Thursday, July 17, 2014

Social Networks and Platforms

While I have been working on my writing for several years, one thing I’ve also had to consider in that time is developing a platform as a writer, even though I don’t have anything published at this time. There are a few options available nowadays and more pop up every now and then. I have tried a few of them but not all because it’s good to not stretch beyond what one is capable of updating on a regular basis.

One of my blogging buddies, sparked this topic when she posted on her blog about how some were leaving the long blog sites behind for other web sites with shorter content requirements. However, most of the ones who responded to the blog about the topic were all people who still loved and continued to keep up their blogs. Social media does represent its own challenges and while having a presence online is useful, in the end it’s up to you which method maintainable over years in order to truly put a platform building use to the technology.

There are different options to consider, and these are just a few of them:
 Blogging (Blogger, Wordpress, Tumblr, etc)
 Facebook
 Twitter
 Pinterest


There are a few others and some more may come up in the near future, but let's focus on these four. I put several in one category because blogging itself is a big option, one that many have picked up in the last two years or so. What used to be "you must get your own web site as an author" has in part switched to some people just recommending a blog because it can work much like a personal site. They can either be free, which means they still have the website name attached like blogspot or wordpress before the dot com, or for a small fee, it can just be the blog name you pick out and dot com (among other options).

Most of the sites also allow page creations, which can be whatever you want. I have a couple of blogs and each have an about me type section, the book review one in particular to discuss reading preferences since it's more than just me blogging, and I even have on my writing ones a page that shows my current works in progress and word count widgets. I started blogging several years ago and continue though I am sporadic at times with my posting. My advice for any blog is not to get too ambitious. It's okay to on occasion do special times where you post every day, but realistically that is a very hard schedule to follow. Like writing, you can get burned out and struggle to post then guilt sets in. Consider a schedule and topic that works best for you, then be a little flexible. Also, take part in blogfests and blog hops because they are fun and help gain an audience. Remember not to expect comments if you never post on anyone else's blog. Networking, no matter the system, takes time and effort.

Facebook is another well known site for networking. There are different writing groups, ways to create author pages and personal uses. It is far more of a social site and allows different types of posting that can range from how your day is going (like twitter) to random images that are shared over the Internet. It can be good for updating though you will want to be aware of who you have added on the page and what you write because almost anyone can have a facebook page and they can be monitored by employers and such. Honestly, I do have a page but I only use it for family and old high school/college acquaintances. If I want to know what my grandma is up to, then I check facebook (cause yes, my grandmother uses facebook and way more than I do). However, I keep it private from my other internet networking options because for me, it's a personal option and one I don't want intermixed, but that is a personal choice. Though I do have my posts from this site show up on my facebook feed.

Twitter is a bit different because it's basically a lot of people writing random updates at a limited character count. I have used twitter for several years, but nowadays I almost never post. While their are a lot of jokes about posting daily life things that no one cares about on the site, there are some good uses for social networking as a writer on Twitter. It's good to keep up with certain industry companies and members. Many agents and editors have an account on the site, along with some publishers. Some will even host twitter chats where they will answer questions on a certain hashtag conversation, like #askagent is a good example of one. It is also a good place to on occasion advertise or do an update so people are aware how things are moving along, like if you made it through an edit or what not. That or you can talk about cats, always good topic on one of these sites.

Finally, there are places like pinterest. Now, this isn't necessarily a writing focused one but it's a good source to consider. However, pinterest is also one that is good at connecting to different networks. Most of the ones I have pinned so far are craft, cleaning or cooking ideas and often the image won't have the information but it will link to a blog entry that explains the item in question. The image sites can be useful in that way, plus they can serve as a way to find inspiration for stories because of the visual creations available.


Each one has merits and down sides. And many of them have ways to interconnect. Facebook can post an automatic update when you have a blog post go up on your personal blog. Pinterest can link to a blog page or site. There are a number of options available. However, it's easy to go overboard, then become so overwhelmed that it's hard to keep them going. You don't need them all, so check them out and find the ones that are going to work best for your needs and what you want to accomplish. Don't be afraid to set schedules and know that posts don't have to be several times a week all the time. Keeping up a social page does take time, but it doesn't have to take up all the time because while we want to have an available presence online, we also can't forget to save time for the actual writing.

