Category Archives: Reflection

Trashing Your Novel Might be the Only Way to Save It

PhoenixHappy New Year!

As we discuss new beginnings this month, I’m talking about those times when you must begin at the beginning – again – when to decide to throw away your novel and start over.

It’s a scary idea to consider for any writer, no matter how experienced. We slave over our work, sometimes for years, pouring our heart and soul into our new creation. It’s like our baby, a precious part of our identity.

So when do we kill it?

The answer to that question is kind of a sliding scale. As new authors, it can be a shock to realize that revisions are necessary, that we have to cut and chop and operate and rebuild our story, perhaps several times. At a minimum, some of those precious little nuggets we’ve worked into our story might have to get chopped as we refine and perfect the story. Other times, we have to cut and change more, making some fundamental shifts in our plot, characters, setting, etc.

And occasionally, we have to throw it all away and start over. In these cases, it’s usually because the story we thought we were telling was the wrong story. Or our skills as developing writers just wasn’t up to par with the story we were trying to tell, and there are such critical flaws in the story that it’s simply not going to work.

In those cases, to save the story, we must kill it. Like a phoenix, the story might only live to be amazing only through the ashes of its previous life.

I know what I’m talking about. I’m arguably the king of the phoenix. My first novel – the four-year, three-hundred-thousand-word monstrosity that I was convinced was going to take the world by storm – wasn’t. I cut my teeth as a writer on that story, and I still love it. A big, fat, epic fantasy that had some amazing elements, but was not a professional-level product. It simply was not going to work.

The day I realized that was a dark day. I faced a choice, as we always do when facing revisions of every kind. Either cling to my pride and embrace that parental impulse to protect this precious story I had worked so very hard for so very long to produce. It’s understandable, but that approach would have guaranteed the story never succeeded.

Or – kill the story and start over. That’s what I did. I threw it away (really should have held a solemn ceremony with a huge bonfire in the back yard). Then I started over. Page One.

I took the elements that had been good – some of the worldbuilding, some of the characters, etc. And I redesigned an entirely new story. It was a painful process, but it was also amazing and awesome because the resulting story was ten times better. I will likely release it this year.

You’d think after all of that, I’d know how to write a first draft that was mostly good and only needed minor revisions.

Nope. Not me.

Set in StoneMy second book – Set in Stone – book one of my popular YA fantasy series – suffered its own issues. I actually outlined this story to the Nth degree in the hopes of a near-perfect first draft. Problem was, I was outlining the wrong story. By the third draft, I realized there were fundamental flaws with it.

So I chopped about 80% of that novel and rewrote it again. The result was amazing. I added the humor, which is such a big part of the series. And I plunged deep into the unique magic system and added several new characters, which are some of the most popular characters in the series. If I had clung to the original draft, the story would have tanked and I would have wasted an entire world and years of effort.

So shredding that story and rebuilding it again was the only way to save it. Phoenix number Two a success.

Just about every other novel I’ve written has also required massive rewrites. Maybe you’re smarter than me or better skilled and your stories don’t require such overhauls. But don’t hold back. The story is what matters, and first drafts are sometimes a process of discovering what your story’s heart really is. Rewrites are when you get to polish the story and craft it to perfection to make that heart really shine.

This week, I’m enjoying a rare writing retreat where I’ll be diving into edits on my next Facetakers time travel thriller. I’m not expecting to need such in-depth rewrites, but as I get into the revision process, I’ll do what it takes to make the story shine.

The story deserves it. My fans deserve it. So I do the work.

I’m a storyteller. It’s what I do.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank Morin
No Stone UnturnedFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers sci-fi time travel thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

What Kind of Year Has It Been?

So what kind of year has it been? A year of transitions—although that may not be saying much since it increasingly seems that all years are transitioning to and from one thing or another. The idea I once held in my imagination of a stable life and career seems more far-fetched every day.

The reality is that I didn’t make much overall progress on my fiction in 2016, although the business of my writing life is a different story. After a four-year absence, I dove back into the convention pond (I attended two, When Words Collide in Calgary, Alberta and World Fantasy in Columbus, Ohio) and emerged with some excellent prospects. I had a very good year in my writing-adjacent day jobs, as a newspaper owner/editor and freelance book editor. I broke ground on a novel which I expect to be my most challenging and ambitious project to date; it’s the sort of project that keeps you up at night for the sheer excitement of plotting it out.

