Eep! NaNoWriMo Around the Corner?

Dear Reader,

I’m in a pickle because I can’t decide if I want to do NaNoWriMo this year. NaNoWrimo is the National Novel Writing Month, and depending who you talk to, it’s the best or worst thing to hit the writing community, ever. The entire point of NaNoWriMo is to write 50k words in 30 days. That’s it. They don’t have to be good, make sense, anything. Just write. Write for your life.

There are authors who contend that NaNoWriMo makes anyone feel they can write and publish a book… the self-publishing explosion hasn’t helped matters because it seems people often publish what they wrote during NaNoWriMo without vetting it with an editor. There are authors who encourage and support NaNoWriMo because it is a wonderful way to connect and network with other writers, either locally or online.

Why am I hesitating?

My dilemma is that I’m still figuring things out for The Rebel’s Hero. I didn’t tell you this because I was afraid you would get upset, but I restarted it (again!) a couple of weeks ago for the fourth time. Never fear! I’m already past the word count from the third attempt… I’m around 17k words with an estimated goal of 70k. I’m doing my best to learn from the critiques I’ve received, which means I’m focusing on tightening the plot (no wild chases or random characters popping in at critical moments for no reason), and exploring relationships (why is it people are doing these things, and why do we care?).

My writing schedule has dropped from attempting something every day, to writing once a week. That is, the act of writing happens once a week… I spend a lot of my down time thinking, reading philosophy and historical texts, and having deep discussions with people, much like my characters. When I do sit down to write, I bust out a couple thousand words. At least I’m making progress!

Writing Vacation

I’ve been considering, quite seriously, taking a weekend trip somewhere. Just holing myself up in a charming little bed and breakfast and seeing how much I can write without distractions. I think the money spent might be worth it. Exercise helps, for sure, but my schedule has been so hectic lately I haven’t had a chance to really beat myself up and free those toxins creating the writer’s block.

Heh it feels like I’m saying I’m not participating in NaNoWriMo this year, due to schedules, etc. I might just be making excuses. Or I might feel confident in my new writing schedule. Whatever the case, I’m curious… are you participating in NaNoWriMo this year? What are your thoughts about it?

Determining a Character’s Big Goal

Dear Reader,

The last couple of weeks I’ve talked about how I brandish the Red Pen of Doom for editing. I needed the edits so I could determine which characters were necessary to the plot, whether I needed to change motivations, and if I needed to tweak the hints I’ve dropped about character pasts.

Eventually I will have to type the edits into the manuscript but in the meantime, I’ve locked them away for safekeeping so I can focus on writing new content rather than obsessively tweaking existing content. To keep me on track with the new content, I wrote the characters’ Big Goals on a whiteboard.

What are Big Goals?

If I could tattoo the Big Goals on my arm I would. Just looking at them inspire me to write. Big Goals are the primary motivation behind the character  doing anything in the book. Let’s look at our h/h from The Rebel’s Hero, for instance.

Tempest wants to be free, but when she is kidnapped, she gets confused and thinks her Big Goal is to get home. Daniel wants to help runaway slaves, but when he meets Tempest he gets confused into thinking he wants to get rid of her. However, neither of these are his Big Goal. Daniel’s Big Goal is to figure out what happened to him; why he lost all of his memories from before age fourteen.

In Haunting Miss Trentwood, Mary’s Big Goal is to live her life quietly and in peace, but when her father begins to haunt her, her Big Goal switches to figuring out why he’s haunting her and what she can do about it. Hartwell’s Big Goal is to protect his family, and along the way in Haunting Miss Trentwood, his Big Goal is clouded by his growing attraction and affection for Mary.

So you see, determining the Big Goals brings characters together. The way they go about accomplishing these goals is where the spats, clashes, passion, and drama occur. It’s inspiring to me, and makes writing fun.

Also, imagery like the one in this post inspires me to write. If The Rebel’s Hero wasn’t already a play on Sleeping Beauty, I’d totally make it more Steampunk. After all, my masters thesis used Steampunk artisans as a case study. This fantastic piece is called On Steampunk Wings, by Gwendolyn Basala on DeviantArt. She’s got some excellent stuff there.

