Category Archives: Degeneration

Pitch Wars Mentee Bio

Hi, everyone.

For those who don’t know me, I’m Katie. I’m participating in Pitch Wars, which is a contest where mentors each pick a mentee and help them polish their manuscript, and then they submit it to agents. More information can be found here.

All the mentors had to write a bio for this, and many of the mentees have decided to do the same. Instead of just talking about myself (because I don’t like doing that), I’ve decided to let Madison, the main character of my submission – DEGENERATION – interview me. Madison, say hi to everyone.

Um, hi, everyone. *waves*

So, Madison, if you could please get this interview started.

I’m one of your least talkative main characters. Why would you pick me to do this interview?

Um, because your novel is the one I’m submitting for Pitch Wars, and I thought it would be a nice way for everyone to get to know you, as well.

Fine. *sighs* You sure you don’t want Shawna to do this? She’d love the attention.

Your sister isn’t the main character. You are. And you need to get better at dealing with attention. How are you going to be a famous photographer if you can’t stand a little attention?

Yeah, because people are constantly chasing down photographers for their autographs. But fine! Fine! I’ll do it. Um… What am I supposed to ask you?

I don’t know. Questions you think the mentors might like to know.

Okay. Why would a mentor want to work with you?

Because I’m a hard worker. I’ll consider every suggestion, even the ones that are hardest to hear. In fact, I’ve often found that the suggestions I’m most averse to in the beginning end up being the most helpful in the end. I’m not afraid to throw out the entire draft and start all over again if I have to – although I certainly hope that wouldn’t be anyone’s suggestion!

How would you describe your sense of humor?

I’m the sort of person who generally does well in Cards Against Humanity because I’m a terrible, terrible person. Humor helps me deal with things. I also like puns, even though they’re lame. I blame my boyfriend for that.

How long have you been writing?

Since second grade when my teacher gave us all these blank little books, and we got to draw a cover and write our stories in them. I mostly wrote short stories in elementary school, and in middle school I was obsessed with writing screenplays. After that, I moved on to Harry Potter fan fiction. It wasn’t until I discovered NaNoWriMo my first year of college that I started focusing on writing my own original novels.

What’s NaNoWriMo, and how has it helped you as a writer?

National Novel Writing Month is where you write a 50,000 word novel in the month of November. I’ve been participating since 2007. Writing fast helps me get stories finished. For the longest time I didn’t write because I was sure I would mess them up when I tried to put them down on paper. NaNo helped me realize that anything is better than nothing. Anything can be edited to become something halfway decent. Nothing is always going to be nothing.

What’s the most impressive thing you’ve ever done?

During NaNo 2013, I wrote 500,000 words – 4 novels and a bunch of short stories and “deleted scenes” from other novels.

What’s the stupidest thing you’ve ever done?

Tried to be a teacher. I made it through one year, and it was the worst experience of my life. I have so much respect for anyone who can do that job. I just wish I had taken everyone’s advice and not wasted all that money on a master’s degree!

I’m a great photographer – or at least I’m getting there. Other than writing, what do you do for fun?

Most of my free time is spent reading. I also listen to music and watch TV with my boyfriend and play with my new puppy, Tali. She’s a dachshund, and she’s absolutely adorable!

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What sort of TV shows do you watch?

My absolutely favorites are Arrested Development and Veronica Mars – though I missed both shows while they were on-air. Same with Firefly, another great show. I also love Gilmore Girls and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, though for some reason I still haven’t seen the last season of either show, and The West Wing, though the first three seasons are the best.

Okay, I’m officially out of questions. If anyone can think of anything I should have asked, please leave a comment below and Katie will answer you as soon as she can – which should be pretty soon since she has, like, no life.

Thanks, Madison. And thank everyone for reading! If you’d like to check out some other awesome mentee bios, please check out the list here.

Falling back in love with your novel

I mentioned in my last post that I was working on yet another draft of DEGENERATION. It’s my oldest story, the one that’s closest to my heart, and the one that I was seriously starting to hate. The plot seemed non-existent. The characters were boring and whiny. It seemed like a bunch of rambling that no one – not even me – wanted to read.

