Tag Archives: writing

String of Pearls: An Alternative Way to Create a Story – via creativescreenwriting

I stumbled across this post today, and I liked it so much, I have to share:

String of Pearls: An Alternative Way to Create a Story

I’ve mentioned before on this blog that I regard myself as a “puzzler” rather than a pantser or a plotter. And I find this “string of pearls” description very helpful for the way I work. I tend to jump back and forth a lot in my WIPs — and the scenes I write first are probably the “pearls.”

Even if they get deleted in the final draft. *g*

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Some modest writing goals for the first quarter of 2014

The email reminding us to post our first round goals went right under my radar somehow, so I’m coming a bit late to the party this time. I’m going to start out this round with very modest goals. Seeing as I’m behind on the translation, I really have to get caught up with that, and until I do, I’m going to have to allow my writing goals to take back seat for a while. Not only that, there’s been a bit of a setback. I found out today that I was sent the wrong version of the file to translate, an older one that doesn’t contain current changes. Not sure yet how much extra work that’s going to entail, sigh.

Writing:

– Write every day, aiming for at least a page, or 250 words. This is really low for me, and once I manage to catch up on the translation, I can raise my goals. At that point, I will also add some specific project goals.

Business:

– Be done with the Big Translation Project by the end of the round

Writing business:

– Publish Chameleon in a Mirror

– Publish Island of Glass

– Publish “The Shadow Artist”

– Upload “Leaving Sweater” to Smashwords and make it free

– Publish Shadow of Stone to B&N, Smashwords and D2D

– Publish “Mars, A Traveler’s Guide” to Amazon and make it free

– Make Author Page for Amazon.de and Amazon.uk

– Update my blog’s book page

– Submit a short story a week to traditional publishers

So that’s it for me for the moment. Once I have more time to write again, I’ll revise!

Wishing everyone a very successful first round. 🙂

Quarterly update and a cover reveal for Gawain and Ragnell

It’s that time of year again, taking stock on how well I’ve achieved my goals in the last couple of months for “A Round of Words in 80 Days.” For those who are unfamiliar with ROW80, you can check it out here.

First off, to get it out of the way, here are the goals I didn’t achieve:

– I did NOT manage to get 50,000 words written on A Wasted Land

– I did NOT do much more experimenting with posting to Wattpad and similar sites

– I only managed to do a few experimental fast writing sessions, not enough to significantly increase my average word count

So what did I achieve?

A Wasted Land is now at 19,000 words, which is almost 18,000 more than the beginning of the round.

– I had a wonderful vacation to Iceland and to visit family, during which I got next to no writing done. 🙂

– I got Chameleon in a Mirror off to some more beta readers, and I’m still hopeful I will be able to publish before Christmas.

– I’ve started brainstorming the sequels to Island of Glass, Facets of Glass and Shards of Glass. I’ve also been in touch with the cover artist for the first book and will hopefully soon be able to book slots for the second two.

– I started a new, long-term translation job (one of the reasons the writing progress has been slower than I hoped).

– I did Konrath’s 8 Hour Ebook Challenge, writing and publishing The Destruction of Ys in 8 hours. I got such great feedback on my little short short, that I unpublished this week. And no, that’s not a contradiction. It appears Ys might be worth a bit more work than 8 hours, so I intend to expand it and republish once I’m happy with it. 🙂

– I’m almost done with the stand-alone version of Gawain and Ragnell (taken from an episode in Shadow of Stone). I’ve also been working with my daughter on a cover for it:

Cover for Gawain and Ragnell

So what do you guys think?

Anyway, even if I’m behind on my goals, I’m still happy with what I did manage to get done. Hope everyone else had a successful quarter as well!

Slowly increasing my word count, the natural way

I wrote a couple of days ago about how I intend to experiment with myself, see if I can increase my writing speed a bit. I started this week, and while I only had two days to test some new techniques, the first couple of things I’ve tried seem to be showing results. (Tuesday was taken up with grandmother duties, as well as the Big Project redux, some files that had to be redone.)

I’ve taken several fast writing courses over the years, have participated in several Nanowrimos, and while they might have increased my output temporarily, none of them ever resulted in a lasting change in my daily word count. What all of those courses and venues have in common is that they all insist that you can’t look back, you have to keep writing forward, or else you will end up in editing mode, which will kill your creativity.

