Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: May 2017

I can’t believe I survived May.

As you cleverly inferred from the radio silence on this site and social media, May swallowed up all of my work time, then lapped up my free time for good measure. But you know what? It was a blast, and I’m so excited to share my many updates with you and get back to our regular programming.

So … what happened in May?

On the writing front, I finished the first draft of Desertera #3 and sent it off to the editor. She’s already returned round one of edits, and I’m floored and humbled by her feedback. This week, I’ll dive into the manuscript to make her changes and keep moving forward. Depending on how the next few rounds go (and when I finally select a title … I know, it’s my creative Achilles Heel), the novel should be on track for a late July or early August release date! More soon.

Rainy graduation day in a flattering blue poncho!

The second half of May revolved around my personal life. As you know, I’ve been living in Connecticut while my husband worked toward his Master’s at Yale. Well, Daniel graduated (so proud of you, honey!). My mother-in-law and her friend flew over from Australia to celebrate, then the four of us took an epic road trip around New England. (I’ll share more later, or you can check out some pics on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.)

And it doesn’t end there. Daniel begins his PhD at Stanford this summer, so we packed up our apartment and started our cross-country move. While I’m sad to leave our New Haven friends and the best ice cream on the planet, I’m thrilled for our next adventure together. Again, I plan to talk more about this transition later, once I’ve had time to process and establish a new routine. (Sensing a pattern yet?)

What will I do while Daniel studies? Well, obviously, I’ll still be writing, blogging, and building my author business. I’m also elated to report that I have been able to take my day job with me, so I’m still a copywriter for a fantastic wine marketing company. I love my job (and wine, duh) and getting to do it without three hours of commuting every day is awesome. While I’ll miss writing on the train, I won’t miss the train itself, the bus, other commuters, or braving the elements to get to the office!

Looking forward to June, my top priority is editing, titling, and starting the cover design process for Desertera #3. Second on the list? Establishing a new routine that balances my author work, my copywriting job, and my personal life. I’d also like to catch up on my favorite podcasts and my ever-growing to-read list (a big shout-out to all my fellow authors waiting on reviews … I haven’t forgotten you!).

Have a great Monday (or whatever day you’re reading this), and best of luck with your own goals! As always, I’d love to read what you’re working on in the comments section.


What did you accomplish in May? What are your goals for June? Share in the comments!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: April 2017

Well, I’m back from Camp NaNoWriMo, covered in bug bites and stuffed to the brim with smores. While I didn’t win (darn it!), I did add nearly 40,000 words to my draft of Desertera #3. This puts me well on the way to done, and I should have the manuscript wrapped up over the next week or two.

To be honest, most of April is a blur. Specifically, a blur of Scrivener documents, penciled outlines, and story discussions with my alpha reader. Still, I managed to sneak in a little bit of fun. In preparation of my husband’s graduation from Yale, we’ve started a taste tour of local restaurants and have had many fun double dates and friends’ nights.

It’s definitely been a challenge to balance writing, business, my day job, and my social life, but I’m doing my best. That’s all any of us can do, right? As for May, the first half (and a bit) will be focused on getting Desertera #3 to the editor. Over the second half, I’ll be celebrating my husband’s graduation and spending time all around New England with him and our parents. It should be a lovely (and well deserved) break!

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – back on track!
Write Desertera #3 – almost done!

Thanks to the pressure of Camp NaNoWriMo, I’ve made fantastic progress on my manuscript of Desertera #3. My main goal this month will be finishing it up and completing the necessary content edits before it goes to the professional editor in the middle of the month. Because I’ve been editing as I write, this process should be pretty easy!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Blog twice per week – slightly behind
Maintain social media schedule – slightly behind
Read 52 books this year – slightly behind

As tends to be my pattern, I struggled with balancing my writing and other business activities. However, I did blog at least once a week, and I did participate in two separate marketing events. Given my editing deadline and upcoming personal commitments, I anticipate more unevenness this month. Luckily, I should have plenty of time to get caught up in this area over the summer.

