A Road Less Traveled

Are there rest stops along the way?

Writing workshops
I've been signed up at two online writing groups for a while now. They both have pros and cons and I think between the two of them, I might get a good round of critiques for my novel.

+ SFF Online Writing Workshop for Sci-Fi, Fantasy, and Horror - I like this place the most in terms of usability and web design. However, it loses points for having limited submissions (only 3 slots available up to 7500 words; not good for a novel) and for requiring a paid membership. The membership is pretty cheap and I've been told that unlimited submissions are being considered, but there it is. It does have a free trial membership, though, and it's been worth my time so far.

+ Critters - This is one of the most famous online writing workshops. I heard about this one even before I decided to try to become published. It has a large user base and best of all is free to use. Downsides: lots of ads (consequence of being free), lots of rules and formatting requirements, and you don't get your item up in the queue for about 3 weeks after joining, unlike the SFF Workshop where you can post immediately. My novel isn't due to come up until next week I think.

The funny thing about these workshops though is that it's almost been an ego boost. Most of the people on these two sites are serious about writing and pursuing publication. I was intimidated at first, but having been there for a few weeks now, I feel pretty confident about the quality of my own writing. I'm wondering if I should start to send out a test query to a few agents or wait until I get to the end of my round of feedback. Probably. It's probably better to send an MS that's as polished as possible.

Oxford trip!
Thirty-three days left before I leave on vacation. Starting to freak out a little. This will be my first time on any sort major vacation without a pre-planned itinerary and/or guide tour. Just me and my gal pal Katie hoofing it around Oxford and whatever tourist traps we can find within a reasonable distance.

I still have a ridiculous amount of things to do before I leave, like learn how to use public transportation, which will be the main way we travel when we get there. I've never had to use it before: I have a car. First world problems and all that, but yes, I'm feeling a bit stupid for feeling nervous about using public transportation.

Still need to get a packing list together too. But I did finally book my room and it's really close to a gym, so I'll be able to work out while I'm on vacation. I know that doesn't sound fun to most people, but I'll have to kill some time while Katie is in her class, and I've been told that working out is a way to get over jet lag. So we'll see!

Also just bought two pairs of walking shoes: Dr. Scholls and Clarkes. We'll see if they live up to their brand names because the assistants in the shoe store were entirely unhelpful. I'm going to be doing a lot of walking and I don't want to have to wear tennis shoes everywhere. I want to wear cute shoes too without killing my feet. And when I say "cute" I mean flats! Flats can hurt too.

Sometime soon I'm going to help Katie get a new phone, probably a smart one, so that we can use our phones to keep in touch while we're there. Her phone is so old she doesn't even have texting. I'll be happy to introduce her to the technology of the late 1990s.

I hope no one cares that we're Americans. It would really suck if people are mean.

Maybe we should pretend to be Canadians. God save the Queen.

(no subject)
Been trying to get back in the habit of writing every day. Fanfic has helped, but I'm itching to get to original stuff. I think I've been waiting too long on the friend I sent my novel to. I know when she finally gets back to me it'll be worth the wait, but I can't sit around and wait on her any longer, and I feel bad about nagging her for it. I need to find other ways of getting feedback. I need to fix this novel or start on something else and I don't want to start on the next one because I have this sneaking suspicion that the problems in the first book will inform the second.

Or maybe it's just the OCD in me that doesn't want to do something out of order.

In any case, I think I need to do some looking around online for a good writing group. I'm not likely to find one in real life I think.

What's next
Finally finished with the major changes that I needed to fix before I sent it off to a friend for an alpha read. But now I'm at that stage of "It's horrible, no one should read it." I'm taking a nice long break from my book.

Problem is... what next? I wrote a fanficcy drabble thing today and that was fun. But I'm wondering if I should start on book 2 or something completely different. Or maybe I'll just stick with fanfic for awhile for a nice, no-pressure kind of break. On the other hand, while the world is fresh in my mind, maybe I *should* start working on the next book.

Not going to worry about that tonight, but I do need to think about it sometime this week. I need to keep my momentum going.

Revenge of the Revisions (part II)
Trying desperately to squeeze in an update before Easter morning and I’m so tired I just tried to spell Easter as Eastor.

I’ve forgotten how frustrating revisions can be. There's always a sense when i'm reading something that "this could be so much better" but most of the time, I don't know what I need to fix to get it there. Or, I'll have a vague idea of what needs to be done but what I do doesn't quite scratch the itch.

But sometimes I think it just needs to stew a bit. Case in point, I was listening to Writing Excuses again the other day, season 7, an episode on "authentic emotion." It made me realize that one of the problems I was having with one of the main characters was because his emotions weren't suiting the occasion. He should have been in mourning, not blithely helping without concern. I need to rewrite a whole chapter I think, changing his reactions and speech patterns.

I can't remember what it is now, but there are a couple more major revisions I would like to have done before giving it to my alpha readers. For the most part, revision frustration included, I'm happy with how this story came out. I hope to make it even better.

