Because of a whole bunch of things I’m giving a shot to better time tracking for a little while. Not sure I’ll do it forever, but I’m going to aim for through March. Though March might be a bad month, is there a good month?
I want to better understand where my time is going. What am I spending time on that I don’t want to. Am I doing the things with my life I want to? Am I putting my energy toward the things that are my priorities?
I also want to try to reclaim some of the writing time and I need to know where that is leeching out, and what I need to cut to get that back.
There is also something to tracking time keeping me more …focused. Like less distracted by random stuff because the clock is ticking.
I’m using Toggl which is really easy to start using. (It was discussed on several Cortex episodes.) I think a lot of it will be thinking about the structure of what counts for what?
When I’m sending a long email/fb message/twitter dm that is really thoughtful conversation or future project planning or helping someone with something, is that social media? I’m leaning toward no? But I’m not sure.
I’ve been trying to do the #authorconfession hashtag questions from J M Sulivan every day this month. Take a few minutes and think about your work in progress. Think about it from a different angle, answer a different question. It’s good to keep my brain in the game rather than having it run off screaming which is what it wants to do.
Something I want to try to do more or be more transparent, or consistent about is …reviews. So my monthly review.
I wanted to try to get some stuff cleaned up, get back into writing more, and get sorted out what my next audiobook project was.
I did do more writing. I’ve been writing/rewriting/editing one of my Smoke Jumper novellas. It is actually going ok. Not perfect, but pretty well. I’m fading in and out on working on it, but I’m getting back into it. In a flash of rage I also wrote a flash fiction which is a phone call from the dystopian future to the present. Take the Call! (And make your own!)
Stuff cleaned up…eh. Not quite so good. I had delays here and there. Stress. Hiding. Too much news. Not enough news. Evenings writing to senators (thanks Amy and Al!) Then blog explosion. Then continued dealing with blog explosion. So basically? Excuses. I will buckle down on this again.
Next audiobook project. No. Frustratingly no. I’m holding out on picking up a project and waiting for the anthology pieces I’ve committed to to come in. I don’t want to be in the middle of something big and get those in. Plus I had 2 weekends that weren’t going to be good for recording. I do have a plan for the next few weekends on what I’ll be doing behind the mic (PODCAST! WOO! 600 Second Saga episodes!). But I still need to check in with people about other projects.
Other? Politics. News. End of the world. I keep bringing myself back to we are as humanity making progress, if we keep pulling toward the future we will keep making progress. Progress like longer life spans, fewer people dying in wars and murders, better health, better quality of life, etc. We are going the right direction, we just all need to keep moving toward the future which is awesome. Future good.
Clean up. I need to clean up my files. Now I need to clean up the website and the back-end structure. I need to clean up some stuff at home. Clean space, visually, physically, and digitally helps a lot. And things are hard so I need all the help pieces I can get.
Reach out to authors. Hi authors! If you’ve considered writing for 600 Second Saga, please do! Please contact me! Please ask questions, I’m happy to answer them. I don’t want anyone to hesitate because they think they can’t do it. I’m getting better (and growing well) reaching listeners but I still can do better, and want to do better reaching out to authors. So, you may see some of that coming up.
I’m also working on creating images to go with each of the podcast episodes. (And I’ll be trying to feature some of the highlights from season one with images too.) More visuals. Also to help me think more about doing a better job of getting onto “paper” what’s in my head as far as visuals go.
Write more! As usual, keep the momentum and build on it. Really dig into Stranded and hopefully finish it up, but even if I don’t, don’t stop working on it. I also plan to shift around when I do things to give myself the best time for writing rather than the best time for other things that don’t require my best brain. Restructuring time will be very good for writing and for helping keep my brain space clean too.
What is your review policy? When do you review what you do?
Jenna is the protagonist in a trilogy, or I thought it was a trilogy. Or it might still be a trilogy.
It is an urban fantasy with a heavy layer of tech, rather than an eschewing of tech (which is something I want to see more of an if anyone has any great suggestions that are UF that aren’t anti-tech, bring it on!)
The first book was written about three years ago now. It has some problems. There are a few substantial issues with it.
