Finishing Draft 3 in 2013 and Starting Draft 4 in 2014

So, remember yesterday when I wrote about depression and how it was interfering with my revisions?

Yeah, I ended up finishing the last remaining chapters of Manifestation Draft Three last night.

So now what? Well, first of all, I got a whole bunch of stickers:

Ignore the "Inevitable Sticker" at the bottom.
Ignore the “Inevitable Sticker” at the bottom.

That looks a lot better than it did yesterday.

Second, the shiny green progress bar over there —–>
is now full, and starting a new, brighter, shinier, greener progress bar for Draft Four.

Draft Four, in itself, it going to be short and sweet. Lots of cuts and basic rearrangements. Basically, Draft Four consists of issues I figured out near the end of Draft Three. But I was SO close to being done chapter-by-chapter edits on the last eight or ten chapters that I didn’t want to go back to Chapters 1-7 and figure out the issues there. So I trudged on forward, fixed the rest of the basic stuff, and now I’m going in for another pass. It shouldn’t be a “front to back” pass, since I don’t think anything (currently) needs to be fixed in the later chapters. Mostly what I’m doing now is cutting a few scenes that were dragging things down, replacing them with continuity fixes, and figuring out the timeline.

I’ve still got a January 15th deadline. Originally that was a deadline to finish Draft Three, but I finished earlier than expected, which is why I get to do another pass through first. Then, as soon as Draft Four is fixed up, I’ll be seeking Critique Partners.

In the meantime, let me point out that today is the LAST day of 2013 to buy my short story ebook Radiance at the same price it’ll be throughout all of 2014. Which means you could buy it at the same price tomorrow, but what if the world ends at midnight? I’d buy it now.

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New Year’s, Writing, Deadlines, and Depression

So it’s New Year’s Eve Eve, and we’re about to enter 2014. In itself, that means little to me. I don’t believe in New Year’s Resolutions, because I think that change can come at any time of year. I don’t expect 2014 to be all that different from 2013. I will still be in college, still be working, and still be writing. I plan to get Manifestation released during 2014, but I don’t consider that to be a New Year’s Resolution since I’ve been working towards that goal for quite some time now.

So the New Year itself won’t mean much of anything to me, other than writing a 4 instead of a 3 at the end of the date when I write my rent check. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have some changes to discuss. I just don’t link those changes to the date.

First there’s the progress on my writing. I only have 6 1/2 chapters left to revise in Manifestation to finish Draft Three. With luck, I’ll actually have those done by the end of the week. As I mentioned before, I have until January 15th to get Manifestation out to critique partners in order to get through Draft Four by my March 6th deadline. It looks like I’m going to be ahead of schedule. Which is good, because it’ll give me more leeway in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, I’m also struggling with the holiday season. I have episodic depression mixed with occasional episodes of manic rage. This tends to follow a pattern. Something will set me off, like, say, people posting anti-gay, anti-race, or anti-sex comments on Twitter, and I’ll fly off the handle, yell at people, go on a blocking spree, etc. Then I’ll sink into a depression where I dwell on everything I’ve done and said for the last seven years and how I think people will judge me for my behavior. Then I’ll come out of it and be high on life for awhile, rinse, repeat, etc etc.

The reason I bring this up is because it’s worth discussing how such emotional issues affect my writing. For example, I’m on a low-swing right now, and my work has suffered. I was doing GREAT Friday and Saturday. Here’s a picture of my writing calendar to demonstrate:

This is a mix of writing Book 4 and revising Book 1
This is a mix of writing 7000 words on Book 4 and revising 8 chapters on Book 1.

 

Then on Sunday I started to slump. So here’s what I did Sunday and Monday:

That's 1000 words written, yesterday's blog post (which was really Pam's story so it barely counts), and a critique I wrote for someone else.
That’s 1000 words written, yesterday’s blog post (which was really Pam’s story so it barely counts), and a critique I wrote for someone else.

I’ve done next to nothing for two days. Just thinking about doing anything was tough. Half the reason I’m writing this blog post is with the hope that getting into the “writing groove” will help launch me into revisions afterwards. I get another sticker for writing this blog post, which puts me at 4 stickers in two days (the one at the bottom doesn’t count; it’s the “inevitable sticker” (don’t ask)). BUT if I finish revising Manifestation today I get SEVEN more stickers. SEVEN.

This is why this calendar is so important. I can look over the month of December and see when I worked and when I didn’t. I see two completely blank days on December 8th and 9th, which were horrible days for me. I see a whole swarm of stickers from the 15th to the 21st when I was in the zone finishing up Collapse.

I’ll also soon be getting the cover art made for Manifestation. Assuming she’s available, I plan to hire Ravven, the wonderful artist who did the cover for Radiance to do the novel’s cover as well. I have the money set aside after my Kickstarter drive, so I’m good to go. I’ll post updates and previews of the cover once that happens.

I think that’s it for now. Which means I get a sticker.

#WritingPrompt Results, Belated

So, way back in October I posted a Writing Prompt, based on a random slip of paper I found in one of my used school text books. I was intrigued by the words on the paper, and I posted it on my blog with a challenge for someone to write a story based on it. About a week later, my Twitter friends Nyssa23 and Kayla Thomas each sent stories along based on the prompt.