Suddenly every dream I had ever had of my becoming a published author came crashing down around me. I know this story better than any of my others. I’ve been working on it on and off for over seven years. If this novel was shit, surely everything else I had ever written was bound to be shit, too, and I was doomed to spend the rest of my life staring at binders full of abandoned stories that failed to live up to their potential.

And then I realized that Pitch Wars was coming up, and a tiny bit of hope flared up inside me. I knew what was was wrong with the previous drafts. I just hadn’t changed them because it seemed like a lot of work and I was half-hoping someone would read my novel and declare it perfect as-is, and I wouldn’t have to do any more work on it.

I realize now how stupid that was. Being a writer, at least a published one, is nothing but hard work, writing and rewriting until you’re sure you’ve made it the very best it can be. I thought I had already proven that I could do that, but I hadn’t. I was taking the easy way out. I needed to start over again.

Not completely over again. I don’t want to make it sound like I’m trying to rewrite an entire book from scratch in the two weeks before this contest starts. I’m keeping all the major plot points and even most of the actual content – I’m just tightening up the writing and showing more of Madison’s personality. It’s hard to write an entertaining book when your main character is afraid of speaking to people. If I have any chance of getting other people to read this, I have to make sure that Madison’s personality shines through in her thoughts, and I have to find ways for her to grow as a person.

That’s what this draft is all about. I’ve sent the first few chapters to a couple people for feedback, and so far everyone who’s read it has agreed that this version is so much better than any version that came before. To be fair, I’ve only shared one other draft with people, but still. I’m excited about my novel again because I finally faced the tough edits I knew I had to make.

Is this draft perfect? Of course not. I know I’m going to have to change other things down the road. And that’s fine with me. I’ve thrown out practically every draft I’ve ever written, but I’ve learned something from it each time. This time, I think I’ve finally figured out a way to make my character’s voice more apparent. I know I have a long way to go still, and I look forward to making more changes on this story, but so far I’m just so excited with what I have so far. I’m just over a third of the way through this most recent edit, and I’m looking forward to finishing it.

Some people might think that two weeks isn’t enough time to do a serious edit, but I think it is, at least for this novel. Like I’ve probably mentioned before, this is my fourth draft (not including the two times I wrote it as a screenplay), and I’m keeping most of it the same. I’m just adding a few scenes, removing others, and making sure to show more of Madison’s personality when I can.

Even if I don’t get chosen for Pitch Wars, I’m super happy with the novel I have now, and I’m looking forward to taking what I’ve learned while writing this one and applying it to all my other manuscripts (though those will take a lot longer to finish).

What about you guys? Anyone else entering Pitch Wars?

Yet another “wow, I haven’t updated in forever!” post

The last time I posted on here was to say that it had been four months since I blogged anything and to explain why.

This time, I’m posting to say that it’s been four months since I blogged and to explain why.

The school year ended the second week of June, meaning I am officially free of my horrible teaching job. Saying goodbye was actually a lot harder than I expected. I got a nice set of pens as a thank you for teaching there, and I ended up hiding out in the bathroom for a bit so no one would see me crying. I didn’t expect that. I knew I would miss the people I was working with, but I didn’t think I’d cry about it. Given how much I hate goodbyes, I guess I should have known better. Now that I’m away, though, I’m really glad to be done with that job. Saying goodbye to the paycheck was really hard, but it’s worth it not to be miserable every day.

Most of the rest of June was spent packing or watching Netflix to avoid having to pack. Since I’m no longer a teacher, my boyfriend and I couldn’t afford to stay in out apartment (plus we just didn’t like it). We ended up moving about 15 minutes to the cheaper side of Charlottesville. We like our new apartment a lot better. It’s smaller but cozier, and the outside feels like you’re walking through a park. We have a little stream and a fenced in patio with several trees. It’s mostly quiet and just really nice.

Most of July was spent back in Georgia visiting our parents. We also got a puppy! Her name is Tali, and she’s 3/4 Dachshund, 1/4 chihuahua. She’s adorable, especially when she’s sleeping. We’re still working on potty training and biting, but overall she’s really sweet. She eats up a lot of our time, but we don’t mind too much because she’s really cute. She’s currently curled up in her little doggy bed near my feet.

Here are some pictures of her:

Now we’re back in our apartment, and I’m doing my best to focus on work and writing. So far I’ve been doing a pretty good job of avoiding both. Partly it’s because of Tali – I’ve been waking up super early with her, which leaves me groggy and not wanting to do anything and taking naps in the middle of the day. Plus I have to spend a lot of time trying to get her not to eat all our furniture.

