Category Archives: Kim May

Kim May

Obstacles May Be Closer Than They Appear

One of the first pieces of writing advice I ever received was that if you want it to be your occupation, you need to treat it as a business. That doesn’t mean that you have to have a business plan — though it doesn’t hurt — but you do have to set regular working hours, make goals, and keep them. Part of that, especially when self-publishing, is to set a publishing schedule and to stick to it. However, sometimes keeping that schedule is not always possible.

I do realize that there has been a great deal of discussion about publishing delays lately, and I’m not going to give any opinions on someone else’s schedule. It’s none of my business whether or not (insert name of big author) is publishing a book this year, next year, or at all. The only person whose publication schedule I can comment on with any authority is my own and as it so happens I’ve had to make some difficult choices of my own.

Knowing that my debut novel was launching last June, I started writing the next book in the series at a writing retreat the month before. I managed to write the first third that week and figured that at my normal pace, I could probably finish it by the end of the summer, October by the latest. That would have given my beta readers plenty of time to read it, and time for me to put together a short story collection (and possibly release it in the spring). It was also plenty of time for revisions so I could release book 2 in the summer. Well, we ended up being really busy and short handed at the day job over the summer and that left me too exhausted to get much done on the book. It took me the entire summer to write two chapters. That’s it. That’s all I got done.

As far as progress goes that’s dismal. However, I’m not going to feel guilty about it. I did get something done and it was impossible for me to do more. All of this meant that I had two choices. If I wanted to finish on schedule, I’d pretty much have to work myself to death for eight months. The other option was to put off the short story collection for another year, and postpone the novel release until sometime in 2019. It seems pretty straight forward as far as decisions go but what of the fans? There are people eagerly awaiting the next Oneiroi War book. Plus there’s the reader anxiety that seems to pop up these days anytime an author talks about a delay. On the other hand, I really don’t want to work myself to death for that long. It’s not healthy and the extra pressure would probably cause me to hate the book in the end because of what I had to go through to complete it.

I really don’t want to work myself to death and I don’t want to hate the book (because it’s really awesome) so I chose the latter but I do still feel bad about it — which is a bit insane. I shouldn’t feel guilty for putting my health and wellbeing first but letting down my fans still isn’t something that I wanted to do. It certainly isn’t something that I want to do lightly or make a habit of.

So what does all of this have to do with making goals? I think one thing that often is forgotten is that when setting goals it’s impossible to plan for every contingency. Yes, we can definitely keep our goals realistic, but that still isn’t going to prepare us — or our readers — for when things go sideways. When they do go sideways, it’s important to reassess the situation, and adjust the goal accordingly. Most importantly, it’s important not to see it as a failure; especially if circumstances were out of your control and you did your best in spite of it. After all, a goal is not a promise or a contract. It’s a determination to attain. The goal is still attainable…it’ll just take a bit longer than you originally planned and that’s okay.

 

Year in Review

Oh boy. Do I really want to go over the entirety of my journey? Can’t I just brush it aside and forget it ever happened?

Well…no. There were some really good things this year. Things like the release of my first novel, getting into the Epic Fantasy Storybundle, my Monster Hunter Files story being well received. There have been a a lot of really great things this year for me as an author. But what I mostly remember about this year was my failure to accomplish my main goal — take better care of myself.

I won’t go into a tale of personal woe. The short of it is that this year did not go as planned and it was all around much harder to find the time and energy to get anything done that I wanted or needed to. I think the only thing that did go as planned was that I learned how to use Dragon and that with my acupuncturist’s help my arthritis pain is the lowest it’s been in years. Too bad the rest of my life isn’t falling into line. But there is still hope for next year. Onward and upward, right?

Don’t Panic!

Today’s post is in scream-o-vision. When you see the prompt (Scream) you should scream — especially if you’re in a public place. Librarians are particularly fond of scream-o-vision. Enjoy.

(Scream)

(Gaaaah!)

This is the time that many NaNo writers dread. The month is 2/3 gone, and for one reason or another you’ve fallen behind. You’ve got 20K (or more) to write still, all your friends are at least 15K ahead of you, and just thinking about how you’re going to catch up is giving you a panic attack. The Final Countdown is playing through your head (and if it wasn’t it certainly is now). Plus, in the US we have the worst complication. Dare I say it?

 

(Dare! Dare!)

 

Thanksgiving is coming!

(Scream)

(Gaaaah!)

The family is coming over in three days, you haven’t cleaned since before Halloween, you haven’t even bought the turkey (let alone started thawing it), and the idea of serving your family frozen pot pies instead of a Norman Rockwell feast is looking better and better.

(Scream)

(Gaaaah!)

If this sounds like you then I want you to do something. Take a deep breath and DON’T PANIC! There are some things you can do that can help you salvage NaNo:

  1. The first thing to do is to not rage quit. If you give up now then it’s guaranteed that you won’t win NaNo. If you stick with it you might surprise yourself with what you can do.
  2. Look on the bright side! You have (insert word count) words that you didn’t have before. A lot of people who dream of writing a book never make it as far as you have and you totally deserve a button for that. Whether you reach the 50K mark or not, that’s something that you can still be proud of.
  3. Totally do the pot pie dinner. That’s at least 6 hours of cooking time that you’re eliminating — time that you can spend writing. Or if you don’t want your mother-in-law to accuse you of dialing it in for the rest of your life, serve turkey burgers, sweet potato fries, and a store bought pumpkin pie with the words “It’s NaNoWriMo. Be happy it wasn’t frozen pot pies.” written in frosting on the top.
  4. Get a massage. Yes, it’s lost writing time but it’s not unproductive time. You can think about the next scene or about entertaining conversations your characters might have. Once the massage is over — and you really needed the stress relief — the words can flow easily.

