Category Archives: writing organization

Goals: Increase Writing Productivity

Moonday Mania

a blog where I set the bar high—and then try to clamber over it

the winter queen's dragon a fantasy romance by jessica aspen

Publishing Update:

I’ve finished my rough draft of THE WINTER QUEEN’S DRAGON. Yay! It won’t be ready for publication for a while, but it’s finally finished and I’m happy dancing. Meanwhile, I have a few other projects sitting on the back burner that I’ll move to the front.

If you’re a member of my mailing list and have read your free book, ROGUE ENFORCER, I’m writing more wolf shifter romances that have that paranormal suspense feel. And at the end of September, I’ll be attending a Romance Reader Convention—Rom Con—in Denver, Colorado. Other than that I’m going to be editing, editing, editing, so that THE WINTER QUEEN’S DRAGON is ready for publishing in January 2017.

Now on to the blog…

Well, it’s that time again. I’ve finished a rough draft and it needs to sit for a little while before I dive into editing it. So, it’s time to start writing another one. And this time I’m trying something different. I’ve been using something called, The Chunky Writing Method originated by Allie Pleiter, to keep track of how many words I write in a sitting, and how long my optimal sitting is.

It turns out, I’m a large chunk writer. In other words, I like to write for a very long time (with short breaks) and write a lot of words. Now, I’ve known this about myself for a while, but I hadn’t really thought about how it affected my writing organization until I read Allie’s series of articles in the Romance Writer’s Report this year. My life doesn’t have very many large chunk moments in it, but I need those large chunks to write effectively.

I like sitting down for three hours in the morning and writing a total of 3,000 words. So, I’m goaling a new rough draft at 50k. That means I need seventeen large chunks of time. If I want to write this book in about a month, and I do, I need to organize my life so I have seventeen large chunks. Allie recommends that as a large chunk writer I try to write in some small chunks too, and I understand why, but I won’t be able to finish this draft by the end of the month if I plan to do smaller chunks, so for this one, I’m aiming for the big chunks.

And, if I’m able to squeeze in a few smaller chunks of say…1k per hour, than that’s great!

So…how does this thing play out?

Step One: Figure 17 3-hour days, if everything goes well. And we’ll add in a couple of extra to give me some wiggle room.

Step Two: Plan the days.

Oh, this is the tough part! but I’ve gone to my calendar (Click here to see the calendar) and put my writing days down for the month of September. And I have a progress meter there too, so I’ll be tracking my word count as well.

I’ve got myself writing every day with this plan, except for the weekends. And Labor Day. Oh, and the long weekend at the end of September when I’ll be partying it up with the romance readers at Rom Con.

Step Three:

The thing that will really make this work is having a fabulous outline with detailed scenes and chapters. So I’ll be working on that for the end of August and then, watch out September, words are going to be flying onto the page! 🙂

Check back and see how this goes.

I’ll update how this went at the end of September. Or actually, more likely the beginning of October since I’ll be at Rom Con the last weekend in September. If I stay on track, I’ll have a brand spanking new book at the end of the process. If I get derailed, I’ll still have a great plot outlined and lots of words done. And then I’ll start planning October.

How do you plan? Do you figure out how long it takes you to do a job, and then how many days you need to schedule to do it? Or do you do what I used to: schedule the days and then see what kind of work you get done in those days? What method works best for you?

***

Check out the five top things I’ve learned writing romance on these blog posts:

  1. As soon as I think I’m on a writing roll, life will intervene.
  2. The plot can be thought out in advance, but the characters are bound to have issues with whatever you’ve decided. So be flexible and roll with it.
  3. There is no such thing as the muse.
  4. There is such a thing as resistance.
  5. Writing is a muscle. Use it, or lose it.

***

Author Bio:

Jessica Aspen

Jessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies. You can find out more information and read about Jessica’s paranormal romances at http://JessicaAspen.com

To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s newsletter and get your link to download your exclusive FREE book, please click HERE.

Rogue Enforcer by jessica aspen

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Writing is a Muscle—Use it, or Lose it

Moonday Mania

a blog for the readers and writers

It’s the end of the summer. Out here in Colorado, kids are heading back to school, the nights are getting cooler, and we’re on to the last of my summer blogs on The Top Five Things I’ve Learned Writing Romance. Today’s topic may be the most important of all: Writing is a muscle—use it, or lose it.

Here is the list of the other top five things I’ve learned writing romance, and the links to the posts:

  1. As soon as I think I’m on a writing roll, life will intervene.
  2. The plot can be thought out in advance, but the characters are bound to have issues with whatever you’ve decided. So be flexible and roll with it.
  3. There is no such thing as the muse.
  4. There is such a thing as resistance.
  5. Writing is a muscle. Use it, or lose it.

