Scope of a Massive Novel

I wanted to see for myself what I’m getting myself into for my third manuscript. This book will, of course, connect the first two, but will be far larger than the others because there is so much more going on in the story to get to the final climax and conclusion of the whole story.

I did some calculations by basic calculator with a slight inflated ball park numbers. Average chapter word count x current chapter count set up by my outline.

5,000 word count x 40 chapters = 200,000 word count

This isn’t counting the possible 10 or more chapters extra that I need to add into my outline that is missing from the synopsis.

I found on this site: Words Per Page Calculator where I put in the 200,000 word count to determine the page count, which came to 502 (mind, this is only for printed pages of size 12, New Times Roman font, not a full published book) The page numbers for 5,000 word count is single spaced and comes to at least 18 pages each.

Now that I understand the basic numbers of how many pages I may reach, I can focus more on the outline for setting up that possible marker.

While calculating, I nearly gave myself a heart attack, but more of a mind blowing moment. I don’t know how I came to 84 chapters during my first set of numbers since I couldn’t look back at what I had done, but if it were 84 chapters, 5,000 words per chapter, that came to 420,000 word count and 1,054 pages printed single spaced. OMG, the amount of time it would have taken me to complete such a massive book.

Glad I did a second set of numbers. Now, off to work on the outline.

Odd Things Non-Writers Say

I know, not everyone writes fiction or non-fiction. Not everyone writes in general. Typing up a comment, an opinion or adding their prospective on a topic of dicussion online, is writing, but…

I’m talking about people who never read or those who do read, but never wrote a collection of short stories or a novel or two for fun. I’m pointing out those who have never written a single document past school years growing up. And after school years, never picked up a book after.

The things these types of people have said to me personally or in public, it blows my mind. (Names are taken out to protect them for obvious reasons)

“Why do you always want books for Christmas? You’re writing one of your own?” – …This one really blows my mind. This statement, spoken in person close to the holidays a few years ago, tells me they don’t read books for pleasure or for learning to expand their mind. All writer types must read diffrent forms of style and process in order to write better. Writers must study the craft. This means, we want more books on the exact craft stubject or books on a genre we are writing ourselves. I want books for Christmas, a gift card from Barns & Noble cause it makes it easier for the gift giver since they don’t know me well enough of the subjects and genre I like, I need books to study from on the craft from those before me. Yes, I can easily borrow books at the library, but a direct book that is not at the library, and if it’s particular to what I need, I can buy at the store. I keep a lot of the books on the craft of writing. I go back to the material over and over for years of study.

“All you need to do is sit down and write.” – …Oh, sweet summer child, you know nothing. It takes far more to place ass in chair, roll up to desk and start typing to pump out a book. I have a few articles I’ve already written on my author blog, that explains the common processes and my own method for myself. But to put it into simple terms here: 1) It takes planning, months or years worth for a novel. …2) It takes problem solving during the planning stages, sometimes months or years on a section to get right. Even a first draft can take some problem solving. …3) Drafts 2 and 3, to go through to flesh out the full form of the story before major edits. This process can take a year or more. …4) 6 to 8 months of major edits with critique partners. Different minds and eyes on the project itself. …5) In between each process, important breaks are needed for the mind to relax in seeing the work with fresh eyes. (These breaks include: cleaning house, grocery shopping, cooking, laundry, paying bills, reading, etc) I’ve created nearly 500+ pages worth of notes, character files, diagrams, family trees, world histories and timelines that took me years to gather in the developmental stages. It takes years to finalize a screenplay way before it ever gets looked at by a production company to become a full length movie. To create anything, it takes time and hard work. (Not to mention, the stress of Impostor Syndrome is something all writers who want to be professionally published face. Fighting the demons in her minds, the stresses of it all, lag the process down. So, again it takes time to write a 120,000 words size book.)

“What’s a novelist?” – …There are words I’ve never come across either. That’s how we learn. I use the word ‘novelist’ when I hand someone my business card or when I’m addressed diectly when asked what my job is. This person had said about my thin metal case mistaking it for a wallet, even though I use it as such. The metal container is for business cards, I told him. He then asked what my job was and I said, “I’m a novelist.” I don’t refer to the use of author, since I’m not currently published. So, this person didn’t know what a novelist was. I explained, “It’s another word for author. Someone who writes fiction.” I was abselutely taken a back by his question on the word though. He was obviously in his early 20s, but since he didn’t know the word, I blame the eduational system of the US. When I learned of the word, ‘novel’, in third grade in 1988, the English teacher saying, “We’re going to read a novel today. Novel means ‘new idea’.” I was entranced by the word. I fed off this new fact for decades. It still gives me happy chills when I use it.

I think that’s all of them. There maybe one more, but at this time, it’s slipped my mind. Oh well. To close, if you as a writer of any form come across similiar examples, remember, your book may strike their interest in reading for the first time in decades. Don’t let people who don’t read or don’t write fictions stop you from making your dreams come true. Keep writing and don’t stop.

The Real Cost of Writing Hours

All novelists, authors, writers, however you want to call these folks, they talk about word count. Most write down that glorious word count to keep track of how much work has been done. Yet, once you figure out how many words are put on a page, single spaced (500 per page) you can easily count in your head how many words came after that first page and so on. Once you start doing that, there’s really no need to worry about word count. Unless, you catalog the final current edit amount of words changed. Then you can have a base for comparison as you progress in your work.

