writer

Changing Gears

Hello and happy Saturday!

The school year is off to a good start. I’m teaching some pretty cool kids biology, but good teaching means busy weeks. I’ve spent more weekends than I care to admit bumming around my apartment playing the procrastination game with papers that need grading. I’m happy to say that I am currently caught up (well, let’s say 95%) and life is good. I’ve even started planting the seeds for my next novel, which is insane because that means I’m getting to the point where I can imagine finishing my current work in progress (what!?). Also, another word on my students- I’ve told many of them over the last couple of years that I’m writing a book and can I just say how much it warms my hard when I see kids in the hall and they say, “Hey Ms. D! How’s your book coming? I can’t wait to read it!” Just, joy to the world. Little (big) sweeties.

On my last post I shared some last-half-of-the-year goals with you all and I think it’s about time for an update. Below are the goals I set for which my self-imposed deadline has passed:

Complete a second pass through my 6th draft by 8/23 DONE! albeit not by that date

Send draft 6 to CP (Thanks Twitter) and Betas by 8/25 DONE! Again, not on time, but done

Draft a synopsis and query letter by 9/15 Not done, but in progress!

Have a list of at least 50 agents to query by 9/23 (I currently have 13) Not done, and I haven’t even tried, if I’m honest

So far I’ve met none of my goals on time, but that’s been pretty standard since I started this novel writing journey. The bright side is that I am, indeed, accomplishing the goals that I’ve set… just on an extended timeline. I am a bit disappointed in myself for literally spending ZERO time searching for more agents to query. That is a critical part of the process and I need to start devoting more time to it.

Sending my manuscript off to my critique partner and betas felt pretty momentous. It’s the first time people will be reading my book from start to finish, which is an exhilarating combination of scary and exciting. It also felt like a major transition point. I’ve been drafting for years and now I’m getting to the place where I have to seriously consider what comes after I decide I’ve polished my MS to the best of my ability. There is a very different vibe to this side of my journey. So far I’ve been focused on writing the best story I can. Now that I’m about 90% done with that part, I have to start thinking about how I can pitch my story in a way that will hook agents. It’s difficult, but I find the change of gears enjoyable. Summarize my 86,000 word novel in 500 words? Challenge accepted! …I’m currently failing the challenge, but I’ve got faith. I haven’t done much on the query side except play around with the first few sentences. It’s tough, but I’m glad to have a break from drafting and revising my MS.

I’ll check in again when I get feedback from my CP and betas. Hopefully that will set me up for my final draft… or maybe they will tell me my story is crap and I’ll spend another year revising… mysteries of life!

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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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

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

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

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)

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

I wrote a book y’all

I finished the first draft of my first novel about a week and a half ago. I think it’s finally set in… both the fact that I actually finished it, and the fact that I have to do something else with it. I’ve spent a good deal of time working to convince myself that what I’ve created isn’t 100% crap. Now, it may be 99% crap, but I can work with that. The big question is where to begin! This time last year I was digging up information on how to outline and get your story started. This year I have to tackle editing the first draft. Do I start with spelling, grammar, continuity, content? Do I do all of these things at once, or make several passes through? It’s pretty intimidating to look at my near-300 page stack of creative vomit and try to figure out how to polish it into something presentable. All I’ve managed to do is go on a mini office supply shopping spree.

Editing tools!

Okay, that’s not all I’ve done… I’ve also taken all of my bookmarks for landmarks and displayed them in a shadow box. Completing a novel from start to finish was something on my bucket list (more as a challenge to myself, not an arbitrary thing to tick off a list- this writing thing is forever) and I have a habit of not adequately celebrating/acknowledging my accomplishments so I wanted to do something nice. I also like the idea of keeping up with this new tradition for any future novels I may write.

My first draft and all eight bookmarks for landmarks

My first draft and all bookmarks for landmarks

If you have any editing tips, please share them!

-ED

PS. Fun coincidence… today is an exact year since my very first blog post!

Bookmarks for Landmarks! #4

It took about 3.5 months, but I finally wrote another 10,000 words. I hit the 40,000 mark, which is also around my halfway point, on Thanksgiving morning. I’m not sure if my first draft will get there, but I’m expecting 75,000 to 80,000 words by the end. Now, based on my original timeline, I was to be hitting that milestone by the end of December, but unfortunately, some bumps along the way threw that off… Or maybe it’s not unfortunate at all. Maybe it’s just part of the process. I’m just so pleased to be writing again.

Bookmarks for Landmarks 40,000 words

Bookmarks for Landmarks 40,000 words

Hopefully I’ll be posting about 50,000 sooner rather than later. 😀

ED

Is dystopian dead?

I decided to write a book because it’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. I love to read and I love to write, so taking on the adventure of creating a story, a whole world, and putting it on paper sounded like a great idea! I brainstormed for a while until I latched onto a storyline that set my heart aflutter and got my creative juices flowing. I researched how to approach writing your first novel and things like that, but I didn’t spend much time looking into the types of stories agents/publishers want to see. I didn’t do this because getting my story published wasn’t something that was really on my radar. Finishing my story was my goal. It’s still my goal. I’ll be perfectly content to complete my book and let that be the end. The process is quite the personal journey and I’ll be proud to finish this huge undertaking. That said, I still want to leave my options open.

So, out of curiosity, I started Googling a bit about the types of work YA agents/publishers are looking for and uh… it seems dystopian is not it. In fact, it seems that many push away anything with a hint of dystopia to it. It’s overdone, they’ve seen it all, they say. (more…)