... where I post about my experiences as an aspiring author - from writing and editing, over querying agents and looking for a publisher, to things that really help(ed) me on my way. I'm looking forward to this unpredictable journey.
According to The HuffPo, 25,000 copies is a "sensational" sale for a debut novel. 15,000 copies will garner enough attention to get a publisher interested in the second book. For someone working in the automobile industry, selling 25,000 copies sounds like peanuts. Most car companies wouldn't even fire up their production lines for such a measly number of units.
[I guess that proves it: books ain't cars. Just in case you weren't sure.] The following comparison might put the above-mentioned author sales into a more relatable perspective: Madison Square Garden seats up to 19,830 people during a basketball game. So if you sold your book to every spectator during the next Knicks game, you'd make a publisher sit up and take notice.
So the question all debut authors should ask themselves is...
Hard to believe 2015 is almost over. It was a busy year for me, writing-wise. I finished a novel and started querying agents for it (one has already requested a full. Yay!). I almost finished the first draft of the next novel in the series. So - busy. Busy busy bee.
2016 is about to become so much busier. Not only do I plan on finishing this second novel and a first draft of the third (and last in the series), as well as hopefully *fingers crossed* selling the first. I'm also going to start a freelance (copy)writing business.
Gulp. Did I just post that out loud?
I guess I did. Does that make it official? I'm going to start small - as part-time next to my day job, which will remain my main source of income. For now. ;-)
I'm also launching an entirely new blog, called Blusher's Blog, dedicated to all things erythrophobia - a social anxiety that leaves people afraid to blush. Sounds harmless, right? Except it isn't to those afflicted. Living with erythrophobia can severely restrict and confine your life. I overcame it several years ago, but it's still a topic close to my heart that I'm finally ready to talk about. And maybe help a few people through it in the process. The first post also goes live on Sunday, and describes How Fear of Blushing, aka "Erythrophobia", Affects People (Besides Blushing). If you're curious enough to check them out, I'd love to know what you think!
Phew. These have got to be the loftiest aspirations I've ever had. It's scary, exciting and exhilirating all in one. And I know it's a little early, but maybe you already have goals for 2016, too? If so, I'd love to hear about them. Maybe we can be scared, excited and exhilirated together?!
I've participated in National Novel Writing Month four times so far, three of those times successfully. This year, I'm going for it again, my goal being to finish the first draft of the novel I'm currently working on. At the moment, I'm 35.000 words into the manuscript. If I manage to add the 50.000 NaNoWriMo-words in November, the first draft should be as good as done. It'll probably be a mess, but it'll be words on the page that I can improve. The first hurdle taken.
So that's my goal for this year's NaNoWriMo. And the general conditions appear to be in my favor. I have no big travel plans this November. I started on the manuscript just two months ago, so I'm not burned out on it yet. And this manuscript is the second in a series, the first of which I'm currently querying agents with, which provides additional motivation to get the second one done asap.
But, I also tanked my last NaNoWriMo attempt two years ago. Okay, conditions weren't ideal that year, since I was backpacking through Peru during one of those weeks, but I didn't even manage my personal goal of 30.000 words in the previous three. So I thought back on how I managed 50.000 words those three times before, and realized I did adopt a few habits in those years that helped me get through. Maybe those can help you, too, so here they are:
1. Write. Don't Edit. It's like vomiting words onto the page. Toss them out there as you're thinking them. Don't hesitate, don't look back. Editing, improving those words, can wait. As Nora Roberts said, you can fix anything but a blank page.
2. Create an Outline. Tossing those words out there is easier when you have a good or even just a general idea of where your story is headed.
3. Ignore the Outline. If at any point you have a lightbulb moment about the plot that conflicts with your outline, forget the outline. Follow the lightbulb. Then adjust the outline accordingly for your next writing session.
4. Write before Work / you start your Daily Routine. Set your alarm an hour before your usual wake-up time. Take this time to write, and only write. No Emails. No Facebook, no Twitter. No kids. Just a cup of coffee, your laptop, and you.
5. Write on your Lunch Break. Or on the bus or train. During the kids' nap time. Basically, write anywhere and anytime you get the chance.
