Monday, November 30, 2015

Another November, Another NaNoWriMo Conquered

When I started NaNoWriMo this month, I merely hoped it would help me loved Traitors & Tyrants again. I figured that either I would learn to let it go, or I would fall in love. At the end of the first week, things looked promising but I wasn't quite there yet. It wasn't until week two that I truly realized that I had regained my love for this novel.

I didn't write everyday. I had moments when I wished I hadn't committed to the crazy, month-long adventure. It kept me busy. I couldn't read. I was a solid 5K behind multiple times. There were moments when I wanted to give up.

But I conquered NaNoWriMo. I revised part 1 of Traitors & Tyrants, bringing the first part of the novel to a whopping 50,588 words. I had originally hoped to revised the entire novel this November, but it only took me about three chapters (approximately 20,000 words), to realize that perhaps that wouldn't happen.

Now that the month is nearly over and I have time to breathe, I can't help but be grateful that I stuck with this novel throughout the entire month. It would have been easy to quite.

I would have regretted quitting. After all, who wants to ruin a 6 year winning streak? (It's now 7 years.) Doing the easy thing in life is almost a sure-fire way to regret something. Life isn't easy and it's not meant to be easy either. Anything worth having is worth working for. Traitors & Tyrants is worth the work.

Looking back, I'm glad that I didn't tackle part 2 during NaNoWriMo. I knew exactly what to do with part 1 and, while I mostly know what to do with part 2, there are still some big questions I have to answer for myself while I work on the second half of Traitors & Tyrants. Part 2 needs to be revised at a slower pace and I'm okay with that. Part 1 looks incredibly better and has really upped the novel's game.

I'm looking forward to taking a break, but I'm also looking forward to completing revisions for part two. The writing process is a wonderful, fickle thing.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

NaNoWriMo 2015: Week 1 Brings Relief

It is the part of the day where I procrastinate for a hour or two before settling in to write my daily NaNoWriMo words. It's been a busy 8 days. I didn't hit my daily word counts every single day last week but I did write something every day last week.

Perhaps the big question now is how are revisions going? When the month started, I was partially dreading Traitors & Tyrants, but I made myself sit down and begin revisions once more. As I worked, it felt almost the same way it did when I began revisions for Hector's POV several months ago.

I've had to recreate a few details, but I'm pretty darn happy with what I have. I wouldn't go so far as to say that it's good that I lost all of those revisions, but I will say I was right. The words didn't come out the same way they did last time, and as a tragic as it is, it's also a good thing because I truly believe that these revisions are better than the ones I'd made before. Funny how that is.

As I'd hoped, NaNoWriMo is teaching me how to love Traitors & Tyrants again and I couldn't be more relieved. Now I'm off to go do some more writing today.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Returning to Traitors and Tyrants

It's the first day of NaNoWriMo. I should be writing, but I've reached today's word count so I had to take a break to get some other things done. Of course, that led to me blogging here after I was finished. It's been a week and I'm behind.

I meant to read all of Traitors and Tyrants before NaNoWriMo began. I didn't even get half way through. Fortunately, I did get enough read to begin revisions today. I'm happy with what I've written thus far and am hard at work revising the first chapter. Yes, 1,702 words later I am still not finished with chapter one. I like what I have though and feel like it will do exactly what it's intended for.

I'll continue my revisions this week and finish reading Traitors & Tyrants hopefully by the end of the week. For now though, my goal is just to stay ahead with the reading so I can continue working on the novel. I don't anticipate it being too big of a problem.

So how is writing Traitors & Tyrants again after all of this time?

I can't say I love it right now, but I'm content with it and I'm wondering what it'll look like after I'm done with it this November. If you ask me, that's a good sign.

As for everything else, work and school are keeping me busy. I had to bring pictures into my photography class last Thursday and everyone loved them, so I was pretty happy about that. I'll be sharing them on instagram at some point, but don't ask me when because I'm not 100% certain.

How's NaNoWriMo going for you?

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Recommitment Again...

Since last I wrote here, I've been thinking about writing and NaNoWriMo more and more. I've been taking photography classes for the past five weeks and taking steps toward fulfilling this dream of mine (to be able to take nice photos), has me thinking about a lot of stuff. It's given me a refreshed perspective on writing and my desires for it as well.

