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?

Plan your novel!

Now! Dammit! Or else! Plan your novel. (This is dear me, love me, you can do whatever you want.)

I need to do some more planning as the end of the month looms large.

Project?

Clockworks
Clockworks from Andrew Gustar – Flicker

Easy: Jenna’s first novel, a full rewrite. (That part is hard, knowing was it is is the easy part, also reading that sentence, hard.)

Pre-November steps:

  • Make a Pinterest board (or rather add to the one I already have)
  • 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.

Now I just need better titles. Oof titles.

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Missing

What real life things are missing from fiction?

Jocelyn at 52 Letters wrote a great post about the Top Ten Parts of High School she wishes YA authors talked about more. Really good to think about, but fantastic if you write YA. I don’t write a lot of YA at least nothing that happens in high school.

missing piece
Missing puzzle piece

I’ve been thinking a little about what is missing from other fiction. (I’m also a bit inspired by the great series Elizabeth Rose has been doing about heroes and heroines.)

Finding things that are missing seems slightly harder than I expected. Part of it is that I don’t really want my fiction to really reflect real life. No one wants to read “And then she slept moderately well for a couple hours and then woke up to use the bathroom and then went back to bed and tossed and turned before finally falling back asleep.”

All of this kind of comes back to the voice thing as well. We don’t want a real voice, we don’t always want reality in fiction. There are some elements though that are valuable, or at least could be more interesting or dramatic.

Missing Drama

Real financial trouble

I feel like financial trouble in books (and tv) is weird and fake. People will go from having trouble eating one day (and they never have to eat the last bag of rice that might be old at the back of the pantry, just don’t have anything) to taking a fabulous trip the next day. This seems a bit better in books, but there are still a lot of times where I roll my eyes. If you want to hand wave and make someone obscenely wealthy, fine. But don’t pretend someone is super poor and then have them never have actual consequences from that.

It also seems to reinforce this idea that poor people are poor because they want to be. Not that there are situations that make it hard, like not having enough gas money to get to work and losing your job. That’s drama.

Sibling/Family humor

Not exactly drama, but even with siblings you hate (which is common in fiction) or who you are fighting with (also common) you share a great bit of history. You knew the same people, have the same reference points. Like it or not, you probably even have in-jokes with those siblings or family members. Why don’t more of them use it? Having moments of shared points leading up to something, not just, “We are from the same blood.” but more like, “Remember the time when mom was super tired and washed the red shirt in with the whites and you had to wear pink shirts to school for a week.”

Giant drama over tiny things

Fiction often has giant drama over giant world-ending things. People create drama over tiny things. People scream and fight like crazy over the remote or dinner or other things that mean nothing. Usually, because there is something else giant and stressful in their lives. These moments can be such a good way to show so much about a person. It can make a person look petty, but I don’t think it has to, it’s about how you tell that story.

Does the person break into tears because they forgot the sourdough bread and the sourdough was their daughter’s favorite and she’s sick and all the stress of dealing with that is just overwhelming? It can be touching.

What else?

What other things could be done more/better in fiction? What do you feel is missing from the things you read?

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Death and Weddings

I’ve been plotting out a Smoke Jumper novella. I’ve been wanting to write a mystery for a while and the idea came to me for a murder set at a destination wedding. So I’ve been researching death and weddings. It’s been…weird.

First the wedding!

I’ve been making a Pinterest board. Just like other Pinterest board makers. Except my thought when I look at something is, “Would this make a good clue?” “Would this make a good red herring?” “How will this factor into the death?” “I wonder which bridesmaid’s dress color will look good with blood?” “What picturesque location would be best to find a dead body?”

Basically, it’ll be a sort of rustic farm wedding, with a dead body and a shape shifter. That’s how most weddings are right?

rustic wedding
Matt MacGillivray

Death and corpses

I’ve seen this making rounds but The Human Body After Death is extremely helpful.