Procrastinate by browsing her work! Gotta love reenacters. I have half a mind to bug her about dressing the part and what a woman could get away with not wearing, since Tempest isn’t such a fan of crinolines (hoop skirts) or her stays (corset).

Best,
Belinda

Wielding the Red Pen of Doom (i.e. Editing)

Dear Reader,

This week I’d like to talk about what I look for when I pull out the Red Pen of Doom on my shitty first draft. But first, a sketch of Tempest Granville, the main character of The Rebel’s Hero, that I drew during a boring meeting at work…

She has wild hair because she is a tomboy. She is frowning because her dad wants to marry her to someone she doesn’t like. And then there’s the whole kidnapping escapade. That definitely brought a frown to her face.

Wielding the Red Pen of Doom

When I pull out the Red Pen of Doom, especially in the early chapters when I haven’t written the remainder of the book, I look for three main things:

  1. Is the heroine’s goal clear?
  2. Is the hero’s goal clear?
  3. Does the combination of their goals make for an interesting and intelligible story?

Notice I’m not too concerned about characterization or setting yet. That comes with the draft that is between the Shitty First Draft and the Reader Worthy First Draft. I like to call that draft, the one that is interesting and intelligible but lacking the meaty descriptions and emotions, Shitty First Draft B.

I use the Red Pen of Doom to remind me that I must be brutal to the Shitty First Draft. This is no time to hold onto my darlings. They aren’t my darlings yet, I haven’t lived with them long enough. This is my best opportunity to make goals of characters crystal clear. I consolidate unnecessary characters and plot lines, simplifying them so I can explore backstories and emotions fully in later drafts.

I ask the three questions I listed above on every page. If I don’t have an answer in seconds, then goodbye you lovely paragraph that was a study of beauteous grammar, but you are dead weight and you must go.

I tend to do this sort of editing when I’ve had a good day. I’m more objective when I’m in a neutral/good mood rather than when I’ve had a crappy day and want to punch everyone’s face in for even thinking of looking at me.

Writing. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

Best,

Belinda

P.S. If you’re here because of the Back to Books Giveaway Hop, welcome! This is a simple giveaway. Subscribe to my newsletter below to get half-off my book Haunting Miss Trentwood. You should receive your discount code upon confirmation of your subscription.

 

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Why We Write Shitty First Drafts

Dear Reader,

If your English teacher was worth anything in high school, then they should have told you that you must write a “shitty first draft.” I’ve talked about shitty first drafts before, but a friend complained to me recently that they didn’t like that advice.

Why? Because their college professor ripped apart their first draft, saying it wasn’t good enough. It traumatized my friend.

I stared at him a moment, not sure he was serious. Of course, he was. I said, “But darling, you never show your actual first draft to anyone. There’s a writer’s first draft, and then there’s what I like to call a Reader-Worthy-First-Draft.”

The writer’s shitty first draft is, more often than not, a really shitty draft. It is the definition of shitty. The characters are cardboard, the plot is dramatic and full of holes, the grammar is awful. That is the point. That draft is for the writer to get ideas to the page with as little judgment as possible. A Reader-Worthy-First-Draft is when you’ve gone back through so that the draft makes sense.

I am at that point for the first eleven chapters for The Rebel’s Hero. I had to go back through it twice. I wanted to share the result, in all its gory beauty.

I use a Red Pen of Doom because it means serious business. Now you know I’m alive and working on making my shitty drafts Reader Worthy. Look forward to my next blog post where I’ll detail some of the things I look for when the Red Pen of Doom makes an appearance.

Best,

Belinda

Focusing on Writing

Dear Reader,

I’ve been re-organizing my life a little… trying to figure out priorities and such. I’ve been making dance a larger part of my life because it’s healthy for me (I don’t stay sitting alone in front of a computer), and because being around people inspires new subplots, etc.

