Writerly Musings

Over the last few days I’ve spent a lot of time editing. Well, in reality I’ve spent a lot of time accepting or rejecting the edits that a beta reader made for When Life Hands You Lymes
As I work, I’ve discovered something funny: When the beta reader suggests a change for a scene that has been written during one of the last five drafts, I’m very likely to be like “Oh wow, that makes sense” and push accept. On the other hand, when he suggests a change for a scene that was written during the first ten drafts, then it’s much harder. It’s literally more difficult at times for me to be okay with changing one word of an older draft scene, than to delete an entire paragraph in one of the newer scenes. 
I think it’s safe to say that I get pretty attached to my characters, settings, and even word choices after I’ve worked with them for a while. I get to the point where I begin talking and thinking about the characters as if they’re real people. For instance, I’ll be shopping and will think, “Oh, Maddie would like to have that in her room” or “This is just the way Katie likes her coffee.” In reality, it shouldn’t be surprising, because I’ve literally spent thousands of hours with the characters during the last 33 months. (Which is more time than I’ve spent with any other people, except for my family, during the same time period.) Besides, I know that in order to make my characters come alive to the reader, they have to come alive to me. 

One thing that always makes me happy is when other people discuss my characters with me, as if they’re real. I have a handful of beta readers and friends who make little comments about what Maddie would like, or how Darrick totally did the right thing, and that makes my little writer’s heart extremely content.

There are some people out there who declare that their characters have a mind of their own, and the writer isn’t in control of anything that happens, and while I don’t agree with that, they do have a point.  After an author has worked for a long time to develop a character, then it is almost as if the character starts taking over. To explain the concept better, imagine your best friend. In all likelihood, you can predict how she would react to certain situations, and it wouldn’t work out too well if you’d try and make her react in a different way, just because you thought your way was better.

My characters react certain ways in certain situations, because that’s who they are. And, since I didn’t know the characters as well back when I was writing the plot, then sometimes the plot is totally outdated and needs help, because hey, the character isn’t going to step out of character just to make the plot work better. So when that happens, it sorta does feel like the characters have minds of their own.

And now I’m off to edit again. I hope y’all have a fantastic and victorious day!

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What about you? Have you ever caught yourself thinking about a character (in a book you’ve written or read), as if they’re real? 

Beta Reader Feedback for WLHYL

This week I finally began the 15th draft of When Life Hands You Lymes; and believe me, it’s a lot harder than it sounds. The problem is that I’m no longer sure what’s absolutely necessary to the story, what helps give it life, and what is just excess.

To give y’all a glimpse of what I’m working with, I figured I would post a compilation of some of feedback I’ve received from beta readers who read the 14th draft of WLHYL. I’m also posting some suggestions they had of how to fix it.

*I felt let down by the way a lot of scenes ended
-No hook, punch… making me feel like we’d left off in the middle of a scene
-A concluding statement, but it came separated from the action that made me want to see how the action led to the statement
*Some scenes made me wonder what their point was.
-No solid, intentional ending
-Nothing to build my expectation and then satisfy it
Questions to ask:
  1. What is the purpose of this scene? 
  2. How is this scene carrying the story forward? 
  3. What does this scene reveal about the plot or an important character? 
  4. What will the reader get from this scene? 
  5. How can I communicate that in an effective way that will leave them either with a greater understanding of the story’s events or with a desire to keep reading? 
Scene Endings:
*How does each ending tie a knot after the scene? 
*How does it leave you wanting to read more? 
*How does it convey purpose? 
*By the end of each scene, readers ought to know why that scene is in the story
Felt let down by events or thought processes that were never shown. Consider all the details you include:
*Are they important to the story? 
*Do readers need to know these details? 
*What expectations are they setting up? 
*Will the story fulfill those expectations? 
Only details that should be in the story are the ones that affect the story. 
There seemed to be a fair amount of repetition, especially with emotional scenes. Without anything new, or bigger, or better, it’s hard to keep the reader’s interest
*A steady build toward the climax
*A plunge to this emotional depth where she expresses hopeless and despair
*The next emotional plunge is deeper, where she wonders what her purpose of her life is
*The next emotional plunge is the deepest yet, where she contemplates suicide
Examine each scene and determine how it affects the story. 
*What does Maddie realize
*What does Maddie think
*What does Maddie pray
…that she hasn’t before

Editing Musings

This morning I got up at 5:30 so I could go out on the beach and edit for a while before going to a business meeting at 8:00. The world was soft, peaceful, and muggy although a steady wind was blowing and made my light jacket a tad bit inadequate.
The sky and ocean brightened little by little, the pounding waves keeping time with my fingers typing on my keyboard. Unnecessary scenes disappeared and wordy sentences were chopped down as the waves rolled in and out, smoothing the sand. Descriptive words replaced every-day-ones as the sun shone through the clouds, creating new pictures in the sky. 

