Jenna’s Books

Jenna is the protagonist in a trilogy, or I thought it was a trilogy. Or it might still be a trilogy.

Jenna’s Series

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!)

Book 1

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. 

Book 2

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. 

Now

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. 

Going forward

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.

How can I help?

I wrote earlier this week about writing for my niece. The second piece of this is something I’ve been struggling with for a while.

Why me?

I created a podcast. (You might have heard of it, 600 Second Saga.) This makes me a gatekeeper of sorts. Not a super fancy gate wearing gatekeepers (that’s what real gatekeepers do right? wear gates?) but one nonetheless.

I read a lot of other submission guidelines along the way to creating mine. Some of them said something about accepting or soliciting work for underrepresented groups. A few called out specific populations. Some didn’t. I thought, only a monster wouldn’t want that. Only a person who is a garbage person would need to even say that. Of course, I want a range of experiences and stories.

Not a monster

And then Trump got elected. On a wave of people who think that it is more important to have false change and loud shouting than to disavow actual Nazis. So…here we are today. I would like everyone who reads my blog, listens to the podcast, or reads my books to just know, of course, I’m not a monster. Just like the day after the election at work, even though I didn’t talk about it at all before directly, everyone knew how I felt. Because when someone needed to say, hey it’s not cool that we only have white dudes as avatars, that was me. When someone had to say it’s not ok to say that word/thing/etc it was usually me. And eventually, they just stopped saying them (around me at least). Because they just knew that about me.

I wish everyone here knew that I wasn’t a monster. And I wish that everyone felt free to say, hey! Not ok! Every time I said something out of line (if I do, please do, I try hard, but I screw up often).

So here I am. Saying I am not a monster. I do, of course, want work from underrepresented groups. Especially groups that are going to be feeling the pain the worst in the next few years. I want to help lift your voices. I want to do what I can. And that is the absolute bare minimum that any decent person should be doing.

I want work that is about being who you are. I want work that edges on political. (Not that I haven’t already got that, just wait for the inauguration day episode, which was written and recorded before election day.) I want work that doesn’t file off your edges.

I don’t get demographics on authors, but I know for a while I had more authors outside the US (this is the easiest demographic for me to keep track of, though I’m not 100%, but if your email is clearly outside the US I have a hint) than from inside, which is a good component. But I want to keep doing better.

My offer

What I think I can do is make this tiny little offer. If you think your voice isn’t welcomed, isn’t heard, and isn’t represented and you are struggling and aren’t sure if your story is a fit, or is ready, or you want feedback? Let me know. As long as it meets the other guidelines (link at the top but basically, ~1K, no swearing, sff) reference this post in your email, and I’ll do what I can to help, make suggestions, etc.

I Write for…

My niece. She’s not old enough to read my work. (And if my sister reads this, don’t ever let her read a few of them!) She may never actually read my work, and I’m entirely ok with that. But I write for my niece anyway.

I remember reading when I was a wee bite sized person and clearly I could never be any of those book people. I mean obviously. They were mostly men. They were brash and ballsey (again, dudes). They were adventurous. They had all the money. They were always talking to people and conning people (or being charming). I don’t…do those things. I’m not a fancy talker. I’m not good with people. I’m not outgoing. I’m not charging forward into anything. I’ve got brain stuff. I’ve got other stuff… and mostly I’m…not a protagonist.

My niece has a lot of that, and she’s not white. At least some of the book people looked vaguely like me, prettier sure, but still.

I want her to never experience running out of books in the library and still feeling like there is no place for her. I don’t want her to feel like she’s read everything she’d like and no one like her exists in the world. I never want her to think she can’t do cool things because the cool things in books always happen to other people, to the main characters and if she’s really lucky she’d be a side character.

It is deeply selfish. But that’s why I write.

That doesn’t mean all my MCs look like her, but some of them sure do. (I want other people’s nieces to have good experiences too.) They aren’t always the most adventurous person in the book. Sometimes they are deeply concerned about people around them. Sometimes they are a little too self-centered. Sometimes they are quiet. Sometimes they are loud and unheard. 

But every single time, they are because I want her to feel like there is a place for her in the world. That the world wants and needs her in it. Each word I put down I want to try to make sure that there is a chair pulled up to the table for her. I never want her to have a Christmas without a present. I never want her to feel like she isn’t deeply loved and wanted in the world.

I hope that helps not just her, but others in the world as well, feel like there is space for them. I want to keep pulling chairs up to the table until everyone has one. The table is more than large enough. There’s always enough food.

So for my wonderful and amazing niece, I will do everything I can to make sure there is always a chair for you.

