One, Two, Cha-cha-cha!

I like to think of myself as an optimist. Always looking for the silver lining. The glass is half full.

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It’s hard to keep that mindset. Sometimes I take things too much to heart. Sometimes I get down on myself for areas where I’ve failed. I run a vicious cycle in my mind of how I’ve screwed up.

In 2015, I decided to take my writing seriously. I was done making excuses. I was done playing around. I was going to finally make progress. I was finally going to win. I even coined a little phrase for myself. “I Win 2015!” I had two big goals for that year. Two things I was focused on.

  1. Publishing a book of short stories
  2. Publishing Sentinels of Mysera

I started out strong. Ran through Holly Lisle’s Flash Fiction course and got a bunch of short stories done. Sent Sentinels of Mysera to a couple people who were willing to content edit. Waited and tried to keep myself busy with the shorts, telling myself I was making progress.

Then I ended up in Redwall Survivor as Vera Silvertooth and my regular writing got put on hold as I did that. Redwall Survivor ended up being one of the best things I could have done, because on a weekly or so basis, I was writing a 1000 – 2000 word story, revising it, getting it critiqued by the cast, doing final edits, then posting it for the audience, where it was further commented on and critiqued. After finding out I’d survived another round of voting, it was back work on the next post.

Not only did I gain valuable experience as a writer, but I built relationships with a core of other writers who have different strengths that I do and were able to point out flaws and weaknesses in my writing.

By the time the end of 2015 hit, I’d grown in great ways as a writer, but I had failed to meet my two major goals.

One step forward, one back.

2016 was the year of revising Battle of the Bargaws, which is Sentinels Book 2. Through Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel course, I finally found myself learning the tricks and strategies that I needed to turn a wreck of a book into something good. While that was being done, I assembled notes on Tales of Mysera (my collection of short stories) and Sentinels of Mysera and had in my mind that edits and publication of those would happen in the later half of the year.

But I hit a wall, burned out a bit, and didn’t do much between finishing BotB revisions and NaNoWriMo.

My 2016 NaNo dragged into 2017 and now I find myself in the middle of April, two years behind my goal of “Publishing ToM and SoM.” In fact, both of those projects are now further back that I thought.

I spent two weeks going over SoM using HTRYN’s Lesson 1 and my dusty notes from my friends. At first I was frustrated with how long it took me, because I got through BotB in a week, not two. Reminded myself that SoM was almost twice the length of BotB, and kept going.

I’m less than encouraged by the results.

There are holes in SoM that I forgot to fill. There are errors. There are spots where I’m cringing at what I wrote. I’m almost embarrassed that I let anyone read it. The book that I thought was finished in 2015 is far, far from it.

One step forward. Two steps back.

My plan, at the beginning of 2017, was to have a revised, update version of SoM done by June 1, with a target publication date of January 2018.

I did not realize how broken the book was. And I didn’t anticipate that it may take me longer to revise, since it’s longer.

My June 1st revision date is not doable in the time I have to spend on the project each day. If I can manage the HTRYN lessons faster than last year, I’m still looking at finishing revisions by mid-September. But it’s highly probable that I may be working on this for the rest of the year.

Redwall Survivor is gearing up to kick off a new contest. I’m going to apply again, but if I make it in and if I last as long as I did in 2015, that’s going to slow down progress on SoM, because I have learned that I struggle with running two creative projects at once.

Plus I just signed up for Holly Lisle’s How To Write a Series course, and I’d like to work through that, too.

Of course, I don’t have the time or the energy to do everything. I have to juggle my family and those responsibilities in addition to writing. I’m still trying to figure out the balancing act to doing what needs done without burning out, because for me, that is a concern. When I push too hard for too long, then I burn out and everything stops. It’s not fair to me, my husband, or my kids when that happens.

Where does that put me and SoM? Well….

I’m going to keep plugging away, doing my darnedest to complete one lesson a week in HTRYN, but knowing that I’ll likely need to extend it to two weeks for most lessons. If I make it into Redwall Survivor, I’ll reevaluate my schedule and figure out a juggling act.

If I don’t get into Redwall Survivor this year, then I’ll know I can focus everything on SoM.

Tentative new deadline is to have SoM revisions done before NaNoWriMo 2017, so I have November free to write something new.