As the morning progressed I wrote out the plot-line again, the physical feeling of the words being formed on real paper helping my mind open new ideas. I pondered the different elements in the story, wondering how they should mesh together and which points where most powerful. I folded paper and drew straight lines. I fiddled with the pen, clicking it and twirling it back and forth. 
I mused over the hours, days, weeks, months, even years I’ve spent on the story. There have been so many changes. So many breakthroughs. So many mountains to climb and oceans to swim through and jungles to explore. Each day brings me twenty-four hours closer to when I’ll be able to share When Life Hands You Lymes with the public, and yet I can’t even imagine when that day will come. This book has changed so much since the original draft and so have I. 

WLHYL Update & Snippets

This weekend marks the first anniversary of when I finished the first 150,000 word draft of When Life Hands You Lymes. I can still picture exactly where I was when I typed those two words, The End, and closed my laptop with a satisfying thud. 

It was August before I started into the edits in earnest, and other than taking November off to do NaNoWriMo, I’ve worked fairly steadily for the last nine months at crafting WLHYL into a real book instead of a rough draft. 

I’ve cut out nearly 52,000 words already, wiggled the plot around, added a new character, changed the direction of another character, and learned a ton about writing and editing and books in general. Madalyn’s story is one that has become quite familiar to me and sometimes it feels like we’re old friends. 

I’m currently going through the second half of When Life Hands You Lymes (the part that was going to be the sequel), and despite it being wordy, I’m having a lot of fun. These edits are the first time I’m going through and rereading this part of the book, and the characters are actually quite amusing.

Darrick, who is the main character’s brother, will probably forever remain one of my favorite characters. He doesn’t alway say and do the right thing, but he does try and which I think is very commendable. I also enjoy the banter that goes on between him, Madalyn (the main character), and Julia, Madalyn’s best friend.

Here are a few snippets for y’all to enjoy:

Snippet #1:  

“I’m not sure if I’ll enter the contest after all.” I didn’t turn around to look at Julia. I knew she’d be hosting a death glare.
 “How in the world can you say that?” Julia took my shoulders and spun me around. She’s shorter than me, but a lot stronger. “You need to stop over-thinking this and stop worrying about it and just finish up your song so you can enter it.” 
“So you’ve said already.”
“I have news for you.” Julia looked angry. “Every single time you stall with your music I’m going to give you the same speech. Hopefully one day it will finally enter your thick skull and make some kind of dent on your brain so you start believing it.” 
“Sounds like rays of sunshine in here.” Darrick entered the room and his eyes widened when he saw Julia standing on her tip toes practically shouting in my face. “I always love it when I walk in a room and hear people talking about denting their best friend’s brain.” 
“She doesn’t want to enter her song in the contest.” Julia crossed her arms and turned to Darrick. “So, if you’re going to help me talk some sense into her you’re welcome to stay. If not, I think I might hear someone calling your name in Grant.” 
“What’s going on Madds?”
“I’m freaking out.” 
“Is that new?” Darrick asked. 
“You’re not helping.” Julia glared at Darrick. 
“Last I checked I’ve been Madalyn’s brother all my life.” Darrick’s words were soft; Julia took the hint, nodded at him, and took a few steps back. 

 Snippet #2: 

Darrick walked into the office and glanced around. “Are my eyes deceiving me or is it true that not no one’s working?” 
“We’re taking a break.” I stretched. “I filed the rest of the progress reports for Dad, if that’s what you’re worried about.” 
“Me, worried? Darrick shook his head. “I don’t worry.” 
“Good for you. Now am I missing something or are you standing there not working?” 
“Just taking a little break to chat with my favorite younger sister.” 
“I feel honored.”

