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Writing Check In- August

6 Aug

One of my goals for this year was to write more. My husband had the suggestion of making a monthly feature to talk about my writing and how it’s going. It helps keep me honest(ish) and lets you all know when my masterpiece will be released to the world!

This was not a good month for writing and I had an idea it would play out that way. I had my Half IronMan at the end of July and the ramp-up to that was intense. But it’s over. I want to really focus again on writing. I got a little bit done on Friday, fixing the tone of a few scenes. My female lead was getting in a lot of screaming matches that made her a bit unlikeable. I think we’re on better fitting now.

I stopped before a major change I’m putting in. I realized my POV didn’t bounce back and forth very much through one section and that needed to change. It should be easy enough to implement, but I need to re-write a few scenes and switch the order of a few others. It will take some work and a chunk of dedicated time is the best way to go about it. I’m saving it for my next dedicated time.

When I was training, I put each of my workouts on my calendar. It let me move things around if needed and see where I had free time or busy days. I want to start doing that with writing now. I know what workouts I need to plan so I can plan my writing, too. I think it will be mostly after-work writing time and I’m OK with that. My husband has found plenty of ways to keep himself busy while I’m having ‘me’ time. We’ll just keep that moving forward.

I hope to have more progress to report next month and be closer to moving toward submission. I’m so excited to share this book with all of you and the rest of the world! It’s coming, I promise.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

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Writing Check In- July

2 Jul

One of my goals for this year was to write more. My husband had the suggestion of making a monthly feature to talk about my writing and how it’s going. It helps keep me honest(ish) and lets you all know when my masterpiece will be released to the world!

This month has been hit and miss. I’ve done a lot of thinking about my plot and I have a great idea of what needs to be added and how the whole thing flows. I added a bit more structure to it, took out some scenes that didn’t do anything, and added some that really pushed my characters. I also defined my female character so she’s not as weak and has a more compelling plotline and decisions. It’s all good stuff.

But, I haven’t had as much butt-in-chair writing time. I’m ramping up to my Half Ironman at the end of July and training time has been the priority. It will be for one more month. After 70.3 goal is publication goal so this will start to take the driver’s seat. I’ll probably try to write two or three times a week instead of one. It will replace the stupid-long mid-week rides that I hate. It’s all good, still.

I’m a little nervous about my willingness to ‘kill my darlings’ as it’s called. I’ve worked on this book for years and cutting scenes that I’ve spent that time perfecting just because they don’t move a character forward as well as another scene might be hard. I have to keep telling myself they’re saved in another draft and I can come back to them later. What’s important now is getting it ready to publish.

I’ve never felt so close to being ready to share the story outside my immediate friends and family. I’ve started saying that I write and I’m not afraid to tell people about it and try to get them interested. I hope I’m helping drum up some interest with you all. I’ve wanted to tell this story for a long time. The next problem is writing another story.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writers’ Group: Website Roundup

17 Jun

I’m glad someone in my group was ready to present last month because I sure wasn’t! One of our members had brought a list of helpful websites with him and we spent the hour reviewing those.

The first is Helping Writers Become Authors by K.M. Weiland. Weiland is a big fan of the three-act structure and stresses it on her website, detailing how it could play out and be developed in stories.

The second is the website of E.A. Deverell. She posts worksheets on Wednesdays that help writers of multiple genres develop characters and plots. She has a page dedicated to the most common plot formulas and how to use them.

The final website is Go Teen Writers. While it’s aimed toward young writers, the advice is good for a writer of any age. Our member found the information here on characters the most helpful. We talked about character archetypes a lot: when you need to have them, how to combine them, etc. Another area we dove into was using the Myers-Briggs personality types to develop personalities for characters. There are a lot of fun tables about the 16 personality types and using characters from a book series to describe each one. Of course, the Harry Potter ones were my favorite.

Not much else this month. I hope I can use some of what I’m learning about writing to present next month so I’m not as much dead weight.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writing Check In- June

11 Jun

One of my goals for this year was to write more. My husband had the suggestion of making a monthly feature to talk about my writing and how it’s going. They’re supposed to be the first Tuesday of the month, but life is screwy sometimes and I’m running a week late. My apologies to anyone who remembered better than I did.

