Word Constipation

 

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Do you like it?

 

So…Embracing the Demon. Dale, book 2.

I’m frustrated.

The good news is, the book is coming along. I’ve got about 40,000 words right now. I’m not stuck, and I don’t feel like I’ve written myself into a corner. My editor read a good chunk of it, and he’s happy with how it’s coming. This is good news. When we were working on The Demon Within, I basically had to rewrite the book from the original manuscript I submitted to him. Then after his feedback on the rewritten draft, I still had to go back and gut the entire middle section. It was an arduous process, and there were days when I felt like giving up completely. I figured maybe I wasn’t cut out to be a professional writer. For perspective: I signed my contract with California Coldblood in May of 2014. I submitted the final manuscript to my editor in November of 2015. Even after that, there were copy edits and minor changes, but I was mostly out of it by then.

That’s not what’s going on here.

This time, I did a lot of the work up front by writing an extensive outline of the story ahead of time and submitting it to my editor. As much as my pantser heart hated to do it, I have to admit that it is helping considerably, especially now that I’m truly in the middle section of the story (which has always been the hardest part for me). Whenever I get stuck, I just refer back to the outline. I’ve got a map to give me directions.

The problem I’m facing now is that the story is not coming fast enough, and because of that, I’m looking at the very real possibility that Embracing the Demon won’t be out until 2018.

When I sit down to write, I average about 1,000 words. On a good day, I might be able to push it closer to 1,500 or 2,000. On a bad day, I might only write a few hundred. Some days, I don’t write. I’ve heard so many writers give the advice to “write every day, no matter what,” but that has never worked for me. Writing is a job–on top of my other, full-time job. I love it, but some days, my brain just needs a break. Other days, I just don’t have time to write. Maybe I’m busy at work (the full-time job, the one that currently pays the bills) or I’ve got other appointments that don’t bring me home until late. Most weeks, I’m averaging about 4-5 days of writing time, 2-3 days off.

I know this about myself, though, so I know I should have started sooner. I was very burned out after finishing The Demon Within–and then once I’d recovered enough to write again, I was smack-dab in the middle of buying a house and wedding mania. But even beyond that…I got married in July. I didn’t start working on the outline until October. That’s on me, I know.

I’ll also be the first to admit that I’m not so great with either time management or focus. I’m distracted easily, and tend to fall down the internet rabbit hole too often.

The first draft of The Demon Within was about 100,000 words; the final was about 85,000. Then you need to factor in time for rewrites–which probably won’t be as extensive as they were on the first book, but there are still going to be scenes where my editor says things like, “Add more cool weapons” or “Be more descriptive.” In order to get Embracing the Demon out this year, my editor would have to upload it sometime in the next couple of months. You don’t have to be great with numbers to see that the math doesn’t work out.

I follow other writers on Facebook and Twitter who says things like, “I wrote 10,000 words today!” or “I only wrote 2,500 words today, I’m so disappointed in myself.” To which I’m like, WTF?!? I don’t even know how it’s physically possible to write 10,000 words in one day, and 2,500 words would be a great day for me!

Mostly, though, I’m just oozing jealousy. I genuinely don’t know how one can manage to be that prolific, especially with a full-time job (or kids, or family obligations, or volunteering, or pets, or whatever).

I wrote faster back when I was living on my own, but back then I had fewer demands on my time and distractions. It’s so much easier to write when you have no life!

But, since I have no intention of giving up my husband, my family, my friends, or my cats anytime soon, some mitigating strategies are in order.

–I’m going to be deactivating my personal Facebook account soon. It’s temporary, and I will reactivate when my draft is done. My public author page will stay up, but it’ll probably be less active. This is both for my mental health as well as time management: ever since the election, Facebook has been a hotbed of political activism and discussion. Which is great, but it’s causing me stress I can’t handle right now.

–Twitter will stay up, but again, I may not be around as much. (Twitter has never been my poison.)

–I’m going to try (emphasis on try) to start getting up early in the morning before work to write. I’m not a morning person, so this will likely be the biggest struggle. But I’ve done it before.

–I’m going to try to get to the gym more. Doesn’t directly have anything to do with writing, but it clears my head and makes me feel better.

–After I finish the draft of Embracing the Demon, I’m going to work on some things that aren’t Dale-related. I love Dale, but I’ve been in her head exclusively for way too long now. (The last non-Dale project I worked on was in 2013.)

–And if it does come down to delaying the publication, I’ll have to think about some things to put out in the meantime. Short stories? A Dale novella? A non-Dale novella? Deleted scenes? (God knows I’ve got plenty of them.)

