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Shanna's Journal
Shanna's Adventures in Publishing (and in life)
Recent Entries 
24th-Feb-2017 09:31 am - Ahead of Schedule
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The book is done and off to my agent. Now I’ll just have to check the various files before it goes into production, write and revise cover copy, work with the cover designer, and attempt to do something resembling publicity.

I’m having a little trouble coming up with a schedule for today, but this is where a schedule is so important because free time tends to turn into wasted time unless I’m intentional about it. So, on a day in which I have some free time, how do I want to spend it?

I even have more free time because I woke up early this morning and figured I might as well get up instead of going back to sleep and waking up hours later. I know I need to take care of some business stuff — bookkeeping, bill paying, etc. I want to do some research reading. I was thinking about taking a long walk, but it’s very windy, so I’ll have to see how the afternoon looks. I need to review all my thoughts and notes on the current book. I need to practice my choir music and the harp and piano. If I don’t schedule these things, I’ll end up just checking Facebook and some message boards over and over again.

On the whole, the week of scheduling has gone very well for me. I’ve accomplished a lot and feel good about it. My house is a lot cleaner. There’s a visible difference in the office. I got the book done. I’ve been researching another book. I read a couple of books just for fun. I got back to working on the harp, which I’d let languish. The only thing I haven’t managed is exercise. Even when I schedule it, I end up finding something else to do at that time. On the bright side, that’s when I’ve been getting housework done. When I scheduled a walk, I vacuumed my bedroom and living room.

At the moment, I’m about an hour ahead of schedule for the day. Crazy!
23rd-Feb-2017 10:56 am - Getting the Hang of Wednesdays
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I know Thursdays are supposed to be the day it’s hard to get the hang of, but Wednesdays seem to be that for me. I think part of it is choir and getting ready for it. Part is that whatever enthusiasm I had at the beginning of the week is flagging. Yesterday, it didn’t help that water to the neighborhood was cut off for part of the day for repairs. I think the idea of making Wednesday a break day to do business will help. I seldom get much writing work done, and then I feel bad about that. But if I don’t plan to do that work and plan to do something else, then that functions like a break I don’t feel bad about, and I may get other stuff done.

Meanwhile, I have a lot of reading to do because Nebula nominations are out, and I need to read the ballot. I found almost all of the books at the library yesterday, so I’m getting a jump on the voter packet. In addition to reading in order to vote, I like getting the chance to read things I didn’t select, which forces me to expand my horizons. I feel like I learn a lot from this kind of reading. One positive effect of my scheduling has been more reading time. I’m really enjoying that.

I’m getting close to the end of proofing this book. Then I need to write cover copy, and then I’ll be mostly done, other than checking the formatting files, working with the cover designer, and doing all the promotion stuff. I’m already looking forward to getting on with the next project. That will start on Monday. I had grand plans to start Friday after the proofing is done, but I think I need to do a little more prep work, and then I’m going to have a very social Saturday (two events!), so I probably will have better momentum if I start the writing on Monday.

Now, off to do more proofreading.
22nd-Feb-2017 11:51 am - Choosing POV
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I’ve been talking about narrative point of view in my writing posts, covering first-person and third-person narration. How do you know which to use in your story?

Consider using first person if:

  • Narrative voice is very important in your genre (YA, chick lit, urban fantasy)

  • You need to conceal information from your reader (mystery, unreliable narrator)

  • Your narrator character is likely to be present for all the major events in your story

  • Your narrator character is someone who is likely to be willing to share the information you need to convey


Consider using third person if:

  • There are multiple perspectives you want to cover

  • Your story spans multiple locations, with different characters in each location

  • There’s simultaneous action going on, so that no one person could be in on all the action

  • You want to build suspense by letting readers and some characters know something that another viewpoint character doesn’t know

  • You want to get really deep into a character’s head, letting the reader know things the character probably wouldn’t tell anyone


You can always experiment by writing a scene in third person, then going back and changing the pronouns and then figuring out what else needs to change in the switch to first person. Or vice versa. Which works best for this story? Which is more fun or easier for you to write?

