Saturday, November 24, 2012

What I learned from writing this book


Ain’t Too Proud to Beg finally went to the editor last Sunday. This was the tenth book I’ve written, the sixth to be published, but it was the hardest one for me to write. I learned some lessons while writing this book.

Yesterday, I searched the entries here to try to figure out when I started the story, and discovered it was back in February! On March 9th I posted an entry that said I was only three chapters in and was experiencing all kinds of distractions. Well, those distractions continued, and the final manuscript didn’t go to my editor until November 18th. That’s an awfully long time for me to complete a book.

 
I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, and I’ve realized the three major issues that stood in my way of reaching The End.

  • My first realization was that I desperately miss my critique group.

We disbanded around the first of the year because all of us are now published, and  nobody has the time to do line-by-line critiques for five other members. Over the past six years, those ladies read every single word I wrote. They let me know what they liked and disliked, what wasn’t working and how I could improve the story. They were invaluable to me.

  • The second roadblock was that ATPTB was the first manuscript I’ve written using my new laptop. Previously, I did most of my first drafts on an Alphasmart. I love the convenience of having the laptop, especially being able to switch from Word to Google or Dictionary.com as I write, but the laptop is both a blessing and a curse.

Since I have the attention span of a gnat, more often than not, the temptation to stay offline check my e-mail, read Tweets and Facebook posts, look at the pretty pictures on Pinterest, etc. was just too great for me to withstand. I don’t know how many hours I lost sitting at the laptop doing stuff that had nothing to do with writing.


·        This was the first manuscript for which I didn’t do an extensive outline and a storyboard. 
 
  
     The total outline amounted to only five pages, less than half of what I usually have, which meant I had to do twice as much work on the page. Thankfully, the story developed into what it was supposed to be, but not with the ease I normally experience during the creation of a novel. The most important thing I discovered during the past ten months is that I am a true plotter. No more pantsing for this sister. Ever.

 
Other than moving to a cave to write my next book, I’m trying to figure out how to remedy these issues. It would be wonderful to have another critique group, but it would have to be with other published authors. Most of the authors I know well enough to ask are already too busy just writing and promoting.

Of course, I could go back to writing on my Alphie, but I’ve been too spoiled by the laptop. Now I consider that gadget merely a backup to be used in case of emergency. (See author Penelope Marzec’s great post  about writing in the dark after Superstorm Sandy.
 
My spring 2013 release will be You Make Me Feel Brand New, a novelette that was published early this year in an anthology from WG2E. At least I’m ahead on the plotting the next novel though. Already I have eleven pages outlined on the next book, which is tentatively titled, A Woman’s Worth.

17 comments:

Elaine said...

Good morning,
I am identifying with you this morning... Here I am on facebook when I got up intending to write, but if I had followed my plan I would not have seen your post. Thanks for reminding those of us with the best intentions of writing daily about the challanges we face in staying focused...

Sharon Cunningham Cooper said...

Boy can I relate!! I especially had to chuckle at number 2 - the Alphasmart - as mines is sitting right next to me. Though I can't imagine my life without a laptop, I have had to go back to my Alphasmart in trying to do some serious catching up on my current manuscript. I can pump out almost 3x as many pages on it as I do the laptop and I'm sure its because of not being distracted by Google, email, etc. With the Alphasmart (and it's small window) - I can stay in the moment and get my story on paper (sorta speak) without being tempted to go back and see what I've already type (which is another thing that slows me down on the laptop).

Congrats on finishing your story! Hopefully any rewrites/tweaks you have are minimum!

Wishing you much success on your upcoming release!

Chicki said...

Thanks for stopping by Elaine and Sharon!

I love the Internet, and I love interacting with readers and other writers, but I know that I have to restrict my time online. :(

With this next book, I may just write the first draft on the Alphasmart as a test to see how long it takes me...

Jackie Holness said...

Yes, Facebook, Twitter, e-mail and all kinds of stuff can easily distract....So glad you are finished though...best of blessings as you begin selling your baby:)

Ms Destne61 said...

WOW! I can so relate. My current living situation is so distracting and unproductive. Today I received my first REJECTION letter from a Literary Agent. Reading your BLOG has encouraged me to keep going forward!

Monique DeVere said...

I hear you there, Chicki! I love my Alphie but don't use it as much as I should. I've found an interesting way to get some work done while waiting for the kids to come out of school. I also use this method when I find too many distractions on my laptop. I'll open my memo pad on my mobile and write. Then when I'm finished I copy and paste to an email and email it to myself. I can then go online through my laptop and copy and paste what I've written into my WIP. I also make notes and document random thoughts for my stories this way.

It's nice to be able to walk and write and I love that freedom!

Chicki said...

I might try to get a newer Alphie on eBay. The one I have is old and is starting to act a bit glitchy. If I find one for under $80, I'll bite. :D

Ednah Walters said...

Oh I hear you on being easily distracted by online sites. My kids are gone all day during school year, yet I didn't get organized until the last few months when I learned to fastdraft.

Looking forward to reading ATPTB.

bettye griffin said...

I can sympathize with you, Chicki. I had a devil of a time writing my latest, Something Real. Although I had a detailed outline in Scrivener (I, too, as lost without one), it was a difficult book to structure, spanning four years and telling two romances, with timelines that had to correspond to two other books. But I'm proud of the result. I'm sure you're proud of yours, too.

Chicki said...

Ednah, I want to hear more about fast drafting. Please!

Bettye, that sounds like a tough one, but I'm sure you did an excellent job. :D

PatriciaW said...

Chicki, have you looked into any of those software programs that turn your pc into a dumb terminal? You can set a timer and the program absolutely keeps you from accessing the Internet for that period of time. (Of course, there must be a way to turn off the program, but if you're going to do that...)

Interesting about your outlines and critique group. Seems like most published authors would be pressed for time.

I'm sure you'll figure it out. You are one of the most focused and determined writers I know.

PatriciaW said...

Ironically, after leaving your blog, I came upon a post that mentioned Freedom, a $10 utility that blocks Internet access. To access the Internet, you have to reboot your computer. You can't simply turn it off. Might seem like overkill, but I know the time to reboot is annoying enough to make some keep working.

http://macfreedom.com/about

Chicki said...

It does seem like overkill, Patricia, and it costs money. LOL! What I need is to find a way to discipline myself. When I'm writing, I usually work away from home. I'm seriously considering only writing at Panera Bread Company because they limit Internet access to 30 minutes. That way, I can check my mail, FB messages, etc. and when the time is up, I'll be FORCED to start writing. It's further away from my house than Atlanta Bread Company, but probably worth it. :D

Regina Duke said...

Excellent blog and advice, Chicki. The FB is a terrible distraction. I did not dare go to Pinterest, and I am not yet on Goodreads for the same reason. But I also have distractions (little doggies) that make working at the house a challenge at times. And yet, I do better at home than at Starbucks or other locations.

I used to be a pantser, then learned the joys of plotting. But I alternate the two, plot 1/3 (but know where the book will end), then pants, plot another 1/3, then pants, etc. LOL

Love your blog!

Chicki said...

Ooh, I love Pinterest, Regina! Goodreads doesn't require that much interaction.

I did the plot/pants thing with this one, and it just didn't work for me, so I'm plotting the next book within an inch of its life. LOL! :D

Melissa said...

I've found that social networks are the devil. LOL! Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest are my weak spots.

Congrats on your upcoming book! Can't wait to read it!

Chicki said...

Maybe I need to hold an exorcism, Melissa. We bind you, spirit of Facebook..." ROTFL!