Progress Update

Thought I’d share a quick update as to how my quest to get a book on your e-reader is going.

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Truth!

Pro Writing Aid

I bought Pro Writing Aid to do a final polish on what I thought was a tidy manuscript. I figured it would take a few hours to go through and make any changes. Okay, stop laughing.

Yes, I have lots of red errors of doom.

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Yeah, lotta red.

I’m working through them, though after a few chapters, I’m learning I don’t always agree with all of their marks. For example, it tells me the word desire is “corporate”. But I’m a romance author, and this word is common in the genre.

I’m picking which reports work best for me and working through their recommendations, but this has already taken longer than a few hours.

More Edits

As I’m re-reading everything, I’m making changes. I know, but I can’t help myself. As I work on the technical side of my writing, I also find myself rewriting descriptions to make things flow better, revamping dialogue and the like.

I’ve been working on this novel for two years, and I can still find things to change. I’m starting to worry it’ll never be done.

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Starting to feel like this is me.

Cover Artist

I do not have talent with drawing or photo-manipulation, and I know we all judge a book by its cover. So back in August, I reserved a spot with a cover artist I really like for late 2017 or early 2018. She recently said she could start working on mine in February, so I’m hoping her schedule sticks.

My goal is to work with the same artist for all of the books I’m writing so my covers have a consistent look. As you can see from my works in progress, I have a few coming.

If this cover goes well, I’m hoping to use her again.

Editor?

Given everything that Pro Writing Aid has unearthed about my writing, I am seriously considering an editor. I have learned the lesson about compound sentences needing a comma, and that shows in Pro Writing Aid, but I’m still not sure what a hidden verb is.

While I don’t think the book will ever earn back what I pay for an editor, the expense may still be worth it if I learn something from the process that I can apply to future novels. This means finding a solid editor that doesn’t mind romance writing, and who’ll take the work even at mac and cheese prices. So if you know of any, please let me know!

New Story

After having a discussion with my writing group, I decided to start a new work amidst all of these revisions so I don’t lose the ability (and desire) to create something new. Rewriting is important, but so is creating.

 My goal is still to release To Love a Prince by the end of June 2018. Yes, I’m putting that out there. I’d like to have the next book ready by January 2019, but that’s still in the early stages of revision. Chronologically, it comes after To Love a Prince, but I wrote three other books before that one. I have some catching up to do if I’m going to be ready by then!

My Eleven Steps to Writing a Romance Novel

So, when I mentioned that I’m working on a romance novel, or several of them, I also said that editing them consumes much of my writing time.

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Editing is about like this for me.

Beth Turnage had a question on what I do to revise my novels, but it’s so integral to how I write, that I thought I’d share my process.

I’m not saying this is good or bad as every writer is different. As with most creative endeavors, what works for one artist won’t work for another. But here’s my:

My Eleven Steps to Writing a Romance Novel

1. Spend Some Time Thinking about the Characters

You’ll notice I didn’t say plotting. And I don’t. I wish I did, oh, how I wish I did! You may have noticed that I tend to be an organized person with a spreadsheet for most things. But I can’t do it with writing. Yet.

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But the plot will resolve itself if I’m mean enough to the characters.

But I didn’t say plotting, I said thinking about the characters. Who are they? What motivates them? Why do I care about them? If I’m really lucky, I can toss the characters around with my husband. Talk about them, about what they’d do in different situations. This is my sandbox time with them. Nothing is off the table. Sometimes, I’ll come up with characters and situations that lead to two stories. Sometimes, they bore me and I table them until later.

Honestly? This is one of the most fun parts of writing.

2. Write the Skeletal First Draft

I’m not kidding about it being skeletal. My first draft of the romance novel is very bare bones. Usually around 40k-45k words for a book that will end up being around 70k-80k words. I’m not sure why I write this way, but I’m not one of the authors that needs to cut a lot. Usually, I need to add more. A whole lot more. But that’s for the second draft. This first draft gets down the characters and what’s happening in the story. Mostly.

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Yeah, my first draft looks about like this

3. Take 6 Weeks Away from the First Draft

Yep. I now spend at least six weeks away from the first draft. I have plenty of other editing to do, or another first draft to write.

4. Go Back and Make the First Draft Coherent

At this stage, I read the first draft again so I have a clue what I’m facing. Then, I try to weave any themes I see later in the book into the earlier sections as I focus on adding all the stuff I skipped in the first draft. This tends to include, but is not limited to:

  • Writing better transitions
  • Adding details such as taste, sounds and smell
  • Giving a better insight into characters’ thoughts and feelings.