I’ve been fairly successful at sticking to writing despite ramping up for my triathlon next month. I finished my round of editing which felt huge. I had to rush through the end to get it to an interested party the last time around so this time, I was going slowly through the end and tweaking it a bit.

I started reading Writing Fiction for Dummies by Randy Ingermanson and Peter Economy and I’m feeling less and less confident that it’s ready to share with an editor. There are some great suggestions for self-editing in this book and I think I may take another month or so to do a few of these things. One is making a scene list and seeing what the point of each scene is as well as who is speaking more, how long they are, and the pacing of them. The second is answering a series of questions about the motivation of a character. I think I need to do this for my female lead character, she doesn’t seem as strong as the male counterpart.

I hope I can finish the Dummies book before it’s due this weekend and I hope to pick up a few more tricks in the meantime. I don’t want to put off querying forever!

On that note, I got the Writers Digest guide on Literary Agents and small publishers and I’ve made a list of those who might represent my book. It’s a nice, long, intimidating GoogleDoc that’s ready for me to start populating when I begin querying. I know there are a few steps between editing and querying so I’ll have to write my summary and query letter soon as well. I’m strangely looking forward to this process.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writing Check In- May

6 May

One of my goals for this year was to write more. My husband had the suggestion of making a monthly feature to talk about my writing and how it’s going. I’ve decided to make this the first Tuesday of the month so you can all look forward to these posts with bated breath and get a little update on where I am.

This was a really big month for me. I’ve been looking forward to this post for weeks. In April, I was able to get five minutes of face time with a published author and I mentioned that I was writing a YA Historical Fiction novel. She asked me for a synopsis and when I said ti was Italian and Irish immigrants in 1920s Chicago inspired in part by Romeo and Juliet, she said she wanted to read it and gave me her email, saying she’d share her agent’s information with me. I thought I was going to die.

I spent the rest of the week furiously finishing my editing of the book and making some minor changes throughout so I could send it to her before she forgot about me.

I got a response two days later that she couldn’t read it, but would be willing to share her agent’s name as well as that of another friend who is an agent. She also volunteered to follow-up with her agent after I sent it. Honestly, this is the best I could have ever asked for. This author also publishes YA and historical fiction so this would be a good agent for me to connect with.

I’ve been doing a closer edit of the book since I heard back. I want to go through the ending with a more fine-toothed comb than I did before sending it off to this author. I had one scene that needed a lot of work.

I liked the scene originally. It showed character progression and it was fun, but my beta reader had recommended adding a more emotionally charged scene to advance the subplot with a minor character and this seemed like a good place. I re-wrote it to send out and made the scene very serious and sad. I had to change a lot to get my character to cry and for others to react but I made it work. Kind of.

I disliked it almost as soon as I began to write again. For a week before it came time to rewrite it, I was thinking of ways I could make it better. I talked to my husband about it a few nights in a row and fell asleep rewriting it in my head. I felt like I finally had an idea to fix it.

I finished it up last night and I’m very happy with it. There’s still a stronger emotion than the first rendition, but this time the primary emotion is anger. I also strengthened the minor character who I introduced to the scene and gave him a more final ending. I think I can finally call his arc complete and I’m very happy with that.

I expect to finish my editing next month. Then I’ll move on to querying the agents I’ve been recommended. And then the major querying will start. I think it’s about time for this book to see the light of day. Which also means it’s time to start writing again. And that’s a bit terrifying.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writing Check In- April

2 Apr

One of my goals for this year was to write more. My husband had the suggestion of making a monthly feature to talk about my writing and how it’s going. I’ve decided to make this the first Tuesday of the month so you can all look forward to these posts with bated breath and get a little update on where I am.

I had a major breakthrough with a character a few weeks ago. Her motivation was weak and she is (on purpose) quite an annoying character so I needed to give her a great reason to act the way she does and I hadn’t been able to figure it out. It finally came to me in the middle of one of my weekly writing sessions and I immediately started adding it back into the novel. It was almost like starting over each scene she came up and it took a lot of work but I’m almost caught up again to where I was when I had this idea. It feels so good. I ran the idea past my husband and my beta reader and both loved it. I’m so glad!

