As a wife and mother of two, a full-time business analyst, an EMBA student, and an aspiring author, a question I am frequently asked is… how do I balance my life and manage to fit it all in? The answer is… I don’t. Every single day something gets missed, gets neglected, gets left until tomorrow, or falls off the “to do” list entirely.
Take today for example… We just got home late last night from an awesome family vacation to St. Louis. I am relaxed, happy, ready to hop back into my daily life. And then I take a look at what that means just for today…
I start the day with my house in complete chaos. We had my son’s 5th birthday party just before leaving for vacation, so we left the house in a bit of a wreck, and then there’s the unpacking to do. But all of that gets placed on hold. This morning I need to get me ready and then get the kids up, dressed, and to school – with a quick stop at the grocery store to pick up brownie bites for my son’s class to celebrate his birthday. But wait a sec! First I need to make sure my son is in (clean and matching) PJs because today is PJ day for his class. Luckily it’s pancake day at school – so breakfast for the kids is handled.
Then it’s on to work where I have 200 emails waiting for me (not an exaggeration) and a week’s worth of catching up to do. The work “to do” list also includes a Q3 finalized forecast for my account, and a communication package on the current supply outlook, among about ten other things. Of course I squeeze this all in the morning hours since I’m in meetings from 1pm to 4:30pm. Lunch at the desk today. The good news is I finished everything that absolutely had to get done for work today, so no after-hours required.
After work I make a trip over to my friend Krista’s house to pick up dinner. She cooks dinner for us three nights a week (bless her). It’s a HUGE time savings for us. Then it’s home to pop it in the oven. While it cooks and I wait for my husband to get home with the kids, I start trying to make a small dent on the mess that is my house. I multi-task by calling Mom and filling her in on our vacation while I pick up.
Hubby’s playing volleyball tonight. I feed the kids – a bite-by-bite battle, and then it’s the bedtime routine. I squeeze the writing of this blog post in while snuggling with my kids during the TV-watching portion of bedtime. After the kids are in bed, I settle on the couch with my computer (husband’s night to clean the kitchen) and work while I catch up on my missed TV shows. We have a quick chat about his job and our current weekly schedule of “duties.”
Then I get down to it. First I work on EMBA stuff. I’ve been lucky this week because the 4th of July holiday meant a week-long break between classes at school. But the next class starts this Friday and I have some pre-work to get through. I divide up all the reading for the week to spread it out over the next few days, and spend an hour reading two of the articles.
After that, I pop open another forecast for work (I just can’t help myself – it’s a good time to get ahead of some things for later in the week) and knock that out for the next hour. Once that’s done, I open up Hyacinth – the follow-on book to Blue Violet. At the moment I’m waiting on the next round of Blue Violet edits from Wendy, so it’s a perfect time to get some more of book two written. I try to get about three pages a night in when I can. Tonight, one page is all I have time for.
Finally I hit on my social media “to dos” for self-publishing. A tweet here, a facebook post there, publish this blog post. I am categorically NOT a late-night person, so it’s upstairs, get out my gear for my early morning run, get ready for bed, read for about twenty minutes to clear my mind, and try to fall asleep.
You’ll notice that the house, while it got a tiny bit more picked up, is still a disaster area. Unpacked luggage is strewn throughout, contents spilled haphazardly on the floor. I would have preferred to knock out 10 pages of the new book, but only got to 1. I didn’t get my Tuesday evening run in. Still need to pay some bills, make a dentist appointment, get my passport application process started, and get some cash to pay my friend Janice $20. My very patient mother-in-law has been waiting for dimensions of the windows in my daughter’s room for about three months now (she’s making us curtains).
But all of that will have to wait until tomorrow, or the next day, or the next. I consider today to be a very successful day. I spent what time I had with my family with them. I got most everything done that I wanted to. What’s left over is not urgent. If your life is anything as crazy as mine is, I’d love to hear what techniques you use to keep on top of it. I believe (cliche alert) the trick is to realize you are not a failure, to live your life every day to the fullest, and to not sweat the small stuff (and sometimes not sweat the big stuff too).
My first full round of editing with Wendy is complete (wahoo!) – received, applied, and full post-application read through – check, check, and check. The updated manuscript for Blue Violet is now in her capable hands for round two of the editing process. I’ve already blogged about some of the more frequent and favorite edits and comments I received from Wendy during round one. I thought it might also be interesting to share some examples of some small portions of the manuscript that got reworked a bit based on the feedback received.
Original Text: She and Griffin were extraordinary even by the standards of other people born with these types of abilities. According to their mother, the abilities they had were genetic, passed down from parent to child. It didn’t always happen that a child would inherit the power, but it was a dominant trait, and therefore any parent with a power would usually pass it on to any child he or she had. If the child did inherit the ability, they would have the same power as the parent, although often with a subtle twist or variation on it. Of course, people with these abilities were so rare that most only had one power because they’d only had one parent with a power to pass on.
