Down the Rabbit Hole

Welcome to my attempt this month to start posting regularly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday! We’ll see how it goes.

I have a blog writing itch that is hard to scratch since I left Cupid’s Pulse last month. And as much as I didn’t want to leave, it has been a blessing, because my boyfriend is encouraging me to write like CRAZY. If you want to see any of the articles I wrote, some might still publish for a while. You can find them on Cupid Pulse’s website. Just type in “Mara Miller” since my name is a tag for the website as one of their editorial interns. If you are a student and need a good internship for college credit, I highly recommend Cupid’s Pulse, and I’ll gladly pass on the information to apply. I think they’re covered for this semester with interns but they’re always looking.

I’ve recently turned into more of a plotter than a plantser (a pantser who plots a little). I need to write an 80,000 word novel for my thesis as an MFA student at Southern New Hampshire University.

But with signing on with Kingston Publishing and working on books outside of a book I can’t even think about publishing until I graduate around December of 2020, I still need to produce other novels for my series since I am dying to finish the Cheap Series. I also have a few secret projects I have been plotting but I’m not quite ready to announce yet even though I plan on diving into them after Cheaper Sunglasses and Cheap Promises are finished.

The crazy thing to me is how plotting the thesis has made it come out much easier than with any of the books I ever wrote in the Cheap series. Nevermind how seven chapters in, I decided the entire book needed to be written in the third person. One of the requirements for my thesis program is that we must have 15,000 words before we take the first thesis course and have already fulfilled that requirement. I’m looking at my writing planner right now. I’m wondering if my goal if hitting 20k before the glass begins is feasible because I want to get my novella and other novels out of the way before my course begins in a few months.

So, for one, if you’re a pantser like I was and you’re on a pretty serious deadline like I am, I suggest Take off Your Pants: Outline Your Books for Faster, Better Writing by Libbie Hawker. She broke down how to plot a book. You’ll get down the main key events in the novel, and this has actually helped me narrow down what a few of my plot holes were with Cheap Promises. I’m still working on it to a degree and Mae and Dan decided they needed another story before that novel so more things would make sense (and I could finally close up their story) so now I’m plotting that one completely half-assed, but I’m still outlining because if I don’t, I know I’ll write myself into a corner. Have you ever done that if you’re a pantser? You’ll start off super strong. You’ll know where the story is going…until you don’t and you hit a major writer’s block until the next New Shiny Idea draws your attention away from your current WIP.

I don’t have time for this anymore!

So, I’m mentioning everything I use to plot. I’m writing this in hopes that it will help someone else… and maybe to confirm to myself that I’m mostly just organized and I’m not a complete nut.

Neon colored index cards: I have neon green and neon pink for points of views I’m writing in a scene. Pink is obviously for my main female protagonist and green for my male. I use white to indicate which act my scenes need to go under or some other essential notes. With the school season currently, I got over 200 index cards from Walmart for decent prices. I’m set for a while.

Jami Gold’s Beat Sheets: Seriously. They’re amazing. You can find them here. I also like her scene list because I can check off everything I need in a scene.

Scrapple: Made by the people who created Scrivener, Scrapple is a brainstorming tool. It’s a great place for me to dump all of my ideas so I can get a big-picture vision of whatever I’m planning on writing, whether it be a stand-alone or a series. And the best part? I can import whatever I create into Scrivener so I have it right there to look at when I’m working.

Happy Planner: I LOVE Happy Planner’s Products. I have the Rong Rong productivity pages planner where I keep track of things like writing goals for the month, what I want to post in my blog, top priorities, and words counts. I also keep track of Instagram or Twitter challenges for the #amwriting community I want to participate in for the month. I have my Erin Condren that I use for everyday life stuff, but Happy Planner is great because I added pink expander discs to the planner and now I can keep any plotting notes I need in the back of it, as well as know exactly what projects I need to work on. It’s fabulous. I’m also planning on getting the social media expansion eventually so I can keep better track of Twitter and Instagram and figure out what I want to post during the month. Being organized like this helps me see how much time I actually have to write outside of life stuff (and it’s quite a bit now, which I love). I’m actually about to handwrite all of my thesis plot points and put them into this planner.

Speaking of planners: Why Planners Should be Crucial to Your Writing Process

An A, B, C format: It looks like this (I’m using a watered-down version of my thesis):

A. Joey moves home. His uncle guilts him into picking up a surprise for his aunt even though he doesn’t want to see Patience.