Did you find this helpful? Great! Soon you’ll be back on the metaphorical road to success. If you didn’t, at least you got to relieve some of the tension by screaming. See? You feel better already. All of those mental stress knots are loosening and you can go sit down and crank out another 2K words today.

(Scream)

(Gaaaah!)

Now go write!

The Incredible Shrinking Outline

Asking an author about their pre-writing process, in some ways, is like asking them what color their underwear is. While it’s an interesting conversation starter, the answer is really personal. I know authors who do a full bio sheet for each character, and others who just keep it all in their head. Me, I write massive and slightly strange outlines.

The way I learned to write outlines back in grade school was the typical bulletpointed lists with headings and subheadings. That’s great for some people but it’s too vague for my needs. You see, because of a childhood illness I have a chemically rewired brain. All that rewiring made my memory a little wonky. I can remember the most trivial details of a conversation I had three years ago, or the exact placement of a particular book on my shelves. But remembering what I meant by “Morpheus starts a fight” isn’t quite enough to tell me what kind of fight I’d intended for that scene or even who he’s supposed to fight. If it’s an early chapter, yeah the chances are good that I’ll remember. However, when I’ve put 10,000 or more words down, too much time has passed for me to recall every little detail. Plus I found that putting all of those little details in subheadings is visually annoying to me. In addition to that, my theater experience taught me how powerful a few key words can be when I’ve forgotten what my next line is. With all of that in mind, what I do instead is this:

(If you haven’t read The Moonflower, there’s spoilers ahead)

Chapter 13

Ariana’s class goes on an outing to the Louvre. Mr. Talbott takes them through an unmarked side door and takes them down to the basement. One of the students asks how he got permission to come down here. While down there, Ariana finds an old carved stone frieze from ancient Greece laid out on a work table. It’s one of Sair’s. She recognizes it from his workroom. She decides that she needs to know more. She runs home and re-enters the Demos Oneiroi in order to find him and learn more.

 Chapter 14

Ariana enters the dream. She searches for him in the field first, then checks all of the landscapes that they’ve visited before, but doesn’t find him. She is frustrated and scared for him. She tries to think of how he would search for her and remembers that he pops in and out of places at will. She concentrates hard on Sair and tries to will herself to his location. When she opens her eyes she is in a white marble Greek temple. A blindfolded woman dressed in white walks up and asks if she can be of any assistance. Woman is Dikaiosyne, the spirit of justice. Ariana meets Phobetor and Phantasos. Zosime is thrilled to see Ariana again and brings her in to see Sair. She says that she’s looking for Sair and the attendant escorts her without any difficulty.

I’ve found that a paragraph style outline is a lot more helpful to me. I can fill it with as many details as I like and since I’m the only person who sees it I can use run on sentences, poor grammar, wrong punctuation, leave out punctuation, use colloquialisms and slang…pretty much whatever I feel will give me the right cues. Sometimes the outline paragraph is only three or four sentences, and sometimes it’s half a page. I just keep writing until I get the full scene mapped out. I’ve even been known to put things in my outline that usually have no business being in an outline. Things like character descriptions or a song with the right tempo and mood for the scene that I need to play in the background. That doesn’t stop me from adding them because it’s a cue that I’ll need later.

I also don’t outline the entire book. I outline all of the major/really important chapters, whatever minor chapters I can think of, and then put all of those events in linear order. If I know what chapter 9 and 11 need to be but not exactly what comes between I’ll leave empty chapter headings and fill it in later. All of this though usually only covers about 2/3 of the book. It never fails that once I get about a third of the way into a manuscript I think of another cool twist or two that adds more depth and/or character development or I finally figure out what is supposed to be in a hole I left so I purposely leave room for those additional chapters.

Yes, there’s nothing unusual about that. I realize that many writers outline this way or in a way that’s very similar to this. But this is only half of my outlining process. What I do with that outline is where it gets unusual.

I’m a disciple of Alton Brown in that I like tools that can multitask and that’s exactly what my outline does. You see, there’s a reason that my outline is in bold. When I’ve finished typing out my outline, the very last thing I do before I start writing the book is make a second copy. The first copy of the outline stays in a file, pristine and untouched so I can refer to it when I’m working on subsequent books. The second copy is what becomes my manuscript. You read that right. I write the book in the second copy of my outline, right under the outline paragraph. When I’ve completed one of the items in the outline I delete it. That way I don’t have to re-read what I wrote the previous day in order to figure out where I’m at. I can look at what’s left of the outline for that chapter and immediately know where I left off. Life is crazy and NaNoWriMo in particular is crazy. Some days I only have thirty minutes to write and I can’t spend that time re-reading. This makes it so much easier for me to jump right into it so I can make the most of the time that I have. (It’s another reason that having the right cues in my outline is so important to me.)

So many pre-writing tools are single purpose but if you’re an outliner there’s no reason why it can’t serve multiple purposes and be adapted — even Frankensteined — to be tailored to your exact needs. Besides, it’s just a tool. It doesn’t have to be pretty. It just needs to do the job efficiently.