Wednesday, December 30, 2015

The Write Side of Life Greatest Hits: 2015 Edition

Well, here we are. December 30. About ready to close the book on 2015, and along with this ending comes an inevitable flood of “best of 2015” articles, lists, and yes, blog posts. So who am I to eschew a trend! With all the tradition of the end of the year, I bring you the top 5 most-read posts from The Write Side of Life this year:

In which I talk about my Process. I'm pleased to see one of my videos crack this list. I may not have the best production capabilities, but I do have fun with the videos, and it is nice to know that at least a few people are watching them!

In which I write about the decision to shelve a manuscript. It's a painful one, especially for novel 7, which I still think is a fantastic piece of fiction. Hard to revisit this one, knowing that I am probably approaching this moment in the next couple months for novel 6.

In which I write about the frustration of people trying to be helpful and instead making me feel worse. This is one of my favorite posts (it's something I think about a LOT), and I am glad to see that it resonated with some others too.

In which I share one of the pieces of (free!) software that I use for writing and worldbuilding. I am actually getting ready to put a novel 8 file together, I am still finding WikidPad useful!

In which I participate in a blog hop. I almost did not include this on the list, despite it being my most-viewed post. My argument was that it wasn't a "real" post, but that was mostly bullshit. It was because I am ashamed, because I never completed my part of the blog hop. I was supposed to critique 10 other entries, and I think I only did 2. Yep, I suck. I am really sorry to everyone who did not get my feedback!

Overall, I had 19 total posts this year. I hope to improve that number next year, but I won’t sweat it too much. I have a lot going on in my life, and this blog is a bonus for me. Hopefully you, my dear readers, enjoy it and stick around for the next arbitrary revolution around the sun!

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Anatomy of a Writer's Desk

Let's pull back the curtain for a moment. I'd love to pretend that I'm a sort of romantic writer, penning stories at the fireside in my garret bedroom (I may have read the Emily of New Moon series too many times). The truth is, I do most of my writing on a laptop or my tablet. I sit at an IKEA desk surrounded by piles of items I mean to attend to, next to the dumbbells I use for working out. So I thought I would share with you just how my writing desk looks. This is entirely candid—I snapped this photo the other day without doing any cleaning or organizing beforehand. And here it is!

1. Super fancy printer that can push out manuscript pages with ease—and I can print to it from my couch or desk or toilet or wherever! This was a birthday gift from my boyfriend, who really Gets It when it comes to my passion for writing.

2. Printed out rejection letters that have not been filed into the rejection binder yet. Probably printed from the couch, which is way too far to get up and actually get things off the printer.

3. Writing notebook, buried under random papers (including the user manual for the fancy printer), that may occasionally be brought out to have snippets of dialogue, character descriptions, or story ideas added to it or to be mined for a current project.

4. Minnie Mouse ears from Disneyland. Of course.

5. Wall art from Target, appropriately themed for a writer.

6. A whiteboard built into the desk, perfect for the jotting down of quick notes! And actually used for once, two years ago, writing down my employee ID, and never erased.

7. A detailed schedule and checklist of everything that I plan to accomplish on a weekend day. Planned items could range from laundry and dishes to writing and editing to reading and watching Doctor Who.

8. Hand-drawn (okay, more like hand-scribbled) map for a now-defunct project. I think this one was NaNo 2014. Er, 2013. Yikes.

9. A handful of books related to writing and an autograph book for authors (so far with only N.K. Jemisin’s signature).

10. Proudly holding up the end is the dictionary I got for my 16th birthday. Not that I ever use it—it’s called the Internet!—but doesn’t it just feel writerly to have it there?

11. A pile of old cards and letters that I really, really mean to reply to. Someday.

12. This book was assigned to me by my therapist, before I dumped him for being unhelpful. It is a good book, though! I even have a highlighter and a pen hooked to the cover for notes.

13. A writing book that I swear I am going to read any day now.

14. This folder was used to hold some printed out rejections that need to be filed in the rejection binder. Those are really piling up…

So there you have it! A quick breakdown of where I do a lot of my writing, editing, and bemoaning. What does your space look like??

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

500 Writing Prompts: Message in a Bottle

As I sit in the fallow zone between projects (letting novel 8 marinate and waiting on novel 6 beta readers), I find that I am itching to write. Something, anything, to scratch that existential need. Usually I say that I will fill the space with short stories, but that almost never actually happens. I don’t have a strong affinity for shorts, and whenever I come up with an idea I am passionate enough about, I end up wanting to turn it into a novel. So while I was at Barnes and Noble, looking to spend a gift card I’d won in a drawing at work, I saw this book of prompts and knew it would be perfect. Short, easy bites, a chance to write without the sometimes-exhausting effort of creation, and a chance to write outside my normal wheelhouse. I picked it up and planned to do one prompt every night.*


That hasn’t exactly worked out, but I have done a few of them and found them to be an interesting thought exercise. (Like the one that made me realize I don’t have ten items to put on a bucket list—I need more aspirations in life, apparently!) I thought I would share the very first one I did, and perhaps I will return to this and share some future ones if they resonate.

