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writing

7 Things I've Learned as a Debut Author

7 Things I've Learned as a Debut Author

Life is never easy when you're a debut author/novelist. Even if you're Kim Kardashian. Remember her selfie book totally flopped? Its impossible to accurately predict consumers 100% of the time. There are cold hard facts but there is also hope. 

So here we go:

1. You Are Not Alone: However much you feel it or worry that you are. Believe me, you are not. There are two wonderful groups that I am apart of via the wonderful internet. Shelly Muncaster's wonderful Keystrokes and Closed Doors which is a great gathering place for authors who are working on their novels and the Indie Author Support and Discussion group (which has both a website and facebook page). The IASD group is comprised of both published authors and writers working on their first books. Its one of the best meetings of the minds that I have even been apart of.

2. It'll Be Difficult: There's no getting around it, its terribly hard to be a debut novelist, even if you've finished your book and done the amazing and gotten an agent and publisher. Its a long hard road to get the wider populous to hear about you, much less get them to buy the book. 

3. You'll Loose Time: This will range from time with family to your social life to parts of your sanity, as in where did all the time go. Some days you will be so caught up in your writing, social media strategy, writing bogs, setting up your website, that you won't be able to remember how you got there.

4. No One Loves Your Book As Much As You Do: I've heard writers say 'this book is my baby' or 'a part of my soul went into writing this book' - in that case, calm down Voldemort. But seriously, no one cares about your characters or the story as much as you. Not your spouse or mom (ok that's a stretch-but certainly not my mom) or your best friend or even your agent and editor. This is your project, your hopes and dreams. Don't expect mountains from people who can't deliver them.

5. There's So Much To Celebrate: I am currently celebrating finishing the first draft! Woo-hoo...oh wait now I have to go through three more editing hoops. Huzzah (insert weariness here). But that's the great thing about writing/publishing a book. There are so many little triumphs along the way and gigantic ones as well. Like when an agent asks to see your entire manuscript. Or when your sales start rising on Amazon. Invest in champagne people. Invest.

6. Sooner Or Later You'll Hate Looking At That Cover You Love: Ok so just me? I loved the cover for The Clouds Aren't White when it was designed. I love the colors, the way it matches the tone of the book, the dandelion on the spine. Ok I still love the dandelion. But honestly, it'll get old at some point. You'll look at it a lot. A lot a lot. 

7. It'll Propel You On To The Next Book: This goes with #6. I decided I needed a new book in my life and I wanted to get back to the business of writing. So out comes book #2, Lives Paris Took. The old book will always propel you forward. You'll want to dive back into a world again and figure out the characters. That is why the debut novelist has so much going for him/her...they are driven, they want to succeed. It's not all bad.

Keep your head up and keep writing.

Cheers,

Rachael

The Quick Way to Write a Book

The Quick Way to Write a Book

Yes you read that correctly. Because there are obviously 'non-quick' ways to write a book. One of the best ways to drag out the writing process is to let the book go cold. Think of this like a kidnapping, the first twenty-four hours of a kidnapping are crucial. Or in the case of the novel you're trying to write, the first 12 months are key. 

Let's get down to it. You want to write a book. You even have an idea. Let's walk through it.

Month 1: Plan, plan, plan. This applies to you whether you're a outliner or not. Try to plan out the ending. You make the writing go by much quicker if you know where its all going.

Month 2: Write, write, write. One of the best ways to get a running start with your novel is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWrMo. The goal is to write 50,000 words during the month of November. Not everyone can plan this out so November falls when they are ready to write. But consider doing it. The camaraderie is beyond compare. Suddenly, 1,667 words per day doesn't seem so great. Please don't worry if the whole draft feels like word vomit. 

Month 3: Keep Writing. The entire book won't get finished in one month. Trust me. Finish up. If you finish early, take some time off.

Month 4: Breathe. This may seem counterintuitive to being "quick." But it is essential to recenter yourself on the story. Taking a step back helps you write better.

Month 5: Revise. Large scale edits at this point. Bottom of the pyramid, narration and character development. Make sure your first chapter reflects your last chapter. Make the story come full circle.

Month 6:  Revise plot and story structure. This is one of the most important parts, I feel, of the revision process. Play close attention to plot holes and overblown metaphors, don't let anything detract from your story.