My first writing project is Degeneration. I’ve shared the current draft with some people, but I wasn’t really feeling it. A big part of the novel is supposed to be when she realizes she can’t keep avoiding making decisions and sharing her opinions, but we never actually see her doing that. I’m going back and adding in some more scenes – really, I’m rewriting most of the first half of the book. The second half should only need tweaking.

I’ve been putting off writing this blog post for a while, but now that I’ve actually done it, I think I can keep this up. Part of taking writing seriously is taking this blog seriously and doing my best to connect with other writers. So if you have a blog that you think I’m not following but think I should, please leave a link below!

Camp NaNo Update: Novel Complete!

My main goal for Camp NaNo was to write the third draft of my YA novel DEGENERATION by July 15. As anyone who was on Twitter around 3 am EST may have noticed, I accomplished my goal.

DEGENERATION is complete at 62,752 words. It’s not the 70k-75k I originally thought it would be, but it’s over 50k, and that’s really all I care about. Besides, 63k is a good length for a young adult novel.

I can now say that my phase outline experiment was a success. I loved having everything already planned out when I went to write. I still ended up making changes – adding conversations I hadn’t thought of originally or skipping parts that no longer seemed like a good idea – but for the most part I stuck with my outline. I’m not sure if this would be my best option for a brand new novel, but it’s definitely how I’m going to do my rewrites from now on.

In case anyone’s curious, I made a chart so I could see just how many actual words each outline word gave me. The short answer is that I got 5 words per 1 word of my outline, which isn’t bad. I was hoping for more like 7, but like I said, I’m happy with the overall length of my novel, so it doesn’t really matter. Here’s the chart, if anyone wants to see it:

Chapter

Outline Words

Novel Words

Novel Words: Outline Words

1

458

2859

6.2

2

380

3753

9.9

3

209

2509

12.0

4

330

3389

10.3

5

426

3535

8.3

6

289

2443

8.5

7

451

3540

7.8

8

882

3618

4.1

9

556

3206

5.8

10

1153

3989

3.5

11

944

4128

4.4

12

628

3194

5.1

13

593

2504

4.2

14

946

3213

3.4

15

584

2623

4.5

16

769

3700

4.8

17

569

2477

4.4

18

1036

3505

3.4

19

879

3273

3.7

20

325

1174

3.6

Total

12494

62752

5.0

So now what am I going to do with the rest of the month, you ask? (Oh, you didn’t ask? That’s okay. I’ll just pretend.) I haven’t quite decided yet. I originally thought I might continue the editing I was doing before on TILT YOUR HEAD AND SMILE. I’m halfway through the most recent draft, and I’m starting to think I might need to redo the entire novel. I’m not sure yet. I have an idea for how to make the novel more interesting, but I’m not sure if that idea is really a good fix for this one or if I should just write it as a separate novel.

My other idea is a new adult romance – but without all the gratuitous sex scenes. I can picture three of the main characters, but there are two more (two different love interests) that I still need to work on. I’ve been saying I’m going to plot this one for the last two weeks, but that never really happens. I have a few scenes in mind, but I still need to understand the characters before I can even attempt to pants a novel. Although I did write a thousand words in this story already. It was just the opening scene, but I actually kind of like it so far.

I’m probably going to spend the rest of the day trying to get to know the characters for that novel better. I haven’t had a 0 words day yet this month, and I’d like to keep it that way.

Testing New Outlining Techniques

As I’ve already mentioned (and as most of you probably already know), this month I’m participating in Camp NaNoWriMo. My official goal is 75k, though my real goal was however many words it takes for me to finish my novel. If that’s more, I’ll write more. If it’s less, I’ll write less. I just want to finish this draft.

It’s now 8:30 pm, which means I still have plenty of writing time left before the day is over. I’ve written 36,994 words so far, and I’ve just finished chapter 11 out of 20. I had set another goal to have this novel finished by July 15, and it looks like I’m going to manage that just fine. I haven’t read back over anything that I’ve written yet, but I already know that this is my best draft so far. I’m taking more time with this draft than I have with others, and I’ve planned it a lot more than I had before.

