Plotting

I’m a pantser. Someone who usually writes by the seat of her pants.

I need only a vague idea for a story before beginning. Some days it works better for me than others. Two of my collegues and I are currently developing a series of writing workshops and one of them discusses the merits of pantsing versus plotting.

It was discovered that most of us fall somewhere in between. While I’m not going to give away our entire session. It’s interesting to see how we vary back and forth between the two processes.

With Kiere, the manuscript I wrote last November, I tried to do my usual pantsing. It caused me several problems. As I moved forward theough the story, my background setting changed considerably from one section to the next. Now when I go back to edit, I’ll have to nail down the background description and make sure ever scene follows through so I don’t confuse my reader.

Now I’m writing a semi-autobiographical story based on when I was a teenager. Details are sketchy and my memory gaps are larger than I’d care to admit to. While talking to my boyfriend from back then, it turns out my memory is also very selective. Who knew?

What I am discovering is that I’ve got to plot out this story even though I know what happened. My background characters are a mix of the people who were there (to protect the innocent or is it the guilty). I have to keep my modifications straight and remember what personality facets I’ve attributed to who.

This is turning out to be a greater challenge than I’d originally thought, but I’m truly enjoying the process… even though I have to plot 🙂

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Trying to be patient

Perry said it best, “It’s like waiting for Christmas except you don’t know what day it will arrive.”

Yes, we’re still waiting for our books to ship out to the big distributors. It’s coming, there were glitches and I’m glad I’m not the one who had to fix them. But we have another tentative date for Barnes & Noble and the rest should follow soon afterward. It’s still faster than doing it ourselves and it get’s us into a better ‘area’ so-to-speak. (update – B&N shipped over night – now too see how ling it takes to get the books through their inhouse process)

Books sales have been happening even without the big guys, so I’m happy about that. And there are more books to come.

I spent most of yesterday reviewing the edits done so far on my next book to be published. It was originally written during NaNo2008.

I’m a pantser, so I started off November with only the names of my of four teenage main characters and knew one of them was an alien. Within the first chapter, I learned two were aliens and that they were living on earth to hide from the bad guys… who of course show up and cause all sorts of mayhem.

My goal is to have this book ready for final edits and uploading by the end of February.

Back to work.

A new novel and more

It’s been a nutzoid few weeks and it promises only to get busier, I can’t keep the smile off of my face.

At Paperbox Books we’ve received several submissions and we’re going through them as quickly as we can. I have my SNB Consulting Services proposal almost done to teach a course on internet marketing and have been collaborating to create a series of writing workshops.

Throughout all the mayhem I’ve been able to get a great start on a new young adult novel. It’s semi-autobiographical. When I was in high school, I attended a summer French Immersion program at a university campus two hours away from home. It’s a great setting for a story – high school kids living on a university campus in a co-ed dorm, first boyfriends, kisses and some pretty major decisions. There was some serious teenage angst – trust me I was there 🙂

I’ve reconnected with my boyfriend from the French Immersion program. I’m thrilled he is letting me pick his brains for his memories and perspective. Although, I think he has an ulterior motive. I suspect he wants to see if he can finally figure out how my mind worked back then… yeah, good luck with that, I’m not even sure I know how my brain was working when I was fifteen. (and there is some debate whether it was working at all)

As if this isn’t enough, some of my writing friends and I are re-establishing our proofreading group. I have three more novels to edit before I can upload them for sale. Meeting with them every week will really light the fire under my butt to get me moving. Added bonus, I really like the novels they’re writing and their insight to mine, makes me a better editor.

After all, I have those New Year’s resolutions to keep.

Promotion is harder and easier than I thought

I’m a wall flower. Unless I have a specific role, I’m horrible at mixing and mingling at networking events. Right now I have exciting news to spread – I have books for sale. It’s what I’ve always dreamed of and now it’s happening.

How do spread the word without sounding like an overblown buffoon tooting her own horn.

I shot out a similar question on Twitter yesterday and received some great advice. One was to add a button to my facebook fanpage to follow me on Twitter. I figure that will work for my blog and website too.

By TwitterButtons.com

I’ll add two important bits of advice here.

Don’t put the same message on all your updates and let your audience choose how to keep themselves informed.

I have several friends and associates who are following me on Twitter, read my blog, connect with me on LinkedIn and are fans on Facebook. My really good friends and keen supporters do all this for not only me as an author, but also me as a web designer and also a managing editor. The last thing I want is for them to get the same message multiple times. Eventually no matter how much they love me, they’re going to drop some of their support because I’m overwhelming them with detail.