Snippet #3:

“Am I the only one mildly freaking out here?” Julia asked.
“You won’t be if you don’t settle down.” Julia’s pacing was getting on my nerves. “You do realize nothing is accomplished by walking back and forth over the same stretch of carpet for twenty minutes straight, right?” 
“If I sit down, Madalyn, I am going to explode.” 
I grimaced. “The carpet was just cleaned.” 
“There’s this thing called tact.” Julia continued pacing. 
“Let me guess, it’s a little sharp object used to poke annoying people who won’t calm down?” I hid a grin as Julia narrowed her eyes at me. 
“That is a tack. Tact, on the other hand, is a very needed element in anyone’s life if they want to survive socially.” 
“Oh, I get it.” I nodded. “You’re wondering if I could give you lessons on how to be tactful?” 
Julia groaned. 
“Lesson number one, if your best friend tells you they might explode, don’t mention the carpet.” I gestured at the floor. “It gives the impression that you’re more concerned about the carpet than you are about them.” 
“Can you believe I’m actually nervous?” 
“About getting the carpet messy?” I shrugged. “Just don’t explode and you’ll be fine.” 
“Can you just be serious for a minute?” Julia flopped herself onto our bed. 
“One-one-thousand. Two-one-thousand. Three-one-thousand.” I glanced out the window as I continue counting. 
“What are you doing?” Julia glared at me. 
“I’m working on being serious for a minute. Sixteen-one-thousand. Seventeen-one-thousand.” “You’re incorrigible.” Julia growled out the words. 
“Thank you. I’ve always wanted to be encouraging to someone.”

* * *
Which character sounds like the most fun to you? Darrick, Julia, or Madalyn?

The Game of Editing

Sitting down at my computer this morning I was excited to get into editing mode and cut out excess words. Outside the wind is blowing rather fiercely; I’d been hoping to cut grass today but the wind is seemingly intent on blowing in cold weather instead of sunshine. I’m not (too) disappointed though, because that means I can focus more of my day on WLHYL. 
I am, Lord willing, leaving with my family for a trip on April 11th. Last year my goal was to finish the first draft of WLHYL before leaving on a trip that was around the same time. The goal was a stupendously overwhelming one for little ol’ me and left me feeling exhausted when it was finally accomplished. Although I’m glad I had that goal last year, I wanted to make sure I didn’t do that again this year (I spent half of the trip emotionally, mentally, and physically exhausted). 
As I’ve plowed my way through WLHYL last week, it occurred to me that I could possibly make a goal of chopping away at the second book in the WLHYL series and maybe get the first big edits done on that book before we leave. It would be a stretch, but I feel up to the challenge right now and am eager to be done with this stage of the books. (I don’t remember if I’ve mentioned it on here, but I’m working on merging book one and two and having a standalone book which means a lot of editing and cutting out scenes.)  

I’ve discovered one of the best ways to get excited about editing is to make it into a game. Instead of allowing myself to dread cutting out words, I choose a word count I want to get down to and then work the delete key ferociously until I’ve reached my goal.

That game works wonders when it comes to taking out whole scenes, because then instead of wanting to cry at so much of my hard work disappearing, I grin at the word count jumping dramatically downward. I know it’s simply a matter of mindset, but mindset is a big factor in life.

 What about you? Do you have some tips that could help make my editing and chopping easier and flow more smoothly? I’d be delighted to hear what works for you because this is really not my forte.

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It’s that time again where we get to choose where Annie goes for this week in our Friday Series, Around the World in Fifty-Two WeeksAnd the destination is: Denmark!  

Editing? Editing.

My editing is crawling along. It’s not at a stand still though, so that’s a plus. I’ve been taking screenshots of my upward (downward?) progression regarding word count to help me keep track of how many words I’m deleting and how many scenes I’m removing.

My first drafts tend to be a bit ramble-y because I work best when I’m simply letting my fingers fly instead of pondering each word. I thought I cleared up most of that in the next five drafts, but apparently I didn’t…

WLHYL is currently undergoing major cuts in the seventh draft and then, Lord willing, I’ll be adding a new plot line during the eighth draft. During this seventh draft… yikes, I have a lot to work on. Such as cutting out another 15,000 or so words. Gulp.

My inspiration has been lagging a bit recently. I think it’s a combination of many things… A messy office, a busy life, a four month break from excessive typing (due to a wrist injury), and not reading enough. Plus, working so hard to delete the words and scenes I’ve spent the past two years creating and perfecting and pouring my life into. 

I’m not worried though. In fact I’m rather excited. Now that I’ve discovered why my inspiration is acting like a turtle stuck in a sea of caramel sauce, I’ve begun my plan of extracting my reptile-like creativity from it’s sticky surroundings. (Confession time: I thought turtles were amphibians, but I just now checked and sadly they aren’t.) 