But then there’s this…cataloging the hours actually worked on a manuscript. I’ve never heard about that in the years I’ve been surfing the internet. Watching YouTube videos on Booktube, Writertube, Authortube. No one talks about this. If there are some writers who have, post your videos.

Now, I did a bit of calculating the numbers using my own hours worked. I’m going off of the year 2020 for the first quarter since its the most hours I did before the pandemic hit the US. In the month of January – March 2020 I worked 335 hours total. I use two forms of calculating time – First, I’ll check the clock and jot down my start time. Then, I’ll listen to New Bliss ambient white noise videos on YouTube. These videos range from 3 to 8 hours. I’ll usually go for an 8 hour video if I know I’ll be typing a lot. If I take a quick break, say bathroom break or a thirty minute lunch break, I’ll pause the video. When I come back, I play the video where it left off. This way I haven’t really lost time in work. Unlike keeping a direct time schedule by a clock itself. When I’m done for the day, I’ll jot down my end time.

I’ll work 2 hours, 15-30 min break, work 2 hours, 30 min lunch, work 2 hours and finally another 15-30 min break. Then off to bed, or squeeze in another thirty minutes of work before I really go to bed. This way, I’ve worked at least 6 to 8 hours in the day. I’m treating this as I would retail work hours that I’m used to when I worked in retail. The system works perfect.

(Mind, I also take full days off my writing. Usually 2 days per week. Nearly a full week off per month. That is put into my average for this diagram)

I started thinking, how many hours would it be for a full 10 years worth of novel/manuscript work? If I take the average from the first quarter in 2020 of 335 hours….see diagram below. (Mind, these hours are a base average from my hours worked. They are not exact)

335 hrs x 4 wks = 1,340 hrs per month

1,340 hrs per month x 12 mo = 16,080 hrs per year

16,080 hrs per year x 10 yrs = 160,800 hrs for ten years

It’s not just the word count that builds up your experience per page, per manuscript. It’s the hours you put into it. It takes about 10,000 hours of training and practice to be an expert in whatever field of work you want to be in. Yet, to me, I think it takes even more hours of work to achieve expert level in manuscript writing (fiction or nonfiction). These hours include the first draft, second, third, fourth and so on when in the thralls of editing, revision and rewrites, call it what you will. It’s all writing.

So, if you look at it even further with the amount of pay authors don’t get when writing a full novel or work of nonfiction, a full 200 to 300 page book, basically an intern level at home, with or without a paying job….

$15 an hr x 8 hrs per day = $120

$120 x 7 days = $840

$840 x 4 wks = $3,360

$3,360 x 12 mo = $40,320

$40,320 x 10 yrs = 403,200 (that’s the amount of a major advance for a first time book, if you’re damn lucky)

All those hours worked for ten years on ONE manuscript for publication, and you got an advance worth $400k, that averages out nicely. But, its getting that $15 an hour paycheck of it’s full 10 years sum given to you finally.

In the long run, this would be helpful to everyone if a Universal Income was implemented into the US economy. That way, if anyone has a hobby or a long time dream to come true (a full time novelist with a paycheck), getting paid $1,000 a week would be nice to stave off the stress of paying bills, repairs to the house and food on the table while in the thralls of writing a novel. The advance would still apply to the author since it is a product they are making for sale in stores by the publisher’s process. All in all, it’s a total win for everyone.

(Disclaimer, this is not a beg on my part for myself. I’m just pointing out some pitfalls in writing to put it into more concrete prospective. A grounded point to humble myself and others in the craft of writing)

A Novelist’s Special Team

A team of people can range in number and style for the needs of a project. I learned early on, like most of us in this world, in school you can’t get any class project done without your teammates. For most of my class work projects that consisted of two to four other classmates, I was shunned by the small group. Because of this, I nearly failed a few projects in History, Science and Social Studies.

I worked best by myself after that. Finding I learned faster on my own and completed projects, when mostly done by yourself anyway, I excelled at the project put before me.

As I began writing my first manuscript from September 1995 to May 1, 1996 I worked alone, of course. I continued to work alone for my second, third and fourth manuscripts that followed. I thought I learned all that I could with all the ‘how to write fiction’ books at my disposal and all the YouTube videos of fellow writers teaching what they learned along the way. I thought I had it all figured out. That I didn’t quite need a team.

I wasn’t exactly wrong, per se. More like I was afraid of being shunned again by fellow writers of the adult age group. I didn’t want to go through the shunning experience again. Yet, it finally came to it that I needed someone to help me critique my work.

My three beta readers are part of that ever growing team that were the starting off point. A few years later, Mike found me on Reddit and the rest is history at this point. He’s one teammate so far in my writing journey for the technical part at this stage of Draft 3 book 1. Critique Partners are so vital to find the developmental problems in a story that the author can’t see for all the words on the pages.

The thing is, all the writing classes in school over the years, English classes, how to writing books and YouTube videos about the process of writing and revision (reshoots I call it), none of them call the Critique Partner, Beta Reader, Editor and Literary Agent and Publisher the following – Quality Control.

