Plotting Relapse

Recently, I’ve become a planner girl. I’m not joking about this either—not only have I turned two friends onto the Erin Condren website (you can go here if you want to check it out! She just came out with an eighteen month planner, and get a $10 dollars off if you use my link.) because the planners are fantastic, but I spent an exorbitant amount of money on three planners from the website. They hold up well, the paper does well with my fountain pen ink, and they’re customizable.

And yes, I use every single one.

As horrible as it may sound, I have used most of my loans from excess funds with SNHU to purchase/fees my new EC obsession. My Lifeplanners have two separate purposes—one of them is for every day life stuff so I can keep track of important dates, like when Hank needs his Heartguard or to keep track of my boyfriend’s work schedule, or my book-related goals. The second is my academic planner, where I have the classes my advisor has lined up, so I can keep track of my assignments, my grades, and my progress on my thesis. The “academic” Lifeplanner is useful especially to keep track of assignments for my final project, which is usually a combination of all “milestones” in my classes. Yes, I realize EC has actual academic planners, but I usually only take one class and figured it would be a waste.

And my Monthly Deluxe Planner… this thing is amazing. I bought the oversized one with 80 pages so I would have a more detailed place to make notes. I find I’m more likely to make a blog post, too (I wrote the first draft of this in the planner).

And it’s that very reason that I’m annoyed with myself. I can’t seem to make myself plot out my WIP for anything. I created a beat sheet but I’ve already gone off task with it before I can even finish the first chapter. I’m not too worried about it yet—I’m trying to be easy on myself. This story will be my first stand-alone. This WIP will not turn into a series and I’m sticking to it since I can be stubborn. I’m giving the Cheap series a break because I don’t want it to spawn seven more stories when I’m trying to end it. The series WILL end with Kat and Charlie. I’m not working on it since my ideas tend to get too big before I have to rein it all in, and end up getting frustrated. Really, it’s that I’m struggling ever-so-slightly with controlling my creativity, and that’s causing a writer’s block.

Bah.

But I’m reading Save the Cat by Blake Snyder, so maybe that will help me finally beat my plot into submission (no pun intended!). I’m also going to do something o rarely do—and that is to create character sheets for everyone in my WIP. I had a lot of work done on it, but that was when I thought I was going to make it the first in a rocker romance series. The characters don’t fit that mold, and never have. I also think I have a copy of Plot Your Work somewhere, but that means digging around in my unpacked things, and it could be either at my Mom’s house or my boyfriend’s mother’s house. Things tend to travel with me and get left occasionally…oops.

And oh—yeah.

I moved in with my boyfriend. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that yet!

I partly attribute my block to moving and the general craziness of not having an office space to write in, but I can’t blame all of that on it.

This block is only temporary. I keep telling myself that because I know it is. A stand-alone is a different beast than a series, so I just need to be a bit more strategic in how I’m writing it.

I do have a question for those of you reading—do you have anything you do when you outline? Certain character sheets that work best? Scene/chapter outlining methods? I think I’m going to try Kim Chance’s character sheet she just released the other day. But anyway, share with me! And if I don’t use it, maybe it will help someone else who is struggling like I am.

The hilarious part about this is that I’ve been plotting my MFA thesis, and that is going wonderfully. Those methods just aren’t working for my other WIP.

For Uncle Mark

I have decided I’m a strange writer. Either that or I’m on the verge of breaking a terrible writers block—well, technically, I have, but more on that in a little bit. Either way, April is upon us once more, and it isn’t the prospect of warmer weather that excites me. Or that I can now walk Hank in flip flops without layers and layers of clothing (although the Kentucky weather has been acting strange again)…or even that I now have an apartment with my boyfriend that is ours.

No, I’m freaking excited about Camp NaNoWriMo. I went through a bad writing stump in January, wrote bits and pieces in February, and nothing again in March (for the most part—nothing substantial, anyway). Granted, I did have a lot going on. I moved twice (yes, twice), have had limited internet access, and my MFA class has kept me busy but petrified because we have to use videos to submit our work. I also was focused on editing a novel for a new author. So, I feel like those were legitimate reasons for not beating myself up for being lazy whenever I started getting angry over not writing. I forgave myself; not an easy task.