6. Forget about the Word Count. At least until the end of the day, when you can sit down and check how many words you've written. If you wrote in the morning, and every other chance you got, you might be closer to those 1.667 words/day than you think. You might even be over. If not, now's the time to finish them. Just don't distract yourself from your writing by worrying about the word count.
I'll be trying to get back into those habits and mind set this November. But what works for me, might not work for you. I'd love to hear about your own tips, tricks and habits that have helped you reach those 50.000 words in 30 days. Tell me about them in the comments.
And good luck to anybody attempting NaNoWriMo this year. Let's do this!
I love book nerds. They come up with the coolest things...
Do you have a To-Be-Read pile as high as Mount Everest? Well now you can calculate how long it'll take you to read all those books (under the assumption you won't aggregate any more), with this TBR Time Calculator from Read It Forward.
I immediately let it estimate when I'll have decimated my TBR pile at the rate I'm going: four years.
Four. Years. My pile will be razed to the ground by Augst 27th of 2019. Twenty. Nnineteen.
I guess that time-frame indicates I either have a million books to read, or am just a really slow reader. To be honest, it's a bit of both. If I'd used this calculator when I was a teenager, it would probably have told me I'd be done in two months. Alas, these days I'm lucky if I have 30 minutes a day of reading time. Teen-me would want to kick threen-me's ass for that. Then again, threen-me sometimes wants to kick teen-me's ass for not realizing how much free time she had. So I guess we're even. Has anybody else tried the calculator? When will you be done with your TBR-pile?
This post by Chuck Wendig moved me to tears. Okay, one tear, but still. A blog post about Star Wars, not even Star Wars itself, made me choke up. At work.
Mr. Wendig should have labelled it NSFW, lest your colleagues look at you funny and you have to come up with a bogus work-related reason why you're all misty-eyed. Only fellow nerds would understand.
Which brings me to my point. Chuck Wendig's post is an amazing testimony as to why nerds are nerds. It represents nerddom at it's finest. Whether it's Star Wars, Star Trek, Harry Potter, The Avengers, Buffy, Hunger Games, Final Fantasy or *insert chosen favorite here*, the emotions Chuck Wendig describes are the reason why we immerse ourselves into these fictional worlds so fully. It explains why we are labeled as nerds, and label ourselves as nerds with such pride: "It [Star Wars] gave me characters I love and a simplistic, elegant view of both
narrative and morality that inevitably you push back against while
simultaneously reaching for it. It made me friends. It was a love my
family shared then, and it’s a love my wife and my son share now. It is
the universe that keeps on giving. It made me feel like I could do
"It means friends and family. It means the power of story. It means the power of possibility."
This is the version I'm entering the race with. Hopefully, it's compelling enough to entice an agent to ask for more.
In 2042, dreams come true. So do nightmares.
Ever since a shift in reality
thirty years ago, peoples' dreams and nightmares come alive, bringing with them
chaos and destruction. Monsters ravage cities, bottomless chasms split roads,
houses shrink, and gold rains from the sky. The possibilities are limitless,
unpredictable and often deadly.
Eden Maybrey is a Los Angeles
based dream hunter whose job is to eliminate these ’shades’. When longtime
friend Sean tasks her with hunting down an evil doppelgänger of himself, Eden
soon finds she is outmatched. She teams up with Vaughn Taylor, a hunter who
goes to dangerous lengths to kill every shade he encounters.
Before they can apprehend him,
the doppelgänger kidnaps Eden's sister. He threatens to kill her unless Eden
publicly exposes her deepest, darkest secret: she herself is a shade. If this
information comes to light, being chased by every shade hunter in the city will
be the least of Eden's problems. Her 'sister', the young woman to whom Eden
owes her very existence, will be sentenced to life in prison for harboring a
To save her sister and keep
her own secret under wraps, Eden must pit her hidden inhuman abilities against
the doppelgänger. Her only ally is Vaughn Taylor - the man who won't hesitate
to put a bullet in her head should he find out the truth.
NIGHTMARE CITY is a standalone urban fantasy novel with series potential, complete at 95.000 words.
I'm a bilingually raised German whose dreams thankfully don't manifest in reality, but do occasionally come true in the more original sense: I recently had the good fortune of having two German short stories included in BACKNANG STORIES (publisher: Leseratten Verlag), an anthology with stories of my home town, Backnang (Germany), published in October 2014.