Quality Control is when a team works together to check each other’s work on a project. Every nook and cranny of nuts, bolts, panels, electrical wiring, windows, sealant, carpet, etc has to be checked and double checked. Only until the airplane has gone through hundreds of quality control checks and signed by each team manager and that area’s quality control manager, can the airplane go down the next line of manufacturing. Any mistakes found, the process of that section of mistakes starts over again until it is all checked out correctly and signed. I learned this while working for a short time at Boeing.

The same rigorous quality control must take place down the line for a book. No matter how many passes through quality control team members take the manuscript until it is finally ready for publication. Without quality control, which seems to be lacking in the publishing world on all fronts, reading a book can and will bother its target audience. The reader will pull it apart finding basic or crazy mistakes in continuity, grammar, pacing, etc. This will aggravate them to no end because they were hoping to have a nearly flawless prose to read to their heart’s content.

Here’s what I learned at each early to current stage of my writing process.

Early Years – From September 1995 to May 1, 1996 I hand wrote in three black lined notebooks in school during study period, lunch and after my work was done for any said class. I even wrote in the school library sometimes. And when I had time to myself in my bedroom when I got home to write. During this time, once I thought it was ready, I type it all up on the school computers in Computer Class onto hard floppy disks and printed it out at the library.

I wouldn’t go back to this first manuscript again until 2005. I picked up where it left off on chapter 18 but typed it up instead of the painful hand written prose from years before. Once reading it through and giving it to my mother and a friend to read, beta readers to be exact, they both told me the harsh truth that I needed – Mom said, “Honey, I can’t go any further.” She had read up to 150 out of 350. “There’s nothing going on. I can’t even tell if there is a story here or not.”…Then my friend said, “How old were you when you wrote this?” he had read up to page 50. Replied, “Sixteen.” He said in return, “Oh, that’s just as bad as if you were writing it while drunk.”…Shortly after that, I gathered the typed edition and three notebooks and trunked it. I knew even by myself it wasn’t to be edited through. This manuscript was a test to see if I could tell the story to myself while writing it. I am now, however, able to salvage a few chapters for later.

New Stage Early Years – October 2009 to December 2015 was busy and full of turmoil with family and an abusive marriage. Here, I had an affair. Someone to touch. Someone to hold. Someone to talk my grievances to while I cried myself to sleep most nights in my marriage bed. The affair only lasted a few months, but to me that was enough. It was during this time, shortly before the affair started, that I had a slight story concept.

The first character that came to mind was David Geraci, but I had put him up as Ynycornus from years ago from the first manuscript and from the confines of my subconscious trying to comprehend the abuses I endured for most of my life. Something in me saw a story about my ‘spirit guide’. If he was once alive, if at all, what was his life like? What did he go through? In my mind he kept telling me, “Are you sure you want to know?” I hammered him for more. I wanted to know. I wanted to understand his side of the story that lay far out of reach to me.

He told me all he could as I wrote it down as fast as I could in notes here and there in three hard bound black book of shadows. In this process the concept took shape. Even sketching him when he was at first Ynycornus from manuscript one I drew him as best I could. Slowly, with each chapter, the story of Vivian’s journey to the ‘other side’ with the imposter Ynycornus taking her on a road trip across the country to his home in Lowell, Massachusetts. It all began to take shape.

The first draft was 24 chapters and 140,000 word count. With some help from a friend, who had originally read the first manuscript a few years prior, he helped me widdle it down to 120,000 words. For his help, it was mostly brainstorming ideas when I was stuck. Little did I realize until the fourth draft of manuscript 2, that he had convinced me to put him into the story. Since then, going back to an original draft three level for this part, I’ve erased him from the story. It had no purpose to the story what so ever. Slowing things down and all.

March 2013 I filed for divorce from my abusive husband. I then had to make a horrible choice since I had no other place to go – move back to Tennessee to live with my elder parents and brother. I won’t get into that nightmare of a situation of two years, but I will at least say this – got that second manuscript published for a one year contract in 2014.

Oh, the lessons learned from that small publisher. Damn. Won’t go into details, but when she gave me an editor and this editor pointed out problems in the first chapter and then said, “Look through what I edited in the first chapter. Go through the manuscript and find similar issues and fix them. Once you’re done, get back to me.”…Uh, what? I half assed my efforts cause I didn’t know any better, but at the same time, I thought an editor was to help you along the way? Not leave you to the wolves like that. The book was published, but there were loads of mistakes which now I have cleaned up greatly and cut nearly half the book apart to flow better. I was under an unrealistic deadline with that publisher to get the edits done in a month. That’s not how traditional publishing works. Overall, it was an experience and I sold fifty copies at least digital and paperback. I have three paperback copies myself. One of which is full editing marks in pencil and pen as study for future full on edits.

In December 2015 I dropped the contract. By then I had moved back to Washington state in late September 2015 by train. All I had on me was one very full roll duffel bag, one large roll luggage bag and one small roll luggage bag. All inside the bags were the most precious of belongings – manuscript one printed copy, two of the black notebooks of the original handwritten, how to write fiction books as many as could fit, watercolor art supplies and paints and some cloths. Along with mailing my art portfolio bag of art, Robert Forbear unicorn poster and the antique oval mirror. I was panicking when about to leave my family behind. Being threatened to be killed due to my mother’s delusional mental illness and my brother’s mental illness of threatening the same to me, I had to leave.

