinkles on her face, and honestly, it’s hard to tell which she has more of. Before I leave my room, I grab my mother’s notebook. It’s filled with her sketches and work notes on different projects she was involved in. But my favorites are the tiny notes, squeezed in the margins, excerpt of her personal thoughts, hopes, and dreams. The biggest of these was to move her family outside the dome.

“I know you were out last night,” Grandmother says, eyeing me suspiciously between the milk and dry toast as I slip into my seat at the table.

“Must we have this conversation every morning?” Grandfather speaks up.

“You know the ramifications!” Grandmother shrills, and he shrinks in his chair. “Do you want to let her stroll around at night past curfew? One day she won’t come home, and then we will be questioned.” Grandmother redirects her attention to me. “What are you doing out there that’s important enough to risk everything? Haven’t I warned you? If the Order catches you, you will wish you had listened to me.”

“That’s my problem.” I fold my arms across my chest. She always makes me back down with her words. If I’m going to be an adult, I need to learn how to take a stand.

“If your parents could only see you now,” she says unsympathetically. “They would wonder how they got a daughter so determined to get herself detained. You know what they do with little girls who don’t follow the rules.”

“Yes,” I say through gritted teeth. She’s given these lectures many times. Girls who don’t follow the rules are sent back to the Learning Institute for retraining, where they come out all prim and proper, ready to take their place as functional citizens of the dome. I’m not going back there; I know how to stay under the radar.

“Come on, now.” Grandfather finally steps in. “It’s Nat’s birthday.”

“Yes.” Her tone softens. “You’re eighteen now. Hurry and eat; we got you a little something.”

I gobble down the toast, stale as it is, but fresh food is not something that our dome has had in a long time. Since the accident that caused my parents’ death, the Order stopped all excursions for scientific research, completely cutting off the outside world. Prior to this, there were plenty of rations from the farms due to uncontaminated seeds the expedition teams found, along with new plant life for supplementing the crops. But those stockpiles have slowly depleted.

When I finish breakfast, I look at my grandparents in anticipation. Grandfather’s face is beaming, and though Grandmother looks like she is trying to be serious, I can see a small sparkle in her eyes as she hands me a tiny green box with a little purple bow. The bow is smooth, made from fabric nicer than anything I own. I gently untie it, and put the silky strand safely in my pocket, before opening the box to see what is inside.

A silver, heart-shaped locket sits on top of fine tissue paper, so delicate I don’t dare touch it in case it rips. An image of two hands holding a smaller heart is engraved into the center of the locket. This is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen—I’ve never owned jewelry of my own. My hands are shaking so bad I almost drop the box.

“Careful!” Grandmother’s voice snaps me from my awe. She grabs the box from me, and it takes all my inner strength to let it go.

She removes the necklace from the box and opens the locket, holding it out to me. Inside, is a photo of my parents on their wedding day. Photos are luxuries. I only own one other— a photo of me with my parents when I turned three—and it stays safe on my nightstand. But this locket—I can take it with me anywhere. I hold up my hair, allowing Grandmother to secure it around my neck, then grasp the tiny keepsake in my hand. I will cherish it forever.

“I’m going to show this to Jak and Xara,” I say, leaving the table.

“Don’t forget, you have to report to work today.” Grandmother reminds me.

“But it’s Saturday.” I groan.

“You’re eighteen now,” she says, her eyes vacant of the compassion they held only seconds ago. “Your time to contribute to the dome begins today. Plus, any experience is good to have if you want to be a scientist one day, like your parents.”

“I don’t see how cleaning toilets at the Axis will do me any good in the future,” I complain. “And I never said I want to be a scientist.”

“You’ll find where you’re meant to be.” Grandfather smiles. “Understanding everything from the bottom-up will help you make a better decision about what you want to do to make your contribution.”

I sigh as I lace up my sneakers, now feeling the pressure of the future. I have no idea what I want to do today, let alone the rest of my life. But it definitely does not involve cleaning up after those in the Axis. I wave good-bye as I leave the apartment, but only Grandfather waves back. My number one fan; he always tries to keep the peace between Grandmother and I. But no matter how close we are, I still have to lie about where I’m really going. No one can know about my secret place.