Now on with today’s blog:

Writing is hard!

I have had a lot of ups and downs in my effort to write on a regular basis. Sometimes it seems like I get on a writing roll (writing three days a week and getting 10k done) and then it happens: life laughs at me and says “Sorry! Time for a family emergency. No writing for you!”

GRR!

Why is this so upsetting? Because, just like running, lifting weights, or even walking more than ten minutes, it when you don’t use your writing muscles, they degrade.

I know I can write. I know I can get a good sized rough draft done in about 2 months, but my health, my family’s health, and various other interruptions mean that the last book took four months to write, instead of 2. And that just frustrates me.

In fact, I think I can even do better!

I wrote for 11 days in April, 8 days in July, and four in August for a total of 66,556 words. An average of just under 3,ooo words per day. Now that sounds pretty impressive, but let’s take a better look at that. Some of those days I wrote less than 1,000 words, and some days I wrote nearly 5,000 words. Why were they different?

  • Amount of time is a piece of that: some days I only had an hour to write, some days I had four.
  • Organization is also a piece: sometimes the synopsis and beat sheet were spot on and I could really sit down and just write. Some days I had to throw out the synopsis and figure out what I needed to do.

Getting back to writing is slow writing.

But mostly, it had to do with if I’d written that week at all, or if I was sitting down to a cold and chilly keyboard. The first few days of July, when I hadn’t touched this manuscript since the end of April, my pace was super slow. The first two days: 331 and 433 respectively.

The more I sit down and write, the faster the words roll out. If I want to write a book in two months, they need to be consecutive months, they need to be consecutive weeks, and the best possible scenario? They really need to be consecutive days.

Imagine if on the days when I wrote a few hundred words, I actually wrote my average of 3,000 words. (And this really is my average. If I’m writing 2-3 days per week for 3 hours at a time, I write 3k per sitting.) My word count on those days would be 3 times what I actually wrote. And that would mean I could have written the entire rough draft in less than a month, instead of two months stretched over four months.

Wow! I’d be a superhero writer!

muscle

Photo by Denis Yang, creative commons

 

 How do you get to be your own writing superhero?

Write as much as you can as often as you can. It’s that simple. Okay, it’s not that simple. Writing is just like working out. It takes discipline and focus. And it takes getting to the job day after day, even when you don’t want to.

Notice, I can tell you what you should do, but I struggle with it myself. But when I crunch these numbers, I can see superherodom in my future. And I want it.

How can I write like this?

I won’t lie, it’s hard. But like all good things it comes with it’s own reward. Just like working out, when you write on a consistent schedule, you’ll see your muscles getting stronger.

I’m going to test out my theory. I’m goaling writing my next book in a month. It has a 50k rough draft goal. At 3k per day, that’s 16 writing days. And if I can get my writing speed up because I’m writing faster? I think it’s still 16 3 hour days because the days I wrote 5k I sat at the keyboard for an extra hour per day to make up the time from the days I couldn’t get to the writing.

So that’s the goal for the next project:

16 days writing. Want to see my plans? I’ll be detailing my calendar in my next writing post. Want to see how I do? Check in at the end of September and we’ll see how we’re doing. Thousands of people achieve this very goal in the month of November. The most I’ve ever written in 30 days is 30,000 words.

Life? Challenge accepted. Superhero, here I come!

***

Author Bio:

Jessica Aspen

Jessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies. You can find out more information and read about Jessica’s paranormal romances at http://JessicaAspen.com

To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s newsletter and get your link to download your exclusive FREE book, please click HERE.

Rogue Enforcer by jessica aspen

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Filed under channeling success, Goal Setting, Moonday mania, Writer's Journey, writing organization

Camp NaNoWrimo Check In -or -How to Write Two Books At Once

 

Moonday Mania

a blog for the goal challenged in all of us

Ar you Nanoing this April with Camp Nano? I am. I’m participating in Camp NaNoWrimo by writing my fourth sexy shifter romance. And not only does this one have bear shifters and a twisted fairy tale, but I’m doing something cool with it. I’m actually splitting the fairy tale romance into two books. How do you do that? Let me explain.

Two books, but one fairy tale means that there will be two romances, each participating in the same fairy tale retelling.

This fairy tale has two sisters, so I could have written a longer romance with one main couple and a sub-plot with the other sister, but that’s not what I’m doing. Instead I’m writing two novellas each with it’s own heroine, hero, and romance plot, but since they share the fairy tale, they run concurrently!

What fairy tale is it?

