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These are my writing posts from my former blog, spanning 2009-2012. To see new writing posts, click on the blog tab above. To see these archived post organized by topic, click "For Writers" above.

Entries in first draft (6)

Wednesday
Jul132011

How Fast Do You Have To Write to Build a Successful Career?

 

Photo by Mauro Parra-Miranda (click photo for link)So I've talked before about how I'm a perfectionist. I always have been. I'm the girl who got a grade on my final trigonometry test that would bring down my final average to a B+ instead of an A  and went to my teacher to go problem by problem until we found a place where he took off too many points for a simple mistake. I got my A, kept my perfect 4.0. Yes, I'm that annoying girl.

 

So when it comes to my writing, this perfection monkey sits solidly on my back squawking and whining as I try to draft my book. It's frustrating and it slows me down. On average it takes me about 6-7 months to write and revise a 90k-100k book. Six months of that is drafting. Six months of drafting.

In previous decades in publishing, expecting an author to write one book a year was pretty standard. And for the most part, it still is if you're writing literary fiction or if you're an already established author. But if you're a new author, the situation is different, especially with the advent of ebooks and self-publishing. Readers are expecting your next work pretty quickly. You don't want them to forget about you (or if you're writing a series, your characters.) You need to stay top of mind.

And if you want to make money, you'll hear it over and over again--backlist is king. To earn a sustainable living as a writer, you need backlist. One book (unless you're part of the Oprah book club or Stephanie Meyer) is not going to set you up for life. One book isn't going to allow you to quit your day job. You want readers to pick up one of your books, love it, and then have a whole slew of other books by you that they can click the "buy" button on.

But the caveat of write, write, write, get a backlist out there is that you also have to make sure you maintain the quality of your work. One horrible book can send your readers running for the hill and for all the other reading choices they have bombarding them from everywhere.

And I know it can be done--writing fast and producing quality books. Maya Banks stated in her Dear Author interview that she writes 8-10 books a year. (!!!) Some of those are novellas but still, my jaw dropped onto my space bar. She also says she usually is done and sends it to her editor when she finishes the first draft.

And I can tell you, I read Maya. Her books are fabulous. She's one of my favorite romance authors. She's also hit the New York Times list and this year, had a book nominated for a RITA (the Oscars of romance writing). So clearly her quality is not suffering. And last year, she said that she made 600k for income. And this year, she's on track to hit 900k. Yes, people, she gave out her numbers. And if you don't read erotic romance, this is not an author many of you have probably even heard of. There is clearly money to be made if you put out quality work in good volume.

Now, I know I will never be able to pen 8-10 books a year. I have a three year old and a husband who would like to see me sometimes. And I'm a new author, so all this getting my name out there and social networking stuff is a time eater. But I KNOW I have got to be able to write more than 1-2 books a year.

So I am going to challenge myself with these next books to write faster and edit less. Here are some of the things I am going to be putting on post-it notes to remind myself courtesy of author Candace Havens, who gives Fast Draft workshops on her online forum.

1. It is okay to write a sh*tty first draft.
I like revising. Why am I so dead set on getting it perfect the first time?

2. I will write a basic synopsis before I start writing.
I'm a pantser so the story will change and I will not outline every point, but to have a general overview will help me. (Plus, I'm going to have to do this if I want to sell on proposal.)

3. I will know the basics about my book before starting--mainly the Goal, Motivation, and Conflict of my main characters.

4. I will not get hung up for five minutes trying to find the perfect word. I'll change it when I revise.

5. I will refuse to believe in writer's block and will keep writing even if I feel like I'm not sure where I'm going.

And though this doesn't have to do with writing faster, I will also learn to write shorter stuff in addition to my full-length novels. I think the successful author of the future is going to know how to write in varying lengths and is going to utilize multiple avenues to get their work out there (traditional publishers, e-pubs, self-publishing, etc.)

So what kind of writer are you? Are you a fast drafter or a slow and steady one like me? How many books do you think you could legitimately write in a year? What do you think the future of publishing is going to look like?


