challenge

How to overcome obstacles in your writing

As writers we often get the advice to ‘Just keep writing.’ ‘Don’t stop until you reach the end of your first draft!’ ‘Write first, edit later!’ And while this is to an extent, good advice, sometimes your plot gets off course, or you get the nagging feeling that something isn’t going the way you want it to with the manuscript you’re working on. And when that happens it’s perfectly okay and sometimes necessary to stop, take stock of the situation, and correct the underlying issue before continuing to write. Otherwise you risk creating a whole lot more work for yourself in the long run.

So what sorts of things can go wrong?

Unfortunately lots of things. Writing is such a free-form kind of exercise that there is no one right way to do it. When you start a new project, you make all sorts of decisions, consciously or not, like what point of view you’re going to use, which characters you’re going to focus on, what the plot is going to be, what style or voice you’ll use, verb tense, and etc.

How do you tell when you’ve encountered an obstacle in your writing?

Most of the time, you have to go by instinct. It’s your project, so ultimately, you’re the decision-maker. The easiest way to tell, for me, is when I reach a dead-end of sorts. Either that’s because my passion for the project has faltered, or because I’ve ‘written myself into a corner’ so to speak, and I can’t see my way out of it. Usually this is a symptom of a larger problem with the manuscript. Either I made a wrong turn in the plot, or there’s something I don’t like about the manuscript that’s making me reluctant to work on it.

So what do you do when you come across something like this?

Take some time to think about what it is that’s gone wrong, what isn’t working for you. If it’s a matter of plot, sometimes you need to back up to the point that things changed for the worse and take a different path from there. If it’s a matter of style, is it something that changed, or is the overall style not working for the kind of novel you want this to be? Point of view can be a big game changer as well, whose story it is and whose perspective it is being told from is a huge decision. For example, if you started writing in first person limited perspective from one character’s point of view, but then determine later that you need a wider view of what’s going on, or need to include the perspective of another character to make the story work, then you might want to consider changing it. It’s hard to make these changes when you’ve already begun and the temptation is there to just simply carry on with what you have, but trust me, it’s much harder to change the entire manuscript on the second draft than it would be to correct the problem when you first detect it. Even if that means starting over, and it very well might.

My experience with Mirror’s Despair (the fourth in the Mirror World series)

As you may or may not know, Murandy and I have been working on our latest novel, Mirror’s Despair, for the #85K90 challenge. The challenge is to write 85,000 words in 90 days from January 1st to March 31st. This is our third year in the challenge and usually the pace of the challenge works very well for us. Not so this year, I’m afraid! Early enough on in the challenge (sometime in early February) we realized that we had encountered one of these kinds of obstacles with our manuscript. Specifically, we knew what we wanted to have happen by the end of the book, but we hadn’t done enough work planning what needed to happen to get us there while keeping in mind all the mysteries we had to solve before the end of the series. A big reason for this is because we weren’t done editing or getting our notes back from the third book in the series. In short, we were getting ahead of ourselves and really weren’t ready to dive into the pace of the challenge starting January 1st. So, mid-february, we stopped working on Mirror’s Despair temporarily to take some time to reconsider our decisions so far and make some changes. And despite this killing our chances at completing the challenge in time, I know it is going to make for a healthier manuscript in the long run.

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So if you encounter similar problems when working on your own writing projects, remember that it is perfectly okay to stop, take stock, and make some changes before you continue. In fact, it may make the whole project easier.

Happy writing!  

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It’s time for an update…

Hello readers!

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It’s March already and I don’t know how 2018 is getting away from me so quickly. As you may know, Murandy and I signed up to participate in this years #85K90 writing challenge. The challenge is to write 85,000 words from January 1st to March 31st. This is our third year participating in the challenge, but unlike previous years, it is not going well for us. In 2016, we wrote the first draft of Uncharted, in 2017, Mirror’s Deceit, and this year we’re supposed to be working on Mirror’s Despair, the 4th in the Mirror World series. Unfortunately, we discovered that in retrospect we probably weren’t ready to dive into writing Mirror’s Despair, especially at the speed needed to complete the challenge. What we were missing were the final changes and editorial notes being made to Mirror’s Deceit. Without them, our plans for Mirror’s Despair were incomplete. You might be wondering how two veterans like ourselves could make such a mistake, and the answer becomes pretty clear when you remember that Murandy and I are not plotters, we usually write by the seat of our pants. (For an explanation of how that works, read this blog post.) Unfortunately when you’re writing a complicated series like this, plotting and taking notes becomes not only helpful, but extremely necessary. Live and learn, I suppose.

