Nanowrimo?

dear-reader3

Hey guys! I was just wondering if anyone else out there was doing Nano this year? For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about, Nanowrimo is National Novel Writing Month, or Nano for short ’cause that’s a mouthful. I’ve attempted it in the past and never managed to finish – which is ridiculous because my profession now has me writing twice that in a month… But that’s not the point.

The point is, that it has come once again! Nano takes place every November and it’s really just a personal challenge to see if you can write 50k words in a month. It’s harder to do than you might think, but it can be a lot of fun! And sometimes you just need that extra kick to get yourself down to business and writing your novel.

So I just wanted to see if anyone was taking the challenge? I’m doing it this year, though I know it’s going to turn out bad. It always does, but I’m determined to work at it! At least try, right?

If you want more info on it, here’s the link: Nanowrimo!

Feel free to comment on whether or not you’re doing it below or if you have questions, etc. I’ll do a real post later (I know, I totally bombed the Halloween Read-a-Thon… So much for plans. It was a super lame Halloween for me and it sort of breaks my heart, but such is life).

Thanks for checking in!

sincerely3

E.C. Orr

Writing: Unluck by E.C. Orr

dear-reader3

I haven’t posted anything of my own writing on here before, but I was thinking about it and maybe I should. After all, if I’m going to go around running my mouth about “how to write a novel” I should probably give you guys an idea of how I write, right?

Anyway, I’ve been working on a handful of different things (my personal stuff, not my work stuff which I can’t share because of legal reasons; NDAs anyone?) that are at varying stages of undone. I was trying to pick something that I could share that was short, but good – the hardest part, really… some are just awful – and I decided I would just wing it with the prologue of my would-be-novel Unluck. It’s about a group of teens who are cursed by what’s known as the “unluck”, something that was placed upon their family generations ago by a sea witch.

Here’s the opening scene:

We stand in a row, a line of evenly spaced bodies, bare feet tucked into the damp sand. Thirteen of us, thirteen kids on the edge of adulthood, standing beneath the moonlight at the water’s edge, just staring. From here, it looks like eternity. Like the night sky pin pricked with white cap stars and rolling nebulae of impossibly beautiful colors. Colors that don’t exist in a black ocean, that couldn’t possibly be shining from beneath the waves, but somehow are.

It’s not beautiful like it should be though, not to us, not to me. It’s just an endless ocean with dark secrets and promises, beckoning us to search.

We stand there together for long minutes, just long enough for the waves to start lapping at our ankles. The water’s cold against my skin, sending a skittering of goosebumps up along my flesh, but I don’t flinch, I don’t shiver. I just stare. And then I take a step forward.

We all do, in unison. That first step is always together, a joint effort on our part, a reminder that we are in this together, as one. After that first step though, we become disjointed and erratic. Sawyer shakes out her wispy blonde hair, longer than it was, but only barely brushing her moonlit shoulders. Beside her, Jessica is already thigh deep in the water, Emma and Rileigh trailing after her, all three looking like sirens about to call poor, hopeless men to their untimely deaths. Casey is carefully undoing his shirt, frowning at it, muttering about nice clothes and not having any foresight, because that’s Casey. He’s the kind of guy that reminds you this isn’t magic—or maybe it is and he’s just on the wrong end of it.

Levi cannonballs into the water and it splashes at me. Several drops hit the sirens in front of me and I can see Jessica glare, but no one speaks. No one ever speaks.

I’m halfway into the water, my hips finally submerging into the icy, lulling waves. Ahead of me Sawyer waves me forward. She isn’t under yet, but her shoulders are only barely above the water, pale and silvery in the moonlight. I can tell even from here that her clothes are gone and maybe I’d blush at the thought that I’ll lose mine, that everyone will lose theirs, too, except that it happens the same way every time and maybe I just can’t make myself care anymore.

Besides, I’m not looking at Sawyer. And I’m not thinking about Levi losing his shorts or Casey mumbling about his ruined slacks or Jessica bravely removing her bra before she’s even completely under.

No, I’m not looking or thinking of any of them. I’m looking at him.

I turn back, twisting my body at the hips, because I can’t not go forward and I can’t go back, but I can look. I can watch as he stands there, taller than me and everyone here, even Levi. I can see that he waits longer than the rest of us, but not from fear. There has never been fear in his eyes, the color of the sea, of crashing waves, of foam and summer and storms. No, he’s not afraid. He’s waiting.

When his gaze catches mine, that’s it. My breath hitches and everything slows. The world seems softer in that moment, the sounds far off and whispering, the waves stilled as though the ocean is holding its breath, too. Then he takes a step forward. And another. I don’t move and his eyes don’t leave mine, not until he’s standing beside me. Beneath the surface, I feel his hand brush against mine.

Then he looks away and we dive.

I know it’s very short, but there you have it. The opening to Unluck. I’ll try to post more excerpts from my own stuff once in a while. Let me know what you guys think and share some of your own stuff, too, if you’ve got it!

sincerely3

E.C. Orr

Unpublishable Fiction to Full-Time Freelance via Meg Dowell

A great look on how to make something out of your passion for writing – and a look at how you might find  your career unexpectedly. How it might be something different than you originally thought.

Meg Dowell always posts great stuff, so if you haven’t checked out her blog, mosey on over and take a look! I highly recommend her. 🙂

It took a long time for me to realize I would probably never be a great novelist.

via How I Went from Writing Unpublishable Fiction to Full-time Freelancing — Novelty Revisions

Why You Need an Editor via CCrawfordWriting

A great post about the importance of editing and why you should invest in *outside* editing whenever possible.

