What I’m Writing these Days

If you follow me on Facebook, you get a monthly update of my writing projects. If you don’t, you’re going to get one now.
I’m an author so I write. I wish I could say that I only write things I LOVE and am jazzed to sit behind my laptop day-in and day-out pounding away on my wireless keyboard (which is missing seven letters and throws me off when I look at it to type).
I write blurbs and other marketing copy. When I’m selling or pitching a book to agents and editors, I pen query letters, outlines and synopsis (*cringes typing the word*).
What I write most often: blog posts.
You know, like this one.
Sometimes I even have interesting content or “high concept” ideas. Most of the time I feel like I’m shooting a post into the dark abyss of virtual space…hitting nothing, reaching no one.
So if there’s something you wish I would blog about, please complete the contact form here on the site…or leave a comment on this post.
My love is fiction and especially fantasy. Unfortunately, the market for that is rather soft and in order to “sell” a manuscript now and again, I write romance.

But I’m usually working on multiple projects at one time.

Fiction Projects

Unfortunately, there is no fantasy writing on my horizon. Even though I have an amazing dragon-covered Write Mind planner waiting for the magic of a new world with quests and magicians, I don’t know when I’ll get to write fantasy again.

I need to focus on writing things that sell.

At the moment, I have two projects that I’m guaranteed to sell.
The first is a short story (really more of a novelette) for the ONE SULTRY AFTERNOON anthology my publisher is planning for the summer of 2018.
Here’s a quick summation:

Ivory is in Leavenworth to earn money for her college education by guiding rafts on the river. Her boyfriend graduated and headed to the East coast without a backward glance, so Ivory isn’t looking for romance. Not even a sumer fling.
Prescott survived leukemia as a child only to become touch sensitive as a teenager. When he dropped out of college to pursue his painting, his photographer uncle opened his home in Leavenworth, in exchange for help manning the gallery and gift shop. The rugged beauty of the Alpine village of Washington inspires his creativity.
When they run into each other on a hiking trail, all their plans derail. But love is always a choice, and unless Prescott can overcome his fear of living he’ll never convince Ivory to choose him.

The second project is a novella for a 2018 release in the First Street Church Kindle World of Sweet Grove, Texas. While writing my debut in this world (coming November 15), I stumbled upon a minor character who’s about to run headlong into LOVE’S LITTLE SECRET.
Read on for the brief overview:

Norma Wells works at Sweet Grove High to nurture students, always aware of her own barrenness. She doesn’t understand why God didn’t grant the desires of her heart. At her Silver Anniversary party, she learns the reason her husband had no desire to pursue fertility specialists.
Herman Wells doesn’t deny that the Hispanic boy who crashes the Silver Anniversary party is his son. When he’d been the District Manager, he’d spent half of every month in New Mexico where he’d rescued Osaria and fallen in love with her. Or at least the idea that she needed him while his wife seemed content to build a life without him.
When Herman’s secret rocks their world, Norma has to decide if she can forgive her husband and welcome his now-motherless son. Herman wishes dealing with this fallout was the worst of his problems because when the pink slip comes, everything he build his life around tumbles around his ears.
An unlikely matchmaker seeks to reignite the love that life’s hardships snuffed out. Will Norma’s wish for motherhood come too late? Can Herman discover the most important truth before he loses everything?

Both of these are rough sketches, but hopefully they give you an idea.
I’m also working on edits for:

  • Love’s Late Arrival (due to release on November 15, 2017)
  • Reality Ever After (due to release on January 22, 2018)

My plan is to draft another two novellas in Sweet Grove for National Novel Writing Month OR to write the sequel novel to the women’s fiction novel I need to flesh out before trying to market it again.
What to write? What to write?

Nonfiction Projects

In my original business plan, my goal was to write two Bible study books each year. Unfortunately, that has never happened.
At the moment, I have four or five scattered ideas for studies but nothing concrete enough to begin working on. So it looks like there won’t be a new study in 2017.
The other nonfiction project I’m working on is the Christian living book about struggling through the aftermath of grief. I’ve been writing vignettes and Bible expository segments since 2015.