Many times, this draft will include adding entirely new scenes. In one story I wrote, it involved moving when the hero and heroine are married from the end of the book to the beginning. Yeah, huge change. But as I was reading the draft, I realized there was a huge plot hole, and to fix it, the hero and heroine required an earlier wedding. It meant using other things to “keep them apart”, but the novel was much better for the change. It was still a lot of rewriting.

5. Tidy Up the Second Draft

At this point, most of the stuff is in the right places. This revision has me looking more at are characters being true to themselves in dialogue tags and mannerisms. Tidying up word choices, particularly word repetition. I add more description, and I smooth over as many rough edges as I can find.

6. Send It to My Alpha Reader

I then send the romance novel to my Alpha reader. They are not a detailed reviewer. Rather, they tell me if they liked the story. If they liked the characters. If they wanted to see the hero and heroine get together in the end, and if the obstacles in the story were believable. They also tell me if there is anything unclear. If I have to explain a part to my alpha reader, then I need to go in and fix it to make it clear as I won’t have that option with a final reader.

7. Alpha Reader Revision

I go through the story again and make most of the changes my alpha reader recommended (usually all). I do another clean-up revision while doing this.

8. Send it to My Beta Reader

At this point, I feel like the story is pretty clean, so I send it to my beta reader. I only have one at this point, but she’s awesome. She gives me constructive criticism where I need it, but she also points out what I’m doing well. She does a much more detailed review, marking areas that feel rushed, transitions that need work, or spots that aren’t clear. She also makes sure my characters stay in character. If I get cheesy or whiny (which, I’ve gotten MUCH better about), she’ll tell me that, too.

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And she’ll tell me those doubts, too.

9. Beta Reader Revision

I go through the story again and make most of the changes my beta reader recommended. This sometimes has a few larger things to address, and as I do them, I do another revision of my own.

10. Detail Revision

This is the revision where I go through the work and look for word choice, punctuation, grammar, all the important things so that the writing itself is understandable and errors don’t pull you out of the work. I purchase Pro Writing Aid this year, and I am going to try that as well.

11. Final Polishing Edit

One last look through before I release my book baby into the wild.

I’d love to afford a real editor, but at $2 per page, I’d be looking at almost $700 to have a book edited. and that’s on the cheaper side. I’m sure they’d make my work better, but I just can’t afford them yet.

So, there it is. I will say that this is my most recent pattern. The first book I wrote after taking up the keyboard again is sitting mothballed, and that doesn’t include all the other ones I wrote ages ago that are also forgotten electrons.

The first romance novel I wrote that I actually plan to publish took a far more circuitous route to finish. But as I now have six novels in progress, not including the ones I started and kicked aside along the way, I’m starting to find my rhythm. It might not be perfect, but it’s mostly working for me.

If you’re a writer, what’s your process? Even if you’re not a writer, any tips or pointers on editing? Maybe you do something else creative? If so, what’s your process?

Book Review: Queen of Swords

Book: Queen of Swords

Author: Katee Roberts

Recommendation: Worth a Read

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Not sure I’m any more qualified than the next person to leave a review, but I’ll try to give it a shot with a book I recently finished.

No-Spoilers

All in, this sci-fi romance was a decent read.

World-Building

The world-building is spectacular. Seriously, this is by far the best part of the book. The world, the religions, the people. The aliens are truly alien. For example, I love how you can tell one alien’s feelings from how his fur shifts. These are not humans with pointed ears.

The author uses a Tarot deck throughout, and she seems to have really studied up on it. I also love how the force acting through the cars is simply the Lady. You decide if she’s a goddess or Lady Luck.

Sanctify makes a fabulous villain, and the torture techniques they use to “purify” are truly gruesome. Seriously bad villain.

 

Hero and Heroine

The hero and heroine have chemistry. The steamy scenes aren’t memorable, but they’re pretty good.

He’s been through hell and back, though he’s still clearly your protective alpha male. I liked him much more than I thought I would.

The heroine is not a damsel in distress. She is strong, competent, and feisty. Hellcat is used to describe her. More than this, I like the fact she’s comfortable with her sexuality, knows what she wants, and takes it.

 

Story

The plot intrigued me once we got over some plot holes large enough to drive car through trying to get the characters in a situation where they’re stuck together, but I was ready for the author to get on with it around the three-quarter mark. I felt like some of the middle was go-nowhere-filler as we ramped up for the climactic showdown between the hero and his half-brother.