Which brings me to the main thing I wanted to talk about today: my new way of outlining.

I mentioned already in my last post, my outline for this novel was really long – 12,494 words to be precise. My outlines are usually shorter than that, but I was attempting to write a phase outline for the first time. For those of you who don’t know what that is (and are too lazy/don’t want to click the link), that’s basically where you outline everything that happens in your novel, including bits of dialogue. So far, I’ve been averaging 6.1 words for every 1 word in the original outline, with chapters ranging from 3.5 to 12.0 novel-words per outline-word. If it keeps going at this rate, I’m looking at 75k for this novel, which is the number I was aiming for. So that works out nicely.

So far, I’m really liking this way of outline. I’ve actually sort of combined the phase outline method with the snowflake method. I start with a random list of scenes, which I then try to get in order (see my post on outlining with note cards for more details). After I’ve split them into scenes, I group them by chapter and then write a summary for each chapter, going into more detail. Then I take that outline and turn it into a phase outline.

Like I said, I’m enjoying this method. Most of the time I love planning novels but have a harder time writing the novel because it never turns out like the novel I pictured in my head. This way lets me plan the whole thing, which I find so much easier than actually writing it, so that when I go to write the actual novel, it’s just a matter of fleshing out the phases. I can still change things as I write – in fact, I’ve added lots of conversations and descriptions and mini-scenes that I never thought of while outlining – but I still have that outline that keeps me from getting stuck.

Obviously this way of writing and outlining isn’t for everyone. A lot of people find that outlining sucks the joy out of writing for them, so those types of people would probably find the method described here as crazy. Obviously, such people should not attempt it. 🙂 But if you’re like me, and you like planning things, you might want to consider giving this a shot if you don’t already have a method that works for you.

Like always, I’d love to hear more about your writing/outlining process (if you have one)! Are you participating in Camp? If so, how are you doing?

Camp NaNo: July 2014 Edition

I’ve been putting off writing this post for a few days. I hoped it I waited long enough I would miraculously think of something more interesting to say than my usual pre-NaNo posts. Then I realized that Camp NaNo starts in less than three hours and that if I was going to write this post at all, I’d better hurry up and do it now.

So, yeah, here I am, posting.

For those of you who don’t know, Camp NaNo is a spin-off of National Novel Writing Month, only in the summer. People can sign up for cabins, and you can choose your own writing goal. The lowest is 10,000 (I believe), and I’m not sure what the highest is. If you’ve ever wanted to do NaNo but wanted to do a separate goal, you should definitely consider Camp! (Or, you know, do NaNo and just not care that you don’t hit 50k.)

My official goal for this session of Camp is 75,000 words – or however many words I need to finish my novel. I’m writing draft 3 of DEGENERATION, my YA contemporary novel featuring Madison Carter, a high school senior trying to survive a family get-together with people she hasn’t seen in more than five years. I finished my outline a few days ago. It’s 14 pages and about 12,500 words long. I’ve never written an outline this long, but I’m hoping it will help me write a decent draft this time.

Normally the goal is to write the novel in a month. I’m aiming for two weeks. There are several reasons for this, which all sort of work together. Since this is my third time writing this novel (fifth if you count the two screenplays I wrote for Script Frenzy), I pretty much know what’s happening. There aren’t a lot of surprises, even though I am adding several scenes. The main reason I’m rewriting this one instead of just editing it is because it’s the writing that I don’t really like. Most of the plot was okay the first several times. Plus, I wrote a phase outline this time, which is basically just a condensed novel, so I shouldn’t have to wait and think of what to write next. It should all flow together.

Then there’s the fact that my boyfriend will be out of state for the first two weeks of Camp, and I’d figure I’d use that time to my advantage. We usually end up spending hours watching Netflix (I’ve finally started watching Dr. Who!), and I don’t get that much accomplished. Now I’m not going to turn on the TV at all. Just me and my computer. And, okay, sure, I’ll still have plenty of distractions online (2048, Twitter, NaNo forums, cabins, and chat…), but I’ll have at least two fewer distractions, and that’s what I’m choosing to focus on.

