What Do You Give Up For Your Writing?

Giving Up

I was raised Southern Baptist* and we don’t do Lent. I might have seen ashes on people’s forehead’s once or twice before I headed off to college, but just accepted that as “a Catholic Thing.” I was barely aware of Mardi Gras outside of The Count of Monte Cristo**

In college, though, I learned about Lent. That’s when I discovered it was a time for sacrifice and cleansing. It started to fascinate me. What was I willing to give up?

As writers, we give up a lot for our writing.

Time

First and foremost, we give up our time.

During NaNoWriMo? I’d say I spent 60 hours writing in one month, that’s 15 hours a week. And that’s not counting the time I was distracted by the internet and trying to write.

In an average month? I’d say I spend 3-10 hours a week on my writing. And that’s before you go into beta-reading other people’s work, reading about writing (mostly blogs), and helping run a writer support group (well, 2 right now, because I was backup for a 2nd group). That’s probably another 8-10 hours a week. [Note to self: change up that ratio! More time writing, less time talking about writing.]

– Hobbies

That time has to come from somewhere.

For many of us, writing is technically a hobby. But it’s also a dream, with further potential.

When you make your writing a priority, something’s got to give, and for most of us, our hobbies are the first to give. Those are things we do just for us, so, they’re the most easily sacrificed. The time most easily carved out.

Be it team sports, reading, or video games: we’ve got to make a choice and these tend to be first on the butcher block.

– Social

I’m not saying we lose friends over our writing, but when it comes to finding time for writing, spending time with friends can suffer. “Want to go dancing/to the bar/meetup?” turns into, “I can’t, I’m trying to finish this revision by the end of the month.”

Don’t ask me how excited I am about Friday nights at home, with no distractions, no bedtime, and a chunk of editing to do.

– Downtime

You know that time you spend sitting in front of the tv (or computer) just vegging out, mindlessly being entertained? Hanging out with friends with no scheduled activity or set end time? You might still try to do this, but in the back of your head is a clock saying “you could have finished that chapter tonight.”

– Fitness

You want to hit the gym, but you got out of work late again and if you’re going to get this book out there, being queried sooner, rather than later, you need to get home. You’ll just skip snacks tonight, it’ll be fine.

4 hours later, 1 microwaved dinner and 2 snacks, with 1 chapter edited: it’s past time for bed.

– Family

A lot of family time IS downtime and social time. So, by giving up those, you give up time with family. I try to set aside time for family where I’m not writing, but they usually end up being events, where there’s an event and a scheduled activities. Making family time double as social. Sometimes, I schedule family time for writing events- this year, I’m going to Balticon with my mom.

Looking for Balance

Giving up all that stuff to carve out time for writing takes away your balance.

When you’re over-scheduled and every free moment is chores or writing, it’s time to step back and see where you’re losing time and where you can find time for those other things.

My goal for lent is to stop wasting time on click-bait. Those “12 reasons X” and “30 stories of Y” and find more actual downtime AWAY from a computer.

What do you find yourself giving up?

*although, a peace-love-and-acceptance sort of church, not Fire and Brimstone + bigotry which is what some of the Southern Baptist churches seem to be preaching these days. Side Note: Southern Baptists do use dried palm leaves on Palm Sunday.

** I shouldn’t blame that on my hometown. That was just me not watching much tv.

Some Days, You’re a Super Star…

Progress Post

Some days you’re a super star, and some days, you just show up to work. I’ve been revising, but took a long weekend off and am slowly getting back into things.

25807 / 88257 words. 29% done!

Where I’m At

I’m up to page 93* and I’m about to start chapter 8 tonight. I’d hoped to be starting this week at Chapter 9, but I made other things priorities and that’s the trade-off for not putting my writing first.

Excuses

I visited friends, ate out a lot, and got called up as emergency back-up for a sick voice actor to help record another episode of anansistorytime.com (not necessarily in that order).

Plans

Try to get minimally 4 chapters edited a week, hopefully 5-6, so that the last 2 weeks of March can be spent proof-reading a printed out copy.

* Out of 324 pages.

Remembering to Show NOT Tell

(sorry if you’ve seen an earlier draft of this post. it wanted to post LAST Thursday instead of schedule for THIS Thursday)

Remembering To Show NOT Tell

I’m well into my 5th round of revisions, that means much of my story has been moved around, reworded, and changed.

One paragraph in chapter four seems to have made itself through 5 rounds untouched—until my editor marked it and told me to turn it into conversation. This was something I needed to SHOW, not to TELL.

I thought I was good at knowing when to summarize and when to delve into a scene. After reading the paragraph she’d highlighted, I realized I was wrong.