(Side note? I have a nephew too. He’s going to be just fine I’m pretty sure. He’s all the outgoing and charming and adventurous and brash and every single other thing. I hope that the world is better for him too, I hope he sees himself in many things. But I think he’ll be just fine. )

2017 Goals

So last week I made a post about what I did in 2016. Now it is time for some planning goals for 2017.

Writing

My goals are 2-3 novellas, 5-10 flash pieces, 1 novel.

I’d prefer to say that I know which novel it will be. I’ve been thinking a lot about Jenna’s novel and what to do with it. I may be posting about that coming up. Still thinking.

More Smoke Jumpers pieces are absolutely in the works. One novella will be coming out this spring. I’m very excited about that. I’m hopeful for more Smoke Jumpers, and maybe something unknown as of yet. Who knows what the year will hold for words.

Podcasting

I’m going to keep at it! I love the podcast. I love the opportunity to share wonderful stories from amazing authors. Fully expect to see 52 episodes of the podcast in 2017. (And I’d love to help you share your story with the world. Looking for submissions!)

I want to keep doing what I can to share the podcast and get the word out. More marketing, more guest spots, more everything!

Narrating

My goal is to do 2 novels in 2017. Not sure if my own (unlikely) or someone else’s. I want to finish the Monsters anthology. (This is several (3-4?) more novelette length pieces I believe.) Maybe do a few more novellas (2-3). And pieces of my own of course.

Other

I’m not sure what else I should be doing. I hope this is enough. Read more. Critique more. (Part of the secret of narrating is that it is incredibly intense time with whatever I’m doing, I learn a lot.)

I want to create a better structure around a few writing things.

I also hope that 2017 brings about some kind of writing related surprise that I don’t have fully formed in my head yet. 2016 brought a few of those. (Podcast and narrating and publishing were all new and ranged on the planned/expected spectrum.) I think that something currently unexpected might happen. I kind of hope so. I hope it’s good.

(Not writing related? It could be a rough year in a lot of ways.)

2016 by the Numbers

Every year at my day job I have to pull together information for everything I’ve done for the year. Usually, this comes this week, someone several levels above me running through and saying they need it. I try to be prepared.

So this is my 2016 Roundup of all the shit I’ve done.

ALL the numbers from my 2016!

Quick review of my goals?

Back at the start of 2016 I made a post about my goals.

Narrating

I really dove into narration this year. While I’ve done some of it elsewhere and at other times in my life, I’ve never done as much or as all in as this year.

I narrated 3 novels. One of my own, one for another author, and one for another author under a penname. (You can see narration at Audible.) Three novels this year! I narrated three goddamn novels this year.

Oh but we are just getting started.

I also narrated 7 novellas.

Plus I narrated 2 parts for the anthology I’m an author in. (That isn’t out yet, still waiting for the other parts next year.)

Something like 50 hours of professional narration that I did in 2016.

Podcasting

While we are on the topic of talking into a microphone. I created a podcast. Yup 600 Second Saga was an endeavor of this year. I’ve had 46 episodes so far. (A Halloween bonus episode and 5 preseason episodes.)

I’ve gotten the chance to work with a lot of amazing authors. I’ve gotten the chance to share their stories in a new way and share something I love. Bite-sized stories and audio. It has been a lot of learning, but I also feel like, at least as of now, I made some good decisions at the start.

I still love the name. I still love the format. I still love the time limit.

Some of the stuff I tried I didn’t like as much. I wasn’t thrilled with Halloween month. I liked the episodes, but I just didn’t feel like I did what I could have with it.

Marketing! I need to get better at marketing (Like! Share! Subscribe! Submit!) but I think I have a good, high-quality product. When I started the podcast I subscribed to a few other shows that started at the same time…I’m the only one left.

Studio

Going along with these two I’ve seriously improved my studio. Overall I’m really pleased with it, with the quality of sound I get, with how long it takes to produce things. I’m still improving and changing. But I really did all of this in 2016. So…created a studio.

Publishing

This was the first I did any self-publishing. In 2016 I self-published 1 novel and 3 novellas (1 under a penname).  HOLY SHIT I PUBLISHED. Plural. A fucking novel. I published a fucking novel.

I’ve learned a lot from what I’ve done. A lot of time was dedicated previously, and in this year, learning about publishing and what I needed to do to be successful. I feel good about what I’ve done. I have so much distance to go. But I’m more determined than ever to keep going.

I’ve got plans for publishing a few things in 2017 as well. I have 1 novella in a penname that is 85% of the way there. I have a Smoke Jumpers novella planned for, I believe, March. I’m hoping for a second Smoke Jumpers piece in the fall but I’m less sure on that one. I am very much hoping the anthology I’m a part of (Monsters in the City!) will come out this year. My piece for that is done and has been for…a while…a long while.