All writers have felt it, that temptation to skip the editing phase of writing, say “It’s good enough,” and be done with it. But trust me; you don’t really want to do that. There are actually some interesting psychological reasons why a writer simply can’t produce the best work without some objective input. While writing a […]

via Why You Need an Editor (even if you ARE one) — CCrawfordWriting

Life as a Writer

Dear Reader

I did a post not so long ago about my job: Freelance Ghostwriting. I explained about what it was, some of the downsides and some of the upsides. I talked about how it’s cool in some ways to actually *be* a paid writer – and how it kind of sucks, too. The reason I’m talking about it again is that I’m stressing out about life right now. Here’s why.

Steady work is hard to find.

I have two clients whom I work with regularly (and a third who is starting to lean towards being a regular, but she’s kind of difficult and wants a lot for very little pay, so I can’t say how long our working relationship will be). One gives me one project a month that includes three 25k parts in a series (so 75k total every month). I get paid a flat rate for these projects (I charge by the 10k) and up to this point, I’ve had pretty consistent projects from him.

They’re all romance. Mostly bad boy, motorcycle romances. And they always come with a fairly detailed outline.

All of which is pretty great. He’s flexible with deadlines, so when I end up in a bind, I can extend by a couple of days with no major problems. I turn them in by the parts – so each 25k has just one “final draft” submission – and the payments are released almost immediately. (Give or take a day.) And I know that I’ll get paid, because the submission dates are funded through escrow.

All of this is awesome, right?

Yes, it was. Until, upon the submission of my last project, he told me that we needed to talk about some tweaks he was making to the process. Tweaks that he felt would “smooth out” the writing process for me. I knew before he even told me what they were that this wouldn’t be good.

I was right.

He said that he would now be putting me in a “work room” with an editor (or editors) who would “help” me in my work. I would be required to submit the projects in 5k increments, allow the editor to look over my work, provide feedback, I would have to use said feedback (potentially making edits on the 5k), then proceed to the next 5k where I would do all of that again.

Maybe this doesn’t sound so bad to you, but from my viewpoint, this is awful. Here’s why.

Why I don’t work for free.

I mentioned that I get paid a flat rate for each 10k I do, right? Okay, so that makes sense. That means when I turn in my 25k, I am paid for that whole submission, then escrow is funded for the next milestone. Great, tracking fine.

So what changes with this new process? Not the money.

I know this sounds kind of greedy, but I’m not getting paid more for doing this stuff with the editors in the “work room”. Which means I’m doing more work for the same pay. Now, maybe you don’t think this will be more work. Or maybe you think that this really will be more helpful for me – after all, editors mean that my writing will be better, right?

Maybe. Probably. I’m a strong believer in editing and what it does for writers as a whole. But here’s the thing: I’m a ghostwriter. Which means I don’t get the credit for any of my writing. It goes out there under someone else’s name and if it’s brilliant, if it becomes the next Hunger Games, if it gets a movie deal and a big house publisher picks it up, I don’t get any of that. Not the glory, not the money, not even the ability to say, “Hey, I’ve got a book in a big publishing house!”

And that’s okay. Really. I knew that when I signed on to do this. But I’m also not doing this for free, and I’m not really doing this for me. I’m doing it for the money. That’s what a job is. Doing it for the money – so I can pay the bills and put food on the table.

Really.

So now that we’ve talked about that, let me explain to you how this is more work. An editor is going to tell me what I’m doing right – and what I’m doing wrong. And then they’re going to ask me to fix what I’ve done wrong.

Which means *I’m* making the edits, not the editors. Understandable in your own novel. Less so with someone else’s.

So right there, I’ve got more work.

Now let’s look at the set up. 5k increment submissions. Why is this problematic? Well, partially it goes back to micromanaging. I don’t like my client getting their fingers into *everything* as it’s coming out of my keyboard. I’ve done this before and in my experience, this leaves them with a lot more instances of “why did you do this?” and “can you change that?” or “why don’t we have them do this instead?” all of which means I have to make changes.

Changes mean more writing.

Except I’m still only getting paid for the 25k. But it’s not just that. It’s also that now I’ve got to spend all of this extra time talking to the editors. And the client. And doing the edits. And then presenting the new edits. That’s time I’m not getting paid for – and it’s time that I can’t put towards a) my own writing and b) other paying jobs. Which means I can’t even compensate for the fact that I’m doing more and making less.

Not good.

And finally, how long do I have to do these 5k increments? I write 75k in a month! (For one project. I actually average between 110k and 125k a month, so it’s already a fairly heavy load.) How am I going to squeeze editing in, as well as revisions, AND all of this extra “needy time” with my client?

Simple. I won’t. I can’t. Which means that 75k will be spread over a longer period of time – meaning I’m making even *less* with no time to fill in with other forms of making money.

Why I have to say goodbye.

Finally, what this all comes down to is this: I won’t be able to work for him anymore.

I’ve explained my position on this to him (in nowhere near this much detail), explaining that I would prefer not to use this new system/set up. I’m still waiting to hear back from him. I hope that he will reconsider this new system, but I doubt that he will. I’m fairly certain that he’ll insist I convert – which means I will insist he find a new writer.

Which means I’m out a job.

Yes, I still have a second project going on with another client – one who even pays more. But they can be difficult and after this project, there’s no guarantee of more work.

It means that in two months (by the end of October), I may be jobless. Again. And since my significant other has already been laid off (and been denied unemployment thanks to his vindictive boss), I’m worried that I won’t make enough to pay the bills.

That’s a problem.

So I may have to say goodbye to freelancing, unless I can find some new clients who are stable and will provide steady work. Things not easily found.

I understand that clients are on a budget and that they want the most bang for their buck, but it sucks because I’m trying to survive out here – and I’m not going to back myself into a corner where I’m running myself into the ground for pennies. It’s not right and I won’t do it. Not because I’m high and mighty or anything like that, but because I can’t afford to. Not when I can go out and find a job that pays regularly, taxes already taken care of, and that I will absolutely hate with every minute that I’m there.