I’m not quite ready to share yet, but I’ll give you some hints. It has two sisters and a bear shifter. I’ve changed it to have two bear shifters. Not only so could we have two hunky men, but when I wrote the Goldilocks story it had three bears, but only one got a happy ending. Sad. We couldn’t leave them single for too long, could we? No way! Now each of the guys will be settled down with their own happily ever after.

So, how do you write two books at once?

Well, you really don’t. What I’ve done is loosely plot the two books, but as I write the first one I’m changing and adding to the plot structure of the second one. They’ll fit together nicely this way. The plan is to write the rough draft of romance one, and then let it sit while I write the rough draft of romance two. This way I can change the second one to fit the first one, and vice-versa. Neat huh?

Putting it all together.

When both rough drafts are finished I’ll go back to book one and polish it’s draft and then I’ll do book two. This way I should be able to catch errors between the plots. My goal is to send them to the editor at the same time so that she’ll be able to do the same thing-go back and forth between the books as necessary.

Where did I get my inspiration for writing two books that have intertwining plots?Twin of Fire

Twin of Ice by Jude Deveraux

While I’m sure other people have done this, my inspiration is Jude Deveraux’s books, TWIN OF FIRE,  and TWIN OF ICE. I read them years ago and they are some of my favorites.

I loved the way the twins switched places and ended up in each other’s plots trying to fool each other’s heroes and I’ve always remembered how clever she was to have thought of the idea. When I decided to twist a fairy tale with two sisters, I definitely wanted to try it.

And no, mine aren’t twins, so no switching. I thought about it, but if you want to read that plot twist you’ll have to read the original mistress of romance, Jude Deveraux.

Author Bio:

Jessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies. You can find out more information and read about Jessica’s paranormal romances at http://JessicaAspen.com

To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s new release email and get your link to download your FREE book, please click HERE.

 

Author web links:  

Website: http://jessicaaspen.com

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5759763.Jessica_Aspen

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessicaAspen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaAspenAuthor

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jessicaaspen/

Join the Jessica Aspen mailing list! Get the scoop on new releases, sales, plus the chance to win ARCs and participate in special giveaways.  When I send you an email, there’s always something in it for you! To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s new release email and get your link to download your free book, please click HERE.

 

 

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Toggl, My Brand New Tool

Moonday Mania

a time stretching blog

I’m now treasurer of my local RWA chapter, Colorado Romance Writers. It’s a crazy thing to do with all the other things I want to do, but someone needs to do it and I’ve avoided board membership for five years now. I’ll put in my time and then be back to normal. Right?

Sure, if you believe that then we have lots of things to sell you!

So, the treasurers job turned out to be much bigger than I thought. I think, like everything, it’s been made much bigger than it has to be by the addition of email. With email, people think you should be able to work non-stop, all the time, for them. They email you and think you should respond. RIGHT AWAY! Because they know you are online and just waiting for them to call. And there is a lot to learn and set up. Accounting programs, Paypal, paying bills. And board duties. It’s not just keeping track of the money, I ended up helping with our retreat too.

timer and laptopI found myself spending way too much time on this and I felt overwhelmed. I need to be taking care of my family, my treasurer’s duties, my health. I need to be writing new words and editing old ones and getting covers ready. And I have a job too. Oh, yeah, I have to work.

The first part of January I estimated I spent 20 hours a week on getting the hang of all this new treasurer stuff. That’s crazy!

But did I really spend that much time doing that? And what else did I spend my time doing? How much time am I devoting to my writing? And will I continue to spend this much time on this job, or will it get better as I settle in and learn all the ins and outs.

I really had no idea. So I’ve adopted a new tool: Toggl.

Toggl is a time keeper. You put in all your projects and clients and it keeps track of your time for you. Now I can divide everything into clients, like CRW, Abracadabra Pubilishing, and ME! I can see where I spend my time and exactly what I was doing. Was I wasting time searching for new YouTube videos? Or was I working non-stop on my latest romance project?

Without knowing exactly where I was putting my time I didn’t know. But now I do! I’ll be able to see how my time is allocated. And once I do, then I can fix the issues. I can start saying no to projects that I just don’t have time for, and make sure I have time for those that really need me. Like getting Broken Mirror edits done. Or making sure I have a great cover.

I plan to keep track of my time for the next month, and then look at it and see where I need to tweak things. By the end of the year I should have a very good idea of whether or not I should continue to be treasurer. I’ll be able to see my exercise time, my personal time, and how much time I spend on social media, blogging, and exactly how much time it takes me to really write a book.

I hope to report back and let you know if this is effective. So far I love it! But then again, I love clear plastic boxes and organizing my books too. Not sure if either of those things is a good way to spend my time. But I’ll find out!

