How I streamlined my writing process

Image by 0fjd125gk87 from Pixabay

So… I used to consider myself a “Turtle Writer.” And, my friends, it took me 8 years from when I started the first draft of my first book to when I published it. My second novel took me 4 years from start to publish.

For comparison, for my next release, Time’s Orphan, there will be 11 months between starting and publishing. And for my YA sci-fi launching in April, there were around 15 months from starting to when Whimsical Publishing acquired it.

And trust me, my two newest books are *way* better than my first two novels. (I still love my first two, but objectively, I’m a much better writer than I was 10 years ago, thank goodness.)

There are much faster writers than me out there, and much slower ones, but in any case, I halved my writing process time from Book 1 to Book 2, and by Book 8, I will have cut the time by 88%. One of my writing friends recently asked how I made that happen, so I thought I’d break it down here.

Image by Ralf Designs from Pixabay

Why did my first two books take so long?

This answer’s pretty easy. First, I didn’t actually believe I would publish it. I thought it was unsavable, and I thought by writing it, I had accomplished my writing goals, so I shelved it.

In 2017, I picked it back up, but I was still lost. I revised and edited as best as I could, but I wasn’t until I found the writing community on twitter, that I even thought about getting critique partners and an editor. After getting that feedback, I ended up *heavily* revising the first half of the book.

And there so many stops and starts during that time. I would say it’s because life got busy, which is true, but it’s also because I hadn’t found a rhythm. And more importantly, I still was unsure of my commitment to writing. I still thought Odriel’s Heirs would be the only book I would ever write. (Oh, silly me. 😂)

With the second book, I found indie author friends online as well as consistent critique partners, and that changed everything.

Image by Alan from Pixabay

So what happened with the third book?

We can break it out into a few important eureka moments:

  • I gained confidence. I’d put myself out there, been rejected dozens of times, had a few reviews that smarted, but had a lot more that encouraged me forward. With all that under my belt, I no longer had that paralyzing fear of failure that had kept me back. Even if the next book doesn’t get picked up by an agent, I can publish it myself – and that’s still very fulfilling to me.

  • Also, I realized I could work on multiple WIPs at one time. This was absolutely crucial. Right now I have *FIVE* (😱) WIPs – querying one, editing two, revising one, and plotting one. I cycle through them to give myself some perspective when I come back through drafts, and that way I can always be working on one thing while I’m waiting on responses to queries, CP feedback, editor feedback, etc.

  • Juggling WIPs also forced me to establish a process that worked for me. My experience allowed me to come up with realistic timelines and goals for myself to meet. It’s incredibly motivating for me to cross things off my list, and it lets me see the things I have to look forward to.

  • I found CPs & Betas I can depend on, and in a pinch, I knew how to find others quickly (psst critiquematch.com). Their objective feedback is invaluable to help me find problems EARLY in the process so I don’t get into the editing phase and have a huge “Oh Sh*t” moment. They also continued to teach me valuable writing lessons, and I hone my own editing skills on their work as well. These relationships are also a bulwark of support and encouragement which is also vital to a process heavy in critique.

  • I studied up on writing craft books which have given me epiphanies that also helping in every phase of the journey. But most critically, Save the Cat Writes the Novel gave me the framework I needed to learn how to plot effectively. Once again, it allowed me to identify problems very early, which eliminated a lot of time-consuming rewriting.

  • Inertia is powerful. I am *not* an every day writer by any means… but I usually do something writer-related (almost) every day, even if it’s something incredibly small like a tweet-sized story for vss365. The most difficult part of writing for me is starting *anything.* So by keeping that positive pressure, I can keep rolling without mentally having to do the thing where I show up to write and think “Um… how do I do this again?”

Anyways, those are just the tips that have worked for me. Ultimately, every writing speed is completely valid. As long as you’re enjoying the journey, that’s what’s most important.

Thanks for reading! I hope this was helpful, and if you have any other questions, let me know!

Book Playlists!

Music Meets Books!

So, I’m not a musically inclined person by nature, but I decided to try to make some playlists for my books, and I absolutely loved it! Listening to the playlists added this whole other dimension and put me right into the book so I could experience the scene play out. So cool! Naturally, since it was so awesome, I had to share. Below, are the playlists for the entire Odriel’s Heirs series, and I’ll be sure to add them to their page on this site. I’ll also release the playlists for Codename: CNDRLA and my 2023 sci-fi closer to publication!

I hope you enjoy them and as always, I’d love to hear your suggestions and recommendations if you have any!

Odriel’s Heirs

Burning Shadows

Idriel’s Children

Night of Ash

Time’s Orphan

Night of Ash out 27 Sep & Time’s Orphan release in February!

Thanks for reading!

Hey, why’d you redesign your covers?