Original Text: Another complication she had discovered while listening in on the various thoughts at the table was that Adelaide, Addison, and Nate were clearly a part of this high school clique.
SPOILER ALERT: This excerpt gives away a little something about my main character that you don’t know immediately in the book. Read at your own discretion.
A bit of background. My main character, Ellie, has the ability to control other people’s powers when she’s touching them. In this scene, Ramsey is a firestarter. They’re very rare because they can’t control their power and it ends up killing them eventually. She’s testing out his power to see if she can teach him how to control it, and therefore survive it.
I have finished my first round of edits with Wendy (Yay!). During the editing process I added enough stuff, moved enough stuff, and changed enough stuff that I am doing one full read through of the entire manuscript before I send it back to Wendy for round two.
Now… I have to admit, that I’ve always wondered how storytellers could get details, sometimes just small ones, so wrong. For example, in Star Wars – my all time favorite movies – there are some details that are contradictory or just don’t make sense. (Sorry George – but let’s be honest here.)
However, I now have to admit that I absolutely understand how this can happen. As readers we have to keep in mind that what takes us hours to read (and therefore the details stay fresh in our minds) the author works on over weeks, months, or even years. In addition – and this was a big “ah-ha” moment for me – the author has many iterations of the book/screenplay before it ever gets to print (or e-ink).
As an example… here’s a very small change in detail that happened during the editing process on Blue Violet. In one of my first passes at the book, I had a scene that gave a decent amount of detail about what classes Ellie (my main character) was taking at the high school. It included mentioning that a fairly minor character, Brian, was in her economics class. Later in the book you discover he’s also in her physics class.
If you’ve read my blog post about editing, then you’ll understand why, during editing, Wendy suggested I cut down the descriptions of Ellie’s classes – as that came under the heading of “boring filler stuff.” However, when doing my fast read through, now it looks like in one scene I say that Ellie and Brian are in physics together, and then later in the book I get it wrong and call it economics.
Now that’s a fairly tiny example of a detail that could get changed and then missed as things move around and shift during the editing process. Sadly, large details can also get missed. For example, I accidentally changed the physical description of one of my main characters through my various versions. Even more so, I can see how these detail issues happen when there’s multiple episodes (like Star Wars) or a series of books.
I intend for Blue Violet to be the first of a series. I’m already in the process of writing the second book. In this process I managed to completely change the powers of one of the main characters in my first book. Seriously. This change is so integral to my second book that I’ve had to go back and rework that character and their impact on various scenes in Blue Violet so that it makes sense. I was lucky I hadn’t published Blue Violet yet because if I had, I would have been stuck.
My key learnings out of this process:
1. Keep a separate document that has details about your characters, situations, and future impacts – and update it when you make changes
2. Do at least one fast read through after you’ve finished the editing to catch and fix as many detail issues as possible (hell – do several fast read throughs).
3. Give those poor authors and screenwriters a break. This writing process is a complicated thing. (Mr. Lucas, you have my sincere apology for every detail issue I ever pointed out in Star Wars).
As I mentioned in a previous post, I wrote my debut book, Blue Violet, two years ago. It was the first time I’d finished a full book. I’d taken a whack at writing a book about ten times before. With Blue Violet I finally found the method that works best for me!
In previous attempts, I tried to write in a linear fashion. In other words, I tried to write everything in order. And that’s exactly why I never finished one of those attempts. As soon as I wasn’t sure how to move a scene forward, or connect one scene to another, or plod through creating the “boring filler” parts, I would get stuck. Total writers block. I’d stall out and that was the end of that book.
I took a completely different approach for Blue Violet. I wrote separate scenes in chunks, regardless of how they fit together at the time. If I got stuck on one scene I’d highlight where I got stuck in yellow and come back to it later. If I didn’t have a scene to connect it to yet, or didn’t know how to connect it, I highlighted the words “come back to this” in yellow. Frequently I would be in the middle of one scene and get an idea for a scene that was going to be in a completely different section of the book, and I’d be writing both scenes at once.
I liken it to the way I watch TV. I simply can not watch one show at a time. I flip through all my favorite channels and find two, often three, different channels to watch. As soon as a commercial comes on or I get bored with the scene on the current show, I flip to the next show. DVRs are horrible for me for this reason. It’s a habit that drives my husband absolutely nuts.
Once I had all of the main chunks of the book written, I started connecting the dots, so to speak. Add a section here, put some filler there, and wham, I finally finished writing a full book. I can not express enough to you how thrilled I am about this fact (sad given that I’m a writer and should be able to express these things in flowing words.)
