Editing Outlines

Alright, so I was intrigued by the idea of editing an outline before you’ve gone in and started your story. Normally I get one outline done and then I have to edit it midway through the book to compensate for all the extra things I’ve learned about the characters and little subplots that have cropped up during the drafting process.

So!

Imagine my delight when, on my third draft of Dead Weight’s outline, my Muse woke up and fixed something I hadn’t even noticed was broken. It changes 80% of the book, adds tension, drives home the concept of what a tapped soldier is, and reminds everyone (including me) just how far the Consulate has gone in its hunt for power.

And the best part?

I’m not cringing about having to go back and re-write a ton of words. Because they haven’t been written yet. 

On top of that, my excitement for actually getting to the writing part of this book has increased exponentially. And I still have 3 weeks left of Outline edits to go.

Because I want to cash in on the inspiration I’ve got going on right now, I’m going to go ahead and start writing little snippets here and there. The next few passes at the Outline are going to focus on character reactions/motivations. I’ve got a solid plot foundation under me now and I just need to tweak who recognizes what and things.

In the meantime, I’m using Camp NaNoWriMo to get caught up on some other works. Residual Haunting, for example, is in a tragic state of nearly-complete. And in other announcements, I managed to get Persona prepped and ready for print-launch.

As with all my books, I do try the traditional market first. There were a couple of nibbles from agents and the like with Persona and, while I intend to send out another volley of queries within the month, I also wish to make sure I get at least one book out a year.

So unless Persona gets picked up in the interim, we can expect a launch date sometime in December. (Imagine me throwing all sorts of confetti and jumping up and down in excitement. This poor book has been in the works for a couple decades now. It’s time it sees the light of day.)

To everyone else who’s working hard at their Camp NaNoWriMo stuff … Good work! Keep going! Get words on the page! You’re six days in and all the world is at your fingertips.

 

Writing and Business and the In-Between

As of this evening my novelette “Torven” has a completed rough draft. Given its very small length (16006 words) I have been toying around with the idea of giving it away for free or really, really cheap (after it’s gone through a rigorous editing) which has led me to the normal marketing spiel/debate.

I’ve been here before. Often.

In fact, I’d like to say I’ve dipped my toes into murky depths of marketing since Sedition was first published five years ago. (Five years? Really? Sheesh.)

I have not, however, really committed to a marketing plan. Up until this point my focus was on my craft, wanting to just write the next story and grow as an author, and while none of those goals have changed (and never will, because that’s the whole point of taking ownership of your craft) … I can say that I am going to step intrepidly out into the realm of marketing.

I started, quite comically, with a giveaway of Tapped today on Amazon. The giveaway lasted all of an hour, which … really showed me how bad I am at math. (5 books + every 5th entrant wins = about an hour’s worth of giveaway time. Just in case anyone else needs this information.)

But I learned a great deal about what I want to do in the future. I’ve set up a pretty little timetable to follow for marketing – when I want to do what promotions and at what sites – and even color-coded it … because I’m a geek like that.

I am also in the process of revamping my website … with help because I’m really not great at it.

As to writing itself …

With “Torven” done I can go back to Dead Weight, the sequel to Tapped. I’ll be revamping the outline based on the things I learned in James Patterson’s Master Class (still an awesome thing and if you write, you should check it out.)

Basically, I’ll be going over the outline once a week through the month of April. Start to finish. Tightening the plot. Adding elements of the suspense genre into my science fiction … basically implementing everything Mr. Patterson set out to teach me in 22 lessons.

I’m excited.

It’ll be fun.

And I’ll record all the mayhem here because I can … and maybe it’ll help someone else down the road.

 

The Side Project

My cork board hasn’t changed since January. According to my calendar I should be on Chapter 9, not Chapter 4, of Dead Weight. That big leap I had at the beginning of the year is now completely gone.

But you know what?

I really don’t care.

Because I’ve been working. Granted, I haven’t been working on what I said I’d be working on at this point, but it’s still words on the page.

In fact, it’s over 10,000 words of that lovely fairy tale story I began for my son. He’s enjoying it still, by the way, and it is nearly complete. I should have the full novella by the end of this month. At which point I’ll set it aside for a couple of weeks before doing a round or two of edits and then I intend to put it out for free/super cheap/whatever I can get Createspace to do there.

But I haven’t just been writing on this thing. I also opted to take James Patterson’s Master Class on writing and slowly made it through the 22 lessons there.