It’s not fair, but it’s life.

I really hope it doesn’t go down this way, but I’m starting to think that it’s going to.

If anyone knows of some work out there or has helpful suggestions, please feel free to comment below!

Sincerely

E.C. Orr

How to Write a Novel: Drafty Bastards

 

dear-reader3

Finally getting back to my How To series, I am pleased to say that we have *finally* reached the fun part! You guessed it, the actual *writing* portion of our lesson: the First Draft. (Or second if you’re considering the outline your first draft, which isn’t a bad idea considering all the hard work you’ve already put in!)

Before we dive in, I wanted to say something: You will have many drafts. As in, many. There are some very gifted writers out there who turn out a novel on one, long, continuous stream of toilet paper, type that up and call it a novel – but most of us don’t. Why? Well, it has to do with catching plot holes, errors, and generally making the novel better. Which is why you have first drafts, second drafts, third drafts… well, you get the idea.

I’m not saying this to dishearten you. I just want you to understand that even if your *first* draft doesn’t turn out so well, it’s okay. There will be more – and they’ll get better. And I also want to be clear, writing a new draft doesn’t mean you completely get rid of the first one. So don’t worry. You’re not starting from scratch every time.

Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s move on to the good stuff!

Drafty Bastards

So we’ve got this super detailed outline, right? We’ve put all of this hard work into it, but maybe we’re not *quite* sure what to do with it – or maybe we are and just aren’t sure where to start.

And I’ll answer that question first: It doesn’t matter where you start.

That being said, starting at the beginning doesn’t hurt. When I first started writing, I tended to write by scene. I’d have these characters and they’d be goofing off or be overdramatic about their lives and I’d go ahead and put that down as a scene. It might be the first scene I’d written for the novel, but it actually took place about half way through and introduced a bunch of characters that when I had first started writing, I hadn’t even realized would be in the novel! And that’s okay. Keeping these scenes, collecting them, is a good thing. These will help you build settings, interpersonal relationships between your characters, plot points, and even just getting to know your character moments. All of which is really important.

That being said. When you start in the middle somewhere, writing can get confusing. You might forget that you have three things that need to happen for this scene to exist – and none of them happen before this scene. Which means you now have to do some real creative things to make this scene work. Or, the thing we all hate, you might end up having to cut it. No matter how brilliant it is.

That won’t necessarily happen, but it can and it does. If you start writing from the beginning of your novel, you’re less likely to encounter this problem – but you might encounter other problems. When writing from the beginning, I find that it’s sometimes really hard to get started. Everything I put on paper comes out boring or unimportant or completely off, because I don’t have anything else to go with the story yet. And sometimes, writing from the beginning just isn’t an option, because you’ve got all of this inspiration that happens to go to a completely different scene about fifteen chapters i and if you don’t get it down right now, you’ll lose it forever.

So, starting chronologically might be an issue for you – or it might be the best thing for you. I leave that to you to decide. I just wanted you to know that it’s okay to do either of these things. No one said you had to start from the beginning and no one said you had to start in the middle or the end.

Utilizing your outline.

The nice thing about the outline is that you can pretty much jump to wherever you want and start writing. Remember what I said about keeping your place and tracking your progress. If you highlight what you’ve already done, it’s pretty easy to keep track of where you’re at in the story, no matter where you’ve started. (Also, remember to keep separate documents – a full document that has all of your completed scenes and a document per scene.)

When I’m writing, I like to do a “split screen”. This computer is the first one that I’ve been able to easily do this with without fussing over sizing windows and such, but I highly recommend it. Have two documents open. One is your outline, the other is whatever scene you’re currently working on. (My “working on” scene is always on the right; the outline is always on the left. It helps me keep things straight.) This allows you to consistently check back over to your outline to see where your scene is supposed to be going, but also it helps if you can’t remember character names, place names, or what characters look like. This way, you don’t have to be constantly shifting between two different documents (or several) searching for the right information.

So we’ve got the outline open and we’re highlighting as we go. Great! But what about the actual *writing*?

Ah, well, that’s the tricky part isn’t it?

How to write – or at least, one opinion on it.

To some extent, writing is a talent. If you’ve got natural talent, you’re ahead of the game and you can wing a lot of stuff that other people just can’t. You can *feel* how sentences flow together. You can *sense* how characters should be talking in dialogue – and how the narration should be different. If you’ve got that, you’re one lucky duck! But it still doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be practicing. In fact, if anything, a natural gift means you should be working harder than everyone else. If you’re not, how do you ever expect to reach your full potential?

But never mind all of that jibberish. Onward!

What do you do if you *don’t* have a natural sense for writing? Don’t give up. Seriously. Writing may be a talent, but it’s also a skill. One that you can train yourself to be good at. You just have to work hard at it.

First, practice, practice, practice. You should be doing this one regardless of whether or not you’re working on your novel. I expect you to be journaling, blogging, writing fanfiction and flash fiction and every other type of fiction out there! I expect you to be telling your own stories or making them up. I expect you to be constantly writing, because that’s the biggest step towards getting better. Sometimes, it doesn’t even matter *what* you’re writing, so long as you’re doing it.

