Writing, revising, publishing

My novel revisions have been going a little slower than I’d hoped. However, that’s probably I wanted a little guidance in revising and rewriting such a big project. So I’ve been reading:


both have been helpful, but reading is not editing, and that has added time. In the long run, not flailing about on my own, however will hopefully save time, and the ultimate goal is obviously to end up with a better book. So I think I’m getting there. Now that I’ve finished reading, and going the exercises and have a great list of specific things to tackle, the actual revisions are going well. The book is getting better. Should have it ready for my beta readers soon-ish. Heck, if you’d like to offer feedback or a critique, let me know and I’ll send you a copy when it’s ready for that phase.

I am also working on the paperback version of 

I will probably also eventually work on a paperback version of 
but it’s so short I think that’s why I didn’t make a print version in the first place. But I’ll go look at it again and see what can be done. As a reader, I like options. I’d like my work available to people however they best like to read.

I’m excited, and nervous about the whole process, and that’s what makes it fun. Well, the writing and the creations is what makes it fun, the publishing makes it stressful, but that’s life.


Novel Revisions

After finishing the first drafts of my previous novels I debated about attempting to revise them. They were such a mess that I believed at the time that no amount of revision would turn them into good stories. So I didn’t put any effort in there. Instead I started new projects to learn how to create a solid storyline, interesting characters, and so forth.

Now I have a first draft that I am happy with. It needs revision, yes, but the changes are doable. However, since I chose to focus on learning how to write better, I’ve spent very little time on learning how to revise and self edit. It’s slow going as I read up on revision processes, and work through the draft. I’ve really only ever done revisions on short stories before this. That’s a very different experience.

I also followed common writing advice to keep going forward through the first draft, not stopping to make changes or do extensive research when hitting spots where those things are needed. Instead, making a note about what is needed for revisions, and moving on. Now I’m doing that research, so I keep feeling that I’m not working on my novel because I’m not sitting at the laptop and typing. I keep having to remind myself that reading Michio Kaku totally counts at this stage of the process.

It really is fun to see the story get so much better with sometimes simple changes. While it feels slow, and I’m second guessing myself a lot, I’m enjoying this stage anyway. Hopefully it won’t be too far in the future when I’ll be ready to share the completed novel with you all.


Where I’m at with the Novel

I have a fairly complete first draft of my novel at this point. In all my earlier attempts at novel writing, this is where it ended. Maybe I could have worked further on them, tried to fix all the problems and revise them, but I decided that in each of those cases, even putting in all that work would still result in a crappy book that I would not let anyone suffer through reading. Those attempts were fundamentally flawed in ways I didn’t know how to fix – or didn’t believe it was possible to fix.

Now I have a book that – yes, it needs substantial revision, but I already know specifically what needs work. I know what I’m trying to accomplish and have an idea how to get this story to that point. I think learning to outline helped me get this far this time.

Right now I’m doing a little research to make the science part make sense. This is not a ‘hard’ Sci-Fi story, but what I’m going for is for the ideas to be internally consistent. If things could work the way they do in my story, I want those things to be logical and consistent with one another.

I felt that I was procrastinating on the novel, but what I now think is happening is that I’m doing so much other writing I don’t have that itch of the novel as my only project poking at me. I’m writing this blog nice and regularly now, along with my weekly (and more) flash fiction stories, and some writing I now get to do for the day job. I haven’t written in my journal either since the new year started. I think the blog is filling that itch as well, but I know there are internal and personal things that my journal would help me work through.

It would be easy to chalk it up to not having enough time to do it all, but I know if I look at things frankly, there is time. I just need to be better about using it. Prioritize. Improve my work flow and time management. Not a lot even. Just little tweaks. So that’s what I’ll be working on.

I’d love to go from ‘fairly complete first draft’ to totally complete, ready for serious revisions first draft within a month. I’m posting this here to keep myself accountable. So a month from now I will post my progress on the novel again, and set a new goal depending on my success or failure to get this first milestone accomplished.

Let’s go!


The Short Story Experiment – Results

In January, I announced that I was going to try to write a short story a week for the first three months of this year. Probably unsurprisingly, I had some mixed results.

I did not accomplish a story every week. I think I ended up with 5 finished first drafts and at least one or two other stories that puttered out into bleck. What surprised me was that most of my stories ran much longer than I had expected them to. So some of them, I was just working on for more than one week.

My other problem, is that I kept getting ideas for the new novel I wanted to start. I got more and more excited about working on it that I ended up going back to it in the middle of March, so I didn’t go quite the whole twelve week working on just short stories.

Now, however, I’ve gotten to a point where I need to do some significant research before I can move on in the novel. So I think I may try to return to short stories so I don’t stop writing while I do the research.