Outside, I stretch my arms up toward the top of the dome. The sun shines through the dust covered glass of the dome, with sections of blue sky showing here and there. I sneak around the back of our apartment building, and begin my stealthy weave through alleyways. I have hours before my first shift starts at the Axis. Hours to spend somewhere the Order can’t find me.

When I reach the Outer Forest, I sneak in a break in the fence and move between the trunks of trees, inhaling the last of the old world. The rich combination of musk and earth fills my lungs as I run as fast as I can from the fence. Running is one of the few things that make me feel free. When I reach my destination, I’m out of breath, but exactly where I belong—a hidden clearing at the edge of the dome.

I crawl inside a hollowed-out tree I’ve claimed as my own. How did the Order miss this lone tree, dying amidst the perfection of the Outer Forest? It should have been torn down long ago, to make room for larger, healthier, oxygen bearing trees. Decay doesn’t coincide with the Order’s pursuit for perfection and efficiency, but it’s ideal for me: hidden, empty, and alone. I accept this tree’s imperfections and it offers me solace.

I clutch my locket again, this time removing it from my neck so I can look inside. A twinge of pain prickles my throat as my parents’ faces stare back at me. They look so happy and in love. I remember that about them. The in love part. I haven’t thought about people in love for so long.

I lean back, holding the locket against my chest, intent on enjoying the morning sun. Unfortunately, the heat of the sun doesn’t penetrate the cold glass of the dome, but something about that glowing orb in those blue skies makes me feel better. Mom wrote in her notebook about the first time she felt the sun on her skin: warm and, bright, as if it gave her a new life with its rays, just like it did to the world, after the Cleansing Wars. I close my eyes, imagining myself bathed in sunlight, and finally give in to the peace of the forest.

I wake up, feeling something sharp poking my side. I can’t believe I drifted off. My hand shoots behind me, to find the source of the pain. My mother’s notebook is jutting awkwardly from my back pocket. I stand up to tuck it back in, and my gaze slips above a line of bushes growing wildly along the base of the dome. At the same time, something flashes above them, and my breath catches in my throat. My reflection stares back at me from the glass, revealing my locket shining in the sunlight. Relax, Dacie, it’s only you. A nervous laugh escapes my throat, as I finish putting the notebook away.

Another light flashes, but this time it’s in the distance, on the other side of the glass. I lean forward, focusing on the light, and see a shadow move on the other side. My entire body goes rigid, and my heart beat thunders in my ears. No one could be out there—unless—could it be an Infected? No, that’s impossible. They were all killed by the Cleansing War—everything was. If the nukes didn’t kill them, the nuclear fallout afterward would have.

Something moves again—closer this time. A gasp escapes my lips, as a shudder rips through my body. That’s when I see it—the faint outline of a person standing in the open. He’s camouflaged by a layer of dust, blending him into the barren landscape that surrounds the dome. The figure’s shadow stretches across the ground, reaching toward me.

I rub my eyes, as if something in them could be making me see the figure, but when I open them I’m startled to see the figure again, only now there are two. One stays farther back, toward the rockier land, silhouetted against the foothills in the distance. The other stands a short distance from the dome. My heart skips a beat—they’re both human, and they’re both staring in my direction.

 

About Melanie: 
Whether it’s uncovering the corruption of the future, or traveling to other worlds to save the universe, Melanie McFarlane jumps in with both hands on her  keyboard. Thought she can be found obsessing over zombies and orcs from time to time, Melanie has focused her powers on her two upcoming YA novels: THERE ONCE WERE STARS and SUMMONER RISING.

 

Giveaway Details:

1 winner will receive the FIRST eGalley of THERE ONCE WERE STARS. International.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also Melanie is giving away swag enter that giveaway too!

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Echoes in the Glass should be on your To Be Read list

Sometimes the books you win from on online Facebook event are worth what you paid for them. Other times, you discover a gem.

For me, the gem was an author, Cheri Lasota. I attended an event introducing a science fiction universe, the Paradisi Chronicles, and won a copy of a historical paranormal fantasy.

I read the book. I didn’t care for the story or the characters all that much, but I adored her writing style. Since it might have been the mythology behind the book’s setting that tainted my enjoyment, I decided to give Lasota another try.