The best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago. The second best time is now.– Chinese Proverb 'Plant a tree' = write your novel Ta-daa! Yeah, right. Took me years to figure that out. Maybe not twenty, but enough to sometimes wonder where I could be today if I'd just been more serious about my writing sooner. But, since the second best time to write a novel is now, I'm not going to dwell on it. I'm going to write. Right now. You going to join me, or what?
The Query Shark is my go-to agent when it comes to composing queries. Now she's written her master-piece by distilling all the advice she's ever given on her blog into one post, Effective Query Letters. The timing is perfect, as I plan to start sending out queries in September. I'll see then how well I followed the Sharkiest One's advice...
Guess what I'm going to be up to on the 25th and 26th of June in 2016. Yep, that's right, attending the first ever San Diego Comic Con in Germany, which also happens to be my first ever Comic Con in general.
I might not be the biggest (or even big) comic book fan out there, but I do get my geek on for a lot of TV-series, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, anything Star Wars and Lord of the Rings... so I've always loved the thought of attending one of these cons. Trouble was, they've been so far away. Until Now.
Now, it's not just happening in Germany. It's happening in Stuttgart, the greater area of which I live in. The Con grounds will be a mere 15 kilometers away from my house.
Double Squeeeeee!! There will be panels with guest stars. There will be lectures. There will be merchandise and exhibitions. There will be photo and autograph opportunities with actors, writers, directors. There will be cosplay, including a cosplay contest and parade! I probably won't be taking part in those, but I do plan on dressing up. I still need to determine as what or whom. Soooo many options...
I found these über-cool notebooks calledNovel Journals in a cute little Miami bookstore in March. Not only are they pretty, with a suede-feeling cover on which different literary quotes are printed, but the lines on which you can write inside are actually the text of the classic novel quoted!
Basically, you can jot down notes or your own stories in between the lines of a full-length novel!
I couldn't pass this up - what writer / scribbler / wordsmith could? The question remained, which one to buy. They had such greats as Emma by Jane Austen, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, and The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum. In the end, I went with Bram Stoker's Dracula, just because it's the closest to the genre that I like to write in, and the quote on the front fits my current work-in-progress so well, it's a little uncanny. Of course, the notebook has been sitting on my shelf since I bought it, looking pretty and untouched in its original wrapping. I recently liberated it from the plastic, my fingers itching to write in it. Something this cool shouldn't go unused. But it shouldn't be squandered on hastily-scribbled revision notes that nobody, including myself, will ever read after the book is finished, either. And I'm not the diary-writing type of gal. But I want to write something in this notebook that will last, that I'll want to come back to from time to time. So what could that possibly be? I felt at a loss until I read a great line in the book I'm currently reading. It was such an amazing line that I simply had to write it down (since I always forget the exact wording of it by the time I read two pages further). That's when it hit me! I'll write my favorite quotes out of the books I read into this notebook that basically quotes an entire novel. I've been meaning to start such a quote-book for a while, anyway. Turns out, this idea was simply waiting for the right medium for me to find for it. But I'm still wondering what other sort of notes aside from diary entries and quotes such a cool notebook could be used for... Any thoughts?
This weekend, we went to a wine festival in the vineyards surrounding the beautiful city of Würzburg. We were a group of about sixteen people. Four of us went there a little earlier to reserve a table.
The four of us got lucky and nabbed an empty beer table in the perfect location: in between the vines, with a nice view over the Main river and the Altstadt (old town) of Würzburg, close enough to the funk band to hear the songs they played, but far enough away to be able to talk with each other.
Now, a German beer table holds eight people comfortably and ten people with restricted elbow-room. Twelve begin to pose a challenge if you're trying to keep all butt cheeks on the benches. Fourteen is possible if partners sit on each others' laps. Sixteen... maybe if everybody's a size-zero super model, but we didn't have a single one of those among us that night. Anyway, the vanguard of four had to defend our table for quite some time before the rest of the group made an appearance. Because a wine festival in Southern Germany fills up faster than the service personnel can chill the wine, we got a lot of requests from strangers, whether a few more people could squeeze in with us at our table. One of those requests became a sort of running gag throughout the night. It went something like this:
A couple approaches the Vanguard of Four, who are trying to appear as wide and bench-filling as possible. Wife: Do you guys have room for two more people at your table? We: Sorry, we're expecting at least twelve more ourselves. Husband and wife: Ha ha!