Let's just go over one thing for a moment. I've never flown anywhere. I've traveled up and down the east coast of the United States more than once now, but I've never flown anywhere. To my great excitement, I'm planning a trip to the west coast to visit an aunt. This pending experience has shed a different light on quite a few things for me. Perhaps it's cheesy to say, but I find myself considering things like a trip through Europe (through the same school I'm taking photography classes) as a real possibility. Now, will it actually happen? I don't know. Let's remember that I have yet to board my first plane.

Of course, I'm contemplating other non-travel-related things as well but we won't go into that.

With this new outlook, there's a somewhat familiar focus entering my life. I've been book blogging for almost three years, but things have been quiet on that front for the past week or two. Life is busy and it's coming to a point where I have to ask myself what is most important to me. Do I want to book blog seriously or occasionally? I don't have an actual answer for that yet, but I do have an answer about my photography and writing.

Yes, I want to dump some more time into practicing and improving my photography. Will I ever take pictures professionally? I have no idea, but I know that it's something I enjoy doing so, at the very least, it'll remain a pleasant hobby. If that's all that comes of it, then that's okay with me right now.

As for writing...

Writing is a constant battle of ups and downs. The last five months have consisted of a huge low and, curiously enough (or perhaps not so curiously), writing last week's blog entry was almost therapeutic. I've found that since I've written it, I've had a more positive outlook on Traitors & Tyrants. I've been more invigorated to start writing again and am ready to get back to it.

Now, that isn't to say I didn't write at all in the last five months. I did do some writing, but not very much and what writing I did (not blogging related) wasn't all that serious. I wrote in scenes, which is typically a totally unproductive way for me to write. I work in chronological order and find it virtually impossible to write seriously any other way. When I write in pieces, I tend to think of them as things I can cast aside at any time, unimportant even if they are related to a novel I intend to write at some point.

So what's my point here?

I've basically been a dry well for the past five months. I've used every excuse in the book and have flat out avoided Traitors & Tyrants. With everything that's going on in my life right now (and the perspective offered by my photography classes), I've been thoughtfully contemplating what my real priorities are in life and what I need to do to meet those goals.

I am recommitting not just to Traitors & Tyrants, but also to this painful, yet miraculous process we all call writing. It isn't entirely uncommon for me to go for months without working on a novel. It has happened before. What makes this past year's dry spell so different is the reason behind it. I wasn't just not writing because I didn't feel like it or because I was busy. I wasn't writing because I was, for lack of a better word, wounded in a way. I'm sure that sounds dramatic, but there isn't an easy way to describe it without going into great detail (which I did last week).

Now to get back on track.

Yes, I am recommitting myself to my writing because it is something that I love and have wanted to pursue with all my heart for quite some time now. Sometimes life just throws you a curve ball and there's nothing you can do but to ride it out. The important part is not to let it throw you off course for too long. Get back on that horse. Keep going.

All right, now that you've allowed me to beat that horse until it's good and dead (after all, the last three or so blog posts have been about more or less the same thing), allow me to give you can update.

Have I started planning for Traitors & Tyrants?

Like a good little procrastinator, I haven't done a single thing to prepare for NaNoWriMo. I intended to read Traitors & Tyrants today but that didn't happen. I will be settling in to do some reading tomorrow and will hopefully be finishing it by mid week. I'll have my notepad ready and pen poised for notes. There's a lot to do but I'm going to make the most of November.

I'm currently planning on taking two days off in an effort to help me get some serious extra writing time in this November as well as contemplating getting up earlier in the morning. (Hah, that's unlikely but good intentions right?)

Am I worried by my last minute preparations?

No. The fresher the novel is in my memory, the better. I need to clear up some inconsistencies and plot holes, so I don't consider the fact that I'm reading the novel the week before as detrimental. Since I basically know what I need to do, planning shouldn't be too difficult. (Look, now I've cursed myself.)

That's about it for now though. I'll keep you posted.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Why I'm Breaking the Rules this November

It's that time of year again. It's two weeks before National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) begins and writers everywhere are preparing or eagerly awaiting November 1st. Before October, I knew exactly what book I was planning on writing for NaNoWriMo. Then I was talking to my mother about NaNoWriMo (and how excited I was about writing it), one thing led to another and she had me thinking about using November to finish Traitors & Tyrants. In the end, I decided she had given me some good counsel.