Book list 2014
* = Did not enjoy

** = It was okay

*** = Liked it

**** = Really liked it

***** = Fantastic; would read again

1) The Assassin's Curse, by Cassandra Rose Clarke, ***
2) The Pirate's Wish, by Cassandra Rose Clarke, ***
3) The Royal Ranger, by John Flanagan, ***
4) Greater by Steven Furtick, ****

5) Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch, (reread), ****
6) Stormdancer by Jay Kristoff, ***
7) Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling (reread), *****
8) Allegiant by Veronica Roth, ****
9) Unglued by Lysa TerKeurst, ****

10) Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch, (reread), ****
11) The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern, ***
12) Heaven is for Real by Todd Burpo, ***
13) The Bitter Kingdom by Rae Carson, ****

14) The Burning Sky by Sherry Thomas, **
15) Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, ***

16) Book of A Thousand Days by Shannon Hale (audio), ***
17) Plain Kate by Erin Bow, ***
18) Crown of Midnight by Sarah Maas, ***
19) The Bible Jesus Read by Philip Yancey, ****
20) Insignia by S.J. Kincaid, ****
21) Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen, ****

22) Taken (Taken #1) by Erin Bowman, ***
23) Vortex by S.J. Kincaid, ****
24) The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whelan Turner, ****
25) Lady Thief (Scarlet #2) by A.C. Gaughen, ****
26) A Spy in the House (Agency #1) by Y.S. Lee, ****

Books I didn't finish:
+ Sycamore Row by John Grisham
+ How God Became King by N.T. Wright
+ I Thought I was the Only One by Brene Brown
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Revisions and distractions
I took the advice offered and took about a week's break, but I went ahead and did the easiest of the major revisions (changing a character's gender) during some downtime at work. The change to my schedule was that I didn't write at home The rest of the revisions are going to be a little more difficult because it involves potentially rewriting whole chapters. Not everything and maybe only parts of chapters, but it's going to take some thought before I actually write it and I'm not sure what to do with the particular knot that's giving me trouble.

Then, after those are done, alpha readers.

Speaking of writing, last Saturday I was on a "writing date" with a friend of mine who's also working on a book, and at the end of our session she asked me if I was interested in going to England with her this summer. She's trying to get into grad school and wanted to take a class in Oxford to boost her resumé. I immediately agreed to go, but this week, doing the actual research on what this would entail makes me less excited.

+ Plane ticket: $1,300-1,600
+ Class price: $2,000 (includes room and board and meals, I think)

when I saw the price, my excitement level plunged to -20. Two-thousand dollars for a class I'm not even interested in? Plus, there'll be homework. Bleh.

I'm not sure what to do. If I go, I'd have to figure out where to stay on my own because my friend will be on campus. I'd have to occupy my time by myself while she's in class, and I won't have a car or easy access to anywhere.

The other thing I have to think about is my job. I'm technically a temp employee; I don't even know what I'll be doing in August or if I can get a week off. Even if I do go, I won't get paid for that week. I don't get vacation or personal days.

Part of me wants to go because I had a lot of fun when I went to England eight years ago. But that was a planned trip where someone else took care of all the details, and all I had to do was follow along and have fun. With my friend being in class all morning... what would I do with myself?

Or, should I just go ahead and take the class because $2,000 is likely what I would spend anyway on food and lodging somewhere else?

Or should I not go at all and save myself the hassle of an uncertain work environment?

Decisions are the WORST.

I finished the first draft of my novel about five minutes ago.

It doesn't feel "done" to me yet because I still have a mountain of revisions to do (namely changing a character's gender 3/4 of the way through...) but wow, done. It's hard to believe... and now I'm going to have to think of what to do next. Should I allow myself a few days/weeks to come back to it with fresh eyes or should I jump into it immediately while the story is fresh in my mind?

Then I need to find some willing guinea pigs alpha readers and get some honest feedback.

Ah! So much to do! But I'm excited about this too. I think this might be the one that's publishable. It's also short, only about 75,000 which is perfect for the YA market.

Okay, I think I'm going to take a well-earned break and read for a bit.

Putting the cart before the horse
At work, I’m doing a lot of stuff that doesn’t require a lot of mental focus, so I’ve been listening to podcasts to make the day go by faster. Much of that listening has been the Writing Excuses hosted by authors (and web cartoonist) Brandon Sanderson, Dan Wells, Howard Tayler, and Mary Robinette Kowal. I love this podcast because not only are the hosts published authors with loads of industry experience, they give their knowledge of the craft and the business in 15-20 minute practical chunks.

But the problem of listening to all this expertise is that I start thinking about things that come after the book is finished and polished and ready to be submitted. Things like querying agents, things like “I should probably have a website”, and “I think I need business cards if I ever go to conferences,” and also things like fancasting the main characters in my book via tumblr.

Then I remind myself (several times a day) that I have to actually finish my novel first. And then—way before I can consider submitting to an agent—I have to revise it. HEAVY revisions. Finish first, than revise. That has to be my mantra for the next couple of months.

Didn't do so good on my word count goal this week, but I have managed to write something every day for the last 30 days. Woo!


5391 / 10000 words. 54% done!

I wonder what the percentage is of “professional” writers who still keep their day jobs? I’ve been thinking about what my ultimate goal in writing is. At first I thought it was simply: “get published.” But what then? Do I want a contract? Do I want to quit my job and write full time?

The honest answer is: I’m not sure. I enjoy my day job. More than that, I like getting a regular paycheck. I like the security of knowing I’ll be able to pay my rent and my bills. Maybe that means I don’t want it enough, I don’t know. But I’m not going to give up. I think I’m a pretty decent writer; I just need to have more experience (aka, finished books) under my belt. I need the experience of taking an idea all the way through 75,000 words.

At this point, the only way I can see myself quitting to become a full-time writer is if I was married and had a second income coming into the household. Since that doesn't look likely anytime soon, guess I’ll be juggling creativity and real-life practicality for awhile.

String of days where I’ve written something everyday is up to 24. Woo!
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