Patroness: DONE! I’m seeing a trend here

A little over a year ago, I posted This update on April 10th.

A year before that, on May 9th, I posted this.

Today I’m excited to announce my newest novel, Patroness, is complete in it’s first draft.

I have been pounding away at various works in progress since January, but when I returned to Patroness in April it took off. It had a strong start last year, after I finished Summer’s Circle, but life stepped in and put an abrupt halt to my creativity. Funny how that happens.

So now I am seeing a trend in the cycles of my writing. Spring time is writing time. I want to write, I am inspired to write, I am motivated to write and I do write. Even with great shows calling me on Netflix I find the time almost every night. Even when I come up against a roadblock in the work, I find ways to power through it.

If I had this kind of momentum all year I would be up to my neck in first drafts.

Which is probably why it is not the case.

I might power through a first draft, but editing is still a difficult process for me. I have a hard time discerning when I am truly done. I need alot of feedback.

I am currently back to editing The Silent Apocalypse and I haven’t even started hard edits on Summer’s Circle.

I used to get frustrated trying to force my way through a novel that didn’t want to be written. Many writers would caution against “waiting for inspiration to strike”. But, in my life, I am coming to find that there are seasons for different aspects of my work. They may change, but if I stay connected to what is calling me, I will be able to take advantage of when I am best suited for each task.

But let me tell you this, Creation season is awesome.

Second Blogiversary!

Hard to believe it’s been two years since I finally decided I was going to do this. Looking back, I am amazed at what I’ve been able to accomplish in two years, even as I have so much I’m still striving toward.

Pursuing writing is a challenging path and there have been plenty of times over the years that I have set it to the side to focus on more pressing aspects of life, but the truth is, aside from forming my family and raising my children, it is the most rewarding thing I’ve pursued.

I’m a day or two from completing the first draft of my newest novel, Patroness, a historical fantasy retelling, and I have to admit, I am so freaking excited about it. I started it last year before a health crisis took over my life and my creativity completely sputtered out. After a few false starts on other works in progress in 2017, I came back to Patroness and found it was waiting for me with a clear idea where it wanted to go.

Writing has never been without challenges though and while I don’t like to dwell on hardship, it is a good idea to look back on hurtles you’ve overcome.

So, in honor of completing my second year as a blogger, Here are the top ten challenges I’ve faced as a writer.