Boy, am I ever glad I did.

The paranormal (historical) romance Echoes in the Glass is the title I selected. (Yes, I’m pretty sure it was on sale for a buck. You know me and deals.)

Summary

While the book begins with Finnegan in a nearly present day situation, there are two story lines running in this book.

The present day story is about two teenagers facing the ugliness of their pasts. It involves the restoration of a lighthouse on the Oregon coast. Of course, there’s a romance. And poor Finnegan, the one he wants is the boss’ daughter.

While none of those story threads are original, the weaving of this story is highly unique and executed with professional finesse.

The historical story is set at the same lighthouse (or vicinity) in 1935. You meet a daughter struggling for independence from a father who treats her like a servant. Add in the fact she has a younger sister to protect, and you’ve got a tense situation.

Morgan Graves comes along and upsets the apple cart further. Rumors about the death of his mother abound. When the secret comes out, so does the nurturing nature of the heroine.

My Review

This book earns five stars from me. The writing was compelling, the characters complex and the story masterfully told.

I’m generally not a fan of stories with a past and present storyline. I tend to gravitate toward one set of characters more than the other. This keeps me from fully immersing in the story because while I’m with the characters I love, I’m dreading the return to the alternate time.

As I read about the characters who mean nothing, I’m wishing I was with the ones I love.

So much for “love the one you’re with.”

Ms. Lasota wrapped me up in all of her characters’ hearts and lives. I was as eager to read about the present as I was the past.

The further I got into the story, the more the historical line hinted about what they would find in the future. Or explained the things they found in the hidden room.

The present day characters rang true. Their problems were harsh, and not common, but still they won my heart. These are 17 and 18-year-olds, and I would recommend this book to older, mature teenagers. Some of the content would be disturbing for those under the age of fourteen, I think.

Sometimes, I find historical writers make their characters too “modern.” That thought never crossed my mind as I read about Carina and Morgan. They fit the times. I could picture my grandmother and grandfather in their youth acting and reacting like these two did.

This story touched my heart. It explores the family dynamics that torture and empower us. Not everyone had a happy ending. But all the story questions were answered.

My Recommendation

In my opinion, this story holds a wide appeal for female readers.

If you like historical romance written in the depression era, you’ll like this book. If you like American settings, this is for you.

Sassy heroines who have a mind of their own? You’ll definitely find that here – times two. Handsome heroes whose gallant nature makes you forget about their face? Yep, he’s in this story – times two.

Perhaps you’re not a huge fan of paranormal stories (like me). The ghost element plays a role in the character development and plot for sure. However, it didn’t make or break the story for me. There was enough tension and conflict from other sources that the ghosts could have been written out, and the story still worked.

If you enjoy a well-written romance with complex characters that will make you smile and bring tears to your eyes, read Echoes in the Glass.

Maybe you’re not a big romance reader. The character evolution and dual timeline, with it’s inherent mystery, will engage you.

It’s Nearly November. You know what that means!

October waxes and wanes. Or is that the moon?

Either way, in just a few days the most insane month of the year will be upon us. If you’ve been following me for a least a year, you know what I’m talking about.

National Novel Writing Month

What is it?

November has been adopted by a group of industrious writers. They want to encourage and motivate everyone who has ever said, “I’d like to write a novel one day” do just that.

PrintSo they offer up a challenge: write 50,000 words in 30 days.

For further details, check out their website.

In short, the project you begin on November 1 must be completely original. You’re welcome to have outlines, character sketches and other planning tools in place. You aren’t allowed to use any of those words to count toward the 50,000-word goal.

If you “win” (which means you write 50,000 words before midnight on November 30th), there are many sponsors who offer up prizes. My favorite scores: Scrivener for half price and a free upgraded membership at Scribophile.

What this means for my blog

This will be the third year I’ve participated in NaNoWriMo (the acronym for this event).

In 2013, I wrote the second book of my now-abandoned series Gates of Astrya. I wrote the entire first draft, about 63,000 words, in twenty-three days.

Twist of Lime CoverLast year, I was a NaNo Rebel. I wrote a collection of short stories, rather than a novel. If you recall, I hadn’t planned to participate at all.

