Landsquid Sketches

Sorry, squiders, no Red Mars discussion today. We’ve had a really bad week, personally, around these parts, and I’m just not done.

(I’m close, but I don’t see any way it’s going to happen today, around everything else that’s going on. Plus each section has a different point of view character and I’m super not digging being in the current one’s head, especially after [spoilers].)

So, instead, I’m going to share some landsquid sketches. I think I told you guys that I’m trying out a few online courses on drawing, coloring, and shading, with the idea of doing children’s books (both picture and chapter books) with illustrations. I did a digital coloring class last week (you can see the results of that over at the Turtleduck Press blog), and this week I’m doing digital sketching and character design.

I have a wacom tablet that my spouse got me several years ago. I used it for a bit (you might have seen the results here on the blog), but when I switched to my current two-monitor set-up, the graphics drivers couldn’t seem to manage the tablet correctly, and I had to stop using it.

But I’ve plugged it back in, and since I had to get a new computer about a year ago, apparently this one can handle both the dual monitors and the tablet, so hooray! We’re back in business.

Except, of course, that I find there’s a bit of a learning curve drawing with the tablet. See for yourself.

landsquid sketches

(They’re light because the class recommends sketching in a light color so they’re easier to “ink” later.)

I’m trying out different eyes, obviously–the center one is the way I’ve always drawn landsquid (for almost ten years now–wow!) but I’ve always found it a bit hard to do expressions. Any preferences on the eyes? I kind of like the anime-style ones (far left) but I’m not sure they’re any better expression-wise. But the ones with pupils look weird to me.

I don’t know. Even when I was using the wacom before, I never found it as natural to use as just drawing on a piece of paper. So we’ll see if it gets better.

Anyway, thanks for understanding, squiders. Red Mars on Tuesday even if it kills me, and more outlining on Thurs–wait, Thanksgiving. Um, Friday.

What is an Outline?

Okay, squiders! Let’s dig into outlines.

What is an outline?

In the most basic terms, an outline is a plan you make before you begin a story.

You’re probably familiar with the form they teach you back in elementary school (five paragraphs, intro, three body paragraphs–strong, weak, strongest–and a conclusion), with the alternating letters and Roman numerals.

This is indeed an outline–and you’ll see something similar if you go into an outline mode in any word processing software–but that’s only one type of outline, and really more of a style than anything else.

(If you are writing a technical or nonfiction document that requires an outline, this is what you’ll want to include. But fiction works differently.)

You’re welcome to use that if it works for you, but, seriously, an outline is just a plan. Any plan. And how much, and what’s included varies person to person and story to story.

Some people pick a main character and a starting situation and jump feet first into the actual writing. Other people write hundreds of pages, outlining dialogue, characters, theme, arcs, plot points, relative word count, etc.

Most people fall somewhere in the middle.

Some people jot down a few ideas on a napkin. Others use Scrivener, or Word.

But basically, you need something to start writing a story. And whatever that something is is part of your outline. You may not call it that. It may not feel like that. But it is, nonetheless, essentially an outline. Even without the indents and Roman numerals.

Plotter vs. Pantser

If you’ve been around writing communities, you’ve probably heard the terms “plotter” and “panster.” A pantser is a writer who write by the seat of their pants. They require very little starting information before they jump into a story. A plotter is a writer who painstaking plots everything out before they begin writing.

(NOTE: It is interesting to note that a pantser may still have an outline for a story. It won’t be a “this happens, then this happens” sort, but they may still flesh out characters, world, theme, and general arcs in a less official format.)

Most writers fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum. Some may pants some types of projects but prefer to outline others. And those writers that do outline may do different levels for a short story versus a novel, or between one genre and another.

In my experience, most writers start off as pantsers and move toward plotters as their careers progress. This is not always true; Stephen King famously does not outline, and neither does John Scalzi, as examples.

How do I know how much outline I need?

You’re not going to like this answer, but–experience. As you write more, you try new things, and you learn what works for you and what makes you want to jump out a window. And eventually you find a process that works best for you (or maybe a few, if you write multiple lengths/genres).

If you’re just starting out, however, next week we’ll talk about how to get started with outlining, and how to try out different levels of outlining to find a good starting place. You’re not going to find your perfect outlining process on the first time out, but you can probably triangulate an amount of information that will work, even if it’s not perfect.

Any thoughts on outline basics, squiders? Agree that your outline is essentially your plan, whether you call it an outline or not?

