Dear Self-saboteur (A letter to my self-conscience)

Dear Self-saboteur,

I get it… Coffee rules. Tea is nice. Soda is bad for you.

I know we weren’t alive in the 1950s, but come on. I simply cannot allow you to make my teenage characters drink tea all the time. Yeah, I know, that’s how we’ve been surviving for the past few months. But that’s us, not them. In their world, it is still 1958, and they’re still seventeen years old. So please, knock it off. Let them drink soda. Let them love soda!

P.S. Is this where the term “method-acting” comes from?

Sincerely,

Logic

The importance of alpha and beta readers

If I ever get Shelved “finished” (kidding…), there are still many more steps to get through. The next step is the one I’m the most excited about!

Beta readers!

Amanda-Shofner

So, what is a beta reader? Or an alpha reader? They are the unsung heroes. They are the ones who read through the unpublished draft and provide invaluable feedback from the consumer’s point of view. Does the plot need help? Are your characters likable? Are people able to relate to your story? Are there boring places, or orphaned characters that were introduced and just left hanging out there?

I am lucky to have some awesome beta readers who have volunteered to help me identify these things. I am grateful for them. I am asking for some extra TLC to be given to the first ten pages, because that is what will be sent out with my query letter to the literary agents who shall remain nameless at this time. Once I get to the point of querying, I’ll blog about them in detail, including what I hope will be a request for a complete manuscript. I’ve targeted my dream agents. Please don’t crush my dream, agents!

In addition to the amazing people who have offered to beta read, I am also extremely lucky to have a fantastic alpha reader who has been reading along as each I finish editing/re-writing each chapter from beginning to end. I consider her a subject matter expert in YA books, and she has provided invaluable live feedback which has improved the plot and writing, even before the beta reading stage.

Now, back to editing.

Day 77… (or 76, but who’s keeping track?)

Today is the 77th straight day that I’ve worked on Shelved. During the past 77 days I have come down with at least three illnesses, one of which was the stomach flu. Okay, I have to admit that I didn’t work on Shelved that day. Anyway, all of these illnesses were passed to me from my son, who started preschool four months ago.

A lot of people like to take a month off in between the first draft and the editing phase… I thought I would lose momentum if I did that.

I’ve also heard the NaNoWriMo draft referred to as the “discovery draft.” I don’t think there could be a more perfect term for it. Not only did I discover my plot, but I discovered that I could write a novel in 30 days while being a mom and a wife, and on top of working full-time, and without jeopardizing my social life. I think I read this in No Plot, No Problem: Busy people are productive people. Think about lazy days spent on the couch. When we stop moving and producing, we lose the desire to move and produce. It’s harder to get something to move, than it is to keep it moving once it’s already started.

I also discovered a few other things…

Being creative is absolutely exhausting! I asked another author friend of mine if he had experienced the same thing, and he had. He remedied his exhaustion with lots of naps. If only, I thought.

And so here is today’s amusing editing discovery: At some point during the month of November, I turned my main character into a vegetarian. Today my main character ordered a cheeseburger. God love the editing process.

I pantsed it!

Greetings!

Somehow you’ve stumbled upon my personal blog. Well, you’re already here, so why not stay for a bit? This is where I will be recording my journey from NaNoWriMo to published. If you’re new here, let me back up for a minute.
It won’t do anyone much good if I don’t first explain a little bit about what NaNoWriMo is. Back in October of 2014, as I was peddling my vintage and horror wares at the Mile High Horror Film Festival, I overheard my neighbor (Robert Elrod, who is an amazing horror artist) talking about something called Inked October. I asked him what that was, and he explained to me that it is a challenge to draw something every day throughout the month of October. This reminded me of a New Years resolution I’d made many years ago when I was living in a dormitory and being a ‘professional’ student. I had hopeful dreams of one day becoming an author. To accomplish this, I knew that I had to write more. I took Creative Writing and for the entire year of 1999 I wrote something every day.

Yes, I said 1999. That was a long time ago. I just dated myself. Oh well, honesty has always been high on my list of moral responsibilities. Anyway… for this post I’d like to begin sharing some of the amusing things about participating in NaNoWriMo, and then raising that crazy, convoluted mess, into a full-fledged novel.

So I’d heard of Inked October, which reminded me of my New Years resolution from so many years ago. I thought to myself, “There must be something like this for writers.” It was lucky on my part that National Novel Writing Month was November. It was even luckier on my part that the year before this I had received a book called No Plot, No Problem. To be honest, I hadn’t even opened it, but since my friend just finished writing a children’s book called Angel Academy (which I copy edited), I thought I better get it off of my to-read shelf. To my amazement, No Plot, No Problem is specifically about how to participate in National Novel Writing Month!

It was mid-October already… this didn’t give me any time to prepare. I didn’t think I could possibly pull it off with nothing in my bag of tricks. If you don’t already know this about me, I also work full-time and commute via public transportation five days a week (more on that in a future post). I run an Etsy shop on the side, and my husband and I have a three and a half year old son. I decided to do it anyway, because the spirit of NaNoWriMo is that deadlines make writers write. Editing the project is equally as hard as winning. But let me digress for a minute, because NaNoWriMo is something you strive to “win.” “Winning” is kind of an artistic choice of words. To “win,” a writer needs to “validate” their word count. Technically, someone could copy and paste any 50,000 words into the validation tool. I don’t think there are a lot of people who do that, but I can see the temptation if you were really close to hitting 50K but running out of time. Instead, the way to “win” NaNoWriMo the honest way, is to really try to write a novel in 30 days. Here’s what I did… l let the story write itself. I got inspired from it. I made plot twists (which I’ve learned in NaNo-speak are called “plot ninjas”). When I get stuck (which was a lot), I started a new chapter.

I should also add that I “pantsed” this novel. That means that I did not write chronologically. I didn’t have a plot line beforehand. I didn’t even have character names in mind. I didn’t know who my characters were, and so they introduced themselves to me as I went along. I made them up as I went, and since I didn’t write in chronological order, I had to remember character traits that I’d written into future chapters, so that I could incorporate them to the beginning ones, too. If it sounds chaotic, then I’m portraying it accurately. All I had to go on was a crazy dream I had a year and a half ago that I thought would turn into a cool short horror film. I literally had no idea that it would go the direction that it did, which is into a full-length Young Adult novel set in 1958 in the height of the Cold War.

As you can see, this process contains lots of quotation marks and new (loose) terms, that are wide open to interpretation.

Today’s amusing moment was when I finally reached chapter 17 in the editing/re-write process. I’d had one of characters fired from his job and I swear, I have no recollection of doing that. I am editing and re-writing chronologically, so, needless to say, I had to cut that part out. In fact, the novel is a completely different animal from the chimaera it was when I embarked on this roller coaster on November 1st, 2014.

Stay tuned for more updates and musings about this fantastic adventure…

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