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Angela Goff

Writer. Teacher. Potter. VisDare Creator.

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manuscript

The November (and December) Road

 
Hello there. What are YOU up to these days??

So we’ve tumbled – at last! – into my favorite time of year: Autumn. I won’t deny that I’m glad to see summer go. Yes, I know that puts a big question mark over my sanity, but…meh. It’s been my fave this long, and I don’t see that changing any time soon.

But other things do change, large and small.  For instance:

1. My first query-worthy (?) manuscript, Memento Mori (now retitled as The Blank Mara) is…well…out on queries. No news yet, but I’ve only just started the process, so stayed tuned.

2. It is now NaNoWriMo! National Novel Writing Month officially started yesterday, and yes – I am participating again. I began in earnest on The Blank Mara’s sequel, The Scrying Knot, and am having a grand time further complicating the lives of my characters. I’m also ahead on my word count (so far), so I’m feeling pretty good about it at the moment.

3. Now that November is here, it’s time for the yearly VisDare hiatus. I’ve learned from past years that flash fiction participation drops to almost nil during November and December. NaNoWriMo, coupled with a long and full holiday season, means that flash writing takes a back seat for larger, grander projects – and of course, family and friends. Continue reading “The November (and December) Road”

Writing. Because Pie

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I love it when writer’s meetings look like this.

I have an awesome writer’s group.

We’ve been meeting now for almost six years, and it’s been fascinating to watch everyone grow as writers and individuals. Our individual story-telling styles – and the stories we choose to write – have changed drastically during that time, but the essential core of who we are has not.

Individually and collectively, the group has proven a consistent Safe Place for ideas, scary out-of-your-comfort-zone writing, word sprints, excessive coffee consumption, field trips to used books stores, and the kind of random hilarity that makes other coffee drinkers quickly relocate to distant tables at our favorite coffeeshop.

Added to that is the never-swerving encouragement to keep on swimming, keep on writing, keep on doing what makes me Me and makes us Us.

Which is why, when I finished my 8th draft of Memento Mori (now retitled The Blank Mara) this past summer, the group’s unanimous response was to have a pool party and homemade pie.

Blueberry-peach-basil pie. From scratch. With vanilla ice cream.

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Be jealous. It was delish.

I’d spent 3 years – almost to the day – bringing Welsan, Jada, Casper and Gallows to life, along with all their obstacles and hardships. They knew how long I had labored over it,  wrestled with the material, and doubted myself along the way. And so they encouraged me, as only like-minded cohorts can.

Let’s face it: Most writerly moments – good and bad – can only be helped along by pie.

I wish all my writing friends could have such a group they could call their writerly home. There’s so much said today about inclusion, tolerance, and finding that “safe place” – and that extends to the ideas and stories we share in writing. Even when the stories are fictitious, they are still deeply connected with who we are and where we come from.

So – thanks, y’all. To all my writerly friends who have helped me get to this whole new stage of the writing life.

And to my blogging family: I hope you have a network of writerly souls who encourage your dreams and ideas on a regular basis.

If you do – or don’t – I’d love to hear you out. Drop by the comments and fill me in! Perhaps the road to publication is long, but there’s no law that says we must do it alone. 😎

On the Necessity of Vomit Drafts


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So I’ve been quiet about Memento Mori for a while now. This has been for two key reasons:

  1.  Memento Mori has been with a crew of wonderful beta-readers these past several weeks.
  2. I want to go into my (hopefully) last round of edits with a fresh mind, so I’ve walked away from it during this time. Hopefully, this will allow me to be objective, and knock the edits out in record time.

This hiatus has afforded me the long-deferred pleasure of working on a whole new project, a sci-fi idea with the working title of Portolan House. It’s an idea I’ve had since college, but only recently discovered what (I think) is the right way to tell the story in my head.

Of course I’m excited about this. And daunted – an inevitable reaction, as I look at the vast ocean of ideas I want to communicate, and the coffee straw (keyboard) I’m trying to siphon it through.

Fortunately, I found a pile of backstory, notes and research that I forgot I’d even done – more than two years ago.

It’s so nice when Past Me delivers the goods to Present Me in a usable format. Of course, it’s quite the pile of backstory and character information, some of which won’t be used in the end. But if this writing journey has taught me, it’s that I have to get through the Vomit Draft to find out – at the very least – what my story is not.

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photo source

Which is sort of a weird thing, when you think about it. I think all writers want a Jack Kerouac moment, where paper, time, and story all align (minus the drugs). Then we’d emerge victorious after a three week writing binge (which, as it turns out, didn’t happen exactly that way for Kerouac), to accolades and interviews.

Bottom Line: The Vomit Draft is inevitable. At least, I’ve never met anyone (or read any honest-and-up-front author interviews) who’ve managed to skip that step. Even On the Road had it’s “bumpy road to publication,” according to NPR (and they’re usually right). It really a purge [*points to Hemingway meme*] of sorts, that gets all the unnecessary nonsense out of the way so that the True Story can push through*.

