aspiring author

Fourth Draft Complete

Hey Folks!

My first major writing goal of the year has been met. I wanted to have the fourth draft of my novel completed by 2/21, and I’ve brought it in four days early. I’m currently on winter break so I will likely devote the rest of my time off to putting a dent in draft five. Right now, I think draft five will be the last one. We shall see. If I don’t feel like it’s ready, I sure won’t be rushing to begin the querying process. That said, aside from a few notable things I want to update, I’m not sure continuing to fiddle with the story will add anything of value and I’ve heard that that is when it is time to stop, lest you go on tweaking until the end of time.

I’ve quite enjoyed the revision process. Getting the first draft out was like pulling teeth, but I’ve found loads of joy (okay, the kind of joy that is drizzled with frustration) in figuring out how to make that little story I wrote better. I love challenging and pushing myself.

Stats on draft four:

Word count: 82,000

Time to complete: 48 days

And just for fun… stats from draft 1:

Word count: 71,000

Time to complete: over 364 days

Goals for draft five:

Do not allow word count to exceed 83,000 (awesome if I can find a way to hack it back down to 80,000)

Finish by 4/6

Make it as awesome and polished as I can

 

Happy Writing!

-ED

Follow me on Twitter: @ElleDesa_Writes

I’m on Pinterest, too: Planning My 1st Book , Writing Inspiration and Tips

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Reminiscing and Music Playlists

The first seeds of my WIP plot line were planted in March 2014. I had an outline completed by May, but it wasn’t until the following May that my outline had been successfully converted into a 70,000 word manuscript. Since then, my story has seen three more drafts and lots of changes (including 10,000 additional words).

As I approach the next stage of my novel writing journey, I often find myself reminiscing about the early days. It was teaching my 9th grade biology students a lesson on overpopulation that first sparked the idea for my book. I’d tried and failed to write novels before, so I decided to take a more organized approach this time. I started by loosely following Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method. I kept all my ideas in a notebook that I’m still writing in today. A few days ago I found myself reading through the whole thing. The experience was pretty surreal. It’s amazing to see how much I’ve learned over the past two years. It’s also great fun to see how far my plot has drifted from my original ideas, but at the same time, still rests on those original building blocks. I’ve got other fun stuff in that notebook too, one of my favorites being a list of songs that fit the vibe of my story. There are several tracks from The Civil Wars, Mumford & Sons, Alabama Shakes, and Citizen Cope. At some point I think I’ll actually download all the songs, but for now, I’m still adding to the list. Recent additions: Let it go- James Bay, Family and Genus – Shakey Graves, Broadripple is Burning – Margot and the Nuclear So and So’s, and Is This How You Feel? – The Preatures.

What artists or songs would make the ultimate music playlist for your story?

Happy Writing,

ED

Current progress: Draft 4, 13/37 chapters revised

Making Time to Write When There Seems to Be So Little

First and foremost, I’d like to point out that, in my experience, there is always more time available to write than there seems to be – it’s about making a commitment and maximizing on opportunities. For instance, I’ve been on Christmas break for two weeks. I enjoyed lazy days filled with coffee, revision, and Downton Abbey, with no care given to the time of day. This translated to going to sleep at 3am and waking at 10 or 11 (plus a late afternoon nap or two). I forced myself to wake up early this Sunday morning to break the cycle and spent the day at work prepping for the new semester. I happily fell asleep at 9pm. Problem? It’s 2am and I’m wide awake. I could toss and turn in my bed, or watch TV, but I’m taking the opportunity to write a blog post instead. Perhaps by the time I’m done, I’ll be ready to squeeze in 3 more hours of sleep.

I point all this out to say, seize the opportunities as they arise. And when they don’t arise naturally, make them. Value your craft. Put it above those potentially time draining activities like watching TV or staring at the ceiling, wishing you were asleep. This is going to be more important for me than usual, as I enter my most chaotic time of year. As a teacher and lacrosse coach, I’ll be leaving home at 6:15 every weekday morning and not returning until at least 12 hours later. Game day? Make that about 15 hours. Throw in all the grading and planning many teachers must do at home and there is minimal time for anything but dinner and sleep on Monday through Friday evenings (it’s a good thing I like my job). I’m still amazed that I somehow managed to finish my first draft and complete the final semester of graduate school last spring without neglecting myself, cat, students, or team. That proves that it is indeed possible to find the time. Oh, and shout out to any teacher-coach-writer-moms /dads out there. I know you exist and WOW… It’s a struggle just caring for myself. Go you!

