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September 2016

Time to Prepare!

Today is September 12, 2016. Today is the day you start preparing for Novel in November. Today is the day you start on your journey to completing a first draft, maybe your first complete draft ever.

Sounds dramatic, right? And scary. If you are like me, something like this sounds good until it’s time to start. Then, something like this is seems scary and overwhelming.

Don’t worry. At the moment, I just want you to think about how you are physically going to accomplish writing almost 2000 words a day for a whole month. There’s a reason we don’t churn out a rough draft every month. It takes time, effort, concentration. It takes dedication. It isn’t something most of us can do during our regular lives. So how are you going to do it? How are you going to make sure you have the time, energy, and space you need to pound out the rough draft that is currently just an idea in your head?

Here are some tips from Mez and me. If any of you have any ideas, ones you have used in the past or are planning on using, post them in the comments to share with everyone else!

home-office

  • Prepare your writing spot. If you don’t have one, look for one! I plan on cleaning up my desk. Or…er…finding the surface of my desk. It has been unseen for a long time.
    • Somewhere in your house where you can close the door and concentrate. If you can’t concentrate in your own home, is there a friend or family member who has a room you can use?
    • A café or library where you can sit for a couple hours without being disturbed.
    • Have all your tools ready and waiting! Notecards, pens, blank calendars, journals, whatever you need. Don’t wait until November to get them!
    • Don’t forget the music! If silence is your thing, make sure you can’t hear your family running around or your neighbor’s dog barking over and over. If you like ambient noises or certain songs, go ahead and make your playlist.

clock

  • Time. How are you going to make the time? I’d say at least 2-3 hours everyday. For this month, take drastic action. That’s a lot of time! Fortunately for me, my job won’t be taking up too much time by November.
    • Is there anything you can give up for the next 7 weeks to save up some money? You can pay a babysitter (or your own kids to behave!), eat delivery, pay someone to clean the house. Whatever it is that eats up your day, if you can afford to pay someone to do for you, go for it!
    • Can you take off a couple days from work? Or leave early? Work overtime now to make the time up?
    • What do you normally do that you can cut out? It’s only four weeks. What time consuming thing do you do not what you can do without for four weeks?
    • Meal prepping! If you can, make ahead some meals and freeze them. Or just make a plan with quick meals
    • Rehearse polite ‘no’s’ to people’s requests & invitations – it’s easy to let your writing take last place behind all the little spontaneous things that pop up. Think of a succinct way to explain what you’re doing when others want to know why you’re busy. (it could be straight forward – I’m taking part in an intensive, 1-month novel writing challenge, so I need to hunker down & focus. Let’s raincheck for December! Or, if you’d rather keep the writing thing under wraps, I’ve taken on a time-sensitive project this month, but I’d be happy to see you once it’s done!)

What else can you think of? How are you going to make sure you have the time and space you need to accomplish this goal? Think creatively and dramatically. Take steps now to make sure you have time then. It will be here before you know it, don’t let it catch you by surprise! We’ll keep counting down with you and planning with you. Are you getting excited to start? I am!

Friday Countdown

Friday!! Raise your hand if you love this day! Since I work with animals, my Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are virtually indistinguishable from the rest of the week, yet I still get that “IT’S FRIDAY!!” feeling. Gotta love it.

So here’s the weekly count, and it is both exciting and terrifying.

Mez and I have

5

days

until we exchange manuscripts. I will not finish. I apologize to all. But it is not happening. However, I will get done what I can, and Mez can look over what I have. How are you doing, Mez??

So that’s the terrifying number. Next is the exciting one!!

16

days

until I head to England!! So I have another confession. I’m super excited to see Mez, to go to England, to have some days off for the first time this year, but I am also so looking forward to the weather. Here in Georgia, it has been high to low nineties (around 35 degrees Celsius). The low has been 70-75 Fahrenheit (around 23 degrees Celsius). In other words, it has been HOT!! Then there is the fact that I usually go to England in December or January, when it is freezing cold. BUT NOT THIS TIME!! Ladies and gentlemen, London and Lyme are currently 55-75 degrees Fahrenheit  (13-24 degrees Celsius). PERFECT!!