So I’m back to the beginning – not just with Portolan House, by the way, but also with the Memento Mori sequel, which is burbling out into Scrivener in fits and bursts. Not sure shy  I consistently have two major WIPs in process at any given time, but there you are. It’s just the way my brain works. I write till I get stumped with one, then let that one rest while I swing over to the other.

And sooner or later, those first drafts start looking a lot less vomit-y and more hopeful. Like there might be a Real Story in there somewhere. And maybe it will be told (eventually) in the right order, and from the best point of view.

One can hope, anyway. In the meantime, I’ll keep dumping out words and writing every day. It’s the only way to push through the muck and nonsense, after all.

What about you? How many WIPs do you have going at any given time? How do you get through that first rough draft? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments!

* (Sorry about all the scatelogical analogies. Sometimes they just work best.)

 

Eighth Time’s a Charm

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Here it is. The first page. Yay for Kindle formats!

So…my laptop is repaired. I got it back four days ago. And I immediately got to work.

Result: My 8th complete draft of Memento Mori was completed two days ago.

47 chapters.

103,829 words.

279 pages (in paperback, according to Scrivener).

It took just a smidge over three years to complete.

Today, I sent copies out to beta readers. I’ve celebrated with ice cream, cranberry orange muffins, and a massive nap.

I need about three more of those naps.

But mostly, I’m just proud of myself, for finishing what I started.

Is Memento Mori ready for querying? Who the heck knows. But I’ve got a great team of beta readers. They’re honest and insightful, and give solid critique. They’ll let me know if I’ve missed my mark.

But for now I’m going to sleep. And walk away from the #amwriting hashtag for a few weeks.

And wait to hear what my betas say.

Yay me.

*falls over into a deep sleep*

 

 

Welsan lives!…in spite of my ineptitude.

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Look at that time stamp. 😀

109,000 words. 48 chapters.

402 pages (according to Scrivener, if it was printed in hardback).

Last night I finished Memento Mori‘s 8th complete rewrite, at two minutes to midnight on July 1st. Only a couple weeks past its third birthday. Three years ago, I stumbled onto my main character, Welsan, during an off-the-cuff attempt at flash fiction, and he has dominated my creative life ever since.

Three years on one manuscript. Wow.

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I was excited. So I threw a mini-Twitter-party. Or tried. 

I’m not sure if three years is a long time on one manuscript, or a very short time. I suppose it’s all in how you look at these things. But as this is my first “serious” manuscript that I’ve finished, and the first that I’ve any real hopes of querying to an agent, I guess three years isn’t too bad. I’ve learned a LOT in those three years, and from Welsan in particular.

I’ve learned that there are no shortcuts in writing. NONE.

  • I’ve learned that imaginary friends really can run your life.
  • That plot is more important than description.
  • That sometimes it’s okay to be more direct, and less poetic.
  • That if I can say it one word instead of five, then one word will do.
  • That if my characters have it easy, I’m not doing my  job.
  • That mango unsweet tea is the inspirational drink of champions. Or maybe a peanut butter latte, if it’s the middle of winter.
  • That the inevitable question “What’s your book about?” is a great chance to practice pitching your book – without sounding like a madman – in two sentences or less. (Carpe diem, yo.)

I also learned that fellow writers are the most amazing community in the world. They’ll cheer you on via Twitter at 2 am, and promise you homemade pie if you meet your deadlines. They’ll cover your pinboards with creepy photos that have EVERYTHING to do with your favorite plot twists, and send you breathtaking playlists on Spotify to get you through the wordsprinting slumps.

This is me. For the past three years.

Most importantly, however, I learned that I can finish a major writing project, and more or less on time. If you had asked me that even as recently as two months ago, I would have told you no – I couldn’t. But I was wrong.

I’m glad I was wrong. I’m glad that I kept writing, and that my writing friends – online and locally – didn’t let me off the hook.

I missed my original deadline for Memento Mori by about three weeks. But ONLY three weeks.

For someone who has had the skeleton of this story rattling around in her head since she was twelve years old, this has been a long time coming. And now it’s here.

Nor is the journey over. More edits. Polishing. Spit-polishing. Beta reads and reviews. More darlings to kill (but hopefully only small ones – the big ones were stabbed out of existence long ago).

There’s more work to be done, of course. But for now I’m basking in the finishedness of it.

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This will be me. After I get about twenty years of sleep.

SO….Welcome to the world, Welsan, Jada, Casper, Gallows, Anaba, Raspa, and Manyon. Happy birthday. I hope you like it here! There’s no cake, but there will be more stories…as soon as I get some sleep. 🙂

Meanwhile, you can find my state of emotions somewhere around the middle of this spectacular GIF-fest about the writing process.