It makes it a little tricky to keep track of all the details as I go. So I’ve started keeping a separate document to track the details: characters (even minor ones that get a one-sentence mention), powers, and story lines. I now understand how writers of series – books or movies – sometimes get minor details in there that are contradictory or make no sense.
As soon as I found my incredible editor, Wendy, I had my second ah-ha moment. She pinpointed the boring filler that had been added late in the processes in about two seconds. And she was so right. It was boring. And that’s when I learned that you don’t always need the filler – especially if it’s boring or doesn’t move the story along in some way.
So here’s my formula: write the book in scenes as they come to me, keep track of the details, and connect it all later but only with additional scenes that continue to move the story forward.
I’m already in the process of writing the follow-up book to Blue Violet using this methodology. Which is why I know I’ll be successful finishing this one too. So, to mix a few metaphors, I’m on a roll, I’m in the zone, and I don’t planning on jumping off this merry-go-round any time soon.
A little history first… Blue Violet – this book that I am so diligently working to publish – I actually wrote about two years ago. It practically flew onto the pages. And then I hit the editing phase and… slowed…. wwwaaaayyyy…. doowwnnn. Let’s be honest, editing your own work sucks. You’ve already been so deep into it that it’s hard to disconnect and really edit.
A few family members helped me out with a lot of great edits and suggestions. But YA paranormal romance is definitely NOT the preferred genre for any of them. So up till now I have yet to be satisfied enough with my book to put it out there. Until I emailed with Indie Book Reviews and they connected me with Wendy who is now my editor.
Suddenly, the editing process has become one of my favorite stages of writing this book. In Wendy I have found a kindred spirit who’s comments are spot on as well as entertaining for me since we appear to share the same quirky sense of humor. Wendy’s edits, feedback, and comments are all aimed at helping me create a book that I am proud to share with the world. And suddenly I’m back in creating mode, but now focusing it on molding my completed work into something better.
So I thought it might be fun/interesting to share some of the edits – both constructive and comical- that have come out of Wendy’s first round of this process:
Most Common Edits:
Common edit #1 – Telling:
This is so much telling instead of having it unfold as part of the action and storyline for us to follow naturally.
This is telling. Can you engage the reader more? Maybe have them talk…have him SAY soething
Even if its just a few lines can you SHOW this happening? Have them have a small conversation, don’t just tell it.
Common edit #2 – Kids:
but be wary of the use of the words ‘kids” because it sounds inauthentic and like an adult is talking down.
I know I keep deleting where it says “kids” because it sounds off…like, little kids.
Common edit #3 – Need to introduce the conflict sooner:
We need more tension here. Some sort of stress, inciting incident. At this point I’m starting to wonder why she doesn’t just talk to them?
Part of me is wondering if some of this back story should show up sooner, like way earlier because then we would know WHAT the risk was, in her finding these people and why there is some danger/tension.
My Favorite Comments (for various reasons):
Fav #1: In response to this line “lots of bronzed muscles, cropped golden blond hair, and tawny eyes that were almost leonine in appearance”… Yummy
Fav #2: Just a note- you never need to say that someone is asking something ‘curiously’ because anytime someone asks anything they are obviously already curious J…well, usually.
Fav #3: I was just thinking about pizza like 10 seconds ago. Weird.
Fav #4: Lol I have to lol again as I just inserted this a second ago. Gotta love those muscled chests!
Fav#5: Oh freakin RAD. Oh please oh please I hope we get some dragon action up in here!!
Fav #6: YAY!! TENSION!! STAKES!!! CONSEQUENCES!!! I’ve been waiting for you!!! We needed to have met each other much earlier, my friends J
Needless to say… huge thanks to my editor Wendy who’s edits have inspired me to not only follow this project through, but to keep on going with the next book.
I have posted an excerpt of my soon-to-be released book, Blue Violet, on Facebook. I took a poll today to see if people wanted to get a peek at either the beginning of the book, girl meets boy, or supernatural powers on display. The vote was unanimous for the beginning of the book.
The first day in a new school was always the worst. Standing in the administrative office, as she had so many times before, Ellinore Aubrey shifted from foot to foot while she waited with growing boredom for one of the school counselors to give her the usual “new student” spiel. But El…lie would tolerate it. Just one last time she would tolerate it for what she had to do.
So far, her experience at this school was pretty much par for the course as compared to her other schools. Same generic brick buildings, very institutional looking, and obviously not updated in thirty years. Same kids hanging out in random patches around the school waiting for the starting bell to ring. Same secretary wearing a heavily decorated sweater, this one winter themed in keeping with the season. It was mid-January and Ellie was starting at a new school. Again.