Friday, June 20, 2014

How Many Edits




How many edits does it take to get to the chewy center… oh wait, that’s candy. Really though, when you start editing and rewriting, a similar question is going to come up. How many drafts does it take to get a send-able product? And like many aspects of writing, the answer will be: it varies. For each writer and even each project, the number will vary. It’s your job to find out the combination that works best for you and for the individual story.

I’m still figuring out mine. I’ve got 10 chapters left for the minor edit I’ve been doing. I call it a minor edit because even though I’m doing it from the very end of the novel towards the beginning to look at it sentence by sentence (tedious work indeed), the changes are all minor. I’m catching the typing errors, tense slip ups and such. I have another edit planned for after the nit-picky one, which sounds weird to a degree since I would have thought the fix the minor errors would be the last stage. Not this time. I have to go through and fix the description, senses and emotion that ended up lacking after I took out a bunch of telling bits (like my overuse of the words “felt” and “feels”). I wasn’t sure how to go about it, so I did the minor edit first. However, I think that will be the last edit and I’ll have something I can submit to agents.

But enough about me, back to the discussion on draft numbers, which is more just about my writing… so yeah. Since I started this novel, it might seem like I’ve done tons of drafts for it. That is not quite the case since it took me 2 years to finish the first draft, and I didn’t work on it for most of those 2 years. The second draft also took about 2 years due to distractions and working on other novel projects.

The other question to consider in talking about draft numbers is what to qualify as a draft. First draft is easy cause you go from a blank piece of paper, or that white screen in whatever writing program of your choice, to a whole and very rough novel. Beyond that it gets tricky. Sure, the rewrite from first person to third person, where it gained over 25,000 words, that was a more obvious other draft. However, do I consider the minor edit a whole new draft? Not much has changed, just little rewordings here and there. In fact, I didn’t even make a new folder in Scrivener for this edit. Before the minor, I did an edit where I worked on fixing issues like passive voice, telling and switched things to past tense. That was one I could easily consider a new draft (also increased word count by almost 15,000 with that edit). The minor edit, however, I just fixed up the already existing draft section. According to scrivener, I have 3 drafts and a whole file of edit notes which involved highlighting every chapter with things to fix before draft 3 was created. Three sounds short, yet it feels like so much more.

If I count the minor edits and such, the draft total will end up at 5 (so far). Granted, if picked up for publication there will be more drafts. Not picked up could mean later, if continuing with the novel & series, then another draft or two would be needed. Even with self-publishing, which I have no intention to do at this given time, would require another edit/draft. So 5 is the midpoint for this particular project. Not all will be the same.  I have one NaNoWriMo project that I know needs a complete rewrite. However, I have another novel that is at 90k right now and I will be skipping the major rewrite stage for that one and editing instead. So, for me, like most, the answer so far to the question of how many drafts it takes to get a send-able story is: it varies.


Roughly how many drafts do you do before submitting?
What do you consider a draft?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Balance Act

Also known as Priorities and Finding Time for it All

Life can be chaos. Between work, school, friends, family, chores, sleep, hobbies, and such, it's hard to find the time each day to get everything done. One has to figure out priorities, putting some items before others each day. I’m not the best at balancing thing, I have to admit. I can focus on one activity in particular while the others fall to the side for that time. Then the next month, my focus changes. But I keep trying to get a better balance.

For fun, I’m calling this a tri-balance, as it’s the balance of three important tasks for a writer: writing, reading and editing. All three are important aspects that a writer needs to work on, no matter the stage or commitment level of the writer. Writing is the obvious one since that is what a writer does. Reading and editing are related though, both very important to the process. Combined, they are a trifecta.

Trouble is how to get them all done.

I'm not good at balance. Over a whole year I can get some stuff done, but each month I tend to focus on just one or two tasks. November, of course, is writing. I take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) each year, focusing on novel writing. I have succeeded the last few years (100k or more), but I have to admit that I get no reading done and definitely no editing. In April, this year, I took part in the A to Z blog challenge using my book review blog. I had to read books in order to have something to review, though thankfully I didn’t have to do all 26 of them. I managed to read 8 books, which is almost as many books as I read all of last year. (Sad, I know.) And I have done at least one month where my focus rested on editing, like getting the edit notes for my novel together some time last year.

Now, I'm trying to find a balance again. It's not an easy task. Part of what helps for me is making goals. I have a writing group that was inspired by NaNoWriMo. While it's not the most active group, I can use my own forum to make goals geared towards all three in order to achieve a tri-balance. I try, at least, even if I don’t always achieve what I set out to do each month.