Did you not know that I social dance? I do. I can swing dance, lindy hop, charleston, and balboa. Actually, I can do two types of swing dancing: west and east coast. I can do a little hustle, some salsa, and nightclub two step with a good lead.

I digress. I don’t want to commit to a posting schedule because even though I want to maintain my goal of writing at least 750 words a week, I want to dedicate those words to The Rebel’s Hero. The amount of time it takes to write a post, since I try to craft them and not ramble (whether I succeed at this is questionable), is taking resources away from plotting, crafting, character-ing the new book.

If I’m good, I’ll have The Rebel’s Hero written and ready for editing by late August/early September, pushing for an October or November release. If I’m bad, I won’t make that tentative timeline.

Wish me luck! I’ll still be fairly active on Twitter, and probably not very active on Facebook. I’m really trying to focus my attention for the next book. I’ll make sure to drop by now and then, though!

Wish me luck,

Belinda

Housekeeping

Dear Reader,

We have some housekeeping to do here at the blog, namely that we had a contest with Sean MCartney’s book in the Treasure Hunters series. We had a number of submissions, and the winner is…

da dah-dah-dah DAH dah-dah DAH…

Judy Cox, commenter numero tres! The winner was selected using the Random.Org number generator. There were six commenters expressing interest in the book, and the generator returned the number three. So there you have my transparent, incredibly technical process for determining contest winners. I will email the winner and author later.

Those of you who didn’t win a copy of the book, I highly suggest you buy a copy anyway.

In other news, I wrote lots of words last week. Somewhere over three thousand, I think, which has left me feeling pretty good. I have this method where as I’m writing a chapter, I just force it out. Then I leave it for a day or so only to re-read that chapter with historical facts and figures, as well as all of my senses on high alert.

You see, when I write a first draft, I do a lot of telling. A lot. The second time through ensures that I’m delving into the minds and emotions of the characters. I start to describe smells, scents, sounds. I become my own editor, asking why and what does this mean?

In doing so, I will expand a 750 word chapter into a 3000 word chapter, which means I will most likely split it into two chapters.

So there you go. That is my secret. Turns out I’m not a magician after all.

Historical fact of the week!

John_Hunt_MorganI often find it interesting (and a bit disturbing) how many southerners hold close to their heart this hope that the “South will rise again!” Though the events of the Civil War occurred 150 years ago, the memory and impact are very much alive today, but moreso in the south, or so it seems to me.

My theory behind this phenomenon is because 1. the Confederacy lost to the Union and 2. the Union did its best to destroy the spirit of the Confederacy. You see, everyone loves the underdog. And there wasn’t a bigger underdog than the Confederacy.

People seem to forget, however, that the Confederacy had some major wins of their own when it comes to scaring the pants off Union civilians.

Brigadier General Morgan, a Confederate, did enter the Union during the war in 1863. He cut a swatch with his raiders starting in Tennessee, up through his home state of Kentucky, further still into southern Indiana, and into Ohio along the Ohio River. He got as far north as Salineville, which is around 90mi south of Cleveland. That is really far north! Morgan terrified the Union civilians, who until that point hadn’t really suffered from the war.

So there you have it. Your historical fact of the week. Will it end up in The Rebel’s Hero? I have no idea. It might. The heroine is from Kentucky and has suffered from slight starvation due to the Union blockade, and one of the two family slaves has already run across the Ohio River by the time the book starts. Maybe the heroine knows Morgan’s family. Maybe she’s rooting for Morgan. Maybe she thinks he’s a brigand. We won’t know until I write it.

Best,

Belinda

– – –

This post is part of the ROW80 bloghop.

Writing up a Storm

Dear Reader,

Last week I started The Rebel’s Hero over again. Yes, again. This is the third try, and I already feel much better about it. I’m keeping to my goal of writing at least 750 words a week in these crazy creative bursts that leave my head aching afterward.

Case in point: I’ve written about four thousand words so far, using much of what was already written, but rearranged and with more sensory detail. I got some critique from Haunting Miss Trentwood where readers wanted more description to really feel immersed.