After meeting with a memoirist and getting feedback from two agents, I’ve got fresh ideas for how to approach this book. Now to be in the right state of mind to work on it.
What do I mean?
This project is an emotional vampire. I can never write more than one section on a given day. And it might drain me so I can’t touch the project again for a week.
But it’s the project I know God wants me to write, so I will do it. But it isn’t a project I can force myself to work on, so I have to pray and trust that He will guide me through it.
Eventually, I’ll market this book to Christian agents and publishers, but I’ll give myself a deadline for acceptance. If I don’t get it, then I’ll indie publish it.
But that is a LONG way off. Probably somewhere in my three-year plan.

A Three-Year Plan

In the coaching session of the Oregon Christian Writer’s Conference, Susan May Warren challenged her students to do the math and figure out how many novels, novellas, short stories, whatever they could write in a year.
When I’m on a roll, writing 1,000 words an hour is pretty common. Which means I can crank out 5,000 words in my five-hour writing day.
When we’re talking about the short fiction I’m writing for my publisher’s summer anthology, that means I can draft the story in a week. Those novellas I’m writing for the Kindle World? It will take five or six days to pen those first drafts.
You do the math. How many novellas could I write in a year at this rate?
Except for drafting them is the easy part.
According to Warren, I need to plan an equal amount of time for rewriting, revising, editing and polishing. (So the 25,000 word novella will take 10 to 12 days to be ready for beta readers.)
Still, if I focused on writing only short fiction, I could realistically churn a novella out each month (as long as my editor and cover designer could match my pace).
Whew!
If people purchased these, and I was an indie author earning 70 percent of the sale price, I could make some money. Maybe even support myself solely by writing.
Of course, that’s a big IF.

And rather than dream about this possible paycheck, I’d better get back to writing.

What would you like me to blog about? What genre would you like me to write in? What advice or encouragement do you have for this bumbling author?

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Maybe you like romance or some of my other books. I’m sure there’s something worth reading on my page.

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Writing on a Whim

More poetry from my vaults today. Hopefully, my writing whims aren’t spotlighting the whimsy within me.

(Yes, I do love my alliteration.)

Today’s offering is quite whimsical. I played with the words and penned them on the page.

Background: On this day, I had been brooding about the lack of new ideas and inspiration I’d been feeling. In the wake of National Novel Writing Month, I often find my creative soul a little parched. But I read a few turns of phrase in Proverbs 30 and an idea for a superhero-quest story spilled from nowhere.

Or somewhere. But us writerly types can never really pinpoint the exact source or motivation.

This untitled poem was only written a couple of months ago, December 30, 2016.

Ideas
spin through my pen
spurred by a word
inspired by a title
Wind in his Fists
Not the first time it called to me.

Notes
scribbled in dribbles
scattered by tatters
indulging a whim
Water in Garments
Superhero meet Elemental: A Trilogy

Heroes
stutter what they utter
strange what they arrange
involved with others
End of Earth
A quest against an unknown enemy.

Since this time, I’ve figured out who the villain is for these books. I know what he wants and why. Which means this could be a project that eventually comes front and center during my writing office hours.

All those pages of scribbles might find their way into a story after all.

Do you like to make notes in long hand? How do you get your best ideas? What process do you use to refine your ideas?

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.

A Novel way to Write a Novel

image from www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com

There are books on the process of writing a novel. Entire websites are dedicated to the subject. And none of them suggest doing it the way I’m about to demonstrate.

As I move through the process, the reason for that will become abundantly clear. In fact, multiple reasons for avoiding my novel way of writing a novel will flash like neon warnings.

But did that stop me?

And it begins

I’ve been working on a short story project since March. I’ve alluded to it several times in posts here or updates on Facebook.

However, even though I have a signed contract, I was sworn to secrecy. It was my Top Secret project.

As I pen these words, I still haven’t been given the go ahead to announce the project or my participation therein. What was supposed to have an October 2015 publishing date has been pushed back to February 2016.

The repercussions of a story I wrote specifically to submit to this secret project ring like aftershocks in my writing world.

