How to Grow from Past Mistakes

Hello everyone!

So, I have been reviewing my writing goals for 2018.  At the beginning of the year, my plan was to take my novel The Four Crystals from a rough draft to a polished draft by the end of the year.  I had a plan to accomplish the daunting task (breaking the editing process into weekly segments and tracking my progress); however, I made a few mistakes.

The first one was thinking I could take a rough draft to a polished draft in one edit.  It took longer to edit the first fourth of the novel than I had been anticipating.  Then, I realized that due to all the changes I had made to the first fourth of the book and all of the plot changes I was planning on making to the remaining three-fourths, it would be quicker to re-write the remainder of the book than it would be to edit it.

Fairy Tales 3My second mistake, which I technically made years ago when I started writing The Four Crystals, was not reading a variety of fantasy books before I started writing one.  Up until this year, I didn’t understand that there is a difference between fantasy and fairy tales.  After all, they both have magic, fairies, elves, dwarves, and quests.  Some of my writer friends kindly alerted me to the fact that The Four Crystals, which I wrote to be a fantasy novel, read more like a fairy tale – probably because I have read so many fairy tales and fairy tale spinoffs.  Once I learned that there was a difference, I started reading fantasy novels to get a feel for what beats I would need in my novel.  I also needed to figure out which fantasy clichés I had accidentally put in my novel.  (The wise old mage working with the know-nothing teenage boy might have been one of them.)

Mistake 11.jpgThings I have learned from this year’s mistakes:

  1. Read a minimum of five books in the genre you want to write before you start writing (ten is more advisable).
  2. Do multiple edits and focus on one thing per edit (e.g. characters, plot, dialogue, etc.).
  3. Set a goal, but if everything falls apart, DON’T GIVE UP! Learn from your mistakes, regroup, and try again.  (The failure rate for people who give up is 100%.  I will not be one of them.)

My goals for 2019 are to complete a new draft of The Four Crystals and to write at least the first book in the mystery chapter book series I started brainstorming and researching during the second half of 2018.  (Don’t worry, I already read over 20 mystery chapter books to make sure I understood the genre.)

Happy writing and happy New Year!

Katie

P.S.

I would like to shout out a special thank you to the two people who most supported and encouraged me after I discovered that I needed to do a major re-write to The Four Crystals: my brother and creative consultant, Gregory, and my friend and author, Olivia Berrier.  I don’t know what I’d do without the two of you!

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What’s a Sugarplum? (And Other Christmas Queries)

Hello everyone!

Have you ever wondered what a sugarplum is?  How about plum pudding?

With the controversy over the meaning of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” I’ve been wondering about the history behind some of our favorite Christmas words.  If you too have been curious about this, check out the articles below:

“9 Christmas Words with Surprising Histories” by Merriam-Webster.com

mistletoe 2Words in the order they are presented:

  • sugarplum
  • mistletoe
  • gingerbread
  • plum pudding
  • eggnog
  • bough
  • spruce
  • crèche
  • carol

“The Origins of 12 Christmas Words” by Paul Anthony Jones

Rudolf 1Words in the order they are presented:

  • bauble
  • carol
  • chestnut
  • eggnog
  • frankincense
  • gift
  • mistletoe
  • poinsettia
  • Rudolf
  • tinsel
  • turkey
  • yule

Happy writing and merry Christmas!

Katie

Find Your Joy

Hello everyone!

The holiday season can be a time of great joy or a very difficult time depending on a person’s circumstances.

joy 3Your writing prompt for the next two weeks is find your inspiration through your joy.

  1. Do a 10-15 minute free write about what makes you feel alive.  (A free write is where you write down whatever pops into your head without censuring or editing it.  The goal is to write continuously for the full 10-15 minutes.)
  2. Read over what you wrote, and find the theme(s).
  3. Write a poem, song, or short story with the same theme.

Happy writing!

Katie

What Does It Add to the Story?