Writing is becoming fun again, because this is a fun concept. The Rebel’s Hero is about a young woman who stumbles onto a runaway attempt and gets kidnapped by the Underground Railroad agent determined to keep his operation secret. Things start to heat up when physical contact triggers memories from his lost childhood.

This is still in keeping with the original plot I’ve been talking about for The Rebel’s Hero, with some tweaks. This should be a fun read, because I’m having fun writing it. I’ll probably be asking newsletter subscribers whether they would like to

Facts of the day

Slaves had been escaping captivity since the peculiar institution was established in America back in the 1640s. The Revolutionary War was a huge boon for slaves bent on escaping… according to my sources around 100,000 Africans and African-Americans took the war as an opportunity to run away.

Around 1500 slaves escaped successfully each year between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, i.e. not including the slaves who were recaptured.That’s a much larger number than I expected!

As the nation expanded westward, the Ohio River became pivotal for escaping slaves. In fact, the river gained such nicknames as the “River Jordan,” and the “Dark Line” between slavery and nominal freedom.

Fascinating stuff, right?

Best,

Belinda

– – –

This post is part of the ROW80 bloghop.

Joining the Ranks

Dear Reader,

Quick update today. I went to rural Minnesota for my grandparents’ 50th anniversary over the weekend, which was a nice break from my usual hectic pace. I mean, the travel was hectic, but once we all got to the farm and I got to play with all the babies and puppies, life was pretty good.

In terms of writing, I have been guzzling articles and books about the Civil War, which is proving very helpful for The Rebel’s Hero. Luckily, I think I can keep most of the premise the same… I only have to change the location and some of the character motivations in order to be true to the time.

I just decided I will be doing A Round of 80 Words – Round Three. As in, just. I feel guilty for not keeping up as a sponsor during Round Two, but oh well. I think my goals will be the same… write at least 750 words per week. Doesn’t matter the project, I just need to keep writing.

And here’s something interesting I read over the weekend while doing research…

From the Notebook

Kentucky was a perfect reflection of the emotional and socio-political climate of the nation before and during the war. Free Kentuckians were split three ways: those who supported the Confederacy, those who supported the Union, and those who were for neutrality. Technically, you could say people were split four ways, because Unionists weren’t always abolitionists. Saying you were for the Union only meant you were against secession, not for freeing slaves.

Now here’s where it gets REALLY interesting. The Emancipation Proclamation only freed slaves from those states that had already seceded from the union. Because Kentucky was in the hands of the Union by this time, it didn’t have to free its slaves. Neither did Maryland, or other northern slave-holding states. Kentucky didn’t free its slaves until it was forced to via the 13th Amendment almost eight months later.

The kicker? Wait for it.

Kentucky didn’t offer its support of the 13th Amendment, officially, until 1976.

Anyone who says history is dead is walking around with blinders on, so says I.

Best,

Belinda

In which I Dance and Grab an Expert

Dear Reader,

I’m gathering resources for The Rebel’s Hero for research. I talked with my resident Civil War expert, a friend from undergrad who majored in Civil War history, and he gave me the best worst news ever: my plot is implausible in the location I chose. He threw a ton of websites, books, and notable names I need to research. He upped my work level, but also inspired me with his knowledge, so even though this project is temporarily on hold, it’s for the best.

So far, I know that the story will be moving from Western Virginia (before it became a state) to Kentucky, with more emphasis on the Ohio side of things because Ohio was such a big player in the Underground Railroad. Go Ohio! O-H!

Abolitionism was huge in Ohio by the time the Civil War began, by the way. With so many Quakers around who felt slavery was against God’s will, it makes sense. This was something I touched upon briefly in Catching the Rose, something I always wanted to really delve into. This rewrite with The Rebel’s Hero is giving me just that chance. Beyond excited about it, though intimidated at the idea of trying to encapsulate so many poignant topics in one book. I know I’m going to fail, on a certain level. I won’t ever be completely accurate, since it is a work of fiction.