It all began with a line from an email:

“Last, but not least, the publisher is curious as to whether you’d be interested in developing The Demon Was Me into a full novel! (Way to go, Sharon!)”

In a world where I sent queries into the depths of cyberspace, pleading for a chance to send my fully written, revised, edited and proofed novel for their reading enjoyment, that simple sentence knocked me for a loop.

And there were expectations

I would have been crazy to shrug off this opportunity. So, I sent a cautious reply to my editor.

And the email correspondence continued for another week.

What the publisher wanted, however, wasn’t a novel – or even the outline of a story. These were the specifications for what she wanted:

“To retain threads of time, theme, characters in the short story and throw out ideas that can be explored further” in a novel-length work.

Does anyone go about building a story this way?

Isn’t the seed usually for a premise or concept, or maybe a character or problem?

And there were plenty of lee lines hanging around in my short story. In fact, my main character had something like a heavenly directive given to him in the resolution of the 9000-word experience (otherwise known as short fiction).

So, rather than outlining his complete story, I was supposed to brainstorm possibilities for what happened afterward.

Yeah, I scribbled out three full notebook pages without pause.

But how can I organize these tidbits into something compelling enough to convince this publisher she wants the story?

And deadlines

The initial deadline to share my visions of where the story might go (after it ends in the short story bought and to-be-published) was given.

“The publisher would love to have a 10-point outline from you by October 1.”

More gaping.

I have an idea factory inside my brain. Every fiction writer I know has something similar. The slightest thing becomes a seed for a full-blown tale.

The same was true for the universe I imagined in detail as the setting of this short story.

So the scribbles continued. First, I guessed I had enough for a four-book series. On closer thought, I condensed it into a trilogy.

But the stakes and the ticking clock needed for the first installment still seemed a little week.

And wait! Am I even supposed to be planning this stuff?

The ten points that are due …the clock is ticking on that…don’t have to outline a complete story.

Shouldn’t I have sighed with relief? Instead, frustration mounted.

I seriously didn’t know how to pitch on incomplete story idea. Should I focus on a few premises? Let the publisher take her pick?

And brainstorming sessions

Those original three handwritten pages were a drop in the bucket.

I expanded the 500-word history I’d written for my setting into a nearly 3000-word history. I laid out the different sub-sections of the war-torn country. I gave each of them inhabitants and a governing style and leaders.

Now there were people for my hero to meet on his journey.

And so I filled more notebook pages with descriptions of the people and their problems. I listed possible conflicts that would arise when my hero encountered those systems.

And it still looks like a trilogy in the making or one FAT novel (not the preference for YA readers).

But I didn’t know what to include in the requested outline. So I called on my fabulous editor.

And waiting

When it was all said and done, written down in sparkling clean fashion and emailed to the publisher, the waiting began.

Again.

Sometimes it feels like writing is more about waiting than it is about transcribing pretty words on a page to form cool adventures.

Are you writing a novel? If you’re nodding yes, don’t follow this plan. Seriously.

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…

Road to Published – Finding an Agent

In the new publishing paradigm, some authors seek editors at small houses instead of an agent. If you want to walk the traditional path (like me), the best idea is still to find an agent to represent you.

Even though the number of agents is high, finding the perfect fit for you and your work takes research and time.

Lots of time. At least six months to a year.

The traditional path is traditionally – slow. Up to three years to see your book in print after you’ve hired an agent. No, I’m not kidding.

Again, this is why many authors cut out the middle man and go straight to editors. Which is fine if you don’t want to be published with one of the big houses. All of these don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, although most of them have imprints that might look at unagented work.

Databases

Fortunately, there are several databases of literary agent listings. Some are provided online which is very convenient. Others can be found in printed guides that are updated annually.

The most well-know listing of literary agents is from the Writer’s Market, published by Writer’s Digest each year. They also have an online database, accessible with paid membership.

This Literary Agent Directory was also helpful. However, I didn’t enter my information. It says access is free, but I don’t know that for sure.

Make sure you don’t shoot in the dark. Read up on any agent before you query them. What do you need to know?

  • Are they accepting new clients?
  • Do they represent your genre?
  • What authors do they represent? Similar to you or not?
  • What are their specific guidelines for submissions?