Why no, I’ve never written a suspense novel before, but that doesn’t mean that things within the suspense genre can’t be planted into the genres that I prefer writing. In particular, I took away from this class a very distinct outlook on Outlines that I will, at the beginning of April, implement with Dead Weight.

Since I’m only on Chapter 4 there I don’t feel like I’ll be shooting myself in the foot starting over with the Outline and doing it the “Patterson” way.

For those who have been toying with the idea of taking a Master Class like this one, I’m going to go ahead and give the “two thumbs up” and encourage you to do so. There are some things you’ve heard that you’ll hear again, but in the end it’s got some nuggets in there that you can certainly use.

In the meantime, I’ll be posting some of the Fairy Tale on the website and things because … well … it’s fun. And you can’t beat free.

Marketing and Me

Recently I met with another local author and had one of those Zen moments where I had to decide exactly why I write. This author was very well put together, had her spiel (aka, pitch) memorized and gave every outward appearance of success. She looked, in a word, classy.

Flash to me … in my jeans and nondescript shirt, sporting a pair of Nike’s that are starting to get a hole in the toe. In my defense, this was a social function I’d taken my son to and a friend of mine decided I needed to make this acquaintance right then and there, so it wasn’t like I knew I was going to be meeting anyone in a professional capacity.

That being said … this other author had a much better handle on the business of writing than I think I’ve ever had, which is what brought about the Zen moment.

Driving home from the function, feeling not a little discouraged, I began to wonder exactly what set me apart from her and was not surprised when I came to the conclusion that she just plain knows how to market herself better than I do. She’s confident in herself and her writing.

I’m confident that I can get through anything the world throws at me but when it comes to my writing I know that I am constantly improving, so the confidence isn’t quite there. Sedition was fun to write but Saboteur was a more solid book because I had learned a lot about style and craft between the two books. (Even though fans seem to like Sedition more, which I find curious.)

Enter the Zen moment …

I made the decision a long time ago that I write because I have to write, because if I don’t write my brain will explode, because there are a zillion stories floating through my mind that need to come out.

I write because I love it.

It’s the process that I find fulfillment in, not the sales.

This doesn’t mean I don’t hope to sell a whole gob of books one day and secure a much brighter future for myself and my son, it just means that I will continue to do the minimum amount of marketing. Things like this blog and light conversations with interested readers, and memberships with organizations that don’t require too much money (Hello, single parent here) are all things that I can do without cutting too much into the writing time.

At some point I imagine I’m going to have to change this decision but for right now this is what fits for me.

Gearing up for NaNoWriMo

Woo!

National Novel Writing Month starts in just a few short weeks!

For those who are unaware of the awesomeness that is NaNoWriMo, take a quick visit to their website and see for yourself. The basics: you try to write 50,000 words in 30 days on a new novel/story.

I consistently lose but I love every minute of it anyway, and I greatly encourage any potential writers/aspiring authors/even my own kid to give it a go.

This year I am participating in a new way. Instead of a novel I will be writing my first ever non-fiction book (How To Change The World) and, while I think it will fall short of the 50,000 word mark, it will stretch out into 7 weeks instead of just 4 due to research and things.

Now then … I don’t think my brain can survive without fiction of some sort, so during this time I will also be editing/re-writing Usurper (particularly its ending) and I do hope to have that done within the 30-day NaNoWriMo time frame. If not, it will definitely be done before December 31st.

I do have to shake my fist at Bioware right now since the new Star Wars Knights of the Fallen Empire game will come out at the end of this month and I’m going to have to find a delicate balance between swooshing a virtual lightsaber around and buckling down to write.

I’m a nerd. Sue me.

The Querying World and Why I Bother

Alright, so I’ve edited another book nearly to completion. Persona will be absolutely, totally, and finally finished if not next week, then definitely the week after. Some of you will remember I started its major overhaul/re-write in the summer of 2013 by posting chapters once a week, but since then I’ve let the work get passed between not one but two editors – both of whom I am supremely grateful to.

In the wake of their suggestions I have had to dig deeper into the story itself and I confess, I’ve learned so much about theAJMaguire-PersonaCover-1280h craft of writing just from this one book that I honestly don’t feel ashamed by the length of time it’s taken me to complete it. I’ll probably write another “What writing Persona has taught me” post but for today I’m going to concentrate on the next phase in Persona’s journey … The Query.

Honestly, that word makes my palms sweat, and my palms don’t normally sweat.

Query.