  1. Taking criticism. Going from “You just don’t get my work!” to “That’s helpful and something I haven’t considered before” is a big shift, but it’s had a massive impact on the quality of my work.
  2. Re-learning grammar. Don’t get me wrong, I know my grammar, but there are techniques I’ve adopted that haven’t been the norm and stylistic choices I’ve made that just don’t quite work. Correcting these in old work and changing the way I’ve done things for my entire writing life is difficult, but finally making progress.
  3. Getting to the end. Oh all my works in progress, languishing with no end in sight. I used to spend so much time tweaking and perfecting drafts as I wrote, adding and subtracting complexities that I never got to the end of the story. Now I power through and do not go back to revise unless it’s to delete what I just wrote to go in a different direction.
  4. Clearing out the telling. Granted I’m still working on this, but when I look back on my old work, I can see the progress that has been made. I used to tell everything and anything that was shown was so subtle that it was practically useless.
  5. Doing the editing work. Note to past Lindsey, you cannot half ass editing. You have to do the rewrites. You have to do the line edits. You have to print the whole damned thing out and slash it to bits with a red pen. Then you need to keep refining as feedback comes in.
  6. Making time to write. Unlike some writers, no matter how I schedule it, it’s not always easy for me to churn out X amount of words each day, year round. But when I am on a project, I need to give myself the time to work on it. When I used to work full time, I barely wrote. When I was home, I wanted to spend time with my husband, go out with my friends, veg in front of the TV. Now I set the time aside. As soon as the kids go to bed, I start to work. I write until i run out of steam and then I turn on the TV to binge watch whatever show is calling me, or pick up a book. Write first.
  7. Making space to write. Another thing that used to stop me? It was too damned hard to write without a quiet place to shut myself in, and in my home, there is no quiet place until everyone is in bed. My current office is the living room couch, with a sofa desk and while my husband watches TV, I put in headphones to drown out the news. Before I had this set up, the writing was sporadic and based on circumstance instead of necessity.
  8. Making writing a PRIORITY! Oh, hello mom guilt, wife guilt, homemaker guilt. I see you are all well, but I would like to introduce you to my friend, you did not write guilt. She’s new, but she’s a lot louder than you all now. She reminds me that dishes can be washed later, it’s okay to let my husband give the kids their baths, and I’d rather be tired tomorrow morning than miss out on this inspiration that is flowing through me tonight. No job should take precedence over family, but just like you might stay up late studying for an exam in law school, you may need to sacrifice a few hours of sleep to get those words down on that page.
  9. Every writer works different. I have a friend who can complete a first draft, have it edited himself a few weeks later and then has it sold or self published within a month. I think he might be superman. I do not work this way. I used to think I should, but should doesn’t do anyone any good. It’s okay to work the way you work. As long as you’re working.
  10. Having confidence in my work, even when it still needs work. This was the hardest thing for me to overcome. When I presented my writing to someone I wanted it to be flawless, but even if I perfect it for myself, it will never be flawless to everyone. To own being a writer is to own that you are working on your writing. Every new thing I write is better than the last, and not a single thing I’ve written is perfect. It’s okay because it all is awesome and I love it.

Share your thoughts! What are some challenges you have overcome as a writer?

A Lesson from my father.

When I was a child, I played chess with my dad and he smeared me all over the checkered board. I asked him one day, how he got to be so good and he told me something I will never forget.

I played with people who were better than me.

I played against them and I learned. I played against them until I started to beat them. Then I looked for a new opponent.

Most of us hate losing, and hate being the worst at something even more. So much so, that if we find ourselves surrounded by people who are more accomplished than us, more skilled, more knowledgeable, we do our best to duck quietly out of the room.

But being the big fish in the little pond means that we have no where to go.

As a writer, it is important to surround yourself with writers who are better than you. Read their books, learn their lessons, and strive toward their level. It is intimidating as hell, but it is also rewarding once you see you see the pay off in your own work.

 

Don’t try to write a perfect first draft

After I realized that what I first put on the page was not necessary my best writing (imagine my horror!) I concluded that I would save myself a lot of work and effort if I edited as I wrote.

And so it took me more than five years to write a first draft.

And it still sucked.

The end.

No, but in all seriousness, there is nothing wrong with skimming over your work and doing a little clean up here and there, adding something to clear up the part you are currently writing, adjusting the spelling of the name or including the character trait that revealed itself later. Especially if you are stuck in the scene you are writing.

Just don’t, don’t don’t think this will save you any work in the long run.

I am a person who takes great pride in working smarter and not harder and in many aspects of my life this has served me very well. As a designer I set up a template program that allowed me to drop the print designs into a layout that removed the element of human error while at the same time leaving the original art untouched for future work and cut set up time in half. (it’s okay if you didn’t understand that).

As a writer, however, I have yet to find the easy way around editing the entire manuscript, multiple times.

Ironically, avoiding edits until your first draft is done ends up being your time saver in the long run and there are several reasons for that.

  1. If you are riding on the writing train (writing non-stop) getting off to “fix things” even minor things, means you are getting off the train. Don’t get off the train! You may not be able to get back on!
  2. No matter how much you have plotted, outlined, and prepared, your story is going to take some unexpected twists. Characters will reveal something surprising, people will die, people will live, the ending could turn out very different than you expected. Wasting time on edits before you know how your story ends is wasteful.
  3. Most important. YOU ARE GOING TO HAVE TO EDIT THE HELL OUT OF THIS DRAFT ANYWAY! No matter how clean you have gotten your writing, no matter how much you have “fixed” you are in for the long haul with edits, IF YOU EVER FINISH THE BOOK.