The love interest feels a little tacked on and not crucial
Not enough backstory (her backstory is pretty important and I didn’t even bring it up until 3/4 of the way through, beta reader was stunned by it)
The secondary villain wasn’t well developed
The world felt fuzzy (some of this was intentional, but intentional doesn’t mean good)
It’s not really a full book
There are some smaller things that I think I’ve gotten better at writing in the last few years.
I wrote book 2 last NaNoWriMo. I wrote it with an understanding of some of these problems and believing that I’d resolve these things.
I made an assumption that these changes have happened in the first book. That love interest was cut, that the backstory was at least sprinkled throughout, that the secondary villain was …shifted, and that there was a little more structure to the world.
I was going to edit it last Camp NaNo. I was going to edit it over NaNoWriMo.
I knew part of the reason I’ve been fighting so hard to do this project is because something isn’t quite right with it.
I finally have had a few conversations about it. I’ve done a lot of thinking. I thought I had a strategy, but even working that through I wasn’t getting anywhere.
Partly I don’t want to just trash it because I really like the second book, I feel pretty good about that one. And it 100% does not work without the first.
I think my solution going forward might be to make this into the first act of the second book. The second book picks up right after the end of the first. Tying them together makes a lot of sense, and yeah, the first one isn’t a full book. The second one is fine, but it needs a little more, and putting this at the start as the first act I think would make it a lot stronger.
This is my solution today. We’ll see where the future actually goes, but I think right now at least this is the direction I want to take going forward.
That all said, right now? I’m editing another Smoke Jumper short and so I’m focused on that. It’s a good shift away from beating myself up about Jenna’s books. I’m just hoping this is the right decision this time.
I’m going to talk a bit about my approach to Nanowrimo this year…
It may be TMI? Maybe? I’m trying to share. I was talking with someone recently about how much I love Mur Lafferty’s I Should Be Writing podcast. She’s so open and honest. (Or appears she is at least.) I like the ones where she just tells you how she’s feeling and what’s happening even more than the interviews. Like oh, she can do it, not every day is awesome, I can have a bad day and still come back and do ok. I can freak out and panic inside and that doesn’t make me a bad writer or bad whatever. I can keep going.
I’m nervous. I’m stressed. I’m panicked.
So my first problem is that I’ve been slacking on creative/fiction writing lately. I’ve been writing blog posts, I’ve been editing things, I’ve been critiquing, supporting, I’ve worked on some monstrous writing focused projects at work that have taken a lot of my creative and writing brain and by the time I get home I’m pretty burned out.
So I’ve been slacking on the fiction. I finished up a project nearish the start of October and haven’t bitten off a full new project since then. I’ve made notes on a couple of new projects that I want to work on post NaNo (yay more Smoke Jumpers stuff) but I didn’t start because I wanted to keep my focus on the NaNo project.
Um…Just do it?
I can’t wake up any earlier because I’ve been getting up super early to go into work and get extra stuff done. But I’m hoping that lightens up a bit by the middle of this week, then I’ll just keep getting up early and spend that extra first hour working on the novel.
I already have (good) plans for the 1st, but I’m going to carve out at least one hour a night the rest of the week. It might not be enough, it might not be enough to even make it. But I think it should be a good start.
One hour means one hour. Not 15 minutes while doing this or that. It means 4 solid, focused blocks of 15 minutes of writing, which should be entirely doable. I’ll do 4 sprints a night.
I’m set and scheduled for all of November, so I just need to keep up the promotion and other things I do, but hopefully I can let the hunting new work/opportunities slack a little. (I do have some amazing authors with some wonderful stories coming up through the month!)
I’m doing Jenna’s first book. It is a full rewrite. I normally go into NaNo with a pretty solid idea and usually some planning, that often goes out the window. This time I have basically a really bad outline and an end. Which is what I consider this book to be. The book isn’t bad, it just doesn’t work well…maybe a little bad. Not good…I’m rewriting because I think it has a lot of potential, I just think I left a lot of that potential behind the first pass. I have the second book in the trilogy written and so I know where I want to point my character, and I want to follow a lot of the same path as the first book, but basically not at all…if that makes sense. So I feel both more prepared and less than I ever have.
When/If I Fail
It really is ok.
I still have my day job. I still have my home. I still have the wonderful podcast. I still can keep writing it AFTER December 1st.
I know for some people it helps to have hard deadlines and impending doom to finish projects. But I’m already freaking out about failing something I haven’t started yet and have a good track record of finishing despite obstacles and stresses larger than what I anticipate this year.