I've put a lot of thought into my decision. I've been working on Traitors & Tyrants for two years; the prospect of working on a different project was refreshing and I spent a month trying to extract myself from that world. Quite frankly, the idea of working on Traitors & Tyrants was unappealing. As I've mentioned earlier, after loosing a lot of edits that were painstakingly added, I had to rush to complete at least half of them so I could finish my Writing Children's Books diploma. After submitting the manuscript to complete the course, I sent it off to my critique partners and decided I needed to take a break.

Now that I've lost my momentum, I've asked myself more than once if that was the right decision. I believe it was and I don't regret it, but getting back on the horse is a lot harder than it sounds. I'm still feeling the affects of losing so much work and its been difficult to begin preparing for NaNoWriMo. I'm two weeks from November 1st and haven't made a single move to prepare for it.

So why keep working on Traitors & Tyrants? After all, Stephanie, you seem to have lost all of your love for it.

Sometimes I feel like that. Sometimes I don't. But something my mom said keeps coming back to me. She read my first NaNoWriMo novel and has been a fan and a source of encouragement for my writing ever since. I count myself lucky to have someone like that in my life - especially a mother like that. As only a mother can, she basically told me to either decide that I'm done with Traitors & Tyrants for good and move on, or stick with it. How could I not ask myself that question after that? Was I done with Traitors & Tyrants? Was it time to close that chapter of my writing life and to move on to something else? Or was it time to see this one through to the end?

I've remarked more than once that I believed this novel could be the one. I've written novel after novel and, out of all of them, I believed that this could be the one I would begin to query - the one I would seek for publication. I still believe that it could make it. I also believe I could let this one sit in a folder I'll never open again if I let it. It'd be easy. In a lot of ways though, it almost feels like by turning my back on Traitors & Tyrants, I'm giving up writing for publication. After all, I've spent two years writing this and only this. Sure, there have been times when I wrote pieces of other stories. In the end though, a scene for Traitors & Tyrants always slips into my mind and I simply have to write it.

Throughout the past two years, I've thought about quitting. I thought I had passed those pivotal moments for this novel, and maybe they were, but I think this might be the decision that matters the most. I don't love it quite like I used to because I know that after losing those edits, the words will never come out quite the same way. I've lost that version forever and I loved that version.

It's been 5 months - almost half a year - since that one moment and I still feel the sorrow it caused. 5 months since I hurriedly patched up the novel so I could close it and not have to look at it again for a while. 5 months since I effectively turned my back on a story I had believed in for so long. These days, I am reminded of its flaws more than I am its virtues. I am reminded that those flaws had been fixed (or half fixed) before that fateful day 5 months ago.

That isn't good for the soul.

Therefore, I keep asking myself if I want to make this my NaNoWriMo project this November. Do I want to commit to it again? In the end, I decided it wasn't time to give up. I've come so far; it would be a shame to give up now when I still can't get my head completely out of the darn thing. NaNoWriMo has a history of helping me complete novels in an amount of time that is seemingly impossible every other month of the year. It has helped me conquer quite a few writing hurtles.

I know myself. I know that, when it comes to my writing, I work best under a deadline. So I'm taking the plunge. I'm going to go back and edit Traitors & Tyrants once more and, hopefully, find my love for it again.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Traitors & Tyrants Draft #4: Commitment

No man has been more inspiring or has taught me more about revisions than the great Tolkien himself. There is a plethora of writing advise out there. I once read somewhere that a novel should only have three or four drafts. After revising Traitors & Tyrants two times already, I find myself beginning another round of revisions. Once I've completed these I will be four drafts into this novel. I've finally come to accept that it may take a few more until I get Traitors & Tyrants where I want it, and that's okay. Not including the occasional dalliance into novels whose ideas are barely half formed, I have been working solely on Traitors & Tyrants for almost two years. I have never worked on a single novel concept for such a long period of time. The dedication I have to this novel almost seems unfounded to me.