Books Read:
None

Book in Progress: Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – great!
Exercise 3x per week – better than zero
Break a bad habit – on track
Make post-Yale plan – pretty much done

Even with all the craziness and uncertainty coming up, I’ve stayed in positive spirits and haven’t fallen back into bad habits. Most excitingly, my husband and I have made our plan for after his graduation from Yale, and while we still have a few minor details to iron out, we’re in good shape for our short- and mid-term future. We’ve also planned two fun mini-vacations for the end of the month, so watch my Instagram for photos!

Goals for May
Send Desertera #3 to my editor
Enjoy our post-graduation mini-vacations
Keep refining my balance between writing and other responsibilities


How did my fellow NaNoWriMo campers fare? Any exciting plans for May? Share in the comments!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: March 2017

March has put me in a difficult position for my monthly update. I have two steadfast rules for my website: I try to be completely honest and transparent, and I try to be positive and encouraging. Balancing the two will be tough for this post, so please forgive me if it’s a bit of a downer.

This month, my grandpa passed away after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer’s Disease. This came only two and a half months after another family death, a horrible, unexpected tragedy that occurred two days after Christmas. While my grandpa’s death wasn’t unexpected (his health had been declining rapidly over the past year), it was still difficult to watch my family go through it from 2,000 miles away (I was home at Christmas). I already feel a great deal of guilt about living so far away from home (even temporarily) and this experience brought all that negativity to the forefront. Fortunately, I was able to say goodbye over the phone and travel home to attend the celebration of life.

Why am I telling you this? Because I learned a few valuable lessons this month that might help you, too.

First, there’s a difference between procrastination and needing time off writing. Even with all this heartache, I still felt guilty about abandoning my writing while grieving. It took a very loving, and appropriately stern, talk from my husband to help me realize that sometimes it’s important to give yourself a break. If you need that permission, here it is: sometimes other aspects of life trump writing; get through them so you can get back to your craft.

Second, I realized how thankful I am to be alive and in my life. My grandpa went into hospice care on my 25th birthday, and the collision of these events forced me to take a hard look at my situation. All I could come up with was gratitude — for my health, for the end of his suffering, and for the fact that, out of all the grandpas in the world, he was mine. The lesson? When tragedy comes to you, focus on the good.

Last, story is powerful. At my grandpa’s celebration of life, several friends and family members shared stories about him and what he had meant to them. Not only did this pay tribute to him, but it proved just how significant storytelling is. As writers, even of fiction, we bring real-life experiences and pieces of real people into our work. We give escape. We offer connection. We grant immortality. I have never been so proud to be a storyteller as I was that night.

All that being said, it won’t be a surprise that March was an unproductive month. Therefore, I’ll keep the rest of the update short and sweet. As always, I would love your comments, but please don’t feel obligated to mention my loss. I didn’t share for pity or compassion, only to share those writing lessons.

And for April? I’ll be diving headfirst into Camp NaNoWriMo to get my draft of Desertera #3 back on track. With a few other promotions lined up, it’s going to be a very busy month, but I’m looking forward to it. At least in Desertera, the only problems belong to my characters!

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – behind
Write Desertera #3 – behind

Time to get caught up!

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – catching up
Blog twice per week – on track
Maintain social media schedule – slightly behind
Read 52 books this year – catching up

In positive news, my husband went home to visit friends and family in Australia, and delivered several signed paperbacks. To my surprise, they bought up all the copies of The Courtesan’s Avenger I had left–so I actually had a decent month from a financial perspective. The blog stayed on track, thanks to my scheduling ahead and a few announcements and guest posts. I let social media fall to the wayside, but I did do a little extra reading to distract myself from everything, so that was good!

Books Read:
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10, Volume 1 by Christos Gage — 5 stars (maybe my favorite Buffy comic yet!)
Angel & Faith: Season 10, Volume 1 by Victor Gischler — 4 stars
Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England by Elizabeth Reis — 5 stars
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood — 5 stars (totally lives up to the hype!)
Salem Possessed: The Social Origins of Witchcraft by Paul S. Boyer — 4 stars

Book in Progress: None right now!

Next Up: Story: Substance, Structure, Style, and the Principles of Screenwriting by Robert McKee

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – surprisingly, still good!
Exercise 3x per week – um…
Break a bad habit – on track
Make post-Yale plan – coming along well

As I shared in my lessons above, I’ve made an effort to stay positive, and it’s really paying off. My husband and I are also making great progress with our plans for after he graduates from Yale … though at the expense of the gym!