*I am still planning to do short stories, of course, but I just am trying to be realistic about how that usually goes.

While at the beach you decide to write a message in a bottle. What would it say? Who would you like to find it?

The message would mostly be for myself. After all, I could never be sure who would find it or if they even would. I would probably write down a small piece of me. An attempt to define part of who I am when there is no audience to please. Not necessarily a secret, but an intimacy. Describing my situation when I wrote it, what I was doing and feeling. And if someone did find it, I would be free of the burden of knowing how and why they would react. But I would hope that it would help them. Give them an insight into the human condition. Give them a glimpse of someone who is of a different gender or race or class or even time. I would probably include a message of hope. Hope for myself, hope for the finder, hope for the world.

Or, if I was marooned, it would just be a plea for help with as many details as I could come up with. And I would hope the Coast Guard or their analogue would find it—and quickly!

Monday, September 7, 2015


Today is my BIRTHDAY! Huzzah!

I know lots of adults think birthdays are meh, but I love them. A whole day dedicated to me and no one else. Well, everyone else who shares my birthday and (some years) Labor Day and lots of other things. But it's fun to be queen for a day, and I enjoy celebrating milestones like anniversaries and birthdays. Making it through one more year alive is pretty awesome!

Anyway, in honor of my birthday, I decided I would finally properly introduce myself with an "about me" vlog. So...hello!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Time of Death: Now

It’s always a sad day to close the lid on a novel. To admit to yourself (and to the world) that the thing you wrote and edited and loved just isn’t going to make it. And so I am sounding a solemn dirge today for novel 7. In fact, I actually declared it Over and Done on August 23, closing out the last lingering queries and shading its spreadsheet tracker to gray. But today I am finally taking the time to mourn that little guy, who I loved so much.

You were fantastic, novel 7!

Novel 7 was conceived on June 14, 2014. At least, that is the day I created a WikidPad file and began to type up some of the notes that were accumulating in my writing notebook. I sketched out characters and locations, developed mythical mythologies and pantheons. The plot bunnies that had been cavorting about my brain started to get corralled into an outline. The outline went through multiple iterations, as I attempted to decide whether I would use a multiple or single POV for the story. It seemed to cry out for single POV—it was truly the story of this one god—but I worried that it would be too slight in that form. I planned out a beefier multi-POV version, but it didn’t feel right. I settled on the single POV and wrote up a scene plan.

And so novel 7 was born on June 17, 2014, when I created the draft 1 file. It started that day with a modest 1k, but it quickly grew under my fingers. By the end of June 2014, it was almost 15k strong. It lived and breathed, begging to be developed. I wrote like a madwoman that July, spurred on by unemployment and loneliness in part, but mostly answering that siren’s call of creation. And on August 11, 2014, that first draft rested complete at barely 41k words.

Well, that wouldn’t do at all. It was novel 7, not novella 7! I let it rest while I turned my attentions to a doomed #PitchWars bid for novel 6. Eventually, I came back. I re-read, made notes. I wrote a new scene plan. On October 8, 2014, I started a second draft. It was difficult but rewarding to find the areas to tease out more story, to fill in some of the gaps my initial rush had missed. The second draft came to rest on December 13, 2014 at close to 58k.

Still, I knew it wasn’t enough. I went back through, armed with post-it notes and a dazzling array of colored pens. I sought critiques and beta readers. I vowed that I would do justice to this story that resonated through me. I wrestled with every scene, contemplated adding entire new storylines, and eventually settled on to a final version of novel 7. It was about 63k words.

I sent out the first query on February 2, 2015. I overhauled my query countless times. I worked on a synopsis, which I actually liked. I overhauled the query again. I queried more, and more, and more. I racked up rejections and non-responses, moped about it, and sent out more queries. I sent my 96th and last query on August 7, 2015. Overall, I had 2 partial requests (1 form rejected, 1 never heard from again) and 1 full request (polite rejection). Not the greatest track record. It was time to admit defeat.

I can’t say for sure what it was that did in novel 7. I did not receive a lot of personalized responses from the professionals, and the beta readers seemed to love it. I suspect it was the length, which at 63k for adult fantasy is LOW. I knew that going in, but I had told the story I wanted to tell. I still think it is the best piece I have ever written. (Disappointing, in fact, to know that novel 8 is so much worse and wonder if I peaked with an unpublishable novel.) Perhaps someday it will find a home, but for now, the coffin is closed and the nails driven. RIP, novel 7.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Looking Back to Augusts Past

Summer begins to fade into autumn, like it does every year. Living in San Diego buffers me from this reality, somewhat. It is easy to let the sunny days slide away, one after another, sure that they will continue in an unabated stream. And yet, the days do grow shorter, and time is, in fact, passing.