I’m having a poisons problem. Wolfsbane seems WAY to obvious considering that my shifter will be a wolf.

Here’s a list of 10 poisons used to kill people (beware audio – sorry!) The real problem for me is where and what I’d like to use. Poison ivy just won’t cut it. I’m not sure if this poison will be the actual weapon, or a red herring, but I know I need something that is plant based, ideally found in North America, super ideally found in the Rocky Mountains. Hm.

Mysteries

15 Tips from Elizabeth Craig

25 Things You Need to Know from Susan Spann

Really old post but had some good stuff about plotting clues which I’ve been having trouble with.

This (long!) post has some clue examples which is also helpful. Beware it isn’t even for writers, it is for creating one of those mystery dinner things I think. But I really liked the clues section.

 

 

Formatting

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!

ePUB

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.

ePUB is the right tool for me. Or EPUB or epub or ePub or whatever.

ePUB
ePUB

Word?

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.)

The Smashwords Style Guide talks a lot about formatting in Word.

Google?

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.

Pages?

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.

Scrivener?

YUP! So this is my primary making ePubs tool. It isn’t exactly super straightforward. I recommend this is super long and detailed from Garrett Robinson a whole bunch of steps. At the end of each post is a link to the next post. Or watch some of the videos.

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.

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I have no idea what I’m doing!

I’ve had a couple people insinuate lately that I might have a clue about things. I had someone important do it to me at work even. I have no idea what I’m doing!

None

I don’t know what I’m doing with writing, or blogging, or podcasting, or all the stuff I do at work. I mostly just try to figure it out as I go. I google, I research, I listen to podcasts and watch webinars and read articles and whatever else.

I try things that make me uncomfortable. I try to learn what things work and don’t. I try to constantly remind myself that it is ok to fail. Learn from that failure and move forward.

I feel out of my depth constantly. I feel like making this post is likely a HORRIBLE idea and I’m sure I’ll go back and forth on should I push the publish button or not a dozen times. If you are reading this I went for publish. (Unless you for some obscene reason hacked my blog and are reading my trashed posts, in which case…I can’t help you.)

I can’t be the only one who feels like this. Someone else out there must too. And sometimes it is good to know you aren’t alone, so maybe someone will read this and go OH! Me too! And maybe Future Me will read this and go, oh you were so adorably young then. (Future Me I promise to floss tonight, you can thank me now.)

But…

This was partly pointed out at work and partly in the writing sphere. I do all that stuff, and I learn. I ask questions and listen and try very hard to learn.

That’s good. That’s apparently not something everyone does. I know this because I watch other people, but I don’t entirely believe it. I have a sneaking suspicion that everyone else has a secret handbook on how to exist and how to write and how to be a leader and how to whatever else. If anyone has a spare I’ll take it.

I fail.

Often. And then I go ok, so that didn’t work, what can I try now. I reflect and try to learn and really take in what didn’t make sense, what wasn’t right for me. Whatever.

Sometimes I don’t have a good plan on how to fix it. (I’m looking at you future ancient anthropology flash series that I just can’t make work.) But sometimes it helps.

And it doesn’t always have to be failure. Every time I record I get a little better, a little faster, a little clearer.

Last weekend I listened to my podcast in the wild. Normally I’m listening to it at home with good headphones and no other sound. Music is really loud so I keep turning it down. In the wild? On the train with people around me making noise and my ear buds? I need to turn the music up. (If you disagree please let me know!) I can learn from things like that too.

I learn every time I write something, even if it doesn’t work. I learn every time I read something and take it apart. I learn things listening to podcasts that aren’t fiction at all. I learn things from reading “informational” letters from my health insurance company or the government.

And maybe…

I do kind of know some things.

I’m not entirely sure what. That seems to be the next step, figuring out what it is that I’m learning, what it is I know. What am I really good at? I’m not sure I’m there yet, but I’m learning.