So the big news this week is that I got my Odriel’s Heirs and Idriel’s Children covers redesigned! And so many people have asked me why, I figured I’d write a post about it (mostly because I’m too tired tonight to do anything else productive. 😂)

So when I first was looking for a cover designer for Odriel’s Heirs, I’d never commissioned art of ANY kind before, and at the time, I thought Odriel’s Heirs would be the only book I ever wrote. (Seven books later, let’s all laugh together. 🤣)

So, I wanted something that could double as both character art and a cover. And although Dominique Wesson did a fabulous job of capturing the characters… based on anonymous feedback from NetGalley, the original cover designs were getting somewhere around a C-. Ouch. And to add to that, my BookBub deal requests kept getting rejected, and I suspected it had to do with the covers.

Fast forward to 2022, and the original cover designer is crazy busy and almost impossible to schedule, and I’m no longer a huge fan of seeing the character’s faces on the cover. I’d rather give the reader more flexibility to imagine the characters and commission character art separately, like the wonderful pieces by @stephydrawsart_ below. (But if you ever want to make my LIFE, I adore fanart.)

Anyways… Of course, I wanted all of the covers to match, so I briefly considered trying to get a character art cover similar to my first too… but then I saw Fay Lane’s work and totally fell in love.

And now here we are! I’m also hoping that the new covers will expand my audience, and I can still use the original covers as marketing or promotional tools. Maybe one day, I’ll shell out for a character art cover of Time’s Orphan so I can have two complete sets. But for now, I’m so thrilled with the new look and can’t wait to see them all in print together before too long!

The new paperbacks of Odriel’s & Idriel’s are now available on Amazon, and I’m hoping to release Time’s Orphan advance review copies in the fall!

As always, thanks for reading!

How to Survive the Query Trenches

Look it’s me in the query trenches! 😂

So, (disclaimer) I’ve never received an offer of representation, but I’ve done a lot of a LOT of querying over the last three years, and shockingly, I’m still alive and at it. So, I thought I’d share a trick or two on how to stay positive and make the process as painless as possible

Please keep in mind this is just my personal querying philosophy which may or may not work for you. As always, take what’s helpful and leave the rest!

1. USE Querytracker

I use the free version to filter for agents seeking my genre/age group. For example, I’m in the middle of querying a YA sci-fi. So I searched for agents interested in young adult and science fiction, and only queried the ones interested in both. (But not before reading their bio and manuscript wishlist first… and everyone else’s in their agency to make sure I was querying the right one.) Honestly, after three young adult books, if an agent has even thought about repping YA, I’ve probably read their bio. 😂

Since I use the free version of querytracker, I also make a giant spreadsheet to keep track of agent name, agency, and query date, to make sure I don’t double query anyone or any agencies.

2. keep your query files updated and ready

Specifically, I have a folder with these files: query, synopsis, first three chapters, first 10 pages, first 20 pages, first 50 pages, and first chapter. Also, I save any other questions they ask me in case another agent asks the same thing.

This is what I have so far for my current querying manuscript: pitch, audience, similar titles, why I’m the right person to write this book, movie/show comp titles, a line about my MC, who would play my MC, the theme song for my book, and the inspiration for my book.

Pessimist?

3. Keep Expectations low. always.

Okay, so, maybe I’m a pessimist, but this one is important to me, because I have gotten quite a few full requests now on multiple novels, and… none of them panned out. Some of them even came back with positive feedback (but still a rejection), and there are also quite a few that I never got a response on at all! And I am painfully aware that even if I get an agent one day, my book still may not sell.

Keeping my expectations low is how I keep myself from getting crushed with every rejection, and maybe one day I’ll be shocked out of my socks with an offer of rep. But… right now, I treat query letters like lottery tickets, and keep on keepin’ on.

4. Know what comes after

So there are really three parts to this.

A. Have at least a rough idea of how long you will query for.

Because you could non-figuratively query one work for your whole life: query one agent, wait 3 months and CNR (closed: no response), revise, and then query the next agent. And that’s totally okay! Just have a strategy going in.

B. Know what comes after.

Will you heavily revise and re-query down the road? Will you shelve the work and query something else? Will you self-publish?

Knowing what comes next helps reduce the fear of rejection. It helps to remind us that rejection is not the end, but merely the next step of the journey.

C. Work on something else while you wait!

This is pretty common advice, but SO true. If I find myself excited to wrap up querying on book ABC so that I can query book DEF (because I’ve grown as a writer, this book is my best yet, and it’s TOTALLY the one!) then this strategy has succeeded (again.)

Make a friend along the way

Because there are a lot of us querying writers out there (Just check out #amquerying on Twitter), and nothing quite takes the sting off rejection like commiserating with a friend. So, find your Sam, Frodo, go throw that query into Mt Doom… and then, you know, maybe one day, Sauron will offer to represent you.

🤔

Wait a minute, I think this analogy went wrong somewhere… 😂

Anyways, keep laughing & try to enjoy the journey. Because there will always be another Mt Doom to climb (or something 😂.)

Actual me after three years and four novels in the query trenches… and still working on the next one (which is totally going to be THE ONE. 😉)

Thanks for reading! And if you have any other querying tips you’d like to add, feel free to comment below!