Such are the thoughts I have, teetering on the edge of another August. August for me marks a turning point in the year. Suddenly my mind is racing to catch up with the reality that, yes, another year is passing without anything I can do to stop it (or speed it up, as the case may be). Summer days seems unbearably precious, knowing that the 5 PM darkness is coming up. And it’s far, far too easy to look back at previous Augusts and despair over how little progress I’ve made since then.

Let’s consider. Last August, I was searching for a job to replace my forfeited Navy career. I had abundant free time, and was using that to the best of my ability. I was coming out of a July with record-high wordcounts, churning out words faster than I ever had before. I was excited by my new project (novel 7) and full of hopes for #PitchWars. And then, by the end of the month, I had found that new day job, my wordcounts had plunged, and I had to admit that novel 7 was a slight creature that might never be marketable for traditional publishing. Still, I felt close. I felt more like a real writer than ever. Would I have believed that, a year later, I would be staring down 100 rejections for novel 7, pushing myself to finish novel 8’s first draft, contemplating another #PitchWars submission for novel 6, and honestly no closer to “making it” than before?

Two years ago, it was August 2013, and I was mired in a low period. I didn’t update my blog for months, I wrote almost nothing, and after setting a goal to finish novel 6’s first draft in July, I was still months away from achieving that. I was caught up in the real life of the Navy and moving in with my boyfriend and struggling to believe in myself. Imagine how much worse would my low period have been if I could have seen that, 2 years in the future, I would still be fighting with novel 6, without even a sure answer about what needs to be fixed after several drafts and beta reads and about 50 rejections.

Even further back, I find this post in August 2012 reaffirming—trying to convince myself—that I will continue, despite the challenges. I reference this post about what might happen if I never get anywhere with my work. It includes the closing thought “I still have a few years yet before I abandon this dream, but lord how I hope I don’t have to!” Reading that now, when it has been a few years and I still am plagued by the doubts and fears about wasting my time, well, it’s painful, honestly. Knowing that since then I have written THREE new manuscripts and yet still don’t seem to have the keys to writing one that works. Not yet.

In the waning summer of 2011, I was writing about writer’s block and my embarrassment at my lack of writerly accomplishments. I vowed to be better, to do better. And yet, four years later, I still haven’t mastered the art of writing consistently (although there has been a vast improvement). The improvements I have made have not translated into any tangible benefits except an ever-growing pile of words without readers.

Even back in 2010, when this blog was barely started, August was a time of posts about writer's block. That was the month I finished the first draft of novel 1, and yet still, only a few weeks later, I could not manage to write a thing!

Reading through these old August musings, I am struck by one thought above all. No matter how often I get down, no matter how frustrating it is or how little the words flow, I have not given up. And I won't give up. Writing is a part of me, for better or for worse. And while it is easy to despair over the lack of progress I have made, that would be a shame, because I have accomplished a lot. I've written hundreds of blog posts. I've met and friended other writers. I've written hundreds of thousands of words, sent hundred of queries, applied to contests, published on Wattpad, created a video series, I have written books! It's not nothing.

A few weeks ago, I was musing about the future to my boyfriend, and I posited that five years from now I could not really predict anything about my life. Even whether I would still be writing, given that another five years of rejection sounds almost impossible to overcome. I asked him, "Do you think I'll ever stop writing?" He did not hesitate a second. "No." He knows me better than anyone, and I think he has the right of it. Writing is in me, it has been for literally as long as I can remember, and while it may ebb and flow, I doubt it will ever leave me.

So take that, August doldrums! I am not defeated yet!

Friday, July 17, 2015

#FlashFridayFootage: "The Walls Will Fall"

Happy Friday!! Thanks to the magic of modern technology, I am not actually sitting on my bedroom floor at this exact moment (I should be getting my makeup done and hanging around getting ready for one of my bestie's wedding!), but I am still celebrating the #FlashFridayFootage vibe with all of you lovely folks.

Cheers to the freakin' weekend!

Friday, July 10, 2015

#FlashFridayFootage: "Virgin Magic"

Hello! After a little break last weekend for the U.S. holiday (fireworks galore!), #FlashFridayFootage is back this week with one of the tougher flash stories I've written. Most of the stories on #FlashFridayFootage are written expressly for this purpose, but this story was one I wrote a long time ago before I started #FlashFridayFootage, and I shopped it around a bit before deciding its best home was right here with my other flash stories.

Happy Friday!

Tweet: A new #FlashFridayFootage from @nora_anne:

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Four “Comforting” Things People Say to Pre-Published Writers (That are NOT)

4. You finished a book! Most people will never manage that!

Yeah, okay. I finished a book. Yay me! It is a big accomplishment, but it’s also one that I hit for the first time when I was 13. I’ve written almost SIX books now. It is hard to see writing additional books as anything but a failure—as in, I’ve written six fucking books that I can’t sell. I’m just piling up rubbish manuscripts, and that doesn’t feel like an accomplishment at all.

