Wednesday, May 31, 2017

ROW80: Revision ahead

Round 2 for A Round of Words in 80 Days. It's Week 9, with 22 days left before the end of this round, and I've been working hard on goal setting -- for the month of June.

ROW80 Goals for June:
  • WRITING: Continue work on Moira and Dylan's NOVELLA, The Island Wife (4,000 words by month end). Begin review/revision of Rivers of Stone (40 hours by month end).
  • BLOGGING: Post 4x on Writing blog, post 8x on ROW80 blog. Post June 7 for Insecure Writers' Support Group. Read posts by others x5/week.
  • MARKETING:  Read Bell, complete Hitz marketing workshop, develop 200-300 key words for Amazon Express ad (for Reaching). Combine MailChimp lists. Send newsletter June 15. Continue organizing marketing materials.
  • READ: 10 books/month (at least 1 on marketing and 1 + review for indie writer). Read 6 writing mags/month. 
  • OTHER: Complete 1 comfort quilt. Keep e-mail under 100. Continue Spokane Authors press releases/articles.
I'm a little leery of working on two different projects at the same time. One usually ends up taking precedence. But I really like Fallon Brown's multi-bubbling projects. A few hundred words here, a few more there. Progress!  My goals are hopefully specific enough that I can track that progress and surprise myself. Now to report in from last week.
  • WRITING: Added 7,013 words to The Island Wife (goal 40K) for the month of May. Most of this is plotting, but dialogue and scenes are starting to show up. Printed out first 100 pages of Rivers of Stone and handed them over to my severest critic. 
  • MARKETING: Finally made progress in organizing marketing goals. This may sound anal to some, but the currently 30-page file is now organized by goals, chart of timeline of marketing strategy, and alphabetical by marketing strategy and notes. 
In other words, May is soon over, but we shall persevere.

PS: I'm wearing my old glasses and can SEE again!

To celebrate Wednesday, here's a snippet from those two brothers, Dylan and Michael, who've just rented a corner of a room in the slums of 1840's Edinburgh:

     “At least we’re away from the stink.” Dylan shoved the blanket into the corner of the room they had rented. “When do we have to pay again?”
     “Before we’re ready, I’m thinking.” Michael sniffed the air of the crowded top floor room, its windows shuttered, and the air close with the smells of sour beer and sweat. The room stretched some fourteen feet long and eight feet wide. The floor was littered with bodies wrapped in ragged blankets, a mix of men, women, and children still sleeping, though it was past noon.
     “How much do we have left?” asked Dylan.
     “Enough.” Michael looked around. “An’ we should no’ be talking about it here.”
     Dylan gave a short nod. “We best be finding some kind of a job.”
     “Bring yer stuff,” said Michael. “I’m no’ ready to leave what we have behind just yet.”

And I'm not ready to leave their story behind. Have a great week. Check out what others have written for ROW80 HERE or on Facebook HERE.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

ROW80: A Wish for Vision

Well, those darn glasses are still being pesky. It's back to the doctor tomorrow. I can't read more than 20 minutes, or work on the computer, or sew without my eyeballs feeling like they're swimming in mustard. So aside from the hot compresses, weepy eyes, and eye muscle strain (sorry for the whining), I'm wishing for better vision this week as I report in for ROW80.

Another beta read for RIVERS OF STONE came in this week. I should be celebrating, but . . .  this reader stopped after reading the first 85 pages, said she found nothing to like about my characters, didn't read historical fiction, and that my stories are too sad.

My only answer is that these are the stories I am drawn to, stories of people who struggle. Yes, my characters suffer, but they find love and survive, and . . . Chris Stenson posted a meme from Sylvia Plath on Facebook, and it made me sigh.

Sometimes writing is hard. I didn't expect every beta reader to have positive comments, for not everyone will enjoy reading my historical fiction (not cozy, not romantic exactly). But I'm struggling a bit this week. I'm also stubborn, driven by this vision of what life was like. So I'll fall back on that mantra of the 1970s: Perseverance furthers!