Husband (already moving on): That's going to be tight. Wife (still looking at us expectantly): So do you guys have room for two more people at your table? We: O_o ???? Only if by 'people' you mean wine bottles...
In this post, Joel Friedlander explains that there are
1. Big-Picture Edits, which address the structure of the book (f.e. plot, character arcs, etc.) 2. Paragraph-Level Edits, which work to focus sentence clarity and flow, 3. Sentence-Level Edits, which checks grammar, usage and consistency/continuity issues, 4. Word-Level Edits, aka proofreading, which adresses spelling, punctutation and formatting issues.
With my WIP, I've hit all four levels, and am currently working on levels three through four. I find those can be tackled together, once the big-picture edits are finalized. Those, for me, are the greater challenge by far, also evident in the time-frame each edit has taken me:
Writing the first draft took me six months. I was fairly satisfied with it, and happy I'd managed to 'spit it out' in such a (for me) record time.
The first big-picture edit took three months. It made the story better in some parts, but terrible as a whole. I was satisfied no longer. Ergo, on to round two of big-picture edits, where I did what I should have done in the first place: I made some tough decisions regarding changes in world-building, which fundamentally altered large portions of the plot. I tore the entire manuscript apart, chapter by chapter, rearranged, deleted, added and rewrote. And here I'd thought I'd done a good job outlining beforehand... This round of edits took me five months, which means I spent eight months on big-picture edits for a six-month-first-draft. Hallelujah. Writing is rewriting, indeed.
Then I went through the entire manuscript with paragraph-level edits, with bits and pieces of sentence-level edits thrown into the mix. This version I finally proclaimed good enough to go to my beta readers - only five weeks after finishing the big-picture edits!
Now, with the first feedback trickling in from beta-readers, I'm tackling the 'small' edits of levels three and four. If I keep up the current pace, I'll be done by the end of June, meaning I'll have gone through those in about five more weeks.
To sum up: it took me eight months to work my way through the big-picture edits, versus two-and-a-half months for the other levels of editing combined.
I'm not home-free, yet. My book-baby is still in the hands of my beta-readers. They promised they wouldn't be gentle with it. I just hope they don't find anything wrong with its major organs or arteries, or it's back to the big-picture board for me...
iO9 posted this cool infographic by Alberto Lucas López, which shows how 23 of the world’s mother tongues are proportioned, and how they’re distributed around the globe. Here is the full article.
The linguaphile in me loves this sort of information. Who'd a thunk so many people actually speak my native language, German? Or that there were so many more Chinese speakers than English? Or this curious tongue called Urdu - I don't even know where on the world map to place that (at least I wouldn't if it didn't say India on the graph). Ditto for Marathi or Tamil. How can I never have heard about a language spoken by approximately 70 million people, with as beautiful a name as Marathi? Sounds like something out of Game of Thrones.
I feel so ignorant. In a good way, because hey, now I've heard of them. And it lends a whole new perspective as to how diverse our little blue planet acutally is.
I found this nifty little tool that might come in handy for when I'm struggling with finding just the right word. It happens more often than I like to admit. I am a wordsmith, after all. On the other hand, that's probably why I struggle - because I want to get it just right. Now if only there were such a vocab wheel for verbs, too... *scurries off to search the interwebz*
I went to see the latest Fast & Furious installment last night. I think it fried my sense of judgement (not to mention my brain, but that was a given), because I came out of the cinema with a strangely conflicting opinion about this movie.
On the one hand, a lot of it is... um, well, actually kind of terrible. For example: - The hackneyed lines. In my opinion, you could cut half the dialogue from the script and wouldn't miss a thing. Rather the opposite. Sometimes it's better to say nothing at all than to insert something, anything, just so Vin Diesel can have the last word. - The overacting (oh boy, the overacting) - The meandering plot, held together by a very loose, very frayed thread. - Vin Diesel's single expression (It's so singularly single, it almost deserves its own term. I think I might call it The Vingle) - The impossible, over-the-top stunts. Believability = Zero. Needs to be taken with a pitcher of salt.