Outlining Introduction

So, my darling squiders, I have gone through my nonfiction book ideas, and there’s only ONE left for the series.

Madness, I know. Thank you guys again for coming along with me on these book posts! After this one is done, the idea will be to consolidate the posts off the blog, add new information/sections where applicable, and release them as ebooks.

But, for now, let’s talk about outlining. Or talk about the fact that we’ll be talking about outlining.

Outlining can be scary for many new writers. There are a lot of misconceptions about what an outline is or isn’t, what the point of it is, and why you even need one. We’ll tackle all of these concepts, as well as types of outline and how to tell how much outlining works for you personally, in the coming weeks.

If you have any questions about outlines that you would like me to address, please drop them in the comments!

I’m excited to get into this subject because while I am not that detailed of an outliner myself, the whole process appeals to the analytical side of my brain. And the poor analytical side needs some exercise every now and then.

We’ll start whatever day next week ends up not being Red Mars day. See you then!

Making Nano Work For Me

Afternoon, squiders! If you are doing Nano, you should be 10K at the end of today. How’s it going?

As we discussed as a possibility last week, in the end I decided to do a time goal. 45 minutes a day. 22.5 hours for the month. Most writing-related activities count, whether it be looking for short story markets, writing, or outlining.

We’re technically 20% done with the month. How’s it going? Pretty good.

As of yesterday I’m 17 minutes behind schedule, which isn’t terrible. (But I do feel like the time limit has the potential to snowball more than a word count limit does. But maybe that’s crazy.) And so far I have:

  • Checked and updated all my KDP data from the CreateSpace/KDP move
  • Finished the draft of my anthology story (I wrote 2K in an hour yesterday!)
  • Identified short stories for revision/editing
  • Identified markets for other short stories

So not shabby. I made a list of things that have needed to be done forever and it’s very satisfying to cross things off. On the deck to day is sending out the short stories to said selected markets and working on my monthly serial section.

Nano has gotten so huge because of the creative momentum it drags along with it. I think it’s a great thing for people who want to write but who have never successfully managed to get very far. The quantity over quality approach kind of forces you to produce something, whether it’s good or not, and a lot of times that can teach you enough about yourself and your process so that you can go on to continue writing outside of Nano.

But I think it’s also important to be honest with yourself about Nano. I did Nano for ten years straight (plus one additional year). I came out of that with two drafts that to this day are unfinished (though the space dinosaurs are almost done and will hopefully be gotten to later in the month; the other one will rot on my hard drive until the end of time), one draft that was eventually finished and published (Shards), two drafts that have been edited and sent to agents (both YA) without much luck so far, and many, many iterations of my trilogy (I’ve spent…::counts::…six Nanos on the trilogy). Nano is great if you are in a place where a new first draft is both useful and timely. But after awhile, you start to build up drafts, and sometimes you need to, you know, actually do something with them.

I know this isn’t a real Nano. I haven’t declared a project on the website. I probably will not go to any official write-ins (how can there be 20 every week and none at a decent time?). I won’t update my time anywhere anyone else will see it. But there isn’t any reason I can’t harness that creative momentum and use it for what I need it for.

And if you can see how to do it for your goals, I recommend you do so as well.

Red Mars continues to be too…something…for me to read at my normal pace so I’m going to put it off again, probably til next Thursday. But if it speeds up here, I reserve the right to do it on Tuesday instead. I’m also going to look over my nonfiction series today and get everything organized moving forward, so expect an update on that in the near future as well.

Reminder to Move Your CreateSpace Books (and the Promised Landsquid)

First, landsquid!

Ghost Landsquid

Boo!

Secondly, I wanted to remind everyone who has been using CreateSpace that the service is closing, and if you haven’t yet, you should look at moving your paperbacks over to KDP (which is replacing it). Amazon will eventually automatically move everyone who’s left.

There have been some issues with the transfer–some people have reported that their metadata got lost in the move. Mine transferred, but it’s worth going through, since, depending on when you published the book on CreateSpace, you get more categories/keywords over at KDP. Plus it doesn’t hurt to occasionally book them to make sure your book is placed appropriately.

See you next week, Squiders!

November Plans and Learning Options

(First of all, I’m going to move our discussion of Red Mars until next Thursday, Nov 8. I don’t know if you guys are reading this along with me, but I’m having a hard time getting into it. And I keep getting distracted by mysteries.)

(Speaking of which, I HIGHLY recommend The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, which is a mystery with a scifi bent. EXCELLENT BOOK.)