Writing

Holy shit I wrote this year on top of all that up there?

I wrote 4 novellas? Wow. I wrote 4 novellas. Wrote, edited, edited, edited, and got to various stages of ready.

I finished editing 1 novel, I am still working on editing another novel.

I wrote…mumblemumble 40 plus flash fiction pieces. Not all of them were good. Many got tossed upon finishing.

Huh. I’d been feeling like I was doing bad at writing this year. Maybe not that bad?

Goals

Most of my goals were writing goals – 30 in 3? Done. So very done. In less than a year at that. I did not write a novel. (Fail.) I did more than the 1 novella. I did not get a full anthology worth of Smoke Jumpers. But I did get a few pieces, and one published.

Other

Also this year? I started an email list. I’ve been trying to be really consistent with blogging. I’ve started trying to use FB and Twitter and Pintrest as an author and better.

Goals

Reading. I did quite a bit more, and in other genres. Not quite as much as I planned, but very much on the right track.

Critiquing. I did a couple of novels. I tried to sign up for Scribophile.

(I had a giant thing at work where I’m part of a training program that has taken a lot of this fall and will take a lot of spring. I also got a promotion to a fancier title this year.)

And I’m sure other things I’m not even remembering.

Holy shit it has been a hell of a year. No wonder I’m exhausted.

Save

December check in

Now that we are over halfway through I wanted to do a December check in based on my December plan

Project?

I think I’m done. I sent the email this morning saying final final final should be done. So…fingers crossed nothing goes wrong in the process and I’m done with this.

Podcast promotion:

Pt 1: I did to a little bit of a push, I did a giveaway, I got some more reviews. Can always do more. Submissions are open and I’m looking for pieces for February and March. (I also took part in Raimey Gallant’s Blog Hop which falls under this a little maybe. Hi, new readers! Submissions are open for the podcast for February and March!)

Pt 2: I haven’t reached out to other podcasters. This is one of those things that makes me nervous beyond reason and sense. Checking to make sure the door is locked for 10 minutes kind of anxiety. I am totally interested in being a guest on a podcast. I can talk about lots of stuff. (For an actual list, ask!)

Pt 3: Make playlists. This I have done! Fantasy playlist on YouTube and SciFi playlist on YouTube. I’m open to other playlist suggestions. I’m thinking humorous episodes might be on my list of things to make as well.

Writing/Editing

Write 2 flash fiction pieces….I started and abandoned one. It was…not good. That’s ok.

Brain break: For reasons I haven’t really done this. I really need to. I’m concerned it won’t happen.

Jenna’s first book: I took a swing and a miss at this. I need to swing again.

Audio

Finish the current project: Nearly done

Finish the novella: Got another chapter and a half done

Check in with anthology: did, there is nothing yet, check again in January

(And as always podcast just sort of lurks here in the audio section, unspoken.)

How’s your December plan coming along?

December Plan!

November is easy to plan for as an author. At least if you are planning for NaNo.

I read a recent post planning for the whole of 2017. I’m not sure I’m ready to plan out for all next year. Not that I haven’t done that. Just when I do that I tend to over plan, and then panic, and then stall. So…let’s not do that.

Winter landscape
Winter landscape

My December plan!

I have a couple goals for this month.

Finish up a project I’ve been working on for another author with a pen name. I’m like 85% of the way there. I’m looking forward to being done.

Podcast promotion.

I’m hoping to do a few things:

  • do a little push for ratings and reviews on iTunes (this makes a huge difference in helping the podcast be discovered by new listeners)
  • try to reach out to some other podcasts to possibly appear as a guest
  • make some playlists to promote the episodes on YouTube

Writing/Editing

I have a couple different things I want to work on here. I have been slacking on writing my own flash fiction, so I want to write at least two flash pieces.

Take a brain break. (This might be next weekend!)

Redouble my efforts on editing Jenna’s first book. I’m not going to try to push to get the whole book done, I just want to get through a couple more chapters. Which should be entirely doable.

Audio

  • Finish the current project
  • Finish a novella I have half way done
  • Check in with the anthology project (there may be another novella for me to do there)

So that’s my December plan. Brain recharge is important. I want to spend at least 1 day not working, not my full time day job, and not my podcast and not authoring. …It’s been a long long time since I’ve done that. But a 100% day off day.

Hopefully I’ll also be able to get out and enjoy the snow.

What’s your December plan?

I’m going to fail at NaNoWriMo

I’ve never failed at it quite like this, but wow am I going to fail.