Midway Years – From January 2016 to 2019 I was ready to continue the story of the Geraci mansion and Vivian’s adventure of facing her pain. I had added many more characters in the now third manuscript. Before I had left Tennessee in fall 2015, I was in the early stages of at least five chapters into the third manuscript. I kept getting interrupted from my family. It was like I was the adult in the house having to maintain three adult children with childish behaviors and demands due to mental illness, Alzheimer’s Disease (my mother), alcoholism (my dad and brother) and drug use (my brother). I was the truth telling; amateur psychology doctor maintaining a mini asylum. All the while trying to write a new manuscript to continue the story.

I had come back to Washington state a mental mess. My mild PTSD, mild anxiety and mild depression running rapid in me like it dialed up to level 10 at least. Thankfully my psychiatrist Dr. K. back in TN was able to help me figure things out before I left. I was at his office at least every week to every other week depending when he had an opening. Knowing of my own mental illness, which is far more manageable than what I could dare say about my father, brother and mother (which they need far more help then I, which should have been given to them way before I was ever born)…Since I could not concentrate on my love for writing, I had to at least take a break for almost two years.

By late summer 2016 I started working more on the third manuscript. I found my zone in my writing. This third manuscript took maybe six months tops. I then dived into the fourth manuscript in the spring of 2017. I at least got 68,000 words down for manuscript three and 40,000 word count for manuscript four. Both needed far more details fleshed out and I knew this would take time. Both these manuscripts, not to mention manuscript two were FAR, FAR from being looked at by a critique partner. I at least gave these two manuscripts to three Beta Readers in 2017 since one of them had bought the first publication of Soul’s Little Lie when it was in print back in 2015. Having these three Beta Readers helped me set up an editing (reshoot) mindset later on.

Current Phase of Writing – 2020…Oh, my God. It started out just fine. I was rolling along for draft 3 of manuscript three and four nearly at the same time here and there. Mostly was working on manuscript three from January to early March. Then, all shit hit the fan for the world. Covid-19 virus.

Concentration went out the window. Concentration took her bags, jumped out of my soul and heart, leaving my brain in shock and flew the coupe! I was a mess like everyone else who had a hard time looking into working on their current or near future projects in writing, painting, animation, music, etc. We all halted to a stand still in shock.

I tried. Damn did I try to get the motor running in my manuscript editing work. I even started cataloging my writing process of what parts I was working on and how many hours worked in a bullet journal since January 2020. I was set and ready to tackle all three manuscripts to Soul’s Little Lie books. I was pumped, but ya know, 2020 year was a dumpster fire times a million percent!

I set up my bullet journal like a basic calendar that would last me a whole decade of logging. Had to do this since my favorite writing log app WriteOMeter on GooglePlay had up and disappeared no longer with updates to it. It was a sad day for everyone who used that app. It was the best.

After months of fiddling about with chapters here for edits and chapters there and note taking and author bible fixes and updates, I bit the bullet in early October. I posted my need for a critique partner on Reddit. All I was looking for was POV issues. What Mike, my critique partner, found was so much more. He’s currently on chapter 13 of manuscript three and has two more chapters to go.

What Mike found was astounding. I had already suspected as much of shifting chapters and character pieces over to manuscript four, but wasn’t sure how to go about it. My suspicions continued to be correct by Mike’s findings that with one character’s story arch shifted over to the other manuscript, it made the whole new first book flow much better. This then lead me to break down manuscript two even further to find it needed to be at the end of manuscript three which bulked up areas that were flat or missing completely.

This now made the new book one a total word count of 138,000. I can chop that down nicely since I already went through the first publication attempt knowing exactly what to eliminate. Then I saw the problems with manuscript four and how the shifted character arch to be placed at the beginning of this manuscript. This too, made its story bulkier and more connected to the drama in the story with a new location for scenes. It kept two characters closer together to complete both their story arches.

All I have to do now is fill in the blank areas of Vivian’s abuses of her husband in Act I that blends into Act II. Act III, which is manuscript two, will have to be cut a lot to make it fit, but I think I can do it. It will make four books turn into three books instead. A trilogy which is far easier to put together. Once all these ‘reshoots’ are done on my end, I go back to finding a new pair of eyes and fresh mind for a second Critique Partner – teammate #5 to the group.

In retrospect, if I hadn’t gone about swallowing my foolish pride in finding a Critique Partner, I would have sent off the manuscript 3 to querying prematurely. This would have caused set backs due to rejections. With each stage of development in the ever changing Quality Control tactics, I’ve learned far more than ever since only ten years ago. In such a short time of three months, I’ve learned exactly how Developmental Edits are done. Why that first critical step in edits, no matter how daunting it may look at first, is far more important than the piddly edits I attempted on my own.

To have teamwork to build a project as complex as a novel will propel you further toward your writing career and dream coming true for publication than you ever thought possible.

So far, 5 Beta Readers and 1 Critique Partner. The team is growing and will keep growing as the Quality Control moves along down the conveyer belt of production for future publication.

The Power of Reshoots

Editing is writing and editing is inevitable. Editing can never be ignored.

Editing a manuscript, no matter the number of draft it stands, in a visual concept can be looked at as reshoots. I’m calling my edits, at this stage in book 1, reshoots because of one factor – visually learning.