Once that’s worked in, I’ll continue working through the feedback my friend and beta reader Kristine Kruppa gave me. This will probably take me a few more months since I’m going at it a bit slowly. Once that’s done, I had another beta reader give me some feedback that’s a bit more topical and stylistic than plot. I’ll go over that quickly I expect. I have a book to work through after that, Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass. I read the book that came with a workbook a few years ago and it seems like it’s time to go through the workbook. After that, I’ll send it to two beta readers again and then I think it might be time to query. It also seems too soon, but I know it has to happen at some point!

I have a few other stories started, but no more novel ideas at this point. My second completed manuscript isn’t something I love and I’m not sure I want to go through the extensive editing process with it if I’m not super passionate. Maybe I better start again fresh with another idea. However, that seems too far off to worry about just yet.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writing Check In- March

5 Mar

One of my goals for this year was to write more. My husband had the suggestion of making a monthly feature to talk about my writing and how it’s going. I’ve decided to make this the first Tuesday of the month so you can all look forward to these posts with bated breath and get a little update on where I am.

I’m working through the fifth major re-write of my novel. It’s a YA novel set in the 1920s. I sent it out to some trusted friends to beta read about 18 months ago and I’m still working through their feedback. After this round of editing, I think it’s time to start sending queries. You only stop editing when you publish, right?

My friend Kristine Kruppa gave me feedback that I’m working on now. She had some major plot suggestions that I’m working in. I’ve decided to do this by going through the story, scene by scene, and asking myself at the end, Did this fit the new goals I have for my book? Often, the answer is no and I make some major edits. As I get farther and farther into the book, the edits are becoming more and more time-consuming. This has become a really fun process and I’m looking forward to my writing time each week. When the timer goes off after an hour, I’m usually disappointed and hoping to squeeze in a bit more.

My biggest focus now is my female protagonist. (I have a male and female protagonists. One guess what happens.) Kristine’s feedback was that my male character had strong motivation and dominated the story while the female character seemed to take a back seat and be more easily influenced. That was not my intent by any means and I was glad to get that feedback. I’m adding in some motivation for her and ways she can take a stronger stance when she is questioned. It’s been fun so far.

I’ve got a lot of work to do with a minor character in the next few scenes. Her motivation is a bit muddled so I’m trying to clarify that and make her a little less annoying but just as despicable. It’s going to be a challenge for sure!

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writers’ Group: Short Stories and Metaphors

25 Feb

I almost skipped my writers’ group meeting, I’ll be honest. I wasn’t feeling great, I worked late, and I thought I needed a break. But I picked myself up and went and I’m so glad I did. And yes, having something to write about here was a part of my motivation. Blogging to stay honest with my writing goals. I counted this meeting as my hour of writing for the week, too. Double dipping?

We first talked about the differences between short stories and novels. Short stories are sometimes seen as a warm-up for a novel when they’re very different writing formats and success in one may not mean success in the other. Novels have a lot more room to explore a character or story. A novel is not a collection of short stories and a good short story should not read like part of a novel. Novels utilize the familiar three-act structure while a short story only has room for the third act. In a novel, the subplots often make the book enjoyable and added exciting depth. In a short story, they muddy the message so it’s recommended you have one or none. While a short story may not have the real estate to be deep, that doesn’t mean it lacks meaning. A short story can be very impactful and have a lot of meaning though it is often more implied than a novel on a similar topic may leave it. A short story is usually confined to one location while the majority of novels utilize many settings to tell their story.

The second focus was on metaphors. Metaphors are a great way to emphasize an important concept or object. While often done, not all metaphors are well done and writing a good one can be a big challenge. There are two parts to a metaphor, the tenor and the vehicle. To give an example, in Shakespeare’s famous metaphor “All the world’s a stage,” the tenor is world, the subject of the metaphor, and stage is the vehicle, the comparison. Metaphors are most impactful when they are simple, thematic, original, relevant, and important. Putting the focus on an important concept is, again, key. However, metaphors are most impactful when used sparingly. Consider if it’s a good time to add a metaphor each time and realize that the answer may sometimes be ‘no.’