 

 

Day 2 – NaNoWriMo 2016

Words written: 2350

Total written: 5076

My plan this morning was to wake up at 4:15 a.m., pour myself a cup of coffee, and write for an hour or so before anyone else in my house was up and requesting breakfast.

Something about best laid plans?

Woke up to my husband’s alarm at 5:15 a.m. Apparently I slept through my alarm and shut it of in my sleep or something similar, because I have no memory of the alarm.

Thank goodness for VeggieTales (or ‘a MooMee’ which is toddler-ese for ‘movie’) to keep my twins preoccupied mid-morning so I could write like the wind. Thank goodness for Mythbuster re-runs to keep my husband occupied in the evening so I could finish getting my words.

My personal goal had been to hit 5000 today. I’m already a day ahead of schedule, which is perfect.

Now, despite what the numbers say, it hasn’t been the easiest writing day. Most of what had come out is not something I’m happy with. I feel almost rusty. Like a gear that sat too long without being oiled and moved. It occurred to me that I haven’t really written much since finishing Battle of the Bargaws revision earlier this year, and that was different than rough draft writing anyway. I haven’t written anything truly new since finishing Noontide Green last NaNoWriMo. It stands to reason that I’m out of practice.

Plus the characters in Crafting the Badger’s Head are all fresh and new. I’m still learning their quirks and their traits and figuring out just what makes them tick.

It’s not my best quality of writing, but it’s writing. I’ll find my groove soon enough, if my previous NaNos are any indication.

And let that be a piece of advice for any of you NaNoers out there who may be struggling. Just write. Don’t worry about quality. Don’t worry about your characters. You can always come back and fix it later. For now, tell the story. Get the pictures in your head down in black and white. Ramble on. Daydream while typing. Let your protagonist and antagonist meet up for tea and chess prior to becoming enemies. Whatever. Just write.

Perfection doesn’t happen on the first draft.

Suddenly, September!

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Welp, August sure got away from me. As far as 2016 is concerned, this had been my least productive month. I set out with a goal of getting my edits on the Tales of Mysera stories done after my friends from Redwall Survivor left. I thought coming off the high of finishing Battle of the Bargaws and Holly Lilse’s How to Revise Your Novel would help. I printed out my short stories, sat down with my edit notes from my friend, and promptly hit a brick wall.

I spent over two hours just trying to figure out where I should start. Do I do a mini version of HTRYN on the short stories? Do I work through the notes from my critiquer as if they were set in stone recommendations?

Then I stumbled across this article on Writers in the Storm.

Go ahead and read it, I’ll wait here until you’re back…

Back? Good. Onward!

Anyway, it helped me pinpoint where I was mentally with my writing and I dove in, determined to get the stories done.

I got 4 of 8. That 4 were done in one morning at a coffee shop. I’ve got one that’s half done that I’m considering just tossing in our fire pit because I’m so frustrated with it. Three haven’t been touched.

I was going to try to plow through the rest of them this week, but the last week of August decided to hit me with a puking 2-year-old and me falling down a flight of four stairs. I’m okay from the fall, having suffered a twisted ankle, skinned elbow, a bruised shin, and bruised knees (and maybe damaged my pride because I went splat right at the feet of 3 other people). My 2-year-old was diagnosed with Strep Throat, so she’s on meds now that’ll hopefully help her kick this bug to the curb.

Unfortunately, this weekend is our big Church Family Camp. We were signed up to help with meals, bring cookies, plus there are many friends who this is the only time all year we will see them.

Fortunately, since the camp is held on our Church’s property, which is only about 15 minutes from our house, my husband and I can tag team with sick kids and still be able to attend some of the camp. But it’ll be the first time in our memory that either of us has missed some of camp.

Productivity in writing department.

Hah.

Nope.

Productivity in anything else… well, that’s debatable.

I’m going to limp through Family Camp this weekend, and my 6-year-old starts school on Wednesday, so I’ll spend some time getting my new schedule figured out. ToM is still going to get done. Sentinels of Mysera is in the hopper after that. Hopefully before NaNoWriMo hits.

So, good-bye August. Hello, September.

