Happy Holiday Season

christmas-2016It is the end of another great year.

I didn’t quite reach the goals I planned at the beginning of the year but goals can and do change.

Over all I’m happy with what I have achieved.

I’m taking a little break over Christmas this year. I’ll still be writing but not sharing as much.

I won’t be blogging as regularly next year but I’ll be back on 15 January to tell you about my plans for 2017.

The newsletter is moving to the end of the month, expect the next one at end of January and will fill you in on all my holiday fun. If you haven’t signed up for the newsletter, did you know that you get a free book?

Thanks for a great year.

Enjoy the festive season with family and friends and have a safe and happy New Year.

What I have learnt from 2016

phone-1163

I have learnt far more than I was expecting to this year. Not all of it was easy to learn, but is was useful now I know. Here is a round up of what I have learnt looking back over 2016.

 

I don’t put in as much time as I think I do on my writing

I’m still tracking my time but I go through stretches where I’m really good, other times I’m not.

 

I need to look after myself

If I’m too knackered to write, don’t beat myself up but rest and regroup. Found this out the hard way when I really crashed in February this year. And working around day job and children means there will be time when there isn’t the energy to write.

 

Life happens – go with it

And that isn’t always easy. From crazy dance schedules to losing a friend, life will interrupt the writing. But then writing can help deal with life at times. There will be times when writing can’t happen and you just have to go with it. The key is to ensure you write when you can.

 

Be realistic in planning

I try to do this all the time, but this year I really didn’t allow appropriate time for several stages of a project and it threw me out completely. I have adjusted for this for 2017 and spent lots of time double checking and then allowing extra time – just in case. I just need to ensure I’m where I want to be at the end of December.

 

I am still enjoying the writing process

Sometimes it all seems too hard to rework a story or fix a plot point; but when it comes down to it I would rather be writing than doing anything else. I still enjoy the flow of words across the page (when they flow) and the stories that develop as I write. I have a developed a few more ideas this year that I’m not going to be able to do anything with yet, but they are little seeds growing into story ideas all the same.

 

Outsourcing is great

I’m not always very good at this, but I have reached outside of my comfort zone to employ cover designers and a proofreader this year. The relationships with both worked really well and will continue it into next year and other projects.

 

Changes for 2017

There aren’t many – in fact there is only one. I found as the year continued that meeting my blogging schedule in my limited writing time was becoming harder. I would like to continue to blog but not as often. So it will be more of an irregular blogging schedule and more when I have something specific to talk about.

I will continue to release a monthly newsletter and will maintain the website.

I have big plans for books next year and leading into 2018!

Stay tuned, I’ll release my plans for next year in January.

What exercise can do for your writing

Having fun with exercise helps clear the mind.
Having fun with exercise helps clear the mind.

I got a little sluggish over winter and then we were away for the annual retreat (although my writing buddy exercised, I chose not to). Over the weeks that followed I struggled with my writing due to a lack of confidence with the Raven Crown Series and I slacked off – with everything.

Then with a bit of a push I got back into a regular exercise regime and I’m finding the shift in energy is assisting with my writing.

Looking after the body looks after the mind.

I find that I need to concentrate when I exercise, particularly at the gym with weights, and counting repetitions. Concentrating so fully on the exercise cuts out all the noise in my head; all the worries and story ideas and lists of things to do. As well as building up my strength, and getting out of the chair – as my day job is sitting down, my writing is sitting down –  it clears the mind to allow the creativity to flow when I do sit down to write.

In a way exercise is a form of mindful meditation.

To assist the writing it is worth ensuring the body is strong. Managing exercise time is just as important as managing your writing time. And it helps maintain your energy levels so that you can write when you have the time.

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/

Writing through loss

toddThis is not the post I planned to write this week, nor is it one I would usually write and share.

Last weekend, when it appeared for the rest of us that his life was falling into place, my friend chose to end his life.

I’m devastated at his loss. I’m angry that he would be so selfish in his actions. And I’m sad that he thought this course of action was his only option; that beyond his own despair he could see no light, no hope.

From this loss I’m trying to take something useful, something meaningful. Because I don’t want to give up. I don’t want to stop living just because he chose to. I’m not sure how that fits with my feelings of grief, or it is some selfishness coming to the surface. Maybe it is because I have a daughter I don’t want to leave or that I can’t picture a world so bad, or things so difficult that leaving her would ever be an option.

Grief affects us all differently. I have found writing about it helped far more than talking. Generally for me, when life gets hard or stressful, writing is my outlet.

In some ways my friend’s choice has reaffirmed mine. It has refocused my writing and my clarity that I should be doing what I want to be doing. My friend has gone, and in one of the worst ways – he chose to go. But in his passing I have found a determination to go on living. Not just for me, but those around me. To go on loving those in my life and give all I can.

If you are struggling with depression, please seek help.