The writing is a bit clumsy at points, particularly in the beginning as the author sets up the entire story line and gets the hero and heroine stuck being together. Sadly, this extends to the smack-upside-the-head way that the author introduces that the heroine is pregnant. Other parts, such as the heroine being able to hack a com terminal, should have been discussed before she actually hacks it.

This is all the more strange as other times the author makes a big deal out of things like sharp sticks being used in the heroine’s hair that never have any purpose.

I was disappointed with the end. I was expecting so much more. The big climactic ending. The heroine and hero standing up and defeating impossible odds together. While we got a happily-ever-after, I didn’t feel that fist pump moment when the hero and heroine win.

As a matter-of-fact, I was really disappointed with how easy the whole ending was and how little the heroine figured into it. I still don’t understand why the hero didn’t do what he did years ago and end the threat his brother posed back then.

The ending also left certain things unresolved. Either the author didn’t tie up loose ends, or she left them loose for the next book in the series. That seriously irritates me. Still, this is a romance, so the hero and heroine do get together.

 

 

 

 

Book Review: North of Need

Book: North of Need

Author: Laura Kaye

Status: Did Not Finish (DNF)

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I normally wouldn’t post this, but as Ms. Kaye is already a NYT bestselling author, I’m not really hurting her any by not liking a book. I found the book from a very popular romance blog, and they liked it, so it could just be me that didn’t care for it.

I was looking for a nice Christmas romance to distract me from a rough patch at work. I so wanted to love this book as the premise sounded cool. I got to the 40% mark on my Kindle and decided I was done.

The premise is cool, but the author didn’t do it justice.

I figured it would be worth discussing what made me stop reading. Perhaps it won’t bother you, and you’ll love the book.

There were really three things that made me stop:

1.  Unrealistic Characters – The characters, frankly, were unrealistic. The heroine was a widow, and her grief was real and raw. I bought that. At no point did I really buy her connection to the hero. This is a romance novel, and that’s a must for me.

I gotta tell you, the heroine got over her fear and terror of a strange man far too quickly.  The author needed to work for this and didn’t. Seriously, if I give a stranger sanctuary in my house from a snow storm, then find him sleeping on my bedroom floor, holding my hand when I wake up, my response is not going to be to find it comforting.

The hero was already in love with the heroine before they met. Sure, the author has reasons for this, but I’d way have rather he fell in love with her on his own. Especially as I found those reasons a little creepy.

 

2. Where’s the Plot? – At the 40% point, there is absolutely no reason for the characters not to be together. The author has already given away all of the cool mystery surrounding the plot. Which was cool, but the execution of explaining it to us the reader was awful. Rather than dumping it on our laps through exposition, this could’ve been unfolded slowly through the story, used to add tension and drama as the characters come together.

Instead, we’re literally told why the hero loves her and why he agreed to this “mission”. We know the heroine lusts for the hero. Only thing keeping them apart is maybe her grief for her lost husband, but as we get direct permission from the great beyond by the 40% mark that the dead husband is okay with it, things seem resolved to me.

 

3. Weak Writing – After unbelievable characters and a missing plot, the prose itself follows suit. We have abrupt transitions, no real scene setting, and no real pacing. Not surprising, I suppose, as there isn’t much of plot.

 

All in, the only thing that might recommend this book is if you are actually a widow or widower. Perhaps then things will mean more to you. While the story is definitely a tear-jerker around the heroine being widowed and all she’s going through, I just can’t get through the rest of it to finish. As far as I’m concerned, we already have a happily-ever-after at the 40% mark, and that saves me from having to read the rest of it.

Why Change Sucks

Change sucks. We all know it. It’s why there are entire books , seminars, and courses in change management.

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Humans are resistant to change, and there are reasons why. I won’t go into the historical reasons why, but here in the modern day, we like knowing what to do. We like being right. We like figuring things out once and them going smoothly.

We don’t look discord. We don’t like screwing up. We don’t like failure. All of those things are significantly easier to do when you’re making changes.

My family has been going through a lot of change lately.

  • My husband started a new job last December, and it wasn’t a choice. They were re-organizing, his position was eliminated, but he fortunately was able to find a similar position in a different part of the company. Still, it’s a lot of change.
    • New bosses who aren’t as good at communicating (I keep trying to tell him that’s the norm, but he’s still skeptical).
    • A different set of expectations.
    • A lot of other new people in his new group
    • A series of people out on FMLA have made the transition even harder. Hopefully, in the next few months, things will calm down and he can learn what his new job really is.