Seeing the edits in my head as a visual medium as though I’m cutting film, since I love movies, is helping me understand how to edit better. To see a previous scene in the manuscript as being shown on screen during tests. If the scene doesn’t work visually with engagement and pace, then it must be completely edited out and then reshot. Previously seeing these edits as a flat format of a 2D structure clogs my mind with paper and words. Seeing it as reshoots makes my mind happy in seeing the problem solving in action. Full color, sound and movement.

The current edits I’ve found, with the help of a Reddit user who has offered their help as a critique partner, has opened my eyes. There is a scene in book 1, chapter 2 for example, where the character Ambros is lingering in the Geraci mansion to look for more clues. The next scene shows Frankie in the dreaming for the main part of the chapter. This Ambros/Geraci mansion scene seems extra and should be on it’s own, says my CP (Critique Partner) on Reddit. They are able to see problems I couldn’t because I’m far too close to the material. Not seeing the forest for the trees, or however that saying goes.

Another chapter, chapter 3, concerning Brandon, the pace of his development is blocked by Vivian. Their interaction seems forced and unnatural cause of what’s going on. With the eyes of my CP, and my previous thoughts on the matter months ago, the Brandon character needs to be away from Vivian. By doing so, he won’t know who she is and can stay in New England interacting with Catherine in a more natural setting that his character development demanded. This will force Vivian to confront her husband more directly in what she needs to take her road trip. Now that my CP saw what I suspected and we both agree on this change, visually the Brandon character has shown himself to me in my mind. Where as before, he refused to appear. Now I understand why.

Not only are large reshoots found, so to are small fixes. Such as – descriptive aspects of a character’s house for the Umari family. I hadn’t thought about describing their house and hadn’t put a place holder on it. It had slipped my mind. I had mentioned it being a townhouse later in the book or in book 2, if memory serves me correct. But that does not excuse to lack in place markers for future needs. If ever there is a place you must go back to – leave an area in BOLD with a side note. You’ll be grateful for it later during reshoots.

Seeing my edits as reshoots has helped clear my mind to focus more directly on the material in front of me. I’m grateful for this lesson by my CP and my subconscious helping along.

Inner Worries of a Novelist

Nearly ten weeks have been spent on lockdown for self quarantine of the Covid-19 virus for Washington state. The lockdown began for us in Washington state on March 17th, if my memory serves me correct. (The next day my 40th birthday celebrated as best I could) Before then, about early January 2020 I was already watching and learning of the virus online through creditable YouTube channels. Following practicing and licensed doctors that understood how pathology of viruses works. I enjoy studying and keeping up on scientific changes as things like Covid-19 progress. This also made me hyper-focus on nothing but the ever changing findings of the virus as I watched my boyfriend worry about finances in late March as his job slowly closed up shop. This meant he would be in the house every single day starting in late March, early April.

As the changes to the lockdown continued of what we could do to keep active and what we could only do in keeping safe as time passed. Wearing masks and gloves became the norm for us. As the weather got better, with a few days to a full week of sunshine and clear night skies, I was able to take my nightly walks. The walks I call: Writing Walkies. A priceless and cherished time to let my mind focus on the stories I’m writing or trying to write.

With my boyfriend at home all the time, taking his time to be in his office to play video games mostly Sims 4 and at times coming to sit together watching YouTube videos and our favorite shows on Hulu…it has now come to my attention (now that Phase 2 of reopening Washington state begins), I have not had a full comfortable mental process of focuses on Soul’s Little Lie book 1. The times I took to write when my boyfriend would be at work were perfect for me. I was able to think clearly without the mental pull to talk with him, sit next to him on the couch or to do yard work together. (We were able, with help from our neighbor, to attack and kill off the blackberries for seven days worth of hard labor. We are not done by far to make the backyard the way we want it, but those seven days saved us a comparable month or two worth. Thank you Shane!)

Since this revelation has come to the forefront of my mind, this got me to thinking of the psychological aspects to myself of what makes me truly focus as a writer in a healthy way.

First and foremost, growing up in a household that constantly kept me on edge due to my narcissistic, mentally ill abusive mother and the chaos my mentally ill brother brought into our lives and coupled with the few to hardly no friends throughout most of my school years, it was difficult to concentrate on any writing or painting at all. It was only once my mother went to work or when my brother was away from family for monthly stretches or a few years at a time for countless reasons, was I able to do the work I wanted that made me happy. As for my father, who enforced the rules of the house with threat of a belt across my ass (yet mom was the one who beat me) and following the whims of my abusive mother, his wife, I didn’t have much stress over him fogging up my mind.

Once they were all out of the house, even for a weekend trip for themselves when I was old enough to be left alone in the apartment, it would take me a day or two to reset my mind to focus on my arts. This focus would continue for days or weeks until the chaos of the house of my mother’s ravings and gaslighting would flare up again. Then the cycle would continue. I would have to wait until it was safe to concentrate on my work.

The process continued again when I was married to a mentally ill abuser who gaslighted me at every turn. Even when I worked a retail job I wouldn’t calm down to focus until I had a day or two to decompress. Once the husband (now ex-husband for eight years), would be off to work, while I did not work, I was able to focus at will. I would paint, draw, dance or write to my hearts content. It was after all what spawned the first manuscript for Soul’s Little Lie that later was published for a time in 2015.

