7 Things I Did During My Writing Break

Well, it’s been two weeks since I took my “writing break” and I have one week to go. And what did I discover? I do a lot of writing. When I am not writing, I actually have some free time. Here are some of the things I’ve done over the past two weeks.

  1. Reread Petroleum Sunset Episode 3 – Prince of Hicksville – and contemplated whether or not I want to publish it by itself or bundle it up with the first 2 episodes. I do think I should rewrite the whole series, and keep the voice while eliminating the dialect spelling. On my ToDo list for when I have time. But hey! The cover is already done.
  2. Revealed to my husband a scheme I had been hatching to collaborate on an epic fantasy based on one of his role playing game plots. It really is a terrific plot with this highly claustrophobic setting. Plus, it has paladins. He is intrigued.
  3. Went over to my old Fantasy Debut site and spruced it up, removing the sidebar notices about it having moved to this site. No, I have not restarted that blog. This is in the “thinking about” stage. When I ran Fantasy Debut it was manageable alongside my fiction writing, whereas Debuts & Reviews was not.
  4. Reread my Christian supernatural and made a few edits here and there. If I move forward with this novel, I will self-publish. This plot is probably the most intense one I’ve ever attempted. Only The Sevenfold Spell comes close.
  5. Played a lot fewer video games that I expected. My Morrowind character seems hopeless, and I am daunted at the idea of starting over. Again. I tried Dragon Age, but I can’t get out of that stupid and endless Fade subplot. What were they thinking? And then my Xbox crashed (we have one of the bad power packs, and the replacement we ordered was just as bad) and I lost interest. I’ve played a lot of MineCraft with my daughter. We are building Elsa’s ice castle.
  6. Discovered Star Trek Continues. Watched all 3 episodes. Considering funding the next Kickstarter. Yes. It was that good. Review upcoming.
  7. Started to teach my daughter calligraphy. Bought some fresh marker pens, and a calligraphy ruler.

So what do I do in my spare time when I’m not writing? Well, as it turns out, I’m … mostly writing.

East of Yesterday Complete!

Exciting news! I have finally finish drafting East of Yesterday!

Here’s some quick stats:

  • Genre – Time Travel Historical with light science fiction elements
  • Length – 111,000 words
  • Point-of-View – Third Person
  • Number of Points-of-View Characters 4 major, 5 minor
  • Number of Chapters – 46
  • Oldest file time/date stamp: 6/7/2009 for “brainstorming.doc”

This book is in a better state of polish than I have ever achieved with an initial draft, but that’s mostly because it isn’t really an initial draft. I have stopped resisting the impulse to edit as I draft, and I do think it worked out better for me this way. True, I sketched out the initial scenes back in 2009, but during that time, I rewrote and published The Sevenfold Spell, drafted and published The Magic Mirror and the Seventh Dwarf, wrote three Petroleum Sunset stories, self-published two of them, and wrote a significant amount for two other fairy tales (which I may get back to one day). Plus, I wrote a quarter of a Christian suspense that I have indefinitely shelved, and revised Magic by Starlight.

Obviously, I was getting nowhere. Last year, I stopped such a scattershot approach and picked the WIP that I thought had the greatest chance to succeed. Since then, I have been working on this novel exclusively.

The manuscript I have now is in much better shape than any other first draft I have ever managed. When I start a writing session, I go back to reread and edit what I wrote during the previous session.  This helps me continue on with the same tone/ voice (which I alter per POV). Another thing I do, is when I have a revision that affects another part of the manuscript, I drop a bookmark (the word “here” formatted with a special style), go make the revision, and then go back and reread to ensure everything is in sync.

Next steps:

  • Ship off to beta reader
  • Take a two or three-week break–until she sends feedback
  • Sweep the novel according to my manuscript clean-up process
  • Read it aloud/final polish
  • Write synopsis and pitch

I am hoping to be ready to look for an agent by March.

Edit: here is a link to my East of Yesterday page.

Writing Engines are Humming

What a week. Using the road map I made for myself last week, I finally gritted my way through a very difficult rewrite, pushing East of Yesterday up to over 100,000 words. Then I started cutting scenes that had become either redundant or irrelevant after the rewrite, and chopped it down to 97,000 words. And now I’m back up to 99,000 with nothing but blank pages before me.

And right now, that’s a beautiful thing. I don’t have blank page syndrome–I had full page syndrome. I had page after page of irrelevancy and redundancy, with tiny dollops here and there of stuff I needed to keep. I was daunted at the thought of straightening it all out. But I pressed on and pressed through, and now I can see the end in sight.

One thing I keep running into is what I call temporal inconsistencies. I don’t do a lot of twisting time in knots–because it’s really difficult to follow–but what little I do has to be consistent from either end of time. It’s hard to explain. You’ll have to read it for yourself. Well, I caught myself writing in an inconsistency when I was going to have someone warn someone else about something he has already done, but has yet to do. And then I realized the warning made no sense. And then I realized that it could make sense, if I just tweaked it a little bit.