Steampunk it ain’t.

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Hello, Summer. I am glad to see you….at last.

My poor neglected manuscript, Memento Mori, is now getting the attention it deserves. After languishing since the last round of beta-reads in December/January, I am now working to finish this puppy. Now.  Before my characters eat my brain.

Because that’s the real threat, isn’t it? That one day your imaginary friends will walk out on strike, and not come back till Doomsday, whenever that is. Or they’ll decide on different tangents when you’re not looking. Before you know it, your steampunk tale has turned into dark fantasy, or an historical paranormal urban fairy tale with chainsaw murders.

Actually, that’s not too far off my own experience. When I first began Welsan from an off-the-cuff flash fiction in June 2012 (YIKES. Three years this month!), he was originally intended to be a businessman in a suit, wandering the foggy streets of London, in a Victorian steampunkish world where harvested souls were the currency of the land.

Now, he looks more like this:

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So…yeah. A lot darker than I originally intended.

But that’s okay. I think the story resonates more, has more texture, more life (even though a lot of the story, obviously, centers around death).

It’s still a long way from being finished, in the polished sense of the word. I’m sure there will be another round of edits before sending off those query letters.

But I intend to close that gap as much as possible. Now. This summer. Before my characters really DO walk out on strike.

Wish me luck. Here I go….

Hi. I’m a coward. Thanks for asking. :)

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I’ve been hiding waaaaay over here.

Can’t see me? Good.

Wait…no…not so good….

Reality Check #487: These edits of Memento Mori are kicking my TAIL.

Not that I expected any less when I started out on this writing journey. But it’s a different thing to be down in the trenches, with the story in your brain and the story on paper going completely sideways to each other. When you’ve given yourself deadlines, and actually told people to hold you accountable to those deadlines. (What was I thinking?!? Oh yeah…I want to be finished with this, someday…)

Then, you know – life and stuff. It has a way of not stopping.

And the adulting thing sucks a lot of times. Not always, but usually the suckage comes at the most inconvenient moments.

But it’s got to get finished. Welsan and Jada, Casper and Gallows – they now have too many fans (Eek! Can I call them that?) pestering me for sequels, let alone a completed, polished draft.

But you know half the reason I’m dragging my feet here?

I’m terrified.

Because I know what comes next. What follows is the querying stage, or the self-publishing stage, depending on your take on such things. For me, it will be a query letter, a long-overdue kept promise to my twelve-year-old self, to try and “get published” the traditional way, warts and all.

And putting myself out there is scary. So it’s easier to just “not finish,” y’know?

Thank goodness for my beta readers. And my parents. And my writer’s groups – both the online and the in-town ones. They are all hugely valuable. And they’re not letting me leave Memento Mori alone.

That’s my confession, dear readers; and now — my request:

Bug the snot out of me on this, won’t you? Because if I don’t try I won’t know. And I’m too close to give up now.

But boy, do I need some cheerleaders between here and the finish line.

Let’s say….June 6th? Yes? Okay. Thanks.

*cowers under the covers*

*nervously gets back to her manuscript*

You Too Can Be a [Wordsmithing] Titan

Okay. I try really hard not to be a walking commercial here, but I’ve found several things lately that just lit my candle in terms of writing help. During last NaNoWriMo, it was my timely purchase of Scrivener. Then it was the Day One journaling app. Then last night, a friend pointed me in the direction of The Hemingway App.

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Allow me to say that I’ve never had any love for Hemingway as an author. (Yes, that makes me a heretic among American History and Lit teachers, I know. Sorry for the betrayal.) But even I recognize the need to “cut the fluff” in my own writing, a thing which dear old Ernest managed in spades.

The app is simple. Go to the page, read the ridiculously simple instructions, then delete the highlighted examples. Paste in an excerpt from your own WIP. Then stand back and let your socks be blown right off. (Just don’t forget to make the absurdly easy edits.)

I spent thirty minutes last night putting the opening two chapters of Memento Mori through it, and boy howdy did it clean up some wordy messes. Needless to say, the remainder of Memento Mori will pass through the Hemingway gauntlet as well.

Think it could help you? It probably can.

Go ahead. Try it. I’ll wait right here. I want to know what you think.

*pulls up chair and waits patiently*

*does a double think, grabs laptop, puts chapter 3 through the app*

*type type type type type*

1 Step to Beta-Reading Success

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I love my beta readers.

They are all, to a person, phenomenal, insightful, and unafraid of holding my toes to the fire. It’s a small group, about half a dozen, living in almost as many states and from equally varied walks of life. Four are familiar enough with the magic rules, government, cultures, characters and creatures that inhabit my fictional world that they can rill me on whether I’m writing in a way that’s true to my original vision. The others are more “detached” from my idealistic rambling, and so are able to Continue reading “1 Step to Beta-Reading Success”

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