Ellie glanced out the window. A least the locale was a little different than her previous residences. Estes Park was nestled in a valley in Colorado, just outside the entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. In the distance was the beaver-shaped notches of Long’s Peak. At this time of year, Estes Park appeared to be a typical sleepy little mountain town, blanketed in white snow. Although Ellie had the impression that, come summer, it would fill with tourists, all of whom were out to enjoy the many entertainments the beautiful surroundings could offer.
“Ellinore?” a voice asked from the doorway behind her.
“Ellie,” she corrected the counselor automatically, as she turned and offered a polite smile. Her full name was very old fashioned and hadn’t been popular in decades, if not centuries. Ellie gave a mental sigh as the counselor, Miss Langston, introduced herself. She was the usual counselor-type who wanted to connect with the kids and thought that she was hip to the latest fashions and fads, but probably mentally used words like “hip.”
Before I ever became a writer, I was (and continue to be) first and foremost a lover of stories. I am a voracious consumer of stories in all their forms: books – from multiple genres, movies – from the silent era on up, history lectures – I minored in history, story time at the local library – don’t knock it, and even business analysis – which is my “other” profession and takes more story-telling ability than you’d think. My insatiable imagination takes me into those different worlds, and I look around and think, “Oh yeah, I could stay here for a while.”
Stories float around in my head all the time. In quiet moments like driving to work or running, my mind wanders through different scenes. I put myself to sleep imagining my characters and how they would interact. I lose myself in my ideas. All before I ever put pen to paper (or in my case fingers to keyboard).
The stories in my head are the reason why I write. Writing has become my outlet, almost a catharsis, and I write for myself. I write because I would love to revisit my stories and the places and characters I create. Like catching up with an old friend. I don’t write with fame or fortune in mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I would be absolutely thrilled if my stories reached out to readers…. if someone else looked around the world I created and wanted to stay there a while with me. And that’s why I am now working my tail off to become a self-published author.
I have only just started this journey, and let’s be honest; the stats are pretty darn depressing. We self-publishers have all seen them. For example, 2.75 million books were self-published in 2010 – and I’m guessing, with the growing popularity of ebooks and increasing ease of self-publishing – that that number will continue to grow rapidly.
According to lulu.com, of the self-published books in 2010, ~677-thousand were in ebook format. And only 45% of 1st-time authors publish a second book. According to Taleist.com, only 10% of self-published authors are able to earn a living through this profession. And only 25% earned enough to cover the cost of producing their book in the first place. Industry experts say most self-published books sell somewhere between 100 and 400 copies.
My own personal answer to the acknowledged unlikelihood of becoming a successfully selling self-published author is to approach this endeavor with delirious optimism. Oh yes. I said it. Not delusional optimism. Despite my vivid imagination, I am a practical person. Also not the first definition for delirium – which is mental disturbance (although on second thought that may not be far from the mark). But the second definition of frenzied excitement and enthusiasm is where I’m headed with this. Yeah… that’s the ticket… enthusiasm and optimism in the face of the odds.
So with that in mind I am slowly developing my own personal approach to being a self-published author: have faith and keep it up. Learn from those who have gone before. And focus on the positive stats out there (there are a few) while ignoring the negative.
I don’t plan to stop writing or publishing if my first book doesn’t sell more than a few copies. Regardless of how well my books sell, I am truly hooked on this process. As I said I love the stories floating around in my head and writing them down is a passion I’ve had since I was a little girl. But now I’m discovering that I also love the publishing process – editing, creating a book cover, even the social media aspect – as time consuming as it is. And I figure the stats are on my side the more I put out there and the longer it’s out there.
So I ask the same question that I did in my very first post… think I can do it? I do!
I am working on a kick ass book description. It will be the first thing people read on Kindle when deciding if they want to buy the book or not. I have to say that I’m struggling with this task a bit. Here’s what’s making it tricky…
The book, titled Blue Violet, is paranormal (with a little romance thrown in too). Sort of X-men meets Twilight – only no vampires. The tricky part is that many of the coolest parts of the book that would catch people’s attention in a book description are revealed a little at a time.
For example, you start the book not knowing if the main character, Ellie, is a normal girl or someone with powers (and no, I’m not going to tell you which it is). And the “bad guys”, called the Vyusher (see if you can figure out what that word means), don’t really make an appearance until several chapters in.
So the question becomes, how much do I reveal in the book description to make sure I snag people’s interest without spoiling the book? It’s a conundrum.
And this is where the power of the internet is my best friend. There is a lot of great advice for first-time, self-publishing writers out there – if you can wade through a lot of useless drivel. I found this blog post by another self-published author, Karen McQuestion, and it was the exact advice I was looking for – and 30 minutes later, I was done. (Needless to say, I’ll be following that blog from now on.)
To do item #549: First draft of my book description – check. So without further ado, here is the book description for Blue Violet:
I am very open to feedback if you have any. This is a first draft after all.