I decided that if I wanted to be a real published author that I probably needed a real website. Like, with my very own domain name and everything. If you're interested in following the journey to publishing, you can find me here:
Back in the summer of 2016 I was all about publishing book 1. I was in full on "this will go so fast" mode and really, truly believed that I would have that sucker live no later than March 2017.
In case you missed it, the book has, in fact, not gone live.
This self-publishing thing is a lot more work than I thought it would be.
Those of you farther along on the journey can stop laughing now.
Anyway, in the meantime I also wrote book 2 and am about ready to edit it. I've found through various trial that editing on paper works better for me. I can use post-iys and close my computer and prevent the "just flip over to the interwebs for a sec," derailing my whole day.
I really do believe that it has been worth it to take my time with this book. Everything is still a learning experience at this point. I firmly believe that the next series will be better, faster, stronger, but I also don't want this one to be a huge failure.
All that to say, I changed the dates.
The new, new, NEW plan is to publish book one and then shortly after book two. I am also hopeful that book three will be in editing by then and I can publish that pretty quickly thereafter.
Also going on:
When Mr. Quinn and I sat down to discuss his alpha read of The Star of Time he suggested some major/minor changes to the scope of the book.
He wanted a stronger, more emotional opening to the story (good call), and that one was easy because it's contemporary. Phoebe starts her story in 2016. I was able to use my own experience to write that and I knocked it out in a couple of days.
The other change - giving a secondary character a stronger backstory - required more research because his story takes place in areas of the book that I had previously skipped altogether (I mistakenly thought that the story didn't happen there). All of that is historical. New settings require internet excavation to see how things would have been accomplished in 1776. Three days in and I know what I think I need to know.
Frustratingly, I could have written the scene and just guessed, but I really want to be as accurate as I can (knowing that someone who is an expert may still come along and say I got it all wrong!). The location plays a role, but not a big one. The reality is that I needed to know how my people would cross a river. And where. So where was that old road? Which ferry was along that road? How far was it from where they started? Would they have come to the crossing on their first day of travel or the second?
Every question has an answer and every answer inevitably creates another question. The good news in all of this is that I think I have reached a point in my career where I can make the call on when I've got enough knowledge to proceed. At this point I can quit excavating and start writing again.
I think this is the last major added scene for this round of edits. Then I have to fine tooth comb the rest of the book, punch up some stuff and then it's off to the races on getting book 3 first drafted. That one's The Star of the Dead, for the record.
I may get these books done and published soon. It's certainly starting to feel more real!
I thought I'd post an update and share a bit about what's going on these days:
Write on my friends...
If I told you that this one thing could make you a more productive writer, would you believe me? If you could possibly double or triple your words per day (I have) what would you say?
What if I told you that it was free?
Would you commit to trying it for one week?
Seriously, would you?
Listen, I've seen it all when it comes to products and programs and general click-bait targeting writers. Sometimes I feel like writers must be a super-ripe market for being parted from their cash and I'm missing out.
But, I'm also a broke-ass writer, so I'll just continue to miss out and share this tip for free. You know, cause I got it for free.
The Full Story
I'm a big fan of the guys over at Sterling & Stone. Currently I am alternately reading their book Write. Publish. Repeat. and Brandon Sanderson's The Way of Kings (picked it up for free!). Between the two I figure I'll be three steps closer to being a bestseller (let's not talk about that 1,000 mile journey. I haven't even completed mile one yet.) by the time I'm done reading.
So, I listen to the S&S Self-Publishing Podcast and one episode featured Christine Niles, a productivity and project management expert. She was awesome and funny and talked about time tracking. She may have talked about other stuff, but time tracking stuck with me.
It took me a few weeks after hearing the podcast, but I finally followed through and found the book page for her book Time to Write. I am totally going to buy it when it drops, but the reason I'm linking you there now is that if you scroll to the bottom of the page you can enter your email (trust me, you want this) and they'll send you their time-tracking worksheets. Go do it now...
Okay, maybe it's not totally a hack. But, it has changed my writing.
See, there's a little bit of self-shaming going on with this. I committed to write down how I spend my day in 15 minute increments. It didn't take long for me to realize that I didn't want to write down that I spent an hour scrolling on Facebook. Or Twitter. Or refreshing Pinterest. Or playing games on my iPad.
When I started this I took three days to just do what I normally do and write it down. Ugh. That was eye-opening.
