2018 is going to be huge!

Welcome to a new year and as excited as I am, I think I might have already over committed. There is so much that I want to achieve this year and I seem to be trying to squeeze much of it into January.

I am looking for new beta readers, so I’ve joined a Facebook group, and signed up to beta read for two authors. I would like to give something back to other writers before I start asking for myself.

I’m always looking for reviews and I try to review everything I read, but I have downloaded two books recently to review in the coming month. At least I’m already half way through one. I have also started an advanced reader group to get some reviews of my own. If you would like to be a part of this group, I have attached a link at the end of this post.

I’m working on editing two Raven Crown Books – although I’m focused on book 2, I am doing some work on book 3. Both will be published during 2018.

I am starting a new series this year, I’m planning to draft all three in the first quarter and get book 1 out to the world before Christmas. At least the outlining is already done, so the writing should be relatively smooth.

I opted in on a new fantasy anthology and need to have a completed story by the end of February. I also have a solid outline for this and the drafting so far is going well but it is a short turn around.

I was pleased with the short story I used as part of the launch for Raven’s Dawn and I’d like to create a new short story for the launch of each new novel. Some of these might be very short, but I have already included them in the planning for each book.

Iski and I had some serious communication problems last year, but I think things are back on track for us and I plan to complete and publish episodes seven to nine this year, and have episode ten ready to publish early in 2019.

Talking of 2019, there are so many stories already trying to get my attention and be written as soon as possible. I am planning a sequel to the Mark of Oldra and there are a couple of other trilogies swirling around the back of my mind. I would like to get these outlined over 2018, to be started in 2019.

As you can see, 2018 is shaping up to be a big year. Did I mention that I’m also hoping to read more?

I hope your 2018 is just as fantastic.

If you are interested is free books, check out my promotions page to see the giveaways I’m currently involved in. If you would like to get the chance to read my books before everyone else in return for an honest review, sign up to my advanced reader group.

How long does it take to write a book?

how-long-does-it-take-to-write-a-bookEveryone wants the answer to this question to be simple and the response along the lines of “It’s easy” and “Of course it doesn’t take long!”

But it isn’t.

Writing is hard and it takes time.

I have pumped out first drafts in reasonably quick time frames, but then there is a lot more work required after that.

There are edits required and I don’t care how good you think the first draft is, you are going to need to at least read through it again, and tweak something. And if this is your first book, there will be quite a few tweaks and changes needed.

 

Track your time

I track how long I spend doing different tasks. This tells me lots of things, how long each part of the writing process takes, how much time I spend writing, how much time I don’t spend writing.

Cleary the more time you put into a book the quicker the process. But it does need time to rest and ruminate to help it grow big and strong.

With all the writing and re-writing and non-writing time I spent with the Mark of Oldra it took me years. If I had knuckled down and focused better it would have only taken a fraction of that time. But then I didn’t think it through before hand and I found the thinking time between writing times helpful.

 

Planning and Outlining

I started out a pantser. Partly because I didn’t know any better. Now I am far more organised, at least planning out key points and character arcs before I start writing.

I am already playing with ideas for my next big project. These will expand into a solid outline and then beats for each scene before I start writing. Although I do have some time to do that, I’m booked up with other projects – namely the Raven Crown Series – and I won’t be able to start drafting until 2018. But I am going to be very ready when I start, and hopefully that will make the writing process smoother, and involve less re-writing. And thus speed up the writing process.

I hope to become the ultimate planner.

 

Just how long…

My writing process has taken years of learning, trial and error.

Each writing project teaches you more about the writing process and what that means to you, how you could do it better, how you could do it differently.

I don’t know that I will ever find the perfect system, the perfect process for writing a book. It seems to be evolving and it may be that for different projects what works for one, won’t work with another.

 

I’m not sure that I have answered the question.

In fact I’m not sure there is a steadfast answer that we could all use.

Writing is different for all of us. Life around writing is different for all of us. Our discipline and focus shifts.

Make notes, learn all you can from other writers, and track what you do and how that works or doesn’t work for you.

Determine how long it takes you to write a book and then see if you can apply process that with the next book.

Assuming that my outline and beats are perfect before I start my next project; and assuming my focus is razor sharp; that I’m still working full time; and that my current practices still hold, it will take me about 10 months from drafting to published. This includes a lot of assumptions. It may be that I finish sooner or it may take me longer.

The importance of outlining

 

A well developed outline produces a story to remember
A well developed outline produces a story to remember

As I am well into a range of projects it might be a bit of a strange area to focus on structure and outlining at the moment. But as I rework the Raven Crown Series after the beta readers took it apart it seems the right place to be.