Somehow, the movie still manages to be - Fun. Sit back, relax, enjoy the fireworks kind of fun. - Moving. The tribute to Paul Walker at the end actually fit into the story. Sort of. But it definitely managed to induce sniffles in Yours Truly. - Fun. Don't take it - and yourself - too seriously kind of fun. - Funny. All the bad stuff was so over the top bad, that it was actually laugh-out-loud funny more than groan-worthy. - Just Fun. Fun, fun, fun. Still not sure why, exactly.
I recently went on a ten-day vacation in Florida, with the full intention of finishing round three of revisions of my work-in-progress by the end of it. I would have made it, too - if the solution to a few issues I still had with the plot hadn't popped into my head some time around day four. After figuring out how to integrate said solution, I realized I'd never manage to add the necessary seven to eight chapters (this would also help me up my word count, the lowness of which I'd been fretting about) in the next six days. So my self-set deadline for revision round three has been bumped back to the middle of May. But...
I'm glad that I finally found this solution. I'm especially glad that I found it now, before I finished this revision round and then would have had to tear it all apart again. I'm glad I didn't waste that time. In the end, it would have taken me longer to finish the entire revision process if I hadn't figured this out now.
Which brings me to the point of this post: I can once again confirm that I seem to write best when near a large(r) body of water. My mind feels 'looser', inspiration flows more freely, ideas are presented with less effort. I'm sure some of this can be attributed to the fact that I was on vacation and more relaxed in general. But it doesn't happen on every vacation that I find my way back to this urgent need to write, which used to hit me much more often, especially in my teenage years. I love to write, but that feeling that I must write right this second or spontaneously combust has gentled. Around water, it tends to flare up, which made the Sunshine State - with its hundreds of miles of coastline, and myriad number of lakes, rivers and swamps - a writing paradise for me. How could it not, with vistas such as this:
... and this:
... and this:
Does anyone else have their own personal writing paradise - a place or even places that have this certain energy that makes you breeze through those chapters? I'd love to hear about them.
As an aspiring author hoping to one day have amazing covers on my books, I love in-depth descriptions of how a book cover is created. Add to that one of my favorite cover artists (or favorite artists in general), Dan Dos Santos, painting the cover for one of my favorite UF authors, Lilith Saintcrow, and I was hooked.
Even better: the post on the Muddy Colors blog I'm referring to details the entire process between the painter, publisher, model and author, not 'only' the creation of the painting itself.
The book comes out on June 23rd in Germany. I pre-ordered it immediately. FTW
I recently stumbled upon this interesting opportunity to pitch your novel on Twitter: #PitMad. It's a twelve-hour window in which writers can post a 140-word pitch, which will be perused by agents and editors.
It's a quarterly event, and the next dates have already been posted: June 4, 2015 September 10, 2015 December 4, 2015
I'm sooo going to try to get my manuscript polished by June 4th. ;-)
I have no clue whether this is a scam or not, and even if it's not, I'm sure there are an enormous amount of taxes involved, too. So probably not as cheap a prize as it appears. But the idea in and of itself is awesome, and I like that the current owner is continuing this "tradition".
I'm actually thinking of entering, if more research proves this as legit. I can come up with 125 bucks and 200 words. Experience on running an inn is the more tricky part - does knowing by heart every episode of Gilmore Girls count?
A colleague and friend gave me a card for my birthday, in which he'd written this poem by William Henry Davies - a beautiful reminder not to miss life in the often daunting and hectic process of living it:
Leisure What is this life if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare. No time to stand beneath the boughs And stare as long as sheep or cows. No time to see, when woods we pass, Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass. No time to see, in broad daylight, Streams full of stars, like skies at night. No time to turn at Beauty's glance, And watch her feet, how they can dance. No time to wait till her mouth can Enrich that smile her eyes began. A poor life this if, full of care, We have no time to stand and stare.
I'm actually writing this post on the last day of my twenties, which feels almost more momentous a day than the first of my thirties. I'll be three-something for the next ten years, but I'm never getting back those twos.