 

TELLING

We passed a couple small townlets before reaching our destination later than I would have liked. We were both at fault for getting a slow start that morning. Fine, I suppose I should blame the slow progress on a break or two I’d requested. I would rather credit the mud weighing down my boots. Stopping to clear off a layer or four of mud was a very useful task for boosting my walking endurance. I decided to mark them as unavoidable delays. [82 words]

SHOWING

I was afraid this was going to be hard to show, but as I worked on it, I realized it was already three-quarters the way to a pretty solid scene. Half the mental commentary easily translated into action and the rest slid effortlessly into conversation. (Well, almost effortlessly. These things don’t edit themselves).

With the addition of 25 words, what was my transition paragraph is now a smooth lead in for the next scene.

Dusk was coming in before I saw the chimney smoke heralding our destination.

“Wish we’d gotten a faster start, we might miss prayers at this rate,” I grumbled, forcing my throbbing feet to pick up the pace.

“You that worried?” Gellin looked back at me.

“I’d just rather be there before dark.”

“Hey, you’re the one who had to stop every hour to scrape the mud off her shoes,” he held out his hands, blamelessly and I glared at him.

“The mud was slowing us down, or at least me. Those delays were inevitable!”I said, not wanting to admit my feet were novices to the road. [107 words]

Where I’d thought I was summarizing and getting us quickly to the next scene, in reality, I was saving a scant 25 words to passively narrate.

Places Where One Can Easily Fall Into Telling

From being both a writer and a reader myself, these are the places I typically either find myself or others slipping into that telling frame.

  • introducing new concepts, places, or characters
  • transition paragraphs
  • battle scenes

 


Happy Hunting!

Got any fun stories of times you told instead of showed?

Link: Winterview with Me

To celebrate 13 weeks of winter, Hàlön Chronicles will be conducting one interview a week for 13 weeks. Join us on the hashtag #13Winterviews, or check out our right-side blog hop to sneak a peek at all the wonderful authors and artists I’ll be interviewing in the coming weeks. Hosted by: K. J. Harrowick Without…

via Winterview with Author Morgan Hazelwood — Daily Cup o’ Coffee

It’s Okay For Writers To Hoard

I’m a writer and I hoard

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I hoard books

I’m a reader of genre fiction which typically comes in series form. So, I end up rereading books to remember what happened before, or just to revisit old friends. I’ve got a lot in paper, hardback, and kindle formats. I don’t discriminate.


I hoard story concepts

When it comes to story concepts, I keep an eye on them, ready to turn them into something bigger when I’m ready (or not).

Very often, these snippets are stored as email drafts, never sent and occasionally sorted through. Sometimes, turned into short stories, sometimes, combined with other ideas, sometimes discarded.


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Hard-copies of draft2, draft4, and outline for revisions on draft5.

I hoard drafts

I’ve got backed up copies of:

  • every draft I’ve written
  • 12 versions of my query letter
    • including 2 drafts of my ‘final’ version for each:
      • short
      • medium
      • max word length (275, I think)
  • writing snippets from those ideas that float through my head

I’ve got them saved on my hard-drive, and on google-drive. And a hard copy of draft 2 and draft 4.

Hoarding Drafts Helps Revisions

I’ve read over and over again that when editing, one save those scenes and chapters one deletes elsewhere.

I got my edits and edit letter back from K. Hopkins earlier this month and she asked for some stuff.

She suggested more showing, less telling:

  •  when I met a particular character
  • of a ritual

She suggested that certain scenes be moved forward in the plotline to help with pacing.

Guess what? In those three instances, I’d ALREADY WRITTEN IT THAT WAY. True, that was back during my rough draft, but those scenes existed and existed in that continuity.

I’m currently on my 5th round of revisions. I thought those bits had been moved back in Draft 3.

Well, yes, that’s when they were cut. But that meant I needed to open up Draft 2 to see those scenes.

Draft 2, when it was finished back in May of 2015 huge.

  • It had 36,000 more words.
  • That’s 29.75% longer.
  • That’s 130 MORE pages.

Clearly some of that needed to be cut.

Thanks to hanging onto my old draft though, I had copies of scenes and such that I can reintegrate into my newest draft, saving me effort from having to re-imagine things I’d already written.

CAVEAT

Just because I’m taking old scenes and tossing them in to fill in new gaps doesn’t meant those scenes aren’t going to be completely reworked. I’m going to edit them with a harsh eye towards continuity, pacing, and use only the bits that are necessary.

 

P.S. I’m also a dragon- aka The Book Wyrm. Dragons hoard.

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How To Work With An Editor

Working With An Editor

I’ve been in talks for several months with a professional editor K. Hopkins (not a publisher or agent) to get my manuscript (MS) ready for querying to agents. I sent off some queries last year: I got a few nibbles, but all I’ve heard back is silence or rejections so far. Thus, it was time to call in the professionals. K. Hopkins finally got space on her schedule to work on my MS during the latter half of January.