And yet I didn’t actually do very much writing, an ugly truth which I must stare down. In the face of this, it can be small consolation that I’ve greatly strengthened the infrastructure of my life. I must do better in 2017. It’s as simple as that.

Let me talk about those convention appearance, which I came back from energized to produce more and better work. Every time I attend a convention, it solidifies my certainty that there’s a market for my writing. That’s the value of conventions, but they are really hard.

Well, maybe they’re not hard for everyone. For me they’re nigh impossible. Gone are the halcyon days when I went to my first conventions and filled my days with programming. It didn’t take long to realize that the panels are mostly doesn’t come at all naturally to me. You need the ability to walk up to strangers, or near-strangers, and find something to talk about instantly—without seeming needy and pushy. This is quite a tightrope.

Because that’s what you’re there for. You’re generally not there to listen to a panel of novelists talk about the importance of map-making in fantasy literature, nor are you there to listen to well-established professionals wax eloquent about their decades-long careers and the generally pretty unrelatable logistics of publishing fifteen-volume epics. Those are definitely perks, but eventually you’ll realize that those panels are more or less all the same, and they don’t get you from A to B. You could get a similar result from an afternoon browsing YouTube clips.

I spent the first evening of World Fantasy returning periodically to my hotel room to steal precious alone time, breaks from the stress of wandering through the convention halls looking desperately for people to talk to, like a feral animal.

At one point, a friend of mine said to me that most of the people there were just like me and they were wildly faking their smiles and easy-going manners. He pointed out that a majority of writers are probably introverted shut-ins, which explains why they would be attracted to a field where so much of the work happens when you’re, well, very much alone.

But anyway, you don’t spend hundreds (thousands) of dollars on convention fees and airfare and hotel rooms and pub food only if you’re going to actually dive into that pond. So when the second day dawned, I pulled on some swimwear and got wet. The water was excruciatingly cold at first, and only slightly warmer by the end when I finally crawled onto shore like a beached whale, but damn it I came away with a couple of manuscript critiques and some short story anthology opportunities. (One of those opportunities came when an editor inadvertently dumped his entire beer all over me, a soggy mess which ultimately paid off handsomely by weekend’s end.)

It’s not comfortable, and it’s not my favorite part of the job, but I’ve already booked a couple of conventions for 2017 and hopefully it won’t take me so long to acclimate this time.

Evan BraunEvan Braun is an author and editor who has been writing books for more than ten years. He is the author of The Watchers Chronicle, a completed trilogy. In addition to writing science fiction, he is the managing editor of The Niverville Citizen. He lives in Niverville, Manitoba.

Frog Jones Year-in-Review

OK, they tell me I have a single blog post to recap one of the biggest years in my writing career. So, here we go.

1. January

January was actually relatively calm. We will think of this as the quiet before the storm.

FFG Cover2. February

February kicked off with my first time attending the Superstars Writing Seminar. Despite spending a third of the conference in bed due to altitude sickness, thereby becoming the black sheep of the seminar, I made a lot of great connections and met a lot of good people. Also, I was introduced to this group of authors who call themselves the Fictorians–you may have heard of them.

But wait, there’s more.

February also saw the release of Book 3 of the urban fantasy series I co-author with my wife. We launched the book live at RadCon in Pasco, Washington; the good folks at that con and the Central Washington Authors Guild helped to insure our best launch ever, putting us briefly in the top 40 list on Amazon’s Urban Fantasy category.

3. March

March saw the release of Horseshoes, Hand Grenades, and Magic. This is an anthology we were really happy to be a part of. The entire anthology is filled with stories in which close is good enough. Our story, “Some Kind of Way Out Of Here,” involves a thief who steals a number of magic wands–only to need to use their random effects in his botched escape attempt.

12998266_10154046171413080_5286021561999122271_oMarch saw us attending Norwescon, the largest of the regional conventions at which I’m a regular. The picture’s a little fuzzy, but the bowler stands out). In addition to being a big, awesome con that gives its authors free booze in the evenings (no joke there, just awesomeness), Norwescon is the home of the Fairwood Writers Workshop, which is a really amazing chance for me to give back to new authors in exactly the way I got my own start.

4. April

I’m going to cheat a little bit, here; while at Norwescon we recorded the first episode of 3 Unwise Men, the comedy genre fiction podcast I record alongside two other nimrods. Season 2 released in April, though; it was a six-episode season, beginning with the Livecast from Norwescon.