This final one is important because if you narrow your list down with the other questions and then fail to follow these “rules,” your query will find its way into the trash – rather than the slush pile

Perfecting your Query

If you’re like most writers I know, writing query letters doesn’t top your list of favorite things. Seriously. I would rather go to the dentist.

Never fear! There is a formula for writing an excellent query letter. Do I guarantee it will get you noticed?

Sorry, no.

Query letters should be short and specific.

  • First paragraph includes your logline, title, genre and word count.
  • Second paragraph embellishes the major plot points of the main story line, naming your protagonist and possible the antagonist, but probably not any other characters
  • Third paragraph might be why you chose this agency – or why you are qualified to write this story
  • Final paragraph lists publishing credits or awards that relate to the genre/form you’re submitting
  • Use a professional tone, but keeping it conversational appeals to many agents who want to know you would be someone they could work with

Send queries in batches. Many authors recommend sending to ten agencies at a time. No need to tell them you are querying others, but if you get a request for the full manuscript from more than one agent, you should divulge that to both parties.

Keep Track

All these submissions! How will I ever keep them straight?

I have a handy Excel spreadsheet that keeps track of what manuscripts I’ve submitted. There are also online databases that will help you organize this information.

I had access to the Writer’s Digest Agent Database when I took a class from them. However, that expires unless you become a VIP member by paying a fee.

These are the columns on my spreadsheet: Agent/Editor/Publisher, Contact email, contact Phone, manuscript title, date queried, and date returned.

There is also a “days” column that automatically keeps a running total of how long your submission has been circulating. It’s interesting to note that the agents on my list have taken much longer to respond than the publishers.

I recently added another column: “Results.” This way I can note whether they asked for more pages, rejected or accepted my work.

Here are some links to databases or information to build your own:

Once you send out that first batch of query letters, get to work on your next writing project.

This is what writer’s do. Chewing your fingernails and checking your email every hour won’t get the next story down on paper.

Did you find this information helpful? Please comment and SHARE if you did. This author thanks you.

Even in Writing it’s who you know

My youngest son, recent college graduate, swears he doesn’t have to apply for jobs. “It’s who you know, Mom.” In writing, I’ve discovered, this adage is also true.

Not that I agree my son should sit around waiting for someone from his “network” to offer him a job, but I see that in the world – made much smaller by technology – people tend to “know someone” who would be “perfect” for that position.

That doesn’t mean you can sit back idly. Someone searching for employment should pursue the online application process and follow up an interview with a thank you email. Or in the writing world – send out perfected queries and submit to contests and anthologies.

Along with all that, you should reach out to other people in the business. Here are the ways I’ve done this – AND the byproduct for my “career.”

Following Blogs

I started my own blog as a college assignment four years ago. Since then, it has left the “free” WordPress site and migrated to my author website. It still doesn’t generate as much traffic as I need for my “discoverability.”

However, networking isn’t about people following MY blog. It’s about me following them. And I don’t do it just so I can ask for favors later (ugh! Using people: still out of fashion in this new era).

I follow writer advice blogs: Kristen Lamb, Jami Gold and Writer’s Helping Writers. I follow blogs of other indie authors: J. Keller Ford and Jennifer M. Eaton. I read their posts, comment when I have something to add, and share their content when I find it unusually valuable.

How has this network helped me?

Kristen Lamb critiqued a piece of flash fiction for me – just because she understood a new writer’s struggle to find good advice. I won a partial developmental edit from Jami Gold that took a story I was proud of to a deeper level.

The truth is, I have found helpful advice on these blogs and connected with the women behind these blogs in ways I never expected.

Connecting on Social Media

I am a late bloomer. I came to Facebook when it was no longer the edgy, fashionable thing to do.

The only reason I even signed up for Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest was because I trusted Social Media Jedi Kristen Lamb. If you’re trying to build an author platform, I highly recommend her book Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital Age.

It was on Facebook that I met J. Keller Ford (and began to follow her blog). She published a few short stories. I followed her publishers’ pages and shared interesting posts.

Thanks to my connection with J. Keller Ford, I found the submissions page to Roane Publishing, where my first short story was accepted to an anthology.