B. Patience goes to work. Her sister is causing trouble.

C. Something happens to Martha, Patience’s grandma, after Brenna gets into a fight with Joey.

I don’t want to go into what happens to Grandma Martha, but you get the general gist of how that kind of thing works. I didn’t like this aspect of plotting for the class. I would have much-rathered index cards or my beat sheets from Jami Gold, but it forced me to look at everything from flashbacks to when my romantic couple kisses for the first time. I struggled with this format during my Romance Writing II course, but my professor wouldn’t let me give up and made me stick to this story, and I will be forever grateful to her for it.

Do you have any plotting must haves? Let me know! I’m always trying to figure out ways to plot better. 

The End of an Era: Should My Thesis be the Start of a New Series?

I keep telling everyone that Cheap Promises is the last book in my first series. I need to move on. Focusing on my thesis, Heart Be Still, must take precedence over letting characters who I love and know well sway me into another book because the ideas will not stop coming, no matter how many times I try to ignore them. I worry that by continuing the Cheap series, and only the Cheap series, I’m stunting my growth as a writer.

Since the Cheap series was my first, I worry a second will be riddled with errors. But to be honest…if I add more books after I finish my thesis, it will be the fourth series I’ve officially started writing (and I must finish this book because I’ll have wasted a lot of money if I don’t receive my Master of Fine Arts degree from Southern New Hampshire University…and I won’t have a chance in hell of teaching creative writing classes in a university).

That paralyzing, teeth-grinding fear of worrying I’m a not good enough writer if I can’t get away from my first book’s characters is what propelled me to add another story to my Over series. It is ultimately also why I have not written Cyn’s story yet.

I’ve found that one of your strongest tools as a self-published author is a series. A standalone has its own merits—it’s a full story that allows you to wrap up all plot points with little question of what has happened to the characters, especially if it’s a love story and they have gotten their Happily Ever After and you want to query agents. The problem with a standalone is that you might not get buy-throughs from readers. I know this for a fact as a reader myself—I am DYING to finish Jasinda Wilder’s Badd Brothers series but decided to be a responsible-ish adult and pay three months ahead of rent instead. Buy-through in a series keep readers coming back for more. They become as invested in your characters as you did when you created them.

So, am I going to write a standalone with my series or turn it into a standalone novel? Honestly, I think it’s slowly turning into a series. I’m not promising it will because I also might query agents and try to get it traditionally published (GASP). I also have a four-book mini-series that I’m planning to write in alongside my thesis after I publish Cheap Promises because I want to produce work while I’m still working on my degree. I figure if I finish the first book—the thesis—and then start the next right after then I might have a decent start to a longer series like the Cheap series.

And say what? Am I’m working on a four-book mini-series? Maybe. As well as a longer seven-book series that I’ve been plotting in Scrivener.

That’s another benefit of pre-planning a series—you have everything you need to write the books fast. I’m going to try writing all four of them before I ever release the first one so I can see how my sales do when I finish them. Honestly, I think I’m a series-writing girl. Everyone jokes with me that Cheap Promises really ISN’T my last book in that series. I have a title and a storyline for Amy that I’m not sure about writing yet. I have at least four titles to books that I don’t plan on publishing.

With that being said, my books are all on sale this weekend from May 11th-May 12th. You can purchase them on Amazon here. Every single one is .99 cents! It’s a good chance to catch up on the Cheap series before Cheap Promises releases. 

Writing Truth Bombs

First, I have to give a warning. I’m writing this at 1 am, I feel like complete crap, and my iPhone 7’s autocorrect is a ducking wrench sucker. (I’m tired, but not tired? And just don’t care enough to fix it if it semi makes sense.)

“Oh, but Writer’s Block doesn’t exist!”

“Sit down and write fifteen minutes a day! You’ll get back in the groove!”

“Quit complaining, put your ass in the chair, and write the f*^%ing book!”

Yeah, well, you don’t see it, but I’m holding up both middle fingers to all the ridiculous positivity right now.

I am not used to this. The whole Block thing. I have also sniffles and have blown my nose until my eyes felt like they would pop out of their sockets today, so I get to express how much I feel like the rotten side of ass.

But…

I’m generally a positive person.

Damn.