Here’s a snip, from Mike’s point-of-view. He’s talking to his friend, Brad. It starts with Mike.

“Wait. Did you say you were going to ride home with him?”

“Yup. All the way to 1975. Remember that weird problem I had back then? When you said I’d been in a fight, but I really wasn’t?”

“Yeah?”

“Well, you described a guy that looked a lot like this Lysander cat. I don’t know what I did, but I guess I’ll find out, right? And we do know I pop him a good one and he’s down for the count?”

“Well … yeah.”

“So you head back to the 20s and hang tight. I’ll misdirect him back to the 70s, use my Good Knight on him, and I’ll be back before you get home.”

“But how—“

“Look, I can’t stay—they think I’m out to take a piss. Just get out of here, for the love of God. They’re still looking for Adele.”

And he ran off into the night.

The Good Knight is what he calls is famous (or infamous) right jab.

It’s fun to write. And I’m hoping it’s fun to read as well. :)

End-of-Book Slog

So I guess I’m on hiatus. Kind of.

I’ve written over 100,000 words of East of Yesterday, and I’m trying to wrestle this story into a satisfying ending. My productivity has been steady but not great. I am slowly working through it. And it seems that the word count does keep creeping up, so that’s progress.

But unfortunately, I’ve totally outlined this story, and every time I’ve done that, it has killed my writing pace. I wish I knew why. The best I can figure is that when I write it down, even as a bubble in a Visio flowchart (as I did this time), it takes away some of the freshness of the plot, dampening my enthusiasm somewhat. For the next book, I will revert to using scene titles in my Navigation Pane of Word. That approach tends to guide me through the plot, as if I were being led on a leash.

Hmm. Good idea. I think I’ll do that with the rest of the plot milestones in the story. It may just help.

Hey–thanks for your help! I gotta run now and try this out. I’ll try to pop in with an update soon.

Creating A Sense of Intimacy–Or Not

Sometimes the tiny revisions help more than you think.

I was revising a cozy scene, and I removed several instances of the man’s name and replaced it with “he” or “him”. I don’t know when I first started doing this, but I have found that a scene is more intimate if you refrain from using names. As long as there are only two people, you only need use each name once, at the beginning of the scene.

Think about it–in real life, how often do you actually say the name of your spouse, sibling, or good friend? Maybe to get their attention, but while in conversation? And you don’t think of them by their names, either. You are beyond names.

I really noticed this kind of thing when I did some contest judging a few months ago. Several intimate scenes were ruined when the hero and heroine said or thought the other’s name too often.

And the opposite holds true as well. To create a sense of estrangement, use names. As soon as you bring in a third person, you have to use names, anyway.

Here’s the intimate scene, between brother and sister:

Adele watched as he stared at her. She refrained from shaking her head. Mike had a way of walking about in a haze of his own making. She reached over, clasped his hand and pulled him onto the couch next to her.

“Talk to me,” she said.

He didn’t say anything. She thought about leaving him alone, but he was always pretty good about letting her know when he needed his space. He wanted her there. She waited.

At length, he tried to speak, but only ended up clearing his throat awkwardly. She rose, went into the kitchen and brought back a glass of water. She handed it to him, and sat down again as he drank.

“First off, I gotta tell you that there’s a few things you don’t know. Things that happened between Mrs. Watkins and me.”

She frowned in outrage. “What! She’s your employee! She—”

“For God’s sake—that’s not it, either. Christ! What must you think of me?”

“Well, look at the way you made it sound!”

“Well hold on and just listen for a moment.”

She subsided.

And between a nosy boss and his subordinate:

Briggs escorted Peterson in twenty minutes later. He looked nervous. “Good evening, sir,” Peterson said.

“Good evening, Peterson.” Haley said as he lit a cigarette. He didn’t offer one. Briggs took his post by the door. Peterson looked at him nervously. Haley said, “Your first name is Bradley, right?”

“Uh, yeah. Brad is fine.”

“Of course it is. So how goes things with Eliza?”

“Um, just fine. Sir.”

“Do you like her?”

“Sure. What’s not to like?”

“I can think of many things.”

“Huh?” he gulped. “Sir?”

“You seem to have a problem with that, don’t you?”

“With what?”

“With basic courtesy. Calling your superior ‘sir’ for instance.”

Peterson looked pained. “I’m sorry about that, sir. I’m still getting used to it.”

“Were your parents deadbeats?”

“Well … yes sir. Pretty much.”

Any intimacy was gone anyway because Briggs was present, but I did use names a little more often than strictly necessary.

This is just one of the tiny changes I keep in mind as I revise. What did you think? Did I succeed in creating a sense of intimacy, and a sense of estrangement?

A Needed Break

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I didn’t post last week because I took a staycation and took care of some health issues. Other than a brief trip to visit my mother for 2 nights, I hardly budged outside of my house. I did some serious R&R, as we called it in the military. I played low-stress games like Freecell and Solitaire until I was winning almost every game. I loaded music on my computer and synced them up with my iDevices. I only wrote about a thousand words. I browsed lots of news sites (you may not realize it, but I am quite a news junkie).