Well, it’s March, so one more month left to catch up and see if we can complete the challenge. I’m not overly optimistic about our chances anymore, but the great thing about the #85K90 cycle is that April is left open as a 30-day finish in case you need it to wrap things up. Don’t fret either way, Murandy and I WILL get Mirror’s Despair done and you’ll likely see it launch in 2019.

In other news, we are currently looking for beta readers to give us a hand in reading a middle grade manuscript. You may have read our announcement about Karen Koski’s The Gimmal Ring? (Find that here.) Well, as part of the publishing process, we’d like a small dedicated team of readers to read and review the manuscript for us. If you’d like to volunteer, please get in touch with us through email or Facebook.

Coming up, we’d like to invite you to participate in two local events. If you are near enough, or can get to Windsor to visit us, you might want to consider attending this unique literary event: A Taste of Literature. This month’s book is a mystery by local author John Schlarbaum and included in your ticket is musical entertainment, a live interview/Q&A/Signing with the author, along with a gourmet five-course meal by a trained chef. Go to the restaurant’s website to book your ticket now, space is limited!28168499_907024422811919_9145286208312990388_n

And last, but certainly not least, Mirror World will once again be attending The Windsor International Writers Conference. This year the event is being held July 6-8 at the Holiday Inn on Huron Church Rd. You can find everything you need to register and attend this great event on their website, but if you’re a writer and you want to improve your writing career and have the chance of a lifetime to network with other writers and industry professionals, the Windsor International Writers Conference is your chance to do so! You can register here. If you have any questions about this event, you can leave them in the comments and I would be happy to answer them.

 

It’s 2018 and we’re off with a bang!

Ok, well it’s not quite 2018 yet. Still a few more days to go. But we’re ready to start our fifth year with a bang!

We’re ready to write 85,000 words by the end of March, 2018.

First up, Murandy and I will be participating in the #85K Challenge for the 3rd year in a row. If you’d like to join us on this adventure, you’re more than welcome to. If you don’t know what the #85K Challenge is, it’s a community of writers working to complete 85,000 words, (approximately the length of your average adult novel) in 90 days. You can read more about it and sign up to complete the challenge on their website 85k90.com or on Facebook. Murandy and I have competed each year since the challenge was founded and we’ve found it to be a reasonable, though still challenging, pace and a great community to be a part of. And the community support doesn’t stop in March! The website has details for what to do the rest of the year to stay focused on your writing goals and complete your novel. It works for us, and I highly recommend the program.

We’re ready to announce our 2018 line up and will be doing so over the next few weeks! 

We’ve got some really great books coming your way in 2018 and we’re really excited to be able to announce them. We’re going to do so one at a time, starting next week, so subscribe to this blog if you haven’t already so you don’t miss any of the exciting announcements. We’ve got two new authors we’ve added to the family and six new books for the year. It’s going to be fun.

We’re ready to make edits to the third book in the Mirror World series, Mirror’s Deceit.

Mirror’s Deceit has come back from the beta readers and over the next month or so, I’ll be working on edits and rewrites. The cover art is done and we’re on target to have this book in your hands for May (or earlier if you’re a member 😉 Learn more about membership and its benefits here.)

And we’re looking forward to seeing those of you who can make it to A Taste of Literature event on January 15th to celebrate Sharon Ledwith’s Lost and Found: Mysterious Tales from Fairy Falls. 

Click here to get your tickets now! Space is limited.

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Give yourself permission to fail

If there’s one lesson in writing that I had to learn the hard way, it’s this one. When looking for ways to motivate oneself to complete a writing project, it’s common to set goals or deadlines. Daily word count goals, for example, can be a healthy way to establish a writing routine and a reasonable deadline to finish your novel by a certain date can help you stay on track. The tricky part comes when your deadlines are not reasonable, your goals too lofty, or when you simply fall behind and suddenly your target seems out of reach.

An important thing to remember when setting goals or deadlines is that life happens. It’s a good idea to leave yourself some wiggle room in your deadlines for when life events get in the way, or for those days you just don’t feel like living up to expectations. You’re going to stumble occasionally, and you’ll be better off planning to accommodate when it happens.

The problem with goals and deadlines comes when you adhere to them too strictly,  or when you are disappointed with yourself for not meeting them. Using them as a means to lift yourself up, to feel challenged and motivated and to count the milestones you pass is great and will have a positive effect, but the opposite can just as easily be true if you feel stressed, ashamed, or guilty for not meeting the goals you set yourself.

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Back when I was working on my trilogy, Crimson Winter, I had written the first book in three months by having a goal of writing 5 pages a day, 5 days a week, totalling 100 pages a month. This continued into book two, which I wrote in a little over four months as it was a longer book. Between book two and three, I went through a rough time in my life and book three took me somewhere between six months and a year. It was by far the longest and most complex of the three, but I was determined to keep myself to my writing goals, which proved to be a detriment. The pace I had set for book one and two was quite grueling, but since I had successfully completed the first two books so easily, I found myself questioning why I couldn’t do it with the third and feeling inadequate for not living up to my own expectations. As a result, I was very hard on myself, which only made me feel worse, which in turn made writing even more difficult. It was a negative feedback loop.

