4-12-21 Update

It’s been a minute since my last post. Every week I feel like this is the week that I’m going to post again, but as each weeks sails by with me piled under a mountain of other work, I keep moving those goalposts forward. So this is the week …

I’m finishing up my final edits for my latest manuscript. It’s just about query ready. I did the query letter a while ago – and will probably revisit that soon – but I still have to write the synopsis. That’ll happen once all of the edits are completed.

Some people recommend that you should write your query letter first before everything else. As your query letter is the core concept/conflict, it makes sure you stay on track while writing your novel. I can definitely see the merit in this, but often times I know my core plot conflict from the outlining stage, but I don’t discover my core emotional or thematic conflict until I’m deep into the story.

For instance, my latest book is a heist novel. The core concept is my main character overthrowing a bad guy in charge and stealing his power of office McGuffin … That was never in doubt. That’s what I wanted to write the book about. What I didn’t know until after I’d written the thing is yes, the book is about the heist, but it’s also about her relationship with her partner and what she’ll do to preserve that relationship. People smarter than I am may have known that from day 1, but I needed to get there in my own time, I guess.

To that end, I agree writing your query/marketing materials early can definitely shape the content, but I suggest waiting until after the first draft. Go ahead and take a stab at it earlier if you like, but you’ll probably end up revising it anyway once your manuscript comes together.

I’m going to keep this method going forward, I think. At least as long as I’m querying. The other thing I changed this time around was that I didn’t wait 6 weeks before edits. I gave myself maybe just the 1 week but then it was back to work. That’s because I still had the story fresh in my head and didn’t want to lose what I know needed to be corrected.

Some distance can help with perspective but for me, I rarely change the plot when I go back. It’s more fine-tuning to make sure what unfolds makes logical and character sense. So waiting this time around would only just delay my progress. I still have to write two books yet this year, but more on that next time …

The Joys of Editing

I have a love/hate relationship with editing. I love how it makes my prose better, my stories stronger, and my characters richer. I hate … having to do it. OK, that’s not entirely true. I don’t mind a few passes in, but it’s that first pass after the rough draft that’s a real slog. I’m a quarter of the way through that very pass right now.

The other day I cleaned up an entire chapter and then realized that I think the whole thing may have to get axed altogether. I’m really trying to streamline this story down to bare bones and while I think the chapter is great character building and shows what’s at stake personally for my main two characters, it may not be fast enough. I’m on the fence. It might be a judgement call once the beta readers get their hands on it. In the meantime, I’ll probably make two versions and see if that changes how I feel.

That’s still progress of a sort, though.

Today, I’m crawling through because I’m at a scene where my main character introduces her partner to who’ll be their crew for the book. So not only am I revealing four new characters, but going through to make sure their speech patterns are distinctive is exhausting. Oh and there’s still things like basic dialogue, blocking, and exposition to do too. When I write long conversations, I tend to just write the conversation and leave most of the blocking for Future Dan. Well now I AM Future Dan and I’m a little peeved at Past Dan.

But that’s editing, right?

Back into the grind, I go!

New Mission Statement

So it’s been a few months again. Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ … you get the idea.

I finished NaNoWriMo and was more methodical than ever with my spreadsheet keeping thanks to a class I took recently. Seriously, I was adding formulas crunching numbers left and right just because I could. It was wonderful. The excuse to whip myself like a workhorse and hit 50K words in a month didn’t finish the book like I’d hoped, but it was darned close. So I kept at the spreadsheet and 20K words later it was finally done. That’s my ninth novel in the can for those of you counting at home.

Usually now, I take a month of two off before I begin editing, but I’m diving back in after only a week this time. My New Years Resomolution was to write two books this year instead of my annual one. The book I just finished doesn’t count as one of the two I plan on writing this year by the way. To do that, I need to be more productive all around. I’ve got almost all of the brainstorming done for the next novel. There are still a few kinks to work out but then I’m close to the outlining stage. I discovered a while ago that I’m not great at working on two projects at once. Well, too bad. This is going to be a learning year for me as I decided not just to write two books, but to also push myself as an author from craft to business.

I felt like most of last year I was floundering just to do what I wanted to do. I’m sure many can relate. So this year, I’m kicking it up a notch.

But I’m still in a good place. My natural rhythm the past couple of years had me starting a book around September. So I’d finish it by the end of the year, spend the spring cleaning it up, begin querying in the summer, and start a new book in the fall. Rinse and repeat. If I can get this new one started by February, though, that’ll shift my whole time table. Devoting more time to writing means devoting more time to editing later, but that’s just something I’m going to have to deal with. I’ve got some new writer goals now, both big and little picture, and I need to get a move on so I can begin sharing them all with you!

Still Here

It’s been a while. I’m sure you’ve noticed.

Writing from home during the pandemic has been a lot more difficult than anticipated. Read any book about writing or talk to anyone who helps train other writers and one of the rules they’ll all have is the importance of routine. Set a routine, a designated writing time, and stick to it! Well, thanks to everything going on, my writing routine has not just been interpreted, but ground to a halt.

Both my wife and I have plenty of commitments during the day demanding attention as we try and do our jobs from home. Also, three kids under five don’t exactly look after themselves either. If all of that wasn’t enough, we finally found our new house after years of searching so we ended up moving! Throw in my graduate school work and … well … to say I’ve been busy is the king of all understatements.

Just because I haven’t been writing doesn’t mean I’ve given up, though. I’m using this time to figure out what went wrong with a lot of my older work, do a little editing, and even get about 13K words into a novella. I still have the outline ready to go for my next book, but I don’t want to start that one until I know I’m going to have at least some consistency again. Probably going to wait until August and the start of the school year.

It’s been interesting to say the least. And frustrating. I’m not one to sit still for long. More than that, as someone who’s trying to break into the professional author scene, I always feel like if I’m not producing, well then I don’t have anything worth selling. As my writing fields are growing fallow, I like to think that my creative juices are reinvigorating themselves. So we’ll see how that goes.

For now, most of the writing is going on in my head — I can’t even keep up a weekly blog — but I know it’s not going to last forever. It’s a hard thing to even complain about with people experiencing really dark and scary times out there. So I keep going and plan for the future. My day job is keeping me at home for the foreseeable future and I’ll be looking after the kids when my wife goes back to work in August. But with work comes routine and I know this crazy free for all isn’t going to last forever.

Hope everyone is happy and healthy out there!