Traitors & Tyrants has inspired me to keep going. It has made me want to give up on it. I've considered giving up on this dream of mine. But it refuses to leave me alone. Almost every single time I want to write, I find myself thinking about Traitors & Tyrants.

Let's cover something for a moment. I have completed five other drafts and have been dangerously close to finishing two more for the past two years. I have flirted with the new stories and have let them float around in my head quite longer than I typically let these type of things float. None of them have managed to pull me completely away from Traitors & Tyrants and I've asked myself why. More than once.

There comes a point when you have to decide how committed your are to a novel. I knew from the very beginning that I wanted to stick with this until the very end. I wanted to give Traitors & Tyrants it's best shot before it even had a title. Nothing in my life has taught me more about persistence than writing. Not long ago, I contemplated scrapping Traitors & Tyrants. I've written three drafts and it still needs a lot of work. But as I thought, I realized (although I already knew this) that if I never stuck with a novel long enough, it would never reach that coveted point of perfection I so desperately desire for it.

The unique thing about Traitors & Tyrants is that I believe in it unlike any other novel I have ever written. Every time I contemplate the next round of revisions, the thought strikes me of how much untapped potential it has. It is my belief in its potential and perhaps even all of the time I've invested in it that helps keep me going.

I finished the third draft about two months ago. It's been difficult to get started again because I lost a lot of work. Losing that work was a huge blow and it's been extremely hard to bounce back from it. It still makes me sad to think of how it was before I lost that work. It was five times better than it currently is. I've needed the past two months to get my head out of Traitors & Tyrants though. I've needed this time away from it. I was too close to it.

Recently, I started listening to Falling Kingdoms. I'd originally abandoned it when I tried to read it a couple of years ago. I hated the characters. While my view of the characters hasn't exactly changed, I've been taking this opportunity to appreciate the world Rhodes has developed. She is another author I can add to my list of inspiration. If anything, she has taught me how useful a despicable character can be to a story (when used correctly).

Shortly after starting Falling Kingdoms, I came across an article written by Maggie Stiefvater in which she basically says that writing takes work and not to belittle that. Behind almost every good novel, is an outline of some kind written at some point. This is another inspiring thing for me because it has given me the boost I need to begin revisions for Traitors & Tyrants again. I had success with an outline when I completely rewrote Traitors & Tyrants and will be employing a more extensive one this time as I move towards another round of edits.

My plan this time? Put my goals for this draft down on paper and outline the novel with these things in mind. This more extensive outline will force me to seriously contemplate each new direction I consider for Traitors & Tyrants; it will help me strengthen the plot lines, characters, and settings that are already in place. I am eager to dive into this round of revisions, and have actually already begun this process.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Keeping Busy While the Critique Partners Read

Last we spoke, I was waiting for feedback on Traitors & Tyrants. I'm still waiting on feedback from some people but the initial reaction from my critique partner was good. The manuscript has a long way to go and I'm excited to work on it again, but am also dreading it. So what is a writer to do with all of this free time?

I've dabbled with another novel idea but it's hard to abandon Traitors & Tyrants the way I need to in order to really get down to it and write a new novel. So in the mean time, I've been working on my school of course. I have a huge test this Saturday and everything is all set for it. Hopefully, I'll pass this Saturday and be able to move onto my next semester.

I am indeed working on an associates degree in Marketing but I've been contemplating getting a bachelors in history. I've always loved studying ancient civilizations. History fascinates me and I think it'd been really cool to major in it. I'm still thinking about it right and looking at colleges to see what my options are but this is something I've never really considered before and I'm both intimidated and excited by the idea.

I've also been looking at taking some photography classes. A local college is offering some classes so there's a high probability that I'll be forking out some money and going to those in the evening. I've always wanted to be able to take beautiful pictures and recently bought a $300 dollar camera for a really good price. At least, I thought it was a good price. For less than $900 I could have a photography certificate, which is cool. I've always loved taking pictures so this is kind of a life long dream that I could possibly fulfill before the end of the year.

Adding to this all, I've met one of my financial goals and am pretty excited about it since I never though I'd be able to do it. But I've saved and saved and I've finally made it.