 

Why it is important to outline:

If you have been following my blog for a while you will be well aware that I started life as a pantser. And, until recently I was still pantsing my way through more of my stories than I should have been. I am getting better at outlining before I start, but I’m still far too brief.

There is still a part of me that worries if I have the outline too clearly written out there is nowhere for the characters to go.

A clear outline gives direction and a place for the characters to work within. It also greatly reduces the chances of hitting a hole in the plot or a place where you don’t know what is to happen next. It also ensures that the story hits all the important milestones on its way to the end.

 

Structural tips to build your outline:

I have used a number of different techniques to develop my outlines, including combinations of methods and sometimes that stays the same and sometimes it changes.

The Snowflake method builds up the story and characters from one line to an in depth narrative. I use most of the steps, usually not the last few, and I find it useful as a developmental tool.

KM Weiland is brilliant in structure and out line and it is well worth looking at her books on this. I use her three act structure outline and plug my story into it from the work I do in the snowflake method.

Chuck Wendig wrote a great post on 25 Ways to plot plan and prep your story. There is something for everyone here but be warned, he’s not afraid to say it how it is and some may find his straight forward approach offensive.

Libby HawkerTake off your pants book on outlining:

I found this interesting as it uses the main character’s flaws, wants and needs. I thought this a useful tool as it gave me a better picture of my character. This produced a fairly good outline in just one page and reasonably quickly.

You only have to google plotting or outlining to find lots of outlining ideas.

 

How well that seems to be working:

Overall I use a combination of the different processes I have found. I’m slowly working out what works best for me. But the key points I’ve discovered are:

  1. Know your characters
  2. Keep the story moving forward
  3. Make it interesting/exciting/engaging.

 

Where to next:

As I review my series outline and ensure my story moves forward in an engaging manner, I have a clearer idea of what should happen.

Now I need to implement the changes in the outline to the story itself.

 

How easy do you find creating an outline?

 

Other useful plotting links:

http://www.novel-writing-help.com/how-to-plot-a-novel.html

https://www.writersedit.com/how-to-outline-your-novel-11-easy-steps/

Ensuring the flow of ink continues across the page…

The Flow of Ink
The Flow of Ink

I have stressed a little over the last couple of weeks about my drafting processes and the progress of my current work. The stress threatened to halt the writing process altogether but I was determined not to let it.

The key is to focus on the fact that this is drafting and it doesn’t have to be perfect at this point. I just need to get the story down and sort out the problems in the next draft or revision process. The majority of what I have so far is following my outline and I have even drafted (most of) it in chronological order.

But now I am seeing the gaps and losing characters and…stressing.

To prevent the onset of writer’s block and keep the work flowing this is what I am trying:

Write. It doesn’t matter how, or whether the scenes are in order or even if the scene is in my outline. Just getting the story down however it comes to me. Previously I have written out of sequence and so I am allowing myself to write anywhere over the three books when I need to. When I get stuck, I read through the last scene I wrote and then go from there.

Any idea could be a good idea. I am exploring new ideas as they form. Given that this is a first draft they may not survive the next one but a new idea could spark a better, stronger story.

No stressing about where characters are or what they are doing when I’m not writing them directly. They are important and I should spend some time thinking about them, and I do, but not worry during the writing process as to where they were before they walked into the room. If I am relaxed about it, the more likely they are to tell me where they have been. Giving my characters space to tell their story is important. I’ll let them tell me what they think they want and I can rein them in during the next draft if required. Sometimes they surprise me in a great way and I don’t want to lose that.

Using Scrivener to arrange my scenes. I took every scene and put it into a separate document in a Scrivener binder. I have kept all three books together so that I can clearly see what I have got. As I have started writing out of order it is easy to put the scene into the right place. And with each scene listed I can see what is missing, where my gaps are and who’s POV might have slipped a bit.

Reminding myself that this is the first draft (or the Blah draft as a friend calls it). It certainly is not perfect nor should it be. It is to get the story down and test the plot and the characters and learn about them as they develop on the page. It is ok if it is crap. That is what revision is for, to clear out the exposition and better define characters and setting.

 

Focusing on things like the number of words still to go, or the number of hours needed until it is readable just slows the creative process down and, as it did recently, threaten to halt it. I am pleased that the words are still flowing, sometimes fast and furious and sometimes at a snail’s pace but they flow non-the-less.

Are your words flowing?

7 Ways to Boost Creative Productivity

productivity 

I am finalising the current edit of my novel and as it draws to a close I am thinking about the next project and the one after that, and after that and how to ensure I continue to write. My current level of productivity is not what I would like it to be, particularly if I want it to carry me into a “writing career”.