There are also ways to mix it up. A lot of “new adult” books use first person for the heroine’s perspective and third person for other characters. Two (or more) characters might switch off in first-person narration (just be sure to label clearly when you switch voices). You can intersperse letters/texts/e-mails/journal entries to add some first-person narration to a third-person story.

The important thing is that you convey the information the reader needs to know and that the reader is clear on whose perspective the story is in at any given time — unless it’s part of the story that the narrator is a mysterious figure.
21st-Feb-2017 10:39 am - On Schedule
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My experiment on using scheduling to make me make intentional use of my time was a rousing success. Yeah, it was just one day, but things that bring a sense of reward tend to get repeated, so maybe the one day will become more. I managed to get all the things I needed to do done, along with some things that have lingered on the “I really should do this” list for ages. I also managed to have a lot of extra time for things I wanted to do, like reading, some of it for work, some for pleasure. And I didn’t feel deprived. I still did a lot of the fun goofing off stuff that I usually do. I just didn’t get caught up in the doom loop of spending lots of time mindlessly.

After spending the day doing things that I wanted to do and that contribute toward my goals, I even had a “is this how I want to be spending my time?” epiphany about something I always do — a TV show that’s been sitting on my DVR for a week, one I always watch that I used to enjoy, and I realized I didn’t really enjoy it and I wasn’t paying much attention to it. I’m allowed to stop watching and use that time for other things.

So far today, I’m sticking to the schedule and feeling good about it, so maybe this can become a habit.

One of my big accomplishments yesterday was finding desk surface. My office is a mess. My desk is a disaster area. I tend to not like working in there. But I was taking a break from reading aloud to proofread, and my schedule said to clean the desk, so I spent half an hour cleaning the desk, and it made a huge difference. Another half hour today, and it might even resemble a place where a human being might work. Then I can move on to the rest of the office.

I’ve tried scheduling before, but it was more treated as something I had to do. In this case, I’m putting down things I want to do (or say I want to do) and scheduling time for them. I don’t have to have the willpower to make the right choice when I’m facing a block of time because I’ve already made the choice. It also helps to put hard stops on potentially time-wasting behavior.

So, let’s see how the rest of this week goes and then how it goes next week when I’m back in writing mode.
20th-Feb-2017 11:32 am - Doing Deep Work
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I had a weekend that was both productive and relaxing. I did a lot of housework and I did a lot of reading. Alas, I didn’t get to look at that house, as they seem to have canceled the open house. It was still on the online listing, but when I went there, there was no sign and the house was shut tight with no one around. My Realtor friend said there was an option contract on it, so maybe they changed their mind about the open house. I think I’m going to take this as a good sign that this house wasn’t meant to be mine, or at least not now. So, onward with my plan for the year to focus on writing now.

Part of my weekend reading was a really interesting book called Deep Work by Cal Newport. It’s about how any kind of work that requires deep thinking or creativity requires periods of deep focus. You can’t really multitask and get good work done. A lot of it got into how current business practices are actually robbing companies of real innovation, since they’re more worried about “shallow” work that looks like work — sitting at a desk in an open office, going to meetings, answering e-mail, being on social media — and might even penalize people who are doing what they need to do in order to get real thinking done, like hiding out in a conference room or working at home, only looking at e-mail once a day, not going to meetings, etc.

But for my situation, what I took away from it was the fact that some of my habits that I berate myself for when I’m writing are actually on the right track for getting good work done. I talk about how I tend to be “all or nothing” when I’m working on a book, and I feel bad about not being able to just devote a few hours a day to writing and still get other stuff done. I also tend to get “book brain,” in which I don’t want to do anything other than write or at the very least don’t want to leave the headspace of the story. Both of these are signs of being able to go deep, to get into a state of flow.