5. May

In May, I attended Miscon as a professional. Miscon was an amazing experience; I did dinner with Jim Butcher, drank beer with Kevin J. Anderson, and ended up in a sweet game of Fiasco with Christopher Paolini. In addition, with the help of the Fairwood Press table, we had our greatest single day of physical book sales ever. Possibly the most heady con experience I’ve ever had. There was a moment at Miscon where a fan walked up to the WordFire Press table, where my wife Esther volunteered, and asked Kevin J Anderson where he could find our book. That’s something that makes you really feel like you’ve arrived.

13415482_10208446988645564_8879850187004161903_o6. June

June is a time for getting things done. CampCon happens in June, a small gathering of professionals in the woods surrounding Mt. Hood in Oregon. We bring our laptops. We place them on picnic tables. And we throw down word count. Esther and I finished the draft of the first novel in our new series, Black Powder Goddess. When is it coming out? Well, that’s up to whoever buys it. But CampCon is an amazing experience, where the creative juices are flowing and nobody has an internet connection to distract them. That’s the group pic we took; there’s several new authors that come, but we also have Phyllis Irene Radford, Bob Brown, Sanan Kolva, Joyce Reynolds-Ward, and Blaze and Leah from Knotted Road Press.

13516369_10206756434249727_4232598126185580488_n7. July

In July, we did Westercon! Westercon was the first con at which Esther and I appeared at a table featuring our own books. We shared that table space with the great David Boop and Peter Wacks, and broke all of our sales records. Also, the Unwise Men made an appearance at Westercon. It was the last panel of the day for me, and you can tell that all three of the UWM were shocked to see us not only invited back to a convention, but actively advertised by that convention.

But wait there’s more.

During July, we also appeared at Capital Indie Book Con in Olympia. We had a table here, as well, and had decent sales as well as a couple of unexpected guests.

13699999_10206858004628923_3882587901125880649_n

8. August

During August, we took deep breaths and dove headfirst into revising Black Powder Goddess. In addition, we began drafting Graceless, book 4 in the Gift of Grace series. Normally in August we attend Spocon, the convention which gave us our start back in 2011. This year, Spocon took a year off after putting on Sasquan in 2015.

9. September

Easily the best-selling anthology to date for us is the great How Beer Saved the World.  Keeping a copy of this book on the table at any given con is difficult at best, and the online sales for it have been fabulous.

In September, Esther and I were proud to be a part of the launch of the second volume of How Beer Saved the World. Having two of these books on our table from here on our is really going to be quite something, because we cannot stop people from buying the first one. Here’s a quick marketing tip: if you want to sell an anthology, make it about booze. Half the people at a convention are already thinking about it.

10. October

October…sucked.

The editor of our first three novels, Sue Bolich, lost her fight with cancer in early October. Sue has been with Esther and I from the beginning of our careers, and losing her was a serious blow. I would not be the author I am today if it were not for Sue flaying me alive at every step. Sue, we loved you, and we are far better writers with far better books for having known you. Nothing we do in the industry would have been possible had you not ever-so-politely laid the skin from our flesh every time we looked at you. She was a great author and an amazing editor, and I still feel directionless in this industry without her.

11. November

November began with the release of Dragon Writers. a charity anthology put out by WordFire Press. If you’re reading the Fictorians regularly, there’s fair odds you’re going to see this mentioned a lot this month. Frank, Jace, and Kristin (and maybe some others I missed, sorry guys) appear alongside Brandon Sanderson, Jodi Lynn Nye, David Farland, and Todd McCaffery in this anthology of stories featuring (1) dragons, and (2) creativity.

In addition, Esther and I made yet another con appearance, this time at OryCon in Portland.

12. December

It is December 2nd as of this post. Who knows what the next 24 days will bring?

That’s me for the year. It was a huge year with our biggest releases, our most effective con appearances, and some of our best networking. For Esther and I, 2016 is going to be looked back on as the year we started going full-bore as professional authors.

 

 

The Work/Life Imbalance

Let’s be clear.

I’m crazy.

Yup. Off my rocker. Certifiable. Nuts.balancing act

I was raised as part of the generation of women told, “you can have it all” and swallowed the line, hook and sinker.