(In other news, if I get my act together, this post may be accompanied by a landsquid later. But I suspect the landsquid will have to wait until Friday, because it’s Halloween, and I have small, mobile ones who have school parties that I have to deal with.)

(Happy Halloween!)

Now that the parentheticals are out of the way, let’s talk about November. (It’s also Nano Eve! Happy Nano Eve to everyone doing Nano. The kickoff party for my region is at a coffee shop less than 10 minutes from my house, so I’m tempted to make up a fake novel and go mingle and enjoy the mad burst of creativity that happens at midnight. But I also have to get up at 6:30 tomorrow, so, you know…)

My programming class is over. It was good for me, but it was also intense, so I’m not going to look at doing another one until probably mid-January. My workout challenge is also over. So aside from my major editing job, my time is mine again! BWHAHAHAHAHA. I have celebrated by writing an entire short story this morning. (Admittedly, it was due tomorrow and needed to be done, but hey, it IS done.)

There’s still some other things that need to be done. Our ballot is MASSIVE and I am mostly done with it (I’ve got a couple of mill levies and some of the smaller position elections still to be, but have done the 12 amendments and propositions–what the heck–plus important elections like congresspeople and governor) but that needs to be finished up, and we’re planning a super-secret vacation to Disney World. Which, Lord, takes more planning than expected. We’ve got airfare and hotel done, but you’ve got to do reservations at the restaurants or you’re out of luck. And apparently for character appearances, though we’re too early for that. My husband super wants to eat at Cinderella’s Castle, but so apparently does everyone else, so he’s hoarding reservations at bad times and is checking daily to see if better ones open up.

But I should have writing time back! Hooray!

I’m still pondering Nano. I mean, I WANT to, but I am completely unprepared to start a novel project, and I don’t have any other novel projects that need enough words to Zokutou clause it. I wonder if I can do a time-based goal instead, because I have a ton of things that are ALMOST done that could stand some work, including:

  • Space dinosaur novel (~5K left)
  • Anthology story (~4K left, due Nov 10)
  • Serial story (~5K or less left, been working on for nine years)
  • CoHaR (at ~17K, so needs more, though also depends on how fast Siri’s working)

And there’s a lot of other stories that need to be poked:

  • A couple of shorts that keep getting personalized rejections with feedback that might need a bit of tweaking to finally sell
  • I’ve gotten quite a bit of feedback lately on the YA paranormal I’ve been querying, so that could probably use some tweaking as well (probably not a minor undertaking, though)
  • I need to look at what I have for the nonfiction series and what I still need, and make a plan for moving forward

Or, I have a ton of new stuff I’d really like to get going on (though none are outlined/ready to go for tonight/tomorrow):

  • I have a couple of ideas for chapter book series (Space Cat and one based off a series of short stories I wrote in middle/high school) that could be partially illustrated and probably would be super fun. The average chapter book is about 10K, so in theory I could write a whole series for Nano. >_>
  • I’ve been slowly plotting out a paranormal mystery series with a modern day witch as the main character. By plotting I mean “hoarding resources to read at some point and occasionally jotting down random thoughts like evil shadows.”

And, I mean, a ton more, but those are top of the list.

I’m considering taking on a non-programming class. Skillshare has a ton of classes (you pay a flat fee per month) and I’d like to learn how to color/shade, which I am terrible at (which is why you get line art here on the blog). I’m still learning, but hopefully it won’t be as intense as the programming class, and it’ll be useful if/when I do get to the illustrated chapter books ideas.

What are your plans for November, squiders?

Happy Tenth to GoddessFish Promotions!

GoddessFish is celebrating their tenth anniversary this month with a blog tour. Siri and I used them for our City of Hope and Ruin blog tours when that book came out and were generally pleased with the experience, so if you’d like to do a book blast or a blog tour (including reviews), take a look at GoddessFish.

Welcome to the Goddess Fish Promotions Tenth Anniversary Month Long Celebration!

Who is Goddess Fish Promotions? And what do we do? We’re glad you asked!

We didn’t want your visit here to be dry and boring, so we decided to have a poetry competition and put what we do into verse. Here are the initial entries:

Marianne:

Roses are Red.
Violets are Blue.
I’m awful at poetry.
Coffee.

Judy:

Twitter and Facebook got you down?
Come see us, we’re the best around.
We’ll get your book out so people can see
What a wonderful author you happen to be.

Yeah, for some reason, Judy won!

Even better, her poem is correct. We DO offer twitter and Facebook promotions as one of our services!

Check out our testimonials here.