Well another Twitter friend, Pamela Simon, promised me a story as well. And then never sent it. I think she was shy about sharing it. BUT, she finally sent her story along. So here it is. I hope you enjoy it! (And if you do, go bug her on Twitter and tell her!)

———————————

New Aesthetic

From the safety of the booths and tables, the tall bar stools always looked like the last step before giving up. It was the limbo that people hung out in before giving up and dying quietly single and alone. It was what you did before you threw in the towel and created an online dating profile.

For Carolina, sitting at the bar felt more like the first step after giving up. There was no longer anything left to lose, and only the rest of her life to live.

There was no place to put her purse, so she balanced it on her knees. In this way her body betrayed the relaxed persona she wanted to give off, like she didn’t care that she at the bar and alone. She pressed her feet into the rung on the tall chair so that her legs were at almost a perfect right angle. The bar tender stopped in front of her, his towel-covered fist shoved indelicately into a pint glass. “Can I get you something?”

She worried her lip. She didn’t know what to order. Kyle always ordered for her – he considered himself a beer expert the same way some people incorrectly considered themselves art critics. Kyle, who was so brilliant with his hands when he was writing the directions, couldn’t put together a piece of Ikea furniture to save his life. Kyle couldn’t remember plans unless they were written down and had an accompanying alarm on his cell phone, but he could remember every inane statistic and piece of trivia in baseball’s history. Kyle, out of whose ass the sun rose and into whose smile it set every night, had left a note that simply said to the homeland – you’ll be missed like it had been eight days and not eight years.

And with that Carolina, who had always felt so independent despite their relationship, realized that she had unwisely put her heart in Kyle’s hands and he had run off to the motherfucking “homeland” without giving it back to her.

That was something else he did. He borrowed things and then never gave them back. It was easier to move in with him than to try to get all of her DVDs back.

“Do… you need more time?” The bar tender asked. He drew out the first word, like this was how he was going to give her more time.

“No,” Carolina said. Only it came out like “doh.” She wiped the back of her hand under her nose and then sniffed in hard, immediately regretting the action. It was one of those things that the kids did in class and it made her skin crawl, just thinking about all the shit they inhaled by doing that. Carolina said, “No, thank you. Do you have cider?”

“I have Woodchuck.” The bartender put a small napkin down in front of her for the drink. Then he tentatively set another one down beside it. “Apple and raspberry.”

Carolina picked up the second napkin and pressed it to her nose. There was nothing left, her nose as empty as she imagined her chest to be, but she didn’t want to admit it. She balled up the clean paper in her fist and asked, “Raspberry?”

The bar tender leaned in and said in a stage whisper, “It’s not that good.”

“I’ll get the apple.”

“Start a tab?”

She glanced down at her purse in her lap and then back at the bar tender. “Yes. No.” She sighed and pulled her wallet out of the purse. “Yes.” Carolina set her credit card down on the counter and slid it forward.

“I’ll take good care of this,” the bar tender glanced down at the card. “Carolina. That’s pretty.”

“Thanks.”

She folded, unfolded, and then refolded the napkin while she watched the bar tender enter in her sale. Then he opened the bottle for her and set it down on the first napkin. “Let me know if you need anything else.” He set a menu down in her vicinity and moved on to another patron.

Carolina wanted to relax, to let her feet swing, but she didn’t want to hang her purse from the back of her tall chair and she didn’t want to set it on the dirty counter. This was something she never worried about at tables and booths; there was always a spot for purses and jackets. Thank God for the season-less southwest where she rarely needed a jacket.

There was a game on, but it was baseball. Carolina couldn’t look at it, so she looked anywhere else. She sipped her cider and thought about what her next steps should be. The last plan she had made had stupidly relied on Kyle. At some point, she thought, that was what you did. You made plans with other people, because at some point, that was the next step to be taken. You joined your life with someone and your road was his – it was an “ours” instead of a “mine.”

She took another gulp of her cider and glanced back up at the game. She shouldn’t have come here, but she didn’t know what else to do during the playoffs. It hadn’t been long enough since Kyle left – she hadn’t even told her friends.

She tried to inconspicuously blow her nose into the napkin and then she set it down near her cider bottle, intending to throw it away on her way out the door.

“Excuse me.”

Carolina had her bottle up to her lips when she turned to face the man who had spoken. He wore a blue cap backwards and a matching faded t-shirt. He was a Cubs fan and he nervously glanced up at the screens and then back at Carolina, like he would pass out if he missed a single pitch. Since he was a Cubs fan she imagined that under the hat was thinning hair, but when she quickly glanced over him from head to foot, she could see that the rest of him seemed aesthetically pleasing. Except… he was a Cubs fan.

“Yes?”

“Is anybody sitting here?” He pointed at the empty seat next to Carolina, the only one left at the bar.

“Um.” Carolina didn’t want to lie, not when it would be so apparent that nobody was sitting there, but Carolina didn’t want to be next to this guy either. He smelled too much like the boys in her classes, had too round of a face for her liking. “Well.”

Someone pressed a hand to her back and a man – another man – said, “Hey baby.” She swiveled in her seat, for a second expecting Kyle, but no. The voice wasn’t as deep; and anyway, Kyle had never in their entire relationship called her baby. He made fun of guys who called their girls baby, like maybe they couldn’t remember her name, or just didn’t like it.

Kyle liked to tell a story about the two months he dated a girl who shared a name with his sister, and how he never once referred to her by her real name because it was too weird for him.

