Worderella Reveals a Snippet

Dear Reader,

I am ashamed to admit it has been, according to 750words.com, five days since I last wrote a word for Haunting Miss Trentwood. Thank goodness for blogfests! I almost forgot I agreed to be a part of the Rainy Day blogfest, held by The Writer’s Hole.

Below is my submission, a first-draft snippet of Chapter 24 from my work-in-progress, Haunting Miss Trentwood. To give you an idea of the story, it is set in 1887 England, and the tagline is “Father knows best… even after death.” Enjoy!

By the time they reached Wayland’s Smithy, it had begun to rain. It was the kind of loud rain which spoke of the end of winter and the coming of spring. Mary had been forced to jog that last one hundred yards to the black opening of the Saxon tomb. She had slid on the slick rock floor covered with decaying leaves. Trentwood’s tight grasp on her arm righted her. She jerked away from his unnatural touch.

Mary huddled beneath the sheltering rocks of the sarsen stones that made the ceiling, her arms wrapped tightly around her waist. I haven’t anything left to vomit. “Tell me what happened back there.”

Trentwood stood in the shadows beside her. She could feel his white eyes watching her, and fought the wave of nausea that shuddered through her body. Those white eyes had, for a brief moment, looked at her through Hartwell’s eyes. Certainly she hadn’t imagined that? Trentwood had, for a time, stepped into Hartwell’s body so he could land a devastating punch to Sedgwick’s jaw. One couldn’t imagine that. Just as one couldn’t imagine one’s father haunting one.

I’m not mad. Please, tell me I’m not mad.

Outside, the rain plummeted to the ground more furiously than Mary had ever seen. It was as if the sky vomited on her behalf. She closed her eyes and leaned her forehead into the moss that clung to the vertical stone walls. She sighed as the cool rock soothed the pounding at her temples.

“What would you like to know?”

She wasn’t sure where to begin. “How did you do it?”

Trentwood shrugged. “One minute I was watching you thrash about in bed, and I heard you scream that terrifying scream of yours, and the next minute, I was in your dream. I haven’t the slightest clue how it happened.”

Mary blinked. Wait, what? Her tongue felt heavy in her mouth. “I was talking about when you possessed Mr. Hartwell, Father.”

Again, Trentwood shrugged. “I’m as new to this being dead folderol as you are in watching it.”

Wiping beads of sweat from her brow, Mary whispered, “You will limit such… jaunts… in the future, I hope?”

“Indeed,” he said with a short laugh. “It pains me to do it as much as it seems to pain you to watch it. Do you know how difficult it is to be dead, hopping around from one mind or body to the next, not knowing how you got there, or how you’ll get out?” He stepped closer, and she could smell his death-stench.

“No, I don’t. I never thought it was a skill I would need to learn.”

He grunted. “Inherited your mother’s morbid sense of humor, I see.”

“Given the circumstances, I think I’m glad of it.”

Suddenly seeming sheepish, Trentwood took yet another step closer. “Mary, we must talk about your dream. We must talk about your mother’s death.”

Definitely make sure you check out the other submissions. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Belinda

On writing exhausted

This is my first time venturing into the corporate world full-time, and let me tell you, it is a different sort of exhaustion than I was expecting. In order to fulfill my duties in my position at a large corporation I had to work a ten hour day yesterday and will do so again today. Add commuting time and I’m working two twelve hour days in a row.

Wait, I thought I wasn’t supposed to do that anymore now that I’ve left school? So far the only difference between school and work is that I have to make sure I shower everyday.

I’m not entirely serious about that.

Or am I?

Anyway, I’ve been determined to keep up with my writing, even with these long days. Living at home has been amazing, if only for that reason. I come home, exhausted, and rather than having to worry about what I’m going to eat for dinner, oh hey, Mom made spaghetti, sweet. I’ll eat, do the dishes, and then log into http://750words.com to get my quota in for the day.

It’s like NaNoWriMo, but without the stress. I just have to make sure I write 750 words. And that’s a far more manageable number than the 1,266 you need to do every day to win NaNoWriMo.

When you’re exhausted at the end of the day, what do you do to accomplish your writing quota? If you don’t have a quota, how do you make sure you keep writing even when it’s difficult?

Write Every Day

I am now a Master of Science. Fear me!

What have I been doing with myself?

I have taken my time detoxing from the intensity of my masters program. Graduating has felt like how I imagine transitioning to civilian life after being in the military for two years must feel. I didn’t have to kill anyone (though I wanted to), but life in the “real world” such as it’s described is very different. For one thing, I get to make money. For another thing, I actually pay taxes now.

Welcome to the world of adulthood, Belinda.

My first week after graduation was spent hanging out with friends and watching movies, as well as moving home to the parents’ house while looking for a job.