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  • My daughter started kindergarten. You’d think that would be no big deal, but I have found the difference between private daycare and public kindergarten striking. Communication is much different.
    • At daycare, I had a daily two minute informal conversation with the teachers and always knew what was going on.
    • Now, I’m not even allowed near the classroom for security issues. I get it, but it’s still hard.
    • Things like billing, which was previously direct-pulled from my bank account, isn’t possible in public schools. I have to remember to get cash for some things AND remember to go to their online portal for a slew of others. There are no low balance messages to let me know I need to replenish my daughter’s lunch money.

 

Yeah, we’re figuring it out, but it’s still a change. A big one.

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I’m also still dealing with some medical issues, and that’s never any fun.

Balancing all of this and writing has been hard. Very hard. But I refuse to give up this time. I have put off writing so many times in my life to focus on things like my career, grad school, and kids that I’m now mammogram age. I don’t have time to put it off any longer. So yeah, that’s a change, too.

Never-Give-Up

And I can tell you, during grad school, I read my fair share of change management books. I even dusted off a few lately, but they’re about as useful to me now as they were then.

 

Do you have any tips and pointers? Any way that you’ve successfully dealt with change? Or did you just soldier through it?

 

Running Out of Time

Are we really as time deficient as we think? We all seem to be constantly running out of time, or claiming we never have enough of it.

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Maybe both.

 

A quick Google search will reveal oodles of articles on time management and how to get more done in less time. (Hint: it involves turning off Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.)

We all think that the modern world is super stressful and that we never have time for anything, but a look back through history tells us of twelve and fourteen hour work days. It tells us Saturday was long considered as much a work day as Monday. Only the Sabbath was taken off, and then it wasn’t a day of rest, but a day of prayer.

I know, sounds like some people’s jobs, especially with all of the connectivity, but it still doesn’t answer why are we feeling so particularly time-crunched now.

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I did some Google research, and I didn’t find a lot of articles out there. So I did a little introspection.

I can honestly say I didn’t feel the same level of stress and pressure before having children as I did after. They are a monumental task in our society, which many people from previous generations have told me was not always the case. I’m not entirely sure why the sudden pressure on parents to perfectly organize, arrange and educate their children, but I can tell you that it’s there.

The days of kids riding their bikes and hanging out have been replaced with soccer camps, computer programming classes, and “enrichment” activities.

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And it only gets worse.

I’ve also learned that commutation between parents and care-givers, whether kindergarten or formal pre-school, is difficult. This adds to confusion and makes everything take longer.

Yet, for me anyway, it’s more than this.

For me, the lack of time stems from me not being able to do all that I want to get done. Mainly, writing and the corresponding social media presence that entails. For a friend of mine, it means not getting to work on her jewelry making. For another, it means not getting to ride her horse.

This is why I feel time pressured. My choices for entertainment are greater than they’ve ever been, and most are instantly available, at the same time that so many other obligations have been added.

How many of us really want to chauffeur our kid to dance class and then watch a room of kindergartners try to master basic ballet steps before carting them home? I think we’d all rather be binge watching something on Netflix. Or reading. Or writing.

For me, the feeling of never having enough time started around the time I realized I had to be social to write books. I mostly love writing, but as you may have noticed, I’m a bit of an introvert. Okay, a lot of an introvert. Social media is hard for me. While writing felt like an unpaid part time job, the social media aspect made it feel like a full time job, on top of kids, a spouse, and a day job.

This is why I feel time crunched.

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About right.

What to do about it?

Well, the kids are non-negotiable. Most days. That means the day job to support them and everything that goes with them is non-negotiable.

Not entirely sure what to do about the writing. I should complete three first draft novels this year. Two are already done, and the third is halfway there. Not exactly the four most romance writers produce a year, so even with as much time as I’ve committed, I’m not quite at the romance author level. And, that doesn’t account for revisions. All of my work needs serious revision.

The logical answer would be to set aside writing, but I’m not willing to do that. I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I clearly want to do this thing, and I’ve already put it off too many decades.

So, back to feeling like I never have enough time.

 

How about you? How do you balance family commitments with you professional life and hobbies? When was the last time you binge watched on Netflix? Any real life tips for making a serious hobby work with family and work?