Now, here it is nearly ten weeks of lockdown quarantine for Washington state and my boyfriend of four years has been in the house constantly cause he can not work at the ice rink until the coast is clear. I’m not pulling my hair out or throwing fits over it. I’m calm and busy studying about the virus and the political changes in the world. Off and on I have been watching YouTube videos about writing, querying, publishing, etc to keep up, but the mental focus to work on rewriting/editing process for book one has slipped away.

All I have to do is type up a new chapter 2 and rewrite from scratch chapter 18 to possibly chapter 20, all these chapters are strictly the point of view of my Frankie Bellington character. Frankie has been difficult to talk to though. It is almost as though my subconscious does not want to see what he has to offer to the story of Soul’s Little Lie of the heartache he feels of what happened. I understand it’s a part of me that’s afraid of failure in a way, but it is also a personification of my inner lack of focus that stems from the past of abusive family and ex-husband’s abuses.

My boyfriend has never been abusive toward me in any fashion, so why am I not able to focus? The full truth could be that – the uncertainty of the future scares me to the core. I’m not alone in these uncertain times of fear and worry. Though, in a way this fear is unfounded. The great saying, “We have nothing to fear, but fear itself”, comes to mind easily to me, but that inner part of me has been through so much, it makes me hunker down to survival mode.

And yet, the true survival mode that got me through all the years of abuse was directly connected to writing and painting. Writing more helped me flesh out my feelings; my thoughts to the full ability of the English language in which I speak. Though, still, why am I not able to focus on the few chapters I have left in book one during editing draft 3?

Am I yet still afraid of critique partners and new beta readers to come after this? Do I fear what they will say about my work since I was so terribly burned out by my first publisher of the editor they gave me did not help worth a bit.

I linger so in my goals to become the future published novelist I’ve always wanted to be. Even still, Frankie Bellington’s words must be heard, must be spoken at all costs.

Here I am, seated at my computer and I have typed at least this on my author site for all to read. A feeling of relief escapes my lips as I end this entry.

Spring Flowers Of My Truth

I’m writing this article today because of this YouTube video: The Case For Fan Fiction

Since there are more authors coming forward in telling their reader base: ‘Yeah, I wrote fan fiction and it helped me learn how to write better.’…I feel strong enough mentally now to come forward to tell my piece. To allow my spring flowers to come up from the earth to see the light of day.

Fan fiction to me is an outlet to help jump start or a warming up period to writing something original. To get that feeling of the pen between my fingers. To feel the pen moving across the paper as words drip onto the page one by one. To make limber my fingers at the keyboard to type as smoothly or as awkwardly as possible. (With the joy in knowing the spell checker will always be there)

Writing fan fiction is a glorious way to practice, not just in the basic structure of sentences and word usage, but in the process that little is talked about – practice in remembering a whole story and the character(s) formations within. It takes a lot of work to flush out a whole story even if its based on someone else’s previous or current prose. Sometimes, but most often, getting your mind to wrap around the complexity of character development, plot and subplot structure and basic other story beats, there is a lot to hold onto. Writing fan fiction in the character types you loved such as, for example of my own works: 1980s My Little Pony, Dragonball Z and New Kids On The Block (Real Person Fiction), helped me understand the complexities of juggling all of these critical writing structure needs.

Learning what I watched and read of the above examples of cartoon, anime and real life people that I aspired to, I was able to flesh out fairly well constructed original stories. All the while keeping in mind the basic principals of what made those cartoon fictions and real life people who they are and what they became. Coming up with original characters is hard work, but there are times that writing fan fiction helps you understand the structure of a character(s). Fan fiction is just that important to us writers.

Now, here it is, more and more professional authors are coming out expressing that they got their start by writing fan fiction when they were teenagers. All of us writers also got our basic start in English classes and Creative Writing classes all throughout our early school years, some as far as college. However, when in between writing class assignments, spring break and summer break, what do we do? We write fan fiction to keep our skill in top shape. We keep writing no matter the subject manner as long as it is something we love and can mold to our own enjoyment.

As for my own fan fiction, I have a few, but two of them that I posted live, are made with a twist. My Fan Fiction (Mythian)  “The Island“, it all came from dreams that I put together. I would wake up from the dream with a ‘…To Be Continued’ nearly each morning. I would pick up right where I left off in the dream. Finding at least thirty dreams that made up the whole of The Island, I didn’t start writing it down until 2005. The dream had kept itself hold up for so long, that I’m surprised I remembered it so perfectly to be written the way it was.

The Nightmare” worked the same way. Dreamed it constantly every few days for a while year. Psychologically I was trying to come to terms if being a New Kids fan was worth my time and effort. Later, wrote it down completely in 2005 or so to keep a record of its originality. Years later, I placed this into my third Soul’s Little Lie novel, but shortened it to fit my needs for that collection of characters.

On their own, The Island and The Nightmare would never do well by themselves. The way my mind constructed these dreams the only smart place for them was to weave them into my current novels. As for the My Little Pony and DragonBall Z fan fiction, they will stay right where they are and will never be changed to suit my original works. They were for warm up and practice and I love the time I put into them.

The importance of fan fiction writing can take you farther than you realize. The trick is, how do you weave your dreams into something original that will help you grow to go farther as a writer? That’s totally up to you.

Humble Before My Creation

There is something I came to understand when I was seventeen. Something that myself as an artist and possible many other artists out there, came to understand about their creative works.