Recently, there were a couple of threads on the Kindle Boards started by writers with amazing daily word counts, one of them being the lovely and talented Elle Casey, an expat like me. And to my amazement, this woman who regularly writes between 5,000 and 10,000 words a day, goes back and fixes her chapters before she moves on:

I edit as I go, re-editing previous chapters on average of 3 times before moving on to the next. My first draft is therefore very close to final draft quality.

I found that single point amazingly liberating. One of the things that tends to kill any fast writing project I start is the idea that I can’t go back and fix things. I tend to write pretty research intensive books and short stories, and I feel like, if I don’t get the research right, I just might be taking the book down a dead end and I won’t notice until I get there. Most fast-writing techniques won’t allow me to stop and research — I’m not supposed to do that until the end of the book.

But here is a writer who puts out a book a month, saying she edits as she goes. So what isn’t to stop me from editing — and researching — as I go?

So I decided to start with myself, try to figure what my best writing days have in common. My single best writing day was a 5,000 word day when I wrote the climactic scenes of Yseult. Another really good day was when I wrote my short story “Mars: A Traveler’s Guide” (which then went on to be nominated for the Nebula Award) in one day. Those two memorable writing sessions had one thing in common: I knew what I was going to write that day. For “Mars” I had a pile of research notes, I’d figured out all the things that had to happen to create my Catch 22 situation, all I had to do was put them in fictional form. For Yseult, my ideas for those last scenes were more vague, but I knew where I was, I knew the characters inside and out, and I had death and revenge to carry me forward.

Another great resource helped me to figure out the first couple of steps of my self-experiment, Rachel Aaron’s 2k to 10k: Writing Faster, Writing Better, and Writing More of What You Love. She mentions that an integral part of increasing her writing speed was “Know What You’re Writing Before You Write It” — given my own experience, obviously a method that is much closer to my own creative nature than the just-keep-moving-forward school.

So what and how am I doing?

I’m only starting with a couple of changes to my writing routine at a time, testing what works, as it were. Here are the changes I made in the last couple of days:

– No Internet when writing the first draft of a scene.

– Before writing the scene, I note in longhand in a spiral notebook what I want the scene to accomplish and the most important things that are going to happen. Then I don’t waste a lot of time sitting there, wondering what the h@ll I could possibly do with my characters now.

– When the first draft of a scene is finished, get out research books and turn Internet back on and flesh out the things I skipped. (Along with basic editing.)

These relatively simple changes to my writing routine have resulted in 2800 new words on A Wasted Land (Book III in The Pendragon Chronicles) in two two-hour writing sessions. I know I’m not setting any records with that output, but here’s the really important part:

– My average output for years has been between 500 and 1000 words a day (when I’m lucky).

– These changes were completely painless.

– They felt natural.

– I got a huge kick out of writing this way.

– I’m happy with what I wrote, and I wasn’t just writing to reach some arbitrary word count goal. I had a block of time to write, and I stopped when that block of time was over.

There are a few more things on my list of strategies to try. I’m particularly curious to see what I can achieve with this method (and any others I may still implement) if I have a few more hours to write at my disposal.

It’s too early to draw many conclusions, but I think it’s safe to say that with a little experimentation, you just might achieve more than you think. Especially if you go with what feels natural to you as a writer.

Mindsets and our attitudes to success and failure

Lately, I’ve been watching the sales of my books slide into oblivion, and it’s disheartening, to say the least. I have to admit that at times I’ve been tempted to define myself through that lack of success, to start wondering if I’m a failure at this whole self-publishing gig.

Today, I started reading a book that might just help me to find my way out of that attitude: Mindset by Carol Dweck. Basically, she defines types of mindsets, the fixed mindset and the growth mindset, and describes how they affect how we react to setbacks. What follows is a very superficial summary of what I’ve read so far. The fixed mindset is the camp that tends to believe that talent and intelligence are givens (“fixed”); as a result, people with that mindset are all about validity, seeing the abilities they have rewarded, getting confirmation for their success. The growth mindset is about constantly learning new things, about embracing that kind of learning. People with the growth mindset tend to enjoy a challenge, while those with the fixed mindset are more likely to avoid challenges. They would rather be the big fish in a little pond.

