A Week of I Don’t Wanna

The title pretty much sums it up when it came to writing this week. And blogging today–that’s why this is coming so late. But I decided not to break my streak of blogging every Sunday this year, so here I am.

I did have somewhat of an excuse: I went for a motorcycle ride with my husband this afternoon. We’ve had some great weather for Ohio in February, so we had to take advantage. It was windy, but otherwise wonderful, a fitting end to a fine week. And yesterday, I went out looking at new kitchen cabinets, and met with a designer at Lowe’s. We’re not actually going to start on the kitchen until late July, but we learned at our meeting that now is the time to start planning. When I got home from our motorcycle ride today, I wasted all kinds of time looking at kitchen stuff and pinning on Pinterest. Yes, I’m there, I’ve just never used it until now. My page is here if anyone’s dying of curiosity. 😀

My cooking day last Sunday went well, too, and there are now 25 meals in my freezer. 25 instead of 30, because we already ate a few. Some were fantastic “make-this-again-every-week” good, and some were… not so much. Not because of my cooking, but the recipe just wasn’t that great. But that’s one cool thing about once a month cooking, is that it keeps us out of a rut and trying new things.

smith16What I’ve been reading: for reading this week: I stuck with the tried-and-true: Smith’s Monthly #16, by Dean Wesley Smith. I read all of it this week, both the short stories, and the novel, Lake Roosevelt, another of his Thunder Mountain time travel series. The last two were much better, but this one was still enjoyable.

ROW80Logo175ROW80 Update: I’ve got nothing. This is the I Don’t Wanna part–revisions. Every time I sat down to work on them, I found myself doing anything else I could. After several days of this, I tried to figure out why, and realized it was because the two new scenes I’d planned were not the right way to go. For one thing, both were mostly just characters talking, which = boring! But I didn’t want to add more complexity to them by making more going on in them. So I’m going to just plow ahead with the revision , and try to work in the information and thematic stuff my reader and I talked about into the existing material. I suspect it’s still going to be slow going, so I’m going to shoot for getting through two chapters this week.

What about you–ever have one of those times when you just don’t wanna? What did you do to get through it? How are you doing on whatever goals you may have, whether writing or not? Please share in the comments–I’d love to hear from you!

Jennette Marie Powell writes stories about ordinary people in ordinary places, who do extraordinary things and learn that those ordinary places are anything but. In her Saturn Society novels, unwilling time travelers do what they must to make things right... and change more than they expect. You can find her books at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, Kobo, iTunes, and more.

Making it a Book You Want to Read

Last week in reading posts by my ROW80 buddies, I noticed that many mentioned having goals for revisions. Some asked for suggestions.

For those writers, maybe I can help. For readers, here’s a glimpse of the nitty-gritty, not-so-pretty side of writing a novel and making it something others might want to read – maybe even pay for!

I can write a first draft of a novel in 3 months, give or take, depending on length. That’s on top of working a full-time, 40 hours/week day job, not ignoring my family, helping with my husband’s businesses, and other responsibilities. I’m not saying this to brag – it’s not that big a deal – but to point out that the first draft – getting the words down – isn’t the hard part of writing a novel, IMO. At least, it’s not hard if I’ve done a decent amount of planning ahead of time (aka plotting or outlining).

My first drafts have plot holes big enough to fly one of these through

The hard part comes after the first draft is written: revision. Because despite the heavy planning I do beforehand, there are always details that get left out, cardboard characters doing stupid things that don’t make sense, and plot holes big enough to fly a C-17 through. All in a world that’s barely seen, much less heard, felt, smelled or tasted. And that’s not even getting into the little nitpicky things like dialogue that doesn’t sound like anything a normal human being would ever say, people we can’t visualize, much less empathize with because they’re so thinly described, all wrapped up in a nice big package of WHO CARES because I left out the emotions.

It’s a daunting task, especially with my doorstopper-sized, >100,000-word, Saturn Society novels. How to handle it without getting overwhelmed?

For starters, I fortunately figured out several things fairly early on:

  • I need to write the full first draft before revising. Some authors revise and polish as they work; if I did this, I’d never get anything done.
  • Revising and polishing are two different things, and it doesn’t make much sense to polish when big-picture stuff is just going to change again.
  • If I think of a major change while I’m writing the first draft, I note it in a separate Word document, then continue writing as if the change was already made. This is particularly useful when a change occurs to me while writing Chapter 14, but requires changes in Chapter 3, 6, and 7 in order to work and make sense.
  • I read through the whole novel, then make big changes, then change the little, cosmetic things I consider “polishing.”

The above was all fine and dandy, and it got me through five novels, but I still always felt they fell short, that I was missing things. Between novels 4 and 5, I discovered Holly Lisle’s website and craft books, and bought Create a Character Clinic, which is one of the best prewriting/planning tools I’d tried to date, along with her Notecard Plotting article. I used her One-pass Revision method on my book #5, which helped. Yet I was still missing something.

How to Revise Your NovelHolly also had a long-term, online workshop that sounded cool, but her second one of these – How to Revise Your Novel – that caught my eye. It’s subtitled “How to Get the Book You Want from the Book You Have.” I signed up as a charter member.