How do you keep track of your time? Do you know how much time each book took you to write? Or how much time you spend cooking healthy food? Is it important to you? Do you exaggerate how you spend your time, or do you underestimate how long everything really took?

Author Bio:

Jessica Aspen

Jessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies. You can find out more information and read about Jessica’s paranormal romances at http://JessicaAspen.com

To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s new release email and get your link to download your free book, please click HERE. 

Author web links:  

Website: http://jessicaaspen.com

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5759763.Jessica_Aspen

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessicaAspen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaAspenAuthor

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jessicaaspen/

Join the Jessica Aspen mailing list! Get the scoop on new releases, sales, plus the chance to win ARCs and participate in special giveaways.  When I send you an email, there’s always something in it for you! To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s new release email and get your link to download your free book, please click HERE.

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December Check In!

Moonday Mania

a blog for the craziness of December

Hi all!

I’m now one week post Nano and finding my romance writing feet with a sick kiddo underfoot all week and catching up from me being sick for two weeks. So…this week will be a check in and next week will be the hysterically funny girls week at the spa blog I’ve been promising you.

I did write romance this week. I wrote a lot. In fact, I wrote so much that I am DONE with the rough draft for BROKEN MIRROR, my third fantasy romance. A task that has taken far too long and cost way too much in terms of lost sleep. WOOT! (Celebratory champagne all around!)

champagne by lynne kelley author

“champagne” by Lynne Kelley Author

 

Okay, that’s all the celebration I get, because now I have to sit down and edit the thing.

Grr. Editing. Love it and hate it.

I love it because here is where I get to see the whole book come together. All the romance. All the fun. All the revelations.  And I had some DOOZIES! Just wait. I’m so excited about the end of this book and what happens to the Black Court. And the QUEEN!

You will never believe it. It’s so amazing I can’t even hint about it, but I think…no I know…you readers are going to love it. (grin!)

And, even better, I know what the next fantasy romance in the series is about. And the book after that. WOOT!(More celebratory champagne.)

And now, back to the editing. I hate it because it means I’m not done with this book. I have to wade back in and fix all the tiny issues that cropped up while writing. Especially the ones that are bigger and caused by some of the revelations that I had while writing. So…I’m looking at how I write and how I edit, because while I love this book and want to finish it, I also want to dive into the next book.

And I’m going to try to do just that. I’m going to be editing romance and writing romance at the same time for the next few months. I’ll be living and breathing so much romance I’m going to wish I had a few extra hands. Wouldn’t that be cool? Okay, maybe that sounds like a little too much fun! Back to the real job. What this means is that I’m going to try to edit and write on different days of the week and at different times and end up with an edited book and a rough draft of the next book at about the same time.

Why would I kill myself doing this?

First of all, because I need a challenge. No, I really don’t. I’m just a sucker for pain, that’s all. Now you know my secret.

The truth is I feel behind. I wanted to have BROKEN MIRROR done and publishing now, but it’s not ready. I’m like that wine commercial. We will sell no wine before it’s time. Do you remember that one? Well, I’ll sell no romance before it’s time. And right now it’s editing time. And writing time. And, I’m sure I’m supposed to be doing something else time.

How do I plan to do all of this and still stay sane?

I’ve been going to the library during Nano and writing for 2 hours at a time. I plan to keep that up and write at least six hours a week of new material. Some of that will be brainstorming, since I don’t really have the whole plot for the next fantasy romance yet. But once I have a plot (hopefully in the next two weeks) I’ll be creating during that library time.

And that leaves me 2 hours during the day after work and before my daughter gets home. That’s prime editing time. I’ll be editing four days a week. That fifth day is for errands and family stuff. I don’t work weekends. Okay, I do, but I save weekends for blogging, accounting and football. (Oh, and that husband person, he seems to need some time too!)

That’s the plan for December. I’m going to reevaluate in January when I set my 2015 goals and review my 2014 goals. Check back in then and we’ll see how it’s going.

Do you have any last minute plans to get things done for the end of the year? How are you re-vamping your goals or schedule?

Author Bio:

Jessica Aspen

Jessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies. You can find out more information and read about Jessica’s paranormal romances at http://JessicaAspen.com

To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s new release email and get your link to download your free book, please click HERE.

 

Author web links:  

Website: http://jessicaaspen.com

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5759763.Jessica_Aspen

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessicaAspen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaAspenAuthor

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jessicaaspen/

Join the Jessica Aspen mailing list! Get the scoop on new releases, sales, plus the chance to win ARCs and participate in special giveaways.  When I send you an email, there’s always something in it for you! To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s new release email and get your link to download your free book, please click HERE.