3. But writing is its own reward! Don’t think about getting published!

Writing is hard goddamn work. Which doesn’t mean that it can’t be its own reward, but it isn’t something that fills my life with rainbows and sunshine. I do derive great pleasure from perfecting a turn of phrase or making a plot come together just so. Obviously I must enjoy it for its own sake on some level or I wouldn’t still be doing it. And for some people, just writing is their goal. That’s great! But for me, I want to share my writing. And while I do that in various forms already, the biggest way that writers share their work is by publishing. That is my goal.

2. Well, I’ve read your stuff, and it’s so good!

I know, complaining about praise seems churlish. And I do love getting feedback of all kinds on my writing (seriously, I crave it, harsh or kind), and positive feedback can make me feel like a thousand bucks. But in the context of publishing, it’s disheartening. Because if I’m so good, then I don’t know what I’m doing wrong, which means I can’t fix it. And I’ll spend another 14 years doing whatever I’m doing and not getting anywhere with it. And even if I really am good (doubtful), then it just makes it feel unfair (ha, I know, that word) that I haven’t had any luck at all wading through the slush.

1. Yes, agents get tons of queries, but 90% of them are pure crap—can’t follow guidelines, can’t string together a sentence, can’t even spell check! The odds aren’t actually that bad for the good ones.

On first blush, this should be a good thing. I do research agents and their guidelines and requests extensively, and I do spend a lot of time and effort perfecting my query letter. I proofread and edit and still have not ever accidentally sent out one with the wrong name. So I should be ahead of the game! Except I’m not. Which means—oh gods, I must be the 90%. I must not be good at all. Worse, I am one of those delusional people who thinks she is doing okay. But I can’t even beat out the half-trained monkeys sending “To Whom It May Concern” queries about their sparkly teenage vampires. Fuck.

Anyway, I know this is all very complainypants, but I’m in a complainypants space right now. I may or may not have cried myself to sleep last night, as my queries for novel 7 draw to a close and novel 8 continues to refuse to come together. I’m feeling discouraged, and I want to feel uplifted, but it seems that every “inspiring” quote or post is just making me feel worse. I think maybe I need to disconnect from the writing community for a little while, do what I can for this first draft of novel 8, and remember that I do love writing for what it is—and right now, it definitely not is getting read.

Friday, June 26, 2015

#FlashFridayFootage: "Day in the Dog Park"

Congratulations on making it through another week! Or not, depending on how alive you are while reading this. Or whether it's your weekend. But for many of us—huzzah, we survived! Let's celebrate by watching videos on our breaks and fantasizing about all the ice cream we're going to eat. The pinnacle of a good weekend's plans, IMO.

In any case, enjoy this installment of #FlashFridayFootage!

Tweet: Check out this week's #FlashFridayFootage,

Friday, June 19, 2015

#FlashFridayFootage: "Buttons"

Huzzah, Friday again! An extra special Friday for me, since I am taking a half day from the day job and heading out to Denver for a friend's bachelorette party. It should be a Very Good Time and I am quite excited. But first--how could I kick off a good weekend without a little #FlashFridayFootage?

Yep, it feels so good to have this going again, and I hope you enjoy this week's story. Congratulations on surviving another week, and I'll see you next Friday!

(And if videos aren't your thing, you can always catch my flash fiction in print version over at Wattpad.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

#FlashFridayFootage: "The Light at Night"

Yes, you read that title right. After a tiny hiatus, #FlashFridayFootage is making its victorious 2015 comeback! Every Friday, except for the last of the month, will feature a brand new video with a brand new reading of a brand new story. Exciting stuff!

To be honest, one of the delays in bringing back #FlashFridayFootage was that I don't think anyone cares about it. It is a fair bit of work (not even including writing the stories), and I don't get very many views. But I thought about it a lot and decided that I have fun making the videos, so I'll keep doing it for me. And if someone else out there gets a couple minutes of pleasure from them too, that's just icing on the cake!

So feel free to scroll on by if it's not your thing, but if you want to check it out, here is the first 2015 #FlashFridayFootage video!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

In Which I Burden Characters with Terrible Names (Throwback Thursday)

Welcome to another Throwback Thursday! I found this gem of a story saved under simply “story.doc” in an old folder. The date created is September 27, 2005 (my freshman year of college), but I think that is the date I transferred it and that it is even older. In any case, it is pretty terrible. I hereby apologize and promise to never use the name Arlina von Dryke ever again. Ever.