And then my writing friend laid a guilt trip convinced me it was in the best interest of everyone if I did participate. Since I had set a goal of writing and attempting to find publishing homes for six short stories, I decided to use that creative time to write short stories. I made 50,000 words in twenty-one days.

This year, I’ll be crafting a novel. It’s the novel I mentioned a few weeks ago. The one that has its roots in a short story to be published in February by Month9Books. Since you haven’t seen me screaming about how the publisher loved the idea I outlined, it will probably be the book I’m polishing and trying to market next year.

Except I’ve got a few new plans and goals for writing in 2016. But more on that later. After the crunch of NaNoWriMo.

Since I’ll be spending all my words, energy and creativity on writing a novel in November, I’m only going to post on Mondays. That’s still five posts. My goal is to have all of them written even before you read these words.

Yes, most of them will be about NaNo. To all of my non-writing followers, I apologize. I’ll try to keep the posts short. Right now they have titles like “Finding a Novel Idea” and “Five Ways to Get Unstuck during NaNo.”

I hope you’ll stick with me during this blindingly creative season. On the other side, I might even have some wisdom to share.

Or at least some humorous anecdotes.

Waiting for News? Write on!

By the time you read this post, it will have been four weeks since I mailed out my queries for Doomsday Dragons.

The first week after they were gone, I was still combing through the manuscript. I read it aloud. Strengthened the sentences with stronger verbs and more precise nouns and descriptors. Tried to polish it to a sparkling gem.

Then I closed the Scrivener file and moved on to a different project.

What? Did I check my email every ten minutes looking for manuscript requests?

Not really. But I didn’t need to.

Early Responders

Shock of all shockers, I had answers to some of the queries in the very first week.

In fact, within six days, three agents responded with “no thanks.” I was impressed by this because all of them requested between four to eight weeks to get through their queries.

One of these only allowed query letters. Their only taste of my story came from the query description. Obviously, they weren’t impressed by dragons.

The others? I guessed they also probably weren’t piqued by a dragon story. It takes a very specific sort of person to imbibe the myth and fire.

The fourth response was a notice of an undeliverable mail. So even though I checked all the links and double-checked all the email addresses, one of the agencies was no longer receiving mail at the address they advertised on their website.

Four of twelve responses within one week. Not too shabby.

Except they all amounted to 100 percent rejection.

Non-Responders

There were just as many who made no promise to even respond to every query.

Of the twelve, four of them said that hearing nothing after a certain time frame would be equal to a “no thank you” email.

The surprise? The amount of time given before drawing this conclusion ranged from two weeks to twelve weeks.

Talk about holding out hope.

Or maybe it would be more accurate to assume dashed hopes. And then if an email magically appears, it can only be good news.

People I Pitched

Of course, the two people I pitched my idea to at the writer’s conference will get the full 90 to 120 days before I begin to assume the worst.

At least they’ll respond.

I hope they’ll remember me favorably enough to offer advice if they decide the project isn’t for them. Don’t I deserve at least that much?

The Rest of the Pack

That leaves only two out of twelve agencies that will still respond to me sometime during this lengthy waiting period.

Fortunately, I’m not holding my breath.

I’m not sitting on my hands or biting my nails.

I’m following the professional writer’s prescription for winning this waiting game: write something new.

In fact, I had to polish a novella that’s coming out in a month or two and deliver it to an editor. Then I nibbled on the idea for another short story.

And, of course, the women’s fiction novel I’d begun writing while waiting for the last of the beta edits on Doomsday Dragon still needed finishing.

The best way to insure a watched pot boils is to walk away.

In writing terms: write something else without constantly checking your in-box.

What about you? What are your tricks for making waiting bearable? Please share. Not that any of us our impatient or anything…

Rewrite, Revise, Repeat…Is it Done Yet?

Rewrite_revise_repeatGood writing is rewriting. I’m not the originator of that wisdom. It seems like I might be a poster child for it, though.

When did I finish this young adult fantasy novel again? Oh, right, before NaNoWriMo last year.

It was ready for a little polish and then off to the beta readers.

Or so I thought. Until I got a critique on the first 20,000 words from the amazing Jami Gold.