I know that building a writing career is a long process, and it feels better to have a plan. But right now, I’m still grumpy and frustrated with myself. Damn kids. Get off my lawn!

 

#lifegoals

So the coolest thing happened to me on Facebook tonight…

Some background information first: I keep my personal Facebook page and my author Facebook page separate, partially for privacy reasons and partially because I’m very outspoken and I know book readers might not want to hear my opinions on politics and social issues. I do have a few professional acquaintances on my friends list, mostly people I’ve met through various conventions and people I worked with in my CC2K days. But mostly, the people I know on Facebook are people I’ve met socially, and some of them date all the way back to high school. In other words, I figure most of them haven’t read or heard of my book, nor do they care.

So anyway…

I got into a discussion on a friend’s post, and by discussion I mean “minor, non-heated disagreement.” Yes, those are possible on Facebook, however you’d never know it once politics becomes involved. Thankfully, this one was not political, so the vitriol associated with those kinds of arguments was absent.

Then the person I was going back and forth with said this to me:

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So for the very first time in my life, I got to say, “Yes, I am that Beth Woodward.”

Seriously, this is probably the coolest thing ever. (On a side note: see, reviews really are important!)

And then I thought, “Hmmm, maybe I should have disagreed a bit less vehemently.”

Thankfully, he followed up with this:

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At least I know he didn’t take our argument non-heated disagreement personally!

So, to the person whose name I redacted for privacy: thank you in advance for reading, and I hope you enjoy the book. And you seriously made my night. Hell, maybe my whole week!

It’s definitely good motivation to get my butt back to work on book 2, which is what I’m going to do right…now.

A Writer’s Christmas Wish: Reviews

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If I could have one thing for Christmas this year, it would be more reviews of The Demon Within on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, and other retail and review sites.

We are in an era where new books are being published in hard copy and electronic format every single day. But what that means is that any individual book has a harder time standing out from among the masses. We’re competing for people’s time and entertainment dollars with not just other books, but with television, movies, computer games, smartphone apps, etc., etc., etc.

With so many books out there, it can be hard to separate the ones we’ll like from the ones we won’t. It’s easy to be skeptical about a book when it only has a few reviews, and it makes people less likely to want to spend their money on that book.

Andi Cumbo-Floyd, an author and editor I’ve gotten to know this last year through her blog and social media pages, posted a video a few months ago about the importance of reviews, particularly Amazon reviews. (Amazon uses its review system to do a lot of cross-promotion through those “You May Also Be Interested In” links and their direct e-mails.)

So that’s why I’m asking if you could do me a solid this Christmas. If you’ve read the book, I would be super duper grateful if you posted a review. It doesn’t have to be long or involved. Just a couple of sentences saying what you thought about the book.

And hey…even if you didn’t like the book, I’d still appreciate the review. Don’t get me wrong: I’d much rather you liked the book. But I get that my book is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and that’s okay. What you disliked about the book may be exactly why someone else likes it. All reviews are helpful, because they give people different perspectives.

I’ve got to admit, I’m a pretty negligent reviewer. I read a lot, but I don’t review nearly as often as I should. But I’m going to try to remedy that this holiday season. I’ll be spending some of my time off writing reviews for some of the books I’ve read this year, especially for the authors who are not as well known.

Whether it’s for me or someone else, it’s a small thing you can do that will make a huge difference to an author.

 

 

Are You A Pantser or Plotter?

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To Annabel, it doesn’t matter whether I am a pantser or plotter, only that I drop everything to pet her.

 

For most of my writing life, I have been a “pantser.”

For those of you not familiar, a pantser is basically a writer who writes by the seat of their pants, without doing a lot of planning beforehand. A pure pantser might be someone who just sat down in front of a computer or notebook and wrote whatever happened to come out, sort of a Jackson Pollack approach to fiction.

For me, it’s always meant that I start with at least a germ of an idea—usually, but not always, a beginning and an ending—and maybe a few markers in the middle. I’ll come up with new scenes and sequences as I’m going along, but I’m often only a few scenes ahead of my actual writing. I roughly know where I’m going, but I don’t know how I’m getting there until I’m well into the book.

The advantage of this, for me, has always been the rush of creativity while I’m writing. I often find myself doing things that I didn’t expect: killing characters, creating a conflict where I didn’t expect there to be one, inventing new things. The feeling of creative freedom is awesome.

But the disadvantage is that because I didn’t have a direction, my plots sometimes tend to meander or lose their focus, and sometimes my story just isn’t tight enough. When I was working on revising The Demon Within for publication, I ended up rewriting about 80-90% of it. Even after I submitted the draft to my editor, Bob Peterson, it needed a lot more work; the middle section got completely gutted, which was another 30,000 words I had to start from scratch. It was very frustrating, particularly since I’d already been working on the book for four years before I was contracted for publication. But when my editor and I started tugging on some of the strings, I realized there were some fundamental, structural issues and it had to be gutted.