Goals for April
Continue drafting Desertera #3
Participate in the Brains to Books Cyber Convention this weekend (April 7, 8, 9) — (Sci-Fi fans – join the Facebook group here!)
Keep refining my balance between writing and other responsibilities


How did March treat you? Will you be heading off to Camp NaNoWriMo this April? Share in the comments!

Fiction Blog, Writing Updates

Month-End Update: February 2017

monthly-updateAnd so ends the too-short month of February. Fun fact (courtesy of my new Amazon Echo): apparently, February used to have more days, but the emperor Augustus stole a few for August so his namesake month wouldn’t be the shortest. Talk about ego!

Anyway, I hope your February was productive and cheerful. As you’ll read below, I spent the month catching up on some of my smaller goals. While I still have some work to do on the writing front and I haven’t stepped foot in the gym, I’m in a really positive place right now. March should be an even better month, as I have a few exciting personal events planned (including my 25th birthday!) and I’ll have a two-week time span that I can devote almost entirely to drafting Desertera #3.

Check out my more detailed recap below, then share your own successes and goals in the comments!

Writing & Publishing

Main goals:
Create five days a week – on track
Write Desertera #3 – on track

While I made overall progress in February and stuck to my larger creation goal, I’m not where I would like to be word-count-wise with Desertera #3. Part of this is that I finally figured out the aspects of the plot that were bugging me, which meant I spent some of my drafting time revising chapters I’d already written. I also went down the research rabbit hole of a future idea, which was a fun, but irresponsible, choice.

Perhaps the most exciting writing update is that I have booked my editing date for Desertera #3 (mid-May)! Given that I do my best work with a deadline, I’m confident I’ll pick up the pace over March and April and get this manuscript knocked out on schedule.

Business

Main goals:
Make $2,000 from Boxthorn Press – slightly behind
Blog twice per week – on track
Maintain social media schedule – on track
Read 52 books this year – slightly behind

As I said last month, I’ve adjusted my marketing and production goals already, so I’m fine with my financial progress thus far. It should be relatively easy to get back on track when Desertera #3 launches (hopefully in late July!). On the blogging front, I am really enjoying the subtle changes I’ve made to the website and have happily hosted a few guest posts. (If you’d like to submit an article, just contact me!)

My social media schedule is back on track. At its core, my aim is to put out consistent, high-quality, and REAL content for my readers and fellow authors. No ridiculously staged photos or click-baity stuff here. Likewise, I’m catching up on my reading goal and have had a lot of fun diving into witchcraft research for a future series.

Books Read:
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs – 4 stars
#GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso – 4 stars
The Devil’s Dominion: Magic and Religion in Early New England by Richard Godbeer – 4 stars

Book in Progress: Damned Women: Sinners and Witches in Puritan New England
by Elizabeth Reis

Next UpBuffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 10, Volume 1 by Joss Whedon

Personal

Main Goals:
Work on positivity – better!
Exercise 3x per week – um…
Break a bad habit – on track
Make post-Yale plan – started!

After a difficult end to 2016 and rough January, I’m thrilled to report that my personal goals are moving along. My husband has received an offer to a PhD program, so we’re starting to formulate a new five-year plan. Even in the wake of all this change, I’ve kept a positive attitude and feel at peace with where my life is now. While March looks busy (sorry, gym!), I think it will be a great month for planning and introspection (by which I mean my quarter-life “crisis” – happy early birthday to me!).

Goals for March
Continue drafting Desertera #3
Have my quarter-life crisis (Seriously, I’m so excited for an excuse to be selfishly introspective!)
Keep refining my balance between writing and other responsibilities


How did February treat you? What are your goals for March? Share in the comments!

Guest Posts, Writing & Publishing Articles, Writing Craft & Tips

Guest Post: Six Things to Know About Writing a Book by Annette Abernathy

This week, I’m excited to bring you a series of three posts by professional beta readers Annette Abernathy and Allison Conley of BetaWitches.com. They’ll be offering writing tips, providing advice on how to sell your finished book, and sharing their must-know items for new authors. Annette is up first!

beta witches guest post

I’m a writer and a beta reader, so I understand both sides of the process. I’ve run my blog and have been writing novels and screenplays for years, but it was the editing process that really showed me the art of writing and storytelling.