I know that accepting the consequences of failure make me more likely to succeed.
I’ve been thinking more about NaNo lately and if it is still right for me? I like having a month dedicated/set aside for/focused on novels. Partly because while I usually do a lot of writing I am more often writing shorter pieces, flash, short and novella length stuff for different projects. I like those a lot. But I also like the novels. Having some space carved out for writing those novels is really helpful.
Having the NaNoWriMo community can be helpful. (It is part of why I wanted to try out Scribophile, so see if that could work, I’m still testing that.) A good place to go for support or questions. A good place to go and help someone and feel better because I’ve helped and supported someone else and so yes I can do this. (Yes, knowing I can/am helpful to others makes me feel better about my own chances of success, brain weird.)
So I think that for this year at least NaNoWriMo is still for me because it gives me a chance/a reason to stop and focus on just one novel project.
Next year though I think I’ll shift and maybe give myself a cheat of the weekend before to help prep even if some prep means some writing. I’m too much of a stickler for the rules for my own good sometimes.
If you stuck through all of that, what does NaNo do for you? Problems? Writing? Anything? Can I help you somehow to feel better about my chances of success? Did I mention my brain is weird?
Pull out and enhance physical descriptions of the people I already have from both books 1 and 2
Write up description of the mashup/remade character
Consider the scenes that need to be added – figure out what the goal will be and about what they need to be and then let them noodle around in my brain
Set up time to write – create a real plan (either first thing in the morning, later in the day, weekends, etc)
Plan more backstory weaving in
Jenna’s novel is the first in an urban fantasy trilogy. A young woman who is struggling to regain her life after a long absence from the world is finally feeling settled. Now she’s finally gotten a job offer, she’s meeting new people. And she’s got a shiny little necklace.
The second book is written and I’m feeling pretty good about it, but the first needs to come in line with it. I know basically where the third will go for the big arc on it.
And now I’m going to contribute to this noise with my post! Late! Wee!
I also listened to The Reality Check about the dream jobs recently. There are a lot of jobs in the world we don’t talk about. If you narrow it to legal jobs even fewer. I would be most interested to see a list of jobs that people think about when they are about 14-15. When we think that people (kids, really) are supposed to start deciding what to do with their entire lives.
Is there any surprise that we discard a lot of jobs as not real work?
Real work is stuff like police, doctor, teacher. If you asked my niece and nephew what the job titles of everyone I work with are? I’d bet they’d be totally baffled. (Heck, I bet half the people I work with would be baffled by what those titles really mean.)
I work with people who write. Heck part of my job is writing. (It is a pretty small part at this job, but at previous jobs it was a larger part, at one, the whole part.)
But they don’t count
This is a weirdly common refrain. The people who write and survive are dismissed.
Well that isn’t writing fiction. So we are only saying fiction writing can’t be a job? And then there is this implication that fiction is like writing or sports or dance or acting. It is one of these “jobs” where a few people make ALL THE MONEY! And everyone else does it because they love it.
There are people who get by or are even *gasp* successful at writing who you haven’t heard of. There are also people in all those other categories doing the same. And not just because you don’t like sports or x music genre or ballet. People actually can do that as work.
Back to the hidden jobs, I think a lot of these are hidden jobs. Out of sight out of mind. And unless you are interacting with project managers or writers or cellists every day they might as well not exist. So you think that no one can make a living making power points or writing romance or playing the cello. But they do.
So I should quit my job!
NO! The throwing out the job because one single book did well? That’s like going well I got this one gig so I’m going to quit my job. Don’t…
Yeah she was lucky enough to have a husband to support her during this time. And if you have the resources to do these things, sure. Though I’d argue that having a job has a lot of other psychological benefits so if you don’t treat your writing like a job then you will suffer those things.
I do think you can, and there are people who do, treat writing like a job. But that means you can’t get precious about it. Just like you shouldn’t get precious about any job.
Once you start to get precious about things you get fired. (I hope. I wish.)
Jacquelyn Lorin has a fantastic post about voice and branding. I’ve been thinking about this. She talks about branding and platform and does a brilliant job so I’d recommend just reading that.
It is something I struggle with. Unsurprisingly. I think most people have when they start writing. At least there is a lot of stuff out there you can read about finding it and I don’t really get any of it.