Carolina wasn’t sure she wanted to sit by this guy either, but he at least reminded her of the boys she had grown up with. His hooked nose was exactly between two big brown eyes and his hair fell into his eyes in the old-fashioned way. “Hey,” she said slowly.

The first man looked them over and stepped away. He said, “Sorry, man,” like Carolina wasn’t even there. It was something Kyle would do, and she clung to that as a reminder that Kyle was an ass and not worth her time.

The new guy swung himself onto the seat next to Carolina and smiled at her. “Sorry about that,” he said. “This is the last seat at the bar, and I’m willing to play dirty for it.” He waved the bar tender over and ordered a black and tan; then he turned his attention back to Carolina.

“Well, you don’t smell like the douche bag section of the mall, so I won’t object.” She ran her hands along her purse to make sure it was closed, and then picked up her bottle again. “So I guess thanks for the rescue.”

The guy smiled at her. “The pleasure’s all mine.” She returned his smile, but didn’t say anything else. Small talk was never her thing. He said, “I’m Miles, by the way.”

Her first instinct was to feel self-conscious. With every intention of spending the evening alone, Carolina hadn’t bothered to do anything with her short blond hair or even bothered putting on an outfit more presentable than a layered tee and bright turquoise capris. The only thing she felt okay about was her lack of makeup, which was the norm for her.

Carolina took another gulp of her cider and thought maybe she was getting hit on. She took a deep breath and said, “Look. I appreciate it, I do.” Her ears heated up and though in her head the words sounded just perfect, as she spoke them they felt anything but. “I’m not here to meet anybody. I’m just here to be here.”

Miles blinked quickly and shook his head. “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to give off that impression. I’m not hitting on you. I’m just here to watch the game. It’s the playoffs.”

Heat filled Carolina’s cheeks. Instead of being embarrassed at the assumption itself, she was mortified that she’d been out of the game for so long that she no longer had any idea what it felt like to be hit upon… or at least, she couldn’t tell the difference between single people flirting and a normal conversation.

And she didn’t even know if this guy was single or not. She attempted to look at his left hand for a ring, but his arms were crossed, with the right one on top. He didn’t wear the shorts-and-t-shirt combination that Carolina equated with perpetually single men, but a polo and clean khakis didn’t mean that this guy was taken, either.

“It certainly is,” the bar tender said. He put a dual-shaded glass of beer in front of Miles and silently took the credit card from him to start a tab. Carolina relaxed when she saw a bare left hand, glad that she didn’t accuse a married man of coming onto her.

“Yeah,” Carolina said. “I’m not really watching, but you go ahead.”

“Are you a fan?”

Carolina sighed. “Not really.”

“I could explain it to you,” Miles said. “The players wear tight pants. I hear that’s a thing girls are into nowadays. Since you’re not into me, and I have no interest in picking you up, I don’t mind encouraging you ogling other men’s asses.”

Carolina smiled into her beer bottle. That was one detail about baseball that hadn’t slipped past her. “It’s really okay,” she said. “Just enjoy your game. Pretend I’m not here.”

“That seems awfully rude.”

There were a few seconds where Carolina thought that Miles was going to continue to engage her in conversation, but he seemed to turn his attention to the game, or at least, to something else other than her.

She enjoyed the relative silence, the way that the world went on around her. It was a needed reminder that her life was still going to go on the same as it always did whether or not Kyle came home to her at the end of the day. Carolina ordered another cider and thought about how she’d have total control over the DVR… but only for the rest of the month. After that she’d need to cancel it, because she wouldn’t have the funds to pay for it anymore. And maybe not the cable either.

Carolina cleared her throat and moved her bottle along the table. She bumped the balled up snotty-napkin and it rolled toward Miles. He reached to pick it up and with an awful shrieking noise Carolina said, “Don’t touch that!”

Miles pulled his hand away quickly and held it against his chest. “What?” he asked. “What’s in that? Is it a bomb? Are you a suicide bomber? In a bar?”

Cheeks heating up, Carolina grabbed the napkin and shoved it into her purse. “I blew my nose into it,” she said. “So that was disgusting, I apologize.”

“Oh,” Miles said. “I’m used to it. I’m a doctor.”

“You are?” He hadn’t struck her as a doctor. She didn’t know very many personally, but the few she did know were snooze-fests. Miles didn’t seem like a snooze-fest.

“Not really,” Miles said. “I’m an accountant. Would it have mattered if I was?”

“Mattered for what?”

He shook his head. “Never mind.”

He took a gulp of his beer, the two types mixing together in the process and then slowly separating again. “Do you have a name.”

She sighed. “Yes.”

There was a pause and Carolina felt too shy to look over at him. She wasn’t there to flirt, she was there to be morose and see a baseball game without breaking down in tears, because staying at home alone on a Saturday night was too much for her to take so soon after the breakup. Three innings down and she was successful.

“May I have it?”

“Carolina.”

“Caroline?”

“No, Carolina.”

“As in, North Carolina? Or South Carolina?” When Carolina finally looked at Miles he grinned widely at her, proud of his joke. “So that I know how to drawl it. Were you conceived there? Do you have those kind of parents?”

“What kind of parents?”

“The kind that disturbingly choose to name their child after whatever city the baby-making was done in.”

“The Carolinas are states,” she said. She shook her head. “I was made in Chicago.”

Made in Chicago? Are you a robot?”