To that end, NEVER auto-link your Faceook status with your Twitter updates.

Two different systems, two different audiences looking for two different types of information from you. Even though I’m pretty savvy and understand what’s happening, I still hide updates from people who Twitter on Facebook, it’s just annoying noise getting in the way when I’m trying to keep in touch with people. For people who don’t know about Twitter, they don’t understand and make some pretty harsh judgments about the person doing the updating.

Stepping off my soapbox now…

Other Good Advice:

Get out there and network both online as well as offline. There are so many networks and communities to connect with. Writers are a wonderful breed who love helping each other out. I’ve got a bunch of them listed at http://paperboxbooks.com/resources/communities.html, and have even more to upload when I’m done this blog.

Remember, it’s not the people you know who are your best customers – it’s the people who know them.

So even if your Mother is a technophobe, she’s bound to brag about your book to her friends. One of them could have an e-reader, or have a sister stuck in hospital who is looking for a new author. You just never know!

and I’m be remiss if I didn’t add,

The Trouble with Jake

The Making of Jake – pt 3

What I’ve learned along the way

It’s been twenty years since I started writing the story about Jake and Kathryn. A lot has changed. Even if your rewrite is only a few months after the initial writing, check it to make sure your details are still current if your story is set in today’s world.

When I started the re-write in 2007, I had to adjust all sorts of things in my story.

Kathryn no longer needed to look up the number in the phone book to the Bed & Breakfast, instead she found the website on her laptop. On the wharf, I had to make it logical that she couldn’t just whip out her cell phone. It would have ruined the foundation scene for the entire story, so I had to come up with a reason for her cell to be shut off and thrown into the back seat of her car.

Reference points change quickly. Keep them vague if you can. Avoid mentioning models for electronics and specific television shows. Be extra careful if you’re using current celebrities. Three months ago it would have been fine for your hero to want to be just like Tiger Woods, he seemed infallible – umm yeah, now not so much.

Don’t stop writing. This is perhaps the most important and hardest thing to do.

We’re all our own worst critics. Seriously, real editors have nothing on us. And what’s even worse, if we are lucky enough to receive real feedback, it’s our own lack of confidence that interprets the comments to suit our perspective instead of allowing us to take the suggestions at face value. When I received my first rejection, it included a handwritten note saying my characters were wooden.

I was crushed. I put my manuscript and my dreams of becoming a writer up on a shelf and sulked. I gave up. Every time I’d catch myself writing little story starters or jot down ideas I’d stop. My inner editor was constantly berating me – who do you think you’re kidding? You can’t write.

It wasn’t until a few years later that my Mom was speaking to Dorothy Dearborn, a popular local author in Saint John. When Mom told her about my rejection, Dorothy wasted no time in correcting my assumption. Thanks Dorothy! Even if it’s just a scribbled comment on the side of a form letter, it means the editor not only read your work (which often they don’t) but they saw enough merit in it, to take the time and make a suggestion.

For those of you who are just starting out, there are three basic types of rejections.

The form letter – we cannot accept your work at this time, blah, blah, blah. Chances are, your work was not suitable for their target audience or had serious flaws to correct.

The form letter with comment – you’re moving up the food chain. They read your work and saw potential and made a few comments to steer you in the right direction.

The actual letter – addressed to you without any hint of form-y-ness to it at all. This means re-write your dang manuscript as soon as you can and resubmit it. Unless, the letter indicates that your work is not suitable for their audience. If that’s the case, find a publisher who has the right audience. These rejection letters are golden. I’m tempted to frame mine.

The Making of Jake – pt2

The evolution of Jake.

Sometimes it takes more than just an idea.

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell warns us that to be truly good at anything we have to invest at least 10,000 hours into the study and practice of it. I agree.

For example, even though I enjoyed going to the pool every weekend for swimming lessons, I didn’t really put my heart into it. I became ‘good-enough’ and earned my Bronze Cross instead of winning a gold medal. I taught others to swim across the finish line instead of doing it myself.

Writing is entirely different, if I have a passion, this is it.

I’ve put in 10,000 hours several times over. Am I any good yet? You’ll have to be the judge but writing has been my sanity saver.

So, you roll your eyes what has this got to do with Jake? Well, Jake has been my obsession for almost two decades. He’s been responsible for at least four re-writes and umpteen million attempts.