The author had some good suggestions for being able to do deep work. One is to be very intentional about how you use your time. Create a schedule so that you don’t let shallow stuff fill your day and keep you from getting to the things you care about — that “first things first” idea. He’s really not keen on social media and e-mail because of what he calls “attention lag.” Even if you only dip in for a few minutes during a break, your mind will still be on it when you get back to work. For breaks, he suggests doing physical things that allow you to keep your mind on your work — exercise, walking, housework, gardening, etc. You can be intentional about your thoughts while doing those things, setting up a problem you need to solve and focusing on it.

One thing I may try is giving myself permission to go all or nothing. I’m not getting business or promo stuff done because it feels like a distraction from my writing. So, since Wednesdays are always a distracted day for me anyway, I think that’s going to be a non-writing day. That will be the day I take care of errands, business (like bookkeeping), and major promo tasks. I can write blog posts and social media posts in advance, work on my web site, contact people for interviews, etc. Then I can devote the other days just to writing, with only a little bit of maintenance on other stuff (post the things I’ve written, reply to e-mail, social media).

That won’t start until next week, though, since this week I’m doing proofing, and that’s a different kind of work that requires mental breaks.
17th-Feb-2017 11:28 am - Planning
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I did make it out for my evening event (a girls’ night out with topical discussion with one of our pastors — yeah, I know how to party), so I got my milk on the way home, and that means serious grocery shopping will wait until next week and I don’t have to leave the house today. It’s going to be a pleasantly warm afternoon, so I will be working on the patio, I think. I have a little less than half the book to go on this editing pass, then I get a weekend break, and then next week I read the entire thing out loud to myself, so I won’t be working on the patio then. I don’t want to risk giving the neighbors spoilers.

I took some time this morning to do a little career and life planning. I’m focusing the first half of the year on writing. I’m getting this book done, then there’s that proposal, then I want to do a couple of shorter works in the Enchanted, Inc. universe, as well as maybe a few other short pieces, and then a fourth Fairy Tale book. That will fill out my publication slate for the rest of the year.

Then in the second half of the year, while I do some development work for other pieces, I’m going to focus on the house situation. I’m still planning to go to the open house tomorrow just to get a sense of scale for the houses in that sub-neighborhood that I’ve targeted, but apparently there’s an option contract on the house, so trying to buy it would mean really getting things together fast, and I don’t think that will happen. Instead, I’m going to look at really being in gear to buy/sell/move in the coming fall/winter timeframe. That gives me time to do a good purge and organize in this house, get some repairs made, see how my book release strategy is going to affect my finances, get pre-approved for a mortgage, etc.

Of course, if I sell the proposal, I’ll have to write that book, which could adjust my timeline, but that would be a good problem to have.

A writer friend introduced me to an acronym that I may have to embroider on a throw pillow: WIBBOW — Would I Be Better Off Writing? I need to remember that when things come up. That’s partly why I’m dialing back on conventions. In the time it takes me to prepare for, go to, and recover from a convention, I could have written at least a short story, if not a novella or a good chunk of a novel. Having a new piece of work out there will do more to promote my work than me sitting on a panel, especially at conventions where I’m already known.

Having a plan makes me feel better. I feel like I have things more under control. Now watch something happen to disrupt my plan.
16th-Feb-2017 12:18 pm - Cave Mode
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In spite of the current lovely weather, I seem to be in “cave” mode. Here’s how the progression of planning errands has gone this week:

Monday:
I’ll need to get groceries this week, and then there are some things I need at Target. I’ll do a combined Target/groceries run on Wednesday morning, since that will be half-price chocolate day, and I have to go to choir Wednesday, anyway.

Wednesday morning:
I don’t actually need any groceries right now. If I buy milk today, it might go bad before I use up the current milk and the new milk. I’ll go grocery shopping later in the week, and I can run by Target on my way to choir in the afternoon.