We hope you enjoyed getting to know us a little (more information is below) and we’d like to do the same. We’d LOVE to see a little poem that tells us a bit about you in the comments. We’ll be awarding random book giveaways and $5 Amazon GCs to some of the best poetry we find. It might not be at every stop, but when something really makes us smile, we’ll reward it! Come on, be daring…

And now, more about us:

About Goddess Fish Promotions

Goddess Fish Promotions was established October 14, 2008. Why? Well, when Marianne became a published author and got her the first taste of trying to promote a book on a budget, there was only one other virtual book tour company in place at the time, and their fees were simply too high for a small press author. After coordinating and running her own tour, she knew other authors could use the same service for a reasonable price. Thus, Goddess Fish Promotions was born.

Because both Judy and Marianne were authors and editors prior to running Goddess Fish Promotions, they approach the business with a unique point of view, and treat their clients how they would expect to be treated.

The people behind the fish

 

Judy Thomas — The Goddess

Judy has a college degree in English and she’s worked in retail, education, at her local library as well as an editor for a small press and for the now defunct ShadowKeep Ezine. She’s also a published author so can see things from both sides of the fence. In 2013, she “retired” and now spends her days helping authors make their dream come true—as well as working as much as she can with her local theater group.

Marianne Arkins – Fish

Grammar freak and coffee lover, Marianne wrote her first novel at ten years old, built her first commercial website in 2000, and published for the first time in 2006. She worked as a professional editor for just over a year, and knows what it’s like to write, edit and promote a book on a budget.

One of our interviews during the tour explains our nicknames … keep visiting daily to find out!

http://www.goddessfish.com
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/GoddessFishPromotions
Twitter: https://twitter.com/GoddessFish
Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/goddessfish/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/mariannejudy/
Google+: https://plus.google.com/+Goddessfish

Now, the goodies … want to win stuff? Here are the rafflecopters:

Readers:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Authors:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Post-Con and Nano Musings

I have survived the con again! Yay, go me. It was actually pretty relaxing, all told, except for panel nerves, a lot of which probably stemmed from the fact that I was the youngest person on all my panels, usually by a matter of decades.

(The moderator on my last panel had sold her first book the year before I was born.)

That’s kind of MileHiCon in a nutshell, though. It gets a lot of major speculative authors, but a lot of them, especially the science fiction ones, have been in the business for a long time. The average age of that subset is probably 70. And you get a lot of attendees who match that subset, because they’ve been reading those authors forever.

And then you have a lot of younger attendees, people in their teens and early to mid-20s, who grew up with the con because their parents dragged them along, and they have their own events and stuff, including a Harry Potter academy and so forth.

But I had a good time, and I wrote quite a lot on my anthology story (which is running slightly longer than I anticipated) and I drew some pictures and plotted out some children’s book series. Landsquid needs another friend, but I can’t think of anything. Turtleduck’s kind of hard to draw (I’ve never had success in the leg department–maybe if I quit trying to do duck legs and give her turtle legs? I can draw turtle legs) and I would really need three characters for a picture book. I came up with a stealth rhino this morning (essentially a rhino with tiger stripes) but my husband says it’s not weird enough.

Shall continue to ponder that.

The very last panel of the con was called “Nanowrimo Support Group” and I ended up going to that, not because I plan to do Nano, but because I have done it for many years (this would be my 16th if I’d done it consecutively) and thought I could offer support. It was mostly us just hanging out, offering tips and talking about potential write-ins (everyone except one person had done it before), but it was still nice, and it got me thinking about Nano.

Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE Nano. I don’t quite love the monstrosity it’s turned into over the years, but in those early years, when it was only a couple thousand of us, I got a lot–friends, stories, skills–out of it. I still love the idea, and I think it’s a great way to get going if you want to start writing.

(As a bit of background, I learned about Nano in 2002, joined in 2003, and did it every year between 2003 and 2012. I won all but twice, my first and last years–my first one I suffered a concussion and a death flu, and the last one I had a four-month-old, my first, and only did it because it was my 10th anniversary. I also did it and won in 2014, but have not done it since.)

And I would be lying if, while I was sitting there in that room, with those other Nanoers, I told you that I wasn’t tempted. But it almost feels like I’ve outgrown Nano, or it’s outgrown me. It’s harder to do Nano if you have a serious project with a serious deadline, or if you’re editing, or if you’re co-writing, or a number of other situations.

Still tempting, though. And maybe I’ll be in a position again sometime where it will make sense to do it again.