Not that I'm complaining. I enjoy growing older, because I'm growing more independant, confident and centered as a result - all things I sorely missed as a teenager and in my early tweens. I've been looking forward to my thirties just like Jenna in 13 Going On 30. "Thirty, flirty and thriving" sounds about right, especially where writing is concerned. I may not yet be published, but I can recognize that my writing has improved to the point where I'm super-excited about my current work-in-progress. I feel like this book could be The One.
I have some major life changes planned for the next few years. They still need to be specified and they will take time, lots of sweat and maybe even a few tears. But I'm in a place now where I'm no longer afraid to tackle said sweat and tears.
Warning: This may turn into a bit of an incoherent rant…
Until about a year ago, I would start my weekend by leaving work at 3pm on Friday afternoons, and heading to meet my weekly writers group at a cafe in a beautiful old part of town. We would write until about 5:00 pm, then order some wine and maybe dinner, and chat for an hour. The absolutely perfect way for any writer to ring in the weekend.
I never realized what a privilege it was for me to be able to leave work at 3pm to join my group until I suddenly couldn't anymore. I was assigned to a new project at work last year, which included a few more responsibilites than I had in the previous project. This is great, career-wise, but it also means that certain stuff has to get done by the end of the week, that I attend more meetings and overall have more of a workload. Which means that my Friday afternoon writers group (therapy) sessions have become a thing of the past.
In the beginning, I tried leaving "early", meaning just in time to join the late afternoon chat-rounds. But as the weeks went on, even those became more and more impossible. I'd start the day swearing to myself that I'd leave by 4:30 at the latest. When it became clear that I wouldn't make it - again - I felt like locking myself up in the bathroom and bawling. I'd never realized how important these Friday afternoons had truly become to me. Missing them made me miserable. Also, it made me resentful towards my job.
So I kind of gave up. I don't even try too hard anymore. It hurts more to hope and fail time and again, than to just accept the fact that I'll miss my weekend writer fix. I can better forget the thought that my friends are at the cafe, typing away on their laptops, chatting, laughing and having fun, if I don't still hold out hope to be able to join them. Right now, I have no other possibilities, no other solution.
And the moral of this whine-tinted rant? I don't know. Maybe it is that sometimes you have to set priorities which oppose your personal preferences. Maybe it is to learn to enjoy what you have while you have it, and be grateful.
I'm working on a novel which I started about a year ago. I wrote a chapter-for-chapter outline, then raced through the first draft in six months, finishing around August last year - a first draft record for me. Caught up in this triumph, I figured I'd fly through revisions and be able to query by the end of the year, at the latest.
The pros of the industry know: writing is rewriting. By creating an outline before even typing a word of the story, I thought I could prevent the necessity for large revisions. I pictured myself churning out a first draft that was near perfect and would need only little tweaks, not major plot and character adjustments.
I should have known that the thump I heard was the Goddess of Writing, laughing so hard she fell off her ergonimic swivel chair.
When I realized the true extent of the revisions necessary to make the book the best it could be, I lost momentum. Well, I lost heart, to be honest. I felt like this great idea and these amazing characters were buried in the gigantic mound of dung that was the story. I looked at the crap pile and didn't even know where to start digging to free the good parts.
So I walked away and let it steam for several months.
Except the good parts shone through. Every now and then, I'd catch a glimpse of something I loved about this story through the stinky stuff piled on top. They kept gleaming. Beckoning. Taunting. There was gold in there somewhere, and I would uncover it if I just started digging again.
So after New Years, and a much needed break from work - and writing - I finally did. I got up earlier again every day, the way I did while blazing through the first draft, to work on a new and improved outline for an hour before going to work. Muddling through the labyrinth of issues, how to change them and where in the story to incorporate the changes, has now taken me six weeks.
One and a half months. And I haven't actually started rewriting, yet.
My plan is to be done with the rewrites by the end of April. But I won't make the mistake of thinking I'll be finished honing by then. Nuh-uh, this girl learns from her mistakes. So I'll add three months to April for at least one more round of revisions after this current one. My new deadline is August. I want to start querying agents in August.
No thump this time, but do I hear the faraway sound of a giggle?