The whole process, from the time I signed the contract to the time I turned in the final draft to Bob for copyediting, took 18 months.

For Embracing the Demon, my editor asked me to write an outline before I began the book. With only a year between the releases of The Demon Within and Embracing the Demon, I do not have the luxury of completely deleting the middle of my book and spending another six months on rewrites. Bob wants to make sure we iron out any story issues before I really sit down to write. (I suspect he also wants to have an idea of what I’m writing about so that when the folks at Rare Bird Books and Publishers Group West ask about the book, he has a better answer than, “It’s about…demons? And, uh…embracing stuff?”)

An author who routinely does this kind of prewriting and planning is called a “plotter.”

I’m in the middle of the outlining process now. Not gonna lie: it’s been tough. Basically, I’m trying to force my brain to work in a way it hasn’t before, and 25 years of writing habits are hard to break. But I can see the advantages. As I’m outlining, I’m getting that rush of creativity, that feeling of possibility. I get to throw ideas at the wall and see what works! And that’s my favorite part!

My first outline was a jumble of bullet points. Bob sent it back to me with a few notes and then asked me to break it down by scene, so he (and I) could get a better sense of the organization of the book. About a week or so later, I sent it to him: 6,000 words detailing major plot developments, character arcs, and set pieces. It was a thing of beauty. Bob was going to love it, and send me on my writing journey with his good wishes.

Or so I thought.

Instead, he came back almost immediately with comments, some of them pretty fundamental to how I had structured the book. Basically, I was starting out too boring, and the pacing of the first half was too slow. And once I stopped pouting and pulled my head out of my ass, I realized he was right. The pacing was too slow, and the beginning was never going to hook readers in—and it might lose existing readers.

I was still upset and frustrated. But then I realized that it takes a lot less time to fix a 6,000-word outline than it does to fix a 90,000-word book. This was some of the toughest stuff Bob and I worked on during the revision process of The Demon Within. I’m getting it out of the way before I actually start writing the book.

It didn’t completely cure my frustration. But it helped.

Since I haven’t started writing the book yet, I don’t know how the experience will be for me. Will I feel like the outline constrains me too much, zapping the process of its spontaneity and creativity? Or will I experience a sort of freedom by having a map of my journey: freedom from fear of failure, and freedom from blank page syndrome?

I’m not the first author who’s contemplated this: Chuck Wending wrote an awesome blog post on his journey from pantser to plotter, and this Goodreads post quotes several famous authors on both sides of the spectrum. (Sidenote: That’s harsh, Stephen King. Seriously.)

Fellow authors: Are you a pantser or a plotter? What do you think are the advantages and disadvantages of each?

 

 

Carolyn Crane Blurbed THE DEMON WITHIN

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USA Today bestselling and RITA award winning author Carolyn Crane gave an amazing blurb for The Demon Within:

This inventive and exciting tale had me breathlessly flipping the pages—and I loved every minute! Get ready for a sexy, twisty, dangerous ride that crackles with pure awesomeness.

I’m ridiculously flattered by this. Carolyn is an author whose work I’ve loved for a long time. Her Disillusionists trilogy (Mind Games, Double Cross, and Head Rush), about a woman who weaponizes her hypochondria to become a crime fighter, is one of the coolest, most unique entries in the urban fantasy genre.

As a fan of her urban fantasy, I was a little nervous when I found out Carolyn was writing a romantic suspense series. I’m kind of picky about romantic suspense. With some romantic suspense, I feel like I’m reading the same story (damaged sexy hero and TSTL heroine on the run from a serial killer) over and over again. But The Associates novels focuses on a quasi-legal worldwide spy organization–and of course, everyone involved is super suave and sexy. Think James Bond spy stuff meets The Thomas Crown Affair intrigue and sex appeal. Also, the heroines are as badass as the heroes. One of them is a not-quite-reformed criminal safecracker; another is one of the leaders of the Associates who goes undercover to infiltrate a drug cartel.

 

Basically, it seems like no matter what genre she’s writing in, Carolyn looks at the rules and tropes…and then ignores them altogether and does something completely different. It makes her books unexpected and awesome.

 

Carolyn CraneI interviewed Carolyn for the CC2K pop culture blog back in 2010, and I’ve spoken to her quite a bit on Twitter and Facebook since then. This summer, I actually got a chance to meet and speak to her during the Romance Writers of America Conference in New York City. She was a wealth of information about writing and publishing, and the experience was one of the highlights of my year. (She’s also super sweet, and just one of the coolest, most generous people I’ve met in the writing world.)