Frankly? I’m not even trying anymore. Which super isn’t like me. 

I know what the problem is. I’m recording a novel. This…might be something I do very little of going forward. A big part of it is just how I operate, how my brain works. The project isn’t due for months, literally months. But I cannot handle having it hanging over my head so I’m pushing everything else aside it work on it. 

It gives a weirdly false impression of how I work when I do this. And I’ve done a bunch of novellas, but primarily novellas and projects that are 2 weeks of work or less.  I can get them done and have the feeling of accomplishment. (Which I super love.) But they aren’t hanging over me until I finish them (well they are, but they are much easier to be done with).

I’m working with an author I think is great and I trust to do all the right stuff or I wouldn’t be working on another novel (that wasn’t mine!) at all. But even still? I’m going to be more wary. 

So…a note to future me

This feeling of panic happens, you have to set aside all other work and record as long as you can and then edit during the week and you leave no time or brain space for other creative endeavors. It is ok to do it, but know that until you finish the project, nothing else significant will happen. Accept that.

For current me?

It’s ok to focus on getting this done. But then no excuses, buckling down to try to get this edit finished. I’ve got a good plan. I’ve got a good start. A good strategy. Good characters added. Good characters removed. (Appropriate maybe…they aren’t all …good…) But I don’t have words that aren’t “good” right now. So finish. Get the editing done. Get the last recorded. Get the changes recorded. 

Then sit down in December and January and hammer out Jenna’s story. Take the chisel and really work that draft into something worth sharing. 

And write a short or two in the meanwhile. 

No more excuses.

Art is important. 

So yes, I’m going to fail at NaNoWriMo, and it’s not great, but it’s ok. I’m learning something important. Hopefully I’ll actually take the lesson to heart this time. If not, future me, knock that shit off!

Thoughts on Scrivener and writing for NaNo

These are some (slightly messy! sorry) thoughts on Scrivener and writing for NaNo.

I’ve shifted a lot of where and how I do the Nano writing. A few years ago I did it all in Pages on my iPad. I think 2 years ago I did it all in Google Docs and that was the year I fought A LOT with the slow down of google docs. When it gets big it gets really slow and clunky to maneuver. I tried doing it in google docs broken out by chapter but that was surprisingly hard to maneuver and make work as well. I think it was after that year that I bought Scrivener and then I dumped those chapters into Scrivener and worked with them inside it which was much much easier.

Something I love about Scrivener that I feel like I haven’t fully had the chance to take advantage of in a novel yet is what I’ve been doing with the Smoke Jumpers series. For Smoke Jumpers I put all the characters and locations into the project, all of the novellas (and flash pieces) are in the same project so when I’m like who is Ren’s oldest sister and which other stories is she in and where would she be at for this story? I can find that out. Having all the names, the locations, etc all laid out there has been incredibly helpful as I’m planning things.
I have been trying to set this up as best I can for Jenna’s books which I got a good start at last year when I did Jenna’s second book in Scrivener, but I haven’t pulled out all the stuff from the first book and I know I can still do a better job keeping up those other files as I do things like change description, etc. I’ve also been putting in notes like what someone is wearing if that is important and what scene so I can quickly check, I like the broken bottom screen so I can have the character description open while I’m editing a scene. I may end up doing this and having the old scene open on the bottom while I rewrite it above so I can take with the things I think do work.
For me when I’m moving from machine to machine my basic plan last year (pre iOS Scrivener which is GODDAMN MAGIC) would be I’d throw the last paragraph of whatever I’d written into a working google doc and then I could throw a few words at it from my phone or whatever, then I’d get home and copy and paste back out into Scrivener. I really was worried I’d forget this but it almost never happened. When I was on a roll or I had an idea even if I didn’t have the last paragraph from Scrivener in there I’d just throw it into that working google doc and I’d always remember to pull it out when I got home because I’d look at it and go, wait, I have more, oh google. And then pull it in. So there wasn’t any overlap issue there surprisingly.
While Scrivener is awesome, it isn’t the only game in town.
I ran across another tool on the NaNo forums was notebook.ai It seems to have a lot of the sort of things that I like about Scrivener. Though I don’t know that they have any of the formatting export to epub tools.
There are other options I’m sure, but these are the ones I’ve run across and used.
What tools do others use to write/manage/organize?

My Approach to NaNoWriMo

I’m going to talk a bit about my approach to Nanowrimo this year…

Nano!
Nano!

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.

A problem

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.

Strategy

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.

Podcast?

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!)

Project?

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’s ok.

It’s ok.

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.

Why NaNoWriMo?

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?

Good luck!