Self-Publishing Diaries: Pantsing

Featured Photo by Kat Stokes on Unsplash

Outlining takes time. It’s smart, but it’s also been my kryptonite. In the past, I’ve used outlining as a way to feel productive, but to ultimately procrastinate. My approach to this 30-day draft is to wing it. And, that decision might be a nail in this project’s coffin. At the end of this, my novella will be some incoherent mess. But, the goal is to have a finished piece. I’m not going to be too torn up about it not being some ground-breaking piece of literature.

I’m currently at 4276 words. Under my goal by 724 words. The night’s not over yet, but unfortunately, with the workweek right around the corner, that’ll probably be it for me. During the week I’m lucky if I can get in a couple of hundred words here or there.

In all honesty, I wrote the majority of those words today in a frantic frenzy to have something to document. Accountability is amazing for getting me going. That and the fact that I desperately needed something to occupy me today. I couldn’t bear another minute of getting sucked into Netflix’s endless queue or aimlessly scrolling through my Twitter feed where the writers I love talk about the stories they’re creating.

This draft has become one of the few things I look forward (the only other things on that list are Gun Gale Online and lemon sandwich cookies. Yes, I’m a bit pathetic) to when I get up in the morning. Even though I don’t pound out a ton of words for my draft every day, I have made it a habit to work on other pieces as well.

I suppose writing, in general, is what is keeping me sane. My depression has stolen so much from me. It’s stolen my desire to care about anything or anyone. When I’m writing, that lack of caring works to my advantage. I’m not bogged down with doubts. I keep typing because what else is there to do in what currently feels like a very empty existence.

This post is kind of turning into a drag, so I’ll end it with my stats and goals:

4,276 wrds/30,0000-ish wrds (If I can end it in 25,000 I’ll be fine)

12 pages written

22 days left

On average I need to write 1,169 words per day to reach my goal in time.

 

Next week on Self-Publishing Diaries I’ll talk about my novella’s plot and how I plan to craft my self-publishing alter-ego. ‘Cause I’m not ready to publish under my name just yet. Read my first entry here, where I decided enough is enough and I should just write and publish a dang novella. 

Self-Publishing Diaries: The 30-Day Draft

Last weekend, after locking myself in a bathroom for forty minutes and crying until my head hurt I realized, I had nothing else to lose. My job has become a place where I can put myself on auto-pilot, entering data like a robot in need of a software update. On weekends I sulk by reading romance and listening to true crime podcasts. The repetition finally got to me and I became overwhelmed with the reality that my days are numbered and for the past few months, they all looked the same.

I’ve decided I’m going to write an utterly horrible romance novella and publishing in the next two months. Write it in thirty days, edit it in ten, and market it for whatever time is left. Because I desperately need something to distract me from what feels like an empty life.

This project is going to be like a crash course for me. One good thing I’ve gleaned from university was due dates. No matter how much I didn’t want to write my first draft, those dates kept rolling in with professors expecting evidence of progress in their dropboxes. Writing on my own has no accountability. I can go months without penning a word and no one’s going to say anything.

This diary will be an expectant professor. This novella will be the groundwork for what I hope will be a career in writing romance. I have nothing more to lose because crying my eyes out on that cold, hard bathroom floor was proof at this point, I don’t enjoy any aspect of my life. It’s been a long time since I’ve felt like I’ve done something worth celebrating.

Day One: Outline + 1,000 words. Feels a feat, but I have the whole day to either watch Netflix, lie around on social media, or write something that will take the mind of my sadness. Writing’s the only option I haven’t tried. God, I hope it works.

Updates will be weekly.

This is going to be utter crap. But, hey, in the end, I’ll finally be able to say I finished something.

Writing Romance Novels Online: Three Things I’ve Learned So Far

pexels-photo-1181568

Like many others romance readers out there I can’t help but write my own stories, taking inspiration from the likes of Jane Austen, Janette Oke, Talia Hibbert, and Jenny Han (I have a very specific palette that has been perfected over the years). I even hope to be able to share my stories one day with a wide audience that’ll love my characters as much as I do. (Fingers crossed)

In the meanwhile, I’ve always been very big on sharing my work online. I’ve written on this blog before about how I started sharing my work online on a blog and then on the now extinct writing communities, Inkpop and Figment. I could never really get a hang of Wattpad, but have recently started trying to post in hopes of finding a writing community similar to the one I had before… Spoiler, it hasn’t been working too well, but honestly, that’s on me. I haven’t been trying as hard as I should. But, I digress.

There’s a ton of things that go into making a romance novel work. And there’s a lot that can go wrong when you’re sharing your process with readers in real time. This isn’t a how to write a romance novel post. This is how I’ve learned how to share a romance novel online, without compromising my story.

1. Don’t put three-act structures in every, single chapter

really_dean_supernatural.gif

Releasing chapters weekly mimics the style of an episodic show. I refer to is as the monster of the week syndrome. The writer will have a chapter that sets up a problem, action rises, and it’s resolved by the end. Wash, rinse, repeat.

This style worked for me considering I was focused on making my chapter as exciting as possible for my audience, once a week. And it’s almost always necessary for any writer who specializes in this version of serial fiction in the 21st century – where attention spans are decreasing because of the endless content begging to be consumed – to keep the conflict rising and falling. But, since I want to one day edit my online works into novels it’ll be difficult time revising 50k+ words of so many highs and lows. It’s smarter to keep the bigger picture in mind and not just how I’m going to make this chapter as attention-grabbing as possible.