Hello everyone!

Have you ever heard the phrase, “kill your darlings”?  I have, and I used to resent it with every fiber of my creative being.  Why would I eliminate a favorite character, scene, or line?  That question is one I’ve recently had to answer.

My project for 2018 has been editing my novel, “The Four Crystals.”  After making some changes to the main characters’ personalities and motivations, which strengthened the plot and intensified the conflict, I arrived at one of my favorite conversations between two characters.  It no longer worked.

I tried valiantly to save the conversation, but eventually, I had to re-write it.  Cutting the original version of that conversation hurt.  But I was super proud of myself for putting my story’s needs before my own desires.  Then I kept going.

short cutIn a travel sequence, I had an issue fester between two characters over the course of 48 hours and finally culminate in a confrontation.  I had so much fun writing the sequence.  When I looked over it, I realized that those scenes and even the confrontation didn’t move the plot along.  I could tell my reader how long it took my party to go from point A to point B and summarize the main difficulties they faced in one paragraph.  I tried to justify keeping the sequence on the grounds that it contributed to my characters’ development, but the reader already knew there was hostility between those two characters from earlier scenes.  And the mini-confrontation didn’t grow the tension between them enough to justify keeping the sequence.  I had to cut it, and yes, cutting it was painful.

When it comes to editing, I’ve concluded that anything that does not advance the story and/or the characters’ development should be cut.  It makes the story more interesting to read.

My challenge to all of you is when you look at your own work, don’t ask yourself, “How do I feel about this character, scene, or line?”  Instead, ask yourself, “What does it add to the story?”  If the answer is nothing, cut it.

Happy writing, and be bold in your editing!

Katie

Let’s save the world!…Or not.

Hello everyone!

Have you ever planned to do something and then had those plans fall apart?  I have, and many amazing book characters have too.

Just yesterday, I planned to go on a day trip to Ligonier, PA to do some research for a chapter book series I want to write.  I was fine in the morning, started to feel unwell during the three-hour drive to Ligonier, and arrived just in time to throw up.  My traveling companion graciously agreed to turn right around and drove me home.

Your writing challenge for the next two weeks is to write a short story or scene(s) in which your protagonist planned to accomplish something (it could be saving the world or going to the grocery store), and the plan majorly failed.  Below are a few things to consider when writing your short story or scene(s):

  1. th0PT2DQ7ZWhy did the plan fail?
  2. Why was the plan important to the protagonist?
  3. How does the protagonist feel about and react to the failure?
  4. How do the other characters feel about and react to the failure?
  5. Can the protagonist save or fix the situation?  Does he/she act on his/her ability?  Why or why not?

Happy writing!

Katie

Self-Publishing: Hiring Contractors Beyond a Copy Editor

Hello everyone!

As promised, here is my interview with sci-fi and fantasy author Olivia Berrier.  In the interview, Berrier talks about her experience with the self-publishing process and what types of contractors a self-publishing author can hire.

If you read my last post, you know that I had quite a learning curve with this project.  Below are the top three things I learned about making a YouTube video:

  1. Always shoot your video in horizontal.  Never film in vertical.
  2. Use a microphone or have a sound recording device close to your mouth.
  3. Double or triple the time estimate you allot to the editing process.

Happy writing!

Katie

Timing Is Everything

Hello everyone!

When figuring out how long a project should take you to complete, especially something you’ve never done before, give yourself plenty of time.

A few weeks ago, I conducted a video interview with sci-fi and fantasy author Olivia Berrier.  My plan was to post that video today.

This was my first time ever trying to edit a video using Filmora or create subtitles on YouTube.

wrong way 3

Let’s just say there was a learning curve, and that I will post the interview later this month.

Olivia Berrier gave me one piece of advice which is not in the interview but that applies to this situation: When creating a timeline for a project, double or triple your time estimate.

Happy writing and may your project timelines be more accurate than mine!

Katie