2019 Writing Retreat

I have already been back from my retreat for almost as long as I was on it. Usually I’m super keen to tell you how my time away went. This year it was a little more difficult. My story wasn’t working like I wanted it to, I couldn’t picture the end, and this is the end of a series, so the pressure was on. I came back exhausted and although I had a tonne of work to do, I didn’t.

I caught up on all the tv I missed over the week. And what seemed like far too much washing for one child for one week. My mum watched the child, cats and house and despite keeping everything running, and organising to get the wallpaper up that we have talked about the last 12 months – I had a room filled with piles of books and I couldn’t seem to get comfortable in my own home.

What should have been an invigorating, enthusiasm building and restorative retreat ended up nearly wiping me out creatively.

So instead of racing to tell you what I’ve done, I hid away for a bit.  I struggled through a painful read through of my novel, where I wrote rude messages to myself, highlighted problem sections and groaned (a lot). Feeling all was lost I finally started the editing process. And part way through page 1 I found myself again.

First morning

Last morning

This was salvageable. It wasn’t too bad, just needs a bit of rearranging, and pulling together. After stressing myself out completely, I’m actually feeling okay about it now. I still haven’t got the ending pulled together, but as of this morning I’m only on Chapter 3. And I know now that it will come as the characters and I settle into a story we are all happy with.

The good news about the retreat –I slept really well, ate badly but enjoyed every sugary mouthful, drank a bit much, walked in the sunshine, watched the birds play in the bottlebrush, practiced my Chinese and wrote just over 50, 000 words. They were like wringing blood from a stone, but they were words non-the-less. I even managed to wash some clothes and we didn’t burn through too much wood (like we usually do).

This year we started on a Sunday, when we usually go away midweek and return midweek. There is not very much open on a Sunday morning, so things were a little different. But we managed the same shopping routine, had a nice lunch and stocked up on sugar and wine before we reached the cottage. I also played a bit with my camera (phone) as you can see from some of the photos attached.

We even watched a couple of movies this year, just to rest the brain.

I worry that I’m not going to make the deadlines I have set myself, but if I can get this to the editor on time, and continue to write, I might be able to get back to where I thought I would be.

I kind of got a bit carried away this year as I decided it was time to focus on this writing business properly. I have actually mapped out a pretty tough schedule that covered not only this year but the next 2 years as well.

So now that I’m feeling a little calmer about the book, it is back to the writing, and I only hope I can keep the books coming as rapidly as I would like. And I haven’t forgotten about Iski – he will be back. He is just not as close to the top of the pile at the moment.

Working with Beta Readers

Chapter 8 editingI recently sent my novel out to a group of beta readers. In the past I have begged a few friends to read for me; this time I put out an official request for volunteers on Twitter and the various Facebook groups I belong to. And I was really stoked with the response.

I warned readers from the get go that it would be a short turn around and the dates I wanted it read. In all I got 10 beta readers sign up.

Not everyone was going to love the story but it was a good cross section and I thought it would provide a great range of views.

To make life easier I used Mail Chimp to send it out. That way everyone had the same file and instructions and there wasn’t the chance of leaked email addresses. But I came across a couple of problems.

Firstly, if an email was incorrect and bounced it was then deleted from the list. Thankfully I had downloaded the list before the send and so I could see who was missing but it took me a few days to work out why they were no longer on the list, then track them down and check details.

What I would do in the future is have a section in the list that tells me where I captured the reader from. And I need to check regularly after the email goes out to see that it all went well.

Secondly, Mail Chimp does not like gmail addresses. I remembered vaguely reading this somewhere but although it says it sent the email it doesn’t seem to arrive at the other end. I had to individually send out emails to two on the list as they didn’t get it with everyone else.

But the overall benefit that all the information was kept together and secure made it worthwhile.

Then it was the waiting and waiting for them to come back to me with comments and the like. Although it wasn’t really that much waiting as I had a two week turn around and other things to do while they read.

Once I had most returned I combined all the comments into one document via a fancy trick I picked up for Word. This allowed me to read through and correct as I went with all the comments in one place. Other than the one friend who printed hers out and used a pencil, but that’s ok too (I manually added hers).

 

What I discovered was:

Firstly, not everyone will follow through. There were some non-responders and several after the deadline. It is worth setting a dead line a bit sooner than what you actually need (something to remember for next time).

Secondly, a week was a stupid amount of time to get the responses together and make corrections and send to the proof reader. I was going to need a lot more time to make sure this story was as good as it could be.

Thirdly, everyone reads differently. I had a couple of responses that just picked up the typos and marked where they got a little lost or confused or a sentence didn’t read well. Others found the timeline tricky, the setting not detailed enough, some characters shallow and the plot not thick enough. All of these comments were excellent and raised some really interesting points.

 

What I did with the comments:

After the panic subsided as to how much work I really needed to do on this book, I remembered I had the same experience with my last novel. And clearly I hadn’t learnt from that experience.

I pooled all the comments together and then glanced through them.

Had another panic.

Then, with a deep breath, I took in what they were saying and dissected the novel. I marked out each chapter, the POV, the main conflict and possible problems/issues and the main structural points I should have been seeing.