But while you’re practicing, there are some things that you should be thinking about. I’ll give you a quick list:

  • Word choice. This one isn’t so much about finding the biggest word or the most exotic one (you’re not playing scrabble). Instead, it’s about finding the word that fits the best. So you’re talking about the rapid beating of someone’s heart. You could say, “her heart beat like a jackrabbit” or you could say “her heart hammered against her rib cage” or “the staccato beat of her heart was the drum line of her life”. All of those are fine – so which do you use? Well, it depends on the story you’re telling and which character has the rapid fire heartbeat. If you’ve got a sort of younger, maybe funny character – go with the jackrabbit. It’s more youthful and potentially younger sounding. If you’ve got a dramatic character, or you’re telling a story that is about adrenaline or fear, then go with the hammered one. And finally, if you’ve telling a sort of poetic prose story (or something that tends to be longer winded), then maybe you go with the last one. It all depends on what sort of story you’re telling. Also, make sure you know the definitions of the words you’re using – because you’re readers damn sure will and they’ll call you on it if you get it wrong. Not sure? Look it up.

 

  • Sentence variation. This is basically about changing up your sentence structures and your sentence lengths. Have a lot of long sentences? Throw in a short one every third sentence or so. Have very abrupt, to the point ones? Throw in some long, almost rambling ones, or combine two sentences for a complex one. This is as much about aesthetic appeal as it is about the flow of the novel. We see the words on the page and changing it up makes things prettier to look at. But we read them, too. We need the commas and the becauses. We need the breaks and the stream of consciousness and the dramatic pauses. Why? Because if we don’t have them, we get bored.

 

  • Atmosphere. This one is all about how your writing feels. If you’re writing about my little pony, the reader wants to feel all sunshine and daisies. Rainbows better pour from your words. If you’re writing about a body in the basement coming back to life and trying to kill your mother, then you should probably scare the crap out of us. That comes from the mood, the atmosphere. And you create that with both of the things I mentioned above (word choice and sentence variation), but it’s more than that. Let’s go with the creepy example (because I’m all about that).

She shivered against the breeze that swept through her room. A breeze that shouldn’t have been there. She closed that window already, but the chill cut through her just the same. She didn’t dare turn to see, knowing that it would be there, waiting, watching. A shadow on the wall, a puddle on the floor. A moan that whispered her name, Haley.

There are a couple of things going on with this example. First, cold. We have “shivered” and “chill”. Both make the reader feel how cold our MC is and cold makes us think of winter, night, and generally dead things. So, check on that. Next, we’ve got “waiting” and “watching”. This is a combination one. The two w words one after another intensifies both words and makes them more important – and creepier given what’s already going on. Since there isn’t a specific “something” doing the watching and waiting yet, it’s all the eerier, because we don’t know what it is. But these do something else, too. They make *us* feel as though *we* are being watched. That something is waiting right behind our shoulders as we read. Creepy. Next we’ve got “shadow” which acts similarly to the cold theme. A shadow is dark and it is reminiscent of the movements we catch out of the corner of our eyes all of the time. Finally, we’ve got “moan” and “whispered”. Moan can be erotic, but in the context here it gives us the creeps. A moan is an almost sad, pathetic sound. It’s all about ghosts and chains and sadness. If we’d gone with groan, the sound would have been maybe less terrifying – but more menacing. Whispered is about silence, but not real silence, but it’s also about trying to be quiet. It’s about creeping and stalking and eerie sounds that shouldn’t really be there.

My point about all of this is that creating an atmosphere is all about being consistent with your theme and knowing which words fit into that theme. If you can work that out, then you’ve got a much more powerful story going on.

  • Interior monologue. This is basically about POV. While you can have a character who is actively thinking (often denoted by italics to distinguish thoughts as opposed to general narration), interior monologuing is usually more about the first person narration of a character. Some people hate it, some don’t. I think it’s a personal choice, though I encourage you not to overuse it. Here’s an example:

I knew it was too good to be true. What sort of gorgeous, sweet boy fell for a pain in the ass like me? Not one that was real, that was for sure. I just wasn’t that sort of girl. Not the popular type who fit into the world of prom dresses and football games. But I wasn’t the sort who delved into the volunteering clubs or the charities. I didn’t help old people; I didn’t volunteer at soup kitchens. Mostly, I just sat in my room and read – because reading was the only way I knew how to be me. What sort of guy was into a girl like that?

Basically, this shows us what our MC is thinking and feeling, how she’s reacting to a situation, but this doesn’t tell us anything else. There’s no setting. No action (she’s not moving anywhere or drinking coffee or anything). No dialogue. She’s just thinking, but not exactly thinking. This is part of the narration thinking and it can get old, so use it sparingly.

  • Descriptions. Okay, so descriptions are important, but damnit, I do *not* care if she’s got the perfect outfit which she purchased for a cool $300 on mommy’s credit card. I don’t need to know the exact number of sequins her top is, how many inches her fire engine red heels are, or get a rundown of how she did her makeup. Seriously. I don’t want to know about brands. I don’t want to know about super cute fun time style. I just want to know if she’s dressed or not, if she’s wearing jeans or a skirt, and whether or not she can run in whatever footwear she’s got. I want to know how long her hair is and what color it is – that’s about it. And the reason I’m ranting about this is because of this weird trend of name dropping. “OMG, I just LOVE American Eagle, don’t you? I’m wearing their Skinny Kick jeans with a Victoria’s Secret bra and a Juicy sweatshirt – isn’t that awesome?”

No, no it’s not. I don’t care. At all. The worst one at this is probably Blue Bloods by Melissa de la Cruz who told us about a bajillion brands, none of which I knew, could afford, or cared about. And that middle one is always especially awful. Why do I want to read a book about a bunch of rich, spoiled kids? Unless my MC just blew a months worth of hard earned dough on some major dress for her wedding, I kind of don’t like hearing about kids just flaunting this endless supply of money. Be realistic. Be down to earth. And don’t be bratty.

Do Example:

Jill’s long hair was pulled back into a braid after she got frustrated with the curls falling into her eyes for the millionth time. She should have put it up-up since it was sweltering outside even in her tank top. “I should have worn shorts,” she mumbled aloud, glaring at her jeans.