It’s been almost 2 years since I’ve written a query letter and my brain is overwhelmed by all the do’s and don’ts you can find out there.

Introduce myself or the work first?

Work first, of course, they don’t care about me unless they like the work.

How the H-e-(double hockey sticks) do I write an elevator pitch again?

Oh, wait … wasn’t there a formula? (Blank) meets (Blank) in this (insert brilliantly creative jargon here) that will leave you …

Authors Note: I’d like to say I made that formula up but I’m pretty sure you can still find it on some movie pitches out there.

Suffice to say, I’m terrified.

Which is silly since the worst these people can say is “No thank you” or just plain “No” and really, I’ve got six novels out for sale now. You’d think I’d be over it or something.

But, as every writer who’s submitted their work before knows, “No thank you” somehow twists itself inside our heads to become … “You should never write another book.” “Your work is crap.” “Don’t bother anymore.” “Nobody likes you.”

Or my personal favorite; “You should go eat worms.”

Which … now that I think about it … probably reveals a lot about my childhood than anything else.

I need therapy.

But I can’t afford therapy so I write. And when I finish writing I have this crazy notion other people might want to see it, which loops me back to the Query Phase and the vicious cycle continues.

Why do I bother with this?

With the publishing industry the way it is, I can easily self-publish and move on. I did that with Tapped, after all.

But … I did that with Tapped because I didn’t want to compromise on certain elements of the novel. I wrote it, and I’ll be writing all of its series, with a distinct purpose in mind (to investigate and convey the affects of religion on a social and personal level) and I recognized at the very beginning that the concept was risky and likely wasn’t going to sell.

So my motivations with self-publishing Tapped were not because I simply gave up on the traditional market, which means … I can’t do that with Persona.

Which means I have to at least try with Persona.

Which means … I have to query.

Again.

….. Excuse me, I need to go eat a gallon of chocolate to prepare my fragile ego.

Round Robin Blog Posts – Social Issues in Fiction

I’m so happy to be joining the Round Robin Blog Hop this month. This month’s topic discusses social/current event issues that are important to me and how, when, or if I allow them to seep into my fiction. 

Deviation-510Let me start off with admitting that I definitely allow social issues to be addressed in my fiction. Anyone who has read my work, particularly my science fiction, will have noticed this for certain. Deviation, for example, has the very blatant conversation about women’s rights. Tapped is the start of a much larger conversation on religion that will be spanning several novels. The Abolitionist (which I’ll start later next year) is fairly self-explanatory.

All of these issues are very important to me and I believe that every author has the responsibility to Scornedsay something with their fiction.

However …

I also believe that every author has the responsibility to thoroughly research, understand, and clearly provide counterpoints to any social issue they address in their writing.

I shy away from making my personal opinions known here on the blog because honestly, I hate fueling the fire for these sorts of debates. They’re pointless and detract from the more important social issues that we should be spending our energy debating and attempting to fix … like homelessness, children living in poverty, the fact that some employment applications (or other legal forms) still ask for your “ethnicity” and therefore support a racist social structure, or the shameful amount of people going hungry everywhere …

But all of those things I can and do address in my writing. I “address” them, but I do not answer them because honestly, if I’ve written it right then I won’t have to.

Readers don’t need me to tell them poverty is bad, they already know it. My job as an author is to help somehow bridge the gap between the Reader and that poverty, to help them experience it so that they understand why poverty is bad.

This is terribly idealistic of me but I truly believe that we can change the world. Books can change the world. Stories can change the world. Authors … can change the world. Not by telling the world what to think, but by exposing these issues for what they are and bringing them forward in a terribly intimate way.

Have a look at what some of my fellow authors believe in and write about in today’s Round Robin Blog Hop …

Skye Taylor  http://www.skye-writer.com/blogging_by_the_sea
A.J. Maguire  https://ajmaguire.wordpress.com/ (YOU ARE HERE)
Beverley Bateman  http://beverleybateman.blogspot.ca/
Margaret Fieland  http://www.margaretfieland.com/blog1/
Marci Baun  http://www.marcibaun.com/
Victoria Chatham  http://victoriachatham.webs.com/
Connie Vines  http://connievines.blogspot.com/
Bob Rich  http://wp.me/p3Xihq-vQ
Rachael Kosinski  http://rachaelkosinski.weebly.com/
Helena Fairfax  http://helenafairfax.com/
Judith Copek http://lynx-sis.blogspot.com/
Rhobin Courtright  http://www.rhobinleecourtright.com/