Oddly I have (I think) a very strong voice in my day to day life. My coworkers could hear a paragraph of my speech patterns coming from someone else and they’d know it was wrong right away. My mom can pick out my sentences on a website I had nothing to do with. Voice is something that comes pretty easy to me. But that voice isn’t appropriate for novels. It doesn’t work in writing stories. I mean it can, but it would be confusing and derivative and run oney.
This is one of those things where we say we want real things, but we don’t lace our novels with ums, ahs, because that would be boring and frustrating. We don’t have people walk away from conversations and come right back to say, what was I going to get from the kitchen again? Unless we are trying to make a point. But everyone does it. (It’s a door thing!)
We don’t really want real life in our books. It’s ugly and messy. No plot lines. Rarely complete sentences. People are stupid, all the time. They are just the worst really. But the world doesn’t punish bad people and reward good people. We want books to do that. (And movies and tv and whatever else.)
So it’s sort of the same thing with your voice, or at least my voice. I totally find words and cling to them for a while, over use them, misuse them. And then I move on to the next. And I do shit like starting every single god damn sentence with and or but. And I way over use both and, and but. And whooboy! None of my grammar checkers like that last paragraph, I’m giving them conniptions. But that’s the thing. We don’t really talk grammatically correct. People who always do are weird. Sorry, it’s true. Partial sentences everywhere.
Sorry what was I saying? I got distracted by a shiny thing.
So I can’t use my day to day voice in my writing. Even though I’ve been perfecting it for a handful of decades now. No, I have to come up with a whole new voice that is unique, and me, and grammatical soundish.
I over punctuate. I put commas in where pauses go, but that’s not right. But is that my voice? Or is that just me not being good at writing?
I rarely use “said” or “says” or any variant. When writing dialogue I usually write a sentence, end it, write dialogue, write an action thing which has a name that I can’t think of off the top of my head and I’m sort of trying to write this like I actually talk so I’m not looking it up. (And yes, for the record, stopping to google that door thing is entirely something I would and do in real life, and yes, yes it does frustrate the people around me, I’m trying to cut back but it’s so hard.)
This is a voice. But this isn’t the voice we want to see when writing. This voice is exhausting to be around.
Voice is hard.
I’m not sure any of this made sense. Because sometimes when we say shit in our day to day lives, it doesn’t really come around to a perfectly sensible thing. Sometimes the people in your life just go, “uh huh,” to shut you up and move onto the next thing that is interesting to them.
The thing that was hard for me was what do you put in a book.
I looked at something like hundreds of ebooks. I looked at giant well known published by huge companies books and lots and lots of self published books. There are things all books should have, but even that? Not every book is the same.
The only thing every book I looked at had was a copyright page. (Many of those were different). I read a bunch of stuff about this page and really tried my best to model it on what I needed and what seemed to be required.
Table of Contents
I was a little surprised not all movies had one. I really like having them, but not everyone does. The weirdest version I decided was not for me was the TOC at the end of the novel.
I wrote like 30 of these and trashed 30 of these. I’m not sure if I’m not good at it. If it was the book. If it was something else. Lots of authors had them, but it was far from universal.
OK I lied earlier. All books also had content!
About the Author
Not all books had one of these. A short bio, future projects, other things. This was hard to write as well, but once it is done, I’ve got a bio to use for lots of things. It was important to include. I struggled over which links to include, I still don’t know if that’s what I should have in there.
I didn’t include this because Dangerous Metal is the first full length novel. The next project I’ve got coming out will have one of these pages. It does seem incredibly important. And it does seem like some authors are going in to update these, which I appreciate.
I really like when authors group them by genre or series. I like when these are linked and easy to get at.
This is something I need to do better with.
I don’t have anything that fits really well with this book. This may still be an error. I have 4 novella’s that are pretty close to ready to go, it would have been easy to include them. Except they are all much more urban fantasy bent. I like both fantasy and sci-fi (hey! have you heard of the podcast? I’m really really big tent with that!) but not everyone does.
I think looking at it now that I may have been overly conservative. I have a tendency to do this in things. Like no one will want to read the excerpt of Oak Stream Hollow! ACK Dangit Mariah. Share! Put it out there. I’m bad at this.
MORE! Links! Extra content! Sharing! More, hey if you want more, there is more.