UPDATE: I did a follow up post in response to the discussion in the comments The Beauty of Books: Why the Literary vs. Genre Debate Isn't Necessary


  All content copyright of the author. Please ask permission before re-printing or re-posting. Fair use quotations and links do no require prior consent of the author. ©Roni Loren 2009-2011 |Copyright Statement|

Friday
Jun172011

The Ten Stages of Revision Emotions

So this year I've been diligently working on the draft of the second book in my series, MELT INTO YOU. This one is tentatively scheduled to release sometime next summer, but the manuscript is due to my editor at the end of this month.

Well, I finished the draft a couple of weeks ago and sent it to Sara to get her feedback and to make sure I hadn't suffered from the dreaded second book syndrome. *shudders* Luckily, Sara liked the book and only had a few changes she suggested.

A few. But one was a biggie. She suggested I cut the murder mystery subplot and replace it with something different. Not a huge change in word count, but a very significant change with regards to the story's plot. Hence began my journey through the Stages of Revision Emotions.

 

The Ten Stages of Revision Emotions

 Shocked

Photo by Alex Schweigert

Stage 1: Shock (You want me to change what?) or a "Dammit, that makes sense"


Okay, so in the list of revisions, there is usually one, maybe two, shockers. Your favorite scene needs to be cut or something you thought was vital gets the ax. But most of the time with Sara, her suggestions resonate with me in that "Damn, why didn't I see that?" way. Or she picks out things that were niggling at me but that I couldn't quite put my finger on. That's the gift of having someone with an editorial eye. They can see things you can't because you're too close to it.

 

Tyler Jumping off of a Cliff

Photo by Micah MacAllen

Stage 2: Blind Confidence - "I can totally fix this."


This is when you get excited. Things don't look so hard or too bad. You just need to change A B and C and you're golden. La dee da, I'm the kickass writer girl.

 

 

uh oh
Photo by Nerissa's ring
Stage 3: The "Oh, Crap"


You actually sit down to make those seemingly innocuous changes and WHAM! you've just blasted your manuscript to swiss cheese. Plot holes are bleeding on your pages, threads with loose ends are flapping in the breeze, your characters have been flattened to road kill.

 

 

 I Can't See You...

Photo by tropical.pete

Stage 4: Sticking Your Fingers in Your Ears and Humming 


You've hit the denial phase. This can't be done. If I make this change, I'll have to rewrite the whole book from scratch. My agent/editor must be crazy to think I could change this. It's impossible. I'm just going to leave it the way it is and turn it in. I am the writer, so I get the ultimate call on revisions anyway, right?

 

- Despair

Photo by Juliana Coutinho

Stage 5: Despair


This book is a giant pile of stinking baby dung. I will never be able to fix it. I'm going to fade into oblivion and never be published again. How did I think this was a good story?

 

 

 Fantasy girl and cybergothic 

Photo by Jeroen Berndsen


Stage 6: The Muse Taps Your Shoulder


"Who the hell are you? Oh yeah, I remember you, creative genius. Where the f*#% have you been you stingy, rat bastard?"

 

Spooky Lightbulb

Photo by Dyanna Hyde


Stage 7: The Idea - *cue angels singing*

You're lying there in bed, taking a shower, talking yourself out of eating the entire cake because you're a talentless hack. And then it hits. The Idea. The way that will fix your book and achieve what your agent/editor wanted from this revision. You suddenly see the seemingly obvious fix and realize how dead on that revision advice was.

 

Crazy Love

Photo via Bad Apple Photography


Stage 8: Mania


This is where you realize you have two weeks to make this brilliant change and you have oh, ten, twenty, thirty thousand words or whatever to write. You eat, sleep, and breathe your manuscript. The ideas flow and you're excited about this story again. Thrilled to see it turn into something way better than what you originally had. It's a high. People may want to put you in a white jacket.