During my breaks from reading through my novel, I have been researching productivity and I have discovered a mistake I may have been making in my current activities.

I have been applying a lot of business related productivity tools and theories to my writing life and processes. Some of these tools and tips have been useful. But overall my creative productivity has not improved. I still struggle with blocks and procrastination at times.

I have a plan and being a single parent there are times when I’m not going to get the time I want to write. And I’m currently living with my parents while I build a house which is distracting and the fact that I’m not living in my own space…

And breathe…

Ok, so a lot goes on in the average writer’s life. That is what life is and it is a matter finding ways to work around it.

I have talked in the past about finding time and taking action on your goals but what do we really need to do to sit at the computer or desk and write and write as much as we possibly can?

 

1. Set realistic writing goals

Before you start you need to know where you are going and why. Set realistic achievable goals that are meaningful to you.

For examples of goal setting see here.

2. Know what and when works best for you

When are you most productive?

The only one to really know this is you.

Keep records of your writing to map your productivity. Include as many details as you can, such as where you wrote and what time of day and how many words you produced in that time. Once you know what times are most productive for you, or writing place you will be able to maximise your writing output. (From 2k-10k)

3. Develop a writing ritual (triggering habit)

A triggering habit is one that triggers your brain that it is time to do something, such as write.

Of a morning, as soon as I wake, I stretch, make a cup of tea and then sit at my desk. This set of steps puts me into the writing mode and I am able to find the flow quite quickly. If I deviate from this, such as check emails first, or check the news on the TV, then I am lost and I can’t settle into writing until later in the day.

When writing in other places I have other rituals; for example, when writing in the library at lunch time, I walk from my office straight there and select a quiet desk on the second floor, pull my things from my bag, review my plans, put my handbag on the shelf above the desk what I don’t need beside it and the clear desk only contains the writing to do and a pen. Then off I go, trying to write or edit as much and as well as I can before I have to head back to the office.

4. Planning and outlining

Having a clear plan of what you what to achieve in a writing period will help focus the mind on the writing at hand.

An outline helps the drafting process and something I have battled with myself. Determining what may happen in the story before you write it can be just as fun as pantsing – and I am trialling this with my next (nearly current) project and I will explore it more as I start this process.

5. Cut out the distractions

We all find different things distracting, social media, noise or children. Determine what distracts you most and find ways to reduce these impacting on your writing.

It may be that you need to organise some quiet time away from the family, or it may be implementing a blocking program to stop you surfing the internet, or turning off the television.

6. Set deadlines

This doesn’t work for everyone and I know that often if I set my own deadlines they are passed over without a thought. If deadlines work for you, great; if not, consider making them public.

I did this recently with my call out for readers and the promise that my current work would be finished and ready to go around mid-August – which it nearly is.

7. Allow yourself some time when you need it

Don’t try to push too hard when energy levels are low. You have to look after yourself to get the most writing done.

Getting enough sleep is an important part of that. I know that after 9pm I’m not much good for anything. I could sit up and watch the telly then, or go to bed get rested and be fresh to start early the next morning (I like 4.30/5am but it is so cold at the moment that my toes don’t always agree).

 

These are my tips on boosting your creative productivity, and it may be that only some of these work for you, but some increase in productivity is going to get you writing more sooner. For more try these books.

Could one or all of these strategies work for you? Or have you tried something completely different that has increased your productivity? Please share your stories.

Planning for Annual Writing Retreat

calendar

Great excitement as our second annual writing retreat comes closer. I am actually counting the sleeps until we get there.

No phones, no Internet and a focused writing buddy for five whole days.

But what will I write?

Last year I worked on my fantasy novel, which I am currently editing the final chapters of (and trying not to let the next project interfere with). I am so close to the end but it is hard going at the moment.

By the time we reach the retreat this will be out with readers and so I can focus on something new. And it is hard not to start planning now and ignore my editing.

I have several project ideas bubbling away but I want to focus on just one and it is looking like it will be the medieval fantasy trilogy. This story has been itching to be written for a while now.

Before I reach the retreat I would like to have the rough outline currently in my head clearly laid out and character sketches complete so that I can spend my uninterrupted days drafting. I have the (possibly crazy) plan of writing around 50,000 words over the retreat this year so a clear outline will be essential.

Over the last week I have been reviewing articles and books on structure and outline and will upload a structure template into Scrivener before I go. With the structure clear and a good idea where the story is going, drafting should be quite easy and fun. I’m also looking forward to the freedom of a first draft, which is something quite magical that I don’t get to experience often enough.

There are lots of stories competing to be written, ideas that bubble away and fight for attention. Some growing quickly while others fizzle out. What makes you write one story over another?