Wednesday afternoon:
Rats, the coupons for the things I was going to get at Target have expired, and I was just getting them to stock up, not because they were needed, so I don’t really need to go to Target. And, considering that I still have some of the chocolate from last Valentine’s Day left, I don’t even need to hit the clearance sale. I’ll just go grocery shopping tomorrow.

Thursday morning:
I still don’t really need milk, though I might tomorrow. I am out of bread, though. Maybe I can bake bread. Or, since I have to go out tonight, I can run by the store on my way home and grab bread and milk, and then I won’t have to go anywhere at all tomorrow.

Stay tuned for the weekend, when I’m baking bread and scrounging up creamer packets from hotel coffee “condiment” packs to put in my tea rather than going to the grocery store. But really, timing the milk purchase is critical, buying it at a time when I’m not already out completely but not so soon that the new gallon will go bad. We’ll see if I manage to make it to the option evening activity tonight.
15th-Feb-2017 11:20 am - Planning for the Weekend
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I’m getting close to being done with this book. I went over the copyedits yesterday and made the minor corrections — the typos, punctuation, etc. Now I do one more editing pass to make sure that fixing the copyedits didn’t introduce new errors and to check on some continuity things the editor flagged. This is probably my toughest edit because I’m looking at everything. I hope to get that mostly done this week. And then comes the most time-consuming phase: reading the entire book out loud. That’s where I catch any remaining errors, awkward phrasing, or repeated words. It moves slowly, and I can only do so much of it at a time, so I generally work in half-hour increments with half-hour breaks in between, so I don’t fry my voice. And then I should get the book off into production on next Friday. Then I can get back to that proposal.

I’ve already decided that this weekend is going to be dedicated to a massive house cleaning project. Any time this weekend after the house is clean will be reading time, so any housework I get done during the week will increase my weekend free time. I hope that helps provide an incentive. I have a couple of library books I really must get read.

My Saturday afternoon break will be a visit to an open house. They have one scheduled in that house I’ve been keeping an eye on, so I can get a sense of the scale and decide if it really is “my” house or if I want something else and would be better off waiting. It’s really small, but it’s still larger than where I live now, so whether or not it would work for me depends on how the space is used. I’d really rather not move until the fall, but I guess a lot of it depends on what’s available and when.

And now I need to go think of things to do to torture small children tonight. I need to mix up my choir lesson plans because I’m afraid they’re on to me.
14th-Feb-2017 12:28 pm - What's Romantic?
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I may have recovered from the convention weekend. A day of rest and a good night’s sleep, and I feel more or less back to normal.

I suppose I should wish a happy Valentine’s Day, but I’m really not a fan of the holiday. And no, it’s not a bitter single woman thing. I’m just opposed to the idea of romance on demand, that you’ve somehow failed in your relationship if you don’t do something big on this particular day, or that you’ve failed at life if you don’t have someone doing something for you. Or that you have to do something special for yourself. Or that you have to do something to make someone else feel better about not having someone. Basically, it all boils down to “buy something today!” and that makes me cynical.

But I’m not opposed to the idea of romance. I’m happily single at the moment and content if I remain this way. I guess I’d be open to romance if I met someone who made my heart flutter, but it’s been a very long time since that happened (I guess I’m very picky, and I seem to be getting pickier with age). I do love fictional love stories, though. And now I’m about to say something rather controversial:

I don’t think The Princess Bride is the best fantasy romance movie. I don’t even think it’s a very good fantasy romance movie. I do think it’s a brilliant film, and is one of my all-time favorites. I just don’t think it’s very romantic. And I’m not sure it’s meant to be. It’s a satire. The book is rather cynical about the romance aspect, even suggesting at the end that the relationship isn’t likely to last. Really, Westley and Buttercup hardly spend any time together during the movie, and we have zero sense of what their relationship is like. The actual “love story” part of the movie happens during that prologue montage of “as you wish,” which obviously leaves a lot of it out. The bulk of the movie is about Westley trying to get back to her while she sits around passively. That gives you the sense that they probably aren’t very suited to each other. Once he starts spending time with her, he’s probably going to be very bored with her. He could do so much better.