Problem is, I also need to squeek out some time to edit the short stories so I can decided which of them might be worth sending out. So much to do!

Some good news – an older and very very short story of mine has been accepted for the Cast of Wonders podcast. I don’t have a date yet, but I will post it as soon as I know. But don’t wait for that – I have loved every story I’ve listened to over there so far. Check it out.

So that’s where I’m at with the writing! Ta-da!


Paper Books vs. Ebooks

I had a moment of epiphany today. I was reading a book on my Kindle, but I sadly had to stop to do other things. As I put book down, I thought to myself, “I love my Kindle.” 
That thought stopped me. Literally. I stood still for a moment. I was one of those people who thought, sure, an e-reader might be convenient, but it will never be like reading a REAL book. I like the way real books smell and feel. How I know how far along I am in the story by how thick the stacks of pages are in each hand. I love all that stuff. 
So this sudden spontaneous thought about loving my e-reader took me off guard somewhat. Do I really love it that much? What do I love about it? I like it. It’s light and has great battery life. It’s easy to use, but it doesn’t smell like old paper or anything cool like that. 
Then the epiphany. I’m really enjoying the story I’m reading. (Redshirts by John Scalzi if you’re curious). That’s what I love. That’s what I suspect everyone who says they love real books means. What I really love is a good story. 
For so long, all the stories we loved came with that certain feel of a book in your hands. The smell. The pages flipping. It created a whole bunch of positive associations that are powerful. The go back to childhood for most of us. I remember hiding in the bushes on the side of my house, or under my bed to read a book in peace when I was a kid. Good memories. For so long now I thought I loved books as a physical thing. Turns out, I just love the stories. I love the stories enough that the physical thing they’re attached to became loved right along with the stories.
There are a lot of people who don’t think they could ever enjoy reading on an e-reader. I even fell into that thinking myself. I’m so happy to realize that the format isn’t all that important after all. I think it’s very good news for stories, because technology doesn’t go backward.

Starting Over – Again

I’ve started my novel over. From the beginning. When I wrote my 50,000 words for NaNoWriMo, I did it in true NaNo style. That is, fast, and without a lot of deep thought. I had an idea about the sort of story I was trying to tell, so I didn’t try to outline or do much planning. You see, Id actually written this same story once before – back in 2005 when I first started writing again. Then it was a 7000 word short story. It was dreadful. The first helpful review I got was from a fellow called Bob over at Writing.com who explained this writing idea to me of showing vs. telling. Yep, that version was 7000 words of telling. *shudders*

It was Bob’s review and advice that started me on my way seeking out more information about the craft of writing. Before that, I though writing was some sort of talent. It was so exciting to learn that there were some very powerful techniques that I could learn that would help me improve my writing.

I defiantly feel that version 2 of this story – the 2010 NaNoWriMo version was much, much better than the 2005, short story version. Yet, 60,000 words in, I could see it wasn’t working well, but I’m not so experienced that I could easily see a way to fix it. The I watched the video by Dan Wells about the 7 point story structure and tried to plug my novel into that structure. That showed me that my ending didn’t make any sense. Actually, more than that, it showed me I didn’t really have an ending. Using the 7 point structure, though, I quickly came up with an ending, and a middle, and some sub-plots that all made the story fit together so much better. I was so happy! Now, I told myself, I have something to work with.

Last night, the downside of all these insights hit me as it came time to stop playing with outlines ans structure and get writing again. That was, I had to start all over again. To create the structure I wanted, I had to make some really fundamental changes to the story I already had. Mainly in the characters. The characters are completely different now. Better, but different. Beyond a revision. Have to start over. When I look at all the work I already had, this made me a little sad.

I wondered why I even want to keep trying with this story. Why not scrap it and start over with something new? I hope that since I’m still interested in this story enough to keep writing it (again) that’s a sign that it may be interesting enough for other people to enjoy reading if I can ever get a draft finished. That’s my hope, because I really do want to keep writing it. That almost amazes me more than anything else.

So, my fellow writers out there. What would you do in my shoes. Start over, or start something new?


Happy Towel Day

I have honored Towel Day in my heart for several years now, but this is the first year I will be officially celebrating. By that I mean, of course, keeping my towel with me all day.

Towel Day :: A tribute to Douglas Adams (1952-2001)

Towel Day honors the memory of Douglas Adams, genius author, technology enthusiast, radical atheist, and passionate environmentalist. If, by some unfortunate circumstances of your life, you have not read any of Douglas Adams works, please go immediately and remedy the situation. This is 2011. No one should have to live like that.