Playing With Worlds

About the time I was starting up HTRYN, I got a copy of Holly Lisle’s Create a World Clinic, but with the idea that I wouldn’t do much with it until after HTRYN. After one particularly frustrating week of revision, I pulled out the book over the weekend and began working through it, just to give me something different to do.

That became my sanity saver over the last few months of revision. Monday through Friday, I worked on Battle of the Bargaws, but on Saturday and Sunday, if the mood took me, I did an exercise or two from Create a World. I let my Muse (Holly Lisle’s preferred term in referring to the creative, subconscious part of the brain) out of her box to play.

The first exercise spawned a story idea for the famous blacksmith in my Mysera world . One of the next exercises spawned something completely different. In the exercise, you come up with three specific elements (through a process Holly walks you through), then you write a short story of at least 350 words.

My elements were a dry, hot prairie setting, a red and brown platter, and a tan colored dog/lion beast that moved. My brain provided the rest as I wrote. It had absolutely nothing to do with Mysera, or any other world I’ve ever created.

And I’m kinda curious about it. Whatever this world is, I may have to dig a little deeper into it later.


 

[PLEASE NOTE: Other than some spelling fixes, this is completely unedited and raw writing. I haven’t polished this up in any way.]

The air shimmered in rippling waves across the drying grasses. The sun beat on the back of her neck, prickly with heat and sweat. She didn’t move from her crouch. Her dark eyes didn’t dare to blink.

Nether did the eyes of the tan beast who lay not far from her, one pointed ear flicked her direction. On a rounded stone between them sat an old pottery serving dish. Red and brown streaks from the ancient plate seemed to blend with and welcome the blood of the prairie pheasant that lay dead on the platter.

The bird was freshly killed, but already flies swarmed around, drawn by the smell of blood in the air.

A line of sweat tickled down her spine, yet she did not dare move.

The air smelled of fear, blood and drying grass. She knew it was her fear that she smelled, and it made her all the more afraid. The blind wise woman had warned her. She had told her she must not show fear. To show fear would keep the beast away, or worse, prompt him to attack.

Her eyes watered, though not from fear, but from the fact that she hadn’t blinked them in so long. She’d met eyes with the beast and could not look away.

She blinked.

Just like that, it was gone. She swore she could still see the outline of where it had been, but the living, breathing form was gone.

“No,” she croaked, her mouth long dry from sitting in the heat of the summer sun. “Come back! I need you.”

Her plea blew away like dust on the wind.

She bowed her head, tears leaking out to spill down her cheeks. She’d failed. She’d had one chance and one alone, and she had failed.

The girl wiped her eyes with the back of her hand, lifted her head, and froze.

The prairie pheasant was gone.

The blood on the platter was gone.

Not a feather remained.

Slowly, she went from a low, hiding crouch to her feet, through she straightened only enough to peer over the grasses. She looked over the rippling waves, searching for a contrary ripple that would pinpoint the taker of the partridge.

Then a hot breath woofed against the back of her neck.

She’d never heard it move. Not when it had vanished, or when it had snatched the bird. or even now, when it stood behind her.

A cold nose pressed against her neck, and she didn’t even twitch.

Granted, a voice said.

The beast vanished again.

 

BotB Revision Complete!

As of this afternoon, it is finished. Done. Completed.

I’ve successfully gone through all 22 lessons in Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel course. I have in my hands a 13 chapter, 70,000 word completed manuscript.


*THUD*

It took 7 months to do, which is 2 months longer than I had hoped. The write-in and type-in portions of the course took longer than I thought I could pull off. Not sure what I was thinking there, honestly.

For any writers out there who have ever struggled with revision, I don’t think I could more highly recommend Holly Lisle’s course. HTRYN blew my expectations out of the water and the sheer number of things I learned over the last 7 months is mind-boggling. Next time she opens the course up for students, be one of them. It’s worth it!

Anyway, Sentinels of Mysera #2: Battle of the Bargaws is now ready to be looked at by my content editors and I’ve got a tentative publish date of July 2017 on my schedule.

Checked that one off the list and it’s on to the next.

Next is edits on my collection of short stories, Tales of Mysera. I’ve got a lovely stack of notes from my old shipmate, Tooley (who I met in last summer’s Mossflower Odyssey III: The Lost Treasure of Captain Blade). Going through my stories with his comments, plus a few things I learned through HTRYN shouldn’t take too long, so I hope to have a concrete publish date for those soon.