I know! I know it’s hard to leave that glaring mistake right there in the open! I mean, it is so so so bad! But it is your first draft and no one is every going to see it but you.

There is a solution though, and one I recommend you take. Instead of editing while you write, keep a notebook or file with all the problems you see arising in your story. Plot holes, character changes, misinformation, ect. Make notes of the things you will need to fix WHEN you edit and then get back to writing.

I wrote a story where a girl referred to her prep school by a different name every time it was mentioned. At one point I found myself scrolling through the 237 pages I had already written trying to find every instance. (Geez,don’t I ever learn!?). I think i managed to fix one and waste an hour. Later, when I was reading the completed manuscript, being aware of this problem allowed me to mark and change every instance of this problem when it came up in the reading. Time saver for sure.

The most polished partial manuscript is completely useless.

The messiest finished manuscript has unlimited potential.

Is “said” really dead?

Once again, most of my creative energy is going into a new novel, so I will be reblogging older but still relevant posts. Keep writing, friends!

L.C.W. Allingham

When I went about getting really serious about improving my writing I ate up all the advice I could find. I pinned hundreds of articles and read all of them. I started to apply this to my work and I saw the quality of my writing increase for it.

But as it turns out, not all advice is good advice.

While cutting out passive voice and verbs cleaned up my work, relying on synonyms of “said” cluttered it up in a new way. There are many articles and lists on more action oriented ways to tag your dialogue, and I, being a writer who relies heavily on dialogue, used these replacements liberally.

Then one evening in my writing crit group, someone commented that “said” is nearly invisible to a reader, while “shouted” “cried” “snickered” “demanded” can start to disrupt an otherwise fluid set of dialogue.

Here is an example.

“I…

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Fostering a creative spirit

I was very lucky as a child. My mother was an art teacher and while she taught technique and medium, one of her greatest assets as a teacher was helping develop the confidence of young artists. Kids who were paralyzed to try, kids who’d been ridiculed by friends, parents, teachers, on purpose or accidentally. When she could bring these kids out of their fear, sometimes natural talents blossomed and sometimes they just worked hard and got better, but they all excelled, and not just in art.

If she had not been my mother, there are so many things I would have never done. I never would have formed a rock band and worked as a musician in my early twenties. I never would have competed in voice competitions in high school. I never would have sold my art at student shows.

I never would have let my writing out into the world. Never, ever.

I was lucky to have my mom, because the rest of the world seems to have no clue how to foster the creativity in children.

I see parents giggling about the little stories their kids wrote, in front of their kids. I see teachers tease students about art projects. And when you get to other kids, well they can be pretty merciless with their peers.

My son has been spending alot of time drawing recently. He brings me these insane creations, men with twenty legs and sharp teeth, cats making poops, a rock man who is (according to my son) two hundred feet high! They are all wonderful and that is what I tell him.

I know that today there is a conflict in opinion about children and whether we should “prepare them for the real world” or “foster their confidence”. Before you get your back up, I want to assure you that this has nothing to do with that.

This is about fostering creativity.

Do you remember being a child? Do you remember being proud of something you made and then having someone tear it down? Did it hurt you any less because you were a child? Are you grateful for that experience because it “taught you about the real world’?

There is a difference between teaching technique, teaching people to learn how to accept constructive criticism and teaching them that their creations are “dumb” “juvenile” “silly” and generally not worth the time it took to make it.

How many adults do you know that are terrified to write a story, draw a picture, sing a song, dancing in front of other people? I imagine you can come up with quite a few an I will bet you that their attempts to quell any creative urges comes from their childhood.

How awful is that?

Can you imagine laughing at the bar graph your co-worker presented in a budget meeting because it’s cute? Can you imagine writing a proposal and having the recipient roll their eyes at it and ignore it? Or read it out loud, giggling?