Jake started off as a short story back when I was in university. Originally, he was haunting an old cabin close to the wharf. I wrote that same story over and over again. Each time it grew longer and had a better ending. By the time I was in my late twenties, Jake’s story was almost thirty pages long.

Then a crisis struck.

The big boss was threatening to close down our department. My supervisor told my co-workers and I that he didn’t care what we did, just to look busy. Over the next two weeks Jake’s story blossomed into a 141 page hand-written novel. Back then, in 1995, I didn’t have a computer at home. After my night shift, I’d stay late at the business centre where I worked, typing in every page, tweaking it here and editing it there. A few months later, my manuscript was in a box and enroute to Harlequin.

As anyone who has ever submitted anything to a publisher knows the wait is excruciating. Jake was rejected, but with a lovely note from the editor with suggestions on how to fix it. Unfortunately, buy the time it came, my personal life was in an upheaval. Jake got shoved to the back of the shelf, relegated to ‘someday’.

Someday took a few years, but when it came, it didn’t waste any time. Within months, there wasn’t just one version of Jake’s story, there were two. Jake’s story was re-written as a young adult novel. If I had to guess, I’ve spent over 10,000 hours on Jake alone. I’ve since written three more full length novels and several short stories.

To read the story I’ve made such a fuss is go to PaperBox Books click through to the version of Jake you’re interested in and download a sample. If you like what you read buy the book 🙂 (or if you’re curious to see the difference, buy the dual version, both versions together, for a discount)

Read Part 3 of the Making of Jake

The Making of Jake – pt 1

Where is White’s Bluff and why did I use it as a location for my story about Jake?
What’s the deal with the boat?

Well, White’s Bluff is a real place halfway up Long Reach on the Saint John River in New Brunswick Canada.

When I was 12, my Dad bought and old lobster boat. It was 40 feet long and 12.5 wide across the beam (it’s widest point). We cruised the Saint John and Kennebecasis Rivers until after I graduated from the University of New Brunswick.

Just like Kathryn, my heroine, I stopped spending weekends on the boat because I was working. When ever I could, I would drive upriver to meet my family where ever they were tied up for the night and go back to town the next day for another shift.

Unfortunately, there was no Long Reach Bed and Breakfast in the real White’s Bluff, so I took a bit of artistic licence with that and a few other landmarks. But the wharf itself is written exactly as I remember it. It was my favourite spot on the whole river.

I was back in New Brunswick this year for Christmas. It seemed rather fitting that as I flew into Saint John we came in over Long Reach. There, below me by only 10-15,000 feet, was the wharf at White’s Bluff. I took it as a good omen since my book was due to be published a few days later.

While at my parents house, I started flipping through Mom’s old photo albums and found pictures from our days on the river. I thought I’d share them with you. I’d hoped to take a drive up the river while I was home, but time and the weather worked against me.

Even though I didn’t fall from the upper edge of the wharf myself, I wonder if there is a Jake and if he’d mind that I told his story…twice.

If you’re interested in reading my stories about Jake please visit PaperBox Books

Our first trip on the boat.
Our first trip on the boat while it was still a lobster boat. We invited all our friends.

Pulling the boat out of the water to take it home for re-modeling.
Pulling the boat out of the water to take it home for re-modeling. The boat trailer was a de-constructed double decker car trailer.
The boat's new look.
By the next spring the boat had a whole new look. This happened almost every winter as Dad thought of new changes to make. I learned a lot about construction back then 🙂
Our dog's favourite spot.
Back then we had a dog named Stanley. His perch was always on the point of the bow ready to warn us of danger.
White's Bluff during spring freshette.
You might recognize this picture as the one on the my book covers. I sort of erased our old car from the image (sorry Dad). This was taken during the spring freshette when the water was really high from all the melting ice.
The boats tied up to the wharf at White's Bluff.
There were a group of families we boated with. Here are most of us tied up to the wharf at White’s Bluff. Our boat is the back one, with yes, another different look.
The upper edge where Kathryn fell.
This is it. The famous upper edge of the wharf where Kathryn fell from. Happily, art in this case, didn’t imitate life, I didn’t fall from here.
The ferryboat at Westfield, back in the day.
The ferry has changed a lot since then, but here is the ferry at Westfield circa 1980.

Part 2 of the Making of Jake

As one ends a new one begins

This seems to be my theme for the year.