2. Flesh out my leads before I post anything

tumblr_pdpbs8vpj41r9dn83o3_540.gif

I have this habit where I really pay close attention to my lead male while leaving my lovely, leading lady on the back burner. Maybe I’m just living out my fantasies – there’s nothing wrong with that. But, when it comes to really getting serious about having a well-round plot I need both characters to be fully formed individuals.

If my characters aren’t fully formed before I share them with people online I’ve noticed they begin morphing into stereotypes. People would comment on one of my character’s personality and I would take whatever they observed and ran with it – especially when it came to side characters. And this was a lazy co-op because I figured since the readers already had a sense of who someone was I didn’t have to work hard enough to create a more human character.

3. I’m not writing the Gospel, so changing it later on is perfectly acceptable.

TiredDeadlyEastrussiancoursinghounds.gif

Fix it in post is a film-making phrase I’ve adapting in many aspects of my life. It embodies the mood of keep moving forward. And it works perfectly for novel writing online. A first draft is going to be crappy. No matter if I’m sharing it online or not. Sure, I clean up the grammar and spelling before I hit that publish button on Wattpad. But, whatever I write I have to understand that it’s not going to be perfect. It doesn’t need to be perfect to share. And most importantly, it’s not going to be forever.

I’m not married to anything on that page. And if I decide to change a major plot point in chapter fifteen when my readers on now on chapter twenty, so be it. Either they’ll be fine with going back or fine with finding someone they thought was dead is now back and fighting for the lead’s hand in marriage… You get the idea.

I have to keep in mind that putting down words is all that matters at first. Got to get out of the bad before I start chipping away in search for the good.

 

It’s definitely a push and pull when it comes to sharing in-progress work online. But, a part of me will always be interested in hearing others’ opinions about my newly developed drafts. Maybe one I’ll learn to keep things to myself until they’re fully formed. But, for now, I’m happy with sharing my stories when they’re in their genesis.

The Extinct Internet Community, Sarahland and How I Started Writing Online

I decided I was going to be a writer when I was nine years old. I’d carry a spiral notebook and manila folder around, convinced when inspiration struck I could not waste one second. My manila folder was home to all the loose-leaf pages filled with world-building attempts. And since this was before the days of Pinterest, I used to clip out photos of models that I decided my characters would look like in clothing advertisements from JCPenny’s or Macy’s and glued them into a homemade flip book. None of my stories had endings because I could barely keep my attention on one before another plot idea sparked up and begged me to write it. This act of story hopping went on for about four years.

At the age of thirteen I got my first computer, a chunky desktop with a glass screen and tower I sort of “put together” (I took a computer building class because at the end they let me have the computer I was working on for free). The most exciting thing about having this computer was that it allowed me to use Word. Finally, I didn’t have to figure out how to keep track of my loose leaf pages anymore. Every story I wrote would be carefully stored on the computer’s drive.

My writing and reading habit eventually lead me to an online community created by Sarah Dessen for her fans: Sarahland (a now extinct online community). Community members, mostly girls between the ages of 12-18, discussed everything from their love of YA romance to their days in the outside world. Our community was small and welcoming. It’s something I owe a lot to because during that time I didn’t have any real-life friends I could talk to. Sarahland was the first – and probably only – time I really felt safe in a community online.

Each user got their own blog, but it was rare to actually see someone using the blog for life updates or observations. Instead, quite a few of us used it for sharing our creative writing. Inspired by Sarah Dessen, we penned stories of young heroines falling in love and growing up. I jumped at the opportunity to have an audience, immediately coming up with a story that was inspired by my favorite recent read at the moment: Twilight… I know. Oh, boy, do I know. Thankfully, my bad boy vampire turned into just a bad boy (because my work was very groundbreaking) and I posted once a week with chapters that couldn’t be longer than 600 words.

The work was entitled Nick Hather. It followed Tori and Nick, two lovebirds dealing with family drama and addiction. I found the first three chapters thanks to a few emails I sent to someone who offered to edit my work. And I can promise you those three chapters are the most cringe-worthy things I’ve ever written (besides the original draft where Nick was a vampire). I was homeschooler who knew nothing about drug addiction or high school, in general, was writing an edgy star-crossed lovers tales based on what I’d gather from YA literature from the 2000s. Try to imagine that. Can’t? Here, I’ll help:

FRAGILEGIRL

And…

FRAGILEGIRL1

Despite the huge, “No!” feeling, Nick Hather will always have a special place in my heart not only because it was the first story I finished but because it was the first story I ever shared.

I start thinking about Sarahland because I’m revisiting another story I began when I was a teenager. This one has much more potential to be revived so I’ve dedicated myself to rewriting in hopes of finishing something I started around nine years ago. In all honesty, I’ve been struggling to keep pushing forward in writing the story and it makes me wonder how the younger version of me kept writing. Now, I’m so focused on if the plot is progressing in a timely manner or if my character development makes sense. Back then none of that even mattered. I just wrote.

But, of course, I don’t want to be that teenager who didn’t know much about writing outside of what she’d seen other writers do. I need the freedom that I once had when telling a story, but I also need the structure I’ve gained from growing up and learning. Revisiting this story is the perfect opportunity for me to work on finding a healthy balance in my storytelling.

I’m curious: Are there any extinct internet communities that you feel you’re the only person who remembers? I’m not talking about sites like MySpace or Friendster. But what about those ones that weren’t ever big but still meaningful and helped you express yourself?

P.S.

If you do happen to remember Sarahland and was a member, hi! Even if we never spoke on the site I feel like we’re long lost, friends. Hope you’re doing well.