Reading this book is making me realize that I have a bit too much of the fixed mindset in my emotional makeup. Not all the time, of course — I don’t think anyone is all one or the other. And I do have a history of seeing setbacks as challenges, and making something good out of them. When I learned I was probably too old to get a position in the German academic system, I went to Clarion West and started redefining my life around my dream of becoming a writer. When my German publisher decided not to take the second book in The Pendragon Chronicles, I decided to try the waters of self-publishing — and Shadow of Stone now has a better rating on Amazon than Yseult, the first book in the series. So at setbacks, I do tend to react in a “growth mindset” way. But that’s my reaction to major setbacks. At the same time, I also often interpret lack of success as failure. I took the plunge, learned how to make ebooks and book covers, learned some rudimentary marketing. Sometimes I get a kick out of all I’ve learned in the last year and a half. But part of me wishes it were easy, wishes once I’d done the job, I would get immediate validation in the form of runaway sales (fixed mindset). That part of me doesn’t see challenge anymore, it just sees frustration.

I know well enough that the indie authors who do have runaway sales are those who put out several novels a year. Yes, I have put out several books since I started self-publishing, but most of those are previously published material. Mostly short stories. Notoriously hard to sell (despite what anyone else will tell you.)

What I need to do (besides learn how to market myself better) is learn how to write faster. There’s a big reason for my drop in sales — I’ve all but stopped marketing, trying to concentrate on the writing in order to have a more serious number of longer works. I know that, I told myself it would happen, but still I want the validation from sales numbers. I want it to be easy. I have challenges coming at me from every direction, and rather than embracing them, I’m ducking.

Unfortunately, I haven’t had any time this week to test the fast writing techniques I want to try. A big project has been eating a lot of my time the last few weeks. Nonetheless, I did manage to get another 3000 words written on A Wasted Land. I turned the first big chunk of the project in yesterday, though, so I’m hoping that next week I can experiment on myself and see if I’m up to the challenge of learning how to write faster.

Wish me luck!

Clarion West Write-a-thon, goals for the next quarter, and a sale on Yseult

I’ve taken a rather extended break from blogging, for a number of reasons, the only one that is relevant being that I had enough distractions and I wanted to get some writing done. And I have made progress on a couple of projects, despite very full days. I mentioned a while back that I wanted to make a stand-alone version of an episode from Shadow of Stone, and I finished a first version of “Gawain and Ragnell” with it’s own chapter breaks and appropriate quotes from Arthurian literature. While writing the episode originally, I took my inspiration both from the tradition of the “loathly lady” as well as “Gawain and the Green Knight” and a few other medieval tales of Gawain, conflating them all to what I hope I made into a coherent whole. None of the readers of Shadow of Stone have complained yet, so I think I must have been at least partly successful. 🙂

I’ve also returned to A Wasted Land, trying to make sense of the notes and scenes I wrote in March. I printed everything out, cut pages off at scene breaks, kept the pieces of scenes together with paper clips, and started reorganizing everything, moving scenes around and writing scene descriptions on separate pieces of paper in long hand (purpose, who, when, where, what happens, decision), and adding those guidelines to the cut up pieces of paper from the original scene. Doing all this, I realized I had some major flaws in chronology, which I hope my current pile of paper will correct. I’ve now started writing the new version, but I don’t have much in terms of words: only 1200 so far. And I have signed up for the Clarion West Write-a-thon again this year, with my goal being 30,000 words on A Wasted Land by the end of July. AND we will be going on vacation in a couple of weeks, so I should try to get most of those words done before that …

For the curious, here’s the cover:

I want to try to some new fast writing techniques this round anyway, testing what works for me, so it’s all a part of the plan. *g* I’ve read a lot of blog posts and Kindle Board discussions on increasing your output, and I’m at least ready to give it a shot.

No matter what I manage for the write-a-thon, my main goal for the quarter will be to finish a complete draft of A Wasted Land. I’m trying to learn from my previous publishing mistakes, and this book is planned more modestly, with fewer sub-plots, etc. I’m shooting for a first draft of no more than 50,000 words.