The bar tender switched out her empty bottle with a fresh one and Carolina shook her head again. “No. They moved here from Chicago a few months before I was born. And I can do the math. And conceived feels like a dirty word.”

Miles smiled again and nodded. “Well, okay then, Carolina made in Chicago. It’s nice to meet you.”

He turned his attention back to the game, and Carolina focused again on her drink. She hadn’t intended on having more than one, and once she had started drinking the second she realized it was a mistake. Her quick trip out to face her fears was turning into more of an excursion, and that was something she didn’t need.

“Does it hurt?”

Carolina frowned when she looked at Miles. “What? When I fell from heaven?”

Miles tipped his glass toward her. “I would have asked did it hurt for that one, but like I said, I’m not hitting on you. God. Don’t be so arrogant.” Carolina tried to pull off indignant, but Miles was wearing a charming smile, the kind that she was never able to ignore. While he continued to insist that he wasn’t hitting on her, his light-hearted tone and habit of leaning into her personal space still made her think otherwise just a little bit. “I meant how hard you were thinking. Does that hurt?”

“You ask a lot of questions.”

“I’m a really curious guy.” If Carolina were looking for someone she’d need to begrudgingly admit that Miles also had a charming personality. “You should try asking some questions. But do it carefully. Asking questions is the gateway drug to having civilized conversation.”

“You ever spend a long time hating a certain type of person only to realize you are that person?”

Blanching, Miles asked, “Are you a hipster?”

Carolina laughed. It felt good. It was something she hadn’t found herself doing since the breakup. Even her seniors, who always made her laugh more than she knew was professionally appropriate couldn’t get more out of her than a derisive snort. If anything, their happiness got on her nerves – the way they had their whole lives ahead of them, hadn’t yet gone down any paths they couldn’t fix. She envied those seniors and maybe that was keeping their jokes from striking her funny bone as they usually did.

“I’m not a hipster,” Carolina said, taking a deep breath. She sighed. “I was with this guy for like, a really long time-”

“Two weeks?”

Carolina smiled. “Longer than that.” She took a gulp of cider, steeling herself for the story. “Eight years we were together, almost nine. And the whole time I thought I was this independent girl because we had our own lives and we each did our own thing. And Kyle broke it off with me this week and I’m so lost without him. I hate girls who act like this after a breakup.” She sniffed and brought her soggy beer-bottle napkin to her nose. “I hate Twilight,” she whined.

Miles patted her shoulder, but he didn’t say anything.

The human contact was nice, almost like it relieved some of the pressure. At the same time, the ache grew as Carolina realized that even with this, she was better with a companion. She wanted to be that independent woman she always thought she was.

“You know,” Miles said slowly. “Everybody needs to realize they’re not Beyonce at some point.” Carolina found herself smiling again. “I mean, it was the worst day of my life, when I realized I wasn’t Beyonce.”

Carolina laughed again, and while tears threatened to fall, they were old tears. New ones stayed in their ducts, where they belonged. “What’d you do?”

“I took off that leotard, aired out my junk, and then figured out who I was.”

“I wish it was that easy,” Carolina mused.

“If you need help taking the leotard off,” Miles started.

“I thought you weren’t hitting on me.”

“Just offering a friendly hand.”

Carolina rolled her eyes and turned her attention back to the cider in her hand, back to the bad mood that she was allowing to fester. “I’ll bet.”

Before they talked the silence felt good, like crawling back into the blankets after a shower on a cold morning. Now that they had shared some conversation it felt oppressive, like it was just another thing she was doing wrong. She said, “I don’t need your help. But thank you anyway.”

“Oh, I know you don’t,” Miles said. Carolina quirked an eyebrow, but she had nothing more she needed to say. “I mean, you’re such an independent woman and all. And not at all a hipster.”

When the bar tender passed by again Carolina stopped him and asked for her check. She felt rather than saw Miles’ eyes on her and she casually turned her head away from him, like she was watching one of the other games on one of the other television sets.

It was the kind of bar that was filled with TVs, and realistically speaking, this guy could have sat down anywhere and been able to watch the game. There was a moment when Carolina was filled with the heady sensation of being able to command someone’s attention; that perhaps Kyle hadn’t left her because she wasn’t attractive, but because she was lacking some other quality.

“Can I ask you a personal question?”

It was one thing to direct her attention away from Miles, but Carolina wasn’t prepared to completely ignore him. She turned around on her stool and widened her eyes. “I guess you can ask whatever you want.”

“Do you have ESP?”

“Excuse me?”

He leaned forward, like he was about to tell some sort of secret. “You asked for a check, and I thought, well, I better get this girl’s number now before it’s too late, and then you turned away from me.”

Carolina’s head buzzed. She wasn’t supposed to be asked for her phone number. She was supposed to come here and mourn the passing of her relationship. She was supposed to watch a baseball game without Kyle and try not to cry at the bar, and then she was going to go home and make a frozen pizza and eat the whole thing.

“I don’t have ESP,” she said, when Miles looked like he actually expected an answer to that ridiculous question.

“So just dumb luck then.”

“I guess so.”

Miles’ smile was infectious and Carolina tilted her head down rather than show him that he had any kind of effect on her.

“Can I ask you another personal question?”

She sighed and turned back to Miles. “I don’t see dead people.”

“Well that’s relief,” Miles said. “What happened with your dude?”