It took a moment of realization at 3 in the morning when I was trying to write on a midnight shift at the crummy part-time job I had taken to pay the bills for me to come to the conclusion that I had become my own worst enemy. By setting lofty unreachable goals and on top of that punishing myself for not living up to those goals, I was being unreasonably harsh on myself. From that moment on, I started giving myself permission to fail. I gave myself some leeway, some ‘get out of jail free cards’ for those times when I just didn’t feel like writing and I tried to remember that I liked writing, that it is a passion first and foremost, and not just a job. And I’ve had a much healthier relationship with myself and my writing ever since.

Thanks for reading. And speaking of reasonable goals, the #85K Challenge starts in just 10 days. The challenge is to write 85,000 words in three months, which works out just under 1000 words a day. Last year, Murandy and I finished the challenge with two weeks to spare, but this year, we’re going to be taking it slower as Murandy is a new mom (see, life happens.) We started the book we’re working on last month, and have been writing approximately 4000 words once a week and we’re going to continue that pace into the challenge to see how far that gets us. We’ll keep you posted on our progress, but if you’re interested in joining the challenge you can find all the information you need here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/85K.90days/15134760_641119006068066_5321651935076382972_n

Join us!

It was last year around this time that Murandy Damodred and I heard about the #85k challenge. The goal: write 85,000 from January 1st to March 31st. We didn’t decide to participate right away, but it just so happened that we were about ready to start writing Uncharted near the end of December, so we held off the few days and started the challenge with everyone else. We hit 85,000 words with two weeks to spare and spent the next month finishing off our novel. Now, a year later, we’re pleased to announce that Uncharted will be released in the spring of 2017!

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This year the challenge is happening again. Murandy and I will be participating (less intensely due to the birth of Murandy’s son) but we would like to invite any writers that read this blog to consider joining in. We found the challenge to be just difficult enough that you have to work for it, but not as overwhelming as other writing challenges, like Nanowrimo, for example. 85,000 breaks down to a little under 1000 words a day, which is completely reasonable, but requires dedication and consistency. Sign up here!

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In other news, we have a local launch party for Owen Swain’s adult colouring book #tourdesketch Windsor on December 15th at Sho Art Spirit and Performance, 628 Monmouth Rd, Windsor. It’s open house-style, so we encourage you to stop by and colour with us if you’re in the area between 1 and 9 pm. The official launch of the book is at 7pm and Owen Swain will be on hand throughout the day to sign copies. RSVP here.

Also, on December 10th, I will be at Bizarre Bazaar at Villains Beastro Pub from 8pm to 1am with the entire Mirror World collection available for sale. This is a unique venue to buy books and local crafts, so I encourage you to check it out if you happen to be within driving distance to downtown Windsor. RSVP here.

Bringing it back full circle, here’s the blurb about Uncharted by myself and Murandy Damodred:

There are no coincidences…

Fated to be a Priestess of Saegard, Meredith dreams of leading a normal life with a family and a home of her own, something she’ll never have if she swears her life to the Order.  A chance encounter with a stranger in the sacred Celestial Chamber sends her previously well-ordered life into a tailspin of adventure and mayhem as she is blamed for the theft of a legendary artifact. Now a fugitive, Meredith must join forces with Captain Reginald Lawrence, the son of the man who initially brought her to the Temple, and his enigmatic business partner,  the charming yet at times infuriating, Grey Rhodes, to find the Celestial Bowl and clear her name. From the cosmopolitan capital of Saegard to the coast of Ismera and back again, Meredith’s journey will reveal the true nature of her past, present, and ultimately, her future.

We hit our goal!

Now let’s pass it.

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#85K Challenge. 85,000 words in 90 Days.  On January 1st 2016 Murandy and I started writing our next novel,  #Uncharted. Using the challenge as motivation to write faster, better, and as often as possible we started strong with nearly half the challenge done at the end if the first month. The second month we kept a good pace, but coming up on the end of February I went in for surgery and spent the next few weeks recovering.

Whether it was the two weeks off course or the fact that we didn’t feel the pressure anymore after having gotten so far ahead of ourselves, we certainly slowed down in month three, though we kept up with writing a few thousand words every couple of days and still managed to complete the challenge with two weeks left until the deadline.

But we’re not satisfied with that anymore. Now that we’ve reached Chapter 30 of a possible 35, we want to finish the first draft as soon as we can manage it. Optimally by the end of March, the original last day of the challenge.

Think we can do it?