This quarter, I also want to do another pass of Gawain and Ragnell, make a cover, publish it, and try to make it free on Amazon.

I’ve started posting Island of Glass to Wattpad, and I want to continue testing such platforms. (Island of Glass is another priority, but I’m a firm believer in letting a work sit before rewriting.) This round, I really want to try and make the writing a priority, as long as life allows.

I have a bunch of “maybe” publishing and writing goals, but those really depend on how far I can get on A Wasted Land. Given how atrocious sales of short story collections are these days, I’ve given up on collections of my previously published stories for the time being.

I wish everyone a very successful round!

(For those who don’t have it yet, Yseult is presently on sale for only 99c.)

Trudging along in the ebook jungles

In the spirit of ROW80, I’ll try to emphasize what I did get done this week, rather than what I didn’t. Once I sent Chameleon in a Mirror sent off to my critique partner, I’ve mostly been working on writing business, rather than actual writing.

On the writing front:

– I’ve returned to Island of Glass and got the novella divided up into chapters, so it looks more “book-like.” I also put together a (long) list of critique points for me to tackle during the next rewrite (or not), for example, giving Chiara a foil. Probably a good idea, even though it might be more work than I’d hoped to have to do. OTOH, right now it’s barely novella length, and while I tend to add details during rewrites, since my first drafts are pretty bare-bone, adding a foil would help in making the length more substantial.

– I did a final editing pass of my story collection Story Hunger

On the writing business front:

– I got my short story “In the Middle of Nowhere With Company” up to Draft2Digital, and it is now available on Barnes & Noble and the iTunes store. (Kobo is taking its merry time.)

– I got a collection of collab stories with my writing buddy Jay Lake started. Today, my daughter helped me with the first version of a cover — but I won’t be sharing it until Jay sees it. 🙂

– I noticed that my SF collection From Earth to Mars and Beyond was suffering from doubled inside covers, so I uploaded a new version.

– I got a new chapter of Chameleon in a Mirror up on the Aphra Behn Page.

But I’m having problems shaking this stupid cold, so I think now I’m going to go back to bed for a while with a cup of tea.

Wishing everyone great words, great progress, and a great week. 🙂

A new book for a new year: From Earth to Mars and Beyond

Happy new year, everyone!

To celebrate 2013, I got my new collection of stories, From Earth to Mars and Beyond, finished and uploaded to Amazon:

This one won’t be going into KDP Select, since several of the stories are available online, and that would violate the rules of Select. We’ll see what success I have marketing it without. I don’t have the new book up in other stores yet, but I will try to do that in the next few days.

As I already mentioned over on Facebook, I’ve been a bit frustrated recently by reviews from readers who apparently never read the description before they read the book, (e.g. complaining about the ending of Yseult, even though the description makes it obvious it’s a tragedy; or people complaining about the length of short stories in a short story collection). So to let off some steam, I wrote a tongue-in-cheek blurb for this collection, and I actually ended up using it:

From Earth to Mars and Beyond is a collection eight previously published science fiction stories by award-winning author Ruth Nestvold. But reader be warned: The stories in this collection do not depict an ideal future world. Most of these stories do not end happily, and many of them are on the bleak side. Main characters die. If you only like happy endings, this is not the book for you.

On the positive side, “Mars: A Traveler’s Guide,” was nominated for a Nebula Award. “Troy and the Aliens” may not portray a particularly rosy view of the earth as we know it, but for a change, no one dies, and several characters get the chance to drive fast on the Autobahn. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Monkey,” based on a poem by Wallace Stevens, is blessedly short, and shouldn’t cause the reader too much pain. And at least there’s a story about whores in space, “The Far Side of the Moon.” Enjoy the interstellar darkness!

What do folks think? Should I keep it or go with a description more positive and conventional?

Wishing everyone a happy and successful 2013!

The Next Big Thing: Musing on my time travel with Aphra Behn

I was tagged by Renata Barcelos to explain why my novel is going to be the Next Big Thing. *g* But seriously, the blog hop is more about stopping by different blogs to discover new writers, or maybe a great read down the road somewhere. A lot of us are talking about books that have yet to be finished, but maybe our WIPs will make people curious about the books we’ve already published!

On to the questions:

What is the working title of your latest book?

Chameleon in a Mirror

Where did the idea come from for the book?