It had major character arc issues.

So, I spent December tweaking things, getting a little feedback on the opening from my online critique group.

In January, I went through it all again, trying to spiff it up slightly. I don’t like sending mediocre writing out to readers.

Off it went to four beta readers in February.

And only one of them loved it.

The non-genre readers had issues with some of the fantastical happenings (it is a FANTASY after all), but thought the characters read fairly well. He wasn’t impressed with the ending.

The fantasy genre read-aholic thought the premise was great. He didn’t think the characters arced very much. Everything happened for them too easily – even though the stakes couldn’t get much higher.

Months later, the soon-to-be-published YA Fantasy writer returned the manuscript. Shredded. (No need to mention my writing confidence was also ripped apart. But that’s part of becoming a professional writer.)

Much of the stuff she address was tight writing, which I address most in my editing and polishing phases (which happen once all the revision and rewriting is finished).

The story had so much potential but was weighed down by wishy-washy characters and too few moments of accelerating tension.

So, I spent the next two weeks slicing and dicing the beta manuscript.

Here are a few examples:

  • The first scene was completely scratched and rewritten (for like the fourth or fifth time)
  • The order of the first two scenes was switched (suggestion from my target audience beta group)
  • Several scenes were tossed into the “cut scenes” file (making it a hefty 15,000 words)
  • A few new scenes were added
  • Nearly every scene was intensified with more emotions (teenagers = drama)
  • The end was completely rewritten (for the second time)

In short, anyone who read the original story probably wouldn’t recognize it in the pages of the rewritten story.

Next stop, revision with a red pen.

I print out my manuscript and read it aloud. Every sentence comes under fire.

I’ll address grammar issues if I find them. Obvious word repetition will fall beneath my sharpened editor’s blade.

But mostly, I’m cleaning up the language. Clarifying meaning. Focusing on the individual voice of each passage.

Does that SOUND like something my seventeen-year-old heroine would say? Would a fifteen-year-old surfing science geek think or talk that way?

good writing meme

After that, the manuscript will get two more rounds of edits. It’s during these final polishing rounds that I will search for obvious areas of “telling” rather than “showing.” Major word repetition will be rooted out.

After that, will it finally be done?

Nope, but it will be ready for marketing to agents, editors and publishers. Once they buy it, it will go through several more rounds of editing.

Because every writer knows – a story is never done.

What to Write Next: Blues Writer Style

Writing Blues

I’ve got the blues. Since sending my two fiction books to beta readers in late January, I have been floundering for true writing direction. Fiction or nonfiction? That is the question.

Let’s face it, most people who dream of writing, dream of writing a knock-out, impossible-to-put-down novel. They want to weave the perfect story with stellar prose, memorable characters and gripping plot.

Most people don’t think, “I know how to strip wooden floors. I should write a book about that.” (By the way, I don’t know how to do that – even though I have done it before. I call it selective memory.)

If you claim to be an author, people don’t expect you to list nonfiction titles when they ask what you’ve written. Nonfiction is so stuffy and boring. Why would anyone volunteer to write a textbook?

Sure, only a few nonfiction titles have achieved amazing notoriety. “Who Moved my Cheese?” is one little pamphlet that comes to mind. Although, everyone is familiar with the line of “for Dummies” books.

I have steered clear of nonfiction because of the research involved. I finished my Bachelor’s degree in July of 2013. Long before that day, I reached my research quota. And I’m not really anxious to dig in again.

However, I do have several book ideas that would be classified as nonfiction. If you dare, take a peek into my brain to see what other ideas I have.