I think those conversions are correct…anyway, I’m excited! And I’ve really got to get started on my list of things that need to be done before I leave…especially buying a new charger for my computer…my cat bit through mine so I’ve been sharing with my mom. Can’t share it on different continents!

And finally, there are

53

days

until November 1st. Are you thinking about Novel in November? Do you have a story idea? Have you thought about how to make time to write? Mez and I will start really talking about it soon, telling you our story ideas and our ideas on how to achieve success this November.

Of course, it will be interesting to see if Mez and I can meet that deadline!

Well, that’s today’s count. Have a good weekend everyone, and I hope you get some writing done!

Oh yeah…how do ya’ll like my dragon hourglass? Awesome, right! There’s another one I want, but it’s kind of expensive…but Christmas is coming!

 

Wednesday Writers’ Cafe: when your story grows fangs…

I had a moment of epiphany last night. I was lying in bed, musing about why my story & I haven’t been getting on so well lately. Why has my enthusiasm for spending time with it waned of late? Why, when I have a snippet of time in the busy day to open my notebook and dive into my beloved story world, do I procrastinate and find distractions? Why, when visiting my story used to be a source of joy and escape from to-do lists, has it become a drain, a task… a dread?

And then it hit me. My sweet little pocket-sized story which has tagged along with me everywhere for years now, always there when I wanted to take it out for a bit of amusement or quiet contemplation… my tame little darling…has grown into a monstrous dragon and sprouted fangs!

My own story has grown too big for me, and I start shaking in my boots each time I face it! It’s taken on a will of its own. A wing-pumping, fire-breathing vitality I never anticipated. And it’s still growing! Wilder and more unwieldy by the day! What am I to do with this monster I’ve created?!

But wait… maybe I’m overreacting. After all, haven’t I always dreamed of owning a dragon? Of epic flights and adventures? I mean, the fluffly little story in my pocket was sweet, but now it’s grown and stretched its wings, it’s no less wonderful! The difference is in my experience of it. Instead of stroking its cute little head as I did before – jotting down a note here, musing a little there – I now get to RIDE my story! It’s big enough to transport me to places I’ve never yet dreamed of!

Hey, this is GREAT! … if a little terrifying at the same time.

Maybe this is what being a writer is all about… nurturing your little story. Loving it, feeding it, enjoying it until, one day… it grows up, spreads its mighty wings and invites you to jump on its back and fly! This is the make or break point. There’s no turning back now. This dragon is wild, but it’s still mine. I can still tame it. Somewhere behind those fiery eyes is the little fluffy thing it used to be. And I still love it!

So here goes. Stepping onto its back. Holding my breath for the ascent… Let’s fly!

I realise this has been more of a writer’s confession than a question for you all. But please, jump in and share your own experience in the comments below! Have you ever found your story growing too big and wild for you? How did you tame it, or grow to love & enjoy it for the beast it had become? How did you find the courage to mount and ride it all the way to the words “The End”?

I’d love to hear your tale of story-writing adventure. It might be just the motivation Bri & I need this week as we press on to the deadline for our manuscript exchange in just 8 days!!! We hope to share our own successful dragon-taming tales with you later this month!

p.s. – Here’s a dragon-riding/writing song that’ll put courage in your heart & a jig in your step: Something Wild (by Lindsey Stirling & Andrew MacMahon) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ytMqO-WQpQ4

Mez and Bri’s Quick Guide to Peer Editing

So as most of you know, Mez and I are counting down to September 15th, which is the day we decided to exchange the manuscripts we have been working on. We chose this date so we would both have time to read them before getting together, giving us more time to talk them over instead of just sitting together reading them. Granted, we have done that before, and it’s fun, but our Writing Retreat is already packed full of things to do.