I’d used critique partners, but they hadn’t stopped the 200 rejections. Eventually, I buckled down and hired an editor. With each edit I rewrote my book. That was a grueling process, but my editor opened my eyes to the possibilities of my characters. With each draft I learned more about myself and the world I’d built.

Once the edits were finished I began sending the book out to beta readers. As a beta reader I find that many don’t understand the difference between editors and beta readers. An editor helps compose the story and fixes grammar. A beta reader gives an opinion on the overall feel of the story, and the two shouldn’t be used interchangeably.

Indies authors may think that they can get around spending money on editing by using free betas, but it’s better that an author use a real editor to get them past that first awful draft. That first draft is always awful and any professional will attest to this. No matter how good an author is at storytelling they should not try to edit their own book.

The truth is that all this is generic information that any article on beta reading will tell you. The truth is that you, the author, will find many people who will be sweet about your story. My book began to thrive when I faced the harsh truth that the first draft was truly terrible. Here’s a few tips I’ve learned.

  1. Know the purpose of your book before you write it.
  2. Understand that rewriting, editing, and beta reading is part of the process.
  3. Know your characters and realize that the reader only knows what you tell them.
  4. Be aware that you are probably one of thousands who is writing a novel in your same genre.
  5. Look for all the clichés of your genre and avoid them in your book.
  6. Know when to take the advice of an editor or beta reader.

I’ve hurt many feelings with the first piece of advice. Sometimes people think if they love a type of story enough that they’ll write the next bestseller. It can happen, but will it happen to you? Really consider what your purpose is and who is your audience? I write love stories but not romance, so my books don’t fit with all romance readers. Due to the nature of my books I’ve had men enjoy them. I knew that I wanted to write books that deal with abuse, mental illness, racism, and socio-economic issues, so I’m more aware of each niche group of readers who are potential fans.

  1. I’m also more aware of when a book goes off topic. Most of the time the outline changes by the chapter, but knowing the end goal keeps me in line. Even if an author is the most methodical at staying with the outline they still need that clear objective.
  2. I’m dyslexic, so writing has never been easy for me, and it’s going on two years since I began the edits for my first book. I cried and vowed to give up every day, but by the second book I was a pro! I knew what I was doing, so it was mentally easier. Still I won’t publish any book until all the feedback is opinion on style rather than suggestions for making the book smoother.
  3. I knew my characters so well that each one had a back story, quirks, and favorite foods. The problem was that I didn’t know how to write them. Learning how to introduce the characters and endear them to the reader helped me learn more about myself. The process became a spiritual journey.
  4. My editor and beta readers made me aware of number four without actually saying it. They kept saying that my stories weren’t like other stories out there. This felt bad at first since romance readers expect a layout that I was not going to give them. Then I realized just how many books in each genre are similar, and those are the ones that make it to the finish line. Imagine how many will be published. As the author you are competing with published books and books that will be published. Look for ways to make your story standout so much it could become a classic or genre changer.
  5. Don’t try to recreate a popular book! Think up a new angle and become the next big name. Don’t be content to be in the shadows.
  6. For me number six is the hardest. I tend to write about topics that many aren’t familiar with, so a lot of times I’ve had to ignore the beta readers. My editor helps me tell an unusual and provocative story, and I tend to take all their advice. Sometimes the beta readers tend to want to be experts when they aren’t.

When I read for other people I always assume that the writer is the authority, unless it’s obvious they aren’t. Whether the beta is helpful or not with the story they will always let you know what type of critiques you’ll get once the story is published. So it’s helpful to have beta readers outside of your genre read your book to help you grow your craft. It feels better when men like my stories because I do write love stories.

I’ve been writing for years and I do a lot of research on the craft of writing, so I hope that some of these tips will help out other writers. We’re essentially a family.


About Annette

Annette Abernathy has a B.A. in psychology with a minor in Women’s Studies, and a professional certificate in photography with a background in visual storytelling.

Genres Annette Beta Reads: Romance, Historical Romance, Regency Romance, Psychological Romance, Historical Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Young Adult Fiction, Suspense, Erotica, Contemporary Fiction, Christian Fiction, Horror, New Adult, Mysteries/Thrillers, Literary Fiction