I have zero clue where the rest of the story was going. This is all that there is in the file.
            Arlina flicked a strand of pale red hair back from her face and eyed her opponent warily.  Tall, but so was she; strong, but so was she; tricky and wily, but so was she.  An even match, overall, and the spectators all held their breath in anticipation of the next move.
            “All done now, pretty girl?” Dreyson sneered, his handsome face showing his scorn.
            Let him waste his time giving taunts, Arlina thought fiercely, feinting in to probe his weak side reflexes.  If he worries so much about that, I’ll find a way past his defenses.  Yet for all her inner bravado, Arlina was worried.  So far, Dreyson had evaded her attacks well, and keeping him at bay had been no easy task.
            “Kill her, Drey!” someone shouted from the crowd, which ignited cheers from some and boos from others.
            He’s mine! Arlina cried inwardly, darting under Dreyson’s sudden jab and nailing him in the side of the face.  Stunned that she had managed to place a good blow, Dreyson dropped his shield stance just a hair, which was all the opening Arlina needed.  Before he could recover, she was beating him back, raining blows on him.  In the flurry of attack, she neglected to maintain all of her defense, and Dreyson gave her some good bruises before the bell was finally rung.
            “And the winner is Arlina von Dryke!” declared the overseer.  Arlina gave a small bow, a half-smile quirking her lips.
            “Good fight, Drey,” she told her opponent.
            “I must be having a bad day if I’m getting beat by a girl,” Drey replied ruefully.  “Hey, catch you later for dinner?  I think Kelly is having people over.”
            Arlina shook her head.  “Send him my regrets.  I’ve got to head over and see my parents.”
            “How’re they doing?  Last I heard it wasn’t looking too good.”
            “It’s not, that’s why I’m going over.  I don’t want to, you know; wish I had spent more time with them.”  Arlina shrugged.
            “Well, Kelly will certainly miss seeing you, but I’m sure he’ll understand and admire you for what you are doing,” Dreyson replied, a mischievous smile stealing across his face.
            “Oh, shut up,” Arlina told him sourly.  “I’ll see you tomorrow.”
            She could hear Dreyson’s laughter as she made her way to her car, smiling ruefully.  It was true that she seemed to be able to do no wrong as far as Kelly was concerned.
Was this a contemporary story? Fantasy? Some weird mash-up? One has no idea. One doesn't really want to know, truthfully, because it sucks. Sorry, ghost-of-Nora-past, keep trying!

My scanner is broken, so this throwback photo is going back only so far as Facebook allows. Please enjoy this example of me being almost too willing to make fun of myself. Spring break, sophomore year of college. I was 19—so yeah, a baby. And yet older than I was when I wrote the von Dryke! Yeesh. Now I feel old...

Literally feeding the jokes.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Case of the Mondays

Some days are harder than others.

This morning the alarm went off and I groaned. I can’t face today. I just want to sleep forever. But instead I roll over and shuffle to the bathroom. I brush my teeth in a Monday morning fog and sit down at my computer with a sense of dread. But I am here. I am doing it. The words trickle out—it’s a slow morning for me, not even 600 words, but I did it. I sat here for my morning writing session and did what I could. That’s a victory. My Monday is already looking up.

The feeling doesn’t last. I scan my query list. Outstanding queries waiting to be closed for no response. An ever-dwindling number of agents left to query. The palpable feeling of failure that accompanies yet another soon-to-be-trunked novel. I really liked this one, but no one else does. Why? No idea. I haven’t netted a single non-form rejection that would give me any insight.

The worst part—the thing that makes me want to cry into my afternoon tea—is that I am doing everything I can. I quite honestly have no idea what else to do. It is the thing I want most in my life, one of the very few things that I have any ambition about at all, and I am floundering. “The secret to getting published is writing a great novel,” people advise. I envision them nodding sagely to each other behind publishing contracts. I fucking know that. I’m doing my best. I write a novel and edit it and love it and then trunk it and try again. I kill my darlings and write new darlings, I practice my writing and buff up on my comma placement and sentence structure. I take it very seriously. I read books and articles on craft and the writing business. I pore over agent details, trying to concoct that perfect line of personalization that will make them spend more than .4 seconds on my query.

None of it works.

So where do I go from here? What else is there to do? I’m getting a worse response for novel 7 than novel 6. I could hardly be said to be improving in any meaningful sense of the word. I am willing to do things, but I don’t know what things to do. My options are to give up, which makes me a quitter and guarantees I will never achieve that dream, or to keep doing this, which is the definition of insanity.

Friday, May 1, 2015

If You Want Change, Change It Up!

My most productive writing month ever was July 2014. My boyfriend was on deployment, and I was unemployed. It was basically a glimpse of what life could be like as a full-time writer, and it was awesome—I wrote 24,172 words! (Okay, boyfriend being gone sucked, but it did make for a lot of free time.) It was no surprise that my productivity tapered off as I started a new job in August, but I did still manage to finish and edit novel 7. It was back to normal for juggling writing with a lot of other priorities.

And so it remained. August 2014: 8165 words. September 2014: 1374 words. October 2014: 4124 words. November 2014: 10,286 words. December 2014: 4484 words. January 2015: 5129 words. February 2015: 127 words. March 2015: 9629 words. April 2015: 23,459 words.

Wait, what?

How did I manage my #2 most productive month ever while working full time, spending time with my boyfriend, going back to school for accounting, bonding a pair of stubborn bunnies, and training for a half-marathon? I briefly touched on this in my last post, but now with more data under my belt I want to re-emphasize it.

First of all, I started writing a new manuscript, which obviously is going to boost word count. Writing short stories and editing just don’t produce as much raw new words. Secondly, productivity breeds productivity. Having to actually think about what is most important and how I am going to manage things can lead to a lot more work getting done then when I know I have plenty of time to do it, which I then fritter away. But the biggest source of this productivity surge was a schedule change.