Don’t Example:

Jill started with washing her face. Patting it dry, she then sat down at her vanity and began her routine. Maybeline foundation went on first, giving her a nice matte to work from. Next came an overlay of Maybeline powder. After that, she grabbed her N.Y.C. eyeshadow, the green to bring out her eyes, and spent almost ten minutes adding just the right shading to give her that smoky look with a hint of forest in there. Next, she used her Cover Girl eyeliner. It was True Black, which she loved. She did winged eyeliner perfectly and flapped her hands to dry it. Next, she grabbed her Revlon mascara and applied a coat. She let that dry, then added a second for good measure. Her eyelashes looked long and fabulous. Finally, she applied a base coat of red lipstick, then covered it with her favorite Revlon lip gloss. Staring at her reflection, she smiled and gave herself a kiss. She did look awesome. Now, moving on to the hair…

See the difference?

  • Dialogue. This is important: Write like you talk. Seriously. No one talks with perfect grammar. We mostly don’t speak formally – and if we do, you’re probably writing historical fiction or have created your own sort of dialect that is specific to your world. So if we don’t do that in real life, why would you do that in your novel? If your characters are speaking, go ahead and write them as though you were having a casual conversation with your friend. This means contractions and everything. That being said, please DO NOT USE TEXT SPEAK. If you do, I will disown you. The only time you can get away with this is if your characters are ACTUALLY TEXTING. Period. No exceptions. Not even for LOL. Don’t do it.

 

  • Action. While you’re writing, make sure that something is actually going on. I mean, is everyone out lounging by the lake working on their tan? Great. Say that. And then say that, “Jill grabbed the suntan bottle as she spoke, squirting still more into her hands. She burned way too easily.” Tell  us what people are doing, because talking and thinking and feeling isn’t enough. Something should be happening because very rarely in life are human beings completely still. If they are, they’re probably dead. Even while sleeping, you’re breathing. So be sure to tell us that. There doesn’t need to be a fight in every scene, but there should be something happening.

Okay, so that was a pretty long list after all, but these are things I point out in my reviews because I think they’re important. They can make or break a story, so work on them. Play with them. Try them out. And practice!

And a Jill example, using my outline.

I wanted to give you a quick example of my writing. Not everyone’s going to like it or do it like this, but I wanted to give you guys something that followed with the other examples. So, here it goes. I picked chapter one to work from, so if you’d like to follow along with my outline, you can do so. (Be gentle, this is off the top of my head, it’s late here, and I haven’t edited a thing.) Here we go!

Chapter One

I stomped through the woods angrily. Just who the hell did he think he was? We’d had this night planned for months and he just bailed on me like I was yesterdays mystery meat surprise? If he thought he was going to get off easily after this sort of rejection, he was sorely mistaken. The jerk. I’d make his life hell come tomorrow.

Ignoring the encroaching chill of fall, I defiantly pounded my boots into the moist earth, leaves mulching beneath me. The trees around me were thick. They caught the light and reflected it back at me in strange ways, reminding me that the full moon was hardly enough to see by in the woods surrounding Corn Grove. But I continued on, not worried. This little town was a speck of dust in the sunlight. It didn’t even warrant a thumbtack on a map. Nothing even close to crime happened here – unless you counted Marian Dempsey shoplifting from her mother’s store to make some whiny, rich girl point.

Not that I was friends with Marian.

I dodged a tree root, hoping over it and stumbling slightly as the ground sloped downhill suddenly. Just barely catching my footing before a bad fall, I moved around one of the bigger trees that marked the edge of the woods. I was still fuming at Adrian as I broke free of the forest and into the small, if pretty Corn Grove Park.

We’re two peas in a pod! I thought angrily. He’s just as friendless as I am – which begs the question. What the hell could be more important than me tonight?

I was lost in these thoughts as I headed towards the fountain, but I hadn’t gotten three steps before I saw them. Gorgeous. It was the first word that popped into my head. The second was odd. They were both male, but prettier than any boy I’d ever seen. Their hair was long and gleamed in the moonlight, but that shine was nothing compared to the one in their eyes. Almost… glowing.

And that was when I realized two very important things.

The first, they were floating. As in, feet off the ground, hovering in the air, walking on the wind, floating.

The second, they were floating over a very dead body…

And there you go! Our lovely Jill has finally gotten her start! I’d probably flesh this out a bit more if I was really writing this story, but for now it’s an okay start for an example. And for a first draft, it’ll do, too.

Don’t worry right now about things like plot holes and inconsistencies. You’re main goal with the first draft is to complete it. That being said, if you spot them as you’re going, try to fix them. And if you can’t, make a note of them to come back to later. That way you don’t forget they’re there, but you can still move on and actually complete your first draft. Later, we’ll clean everything up with second and third drafts. After that, we’ll push ahead to beta reading and editing and all that good stuff. These are to make sure that the little – and the big – mistakes get caught. Better to find them before you publish rather than getting a bad review after.

So what about you guys? How do you write? What do you focus on? Let me know below and as always, if you have any questions or tips of your own, feel free to share them below! This is only one writer’s take on it! And please, check out my next post in the series: The Next Step, focusing on what you do after you’ve finished your draft!

Thanks for checking this out!

 

sincerely3

E.C. Orr

Update & Writing Links

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As you know I am working on a How To series about novel writing. I’m definitely going to continue with this and will post the next update as soon as I can, but I just recently got over being sick (I’m mostly better now) and as a result am way behind on deadlines. I’m going to have to play a bit of catch-up and since I don’t have any posts waiting in the wings, it might be a little while before I get back to the series.

Instead, I thought I’d do a couple of quick resources that you might use while (or after) writing!