Audio. I think I might be kind of ok at audio. I get annoyed when people who know me listen to the podcast and act surprised that it is good. Of course it is, I have experience, I know what I’m doing. I’m not saying I’m perfect or I know everything, but I know some. Certainly enough to put out a decent podcast. Enough to professionally narrate audiobooks.

Blogging. I might not be horrible at that. I’ve done that before. I have experience. History and and understanding of it. Maybe I’m not great at social media, but this long form thinking stuff? I’m not horrible at this.

Seems the theme is the stuff I’ve done before I feel best about. I don’t want to pack up and throw this all away so I feel like I’ve done it before to succeed next time. But I do want to learn every day. Learn as I go forward and maybe succeed this time.

So…that’s my perhaps way too personal, perhaps way too vulnerable, perhaps totally stupid post about how I have no idea what I’m doing, but I might be learning.

Summer Roundup

I wanted to go with a summer roundup, some things that relate to summer since we’ve fully entered summer here. There were some beautiful days and one lovely rainy one. I got a lot of audio done during the rain.

In summer things melt

Which can be great. And this video of things melting is a great way to waste 4 minutes. So cool.

Want a summer job?

How about cruising for the summer for google? Too much partying at night? Don’t worry you can take a nap.

Ok maybe I’m being a little snarky, but I’d rather someone fall asleep in traffic behind the wheel of a self driving car than a regular one, and they do, often.  It doesn’t make the news because it is so common, not because it doesn’t happen.

dog in water
Dog in water

Service dogs

Not only in the summer, but I see a lot more of them just hanging out during the summer.

Dogs can be trained amazingly well to be great companions and support.

If a handler is feeling anxious or uncomfortable, he or she can call their service dog to them as a way to relieve tension and stress.

Service dogs can be amazingly helpful, It is so impressive the training to get them ready to help.

Spring Roundup

Spring is here and so I’ve done a spring roundup. Well they are vaguely tied to spring in my head. Emotional intensity, sensory experience, creativity, and of course SMBHs. (What don’t you think of Super Massive Black Holes when you think of spring?)

Reading YA and introverts and emotions

Jocelyn at 52 Letters has a great post about seeing yourself in characters, about emotional reactions, and about the way we expect our characters to be. I highly recommend it.

I’m not sure I have all my thoughts wrangled together on this yet so I may end up looping back to it.

Senses

Computer Generated Logos not entirely a creative AI but similar I think. (There is also an Atlas of Potential Nations, which generates country names and flags.)

Listen – Table Top Audio is a cool audio tool for listening to audio with a specific ambience. Designed for tabletop gaming, but works incredibly well for writing too. (I’ve actually been loving Thunderspace an app for the iphone for rainstorm sounds as well.)

Taste and Smell? – The future of gardening? I really try to keep myself aware of the range of the future. I know I have talked excitedly about the future of ponytail holders. (Because yes, I am the dullest person ever…shut up.) There seems to be a tendency to focus on some of the big things with technology, but it pervades everything, including gardening. I know there are the fancy indoor gardens (which I’m not convinced I could keep alive) but these little pods seem like another step along the path to the future in another way.

Creativity, the brain, and practice

Creativity and the 10,000 hours thing

So in reading this I’m not entirely sure I understand it. I want to say I disagree but I don’t feel like that’s the right phrase, if this is what the science shows then …who am I to disagree. But it sort of doesn’t seem like what he’s saying is entirely backed up.

the techniques of deliberate practice are most applicable to “highly developed fields” such as chess, sports, and musical performance

But is snowboarding a much more highly developed field than civil engineers? Are musicians not creative?

Supermassives

Supermassive Black Holes are spinning the same way

This was a cool story about the possible reasons that supermassive black holes (SMBHs) at the center of the galaxies appear to all spin the same direction. Early fluctuations of the universe seem entirely reasonable for this, but hopefully this can also give us more insight in the long term into the early universe.