I am not a morning person. Really. Given my way, I’d stay up until 3 AM every night and wake up at my leisure. Sadly, no one seems to want to give me my way in all things. Until I win the lottery or retire or decide to drop off the grid, I am chained in part to the rat race. And it’s exhausting. My day job schedule is approximately 7:30 - 4:30 with a 15-minute commute on each end. It leaves plenty of time in the evenings, but it doesn’t leave plenty of energy in the evenings. I would come home, get through my workout, scrounge some sort of dinner, and collapse into my couch-potato spot until bedtime (about 10:30). I would kick myself for wasting those 2-3 hours. Plenty of time for writing, Nora! You’re just lazy!

Okay, well maybe I am. But I was just expecting too much of myself. So I decided—what if I got my writing done before my soul was sucked away at my day job? Since I can’t stay up all night anyway, does it matter if I have to go to bed at 10 PM instead of 11 PM? Is getting up at 6 AM any worse than getting up at 7 AM? I figured I would give it a try.

And I’m still trying it! Since I started this, I have missed only ONE day of my pre-work writing. No matter how much I hate it when my alarm goes off, no matter how much I think “I can’t do this,” I force my sorry ass out of bed and into my desk chair. And then I write. I focus on time, not output. It works out to ~45 minutes of writing, or usually 900-1000 words. Five days a week. That is easily 20k words a month, not including any bonus sessions I do on weekend. That’s a first draft in four months! Considering the first draft of novel 6 took me, oh, almost two years, I would call that a success. (Novel 7 took much less time, but was also only 42k long in its first draft, so not very comparable.)

Unprecedented pace of writing for me.

I honestly never thought that writing in the morning would work for a night owl like me. But identifying an obstacle (lack of motivation to write after work), implementing a trial solution (getting up earlier to write before work), and observing the results (33k words into novel 8) is never a bad idea. And if it comes to a point that this isn’t working for me, I’ll try something else. But just trying to do the same old thing and berating myself for failing at it was a terrible strategy. Don’t do it!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Post-Hiatus Hello

Welcome back! No, not to you, to me!

It’s been a little bit since I’ve blogged. I make no apology, since it was an entirely planned absence on my part. My boyfriend returned from his extended deployment two months ago, and I wanted to spend time focusing on reintegrating him into my life and processing the general change and upheaval that accompanies such a time period. I enjoy blogging, but it’s not my number one priority. Oh, and we went to Guatemala for a couple weeks, which throws one’s schedule quite off kilter!

It was awesome.

But now that things have settled into more of a routine, I have some time to start looking back at my Todoist list of “Blog Post Ideas”. I’m not sure what is coming next—probably a (belated) fun-with-numbers look at the books I read in 2014. What can I say, I crave making graphs.

Anyway, besides blogging, I have a lot going on right now. I still want to spend basically every moment possible with my boyfriend. Turns out I kind of love the guy. Unfortunately/fortunately, he works a lot more than I do and has to stay on his boat for duty every few days, so I still have time to chase after my own pursuits. And oh boy am I chasing!

Right now I am getting up at 6 AM every day to write for ~45 minutes before I go to work. A small change, in some ways, but also a HUGE one. My productivity has gone way up, and I’m already 18,000 words (!) into my newest manuscript, novel 8. That’s just since March 23! I am still researching agents and querying novel 7, which takes a fair bit of time and mental energy (oh the rejections). I am training for a half-marathon, so when I get home from work (around 4:30 PM generally), I work out, plus a long run on Sundays. I just started taking a night class in accounting one night a week (contemplating changing day jobs), which means 3.5 hours on Tuesdays and then doing homework sometime during the rest of the week. And that’s just the basics—on top of that I have all the usual stuff of tending my home and my bunny, cooking, reading, running errands, etc.

But it feels great! Productivity breeds productivity, or so they say. Or if they don’t, they should. I definitely say it! I can’t promise I’ll be able to fit in a weekly blog post, but I do enjoy blogging and so it will stay on my to-do list. Unfortunately, I can’t say when I’ll be able to bring back #FlashFridayFootage. It’s something I have a lot of fun doing, but it takes a lot of time and there isn’t something else I’m willing to take off my plate right now in its place.

I hope everyone else’s spring has been going well! May the flowers be blooming or whatever happens in places that have seasons. =)

I waited 7 months for that kiss...

Friday, February 13, 2015

Critique Blog Hop!