Mez and I have done some ‘editing’ of each other’s works before, so here is a brief explanation of what we do. Hopefully, it will help some of you if have an opportunity to peer edit your writing buddy’s work!

Now, in an ideal world, Mez and I would be exchanging second, third, or even fourth drafts. In other words, drafts with most of the plot intact and characters in place. However, Mez and I both seem to have an aversion to deadlines; I don’t think either of us has ever met one we set for ourselves. Something to work on!

That said, this time Mez and I will have to exchange first drafts…and it will be a small miracle if those first drafts are complete. I hate letting anyone read my first drafts; they’re messy, inconsistent, and full of holes. Mez said she has to cut a lot of hers and fix the plot. Basically, our first drafts need a LOT of work, and most of it is obvious, something we don’t need peer editing to know it needs to be fixed.

So why are we doing it?

How many of you have gotten to the point you have to edit your work? How many of you have been brave enough to let someone else edit your work? Because it does take courage! If you’ve gotten to that point, you probably have your own way of doing things. When I’m editing, I like it printed out. Not usually the first draft, but all the subsequent drafts. Sitting with my (or Mez’s) printed manuscript and a red pen is definitely my preferred way to edit. It so much easier to discuss things sitting together over a pot of tea with actual printed pages, even if they are a messy, cringe-worthy first draft, than it is to discuss over Skype. So even though we don’t like handing out our first drafts, we are seizing the opportunity of actual physical proximity to do what we can.

Random tip: if you can afford it, get a laser printer. They are awesome. SO FAST! Printing out a two hundred page manuscript on an inkjet is painstakingly slow and uses a ton of ink. Lasers are fast and while the toner is more expensive, you go though less. Highly recommend! 

We can help each other a lot, even with the first draft. General edits instead of specific.

magnifying-glass-29398_1280

When we edit each other’s clean, next-to-final drafts, we look for

  • Spelling and grammar errors (the kind the computer doesn’t find, like mixing up ‘form’ and ‘from’…I do that all the time)
  • Making sure the chapters begin with a ‘hook’ and end with a ‘cliff’
  • Inconsistencies (in point of view, plot, characters, tense, etc.)
  • Anything confusing (sentences, dialogue, or plot lines)
  • Awkward wording
  • Anything that knocks the reader out of the story world
  • Anything and everything else!

We look for specifics, down to the word. Of course, we aren’t professional editors, but after the third draft and the millionth read through, we get ‘blind’ to things in our own manuscripts, and fresh eyes do a lot of good.

Editing first drafts is going to be very different. It won’t do any good to look for spelling errors because there will be a ton of them. The plot is still being solidified, characters’ personalities figured out. There will be a lot of things wrong that don’t need to be pointed out because, hey, it’s a first draft! So really, instead of editing, it will be more along the lines of a discussion about generalities.

  • What characters should stay or go
  • Making sure the story world rules make sense and are clear
  • Plot lines that need to be cut or added
  • If the overall plot makes sense
  • Where description needs to be added or cut
  • Checking the pace and noting where it’s going to slow
  • Making sure the beginning is intriguing and the ending is satisfying
  • Discussing any questions on what to do

globe-907709_1920So that’s the plan! Once we have more polished drafts, we’ll exchange them again for a more detailed edit. Unfortunately, that will have to take place when we are an ocean apart. Oh well, maybe it will teach us to meet our deadlines!

Friday Countdown

Here we are, enjoying another Friday! I don’t know about ya’ll but it’s a wet, dreary Friday for me, but at least it’s a break from the heat. I heard from Mez yesterday and apparently she and her husband are camping in Wales!!

So here is the weekly countdown, and it is going down too fast! There are

12

days

until Mez and I exchange manuscripts. I’m so not ready!!

I only have

23

days

until I leave for England. I have so much to do before then…so so much.

And finally, there are exactly

60

days

until November 1st. Mez and I will really start talking about Novel in November in the coming weeks, so stay tuned.

I hope everyone has a great weekend, filled with magic and writing!

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