After Tales of Mysera, it’ll be once more unto the breach that is Sentinels of Mysera. I’ve got a few things to fix, and a few things to apply from HTRYN as well, but my goal is to have a date on that by the end of the year (or NaNoWriMo, if things really go well).

The road goes ever on and on…

Stay tuned for exciting new developments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BotB Revision Update #2

I completed Lesson 10 of Holly Lisle’s How To Revise Your Novel course this afternoon. Lesson 10 is kind of considered a halfway point of sorts.

As far as I can tell, the worksheet portion of what I’ve been doing is done. I’ve got a good 1 inch or more of worksheets filled out and I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve both read through the manuscript or just skimmed through it, depending on need.

Wow…

Let me say, Holly is a master of making the right brain and left brain work together. There’s been a lot of left brain analytical work being done via the worksheets, but then Lesson 10 threw in a big ol’ right brain exercise that took a few interesting twists. I’ve had stuff simmering in my head for about 10 weeks now and, as each week goes by and I go through the lessons, more ideas and twists and things are coming to me.

I still haven’t changed a darn thing in the manuscript itself. But today I finished writing out the brightly colored note cards that are forming the new plot card outline for Battle of the Bargaws. I’ve glanced at the next couple lessons and I’ve got more to do before any actual changes will be made, but it’s getting closer and I’m really excited to see what I end up with when this is all said and done.

 


A friend of mine commented that he was looking forward to reading the manuscript when I’m all done with it. I told him I was, too. Hah! I’ve got a lot of little holes and things figured out and a couple more that I hope I’ll find ways to fill in as I go through the next 12 lessons.

Lesson 7 was a beast to me and it opened my eyes to my greatest weakness (or at least that I’ve discovered so far). I was once told that I had “colorful characters running around on a white background”. I thought I’d fixed that.

I’d only fixed a part of it.

The big exercise of Lesson 7 told me that my descriptions of my world were sorely lacking, but it also has given me a method to fix that without overdoing descriptions.

I’m excited to keep going and I can’t wait to see where I end up next!

Battle of the Bargaws Revision Update

Back in December, I mentioned that I was going to be joining Holly Lisle‘s How To Revise Your Novel (HTRYN) class.

I waffled a little for a few days on which manuscript to take through the class. I debated on running Sentinels of Mysera through it, but decided that learning this method of revision would be best with an actual rough draft version of a project, which meant that Battle of the Bargaws (SoM‘s sequel) would be put through the revision wringer.

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know that I’ve been posting a picture or so a week of my progress and you’re welcome to follow my page if you want a sneak peek at what I’m working on each week.

Personal opinion here, but Holly Lisle has a brilliant mind and her willingness to teach others how she does what she does is greatly appreciated by so many.

I wasn’t sure how Holly Lisle would manage to make revision into a 22-lesson/week course.

I now know better.

In a nutshell, Holly has you start out with very big picture stuff, reading through the manuscript and looking for spots that you love and spots where things fall apart, then you’re going through it again and marking characters, items, and ‘promises’ you made in the manuscript. Then you’re pulling apart your story into scenes, looking for plots, subplots, and then for conflicts, and so on.

Basically, she’s got you looking at the big picture of the story first and making all sorts of notes on worksheets and cards. Other than some reference marks in the manuscript, I haven’t actually changed a single thing in BotB yet. But the notes and the ideas that are piling up… wow! She’s got me looking at angles I’ve never thought of and as each day goes by, new life is being breathed into this story where I never thought it possible.

This has gone far beyond the ‘old’ method of revision I had tried in the past, where I basically started on Page 1 and started changing things as I thought they needed done.

And I dare say it’s better.

Not easy, but better.

I’m a little stalled out on Lesson #5 at the moment, working through the conflict of each scene and why it matters, but I’m progressing pretty close to my original schedule of one lesson a week with a target of finishing revision on BotB in May. And that should be finished and ready for content editors to read over. Holly has called it a “One-Pass Revision” and I now understand why she can revise a manuscript one time, because if this method is at all similar to how she personally revises, she essentially gets all the bases covered that could possibly need it.

I’ve added a couple progress bars over on the right hand side so you can track my progress on revision (as well as for the 2016 Reading Challenge).