This was a year of change, actually it’s been a decade of change. I moved across the country, I’ve travelled my butt off and have some ambitious plans for more destinations. I’ve ended jobs and followed my dreams to create the career I was afraid to even consider.

This has been a year of full circles.

It’s been a year of exes. Reconnecting, comparing perspectives, forgiving and moving forward.

It’s been a year of hard work and research.

Overnight successes often take years to achieve. I’ve put in my time, blood, sweat and many tears. I’m still climbing, but I’m certain the top of this mountain is in sight with another higher and more difficult one right behind it to climb. The view will be spectacular.

It’s been a year of dreams coming true.

Every person we meet can play an integral part in our future. Perhaps not directly or in a way that we can trace back to a definite source. But a chance word or comment can lead to doors bursting open wide and opportunities come your way that you’d never imagined.

I’m a published author, instructor, public spreaker, managing editor and the owner of a growing mini-conglomerate. Truly beyond my wildest expectations or hopes.

It’s been a year of discovery.

It’s been a journey if internal perspectives and paradigm shifts. Of changing the way I see the world and my place in it.

It’s been a year to be thankful.

My life, despite its frequent stumbles, gives me much to be thankful. My Family, Mom and Dad together, healthy happy and incredible. My Brothers, they are my friends as much as my siblings. My friends, old and new, who have given me the most incredible support, even when they knew I was wrong and too pig-headed to realize it and cheer-leaded me when I headed in the right direction. The connections I’ve made and the unimaginably positive results from those meetings.

To all I know, have met, seen on the street or don’t and will never know – have a wonderful, prosperous new year filled with joy, peace and success, no matter how hard you have to work to get it.

Christmas at the Nelson’s

Here it is, mid-afternoon on Christmas Day, not a creature was stirring except for my keyboard mouse 🙂

There is a special sort of grounding that I feel every time I come home. The power I get from returning to my roots is both humbling and astonishing. Now that I’m grown, I have a new appreciation for my parents. It seems they have an appreciation for us as well because now they say we weren’t have as rowdy and wild as they thought we were at the time.

Heh, I could have told them that… oh wait I did and they didn’t listen. I think it’s part of the parent /child contract. We’re not supposed to listen to each other from the time us kids are 13 until we’ve been out on our own for half a decade.

Last night was peaceful, the packages were wrapped (not as many as when we were younger but Christmas has always been more about family than presents for us anyway), the turkey was thawed and the potatoes for the stuffing were already mashed and waiting for the onions and other goodies to be added (didn’t want to chop the onions before church and be smelly). We sat down to watch It’s a Wonderful Life until it was time to head in to the church service. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the first part of the movie before. I always seem to come in halfway through.

After church, we came home, stuffed the bird and had a nip of Limoncello before bed to help us out with the visions of sugar plums dancing in our heads.

Waking up to the smell of roasted turkey is one of the best parts of Christmas. Having the bird done so you can relax and enjoy the day isn’t a bad side effect either. I had a cup of coffee, a leisurely breakfast, watched Mom prep the vegetables and waited for my other brother to arrive with his girlfriend and her kids.

Once they arrived it was chaos. Their 10yr old came in dressed as Santa and his sister like a reindeer. They had a blast handing out presents to us and weren’t disappointed when we gave them gifts in return. Then came dinner, turkey, stuffing, pie – we practically had to roll ourselves away from the table. The urge to nap was almost overwhelming. Dad succumbed, Mom sat down to read one of the books she got and one brother went outside to work off the meal while the other one had to prepare himself for heading over to his in-laws for 2nd Christmas. Me? well two guesses what I’m doing right now while sipping a lovely glass of NB cranberry wine.

Once I hit enter, I’m going to start writing again. I’ve been so busy with the book launches and editing other people’s work that I’ve been forced to suppress my own urge to write. This is my Christmas gift to myself… well that and the barley toy and ribbon candy I bought 🙂

Merry Christmas Everyone, may your day be filled with peace no matter how much chaos surrounds you.

They’re up!! I have books for sale

Every time I look at the updated PaperBox Books website my toes curl, my heart swells and my smile threatens to split my face. My books, the novels that I wrote are up for sale.

It`s been a busy and twisty road but PaperBox Books is ready and waiting for you to buy the e-books. Other authors in our network are already working on their final edits so we`ll be adding more e-books to our inventory early in the new year.

Within hours after launching, we`ve already had book sales (and it wasn`t even my mother… really). We haven`t really advertised yet because of the holidays.

Check out what we have to offer at http://paperboxbooks.com.