“Kyle.”

“Okay, what happened with Kyle?”

Carolina tilted her head up to the ceiling, though she knew there was no assistance to be had from there. “He just left me.”

Miles didn’t say anything, clearly waiting for more.

“He left a note that said he was going to the homeland. And most of his stuff was gone.”

“Going to the homeland?” Miles perked up with interest. “Were you sleeping with a Russian spy? Because that is amazing.”

“It was more than just sleeping together,” Carolina said. She turned her stool away from Miles so that she was facing forward again, and took the check that the bar tender had left for her.

“I didn’t mean that,” Miles said. “I’m sorry. I was making a joke. What’s the homeland?”

Carolina stared at the check, doing the math for what kind of tip she should leave. “Chicago,” she said, scribbling the numbers onto the paper. “He’s a big Cubs fan.”

“So you know baseball,” Miles said. She nodded, but she didn’t say anything. “I hate baseball,” Miles said. “I think it’s the worst sport. No guy should wear tight pants like that. That’s why I’m a basketball fan.”

“I hate basketball, too,” Carolina said. She couldn’t help her smile, though. That time she didn’t try to hide it.

Miles rested his elbow on the bar and leaned his head into his hand. “Are you sure you’re not a Russian spy? You don’t seem to like American things.”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” Carolina tested out the tease and it felt funny on her lips. She wasn’t ready to play this game yet. “I’m very sure I’m not a Russian.”

“You know what we should do?” Miles looked so excited that Carolina was almost caught up in his enthusiasm. “We should go to Chicago next weekend. Sneak up on him. Find out what he’s really doing out there. He’ll see you and realize you’re way better than Chicago. He’ll be back by the end of the playoffs.”

With each word Carolina’s heart sunk closer to her toes. She wanted Kyle back, but she didn’t think she could compete with the city and the baseball team and everything else that Chicago had that she didn’t. She didn’t think that she could take an additional rejection after being dumped so unceremoniously.

Carolina picked up her copy of the receipt and said, “I think we should go our separate ways. But thank you for the talk.”

Miles put his hand on her wrist, a movement so strong that Carolina turned her attention back, willing to hear whatever he was planning on throwing at her next. “I mean it. Lemme take you to Chicago. Maybe you’ll see him and after this you’ll realize, you know, that you’re more independent than you think you are.”

“Maybe you just want to shack up in Chicago,” Carolina said. She pulled her wrist from his grip and slid off the stool.

“Is that a no?”

Carolina smiled softly. A quiet voice in the back of her head encouraged her to at least take his number, or give him hers, or do something. He was nice, he wasn’t bad looking, and he hadn’t yet tried to put a roofie in her drink.

“That’s a no thank you.”

“Can I get your number?” Miles asked, standing when Carolina started to walk away.

She turned and smiled. “Not today.”

It took actual effort not to turn around and look at Miles one more time, or go to him, or respond, or do anything like that. When she walked out the door though, it felt like the next steps into the next great thing.

OMG SCRIVENER IS THE BEST THING EVAR!!1!1!!!!!!!

So as you may know, I participated in NaNoWriMo this year. One of the prizes you can get for winning NaNoWriMo is discounts off various types of software. I used the NaNoWriMo discount to get Scrivener software for half price. I just installed it yesterday and started working with it.

Now, normally I don’t believe in paying for software. No, I’m not a “pirate.” What I do is seek out free software because really, who wants to pay for all these computer programs? Most antivirus programs have a free version (and frankly, unless you run a business, there’s NO reason to use the upgraded pay version). Most websites, from social networks like Twitter and Facebook, to email, to this blog are all free. Heck, even Adobe Photoshop has a free version (as long as you don’t mind that it’s the 10-years-outdated version with no support). With so much free stuff, why pay for a program?

Well, I have a free version of MS Word (they call it “Word Starter”), and man, Scrivener is SO MUCH BETTER!!! I paid $20 for Scrivener after the discount, and it’s already worth it.

I have only barely begun to dip my toes into it, but here’s a few things I found VERY handy.

First, it allows you to take “snapshots” of your work. A snapshot is apparently like saving an extra draft. This is something I do all the time anyway. This is my file folder for Manifestation right now:

And I have backups of EVERY one of those files.
And I have backups of EVERY one of those files.

I save multiple versions, depending on the changes being made. “Draft 2” and “Draft 3” are substantial changes in overall organization and structure, but “Draft 3.2” and “Draft 3.3” might just mean there was one big scene I cut, and I wanted a pre-cut and post-cut copy of the file. I’m currently on “Draft 3.95,” and about to start “Draft 4” soon (which will be another FULL revision from beginning to end).

Well, with Scrivener I can just hit “Crtl-5” or click on “Take Snapshot” and it saves a copy of the whole document, as it stands right now. And if my document is divided into sections by chapter (as explained below), I can take a snapshot of just one individual chapter so that I can decide later if I need to put just that one chapter back the way it was. Seems very handy to me!

Even cooler than that is the ability to divide your book into chapters, and reorganize them with ease:

The blue dots are Tock chapters, the green are Gabby chapters, and the pink are Dr. Caldwell chapters.
The blue dots are Tock chapters, the green are Gabby chapters, and the pink are Dr. Caldwell chapters.