So, what do I think is the best fantasy romance movie? My vote goes for Stardust, the adaptation of the Neil Gaiman novel. It really is a romance, fitting the structure of the genre. We have the couple that starts out with opposing goals and not being very interested in each other, but then as they face danger together and get to know each other, they start developing feelings, and then they grow as people to be able to be in love with each other and realize that it’s love. They spend almost the entire movie with each other, so we see what their relationship looks like. We see their feelings develop. And there are grand moments of romance and adventure along the way, with swashbuckling, flying pirate ships, desperate chases, secret identities, and all that, plus the kind of happy ending that leaves you with a big sigh. I watch this movie over and over again and it makes me happy every time.

I think an honorable mention might be Ladyhawke, though it’s hampered horribly by one of the most ill-fitting soundtracks ever (supposedly, it had a more traditional score in the European release, and I desperately want them to release that on DVD) that makes it really hard to watch, and then there’s Matthew Broderick’s attempt at whatever accent he was attempting. This one also loses some romance points due to the fact that the lovers can never actually share scenes with each other, due to the plot (they’re under a curse that leaves her as a falcon by day and him as a wolf by night, so they can’t be together in human form), but they do find ways of conveying their love.

Hmm, a common thread seems to be Michelle Pfeiffer — she’s the heroine in Ladyhawke and the villain in Stardust.

Otherwise, we kind of have to go into animated films. I’m partial to Tangled for romance purposes because there’s no creepy Stockholm Syndrome going on and the characters actually spend time together before falling in love.

Another honorable mention in its own category might be the season 3 finale of the TV series Once Upon a Time, which sent two of the characters, who’d been flirting a bit but who hadn’t yet become openly romantic, back in time to the fairy tale world, where they had to play Back to the Future and set things right and find a way back home, and doing all that allowed them to grow closer together and admit their feelings. They’ve botched a lot in that show, but that 2-part episode works. Also, someone needs to cast Colin O’Donoghue as a romantic leading man in something, and please let him use his real Irish accent. His “leading man” big-screen role so far was as a Father What a Waste with an American accent, and while he held his own quite well playing opposite Anthony Hopkins, the charm was utterly wasted in a psychological horror movie.
13th-Feb-2017 12:25 pm - Convention Recovery
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After a busy convention weekend, I’m tempted to take today off to be my “weekend,” but I have that proposal to work on and I got copyedits back on the last book.

While I rethink my marketing approaches, conventions are high on the list of things I’m reconsidering. I think they helped when I was brand-new and getting my name out there, but there’s some sense of diminishing returns now. I get to see some friends and existing fans, but I don’t think I’m selling more books because of my convention presence. In this case, I had about a 40-minute drive each way, and it ate up half of Friday, all of Saturday, and half of Sunday, and it left me so exhausted that Monday is iffy. I may have had exposure to about 20 people who seemed entirely unfamiliar, and I don’t know if any of them will end up looking for my books. I probably would have been better off doing an intensive writing weekend and spending that time working on my book proposal or writing a story.

And that was an in-town con where I got to come home at night and didn’t have to pay for a hotel room. This is why I’m not doing out-of-town conventions where I pay my own way for marketing purposes anymore. I go to professional development and networking events, and I’ll go if I’m an invited guest whose expenses are being paid. I will probably keep doing the local event I’m part of (and the current hotel is less than 15 minutes from my house), but I may back off on the other local event for next year.

The word at the convention this year from a few people is that video is the next big Internet thing, and I was told that I could probably get some mileage out of doing videos since I’m “animated” (as they put it). I might give that a shot. I’ve got the skill set. I don’t watch a lot of online video, and my instinct would be that video might not be the best way to reach people who read, but then I found a bunch of fan-made videos about Rebel Mechanics, so I might be wrong about that.
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