Rogue Outlines and WordPress Themes

writing-lessonI would’ve loved for this post to be pretty and poetic, but frankly, I’m cranky, tired, and have poisoned myself with eating one too many doughnuts . . . for like 5 days. By the time I get back to the gym, I’m gonna look like Jabba the Hutt, but for right now, I want to focus on two things that are both infuriating and enlightening at the same time, hence, the euphoria and hysteria in equal doses.

Outlines that Go Rogue

Yes, the hint is in the title. This week I have hit the mother of all pains in the life of a plotter – my outline has decided to go the way of the dodo and is kaput. How does this happen? How can several months of labor and sweat just disappear you may ask?

Four letters and for once it doesn’t begin with “F” although frankly, you want to punch her in her face: your M-U-S-E

Yes, even us plotters from time to time are inspired, and find ourselves going off piste. The danger in this action is that you forget what sort of damage that can do to your carefully layed-out plan until it’s too late.

For instance, in this particular example I have allowed a new character to run away with her dialogue, and therefore, introduce a concept that wasn’t supposed to be her idea at all, and was scheduled to happen organically later on in the story. Problem is now that it’s written in, it makes sense, but all that follows has to be adjusted for this change in events. By the way, “adjusted” is just writer’s denial for STARTING OVER. With the outline mind you, not the book. So today I spent my day not writing, but sweating over a broken outline trying to figure out how to splice it all back together, but also, having to re-think character motivation as some actions had obviously changed.

Yes, it’s sucks. Yes, it’s a pain in the ass when you are working in the urban fantasy realm where you are dealing with not only plots and subplots, but multiple worlds, physics, mythology, and a whole ton of rules that you have to keep up with because they aren’t real. It’s a lot to juggle. You really don’t want to start messing around with it once you get the train moving on the track.

Oh, did I mention that I hate outlining?

Having said all of this, I do think most of the time, some of your best work can come from letting things just happen in your writing, even if it means having to re-think the rest of the book. Although I swore and carried on, and have literally eaten everything there is to eat in the house, I think the outline is better for the changes, and it forced me to look at some of the weaker chapters and come up with better ways to move the story line along.

Fingers crossed, back to writing tomorrow. So much catching up to do.

And my second thing . . .

WordPress is gonna kill me WordPress_blue_logo.svg

I never like to do things the easy way. Ever. And in never doing things the easy way, I create a ton of work for myself and invariably for the husband, too, since he’s my technical back up. And Joostie. Joostie also serves as my web guy most of the time, but having him in a European time zone does make things somewhat difficult.

Anyhow, the gist is this: through sagely advice given to me by an independent consultant, I’ve decided to update my wordpress theme to something that is less of an agony aunt column and more akin to a professional author site. It will be the first time I’ve done a theme update ever. (Yes, I’m still using like twenty-ten or something like that)

Problem is, as anyone who’s got a pre-existing site especially one with custom CSS in it knows, it’s not as easy to convert your old site over, as every template company claims. In fact, it’s a royal pig and will have you pulling out your hair because no two templates are ever set up the same, and what works in one always seems to throw a wobbly in the other.

While Divi by Elegant Themes looks amazeballs, and I love the plug and play action, actually getting my rather simple blog transferred over without having items sprout up where they shouldn’t go isn’t working out very well. Of course, the simplest thing would be to activate the theme and be damned and then frig around with it until you can figure out why it’s adding say “categories” to you main tool bar. But being 200 miles from home with no techie love to back me up, it’s a daunting task that I will need to save for another day and likely a distant weekend.

It’s times like this that I wish I’d stayed a web developer so I knew what the hell I was doing.

 

 

Bad Reviews

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I recently made the comment to another author that “Goodreads is a nest of biting vipers“.

I kinda meant it. Sorry, not sorry.

See, here’s the thing. As an author, you have a moral responsibility not to be a public asshole. Let’s face it, you are a writing professional, you are meant to be taking the higher ground. We’ve all seen the author who disregards this adage and ends up as the internet poster child for public shaming. Oh yes. It’s not a pretty sight, and it never ends well. EVER. Because let’s face it, you will never win, you’ll say a bunch of shit that you will utterly regret, and even your mother will be tsk tsking you. If you don’t believe me, I have two books you should read So You’ve Been Publicly Shamed and Social Media is Bullshit. Great books. Spot on. Also very scary.

Because here’s the thing us authors don’t realize when we sign up for this gig

If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all

That, that right there, that utter morality bullshit doesn’t exist on the internet. All bets are off when you put your work on display. If you are a sensitive petal then being an author may not be the best career for you, and I say that as a sensitive petal myself.

Having said that, there are some rules that I live by that help keep me from slitting my wrists:

  1. Don’t EVER read your Goodreads reviews, ratings, reactions, etc. It’s fine to have an account, I’d even actively encourage you to set one up as an author because a lot of businesses and blogs require you to have one and it’s another outlet for readers to find you.
  2. Do not stalk the reviewer who shat all over your book and whatever you do, don’t send one  single  word  to  them. It’s not worth it, and they will gather all their p(r)etty friends, too, and make your life a living hell. You will be the unreasonable, egotistical maniac who needs to be put down. Not them and definitely not their review.
  3. Buy a bottle of wine and gather your pretty friends and have a whinge fest. You’re allowed.
  4. Focus on the important thing, like your positive Amazon reviews because Amazon is da king. Goodreads is the ugly stepchild to Daddy Warbucks, and if the haters wanna hate, that’s probably where they’re going to be – not Amazon. Amazon takes its reviews very seriously and if there are issues where you have a bonafide grievance, you’re probably more likely to get a result. Amazon knows that reviews sell things. Selling things is Amazon’s business.
  5. Before you quote me with Amazon customer support, let me state this disclaimer: If you have a ton of bad reviews, it’s time to do some introspective house cleaning so to speak – one bad review could be an asshat, many, many bad reviews probably means they have a valid point. Be opened minded to the criticism and be ready to fix the problem.
  6. People are people, and everyone has a bad day. It’s unfair that you got the brunt of it, but sometimes we end up being the punching bag for whatever freudian-bad-day-from-hell someone is having. Again not fair, but chock it up to the experience gods and move on.
  7. When in doubt, your books and even your fans will have your back. You actually wrote a book. Hell, maybe you’ve written a dozen books. Congratulations! You’ve accomplished more than that person who keeps saying “I’ve always wanted to write a book”, but never has. So try not to be hard on yourself. Be proud of your work and your fans. It’s more than many can claim.

I might actually get shafted over this post, but life isn’t without risks, and if I get one author who actually has a good laugh rather than a cry over their next bad review then it will have been worth it.

 

xo

shawnee

#AmWriting

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I’m back in the writer’s seat this week after TNEE lit a fire under my butt. Nothing inspires fear like being around other writers who are knocking out three, four, or hell, maybe even six books a year. Holy macaroni. Talk about a “coming to Jesus” moment.

Having said that, being back on Betrayer has given me a bit of insight into my own writing style, which I’m going to record here for posterity:

I am a plotter not a pantster

There are generally two type of writers – those who are organizers, who outline everything, who don’t write a word without having a strict plan of where they’re going in their story, and then there are those crazy people who just go for it, hope for the best, dig right in without a care in the word, and generally laugh at all of us OCDers.

I have a lot of envy even respect for pantsters. Not in a million years could I write a whole novel without a map. Possibly a short story, but never something that is going to be almost 300 pages long. I’m just not capable of staying on course that long. I could start out writing a vampire romance and end up in a high fantasy with elves. So for something as complicated as The Shining Ones series where I’m balancing multiple sub-plots plus two fictitious worlds (spoiler alert) and of course, the main story line, I have to be on my toes, and the only way for me to do that is to outline, outline, outline.

And unlike what pantsters may think, we plotters do have grand moments also where the trolley goes off the track into a glittering, sparkly over-the-top mound of pure creative genius, where characters take control or something so utterly unexpected happens that you wonder if you’re channeling your inner Stephen King. Just because we plot doesn’t mean we don’t get carried away in a good way. Even with a iron-tight outline, Watcher did not end up where I expected – both in a good and bad way.

Editing monster

On both my previous books, I was an editing monster, and what I mean by this is that I would edit the hell out of the book every step of the way. Not just once, not even twice, but mulitple reads, multiple large edits. Every day. All the time. Before I’d start writing for the day, I’d be editing.

Even though it goes against the grain for me, I’m gonna say it out loud: Editing during the first draft is not a good idea. It’s chokes creativity and slows you down. Don’t do it. Get it all out on paper first, write faster than you ever have, and then start the editing process once you get the words “The End” on the page.

I have not listened to this advice twice now, and it’s has completely shafted me. It will take you forever to finish and burn you out before you even get to the major edits with an editor. Don’t get bogged down in the minutiae until you’ve got your draft finished.

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Steady as she goes – 2K/day limit

The most words I’ve ever knocked out in a day is around 10K. That was probably one of the longest days of my writing career and an anomaly to say the least. It just doesn’t work that way for me (see below). I also found that after pushing myself that hard my next couple of days were hardly what I would’ve described as “productive”; they were, in fact, a mini burn out. I pushed too hard and paid the price for the remainder of that week.

There are some authors where 10K words a day are normal. I’m not one of those authors, and there’s definitely no way that I’ll have 10K of quality words either. Not only did I kick my own ass writing too much, but I probably threw away half of that work when it came time to editing. And that sucks.

I’m a big believer in pacing my creativity. My motto is if I can get 2K of words done a day that have quality and substance then I’m quids in. 5-6K of words that I just end up throwing away doesn’t do me any good and only serves to frustrate me further. Also, side note, it’s not an efficient use of my creativity.

So that’s what I aim for – 2,000 words a day.

Scene by scene

If I think too hard about writing a 300 page book, I still panic. Even though I’ve done it twice now, that anxiety hasn’t gotten any better, and there are days, like today, where I want to punch my inner muse right in the face for even remotely suggesting writing a series in the first place.

The only way I know how to deal with that level of anxiety, especially at the start of a new book, is to avoid thinking about the big picture, and start thinking of it in smaller chunks. In other words, while my heart may be screaming, “OH MY GOD. THREE HUNDRED PAGES!” at me over and over again, my brain has gone for a much more reasonable approach of “You can do anything for a week. Just write this scene this week then you can stop.”

And it works. I trick myself into taking it scene by scene (hence the outline, people) and by the time I’ve gritted my teeth and made it through that scene, I’m ready to start the process over again, and hammer my way through. Before I know it, I’m five or six chapters in and at this stage, have bought in, so I’m good to go for about 70% of the book. Don’t ask about the last 30% – that’s another blog post.

But the point is that by breaking my chapters down into multiple scenes and focusing on them one at a time, I can push my way through the anxiety/writer’s procrastination and get the job done. I highly recommend it to any author struggling alone, and a book that talks about this in depth is Make A Scene by Jordan E. Rosenfeld. Great book, worth reading.

Back to the grindstone. My next post this week will be about reviews. Trust me, it’ll be a doozy.

 

xo shawnee