Finding The Balance

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Every writer I know has one. That thing that gets in the way and sucks up a huge portion of the day – a day job. Very few writers make enough money to survive solely from writing, so finding the balance between following the muse and paying the bills is a real challenge.

As much as I love what I do for a living, it does dig into my writing time. This is especially true after a long summer of being able to write all day long at a leisurely pace. If I wanted to spend five hours working on one poem or reading through one chapter of my edited manuscript, I could and I did.

The first week back to work is always a huge reality check in that my time becomes much more restricted and my attention span much more exhausted. I don’t have five hours to write, nor do I have the energy to head to my favorite coffee shop every evening. There is only so much time in a day and along with working I have to fit in everything from husband time to eating and sleeping. That doesn’t leave a lot time for writing, so I have to make the most of any moment that isn’t being sucked up by something else!

At the beginning of every school year, I have to sit down and create a new writing schedule to help me find the balance between the real world and my fantasy world of words. Otherwise, my stories and poems start collecting dust as my free time evaporates.

So, this the writing schedule I’ve come up with so far …

Monday:
– Write blog post for Wednesday
– Read

Tuesday:
– Attend writer’s group
– Write blog post for Sunday
– Read

Wednesday:
– Write blog post for Friday
– Write poem for Poetic Asides Wednesday Poetry Prompt
– Read

Thursday:
– Edit Sunday and Friday blog posts
– Read

Friday:
– Break from writing (unless the muse is chatty)
– Read

Saturday:
– Write Monday’s blog post
– Work on The Muse, (i.e. read through edited manuscript, make changes, work   on query package)
– Read

Sunday:
– Edit Monday’s blog post
– Work on The Muse, (i.e. read through edited manuscript, make changes, work on query package)
– Read

It may seem odd that I’ve included reading in a writing schedule, but I’m a firm believer that reading is an integral part of the writing process. Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, I consider the work of others as a crucial part of learning how to craft a novel. Plus, I pledged to read 30 books in 2014 on goodreads. I really want to achieve that goal, so I have to keep turning those pages. Good thing I love to read!

Hopefully, with this schedule in place I’ll stay on top of my writing goals. The Muse is a huge priority and the last thing I want is for it to sit on the shelf. Staying connected with my readers is immensely important as well, which means I can’t slack off on blog posts, either. While it’s all a lot to handle, I relish the challenge.

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c.b.w. 2014

Oh, The Inconsistencies!

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We’ve all read a book where the details don’t quite jive. A character’s car was blue in Chapter 1, but in Chapter 15 it somehow becomes red. Or a conversation is taking place in the kitchen on one page, but then jumps to the living room on the next with no reference to movement. As a reader, you wonder why the writer couldn’t remember to keep that car blue or stick with a scene setting, but keeping track of all that stuff is incredibly difficult.

Just recently I was talking to another writer who equated fiction writing to basically telling one big lie. When we lie, we have to remember every detail or the lie loses credibility. Fiction works the same way – to make it believable everything has to be perfectly aligned. When writing an 80,000 word novel, this is tricky business as writers are essentially telling a big lie over an extended period of time. It’s easy to forget a minute detail that was created and written three months ago.

The revision process helps in aligning details, but it’s inevitable that a few details will fall through the cracks. This is where an editor comes in handy! Especially, a sharp-eyed editor with an ultra sensitive radar. Lucky for me, nothing gets by my editor.

Even though I’ve read my novel draft a hundred times, a few inconsistencies still slipped into the fourth draft. How on earth does that happen? Easy. As a writer, I get so caught up in creating a scene, I’ll forget what I did in a previous section. Sometimes, I just can’t let go of that scenic tunnel vision!

After reading two thirds of my edited manuscript, my editor has pointed out the following issues I need to resolve:

  • a random dog that shows up in the beginning of the novel, but is never seen again
  • inconsistent use of noise canceling headphones, i.e. my character owns them in one scene, but not in another
  • emotional gap from one chapter to another, i.e. a character feels one way about another character in one chapter, but the emotion doesn’t carry through to the next chapter.

The last third of my novel includes the most “rewritten” mythology, which means the propensity for inconsistency is going increase tenfold. Instead of simply telling one big lie, I am telling two. Somewhere along the way, I’m sure there is a hole in the fabric I have woven. Thankfully, I have faith my editor will find it before a reader does.

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c.b.w. 2014

2014 Goals: July Status Report

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July is always a strange month. I’m still basking in summer vacation, yet at the same time my “day job” starts to creep up on me. As the new school year approaches, (August 12), I can’t stop myself from getting a jump on lesson plans and classroom preparation. What can I say, I like to be way ahead of the game before the first day of school!

That being said, I still managed to reserve part of every day for writing. Whether it be poetry or paging through edits on my novel, my muse and I were very mindful about staying on track for this year’s goals.

1) Pitch The Muse.

I am more than halfway through reading the edited version of The Muse.  The process has been very exciting and enlightening. So far, I am on board with all the changes my editor has made as they are very subtle.