I love reading the next chapters at the end of a book I loved. Honestly? Even more when it is something I wouldn’t have normally read but also love. So yeah. I need to do some more of this. I also want to do better at sharing audio and promoting the audio. Mostly because I love audio and I want to share it.
I promised to talk about formatting for Dangerous Metal so here it is. (For a straight up roundup of formatting links I’ve already made that post.) If you have questions about it please let me know!
For me there were really two elements to formatting. One technical. (Not entirely difficult, I used Scrivener, which made it much easier.) The other just…what should a book look like. This post got long so this is mostly just the techincal piece. Why I picked the tools, where it goes, etc. I’m not sure what else people want to know, so again, fire away with questions!
So the primary decision for me was to make it an epub. A couple reasons.
Works for just about everything. You can use it to upload your book to Amazon and Smashwords (which are the 2 places I’m going for right now). It is portable and reflowable. It is easy to make and easy to read. EPUB is readable on most devices. It isn’t DRMed. It is fairly small. Basically, it holds all I want and flows the way I want.
I don’t have or use MS Word at home. (I do at my day job, I do so much that I cannot wait to be not using it. Some days I want to come home and hug my Mac just because it isn’t MS and I didn’t have to answer 300 questions about why does MS do things they way they do it.)
I use Google docs (pretty extensively, especially for sharing, any feedback work I do is within google docs, I also use google sheets almost exclusively for my spreadsheet needs, I use google drive to share audio with authors, etc. So I’m pretty comfortable with the google sphere.
Google docs does let you export as an ePub. I did that once, never again. (Well maybe, if my workflow stops working and google improves I may have to look around again.) I would imagine that doing appropriate things like using headings is very important to getting a good product here.
But google is generally just a stop in the workflow (especially now that I can scrivener on my phone!) so it doesn’t stop here.
Sometimes I use pages. I’ve used it for some specific projects. I’ve used it when I want to do a lot of editing on a long document. My biggest issues with google docs is that it slow down so very hard on big documents. I feel like once I pass 10K I need a new solution. Pages has often been the long form editing tool. It’s not perfect either. But it is better so far than Google docs, especially when I want comments or markup/revision/whatever you call it on something longer. The big downside is I basically only use this with myself.
I have liked its direct exports better than I’ve liked the google ones so far.
I’d say that it would likely take a few solid hours of practicing, trying, tweaking, adjusting, and just learning. But less than a full day’s work can turn out a very good one the first go round if you know what you want. If you don’t know what you want it is a lot harder. At this point I can put out a ready to go epub in much less than an hour, including testing it out and going back to fix all the stuff I missed, because there is always something I missed.
I like all the tools that Scrivener has, but even if it only easily turned my novels into pretty, easy, useful ePubs that would be enough. Downside? You currently can’t make the ePub from the iOS version. You need the desktop for that. Good news? Highly syncable.
Why not PDF?
Because I’m not writing a textbook? I know this sounds a little snarky, but seriously. Please please please don’t make your novel in PDF. I know there is some value in it. Heck I know I have options for it if you look under “Free” up at the top. But the more I do this the more I go, no! No! Why?! When I have to read one it just feels slow, old fashioned, and clunky.
I will likely be re-evaluating my own PDFs later this year and possibly getting rid of them. I’d rather put in the extra work to make a nice smooth ePub. For me at least they open up nice and smoothly on my iPad. I’m not 100% sure how they flow on Kindles which is my primary concern with dumping them, but I feel like I’d rather make a mobi than a PDF.
I know PDFs are easy. They are SO easy. And they look exactly like what you tell them to look like. I get the draw. I am drawn. They are universal, everyone knows them. Every device opens them. Heck they probabally even work on Blackberries!
But there is no flexibility. The beauty of an ePub (or a mobi) is that in iBooks (or Kindle) I can make the font bigger or smaller, I can do that and it doesn’t make me move the book around. I can make the background a different color, I can go for a dark mode, I can change the font (if you picked a cutsey hard to read one? great, I can change it!). I personally am a sans serif reader. I know many others are serif readers. We can each do what works best for us. I can flip pages or I can scroll. I can do all those things.
So yes, I guess PDFs are important. But not primary!
This got long. I cut the next piece which was more what to include when formatting, and why I picked what I picked.