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Category: writing

Follow the bouncing ball

“Are you published yet?”

This may be the writer’s least-favorite question from non-writing friends. Or perhaps it comes in second to, “How long does it take you to write a book?” Wow, does that depend on so many factors.

The question writers are more likely to ask each other is, “How do you cope with the waiting?” Because so much in publishing is about waiting. Waiting on feedback from beta readers and critique partners. Waiting on responses to agent queries. Then waiting on editorial feedback from your agent. Then waiting on editor’s responses to submissions. Then…

You get the idea. Writers wait a lot. So you need a coping strategy, especially if you’re as impatient and twitchy a person as I am.

My coping strategy is to write more. Production of what is (hopefully) my debut novel, ACTING UP, was followed by writing METHOD ACTING. I recently finished initial revisions on the third book, ACTING LESSONS and sent it off to my beta readers. LESSONS was, for a lot of reasons, a difficult book to write (which isn’t to say it’s not fun to read–hopefully. It just came out much more slowly than any other manuscript I’ve ever written before. I cut my usual 1,000 word/day goal in half and still struggled some days).

So having that book in my rear-view (for now, until beta reads and critique partner feedback starts coming back and I begin to re-revise), I embarked on a new project, FAST ACTING. This is a novella that foregrounds the good friends of the protagonists in METHOD.

It’s a project that’s living up to its name. Folks, this one has been super fun to write so far. A fun, flirty story between two wedding guests at an intimate destination wedding? A perfect follow-up to a more difficult project.

And as much as I hate the “How long does it take?” question, I do keep track of word counts and timing. I see this as practice for when (hopefully) I have externally imposed deadlines. I want to know what I’m capable of, what is realistic, and (very importantly) what isn’t. What I can promise and what I can’t. Also, setting my own deadlines is an exercise in professionalism.

As much as I love Scrivener’s word count tool for daily and overall goals, I’ve found Pacemaker’s more flexible and visual tools to be a valuable tool for charting historical output and tracking your progress. It has a nifty share-able widget. So if you’re interested in following the progress of a novella, by all means, follow the bouncing ball…

#Scrivathon16 – The Home Stretch (Raffles!)

Hello lovely visitor – we’re in the home stretch leading up to Scrivathon 2016. Scrivathon is basically a fun-run for fingers. A group of us are pledging to have butt-in-chair, fingers-on-keyboard the day of November 12.

You can support us by pledging money (all funds go to Syria Relief), and if you’re a writer-person and would like to enter raffles for nifty things like page critiques or edits, Scrivener software, and other fantastic items and services.

More information on the raffles and how to enter are on our lovely hostess’ blog. And if you want to donate to my campaign (I have $0 raised so far and it is making me saaaaad edit: I got my first donation, YAYYY! Thank you Jenn!!), my Justgiving page is here.

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Check out these other participants in the Scrivathon:

A.Y. Chao || Gurpreet Sihat || Hoda Agharazi || Deborah Crossland Maroulis || Morgan Hazelwood || Dante Medema || Miranda Burski || Maria Guglielmo || K.J. Harrowick || Rochelle Karina

Shelving Anna

Persuading Anna was my first completed fiction manuscript. It started life as an attempt at “Literary Women’s Fiction.”

“Wait – doesn’t your bio say you write comic romance?”

Yes, reader, it does. Thank you for allowing me to put words in your mouth just this once. I promise I won’t do it again.

I had a lot of ideas about what I might want to be if I became a writer. I went to a prep school that cranks out amazing writers like Susan Minot, Sebastian Junger, and Matt Taibbi. As such, I was terrified of doing anything that wasn’t “serious.”

I picked at this manuscript for years. I thought long and hard about why I couldn’t get more than a chapter or two of it out. After all, it was a contemporary spin on my all-time favorite novel, Austen’s Persuasion. (In fact, its first title was The Energy and Devotion of Our Youth which is from a Benjamin Disraeli quote that ends with “…was all my persuasion.”)

Finally, I realized why I wasn’t writing the damn thing. It wasn’t fun. Frankly, it wasn’t what I wanted to read, let alone write.

So I started again. Some of the original stayed, and the book grew over weeks and months. It became fun. The characters surprised me. A friend of mine who is a literary agent agreed to read it. She told me it had promise, but I should find a critique group to help me with some issues, pacing (especially at the beginning) being at the top of the list.

I joined RWA, found a critique group, and over the next few months did a fairly serious revision while I wrote my second manuscript, Software and Sensibility (yes, I have a pattern). I started querying and got a few requests for the manuscript and a whole lot of rejections. I began to learn the real definition of “waiting.” I finished Sense and moved on to Acting Up, which is still Austen-related (a very loose spin on Lady Susan) but getting into more original territory. Taking the training wheels off, as it were. It is also set in my first workplace, the theater, which is fertile ground for both bad behavior and humor.

My beta readers told me that while they had enjoyed my first two books, Acting Up represented a marked improvement. They got really excited about this book. I finished that and started to write the next one in a proposed series of three, Acting Out.

Around this point, I entered Anna in Pitch Wars. I was excited about the possibilities of redrafting it, as I knew it still had problems despite the feedback and the rewrites. I knew my odds weren’t great, so I kept my expectations in check. I didn’t get a mentor, but I got another couple of critique partners out of the experience, as well as a whole new community. Though lots of people seemed to like the premise a lot, additional feedback from a couple of the mentors told me what I already knew: the pacing issues that plagued the all-important beginning of the book were still there. That and the fact that it’s written from her point of view only made it a funny muddle between “women’s fiction” and romance.

I reread the whole thing. I commenced another round of revisions on it. And a few days after Pitch Wars’ picks were announced, I found myself in a miserable funk. Impostor syndrome, tears, the works.

A few days after that, after a lot of thought, I decided to shelve Anna for the foreseeable future.

My reasons for doing so involved both my head and my heart. Head-wise, I know that statistically the first book that usually clicks for an author is their third. This makes sense. You learn by writing. I know I’ve learned a lot. Up is intentionally a “category” romance – short (50,000 words), punchy, and fun. Anna and Sense are longer, 70 and 75,000 words, respectively. The shorter format of the Acting books made me structure them differently, and they move along a lot more readily.

On the heart side, I realized I had become invested in the trilogy and, while I didn’t quite resent the idea of spending time on Anna when I could be working on my newer stuff, I wasn’t as excited about it as I might be. As my friend Anne said on Twitter, you have to work with what engages you (at least now, while I have no deadlines and the space to be indulgent about such things).

Will I go back to Anna one day? At this point, I’d say, “Probably, yes.” I agree with everything everyone said about it: the premise has potential, but I failed the premise.* That’s okay. With four completed manuscripts and another started (Acting Lessons), I’m still a baby at this game. If I approach Anna again, it will probably be with opening an entirely new Scrivener project and starting (sort of) from scratch. I don’t want to do that just now, but it sounds like it could be fun.

Someday.

*Nobody but me used the verb “fail,” to be very clear.