If I hadn’t been following her, I never would have discovered this small New York publishing company. Further, she is the one who shared her online critique group with me.

In fact, once I become a best-selling author, Jenny and I are taking a tour of castles in Germany. We’ve never met face-to-face, but I owe her a good deal in the scope of my confidence as a writer.

Joining a Critique Group

I’m leery of critique groups because I’ve been a member of a few. I wrote critiques like crazy. Read everyone’s stuff and offered advice about everything from word choice to character arc. In return?

“Too much telling. Show more.” No examples. Or they gave me a rewritten passage that was nearly identical and doesn’t feel any more like showing than what I wrote.

However, after I helped J. Keller Ford with an opening to her second novel in a three-book deal (I know! Crazy that a published author thought I had anything to offer her manuscript), she recommended me to a critique group in Scribophile.

It was here that I was offered some advice by Jennifer M. Eaton. When I rewrote my short story using her feedback, it was accepted to a short story anthology by a larger independent press.

Additionally, I meet monthly with a local group of writers. Several of them are independently published. We are regularly encouraged by a local published author (sci-fi novels and short stories).

We don’t do formal critiques. At first, I wasn’t sure about that. Everyone is welcome to read for five minutes and request specific feedback. Then we use various writing prompts to free write and share that writing for the second hour of the meeting.

This group helped me streamline the opening of the first short story I had published. One of the writing prompts helped me generate the opening for another short story I submitted. (It wasn’t accepted, but it turned into a marketable story.)

Paying it Forward

I’ve met with a local author a few times. Mostly, he has offered me advice about my next steps. I have hopes that he may help me with synopsis writing or perfecting queries in the future.

Other writers helped him, and he believes in paying that kindness forward. Without the encouragement (and introduction to an editor and agent) he received, he believes he would still be a moonlight writer. Rather than an award-winning short story author with a five book deal from Tor.

He’s the one who connected me with another local writer. She’s a humorist pursuing nonfiction writing. Now.

I invited her to Willamette Writer’s Conference last year because I didn’t want to go alone. Since then, she’s critiqued opening pages for me and offered me advice when I bounced ideas off her. She constructively criticized my website, helping me identify how to make it cleaner and easier to navigate.

Conversely, I’ve pointed her toward some of the writing resources that have helped me improve. I’ve asked her questions when she threw ideas toward me that set her on paths that have led her to paying work.

More importantly, I have another creative mind to jabber with about all the things no normal person wants to hear about. She celebrates my successes and kicks me out of my funk when things aren’t going well in my writing world.

In the end, networking isn’t just about WHO you know, it’s about how you reciprocate the good will with people you meet. In our ever-connected-to-the-Internet age, most of these people may live across the country – or across the world – but that just means your network can reach further than ever.

So, go ahead: network with other writers, editors, publishers and readers. Someday, they might drop your name in just the right place at the perfect moment.

What are so other ways writers network? Do you have recommendations for enlarging our circle of writing acquaintances?

How the Street of Dreams Mirrors Life

5,185 square feet, $1,325,000
5,185 square feet, $1,325,000

“I live on the street of my dreams.”

Do you? Does your daily life take you through your dream landscape?

Since I wasn’t being wowed by the uniqueness of the homes on the Street of Dreams, my writer brain went to town to make a life connection. It doesn’t take much to wind up my creativity.

I found three parallels between my experience with the million-dollar homes and my pursuit of a writing career.

Expectations

When someone tells me about a million-dollar home, I’m expecting either an enormous lot or unique features.

If you read my post last week, you know I didn’t find either of these at the Street of Dreams. I found million-dollar homes with fantastic fountains and more floor space than I ever want to be responsible for cleaning.

Lot size? Not much considering how big the homes were. In fact, I could see clearly into all the neighbors’ yards from the second story balcony of one of the homes. Not much in the way of a private setting.

I’ll be honest about the writing career. I knew I needed to pen a million words before I could expect to begin to perfect the craft of novel writing. I have penned more than 750,000 (yes, I keep track) in the past two years. I’m still pre-published.