With that said, I’m officially working on a stand-alone novel, Ivy Wild. I love my series writing, but I’m starting to wonder I can’t write a stand-alone, so I need this challenge to prove to myself that I can tie everything up nicely.

I’m also pantsing.

I know! I was doing so well with the plotting. Cheap Tricks turned out to be fantastic because I plotted it and used a beat sheet. But, I need a change of pace. I want to write more and publish faster. I write faster when I pants. Granted, I may need to edit more later, but I’ll still write quickly.

Usually, I don’t do this…but pray for me, y’all. I’ve not pantsed in a while. I wrote 2,633 words yesterday, and we’ll see how it goes today. I’m also writing longhand. I’m dying to get this story written since it’s been in my head for so long. It’s special, since I’m basing it in Philadelphia and plan on dedicating it to my Uncle Mark, who passed away in 2016. I’ve been all kinds of emotional—but it’s good to let yourself get emotional when you write.

All right! I’m pumped to go write now. Good luck to anyone else who is participating this month!

Damn Procrastination Monkey

I just realized I haven’t posted much on this blog recently unless it was a book tag or something else random. I didn’t even have a reason for it either because I haven’t been writing much since I finished rewriting Cheap Guitars.

I blame it on the Procrastination Monkey. Damn thing. It’s ruined all my plans!

On a more serious note, I honestly haven’t been able to decide which one of my novels I want to sit down and write yet. It’s like my brain is so overloaded with ideas that it can’t process which one needs to be written. But, I do need to narrow it down and start writing my damn books. I’ve got five covers ready for them, after all. But for the life of me, I couldn’t sit down and focus on one thing.

I hope that is a problem other writers face. You just get so many ideas that you can’t help but jot them down, but then that idea turns into an entire first chapter of a book. Then you get flustered with yourself because you can’t start writing the new book because you have to finish writing the other damn book. It turns into a round of stuffing your face with Doritos and hair pulling and–oh, just me? Okay, then.

But, to be honest?

I’ve had that problem since I finished Cheap Tricks. I’m not saying it’s a BAD problem… it’s like the Universe wanted me to take a break.

Well, Universe, I ain’t got the time for that.

I’m thrilled to announce that I think I have finally narrowed down my writing schedule for 2018. No more break needed, Universe.

Recently, I’ve become obsessed with Erin Condren planners. I sat down to REALLY think about how I want my writing year to look and jotted a few notes in the back with my pretty double sided purple pen. I’ve been working on the Cheap series for so long that I started worrying that might be the ONLY thing I ever write, so I will ending the series with a novella and one more novel, Cheaper Sunglasses and Cheap Promises. I’m not ready to say much about those stories yet except that they are happening. I’m also planning a contemporary standalone with a more adult theme and an NA trilogy. After that, a brand new series, and I haven’t decided how many books will be in that yet. I’m finally excited about my writing plans for the year because I managed to get myself organized.

And no, Erin Condren isn’t sponsoring this little post. I don’t have enough followers yet for that. Haha! I just really love her stuff. I’m especially obsessed with the way you can customize everything. I’ve got two notebooks that I had customized for the novels I will be writing this year.

So, with a self-inflicted publishing deadline fast approaching for Cheap Guitars, story plotting to do, and an editing job to complete (note to future Mara: good blog post idea), a new relationship, and the MFA program starting shortly, I’ll have busy schedule. I’m freaking excited about it, too. I’ve been dying to see more books up on my list of published novels in the back of my bullet journal and I say it’s about time I start buckling down to make 2018 my year.

Writing Rituals Tag!!!

I saw this tag floating around a few days ago. I love watching YouTube videos from Kim Chance and Kristin Martin (you can see those links here and here), and since I’m not brave enough (I’m a big chicken) to do an actual video and post it online, I’ll do it here.

Questions for the Writing Rituals Tag:

1.) When do you write? (time of day, day of week) I try to write a little bit every day. I feel like I’ll lose my momentum if I don’t try to. Lately, though, I’ve found that I like to sit down either early in the morning or late at night to get a couple thousand words in. It all depends on the project I’m working on, too.

