2016 Year End Rundown and 2017 Goals

2016 Year End Rundown and 2017 Goals

A lot has happened in 2016! I published Moonburner and Burning Fate, edited Sunburner, and finished the first draft of a new book, The Confectioner’s Guild! I completed NaNoWriMo for the first time, produced an audiobook, teamed up with some amazing YA authors to publish That Moment When Anthology of short stories, and brought you some great giveaways too. Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about writing, editing, publishing, and marketing books.

Sometimes I get a little envious of authors who write for their day job, marveling at how many books they publish each year. But when I think of what I’ve managed to do while working as a lawyer, I feel pretty good about how far I’ve come (and realize why I was felt stressed for a lot of the year)!

I’m looking forward to 2017 being even better. Overall, I want to keep learning, keep enjoying the process of writing and editing, while connecting with more authors and fans, and selling more books. Oh is that all? It’s important for me to find balance–making forward progress while still not driving myself insane with ALL the things I could be doing, because there is basically an endless amount of work that could be done.

Some specific goals for next year (because if you write them down AND share them, they’ll be much harder to ignore!)

  • Consistently get up early to do my author work before I head to work
  • Finish revising Sunburner and publish it, with a goal of a June 2017 launch
  • Start a street team to help with the Sunburner launch
  • Finish editing The Confectioner’s Guild and submit to literary agents (and hopefully get an agent!)
  • Write the first draft of the sequel to The Confectioner’s Guild in November and December
  • Work on connecting with local schools and bookstores to do some in person events
  • Connect with more writers and authors in person, though attending the PNWA Conference and PNWA and SCWBI events
  • Grow my email list to 10,000, my Facebook following to 2,000 and my Twitter following to 5,000
  • Lastly: keep learning & keep reading!

I think that will be plenty to keep me busy throughout next year.

Thanks for following and reading!

DONE! First draft of my third book is complete!

DONE! First draft of my third book is complete!

Whelp, The Confectioner’s Guild is done. It wasn’t pretty there towards the end. This book was definitely the equivalent of a marathon where I went out way too fast.

I raced right along to get my 50,000 words done for NaNoWriMo during November, and then…I just REALLY didn’t want to finish it. But, I eventually dragged myself back to the keyboard and finished! Remember, if you want to get a taste of The Confectioner’s Guild, you can read the first three chapters for free in the That Moment When Anthology!

Ya short story anthology

Last year, when I wrote Sunburner in two months, I told myself I would never do that again. And I remember why I said that now! It’s really hard to put out 1600-2000 words a day consistently, especially when works get busy (which it did as soon as November hit, thanks Murphy’s Law)! But, the afterglow is so nice, because you just wrote a book in two months and can take your time editing and making it the most perfect it can be. So, perhaps it all evens out in the end.

Next for me is 10 days off for the holidays, and I will be starting my final edits of Sunburner first thing come January to incorporate feedback from my beta readers. That should be off to the publisher by January 31, if I stick to my schedule, and I will be able to begin my edits to The Confectioner’s Guild with a fresh set of eyes.

But now, a glass of bubbly to celebrate. Happy Holidays!

NaNoWriMo 2016, Here I Come

NaNoWriMo 2016, Here I Come

Guys, I’m gonna do it. NaNoWriMo. National Novel Writing Month. Where writers all over the world get together for the singularly insane challenge of writing 50,000 words in a month. Sunburner is going off to beta readers next week, and so it is the perfect time for me to turn to a fresh new task–writing a new book!
I’ve had an idea for a new book in a new world for months now. Like a shiny new toy, I’ve been so excited to write it, but I’ve forced myself to finish editing Sunburner first. It’s called The Confectioner’s Guild, and it’s about an apprentice chocolate-maker who makes magical confections. Her life is turned upside down when the head of her guild is murdered, and she finds herself as the chief suspect! It’s mystery meets fantasy meets YA and did I mention chocolate? I’m excited to research this one. Yum!
YA Fantasy Confectioners guild Luana
I’m aiming for 90,000 words with this novel, and I’ve already written the first 5,000. The first 5,000 will be part of an Anthology put out by the Alliance of Young Adult Authors, which should come out in January, so you’ll be able to get a taste of the book very soon…no pun intended! My goal is to write the next 85,000 words in 45 days, from November 1-December 15. Roughly. That’s 2,000 words a day, approximately, which is even more than I would have to do to qualify as a NaNoWriMo victor! It’s ambitious, but I accomplished a similar feat last year when I wrote Sunburner (which wasn’t officially through NaNoWriMo).
But, I am giving myself permission to let all the other author biz stuff slide while I’m focusing on this. So, I won’t be blogging or on social media much. I WILL be on Twitter, as I’ll be tweeting my word count and progress each day, so if you are curious about the book or the process, follow along. My username is @clairedeluana. #amwriting!
The Chick’s Guide to Writing Dudes

The Chick’s Guide to Writing Dudes

My WIP Sunburner is my second novel, but it’s the first where I’m writing from a male point of view. In my first novel, Moonburner, the entire book was from the protagonist Kai’s POV. Now, about 2/3rds of the story is from Kai’s POV, while the rest is from the perspective of Hiro, heir to the sunburner throne and Kai’s love interest. I have doubted myself throughout the writing and editing process, wondering if Hiro’s chapters fall flat.