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Filed under Broken Mirror, Goal Setting, Moonday mania, Writer's Journey, writing organization

Fall Resolutions, Part – The Whine

Moonday Mania

a blog based in my reality

Before I dive into Jessica Aspen Writes I want to dive into the news.

ghosts of christmas past by jessica aspenGhosts of Christmas Past, my contemporary Gothic romance is now available on all channels: Amazon,  Barnes and Noble, IbooksAllRomanceEbooks and Kobo The ghosts make it perfect for Fall and Halloween reading as well as Christmas. And of course it’s a romance, so give it a go.

I’m planning a birthday party for The Dark Huntsman, A Fantasy Romance of the Black Court. I love Fall and Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, so the month of October will be filled with special tricks and treats and birthday celebrations for my first fantasy romance.

Now on to the blog!

WARNING: This is the whiny blog. If you want the actual resolutions, tune in next week where I tell you what I plan to do about changing my mindset and my schedule.

My new year starts in the Fall. It always has. School starts in Fall and from the time I was a child, that’s when the year shifted. Yeah, we have the big party in January, but that is such an artificial time to start the new year that it’s never felt right. I have fun in January. I even re-set my goals and participate in the whole New Year’s Resolution things. (You can check out my January Goals Post HERE.) But both my gut and my heart say the new year starts in the Fall.

This year, more than ever, I’m looking forward to school starting and having the house to myself. As I travel the path of becoming an author, (yes, six books out and I still feel like I’m in the becoming stage) I find that every day, week, and month my goals and life change. When my kids were in school and I wasn’t working my current job, I could write! I was so productive. Two thousand, three thousand words a day poured out of my brain and into my laptop. I edited and polished and produced. And then this year I changed jobs and summer hit.

Yikes!

My kids aren’t little, but they are super distracting, and my new job happens almost every day. EVERY DAY! I know, I know, the rest of you are thinking I’m crazy. (I did warn you this was the whiny blog, didn’t I?) Other writers get up at five in the morning or are typing long after everyone has gone to bed. Well, I can’t do that. At least not the writing at night thing. I fall asleep on the couch between 8 and 9 pm, most nights. My husband is always waking me up to send me to bed and my brain is mush.

Okay, then there is the writing in the early morning thing—before work. My brain takes time and coffee to wake up so I’ve been doing other work at 5 in the morning. Like writing blogs. A little caffeine and a fantastic spell-check and I can write non-fiction. I can even edit other people’s fiction, but create my own? That takes me being a more awake, a lot more sunshine.and way more coffee.

So this year my Fall will be a true New Year. I’ll be re-immersing myself in writing after a ton of editing last year and a summer spent reacting to everyone else’s needs. This fall I will be putting writing first and tell everyone else to go away. This year, I’ll be the no excuses writer. The one who I read about who says they write 8 hours a day and don’t let anyone or anything stop them!

Because I’m not giving up. No way. No how.

What happens to you when you have one of those seasons that takes away from what you really want to do? Does the whiner in you come out? Are you like me and whine, have the pity party, then pull up the big girl boots and move on to the work?

Author Bio:

jessica aspen, authorJessica Aspen has always wanted to be spirited away to a world inhabited by elves, were-wolves and sexy men who walk on the dark side of the knife. Luckily, she’s able to explore her fantasy side and delve into new worlds by writing paranormal romance. She loves indulging in dark chocolate, reading eclectic novels, and dreaming of ocean vacations, but instead spends most of her time, writing, walking the dog, and hiking in the Colorado Rockies. You can find out more information and read about Jessica’s paranormal romances at http://JessicaAspen.com

To sign up for Jessica Aspen’s new release email please go to: http://eepurl.com/zs4Sj

 

Author web links:  

Website: http://jessicaaspen.com

Goodreads: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5759763.Jessica_Aspen

Twitter: https://twitter.com/JessicaAspen

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/JessicaAspenAuthor

Pinterest: http://pinterest.com/jessicaaspen/

Join the Jessica Aspen mailing list! Get the scoop on new releases, sales, plus the chance to win ARCs and participate in special giveaways.  When I send you an email, there’s always something in it for you! http://eepurl.com/zs4Sj

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Filed under channeling success, facing failure, Moonday mania, Writer's Journey, writing organization

Writing Backwards

Moonday Mania

a blog about writing

As I develop as a romance writer I find that everything changes. When I first started writing paranormal romance I was a dedicated pantser. I wrote the first draft of The Dark Huntsman without much idea of where my story was going. I let my writing meander this way and that—until I had a story. Which, now that I look back, is funny.

For everything else in my world I’m a long term planner. I think in terms of what might be happening in my life years ahead. At any given moment I might be wondering about next month, five years from now, or where we might retire. At the same time I’m working on current stuff about kids, dogs, and writing this year’s steamy romances.