In fact, this writing gig is much harder work than I expected. Some days all the words I write sound trite or infantile. Other days getting the words out feels like an exorcism (not that I know what that feels like, but seeing one thanks to Hollywood – uh, similar screaming and pain quotients).

Comparison: Expectations while traveling the street of your dreams are never met. Bag them.

Awe Factor

Staring at the amazing great room, kitchen, dining and outdoor living area of the dream home we most loved dropped my jaw. I could visualize it teeming with the people I love – some of them aren’t even born yet.

An ooey-gooey swell of deliciousness warmed me from the inside out. A stuffed turkey roasted in the professional-grade natural gas oven. Trays of appetizers lined the granite-covered buffet along the wall of the dining room. A fire crackled in the great room and outside on the covered patio.

I wish you could see what I did and feel the emotions swelling like a tidal wave inside me. That’s the awe factor we expect from our dreams.

Writing, the dream of my heart, parallels this experience.

Fingers flying over the keyboard. Words, sentences and paragraphs become pages, scenes and chapters. Characters are born on those pages. Lives explode with love, fear, anger and adventure.

Hours pass and only the movement of the sun from my front window to my back deck signifies it. I’m engulfed in the fantasy of my creativity.

This exceeds what I imagined pursuing my dream and being a full-time writer would be like on a daily basis. No paycheck? That’s what you think. Contentment in the dream feeds a hungry soul and clothes lagging confidence.

Epiphany: Living the dream is like having Thanksgiving dinner every day.

Visualization

Imagination is the bedrock of my chosen path. If I can’t visualize, I’m not going to be able to write a story that comes to life either.

My vision of a million-dollar home includes elevators, stoves that cook entire meals without me and a private setting in the middle of the woods.

The Street of Dreams in reality? Stairs I had to climb, even though some of the homes had three levels. Professional quality gas stoves but no automation that would prepare meals at the touch of a button (don’t get sassy about a microwave here, either).

Worst of all, I could see acres of trees in the distance along the ridge of Mt. Scott. Below that were fields of homes, too many to number. So much for tranquility in my million-dollar sanctuary.

Creating a story from nothing but my imagination is what I visualized when I pictured me as a professional writer. I have done that – seven separate times in the past year.

Of course, what I’ve done to take that first novel (well, actually the third; the first two had to be thrown away. They were me writing to find the real story) to a place where it’s ready for public eyes is hardly that glamorous – or enjoyable.

Weeks spent rewriting after reading through the first draft almost felt creative. Revising every sentence to make it sound literary – creative but pushing tedium. Rewriting a third time based on the comments and criticism from my beta readers required a firm hand.

“You will write today. I don’t care if you’re sick of this story. You have a goal to meet.”

You think this manuscript is ready for an agent?
You think this manuscript is ready for an agent?

Revising the 300 pages to smooth the cadence and perfect the prose rivaled a marathon. I was unsure if there would be enough chocolate to see me through to the end.

Still…not…done. Now, comb over every sentence, looking for grammar, usage and typographical errors. Gladly send the thing to someone else for proofreading.

Time to query agents. Time to fix the dull beginning. Time to rewrite the first fifty pages because a professional finds them flawed beyond redemption – almost.

Nothing like I visualized.

Truth to be learned: real life is nothing like the dream. It can be better, if you’re willing to work on reality conforming it to the reality you want.

My allusions might not resonate with you. Or maybe they do.

How has your dream measured up to your expectations and visualizations? Or how has the awe factor kept you moving forward?

An Update on the Progress of my Manuscript

I hope someday to connect with my readers on this blog. As of this moment, I know most of my faithful followers are family, friends and other writers. Thank you for your support.

According to Jedi Master of Social Media, Kristen Lamb, I shouldn’t write about writing on my blog. My readers don’t care about it. In theory, I agree with her expert advice and follow it to the best of my ability.

However, I’m breaking her rule today. (Just this once, Master! I promise!) As an unpublished author, I don’t have the type of “readers” who only want to learn about the writer behind the story yet. In fact, some of you have actually asked how the manuscript was coming along.

