Amber Morrell

writer, reader, librarian

Category: Writing (Page 2 of 2)

Happy Holidays! See you in January!

She lives!

I realize that I sort of checked out for the month of November, largely thanks to NaNoWriMo and a simultaneous influx of school projects. Unfortunately I didn’t get much reading done during the past month other than books for school. But I did finish NaNoWriMo, and thankfully wrote THE END on the night of November 30th, surrounded by writer friends. This was the first year that I was able to complete both the 50,000 word goal AND the manuscript; in past years, I’d hit 50k but still have to write the ending. And I tended to just not write the ending… Needless to say, I have a few ending-less manuscripts sitting around. But not this time!

What now?

Even though I have finals week craziness next week, I’ve already embarked on a revision adventure. I was going to wait until January, but after a week of sitting around I was too eager to get working. I actually like my manuscript and I think, more than anything else I’ve written before, that this one has promise. I still want to get back to my other WIP, but that needs much more work and thought, and I’d like to have at least one absolutely-completed project.

As far as my revision process: I’ve never actually revised something of this length before. The longest was a novella I wrote in high school that clocked in at around 25,000 words, and I only loosely “revised” that. I’ve revised short stories, but novels are a completely different animal. I’ve decided to take both advice from my writer-friends and techniques I’ve found on the internet.

One of my excellent writer friends, Eddie, recommended a technique that I call the ‘sticky-tab’ method. First, you get different color sticky-tabs (the little Post-Its you use for marking pages) and designate each color for a different aspect. Eddie recommended PLOT, CHARACTER, SETTING, and LANGUAGE, but I also added DIALOGUE and CONTINUITY. Then you go through your entire printed manuscript and put the corresponding sticky tabs where the work is needed. If you want to write down ideas, you can write them on the sticky-tab itself or in a separate notebook (turns out I have a lot of ideas, so notebook it is). You do not write on the manuscript itself. I’m about halfway through, and so far I love this method. A lot of times if I immediately take a red pen to something, I get bogged down by minute details–restructuring a sentence here, adding a comma there. But the thing is, if I rewrite sections, then much of that won’t matter because it’s going to be coming out anyway. By using the sticky-tab method, I don’t miss the forest for the trees–I can pinpoint where I have problems and take notes, but I’m not bogged down by minute details. This way, I can fix overarching plot and character problems first thing. And as it turns out, I already know that I’m going to rewrite large sections of my third act and integrate more backstory into the first–without taking away a single comma!

After I’ve done the major rewriting, I plan on moving on to Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Revision Method. I’ll have technically already done a pass using the sticky-note method, but this time, I’ll actually take a pen to paper and start getting down to the nitty gritty. As Holly suggests, my goal is to finish this book. Hopefully within a couple months. I’ve grown leaps and bounds as both a writer and a reader this year, and it’s time that I have something to show for it.

Books books books

Speaking of reading: In January, everyone in my lovely writers group decided to set goals. My goals were to finish my novel (I didn’t–oops. But I did finish a different one.) and to “read more books.” As for the second one, I definitely think I accomplished it. Back in January I set an arbitrary goal on Shelfari of reading 35 books, and apparently I’ve read 34. There’s just enough time left in the year to squeeze in at least one more!

Goodreads or Bust

I decided, finally, to switch from Shelfari to Goodreads. I’ve had a Goodreads account for years, but ended up using Shelfari more because I had a lot of friends that used it. Now it’s basically reduced to one friend and very few other users. Goodreads has an app, has giveaways, and now all my friends are on it. So a few months ago, I decided to import my Shelfair books to my Goodreads account. And it was a disaster. Goodreads marked all 600+ of my TBR list as read. I freaked out and closed the browser, never to return. Until yesterday. I deleted my Goodreads account and tried again. I made a new one, found a spiffy tutorial on how to change the .csv file so that Goodreads won’t mess everything up, and then imported my books with (mostly) success! And then of course I found out that I didn’t have to delete my account and that I could have just deleted all the books instead. Oh well.

Long story short, you can now find me on Goodreads.

Looking ahead

This is a good time of year to evaluate the goals I made in January and what I still need to do to accomplish them before the year ends. As it stands, I consider my “Read More Books” goal a win. As far as finishing that other WIP goes, I’ve put it on the backburner until my NaNo is revised. I’m not putting a hard-and-fast timeline on that yet, but I’m going to be actively working on it well into the New Year.

As far as goals for next year, I will go more in depth into them in my next post. I need some time to reassess what I’ve done this year, and I what I want to accomplish next. I feel like I’ve achieved a lot this year and I definitely want to keep up the momentum. I’m going to spend the next few weeks reevaluating the last twelve months and looking ahead to the next twelve. Early January, I’ll post a rundown of everything I’ve done (and read!) this year, and of everything that’s to come in 2016. Until then, I need to take another break from the blog while I tie up some loose ends.

Happy holidays! See you all in January.

NaNoWriMo 2015: It’s That Time Again!

I’ve been participating in National Novel Writing Month since 2007. As a freshman in high school, my very first novel rode the heels of the Twilight craze and was a very convoluted paranormal romance in a town populated by billionaires. It involved genetically engineered humans and artificial wombs, a slightly incestuous romance, and also this strange scene where the main character and her love interest go to a Taco Bell for wealthy people, complete with silver platters and black tie waiters. I hit 50,000 words (and some of that was hastily copy-and-pasted song lyrics in a last-minute karaoke scene written on November 30th) but I never actually wrote an ending, so God knows where that story was actually going. But it was that year that I realized that I might actually be able to pull off this writer thing (still working on that part).

The point is, NaNoWriMo is my favorite time of year. Not only does it distract me from the pre-Christmas psychosis that seems to obsess everyone else, but I can lose myself in a new totally random and whacked out writing creation with absolutely to obligation to making it “good.” Plus, I happen to live in a super active NaNo Region, meaning I have the chance to get together with other crazy writers and have a damn good time. We do some awesome activities, like writing on the train or writing in IKEA or taking over half a Panera Bread. Some of these people have become year-long writing partners and very good friends.

This year, I originally planned on continuing a current WIP. It’s a YA fantasy novel and I’ve been working on it for about two years now. This is the third rewrite, but this is the draft that feels like it’s working. At the same time it makes me feel super bogged down. I’m too invested, it’s too overthought, and I know I won’t be able to enjoy the freedom that NaNo usually encourages if I try to write 50,000 words of that in-progress novel.

Instead, I’m doing something different. Something new! And just the thought of letting go of this current novel, even just for a month, is ridiculously refreshing. This new idea I have is going to be a fun adventure story, and it’s not going to be as doom-and-gloom as the YA I was writing. Plus, it’s a middle grade, so there’s no icky romance in it! (Ew, boys! Gross!). I made it a middle grade for a few reasons. One, I really want to focus in on themes of self-discovery. Two, I just really don’t feel like writing about romance or sexual tension or anything like that. And three, I feel like a middle grade novel can actually be written to completion in 50,000 words, and I want this to be a self-contained drafting project. I want to write THE END as words 49,999 and 50,000. I want to have a complete zero draft on November 30th, not just three-quarters of one.

NaNoWriMo starts in two days! Will you be participating?

Stuff and nonsense

Welcome to my blog, which currently has no content to speak of. I’d like to eventually write reviews of the books I read and talk about literature and writing in general. As for right now, I’m pretty busy working on my novel and getting ready for the upcoming school year. I hope to have some content on here soon, but until then you can follow me on twitter: @atmorrell.

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