Even though most of the comments are absent from the edited version, there are a few that offer suggestions for change or point out discontinuity. In some cases she fixes it and in others, she leaves it alone offers possible ways to fix the problem. As I read, I’m keeping a log of notes with her comments, my thoughts, and the page number. Once I get done reading the draft, I can start working my through my notes.

On the query letter front, I spent some time editing the new format. The word count is a little high, but I think a few more revisions will fix that problem. Meanwhile, I found two more literary agents to add to my “possible agents” folder.

2) Outline and start writing The Muse: Lineage

This month, I focused a lot of my attention on adding to my playlist for this project. I found some great music to help me construct the next phase of my characters’ journey. In particular, Imagine Dragons and Coldplay are helping me feel what my characters are feeling.

3) Submit writing.

I’m so busy playing with my edited novel, I haven’t had much time to think about anything else!

4) Continue to build author platform.

I’m still having a blast on Facebook and traffic is up even though my Likes haven’t grown by much. The interaction is a lot of fun and I hope to keep the momentum going. However, Twitter continues to be a struggle. I don’t hang out on that platform very much and as a result my followers have dropped. Perhaps, it’s time to get back in the Twitter groove!

Facebook likes grew from 371 to 373

Twitter followers dropped from 560 to 551

Thanks so much to everyone for clicking those follow and like buttons! Your support is greatly appreciated.

5) Inspire others.

As always, I hope I am a positive presence.

The invisible goal:

6) Be flexible.

Even though I’d like to land a literary agent, I’m also looking into self-publishing. I’ve researched several companies and platforms that fit my budget. Plan A is still the ultimate goal, but I like having a Plan B in my back pocket!

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c.b.w. 2014

Clearing The First Hurdle

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When I sent my manuscript to my editor, I made a mental list of things I’d be willing to fight for if they disappeared or were changed beyond recognition. The list is actually very short, seeing as I walked into the process determined to stay open-minded to change.

In reading chapters five through ten, I knew one of my list items was on the horizon. And it wasn’t just any list item, it was one of my favorite parts of the entire story. As soon as I saw the heading for Chapter 10, I took a deep breath and hoped my original vision was largely intact.

Chapter 10 is a turning point in the story as this is where Ian’s secret is forced out of him. He can’t hide anymore and Amanda learns the truth behind his presence in her life. This moment between them is both emotional and magical.

What makes this particular part of the story so important to me is somewhat sentimental. It’s the first conversation I ever “heard” between my main characters, Amanda and Ian. There voices chimed into my imagination with such shocking clarity, I felt more like a transcriptionist than a writer.

The question, however, was whether my editor would see it the way I do. Her changes through chapters five through nine were relatively subtle (and extremely well done) and that gave me a little boost of confidence as I jumped into Chapter 10. That being said, I still made sure I wore my thick skin before reading even a single line. Thick skin is an important wardrobe accessory for any writer reading through edits!

After the first big breath at the start of the chapter, I don’t think I exhaled until the page before Chapter 11. Then, it took every bit of control I had not to jump up out of my chair and do a happy dance. The dialogue was relatively untouched and my original vision remained totally intact. The changes she made were quiet, yet powerful in that she made what I wrote flow with a little more elegance.

Now, I can relax a bit as one huge item on my list made it through my editor’s radar. Another big list item is coming in Chapter 12 and I’m still wondering what happened to my missing 23 pages and 7,000 words! But, for now, I’ll just bask in the fact that one hurdle has been cleared.

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c.b.w. 2014

Digging Into Change

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It’s been a week since my editor returned my manuscript. In that time I’ve downloaded the fully edited version to my Kindle Fire and read the first five chapters. So far the process has been pretty painless, but I’m sure that’s because I let it sit unopened for two days while I prepped myself to let go of things and approach change with an open mind.

Before opening the file, I remember thinking, I hope she didn’t change the first line.  Silly, silly me. When the first page loaded, the first line was not only different, but gone!  I braced myself for the inevitable heartbreak that was sure to rip through my chest, but it never happened. For a moment, I sat there in total shock. Why? I loved the new first line. A lot.

This was a huge surprise to me because I always loved the original first line, which meant I never touched it through four drafts of revisions. That sentimental attachment was a problem, but I never saw it until someone else pointed it out! I had to say goodbye to my line, but I know my novel is better without it.

Over the next few chapters, the changes are more subtle, but still just as powerful. Small changes in word choice and grammar are helping to smooth out the way my words flow. Deletions here and there are creating a tighter sentences and paragraphs.  In some cases, I’m reading and I know things are missing, but it I don’t seem to miss them. That tells me they didn’t need to be there in the first place.

While the first chunk of this process has been easy to tackle, I know there are some big changes to come. The modified draft is 23 pages and about 7,000 words shorter than my original manuscript, which means something drastic has happened somewhere!

It’s easy to panic with those kind of numbers floating around, but all I have to remember is how much I love my new first line. It’s something I never thought I would accept, but here I am smiling. Will this happen with every major change? Probably not. There are things I’m willing to fight for if they are missing, but I’m also open to the possibility of trying a different path.

The next five chapters are on the agenda for the coming week. Hopefully, the read will be just as enlightening as the first five.

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c.b.w. 2014