2.) How do you seclude yourself from the outside world? Well, the first step is usually trying to sign out of Facebook (which I’m fantastic at failing spectacularly with). I put my phone on Do Not Disturb and either throw it in a drawer in my nightstand or let it die completely. Writing at night has helped me seclude myself lately, too, because there are fewer chances that I’ll get distracted. I shut off messenger on my computer, make sure my dog has had water and gone potty, then get to writing.

It’s actually really easy to seclude myself, though–I live in the National Daniel Boone Forest in Kentucky. There’s not a whole lot of distractions up here other than the internet.

3.) How do you review what you wrote the previous day? I’ll usually try to decide if I need to read it first. I don’t like to edit as I write the first draft because I find that I get too caught up in editing and rewriting if I’m not careful. So, if I decide I absolutely have to read it, I’ll save it as a PDF and toss it into my Kindle program to read it that way (prevents editing as I go, but I make notes). Or, if I feel like it sucks, I’ll message one of my writer friends and see what they think. If they have suggestions for on the spot improvement, then I’ll fix it, but not before.

4.) What song is your go-to when you’re feeling uninspired? I’ll throw on Lindsey Stirling’s Final Fantasy Medley (I am a huge gaming nerd and this series will always have my heart–when I heard her playing some of the best songs from the series on the violin, I became hooked). A long time ago I might have said anything Gaga, but now I just end up dancing and get nothing done.

5.) What do you always do (i.e. listen to music, read, watch youtube, etc.) when you find yourself struggling with writer’s block? I am constantly on Youtube, it seems like! I think it has been sucking up most of my time non-writing time lately. I have an obsession with Booktuber and iPhone unboxing videos. I’m also a knitter, so when my writer’s block gets really bad, I’ll put on some silly show like Say Yes to the Dress and get out my blanket project I’ve been working on a few months now. Whenever I do this, it makes me feel like my brain is about to melt, so I have no other choice than to start working on one of my books. That method, in particular, was a suggestion from one of my closet friends. I laughed at her at the time, but it stuck with me.

I also have taken a huge liking to YA fantasy. I’m leaning toward reading romance when I need to write fantasy (especially for my creative writing class right now) and reading fantasy when I need to write contemporary romance. It’s strange but it works!

6.) What tools do you use when you’re writing? I have three notebooks: the one that I’m planning in, my bullet journal, and something to scribble scenes onto (for my NaNo project this year, it’s the same notebook). Sometimes if I can’t get it started right in my head, I’ll use one of my fountain pens to write the first few pages of the chapter or scene. Sometimes I’ll only write a page or two before I feel solid in where the scene is going, then type it up, or I’ll write the entire chapter down (free first draft!!!). My favorite pens to write with are my Pilot Metropolitan and Nemosine pens. My inks are Noodler’s inks, a pink one named Hellfire (I couldn’t help but giggle and buy it because it made me think of the Ifrit summon in Final Fantasy), and another called Black Swan in Austrailian Rose. Usually, my program of choice is Microsoft Word, but I’ll flip back between it and Scrivner. It’s almost like I go through stages on which program I use the most.

7.) What’s the one thing you can’t live without during a writing session? Quiet. I have gotten to a point where it is very hard to write if there are distractions during certain times. It could be the tv all the way on the other side of the house, or Hank woofing at me for attention, and I can’t write for a few minutes after. Mostly this is during the day when I’m a bit more high strung. At night, I can calm down with a few crackers and my pens and just write away. I think a part of the reason it has to be quiet in the morning is that that’s when I’m enjoying my coffee and I’m trying to avoid getting on Youtube, Twitter, or Facebook. Mom usually wants to spend time with me in the mornings before she goes to sleep, too.

8.) How do you fuel yourself during your writing session? Well…it used to be Mingua beef jerky (it’s a local Kentucky beef jerky brand) and sodas like Pepsi or Ale-8, but since I completely dropped all meat to go back to being a lacto-ovo vegetarian, it has been stuff like cheese and crackers or carrots with ranch dressing. And olives–I will eat an entire jar of kalamata olives right from the jar if I’m not paying attention when I’m in a long writing session (which I try not to do because those things can be salty). I prefer Greek black olives (and there is a difference, believe me) but they’re hard to find out here. I’ve been trying to cut back on the coffee and sugar, but I’ll usually have a cup in the morning to get me going then move to tea, apple juice, or water for the rest of the day. When I’m drinking coffee, it’s usually a hazelnut or pumpkin spice blend with organic, non-GMO soy creamer (yeah…I know how pretentious I sound) that I found at Good Foods when my brother and his girlfriend took me and Mom to the store in Lexington.