So, if I’m thinking thirty years ahead about my life, why didn’t I do any long term planning with writing my first novel?

I think it’s because it’s difficult to learn what outlining/planning style worked for me. And it seems antithetical to plan something that is so creative. Shouldn’t creativity be instantaneous?

Well, yes and no.

It turns out that The Dark Huntsman wasn’t a stand alone book. I realized while writing it, that it was going to be one of three books about the MacElvy’s and Underhill and the evil queen. Once I realized I was writing a series I had plans for the other books. I had the characters and the fairy tales and a general idea of what was going to go on. But I didn’t outline the entire series. Nor did I outline each individual book until I was sitting down to write it. And that was well after the previous book was finished.

Turns out that that is a difficult way to write a series.

I now plan my writing. It doesn’t mean I’m not creative or don’t create in the moment, or change my plot on a whim. It just means I have a better idea of where I’m going to end up when I’m finished. I now use a combo of the Snowflake Method, created by Randy Ingermanson, and a plotting technique called Story Structure, by Dan Wells. They fit nicely together. The Snowflake method is a short way to give myself a scaffolding to hang my plot on, and Story Structure helps me to create that plot.

Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method has you start with a one sentence overview of your plot and work at enlarging it, piece by piece. It’s a painless way to plot for pantsers. But I found myself trying to create a plot without writing, and sometimes that was difficult for my creative brain. Once I watched Dan Well’s story structure presentation I was able to see where the plot points needed to come from. And he does something unusual. He recommends starting at the end of your story.

That’s right. Decide what you want the ending to be, so that you know where your beginning should be.

In other words, write backwards.

This was a radical idea for me. I’m pretty linear. Sure, when writing, I skip around the parts I have trouble with and come back later to fix, or finish, them, but I’ve always thought you should begin at the beginning and write until you have an ending. Deciding on the ending first was pretty radical.

But beginning at the end works.

Once you know the ending, and you have your beginning, filling in the middle is easy. You are either moving away from one, or toward the other. Now you know what steps you need to fill in those highs and lows in the center of your story.

And it works particularly well for series. I now loosely plot several book together, that way they have more continuity. I’m toying with the idea of even writing all the books in a series before I release them. That way I can go back and forth and connect them even better, just like I do with a single plot book.

I highly recommend you watch all of the videos in Dan Wells YouTube series. And if you have the opportunity to go see either Randy Ingermanson or Dan live, I recommend you do that as well. Randy also has a newsletter he sends out for writers, and it’s full of good stuff on plotting and the state of the industry. You can find all of that at his website, http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/

How do you plot? Do you think it makes a difference to do all your books together? Are you a pantser or a plotter or something in between?

 

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Filed under About the Author, Moonday mania, Writer's Journey, writing craft, writing organization

Heading to Camp NaNoWrimo

Moonday Mania

a blog for the writer in all of us

camp nanowrimo 2014 participant badgeIt’s summer time here at Jessica Aspen Writes! Okay, it won’t officially be summer until the middle of July, but for the rest of us, summer starts Memorial Day Weekend. The kids are out of school and it’s starting to get hot. Time to think about heading off to summer camp and for writers that means Camp NaNoWrimo, or Camp Nano for short.

I’ve done regular NaNoWrimo before. In November all the Nanoists try to write 50,000 words. In 2012 I counted my Nano experience successful because I wrote 30k and mostly completed the rough draft of Goldi and the Bear. (You can find Goldi on Amazon HERE)

Not a win by Nano terms, but a win for me. A novella in a month while I was working full time? Success!

But summer time is a time when we can relax and Camp Nano is just that. They have one in April and one in July and at Camp Nano you don’t have to write a novel, you can write whatever you want! Your dissertation, your memoirs, poetry. They don’t care.

Goals are different too. Instead of the community setting 50k as everyone’s goal, you get to set your own goal. I’m still going to set mine at 50k, since I’m planning on writing a novel that will eventually top 80k, so 50k is a good start.

In NaNoWrimo you’re divided up by your location, and you choose your friends. At camp, there are cabin assignments. You can choose your own cabin if you want to, or you can see who ends up in your cabin. As a child I went to camp many summers. I loved meeting new friends in all my cabins, and in fact I’m still very good friends with one of them. (Waves, hi K2!)

This is my first Camp NaNoWrimo experience so I’m going to try to let them pick a cabin for me. I tend not to be very social when I’m trying to get that many words done in a month, and I’ll be working part-time in July, as well as dealing with having my kids at home, so adding a social piece may or may not work, but I’m going to try!

The cool thing about this year is I believe both my daughters are going to Nano with me. Maybe we should ask to be in the same cabin?