It doesn't have to be goals, though. Lists, plans, challenges, accountability, the trick is finding something that will work for you because not every writer is the same. Maybe you can't do all three at the same time. That's okay too if looking at the bigger picture. Maybe each month needs a different focus. Or maybe you don't like balance at all. Some work best with chaos and can't deny that either. Do whatever works for you.

Me? I'm still trying to get a tri-balance with the exception of certain months, like November. But other months, I’m trying to get more of a balance going for reading, writing and editing. It’s a work in progress.


How do you balance writing, editing and reading?
Do you focus on 1 each month, or have another method?


Friday, May 2, 2014

Five Years and Still Blogging

Wow. I've had this blog for 5 years. That is crazy.


My first blog post ever, as this was my first official blog, was on May 1, 2009.
http://dawnembers.blogspot.com/2009/05/every-day.html

Followed soon after (on the 2nd) by this post:
http://dawnembers.blogspot.com/2009/05/vocab-question.html


My first month blogging, I put up 9 posts. I started off slow though for the rest of the year with a couple months where I only managed to get up 1 post. 2010 made up for it. That was probably one of my most active blogging years and it's also when I was active on Twitter. I don't post on twitter much anymore so I'll have to work on that one too in the near future.

May 2010:
http://dawnembers.blogspot.com/2010_05_01_archive.html

From reading topics, goals to what do I plan to write, it was quite the month. I had a reading goal week, which to be honest, I don't even remember attempting.  Some success happened and some failure. I had a list of authors to seek out to interview but I'll be honest, I didn't even try. I got distracted by other things, then forgot. A list of books to read, of which in the last 4 years I have read two out of nine. I don't even recognize some of the titles...  This is also the year that I started my other blog, now titled Fiction & Fitness, that is more focused on my life in general along with my personal writing (while I use this one to talk about writing in general).

May 2011:
http://dawnembers.blogspot.com/2011_05_01_archive.html

Some activity in 2011. I attempted an epic giveaway which took me so long to complete in giving away prizes. I learned a lesson that month. As much as I'd like to do great giveaways where I send people stuff, I need to make sure I have the time and money beforehand. Maybe some day in the future I'll be able to do another epic prize giveaway event, alas it won't be any time soon. This is the year I started the book review blog, along with two other readers who were awesome to help me.

May 2012:
http://dawnembers.blogspot.com/2012/05/about-sm-blooding-and-her-novel.html

I had this one post in May for 2012, after taking part in A to Z challenge. Succeeded in April but I was tired so ended up focusing on other things. Well, that and I moved in June 2012 out to Oregon from Wyoming. Had a lot going on then.

May 2013:
http://dawnembers.blogspot.com/2013_05_01_archive.html

Also a light year after taking part in A to Z challenge the month before. I believe 2013 was the year I took part on this blog and over on my other blog, so I managed to do 52 posts between the two for April, which not surprising leads to smaller posts in May. Last year I started talking about Beta readers and since then, I have had 2 people read my novel and give me some advice. I'm working on final edits and hop to be sending that novel query to agents soon.


Now it's May 2014. And even though the past couple years have been light on content. May not be published yet, or even submitting to agents, but I can definitely say I'm closer. And I have so much more I want to write no matter what happens. And as for blogging, who would have thought I'd still be posting here in 5 years. But I'm still here. Not bad.

And I look forward to another 5 years of blogging.



Saturday, March 29, 2014

White Room Syndrome



The White Room Syndrome - aka lack of description

I heard this topic mentioned by Mur Lafferty on her podcast, I Should Be Writing (awesome podcast) and it really clicked with me. I do this far too often. In fact, I will often state that description and setting, along with worldbuilding in general, are my bigger weak points when it comes to writing. Character, dialogue and even on occasion action, I can do okay. But I describe very little and can only use some of the senses if I'm paying really hard attention to the fact they need to be used in the story. I don't describe what characters look like or what their surroundings are like over 90% of the time. It's something I really need to work on with my novels.

Yet I can write 170,000 words in a fantasy story while lacking worldbuilding and description. Not sure how I do it either. lol

So, what is white wall syndrome?