Anyway, here’s how it usually works out for me: I do very little writing, if any, Monday through Thursday. I choose to look at the writing and revision of my novel as another job. This job has a flexible schedule, but there are certain weekly requirements (writing and revision goals I’ve set in advance). I choose to spend the weekends (minus a few lacrosse filled Saturday’s) working to meet those requirements. The problem? Making time for friends and family. I end up turning down lots of invitations. Often times, “just lunch” turns into a five hour outing- an enjoyable outing, but one that most certainly has negative consequences on progress with my book. Does that mean I never see friends or family in the spring (semester)? No! I take advantage of breaks from school and 3 day weekends and I play catch up with my writing when I’ve indulged in a playful weekend. It helps that my friends and family know what this time of year is like for me and they understand what my writing means to me. Still, I appreciate that they also know when it’s time to forcibly draw the hermit out of her shell.

The take away? If you want it badly enough, you make it work. No exceptions. Repeat this to yourself over and over on tough days and you’ll look back with pride, wondering how the heck you managed it.

Happy writing… Whenever it is you make the time.

-ED

Follow me on Twitter: @ElleDesa_Writes

I’m on Pinterest, too: Planning My 1st Book , Writing Inspiration and Tips

I Think I’m Getting Close

I’ve spent the first couple days of 2016 alternating between working on the fourth draft of my current novel and learning all I can about how to build a platform. Something definitely feels different about this draft. Maybe it’s because I’ve spent too much time reading about querying, agents, and publishers, but I think I might be working on my last draft (well, let’s be real, second to last) before I try sending my baby off into world. Perhaps it was the subconscious realization of this that led me to begin my research about what comes next in the first place. Who knows, but it sure is exciting!

Yesterday I shared two of my goals for this year, but both of them had more to do with the “build a platform” side of things. I took some time this morning to outline goals for my WIP and ended up creating a list of all the things I’d like to achieve/do (deadlines included) between today and the end of June. What can I say? I’m a goal setter through and through and if I don’t hold myself accountable, who will? Plus, I’ve gotten really good at setting realistic, acheievable goals. Everything I wrote down is 100% doable, even with the busy schedule of a teacher/coach.

Highlights:

  • Finish draft 4 by 2/21
  • Complete final draft and polish by 4/6
  • Let manuscript rest about a month. Use that time to knock some books off my reading list and think about other projects
  • Read and revisit manuscript by 5/8, make note of problem areas
  • Revise by 5/31 (the last day of school)
  • Use first few weeks of summer vacation to write query letters etc.
  • Start sending out queries, maybe participate in a Twitter Pitch Party or Pitch Wars

Of course, I could finish draft 4 and decide the whole thing needs a complete overhaul, and if that happens, it happens! I’m not going to rush the process if my book isn’t ready. Maybe I’ll work ahead of schedule, maybe I’ll be forced to push back some of my personal deadlines, but either way, I take great joy in having a plan.

Happy writing, y’all.

-ED

Follow me on Twitter: @ElleDesa_Writes

I’m on Pinterest, too: Planning My 1st Book , Writing Inspiration and Tips

Building My Platform

I hope that you all enjoyed bringing in 2016 last night! My top three accomplishments of 2015 were coaching my lacrosse team to the state playoffs, getting my masters degree in biology, and writing the first three drafts of my current work in progress. I’d like to do all I can to have a similarly successful 2016. Now that I’ve proven to myself that I can commit to an idea deeply enough to write a book start to finish, my next goal is to truly put some effort into developing my platform. I still have more drafts to write and more polishing to do, but I’d like to start preparing for the next step. I set goals year round, but like so many others, I’d like to take advantage of the extra motivation that a new year brings.

My first two goals:

  1. Develop a Twitter presence
    • I had a personal twitter account, but I primarily used it to communicate with my students. Once Remind (an app that allows communication with students and parents through text messages) became a thing, I quit using Twitter as a teaching aid. Last night I made a new account that I would like to use to tweet about writing and connect with others in the industry.
  2.  Get serious about blogging
    • I originally created this blog as a way to keep myself accountable and update friends and family on my writing progress. It’s time for my blog to do some growing up! It’s time for me to make connections and start writing about things that people not so close to me might be interested in reading. I have a few ideas, but cluelessness is my overwhelming emotion. Using Google for help has only served to amplify this emotion, but I felt that way when I first started writing my book, too. I have always found persistence to pay off.