Are you thinking about writing during July? If you have never written before, Camp NaNoWrimo sounds like a great place to start. You can choose your own project, set your own goals, and have a supportive group of writing friends to help you along. Let me know if you are thinking about participating and what your project is. We can support each other along the way!

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October Burn Out

Moonday Mania

a blog about blogging

Before I get started whining (and trust me, there will be whining) I would like to take care of a few business items. 

  1. THANK YOU! Thank you to everyone who has signed up for my Goodreads Giveaway (ending on October 22nd), hopped over to all my guest blogs (I have more coming!), and just in general supported the release of my new twisted fairy tale, The Dark Huntsman, A Fantasy Romance of the Black Court.
  2. Tomorrow is the opening of Sam Cheever’s Trick or Treat with Your Favorite Author! Don’t forget to stop by Jessica Aspen Writes, as well as the thirteen other participating authors stops during the next two weeks. The contest ends on Halloween. There will be terrific prizes including two Kindle Paperwhite Readers, so come back and enter!
  3. I will be visiting several more sites this week including author Lynn Cahoon’s site tomorrow, October 15th. An interview with Sherry Issac on Wednesday, October 16th, and a very cool article on Wicca in my World on the site Worlds of the Imagination on Thursday, October 17th.
  4. Last, but not least, on Friday, October 18th, I will be in Las Vegas at the Hot Mojave Knights Romance Readers Convention! WOOT! If you are going, please look for me. I’ll be the one putting her feet up in the bar!

Now on to the whining!

If you read the above list about this week you’ll see why I’m afraid of burning out this October. Not only did my planned September release of The Dark Huntsman get pushed into this month, but I also ended up springing an out-of-town trip on myself when I won the Hot Mojave Knights tickets in the August CRW mini-con auction.

I guess none of this is really something I can complain about, since I’ve done it all to myself. I’m the one who decided to schedule all the blogs and blog hops. I’m the one who bought the tickets to Vegas. And I’m the one who went at ahead and released The Dark Huntsman.

The question is why?

Why would I do this to myself?

Why would I chose October, one of the busiest months of my year to do all of this?

jessica aspen

Because I’m crazy, that’s why.

I am a crazy, over-achiever, goal setter. I knew you all suspected, but this month is proof. We are only half-way through and already I’m worried about not making my goals, deadlines, seriously high expectations. I have activities planned for every weekend, blogs to write, and a novella to finish.

WHAT?

What did you say?

I have to finish writing Ghosts of Christmas Past while I’m going to the October CRW Tea, and signing books, and going to Las Vegas? No way.

Yes, but…

I set the goals.

Yes, me.

The Crazy One.

So when November comes around and the rest of you think you are going out of your mind with planning the holidays for December, remember me. I’ll be the one in the straight jacket trying to type.

Any sympathy from the peanut gallery?  Are you realizing it is the end of the year and you better get cracking on that novel, that life-style change, that house-cleaning that you meant to do all summer? Yep, the end of 2013 approaches and if you are like me you are squishing everything you can into October so you can make it to New Years and say, “Yes, I did!”

How is your October going? Are your goals coming home to roost? Leave me a comment (and try not to say “I told you so!”).

Oh, and if you haven’t checked out The Dark Huntsman on Amazon, now is your chance. Click HERE to see how terrific the book looks. If you’ve read it, please think about leaving a review. I love reviews!

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Filed under About the Author, channeling success, Moonday mania, writing organization

August Goals Review

Moonday Mania

a blog where we surge past the goal posts (or not)

The last hazy days of summer. Time to laze around the pool, get in those last hiking trips, and try not to think about the craziness of fall. Or, you could do what I’ve been doing: working my butt off working on editing Prince by Blood and Bone, book two of Tales of the Black Court, my spicy, new, fantasy romance series. And it’s coming out December 2013.

That’s right, December 2013.

I’ve set myself some crazy publishing goals for the latter half of this year and believe it or not bringing my first full-length twisted fairy tale: The Dark Huntsman to market is not the most difficult or the craziest. It turns out bringing out book two, at the same time I’m bringing out a Christmas novella, and promoting The Dark Huntsman, is the craziest.

So, I decided it’s time to review my yearly goals and see where I am, then I’ll add at the bottom my crazy production schedule for the rest of the year. You’ll be able to see why I have nothing scheduled for 2014, other than bringing out book three, Broken Mirror. I’ll be taking a long quiet vacation somewhere and trying to get my pulled out hair to grow back.

Here are my goals. I posted them back in January HERE and revisited them in March HERE.