I've been reading a ton of great blog posts and am currently obsessed with The Young Adventuress. Liz has gone to so many cool places that I've always dreamed of visiting - places I may only ever dream of visiting. (Although, if I had it my way I'd at least see Italy.) Liz inspires me to try new things I've always wanted to do but have never done. I've never flown on a plane before but that'll be changing this March. Perhaps after that I won't be such a coward about flying by myself?

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Another Chapter Ends

A few weeks ago, I lost a month's worth of edits for Traitors & Tyrants. It was devastating and made all the more horrific by an impending deadline for my Writing Children's Books career diploma. In about 7 days, quickly edited the bare minimum needed so I could send it off. When I say the bare minimum, I mean half of Rachel's POV. That's correct. I lost nearly every edit I'd completed for Hector's POV.

After printing the somewhat edited manuscript so I could send it to my instructor, I found myself with a big decision. My critique partners had only read parts of the novel. No one except my instructor had read an entire draft. Should I do a round of edits for Hector's POV before sending it off (as originally planned)?

The decision was incredibly hard and I knew I had to act as soon as I'd convince myself to send it away. So why do it when I already knew edits were still needed?

I found myself questioning a pivotal aspect of the story and was worried I had lost perspective.

So now I sit here, waiting for my critique partners to read the novel and let me know what they think. I sent it and regretted it immediately afterward. However, now that I've spent two weeks away from the project, I believe that sending it away was the right thing to do.

What do I write next? I have a project lined up but after working on Traitors & Tyrants so intensely, I'm taking this time to wrap up some other none-writing projects instead of launching into another.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Traitors & Tyrants Revisions: Draft #3

Wow, we're here three months since last I blogged over here. So what's up? I've made a lot of progress with Traitors & Tyrants. My strategy with this draft has been to focus on Rachel's and Hector's stories separately. I basically rewrote all of Rachel's POV, which was far more labor intensive than I anticipated. All in all, things are looking up. I finished rewriting Rachel's POV a few weeks ago and started on Hector's.

Hector's POV hasn't changed as much with this round of edits but he's always been a lot easier to figure out. However, there are some changes that were definitely unanticipated. They accomplished things that I've wanted since I started planning T&T - way before I even started writing it.

Editing hasn't been all fun and butterflies though. Lately, it's been difficult to muster much of a desire to finish revising draft three. I am almost halfway through editing Hector's POV though, which is exciting in and of itself. Due to my lack of motivation though, I've been experiencing a bit of T&T fatigue. I'm ready to finish this draft and work on something completely different. I haven't let anyone read T&T yet and am looking forward to finally handing it over to my two awesome critique partners.

Just as a breather, I have written a few scenes for my next project, which happens to be a story that I've wanted to read myself for a while now, for many years actually and I can never seem to find a novel that presents this type of story the way I'd like. I won't say much more about it except it centers around a princess and forbidden love: my favorite type of romance.

Friday, February 6, 2015

So It Has Begun: Traitors & Tyrants Draft #3

It's been quite a while since I've blogged over here. I've been pretty busy working (I changed jobs), going to school, blogging at Chasm of Books, and writing.

I've made quite a bit of progress in the past five months. I read all of Traitors & Tyrants' first draft and decided that I needed to rewrite the entire thing. I was opposed to this thought at first but I came around to it. All I can say is that I am so glad I did. Neither draft is perfect, however each has something very important.

Draft one has the entire series plot and some important world building in it. However, draft one's plot was unfocused. Draft two lacks world building and detail but the plot is there. You have to understand that when I write I tend to write the main points of a story and bypass a lot of detail and setting description. These are important things though, since this description enables a story to envelop a reader. As you can probably guess, things tend to be very fast paced. Too fast. It's one thing after another. Rushed.

My main goal for draft three is to insert details, world building, and pacing. I think these are definitely the major things. I'll be keeping an eye on Hector's personality as well as Rachel's to make sure they're consistent and distinct. If I had to choose, I'd say Rachel is definitely going to undergo the most character development in this round of revisions.

I tried to interview Rachel before I ever wrote the first draft, but she was uncooperative; however, I'm pleased to say that she decided to cooperate this week and I've learned some really important things about her and how she feels about events (now I'll be able to add a realistic emotional punch to things).

I've started revisions for draft #3 this week and am enjoying the process a lot. It's really interesting to see the story transform into something I'd actually be willing to share.