This world is full of stories. The world thrives on stories of all kinds – may the stories be of gossip, news of the day by the strumming bard’s lute and song, or by stories to teach from teacher to student. A whole countless collection of fictions and real life tales of days gone by.

Each of these stories, told by many over the centuries, may take on a unique quality of existence. A life of their own far away into the universe. In an alternate universe maybe, just maybe, the stories we create to share with one another, the storyteller’s world becomes flesh; real with time in an alternate universe and world.

If this be true, the storyteller would never know of their creation being flesh. The physics of our world forbids us passage to such worlds, at least for now. The only way close enough for the storyteller to touch their creation is through television shows and movies and plays on a stage.

This is where the storyteller who created their fictional world cries; weeps for joy seeing their world made flesh. A happiness that no other artist, save for the team that helps put the fictional world into flesh, could understand what that feels like inside the heart.

Having come to realize this so long ago and revisiting it now, knowing the hard work it takes to edit a manuscript to full polished beauty for agents and publishers, I feel humble and grounded. With the hope of a final product waiting in the wings of my mind and on the page…I am more humble before my creation than ever for whatever it may become.

Acknowledge & Ignore Procrastination

I got the idea for this article of my procrastination process to work for me by listening to  The Writer Files Podcast – titled The Writer’s Brain on Procrastination Part One and Two. I had realized something about the information Kelton Reid and his guests had not quite expressed. This reminded me of what I’ve done most of my life while working on my novels Soul’s Little Lie. I thought, maybe someone might find this list useful.

Don’t get me wrong, Kelton Reid’s podcast on procrastination was helpful as a simple review for myself in which I had previously studied for the past few years. Its good to be reminded of the process of procrastination and now here’s how you can use procrastination to your benefit.

I know what procrastination is and I ignore its existence. This is how I transform the potential for procrastination into working for me.

  1. Ignoring the mental aspect – I see that I am ignoring the writing work in front of me, but I also see that it is a perfect time to breath and rest. Acknowledging that this is only a momentary time of resting my mind, allows my mind to go idle so not to stress myself into over thinking the work ahead or in front of me in that moment. – Take some time for yourself to get up from the computer, typewriter or collection of notes of your prose or article. Just as much as your body needs to stretch from sitting so long, so does your brain.
  2. Not binge watching tv shows – When there is a massive writing project that must get done and I acknowledge the possibility of procrastination that may come about, I don’t give into binge watching tv shows. If I do allow myself to take thirty minutes to three hours or more of time to binge tv shows, this opens up a plethora of creative problems. The tv show stories invade my mind to hijack my already incubating prose. I then find myself thinking of the visual and audio ques of that show feeding into more procrastination. – Once I’ve found myself not watching tv shows for weeks on end (not feeding into procrastination) my prose flow smoother and the chapters start coming along with ease. Even my note taking is fuller for that future chapter. Also, my editing sessions are finished up that much quicker.
  3. Writing Walkies – It takes me thirty minutes to an hour to walk from my house into town and through town. I’ll take these ‘Writing Walkies’ in the evening hours and be out there in the small town for an hour to four hours at a time. I’ll have my IPod with me to listen to my music that pertains to the manuscript project at hand or I won’t listen to the music, it all depends on how I want to think the current chapter or scene through. Writing Walkies may seem like procrastination, but it is more atune with making the brain go idle, to make it be at rest to allow intrusive thoughts to flow to the way side without full acknowledgement. – Once this has been achieved, of the scene flowing as I talk to myself (finding no traffic on the streets and hardly anyone outdoors at night) I’ll walk faster and feel an excitement in me to get back home to flesh out the scene notes by hand or type.
  4. Work Log – Sometimes I’ll look through my Work Log to see how far I’ve come in the progress of my manuscript. The Work Log is put into two visual places – a dry erase board calendar and a book planner calendar. I’ll do my work for a few hours, starting at 6pm (or a little later) up until 2am. On the dry erase board write down the book number, chapter number, sometimes even the amount of pages written or the time in which I’ve worked. Then I’ll transfer that log into the paper edition of the day planner in red pen. Sometimes adding side notes to what else I did in my writing or not writing. – Looking through my Work Logs for a few minutes every few days may seem like procrastination, but it is more akin to juicing myself up for the next day of work.
  5. ‘Soul Team’ Waiting – While I wait for any one of my ‘Soul Team’ in replying back to the pieces of material I sent them for edits or beta reading, I’ll just sit back and do other things. I’ll do basic chores around the house, which coincides with Cleaning Up The Stage process. I’ll do some reading to pick up where I left off, which usually I’ll read a chapter or two. I’ll even go about analyzing my Work Log or go over my notes. Sometimes, depending on the weather, I’ll do some Writing Walkies. To mix it up while I wait, I’ll play some video games and yes, I’ll watch YouTube videos in the morning but only about subjects I’m passionate about: sciences, psychology, nature, art, history or politics. Currently though, no working on artwork since my mind hasn’t flipped that switch cause of the manuscript being the main focus.
  6. Concept Illustrations – Some people would call this part a ‘side hustle’. My Concept Illustrations are far, far away from anything resembling a ‘side job that makes money’. It’s not even a ‘side project’ to me. Reason being – a small 5×7 or a large 24×18 watercolor or basic pencil and ink sketch for my novels is just for me to get a concept idea out of my head. A short fling to amuse my mind to take a break from writing. A healthy procrastination by far. However, if I’m working on my manuscripts heavily for weeks or months on end, Concept Illustration pieces don’t dare come up in my mind. I’ve even forced it, but that painter’s switch won’t click. That’s a good thing. Once my writing binge is over, which can take up to 9 months or less, only then will that painter’s switch get flicked. Then it becomes a short burst of creative juices flowing for a few days to a month at most. Then, it’s back to manuscript studies and writing for another 9 months.
  7. Prep Talk – Not at all to be confused with – Pep Talk, but close. If I feel that procrastination is making its way into a longer period of annoyance, I’ll stab it out by acknowledging it as fear. Once I’ve done that, talking to myself of how I’m feeling of a writing situation I’m in creatively, I’ll pretend those fear elements are people around me that I’ve known or have yet to know or meet. I’ll talk back to the ‘visual hallucination‘ (that I’m conscious of making in my mind) and I’ll act out that situation in the room. I’ll do this when its just me in the house alone, so no interruptions by anyone else crossing my path so I can concentrate. Subjects I’ll confront of this fear induced procrastination are – a) having an argument with an editor. b) reminding myself how much passion I’m backing this writing project. c) the main reasons for wanting to become a published author with a book or two on shelves. The costs I’m willing to make to make my dream come true and how much all of this means to me. – Once this Prep Talk is finished, the lingering leftovers of that possible procrastination has faded and I jump back on board to working on the edits or current chapters of the current or next manuscript. (To add, this Prep Talk also helps me get out some of my PTSD from my past. The coupling of my ‘publishing fears’ and PTSD, talking it out in an empty room in front of imagined people that I confront, helps me acknowledge that I’m still alive and my passions to be a writer keep me going in a healthy direction)
  8. The Process Starts Again at #1 – Then I go back to the top of this list and I find I’ve done more progress in my writing each and every day or week or months worth of material.