Jessica Aspen Goals for 2013

Overall Organizational Goals: 

  1. Continue to set and review monthly goals, set daily goals based on monthly goals Always in progress!
  2. Write five days per week, 3 hours per day. This summer I’ve been hitting the editing at least 3 hours per day, on the days I manage to get to writing. Yeah, summer does mean spending a lot of time doing other things, but it’s all been good. 🙂
  3. Goal is 3k/day Currently I’m editing, so I’m trying to move through my ms at a rate of finishing five chapters per week. That is a seriously challenging goal and I’m doing okay. Every day it is a struggle, but I am determined to get Prince by Blood and Bone finished and off to the editor by the end of the month. 
  4. and edit 15-20 pages per day Only on the days I’m not writing. And there are editing days when getting 5 pages deep edited is AMAZING! Yeah, see number three for this one.
  5. Keep up with personal site, blog 2 days a week Of course!
  6. Self-publishing class in January (taking a fabulous class on Author EMSwith  Amy Atwell and Kelli Finger!) This was a fabulous class, if you are at all seriously considering Indie Publishing, then take this class. You will absolutely understand the costs, labor and rewards involved.
  7. Tax class in February from Colorado Romance WritersYep! Done! Another great class, but I don’t know when it will be offered again.
  8. Market 1-2 hours per day Not sure I’m getting in two hours, but I do spend a lot of time researching marketing right now, and that counts in my book.
  9. Attend CRW Writing Retreat in September Hot Mojave Knights. UPDATE Instead of attending the CRW writing retreat like I have for the past two years, I’ll be going to Hot Mojave Knights, a reader convention, in October. WOOT!

Writing Goals

  1. goldi and the bear by jessica aspenFinish editing Goldi and the Bear by January 18th I think I was a few days later than this, but it is done and turned in and I” it came out on AMAZON on July 22nd.
  2. Polish Goldi and the Bear  by January 30 Done!
  3. Write rough draft of B&B (second book in TQH series) The rough draft was finished in the spring. WOOT!
  4. Edit rough draft of B&B Working on this, plan to be finished by the end of August.
  5. Start thinking about 3rd book in  TQH series
  6. Outline 3rd book in TQH series
  7. Superhero goals: Edit BW and outline first book in that series Not happening. This entire series will be pushed off until spring 2014.

Marketing Goals 

  1. Submit Goldi and the Bear to PIP by January 30 Check!
  2. Decide what to do with HH Novellas This  big news. I’m releasing my first Haunted Holiday’s Novella, Ghosts from Christmas Past, in Novemeber. Fingers crossed. For this to happen the moon, and stars, and my keyboard, all need to align.
  3. Continue to submit TDH Check! As many of you know I went through the ups and downs of rejections and finally an acceptance of The Dark Huntsman, but finally decided to bring it to market myself. And so it will hit the shelfs (okay, e-shelves) in October. The goal is for the Print version to be up October First and the e-version to come out October 14th. Fingers crossed!
  4. Market all books (Little Red. S&S. GoldiCheck!
  5. Enter Little Red in  contests Check! Red finaled in the Golden Quill and received a Holt Medallion Award of Merit. Woot!golden quill finalist desert rose rwa
  6. Enter TDH into contests I ended up not doing this, but I will be entering contests with it this fall, and in spring of 2014.
  7. Increase presence on Goodreads
  8. Work on All Romance Exposure
  9. Figure out how to increase presence on reader sites/loops
  10. I’ve joined Pinterest. I don’t have many pictures up, but I’ll be working on it slowly and adding them as I go. I’m not sure what the best way to work it is, so I’m a little slow. But you can check it out HERE.

Now on to the big production schedule that will make me type like crazy for the rest of the year.

  1. Finish edits on Prince by Blood and Bone by 9/1/13
  2. Finish writing Ghosts of Christmas Past by 9/15/13
  3. Edit Ghosts of Christmas Past by 9/30/13
  4. Bring out The Dark Huntsman in Print on 10/1/13
  5. Bring out The Dark Huntsman in e-book on 10/14/13
  6. Work on the edits my editor sends back for Prince by Blood and Bone finish by 10/30/13
  7. Work on the edits for Ghosts of Christmas Past finish by 11/15/13
  8. Send both to proofreader for edits, then apply those edits
  9. Publish Ghosts of Christmas Past on 11/18/13
  10. Publish Prince by Blood and Bone December 26th, 2013

Oh, and I also am planning on some blog tours, cover reveal tours, and all kinds of marketing shenanigans!

Fall into a collapsed heap on January 1st, after attending Margie Lawson’s annual New Year’s party!

How are your goals looking? Have you looked at your overall goals for the year recently? Did you revamp them mid-year? Share with me where you are and I’ll commiserate or celebrate with you!

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Filed under channeling success, Goal Setting, Jessica Aspen's Books, writing organization