Each chapter basically becomes a stand-alone sub-document, but when you click on the “view all” option at the top, it puts them in order just like in my old Word document. I can continue writing and revising in each chapter like normal, but each remains separate. And THEN I can do this:

Gabby's_Story

I have the chapters labelled by whose POV is shown in that chapter. So I can type “Gabby” in the search bar (circled red on the upper right side) and the list of chapters (in the red box on the left) changes to show ONLY Gabby’s chapters. (You can click on the picture above for a full-sized image to better see what I’m talking about.) You’ll notice that the chapters skip from 2 to 7 then 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 22, etc. The chapters in between are either chapters Gabby isn’t a part of, or chapters where she is there but the events are being told from another character’s POV. In this way, I can go through just Gabby’s section of the story alone. I can then switch to either Tock’s or Dr. Caldwell’s with ease, just by typing a different name in the search window (and you can’t see this in the screenshot, but the search window has a dropdown menu that I used to select “Labels” since that’s what I’m searching).

Now, I’ve only actually used Scrivener for about an hour so far, and these are just the features that I’ve discovered during that time. I’m sure there’s TONS of other features, but I wanted to discuss what I learned already. Cause, c’mon, if I found all this cool stuff in ONE hour, imagine what else there is to learn!

*The excessive !’s and 1’s in the blog post title are dedicated to the lovely and wonderful Meera.

Book Three, “Collapse,” COMPLETE!

As of today, the third book in the Arcana Revived series, Collapse is now complete!

It clocked in at 113,647, which actually makes it the shortest book in the series so far. BUT, the last 15,000 words of that are a continuous 5-way epic battle scene that I won’t discuss further because SPOILERS! So really, this novel is the leaner, meaner, novel machiner. I think it’s the best one yet.

Now the plan is to get back into revisions of Manifestation. I’ve got until January 15th to finish draft three. Which is a LOT of work still, so I’m glad I finished Collapse three days sooner than expected.

Be prepared for regular updates on revisions, and please nag me if you see me tweeting without having finished at LEAST 6 pages of revisions per day.

Also, if you want to support the author, don’t forget I have a wonderful short story, Radiance, for sale on Amazon and Smashwords. It’s only 99 cents (in American dollars, prices in other countries automatically converted). The main character of Radiance plays a big part in Collapse, so you can get a chance to see how she got her start. While the events in Radiance aren’t strictly required to understand the plot of Collapse, they give you a lot more information about Maria Vasquez.

That’s all for now! I’ll be in touched about revisions and updates on when Manifestation will be complete!

Deadline Update

So the last post I wrote laid out some strict deadlines that I have to follow.

So far, I’m doing good. I’ve written 10,000 words in the past two days. Which is better than the 3,125 a day I expected to need. Collapse is currently sitting at 105,000 words, and I’m deep in the middle of the big climactic final battle. I’m having a BLAST with it, and it’s some of the most intense, action-packed stuff I’ve ever written.

I’m fairly certain that I’ll be finishing up the climax ahead of schedule. I’m still not sure where the final wordcount for the book is going to wind up. For each book I tend to estimate 120,000, so if that’s the case I’ve got 15,000 to go. But I’m guessing there’s about another 5,000 or so in the current string of battle scenes, and that’s before the aftermath. So for all I know, it could push up to 130,000 or more. But whatever the case, I HAVE to get the book done in the next six days. Luckily, today is my last day of classes at Rowan for the semester, so I’m about to have a whole lot of extra free time coming to me.

So I’m going to go get this last school project completed, then go to my last class of the semester. Then the rest of the day will be devoted to finishing this book so I can get back to revising Manifestation.

Strict Deadlines and a Request for Nagging

I made a fairly big commitment last night.

I’ve booked an editor for my upcoming novel, Manifestation. Angi Nicole Black, who is both a freelance editor and a cool person on Twitter, is running a holiday special on her services until January 15th. Which means if you contact her before January 15th, you’ll get the discounted rate, even if you schedule the services several months down the line. If you’re in need of proofreading, copyediting, or anything else along those lines, you should go check her out.

Now, if you read my blog semi-regularly, you know I’ve been slacking big time when it comes to finishing Manifestation. I needed a serious deadline to make myself sit down and get to work. I’ve already made a down payment for the editing services, so that’s a nice big sign that says “YOU HAVE TO DO THIS NOW!” Or, more accurately, a sign I made for myself in red marker:

This will sit on my desk in plan sight until March 6.
This will sit on my desk in plan sight until March 6.

Having a deadline means no more fucking around. It means I need to finish this novel and have it ready for editing, and then for publication. So I’m setting a schedule, and posting it here so people can hold me accountable for it.

Here is the list of what currently needs to be done:

  1. Finish Draft One of Collapse so I can move from “writing mode” to “revising mode.” In order to have everything done on time, I think I need to finish this draft (about another 25,000 words or so) before Christmas. So the official DEADLINE for Collapse is December 25th. That’s an estimated 3125 words per day.
  2. Finish revising Draft Three of Manifestation and send it out for a first round of critiques. I want to get feedback and critiques done on the book before it goes out for editing, since the editor will then be receiving the most complete book I can provide. I’m currently on page 248 out of 378 (65.6%, typed, double-spaced, Times New Roman). Draft Three is a mix of line edits, general polishing, scene order, and making cuts of the parts that drag. I think that in order to get everything done on time, I need to finish this draft by a DEADLINE of January 15th. If I start on December 25th, that means I need to revise an average of 6 pages per day, which is very doable. Of course, some of the revision involves going back to earlier scenes, making cuts, moving things around, etc. So “forward progress page by page” isn’t a 100% accurate way of rating this. But it’s how I’ll judge progress.
  3. I’ll need to get critiques on Draft Three before starting on Draft Four. I’ll probably be asking around, as of January 15th or so, for people who would like to read the novel WIP and offer feedback and suggestions. From time to time I’ve had some people say they’d be interested, but I never kept a specific list. So around that time I’ll probably make a post either here or on Twitter to see who is interested. I’ll also offer a full critique of your WIP in exchange, quid pro quo. Though in order to ensure I have time for Draft Four of revisions, I’ll be setting a DEADLINE of February 6th, which would be a three week turnaround. Normally I wouldn’t give critique partners a deadline because they’re doing me a favor for free, but it’s the only way for me to hit my own March 6th deadline on time.
  4. After I get critiques back, I’ll work on Draft Four. I’ll have one month to do another full round of revisions, based on the feedback from my critique partners. That brings me to my final DEADLINE of March 6th, when I send the novel off for edits. That’s about 12 pages per day, which is double what I’ll be doing on Draft Three revisions, BUT by Draft Four, the revisions should be easier since in my past experiences revising short stories, a fourth draft is a lot of tiny fine-tuning and goes a lot quicker.
  5. I expect to have the edits back by the end of March, so that in April I can work on whatever else I need to do. I can’t really predict what stage I’ll be at by then. Will it need a second round of edits? Or just proofreading? I don’t know. So I’ll figure that out in April.

And that’s it! Now, if you like nagging people and/or offering them encouragement and support, I hereby volunteer as tribute. Feel free to ask me for updates, here or on Twitter (@cantrelljason) whenever you like. If I make excuses, or say I haven’t hit my goals (3125 words per day on Collapse, then 6 pages revised per day on Manifestation Draft Three or 12 pages per day on Draft Four), I give you permission to demand I cease any other activities, turn off the TV, get off Twitter, or turn down invitations to social engagements. Nothing else is currently a priority in my life. This book is getting published in 2014 (preferably in the earlier half of the year). I’m going into serious crunch-time-mode and getting this done, no matter how much sleep I lose.

Since after all, y’all can’t read this book until I get it done.

When the Pieces Fall In Place

I’d like to talk a bit about being a Pantser, and how that affects my plot.

In case you’re not familiar with “Plotting vs Pantsing,” here’s a basic summary. The idea is that some people are Plotters, and they plan out every chapter, every scene, and know where the story is going throughout the whole writing process. Plotters say that if they don’t have a plan, things don’t fit together in the end and they end up getting stuck without knowing where to go. Pantsers, on the other hand, “write by the seat of our pants” with little to no planning involved. Pansters believe that a strict outline restricts the story and prevents the possibility of things changing direction as you go along.

I’m 90% pants. I sit down to write with a basic idea of where I’m going, but no idea how to get there. I figure it out as I go along, as long as I know what the “end game” is. I’ve been writing Collapse with only a few specific things I knew had to happen. I didn’t have any idea how I’d get to the climax, nor even exactly what the climax would be. I can’t go into detail without major spoilers, but suffice to say I had a goal in mind without knowing how to actually apply it. About halfway through, I knew how to apply it, but not how to get the characters in place to do what needed to be done. Then by about 75% of the way through, I had everything figured out, and the pieces fell into place.

At that point, of course, there are a few things to be worked out. But since writing about it in these vague ways won’t make sense, I’ll use “Bob and George” the webcomic as an example.

“Bob and George” is a great webcomic about Mega Man and superheroes. Go read it, from beginning to end. It’s only 2658 strips long. I’ll wait.

. . .

Done? Okay. So here’s one of my favorite parts. We have a bunch of Fire Men (a robot master from the first Mega Man game) who are separate from all the other robots because the writer accidentally forgot to include them in an earlier scene. This is basic pantsing taking place. I’ll list it out step by step:

1. Fire Man shows up at Mega Man’s door.
2. Then we see he brought a bunch of friends.
3. Actually, a LOT of friends.
4. A huge, month-long battle takes place.
5. You might notice there are no Fire Men among all the other robots.
6. Well the comic artist points this out (see the commentary). It turns out, since the first Fire Man was at the door, he wasn’t included in the bulk of other robot masters that got copy/pasted for the big battle scenes. By the time he realized this mistake, it was too late, so he needed an excuse for why they weren’t around. He made one up, in true Pantser fashion, and made it look like he meant to do it all along.
7. Then we catch back up with the Fire Men.
8. They start teleporting in one at a time.
9. And Proto Man starts picking them off one at a time when they teleport in.

So what was the point of going over all that? Well, the comic author says in the commentary for #9 there that he had to set up the final scene:

As I’ve mentioned before, when writing the comic, I’d often try to come up with really funny jokes, and then figure out how to connect them. In this case, while thinking about what to do with the Fire Men, this idea popped into my head, and I had to figure out how to get here.

I knew in order to do a respawning joke, they’d have to be teleporting in one at a time, which meant that’s the real reason the teleporter was broken. And I couldn’t just jump right to this point, so I had to have several comics set up this situation.