Hope some of these were helpful to you and if you guys have some of your own, feel free to post the links below! I’ll get back to my how to series as soon as I can. Thanks for all the support!

sincerely3

E.C. Orr

How to Write a Novel: Keeping Track

 

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So last time I gave you a template for outlining and an example of how to use it. Today we’re actually not going to talk about working from that outline, but rather how to keep track of things when you *do* use the outline (which I hope you will). Why? Because we you get into the longer novels as opposed to the short stories or novellas, it’s important to keep things straight. Why? Because you don’t want to have to always be going back and rereading everything, because you’ve forgotten half of what you wrote the last time you worked on this. I’ve had issues with this again and again, so I thought I’d throw a few tips out there to help y’all out.

Keeping Track

So you’ve got this outline, right? And you’re writing away, right? But you’ve noticed that you’ve now got about a *thousand* scenes and you’ve forgotten what happened in the first few because it’s been about a month since the last time you worked on this (because real life happens, you know?). You don’t want to waste precious writing time going back and rereading everything all over again every time you do this – what do you do?

Well, start by being proactive. While you’re writing, try these out:

  • Highlight what you’ve already written about in your outline. Highlighting preserves the outline content, but it lets you know that you’ve covered it and no longer need to worry about it. This helps you remember where you’ve ended and what comes next.
  • Use comments. If you use Microsoft Word (this is what I use, so I apologize, because I’m not familiar with other word processors, but would hope they have similar features), then there is a feature where you can add comments. This is really helpful when editing, but it’s also helpful when writing. For every chapter, add a comment to remind you of what that chapter is about, especially if maybe it differs slightly from your outline. (It happens.) Add in key details or important things to jog your memory. You can also do this if you want to go quickly to character descriptions, important scenes, or anything else in your novel that you need quick access to. These comments appear along the side of the page and you can quickly go to them as opposed to searching through the whole manuscript to find what you’re looking for.
  • Keep a “full” document. When I write, a lot of the time I use a new document for every new chapter or sometimes every new scene. This way I’m not dealing with a huge document. It’s more manageable. That being said, it helps to know how things fit together and where they belong. So in addition to these chapter documents, I also have a full document. This has all of my scenes put together in order in one single document. This tells me the wordcount, the order of scenes, and can let me know where I still need work. (I put in notes to myself like UNFINISHED SECTION or NEEDS MORE AT END.) Additionally, when I’ve *finished* a scene, I move it to a finished folder. That way I don’t keep trying to use it or edit it after I’ve already included it in my full manuscript.

All of this is useful if you haven’t started yet and had the forethought to do this in the beginning – but what if you didn’t? What if you dove in and now you have to go back and figure out what’s going on? Organizing suddenly gets a lot harder, right?

Well, there are still some things you can do.

  • For instance, if you know what you’re looking for you can search for it. Use the find feature (still in Word) and type in what you’re looking for. Just make sure it’s exact. This will take you to a list of all the locations where that particular word or phrase shows up. It is very specific, but can help if you know what specifically you’re looking for.
  • Use your outline. Even if you haven’t been highlighting what you’ve already used and what you haven’t, your outline can still help you out. Since the chapters are summarized, you can use them as quick reference and figure out what you did in each chapter. That helps you out since you won’t have to reread your whole manuscript just to figure out what’s going on. It also gives you a little guidance for if you need to find something in your manuscript but aren’t specific enough to search for it. Now you can look it up by chapter.
  • Beyond this, if you want, you can also use the track changes feature in your writing. This is more helpful for editing, I think, but sometimes it’s useful just when you’re adding in new things to a previous manuscript. Be warned though, if you use this too much it becomes less useful because it’s harder to look through all of your changes to find what you’re actually looking for and whether you like the change or the original. Like I said, I’d rather use this one for editing.

I know this was a short one guys, but I thought you might appreciate that! (I know I’m long winded.) And really, I just wanted to get to the bare bones of this one. Keep organized, keep track. Pay attention to where you are in your novel so that you can figure out things like plot holes or what is and isn’t working. I think a lot of the issues with novels today is that so many of authors skip ahead to “the good stuff”. They forget that editing is important. They forget that writing several drafts is important. They forget that you need to make sure your plot makes sense – and not just to you. They forget that in the end, a story is only as good as its execution. So put in some of the boring legwork now and save yourself some grief later.

I hope this post was helpful for some of you guys and sorry it was so Word focused. I don’t use Mac and Word has always been what I’ve been most familiar with. But if anyone has other processors and wants to include some tips, please feel free to add them below! I’d love to hear them.

Stay tuned next time for part seven in my How To series: Drafty Bastards! We’ll start using that outline of yours and I’ll give you some tips for the actual writing of the writing process.

sincerely3

E.C. Orr

How to Write a Novel: Outline of Doom!

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Part five of my How To series, today I’m focusing on outlining. I know, I know, for many of you this is a bad word. “Pfft, outlining?! What madness is this?!” To which I say, “I’ve said the exact same thing – now I know better.”

First, let me give you a quick list of reasons why you should use an outline. Ready? Here we go.

  1. Organization.

Yep, that was it. One reason. Because it covers everything. How do I know where I am in my story? Check your outline. What was that one character’s name? And what did they look like? Check your outline. What was this rule in the world I just created from scratch? You guessed, it check your outline.

I know it’s like everyone’s least favorite thing to do, but it gives you so much in return for so very little. Yes, you have to put a little time and forethought into your novel before you get to the fun stuff. Yes, it means you have to work out the specifics of the new world you just created. Yes, it means you have to actually figure out, beginning to end what’s going to happen in your story.

And yes, I know, it’s a lot of work.