So as I recently finished up novel 7, I've been getting into the exciting/nerve-wracking stage of submitting it! Oh, the joys of querying. Anyway, I've had zero success in two contests now and so far no positive responses from the first batch of queries. It's enough to make a writer want to crawl into a hole and say "Sorry for bothering." But that's not me! So instead I am joining the Critique Blog Hop hosted as a follow-on to the Sun vs. Snow contest. If you would like to participate, follow the link--you submit your entry and crit 10 other entries. Or if you would just like to offer any feedback to me here, I am always looking for ways to improve! And with no further ado, I present to you my novel 7!
Short pitch:
A jaded god has to beat his ennui in order to save his family, his people, and his home from a roving gang of displaced gods.
Being a god is a decent gig, but Vassyr can only spend so many centuries seducing mortal women and antagonizing his older sister. So when he discovers a way off their world, he doesn't stop for half a second to listen to her objections. Sure, she says he owes the mortals something and should be doing more, but Vassyr knows she loves doing it all herself. He simply can't listen to one more prayer from some farmer's son dying to become a hero.

In the face of an alluring array of new worlds to explore, it's easy to forget about the tedious responsibilities and family he abandoned. But although Vassyr is four thousand years old, he's no better than a naïve mortal out in the wider universe. When he carelessly insults a roving gang of displaced gods, he becomes a casualty of their desperate search for a new home. Worse, he reveals the location of his world.

Vassyr's home may have seemed stifling to him, but to these gods, it is a target ripe for annexation—and they don't care who is killed in the process. As his world is ravaged in the battle between his family and the interlopers, Vassyr realizes that being a god comes with some real responsibilities after all. He has to find a way to protect the mortals, convince his sister to trust him again, and send the trespassers packing while there is still a home left to save.
First 250 words:
Vassyr hit the mortal with a thick chunk of air. Not hard—he was just after a bit of fun, not punishment. The mortal rubbed the back of his head and looked around the common room, frowning. Vassyr had to bite on the knuckles of his left hand to stifle a giggle. He could almost hear his sister's scolding that giggles weren't godlike, but he didn't give a shit about that. But if the mortals heard laughter from an apparently empty chair, they'd probably declare the place haunted and take to their heels. Idiots. Not that it wouldn't be amusing, but that wasn't his plan. He used his free hand to send another swat of air sailing through the tavern.

"Who was that?" roared a big beast of a man. He pushed his chair back, spilling his ale in an amber pool.

No one answered, or even dared to meet the man's eye. Trying to save their skins, no doubt—cowards, the lot of them. What else could one expect of mortals? Vassyr bit his lip and made another flick. A man sitting two tables away sprang to his feet, one hand clasping the back of his neck. A dagger was already unsheathed in his other hand.

"What do you mean by that?"

Vassyr flicked again, and now he was able to let his laughter loose. There was more than enough noise to mask it. The big man had picked up an entire bench and was waving it around rather indiscriminately, and the brawl was inevitable from there.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Life-Cycle of a Nora Novel

Okay, maybe a Nora novel isn't an officially recognized category—yet!

In any case, I have a pretty methodical way that I go about writing a novel, refined over several manuscripts. So I thought I would share that method in case it is helpful and/or interesting for anyone else!

The video describes it pretty well, but I thought I would also include a short summary here, in case you don't want to watch me blabber for 11 minutes. Or are at work, not that any of us would be thinking about writing at our day jobs!

The ideas for my novels usually get entered into my ideas notebook long before I start writing or even planning them. It's an outlet for all those plot monkeys that demand to be written while I'm trying to finish something else. There are all kind of random things in my notebook, ranging from snippets of dialogues to character sketches and title ideas. For example:
A long stretch of moonlit road. Dry grasslands as far as the eye can see. A lone horse rider, the clop of hooves a slow staccato, the rider slumped in the saddle. A faint wind stirs dust along the road.
This is written in my notebook with zero context. Just an image I had one day a few years ago. Anyway, I take one of these ideas that I want to work on, and I start to brainstorm. I like to do the one sentence premise -> paragraph -> plot summary progression. Then I write an outline. An honest-to-goodness, I.A.i.a. outline. From that outline, I create an Excel spreadsheet scene list. Here is where I plan out the details of the timeline, the POV, who is where, and what happens.

Then I write!

For the most part, I stick to that scene list. I guess that may seem boring to some, but for me, I like the structure it provides. It's like a checklist—butt in chair, write this scene. If I get wild inspiration, I'll pause to work it in, but that just isn't the way I normally work. Eventually, voila! A draft!

The revision process is pretty simple. Read through it, take notes. Create a new Excel sheet and, from those notes, come up with a revision plan checklist. Copy the scene list and modify it as needed to accommodate the changes. Then go back and make all the edits! X them off as I go, so I get to see my Excel percentage go up. Rinse and repeat until it feels done. Somewhere in there, try to get feedback from beta readers to incorporate into the revision notes.

Once I'm happy with it, write a query and a synopsis, and begin sending it out! At this point, the novel is basically done. If I get a partial or full request (very rarely...), I don't go back and re-read or edit, I just send what I have. Only if I am having a really bad response do I then go back and maybe do another edit.