Motivation

I’ve been feeling a lack of motivation lately. I think I have hopefully sorted out what was happenings. I had created a gantt chart for all the work I need to be doing, what I need to get done to get the things I’m working on published. This laid things out through 2020 with a novel, two novellas, and an anthology every year, plus record and produce audiobook versions of all of them. Plus the podcast every week.

Sisyphian motivation
Sisyphus is not the motivation I’m looking for. I would like to wake up and look at the mountain I’ve made in the morning.

This might be reasonable if writing was my full time job. It might actually be a bit on the heavy side. But it isn’t my full time job. And I’m ok with that. I’m not planning on making it my full time job so I don’t need to throw every bit of energy I have into it. I need to do it in a sustainable way. I need to be doing something I can do for the next 5 years or more.

I also have this thing where apparently if I can’t do more than what is required or do it faster or better I don’t feel like I’m accomplishing things. So sort of the problem is I need goals that still seem like a lot but are not only achievable but exceedable.

I can tell as I’m thinking about these goals and tasks I feel very demotivated. It is absolutely manifesting in how much I am accomplishing. I ended up spending nearly all of my weekend critiquing work for other people and getting very little of my own work done.

What I’m trying to do is figure out a good way to work and get done what I need, and feel good about it. I don’t want to make myself hate writing. I don’t want to feel bad about what I’m accomplishing.

Much to my ever present dismay I am not a reprogrammable robot. I can’t debug myself. I can’t alter the settings. What I can do is change the way I work to work with the way my brain works. My brain, and yours no doubt, is really good at what it does, and what is does is being very tricksy. It really likes things the way it has decided it likes things.

So I need a new strategy. Smaller, more manageable goals. Though not all small goals. Like I’d really like to get Dangerous Metal recorded and published this year. That seems reasonable as it is really ready to be recorded and published. But maybe I don’t also plan to record and publish Stranded (or whatever I end up calling that one). Maybe I plan for a novel and a Smoke Jumper novella every other year. And then when I can do more? Great!

Oh and also still the podcast which requires finding authors, giving feedback, finding listeners, marketing, writing, recording, producing, and more!

I like doing these things. I like writing. I like recording. I like creating something. I like bringing other people’s creations to life. I want to continue to like these things. I don’t want to have all the fun sucked out of them by constantly feeling like I’m failing at them and then having that feeling made manifest because I’m so busy focusing on that feeling that I don’t actually do the things.

I’m trying to figure out what the right way for me to work is. I think this revelation is another step.

And yes, I hid the gantt chart so I can’t see it anymore.

Related article about the desire to get things done undermining effectiveness

Resources

When I go looking for information I find I often go back to the same resources. Yes, I mostly start with Wikipedia and Google. But if those aren’t finding me what I want I have a few other places I regularly loop through.

Cracked – personal experience column

I know it is a humor site but it is surprisingly good, especially the personal experience. Depending on what you are looking for it can be a good place to go. There is a lot of adult language. I cannot express this enough. But if I want a little background story on someone who wrote video games or cleaned swimming pools? This is great.

Ars Technica

This is a great site for news. They frequently do a surprisingly good job on the research so I use this on the current stories I want information on.

Mental Floss

There isn’t a lot of original content here but it is a good place to find links to other stuff and they do a very good job of citing sources. It is often a place I stop when I feel like something should exist but I’m having a hard time finding what I want. They do sometimes put together fun lists and posts as well.

Science Based Medicine

This is a site I come to for medical news and when I’m not sure of something. Is this really a thing? Ask SBM. It helps to understand what the science and evidence say about medicine and I am not great at reading medical papers, I can scan them but I often miss stuff. So this is a good tool to get the actual understanding of what is happening.

Scientific American

I’ve certainly linked to this often enough. Good resources, links to the studies, interesting stories. All the stuff you want.What sources do you use that might be unusual to help you find the information you need?