It goes over a lot of the concepts taught in the articles mentioned above, but in MUCH greater depth – and this was just what I needed. It also broke down all the different things to look for – overall, plot, theme, character, setting/worldbuilding, and dealt with each separately so we could learn.

It took me nine months to complete this 26-lesson course. But when I was finished, I had a book that I was confident had sympathetic characters, and interesting and engaging story, a decently fleshed-out setting and world – and best of all, no more plot holes. This revision process was brutal. And it was absolutely what took my writing to the next level.

Time's Fugitive had plot holes big enough to fly one of THESE through

One of the course objectives is to eventually compress the process down so that it’s truly a one-pass revision. I’m not there yet. Time’s Enemy wasn’t even a very wrecked book, and it took almost 5 months to revise. Granted, some of this time I goofed off and wasn’t very disciplined about just getting the work done. But still… Time’s Fugitive was a pretty wrecked book, and it took six months to revise, with very little goofing off (thanks in part to ROW80).

I have no connection to Holly Lisle, other than that I’ve taken her courses and bought many of her craft books. I haven’t even read any of her fiction, other than a few snippets on her website or in her articles, a lack I intend to correct, as she writes the kind of stories I enjoy. But her workshops – and HTRYN specifically – are hands down, the best I’ve ever taken. The HTRYN workshop is not cheap  (she’s getting ready to phase it out and replace it with a series of ebooks), but it’s hands-down the best $200 or so I’ve spent for my writing career.

So if you’re looking for a way to tackle an onerous revision, check out How to Revise Your Novel. She guarantees the workshop – if you don’t like it, you can stop paying for it – and when she goes to ebook, duh, you don’t need to buy the whole series if you don’t want. But I’d be very surprised if you start and don’t want to finish.

So for my writer friends, what’s your revision process like? Have you tried HTRYN, or if not, does it sound like something you might find beneficial? Readers – have you ever read a novel with one of those C-17-sized plot holes? Did you work past it, or did you want to chuck the book across the room (or permanently delete from your e-reader)? Got any horror stories (that weren’t supposed to be) to share?

Aircraft photos via the Official U.S. Air Force website

ROW80: But it’s Hard!

I’ve noticed something with my high-school-age daughter, that she’s done for a long time. When she has a tough assignment, whether it’s homework, or a big chore (like clean up her room), she tends to goof off even more. The homework doesn’t get done, and the room never gets cleaned. She’s a super-smart kid. Homework usually comes easily to her. Keeping her room clean should be easy, but instead of picking up and putting away as she goes, she lets stuff pile up until it becomes overwhelming.

And by that point, she doesn’t want to do it. Because it’s hard!

Revisions continue to go slowly. In trying to figure out why, it’s pretty obvious: I keep running up against big plot holes that don’t have an obvious solution, and instead of just doing something about it, I go do something else, like play computer games.

Because it’s hard!

I do the same thing with a sticky revision as my daughter does with homework or a chore that’s not easy.

So that’s my reason, not excuse, for not meeting my ROW80 goals for Yet. Another. Week. I realize I probably have to just power through this stuff and I tried a couple times this week, but the powering-through doesn’t happen quickly. My muses take their good ol’ time handing me solutions to this type of problem and in the meantime, I go play another round of My Farm Life. Sigh. Or this week, I go work on a website I volunteered to do for a promo group I’m in. Either way, the revisions are not coming along as quickly as I’d like.

Sometimes I ask myself Twenty Questions, or rather, Twenty Answers, to the question, “what could happen here?” I get all the mundane, overused, and just plain stupid ones out of the way, and by the time I’ve come up with twenty things, I’ve usually come up with something good.

Other times, it’s just resistance to making a Big Change that’s going to take a lot of work. That’s where I’m at now, in Chapter 15. What’s funny is I checked my spam queue right before I started this post, and found my first, legitimate, not-spam comment in it, from a fellow Row80-er who was having this very problem! So it’s time to take her advice and just make the big change. It’s not even as big as the one she’s been dealing with.

As for my specific goals, I did get Chapter 13 and 14 revised, and there were plenty of those PITA issues in them as well.

For this week, I want to get 15-17 revised. Ideally, I’d also like to get the type-in done for the book so far, and get it out to the beta readers. I’m hosting Thanksgiving, so that’s a day I won’t get any writing done, but I’m blessed to have all my family nearby (which means no overnight houseguests or travel), and my husband also helps. I also have Wednesday and Friday off work, so that should make up for it.

Do you have any suggestions on tackling a Big, PITA Change? Or for figuring out a show-stopper plot hole? How did you do on your goals this week?

#ROW80: Week 1 Wednesday Update

I usually don’t get a lot of writing done on Mondays or Tuesdays, because Monday is paperwork night, and both nights are big TV nights for DH. Yet, I managed to knock out my first goal of the week: I finally noted the remaining places in my manuscript where plot holes need to be plugged – yay! There were quite a few, so that’s one revision step that took longer than the week I’d originally planned for it.

That leaves timing and sequencing for the rest of the week for me. If anyone else here has done Holly Lisle’s How to Revise Your Novel workshop, this is Lesson 14 and 15. This is my third book using this system, so I’ve managed to compress it a bit. Anyone else using HTRYN?

Good luck to my #ROW80 peeps!