Picking An Editor

Make sure you’re ready

Have you already done all the editing you can?

(If you know you’re bad at this level of editing, see if you can get a friend/family member to proof-read before you call on the experts!)

  • Are the sentences coherent
  • Is the plot as solid as you can make it
  • Did you run spell check
  • Did you run grammar check – look out for homophones!
  • Did you try to remove crutch words, passive voice, and adjective soup as much as you could without interfering with the readability of your writing?

Yay! You might be ready.

If you’re not sure, edit again! Especially if you’re spending money on this, you don’t want the editor spending so much time and effort fixing the easy stuff that they can’t focus on the story itself. Like cleaning a room, after you’ve gotten rid of the trash and done the laundry, it’s a lot easier to see what’s left to do.

Make sure they’re doing the type of editing you need

Are you just looking for copy-editing?

  • Grammar
  • Spelling
  • Word choice (passive voice, anyone?)
  • Consistency (names don’t change, hair color is consistent, etc)

Do you need developmental edits?

  • Plot holes
  • Pacing
  • Character developments
  • Scene setting
  • Believability

Make sure their editing style is something you can use

Not all editors work for all writers.

  • Some are too high level, when the writer is looking for concrete suggestions
  • Some are too low level, when the writer already has a solid voice that doesn’t mesh with the editor’s voice
  • Some don’t agree with the writer about the heart of the story, so their edits don’t mesh with the story the writer is trying to create
  • Some don’t agree with the writer about what the world looks like, so their edits don’t mesh with the world the writer is trying to create
  • Some are unorganized
  • Some are just not the skill-level advertised

You can test-drive a potential editor.

Just like beta-readers or critique partners, you don’t have to commit to sharing your full length manuscript right away. It’s fine to start small.

I’d worked my editor, K. Hopkins on my 1st chapter and my query letter. That gave me a feel for her editing style, voice, and level of feedback.

It also gave her a feel for my voice, plotting, characters, and a willingness to know more.

Saying that you just want to polish your 1st chapter and edit letter for querying purposes can give you a passive way of ‘rejecting’ an editor who doesn’t quite get you or your story. You don’t need to explain or back out of sending them more chapters.

I sent her my full manuscript on January 17th and by the 28th, she’d sent back her edits–just shy of two weeks turn around.


What I Got From My Editor

What I’ve received is a 6 page edit letter and ~2,500 line edits/commentary in the MS itself.

The edit letter started with a broad overview, then drilled down in four basic categories:

  1. World Building

    • Consistencies
    • Suggested Details
    • Suggested pacing – my world is a unique fantasy world with its own religion
  2. Plotting

    • Consistencies
    • Pacing
    • Plot holes – with suggestions to fix them
  3. Character(1)

    • Are they generic or unique characters?
    • Can the reader relate with the character? Or are they too good/bad/stupid?
    • Are the decisions realistic for the character?
    • Is the character necessary for the plot?
  4. Structure (2)

    • Passive voice
    • Show-don’t-tell
    • Language consistency – for me: fantasy curse words and avoiding modern terms
    • Dialogue tags and exact pronouns. Make sure your reader knows who’s talking and who’s being talked about
    • Crutch words – for me: just, should, could, that, begin/began

What I Did When I Got My Edit Letter

Panic and Procrastinate

When I got the edit letter on Saturday, my face went flush, my heart started to race, and I decided I was going to get all the chores done I needed to before I opened it, so they’d get done before my life narrowed back to me-my chair-my desk-and my manuscript.

An edit letter has a LOT of feedback.

I felt pulled in a lot of different directions and couldn’t decide how to start:

  • Read through the inline feedback?
  • Dive in and start fixing everything as I reached it?
  • Create a detailed outline?
  • Step back and look at each chapter and what needs to be added in?
    • Maybe use index cards or post its and make a visual map of the plot
  • Do the developmental edits, then see if the in-line edits still existed?

So, I hung out with friends, ate way too much, napped, and surfed the internet like it was my job.

Make a Plan

I’m not a fan of flailing like that. My free Sunday, (the day after I got the edit letter), was supposed to be dedicated to starting on these edits. Instead, Sunday was rapidly slipping away!

Finally, around 9:30pm, I made myself focus, started making my plan of action, and responded to my editor.

I asked how long she expected my revisions to take, looked at a calendar, and worked my way backwards from them.

Caveats: Remember that writing is a process and not a plug-and-play formula. What works for me might not work for you. What worked for you last time might not work for you this time.