Since he’ll be gone for two weeks, I’ve decided that my goal is to have my novel finished by the time he gets back. I have another novel I’ve been planning for the past few days. The idea came to me while watching Sports Night, and it hasn’t left me alone since then. I’m still working on getting to know the characters, and I only have a few vague scenes in my head, but I’m still excited about it. I’m hoping to have enough figured out by mid-July to start writing something.

I’ve also just learned about a website called MyWriteClub, where you can track your progress in writing/editing and have others follow along and cheer on your accomplishments and stuff like that. I’m quixotic_hope over there, as well, so if you’d like to add me, you can do so here after you sign up!

Here on the east coast, there’s now just over two hours until Camp starts. Are you joining in? What are you working on if you are?

Adventures in Note Carding

As some of you may know, I’ve been planning my Camp NaNo project. I’ve written this story four times before, twice as a screenplay and twice as a novel, and I think I’ve finally learned what I’m doing. I’m taking the planning process more seriously this time, and I’ve decided to try a new way of planning. I’ve always heard other people talk about note cards, but I’ve never really used them myself. I didn’t think I was a note card person. I didn’t want to waste all those note cards when I could just write the same information on a piece of paper. I’m happy to say, though, that I’ve finally figured out what the thrill is.

1. Create Note Cards.
This was easy if time-consuming. As I was reading through the original drafts, I created a note card for every scene or part of a scene that I wanted to keep. If I wasn’t sure I was going to keep the scene exactly as it was, I broke it into smaller parts. I also created note cards for scenes I wanted to include, even if I didn’t know where I wanted to put them yet.

2. General Sorting.
I divided all my note cards into three piles: beginning, middle, and end. This was particularly easy for this novel, as it’s basically split into three parts: before they go to New York, while they’re at New York, and after they leave.

3. Outline Main Events and Sort Cards.
The middle part of this novel takes place over six days. I jotted down a quick list of what was happening each day, what the main event was. Then I created a second, slightly longer outline, where I wrote down all the main scenes I knew I had to include. Then I took the note cards that corresponded to each of those scenes, and I spread them out on the table, keeping each day separate. I also sorted the before trip/after trip cards, which was the easiest part, as I already know what will happen there.

4. Sort the Rest of the Cards.
Once I had the major events down, I went back and put the rest of the cards in order. This took a bit more work, as a lot of these events were smaller, and they could theoretically have gone several places. I had to really stop and think about what was happening each day and try to find the most logical place for them. I took frequent breaks to discuss the plot with my boyfriend, and he offered suggestions. Eventually, I found a place for each card, and I created new cards for the scenes I came up with while I was moving things around.

5. Sort Cards by Chapters.
After I put the cards in order by place in the book (before, days 1-6, after), I split each section into chapters. This might change later, but for now I’m happy with what I have. As of right now, I have 23 chapter, 4 before they see their family, 16 while they’re in New York, and 3 after they leave.

I’m excited about my note card collection. Normally I just have a brief outline, and I generally end up forgetting scenes that I wanted to add until after I write the novel, and then it’s hard for me to go back and add it in later. This way, I can actually make sure everything has a place, so when I create the outline, I’ll have a better reminder of everything. It’s still too early to say for sure, but I’m fairly confident that I’ve found a new way to plan.

Next step – creating an outline! (Which I was supposed to do yesterday.)

What about you? Do you use note cards to plan? If not, what do you use?

The end of another NaNo

So, today is the last day of November. That means NaNoWriMo is coming to an end. For some of you, maybe it’s already over. Or maybe you have most of the day left. Here on the east coast of the US, we have about 9.5 hours left as of this writing. But I’m not writing anymore.

Because I am done.

Total words written: 500,005
Total novels completed: 4

  • Degeneration – 46k
  • The Story of Em – 185k
  • The Whole Truth – 98k
  • Trail Magic – 96k

The rest was random scenes. I wrote 4k of fan fiction, 5k of a novel that I ended up not finishing, a 2k short story about Halloween candy, a 2k poem, and the rest was random scenes involving characters from other novels. Sort of deleted scenes and stuff. Or scenes from their lives after their books were finished.