But hey, I’m pretty sure I won’t have readers accusing me of being racist with this book! Or maybe they will. If they do, I hope it causes notoriety so more people pick up the book! Haha. Oh the life of a self-made author…

I’m working on a non-fiction book under a different name. Non-fiction, I’m finding, is difficult to write, especially when attempting to write a how-to. It’s a fun challenge. I’m trying to get it out by the time schools start up again.

I had a breakthrough brainstorm at lunch last week for the new Victorian book, My Unwitting Heiress. The ideas exploded in my brain so that I hardly had time to grab pen and paper to write them down. This plot just became much funnier, more plausible, and its beginning will overlap with the ending of Haunting Miss Trentwood.

I’m still unsure as to whether the characters in the books will know each other. I’m guessing not. I’m waiting for them to tell me. I had this image of the heroine, Edith, from My Unwitting Heiress, sharing the train with Mary, from Haunting Miss Trentwood. They don’t know one another, but they’re both going to London for the queen’s golden jubilee. It’s one of those subtle nods that always make me chuckle when I read other authors doing it.

In other news, Suzy Turner, author of the young adult fantasy Raven, interviewed me over the weekend. She asked awesome questions, such as which actors would play the characters in Haunting Miss Trentwood. I had never thought of it before, but as soon as she asked, I knew right away. Check out the interview at Suzy’s blog for my answers!

Unrelated to writing, I’ve been dancing more than ever. Once a week I attend the local swing dance and becoming more deeply involved in the dance community. It’s great exercise and an excuse to socialize. I bought some dresses just because the skirts swirl around my legs like crazy, and I’m pretty sure my leads were trying crazier stunts with me just to see that skirt move. So much fun.

If you have never swing danced before, I encourage you to give it a try. Every city I’ve ever swing danced in has been super welcoming and supportive. We don’t care how well you dance, only that you’re interested in dancing, and you’re coming to the event with a smile. If you’re ever in Columbus, OH, make a point to attend the swing dance. In fact, ask me to dance. I promise I will. And if you don’t know how to dance, I’ll teach you the mashed potato and we’ll have a blast.

I think that’s it on the home front. I’m keeping to my ROW80 goals of writing 750 words a week. It’s a low goal, but since the point is to make sure I’m writing, I’m ok with it. I finished the second round of ROW80, even though I was an awful sponsor this time! I wonder how everyone else is doing?

Best,
Belinda

Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway Bloghop!

Midsummers-Hop

Dear Reader,

Glad you made it here! This post is part of the Midsummer’s Eve Giveaway bloghop. I’m keeping this bloghop pretty simple: when you sign up for my newsletter, you will receive a free eBook copy of my upcoming book, The Rebel’s Hero.

Never fear, I rarely send emails via the newsletter, it’s more for general updates, such as book releases. How do you know if you’re interested in The Rebel’s Hero? Well, below I’ve included the back cover blurb. Again, to get a free copy of the book when it’s released, just sign up for the newsletter!

Dear Reader,

I began The Rebel’s Hero as a rewrite of my high school senior thesis, a Civil War romance called Catching the Rose. The original was written with all the innocence and energy of a seventeen-year-old. I was flattered and gratified that so many readers picked up Catching the Rose, not expecting a book by a teenager, but a first serious attempt at being an author.

After publishing my second book, Haunting Miss Trentwood, my thoughts drifted to Catching the Rose. I itched to begin it again, this time with a tighter plot structure and deeper character motivations. Out of that reworking came The Rebel’s Hero.

When Tempest Granville’s step-father announced he was marrying her off in between slurps of soup at dinner, she knew right then that her home was no longer a safe haven from the impending war between the states.

The night of a successful slave smuggling mission leaves Daniel Ritter exhausted, but jubilant. When a bedraggled Tempest appears on his doorstep, her presence does more than spark alarm. Suddenly Daniel is having visions of his past, the very past he has struggled to reclaim memories of for nine years.

Join Tempest and Daniel as romance flares, the war begins, and urgency builds as they realize Daniel’s missing memory is the key to a wicked and heartbreaking family secret.

Happy reading,

Belinda Kroll

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