As I did this some solutions came to mind. Ideas about changes to the plot (mostly small), things characters could do differently to show their thinking better, changes in setting, extra scenes, scenes to delete or change POV.

There was a lot swirling around in my head. But although there was a lot to do I was only looking at what would make this stronger.

 

Where I am now:

I am starting the process of actually rewriting/editing the novel to implement the changes outlined above. Part of this is an edit, either moving scenes around, expanding them or killing them off.  Part of this process is writing, creating new scenes or ideas and fitting them in. I am reviewing the main plot points to make sure they are clear and relevant to my protagonist.

The best piece of advice I have received through all of this is from one of my beta readers, who got it through a course he did.

That is to keep asking myself as I write/edit/plot –

“Why is this scene needed? Why is it needed here?”

I am trying to take that into account as I work through this edit.

 

When will you get to read it?

As I first pulled the comments together I really hoped I could get this work done before Christmas. I need to be realistic about the amount of work required, the reviewing process, proofreading, preparing for publication and so on.

I want you to get the best book I can create, so as I go I’m reviewing my plan and timelines but it looks like early next year at this stage.

 

Beta readers

No matter the comments they are all useful. If you are writing, I would strongly suggest a getting a group of readers to have a look. To make sure it does flow on the page as well as it does in the mind of the writer. And it doesn’t have to cost you. Ask around, you might be surprised who puts their hand up to have a look.

2016 Midyear Goal Review

Goals for writers

Back at the beginning of the year my writing goals included:

  • Reading every day
  • Continuing with the Legend of Iski Flare novella series with episodes 2, 3 and 4 planned for release this year
  • The Raven Crown series books 1 and 2 planned for release this year. (Book 3 in 2017)
  • The Mark of Oldra (formerly known as Snow) will be released at the beginning of February
  • The Flow of Ink will continue to blog every week and produce a monthly newsletter. I am changing the posting day to Sunday.
  • Improve my marketing skills to boost readership of my books and blog
  • There will be some ideas generating for next year, including expansions on some of the larger works I’m putting out this year and a new series that has started bubbling away.

 

This year I set myself some pretty intensive writing goals.

That was because I thought that if I knuckled down I could produce a lot more quality writing than what I had been.

When I looked at my first quarter some things were a little behind but I was confident I could pick up.

When I made my plan for 2016 I thought I would spend at least 2 hours writing every day. This hasn’t always been the case and sometimes the two hours wasn’t enough to get done what I thought I could.

As of end of June, this is where I am at:

 

The Flow of Ink

I am managing to maintain my weekly blog post. I’m not always organised ahead of time, that is, I would like to schedule blocks of posts at a time. But I’m usually still finalising and finding pictures the morning they are posted. Although this is disappointing I am getting better and the posts are making the website by Sunday.

I am working on improving the website but given my tech abilities this is slow. That may be more to do with confidence as I’m finding by googling ideas for plugins it is easier than I think to do things. I have updated my book page so that it looks more uniform and professional, with nice buttons to link straight to the book page.

 

The Mark of Oldra

After years of work I finally published The Mark of Oldra (formerly known as Snow) my first full length novel, I am really happy with how it ended up.

I am currently working on a print copy which I think I will sell by print on demand and then if it works well, I will look at shopping it around the bookshops.

 

The Legend of Iski Flare

I was a little relaxed in the exact publishing dates for each episode of this series and I have tried to be a little more strict, although I had to push out Episode Two, Red Wolves, by a week.

Episode Three – Heartless is due for release in July and is on track. I am enjoying this book more than the previous and it is a little longer.

Episode Four – The Piper (working title) is in the planning stages and I hope to publish in November. It depends how other writing projects are going, this may be moved forward.

 

The Raven Crown Series

Initially I hoped to get two books out this year and the third early next year.

This has taken longer than I thought – mostly because there was some serious work involved in the editing and I wasn’t putting as much time into it as I should have been. The first edit showed up more holes but the overall story is solid and I’m reasonably pleased with it. I am currently working through the second edit.

I have commissioned a professional cover, which I should see in July/August. I was hoping to publish in August but to be sure that I am putting up a quality product that may need to be pushed out.

 

Social Media

I am still learning here. I’m getting better with Twitter but fear I’m only pushing my books sometimes and I feel the same about Facebook. I have started using Hootsuite to help schedule posts.

There were suggestions that I get into Pinterest – but I am only using this as a reference for ideas for my stories at this point.

I am working my way through a Facebook Advertising for Authors course at the moment in the hope of improving my marketing skills and increase my email list.

 

Reading

I am reading every night and very slowly working my way through the bedside pile, although I add to it all the time. I’m reviewing more and joined a review group. And despite the amount I have to read I keep buying more, and promising more reviews.

 

Additional Stories

My plan for additional short stories went out the window, completely flew away. As the year progressed I realised it was far more important to focus on the main stories/projects and not worry about short side stories for now. And the story that has been bubbling away in the background has starting bubbling a bit more furiously.

 

Overall I am reasonably pleased with how I’m going. I am more or less on track. Although there are times that I feel that it is a moving feast and my plans and goals change. But really it is only the little things, which project to focus on some days, or adjusting end dates. My main goal remains the same – to write and to one day write full time.

I’m trying not to stress about how many books I’m not selling and focus on producing good stories.