Easy answer: Look at this link - http://inventingreality.4t.com/whiteroomsyndrome.html
and here - http://www.sfwa.org/2009/06/turkey-city-lexicon-a-primer-for-sf-workshops/

Longer answer: Well, I think it's a bit harsh to say it's a failure of the author's imagination (having looked over the items I linked) but the basic consensus is, the white room syndrome is when the story/scene lacks in description that the reader needs in order to really see what is happening in the story. They are left with the characters in a blank (white) room. I didn't know about the link to the white page we write on though, I have to admit. Figured that was a different syndrome... oh well.  Though on the second link, if you find the paragraph that mentions white room, part of it also seems like a different problems some writers have and that's starting a story with the character waking up, but that's also a different ramble I'll save for another day (makes notes for 2 post ideas). It's like having theater players on a blank stage (except in some plays, with a couple black boxes, that's all you really need to put on a good show).

The first link, however, gives a good way to approach fixing the problem at the very end, so make sure to check that one out.

So, you have characters and they talk and do things but you realize the setting is blank. You forgot to add details about the stage. Long as it's not published already, the good news is, it's fixable. It just might take a little more focus and some work. The different senses are a great start to fixing this problem. And not just the visual one. I can do that one okay, I can say what the character notices sight wise but the others often evade me. But if we focus, there is often a way to get them in that makes sense for the story.

I have a scene where a demon goes into a coffee place, for example. It's easy enough to have him notice the chalkboard specials drawn with little designs of some type or another. He can notice the crowd or the lack of a crowd depending on patronage level. He can even notice the clean white shirt of the guy who got him the job (which he'll later have to replace cause it won't be so white anymore). That is a good start but there is more to pain the scene. There are sounds. Coffee grinder buzzing to get the beans ready for the next brew. People talking, cups against tables or forks against plates. Different kinds of noises are possible. Then of course, is the smells. Coffee is the most obvious and the different flavored can have specific scents related to them that are strong. Add pastries to the mix and some mouthwatering aromas can linger (or if he isn't a fan of coffee he can cringe, knowing the scent will invade his life on a regular basis). Taste to me is the hardest because it seems weird to add taste unless they are eating something. I don't stand around at work and think, "hmm the air tastes like... umm something or other." Smell maybe, but taste doesn't register often with me. The trick with taste is trying to find something that makes sense in the scene/story but doesn't come off out of place or cliche, but it can be done. Finally we need to add touch. Well that happens when he touches something, so not too hard to add either.

So, take the start of a scene, story and look at what you have. Can the reader see where they characters are? Do you have a couple of the senses used at least? If not, try to rewrite it with that focus in mind. It doesn't have to be thousands of words and try not to get too purple with the description (ah the color codes of writing) but give them something to see and experience in the moment. Then compare the two and see what you think.

Paint the room... unless, for some reason, they really are in a very white room, then well, let that room be white.



What do you think of White Room Syndrome?
Is this a problem in your writing or have you conquered it already?
Have you listened to I Should Be Writing?
Go listen. ;-)  And have a great writing day!


Saturday, February 22, 2014

Writing Every Day Revisited

Topic Re-Write: also known as, me revisiting the concept of writing every day


In fact, the first blog post I ever wrote for this blog, back on May 1, 2009, was about the concept of writing every day. The blog post is here: http://dawnembers.blogspot.com/2009/05/every-day.html. And really, I wasn't a fan back then. Though also at that point, 2008 was my first and only success at getting 50,000 words in a month and it was the longest thing I'd written. I hadn't finished much else and I still wrote poetry. So yeah. And I only did a few attempts at picture books that week cause I'm not really a children's book writer.

I talked again about the topic, more with questioning it in August of 2009. http://dawnembers.blogspot.com/2009/08/write-every-day.html  And in that one I was less into the idea of writing every day even more. But that was also the last time I really focused on the topic, so all the way back in 2009.

We're in 2014 now. After almost 5 years, has my opinion changed? Some.

I still don't think it's necessary to write every single day of the year. It's okay to take breaks and it's okay to have other priorities. I still think that treating writing as a job is a good idea, but it can be a part time job or even a full time job, but even with full time jobs people take days off. And I still agree that what you need to do is find out what works best for you. However, I am now more capable of writing almost every day.

What has changed? Well, I've spent 2009-now often writing. Back then, the longest thing I'd written was 50,000 words of a struggled romance/erotica attempt. I had written a number of little scenes and poems but not much in the way of long fiction. Now, my longest draft is at around 170,000 words (it's almost done, really, I promise) and I've gotten at least 3 novel first drafts done, rewritten a novel and tackled editing. Been a long 5 years (someone remind me to do a 5 year reflection post for May 1) which didn't always include writing. I had months where I wrote not much at all, but it all adds up over time whether it's 250 words a day consistently or binges of 5k a day and some with 0.