This is an analogy for how my novel writing is going. I start off putting a certain piece in place by accident (like the Fire Men being separate from the others). Then I later realize there’s a way I can USE that to make the plot come together. Then I realize how I can get to the end goal, but in order to do so, I need to write a series of scenes building up to it.

I now know exactly what the climax will be. But as David Anez said, I can’t “jump right to that point.” I have to set it up. So, that’s what I’m doing now. I’m at 93,000 words, with an estimated 30,000 to go. I know exactly what the end game will be, but I need to guide the characters into their positions now. Pretty much the rest of the book is now just guiding them into place.

If I were a plotter, I’d have figured out HOW to guide the characters into their places. But as a Pantser, I didn’t even know what the end game was until just recently. Now I need to look at what I’ve done throughout the story (including the accidental parts) and figure out the final moves.

I feel like I’ve rambled and talked in circles during this post, but this all makes sense to me. If it doesn’t make sense to you, well . . . I guess I shouldn’t have pantsed this blog post then!

Post-NaNo and Slow as She Goes

So my last post was about being brain-dead and burnt out from #NaNoWriMo. I said in that post that I was going to whine on Twitter when I felt brain-dead, and do whatever my Tweeps told me to do. Well, as promised, last night I went on Twitter and asked people whether or not I should write. Five people told me to write, two told me to rest. So, I wrote.

I only got about 2000 words, which was a slow day compared to the pace I’d been going. But It felt nice to make some progress after like three days in a row of doing nothing, nothing at all.

Keeping a slow pace for now seems like a good idea. I’ve still got another 40,000 words or so to go on Collapse, and I don’t want to burn out completely. So until further notice I’ll be chugging along at whatever pace I can maintain. My goal is to finish Collapse by, let’s say, Christmas. Then I can get back to revisions on Manifestation.

The good news is I’m almost completely done with school for the semester. I have a few small tasks to complete before I finish up my final projects (2 out of 4 classes I’m done with, and I’m 1/2 way done one of the remaining classes, so I’m actually about 62.5% done with finals). Next semester I’m only taking two classes, so all the time I used to be spending on extra schoolwork will then be devoted to Manifestation. That book was completed about a year ago (first draft, that is), and I need to get back to revising it and getting it ready for publication.

But before I do that I need to finish Collapse since I’m still in “writing mode” not “editing mode.” Speaking of which, I can squeeze in another 1000 words or so before bed, and I left Gabby in the middle of a fight scene with some missiles being shot at her.

#NaNoWriMo Burnout, Post-NaNo Writing, and Revisions

I have #NaNoWriMo burnout.

As you may know, I wrote over 140,000 words during the month of November. I then kept going, because Collapse isn’t done yet. Since the end of NaNoWriMo, I’ve written about another 20,000, putting me at 160,000 in the past six weeks. Collapse is about 75% done, if it ends up hitting the same length as Manifestation and Contamination.

And then I hit a wall.

Allow me to describe an average week for me for the past six weeks. I’ve been averaging 5000 words per day. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday I write on my phone at work during a shift from 11 am to 10 pm. Then I come home and if I haven’t hit enough for the day, I keep writing until about 2 am. Then Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday/Thursday, I get up and work on school work and/or writing from 12 pm to 5 pm, go to school, come home after 9 pm, let myself loaf until midnight, and then resume writing until 2 am. That adds up to about 7 hours a day that I spend writing, whether it be writing for school projects or writing my novels. That’s 49 hours a week.

So then this Sunday it snowed. My work closed early, and I was home at like 3 pm. I had the whole night off. I didn’t write.

Monday, I did a little school work, came home, and didn’t write. I was stressed out about it. After pulling the hours I had been for six weeks, I was beating myself up over the fact that I didn’t write Sunday or Monday. I got so stressed out that I nearly cried. My friends on Twitter told me that meant I needed to take a break.

Today, school was closed for snow. I spent most of the day today working on school work for finals week. I haven’t touched my novel again. The way my brain feels right now, I don’t think I’ll have it in me to write later either (I had the window for this blog post sitting open for an hour before I finally started writing it).

So where does that put me? Well, there’s two directions I can go. I can either say “I need a break, I earned a break, and I’m going to rest until my brain is ready,” or I can say, “I need to buckle down and get back to work, this stress isn’t going to beat me, I’m strong.” There’s probably some balance between the two, but I don’t know where that is.

My main fear is that I’ll lose my rhythm. Manifestation has been sitting, unrevised, for months. I’m desperate to get back into it. I need to polish it up so I can get some critiques on it and then get it published. I can’t do that until I finish Collapse, which I know I could do in another week or so if I got back into it. So I need to get back to work soon, but I need to give my brain enough recovery time that I don’t crash completely. That’s a delicate balance. If I rest for TOO long, I’ll never get back to work.

My main strategy for this is that I’m going to whine on Twitter and do whatever people tell me. I have some Twitter friends who will start nagging me and telling me I have to write. I have others who will tell me to take a break. I don’t know which I need right now. So I’m going to let other people make the decision for me. If I had a girlfriend, I’d ask her advice. When Stephen King got hit by a truck, he rested and recovered from his injuries until he was ready to write again, and it was his wife who looked at him and decided that yes, if that’s what he needed, then it was time. One day I want someone like that. Someone who will stand by me when I’m down, and then push me when I need to buckle down and work.

But since I didn’t have the guts to ask out a girl from grad school, I’ll just have to get my support from Twitter. Hope you guys are okay with that.