I also got my blood pressure managed. Additional dietary choices are now open to me, so I will once again eliminate dairy from my diet. I went the entire month of January without milk, and my intestinal issues and rib pain went away. Unfortunately, my blood pressure also went up because my breakfast without milk has a lot more sodium than plain cereal with milk. Now that I can eliminate dairy again, I am hoping this rib pain will go away again. It kept me up last night for about an hour.

So it was a good week. I don’t want it to end, quite frankly, but that’s why they call it vacation. My husband wants me to schedule another week already. July is looking good.

I decided not to move my website. I am currently using a premium WordPress account, and after reflecting that I have spent zero time worrying about my website over the last year, I decided to stay put. The managed WordPress accounts are too expensive and don’t get me anything that I don’t have here, plus I have been accumulating a few handfuls of WordPress followers (hey guys!) I don’t want to cut them off by moving.

I may, however, redo my theme, and maybe procure a premium theme … if I can find one that is worth the cash.

Financial Tip!

This is my first financial tip ever. But we got our first American Express card and it is really helping our finances. We put all our charges on the AmEx card and pay it off at the end of the month. Nothing else is going on our regular credit card, allowing us to pay it off faster. Plus we are getting lots of AmEx points.

An important note about AmEx cards–they are designed to pay off at the end of the month. So be careful to only use it for planned expenses, like grocery, gas, and small credit card purchases. You do NOT want to be in a position where you are unable to pay off the card at the end of the month. AmEx is designed to be a charge card, not a credit card, and there is a distinct difference.

It is going to totally be worth the 200 dollars to renew at the end of the year.

Writing Update

Chicory, Anne Elizabeth and I were having quite a discussion on epic fantasy and warrior woman tropes in the Back From Hiatus post. They got me to reveal some of the ideas I have been playing with (ahem–paladin story–cough), and we have just been having a good ole time. While my first priority has got to be finishing East of Yesterday, I am finding it difficult to resist working on my paladin story!

Anne Elizabeth recommended I try reading David Weber’s War God series, and I probably will, but it seems to be kind of a spoof of a paladin story. Has anyone ever read any good paladin stories, other than the quintessential Deed of Paksenarrion?

Doings, Writings and Readings

Christmas seemed to speed by in a great, big rush this year. I didn’t have any vacation time left by the time Christmas rolled around, which — sigh — seems to be typical for me despite the fact that I have accumulated three weeks of vacation a year. And now that I have a full slate of vacation days once again, my husband has been summoned for jury duty, which means that I have to take at least one day off for that.

Sigh.

And I have been contemplating my plans for 2014. This year, I hope to finish East of Yesterday, lose 10 more pounds, and give up sweets for Lent so I can try to get off this sugar kick I have been stuck on. My goals for work include moving into more of a leadership position (not necessarily resource management) and get published in the field of Business Analysis (articles only–I have no BA books in mind).

My accomplishments for the last year were more modest, but I did publish another book (although I have not mentioned it much), kept off the 13 pounds that I lost the year before, and reduced my stress.

What I’m Reading


I just finished reading The Wretched of Muirwood by Jeff Wheeler, and it was pretty excellent. It is about a girl named Lia who lives at an Abbey called Muirwood, which is a place where learners learn how to read and how to work a force called the Medium, a quasi-religious form of magic. However, Lia is a wretched, or one who has been abandoned, and as such, she is forbidden to learn even though she has great natural ability. Naturally, she wants to learn more than anything else in the world.

Her quiet life at the Abbey is interrupted when a knight drops off an injured squire and tells her that he will return for him in 3 days–all Lia has to do in the meantime is keep the squire hidden from the powerful Sheriff who is after him.

The book did leave a few unanswered questions, especially regarding the knight, but there are two books to go in the series, so hopefully they will provide some answers. I found the first book gripping and engaging, and I’ll get the next book in the next month or so. All the books in the series are available. The cover image links to the book at Amazon.

What I’m Writing

I am up to 81,000 words with East of Yesterday, which definitely means I am rounding home plate. To celebrate 80,000 words, I sat down and wrote my query. I often find it helpful to write a query at some point before I finish writing the novel. It helps me identify any weaknesses in my premise. The same goes for the synopsis, which I did in graphical form a couple of months ago, but which I have yet to do in prose.

The query isn’t quite ready to share, but it did help me fill in a plot hole that I had left open to write at some point. The problem is, it rendered a pivotal scene in Part One as somewhat nonsensical. And so now I have a plot quandary–do I keep that formerly-pivotal scene, or do I trash it? Fortunately I have my graphical outline to consult to see how much I really need it, and I also can use my procedure on removing and replacing a scene (for which I am creating an infographic) if I decide it has to go.

~*~

What about you? Got any resolutions or accomplishments you’d like to share? Read anything good lately?