Month: January 2017

On Writing Heir of Illaria: Part 1

When you tell people you wrote a book, one of the surprisingly common responses is “I’ve always wanted to write a book!”,  followed with a variety of excuses as to why they can’t write a book. Ignoring the excuses that come across as condescending, there are often some pleas for help buried in their excuses. Writing a book is on a lot of people’s bucket list, but it isn’t easy. Now that I have finally published my first novel, I can tell you, it was was worth the pain and tears it took to make it into a finished product.

The story of how this book came to be is littered with a series of incomplete manuscripts that will probably never find their way off of my hard drive. And that’s okay. In fact, the version of this book that saw the light of day is miles away from the first outline I wrote in 2011. All books have  a different path from idea to completion. There is not one way to go about it. Some writers can take an idea to completion in weeks. Yes. Weeks. Others take years. Some take a lifetime. Often, it’s hard to tell the difference between the books that were written quickly and those that took years once they’ve been through proper editing.

So how did Heir of Illaria go from idea to finished novel? For me, it began as a dream. (Yes, I know. Just like Stephanie Meyer. But that’s how it happened.) I had a dream about siblings who were kidnapped and had to escape. They were fleeing an evil king because they were the rightful heirs to the throne – though they didn’t know they were. If you’ve read my book, you can see the foundation for the story that would come later. The original outline was typed up five years before the book was finished and it evolved a lot between drafts and had a lot of starts and stops. It isn’t the same story that I ended up writing, but it was my starting place.

I tried writing it for a while, but at that time, I didn’t yet know anything about how to write a book. I dabbled. And that’s okay. It works for some people. It didn’t work for me. Eventually, I put it down for a couple of years…and had a baby…and didn’t write for a while. Life happens.

After I figured out how to juggle working while being a mom (which took about two years) I started to write again. I attempted, and failed to complete my first NaNoWriMo. I needed help. So I joined RMFW and started to learn about writing as a craft.

I was working on two novels when I joined my first critique group. Illaria, and a dystopia that will never see the light of day. After my first chapter for Illaria was ripped apart at critique, I focused on my dystopia for a few months. (Critique group disclaimer: Yes, you need one. Yes, they will criticize your work. That’s how you get better. Yes, it can be painful, but you get over it.)

Anyway, dystopia…I did not have an outline, and eventually wrote myself into a plot hole I couldn’t write my way out of. While talking through the plot with my writing friends, we ended up talking through Illaria, too. I found that that story  was much more developed and I created an updated outline that changed a lot of what I already had written. The new outline made me excited to write. The dystopia went into a drawer, where it will probably stay – and I went back to Illaria, which at the time was titled The Kingdom. Good, right?

Which meant, I started over. Like throw out the first 15,000 words, over. In the grand scheme of a novel, that’s not the worst that could happen – it turned out to be the best decision I could have made. Because I jumped in with both feet and I went for it. I wrote every single day. And finished that draft in 6 weeks. SIX weeks. To finish something I’d started 5 years earlier. Sometimes you just have to go for it.

So what changed from when I was struggling to write to when I finally finished my novel? The big thing was support. I joined a writing organization, joined a critique group, and started to learn from other writers. I started to learn about writing and learned about HOW to write. In my next post, I’ll share some of the stratgies that I learned that allowed me to write a strong outine and increase my word count. Also, mindset. But that’s a big one that I’m not ready to tackle yet.


520,000 Words for 2017


Happy New Year!

A new year is a good time to evaluate your current goals and set new ones. I tend to think of the year as beginning in August since I am a teacher, but I’m a big fan of goal setting so when it comes to setting goals for 2017, I’m in.

So welcome, 2017, it’s going to be an amazing year! This year, my focus is on my writing. Last year, I took the leap and started telling people that I was spending free time working on writing projects. I’d kept that a secret for years, afraid that I wasn’t good enough. That I wasn’t a “real” writer. By sharing what I was doing with my family and friends, I started to view myself as a writer. I joined a critique group in April and started sharing what I wrote with strangers. Those strangers are now my friends and they have supported me through finishing two manuscripts. As somebody with a hard drive full of abandoned work, that was a huge accomplishment.

This year is going to be an even more amazing writing year for me. I am publishing my first book in a few weeks and working on a third manuscript. By the end of the school year, I will have the first three books in my first series written – and published.

To help reach all of my goals this year, I set deadlines for myself. As an indie author, I don’t have deadlines unless I create them. To accomplish what I want to, I need deadlines. I printed out blank calendars (Google Calendars are pretty great) and spread them out on a table. I then added deadlines for first, second, and third drafts for the books I plan to write in the next six months. I even added in when I’ll need to schedule in my editor. She’ll be getting an e-mail from me this week to set up the dates. That gives me an extra push on my deadlines as she’ll be expecting me. My covers are already booked with my designer. So it’s all on me now to write the words.

With a full time job and a family, it is a challenge to find time for everything. Something has to give. For me, it’s TV and long distance runs. I intend to get back into running but I won’t train for anything longer than a 10k. I just don’t have the time.

So where do the half-million words come in? To accomplish everything on my list, I have to write. A lot. I’ve set a goal of writing a minimum of 10,000 words each week. On good weeks, I hope to hit closer to 15,000 words. The 10,000 mark is the “you can’t go to sleep until you reach that word count” goal. That is about 5-6 hours of writing time per week – I can do that.  I encourage you to set a goal that is just a little out of reach. Something that feels attainable but pushes you outside your comfort zone to reach it.

And, here’s where I apologize in advance to my husband. I foresee a lot of evenings where I’m attached to my keyboard ahead this year. Thank goodness he’s a fan of my work. Find what works for you and make it happen. Happy 2017!

Do you have writing related goals for 2017? I’d love to hear them!