What goals do you have for 2016? Who should I follow on Twitter? Post your social media info in the comments and I’ll find you!

-ED

My Twitter: @ElleDesa_Writes

I’m on Pinterest, too: Planning My 1st Book , Writing Inspiration and Tips

Hello… It’s me.

Sorry. I couldn’t resist the lame title, but it has been a while, and I feel like quite the stranger to WordPress. Last time I updated, I had just completed my second draft and now the completion of my third draft has sent me wandering back. Revision has been going well, but I still feel like there is so much to be done. That’s alright though. I plan to keep nurturing this thing until I feel I’ve done the best I can do.  I know I can still make it better and that knowledge is exciting to me. Right now my sweet little WIP is sitting at about 80,000 words – that’s up 10,000 from draft one. I’m not overly concerned by that though. Draft one was seriously lacking some  meat. It needed a little oomph. Now, I might have packed on a bit too much oomph (me and my book… have you guys ever eaten Christmas Crack? my goodness…), but I think my next plan for revision will trim away at some sloppy bits.

I printed out my first and second drafts, but I’ll skip the hard copy of three. I need to, or else I’m going to have a six foot stack of drafts. My plan is to save the draft as a PDF and, between today and tomorrow, just read it. I want to read my book without nitpicking every word (hahaha, right). After that I’m going to create a chapter by chapter outline. I did do that originally, before I ever started trying to throw paragraphs together, but a good bit has changed since then. I want to see a skeleton view of my story as it is now. Hopefully it will easily reveal problem areas and I can start making note of changes to be made for draft four (or rather, start making more notes of changes to be made). I’ve also played around with the Hemingway app and might make a little use of it as I revise.

I hope you all have a happy New Year filled with lots of lovely reading, writing, and dream chasing (and achieving!).

ED

Second Draft Complete!

I completed the second draft of my very first book just a few minutes ago. It feels great, even despite the self-doubt that crept up as I approached this milestone. Once I realized that I was actually committed to my story enough to complete the second draft (I wasn’t so sure during a two month slump after editing the first 70 pages), I started reading up more on writing query letters, finding agents, and how to get your work published. I’m sure many of you know/can imagine how discouraging the information out there can be for a new writer. I took it all with a grain of salt at first though. I figured I would just write the best story I could and hope somebody would fall in love with it when it was done. That sounded just fine until I got about three quarters of the way through the second draft and realized my story would still need some MAJOR work before I could even think about writing a query letter. All these fixable, but numerous, plot issues starting springing up left and right. Just the thought of all the restructuring needed to fix the problems was daunting. Suddenly, all I could focus on is how long it would take me to polish my book, and how much doing so would throw off the lovely little outlining-to-publishing timeline I had in my head (as if I’ve actually stuck to one timeline I’ve made since I started). It took a reminder from a good friend to get me back in the right mindset. All he said was, “The goal should be to make the book as good as you can- not get it sold.” He’s right. I would love to worry about selling this book one day, but I’m not there yet. Right now, I need to put all of my energy into crafting a piece of fiction that I can be proud of. That way, whether I get a shot at sending my baby out into the world or not, I can still feel that sense of success.

It’s been about a year and half since I started this journey. I’m not sure how long this ride will be, but I sure am going to make the most of it.

Next up, draft three! I’ve got a plan for how to approach it… time to execute.

-ED

*My book is an apocalyptic/dystopian/scifi young adult novel currently sitting at about 78,000 words (306 pages)

Reading Your Work Aloud

On Thursday I took my first dive into the revision process- it ended up being a seven hour dive. My stuff needed some WORK, y’all. Ernest Hemingway was giving me that What’d I tell you? expression the whole time.

Truth.

Truth.

Anyway, the next morning, I woke up and started reading over what I’d done the night before. After accidentally reading the same line three times (my cue that I’m not really processing anything I’m reading), I remembered a tip about reading aloud and decided to try it out. I immediately picked up on several grammatical errors and typos that I’d missed after a dozen silent passes, but I think the biggest benefit was just really hearing the flow of the sentences. I made some major changes to some dialogue that I found totally unnatural after reading it out loud. Eventually though, I found myself reading the words, but not really following the story – like when teachers would make you read in front of the class when you were little, and then have the nerve to ask you a question about what you just read. This is when I had the bright idea to record myself. That way, I could listen to my story without the distraction of reading it. My own personal audiobook! I opened up Garage Band on my laptop and got to work.