Things I have considered in the past twelve months

  • A Bible study on women’s ministries – as in wife, mother, sister, teacher
  • A collection of short stories
  • A series for young adults set in a post-apocalyptic setting
  • Dragons from another realm falling into our modern world
  • A memoir-style self-help book about grieving
  • A shifter romance for an anthology call
  • An alien-cowboy story
  • A romance involving an invisible boyfriend
  • Dark Biblical tales for young adults
  • A journal from the perspective of Mary, mother of Jesus
  • Magic as an allegory for Spiritual gifts
  • How to dispose of a body (for a short story written during NaNo)
  • Focusing on New Adult romance
  • Writing for an interesting fantasy collection called The Legend
  • Writing only fantasy
  • If writing for young adults is the right path
  • A short story about betrayal
  • A story about one poor choice ruining a lifetime dream
  • Poems for the blog
  • Story lines for a young adult romance
  • And a million other things – that I can’t remember just now because it’s making my head throb

Things I have started in the past six months

  • A series for young adults set in a post-apocalyptic setting
  • A short story about betrayal
  • A story about one poor choice ruining a lifetime dream
  • A memoir-style self-help book about grieving
  • An alien-cowboy story
  • A romance involving an invisible boyfriend
  • Dark Biblical tales for young adults
  • Brainstorming plots and characters for four different stories or novels
  • A novel based on a short story written during NaNo

Things I have finished (sort of) since January 1, 2015

  • A journal from the perspective of Mary, mother of Jesus
  • An alien-cowboy story
  • A dark Biblical tale about a demon possession
  • A beta draft about dragons and teenagers with special abilities
  • 60 blog posts

Things I need to focus on NOW

  • Editing the dark Biblical tale which will be published in October
  • Finishing the romance involving the invisible boyfriend (it will make sense, I promise)
  • My next project

What should my next project be? You’ve seen the list. What do you think would be a good investment of my time – AND find a market with my readers?

Road to Self-Published – Finding your Perfect Editor – Part 1

This blog is meant to attract readers for my published works. You know, people who like young adult fantasy or Biblical fictionalizations, or maybe even a little romance. Yet, here I am discussing my journey to being self-published.

Self-publishing still sounds like a dirty word to some people. However, in the past two years, Amazon and the popularity of eBooks has begun to alter that perception.

It’s a slow thing – change. Especially when people have rock-hard opinions in place. The number of independent (i.e. self-published) authors who manage to make a decent living writing and publishing quality books rises with each survey.

For me, I am seeking the traditional path with my young adult manuscript – for now. The Biblical fictionalization, however, appears in my mind as something that isn’t about profit. Why shouldn’t I self-publish it then?

Earlier, I posted about the necessity of hiring an editor if you’re a beginning writer. (Yes, you might be in your 40s with no publishing credits and still be a beginning writer.) In this post, I speak directly about the process I used to find a copy-editor for the manuscript I intend to independently publish in May.

Where I started

As a member of WANA Tribe, I started there. After all, I had superior luck finding beta readers by posting to those boards.

everyone-needs-a-good-editor2Specifically, I posted on the Christian Authors tribe’s board. I asked for referrals to any editors who had experience with Biblical fictionalizations. In my mind, I felt that the two super editors I know (Jami Gold and Marcy Kennedy) were experts in fantasy and paranormal romance. I wanted someone with a little bit of knowledge about this much different market.

With only a single response from that forum, I headed over to the Editorial Freelance Association website. A search narrowed the pool to 121 members. It took plenty of clicking through to learn the information I wanted, but I found two editors to email for more information.

What I found

The list of members on the ERA site is staggering. It can feel overwhelming at first.

Is my method of reading through the bios and checking out sites scientific? Not hardly. It did lead me to an editor I feel comfortable with, however.

I emailed the first two choices and asked for quotes. It was here I learned that many editors don’t call a line edit a line edit. If an editor offers to copy-edit your manuscript, that’s the same thing (they say, although Marcy Kennedy defines the difference on her site). One of the editors quoted me between 8 and 12 cents per word, based on how clean my manuscript started. The other quoted $45/ per hour.

At the ERA site, there is a list of appropriate prices for services. This is the editorial rates chart from that site: Editorialrates

As you can see, both of these first two quotes are above the specified guidelines. Even though I had corresponded several times with one of these editors, I went back to my search list to see if I could find someone closer to the suggested range.

On my next search, I only emailed one editor. Her rates were clearly listed on her clean and user-friendly website. At 1.4 cents per word, her estimate worked out to a rate that was at the high end of the recommended charges.

Check back next Friday to see how I finally found the editor for my self-published manuscript.

I will be running a series of posts on Fridays for the next two months (give or take) about my progress toward publishing – both the self-published track and the traditional path (since I have manuscripts in both).