I wanted to write something for some writers who are going through the same thing. The writers who are ballsy enough to publish on their own. The writers who bust their asses because they had this crazy notion they can get by as their own boss. Because, honey, I’ve written 7 books, and I’m still facing a dreaded Block, the in-between of books where I’m not sure what the hell I’m writing next.

First, I’m writing for myself. Actually, that’s my first point…

1.) If you’re stuck, write for yourself.

Forget reader expectation and that giant series you’re working on that needs to be put right now. If you start to write for yourself, whether it be a total brain dump about all your worries or stress in a journal or writing a book review, do something for yourself. I forget to do this quite a bit.

2.) Show binges are amazing.

True Blood. Sookie and her many lovers–I didn’t realize I needed to rewatch the show until the cold I have currently picked up laid me in bed all day and I couldn’t think of nothing else to do but throw the show on so I could listen to it (because ow getting a cold when you’re an adult hurts). I’m not saying YOU have to watch it. True Blood might not be your cup of tea. It could be Grey’s Anatomy, The Office, Doctor Who, Bugs Bunny–what the f*^% ever.

My point here–take time for yourself, because when you’re a writer and you’re self publishing, you can get too focused on what you need to write and how you need to write it to remember to be a freaking human.

I also never got around to watching season 7.

3.) Let your mind wander.

I’m bitching hardcore about not being able to write, but that doesn’t mean my brain isn’t still grabbing a hold of ideas for future books. I’m still writing–sort of. The only other time I went through one of these, I wound up with stacks of material that later ended up in Cheap Tricks. I’ve been in my bullet journal constantly between editing and attempting to decide on my next project (right now I want to write my damn trilogy). Honestly? I don’t have access to all of my writing files at the moment because my iMac is out of commission and so I know this will pass once I have access to my main writing folder again…

4.) Back up your shit.

I’m sure you’ve hear this before… but back up your files. Back them up on iCloud, one note, hard drives, Drop Box–whatever you have access to. This isn’t really on the same line of thought I had a second ago but I thought I’d throw it in there because it is contributing to my damn Block.

5.) It’s okay to flip flop on writing projects.

This is something I personally struggle with–I don’t know which f*^%ing book I want to write next. No joke–I’ve got three novels and a novella on the list of books I’m planning on tackling soon. I never have an issue finding ideas for my next book. I sat on the one I had for my last novel for two years before I sat down and actually wrote it. I threw away ideas, combined them, and redesigned Sophie a million times until I was happy with her. I’m sort of at that point with my next character, but I’m also sitting here thinking, “Dear God, Mara. This idea is crazy. You’re crazy for paying for covers you aren’t even going to use. Stop looking at pre-mades on Kellie’s Facebook group. People are gonna hate this entire idea and you’re gonna write trash and then trash will be connected to Kellie’s name and she’ll never sell you another cover again!”

Sound familiar for your own writing project?

I think I finally know why I’m doing this–the flipping back and forth thing. I want to end one series, but I really need a break from it at the same time. I’m dipping out of my New Adult genre a little because the MFC (main female character) has experienced life more than my others from previous books. She’s not naïve like Bri, but she’s not comfortable with herself like Sophie. I’m also not setting this book in any place I’m comfortable with–I’m doing a lot of research. Writing a new trilogy takes time and I need to freakin’ forgive myself. In the mean time, I am trying to get things out on a Word doc or paper, but I don’t want to worry about many files to move over when I have my iMac back (okay, I’m embarrassed, but that’s okay. It’s in pawn. I had to pawn my computer, my reasons are personal, and I’m getting it out March 5th. My little brother saved my ass by loaning me his MacBook Pro.) I also bought covers that have the same model on it, and so it’s going to be all about her, and I’m kicking my ass for not thinking about it more (but OMG are they gorgeous).

I feel like my train of thought was all over there…but whatever. Blame it on the cold.

6.) Don’t buy covers until you’re halfway in the project.

I feel this is self explanatory. Insert more feeling like an idiot (but OMG THE COVERS I HAVE ROCK). Unless you are ABSOLUTELY sure that book is happening and you’re not trend/trope chasing, don’t buy the cover yet.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. There are more. But I had to write this, not only to get it off my chest, but so maybe I can think more clearly when I sit down to work on Broke Peach later. And yes, that is the title book title. I’ve at least got that and a solid base for the rest of it.

I’m gonna get through this Block. And if you’re having doubts about your own writing, you’ll get through it too. There I go with my positivity crap again–maybe I’ll start feeling better soon.