Being that I am home and writing is my only job (besides running the house and managing the kids education) I was so tired of feeling like I never have time to actually write. Imagine my shock when I started tracking my time and saw how much waste there was in my day. I would sit down to work and need to look up one little factoid and the next thing I knew I was writing down that I'd spent an hour on Facebook (all roads lead there). I just got distracted and lost track. Net words for that hour? The six I wrote before I went to look something up.
Those three days were embarassing. Not gonna lie.
So, the next week I was proactive. Every time I was tempted to go click on a time waster website, I asked myself if that was how I wanted to spend my time.
Most of the time, the answer was a resounding NO, so I don't. I check the clock more often. When I open Scrivener I try not to click out of it unless I'm ready to log that time and move onto something else. This one little thing has helped me be accountable and disciplined in my writing.
I've started multi-tasking when I can. I watch TV while I fold laundry or clean the kitchen or tidy the house. I internet surf while I eat lunch. Any time I can do something productive while I do something that's a time suck I'll double up. Otherwise I am just choosy about how I spend my time. I don't feel like I'm missing out and I still get my work done. Boundaries and priorities.
The great thing is that I no longer get to the end of the day and wonder what I've done all day. I have a written record of where my time has gone. Because I am more aware of where my time is going I am getting more writing done than ever! Best example: In 5 days I have written 20% of the my recent first draft. That's unprecedented. I went from around 500 to 1,000 words per day to a minimum of around 3,000 words per day (I average about an hour and a half a day to write uninterrupted a day). With practice and even more awareness of my time I think I can even up that without taking too much more time.
I used the worksheets from S&S for two weeks before I decided that I liked my results. That's when I started tracking in my bullet journal. I track Monday through Friday and while I may write on the weekends I don't care how I spend that time as much. It's the weekend after all.
So, for a grand total expenditure of $0 I was able to up my productivity and suddenly the possibility of getting 3-4 books released a year doesn't seem like a pipe dream! It's exciting and now I look forward to writing down what I'm doing/have done. I just keep my journal open on my desk and make notes as the day progresses. On Sunday afternoon I take a little time and create my tracking pages for the week. Boom. Ready to track.
It really doesn't matter what you use to track your time as long as you actually track it. Be honest. Write everything down. Pay attention to the passing minutes. Try it for a week and see if you can squeeze a few more words out of your day too!
This post contains affiliate links. If you click to Amazon and buy, I'll get a few pennies.
While the beta copy of The Star of Time is out I figured I'd better get cracking on the revised plot for book two, The Star of Fire.
Much like the older brother, book two was a little bloated and heavy on the infodumping when I went back to re-read it. There was a pretty decent plot arc there and definitely some pieces of writing I can use, but it needed trimming and adjusting, just like book one after the betas had their say.
I took what I could use and started crafting the plot outline in the same way I had for the revised book one (If you're interested, I used Tick-Tock Plots by Jacqueline Garlick [affiliate link ahoy!] - I heard her on the Sci-Fi and Fantasy Marketing Podcast and was intrigued. Thankfully her way of plotting clicked with me). Book two looks like it'll be a much stronger book for this.
Chugging right along on the old plot when I realized that I had no idea where things were in relation to each other and that created a problem in the passage of time. Luckily I had created a google map of locations back when I originally started to work on the book, but that was cumbersome flipping back and forth and also invited "just popping over to do a quick google for more info" that turned into dropping into a rabbit hole of research for 6 hours. I was also juggling several historically accurate maps and so on and so on.
As I was struggling with one issue ("How far is it from Old St. Pat's to Prairie Avenue anyway?") I was juggling maps and thought "I need a copy of one of the historic maps that I can mark with all the locations and info I need."
Enter The David Rumsey Map Collection. I was able to find a map of Chicago in 1871 with the burnt district conveniently shaded. Bonus! I was able to download it too! I printed the sections I needed on three different sheets of paper and mounted them on a piece of foamcore board, then used sticker dots and careful notes to list places of interest and map the spread of the fire according to the historical record.
Not all of the places on the map play a pivotal role in the book, but I feel like it's an important thing to know where the hotspots (pardon the pun) were in town. Don't want to send Phoebe or James off on an adventure on the Hairtrigger Block like they were going to The Wal-Marts.
Anyway, it's been a huge help visualizing where things are in relation to each other and knowing who was next door to who. I love Chicago and have been several times, but memory fades and in the age of cabs and Uber, who remembers where anything is anymore?
Off to get back to the plot of The Star of Fire. Hope you enjoy the maps over at the Rumsey Collection!
P.S. Old St. Pat's is a long way from Prairie Avenue, especially if you're walking like James and Phoebe. It's over 20 blocks which led to some hard decisions about transportation options and hard wishing that Uber was a thing back in 1871.