In my case, Hiro is what I think of as a pretty typical dude in fantasy literature: strong, handsome, chivalrous, skilled in combat, smart but not overly intellectual, concerned with maintaining his honor and status. That’s all well and good, but what does that look like on the page? Inside his head?

So, I took some time to think about and research a few differences between men and women, and how they might impact portrayal of a male versus female protagonist. Full disclosure: stereotypes ahead!


Alright, here we go.

  • Women tend to absorb more information through their senses and store more of it in the brain for other uses than men do. Meaning, women are more detail-oriented, while men are more prone to be big-picture thinkers.
  • Psychologically, men are more visually oriented than women. I.e., a male character might spend more time seeing and observing his setting visually.
  • Women talk a lot more than men. Each day, women speak up to 8,000 words and use as many as 10,000 gestures. Men use fewer daily words (up to 4,000) and gestures (up to 3,000). This will definitely impact characterization, though just because a guy isn’t saying something, doesn’t mean he isn’t thinking it.
  • But…when a man says something, it’s often exactly what he’s thinking. There’s less hidden meaning and innuendo.
  • Women are more emotional than men. Seriously. Their brains have a larger hippocampus and deeper limbic system, which means they can feel a larger range of emotions. But that doesn’t mean guys don’t have feelings!
  • Because men often aren’t as comfortable with the full range of emotions, a typically male approach to a stressful (especially emotional) situation may be to withdraw, rather than engage or open up.
  • Men are more pragmatic–looking for solutions immediately, rather than sympathizing or empathizing. I don’t have a scientific study for this one, but seriously, I feel like every dude I’ve ever complained to has immediately tried to solve my problem. Sometimes I just want to vent!
  • Men tend to have a higher libido and have more daily thoughts about sex. Especially if you’re writing romance, this is an important point!
  • Men are more ego driven, which can influence behavior. This can manifest in needing to feel like a provider, defend their honor or the honor of their partner if insulted, proving they aren’t afraid, etc. They also have weaker impulse control, which could account for higher levels of aggression and violence in men.

So that’s all well and good, and provides a nice framework for writing a stereotypical dude character. But one of the most important parts of creating compelling characters is making them multi-faceted and interesting. Thus, you don’t necessarily want a male character who perfectly conforms to all the stereotypes of male behavior…he will likely be far more interesting to the reader if he has unique attributes, perhaps even some attributes that would be considered  typically female. Just be cautious about going too far, as part of the author’s job is to meet reader’s expectations, not confound them.


If you want to dig deeper into this, check out some of the sources I relied on for this post:

13 Real Differences between Male and Female Brains

Different Brains, Different Behaviors: Why Women Lead Differently than Men

How Often to Men Think About Sex

Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus

How to Write from a Guy’s POV

 

 

Is Following your Dreams a Pipe Dream?

Is Following your Dreams a Pipe Dream?

“We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” I love that quote by Kurt Vonnegut, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he was a writer. To set out to write a novel for the first time is a cliff-jump. Anytime you set out to try something you’ve never done before it’s like jumping off a cliff. With no parachute and no wings. Except the ones you grow on the way down.

When I talk to friends and acquaintances about the fact that I’ve written a book and that it’s getting published, most of them seem impressed or astonished that I’ve been able to make it this far. And don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of the time and effort I’ve put into my writing career, but I also don’t see it as that extraordinary. I decided what I wanted to do, and I did it. Is that so unusual?

But…I guess…it is. All of us have dreams that end up ditched in the gutter. Why? Why don’t we even try to achieve them? Sometimes circumstances outside of our control get in the way: financial hardship, health issues, obligations. But more often, we get in our own way. We are afraid. Afraid to take the leap of faith, to trust in ourselves, to risk failure or vulnerability. It’s safer to stay in our comfort zone where we know that we can handle what comes our way.

What else gets in the way? Self-doubt. Feeling we aren’t good enough/smart enough/rich enough/productive enough/etc. to accomplish our dreams. That we don’t measure up to the people around us, or worse, to who we want to be. That we can’t start working on our dreams until we are _________ enough.