The State of the Novel

I’m still working on my NaNoWriMo novel, but not as much as I had hoped to. We’ve had a lot of excitement at work that has taken more of my attention than usual. Things should be settling down now though, so I won’t have that excuse to throw around any more. I’ve only grown my word count up to about 58,000 since the end of November. For three months of work, even three super busy months, that’s disappointing.

Now, I’m going to do something that most writing advice seems to frown upon. I’m going to start editing and rewriting before my first draft is completely finished. But I believe I have a good reason to do so. I had an epiphany last week about a problem with the story that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. I’d set the story up such that a vital element, the base idea that the novel was supposed to be built on, wouldn’t ever happen. At the beginning, I just didn’t want it to seem too easy, but now that I’m so far along, I see that the obstacles I put in place will actually keep it from happening at all. So I need some fundamental changes at the start, and I don’t really see the point of finishing the first draft before these changes are put in.

A lot of what I’ve already written can still be used, but obviously a lot will also need to change. As I worked on the revisions last night and started to realize how much would need to be reworked, I was surprised to find that I wasn’t sad. It was exciting instead. The story no longer felt stale and pointless. It’s going to get back on track. Yea! Hopefully, the new energy I have for the story will translate into speedier progress as well.

While we are on the subject of writing, I’m proud that I have three short stories sent out right now; one with some encouraging feedback so far. It would be great to have a publication to report here soon!


I Did It At Last!

*play ‘Chariots of Fire’ here*

After 3 years of NaNoWriMo failure, this year I hit the 50,000 word mark.


Thank you, thank you.

My novel isn’t quite done, but it’s getting close to a climax I think. It is also really awful, but that’s okay. I had no plan when I began except for a general idea of a very unstructured plot. I didn’t have any characters ahead of time. The first 20k or so words are mostly me learning who my characters are. It isn’t riveting reading. They spend a lot of time wandering around the space ship thinking stuff. But that’s what it took for me to know enough about them to stat making stuff happen. Now that exciting stuff is happening, NaNoWriMo is over. I’m not stopping though. I probably won’t keep up the pace I have been, because – well- it’s really hard, and I’m really sleepy, but I’m going to do my best to keep working on it every day until it’s done.

I’ve really written so much more this month than I thought I was capable of. I started on Nov 1st planing to lose again this year. I don’t know where my attitude shifted, but I’m so happy it did. I think some credit should go to my friend Amanda. She signed up for NaNoWriMo this year too, and her encouragement and the cometition of having someone to keep up with was a very helpful motivational boost, especially in the beginning when I still thought it was going to be impossible.

So to all the other NaNoWriMo winners out there – a big high five to you! And to any who didn’t hit 50k this year, a high five to you too for trying, and for writing whatever you did. It’s still more than most people do. Yea for us!


Syzygy the Novel

Syzygy (pronounced sizz-uh-gee) the novel by the charming Amanda Borenstadt is published and available for download at Smashwords, or for the Kindle at Amazon. It would probably fall in the category now called, ‘urban fantasy’ but it has strong romance elements too.

From Amanda: It’s the story of Finn Wilde, a super strong mobster who can leap tall buildings as well as hack computer networks, falls in love with Bea Jones, the girl he’s sent to kidnap. She’s immune to the virus that infects Finn’s race, therefore her blood holds the key to the antiserum which can cure him of the bloodthirsty madness that overtakes him for twelve hours each month.

The story is told by a patient at a mental hospital. His narration is sometimes dark and sometimes humorous. Little by little we learn clues about his identity as he grows closer to the widow he befriends in the hospital.

Amanda was kind enough to do a little blog interview for me to tell us a little about her book and her writing in general. She also has created some other fun projects online that go along with the Syzygy novel.

I highly recommend checking out this novel. A mere $1.99 will get you many hours of entertainment that you will not regret one bit. Amanda also has a short story up at Smashwords for free if you’ve never tried an e-book before and want to see how the whole process works first. I’m fairly new to the e-book experience myself, so it was great to download and read these. Now I feel like a pro.

Now, onto the interview!

How long have you been writing? Both in general, and how long did you
work on Syzygy?

Well, I wrote my first story when I was in sixth grade and decided to be a writer. Then, in seventh grade I realized I would never be as good as Ray Bradbury and gave up the dream.

Cut to a giga-billion years later- An artist friend of mine read our kids a book by Peter Reynolds called *Ish* which basically gave the message that things you draw don’t have to look exactly like they really are. It’s tree-ish. Car-ish. Etc. So, I grew the courage to start drawing.

I drew little comics of my teenage daughter going on adventures with Sirius Black and Doctor Who and other little cartoons. My stories got more complicated than I could draw, so I started writing full-blown fan fiction. My husband challenged me to write something I could legitimately publish for money. So, I started searching for my novel. I found it on a BART train on the way to San Francisco in 2007.