 

A Peaceful Spot by Relic Hounds

Photo by Gord Webster


Stage 9: Peace


You finish that bad boy and turn it in. Then you eat that whole cake anyway, but this time, it's because you've earned it. :)

 

repeat

Photo by Cyndy Sims Parr


Stage 10: Ah, hell.


You get another set of revisions back and the process starts all over again. :)

 

These stages also apply to getting feedback from crit partners and beta readers. The key, for me, is recognizing that I will get there. That when it seems I just am not good enough to fix it, an idea will come. But it won't necessarily happen day one after I get my revision notes. My mind needs time to process and stew before tackling things.

So how about you? Have you been through any of these stages? Any other stages you would add?

 


 

 All content copyright of the author. Please ask permission before re-printing or re-posting. Fair use quotations and links do no require prior consent of the author. ©Roni Loren |Copyright Statement|

Friday
Mar042011

Permission to Suck

I'm deep in the throes of drafting book two in my erotic romance series. The hero in this book is one of the secondary characters from my first book and, according to those who have read book one, someone that readers have really connected with/fallen for. He's been one of my favorite characters to write as well.

 

However, knowing this has added another layer of pressure to this process because I feel like if people are really going to be looking forward to hearing his story, I don't want to let them down. I want this story to not just be as good as the first, but better. Add in that I'm on a deadline with this one and all that anxiety can be suffocating--at least for my neurotic self.

Part of the problem is my process. I write linearly (is that a word?) and I edit as I go. So if I decide to change a motivation or a thread, I go back to the beginning and change it before I move forward. Part of this is because I'm a perfectionist by nature--a B was never acceptable to me in school. It's how I'm built. On top of that, I'm also unable to jump ahead of a tough scene to write later parts of the book because I need to know where I've been in order to know where I'm going.

I'm working on all these things. I'm trying to convince my pantser self to learn how to do a rough plot ahead of time. (More on that in another post.) But I'm also giving myself a new mantra: You have permission to suck.

The conference I went to this past weekend had a class given by author Anna DeStefano. She talked about how every time she draft, she's in a constant state of anxiety. That she prefers revising. It's the first time I've heard another writer voice how I always feel. Most of my writer friends are the ones (yes, I'm looking at you Julie Cross and Tiffany Reisz) who can bust through a first draft at a crazy fast pace. Their joy is in the drafting then they worry about editing or rewrites later. It's an opposite process from mine. I'm always happier once words are already on a page.

Then today I came across Kiersten White's post on drafting and realized I'm definitely not alone, there are lots of us out there. I'll use her quote because this is exactly how I feel when I'm drafting:

Every book feels impossible.  Every single time, when I start a book and have that huge weight and balance of words pending, I think, how the CRAP do I do this?  And every single time, when I am in the middle, I think, I am never going to finish.  This will be the story I can't do.  I'm done.  How on earth did I ever manage to finish those other books?  I literally can't remember.  Maybe I didn't.  Because I'm sure as heck not going to be able to finish this one.
And then, somehow, word by word, impossibly, the book gets written.


That pretty much sums it up for me. But what Anna DeStefano said gets her through that anxiety is to give herself permission to write junk during the first draft. She said she put a sign above her computer saying "You are allowed to write crap." So basically, giving herself permission to suck.

 

This is what I'm going to try to do. The first draft doesn't have to be great. It just has to have bones to work with. Once I have those bones I can hone this bad boy into the story I want it to be. Letting go of the perfectionism won't be easy for me to do--my internal editor tends to use a bullhorn to get my attention--but I'm going to give it my best shot. I'm at 52k words now. I want to get to 90k in the next 6 weeks. The only way I'm going to be able to do that is to give myself the permission to suck. I'll keep you posted.

So what's your style? Are you a fast drafter and hate revising? Are you like me? What is your mantra when you're writing the first draft?

Wednesday
Jul072010

WIP Wednesday: Typing THE END

 


So I'm doing a happy dance because this weekend, I was finally able to type THE END on my current WIP!  Woo-hoo!  I know that there is editing to be done, scenes to add, threads to plant, and holes to fill, but there's nothing like reaching the end of a rough draft.