9.) How do you know when you’re done writing? Hank would like to take the credit for finding my stressors, but he’s a big cuddly baby with a giant head who likes to steal my coffee and frustrate me by putting his big mastiff head on my keyboard.

The real indicator, though, is when I start to feel like I am about to rip out my hair and snap my keyboard in half. And if I’m writing on paper, paper wads will start to pile up in the corner of my room, and I’ll start to feel guilty about wasting paper. My fountain pen nibs sometimes write funny if I’m frustrated and need a break. If it gets to that point, then I pull my phone out of wherever I threw it, and turn on my Angry Birds Evolution app and mess with that for a few minutes. If I feel calm enough to continue, I will. If I don’t, I take a step away from the computer completely and let it lock itself.

Okay, that was a lot of fun! I’ve tagged a few of my fellow writers on Twitter, but I also want to tag the following people if they happen to read this (there is no escape because I’m tagging you on my personal Facebook Profile :P): Barb, Jenn Eades, Leonard D. Hilley II, Nora, Jordan O’Donoghue, and anyone else in my writer circle who wants to participate! (yes, that includes fellow SNHU classmates who are following me!)

Whoa…10 years?!

I just realized something today…

This November, I will be participating in my 10th National Novel Writing Month.

Ten Years… A little longer than that for my first vampire novel that I have decided no one will ever read again because it sucked so bad (no puns intended). Only twice did I start novels that I don’t remember, and a few times I haven’t finished, but I always have tried to participate.

What happened to some of the novels I’ve written? I’ve scrapped, deleted, and printed some of them just to rip them up. I’ve always been a prolific writer, but I think NaNo taught me it’s okay not to like what I am writing. It has helped me find my voice as a writer and helped me realize I needed creative writing classes to further hone my craft. I have also written very little crap since I started self-publishing, which is something I’m (mostly) proud of (false story starts aside–you know the kind. It’s when you think you really have something and haven’t plotted out a damn thing, and get about 5,000 words in, then realize it’s a complete dud, then print it just to rip it to give your bunny something to chew…wait, that’s just me? Okay, then!).

For those of you who are not aware of what National Novel Writing Month is, it is the month before the huge writing challenge to produce a 50,000-word novel by November 30th. This writing challenge always leaves me scrambling to meet a deadline–and like it or not, I thrive when I have twenty or more things to do in a week (be it planning a new book, doing homework for my graduate class, or trying to explain to my dog that it is not nice to put his head on the counter to steal a tomato). While it isn’t the only time I write, it is always something that I have used in the past to start a new novel (my name on the site is Angelic_Demon… go search for my profile, and you’ll see what I mean) I’ve written in every genre imaginable for the past ten years–Sci-fi, Horror, Romance, Mystery. Last year, Cheap Tricks got it’s first real start during the event.

In 2007, I had no idea what the hell I wanted to write. It was Halloween, and my friend Vy told me about the challenge when I was well on my way to getting drunk on a bottle of Jager (I was an undergraduate at Eastern and had just turned twenty-one…). Honestly, I think she bullied me into participating as I hadn’t written anything in a while (we frequently egged each other on to write back then). I had had ideas, but I was an anthropology major and didn’t have time to write. The entire thing is a little foggy (because hello alcohol and nine years ago!) and I no longer have access to that conversation because we still used Yahoo! Messenger back in the day.

I had an image. A vampire stealing a baby. I had no idea where that image was going to take me as far as the entire story or the plot line or anything else, but I still managed to write 70,000 words that month. Oh, I (miserably) failed my archeology class and drank too much cherry rum and diet Pepsi, but I had a nearly complete novel (I promise, my writing habits are much healthier now–coffee or tea and crackers since I have been vegetarian again few weeks–but that’s another blog post for another day, maybe). When it came to registering for my classes the next month, I signed up for my first ever creative writing class at EKU and haven’t looked back since (except that I still got my anthropology degree and avoided archeology classes as much as possible).