How was your weekend, Squiders? Thoughts about Nano?

It’s Go Time!

I just want to let you all know that you are absolutely no help at all. 😛

(I’m not quite done with my anthology story, so that answers the question about what I’ll do for at least part of the time. And maybe I’ll bring a sketchbook.)

MileHiCon starts at noon today! It feels like it’s come up very fast. It is a week earlier than normal this year (wonder why?), which might be part of it. But it feels like it sprang out of nowhere, all the same. Like…it’s been on my radar, but I still had less time to prepare than normal, if you know what I mean. Or maybe I’m crazy.

I’m doing a panel today on self-publishing and doing digital books versus physical books. I’ve been given a couple of moderator questions (Are physical books going away? When?) but the most part I’m not sure what exactly we’re covering. Ah, well, I have almost a decade of experience at this point, so I shall probably be fine.

(Sunday’s panel is about editing–Machete vs. Scalpel, they’ve called it–and there’s no provided questions for that one, but, again, lots of experience so I should probably be able to muddle through without looking like an idiot.)

Got to get some things done this morning before I head out, so I’d better run.

Quick list of things to bring:

  • business cards (more editing than writing)
  • books
  • card reader
  • notebook
  • laptop
  • permits
  • water bottle
  • snack

I’ll see you guys next week, hopefully still in one piece. And if you’re local and come by MileHiCon, stop by and say hi! I’m normally some place in the atrium when not doing panels.

Free Time!

One of the things I look forward to the most about MileHiCon is having some time to myself. Aside from some evening commitments and the panels I’m on (and the book signing time), I’ve got the whole weekend to myself, and I can do whatever I want with it.

And MileHiCon has traditionally been very productive for me. Admittedly, when I was chained to the Turtleduck Press table in Author’s Row, I could get a ton done, and that’s not as true now that I’m free (freeee ahahahaha), but last year at least still proved quite useful.

(Like many conventions, MileHiCon has ~50 minute panels that start on the hour. So there’s about ten minutes between panels where the majority of the con population is meandering about when you deal with people, and then for the other 50 minutes you twiddle your thumbs, or a few people wander through. That’s a lot of thumb twiddling.)

I tend to get overwhelmed at panels, so I don’t go to that many, no matter the convention (even when I go to writers’ conferences where there’s a ton of stuff to do, every now and then I skip a session to recharge). I’ll hit the artist’s alley (I love the artist’s alley and seeing all the cool stuff people have come with) and the vendors’ hall a few times, maybe watch some anime if something looks fun, watch the costume contest.

That still leaves a lot of time.

When I was table-chained, I often got some editing done, drew pictures for the blog, wrote short stories, etc. (The Internet does not really work in the hotel, so I have to plan ahead to make sure I can do what I want to do. But, on the other hand, I am not distracted by silliness.) Even last year, I wrote a short story and managed to get feedback on it throughout the weekend.

So, knowing that I will have several hours to do whatever this weekend…what do I do?

(Well, if this anthology story doesn’t finish itself a little faster, I’ll have to finish it there.)

It’s one of those times when there’s too much possibility. I could do so many things. How do I pick? How do I focus? Do you do that, squiders, where there are so many opportunities you end up getting nothing done because you flit from one thing to the next?

Because I do. And it’s problematic.

If we go off of priorities…well, anthology story. Hopefully done before the end of the week, and so no longer an option. Siri has the Sekrit Project and so there’s nothing I can do there. I’m into the climax and conclusion on space dinosaurs, so maybe that? I’m probably not going to want to write a short since I’m coming off the anthology story. (Although at a projected 10-11K, it’s not really a “short” story. We shall consider the matter still open.)

(I may need to have a short done by Nov 1 anyway, actually. Yes, we shall keep that on the table.)

I could also work on some things I’ve been wanting to do that keep getting eaten by other things, like work on potential new series (including a picture book and a chapter book one) or poke at the nonfiction books and see what I need to do to get them ready to be published. (I think there’s one more book to be written, but that’s kind of why I need to evaluate where I am.)

So, options:

  1. Space Dinosaurs
  2. Short story
  3. Children’s books
  4. Other series?
  5. Nonfiction books

Hm. Five options, and only three days. Decisions, decisions. A short would need to be plotted before hand (see, no Internet, so I won’t be able to access my idea file at the hotel). Nonfiction probably also needs Internet, so that might be out. What would you do, if you were me?

Books by Kit Campbell

City of Hope and Ruin cover
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Shards cover
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Hidden Worlds cover
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