I plan to document my creativity and inspiration building venture so y’all can come along on the journey with me. This is going to be a lot of fun, y’all. 

What are some ways you get inspired or refuel your creativity? 

Remember you can get extra entries for this giveaway each day:

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Arting Like Rushing Waves

It was a calm day and the waves were barely even waves, they were more like little armies of foaming water racing toward the beach. The water was going in several different directions… the little waves running into each other, some washing back out into the ocean, others rushing forward. It was beautiful, intriguing, and somewhat confusing to me as to why there were waves coming in from at least three different directions. I stood there watching them for a few minutes, delighted at the spectacle. 
I can relate to those multi-directional waves. It seems like every time I shut my eyes to try and go to sleep a whole slew of thoughts race at me from various places. These past few weeks, this last one especially, a whole new world of ideas has opened up for me regarding When Life Hands You Lymes. It’s exciting. And scary. And I know will mean epics amount of work, so therefore rather daunting. Then I hit on an actual line that would work in the “revised” WLHYL and I feel that moment of thrilling happiness that happens when an artist is arting. (Totally proper to say “arting” by the way.) 

I have never been so far into a book (twenty-six months of not-quite daily work) and then decided to do such a huge revamp. Do you know what I remembered though? These changes that I’m thinking about were actually in the original plans for WLHYL, but somewhere during the first draft they were pushed off to the side and forgotten about. It wasn’t until I had beta readers who began to point out the issues that I remembered my plans from way back when and decided to reinstate them into the book. (It’s a lot more complicated than it sounds, by the way.) 
Today I have some travel time and a full battery on the laptop, so I’m planning on hitting it hard (the changes, not the laptop). I’ll be doing all sorts of delightful things like writing out a plot line (yes, yes, I do already have one, but I need another one for the second plot that’s going to be there), figuring out how many words need to be deleted, and lots of brainstorming. I also have thousands upon thousands of words to get rid of, whole scenes to add, and character development to work on. I wish I could reward myself with donuts, but I’ll stick to listening to cool music instead. 
* * * 
What about you? Can you relate to the whole “waves rushing at me from every direction” thing? 

How Writing Relates to Gummy Bears

One thing I’ve discovered is that sometimes writing a book doesn’t always go the way I had expected it to. Instead it’s kinda like getting gummy bears, taking them apart, and reassembling them in a new way. It takes a lot of creativity, thinking outside of the norm, tools to work with, and a fair amount of time. The work is intricate and sometimes feels messy. (Well, not all those things apply to re-crafting gummy bears, but they do to re-crafting a story.) 
Do you know what though? When I finally have the finished product in sight it’s beautiful. All the years of work I’ve poured into crafting a story will be worthwhile because it will shimmer and be full of word pictures and moments that make me go yes!. (And, when it comes to gummy bears they’ll be bright and colorful and fun to look at.) 

This week I’m hoping to spend a lot of time reconstructing sentences and tearing apart my previously written work. I need to do tons of research on certain subjects and work at making my plot stronger and more consistent. I need to really think through the goals and purposes my book has and then figure out the best way to reach them. (Thankfully my sister did all the work with the gummy bears so I didn’t have to put so much planning into them.)

It’s exciting to think of the finished product, yet kinda scary to think of the process of getting there. Sometimes I feel like giving my book a nice little pat and setting it off to the side then playing Dutch Blitz all day long with my siblings. (Still trying to figure out a way that playing games can be considered research for writing…) It’s times like this that I have to set realistic goals for my writing and then focusing on what the end goal is so I don’t get caught up and freaked out by the millions of little details that will happen before that goal is realized. (With gummy bears, all you have to do is think of how delicious they’ll be when you’re done with them and that’s motivation enough.)

What about you? Have you ever compared your writing to gummy bears? And, do you generally play with your candy, or just eat it?

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It’s that time again where we get to choose where Annie goes for this week in our Friday Series, Around the World in Fifty-Two WeeksAnd the destination is… Great Britain! Yay! This makes me happy. 🙂 (I’m actually going to consider this to be England.)

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway at the end of this post.