The second week out of school, I began to read fiction, but not necessarily romantic fiction. After my stint as a literary short story writer for one of my elective courses, I realized that while I love to write about love, it doesn’t always have to be distinctly romantic, or at least belonging to the romantic genre and the dogma that goes along with it.

And you know what that means, if I’ve begun to read fiction again. Yes, you assume correctly, it means I’ve begun to write fiction again.

Starting over

As mentioned in my previous post, the last two years have been… an experience. To say the least. And with the aplomb of any good writer, I mean to use my experiences to inform my writing. Not explicitly, of course, but I have learned so much about how people actually behave versus how we read about them in fiction.  I wanted to continue writing Trentwood’s Orphan; I’d had a dream about the characters about a month ago, which hinted at my shifting interests from academics back to fiction writing.

The problem? Everything seemed too fantastic, too dramatic, too… forced. I was trying to create drama rather than allowing the inherent dramatics of being human speak for themselves. Which brings me to my point: I’m starting over. I have cut 75% of the character list, 100% of the plot, and 100% of the theme.

I pulled out my whiteboard and began scribbling thoughts about the new theme, which I had realized while falling asleep the night before. I thought about the experiences I’ve had over the last two years, and pulled in what few characters I actually needed to tell the story. I put major plot points on post-it notes and arranged them on the whiteboard under the headings Act One, Act Two, and Act Three. I copied my notes into my notebook, and walked away for an hour.

And then I began to write Haunting Miss Trentwood.

Write every day

If you’re having trouble writing, I’d like to point you in the direction of a really simple online writing tool that has worked wonders for me. It’s called 750 Words, and that’s the entire point. You log in with your existing online profiles, including Google, Yahoo, Facebook, and LinkedIn, and write.

After you log in, you are greeted with a blank screen with a cursor, with the date at the top of the screen. And you write. There is a running total at the bottom of the screen. When you reach 750 words, the number turns green and you get a little notification saying “Congratulations! You’ve reached your goal!”

You have the option to change the color of your text, background, etc. Other than that, the only thing you can control is your writing. The website doesn’t care how long it takes you to write, it simply expects you to write 750 words that day. It logs your typing style, and autosaves for you. There is no formatting of the text so you can’t get distracted.

It’s simple. It’s brilliant.

My friend used 750 Words to spur his writing of his masters thesis, and while I had no problems with my masters thesis, I’ve been a little intimidated to start the new incarnation of Mary’s story. So I logged into 750 Words and gave it a whirl. Next thing I knew, I had 1000 words, and a solid first chapter.

Give it a try. It might work for you.

Worderella Writes schedule

Given the fact that I want to focus on my writing, I’m taking a much-needed actual vacation, I’m starting a new job, and I’ll be moving out of the parents’ place in a couple of months, I don’t want to get ahead of myself and commit to too much all at once. Or rather, more than I have already. So I’m only going to promise to write once a month, probably on a weekend. It might be a simple writing update, it might be a book review, it might be a cool link, it might be all of the above.

Most of all, I’m just glad to be back. Sincerely and truly back, doing what I love: sharing my love of writing with my peers.

Checking In

Hello everyone!

Yes, I am alive. I apologize for my absence. Graduate school takes up far more time than I realized, and now I am working full-time in an internship that requires too much of my creativity… I come home exhausted yet satisfied.

Loyalty Contest

I realize I’ve probably lost a lot of my readership, so if you’re still around, thank you for sticking with me. Make sure to comment and tell everyone what you’ve been up to lately. One of the commenters will receive a free copy of my “best of” book, Worderella On Writing. The 52 pg book contains my most popular posts for your scribbling pleasure. As a full disclosure, I make one dollar per purchase.

The winner will be notified/announced next week.

Writing

In terms of writing, I was a little burned out from my fiction class this last semester. However, the class improved my writing tremendously, and I wouldn’t give up that experience for the world. Word Nerd was kind enough to provide comments for Trentwood’s Orphan, the entire draft, and boy do I have some work to do. On the one hand, it seems she liked it, on the other hand, I was obviously way too close to the story because what I thought was clear about the characters was actually very muddy.

I have a lot of work to do. But now that I’ve taken a six-month break from the work, and a month-long break from writing in general, I think I’m ready for it. Wish me luck!

Guest Posts

Do you have a topic you’d like to talk about? Are you new to self-publishing, a veteran, or somewhere in-between? Do you have editing and/or writing tips that others could learn? Submit your idea and we’ll work out deadline. Make sure to provide a summary of your idea.

Surface Edits

I’m plugging away at the final surface edits for Trentwood’s Orphan during my winter break from graduate school. It’s fast-going, and I’m surprisingly pleased with how the story is coming together. There are, of course, some chapters that got a little jumbled, but I assume that’s because not only was I retyping the entire book after hand-editing it, but I was converting from present-to-past tense at the same time. As such, some of my tenses got a little weird.