But I’m also telling you that it is worth it and will save you so much pain and agony later on…

As a ghostwriter, I get a couple of different kinds of contracts. I tend to get either the “with an outline” or “without an outline” contract. And one is much more preferable than the other. Why? Because of how much work I do or don’t have to put in. When a client provides me with an outline they are doing a couple of things for me. They’re telling me what they want in the story. Specifically. They’re telling me how they want it to end, and not just HEA. And they’re telling me who they want in it, how many chapters they want (~), and what people look like. If they don’t give me an outline, a lot of the time I have to do all of this myself. Which means I have to do more work, often for the same pay. Why? Because this *is* work and no one wants to do it – but they don’t want to pay me for it either. Not fair, right?

But all of that aside, you might see why having an outline makes my job as a writer so much easier. And that means it makes your job as a writer and author easier, too.

So, hopefully I’ve convinced you this is useful. But what do you include in your outline then? How should it be formatted (and does formatting even matter)? Let’s break it down.

I’m going to give you guys my Super Secret Outline Template, because I love you guys so much. This is what I prefer to get from my clients and what I use for my own writing. The more complete it is, the easier of a time you will have actually writing – and finishing – your novel. If you want, look at this as your first draft.

E.C.’s Super Secret Outline Template

OUTLINE – (title)

 

CHARACTERS:

Main:

(This should include age/description/basic background info)

Name:

(However many you have)

Minor:

Name:

(however many you want to include or need to keep track of in your story)

SYNOPSIS:

(This is a brief summary of everything going on. Don’t worry about being too inclusive or specific – we’ll do that in the chapter breakdown section)

SETTING:

(Where does this take place? Include time period and if you’d like you can give a brief description of the setting.)

CHAPTER BREAKDOWN

(Each chapter should be a summary of what happens within that chapter. This is where you get very detailed. You should list main events, run ins with other characters, and emotions that characters are feeling based on events/other characters. Be specific, but keep in mind that each chapter is a mini summary, not the actual written portion of your novel – yet.)

CHAPTER 1:

CHAPTER 2:

CHAPTER 3:

CHAPTER 4:

CHAPTER 5:

(include additional chapters as necessary; this should be from start to finish of your novel)

ADDITIONAL INFO:

(This can be a section for notes, world building, relationship arcs, etc. Whatever you need to keep straight, include here)

That doesn’t look so bad, does it? Of course not! You can totally do it! And I’m even going to give you a Jill Example to boot! I’ll fill out the above template using Jill the Changeling’s story.

OUTLINE – The Changeling

CHARACTERS:

Main:

Jillian MacKillevrey: Sixteen. Dark brown hair, long and wavy. Freckles. Green eyes that shift to golden when her fae side comes out. Goes by Jill and very rarely allows someone to call her Jillie-Bean. Not particularly close with her parents who are hard workers and a little oblivious to their daughter. Not overly involved. She’s a little selfish, somewhat vain, but has a good heart and is extremely loyal. Switched at birth for the “real” Jill, she’s a Changeling.

Julianna Heatherthorn: Sixteen. Could be Jill’s twin. Long, dark hair. Green eyes. Freckles. But there’s a coldness about her, a paleness as though she is already dead or dying. As a child went by Jules, but now that she’s grown and gunning for the crown of the Faerie Realm, she goes only by Lady Julianna. She’s manipulative and cruel, her soul having disintegrated to save Faerie. Unwilling to return to the human world, Julianna wants to rule all of Faerie – and she’ll kill her Fae counterpart to do it.

Merrick Abernathy: Eighteen. Sandy blonde hair to his shoulders, hazel eyes. Wide smile and shoulders. Tall. The human boy that finally pushes Adrian over the edge. He comes in and makes Jill feel things she’s never felt before. He seems like the thing she’s looking for. He’s sweet and very normal, but charismatic and fun. Almost to the point of being boring, but there’s no denying that he’s safe.

Lord Kane: Between nineteen and twenty-one. Black hair, pale green eyes. Perpetual frown. Strong, but lean like a runner. Betrothed to the next High Queen of Faerie, he’s never met his would-be queen and expects very little of her as she’s been living as a mortal for a long time now.

Adrian: Seventeen. A spy sent to watch Jill from a young age, he was initially hired by Jill’s Fae mother. But when her mother grew tired of her and focused on Julianna instead, Adrian was left in the human world. Until he met Julianna who turned him against Jill. He is still partly in love with Jill, but since her rejection, he’s grown hard and angry.

Minor:

N/A (For right now)

SYNOPSIS:

Jill is out walking through the woods, angry because Adrian bailed on her. She comes out at the park with the fountain in an effort to reach her house quickly, but stops when she sees what looks like two floating people and a dead body. They spot her, then disappear. Jill’s left with a body to contend with.

The next few days are filled with police interrogations – and Jill arguing with her parents about what she saw. Swears now it was faeries. Jill’s mother insists she see a psychiatrist. Jill ditches that and tries to convince Adrian. He uncomfortably refuses to believe her. They fight and she refuses to speak with him.

Jill spends her time doing her own detective work by researching faeries. Learns a little about changelings, but doesn’t put it together yet. Wonders if the body was a changeling. Goes to the funeral and sees the two faeries there. Chases after them. One tells her to come home, then they disappear again in the woods.

Jill spends more time researching in the library and runs into new boy Merrick. Isn’t willing to admit to love at first sight, but he’s sexy. He starts asking to hang out. She would say no, but then sees Adrian and is still mad. Agrees to show him around.

They hang out, she gives him the tour of both school and town. They talk about why he moved here, where she wants to go, why she’s hellbent on leaving. “I just feel like this place isn’t really home sometimes.”

They grow closer. Jill opens up about her faerie research. Thinks he’ll think she’s crazy, but instead tells her that it’s important to follow your instincts. They end up kissing.

Jill runs into the faeries again. They tell her it’s time to come home. She doesn’t understand. The faeries are suddenly killed by other faeries. Jill freaks out when evil faeries try to kill her. She’s saved by sexy Lord Kane. Kane tries to take her back with him, but she fights him and gets away.

