Author Goals

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My firsts goals in writing were to finish my books and be published. I’ll never be done finishing books, because there’s always another one waiting to be written, but this year my first book was published.

So, what do the rest of my author goals look like at the moment?

See my book on a store shelf. I get excited whenever I see Vanity in Dust anywhere. I’m sure I’ll have a full on giggle fit when I see it on a store shelf.

Finish the Crowns & Ash series. I can’t wait to get to that ending! I have the second and third written and the fourth and fifth outlined.

Science Fiction! I want to publish a scifi series. Space ships, high tech adventure, pirates, maddening viruses and androids! I have the roughest rough draft of the first book waiting in line to be revised and I am so excited that I dream about it.

Fanfiction! It would be a real “achievement unlocked” moment for me if anyone was ever so interested and invested in one of my worlds that they would write a fanfic for it. And the stranger the better.

Write enough books that I can start doing hilarious dedications. I love funny dedications! But I have a list of people I want to sincerely dedicate books to that I should probably get through first.

Publish horror novels. I like writing scary books and would love to see some of those published too.

I’m sure there’s more but maybe that’s enough for right now. We’ll see how many more I come up with in another year.

-Cheryl

 

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Editing Tricks

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Editing Tricks aka Learning from my mistakes!

I like to think that editing Vanity in Dust has left me with a few new tricks and, if the universe is kind, taught me some things so that I might not make the same mistakes on the next manuscript.

I won’t go through my whole editing process here, just a few tricks I learned from substantive/line edits with my editor.

Among other issues, it turns out I have two major problems with my writing. I’m too wordy and passive. I feel like this is an eerily accurate breakdown of my personality problems, as well…

One of the ways I combed through my MS for passive issues was by using the find and replace function. This function is your friend! I searched for the word “seemed” and weeded out a bunch of those. A bunch. On the first search I found 146 in my MS. I easily brought that down to 34.

I also ran searches for the words: seem, as though, and imagined. Pretty much if I didn’t need it to make the sentence work, it was out. They end up being wishy-washy, noncommittal words that I use on reflex.

Another thing I needed to keep an eye on was how often characters woke up. This sounds dumb if you don’t think about it but if enough scenes start with someone waking up, it becomes noticeable and kinda lame. I started keeping a tally during one of my read throughs and if I could change it, I did.

Speech tags! I love to explain what everyone is doing all the time. It took a great editor to break me of that and really point out how it can slow up dialogue. Again, rule of thumb for everything, if I don’t need it or love it–I delete it.

Formatting!

I had a habit of clicking tab rather than setting indents before this process. Luckily, this was an easy fix. Again, the find and replace function was my best friend.

During one of the rounds of edits I realized I’d gone through at least 1/3 of the book without tracking my changes. My first thought when I realize I’ve done something like this is to buckle down and start fixing it by hand. In this case, that would have meant starting over. I had a mild meltdown before doing some desperate googling. Turns out you can merge docs and track the changes! Google is also your friend. 

Before going crazy and doing anything the hard way, check to see if there’s an easy way.

I’m sure I’ll learn new things with each book that goes through the rounds of edits and if anyone can learn from my mistakes, it’s worth writing about!

I’m currently knee-deep in revisions for the third book of the Crowns & Ash series and putting some of these tips to the test. Wish me luck!

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Published!

Vanity in Dust is officially published!

I’m supposed to just say that I’m crazy happy and scream/giggle a lot but let’s be honesty–authors are usually a mixed bag when it comes to emotions. The week leading up to today, I was a mild wreck. I had trouble sleeping and focusing. I threw myself into any basic project or task I could get my hands on and watched unreasonable amounts of drama to distract myself. I even cleaned. I was outright twitchy.

Vanity in Dust was a labor of love and obsession and it’s now my first published novel. I was equal parts happy and terrified.

The week before today, before publication day, I was hit by this tidal wave of doubt that I was not prepared for. I didn’t see it coming. I didn’t expect it. But it showed up and I did everything I could to ignore it. I ran hard from that wave and pulled every trick from my bag to avoid sinking under it. And then, just as suddenly as it came, it was gone. Sometime yesterday, I stopped being anxious. I stopped worrying. I think it was the inevitability of today–that it was finally upon me and I had made it–that brought this calm.

Turns out, publishing is like getting to the top of a mountain that a part of you was never really willing to believe you’d be able to climb. Or at least, it was for me. I have this pessimistic voice in my heart that I try hard to ignore, but it’s always there, whispering to keep me from getting too hyped or too dependent on something. It warned me, even though everything was set and ready, that there’s always someone waiting to pull the rug out from underfoot.

Well, fuck the pessimist because today I’m published!

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Turning 30

I spent my twenties in love. I hope to spend every decade of my life in love, but if there was a highlight to my twenties—if someone asked me, “Hey, what did you do with that decade?” the answer would be, “I chased love and I caught it and I ate it and now it’s all mine”.

I am not an accomplished person by any conventional means. And I’m not sorry about that, not even a little. Even when I was a kid, my only aspirations were to fall in love and write books.

I dabbled in a community college and managed to come out a florist. Who does that? I moved to Sweden, because that’s where my love lived and, well, Sweden is awesome. Okay, it wasn’t awesome at first because being a foreigner is hard. I started going to the gym and trying new food for the first time in my life. I went vegetarian. I learned Swedish. I traveled. I got dual citizenship. I moved to the Arctic Circle. And I got married.

That was my twenties. Not bad, right? I mean, I don’t have a degree in anything or a career, but shit, I love my life. That’s the point, isn’t it? So, I’m not worried about my thirties. Or about being thirty. But I’d be lying if I said it didn’t feel…uncomfortable. I have a lot of books I want to write, want to publish and see out in the world, so in that arena of my life I feel like I’m behind. It’s hard not to acknowledge time passed when you hit a decade marker.

But in four days my first novel, Vanity in Dust, is going to be published.

Not a bad note to start my thirties on, right?

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Pantser VS Plotter

Okay, so there’s generally two camps in writing (there’s a lot of middle ground here, but these are the general groups). A panster is a writer that writes “by the seat of their pants”. Kind of unfair term because many have a plan, but they don’t have an outline. They write what comes to them in the story, finding their way to the end.

A plotter is, exactly what it sounds like, a writer who plots. Yes, all writers plot, but these are the ones that have an outline before they start writing their book.

I used to be a pantser and then accidentally became a plotter. No joke, it just happened. While writing Vanity in Dust, I had all these ideas for the next books in the series. I wouldn’t let myself start another one until the first was done, so I just kept notes for the other books. When I was ready to write book 2, I took a look at my notes and started moving things around into the right order and adding scenes where I needed more and, in the end, had a complete outline.

I decided to try the nanowrimo method and give myself a daily word count goal and just write it–from one scene to the next, down the outline until I was done. 95k in a month.

I’ve done this four more times since and it works for me. I obsess about an idea for a while, thinking it over and making notes that are anywhere from paragraphs of detail and dialogue to “something here”. Some scenes do develop organically while I’m writing, adding to the outline here and there after the daily writing, and others come out exactly as I planned. But, because I have an outline, I never get stuck thinking about what I should do next and inevitably on twitter or watching Killjoys.

Plotting works for me, but that’s not to say the pantser method doesn’t work for others.

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