But other than that, I’m kind of excited. One of my friends pressured me into letting him read it, despite the fact that I’m not done with the surface edits, so he’s getting it in pieces.

Shocking though it is, not only does he like it so far, he converted the first chapter into a podcast. And it sounds super professional! If I self-publish, it will definitely go on the website as a sample of the book.

Which reveals my next thought: I’m wondering whether I’d like to self-publish this book, as I did my first, or if I’d like to try to go through a small publisher, like Five Star Publishing. I read one of their books in my genre and I know I could have written it, so there’s always that.

Anyway, things are coming along nicely. I hope to have these surface edits done by January 10 so I can send out the manuscript to those of you who offered to read it. As I mentioned before, I wouldn’t expect it back until May, so you have plenty of time to read and make comments.

Tell me, how are your projects going?

Second Draft Complete

Trentwood's Orphan cover mock-up by Belinda Kroll

As of Sunday at four in the afternoon, I finished writing the second draft of First Draft B. These are the specs…

The goal was to write 85,000 words, thus cutting out what I suspected was 10k words of fluff from First Draft B. It came out to 85 182, and that wasn’t planned. Very pleased.

I wanted to complete this draft by December 19, 2008. I finished five days ahead of schedule, even though I’m in graduate school.

I wanted a tighter, cleaner draft. I’m feeling pretty good about this.

I need to put this draft away for a couple of months and work on a new project. Thank goodness I’m taking an advanced fiction writing course next semester.

I’m looking for beta readers who are willing to comment on the entire work. I use Microsoft Word 2007, so I can read the commenting feature from 2003/2007. Let me know if you’re interested, and we’ll work out the details. If you don’t read historical fiction or historical romance, please don’t contact me. You won’t know the genre cliches to help me make sure I don’t commit them.

How are your projects going?

What Happens to an Author When She Finishes Editing?

Last week, I finished the paper edits of First Draft B. Cue the fanfare, tears of happiness, and confetti. Now it’s time to pull off the gloves and re-type the entire thing with the new edits to see what we’ve got. And so begins the Second Draft.

Now, there are multiple things an author feels once she or he gets past another stage in the writing process…

  • Fear that what you wrote stinks beyond belief.
  • Elation that you finished it, you really finished it.
  • Depressed that at some point, you’re going to have to let someone else read it and tell you exactly what they think about it.
  • Proud that, upon reading over it, you like more than you hate.

I know some of you are reading this now because of my editing workshop, and I bet you’re wondering if I followed my own advice.

Yes, I did print it out, put it in a binder, and not look at it for a month.

The month I finished First Draft B, I graduated from my engineering program, moved back home for a summer internship between undergrad and graduate school, and visited with family for two weeks. So I didn’t have time to edit.

Lack of time didn’t stop me from lugging the binder everywhere in the desperate hope I’d sneak an edit in, though.

I was brutal with edits.

As soon as I had to read something twice, I either cut it out or re-wrote it. I cut an entire chapter because it dragged the plot and made Mary look whiny, which she isn’t. I re-wrote at least three chapters because they head-hopped, were disjointed, and didn’t make sense.

My biggest writing vice is that I tell too much.

This is a problem because I write historical fiction, and I know more information than will show up in the final product. I had paragraphs that sounded like I was channeling a history professor. Yikes.

To combat this, I read a number of books set in the same time period to see how other authors handled the problem.

I then went through a quick bout of depression because I felt like I couldn’t do it as well as the other authors. Turns out I needed more sleep, because once I got a good nine hours, I was ready to edit again.

I wrote First Draft B, a whopping 99,899 words, in present tense.

Yes, Trentwood’s Orphan is historical fiction. Yes, I know “history” implies “past.” No, I was not dropped on my head as a child.

I wrote in present tense because I couldn’t get into Mary’s head. She’s the opposite of my last heroine, Veronica, who was impetuous, a bit ditzy, funny, and determined to get her way. Mary, on the other hand, is quiet, cautious, analyzes everything, and does her accounting when she’s stressed. I’m more like Mary than Veronica, so Mary should have been easy to write. She was surprisingly harder. By writing in present tense, I felt the immediacy and was able to gauge Mary’s reactions much better.

I also wrote in present tense because it cleaned my writing. There is no “had had” syndrome in present tense. The action either happened, is happening, or will happen. But now that the experimentation phase is complete, I need to re-write the entire thing in past tense.

(Need help discovering passive writing? The Writer’s Technology Companion wrote a tutorial to highlight passive writing in Microsoft Word 2003.)