Map Info: Supplement To The Elmira Advertiser. Map Of Chicago Showing The Burnt District. The City Of Chicago, Illinois. Published By G.W. & C.B. Colton & Co. 172 William St. New York. Entered ... 1855 by J.H. Colton & Co. ... New York. You can find the original here on the David Rumsey site.
When I woke up this morning I knew I was going to finish the book today. It was a thought that both terrified and excited me.
Terrifying - the book is shorter now. I removed some extraneous characters and storylines. I know, I know, how can a character be extraneous? They just were. They added absolutely nothing to the story. Nothing. Well, I guess they added words, but beside that? Nothing.
Exciting - I think the book is better. It's leaner. It's more exciting. It has a nice twist and super conflict. I like it better.
I did run into a little trouble. I hate writing endings almost as much as I hate writing beginnings. I started the last chapter 4 times before I figured out what I wanted to do. And figuring it out took a long walk with the dogs through the neighborhood. It's funny, but all the inspiration I needed came from the question I kept asking myself - So, What now?
I realized that was something my MC would ask, and the rest of the chapter came from that point.
So, what now?
I got some feedback from Beta. It was mixed and when I thought about it, spot-on.
Also, [deep sigh] it created a lot of work.
Basically, there was some bloat, and some unnecessary drama. The theme was a little on the weak side.
It's hard to hear criticism about your creative work, even if you asked for it. I had to sit with it for a little while. But the more I thought about it, the more it became apparent that I had a good story, it just needed to lose some weight.
I re-evaluated. I took all the pieces apart and examined which of them were absolutely, positively doing their jobs in the book. Those got put back. The rest got put in a file that I can open and visit sometime.
I ended up writing a new intro (first few chapters), rethreading the first half and rewriting the second half. I cut an entire group of characters because their involvement was fuzzy. I changed the primary setting for the bulk of the book. I answered questions that I had been uncertain how I would answer. There's still some questions at the end of the book (the good kind!) but I know the answers now and how Phoebe will find them. That's a much better place than I was in before. When I'm writing the story and I don't even know how to answer the questions, that's not a good thing. [insert embarrassed face here]
I think the book is more exciting, more clear, and has a NEW and IMPROVED twist at the end! It also sets up book 2 EVEN BETTER.
Made it a goal to write here more often, so look for more angst filled ramblings as publishing draws near, 'kay?
sIt took all of November and December (with a holiday break) and some of January, but I finished my passthrough of Star of Time!
Now for the hard part - releasing the baby into the world.
So, I am putting this out there - if you like historical and/or historical fantasy, would you be interested in beta reading my book?
Approximately 86,000 words
Genre: Historical Fantasy (historical fiction with a dash of magical realism)
What I need: I'd like story feedback, character feedback, overall impressions, and note of anything historically inaccurate or that throws you out of the story. Anything grammatical, spelling, etc is a bonus!
When seventeen-year-old Phoebe Harris wakes up in a dark alley she thinks she’s been kidnapped and immediately starts trying to figure out how to get home. It’s only after she’s helped by a mysterious man in a tricorne hat that she realizes home may be farther away than she thought.
I woke up this morning and stretched. The dogs didn't wake me up to go out, so it was a good, full night's sleep.
Then I realized it was Halloween.
NaNoEve! Holy CRAP!
I needed a plan...
Last year, I posted a few easy meals for NaNo, you can find them here.
Adding to that this week - bonus! There's still time for you to run to the store tonight and grab the ingredients here to make a fabulous week's worth of dinners!
Slow Cooker Honey Garlic Chicken and Vegetables - Crock pot. Veggies cook along with meat. Morning prep. Don't think about it again til dinner. Win!
Taco Tuesday - Use the taco recipe I posted last year. Make meat in the crock pot. Everyone assembles their own tacos.
Jambalaya - Crock pot again. It gets a work out in November.
Spaghetti - Mine's easy. Brown ground turkey. Dump in a jar of your fave sauce. This week I am using a couple of spaghetti squash (cooked like this) and serving these roasted veggies. Because roasted veggies are easy, but make you look like an over-achiever in the kitchen.
Pizza Night! We have DiGiornio's. It's Friday and I'm tired.
That's leaves you on your own for the weekend. Remind yourself that you need to eat leftovers, or make a sandwich.
Also, I don't care what anyone says, kids will not be harmed by eating cereal for dinner.
Photo by Taken, via Pixabay.
I write. I am unpublished. Hoping to change that.