I hope this article helps you or someone you know that is having a hard time with procrastination. Show them these helpful tips in taking control of procrastination to work for them. You’ll be surprised how far you’ve come in your writing.

Cleaning Up The Stage

Cleaning up the store before opening the doors to customers. Preparing the canvas before placing the first paint filled brush stroke. Sweeping the stage before rehearsal begins. Prepping your work space before you type at the typewriter for that important article or first draft of a new novel.

Not all writers do this process, but it does help…at least that’s how I noticed a shift in my work whenever I cleaned up the stage.

I was always a tidy child and teenager. I did as I was ordered and told to do in keeping my room clean or maintaining some form of space to keep organized. Even if it meant that my mother with her bipolar with residual schizophrenia on top of that which the littlest thing would upset her of whatever I did ‘wrong’ to her whims. I grew accustom to maintaining my room as perfect as possible. Reason being for the most part, I danced in my bedroom all the time. I understood early on my own observations while taking ballet class in 1985, that the cleanliness of the studio and stage was important. It kept accidents from happening. There is nothing worse in the world than tripping over the smallest object when dancing.

I took that basic training of cleaning up the stage to heart and still do it today, but with a twist.

I discovered in my early 20s that I had a niche in recognizing a pattern of thought whenever I finished cleaning dishes, laundry and sweeping the floors or cleaning anything else in one day. Once the chores were done for that day, my mind was free to focus on my writing for the rest of the week. I would have 5 or 6 days devoted to writing even if it was only note taking and study of my works. I would finish one to three chapters in that week span. Then the cycle of come Sunday or Monday I would clean house once more to prep for the next work week of writing.

Why would I go to such lengths to clean house in one day, even if all I needed to do was 2 to 3 loads of laundry? Imagine for a moment you want to write a whole chapter. The story is flowing out of you, but your mind is bogged down at the forefront of – ‘There is a load of dishes in the sink’ – ‘there is a load of laundry that needs to be washed’ – As you notice there is something keeping you from your work, you stop and go finish that other thing, for my case chores. If I find that this is happening inside my mind and I know physically there are chores to be done, and I continue to ignore those chores, I get depressed for the next few days cause I’m being lazy to myself and neglectful to my writing.

Writing is the reward for when I’m done with basic household needs. I look at this way, if you can not maintain your household of the basic clutter around you (basic chores as I described before) then how can your mind be calm and at peace to help you focus on your creative work in front of you? As much as a cluttered mind can not focus, neither can a cluttered house, stage, etc. When you have not kept to a basic once a week schedule of maintaining the house needs (your needs, mind you) then the creative work before you will and can suffer as a result.

On a Sunday or Monday I’ll see the dishes need to be done. I’ll see if one or two loads of laundry to be done. I’ll notice there are dust bunnies on the floor and sweep all the floors and clean the cat box. Then come Tuesday onward I’ll have nothing better to do than write a new chapter(s) until the next Sunday or Monday rolls around. Then the cycle starts all over again.

Don’t get me wrong here. There are authors out there of all kinds that just focus on the writing and keep going all the while neglecting the household needs to keep them sane, healthy and happy. Especially the healthy part. If you have a partner in your life that can help with the chores to keep you on task at writing, then ask them to help you with the house chores from time to time. It will help you lessen the load.

These are all crucial processes before you begin any body of creative work, before setting a dinner party or office meeting or before you fill your car with vacation essentials for that road trip adventure. If the stage is not cleaned and ready, how can you focus on the task at hand that will then keep you mentally fit and healthy?