We had some open discussion after these two topics. One of the items that stuck with me was when talking about introducing characters. It’s important to give a snapshot of the character when they’re introduced. It helps readers visualize your character, see them in the movie playing in their head. If you fail to give a brief snapshot of them, you may be fighting an image in their heads when you add more detail later. This struck a chord with me because I’m revising the beginning of my novel now and I can think of a few characters who aren’t described well in their opening scene.

That’s all for this month. I’m really glad to have learned so much from my fellow writers! Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Writers Group: Symbolism, Copyrights, and Research

28 Jan

My lovely writers’ group met again a few weeks ago. We had a number of new faces and I hope they were intrigued by our unusual format. We all prepare 5-10 minutes of material to share with the group over an aspect of writing that we are interested in or are working through at the moment. This month, we were able to go through three different topics in our time.

First, Rachel talked about symbolism. A symbol represents something other than what it is. Symbols are usually universal or can carry meaning for a smaller group. They are a concise way to communicate an idea. She gave the example of a national flag and all that the symbols on a flag represent about people and what they find important. There are two types of symbolism, figurative and literal. Literal symbolism isn’t exactly symbolism as I’ve described it. It’s something that only has one other meaning. For example, if I type the word ‘tree,’ those characters are symbols that represent a wooden plant with leaves. Writers more often focus on figurative symbolism, where one thing represents the idea of something else. Good symbolism is usually less obvious and takes a deeper read to find it. It avoids clichés and obvious symbols (a rose for love). Instead, it has a lighter touch and can be open to interpretation. A figurative symbol usually takes some building so that it’s clear to readers that there is symbolism. It must be repeated, given a position of importance, and emphasized so that the reader can gather that the symbol has a meaning different from itself.

Another writer, Jason, is pursuing self-publication and shared with us what he’d learned about copyrights while trying to get ready to publish. Copyright attaches the author’s name to the work in the public record. This allows you to defend your created work should someone try to lay claim to it later. This can be done via a form online with a small fee. Some writers warned against copyrighting your work if you plan to pursue traditional publication as many will not accept work that has been copyrighted. For self-publication, it’s a good move. We cautioned that posting writing on a blog can count as ‘published’ for some literary magazines and publishers, so to be careful what you share of your work. Jason shared a sample permission form that he’d used to try to obtain some permissions for statistics in his book. You can avoid using permission forms if you use work that is fair use or public domain, such as government publications.

Finally, Gary shared some of his research on research. Doing research on a topic or setting adds accuracy and credibility to a writer’s work. Doing research from books or articles that were published through a university of college press usually means that an academic wrote the work and is likely an expert in his or her field (not always true, though!). Doing research is harder the farther back in time a person reaches. Visiting the location where something happens can be very helpful as many times atmosphere is hard to gather through reading alone. Research should include the genre you are writing in which will help with publication ultimately. Also, consider the perspective of the character and if it could be different from your own, research differing opinions or views on that topic.

We’ll be back at it again next month! I’m glad I don’t have a conflicting class anymore. Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!

Write-Ins When You’re Not Doing NaNo

27 Nov

I was so excited to be back to my monthly writers’ group. This month, the group merges with the local NaNo group and participates in a Write-In. As I’m not doing NaNo (and using grad school as an excuse one last time), I wasn’t exactly ‘on task’ at this one. I used the first half hour to write yesterday’s blog post. But once that was finished, I had to find another way to entertain myself.

A week before, I’d had a line come to me. I’m still unsure if it’s a novel or a short story, but I wrote it down either way. I decided to use a Word War to see where it took me.

I got about 2000 words into this story. The way it’s going now, it’s a short story. It could turn into something longer, but I think I’ll start here. It was really nice to write again. I missed feeling like I’m creating something out of thin air; like I’m meeting someone for the first time as I write from their mouth.

I want to get back into doing this. More on that later this week. For now, I just wanted to report on a successful one day of NaNo. I even won a Word War. I still got it.

Until next time, write on.

You can follow me on Goodreads, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram. I’m available via email at SamAStevensWriter@gmail.com. And as always, feel free to leave a comment!