What are some of your writing rituals? Do you have a trick that you use to improve your writing? Are you finally convinced I’m insane? Let us know in the comments!

Stumbling Blocks, Workshops, and a Contest

“Nobody’s perfect, I gotta work it again and again ’til I get it right…”
Nobody’s Perfect sung by Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus

Well, Hannah Montana’s right on the money with this one. This song should be the theme for all writers in the editing phase.

I have been an editing machine, lately. That is, until I hit chapter 24, where the draft became muddy. Apparently I was experimenting when I wrote this chapter and the couple after it. The results from the experimentation are faulty at best.

Conclusion: I have to alter a major subplot of…oh, I guess I’d say the last third of the book.

This is a little frustrating. I don’t remember writing chapters clogged with internal dialogue, unnecessary angst, and way too much exposition. I’m cutting pages, chapters even, fighting through to get back to the essentials.

The Workshop

I’m holding an online editing workshop next week to contribute to Lynn Viehl’s Left Behind & Loving It (LB&LI) convention. I’ll tackle a different facet of editing each day:

  1. Monday: Put that shitty first draft away
  2. Tuesday: Be brutally honest
  3. Wednesday: Show, don’t tell
  4. Thursday: Tell, don’t show
  5. Friday: Focus on those nitty gritty details

There will be links to worksheets, websites, and books that should help you edit your own work. I’m providing a lot of these links because I know people edit in different ways, and I want to help as many people as possible.

The Contest

At the end of the week, I’ll give a free critique of the first three chapters (or the first 50 pages, whichever is shorter) of one commenter whose name I will pull from a hat. To be eligible…

  1. You must comment during the LB&LI week (July 28 to August 3).
  2. Your comment must be on an LB&LI post, following the theme of the day.
  3. You must comment here on the blog, http://blog.worderella.com. I can’t see your comment if you’re reading me on LiveJournal, for example.
  4. Your chapters/excerpt must be prose. Double-spaced, twelve pt font, Times New Roman or something similar.

The winner will be announced on Tuesday, August 5. I read all genres, so don’t worry if you’re interested but don’t write historical fiction or romance. I’ll try to be as fair and as honest as possible to help you. Whether you accept my suggestions or not is your prerogative, of course.

I’ll provide my comments using the Microsoft Word comment feature. If you don’t have a Windows machine, or if you don’t have Microsoft Word, we can work something out.

Paper Evidence of a Writer’s Mind

All right, back on track this week with the posts!

So I briefly mentioned some time ago that I have a paper journal. This past year, my paper journal has been a lifesaver, especially when I had to cut back the number of hours I sat hunched over a computer, drastically. I mean, there was a time where sitting in one spot for ten minutes would cause pain. No good for programming or writing. So I turned to a paper journal, in which I could write while laying on my stomach, thus giving my back/legs a break. I’ve never been able to fill a paper journal, and I blame that on the awful journals I used to own. Really, I do. Because the journal I have now… well, just looking at it inspires me to write. The paper is smooth, with large lines so I can write new ideas between sentences. The cover has a magnetic seal, but lays flat when open. And, in the newest journal, I decided to draw a bit. Below are a couple of pictures.

A sketch to inspire
I drew this one night when my
homework really frustrated me.

There is no cure for curiosity.
Close up of my pretty girl.
(“The cure for boredom is curiosity.
There is no cure for curiosity.” – Dorothy Parker)

A messy bit of madness
Writing is a messy business.
The green strips are actually bits of a small square
PostIt that I cut up to use as place markers.

Late night genius
My plot outline, obviously re-worked a bit.
In fact, a lot of the plot doesn’t exist as
written here… it seemed a bit contrived.

Do you have a paper journal? If you do, do you take it everywhere with you? Or leave it at the bedside table for those midnight inspirations? If you don’t use a paper journal, why do you think that is?

First Draft B Complete

The title of this post says it all, but here are some details.

Saturday night, I couldn’t focus on homework. So instead, I daydreamed about my novel. At midnight, I decided I would tape the show I had been staying up to watch so I could write, instead. By three in the morning, I had a draft of the last chapter that I liked better than the six other half-starts I’d saved in the file, and the other almost fully-drafted chapter that I had in my paper journal.

Sunday morning, I woke up to re-read the chapter and found I still liked it. A good sign.

This morning, I woke up, re-read the chapter, still like it (with some slight tweaking), and have decided that at long last (a little over a year), First Draft B is complete at 99,896 words, 41 chapters.

Suffice to say that chapters will be cut and others fleshed a bit. I really want this book to be under 300 pages, as my previous book was a whopping 384 pages without any author notes or anything. This book, at 345 pages, has author notes, acknowledgements, and a selected bibliography… so I’m on the right track, at least.

I have the glow of triumph about me.

How are your works-in-progress coming along?