My last year life in brief:

  • Happily (no really) married for nearly 19 years.
  • Matt and I have two amazing sons, ages 17 and 15.
  • We live on a 5 acre horse farm including two horses, a dog, three cats, a pool, woods and a creek. My dream made real in cooperation with Matt aka “The Hubby.”
  • I’ve been published, am getting ready to self-publish and am finishing an alternate history novel.
  • I’m a staff member for Superstars Writing Seminar.
  • I read slush for an online magazine.
  • I wrote a guest post for Grammar Girl’s podcast!
  • I’m a founding member of this blog.
  • I’ve owned my own law firm, and grew it to the point I had to join another firm.
  • With the help and guidance from the amazing people from EWomen Network, I’m launching a YouTube Channel about legal tips for business in May, 2016.
  • My book on business law for real people is scheduled to release in May, 2016.
  • I speak 6-15 times a year about using the law to protect your solo or small business and help it prosper.
  • I have some amazing strategic alliances that allow me to help mid-sized businesses transition into BIG businesses.
  • I am humbled and honored to call some of the most generous, wonderful and supportive people on the planet my friends.

So, I have it all, right?

Yeah. Truly, I can’t complain about my crazy busy life. Well, sure, I can complain about things – like the orange cat shredding 2015 set 1 132and eating (literally) my papers. But really, this is a trivial problem. I’m a pretty A-type personality. I love being in motion. A week of doing “nothing” is not my idea of fun. I’m also a bit of a perfectionist. (Stop laughing, Matt). “Having it all” is a lot of work.

So, here’s the truth about “having it all” and the myth of the “work-life balance:”

You can have “it” all; you just have to decide what “it” actually is.

I took far too long to come to that epiphany. I’ve felt guilty about success in one area of my life, as mommy, wife, writer, lawyer, speaker or farmer, because that success came at the expense (real or perceived) of another area of my life. To “do it all” I’ve had to accept sometimes, being a lawyer meant I couldn’t be a writer right then. I’ve had to let go of one of my favorite sentence stems – “I should be…”

I’ve wrestled with the “I should be…”s and related “I’m a bad…”s all my life. See, my Mom “did it all” too. She worked but she always made us dinner and came to our school events. I called her shortly after my oldest was born and asked Mom how she “did it.” I didn’t remember that she worked part-time until I was too busy with school to come home before 7 pm. All I remembered is she and my Dad had been there when it mattered. I remembered dinner was at 5 pm; learning how to cook in her kitchen; studying Latin with her and math with my Dad; Dad waking up at 4 am and taking me to a horse show; and the hours he and I spent fishing.

Still, that simple and profound lesson took years to sink in:

Others don’t see the things that worry us so very much.

Balance is a myth. No aspect of my life ever balances out in perfect proportions. I don’t spent 1/6th of my time wearing each of my hats and in many years the garden is ruled by weeds. But I accomplish a lot.

My tips for having it all:

  1. Let go and accept.

Sometimes we must prioritize one area of our lives over another for a time. That’s okay. That’s just life. The needs will change and if you’re paying attention over a life time the scales will balance the way you want, even if that’s not totally equally.

  1. Lists. Lots and lots of lists.

I know myself. If a task, appointment or whatever doesn’t hit my to-do list with a deadline it isn’t happening. Because I’ll procrastinate if I can do the task “whenever,” every task has a deadline whether real or Nancy created. I try not to beat myself up when I miss the fake deadlines. Now I just reset them to my next best guess.

  1.  When you can hire people to deal with the administrivia.

Time is best spent on income generating activities (for me, doing legal work or writing a story) or fun (watching movies with my 3 boys) rather than on unproductive tasks like mailing out my invoices. I can pay an admin $15 an hour to handle those necessary distractions. There are things only you can do. Do them and nothing else. Use money to make time when you can.

  1. Focus on what you accomplished rather than what remains to be done.

If your to-do list something even Superman and Wonder Woman would fear? When I focused on the 15 things that weren’t humanly possible to do in the day and I, surprise, didn’t finish, I was a grumpy gal. Now, I try to end the day remembering what I accomplished. I’m less likely to dread the next day.

  1. Sleep is for wimps.

Just kidding. Sleep really isn’t optional.

For me, finding balance meant accepting there are limits to my superhuman strengths (Again, stop laughing Matt or I might revise the “happily married” point). Don’t get me wrong. I still hear the deeply fearful part of me repeating her “not good enough” and “I should be…” mantras, but her voice has grown softer over the years and she’s getting easier to ignore.

Oh yeah, and when getting the work/life balance right, it helps to be downright crazy.