My Schedule

  • Stage One: Initial Read-Through and low-hanging fruit

    • I wanted to see what all her comments were, but there were ~2,500 inline edits. That’s too much for me to focus on at once. I needed to clear them out so I could see what actually needed effort. So, I started reading through the comments.
    • Anything I can accept/reject/rework in under 2 minutes gets handled immediately.
    • This is the read-through, where I’m reading her notes and only looking at the text her commentary applies to.
    • I know that many of these edits will end up getting deleted or re-written, but does it matter? This way I can clear them out of the way to focus on what I need to.
    • So far, I’m ending up with 2-3 inline comments left per chapter. That’s a lot easier to keep track of when writing.
    • My goal is to finish this stage within two weeks.
  • Stage Two: Revise

    • This is where I’ll go through and change the plot, restructure whole scenes, add characters, subtract characters, and handle those more complicated inline comments.
    • My goal is to finish this stage within six weeks.
  • Stage Three: Copy-Edit

    • This is when I worry about structure issues–after I know that paragraph or scene isn’t going to be re-written or cut.
    • But wait, you took care of all that low-hanging fruit back in stage one?
      • I know, but that cleared the board so I could focus on the harder stuff. There was a lot of forest and I had to clear the underbrush to see what trees were sick or injured.
      • When the sentence sucks, you can’t tell if it’s saying what you mean it to.
      • When you rewrite a section, you need to edit it.
      • When you revise a section, you need to verify continuity throughout the novel.
    • My goal is to finish this stage in two weeks. Yeah, it’s going to be hard, but with any luck, stage two will finish early.
  • Stage Four: BASK!

    We know that’s lie. I’ll bask for a day or two, but then I’ve got several options. The likelihood of me doing all three in order is high.

    • Send my revisions back to K Hopkins for a final read-through and polish
    • Revise my Query letter
    • Start Querying

If the traditional route ends up failing me, I’ve still got two options:

  • Publish Independently
  • Set it on fire and let it float free into the ether

Now, the hard part. Actually doing the work. Wish me luck!


  1. Here, she broke down feedback for each character
  2. Writing technical skills

When Your Rough Draft Is Really Rough

When Your Rough Draft is Really Rough

The Truth About My Rough Draft

Friday night, I wrote 3,560 words and finished my second book. The book is done at 85,600 words. And it’s shit.

  • I have place holder names for about 35 characters –from Alice to Zed (why do I even need that many named background characters?)
  • I have stupid tactics and plot holes a mile wide.
  • I have dropped side plots and disappearing-reappearing characters.
  • It’s right around my target word count–but I’m used to cutting 1/3rd of my story to tighten up my babbling writing. There’s nowhere to cut
  • My denouement – that falling action after the climax of the book? Mine’s maybe 200 words. That’s gonna need work.

I had to finish the book though. Book 1 is with an editor and the best thing for me was to wrap it up before I got lost in the rounds of revision, so I pushed hard and got it done. Having it done didn’t stop me from feeling embarrassed about the state of the draft, though.


I was talking to my sister, (also known as my alpha-reader, the best way for “me” to read what I’ve written without being the one to have written it), on Tuesday about ongoing discussions with my editor over my artistic vision. My lovely sister was cheering me up by complimenting my writing and letting me know how much better I’ve gotten over the years she’s been reading drafts of book 1.20170124_1830121

Reluctantly, I tell her that’s because she hasn’t seen the nightmare that is book 2.

You know what my sister says? Exactly what I needed to hear today.

“It’s a process, not an assembly line.”

She says I just need to clean it up for a month or so and it’ll be fine.


Writing is an Art

When my sister reminded me that writing is a process, not just a formula, I remembered exactly why I count my rough draft as I do.

I start off numbering my Rough Draft as ‘Draft #0’. My rough draft doesn’t even count as an integer – it’s not “a thing complete within itself”.

My first step is to turn that spew of words into something coherent and legible, before I can even think about plot revisions.

Most books on writing and many authors out there agree–rough drafts are shitty. They’re the necessary evil you’ve got to get out on paper so you can find the REAL story and discover what you were actually trying to say all along. Sure, there are those authors who crank out saleable first drafts that only need a bit of copy-editing, but those authors are few and far between.

I now know that expecting my second book to be better than the rough draft of my first book was a vain hope.

The writers and writing books agree, every book is different and requires different things of you.

I can only hope that the lessons I’ve learned on book 1 make polishing book 2 into something I’m proud to share a faster process.

I’m not counting on it, there are so many writing mistakes out there I’ve yet to make.


Count Your Successes

And this I when I remember that my rough draft of book 1 took me 3 false starts and 10 months to write. This one took me 1 false start and 2.5 months to write.

I set a goal to write 10,000 words on that story before the 25th and I beat that by 5 days.

I set a goal to finish that rough draft by March. It’s pretty clear that goal was reached.

I was going to write a big “100th Post!” thing, but then my 100th post ended up being my announcement of finishing my 2nd book. I think that’s a better post than anything I could have written. This is 101st. 🙂

Maybe I am making progress.