The rest of this week's report for ROW80:

Writing: Amazing progress on that novella telling Moira and Dylan's story. +2,250 words. What kept me writing? First, I'm continuing with Randy Ingermanson's very structured Snowflake system and digging into character descriptions. Second, the new Writer's Digest, July/August 2017  just out features a theme on "Crafting Better Characters," about 4 articles on various strategies for adding depth to your characters.

"Steam Punk" Comfort Quilt
 (May 2017)
Blogged for ROW80 on Weds and Sunday (another first for a while). Did read posts by other ROW80 writers x4 so far. Posted a book review for an indie author. Found 2 great books for the novella: James G. Leyburn's Scotch Irish: A Social History, and another look at Sally Mitchell's Daily Life in Victorian England.

Other: Swam/walked 5 out of 6 days (so far), though we did almost get lost in the woods in an hour-long hike. Finished a comfort quilt (to see more detail, click on the image), and started another.

What needs more attention? Marketing. But that's for the coming week. Time for a coffee break. Have a great week and check in what other ROW80 writers are up to HERE on Facebook or on ROW80's website.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

ROW80: Another late Weds night

Got new glasses last week. Doc said this stronger prescription would help me read more easily. My advice before you leave the optical shop? Make darn sure those new glasses don't slide down your nose. 

All week, I've been struggling with eye strain, finding it impossible to read or work on the computer -- or even write for more than a good 15-minute chunk at a time. Today, glasses got adjusted, and I'm feeling grateful as some of the eye strain was immediately resolved.  Better tomorrow. Now it's catch up time.

Writing: Still working on the novella and Randy Ingermanson's SNOWFLAKE method. This morning I spent reading about Irish gangs in the 19th Century and Scottish slums in Edinburgh. Right on track for my 1,000 words a week (plotting/character descriptions at this point). I did play around with a post on my writing blog about my novella characters. It was so fun to find photos for several characters and to dummy up a cover for the novella. 

Best news ever? One of my beta readers came in with very helpful comments for Rivers of Stone. Thank you, Fallon Brown

Marketing: No real progress on any level, not even reading or filing, although Dave Chesson is offering a free training on using Amazon's Marketing Service effectively. I'm going to try it.

Community: Writer's group meets tomorrow. I have no real scenes to share . . . yet.  I don't think dabs of dialogue will count, but I'm intrigued by Dylan's older brother. He works on the Edinburgh & Glasgow Railway (1840s), survived a cholera epidemic, is rather bossy, maybe a bit of a fighter, and he says to his younger brother, "Don't you worry. I'll take care of that troll."

Catch up on what other ROW80 writers are doing HERE or on FACEBOOK -- and have a great week, at least until Sunday, our next check-in. The end of the month is nigh!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

ROW80: Weds night rather late . . .

Writer's group met today, and I got some feedback on my hopefully-close-to-final draft of Rivers of Stone. While I'd like people to fall in love with my story, critical feedback at this stage is more useful than happy faces scribbled in the margin.

But this beta reader told me (as tactfully as possible) that none of my main characters are likable. At least, not in the first 50 pages. How can my readers care about the story if they don't like the main characters? So do I wait out the rest of May, waiting for other comments before beginning to revise? Or do I dive in and work on the character motivations and arcs, setting aside the novella?

I've been working on 'the novella' (no real title yet), and completed about half the steps Randy Ingermanson suggests with his SNOWFLAKE method. The last two days involved writing the story line from each major character's point of view. It's been fun to discover some of their hopes and fears, along with bits of dialogue, plot twists, and lots of research questions. I've never done this kind of organized plotting before. Usually, the story emerges and evolves scene by scene. IF I continue with the novella, the big next step is to further develop the story with a four-page synopsis.

Goals for this week:
Purple = some progress. Red =  not yet. Blue = Done!

  • Another 1,000 words on the novella? 500 words so far. A little research. Just enough to know that more is needed.
  • Send monthly newsletter by May 20. 
  • Read a book by an indie writer and review. Started reading Annette Drake's Stay at Celebration House.
  • Read other ROW80 writers: So far have read x6.
  • Finish organizing that marketing material/research into a REAL PLAN.
  • Declutter e-mail down to under 100. Actually now at zero!