 

 Thank you again to Carolyn for this amazing blurb!

Jenn Bennett Blurb, and Other Cool Stuff

Jenn Bennett, the author of the Arcadia Bell urban fantasy series and the Roaring Twenties paranormal romances, blurbed The Demon Within. (Basically, think of how, on most books you read, you’ll see quotes on the front that say things like, “This is the most amazing book since sliced bread!” — says Important Author.)

She said, “Engaging, old-school urban fantasy. Will appeal to readers hungering for spirited supernatural action with a dash of forbidden romance.”

This is my very first blurb, so I’m doing happy tap dances over here. Better, it comes from an author whose work I already love. The Arcadia Bell series is high-stakes and consistently fun, and it has one of my favorite book couples of all time: Cady and Lon, whose relationship always struck me as sweeter and more realistic (not to mention more equal) than a lot of other romances in the alpha-male dominated UF market. The Roaring Twenties books I actually read much more recently, and I loved them. Great characters, great world building, and a unique setting (1920s San Francisco). I had been hungering for historical sci-fi/fantasy that was NOT steampunk. Not that I dislike steampunk, but I’ve been seeing so much of it lately that no longer has that unique feel that made me love it in the first place. So the Roaring Twenties books really hit the spot.

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The old City Hall subway station in New York City, which has been abandoned since the 1940s and is featured in The Demon Within.

 

In other news, I am being featured today on the AndiLit Blog giving some tips for scene building and “setting the stage.” As a writer, this is one of the most difficult things for me to do. I tend to focus more on character and plot than on stage setting. It was also one of the things that my editor from California Coldblood pushed me hardest on during the revision process. I had to come up with some strategies to compensate for my lack of visual imagination. I talk about a few of the strategies I’ve learned to use. Thank you to Andi Cumbo-Floyd for hosting me 🙂

New Year’s Resolutions

Happy New Year! J (the fiancé) and I have been on vacation since Christmas Eve, and I currently have the world’s crappiest internet connection. But I wanted to wander out for a m-oment to say farewell to 2015, and get my 2016 resolutions down in writing.

In 2016, I resolve to:

–Publish a book! (Okay, so that one’s kind of a gimmie. But I needed an easy one.)

–Be nicer to myself. I tend to be very hard on myself, and my confidence sucks. I don’t deserve it. I will treat myself, and my body, better.

–Read books I wouldn’t normally read. Time to expand my mind!

–Write The Demon Within, part 2, which is tentatively titled Embracing the Demon. I need to have it to my editor by about November/December 2016 for a spring 2017 publication date.

James MarstersI can’t believe 2015 is over already. It’s been a big year. I got engaged, bought a house, finished my book, and met James Marsters and David Tennant. I got to tell them both how much their work means to me, which was awesome.

Next year, I will get married, publish my book, and maybe I’ll shell out the cash to get a picture with David Tennant. Worth. It.

Seriously, for reals, almost done this time

DemonWithin Cover

I am seeing the light at the end of the tunnel for The Demon Within.

It’s been a productive weekend. I’m ironing out the draft, making sure all the transitions are clear, smoothing out scenes. I’m proud of myself, because I managed to work the title of book 2 into one scene 😉

My final deadline is December 1. I’m sure my editor will make tweaks after that, but that’s when I have to get my final in to him. That’s the version that will be going out for review. I’m hoping to be done sooner than that.

Part of my problem is that I’ve been going in the marathon pace for so long, I don’t know if I have the energy to sprint to the finish. Nonetheless, the finish isn’t far away.

After that…I think I’ll need to work on some other stuff, away from the Dale world for a while. Sort of a palate cleanser. I’ve been wanting to write a holiday romance. Obviously, even if I manage to accomplish that, it wouldn’t be out until next year, but I might as well take advantage of the spirit of the season and all the Hallmark movies for inspiration.

Problem is, I don’t know if I can write a straight romance without killing a whole bunch of people.

(Note to any law enforcement entities reading this: I only kill fictional people, I swear.)

(Addendum to note to any law enforcement entities reading this: …but I do kill a lot of fictional people.)

I miss writing for fun. I miss writing with no pressure. I need to do that for a minute before I can give myself back to Dale and company.

As for what comes next as far as The Demon Within goes…I’m not exactly sure. Promotional stuff. Reviews and interviews, I hope. Maybe a release party? This is the first time I’ve done this, folks. I am flying completely blind–and largely panicked.

This is what my next several months look like:

December 16–closing on a house
April 12–my first book gets published
July 2–I am getting married

Excuse me while I go breathe into a paper bag.