Garage bandAfter allowing myself to cringe a little at the sound of my own voice, and after goofing around with all the lovely effects Garage Band has to offer, I sat back and listened. I sat on my bed cheesing and just basking in the “I wrote this!” glory while also noting some important changes to make. I loved it so much and found it so valuable that I declared I would record the entire novel as I revised it.  That ambition didn’t last long for two main reasons:

  1. I spent an hour and a half recording the first eight pages. Eventually I found myself obsessing over misspeaking- deleting and rerecording like I was actually creating an audiobook that would heard by the masses.
  2. Dialogue got tricky once more than two characters came into play. I felt goofy doing my best impression of a male voice, but I managed. When it was time to play the role of four different characters, I failed miserably. I thought about just throwing in extra dialogue tags verbally for the sake of the recording, but that would only disrupt the flow of my storyline and speaking.

So perhaps I won’t be recording my entire novel, but I definitely expect to use this tool here and there throughout the revision process. Do you have any special tricks that help you revise?

-ED

Writing the Second Draft

So far, I’ve devoted about ten hours to revising the first 25 pages of my book. I’ve read that first drafts either, A) come up short on detail in an effort to just to get the main idea out, or B) they are filled with excess stuff that doesn’t really contribute to the plot. In situation A, important details will have to be added upon revision– gotta make sure all those ideas progress logically, and at the right pace. In situation B, the writer will have to make some tough decisions about what needs to get axed and what gets to stay. If I were forced to pick A or B, I’d say I fall into the A camp, but of course most people, including myself, would be better placed somewhere on the spectrum between the two.

Those first 25 pages were originally 16. At first I was concerned about adding so much so early. If I kept this up, my book would probably be over 115,000 words, which is no good for my genre. I don’t think it’ll play out that way though. I have to remember that the pages I’m editing now were written over a year ago. My story has grown and changed a good deal during that time and certain things at the beginning need to be adjusted to suit those changes.

I kinda adore that I can spend all these hours focused and working without it feeling like work. It’s tough, and I definitely feel the need for a brain break when I’m done, but I’m finding the process enjoyable. Now I’ve only just begun, but so far, I find revisiting my story and thinking about how to improve upon it far more enjoyable than pushing out that first draft. Not sure if that is typical or odd… what are your experiences? How did your feelings change between completing the first draft and switching on those revision gears to write draft 2?

-ED

Editing: Day 1

I officially started editing/revising my first draft today! I was going to start last night, but instead I read a book (The DUFF, which I started around 8pm and didn’t put down until I finished it at 2am). Anyway, I got comfy on my couch, whipped out my multicolored pens, and came up with this beautiful color legend:

Lovely, isn't it? Especially the handwriting.

Lovely, isn’t it? Especially the handwriting.

Of course, I forgot to change pens here and there while editing so the whole thing is pretty much obsolete, but that’s alright.

I started with chapter one (I’ve read about people starting with random chapters to view it more objectively, but I know there a few plot and continuity issues I need to correct before I can do that). Chapter one was probably one of the longer chapters in my book, coming in at eleven pages, while most others are about eight. It took me about three hours to sift through the content on those pages (with women’s World Cup soccer as a frequent distraction). I made several changes, from swapping one word for another, to replacing or deleting entire paragraphs. It felt nice to strike through lines and lines of nonsense. By the end of it though, my eleven paged first chapter turned into two chapters spanning fourteen pages. Not only do I feel better about the content, but I managed to split up that clunky first chapter into a size that fits better with the flow of the rest of the book.

Last summer I set word count goals, and that worked out pretty well for me (during the summer- that absolutely did NOT work when I started back teaching). Since goal setting helped me through a large part of my first draft, I’m going to do the same with the editing process. So here it is:

  • Edit one chapter per day (on average), for a total of 7 chapters per week.
    • My first draft is 35 chapters so in a perfect world, I could finish editing the whole thing in 5 weeks (before I return to work full time, which is kind of critical)
  • Editing should include making paper/pen changes and then adding the edited content to my Draft 2 word document

Sounds good now, but as usual, I’ll see how the first week plays out and then decide if my goals are realistic or not.

I have lots of fun plans this weekend so I’m off to start editing chapter two in anticipation of not having time to get much done Friday and Saturday.

🙂

-ED