Why does anyone think it’s okay to do this to a child who has put their heart and soul into a story about vampire bats who live in the toilet or a picture of a two hundred foot rock man? Are these not the roots of the stories and movies and paintings and songs we crave?

Be the person to encourage creativity. Each project is the foundation for future greatness. Don’t deny the creator and don’t deny yourself.

When a story writes itself

L.C.W. Allingham

I have spent many nights glaring at a computer screen typing and deleting the same paragraph, willing my characters to move, trying to force a story to happen. Every writer has. When it happens, sometimes you might be lucky and some read-overs can compel your hands, or a google search can make the story lurch forward a few more paragraphs, but frequently the best thing to do it just move onto a different project for a bit. Or go watch a Buffy re-run (fun fact, Buffy re-runs can trigger brainstorming).

The absolute worst is when a story has been pouring out smoothly since conception, you have a solid ending in mind (or a great outline if you’re the organized type) and you come to a screeching halt. Then, sometimes the only way to get through it is to fight through, hacking out every single line until you can get it…

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There is no one way to write a book

A lot of writers have a lot of advice. And most of it is good. But not all of it is relevant every time.

I completed a first draft in record time last year using an outline and it was glorious. Not only was it completed fast, and without any serious plot holes, but clean up and editing have been minimal. I suggest everyone try this sometime.

Unless it’s not working for you.

Like it isn’t working for me, this time around.

When I wrote “The Silent Apocalypse” I didn’t have a good working outline until I was nearly done the book. It took a while to write, but it revealed itself to me as I went along, instead of adhering to a pre-determined plot.

When I wrote “Summer’s Circle” the whole plot laid itself out in front of me at the very begining, with the exception of a few details and the exact specifics of the ending. I didn’t put effort into plotting it, it was more like the completed story was handed to me and I shoved it into an outline so that I wouldn’t lose it before I got to write it.

I thought this method would work with one of my latest projects, a dark urban horror. The outline came along pretty well, but as soon as I started writing it, it veered completely off course and got stuck in a corner. I shifted some things around, blew a few things up and it ran right back into that corner again.

The novel wants to go it’s own way and, at present time, I can seem to figure out what that way is.

You will find thousands of articles, books, quotes, on how to finish your novel. All of these things have worked for authors at some point. Maybe they work for certain authors all the time. But even Stephen King ends up putting manuscripts away that he can’t seem to finish.

Don’t tie yourself to one method. Don’t insist there is only one way. If you are struggling to complete a novel, read all the advice you can find and try everything. If it still doesn’t work, don’t be afraid to shift your focus to another project.

Sometimes a novel needs a little time to cook before its ready to move forward. Sometimes your brain just isn’t ready for where the book has to go. Sometimes you need to try something new.

Writing is an art. Don’t try to be a scientist about it.

The Lepracaun Or Fairy Shoemaker – Poem by William Allingham

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

L.C.W. Allingham

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day I am sharing some of my Irish writing roots. William Allingham, born in Ballyshannon was an Irish poet and editor, who rubbed elbows with some of the famous British writers of his day. You can’t knock a guy who writes poems about fairies.

Little Cowboy, what have you heard,
Up on the lonely rath’s green mound? William_Allingham_Photo
Only the plaintive yellow bird
Sighing in sultry fields around,
Chary, chary, chary, chee-ee! –
Only the grasshopper and the bee? –
‘Tip-tap, rip-rap,
Tick-a-tack-too!
Scarlet leather, sewn together,
This will make a shoe.
Left, right, pull it tight;
Summer days are warm;
Underground in winter,
Laughing at the storm! ‘
Lay your ear close to the hill.
Do you not catch th etiny clamour,
Busy click of an elfin hammer.
Voice of the Lepracaun singing shrill
As he merrily plies his trade?
He’s a span
And a…

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