So that's it! That's as far as it goes for me, for now. Someday I hope I will have to worry about agent edits and editor edits and all that fun stuff, but that's a future!Nora problem. Right-now-Nora needs to worry about writing that damn synopsis for Novel 7 and picking out an idea to flesh out for Novel 8...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Writing Tool Review: WikidPad

I want to take a break from navel-gazing (an occupational hazard, I swear) to offer something a little more concrete and useful.
There are a million tools for writers out there. For the most part, I ignore them. People chatter about Scrivener, but I plug away at my drafts in Word, crafting Excel spreadsheets that lay out detailed plans for scenes and stricter (and yes, that’s before writing—I’m very far on the “outlining” side of the spectrum!). I sign up for Novlr and then don’t even use it (I do plan to, for my next novel). I once had a brief flirtation with yWriter that lasted about one chapter of a now-defunct manuscript (novel 2). I read posts about the Hemingway app or distraction-free writing apps, but then I click the X and continue in my ways.
It’s not that I think there is anything wrong with the use of these tools. Writing can be painful as hell and whatever helps that process is a good thing. I am not a Luddite who insists that truly great novels must be written by quill via the light of a kerosene lamp, because seriously, fuck those people. Just someone who is loath to mess with their own system—if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, you might say.
But as much as I love my Word/Excel setup, I haven’t enjoyed the way I keep track of relevant information for my novels. I do some world-building before writing, sketching out details that are important to the plot and characters, usually in my catch-all writing notebook. But once I start writing, I constantly have to expand that, and I don’t usually have that notebook with me. My system for that was a notepad text document, adding random details as they come up. Inefficient and definitely open for improvement!
I cannot remember who originally brought this to my attention, only that it was mentioned in passing on some thread or another on Absolute Write. And it stuck with me, that mention, because it sounded like a potential solution for my world-building problem. I wrote down the name on my to-do list and eventually got around to checking it out: WikidPad.
WikidPad is a free, open source wiki software. Basically it is a digital notebook where I can jot down ideas and—very importantly—link those ideas together with merely a keystroke. It is easy to install and use, at least on a basic level. I am sure there is functionality that I’m not using, but it works for what I use it for. Every character gets a page, linked to the other characters they are related to, linked to their homes or groups, linked to whatever ideas I want. I can store facts about world-building locations or weird quirks about monetary systems. It’s searchable and sortable. And it’s not an online tool, so once you download and install it, you can work offline.
There are likely dozens of equivalent tools out there. I haven’t really looked into it, to be honest. I stumbled across this one, and it works for me. So I thought I would share this little gem, just in case it fills a niche for you too!
Screenshot of my wiki for novel 7.

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 Wrap-Up: Another Year In Review

Well, well, well, 2015. Here we are. Together at last--or already? It's hard to say for sure, because on the one hand, holy shit it's 2015. But on the other, 2014 was eons long!
It was definitely a big year for me, both in terms of my personal life and my writing.
In February, I applied for the Clarion Workshop. I didn't get in, but even trying was a big step towards being more serious about my writing. In May, I put on my Navy uniform for the last time, closing out a very big chapter of my life. I also finished novel 6 that month. I participated in my first Twitter contest in June. In July, I launched my #FlashFridayFootage series, which has had 10 entries so far. I tried my hand at #PitchWars in August, which was a ton of fun even though I didn't make it. And I started, finished, and did one edit of novel 7 in less than 6 months, an accomplishment I would have thought unbelievable before.
Not to mention that my boyfriend went on his first deployment in July (which he is still on, omg kill me), moving to a new apartment by myself, acquiring first one pet rabbit and then another, I got a new job as a civilian, lost 12 pounds, got braces--yeah, 2014 was a kind of crazy year!!
Here is what I wrote in January:
Looking forward into 2014, I hope to average at least 100 words every day, with 40k as my goal for the year. I hope to write at least 129 days this year (a 50% increase over last year's goal). And, most importantly, I want to sell or be close to selling novel 6 by the end of year. I plan to be done with my re-writing and editing by the end of April, and I think that gives me some time to get some serious eyes on it and some offers. Is 2014 going to be the year? We shall see...
So how did that all turn out? Really not too bad, actually! I wrote 73,526 new words last year (not to mention editing 2 manuscripts). I only had 93 writing days, but a lot of that was due to breaks between major revisions, so I won't castigate myself too much. And no, I'm not anywhere near selling novel 6. In fact, I'm close to giving up on novel 6. But I did give it my best shot. I sent out over 50 queries last year, participated in writing contests, and am still persevering through what is a very long and painful process. So maybe 2014 wasn't "the year", but it was a year, and a damn good one in terms of writing.

Now--2015. What have we got here? Well, I don't want to plan to write too much, as my focus will probably be on editing and refining novels 6 and 7. But I'll probably get cooking on novel 8 at some point (or revisit any of novels 1-5), so I'll aim for 60k words. I also want to write a bit more consistently, including more short fiction, so I'll stick with the 129 writing days goal and hopefully land it this year. And I can't say that this will be the Year of The Call, so I'll just say that I hope to continue querying novel 6 (up to at least 100) and begin querying novel 7 (up to 50).

So cheers and good riddance to 2014--bring it on, 2015!