I saw this scruffy guy standing by the train door looking all moody and slouchy. I thought, “He sure is trying to look tough.” Then I thought, “What if he really is tough and has good reason to be moody? What if he has a fantastic back-story?” So, Finn was born.

Did you have the story planned out ahead of time, or did it evolve as you wrote?

For sure it evolved as I wrote. The narration completely changed. Ugh! I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but just know that the whole mental hospital part was not in the original plan. And I didn’t even know how it was going to end until I was well into the project.

When I learned the end of the story, I went back and changed how I narrated and added the mental hospital scenes. Then the patient had to go through the whole novel with me and infuse his voice into the narration. It’s there, very subtly at first and grows as time goes on.

I definably saw little bits of your personality in the book, like your fun, quirky sense of humor, but not focused in one character. Do you identify with any one character more? Or does one feel more similar to your own personality?

Thanks. I love quirky! No, I don’t think I identify with any particular character personality-wise. I can identify with Lucas because he’s trying so hard to protect and guide the young people. But our personalities are very different. He’s wiser, has more patience, and is a lot braver than I am. He’s also perhaps the least quirky of the bunch. Some of his phrases came from my husband’s mouth. Like when he answers “Yes,” to Bea’s question, which wasn’t a “yes” or “no” question. My husband can be maddening like that.

Did you intentionally avoid creating a character that shared too much of your personality?

No, I didn’t intentionally avoid creating a character with my personality. What a fascinating question. I guess I felt I was behind the camera while writing rather than in front of it. I incorporated bits of people I know and situations I saw. Even the characters who began loosely based on a person didn’t stay that way. They grew their own uniqueness.

Do you have plans for a sequel, or for any other stories featuring the same characters? (Hint, hint – I think Uncle Lucas has some fun stories to tell.)

Yes, he sure would. And Collin too! I have a vision of a sequel in that I know what happens to every character, but I don’t know if I’ll write it. We’ll see if the world demands a Syzygy Two. Then, maybe a Syzygy III in 3D.

I’ve written a handful of short stories set before the time of the novel. You can see one on my blog. Those characters just won’t leave me be. Hey, if it gets popular maybe people will write Syzygy fan fiction.

Can you tell us about any other writing projects you’re working on now?

Besides the occasional short story, I’m working on a zombie-apocalypse novel, because, as you know, the world is short of those. It’s a romance called, *The Last Guy on Earth Who’s Not a Zombie*. And my niece, Jasmine, and I may collaborate on a graphic novel called *Twelve Keys*, set in a California transformed by mysterious forces that bring modern day, the gold-mining era, and the magical realm together. This is the same niece who created the cover and promotional artwork for Syzygy. We’ll see how it goes. We’ve never published anything like this before. I downloaded the guidelines from Dark Horse Comics, so I figure we’re experts, right?

I’ve heard all kinds of opinions about traditional publishing vs. e-publishing, and it seems like something that will continue to change for awhile. How has the process of publishing an e-book been for you? Now that you’ve gone through it, would you do it the same way if you had it to do over?

No, I would run the other direction and slam headlong into the nearest wall. I’m kidding. Smashwords- well, Mark Coker at Smashwords, made it as painless as possible. I ran into snags because of technical stuff, but really, it’s not very difficult and I’m a technical idiot. There is a lot of waiting involved- waiting for files to upload and be distributed, but I guess that’s the case in regular publishing too.

I’m just grateful that Smashwords and Amazon make it so easy to epublish. Some go a more tech-savvy route and create actual apps for Apple and all of that, but I am happy with the shortcut way.

I love your YouTube channel for Finn. The search especially is so well tied into the Syzygy novel. It may be more fun for those who have already read the book than a promotional tool though. Can you tell us a little about how you came to make these fun videos?

Oh, the Search Stories? Yeah, they are fun. I stumbled on one somebody had done for Ron Weasley preparing for going off to Hogwarts and it was hecka funny. I saw at the end that YouTube had a program where you can simply plug in your search and pick music. It creates the video for you.

My character, Finn, does in fact conduct on-line searches to find Bea, so naturally I had to make a Search Story for him. The one I did for Sam was just a whim. I included some details from the novel as well as some things I knew about him that never made it into the book.

Aside from Sygyzy, where can folks read more of your work?

I have a cute werewolf story at “Lightning Flash Magazine,” a vampire story at “Shadowcast Audio Anthology,” and there’s a freebie urban fantasy on my Smashwords page. For the full list of my stories with links you can go to the sidebar of my blog http://afortnightofmustard.blogspot.com/

Thanks so much for giving us this great interview!

Thank you. This has been so much fun! Interview me any time. 🙂