And now for the goal list:

• 50k Day One
• 75k opening weekend
• 100k by end of week 1
• 250k by end of month (dream goal of 300k)
• Finish at least 3 novels (5 if necessary to reach word count goal)

○ Degeneration
○ The Story of Em
○ The Whole Truth
○ Trail Magic (formerly 2,000 Miles)
○ Imprisoned Lightning

• Another 50k weekend
• Write at least 2k every day (preferably 5k)

I am happy to say that I accomplished every single one of those goals. Some of them I blew out of the water – like “another 50k weekend.” Turns out that 500k equals 50k every 3 days. So every weekend was 50k weekend! Also, 250k by the end of the month. I hit that on the 15th and then went on to double it. I never thought I would be able to do that! I also wrote at least 3k every day, including the days when I had eight hours of school AND three hours of grad school.

And now for some stats. Because numbers are fun:
• Most words in an hour: 5,026
• Most words in 10 minutes: 1001
• Most words in a day: 50,001 (Day One)
• Least words in a day: 3,018 (Day Five)
• Average words per day: 16,667

If anyone wants to see the breakdown of words written by novel, here’s my original spreadsheet:
Original spreadsheet 2013

And here is the spreadsheet I created when I realized I was increasing my goal:
New spreadsheet 2013

I have to say, as glad as I am that I came back for NaNo this year, I’m really glad the month is over. That was a lot of work, and I’m really looking forward to just relaxing and reading and playing video games and pretty much doing everything else that I haven’t been able to do this month. 🙂

What about you? Did you hit your goals for the month? Are you still writing? Are you glad the month is (almost) over? Or do you wish you still had a few more days?

Week 2 update

This is just going to be a quick post since I should really be writing.

Yesterday marked the end of week 2 of NaNoWriMo. Yesterday, I also finished my second novel. Here are the stats for anyone who’s curious:

Book 1: Degeneration (YA Contemporary) – about 46k
Random fan fiction – about 4k
Book 2: The Story of Em (NA Romance) – about 185k

Total word count: 235,311

The Story of Em is way too long. I know. I was hoping for 75k, and it sort of got away from me. I will need to cut a lot in the rewrite, but I’m still mostly happy with it. Two of the minor characters became much more important to the plot, and I never would have figured that out if I hadn’t given myself permission to ramble a bit.

If I can hit 250k by the end of tonight, I will still be on pace for 500k for the month, which is my new unofficial goal. The official goal is 400k. I’ve been keeping pace for 500k, but I’m not really sure I can keep this up. I’m going to try as long as I can, though!

Today, I’m starting a third book: The Whole Truth, which is also contemporary YA. This is my football player novel, which I’m a bit worried about. I’m still not entirely sure I like one part of the ending, but I’ll worry about that later. I might change it when I get to it, or I might not. Haven’t decided yet.

So, yeah, that’s how my month is going so far. I’m having a lot of fun. I also learned that I do really well with 10 minute sprints. I used to hate them, but now I’ve found they’re useful for when I’m not quite sure I have enough planned for a longer war. I’ve been doing an hour of 10 minute wars – 10 writing, 5 break – and it seems to be working well right now. Maybe I’ll try that again today.

50k Day One – Complete

For anyone who didn’t see it on Twitter yesterday –  I HIT 50,000 WORDS IN A DAY!!!

I wanted to sleep the whole evening before, but I ended up sleeping from 1-6 pm on Oct. 31. Then I started at midnight and pretty much did not stop writing until 10:18 pm, when I hit 50,001 – about 15 minutes after Sushi beat me to it. I was really hoping I could beat her to it, but she has done this twice before, so I really should have known better.

If you check out the hashtags #50kkillmenow and #50kdayone, you can see all the other awesome people who wrote 50k in a day – or at least came really close to it!

For those who are interested, here is my spreadsheet for yesterday:

Day One – 2013

And for anyone who would like a reminder of how I failed last year:

Day One – 2012

My fingers felt like they were broken by the end of the day. My back was killing me. My forearms were numb. And my novel ended at 46k. I was worried I wasn’t going to finish. So I started writing some intentionally horrible fan fiction with a drunk narrator. Not by best writing, of course, but it was cracking me up while I wrote it, so I’ll go with it.

I had a lot of fun racing to 50k yesterday. My arms and back and everything feel better this morning. That said, I’m not sure I’ll ever attempt 50k day again. I wanted to see if I could do it, and I have. But I will definitely be there to cheer on anyone else who wants to attempt this in the future! 🙂

And just remember – no matter what you wrote yesterday, you should be proud of yourself!