For those of you who want to be “in the know,” here’s a rundown of my novel’s life:

  • Book one in the series started the beginning of September 2013.
  • Book two was written in 23 days during NaNoWriMo, November 2013
  • Book three was finished by the end of January 2014 (which was a miracle as far as I’m concerned, considering what was happening in my life at that time)
  • Read-through and rewrite of book one took most of February
  • Stage one revisions were completed by March 21
  • Manuscript sent to six beta readers for return by April 15, 2014 (Tax Day: a happy coincidence?)
  • First week of May spent making changes to the manuscript based on feedback from the beta readers (They improved the story so much. I love them!)
  • Stage two revisions finished by May 21
  • Read-through and final touch-ups
  • Manuscript to proofreader by May 30
  • First query letter to top agency of choice with sample pages sent June 6, 2014
  • Submit first 20 pages (and a synopsis) for critique by Alex Hughes at Willamette Writer’s Conference by June 18

What I hope happens next in this process:

  • An agent asks to see the whole manuscript
  • When I meet with Katie Reed of the Andrea Hurst agency at the conference in August, she asks me to send the manuscript
  • One of these agents loves my story and signs me up
  • They help me edit and perfect the manuscript (Yes, I know it isn’t perfect)
  • A publisher picks it up by the end of October, and I see my first book in print by October 2015

I know that’s a crazy long timeline. This arduous process is one thing that makes indie publishing look more attractive and self-publishing amazing. I need the traditional route for my first book. If it gets picked up, I know I’m ready to be read by the general public.

When the time comes, this website will light up with release dates, promotions and events. My life will get crazy because the publisher will be demanding the next two manuscripts in the series. Hopefully, I will be able to get them perfected in the year it takes for the first one to find the shelf at your local bookstore and on Amazon, of course.

Thank you for encouraging me to stay the course toward seeing my life-long dream come true. I couldn’t have done it without you!

Beginning a Rewrite

Image from wikimedia

Writing is rewriting – E.B. White

I guess E.B. White knew what he was talking about since every good writer owns The Elements of Style. Considering the first draft of my novel, I’m beginning to agree to the validity of that assertion.

In order to rewrite my manuscript into something remotely readable, I’m going to use the methodology given in Plot & Structure by James Scott Bell. Believe me, the young adult fantasy novel I just completed *happy dance* needs plenty of work.

According to Bell, the rewriting process has seven steps:

  1.   Let it cool
  2.   Get mentally prepared
  3.   Read it through
  4.   Brood over it
  5.  Write the 2nd draft
  6.  Refine
  7.  Polish

Because I’m serious about completing this process, I set a schedule. (Some who know me would say I’m organized or perhaps a control freak.) After I completed the novel, I waited a week, getting mentally prepared all the while. Now it’s on to Step 3.

First Read Through

Bell gives great ideas for making simple marks on the manuscript. He recommends just reading it and not stopping to make any additions or corrections. Use his marking system at this juncture, and when you get to step five, you can go crazy.

I started this on the scheduled date (Monday, July 29) and finished the next day. Disappointment flogged me. Where was the adrenaline? Excitement for my story migrated to somewhere south of where I sat.

This story was lame. It had several holes and so little description that I felt like no one could even remotely imagine the fantasy worlds I invented for this book.

Brood Over It

After sleeping on it, I pulled out my spiral notebook and made a plot diagram. Yeah, just like those your middle school language arts teacher made you draw and label. The story progression seemed to fit. I discovered where the plot holes were and plugged in events to fill them.

I think character arc will take more thought and planning. My main character has changed very little by the end of this story. Yes, that’s a major faux pas for any story. I need to evaluate what her real motives are and get a better picture of what she’s like and how this adventure is changing her to be the girl who helps take down the Big Boss Troublemaker in book three.

Writing the Second Draft

This is what I started on Monday, August 5. Yes, that was a full three weeks ahead of my original schedule. Rather than patting myself on the back, I’m planning to utilize that extra time to fill the plot holes, finagle an interesting character arc and rewrite something that will get my blood pumping.

After all, I want to be proud to claim this work as my own.

What are your thoughts on rewriting? Do you start over with a blank document or do you cut-and-paste?