The historical figure of Aphra Behn, the first professional woman writer in English. From the moment I read about Behn in graduate school, she fascinated me. I knew I had to do something with her beyond academic articles.

What genre does your book fall under?

That’s a very good question. It’s a time travel fantasy involving magic mirrors and literary history with a romance that doesn’t end happily. I think I can safely say it falls between lots of genre chairs.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?

I’m really bad at casting my novels. I know what all my characters look like, but I can never think of any actors who fit my ideas.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

Billie Armstrong has always dreamed of traveling back to the English Restoration to meet her idol, Aphra Behn, but when she accidentally activates the magical properties of a baroque mirror, she discovers that a dream come true can get complicated, not to mention dirty.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?

About a year and a half.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?

Hm. I can’t offhand think of any other books with the same weird combination of genres. There are plenty of time travel books out there, but my novel definitely isn’t a science fiction TT, nor is it a romance like Outlander, or a literary TT like The Time Traveler’s Wife, despite the subject matter. I will definitely have to think on that a bit!

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

The answer to that one is the same as the second question: Aphra Behn. She deserves to have more people know about her, and who knows, maybe I can help with this book.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

It’s part self-discovery, part vindication, part love story, part secret history, part historical novel, and (hopefully) all fun! Billie’s journey to the past turns into an unwilling masquerade in a tale of literary politics and passion, a high-spirited Restoration romp, as Billie does her best to survive in a strange era and ensure Aphra’s literary survival in the future. The subject matter is serious, but first and foremost, I hope people will find the novel entertaining. Aphra was a great entertainer herself, and she deserves nothing less.

Now to tag 5 fellow authors, who will share something about their own books next Wednesday on their blogs, if they choose to do so. 🙂

Widdershins

Shah Wharton

Maya Lassiter

Luc Reid

Aliette de Bodard

“The Next Big Thing,” upcoming freebies, and hiatus announcement

I was tagged today in a blog hop, “The Next Big Thing”:

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This particular blog hop was started as an opportunity to learn about the work of independent authors, one blog at a time. If you would like the chance to promote your book in this way, please let me know in the comments! I need to tag five other writers next week when it’s my turn (assuming I even get around to posting, but more on that later.) You can see the questions on Renata Barcelos’s blog, the writing buddy who tagged me. Thanks, Renata! 🙂

Anyway, I’m flying to the States on Friday, and for 2 1/2 weeks, I’ll be driving up and down I5 and flying to Atlanta, visiting friends and family who I see far too infrequently. For that reason, I’m putting regular goals, both writing and social media, on hold until I get back, giving myself permission to get Very Little Writing Done during that time. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to me to tell folks I haven’t seen for so long, “Okay, I have to go write now.” So my plan is to just not worry about it and dive into NaNo a couple days late. I will be taking my lovely little eeePC with me, which I will load with my text directory and all my current writing projects, and I will continue to brainstorm Ygerna, the prequel to The Pendragon Chronicles that I want to write during NaNo. But I would much rather be grateful for any writing I manage to do during my visit, than end up kicking myself for not getting any writing done.

I have a number of free promos coming up while I’m gone. Since I might not have a chance to announce them shortly before they happen, I’ll just list them all now. If any of the books sound interesting to you, put them on your calendar!

FREE books in October:

Oct. 22-23: Beyond the Waters of the World (Looking Through Lace, Book 2)

Oct. 23-25: “Misty and the Magic Pumpkin Knife” (Tales From Far Beyond North)
This promo is part of Halloween Free Horror, which includes 24 books of horror, dark fantasy and Halloween themes.

Oct. 29-30: “Misty and the Magic Pumpkin Knife” again. I figured the best time to promote a Halloween-themed story is during October, so I might as well use up my free days all at once. 🙂

Oct. 30-Nov. 1: Dragon Time and Other Stories, containing my witch story “To Act the Witch”: Brilliana is a famous actress for the Duke’s Theatre, yes — but she is also a Witch. And it is up to her to save the Age of Magic.
This is in connection with the Witchy Books Halloween Promo. You can access a Listmania list of all the books that will be offered, either free or on sale, here.

That’s it from me for at least a week. Y’all play nice now while I’m gone! *g*