I have reorganized my e-mail (consistently over 250). Taking advice from  Michelle Schaeffer on how to tame that inbox, I set up folders labelled ACTION, REPLY, READ, and REVIEW. The result so far (after sorting through everything), is that some tasks moved to that ACTION file, which were a higher priority, actually got done because they weren't invisible any more.

I'm still undecided about what to work on for my writing. Guess I'll decide tomorrow morning. Meanwhile, make it a good week. 

Check out what others are doing for A Round of Words in 80 Days either HERE or on Facebook.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

ROW80 Sunday Check-in: Hail? Gotta love spring.

Just sitting down to my computer this lazy Mother's Day Sunday to check-in for Row80 with a nice cup of peppermint tea. Outside, a green, but cloudy spring day. And then those clouds opened up. and a steady stream of ice chunks hit the ground.

What happened last week? Well, a little extra babysitting of the grands as their Mommy was away at a conference all week, and a doctor visit, so a few distractions. But some work got done!

--Added 2,200 words to that novella in progress. Took working synopsis to writers' group and so appreciated their feedback on character arcs and conflict.
--Wrote a blog post on my writing blog with a little more about the novella.
--Finished that beta read and sent comments.
--Read only 2 other blogs. Sigh. Big improvement needed here.
--Swam 1x and walked 4x.
--Didn't work on marketing much. No reading and no organizing. 
--Did work on the newsletter and MailChimp. Still don't quite know how to attach a PDF to a newsletter through MailChimp. 
--Did play around with a marketing meme, using PowerPoint. What do you think? Not sure green works. Anything missing? Too many font changes? I'll add the link to Amazon once the book is available online later this summer.

What's on for next week? Maybe a little more progress next week as the calendar looks pretty clear. 

--Another 1,000 words on the novella?
--Send newsletter by May 20.
--Read a book by an indie writer and review.
--Read other ROW80 writers x6.
--Finish organizing that marketing material/research into a REAL PLAN.

I'm having fun working through Randy Ingermanson's Snowflake for the novella. I'm at the writing-character-sketches stage now (Step 5), and little bits of dialogue are coming through. For example, Dylan will say somewhere: “Ah, Moira, my heart. If you had only told me, I would have taken you with me.”

Novella's working title: "The Island Wife." What do you think? If most of the action takes place in Inverness and Edinburgh, how could I call it "The Island Wife"?

Make it a good week. Check out what others are doing for A Round of Words in 80 Days either HERE or on Facebook.

Four-and-a-half years old!
The two-year-old!

Sunday, May 7, 2017

ROW80 Catchup and a Freebie!

Today's the day that Annette Drake's cozy mystery BUILDING CELEBRATION HOUSE is up for free on Amazon. 

Why not hop on over and grab your copy? This well-written book plumbs a rare topic -- the relationship between two stubborn sisters. And that's against the backdrop of an antebellum Southern mansion and a few ghosts.

Now on to reporting for ROW80. Well, this week has been one of accomplishment! Only some writing, but I finished a queen-sized quilt (will post pic later . . . as this one is a surprise). 

I did make really good progress on mastering MailChimp's newsletter templates, and my novella is about 1,000 words richer. With the hero from Ireland, I have an excuse to do a little research.

A few tweets later, and I met online two writers who write historical fiction. Both look fascinating. Margaret Pinard and Elizabeth Bell. Current reading? Sara Donati, Into the Wilderness, and a chapter from Jared Diamond's The World Until Yesterday.

Perseverance furthers. That and a good cup of coffee have seen me through a hectic week.

What is ROW80? A Round of Words in 80 Days wherein participating writers check in twice a week (most times) to let others know our goals, progress, and to share what's going on. Go HERE to read what others are doing or HERE on FaceBook.

I'll conclude by saying I'm very grateful for all the comforts we take for granted today, compared to the average person in the 19th Century. May you cherish your warm bed, fresh food from the refrigerator, and antibiotics (when needed)!