Later with Merrick, she doesn’t tell him but asks to stay the night – no sex. She dreams of Kane, who tells her that she can’t run away from destiny. Next day, she skips school and goes back to where she first saw the faeries. Kane is there. He tells her about herself and says that he needs her. She’s confused. Someone stumbles upon them, he whispers to her not to trust the mortals. She doesn’t understand, he disappears, Adrian shows up.

Eventually Adrian tries to kill her, but apologizes before he makes himself do it. Says he’s always loved her – but Julianna is the only one who ever loved him. Julianna appears, kills him, is about to kill Jill herself, but then Kane appears and saves her. He promises not to leave her this time.

Kane comes to regular school in human disguise. Merrick doesn’t like how friendly he is with Jill. Jill realizes she has a choice to make.

SETTING:

Corn Grove, small town, New England feel to it. Includes a park with a fountain, woods surrounding it, and a river winding through it.

CHAPTER BREAKDOWN

(I’m not going to go through the whole thing, but I’ll give you the first few as examples.)

CHAPTER 1:

16 year old Jill fumes at her best friend Adrian. What business did he have bailing on her? After all, they’re two peas in a pod over the whole friendless thing. She cuts through the woods, stomping angrily, only to come upon the fountain at Corn Grove Park where two wildly and strangely beautiful people hover a foot off the ground over a dead body. A body of someone she recognizes – Parker, her lab partner and all around asshole. She must make a sound, because they turn at look at her. She blinks and they aren’t floating and they’re just regular kids from school. Except she’s never seen them before. They run off and Jill runs home. She tells her mom. They call the police.

CHAPTER 2:

Jill gets ready for school – the first day back after a three day reprieve thanks to Parker’s death. She heads out, but her mother argues with her about seeing a psychiatrist. Jill swears she isn’t crazy. Her mother says that people don’t fly. Jill says nothing, but leaves angrily. At school, she meets up with Adrian who seems nervous. She says it’s crazy about Parker, he distantly agrees. She asks what’s up with him. He says nothing. She lets it go so she can talk about her own stuff. Tells him about the floating people. He laughs and says there’s no such thing as faeries. She thinks this is weird, she didn’t say faeries, but takes offense. Yells at him, then storms off. Decides to look up Faeries.

CHAPTER 3:

Still arguing with Adrian, Jill is in the library. She’s searching for stuff on Faeries. Finds several books to check out. At the desk, while checking them out, two men in suits come to talk to her. Detectives. She asks about parental permission. They have it. She tells them what she saw – but leaves out the floating people. They ask if she recognized the two kids. She says no. Asks if she got along with Parker. Frowns, but admits no. They make notes and she realizes she’s a suspect. Gets mad, but they say they’re done. One of the two notices her reading material and comments. Then they leave. Jill is frazzled, wants to talk to Adrian, but remembers they’re fighting.

CHAPTER 4:

At home, Jill reads about faeries and comes across “changeling.” Learns about how Faeries steal mortals away as babies and leave changelings in their place. It freaks her out, but she finds herself wondering if Parker was maybe a changeling. It would make sense because he was so unlikable. Then she wonders if she isn’t really going crazy. Her mom knocks on the door and tells her that she’s worried. Insists she goes to a psychiatrist. Jill is mad, but ultimately agrees if only to get her mother to see that she’s not nuts. Jill falls asleep and dreams of a “mirror” Jill who is a changeling.

CHAPTER 5:

After her psychiatrist meeting (which involved a lot of silently angry Jill and a lot of her doctor checking her clock), Jill goes to the library under the pretense of “school project.” Her mother allows it, but not alone. Jill lies and says she’s meeting Adrian. Jill is perusing the stacks and finds more Faerie books. Can’t quite reach one, so Merrick, new sexy boy, gets it for her. Informs her she’s new. She’s snarky in return. He laughs and follows her to a table. She tries to move again, he follows her. Finally, when Jill spots Adrian at another table, she lets Merrick sit with her. They do introductions and Jill agrees to be his tour guide at school and maybe of the town, too, but only to prove to Adrian that she doesn’t need him. Admits to herself that Merrick is sexy, but isn’t about to fall head over heels for him – she thinks.

(I’m only including the first five chapters because… well, this takes a while!)

ADDITIONAL INFO:

  • The need to switch a Changeling with a mortal comes only once every… 1000 years? 2000? When it happens, it’s to replenish the Faerie Realm. But if the Changeling isn’t returned, the mortal’s soul will rot and she will become evil. If she is left to rule, then she will cause everything to wither away and die.
  • Julianna realized they were going to switch them back, but it’s too late. She wants the crown and the power. So she’s trying to kill her Fae counterpart to keep it.
  • Jill’s Fae mother has grown attached to Julianna and waited too long. That’s why Julianna is corrupted
  • Corn Grove is a natural link to the Faerie Realm.

And there you have it! A quick look at what a semi-completed outline might look like! This is only a template and what I like to include, but I’m always adding to it! Sometimes I have a list of main events or a timeline or I have a “background history” section to explain what happened before the present day events. Include whatever helps you write your story, because that’s the whole point of this. And if you can fill this all out, you can go to write your novel and not have to worry about where you are in your story, what connects with what, and who the hell your characters are.

Also, a quick recommendation: After you finish your outline, take a break. Walk away from it and your project for a little while, then come back when you haven’t been staring at it for forever. That way, you won’t be sick of what you’re seeing and writing will be exciting again!

I hope this helps out and if you guys have comments, suggestions, questions, or your own tips, please comment below! Next post is going to be Keeping Track, how to remember where you are, where you’ve been, and where the heck you’re going. Hope to see you then!

sincerely3

E.C. Orr