Right now, I am close to publication. Close to the point where my work will be out there for the world to see, to judge as a success or failure, to love or hate, to debate, critique, and pick apart. And so I feel those things—fear and self-doubt. They are there and ever present. But they also aren’t crippling me. And it makes me wonder why. Why was I able to overcome them?

First, perhaps, it was a gut thing. A feeling, a passion, that I could do this. I was recently listening to a podcast interview with Joanna Penn, who is a wildly successful fiction and non-fiction author. She was joking about how new authors come with what she called a “heavy dose of over-confidence.” It’s true. I have it. You have to have it to dare to dream.

But more importantly, I think it was because though my goals were measurable in an external way my main goal was an internal one: don’t be satisfied with the status quo if it isn’t fulfilling.  Inside me was desire to set aside fear and self-doubt and try to develop a life that makes me more happy and more fulfilled. Perhaps try and fail, but perhaps try and succeed. Without the try, there only ever could be failure. (Sorry Yoda, but I think you sold the try a little short). Isn’t the chance to achieve your dream worth the risk of failure? For me, it was. And even though I’m just on the path, and who knows where it will take me, it feels damn good. It feels like a win.

I also think I’ve been able to overcome fear and self-doubt because my external goals were generally things that I had control over. They weren’t totally dependent on what other people think or other people’s acceptance.

First, what was my short term goal? To sell a million copies? Nope. To write and publish a book. I could accomplish that even if I self-published and never sold a copy. I will hold it in my hands knowing I created it. Selling more than 10 copies to my immediate family will be just icing on the cake. Do I want to sell a million copies? Of course. Will part of me be disappointed if I don’t? Yup. But it’s made better by the fact that I’ve already accomplished my goal.

Second, I have a long-term perspective. I’m not chasing instant gratification; I’m playing the long game. It takes the pressure off tremendously. If I could write and publish a book every year, by the time I retire from lawyering, I will have thirty books! That’s pretty awesome. Even if they weren’t all runaway hits, if I’m doing things right and improving my craft as I go along, I should have some sales to show for my efforts. And how cool to have a legacy of writing as a part of my life. To leave that behind. So even if my first book doesn’t find much success, maybe my second will. Or my seventh. Or twelfth. You get the picture.

And so there is is. I love being on this journey. Even if I’m like Edison who takes a thousand tries to figure out how to build a light bulb, it’s ok. I’m still gonna try.

You can reach for it too.  Your dream. You know what it is. What you really wish you could be doing when you are typing away in your office, or rushing out of the house, or stuck in traffic. It feels so good to step through fear and self-doubt and walk on a path you create for yourself. Even if it’s just the first step, try.

 

The Novella: a Short Post on Short Novels

The Novella: a Short Post on Short Novels

In preparation for launching Moonburner in a few months, I am drafting a short e-novella to accompany it. It will be a story that takes place in the same world as Moonburner and features a few of the same characters, and I plan to give it away for free to folks who sign up for my email list.

I’m about 5,000 words in and hit a bump in the road. I’ve never attempted to write short stories or novellas, so I wasn’t sure what the typical structure looked like. Time for some research!

What is a Novella?

A novella is a short novel, typically between 15,000-30,000 words. (To put that in perspective, the industry estimates 250 words per page, so a novella might come in at 60-120 pages).

Novellas are popular because they are easy and quick to write, and easy and quick to read! For traditionally published authors, writing a novella might give fans an opportunity to get another little taste of the world they enjoy while waiting for the next book in a series. For self-published authors, they are an easy entry-point for readers, as a new reader might be more likely to give $.99  and a few hours to a new author, while they wouldn’t commit to the time and price of a full-sized book. Novellas also are a great way for writers to share interesting characters and stories that didn’t make it past the editing round in the main novel.

How to Write a Novella?

A novella still needs a story-line and story arc, but it is just a miniature version of the novel. This great article by Paul Alan Fahey explains the three-act structure as follows:

  • Act I, Set Up: Introduces setting, characters and the main story conflict or the inciting incident.
  • Plot Point 1: The first major turning point or event that closes the first act and moves the characters into…
  • Act II, Confrontation: The main character struggles to achieve his/her goal amid ever increasing obstacles.
  • Midpoint: A subtle turning point in the plot midway through the story.
  • Plot Point 2: A devastating setback or reversal in the main character’s fortune that leads to…
  • Act III, Resolution: The final confrontation and highest point of action (climax) before the character reaches goal.

Alright, that’s pretty do-able. It’s the direction I was headed, but it helps to have some confirmation! It’s actually kind of refreshing to write a novella, I can focus in a straightforward way on the main plot without all of those pesky sub-plots and side characters to distract me. I’m shooting to getting this one done by the end of the month. We’ll see how it goes!


Featured photo: Scott Akerman, https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

 

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