Month 7-8: Send to beta-readers. Find people who are not your friends or family, hopefully other writers that can offer you sincere feedback on your novel.

Month 9: Implement beta readers edits.

Month 10: Edit, edit, edit. Think the top of the pyramid. Grammar, punctuation, spelling. Work hard on this. Polish to a T. If necessary, hire a professional editor.

Month 11-12: Work on query letters. Send to agents. 

Look there it is! The Quick Way to Write a Book. One thing to remember is that 'quick' is relative. You cannot rush the process unless you are an author with a large team behind them, working on edits, building your online platform, etc. Relax in the everyday work.

How to Focus on Your Writing Not Your Insecurity

How to Focus on Your Writing Not Your Insecurity

Writing has to be one of the most difficult pursuits. Its solitary. Its a lot of head banging and staring at a jumble of letters trying to force them to have meaning. Writing is also full of terror, at times, insurmountable terror. 

These periods can be devastating for any author. The seemingly endless edits where grammatical and punctuation errors seem to breed like rabbits. Or perhaps the first draft that just won't translate from head to screen. 

First, take a deep breath. Most of the time, the deadlines we have imposed, are by ourselves, and therefore will not suffer from a lost day or two. Take time to think about why you are writing. What is it that makes you sit down to laptop or paper and write? Do you enjoy it? Good. Keep going.

Secondly, after you have found perspective, forget what 'everyone else is going to say.' If you've published the book on Amazon or Barnes and Noble and you've found errors, take a breath. Every book has errors. Have a cry or shake your fists at the sky in frustration and then fix them. Go back and do it. You'll be so much happier.

Thirdly, get out of your own head and find someone to share the day with. Writers often forget that it is from the real world that we draw inspiration that feeds our imagination. We cannot have one without the other. Perhaps you see, like me, a homeless man with a sign stating, "Rogue ex-CIA agent seeking $ to get out of town." Now...isn't that a story.

At the end of the day, insecurities keep us from our dreams. In the immortal words of Suzy Kassem, "Doubt kills more dreams than failure ever will." 

So go on. Focus on your writing. There's never been a better time.

Cheers,

Rachael

Word Counting: Chugging Along

Word Counting: Chugging Along

Word Counting...

An 80,000 word novel sounds like quite a lot. Until you realize that it can be 250-300 pages when bound/compiled. Then that's a smaller sized paperback.

I'm currently 14,000 words away from the end. Of the first draft. And I'm already quite sure that I'll rewrite the entire first and last chapters. My husband and I stayed up horrendously late watching Interstellar (almost three hours long!) and when we finally got into bed a much better first chapter sprung into my mind.

Thank God I wrote it down. The notes function on an Iphone is remarkably useful. As I'll discuss in a later post, my quota of 1,000 words/day is a part of a much larger plan and staying on task day-to-day is essential for my long term success. I write even when I don't want to write (excepting 1 day this week). And if I don't finish my count I tack it on to the next day's so that it gets done. Sometimes the words flow and I can be done in two hours. Other days I'll only get little snippets of time to write and it takes me all day.

My advice is to constantly remind yourself of your end goal. 'Do something today that your future self will thank you for' and that includes getting the word count down.

Stay tuned this Friday for the big title reveal! 

Cheers,

Rachael

How I Make Writing Work as a Mother

How I Make Writing Work as a Mother

Writing is hard work. You wouldn't think it but those pesky little letters can be tricky to form into the right order. Then enter children or even one singular child and it becomes that much more difficult.

Lets start with some introductory remarks. At this point in life (because life is crazy and I need to add a disclaimer), I have one child, an almost five year old daughter with a borderline unhealthy obsession with owls. She's a fantastic kid who is (almost) always helpful and does a decent job of cleaning up her toys when I tell her to.

But let's face it, she's still a young child who enjoys having mommy/daughter time and has needs (thrice daily feedings, naps, play, doctors appointments). Its incredibly difficult to work through all the interruptions and still come out with a few sentences that actually make sense.

I've learned a few tricks along the way, even though its still difficult to juggle a family and writing the next great American novel (I'm not saying that's what I'm producing). 

First off, get up early. Even just thirty minutes of uninterrupted writing at the beginning of the day can produce fantastic results. Early morning writing, takes getting used to but because you haven't used up any of your stores of discipline you are much more apt to actually write. So often my only writing time is at the start of the day, before husband and daughter are up with demands.