 

As I've mentioned before, I live in a harried state when I'm drafting.  My mind is buried in the book, I'm frantic when I hit a wall because I think--is this going to be the one that I can't finish?  It's and exciting and creative time, but also pretty stressful for me.  This is why I wish I was a plotter--the unknown scares the bejeebers out of me, but alas, no matter how hard I try, my brain doesn't work that way.

And I have the unused scene file to prove it.  This book landed at right under 84k (I anticipate it will grow as I revise because there are some scenes I know I need to add), but my cut file--17,000 words.  Ugh.  More than fifty pages of stuff I can't use because they were scenes that led me in the wrong direction or weren't working.  It is what it is.  Apparently, this is my process.

Anyway, I'm now jumping into revisions.  My awesome beta readers are going over the first three chapters now and the feedback I've gotten back so far has been really positive.  So perhaps I haven't totally screwed myself doing the dual timeline structure.  *breathes sigh of relief*  Although, I'm diligently ignoring the fact that I'm going to have to write a synopsis for something with two timelines, two story trajectories, separate character arcs (for the same characters but at different times).  *grabs paper bag, breathes in and out*

What were we talking about again?  Right.  Unicorns and butterflies and rainbows.  Nice, happy positive things.

So, how's your WIP going?  What do you do to celebrate when you write THE END?  Am I the only one who gets panicked every time I hit a wall, convinced that it's going to be THE wall that kills the story?

**Today's Theme Song**
"Maybe It's Just Me" - Butch Walker
(player in sidebar, take a listen)


 

Tuesday
Feb022010

The Drug of Choice for Writer's Block: Speed

Many authors subscribe to the belief that writer's block doesn't exist.  I attended a workshop by author Candace Havens last year, and she said that writer's block is simply author fear.  It's not a true block.  Although sometimes the struggle does feel like and honest to goodness wall in my brain, I tend to agree that it is wrapped up in my own fear and insecurity.

speed

Photo by xavi talleda (click pic for link)

 

In this month's edition of the Romance Writer's Report from RWA, career coach Hillary Rettig wrote an article about overcoming writer's block.  She purports that one of the main causes of writer's "block" is perfectionism.  We obsess about every little thing and end up writing in fits and starts and procrastinating the rest of the time.  Um, has she been spying on me?  This is so my issue.  I talked about my perfectionism here.

So what is her suggested solution?  Speed.

She said productive writers have this in common.  They treat their writing as something they "do"--not think about.  They sit down without distractions and write.  That means no checking email, blogs, etc. as soon as you hit a tough spot in your story.

The second part of speed is not expecting to achieve the ultimate or most perfect work.  Perfection cannot be achieved, sometimes good enough really is good enough--especially in a first draft.

And lastly, she says that fast writers do not hold onto their drafts like they're guarding the Hope diamond.  Perfectionists don't want to hand over their draft to those beta readers until they feel like the book is ready for prime time.  This means we end up obsessively revising and spending way too much time on the work only to be devastated later when it comes back from critting with some major issue that we couldn't see because we were too emotionally involved.  Early beta readers can help point out issues and problems that you can fix upfront.

So her advice is to sit down, write, and don't hesitate, just keep writing.

This article definitely hit home for me.  I am so not Zen about my writing.  This is why NaNoWriMo always intimidates me.  I don't know how to write without going back and revising and questioning every little thing.  But maybe I should give this method a try.  It may mean more revising on the back end, but that's easier than just having two perfect chapters and a pile of blank pages to show after months of work.

So how about you?  Are you Zen about your writing--just doing it without hesitation?  Or are you a perfectionist who questions everything as you go?  Do you hold onto your first draft forever or just throw the ugly thing to your betas for help?


*info from article "Speed as an Antidote to Writer's Block" by Hillary Rettig, Romance Writer's Report February 2010*

 

**Today's Theme Song**
"Perfect" - Alanis Morrissette
(player in sidebar--go ahead, take a listen)