That novel, Haunted Desperation, is still on my iMac today. I (thankfully) didn’t lose that one. I might not be planning on publishing that one anytime soon–because dear god did my writing come off as a sloppy mess–but it was the first time I ever sat down to try to write a longer piece in one sitting. My 90,000-word novel that I started when I was nineteen didn’t count because I started it when I was fourteen.

With that… (Isn’t the announcement banner pretty this year?)

NaNo-2017-Participant-Facebook-Cover

I already own the cover (Kellie Dennis is an AMAZING, affordable cover artist–check her website out here) but I’m not planning on revealing it until it’s close to time to release the book (or I keep telling myself that). Ivy Wild is the next novel that I will be working on. I bought a really awesome notebook from Goulet Pens that I am using to plan in (can I just say that website is awesome? It’s where I’ve found most of my inks and fountain pens, too. The notebook is HUGE and perfect for novel plotting–what do you guys use?). It doesn’t matter that I have to write a 20-page short story for my creative writing class or that I am trying to finish my Author’s Extended Edition of Cheap Guitars because I want to publish it by December (no promises–Elise and Brandon are wordier than I remember), I am going to kick butt this November. I know I’ve already announced that is the title of my next book, and I’ve already written a few scenes, but I’m not completely sold on keeping them yet. I didn’t use to plan my novels at all, but there is nothing like needing to meet a deadline to motivate a plantser (i.e. Me, usually) to get their butt into gear and go into full-on plotting mode.

I don’t have plotting a novel down to a T yet. Half the time I start trying to plot (especially with Cheap Guitars since it has already been written once), I abandon ship and start to free-write anyway. I never would have made a character profile before, either. I think SNHU has been good for me in that sense–I’m going to try to write character profiles and stick with them this time. This novel will be different for me because I have decided to challenge myself write a full-length novel in one sitting. I’m not going to let it spiral into a companion series about every single character falling in love (*cough*CheapSeries*cough*)…

Edit: I’m trying not to let it turn into a series. It’s difficult. Really freakin’ difficult.

I realize in the Indie world that having a series is more productive in as far as marketing and strategy go, but I feel like I don’t know how to write a stand-alone at this point in my writing career. That’s a problem. I can’t write short stories without them turning into at least a novella. Hell, the short story I’m writing for my genre class right now is the prelude of a longer series I will be starting once I finish all of the…five… other novels I…er…jumped the gun…and bought covers for from Kellie (Hello, I’m Mara, and I have a pretty cover buying addiction). Also, I figure after writing seven novels, I get to have my one stand-alone that will not spiral have loose ends or cliffhangers because I’m a borderline control freak when it comes to all of that (Second Edit: I have a feeling it’s going to turn into a series on me anyway).

I will, however, say that I am excited about this book. I was born in Philadelphia, and the city will always own a piece of my heart. Almost all of my father’s family lives in Pennsylvania. While I don’t think I’ll ever live in the city again, I have always wanted to write a story with the main setting there. Haunted Desperation started in Philly and then I have no idea what happened because I jumped around so much. A few of my cousins have already chimed in, offering help if I feel I need it. I have only been back to Philly once as an adult, and it was for my Uncle Mark’s funeral, so I really will need their help (along with trusty old Google). My Cheap series is based in Kentucky, so I only find it fitting that my stand-alone (maybe) be in the city where my parents met and fell in love.

Links and Stuff:

If you want some of the sources where I have found my plotting materials:

Jami Gold’s blog is a fantastic place where you can find beat sheets and scene checklists.

I generally just google character sheets, but I found this one to be the most extensive. The guide is great because it has things on it that you might not think about when developing your characters. You can pick and choose what you want to use–I advise not printing off fifty copies (like I did), only to have your dog slobber on it.

Announcements:

Cheap Lies is free on Amazon until tomorrow, so grab a copy!

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The first chapter of Cheap Guitars: Author’s Extended Edition is in the back! It will go back to .99 cents on the 6th. But don’t fret if you don’t see this blog in time–I have enrolled the novella into KDP Select, where it will stay for a year. There will be ongoing free promotions as my freakin’ huge apology for keeping both the novella and Cheap Guitars down while I fixed them.