Remember the saying "nap when the baby naps." Its fantastic advice. Just substitute writing for the nap. Children are napping, take thirty minutes and write. I'll even sneak in some writing when my daughter watches her allotted 1 hour of tv a day. Much of the drafting for The Clouds Aren't White was done on this model. 

Lastly, make writing apart of your schedule. We all schedule cleaning and laundry and doctors appointments and grocery store trips. Schedule writing into your day. Don't say "if I have the time." Find the time. Writing doesn't have to be done every day. But it should be done, at the very least 3 times a week. Even if that's only ten minutes a day. This keeps your novel fresh in your mind.

There's no magic formula for finding writing time. What I've learned over the last three years, is to tailor writing to fit your lifestyle. If you have an hour during sports practice, bring notes or your laptop. Get creative. It is possible to write with children.

Cheers,

Rachael

Writer Momma: Give into the Guilt

Writer Momma: Give into the Guilt

Its a lovely afternoon in Colorado. 

And by lovely I mean it snowed this morning and then the sun came out and it was all gone by noon. Except our driveway which is entirely in the shade. But digressing from my icy driveway.

This week I am introducing a few new weekly features here on the blog. Among those is ‘Writer’s Wednesday’ and ’Tea Talk’ Thursday. Joining these weekly features is ‘Writer Momma’ which will feature on Tuesday (sorry I couldn’t come up with a fancier name…I’m open to suggestions).

Women, and mothers, make up a large portion of my readership and I would like to take Tuesdays to talk about the life of a mom who writes.

Since I decided to make writing a career I’ve faced many challenges. I’ve come to realize that its not only time that keeps many mothers from finishing, or indeed starting novels, but energy as well. Writing with a child, or children, means writing early in the morning, naptime, and late at night. Then, adding in housework, jobs, social commitments, its quite a feat that we get published at all.

Some of us have strong support networks and some of us don’t, but all of us feel the guilt over taking time for ourselves, for being away from our children, for being distracted, the list could go on. The Clouds Aren't White was a lesson in distracting myself from the guilt.

This week, give into the guilt. Feel it. Understand it. Then, after five minutes, let it go. If you have to do it everyday, or every writing session, then go ahead. The goal here is to understand the underlying cause of your guilt (or attempt to) and then get on with your day. 

This doesn’t just apply to mothers who are attempting to write a novel, its true for all mothers, for all women, because for some reason we like to destroy ourselves with guilt.

Perhaps some day we will be able to acknowledge that we feel guilty and then after a small moment, let it go.

From one guilty mom to another.

Rachael

Life Cycle of a Novel

Life Cycle of a Novel

I’d like to share today, what it takes to get a novel from mind to page and then to readers. This is not an easy process. This is not simply “having time” to write a novel. It takes much more than a decent grasp of a language to write a book. Irregardless of the talent, it takes great strength of mind to come through the process and out the other side. 

So, using the example of my novel, here is a general outline of the time and energy it takes. Through this process I had a part time job, was (and still am) a stay at home mother. 

Phase 1: First draft. 

3 months.

Phase 2: Break. Think of the book as a good wine. It needs time to sit. 

6-8 weeks

Phase 3: Revision. Consists of read through of the book, rewriting chapters as needed.

4 weeks

Phase 4: Second Revision. This phase usually consists of making the book cohesive, if the ending has changed.

4 weeks

Phase 5: I call this the ‘prose phase,’ wherein I delete most of the dialogue and give each character their own distinct voice.

4 weeks

Phase 6: Editing. Editing consists of grammar and punctuation so that the manuscript is readable.

4 weeks

Phase 7: Beta reader phase. Send off the manuscript to beta-readers and get their feedback. This can take longer than anticipated.

2 months

Phase 8: Implementing beta-reader revisions.

4 weeks

Phase 9: Final edit

2 weeks

Phase 10: Send to agents/publishers

3 months

From here on out, depending on the reactions that you get from agents, it can take another year for your book to be traditionally published, if you are fortunate enough to get a publisher. If you decide to self publish, the book can be on Amazon within the week.

So…the grand total…16 months of long hard days filled with work.

And at the end…joy.