Last year, I started the year saying I wanted to see how much I wrote in a year and that lasted a couple weeks max. This year, I'm trying again but I have a different approach. Thanks to a friend who had access to a shared spreadsheet, I have an easier way to keep track on google docs, so every day I write, I add my total words for that day onto the spreadsheet and it adds it all up. It's not the excitement of the "magic spreadsheet" as discussed on I Should Be Writing because there are no levels or points but there are colors. And more words mean different shades so that is kind of fun.

This month, I've written at least 250 words every day and plan to for the whole month. Even if it's just 250 on some days that is okay. I started part way in January with the spreadsheet and have gotten to almost 40,000 words for the year already. Off to a good start and while I won't write every single day of the year (already missed a couple in January), I will write very many days. And some months, it just might be every day.


How often do you write?
Do you keep track? If so, how?


Monday, January 13, 2014

Submission Process

I'm getting to the point of jumping off a cliff... I mean, I'm going to be sending out stories and queries in 2014 so it seems fitting to dedicate a blog post to talk about the submission process.

Which means I can talk about the submission process. Yay!

After you have written the awesome story of amazingness and edited it to a shiny glean that rivals the sun, well then it's time to figure out where and how to submit the story. That is the fun part right? (I forget which part is considered the fun part at times...)

Finding Places
Time for some research. Internet has made it easier, or so I've heard. There are ways to search, google, and a few web sites dedicated to this endeavor that will come in handy. Check out the different publishers available and looked around their sites. Read some of the stories they have published. It helps to read more than a few because you want to see if what you write seems like a good fit for what the location looks for in stories. They also have the guidelines for that but seeing what already got the seal of approval will also help. Think they are right for you? Make note of that.

Read Guidelines
Yes, most have listed somewhere their guidelines. On this page is often some of the general things the publisher is looking for which includes genre, story lengths and even some little hints at what they either like or what will be a really hard sell to them. They also list exactly how to submit. Most have online submissions available through different formats (email or their own online form) but there are still a few that have a preference to the printed and mail out variety. Most also will list formatting tips, which is really helpful. Read them and then, maybe read them again just in case. We all make mistakes but it helps to try and put your best foot forward and really, having worked with a small publisher a little, it's amazing how many ignore guidelines. Don't let that be you.

Tracking Tools
These are great to have but like any tool have to make sure you use them as just that and don't obsess. I've only got one story out right now but must admit already within the last 10 days I have checked my email and the tracker site I'm using way too much.

Duotrope - This is what I think I first used a few years ago to find places to submit, back when the web site was free. But I never used the tracking aspect as I only sent out a couple things back then as that was all the way back in 2009. It still seems like a great site to use even though I don't have access to it at this point. Maybe someday I'll have the funds for such. It sure was a good search location for open publications to submit back then and I imagine there is much it offers now. (http://duotrope.com)

The Grinder - I am using this site now. It's a search place for finding publications to submit and has the option to track submissions. I signed up and have tracked the one story that I've submitted twice so far this year. It's nice. I like the layout, being able to see the different reports on the main page and the graph on each publishers page. Seems a handy place to keep track of things and bonus for me (and those using it), the site is free. (http://thegrinder.diabolicalplots.com)

Excel - And I have my own excel sheet for submitting just to make sure I don't lose track where I have submitted, when and what responses I receive. I even have the ones from 2009 on it still. I got mostly form rejections and the one personal rejection that came with a note was from someone that gave comments to all submissions. But I have the information still, which is good. I currently have a page for places I'd like to submit where I mark down how many stories I submit to them. Then I have a page where I list my stories, where I want to submit, what date I submit to them, when I hear back and what the result is (form, personal, etc). Might need a second sheet for that once I get sending a lot more out but right now it's small. I try to list at least 3 places to submit per story but that will also increase in the foreseeable future. And I might need a new page when I get to the novel query submission process with agents and such involved.


But it's all exciting. And I'm a little more productive in other aspects so far this year too. I've gotten together a schedule for the week so I can work on short stories, novels and editing. It's working out even with my works schedule being a bit unreliable (people calling in sick and such). While I only have one story out so far, I have 4 that I'm getting ready and hope to have out by the end of the month. And I'm using a google doc excel thing someone else created (Thank You) to keep track of words written each day. 2014 is looking promising.


Have you submitted any stories recently?
Do you use any tools to track submissions?
If so, which do you prefer?