When Life Hands You Lymes: Holding it for the First Time

A couple of weeks ago my dad told me that if I printed out a copy of my WIP (work-in-progress) When Life Hands You Lymes then he would read it. That was a deal I couldn’t pass up, so I worked until after midnight nearly every day that week to finish the draft I was on so I could order a copy for him. We’re currently in Florida for a conference with my non-writing job so when I ordered the still-messy-draft of the book from Lulu, I had it sent to my grandma’s house because she lives close by. 
The book arrived on Thursday when we were taking a break from work to spend family time playing putt-putt. I had gone along just to watch, so when Grandma arrived and handed me her keys I ran out in the pouring rain (that had just started) to her car to retrieve my box. It was a special moment for me since I started my book 764 days before then and probably worked on it for over 600 of those days and yet had not printed out even a single word of the story before ordering the book.
For the rest of the game (after the rain stopped) I followed my family from hole to hole, cheering them along and hugging my book and looking at it’s beautiful pages. And, actually they weren’t quite so beautiful because everywhere I looked I saw changes I needed to make, but at least I was holding it in my hands.

It can be overwhelming getting edits back from all my beta readers with huge sections that need changed. I like it and I’m thankful for all the time and energy my beta readers are investing, but that doesn’t make it easy.

That’s one reason why it means so much to be able to hold a physical copy of the WIP in my hands, even though I know it’s nothing like what the finished product will be. This helps renew my perspective and remind me that if I continue on then one day (Lord willing) I will have a finished product to hold in my hands and the years I’ve poured into the book will be worthwhile.

Well, my dad finished the book a few days ago and he liked it (cue cheering). He was the first person in my family to read the book, so I was a slight bit nervous and very anticipatory about what he would say. I knew I wouldn’t get any deep plot suggestion changes from him (although he did mention a few things) but I was hoping his overall impression would be good. When he did like it, that helped give me a boost and extra enthusiasm to tackle the changes all my beta readers have been suggesting…

So, onward and upward and forward we go!

Those Happy Authorish Moments

I had the strangest sensation hit me this past week. 
My uncle has asked several times why I hadn’t sent him When Life Hands You Lymes to read and I’ve replied each time that it isn’t ready yet, but I hope to send it soon. My uncle and I have a great relationship (he’s also our neighbor and a co-worker of mine so we’re around each other daily), and I really did want him to read the book and give me feedback. So, when he asked again on Saturday the 16th, I told him “I’ll send it to you next week.” 
Those words prompted a flurry of activity and I worked steadily on edits all week, getting far more than normal done. It was a little after 9:00 p.m. on Saturday night when I sent my uncle the first half of the book, complete with all the corrections made from various beta readers. 
I continued working on the book and even sent it out to a few more beta readers. It was almost midnight when I hurriedly sent out the next section to the last beta reader on my list and finished up stuff on my computer for the day. (For those of you who don’t know, I have a challenge with myself to not use the computer or internet on Sundays.) 
It was 2:20 when I went to bed that night (I was getting ready to go to Florida with my family), yet to my surprise I could hardly get my mind to shut off. I kept thinking about WLHYL and going over the list of characters in my head and thoroughly enjoying it. 

I’d always heard of writers talking about their books as if they’re friends, or feelings of sadness when a project is over because they don’t get to work with the same characters any more, yet I’d never quite related.

Sure, when I’m working on a project I’m all gung-ho about it and could chatter on about it incessantly if someone gave me the opportunity… Yet I’m all about completing projects and starting new ones as fast as possible.

Sitting in the car on Sunday though, I kept thinking about WHLYL and how much I was enjoying it. I literally thought, “I hope I get a lot more edits I need to work on because then I can continue hanging out with the characters.” And then I was like “Wait! What?!?” As far as I can remember, I’ve never felt that way about a book. In fact, it was only three months ago that I finished the fifth draft of WLHYL and never wanted to see the book again.

It was a strange sensation, yet so very rewarding, for me to realize how much I’ve begun enjoying WLHYL and to know that I could barely wait for Monday morning so I could jump back into editing.

It’s still overwhelming at times, yet the book is improving and really beginning to have that polished feeling that is so rewarding. And the characters. Ah, they’re probably my favorite cast ever. When I stopped to think about it, though, I realized I only have the most roughest draft of the second book written, so that gives me at least two more years with the same characters. That means in reality I’ll be quite happy whenever I finish all the drafts of this first book. (Which means: If you’re one of my beta readers, then please, don’t just come up with random things to keep me busy longer. *winky face*)

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What about you? Have you ever gotten really attached to any of your characters?

Also: If you’re interested in beta reading When Life Hands You Lymes, just let me know and you can join in the fun. I had another person sign up yesterday.